Tag Archives: Butch & Fonda Williams

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

2016/04/16 (S) A Local Hamfest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/04/17 (N) Parts Shuffle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/04/19 (T) Home Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/04/20 (W) Core Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.


2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

I got out of bed at 8 AM, fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made some hot soapy water for dishes and then measured out and ground our morning coffee beans.  Once I had the coffee brewing I cleaned the grinder, which I had not done in a while.

Linda got up around 8:30 and we both sat with our iPads and enjoyed our first cup of coffee.  I had a reply to the e-mail I sent our son last night and replied back.  I also sent the photo I created on Thursday to him and our daughter.  It is a 3-image panorama looking north out of our passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

At 9:30 Linda started making pancakes, which has become something of a regular treat for our Sunday breakfast.  I got a call from my sister at 10 letting me know she was heading to the hospital where our dad is in the ICU.  We finished our coffee around 10:30 and got dressed.  Linda settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project and I checked our fresh water tank.  The level was finally below 1/3 on the monitor so I decided to test the park water.  As I expected, based on our previous time here, the hardness was at the maximum on the test strip so I got the water softener out and connected it to the supply valve.  The quick disconnect, while a nice idea, is made of plastic.  It was finally worn to the point where it would not seal so I unthreaded it from the pressure regulator and put it back in the fresh water tub where it joined a dozen other components that I should throw away.  Someday.

I have read in multiple publications and blogs that the RV sewer hose, and especially the bayonet connectors used on RV sewer hoses, is the weakest component on an RV, both by design and manufacture.  While these components may be in contention for that status, I submit that the garden hose fittings that are universally used for the fresh water connections may actually be the worst.  My fresh water connections always leak even when I tighten them (gently) with a wrench.  My sewer connections do not generally leak.

But I have digressed once again.  When I had the softener connected I tested the output and it appeared to be fully charged so I connected it to the inlet of the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  In Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter I kept track of the details of when I dumped and filled tanks, including the hardness was of the water coming out of the softener before and after each fill.  This data served two purposes.

One purpose was to compensate for our waste tank level monitors, which do not work.  We were trying to determine the rate at which we were filling them so we could calibrate how long we could reasonably boondock before we had to dump them.  That turned out to be about nine days, conservatively, which is how long we went before hooked up here and dumped.


Because the water softener can only remove a certain number of grains of hardness before it is exhausted the number of gallons it can soften before it has to be recharged depends on the hardness of the water coming in.  At 25 grains of hardness per gallon, which is what we had in Q and what we have here in Williston, the softener, which has a capacity of about 10,000 grains, can process about 400 gallons.  If the hardness is higher than 25 gpg we will not be able to process that many gallons.  400 gallons is about four refills if I refill it when the level is down to 1/6 (20 gallons).  Our usage data from Q indicated that we used about 9 gallons per person per day on average (18 gallons per day) and that I was filling the tank every 5 to 6 days and recharging it every three weeks.

While setting up the water softener I noticed an active nest of red ants.  I saw John drive by and a few minutes later saw him headed back our way and flagged him down.  He did not have the ant poison on his cart but offered to get it and come back, which he did.  He also brought a rake.  It turned out that he buys this product at his own expense and uses it to treat sites before folks check in, so I will buy a bag for ourselves and one to replenish his stock as part of my trip to Hudson tomorrow.

With the refill underway I resumed working on the photos for the BCM article on the International Thermal Research (ITR) OASIS Combi hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Willams’ 1987 MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The hospital tried to reach me at 12:14 PM but the call went directly to my voice mail.  After a few text messages back and forth with my sister and niece I received a phone number for the doctor and was able to get her on the phone.

Brendan texted me at 1 PM to let me know he was headed to our house.  He called when he got there and I called him back on our house phone.  He spent about half an hour searching through brief cases looking for certain papers and telling me what he was finding.  He found the case I needed and took it back to his house where he can go through it more comfortably and ship it to me if needed.

I had resumed working on the BCM article when John and Ali showed up.  We invited them into the coach to see the remodeling work we have done and they stayed long enough to chat awhile and have a small glass of wine.  I opened the bottle of Viva La Rojo from the Heart Of The Desert winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we all agreed it was very nice.  It is at such moments that I am left to wonder why we did not buy more than one bottle.

After they left I continued working on the article until I was too tired to concentrate.  It was well into the second half of the afternoon so we both put our projects aside and removed the fogged living room awning style window/frame, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the car.  I need to leave early in the morning and drive to Suncoast Designers in Hudson to have the window repaired and did not want to be messing around with it at 6 AM in the morning.

Getting the window out required the step ladder and a small screwdriver to remove two C-clips so it was a bit more involved than it sounds.  Linda put the screen back in place, covered it with a piece of the silvered bubble insulation, and taped it around the edges.  The RV resort is very safe so someone getting into our rig was not our concern.  Rather, the low temperature overnight Monday into Tuesday is forecast to be in the 40’s so we really cannot have an uninsulated opening in the side of the coach.  The chance for rain is low to zero, and we have the awning out over most of that window, so we are hopeful we will not have to seal the outside with plastic.  Our other concern was our cats.  The screens do not fit as tight as we would like and if this one fell out the cats could jump to their “freedom” with potentially dire consequences.

Linda made stuffed Poblano peppers for dinner.  The preparation took a while so I laid down on the sofa and watched Martha Bakes and Ask This Old House on the Create channel from the University of Florida, Gainesville PBS station.  What can I say?  I find TV that teaches me things entertaining, even if I can’t eat anything Martha bakes.  At home Linda would normally cook the peppers on our outdoor or indoor grill but tonight she pan-seared them.  The peppers were stuffed with a mixture of rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan sour cream.  The peppers brought just enough heat to the dish and we finished the bottle of Viva La Rojo, which smoothed everything out.  We had a nice salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette as a first course.  We had sliced fresh strawberries for dessert.  It was a really good meal.

We watched President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office, an interesting episode of 60 Minutes (which I have not seen in years), and the Sinatra 100 Grammy tribute.  It was an unusual evening of television for us but very enjoyable and a nice conclusion to a day that was broken up into multiple threads.


2015/12/05 (S) Saturday Night Fire Circle

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7:15.  I fed the cats and cleaned their litter tray, both of which are chores but I don’t mind doing them.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and finished yesterday’s blog post draft.  Linda got up at 8 AM having been awake since I got up.  At 8:20 I was going to make coffee but Juniper climbed in my lap so Linda took care of that chore, which is certainly one of our more pleasurable.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked on our Holiday Letter all morning.  I had a finished draft by lunch time and Linda read through it.  I have it set up for 8.5×14 inch legal size paper, but printing it that way will depend on whether we can get high quality glossy color laser paper in that size.

Linda reheated the last of the red beans and rice for lunch after which I washed some grapes.  After lunch Linda continued to work on her project and I turned my attention to another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I had some correspondence with the publisher, Gary, yesterday regarding my article on servicing the Webasto burner bearings and decided to finish my article on Butch Williams’ installation of an International Thermal Research OASIS Combi in their MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The work was done in October and November 2014 and the article was basically written in January 2015 but I had not selected or processed any of the photos.

I read through the article, highlighted several places with missing information, and rewrote some things.  I then selected 36 photos and started processing them.  The processing involved various adjustments such as alignment, lighting, and color followed by resizing and sharpening in two different sizes.  The larger size is typically 1900 x 1272 pixels as that will fill the screen of a 17 inch monitor and I don’t feel a larger size is needed or supported by the level of detail in the images.  The smaller size is typically 300×200 pixels.  I embed the smaller images at the end of the Word document with the image number and a caption.  I used to embed them into the article but the editor and layout person need the ability to fit them into the layout and I ultimately developed enough confidence in them to do that.  This is always subject to change, however, as is everything connected with this magazine.

We had dinner at 5 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, sautéed and lightly glazed some baby carrots, and heated some Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese.  The reason for the early dinner was the holiday parade down Main Street in Williston at 6 PM.  We left at 5:30 and walked to the corner of NE 5th Street and Main Street.  NE 5th Street is the street that leads back to the front entrance of the resort and is towards the end of the parade route, which comes down Main Street from west to east.  There were already people there, all from the RV Resort as near as we could tell, but we were early enough to get seats on the low brick wall that borders the parking lot for the funeral home.

Main Street is also US-27 but the police closed it down at 5:45 PM.  The parade started at the west end of Main Street by the high school so the lead police motorcycles did not reach us until 6:20 and the front of the main parade did not get to us until 6:30.  There were cars with beauty queens, simple floats with seasonal themes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, politicians, fire trucks, horses, and an elephant with Santa Claus riding on top.  It was a classic small town holiday parade.  It was all over by 7 PM and we walked briskly back to the firepit.

The firepit at WCRVR is about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by a concrete floor ring about six feet wide and covered by an inverted conical roof about 24 feet wide at the lower eaves.  A massive 8 foot diameter inverted conical hood is suspended over the firepit and the 12″ diameter flue pipe runs out the center top of the roof.  The outside perimeter of the floor has large wooden rocking chairs (think Cracker Barrel restaurant), a bench, and a few other chairs and there is a little bit of lighting up in the ceiling.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fire, visit, and listen to people play their guitars and sing.  The flue does not draft correctly so it tends to be smokey, but that is the only downside.  If not for that it would be perfect.

John was there with a couple of other people and had a nice fire going.  Even though it was in the mid-to-upper 60s there was a strong north breeze and the fire felt good.  Lots of other people eventually showed up and filled almost all of the seats so John got his guitar and started playing and singing.  Linda walked back to our rig to fetch our plastic wine glasses and opened a bottle of Egri Merlot.  It’s a good life.

I got a call from my sister and stepped away from the firepit.  She called to let me know that our dad was back in the hospital.  When I returned to the fire circle John was busy playing and singing and some folks had left so I tended the fire.  By 9 PM everyone had left except for John, Ali, and us.  I continued to tend the fire while the four of us talked.  Just before 10 PM I spread out the last embers of the fire and we all returned to our rigs for the night except John, who does the closing rounds on weekends.

Back at our motorcoach Linda put on the Michigan State vs Iowa Big 10 Championship football game.  Though not particularly interested in football I was too tired to work so after sending an e-mail to our son I laid down on the sofa; the first time I have done that since we built it into the coach.  By the time the game was over it was 11:45 PM.  We watched a few minutes of Cook’s Country on Create and went to bed.  I turned the TV on in the bedroom then turned it off.  I turned down the brightness of my iPad display and with only the dim light of the ceiling vista, and whatever light could get in around the window shades, worked on my blog post until 1 AM.


2015/10/08 (R) A Mighty Hose

Linda was up before 6 AM to drive to the bakery ahead of the worst of the morning rush hour traffic.  I was aware of her getting up but fell back asleep.  She is very quiet as she goes about her preparations on such mornings, which I appreciate.

I got up around 8AM, fed the cats, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made half as much coffee as usual and measured out a bowl of granola, probably a little more than usual.  I took my coffee to the living room and turned on the fireplace, expecting to settle in with my cats and work on my iPad, but the iOS 9.0.2 update was available so I started the installation and read the last few pages of Number Theory and Its History by Oystein Ore.  I read from screens more than from paper these days, but I still like to curl up with a printed book.

Jasper used to sit next to me on the sofa in the morning but seems to prefer sleeping on top of one of the back cushions these days.  Juniper, who never used to pay much attention to me, has taken his place.  She has always sought out warm places to curl up but has always preferred Linda’s lap to mine.

My bus project for today was reassembling the plumbing to the two fan-coil heat exchangers that go in the bases under the two desk pedestals.  Yesterday I cut new holes for the supply and return hoses.  My first task was to remove the hoses from the bleeder valves and install barbed plastic plugs in the ends to prevent coolant from coming out.  I then pulled the hoses back and out through the new openings.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

I worked on the hose for the right hand (rear most) heat exchanger first.  I positioned the base, routed the hose to the lower fitting, and marked where to cut it.  I put a plastic paint tray liner under the hose before I cut it but more coolant came out than I expected.  I got as much of it in the liner as I could and grabbed a bunch of paper shop towels.  I got the liner outside without spilling any antifreeze and poured the used antifreeze in a one gallon jug that I keep for just this purpose.  I used a funnel that is also reserved for use with antifreeze.

I took the cut off piece of heater hose outside, plugged end down, and set the open end in the tray liner.  We already had a bucket of soapy water in the bus as we had planned on hanging wallpaper yesterday.  I wrung out the sponge and then squeezed some of the soapy water on the floor and cleaned it up with paper shop towels.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place.  The heater hoses are not yet connected.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place. The heater hoses are not yet connected.

With the mess cleaned up I slipped two hose clamps over the end of the hose and worked it onto the lower fitting on the heat exchanger.  If only it had been as easy to do as that description!  The 3/4″ i.d. rubber heater hose did not just “slip” over the 3/4″ o.d. copper pipe even with some residual antifreeze lubricating the inside of the hose and the outside of the pipe.  Indeed, it took considerable and simultaneous pushing and twisting to get the hose on.  It was also a lot harder than I expected to work with the heat exchangers installed in the bases, even without the desk pedestals in place.

I was interrupting my work as needed to take photographs and as I finished up the first hose the camera refused to trigger the shutter.  The LCD screen indicated that the compact flash memory card was full so I went to my office to offload the images from the last few days.  My other CF card was empty so I put that in the camera and set it aside.  I had not backed up my photos to the Network Attached Storage units in quite a while so I decided to take the time to do that.  While I was at it I backed up my blog posts from December of 2014 through July of this year along with several issues of The Gypsy Journal.

As long as I was at my computer I checked my e-mail accounts, logged into RVillage, and logged into my account at B&H Photo.  My new Sony alpha 99 and accessories were on their way from New York and due to be delivered by the end of the day tomorrow.  I am excited to finally be getting a new digital camera with a full frame (35mm) sensor that will work correctly with all of my old Minolta A-mount lenses.

By this point it was lunchtime so I cleaned up (antifreeze is definitely NOT good eats) and scrounged around the kitchen for something tasty but easy to fix.  My “go to” meal is usually roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We had a little hummus left, which I finished, but I was still hungry so I made a bowl of popcorn.  I would probably not make a good bachelor.

I went back to the coach and contemplated attaching the other hose to the left heat exchanger.  While I was thinking about it Linda called to let me know she was on her way home.  It was 1 PM so I decided to wait for her to get home to help me install the second hose.  I had some phone calls to make and used the time for that.

I called Karen at Bratcher Electric to schedule the upgrading of our 60 Amp sub-panel in the garage to a 100 Amp main panel.  While I had her on the phone I asked if Mike would itemize the quote.  I also mentioned that they had picked up two or three whole house generator customers through my referrals and perhaps Mike could provide some consideration for that in the pricing.  Next I called Ferman Miller at Countertop Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana to check on the Corian desk top and table.  Ferman answered the phone and said he had called Josh this morning to let him know the pieces were ready for pickup.  I then called Josh to see what his plans were.

We originally agreed that he would pick them up and bring them to our house on his way to visit relatives in the northeast side of the Detroit metropolitan area.  His plans had changed and he won’t be visiting his relatives anytime soon.  He is leaving on Tuesday for a FMCA area rally in the Carolinas and will be gone for a week.  Before he leaves he needs to get something to a customer in Cleveland in addition to getting our stuff to us or deciding that we will have to drive to Shipshewana to get it ourselves.  One option is that we meet him somewhere on Sunday.  Ann Arbor is a possibility but Toledo or Defiance (Ohio) are more likely rendezvous points.

Linda got home around 2 PM and changed into her work clothes.  With Linda’s help I was able to avoid the mess I had with the first hose.  The second hose was even harder to get on than the first one but we managed to do it.  In part because of the arthritis in the joints at the base of my thumbs I do not have as much grip strength as I would like and often need.  The twisting and pushing was hard on my hands and the confines of the base and proximity of crisp wooden edges resulted in lots of small cuts.  This was not something I anticipated in the design and construction of the bases and the installation of the heat exchangers.

I took a break and drove to Northwest Plumbing Supply to see if they had a bleeder valve like the ones in our bus system.  They did not and had never do seen anything like it before.  The showed me a couple of things they did have but I did not buy anything.  I got a call from Brighton Honda that my car was ready for pickup so I headed home to get Linda.  She drove me to the dealership and then went on to Meijer’s for a few grocery items.

I drove to Lowe’s in Howell and was fortunate to find Lars in the plumbing department.  The store was not very busy and he took an interest in showing me various plumbing options that might allow me to replace the bleeder valve with something that would do the same thing while also giving me a way to add antifreeze to the system.  What I ended up with was 3/4″x3/4″X1/2″ copper sweat T and a 1/2″ sweat ball valve with a waste port.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.  (Photo by Linda.)

Back home I cleaned some 3/4″ and 1/2″ copper pipe with 120 grit plumbers sandpaper.  I cut two pieces of the 3/4″ pipe about 3″ long and one piece of the 1/2″ pipe about 1-1/2″ long.  I brushed the inside of all the fittings and test fit the pieces.  I then applied flux to all of the surfaces to be soldered, inserted the two 3/4″ stubs into the run fittings, inserted the 1/2″ stud into the bull fitting, and put the ball valve on the other end of the 1/2″ pipe.  I used the lever on the ball valve to mount the assembly in my bench vise.  I removed the waste port cap to protect the neoprene seal and opened the ball valve so as not to trap heat inside.  I then heated the T and the end of the valve and applied the solder.

I figured there had to be an easier way to get heater hose onto the heat exchanger and that Butch was the guy who would know what it was.  I called and he said antifreeze can obviously be used and works fairly well but that a small amount of dish soap would also work as a lubricant and not harm the antifreeze or the Aqua-Hot and its components.  As long as we were on the phone I caught up on their activities.

They were still there at the RV Park in Bouse, Arizona but only until the 15th of this month.  The terms and conditions of their employment as managers of the park had not turned out to be as described during the interview process and they are wrapping up after only a month on the job.  They will move their bus back to Quartzsite and spend at least part of the winter at Joe and Connie’s place where we both spent last winter.  I know it was a big disappointment to them that the situation in Bouse did not work out, but their situation in Q will be familiar, comfortable, and inexpensive, as well as convenient to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club which they joined this past winter.

For dinner Linda made a blend of onions, garlic, mushrooms, and power greens and served it over a baked potato topped with Daiya cheese.  It was very yummy, and the potatoes kept the dish warm all the way to the end.  The weather had turned cloudy through the afternoon and we got the first raindrops during dinner.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected.  The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected. The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

I had really hoped to have the hydronic heating system reassembled today so we went back out to bus after dinner to hook up the heater hose that runs between the two heat exchangers.  This was actually two pieces of hose with my homemade bleeder/fill valve half way between the two exchangers.  Even with dish soap the two hoses were very difficult to get onto the heat exchanger fittings and the bleeder/fill stubs, but I got them on.  Linda took pictures while I grunted, groaned, and moaned and I took a few more when I was done.

It was 8:45 PM when we finally quit working, secured the bus, and went inside.  I cleaned my hands as best I could but I could not get all of the black from the rubber hoses to come off.  We sat for a while in the living room and had the last of the frozen chocolate torte that Linda made a couple of weeks ago.  We finally turned in around 10 PM and watched Rick Steve’s Europe, Travel in the Americas, and a couple of cooking shows while I worked on this post.


2015/09/07 (M) Grouted

Linda got up at 6:45 AM to get a shower before Madeline woke up.  She peeked in the bedroom at 7:30 and there was no Madeline to be seen!  She pushed the door open a little farther and felt some resistance.  She looked behind the door and there was Ms. M, playing hide and seek with Grandma Linda.  🙂  Madeline was not fully awake, however, and sat with Linda on the living room sofa and read stories for a while.

All of this was retold to me as I was up late last night working on yesterday’s blog post and did not get up this morning until 8 AM, just in time for breakfast.  Breakfast was gluten-free toaster waffles with real maple syrup and mixed berries on the side (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries); simple but delicious.

After breakfast Linda took Madeline to the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.  They needed to return a book to the lending library and Linda wanted to make sure Ms. M had an active morning so she would be tired enough to lie down for her nap at 1 PM.

Bruce grouting the tiles in the hallway by the new bus refrigerator.

Bruce grouting the tiles in the hallway by the new bus refrigerator.

I got back to work on the grout immediately after breakfast.  My goal was to be done by noon as it needed to cure, undisturbed, for 24 hours before we could clean it and resume working inside the bus.  I picked up where I left off last night with the area in front of the refrigerator where the kitchen blends into the hallway.  I was now out into the front half of the bus which is much more open than the hallway, bathroom, and bedroom.  Also, most of the tiles in this area are full 16 inch squares so I thought I might be able to work faster.  That was optimistic to say the least.

It was forecast to be hot today with a high near 90 degrees F and elevated relative humidity.  I turned on the front and middle air-conditioners initially but eventually had to turn off the middle unit when I got to the point where I would no longer be able to reach it.  I was a bit surprised that the front A-C alone kept the coach comfortable but we are approaching the autumnal Equinox so the transit of the sun is enough lower in the southern sky that the coach is in shade for most of the day.

It felt like I was moving right along but by noon it was obvious that this was going to be an all-day task so I stopped to have lunch.  Linda served vegan hotdogs with pickle relish and onions and set out a large bunch of grapes.  After lunch I resumed the grouting while Linda and Madeline watched a video.  Madeline laid down for her nap right on schedule.  Linda then took a few minutes to help me move the Aqua-Hot fan-coil heat exchangers so I could grout the area where they had been sitting on the floor.  Linda cleaned up the kitchen and then had some well-deserved and needed quiet time.

I had a call from Butch around 1:30 PM.  I was in the middle of applying grout and said I would call him back later.  They left on Saturday for the southwest U.S. and were planning to spend this evening at a Walmart near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  By 5:25 PM I had one small set of inter tile spaces to grout when Linda and Madeline came out to tell me that dinner was ready.  I had just finished a section so I had already cleaned my tools.  I put the lid back on the grout container and went inside to eat.

Dinner was mock chicken tenders (vegan), green beans, kale chips, sliced plums, and grapes.  There was a little left over “gravy” (vegan) from last night so I had that on my chicken.  Madeline helped make the kale chips and really liked them.  As soon as I was done eating I excused myself from the table and went back to the bus.

I finished grouting the last four grout spaces and then cleaned up the tools and put them away.  I also cleaned up the cockpit area of the bus which is where everything ended up as I worked my way out of the living area.  I turned off the front A-C and locked the bus.  While I did that Linda cleaned up the kitchen and then gathered up all of Madeline’s things.

When I was done with my chores I cleaned up and changed clothes.  The three of us then loaded all of Madeline’s things into Linda’s car which has had the car seat in it all weekend.  We closed up the house and headed for Ann Arbor.  Linda drove so that I could return Butch’s phone call.

Butch had a possible issue with his house battery bank and wanted to discuss it.  He bought eight AGM batteries last winter in Quartzsite, Arizona and finally installed them over the summer.  They are 12V DC batteries and he has them in a series-parallel configuration to make a 24V DC battery pack with a 12V DC center tap.  A 24V Magnum 4024 inverter/charger is connected to the +24V and DC ground and a Vanner Equalizer is connected to those same points and to the 12V center tap, which is where 12V DC loads, like the water pump, draw their power.  In addition, Butch wired three LED display voltmeters to the battery pack; one for the lower 12V bank, one for the upper 12V bank, and one for the overall 24V bank.

His issue/concern was that the upper and lower 12V banks were not reading the same voltage.  They were different by one volt, which is a lot, and the upper bank had the lower voltage, which I agreed was an odd situation.  Without the Vanner Equalizer 12V loads would draw their energy from the lower 12 V bank and as the charge in that bank got depleted the voltage would drop.  The Vanner Equalizer’s purpose in the system is to draw charge from the upper battery bank to make up for this depletion and keep the voltage the same, or equalized, on both banks.  I presumed that all three voltmeters were accurate and that the Vanner was connected correctly, all of which would be easy enough to check.

After talking about all of this his plan was to temporarily disable the Vanner by removing its connection to battery ground and see what affect that had.  He also thought the Vanner might have a circuit breaker and would check to see if it had tripped.  I could not confirm or deny whether this would work.  I have looked for information on how the Vanner does what it does and not found much although I have found circuit diagrams for other battery equalizers.  My presumption is that it is a small inverter/charger, taking DC power from the upper 12V bank, creating some sort of AC waveform, and applying it to one side of a 1:1 transformer.  The other side of the transformer sees the same AC waveform, converts it back to 12V DC, and applies it to the lower battery.  The transformer is the key as it isolates the two banks relative to ground.  I wrapped up the call a few minutes before we got to our destination.

We arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s house at 7:45 PM. They had pulled up just minutes before us and were unloading their car.  They had not dropped Jorge at his home yet so we got to visit with him too.  Madeline had me read her a book about what happens if you give a cat a cupcake.  We stayed until 8:15 PM and offered to drive Jorge home as Brendan and Shawna had to get Madeline to bed and then eat something for dinner.  Madeline got out the cupcakes she helped make and offered those for their evening meal.  Tomorrow is a work day for her parents and she has to go to her new school.  Jorge is also starting a new job as the wine department manager at the new Plum Market on the northeast side of Ann Arbor, so everyone needed their rest this evening.

We were going to stop at Meijer’s supermarket on the way home but encountered rain before we got to the Brighton exit.  We stopped at the Shell station instead, filled up the gas tank, and bought two large decaf coffees at the Dunkin Donuts co-located with the station.  Back at the house we each had a vegan cupcake and then sat quietly in the living room working on our iPads while enjoying our brew and the company of our cats.  By 10 PM Linda was sleepy and went to bed.  I was also tired but stayed up longer to finish this post.  Scattered thunderstorms were forecast over a several hour period starting at 11:30 PM.  That is when I turned off the light but they had not yet started.  We could use a good soaking rain so I hope we get one overnight.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN

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

Jarel Beatty Cabinetry, Logansport, IN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/08/07 (F) Arrangements

We had our usual, but never boring, homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I brewed a pot of the Costa Rican half-caff coffee we bought yesterday without tasting it first.  We found it to be somewhat bitter, which is not our taste in coffee, so we probably will not buy more after this batch is gone.

We spent a good part of the morning researching cabinet pulls on the Cabinet Service Hardware (CSH) website.  We found a pull on the CSH website that appeared to be identical to the one from The Home Depot, which is a Rockefeller Antique Brass from Liberty Hardware.  The one from CSH was a Belwith Keeler HH.P135-AB for $2.47 each.  The one from The Home Depot was $2.48 plus tax but no S&H.  Since we have the one from THD in hand and like how it looks we will probably buy them locally.

Many of the drawers in the bus have the pulls attached to the walnut face and then the face attached to the front of the drawer box.  Thus, the only way to remove the pulls is to first unscrew the box from the face.  I took the face off of one drawer and installed the new pull.  It fit perfectly, confirming that the mounting hole spacing is 3″ center-to-center.   The one from THD comes with 1″ and 1.5″ #8-32 machine screws but it looks like we will need something shorter than 1″ for the framed drawers and shorter than 1.5″ for the solid drawers.  The cabinet doors have 3/4″ thick frames so the 1″ machine screws may work for those.  Thus we should be able to use some of the machine screws that come with the pulls from THD but will have to buy some as well.  The pulls from CSH do not come with screws so we would have to buy those anyway.

Linda left around noon to meet Diane in Livonia to see a movie (Ricki and the Flash) starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Rick Springfield.  I went on an errand run while she was away.  At The Home Depot in Howell I found 10 packs of the drawer pull we like so the price came out to under $2 per pull compared to $2.48 when purchased individually.  We need 58 to replace all the ones in the coach plus at least four for the new desk drawers so I bought six 10-packs.  We have not decided if we will replace the single screw round pulls on the two TV cabinet doors with the double screw pulls.  If we do we will need a couple more pulls.  If not, we will need two round pulls in the same style and finish, which THD also carries.  I bought small packs of #8-32×3/4″ and #8-32×1-1/4″ lengths so I can figure out what lengths work best in each location.

Jarel called while at was THD.  The plans for the built-in sofa had arrived in today’s mail and he had a few questions.  We talked through the issues and came to the conclusion that it would be better for us to come down on Wednesday instead of Tuesday to pick up the desk.  That will give him time to cut the sofa pieces and do some minor assembly and finishing.  The plywood seat and side pieces need to be stained to resemble the walnut hardwood and a 3/4″x3/4″ piece of walnut hardwood needs to be attached to the front edge.  He also needs to cut the piece of walnut veneered plywood for the front and then spray everything with the same lacquer he has used on all of the walnut desk pieces.

As I was finishing up at THD I also got a call from Chuck letting me know that everything was on track for the refrigerator swap tomorrow.  My next stop was at the Howell Lowe’s for a 4′ x 4′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood but I did not like their selection any better than THD.  I ended up buying two quarter sheets (24″ x 48″) of birch plywood.  This plywood has a lot of thin layers, so it is very flat and dimensionally stable, with defect free surfaces that are sanded smooth and very clean edges.  These sheets will go on the bottom of the refrigerator alcove in the bus to elevate the new refrigerator above the new vinyl tile floor.

Back home I texted Josh at Coach Supply Direct, called Terry at A-1 Upholstery, and called Butch regarding the change in our visit date for next week.  Linda got home shortly thereafter and helped me reattach the edge trim to the two doors of the old refrigerator and load them into the back of my car.  We covered everything with blankets and then loaded all of the drawers, shelves, racks, and bins.  Once the old fridge is out of the bus we will clean it, reassemble it, plug it in, and make sure it is cooling.  We will then call DTE Energy to arrange pick up through their recycling program.

Loading pieces of the old refrigerator into the back of the Element to take to Chuck's shop.

Loading pieces of the old refrigerator into the back of the Element to take to Chuck’s shop.

Linda bought an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza while she was out and cooked it for dinner.  It is our favorite store bought pizza, and much better (for us) than what we can usually get at restaurants and pizzerias (with the exception of Satchel’s in Gainesville, Florida), but not as good as the pizza we had while Mara was here.  That pizza was memorable.

After dinner I got a shower and then worked on the design/drawings for the seat and back cushions for the built-in sofa for the bus.  I started editing blog posts for July but did feel like uploading them.  We went to bed earlier than usual as we had to up at 7 AM tomorrow to go to our weekly ham radio club breakfast.


2015/06/20 (S) Cable Entry Box

We had not been to our local ham radio club breakfast the last two Saturdays because of the GLAMARAMA rally and a visit from Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary.  The club was conducting VE testing today, rather than the usual 4th Saturday of the month, because the ARRL Field Day event is next weekend.  When we got to breakfast at 8 AM there were already a lot of people there and seven more came in after us.  We did not take a head count but it was somewhere between 25 and 30 people.  We also did not have our usual waitress but the substitute very efficiently got everyone’s order taken and delivered.

The 40 foot tower on the east end of the house with the old OTA TV antenna on top.

The 40 foot tower on the east end of the house with the old OTA TV antenna on top.

I checked with Mike (W8XH) and he is available to help us get the antennas mounted on the small tower on Monday or Wednesday, assuming I have the cable entry box (CEB) installed and all of the necessary coaxial cable on hand.  Getting the CEB mounted was my main goal for today, but not the first thing I had to do.  I called Chuck as we were leaving breakfast at 9:15 AM.  He was at home and suggested we stop by there and pick up a key to his shop.  He was working on landscaping when we arrived so we did not stay long and we were back home by 10 AM.  Linda finalized her shopping list and headed off to gather the things she needed to prepare tomorrow’s brunch.  I changed into my work clothes, gathered up the laundry, put a load in the washer, and got to work on the CEB.

The CEB is designed to mount on the outside of the house, allowing wiring to pass between the inside and outside of the house in a way that is weather tight and animal proof.  Coaxial RF cables and control lines enter through the bottom, connect to lightning arrestors in the CEB that provide a path to ground if/when needed, and then continue through the wall of the house and thence to various devices.  Those devices might include cellular phone signal boosters, Wi-Fi systems, TV sets, satellite receivers, personal weather stations, or amateur radio gear such as radios, remote antenna switches, and antenna rotators.

The general area on the east end of the house at the base of he 40' tower where the CEB will be mounted.

The general area on the east end of the house at the base of he 40′ tower where the CEB will be mounted.

Superficially the installation looked simple.  With the copper back plane removed there were four mounting holes, one near each corner, and two large holes in the back.  All we had to do was hold the box against the wall, mark the locations of the four mounting holes and the big cable entry holes, set the box aside, drill the holes, put the box back up and secure it.  Right.  Sort of, but not exactly.  Mounting the box took seven hours to complete.

The first step was to remove the copper back plane with the three lightning arrestors installed on it.  I took care of that yesterday.  The next issue was that the house has shiplap siding, i.e., the east wall where I needed to mount the CEB was not a flat surface.  I decided to use 1″ square aluminum tube, installed vertically along the back of the box at the outside edges, to span multiple siding boards, ensuring that the CEB would be plumb.  I also decided to leave the tube long enough to go all the way to the ground and use it to support some the weight, in effect creating legs for the CEB.  That was Linda’s idea.  She’s a smart girl and a licensed amateur radio operator.

The back of the CEB with one of the vertical mounting bars.

The back of the CEB with one of the vertical mounting bars.

We had some surplus pavers and garden blocks and I found one that was just wide enough to catch the bottom of the legs.  I also had some left over paver base material, which meant I did not need to make a trip to the store.  The paver base material was from a project long, long ago (in a place far, far away) and I used it to create a base for the foundation paver, which was approximately 18″ x 12″.  I leveled the base side-to-side and pitched it away from the house for drainage.

Yesterday I purchased a 3′ long aluminum tube at Lowe’s and a 4′ long tube at The Home Depot.  Three feet turned out to be a good length, so I cut a foot off of the 4′ tube.  Things then got trickier.  The positioning of the CEB was critical as the two large holes in the back were for adapters for 2″ plastic conduit.  I was going to have to cut 3″ diameter holes through the bond that would come out above the plate on top of the concrete block foundation.  In the chosen mounting location the bottom corner holes in the CEB would be below the siding.  The lower right leg would be at least an inch away from the concrete block foundation and the lower left hole would be in front of a basement window opening so neither of these were going to be screwed into anything.

The CEB in position on the east end of the house with the door open.  The copper backplane has been removed.

The CEB in position on the east end of the house with the door open. The copper backplane has been removed.

I wanted the CEB anchored at more than two points so I decided to drill two additional holes in the back, one on each side, approximately half way between the existing top and bottom holes.  I measured the spacing between the top and bottom holes as carefully as I could.  I measured down from the top end of each leg a distance for the top holes that was just sufficient to make sure the door of the CEB was below the 2″ iron gas pipe that runs horizontally along the outside of the house.  I measured down from there for the new middle hole and the bottom hole.  I then drilled the three holes through each leg by drilling opposing sides.  I had to use a powered hand drill for this work as my drill press was stored behind a large pile of RV furniture that we took out of the bus and was inaccessible.

I attached one of the legs to the back of the box using two short bolts through the top and bottom holes.  I then used the middle hole in the leg as a guide and drilled through the back of the CEB.  I repeated this procedure for the other leg.  I drilled the holes in the legs as accurately as I could but they did not quite line up so I had to enlarge them slightly by using the drill bit like a router bit.  Not ideal, to be sure, but aluminum is relatively soft and it worked.

The east end of the house with two 2" holes for the conduit.

The east end of the house with two 2″ holes for the conduit.

I attached each leg to the back of the CEB using 1.5″ 1/4-20 bolts through the bottom corner holes.  I snugged these up but left them loose enough that we could move the legs.  The top and middle holes were located in positions that would allow lag screws to be screwed into the siding and underlying plywood.  We had to tilt the legs to get them under the 2″ iron gas pipe and then straighten them and set them on the foundation paver.  We had to do this multiple times but it was easy once we figured out how to do it the first time.

With the CEB in position I marked the location of the holes for four 3″ 1/4-20 lag screws.  We removed the CEB so I could drill the holes for the lag screws and then put it back in position and screwed it to the wall.  I marked the locations of the two holes for the conduit as best I could and then unscrewed the box and removed it again.  I used our 1/2″ Craftsmen corded drill for the 3″ hole saw.  I bought this drill in 1978, along with a lot of other Craftsmen tools, when we moved into our house in Farmington Hills.  I still have almost all of those tools and they all still work.

The CEB in position with both pieces of conduit through the back.

The CEB in position with both pieces of conduit through the back.

With the conduit holes drilled I cut one of the 18″ lengths of conduit in half, inserted the pieces into the adapters, and placed them in the holes.  We then put the CEB into position, got the adapters through the holes in the back of the CED, and tried to line up the holes in the legs.  The conduit was being forced up as it went through the bond, especially the one on the left, and would not allow the holes in the CEB to line up with the holes in the legs.  We took the retaining rings off of the adapters and removed the CEB, again.

I shortened the conduit pieces to approximately 5″ and checked the fit in the holes.  We wrapped two bands of adhesive backed foam weather-stripping around each piece of conduit and placed them back in the holes.  I then applied a bead of adhesive caulk all the way around each adapter at the wall.  We put the CEB in position for the final time, got the conduit adapters through the holes, snugged up the retaining rings, and put the four lag screws in.  After tightening the four lag screws I tightened the two bolts in the lower corners.  I then tightened the adapter retain rings and put the open end caps on.  The conduit ended up getting pulled back out of the wall a bit so I used the thin end of a 10″‘wood shim to try and force the caulk back into the gap around the conduit adapter.  It did not go back in very well so I will have to figure out something else to seal around the conduit.

The CEB was finally installed and very solidly anchored.  I got the copper base plate and remounted it to the five studs (four corners and one center) using some antioxidant/anti-seize compound on the stud threads.  The last step (for today) was to install the snap in covers for the 16 cable entrance holes in the bottom of CEB.  I also ordered 16 grommets and will remove the caps and replace them with grommets as I install devices and run their cables and wires into the CEB.

The CEB with the copper backplane installed and the three Morgan lightning arrestors mounted (two lower left, one top center).

The CEB with the copper backplane installed and the three Morgan lightning arrestors mounted (two lower left, one top center).

The two pieces of conduit open into the sump pump room (large closet) in the northeast corner of the basement just above the wood plate that sits on top of the concrete block foundation.  I plan to install the SureCall Fusion5s 5-band cellular booster (amplifier) in this room to keep it close to the CEB and because there is AC power available there.  I bought an installation kit for the Fusion5s that includes a lightning arrestor which will get mounted in the CEB.  I also bought an amplifier for the OTA TV antenna that will mount on the tower a few feet below the antenna.  The amplifier will get its power through the coax from a power inserter that doubles as a lightning arrestor and will be installed in the CEB with the AC power supply (wall wart) in the sump pump room.

I did not get these two additional lightning arrestors installed today.  By the time we got the CEB installed we were tired.  The high temperature was OK (near 80?) but the relative humidity was very high.  I was also very sore the whole time, especially my left knee, undoubtedly the lingering after effect of using the power chisel earlier in the week to remove thinset and mastic from the floor of the bus.  Getting down and up at least 50 times during the afternoon did not improve matters, but we got it done.

Even though she was also tired, once we reached a point where I could finish up alone Linda got busy making several food items for tomorrow.  In the midst of all that she heated some Amy’s Lentil Soup and made grilled cheese sandwiches with Diaya cheese or dinner.  Diaya makes an excellent non-dairy cheese that works well cold or cooked into dishes.

After dinner I returned a call from Butch to find out more about their new property and buildings, and discuss bus and ham radio projects.  One of the things Linda made was an apple pie so we stayed up until it was cool enough to wrap up.  That turned out to be 10 PM, by which time we ready to turn in for the night.


2015/06/17 (W) Bakery Scraper

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15 AM to beat the morning rush hour traffic headed into the northwest corner of the Detroit metroplex.  I got up about an hour later, tended to my morning cat chores, made coffee, had some granola for breakfast, gathered up the trash, and took the big trash can to the street.

The Apex roofing crew started showing up just before 8 AM.  After everything was squared away with Apex I went to The Home Depot in Howell to rent the small power floor scraper.  The scraper took some of the thinset off but was not as effective as I had hoped it would be.  The tool is designed for stripping linoleum floors, so I had no reason to complain that it did not do what I needed it to do.  I returned it within four hours and paid the 4-hour rental fee rather than the day (24-hour) fee.  The guy in the tool rental department suggested I try a different machine which they had not mentioned to me previously.  It was a Makita 11 pound power chisel.  I rented it with three chisels.

The roofers were at the point where they needed to install the two Velux Sun Tunnel skylights in the roof of the living room.  I showed them where I wanted them installed, if possible, and they tarped off the furniture and floor in the living room.  Apex is very good about protecting the yard from damage and capturing the mess that is associated with a roof project.  That same care and attention carried over to the inside work, which I appreciated.

Our bus looking forward from the the hallway by the refrigerator and pantry.

Our bus looking forward from the the hallway by the refrigerator and pantry.

After a break for lunch I spent most of the afternoon using the power chisel to strip the area of the floor in the bus where the ceramic tile was installed.  I was not able to strip it down to the plywood subfloor, but I was able to knock down most of the ridges of thinset and adhesive that remained after I chiseled out the tiles.

I had a brief chat with Chuck around lunchtime regarding the refrigerator.  Butch called mid-afternoon to fill me in on why he was not able to answer the phone last night.  Linda called around 2:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery.  She pulled in the driveway an hour later and came in the bus to see what I was up to and let me know it was starting to rain.  I had made good progress but was not done and decided I would keep the power chisel until tomorrow and pay the 1-day (24-hour) rate.

The roofers were aware of the rain, which was very light though increasing steadily, but were in the middle of replacing plywood and installing the skylights.  Some of them finished that up as quickly as they could, cleaned up the roof, and spread out the tarps while the others picked up the debris from the yard and got it in the trash trailer.  The trailer was full so they took it with them when the left at 4:40 PM.

We had a snack of pretzels, green grapes and a small glass of Moscato wine.  My thumbs were both bothering me (arthritis) so I took some Ibuprofen and then went back to work in the bus.  I had to close the roof vents because of the rain so it was warmer inside and a bit stuffy as the humidity had come way up.  I worked as long as I could and quit for the day at 6 PM.

For dinner Linda made a simple green salad and then cooked some whole wheat capellini and tossed it with the homemade tomato-based Marinara sauce she made the other day.  After dinner I worked in my office for a while.  I thought I would upload some blog posts but I had an e-mail from Bus Conversion Magazine with the draft of the May 2015 issue.  I proofread part 2 of my 4-part article on the Exterior Makeover of our bus by Phoenix Paint.  I found one thing that needed to be corrected and e-mailed it to the editor.

Linda got a DVD of Wild from the Howell Library the other day but we were too tired to watch it and just went to bed.  I turned my light out at 9:58 PM, the first time since I can’t remember when that I have done that before 10 o’clock in the evening.


2015/06/16 (T) More Stupid

Linda was scheduled to go to the bakery this morning but rescheduled to tomorrow due to last night’s weather forecast and the possibility of flooded highways in Detroit.  The morning rush hour traffic is bad under the best of conditions and flooded roadways can make it near impossible.  She also did not sleep well and woke up tired.

The Apex roofing crew started showing up just before 8 AM and the Wimsatt truck showed up with the shingles a little after 8 AM.  They brought a conveyor truck this time and were able to get the shingles off the truck and onto the roof without difficulty.  The Apex crew did not waste any time getting to work.  It turned out to be a great day for roofing; clear skies, no rain, moderate temperatures, lower humidity, and some breeze.  Even so, it is work that is done without the benefit of shade and roofs are hot places to work even on the nicest of days.

Wimsatt unloads shingles onto the garage roof.

Wimsatt unloads shingles onto the garage roof.

Linda continued working on the financials for our amateur radio club while I checked my e-mail.  I had a reply from RV Critter Guard telling me what to order and how much it would cost.  I placed the order through their website and used PayPal to complete the transaction.  I tried calling the concrete contractor that Phil recommended (Bid Rite Concrete LLC in Whitmore Lake) but the phone would disconnect after the first ring and revert to a dial tone.  Perhaps the recent storms caused a problem but I e-mailed Phil to see if he had a different number for them.  I called the Henry Ford Medical Center in West Bloomfield and made dermatology appointments for myself and Linda.

With all of that taken care of I turned my attention to the bus.  The toilet is a Microphor LF-210.  It uses pressurized air to operate the waste valve and the water valve and to help push the waste through the drain pipe and into the black tank.  To remove the toilet I had to undo three connections—air, water, and waste—and take out the four screws securing it to the floor.  If only it was as easy as that makes it sound.

The plumbing at the back of the Microphor toilet in our bus.

The plumbing at the back of the Microphor toilet in our bus.

Undoing the air line was easy and undoing the water connection only a little less so.  The waste connection was another matter.  The 1.5″ black plastic drain pipe was routed from the water bay through the floor and into the HVAC chase that runs along the driver’s side of the coach.  The converter, Royale Coach, brought it out through a hole in the wood that covers the chase, making it impossible to take the wood cover off.  The pipe then made two right angle bends, the first one towards the floor and the second one towards the back of the toilet.  The waste pipe was connected to the toilet discharge pipe with a length of rubber hose and a compression sleeve.

The toilet has a large hole in the back for all of these lines to pass through to the inside where they get hooked up.  It should have been a simple matter to slide the toilet away from the wall/chase but the last bend in the drain line was below the top edge of the bottom of the hole, preventing it from coming out.  After wiggling the toilet enough to get the rubber hose loose from the drain pipe I was able to lift the drain pipe just enough to slide the toilet out.  I took pictures for a possible BCM article on our interior remodeling project and then Linda helped me move the toilet out of the bathroom to the front of the coach.

The more I disassemble this coach the more stupid I think the design and construction of its systems are.  I don’t know that coaches from Marathon, Liberty, Vantare, Featherlight, Parliament, Millennium, Custom Coach, or any of a dozen other companies that have come and gone, is any better as I have never tried to disassemble one of them.  These are one-of-kind vehicles that are custom built specifically for the original purchaser and the over-riding factor in every case is the interior design.  Stuff, like toilets, go where the customer wants it, and systems, which are generally buried and hidden from view, get built wherever and however they can be made to fit.  The converter does not expect to have to repair or replace anything during the very short 12 month, 12,000 miles, warranty period and if stuff breaks after that, or someone wants to do a remodel or upgrade sometime later, it will all be time and material.  How difficult it is to do, and how many hours it takes, is someone else’s problem at that point.

The Apex crew hard at work on the back side of the main roof.

The Apex crew hard at work on the back side of the main roof.

We had a call from Butch updating us on a possible property purchase.  They are waiting for a clear title search before making an offer.  The property includes a house and a sizable barn.  The barn needs a new roof and the house will have to be gutted and the inside rebuilt, but for the right price it will still be a good deal.  They already have a good estimate to replace the barn roof and since they are now retired they have more time to work on the house than they would have a year ago.  They also have family and friends who can help.  Besides, they still have their home/business building in Twelve Mile, Indiana and their bus, which they lived in all this past winter, so they will not be under any pressure to get the inside rebuilt quickly.

Linda started downloading updates from Adobe Creative Cloud, which take a very long time, and then left at 3:30 PM for Ann Arbor.  She agreed to take care of grand-daughter Madeline while Brendan and Shawna attended a reception at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor for newly tenured and promoted faculty.  I was on my own for dinner and Linda bought an Amy’s pizza so I would have something easy to prepare.

The roofers finished up for the day around 5 PM.  By the time they left most of the trash was in their dumpster trailer and the roof was tarped as a precaution against rain even though the forecast for tonight and tomorrow is for dry weather.  Rain returns to the forecast tomorrow night into Thursday but turns dry again on Friday, so we are optimistic that they will get the job finished this week.  It’s a big job but Apex has a big crew working on it and they got a lot of work done today.  We are very pleased with the look of the Certainteed Landmark Pro Max Def Resawn Shake shingle that we chose.  I took pictures of the work throughout the day as I always try to do with major projects.

After the roofers left I worked for a while in the bus.  I took the mattress into the house along with the electric heating pad controls.  I disconnected the two gas struts that support the plywood bed platform so I could open it far enough to reinstall one of the drawers.  I left them disconnected as I plan to remove the platform to provide better access to the sides of the box and floor.  I also plan to reposition them when I reinstall the platform to provide better access to the storage area underneath.  I then took measurements and made a sketch of the file drawer box for the desk.

Installing soffit baffles and replacing roof decking on the front of the main roof.

Installing soffit baffles and replacing roof decking on the front of the main roof.

I cooked the Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza on the outdoor gas grill, both to avoid heating up the house and to see how it responded to that cooking method.  I used the grilling mat and the result was quite acceptable.  A glass of Franzia Moscato was a nice accompaniment.

After dinner I worked at the drafting board in my office turning my sketch and measurements into a scale drawing.  The two boxes for the desk will be trickier than a standard desk box because of the HVAC chase and because I have to put an Aqua-Hot heat exchanger in the bottom of each one.  I worked until about 9 PM and then came back upstairs.

The air-conditioner worked fine yesterday but was once again unable to bring the temperature in the house below 74 degrees F even though the outside air temperature never rose above 80.  There is clearly something wrong and I am wondering if one of the cold air ducts is open into the attic and/or one of the return air ducts us drawing hot air from the attic.  Either of these conditions would reduce the air flow to the house and overtax the evaporator in the air handling unit.  The more likely cause, however, is lack of refrigerant.  Whatever the case I shut the system off and opened up the house.

I was relaxing in the living room when Linda called at 9:30 PM to let me know she had left her babysitting gig and was stopping at the Whole Foods Market before heading home.  The reception started at 5 PM and lasted until 9 PM.  She was home by 10:15 PM and straight away to bed as she has to go into the bakery tomorrow and wants to leave early enough to be ahead of the morning rush hour traffic.


2015/05/28 (R) Ice Cold Internet

I was up until after 1 AM last night fussing with my computer but the OS was updated and was running better (I think) when I finally went to bed.  I need my beauty rest so I did not get up until 9 AM this morning.  Linda had already made coffee so I checked the temperature of the refrigerator (41.4 degrees F) and then got out the soy creamer.  41 is better than 45 but given where the thermostat was set the temperature in the fresh food compartment should have been 35 degrees or lower.  We had a very late breakfast of homemade granola and small glasses of orange juice to wash down our vitamins.

Because I did not get to upload any blog posts last night I switched up my routine and spent the morning working at my desk.  The weather was very nice so Linda went for a long walk.  My computer was back to normal and I managed to upload nine posts to my blog (May 10 through 18) by 1 PM.

I had an e-mail back from Ken Schramm yesterday letting me know that his “last day at Wayne RESA” gathering would get underway around 3:30 PM at Ashley’s Beer & a Grill at Westland Mall.  Brendan and Shawna’s celebration is from 5 to 8 PM in Ann Arbor so we will be able to attend both events although we might not make it to Ann Arbor until 6 PM.

Today was our friends’ 44th wedding anniversary.  Butch and Fonda were married the same year we were one day before us.  We did not know each other then but are now friends through our mutual passion for converted highway buses.

Brendan called and talked to Linda.  It turns out that tomorrow is grandparents/special friends Shabbat at Madeline’s daycare center and Brendan thought we might want to attend.  It starts at 10:30 AM and includes lunch.  The food at the daycare center is vegetarian but not vegan so we will see how that works out.  Brendan is going to take care of Linda’s plants so we will take these with us and go to his house when we are done at the daycare center.  I will pick up our electric pressure washer while we are there so I can wash the bus on Saturday.  We were going to buy cards today for Ken, Brendan, and Shawna but decided we would do that tomorrow on our way to Ken’s gathering.

Linda made large green salads with chickpeas for lunch.  We both put on a few pounds over the winter and really want/need to take them off.  After lunch I worked in the bus.  I removed the wood trim along the top of the beveled strip mirrors on the wall in hallway.  The strips were glued directly to the wall so I put the trim back on.  If we do not want to see these mirrors we will have to figure out some way to cover them.

There was a triangular horizontal panel between the upper edges of the J-lounge and the dinette with four switches mounted in it.  Two of those switches no longer control anything but the other two still do.  I secured the panel above the passenger side HVAC chase and blocked it in so it could not move.  I dressed all of the loose wires with cable ties and cable clamps and secured them to the floor.  I cut two grates from a piece of expanded metal and secured them over the two holes in the driver side HVAC chase where the sleeper-sofa was installed.  That sealed up the last of the holes that the cats might get into.  If one of them got into the HVAC system we would have disassemble half the bus to get them out.

I removed all of my tools and miscellaneous parts from the bus and set them on steps leading to the house.  I had put one of our folding chairs inside the bus to sit on and moved it to the location of the passenger chair as a safety barrier after I moved the trash can out yesterday.  I folded it up and put it back in the bay where it is stored.  While Linda vacuumed the inside of the coach with our Shop-Vac I put tools and parts in the garage or back into the appropriate tool boxes.  When she was done we got the Shop-Vac out of the bus and put it in the garage.

There is a maple grab handle on the right side of the entrance stairs (as you enter the bus) attached to a piece of maple trim from the back side.  The finish is worn and the handle is loose.  I wanted to tighten it, which required access to the back of the trim board.  Linda recalled that we had Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) tighten this handle when we first got the coach so we figured there had to be a way to get to the back of the trim board.

We removed the cockpit HVAC access panel just below the trim board but it did not appear to provide access to the back of the trim board.  I removed the only two screws I could see (at the right end of the trim) but it still would not come loose.  I figured the trim board had to be screwed on somewhere else and the only possible place was under a piece of inset brass finish trim.  This brass trim is used throughout the bus, including around the edges of the Corian counters, and has an adhesive backing.  I have found screws under it in other places so I pried the end up and peeled it out, revealing three screws.

I thought I was on the verge of success until I removed the three screws but still could not get the trim board loose.  I tried prying it at various points with a screwdriver but it would not budge and we finally came to the unhappy conclusion that it was glued on.  Perhaps it is secured from underneath in some manner that we did not see but I will have to return to this when I have more time.  Linda suggested that we cut the handle off and install a new one that can be screwed on from the front.  She’s a clever girl.  As long as the access panel was off we vacuumed out the cockpit HVAC system and then replaced the panel.

About this time a UPS truck went by headed deeper into our neighborhood.  Since we live on a dead end street I knew the truck would be coming back so I waited for it and flagged down the driver.  I explained to the young man that we had two packages delivered to the wrong house in the same week about a month ago and that I had called the 800 number and talked to customer service but I would appreciate it if he would mention it to his colleagues as we will be ordering a lot of stuff starting in the second week of June.  He was very nice and said he would.

Our last bus task for today was the hard one.  We moved the passenger chair from the garage back to the bus using a hand truck so we did not have to carry it.  It is very heavy but with Linda guiding the top and me supporting the base we got it inside and set in position.  We tilted it fore and aft so I could slide the mounting studs into position and line them up with the holes in the base.  I then bolted it down to the support rails by tightening the four nuts.

This was all trickier than it sounds.  The bolts have square flanges that have to engage in the open slot of the channel to keep them from turning while being tightened or loosened.  But that required me to pull up on the studs as the nuts were not going on that easily.  As when I took the nuts off, I had to wedge one of them up with a screwdriver while I got the nut tight enough that the bolt would not spin.  I reconnected the power to the chair and we checked that all of the adjustments still worked, especially the footrest.

With the installation of the passenger seat we were done working on the bus until after GLAMARAMA and have two seats with seatbelts so we can tow the car rather than drive it separately.  This will be much nicer for us and the cats, although I expect the modified interior will freak them out initially.  We will be gone most of Friday but have Saturday to prepare food, reload the coach for the week, and wash the exterior.  Oh the joys of owning a converted coach.

For dinner Linda served the last of the whole wheat capellini with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus and steamed some broccoli.  A piece of whole wheat bread and a small glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine completed the meal.  We had watermelon for dessert later.

I returned to my office after dinner and updated our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS.  I then continued uploading blog posts.  By the time I quit working around 10 PM I had uploaded nine more posts and was caught up!  I think 18 posts in one day may be my all time record.  I did not get to work on articles for BCM, or copy files between our NAS units, but I was satisfied with what we had accomplished today.


2015/05/22 (F) Stuck Nut

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee and breakfast.  When we finally got to work on our tasks for the day we started by putting various things in the house back where they belonged, many of them having been piled on beds or put in uncarpeted areas while Jack cleaned the carpets on Wednesday.  Linda settled in at her desk to deal with paperwork while I got out our Honda self-propelled lawn mower and finished cutting the grass around the house.  She then turned her attention to straightening up the house and cleaning the kitchen in anticipation of tomorrow’s dinner guests.

I puttered in the bus for a bit trying to figure out how the cabinet above the refrigerator was constructed and might, therefore, be deconstructed but did not solve that puzzle and turned my attention to our Cub Cadet 1000 Series (LT1040) lawn tractor.  The mower deck is badly out of adjustment, sitting very low on the right side even with the height adjustment lever in the highest position.  I wanted to remove it rather than try to adjust it so I could use the tractor to more easily tow the new utility cart around the yard.

I already had the PDF version of the manual on my iPad and studied the directions for removing the mower deck.  It appeared to be an easy procedure that could be done by one person but I had Linda help me.  Once it was out from under the tractor we cleaned it off as best we could.  It had what looked like many years of grass clippings packed into every nook and cranny.  One of the idler pulleys was broken, a wheel was loose and its bracket slightly bent, and the drive belt was in very bad shape.  If we ever want to use it again those things will have to be replaced and repaired.  The suspension mechanism on the tractor will also have to be adjusted.

The tractor is leaking something, either oil or hydraulic fluid, so now that the mower deck is out of the way I will try to identify the location of the leak.  The tractor came with the house when we bought it so it was “free” (in a sense).  It was not in the best of shape, so there is a limit to how much time, effort, and money we will put in to fixing it.  Besides, for now Keith mows the grass and we have the self-propelled Honda walk-behind mower for trimming up the yard, if needed, between major cuttings.

My next task was to get the trailer ball off of the back of the lawn tractor.  The ball had a 2-1/8″ hex base flange and the nut was 1-1/8″.  I did not have a 1-1/8″ socket or a 2-1/8″ open end wrench, so I went to Lowe’s in search of said items.  I found a deep 1-1/8″ impact socket with a 1/2″ drive but they did not have open end wrenches the size I needed so I bought a very large slip wrench.

The nut was initially coming off easily but then bound up.  Even with Linda’s help we could not turn it.  We own a torque wrench that is over 3′ long and will work up to ~800 lb-ft of torque, but it has a 3/4″ drive.  So we went back to Lowe’s to get a 1-1/8″, 3/4″ drive socket.  Fortunately they had one.  While we were there we also bought a 6 gallon pancake style Porter Cable air compressor and a new American Standard toilet seat for the upstairs hall bathroom.  The air compressor is smaller than the 15 gal Dewalt and may fit in the passenger side engine bay.  It has regulated output pressure to 150 PSI so it should be sufficient for inflating the front bus tires.  The toilet seat was the right shape but the wrong color, so it will get returned.

The torque wrench gave us enough leverage to move the nut a bit more but then it bound up again.  I suspect the threads are mangled.  We sprayed some WD-40 on it but it did not help.  I called Butch to see what suggestions he might have.  Heating it might help but I do not have anything that would get it hot enough fast enough.  Plus, the ball/nut are just below and behind the plastic gas tank; not a good place for intense heat.  Butch has an induction heater that would be ideal for this situation, but it is five hours away in north central Indiana.  I asked about a nut splitter but Butch said he has not had much luck with those.  He suggested a large pipe wrench.  They are self-tightening (when used correctly) and could grip the ball directly if needed.  I do not plan to reuse the ball so I do not care if it gets mangled, I just want it off the tractor.  If all else fails Butch said I can cut off the bolt with my Sawzall reciprocating saw.

I had planned to work on computer-based tasks today but was not in the humor by the time I was done working on physical tasks.  Linda made fajitas with sautéed onions and bell peppers, vegan gyro “meat”, and vegan sour cream.  Yum; that’s a keeper.

2015/05/20 (W) Duraclean

Today was carpet cleaning day.  Linda had been picking up the house for the last week getting ready but we still had a lot of last minute stuff to move, including the cats.  We put them in the library along with their food, water, and litter tray.  We also moved their cat “tree” out there.  They were confused and unhappy about the arrangement but we figured it would be less stressful for them than constantly trying to find new places to hide as Jack moved about the house with his big, noisy carpet cleaning machine.

Jack Hoskins runs a one-man carpet and upholstery cleaning business named Duraclean.  Located in Farmington Hills near our previous house, Jack took care of our cleaning needs for the last years we were there.  When we bought the house in Oceola Township we had him clean all of carpets after the painters were done but before we moved anything into the house.  We did not have him clean the carpets in 2014 but had him out today to do all of them, including my office / ham shack, which was under construction when he was here in 2013.  Jack arrived right on time at 8:30 AM, walked through the job with both of us, and then spent most of the rest of the day cleaning.  Jack works hard and always does a nice job.

Once Jack was squared away we bagged up the pieces of carpet and pad from the bus that would not fit in the trash container and took the container and the bags to the curb.”  (We live on a dirt road and don’t really have curbs, but it doesn’t sound right to say we took the trash to the edge of the street.)  We then unloaded the box from my car with the garden trailer I bought at Lowe’s yesterday, opened it, removed all of the parts, and assembled it.  Linda broke down the cardboard packaging, gathered up some other cardboard and our usual recyclables, and we loaded them into my car to take to Recycle Livingston later.

Keith Kish (Kish Lawn Care) showed up mid-morning to finish cutting our grass.  His Hustler zero-turn riding mower was not repaired yet but he borrowed an articulated stand-behind mower from his son.  Something failed in the hydraulic pump on his Hustler and blew a 1 inch hole in it.  The cost to replace the pump and put the mower back in service will be significant but his business is primarily based on that machine.

I mostly puttered in the bus while Jack worked in the house and Keith worked in the yard.  Linda eventually went to the recycling center and then stopped at Lowe’s to buy some plants, pots, and potting soil.  She is going to try growing some tomatoes, which are one of her favorite summer things, and some herbs.  She moved the hummingbird feeder away from our deck and hung it on a stand in the shade of a tree we can see from our outdoor table.

I boxed up the ceramic tile pieces that were still spread out on the floor of the bus and moved the box to the garage.  That stuff is heavy!  I turned on the chassis batteries so I could move the driver’s seat forward to get access to the seatbelt attachment bolts.  I unbolted the two seatbelt straps and removed them so I could remove the last pieces of the old white carpet from behind and next to the seat.  I then reattached the seatbelts, moved the driver’s chair back, and turned off the chassis batteries.  Refinishing the area around the driver’s seat will be its own special challenge and may not get done with tile as I may need something more flexible.  It will not, however, be heavy carpet intended for use on floors.

My next task was to remove the flexible duct adapters from the HVAC chases.  One of them has an AC electrical cable passing through it, so I will have to undo the cable from a nearby outlet box to get the adapter free.  While I was working on these relatively minor tasks I was also thinking about furniture options.  It finally dawned on me that we did not have buy an expensive custom made sofa-bed or use chairs instead and try to figure out how to finish that area.  I could build a simple but very effective sofa out of wood and have a bottom and back cushion made to the exact dimensions we need using a fabric of our choice.  That opened up the possibility of the fabric matching whatever we get on the chairs.  The seat cushion could double as a bed for one person, with the back cushion removed, and the seat could hinge up to reveal a large storage area rather than dealing with the complexity of a drawer on suspension glides.  The HVAC supply and return could also be easily be accommodated and I would not have to figure out how to finish the chase or conceal all of the wires that run along the floor in front of the chase.  I discussed the idea with Linda and she liked it.

I moved the dinette table up front and we considered its size and placement relative to the seating we would like to use on the passenger side of the coach across from the sofa. We agreed that one of the things we would do while we are at the GLAMARAMA rally is visit Lambright Furniture in Shipshewana and Bradd & Hall in Elkhart.  We also discussed buying a carpet remnant and trimming it to fit in the front part of the bus while we attend the GLAMARAMA rally.

I called Butch to see how his cataract surgery went on Monday.  Apparently it went well, at least his world is suddenly brighter and more colorful.  We talked through various bus projects, including approaches I might take to get a flat, level underlayment for the floor tile.

Keith wrapped up his work, collected his payment, and moved on to Sean’s yard just north of ours.  I suggested that he come every week instead of every other week as long as the grass is growing as quickly as it has the last two weeks and he agreed.  Keith normally does a nice job with our lawn but was now a couple of days behind schedule and trying to catch up using equipment that was not his.  He did not want to drive the stand-behind mower over or near gravel, so some areas along the pull-through driveway did not get cut.  He was also not able to work around obstructions as tightly as he can with his zero-turn mower, and appeared to not overlap some rows.

Jack wrapped up his work not long after Keith and took off for another short job before calling it a day.  I let the cats back into the house and then decided to get out our self-propelled Honda walk-behind mower and trim up the yard in front of the house and some of the areas Keith had missed.  It took a while to get the mower started but I eventually did.

Linda made a nice salad and baked an Amy’s pizza for dinner.  It was 6:30 PM by the time we finished eating.  Linda gathered up the plastic wine glasses and toilet paper holders she bought yesterday at IKEA and we drove to the store in Canton to return them.  The glasses were too tall to fit in our wine glass display case in the bus and the toilet paper holders did not fit in the places we needed them to go in the house.  While we were at the store we looked at their selection of refrigerators, none of which will fit through the entrance door on the bus, and just wandered through looking for ideas.  We were not up that long after we got home, it having been a long but productive day.


2015/05/18 (M) Ceramic Floor Tile

I plugged my laptop in, started it, put a load of laundry in the washer, and then made our morning coffee.  We are finally running out of the six pounds of beans we had shipped to us in Quartzsite, Arizona at the end of February and will need to get more from Teeko’s sometime soon.  While we were enjoying our morning coffee I pulled up some information online on how to remove ceramic floor tiles.  What I found was a bit discouraging but what was clear was the need for certain equipment and safety precautions.  Linda needed to return the Sherlock DVDs to the Howell Library today so we went on an errand run to Howell.

At the Library we did some more vehicle research in the April 2015 Consumer Reports.  The Chevy Colorado / GMC Canyon mid-size pickup truck was Motor Trend Magazine’s 2015 Truck of the Year, but being a new model CR had no data on predicted repairs or user satisfaction.  Ditto for the 2015 Ford F-150 and its 700 pound lighter aluminum body.  We liked the size of the Nissan Frontier but the manual transmission required for four-flat towing behind our bus will keep us from buying one.  We have not looked at the Colorado/Canyon yet but it is similar in size to the Nissan Frontier.  CR gave good marks to most of the Subaru models and the Forrester was one of their top picks.  Years ago we wanted a Subaru Outback but they were always just slightly too expensive.  Compared to the vehicles we have been looking at recently, the Subaru’s are less expensive.  Right now, however, we are focused on the utility of a 4-door pickup truck.  Yeehaa!

We checked out the DVDs for Season 1 of the British detective series A Touch of Frost. It is not a BBC production so we will see how we like it.  We stopped at D-R Electric Appliance Sales and Service just up the street to look at refrigerators.  We bought our new gas range/stove from them last September.  They had a 16 cubic foot top-freezer GE (GTE16GTHxx) whose dimensions looked like they might work.  With the doors removed it was under 26″ deep so it would fit through the door of the bus sideways.  It is available in white, black, and stainless steel.  Kurt Richards helped us and said he would search the units he can order if I give him the dimensions of our enclosure.  D-R Electric Appliance is not a dealer for Fisher and Paykel so we would have to get one of those through Lowe’s if we decide to go that route.

Lowe’s was our next stop.  Linda looked at plants but decided not to buy any on this trip.  We picked up a couple of 40 W appliance bulbs for the microwave as one of the two bulbs that lights the top of the range burned out the other day.  I picked up a new face shield, dust masks, a Tyvek jump suit, a floor chisel with shield, and a 3-pound short-handle sledge hammer.

Teeko’s Coffee and Tea is kitty corner from the Lowe’s/Walmart shopping center so we stopped there and ordered one pound each of our three half-caffe blends: Sweet Seattle Dreams (Seattle Blend + Sweet Dreams decaf blend); Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Cafe Europe.  Jeff wasn’t there but his mom (Mary) took our order and his dad (John) was starting to put together the roast when we left.  I will pick the beans up tomorrow afternoon.

By the time we got back to the house it was time for lunch so Linda fixed grilled “cheese” sandwiches.  She is still using up the non-dairy cheddar cheese we bought a while back.  It is not Daiya brand and it does not taste like cheddar.  Actually it doesn’t taste like much of anything.  Keith was there mowing the yard as we thought he might be.

Me in the Tyvek jumpsuit removing the black ceramic floor tiles.  (Photo by Linda.)

Me in the Tyvek jumpsuit removing the black ceramic floor tiles. (Photo by Linda.)

[p1 L] It was once again 1 PM by the time I got to work in the bus removing the black ceramic floor tiles.  I suited up and Linda took a couple of photos.  I was over dressed under the Tyvek jumpsuit so I changed into something cooler.  Even then it was a hot, sweaty afternoon.  Houses get wrapped in Tyvek to prevent air movement between the interior and exterior, so a jumpsuit does not really breathe.  Neither did I with the dust mask in place so I settled for my wrap-around safety glasses, full face shield, Tyvek jumpsuit, and leather gloves.

I had hoped to get most of the floor tiles out intact.  They are nice 12″x12″ black ceramic with a hint of silver flake in them and they were probably expensive when they were installed in the bus in 1990-91.  They were installed just the way they would be in a house, on a troweled bed of thin set mortar, with one difference; they were set directly on the factory original plywood subfloor of the bus rather than on an underpayment layer.  The information I found online this morning indicated that removing tiles installed this way might require removal and replacement of the subfloor.  That is not an option in the bus so I was curious, and a bit nervous, to see how they would come out.  The other caution was to NOT smash them with a sledge hammer to break them into smaller pieces for easier removal, even though there are lots of websites that tell you to do this.  Ceramic tiles with a high quartz content will shatter sending tiny razor sharp shards flying in every direction; thus the Tyvek jumpsuit, face shield, and gloves.

I took a few tiles out yesterday and most of them came out intact.  The first few today, however, came out in two or more pieces.  Either way I was committed to removing them, so I kept at it.  I developed a technique that seemed to work more often than not.  I would chisel along one free edge and when I got the first indication that the tile was loosening I would switch to an adjacent free edge (if there was on).  Proceeding in this manner I was able to work my way down a row getting most of the tiles loose in one piece.  The tiles were laid in rows with aligned joints running across the coach and staggered joints running the length of the coach.  Thus the rows were short and easier to work on, my work was interrupted by something I will describe next, but I returned to the task and removed the tiles from the entire kitchen/dining area back past the refrigerator.  This part of the deconstruction will take a while but based on the progress I made today it will not take as long as I thought it might, all things being equal (which they never are).

While I was working Keith came to the bus in need of some assistance.  His zero-turn Hustler mower had quit moving and started smoking and was stranded in the northeast corner of our yard.  This particular mower is all hydraulic; the gasoline engine simply turns a hydraulic pump and fluid pressure is used to drive/steer the mower and turn the cutting blades.  Keith had oil on his arms and needed some paper towels.  He suspected a hydraulic hose had failed and the smoke was from the hot oil.  The immediate problem, however, was to get the mower back into its trailer some 400 feet away.

Keith got the mower stuck once last year in wet/soft soil along the north property line.  I was able to use our Cub Cadet lawn tractor to pull him out then so we figured we would try that again.  Just this past weekend I had charged the starting battery and moved the lawn tractor outside to make room in the garage for the furniture we took out of the bus.  It complained for a moment and then started up.  Keith had tow straps so I drove it over to his mower and we hooked the straps to the trailer ball on the back of the lawn tractor.

Keith’s mower weighs 1,200 pounds.  I doubt that our Cub Cadet weighs half that much even with me sitting on it.  I was able to pull it part way across a level-to-slightly-downhill part of the yard but once we hit an upslope my back tires started to slip.  Keith went to get Linda because the lawn tractor would stop if I got off and I was too far from the house to conveniently jump start it.  I continued to drive while Linda helped Keith push although we should have figured out a way to trade places.  It was very hard work for them but the Cub Cadet proved to be “the little engine that could” and we got the mower down by the third culvert (where the driveway for the barn is supposed to go).  We chose that location because it was downhill and close to Keith’s truck and trailer.

Keith’s trailer has a large rear ramp and pointed front like the bow of a boat with smaller ramp that opens at an angle on the driver’s side.  I tried pulling his mower up the rear ramp into the trailer.  The plan was for me to drive out via the front ramp.  Unfortunately the Cub Cadet could not maintain enough traction.  We unhooked it and I drove out the front and put it back in its parking spot.  I got a pair of wheel chocks from our bus and placed them in front of the trailer wheels while Keith unhooked the trailer from his truck.  He then attached the tow straps to the trailer ball on his truck, brought them I through the front ramp opening just off the nose of the trailer, and tied them around the front frame of the mower.  It took a few tries, and one repositioning of the strap on the mower, but Linda and I were finally able to guide it into the trailer while Keith pulled it up the ramp with his truck.

Linda got water for all of us while I helped Keith reload the trailer.  Keith is retired and doesn’t mow lawns for the money.  He’s a good guy who charges us a very reasonable price for the service he provides and we were glad to help him get his mower back in his trailer so he could go home, take a shower, and have a cold beer.  We should have done the same, but he probably took the trailer someplace to have the mower fixed and we both went back to what we were working on.

By 4:30 PM I was too warm and too sweaty to remove any more tiles.  I was also at the point where I was starting down the hallway and needed to remove some quarter round base molding that was installed over the edge of the tiles.  Tomorrow I plan to work earlier in the day when it is cooler, but I say that every day.

Linda cooked most of our dinner on the outdoor grill using the grilling mat to cook potatoes, zucchini, and Japanese eggplant that had been sliced in half lengthwise.  She also made Farro and served it as a side dish.  I think that is the first time she has done that; she normally uses it as an ingredient.  While the vegetables were grilling we sat quietly on the back deck enjoying the last of the first bottle of 2013 Egri Merlot we bought at Whole Foods last week.  The robin eggs in the nest under our deck have hatched so we are trying not to disturb the parents too much.  They need to fly back and forth constantly to feed their young but are understandably weary of us.

I had a call after dinner from Darin Hathaway, the Aqua-Hot technician who worked on our unit in June 2014.  It appeared to have an intermittent ignition coil then and would not fire at all when I had the bus a Butch and Fonda’s in the fall.  Butch and I replaced the burner in October 2014 with the one I bought from him.  That burner was running rich until I replaced the blower bearings while we were in Quartzsite.  Old bearings = slow fan speed = inadequate air supply = rich air:fuel ratio = inefficient combustion and sooty/smoky exhaust.  I still need to repair the original one but for now that is not a priority.  Darin said he could bench test/repair it but Lloyd DeGerald has the same capabilities.

Butch had eye surgery this morning at a clinic in Indianapolis.  I will call tomorrow and see how he is doing.  Linda is having a girl’s day out with our daughter tomorrow, Jack will be here to clean the carpets on Wednesday, Linda has to go to the bakery on Thursday, and I have to take the cats to the veterinarian Thursday afternoon.  I also expect Keith will return sometime this week to finish mowing the grass.  Saturday morning will be our usual ham radio club breakfast and Linda invited Steve and Karen for dinner on Saturday.  Somewhere in there we will probably go look at the Chevy Colorado (GMC Canyon), Toyota Tacoma, and the Subaru Forrester and Outback.  In between all of that I will be doing a load of laundry or two, working on the bus floor, and trying to figure out refrigerators, furniture, and wall treatments, so it is shaping up to be a busy week.  Heck, it’s going to be a busy summer, and maybe a busy fall.


2015/04/26-30 (N-R) Routine Returns

2015/04/26 (N) Bentley

Turning the lights out at 11 PM last night meant I would be awake around 6 AM this morning and ready to get up, and that was the case.  Linda was awake by 6:30 AM and we were up shortly thereafter.  I was able to light the natural gas fireplace without difficulty.  The only thing I can figure is that perhaps I did not have the Off/Pilot/On gas valve in the right position last night.

With the gas valve in the Off position gas cannot flow beyond the valve.  In the Pilot position gas can only flow to the pilot flame assembly, and only while the knob is pushed in, until the flame has been lit long enough to cause the heat sensitive pilot valve to remain open at which point the knob can be released.  I do not think gas can flow to the main burner tubes, however, until the knob is turned to the On position.  There is also a Remote/Off/On switch that has to be in the Off position when lighting the pilot flame (with the built in spark igniter) and moved to the On position to allow the main burner tubes to receive gas.  All I can figure is that I did not have the Off/Pilot/On valve turned to the On position. The Remote position is intended to be used with a wall mounted thermostat which we do not have.  For us the firelogs are primarily decorative but are useful for taking the chill off of the early morning or late evening.  We never have them on, however, unless we are in the living room or dining room where we can see them.

Linda fed the cats while I made coffee which we enjoyed in the living room by the firelogs.  It was 33 degrees F outside this morning but in another week the morning temperatures should be such that we can sit on the rear deck and enjoy our morning brew out there.  We finally both got dressed and Linda heated an Amy’s Breakfast Scramble and split it between us.  We lingered a while longer in the living room and finally got to work on our various chores.

Linda’s focus was to continue cleaning the kitchen, off-loading food and kitchen supplies from the bus, and getting her domestic and professional domains back in order.  She made a grocery list as the day went along.  We would normally go to the Howell Farmers Market on Sunday morning, but the outdoor market does not start until next week.

I cleaned the cats’ litter tray, which seems to be my job at home but Linda’s job on the bus, and then got to work on revising the draft survey for the FMCA national education committee.  While I was doing that I also started up a couple of our workstation computers, installed updates, and kept an eye on my e-mail and RVillage messages.  I worked on the survey until dinner time, with a break for lunch, and had Linda proofread it before I uploaded it to my Dropbox and e-mailed the link to the committee.  We have a telephone meeting at 3:30 PM EDT tomorrow and I wanted everyone to have a chance to look it over in advance of the meeting.

Linda made Farro with garlic, dried cranberries, almonds, and kale and cooked some fresh asparagus.  A green salad and a glass of wine completed a very nice meal.  Linda had a text message from her sister letting us know that her housemate, Linda, decided to have Bentley put down.  He was the oldest of her three dogs, deaf and arthritic, and on medications that he would not take, and he had lost interest in food.  We had both received a text message from Linda regarding our recent visit so I responded to that.  We were sad that Bentley was gone, but glad that we got to see him one last time.

I turned my attention to editing photos for my April 10 blog post about out visit to Bandolier National Monument and Santa Fe, New Mexico but the batteries in my wireless mouse needed to be recharged so I plugged it in and called it quits for the night.  Linda was watching the first episode of Wolf Hall (PBS) on her iPad so I finished reading the May-June 2015 issue of the Gypsy Journal and played a few rounds of my favorite games.  Linda prepared some fresh berries for dessert and we enjoyed them to the glow of the firelogs before going to bed.

2015/04/27 (M) Caller #9

After coffee and cereal this morning I continued selecting and processing photos from our April 10 visit to Bandolier National Monument and Old Town Santa Fe.  I ended up with 16 photos so I uploaded the post and put them in an image gallery at the end.  After lunch I got all of my documents in order for my 3:30 PM (EDT) telephone meeting of the FMCA Education Committee.  I chatted briefly with the committee chair to see if there were any surprises in store.  I then worked on consolidating my draft blog posts for April 11 through 15 which included the time we spent in Norman, Oklahoma visiting with my uncle Bob and Aunt Helen, and four additional generations of relatives.

I exchanged e-mails with BCM Publisher Gary Hatt and Editor Dave Rush regarding my article on the redoing of the exterior of our coach.  The article is 5,800 words with 71 photos and they would like to split it up and run it in installments over three or four issues.  That will require me to go back through the article and identify the places where it can be split, making sure the photos track with the text, and write some additional bridge paragraphs to wrap up each installment and introduce the next one.

I dialed in to my FMCA meeting just before 3:30 PM.  I was caller number nine (9) but I did not win anything.  The meeting lasted almost 90 minutes.  We discussed the survey we have been developing and approved a motion to pass it along to the Executive Board with the recommendation that it be sent to a random sample of the members both electronically and via USPS.  I expect to receive minor corrections in the next 36 hours and get a final draft to the FMCA Executive Director on Wednesday so he can have it reviewed by an outside expert (Barry) at Membership Corporation of America (MCA).  The FMCA executive board meets in a week so we will see what happens.

After the meeting I finished working on the April 11-16 consolidated post and uploaded it to our personal blog just in time for dinner which featured taco bowl salads.  She started with refrigerated tortillas, draped them over ramekins, and baked them to create the shell.  She reconstituted an ancho, red Hatch, and pequin chile and used them to season the pinto beans, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and olives that made up the filling.  Franzia Fruity Red Sangria went nicely with the tacos.  Later we had a fresh mixed fruit salad of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.  We relaxed for a while, reading and playing games, but were surprisingly tired and went to bed before 10 PM.  Change happens, transition takes time.

2015/04/28 (T) And now … the rest of the summer

As sometimes happens when we go to bed early, we slept in this morning and did not get out of bed until after 8 AM.  It is nice to be able to do that if we want to.  Coffee and toast got the day started followed by reading, writing, and cat admiring.  It was a beautiful, sunny morning albeit still on the chilly side.  In other words, another day in the idyllic paradise we call retirement in the country.

We have both been busy since we got home last Friday, unloading the bus and putting things in their place in the house, visiting family, cleaning and stocking the kitchen, going through mail, and working on bills and accounting, both personal and organizational.  And that was mostly Linda!  I helped with some of that but was mostly focused on finishing a draft survey for the FMCA education committee, sending it out, and participating in a committee meeting by teleconference yesterday afternoon.  I will have some minor additional work to do on the survey by the end of the day tomorrow, but with the meeting behind me I can now concentrate on all of the other things that need to be done.  To paraphrase Paul Harvey “And now … the rest of the summer.”

One of the chores that is always there is laundry.  Linda seems to take over this task when we are living in the bus, but it is definitely my job when we are at home.  Ditto for cleaning the cat litter tray.  To be fair, both the laundry room and liter tray are in the basement where my office and the ham radio shack are located, so I am down there a lot more than her.  When we first return home after being away for an extended time there is a lot of laundry to do.  Not that we don’t do it while we are away, we do, but I like to clean everything that we had with us.  This is not a one day task, in part because we like to limit the number of loads of laundry we do on any given day so as not to overload the septic tanks, and in part because I just do not want to spend an entire day doing laundry.

My main focus this morning, however, was to revisit my article for Bus Conversion Magazine on the renovation of the exterior of our bus back in 2011/2012.  It needs to be split into 3 or 4 installments and I would rather do that myself, making sure the photos track with the text.  I started a load of laundry and then got to work, keeping an eye on e-mail and RVillage.  I finished restructuring the article just before lunch, uploaded it to my BCM Dropbox folder, and e-mailed the editor and publisher.  Linda reheated the Farro-cranberries-almonds dish for lunch and served it with black grapes.

I moved the first load of laundry to the dryer, put a second load of laundry in the washing machine, and started compiling my posts for April 16 through 20.  I got an e-mail from Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF website.  Lou started, and leads, the BOF and administers the website while I take care of the RVillage group and someone else takes care of the member database/roster.  He found and installed a free system for displaying photo albums.  He was setting it up so each BOF member had their own login and could upload their own photos and wanted me (and Linda) to try it out.  I did, and found a number of issues which I documented for him.  I like the idea, so I hope he can resolve the issues.

I folded and hung up the dried laundry and returned to my blog post which I uploaded, tagged, and published before going upstairs.  It was a beautiful day and while Linda was outside on the rear deck reading four deer walked up the eastern boundary of our property.  We were chatting back there when the doorbell rang, which is unusual for us.  It was Aaron, one of the kids (teenager?) from the house to our immediate east.  UPS had delivered our Amazon order to their house instead of ours even though it had my name and our address on the label.

Linda sautéed onions until they were partly caramelized, pan-fried tofu slices, and then added bar-b-que sauce.  She served these in tortillas rather than on buns.  She also sautéed fresh green beans.  I opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and we each had a small glass with dinner.

After dinner I called Joe Cannarozzi, the mobile mechanic who has done the majority of the service work on our bus since we got it back to Michigan in 2010.  As planned, he is now in upstate New York where he will be working well into the fall.  He plans to be back this way the first week in November and we made plans to have him do the routine chassis maintenance at that time.  I also discussed our interior renovation plans for the bus and got some tips from him about how to approach that work, especially the floor, as he has done several.

I noticed that I had a voice message from Gary at BCM.  He had called earlier in the day after I had uploaded the new 4-part version of the Exterior Makeover article so I called him back and left him a message.  Tag; you’re it.

2015/04/29 (W) Bus Lunch

We had a typical start to our day; coffee, breakfast, and iPads (news, weather, games, reading, and writing).  Actually, that’s how most of our days in the bus also start, so the only real difference is where we are sitting and what we can see from that vantage point.  I needed to order a refill on a prescription medication so I tried doing that on my iPad.  No problem iPad-wise, but the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) had switched the mail order prescription drug service from Medco/Express-Scripts to Catamaran Home Delivery effective January 1, 2015.  Catamaran was already the third part administrator (TPA) but was now operating their own pharmacy.  Even though I already had a Catamaran account I had to register for Home Delivery service.  Once I did that I was supposed to be able to see any prescriptions that had transferred over.  There weren’t any 🙁  That meant I needed a new prescription.  I had a mid-morning appointment and did not want to spend time “holding for the next available representative” so I decided to take care of this task tomorrow.

Linda called last Friday and arranged to have our curbside trash pickup resume this week.  Wednesday is trash pickup day, so the trashcan had to go out by the street this morning.  (We don’t have curbs here, so I can’t say we took the can to the curb.)  The last two years Alchin’s has come past our house around noon.  While we figured that would probably be the case again this year we did not want to risk missing the truck, so Linda took it out early.

Linda is the treasurer of SLAARC, our local ham radio club based in South Lyon, Michigan.  The club’s bank (First Merit) is there and she needed to make a deposit.  I was headed that general direction so I took it with me.  The deposit made, I headed on to Chuck Spera’s bus garage in Novi, MI.  Chuck and Barbara have the same model Prevost bus that we do only one year newer and converted by Liberty, so fancier than ours.  Like us, they spend a lot of time in it, and, like us, there are always projects to be done.  Some of those, in turn, require some discussion.

I met Chuck at his shop at 10:15 AM and had a look at his turbo boost sensor intake manifold pressure hose.  It appeared to be intact but old a frayed like mine was.  The one on our bus failed on the drive out to Quartzsite, AZ in December 2014.  Changing his hose would be more difficult than our as is chassis batteries are in the passenger-side engine bay and make access to that side of the engine much more difficult than in our bus.  We have been using the same mobile mechanic for the last few years but he has found longer term employment and cut back on the mobile servicing of Prevost chassis.  I indicated to Chuck that we really needed to find someone locally who is in business at an accessible location and plans to continue as such into the foreseeable future.  He suggested that we take a drive to Johnie’s in Walled Lake, so that is what we did.

Denny was not there (Johnie was his dad) but I got to see the place and now know where it is.  We drove back to the Panera in Novi for lunch and then back to Chuck’s shop which is nearby.  By 2 PM we had not only solved all of the world’s problems we had made good progress on unraveling the mysteries of the universe.  Wanting to leave something for the next conversation I headed for home leaving Chuck to ponder the mysteries of the bus, which are far more baffling than the mysteries of the universe.

I drove home on Grand River Avenue (GRA) to avoid WB I-96 and the I-96/US-23 interchange construction.  I bought gas at the Wixom Meijer’s and found out 20 minutes later that I had paid way too much for it ($2.59/gal).  The BP station in Brighton had regular for $2.29 and the Shell station closest to our house had it for $2.44.  Bummer.  I passed a First Merit Bank on the south side of GRA just west of Old US-23 in Brighton.  Not right around the corner from our house, but a lot closer than South Lyon.  There is also a Jeep dealership there.  We are interested in getting a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we just don’t like the prices we are seeing.

Our Amazon shipment arrived with the two filter cartridges for the under sink housing in the bus and other things.  Hopefully the delivery to the wrong address on Monday was a one-time thing.  I had been trading phone messages with Gary at BCM and finally got through to him this time.  I then curled up with the new B&H catalog which made it feel like Christmas in April.

Linda made a potato lentil ginger curry for dinner and it was very good.  I had planned on revising the FMCA Education Survey and sending it out this evening but I was simply not in the humor to go back downstairs.  I think my retirement motto is going to be “there is always tomorrow, and if not, it didn’t matter anyway.”  Linda had to get up early tomorrow morning to beat the traffic headed into Detroit so we went to bed earlier than usual.

2015/04/30 (R) Steel

Linda set her alarm for 5:45 AM.  The purpose of her alarm is to wake me up so I can wake her up.  It worked as planned and she got up and got ready to go to the bakery while I went back to sleep.

I finally got up at 8:30 AM.  I’ve been busy since we got home but also a bit tired and feeling the need to just unwind from our exciting winter out west.  After breakfast I called the Internal Medicine clinic at the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi to see if I could get my doctor’s nurse to get my doctor to write me a new prescription for my nasal spray.  Naturally I never got to talk to the doctor or a nurse, but the youngish sounding lady who handled the phone call was very helpful, up to a point.  She really wanted to schedule me for an appointment and was not quite piecing together that my prescription, which is for a maintenance drug, is only good for one year but my doctor only needs/wants to see me every other year.  I don’t expect the new script to be a problem, but that fact that my MPSERS health care plan changed mail-order prescription providers as of January 1st may add a wrinkle.  I’m not due for a physical until the fall but I will go sooner if needed to get my script.  Which reminds me, I need to schedule my annual appointment with the dermatology PA.

I focused on making some last minute corrections to the FMCA education survey and shipped it off.  I got an e-mail back from Diane Wolfe with some questions.  She is not a member of the FMCA education committee but she and husband Brett did review and comment on it.  The questions were interesting and answering them gave me a chance to explain some technicalities and cc: the FMCA Executive Director as they were as much for his benefit as hers.

I had several e-mails back and forth with Kate regarding productions at Meadowbrook Theater and an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), all of which sounded interesting.  Our social life is less active at home than on the road so we welcome such opportunities.

I had a phone call from Mike at Rocket Steel Buildings following up on an inquiry I made.  He sent me a brochure and a price.  It was something but not exactly the quote I was looking for.  I still need to follow up with SteelMaster Building Systems and get to work on drawings for the wood-framed basilica design.

I compiled my blog posts for April 21-25, 2015 after finding the one for the 24th.  I had e-mailed it from my iPad but it never arrived.  I e-mailed it again and it bounced back.  The spam blocker even said it was from a white listed sender (me!) but rejected it anyway.  Huh ???  I sent it a third time to two addresses, one of which was not attached to our domain, and it came through to both accounts, naturally.  I guess this was one of the mysteries of the universe that Chuck and I left unsolved yesterday.  Anyway, I finally got it, finished compiling my posts, and uploaded, tagged, and published it.

I also had several e-mails back and forth with Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF and website.  Gary sent me a link to a document in his Dropbox with photos and audio files from an interview he did for a featured bus article that never got written.  I agreed to take a look at it and see what I can do.

I managed to get more things off of the bus, including bedding, and did two more loads of laundry.  I do not like to do more than two loads a day as it over taxes the septic system.  Someone rang the front doorbell, the second time this week.  This time it was Kaylie, Aaron’s sister, from next door.  For the second time this week UPS delivered a package, correctly addressed to me, to the wrong address.  I was concerned this would happen and Linda said I was a pessimist.  Apparently we were both right.

I called the local UPS store but the only thing they could do was give me the national 800 customer service number.  I am a pessimist (just ask Linda), so I was not looking forward to that experience, but I called and fought my through their voice menu system.  It did not include an option for my situation (of course) and I finally just kept saying “agent” until the system gave up and connected me to a real person.

“Chelsea” was apologetic, even though she had not personally done anything wrong, because that’s what customer service people are trained to do.  I think someone, somewhere, once upon a time figured out that apologizing diffuses customers who are upset.  Well, it doesn’t.  And assuring me that it “won’t happen again” is equally meaningless when it comes from a person who is not in a position within the organization to make such a statement.  But Chelsea verified my name and address and the incorrect delivery address and said she took careful notes and would make sure they got to the right person.  I hope so.

What is perhaps most frustrating is that UPS has a local distribution center in Howell, and I have the address, but it is not open to the public except for limited package pickup hours.  In other words, the mistake is being made by a driver who is most likely operating out of that location, or by someone scheduling the routing, but there is no customer support person or facility manager that I can talk to, face-to-face, and resolve this at the point of origin of the problem.  We buy a lot stuff now through Amazon Prime, and it all gets shipped via UPS, so having it delivered anywhere other than to our house is a problem.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery at 5 PM and heading to Kathi’s.  They were going to have dinner at La Marsa in Farmington Hills and give the I-96 traffic a chance to subside before she finished the drive home.  I had some of the leftover potato barley ginger curry for dinner and then called Phil Jarrel to remind him that we are still trying to figure out how to put up a bus barn and still want him to do the site prep and driveway.  I then called Butch to see if he was able to locate the front brake drums for their MCI MC-9 NJT bus.  He was, and already had the driver side front reassembled.  I responded to a couple of e-mails and filled out an online RFQ for SteelMaster Building Systems and went to bed.


2015/04/21-25 (T-S) IN, MI, Home

2015/04/21 (T) Back to Twelve Mile, IN

The outside air temperature dropped into the 30’s (F) last night and the air temperature in the coach fell to 60, so when I got up this morning I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system to take the chill off.  We eventually got up, got dressed, and walked across to Small Town Brew to get a couple of cups of coffee and chat with owner Lisa Paul and her friend/neighbor, Ashley, who helps her run the coffee shop.  Both of them remembered both of us, which was nice.

It’s interesting sitting in a small town coffee shop, where everyone is a friend or relative, and just listening to the conversation.  We are outsiders her, of course, strangers to most of the folks who drop in, but everyone is nice to us.  Some are curious about who we are, and where we are from, but rarely ask why we are there, in this little coffee shop in this little town, surrounded by corn fields.  Of course, we usually mention that we are friends of Butch and Fonda, so that probably answers whatever questions they may have had.

We eventually returned to our coach and had breakfast.  We tried connecting our WiFiRanger to Butch and Fonda’s Wi-Fi router yesterday and it was able to connect and obtain an IP address but the data transfer rate was so slow that web pages would not load and e-mail would not download before timing out.  I turned our Verizon Mi-Fi on and we had a very weak but usable signal, so I connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi and we were able to do the few things we needed to do online.  We then went in the house to let Butch and Fonda know we were awake and see what they were up to.

Butch’s brother, John, and his nephew, Brock, showed up and helped Butch with the driver side front wheel assembly on Butch and Fonda’s MC-9 bus.  The tire/wheel was off when we arrived yesterday and I learned that Butch is replacing the hub bearings and seals, installing an automatic slack adjuster for the brake, and replacing the brake pads.  It looked like quite a job with some large, heavy parts, so I did my part by staying out of the way.  I also took a few pictures at Butch’s suggestion.  He does not want to write articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, but he has been interested in having me write articles about projects on his bus.

Linda spent some time working with Fonda’s new sewing machine that she got while they were in Quartzsite, Arizona.  It is a little smaller than a regular sewing machine, only weighs 13 pounds, and only cost about $130.  Linda gave her sewing machine to her sister many years ago but now that she is retired she is thinking that it might be nice to have one for mending tasks or projects, such as new privacy curtains for the bus.

Butch got a catalog recently from Crimp Supply in Royal Oak, Michigan, which is not at far from our house.  I glanced through it last night and it contains a lot of specialized parts that would be useful to a ham radio hobbyist or someone converting a bus into a motorhome.  I called and requested a catalog and had a nice chat with Debbie.  She was willing to provide me with additional catalogs that I can give to members of GLCC and CCO at the Back-to-the-Bricks and/or Surplus & Salvage per allies in August and September respectively.  She was also willing to show up in person and give a brief presentation on her company and hand out the catalogs.  Cool.

Brock had to leave after which Butch and John decided to go to the shooting range along with a third guy whose name I did not get.  I went along to see the range and watch what they were doing.  Butch had home-brewed some shotgun shells for his Ruger revolver and wanted to test them.  They caused the revolving chamber to jam so they will require some additional work.  John had a new semi-automatic pistol and wanted to see how it handled.  He also had ammunition he had loaded with bullets he had cast and wanted to test fire them.

I was offered the opportunity to shoot but declined.  I have never handled a pistol and it would have been a waste of good ammunition.  I did take a class in rifle marksmanship while I was at the University of Missouri – Columbia many years ago.  I was in the Air Force R.O.T.C. Program at the time and thought I should know something about how to handle a firearm.  Learning to handle a pistol correctly would have been more relevant, but I do not recall a course being offered for that.  I bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle at that time, and I still have it.  It’s a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle designed to look like an M-1 carbine and features a 10-round rotary clip that is flush to the bottom of the stock when inserted.  I was only interested in shooting at paper targets so I added a scope to it.  It is safely tucked away with a trigger lock on it, but I have not fired it in many, many years.  I should probably bring it to Twelve Mile the next time we come down, let Butch inspect and clean it properly, and take it to the range just for grins and giggles.

John and the other guy went back to Logansport from the range.  When Butch and I got back to the house he continued working on the driver side front wheel of their bus.  I helped a little, but mostly by taking photographs for a possible future article.  After putting tools and parts away we sat and relaxed for a while and then all of us went to Logansport for dinner at Pizza Hut.  It was 8:45 PM by the time we got back so everyone said “good night” and turned in for the evening.

2015/04/22 (W) Chillin’ in Twelve Mile

Yesterday looked and felt more like winter than spring with gray, cloudy skies and blustery, cold winds.  The temperature overnight dropped into the mid-30s but we were toasty warm under blankets with our electric heating pad turned on.  I got up at 7:30 AM and turned on the thermostats.  The temperature in the kitchen was reading 63 degrees F but the temperature by the dashboard was only 53.  The Aqua-Hot has performed very well since I rebuilt the blower bearings and quickly brought the temperature in the coach up to 70 degrees F.

We put on our sweats and walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whomever else might be there.  Three local guys were enjoying their morning brew when we arrived.  They eventually left and were replaced by others.  Most of the patrons seemed to be retired or semi-retired farmers.  One fellow, Lee, chatted with us at length about a canvas covered hoop barn he put up.  It was constructed using laminated wood hoops rather than steel, was 30′ wide by 70′ long and cost about $4,000 15 years ago, although I was not clear whether that included the 4-foot high poured concrete walls.  He already owned concrete forms and the heavy equipment that one finds on farms, so he was able to do a lot of the work himself without renting equipment or hiring contractors.  Still, it has to be the lowest cost way to create a structure for getting our bus out of the weather and out of sight.  It is unknown, however, whether the Township and County would let us to put it up.

Butch left at 8:30 AM for medical appointments in Logansport and Fonda came over at 10:45 AM to gather up Linda for a girl’s day out.  Linda wanted to go to McClure’s Apple Orchard on US-31 between IN-16 and US-24.  Although it is very close to Twelve Mile Fonda had never been there.  They were then headed to Peru.  Although it is the same distance from Twelve Mile as Logansport and Rochester it is the city that Butch and Fonda visit the least.  Peru’s claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Cole Porter and Emmet Kelly and was the winter home of several circuses many, many years ago.  I believe there is a circus museum there that Nick Russell wrote about in the Gypsy Journal.

With no bus project or social interactions I settled in to work on my blog and await everyone’s return.  It started out sunny this morning but by 11 AM was thickly clouded over and looking wintery with blustery winds.  The only bus project I had in mind to do today was to pull out the chassis batter tray, check the circuit breakers, disconnect the batteries, swap the upper 12 V pair with the lower 12 V pair and reconnect them.  It was not something I wanted to do alone and I did not have to do it today, especially under cool, windy, overcast conditions, so I ended up not doing it.

Linda and Fonda eventually returned, having first gone to the Walmart in Logansport.  Linda picked up some hummus and Snyder’s sourdough pretzels so we snacked on those for lunch.  Linda then hung out with Fonda while I continued to work in blog posts.  Butch finally returned from his medical appointments and busied himself with something.  Whatever it was, he was not outside working on their bus and neither was I.  I managed to get the post for April 1 – 3, 2015 uploaded to our blog.

Linda and Fonda developed a plan for dinner.  Fonda made a nice salad and baked a loaf of par-baked bread that we got from Marilyn.  Linda made black beans and rice and prepared a mix of fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert.  Linda and I each had a glass of Franzia Red Sangria.  After taking all of dirty serving containers back to our coach we returned to the house to visit a bit longer and finally returned to our coach just after 9 PM.  That left me enough time to pull together the posts for April 4 – 6 and upload it before turning in for the night.

2015/04/23 (R) Return to Michigan

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7 and put on my sweats.  The Aqua-Hot was already on so I turned up the thermostats and turned on the engine pre-heat loop.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater and pointed it into the cockpit as the temperature on the dashboard was only 50 degrees F.  I walked over to Small Town Brew, got a cup of coffee, and said “so long for now” to owner Lisa Paul.  Linda was still asleep when I got back so I fixed a couple slices of toast for my breakfast, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and settled in to take care of a few e-mails.  Linda finally got up and, as I suspected, had not slept well last night.  She had some toast and orange juice but had no interest in coffee, a strong indicator of just how tired she was and not feeling completely well.

When she was done with the toaster I turned the cube heater off and turned the electric block heater on.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 20’s and starting the big Detroit Diesel at that temperature is hard on the engine so I wanted it nice and warm before I cranked it over.

Butch had an appointment with an ophthalmologist in Indianapolis around noon and had some other things to do down that way as long as they were there so he and Fonda planned to leave by 9 AM.  He came to our bus just before 9 AM to let us know they were close to leaving and that he put an air hose out by the automotive bay so I could fill the front tires on the bus if needed.  Based on the readings from our TireTraker TPMS, however, no adjustment was needed.

We planned to leave sometime after they did but not later than 10 AM.  The main reason for not leaving sooner was to give us time to digest our breakfast, but the other reason was our relatively short drive today to Camp Turkeyville, an RV park on I-69 just north of I-94.  This will be the first time I have been in Michigan, which I certainly consider home, since we left on November 30, 2014.  Turkeyville is only 80 miles from our house, but we will have a full hookup site so we can dump our waste tanks tomorrow morning and not need to use them on the final short drive to the house.

We started getting ready to leave around 9:45 AM.  I shut off the block heater, put Butch’s air hose away, and then took care of the chassis batteries, auxiliary air, and shorepower.  The DD fired right up and I switched it to high idle while it built air pressure.  As soon as the chassis was at ride height and the air dryer purged I pulled onto IN-16 pointing eastbound and pulled into the curb/parking lane.  That was around 10 AM.  I left the engine idling while Linda pulled the car up behind the bus.  By the time we hooked up the car for towing, checked the lights, and pulled away it was closer to 10:20.  I noted that the time was 10:30 AM EDT as we pulled onto US-31 N from IN-16 E.

Traffic was light and we had an easy run up US-31 to US-20 except for the 15-20 MPH crosswind from the WNW.  I also had a very cold breeze blowing into the cockpit by my feet and had to turn the heat up to stay comfortable.  We were an hour into our trip when I finally realized that I had not opened the air supply valve for the shutters on the two front house air-conditioner condensers which are installed in what is normally the spare tire bay.  Those shutters are held open by a spring and held closed by air pressure.  When they are open air can easily find its way into the cockpit.  There is also a mechanical damper that is supposed to regulate fresh air flow to the cockpit, or cut it off completely, but the flexible actuator cable broke some time ago and the damper/cable are difficult to access so it has not been repaired.  Either the cable broke with the damper in the closed position or I taped some sort of cover over the air inlet once upon a time because once I closed the shutters for the A-C compressors I no longer had cold air coming in by my feet.

Traffic was heavier on US-20 eastbound but it always is as it runs just south of South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, and a bit north of Goshen.  It is still a limited access highway until east of Elkhart, so it moved along up to that point.  There was one stretch between there and Middlebury where major construction was taking place, but we got through that easily enough.  After that it was a nice, rolling, 2-lane highway and we rolled along at 55 MPH except for the occasional town on intersection.  We always enjoy driving through this part of Indiana.

We turned off of US-20 onto I-69 N, crossed into Michigan at 12:53 PM EDT, and pulled into the Michigan Welcome Center five minutes later.  We only had 37 more miles to our destination but we both needed a short stretch break and I wanted to open the air valve for the A-C shutters, which is in the bay under the driver’s seat.  We resumed our trip and exited I-69 at exit 42 around 1:45 PM, crossed over the highway, and traveled the 500 yards to the Camp Turkeyville entrance.  We followed the long, wide, winding entrance road and stopped at the office where Linda got us registered.  They put us in a 50A full hookup pull-through site with easy access that was long enough for us to leave the car hooked up for towing.

We went through our usual arrival routine and then Linda fixed a light lunch of French Country Vegetable Soup and a tofu hotdog on pita bread with mustard and relish.  She also made a pot of coffee.  We connected our WiFiRanger to the RV Park Wi-Fi system but did not seem to be able to move any data so we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it.

Linda spent the afternoon reading a book on her iPad and I mostly worked on my blog post for April 7, 8, and 9.  I had 14 photos for that post but inserted them into the post rather than put them in a WP image gallery.  I logged into our personal WordPress site, installed WordPress 4.2, and then installed updates to plugins and themes.  Once that was done I uploaded the blog post and uploaded/captioned/inserted the photos and generated the tags.  I clicked the “Publish” button about 7:10 PM.

Linda put dinner on the table about 10 after I finished working.  She made a nice tofu scramble, a dish that vaguely resembles scrambled eggs, and served it with toast and jam, a small glass of juice, and black seedless grapes.

I thought about working on my blog post for April 10th, as it is the last one for which I have photos, but I was too tired to get involved in that tonight.  We pointed our front OTA TV towards Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, found the local CBS station, and watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory and whatever else was one.  We caught some local weather and decided to enable the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot, turn the thermostats on, and set the temperatures for 60 degrees F.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to be 27 and it was already 29 when we went to bed.  Welcome to Michigan in late April.

2015/04/24 (F) Touchdown

I awoke at 6:30 AM to an outside temperature of 27 degrees F.  Our coach has several ways it can be heated if we are plugged into adequate electrical power, including three electric toe-kick heaters.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and electric heating element last night before going to bed and left the living room and bathroom thermostats turned on with the temperature dialed back to just under 60 degrees.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater, dialed back the thermostat, and set in on the step to blow into the cockpit.

I got up at 7:15 AM and put on my sweats. It was 60 degrees F on the kitchen counter, but the refrigerator adds some heat mid-coach.  The thermometer on the dashboard read 53.  I turned the thermostats up to 68 and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  I also turned on the front electric toe-kick heater.  I made coffee and then turned on the electric block heater for the engine.  I checked e-mail and monitored our amperage while I waited for the coach to warm up and for Linda to get up.  We were drawing about 30 A on Leg 1 and 20 A on Leg 2.  On a true “50 A” RV electrical service with a main circuit breaker that functions correctly we can safely draw 40 Amps on each leg, so our usage was not going to trip any breakers.

By 10 AM the temperature was up to 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and it’s was delightfully cozy in the rig.  I got a call from Michele Henry at Phoenix Paint in response to an e-mail I sent her yesterday and talked to her for 15 minutes.  We had planned on a 10:30 AM departure but by the time I connected the sewer hose, dumped the waste tanks, and put the hose away it was 10:45.  We had the bus and car ready to travel by 11AM and pulled out of our site.  We had to wait for a few minutes until someone moved a 5th wheel which they had temporarily parked in the middle of a two-way road while waiting to get into their site.  We finally made our way out of Camp Turkeyville and pulled onto I-69 N at 11:13 AM.

We had an easy run to our house and our wheels “touched down” on our driveway at 12:45 PM.  Even the dirt roads for the last two miles of our trip were in reasonably good shape, which made for a nicer homecoming.  We opened the house, put the cats in their carriers, and took them inside.  I got the bus plugged in and the air shut off while Linda put the batteries back in the water softener and sanitizer and turned the well pump on.  I turned the gas back on for the kitchen and fireplace and then set all of the thermostats up to 65 degrees F.  We unloaded a few things from the bus and then had lunch, after which I sent text messages to both of our children and to Chuck Spera to let them know we were home.

After lunch we unhooked the car from the bus and continued unloading the bus but did not get everything taken off.  I was tired and took a long nap, only getting up when Linda told me it was time for dinner.  We had a Daiya Mushroom and Garlic pizza.  We have used Daiya vegan cheese for a while but did not know they made pizza products until we saw them at the Dierbergs Market in Edwardsville, Illinois.  It had a thin, crispy, rice flour crust (gluten-free), lots of garlic and cheese (of course), and was very tasty.  I wish we could buy them near our house.

After dinner I called Butch to let him know we made it home safe and without any new or reoccurring bus issues.  He had reassembled the driver side steer wheel and discovered that the new brake drums he got from MCI some time ago are the wrong ones, so he is going to have to track down the correct ones next week.

2015/04/25 (S) Return to Regular

Do you remember when OTA TV stations used to break in to programs with special news bulletins or emergency alert tests?  At the conclusion of such interruptions the announcer would say “we now return you to your regular programming.”  Having spent most of 61 years living in stationary dwellings we still consider being back at our house to be the baseline for our regular lives.  The last two years, however, we have spent half of the year, more or less, living in our converted motorcoach.  That fact, combined with the fact that we moved to a new-to-us house just before we started our extended traveling, has altered our perception of what constitutes “regular.”  All we know for sure is that living this dual lifestyle is our new normal and we like it.

Whether living at home or in the bus we have routines.  Part of our “at home” routine is Saturday morning breakfast with our friends from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) and that is how we started our day.  We took our usual route to South Lyon and were surprised by the extent of the construction work at the I-96 and US-23 interchange.  We knew this interchange was scheduled to be rebuilt starting this year but as of March 1st, when Linda last drove through there, work had not started.  A lot has happened since then, and from the look of things this is going to be a BIG project.

There were a LOT of people at breakfast, 24 by Linda’s count.  It was good to see our friends and ease back into ham radio talk.  The club president, Harvey Carter (AC8NO), had the personalized club jackets we ordered from Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon over the winter so we got those from him after we were all done eating.  The jackets are dark blue with fleece lining and yellow embroidery that looks very sharp.  The left breast says “South Lyon Area” on top and “Amateur Radio Club” underneath.  On the right breast is our first name (in script) on top and our call sign underneath in block letters.

We stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home to pick up a gift for grand-daughter Katie and found two books that we thought would interest her.  One was on rocks and gems and the other was on snakes, both of which are interesting to Katie.  Both are also an integral part of the desert southwest where we spent the winter.

When we got home I set about the tasks of moving various pieces of technology from the entrance foyer to my basement ham shack/office, reconnecting it to power and our network, and starting it up.  I started up our Linux box but the video driver would not “catch” so I shut it down and restarted it in Windows 2000 Pro, updated the es|et nod32 anti-virus database, and installed three Microsoft updates.  I checked e-mail on my primary laptop, responded to a couple, and then installed updates on all of the websites I manage.  WordPress just released version 4.2 and each new release triggers a flurry of plug-in and theme updates.

Our daughter, Meghan, had arranged for us to come over mid-afternoon to visit and have dinner without the bother and fuss of fixing a big meal.  Minn, the female cat, hid immediately but Inches, the male cat, hung around for a while.  Grand-daughter Katie is working at Pizza House in Ann Arbor where he dad, Chris, has been the general manager for a long time, but she got off work and arrived just after us followed by Chris, who had run out to pick up dinner at Seva.

Our son, Brendan, daughter-in-law Shawna, and grand-daughter Madeline showed up a little later, and Inches promptly disappeared.  Madeline is very sweet and interacts with her two kitties, Gus and Iggy, just fine but our cats, and Meghan’s/Chris’s cats, disappear whenever she comes to visit.  They are just not used to the size, motions, and sounds of a 28 month old.

Seva is a vegetarian restaurant that has been a staple of the Ann Arbor restaurant scene for many years but recently moved out of downtown to a location on the far west side of Ann Arbor.  While not just around the corner from Chris and Meghan’s house it is much closer, and easier to get to, than driving into downtown.  Many of their menu items are vegan, or can be made vegan, and that is mostly what they ordered.  We had a nice visit with excellent appetizers and main dishes, a dozen choices in all, and a nice Riesling wine from Washington State.

After appetizers we distributed the gifts we had picked up for everyone.  Besides Katie’s books Madeline got a “Dr. Seuss” book about deserts and a t-shirt from Marilyn with a design on the front that changes color in the sunlight. Both of our children, who kept an eye on our house for us over the winter and took in our mail, got the following:  A bottle of Red Chile Wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico; a bouquet of pequin chiles from Hatch Chile Sales in Hatch, New Mexico; a box of Prickly Pear Cactus jellied candies and a jar of Prickly Pear Cactus jelly from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona; a bag of Green Chile Pistachios from Eagle Ranch (Heart of the Desert) in Alamogordo, New Mexico; a two box set of olive oil and peach balsamic vinegar glaze from Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona; and a non-stick grilling mat from the “Big Tent” RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona.  We appreciate what they do when we are away which would be more complicated for us without their assistance.

We enjoy looking for gifts that are unique to the areas we visit and tend to limit ourselves to items that are consumable so no one has to find room to store or display something, at least not for very long.  We saw many wonderful art and craft objects this winter but they present a special challenge beyond simply getting them home.  We are no longer collecting “things,” as we already cannot display or store the stuff we have, and our children are in somewhat the same situation (which is why we still have a lot of stuff instead of them having it).

Then there is the matter of taste.  Both children have their own taste in art and have carefully arranged items for display on their walls and shelves.  As much as we might like something, and think someone else might like it, buying art for other people is fraught with peril because there is an implied expectation that it will be displayed.  If it is displayed but the recipient does do not like it then the gift is intrusive.  If it is not displayed the giver is disappointed and potentially offended.  Better to stay clear of all that by avoiding surprise gifts.  The exception is if we know they are looking for something in particular and we come across one.  In that case it is a simple matter to take a photo with one of our smartphones and message them to see if they want it, making it clear that “no” is an acceptable answer.

Madeline goes to bed at 8 PM so she left (with her parents) at 7 PM.  Both Minn and Inches came out shortly thereafter to have a bite to eat and get the attention they had missed for the last four hours,  We stuck around for another hour which gave us just enough time to get home before it got really dark.  Brendan and Shawna had kept/used Linda’s Honda Civic all winter. They came in two cars and went home in one so that Linda could get the Civic back to our house.  There is a chance that she will have to go into the bakery a day or two this week and I do not like be without transportation, especially when we have a lot going on.

We sat in the living room for an hour reading and relaxing with our favorite iPad apps/games but without the benefit of our natural gas fireplace logs.  I lit them when we got home and they operated for about 60 seconds and then shut off and would not relight.  I turned the pilot flame off and will deal with that tomorrow.  I went to bed, read for a while longer, and then went to sleep.


20150416-20 (R-M) MO, IL, IN

2015/04/16 (R) Carthage, MO to Edwardsville, IL

[Note:  There are no photos for these posts.]

I was awakened from a light sleep this morning by a change in the sound of our auxiliary air compressor and the pneumatic systems on the bus.  A valve that whines in a certain way as the system fills with air changed its tune and the compressor ran longer than it normally does and did not shut off.  I got up, turned it off, turned it back on and it finally completed its cycle and shut off automatically.  At that point I was up and wide awake so I got dressed.  Linda was awake by that point too so I suggested that we just get an early start on today’s journey, and that is what we did.  We pulled out of our site at the Coachlight RV Park at 7:30 AM and a few minutes later we were headed south on I-49.  Less than a mile later we looped around the cloverleaf interchange onto I-44 headed east.

The sky was overcast and we ran in and out of fog and mist as we traveled up and down the rolling hills of southwest Missouri with spring in full bloom.  The temperature was cool and the conditions made for easier driving than having a bright morning sun in my eyes.  Traffic was light to moderate for the first 2/3rds of the trip, albeit heavier passing through Springfield and Rolla.  About 200 miles into our trip we stopped at the Flying J at exit 226.  I-44 was now six lanes and we were at the fringe of heavier urban traffic and encountered a center lane closure on a bridge which brought traffic to a halt.  We patiently worked our way through that and a little farther along exited I-44 onto I-270 which became I-255 and took us across the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois, most of the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area to our north.

Once we crossed the river and traveled a few miles traffic thinned out but we bumped our way along as the road surface on this stretch of I-255 was very rough.  We exited I-255 onto I-55N/I-70E and then stayed with I-55 when it split from I-70.  It was a good thing, too, as I-70E was backed up all the way to the split with traffic stopped and a sign announcing long delays and advising motorists to seek an alternate route.  A few more miles and we were at our exit for IL-143, crossed over the highway, did a 180 onto the service road, and drove the last mile to the entrance to the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park just east of Edwardsville, Illinois.

The entrance to the RV Park was a bit narrow but wide enough that I was able to swing in off the service road.  The interior gravel roads were also narrow, and I had to snake past the office, but they turned out to be just wide enough to accommodate an RV our size.  The office was closed but there was a note on the door with our name and site number.  The site had trees on either side that did not appear to be trimmed up high enough but it turned out that they were.

While not a destination park Red BaRn RendezVous is a nice little place in a location convenient to Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois, where Linda’s sister lives, and the Interstate highways that will get us to my sister’s house in 30 to 40 minutes.  The office building has men’s and women’s restrooms with showers and a small but well equipped laundry.  We had no commitments to visit anyone today and were in early enough that Linda gathered up the laundry and we carried it over to the laundry room.

Linda had some fresh blueberries that needed to be used so she made vegan blueberry pancakes for dinner.  We do not have these very often but they are a real treat when we do.  We were both tired and had headaches, unusual for me but not for Linda, and decided to drive into Edwardsville and find the Walmart.  We wanted to buy a present for Lilly and it gave us a reason/place to stretch our legs.  Back at the rig we located the OTA TV towers, oriented our front OTA TV antenna, and watched episodes of The Big Bang Theory while diddling on our iPads and computers.  I hate to lose a block of potentially useful time but I was not up to working on photos and blog posts and diddling was the best I could manage.

The only “issue” we had with the bus today involved the behavior of the air system.  There are three air pressure gauges in the cockpit—primary and secondary on the dashboard, and auxiliary to the side—corresponding to the three “systems” that operate the chassis (brakes and suspension), and accessories (belt tensioners, radiator shutters, air horns, step slides, and house components).  The air from the main engine air compressor goes through a dryer that removes moisture and then goes to the primary, secondary, and auxiliary tanks.  It sounds simple but it is a bit more complicated than that.  I returned an earlier phone call from Butch and discussed this with him.

As best I understand it (and care to take time to explain it here) a valve, or set of valves, regulates where the compressed air goes and the top priority is the brakes.  The primary tank/system supplies air to the rear brakes and the secondary tank/system provides air to the front brakes (or vice versa).  Until the air requirements of the brake systems are satisfied air does not flow to the suspension or accessories.  Once all of the systems are pressurized they are isolated from one another so that a failure of any component will not affect the other systems.  It is a clever, fault-tolerant design that works well and has stood the test of time.  The components are used on 18-wheelers, fire trucks, and all manner of heavy highway equipment, including commercial buses in passenger service.

When the system is working correctly this is what I normally see when driving.  When the systems are fully pressurized the primary, secondary, and auxiliary air pressure gauges all read ~130 PSI.  The primary and secondary gauges will stay at that pressure unless/until I apply the brakes.  The auxiliary gauge, however, will drop over time due to small leaks somewhere that I have not been able to isolate.  Once the pressure in any of the systems drops to about 90 PSI, which is almost always the auxiliary system, the main engine air compressor kicks in and brings the pressure in all of the systems back up to ~130 PSI.

What I saw for most of the drive today was different, and that is always a cause for concern and makes driving less enjoyable.  All three gauges were showing a loss of pressure and the pressure in all three systems was the same.  The compressor was still working and would kick in at ~90 PSI and bring all three back up to ~130 PSI, so that was good, but the behavior suggested that one or more isolation valves had “stuck” in a position that kept all three systems tied together, which was not good.  Because of the larger volume of air being lost through the leak(s) in the auxiliary system it took a lot longer for the pressure to bleed down and it took longer for the compressor to bring it back up.

About four hours into our six hour trip we stopped for fuel at the Flying J Truck Stop at exit 226.  When we resumed our travel I noticed that one of the gauges (primary or secondary, not sure which) was holding its pressure while the other one continued to drop along with the auxiliary gauge.  An hour after that I noticed that both the primary and secondary gauges were holding pressure while the auxiliary gauge was cycling, and this behavior continued for the rest of the trip.  Thus it appeared that whatever caused the abnormal behavior had self-corrected.  My suspicion is that a stuck valve had gotten unstuck.  Once we were parked and set up the auxiliary air compressor cycled on and off properly, confirming that the isolation valve(s) was(were) once again working correctly.

2015/04/17 (F) My Side

We were up between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, not because we had to be but because we were rested and awake.  We had a quiet, relaxed morning enjoying our coffee and granola and using our iPads to check on the world (L) and work on yesterday’s blog post (me).  We configured the bus to ensure the cats’ comfort while we were away and left at 10:30 AM to drive to my sister’s house in Bridgeton, Missouri.  We stopped for fuel just short of her house and finally arrived around 11:30 AM.

We were greeted by Patty and Maggie, her one remaining dog.  We visited for an hour and then went to a Panera (St. Louis Bread Company) not far from her house for lunch.  We returned to her house to continue our visit and await the arrival of Ryan, Amanda, and Lilly, who showed up a little after 3 PM.  They would have come earlier but Ryan had a routine work-related physical on which his continued employment depended.  To everyone’s relief he passed so everyone was relaxed.  Lilly was initially surprised to see us but immediately gave us a big smile and went to Linda’s outstretched arms.  Lilly is 27 months old and is a cheerful, happy child who interacts easily with whomever is around.

Ryan and Amanda were hungry so at 4:30 PM we headed to El Maguey Mexican Restaurant for dinner.  We had taco salads with beans instead of animal protein and everyone seemed to like their food.  It is Amanda and Ryan’s favorite Mexican restaurant.  Amanda and Ryan headed home with Lilly and we drove back to Patty’s house to wrap up our visit while we waited for rush hour traffic to subside.

Brendan called and Linda got to “chat” with Madeline and then each of us took turns talking to him.  He had received his offer letter from Eastern Michigan University and acknowledged it, so he will start his tenure track assistant professorship in the art history department in September.  The discussions about initial course assignments, however, have already started.  He also mentioned that Shawna’s application for tenure at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor is looking very positive.  Both of those pieces of information were very good news for us.

We took our leave at 7:30 PM and got back to our coach just before darkness settled in.  Having spent a long day enjoying the company of family we settled in to watch a few shows on the local PBS station’s Create sub-channel before turning in for the night.

2015/04/18 (S) LF-M-LH Day 1

Yesterday Linda (LF) talked to Marilyn (M) briefly as we (B & LF) were driving back to the rig from Patty’s house and they (LF & M) agreed that we (LF & B) would arrive at Linda H’s (LH) house around 11 AM tomorrow, which is now today.  (Hopefully the LF and LH designations will help keep straight which Linda I am referring to.  Most of the rest of this post is about today not yesterday.)

We were up this morning at 7 AM and had our usual coffee and granola.  It’s a good thing we will be getting home soon because we only have one day’s supply left of LF’s homemade granola.  It is so good that we have stopped buying commercial granolas because they do not have any taste by comparison.

After a suitably relaxing start to our day I continued plugging away at editing blog posts and selecting/processing photographs to go with them.  I dealt with some e-mails and then we gathered up our stuff and headed to (LH’s) and Marilyn’s house in Glen Carbon, Illinois.  Glen Carbon and Edwardsville flow together to form a contiguous urban area but they are distinct municipalities with Glen Carbon being to the south of Edwardsville.

We are camped just to the east edge of Edwardsville on the edge of a corn field.  The RV park is conveniently located to I-55 and just 10 minutes from LH and M’s house so we were there by 11:15 AM.  LH and M had purchased various fresh ingredients for a salad and after sitting and visiting for a while Marilyn assembled the salad.  There was something going on at the house across the street that resulted in the wife calling the police and three cars/officers being dispatched to the scene.  LH said the husband was himself involved in law enforcement so that added a certain tension to the whole situation as he almost certainly had firearms in the house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting until Marilyn had to leave for a gala fundraiser for a school that her Congregation supports.  We decided to continue visiting with LH and stay for dinner.  LH had a bag of shredded vegan mozzarella “cheese” so we ordered a mushroom and onion no-cheese pizza from Imo’s and she ordered a medium supreme.  I drove into town and picked up the pizzas.  When I got back we added the vegan cheese to ours and heated it in the oven long enough to melt it.  It was very good.

In recent times Imo’s was our favorite pizza (after the demise of the Luigi’s restaurants in the St. Louis area many years ago) but the last time we tried one without cheese it was not very satisfying.  The crust is thin and crisps nicely, the way we like it, and the sauce is slightly sweet and used sparingly, the way we like it, but their normal cheese, a mozzarella and provolone mix, is (apparently) what pulls together the pie’s uniquely fabulous taste.  While the vegan mozzarella was not an exact replacement it made for a very tasty meal, bringing both taste and texture to the pizza.

We needed to do some grocery shopping so we took our leave at 7:30 PM and drove to the Dierbergs supermarket in Edwardsville.  There are three grocery stores at the intersection of IL-159 and Governors Parkway, but Dierbergs was the most likely to have what we were looking for.  Our shopping done we headed east on Governors’ Parkway almost to I-55 and took the service road back to our RV park.  We gave our cats the attention they were seeking while Linda (LF) settled in with her e-book and I worked on the blog post for our two-day visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I also proofread the final draft of the March 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and sent back my corrections.  I uploaded the blog post and then went to bed to work on the posts for yesterday and today.

2015/04/19 (N) LF-M-LH Day 2

Linda (LF) was up at 6:30 AM, earlier than usual, and I got up at 6:50 AM.  Before I had a chance to start making our morning coffee she pulled up the weather and showed me the radar.  Rain had been forecast to start just after midnight, and continue all day today and into tomorrow, but it appeared that it had not rained last night.  The radar, however, indicated that the rain was on our southern doorstep.  I needed to dump our holding tanks and refill our fresh water tank, so I took care of that while Linda made the coffee and updated her cost-of-camping spreadsheet.

The dump and fill process took me about an hour but we now have enough waste tank capacity and fresh water onboard to get us home with room to spare.  Based on Linda’s data our average nightly cost to “camp” this winter has been about $8.75.  Not bad.  Our average daily cost for our winter in Florida was over $20 which we felt was a very reasonable cost for wintering there.  We drove more miles this winter compared to last, almost double in fact, so we spent the money we saved on camping buying diesel fuel.  Fortunately diesel fuel prices in the central and western states where much lower than the prices in the southeast last year.  They were, in fact, the lowest prices we have seen in years so that was a nice break.

I updated my water usage spreadsheet while Linda got caught up on our personal accounting and bills.  Cell phones and cellular data, in conjunction with the Internet and electronic banking, have fundamentally transformed the full-time and extended-time RVing experience in ways that no one could have imagined 15 years ago.  I had an e-mail from Dropbox that Kate had joined a folder I had shared with her so I sent her a short e-mail updating her on our travel plans.  I also had an e-mail with the final draft of the print version of the March 2015 issue of BCM and verified that the corrections I uploaded last night had been made to my article.  I consolidated my blog posts for March 22 and 23 and finished editing them.  I had just started looking at the unprocessed photos for those posts when it was time to pack up and head to Marilyn and Linda’s (LH) house for the day.

The weather was overcast and gloomy and the rains eventually came, a perfect day to stay inside and eat, talk, and play games.  Marilyn has been making a real attempt at moving to a vegan diet so she prepared tomato soup and black bean burgers for lunch.  We then put the leaf in the dining room table and got out the Mexican Train dominoes game.  We brought hummus and Linda (LH) had made vegan guacamole so we enjoyed those with a few Fritos corn chips.  We also had fresh grapes and toasted almonds to munch on and a couple of bowls of popcorn.  We played 16 rounds of Mexican Train starting with the double 15 tile in the center and ending with the double “zero” (blank) in the center.  It was evening by the time we finished and everyone enjoyed having a whole day to hang out with family and friends with nothing more important to do than play a game.

We left just before 8 PM and drove through Edwardsville to get back to the RV Park rather than get on the Interstates.  There was very little on TV that interested us and we ended up watching an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  It was a very popular show in its day but is now very dated to the point of being almost silly.

Linda (LF) read and I selected/processed photos for my blog post about our visits to Ajo, Arizona on March 22nd and 23rd.  I got the post and photos uploaded and then went to bed.

2015/04/20 (M) Edwardsville, IL to Twelve Mile, IN

Linda was up a little before 7 AM and I was up a little after.  Today was a travel day, so we did not make coffee or have breakfast.  We were not hungry anyway having had our fill of food, both good and junk, yesterday.  We each had a cup of tea while we got our day started.

We started getting ready to leave around 9 AM and finally pulled out of the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park at 9:50 AM.  We had about 330 miles to travel to get from Edwardsville, Illinois to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Since the RV park is just off of I-55 we took I-55 north to I-72 near Springfield, followed that east to I-57 and then took that north to US-24.  We followed US-24 east and moved from Central Daylight Time to Eastern Daylight Time sometime after we crossed into Indiana.  US-24 joined up with US-35 to bypass Logansport, Indiana to its south and then split off to continue east towards Peru.  We picked up US-31 just before Peru and took that north to IN-16 where we headed back west about five miles to Twelve Mile.  It was 5 PM (EDT) when we arrived at Butch and Fonda Williams’ place.  The bus ran well except for a couple of tattletale lights that started blinking briefly towards the end of the trip.  The previous problem with the chassis air systems did not reoccur.

I checked the manual after we got parked and one of the lights was for a chassis battery voltage Hi/Low condition and the other was for the upper and lower 12 V strands of the chassis battery being out-of-balance.  Both conditions, if true, might implicate the Vanner battery equalizer but the first diagnostic step will be to check the circuit breakers.  The next step will be to check all of the battery connections, including the Vanner.  One of the things on my To-Do list is to swap the upper and lower batteries as the “24V” gauge on the dashboard usually reads 29 V and the “12V” gauge usually reads 14 V or slightly less if I have the headlights turned on.

Butch and Fonda had to take his parents to medical appointments in Lafayette, Indiana today and got home just before we arrived.  We did not realize they were there but that was OK; they knew we were coming and we have a nice level spot to park on concrete with a “50 A” electrical connection when we are here.  (It’s a 240 VAC connection with a 50 A RV outlet but we can only draw about 30 amps on each leg.)  Even though we left home on November 30, 2014 Twelve Mile feels like the place where our trip to the southwest U.S. began as we left from here in a caravan with Butch and Fonda on December 3rd.

We were settled in our spot and had our WiFiRanger connected to their Wi-Fi access point when Butch and Fonda either realized we were there, or that we were not going to knock on their door, and came over and knocked on ours instead.  They came in our bus and we talked for over an hour at which point Butch needed to deal with a Facebook group admin issue.  After they returned to the house Linda started preparing our dinner while I checked e-mail and then continued working on this blog post.

Linda sautéed onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a little olive oil and added torn spinach at the end.  She cooked two baking potatoes in the microwave oven and served them with the sautéed vegetables as a topping along with some almond milk jalapeño pepper jack vegan cheese.  A simple but satisfying dish on a cool, clammy evening.  We also had some black grapes with the meal which were tasty and refreshing.  We made two large cups of hot tea and took them to the house where we visited with Butch and Fonda some more.  By 10 PM we were too tired to be good company so we returned to our coach and went to bed.


2015/03/27-31 (F-T) Wrapping Up Arizona

2015/03/27 (F) Queen Creek Olive Mill

This is really Linda’s post more than mine.  Lou and I stayed in camp all day working with our information technologies while Linda and Val went on an explore.  I have been using my iPad2 to go through drafts of blog posts dating back to March 1st filling in details, turning notes into complete sentences, and then e-mailing them to myself.  I got caught up as far as that goes and then started writing drafts of posts for the last few days.

Linda and Val made a day if it away from camp.  Linda took our car and drove them to the Queen Creek Olive Mill (QCOM) in Queen Creek, Arizona just beyond the southeast limits of the Phoenix metropolitan area.  QCOM is a large olive grove producing 17 different varieties of olives.  (Technically it is an orchard as olives are a stone fruit.)  The hot, dry desert conditions in this part of the U. S. turn out to be ideal for growing olives.  They are harvested by spreading tarps on the ground around each tree and stripping the olives off.  Olives that fall to the ground naturally are past ripe and are not used.

Once harvested olives are processed within 24 hours.  For pressing into olive oil they are simply washed to remove dust and then pressed (ground or milled, actually), pits and all, to extract the oil.  The mash that remains is used as fertilizer for the trees.  Olives that are destined to be sold whole may be packaged whole in a brine or have the pits removed and replaced with a piece of garlic or habanero pepper and preserved in a brine.

QCOM has a restaurant so the ladies stayed for lunch.  Val had a chopped Italian salad and Linda had a quinoa and kale salad, both of which they said were ‘excellent’.  The Mill also had a gift shop and Linda picked up several things there.

It was late afternoon by the time they returned and neither of them felt like cooking so Lou suggested we go out for dinner and try the Chinese restaurant we intended to eat at a few nights ago when we ended up at the Golden Corral.  We piled into Lou and Val’s pickup truck and set off in search of Big Wa.  Linda had checked the menu online so we knew they had several vegetarian dishes we could probably eat.

Lou and Val had been to Big Wa before and knew approximately where it was but Linda pulled it up on her smartphone and guided us in for a soft landing.  Big Wa was a small mom and pop Chinese restaurant; the kind we used to patronize a lot back home once upon a time.  We rarely go to Chinese restaurants anymore because it is essentially impossible to get anything vegan.  We ordered vegetable Kung Pao stir fry and Moo Shu vegetable dishes.  We suspect that chicken broth was involved in the stir fry and I think the Moo Shu, which was already made up when it came to the table, contained eggs.  We rarely stray from our chosen diet and although doing so doesn’t kill us our systems do not always react well either.  In this case our dishes were mostly vegetables and it was very tasty.

We stopped at Home Depot so I could look for a GE Water filter cartridge and then stopped at Walgreen’s so Val could pick up some things.  It was well past dark by the time we got back and we retired to our respective rigs for the night.  Linda and I watched some TV (Big Bang Theory) and she played online word games while I responded to some e-mails.  Linda liked Queen Creek Olive Mill well enough to enter it in the RVillage Marketplace and recommend it.

A panorama of our motorcoach parked at RVillage World Headquarters in Arizona City, AZ.

A panorama of our motorcoach parked at RVillage World Headquarters in Arizona City, AZ.

2015/03/28 (S) Haircuts

Linda was awake by 6 AM and read quietly in bed.  I was awake before 7 AM and got up, put on my sweats, and made a pot of coffee.  Our two cats climbed up on us to be adored and when they’d had enough of our attention we had some granola for breakfast.  Linda got our last bag out of the freezer so if we want this to last until we get home we will not be having it for breakfast every day.

I have been overdue for a haircut for a while so this morning we finally got the clippers out and Linda lightened the load.  Not that my hair was long, but the daytime temperatures have risen into the 90’s and it is much cooler and more comfortable with my buzz cut.  As long as the clippers were out I trimmed up my beard and shaved.  Linda said I cleaned up pretty well.  🙂

Linda is also way overdue for a haircut but I am not about to attempt that.  She and Val had planned to go to the mall in Casa Grande today anyway, so she did a quick online search and located a hair salon at the mall.  She assembled a short shopping list and added the haircut to it.

While they were gone I pulled together all of my blog post drafts for the period before, during, and after the Escapees RV Club Escapade rally into a single Word doc and attached it to an e-mail to Lou.  He plans to use it as the starting point for an article about the Escapade in the next edition of our SKP Photographers BOF newsletter.

Lou and I needed a break from working with our technology so we put two of our camp chairs in a shady spot with a nice northeast breeze and just sat and relaxed and chatted.  Lou asked about the barn we plan to build and I described the three approaches I am considering.  We were still doing that when the ladies returned home late in the afternoon.  They had both done some shopping so I helped carry bags of stuff into our rig.

Linda made a nice salad for our dinner and Val heated up leftovers for them.  There is a period of time in the late afternoon when the sun shines into the covered porch of the house and is so hot it us uncomfortable to sit there.  Small ants have also appeared with the hot weather so we ate inside at the dining room table.  We lingered for a long time talking before finally retiring to our rigs for the night.

Curtis got a good deal on this Fleetwood Bounder.  He plans to put it in a rental pool.

Curtis got a good deal on this Fleetwood Bounder. He plans to put it in a rental pool.

2015/03/29 (N) Mexico Connection

I made arrangements on Friday for us to visit with Larry and Orene Brown today.  We left at 10 AM to drive to their place northwest of Florence, Arizona.  Larry and Orene are members of both FMCA and Escapees and belong to the Freethinker groups of both clubs, along with several related RVillage groups.  We crossed paths with them most recently at the Escapade and agreed to get together after we returned to Arizona City.  We stopped briefly in Coolidge to buy flowers at the local Safeway and arrived at their place in the Del Webb (Pulte) developed Anthem communities at 11:10 AM.

Larry and Orene are also active in SKP Chapter 8 — Mexican Connection, and will be the wagonmasters for the Chapter’s February 2016 caravan/rally to Puerto Penasco, Mexico on the mainland shore of the Sea of Cortez.  We have not had any desire to travel to/in Mexico, but after chatting with Larry and Orene at Escapade we became intrigued with the possibility of traveling with a good sized group and wanted to know more about it.

Larry gave us a tour of their house and Orene poured small glasses of wine which we enjoyed sitting outside under their Ramada.  Orene made a green salad and vegan chili for lunch.  Both were delicious and enjoyed with some iced tea.  By the time we were done eating the air temperature had warmed past comfortable so we went inside where Orene served fresh strawberries and cantaloupe for desert.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in pleasantly stimulating conversation on a wide range of subjects including, but not limited to, the outing to Mexico next year.  We got a lot of important insights, most of which furthered our interest in going.  We have enjoyed getting to know everyone from our Freethinkers chapter we have had the opportunity to meet and hope to cross paths with Larry and Orene many times in the years to come.

As we wrapped up our visit at 4 PM I got a call from Curtis letting me know that he would probably be arriving tonight between 11 PM and midnight unless he decided to pull in to rest area, in which case he would arrive early tomorrow morning.  Either way it meant that Lou would have to move their 5th wheel trailer so Curtis could park his bus in its usual place.  It also meant someone, most likely me, would have to open the gate when he got here.  I tend to stay up late anyway, but we would obviously do whatever was required to get him in and settled.

As we were getting back to our encampment around 5:30 PM Linda called Lou to have him open the gate.  After we were in and settled we let him know that Curtis would be returning late this evening.  They were in the spot where Curtis parks his bus, so before it got dark Lou hitched up their 5th wheel and pulled it around 180 degrees to the east side of the driveway and pointed towards the gate.  He plans to take their rig to Casa Grande tomorrow morning to buy some tires for the truck and the trailer and have them installed so the rig is positioned for an easy exit.

Having had a nice lunch Linda and I just had hummus with chips and grapes for dinner and watched several episodes of The Big Bang Theory.  Curtis called at 9 PM to let me know he would be arriving around 11 PM.  Linda headed off to bed while I let Lou and Val know that Curtis was definitely arriving yet this evening.  I then settled in to watch TV while I waited for the call to open the gate.  That call came a little before 11 PM.  I opened the gate, waited for Curtis to pull in, closed the gate, and helped him get parked.  I returned the gate fob and house key and we chatted about RVillage and the FMCA rally while Augie got reacquainted with his yard.  Curtis asked if I would take some interior and exterior photographs of his Fleetwood Bounder before we left so he could use them to help advertise it for rent and of course I agreed.  I then retired just before midnight, leaving him to finish unpacking a few things from his bus and car

Another view of Curtis's Bounder.

Another view of Curtis’s Bounder.

2015/03/30 (M) Re-Tired

Since we knew at 4 PM yesterday that Curtis would be returning late last night, Linda started doing several loads of laundry as soon as we got back to camp.  We watched TV and snacked for dinner while the loads washed and dried.  She took the last load out of the dryer around 9 PM and we then folded clothes and made the bed.  She turned in while I waited up to let Curtis in the gate.

I slept in until 8 AM his morning and finally got up when I heard (and smelled) the grinding of coffee beans.  Breakfast was toast and fruit juice.  As planned, Lou and Val left around 9:30 AM to take their truck/trailer to Discount Tire in Casa Grande.  He needed two tires for the truck and two for the trailer.

Although Curtis did not leave Pomona, California until 4 PM yesterday he managed to make the 400 mile drive back to Arizona City in seven hours.  In spite of what was obviously a long day for him he was up and working this morning, although we did not see him until later than usual.  Launching a company is exciting but hard work.

Linda sat at the outside table and chatted with Curtis while I worked on blog posts at my computer in our bus.  By 11:45 AM the temperature in the bus was 85 degrees so I turned the generator on, turned on all three air-conditioners, and closed up the coach.  That kept it cool enough for the cats but I decided to take my computer into the house and work at the dining room table as the house is air-conditioned and quite comfortable.

I had copied all of the posts for January 15 – 21, 2015 into a single Word doc but by the time I finished editing it I decided it was way too long so I split it back up into individual daily posts.  The other reason for doing this was that this was a very busy week during which I took a lot of photographs.  I managed to upload posts to our WordPress blog for the 15th through the 19th.  It was a small dent in what I need to accomplish, but it was something.

Val brought over a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade at 4:30 PM.  By that time my computer battery was run down a bit and I was tired of staring at the screen so I took the computer back to our bus and plugged it in and then joined the others on the veranda to enjoy my glass of lemonade.

Although it gets pleasantly cool after the sun sets, and a bit chilly by sunrise, the hot days have brought out ants and midge flies, compounding the notion that we have probably lingered a bit longer in southern Arizona than is ideal.  On the other hand, we are experiencing this for ourselves rather than trying to understand it second hand.  Also, highs in the mid-to-upper 90’s are not typical for late March in this area, running 15 or more degrees above normal.  That is the old (historical) normal, of course, not the new normal.

Curtis eventually rejoined use around 5:30 PM.  We asked if he wanted to go out to dinner but he was not up for it so we all made and ate our own dinners.  While Linda was cooking and I was wrapping up a conversation with Lou and Curtis I got a call from Butch Williams.  He and Fonda had just arrived home having driven all the way from the Wal-Mart in Forest City, Arkansas.  That same drive took us two days on the way out west in December.  It was 7:30 PM here and 10:30 PM there.

Linda had the TV on while she was cooking and we watched NCIS Los Angeles and other Monday evening programs during and after dinner.  She made a red beans and rice dish and added greens (kale) and crushed red pepper flakes which definitely kicked it up a notch.  I continued working on blog posts while half paying attention to the TV programs.

One last look at Curtis's new Bounder.

One last look at Curtis’s new Bounder.

2015/03/31 (T) Farewell Arizona

As March draws to a close so does our time in Arizona.  We have, and more specifically our motorhome has, been here since December 11, 2014 when we drove from the Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico to the RoVers Roost SKP CO-OP near Casa Grande, Arizona.  From there it was on to our winter “home” in Quartzsite where the bus remained parked until March 3rd.

On March 3rd we said our “so long, see ya down the road” to Butch/Fonda, Jim/Barb, and Jim Liebherr, our host/landlord while we were in Quartzsite.  We drove to Arizona City and boondocked at the rental house of Curtis Coleman, founder and CEO of the RVillage social networking website for RVers.  From there we relocated to an RV park in Tucson for a night and then went to the Escapees RV Club Escapade at the Pima County Fairgrounds where we worked very hard as event staff.

After the Escapade we drove back to Arizona City with Lou and Val Petkus, stayed three nights, and then drove over to Why, Arizona for a week to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The four of us then went back to Arizona City to decompress for a week and try to catch up on some computer/Internet-based work.

While we were in Arizona City we managed to drive the Florence-to-Kelvin scenic road with Lou and Val Petkus, tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West (just the two of us), visit an Olive grove/mill (Linda and Val only), visit with fellow FMCA/SKP Freethinkers Larry and Orene Brown (me and Linda), and visit with Curtis when he was there as much as his work permitted.  The daily high temperatures the last few days have been in the mid-to-upper 90’s while only a couple of hundred miles to the north they were just reaching 70 degrees F with lows at or just below freezing.  Our Aqua-Hot is working better than our air-conditioners and we are ready to start moving east and north.

Lou and Val pulled out today at noon for the short drive to Tucson and checked into the Prince of Tucson RV Park where we stayed for one night just before going to the Escapade.  We will depart tomorrow and head to Deming, New Mexico, or thereabouts.  From there we plan to head over to Las Cruces and up I-25 to Albuquerque where we will look for a full-hookup RV park for a few nights so we can explore the area a bit.

From Albuquerque we will push on to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to visit my only uncle.  A long day’s drive from there will put is in an RV Park near Edwardsville, Illinois not far from where Linda’s sister (Marilyn) and her housemate (Linda) live and a reasonable driving distance from my sister (Patty), niece (Amanda), and her family.  We plan to hang out in the area for a while if folks can make time to visit with us and keep an eye on the weather and road restrictions in southeast Michigan.

Another day’s drive will put us at Butch and Fonda Williams’ place in Twelve Mile, Indiana; the place from which our two two-bus caravan departed for the southwest on December 3rd, 2014.  We will likely linger there a few days and try to figure out what is going on with our two front air-conditioners.  Once we leave there our final stop will probably be an overnight at the Turkeyville Campground south of Lansing, Michigan where we can dump our holding tanks in the morning before driving the last 80 miles to our house.

With the hot temperatures have come bugs so we spent a long evening inside the house having a relaxed conversation with Curtis and getting to know each other better.  It was the first time we have had a chance to talk to him without RVillage being the focus of the conversation.  We opened the bottle of Black Currant wine we bought at the Forestedge Winery in Laporte, Minnesota in July 2013 and remembered why we bought it and why we brought it along.  It was nice to share it with our new friend.  We finally went back to our coach at 9:30 PM, had an easy, light supper, and went to bed.


2015/03/01-03 (N-T) Wrapping Up In Q

2015/03/01 (N) Clean Flying

I had coffee and toast for breakfast.  That finished the sourdough bread, which lasted two weeks, and the strawberry preserves, which had been around a lot longer than that.

I spent most of the rest of the morning cleaning the inside of the coach, specifically the tile floor, and putting things away so that there was someplace for two people to sit.  The floor and kitchen counter looked better than they have most of the time Linda has been away.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

I left a little after 11 AM to drive to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.  Linda’s flight was scheduled in at 2:35 PM MST but was delayed on departure with a revised ETA of 2:56 PM.  The weather was overcast with intermittent rain; something we have not seen much of since we arrived here in early-mid December.  It is approximately a two hour trip from Quartzsite to the airport so that left me two hours to take care of two shopping errands.  That seemed like plenty of time but I had not calculated in the time required to deal with Sunday noon traffic at a major shopping location.  I needed cat food and had an address for a PetSmart.  I also needed a GE water filter and had an address for a Home Depot.

As I approached the Dysart Road exit on I-10 I saw a Home Depot.  It was not the one I had programmed in my GPS, but it was right there.  Little did I know that the area around that exit was a massive shopping complex that felt like square miles of retail stores.  The Home Depot did not have the GE housing or filter element I was looking for, even though I bought it at a Home Depot in Logansport, IN.  I no sooner got on the highway when I saw the sign for a PetSmart on the north side of I-10.  I took the next exit and doubled back.  In retrospect I should have taken W McDowell Road and snuck in (and out) the back way but I had no way of knowing that in advance.  They had the Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin cat food and I bought a 20# bag.  There was a Lowe’s on the same (north) side of I-10 on the west side of Dysart Road so I went there looking for the GE water filter but they also did not have it.

Although I still had plenty of time to get to the airport the delays associated with dense shopping traffic and finding stores led me to abandon my quest for a new water filter.  I didn’t really need it anyway as the filter in question fits in a GE inline housing under the kitchen sink and provides the final filtering for our drinking and cooking water.  It’s a 1 micron cartridge that filters for at least five different classes of things and costs $35 – $40 as I recall.  I think it is supposed to be good for six months of ‘normal’ use.  Our filter has been installed for about four to five months, and has not had that much water run through it, so it should be good for quite a while yet.

I got to the west cell phone lot at 2:38 PM, about the time Linda’s flight was originally scheduled to arrive.  I knew it was delayed because she texted me when she boarded.  I checked the status on my smartphone and it showed the flight arriving at 3:10 PM.  It was a bit latter than that when Linda texted that they had landed.  She called me from the terminal at 3:30 PM and I headed for Terminal 3, Door 5.  I missed the pull-off and then missed the turn-around, ending up six miles east of the airport before I could exit and head back.  I called Linda to let her know but she saw me drive by and knew I was out there somewhere trying to get turned around.  Fortunately the airport was easy to get back to and this time I pulled in to the correct place, looped around, and picked her up.  Another loop-around and we were headed back to I-10 West.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

Linda picked up a bug yesterday, perhaps just a cold, but she was obviously tired and not feeling well.  She dozed off and on the whole trip back to Q.  The weather had lifted a bit, with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds, but closed in the farther west we traveled and we encountered light but steady rain for the last 60 miles.  The skies were especially dark, and the rain heavier, as we cleared the last mountain range and made the long descent into the La Paz Valley and took exit 19 into the east end of Quartzsite.  I stopped at the Road Runner Market for a bag of salad greens, sandwich bread, and bananas and then headed to our coach.

It was cool in the coach so I made some hot tea.  I fixed a big salad for dinner after which we were not hungry enough to have soup.  Linda went to bed early while I checked e-mail and then worked on my blog post for the third week of January.  I took a lot of photos that week and did not have enough time left to make selections, process them, and upload the post.  I won’t have time to work on it tomorrow but I will try to finish it on Wednesday and upload it.

2015/03/02 (M) Our Last Full Day In Q

Today was our last full day in Quartzsite, Arizona unless something prevents our departure tomorrow morning.  After our usual breakfast of coffee, juice, and granola we filled out our mail forwarding form for the P. O. Box, signed our tax returns, and got them ready to nail.  We left around 9:15 MST for the post office.  There was a line so we decided to come back later and headed for the UPS Customer Service Center in Blythe, California.  The center is only open for will call pick up from 9 to 10 AM PST Monday through Friday.  We pulled into the parking lot at 8:57 PST and were second in line behind a couple from Alberta, Canada.  I retrieved my package and then had a nice chat with the other couple in the parking lot.

We stopped at Albertson’s for cat litter and a few other sundry items and then headed back to Q.  We stopped at the RV Lifestyles store to buy a repair kit or replacement for the fresh water tank blade valve.  They had both 2″ and 1.5″ and I did not know which one I needed so I left empty-handed.  By then it was after 11 AM MST and we avoid the Post Office between 11AM and 1 PM as those are the hours for General Delivery pickup.  I stopped at the Union 76 station just behind the post office and topped off the tank before heading back to our motorcoach.

Another view of the storm.

Another view of the storm.

We spent the next four hours straightening up the interior of the bus.  Linda sorted through all of the brochures and guides we had picked up and designated most of them as trash.  I consolidated bus parts in cardboard boxes and put them in the car.  I cleaned out the storage space under the bed and we pulled out the air pump for our old Select Comfort air mattress.  The pump went in a big bag and we took it over to Butch and Fonda along with some literature on things to do in/around Yuma.  I reorganized the space under the bed which created room for us to store things.

At 3:15 PM we drove back to the Post Office.  There was a line but it was short and was moving along.  We turned in our mail forwarding form, put postage on a letter to the FMCA Freethinkers chapter treasurer, Dan Fregin, and mailed our federal and state tax returns certified mail with electronic tracking.

Back at camp Linda put a load of laundry in the washing machine.  Fonda had taken Butch to pick up a “desert bug.”  He found a 1969 VW bug for sale that had been modified to be an ATV.  Butch drove it to Bouse with Fonda following him and we made the trip a short time later.  We got to see the dune buggy and the park where they will be the working next season as the managers.

On the drive back to Q we drove through some heavy rain and pulled over at one point on Plomosa Road to take pictures.  We stopped again on AZ-95 to photograph brilliant white RVs against the very dark storm clouds and then finished our return trip to Q.  Linda and Fonda had left a few items on the clothesline to dry when the rains came through so she put them in the dryer.  The laundry was done by 6 PM and we headed over to Crazy Jerry’s for our last meal together for a while.

I got a call from Lou Petkus.  He had just found out that they are supposed to be at the fairgrounds on Wednesday rather than Friday.  He wanted us to check our e-ticket which Linda did back at the bus.  We were definitely setup for Friday entry which means we will not be able to enter and park together.

On the drive back we scouted out places to hook up the car and decided the ARCO station on the east end of town looked like out best bet.  I had e-mails from Stacy indicating that she had finished proof-reading two more of my articles.  I retrieved them from our Dropbox and did the final editing on them while Linda streamed the last episode of Downton Abbey for the season on her iPad using our Verizon MiFi.  She went to bed to nurse her cold and I uploaded the final versions of the two articles and also updated/uploaded my article tracking spreadsheet.  I then headed off to bed too.

2015/03/02 (T) Farewell Q

We arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on December 12, 2014 with Butch and Fonda Williams and got our buses parked at the Liebherr-Brockner lot on the north central end of town.  Our bus remained in that spot for 80 full days and was there for all or part of 82 days.  We were up at 7 AM to have a cup of coffee and some granola early enough to have time to digest it before we hit the road.

After breakfast I dumped the holding tanks, flushed out the drain hose, and stowed it away.  We were down to 1/2 tank of fresh water so I topped it up.  I then disconnected the water softener and all of the hoses and filter housings that go with it and stowed those away.

And another view of the storm.

And another view of the storm.

We were aiming for a 10 AM departure so around 9:30 AM Jim L. read the electric meter and calculated our final bill.  Linda added in the loads of laundry and wrote a check to cover our obligations.  I shut off the power, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stowed it away.  I connected the chassis batteries, turned on the air supply valve for the engine accessories, and turned on the air valves for the auxiliary air system accessories.  I also checked the oil level in the engine and it was at the ‘full’ mark.

Butch and Fonda were also supposed to leave today for Yuma but when they checked on their reservation they were told the rains yesterday had softened the ground and they should wait a day before coming down.  Larry and Sandy had not returned from Yuma yet, but Butch/Fonda, Jim/Barb, and Jim L. were all gathered to wish us farewell and safe travels.  Jim L. was also there to help me get the bus out of the lot with damaging anything.

The engine fired right up, I switched it into high idle, switched the Level Low system to ride height mode, and lifted the tag axle.  Once the air pressure was fully up (~130 PSI) I dropped the engine back to low idle and got out to do a walk around, checking the suspension height and securing the bay doors.  Linda did her own walk around to verify everything was closed and locked.  At that point there was nothing left to do but pull out.  Jim L. suggested I back up while swinging the noise gently to the passenger side to get a better angle going forward.  I was going to back up a short distance anyway to release the brakes in case they had frozen while sitting.  The humidity has generally been quite low here and the brakes were fine.

I cut the steer wheels hard to the right (PS) and pulled forward aiming for the gap between the concrete patio pad on the left and the Palo Verde tree and light pole on the right.  Jim L. spotted me on the DS while Linda kept an eye on the PS and I made it through with plenty of room to spare.  Once clear of those obstacles I pulled up to the left and straightened out.  I then backed between the park model trailer on the PS and the cactus garden on the driver side with Linda watching the rear of the bus and the street and Jim watching the front and sides.  I backed into the street and then pulled forward so I was not blocking any driveways.  I shut the engine off and then guided Linda has she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Hooking up the car usually takes 15 to 20 minutes or a bit longer if we gave not done it for a while.

We were ready to go for real at 10:35 AM, had one last round of “farewell for now, see you down the road” and finally pulled away at 10:40 AM.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

I had some concern about the turn from southbound Lollipop Lane onto eastbound Kenoyer with the car attached but Jim assured me it would be fine and it was.  We turned south on Central Ave (AZ-95) to Main Street (BL-10) then east to Riggles Road and south over I-10 to the eastbound entrance ramp.  I got on the accelerator and the bus responded nicely coming up to speed as I merged onto the freeway.  Leaving Q to the east or west involves long, steady climbs of 700 feet and I wanted the speed, RPMs, and turbo boost up going into the grade.

All of my gauges indicated that everything on the bus was running well except I wasn’t sure the air dryer was purging.  When the air pressure in the system reaches the maximum set point the governor actuates the unloader valves, stopping any additional compression, and sends a pneumatic signal to the dryer to open the purge valve and release any water it has removed from the compressed air.  The brief puff of air sounds a little bit like a “sneeze” and is often referred to as such.  I always listen for the “sneeze” when the chassis first airs up but did not recall hearing it.  As we were driving, however, the pressure in the auxiliary air system cycled between ~100 and 130 PSI, indicating that the air compressor and governor were doing their main jobs.  Later, as we were getting ready to pull out of a rest stop, I heard the air dryer sneeze so I finally had confirmation that everything appeared to be working correctly.

The other thing that surprised me was that I never saw over 15 PSI on the turbo boost gauge.  The old gauge only went to 15 PSI but the needle would routinely go past that to the limit of its movement.  I had gathered from the POG and PC forums that 22 to 25 PSI was more like what I should see when asking for maximum power.

The drive over I-10 was nice as the recent rain had changed the appearance of the desert.  Just before coming to the western edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area we took AZ-85 south.  As we did we could see rain to the southeast and wondered if we might encounter some of it.  The run down AZ-85 was flat but there were interesting mountains on either side of us.  We eventually reached I-8 and got on going east.  Much of the drive across I-8 was through the Sonoran Desert National Monument but we could not locate a headquarters for it on any of our maps.  We also drove through rain and started to get a glimpse of the desert in spring.

Not long into our trip Linda used my phone to text Curtis and give him our ETA.  He called back and asked if we could delay our arrival until 3:30 PM as he had a meeting at 2 PM.  Linda found a rest stop on I-8 not too far from I-10 so we pulled in there, had lunch, and took naps.  It turned out to be a picnic area with no facilities but that was OK with us; we are self-contained and it was a lovely day to sit and enjoy the scenery.

The final leg of our trip took 45 minutes.  Linda texted Curtis when we exited I-10 at Sunland Gin Road and he texted back that the gate was open.  Although wide enough for the bus we decided to unhook the toad before going in.  We were going to have to unhook the car anyway as we will have to back up to get turned around when we leave.  Curtis came out to greet us, closed the gate behind us and directed us into a parking spot.  He let Augie out so he could greet us and run around, which he loves to do.  Augie is a small, six year old, white dog who is full of energy but has spent most of his life living in a bus.  Having the enormous yard of the house Curtis is renting to run in is very exciting for Augie and he takes full advantage of it.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene.  AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene. AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Forrest & Mary Clark were already here in their Foretravel U295 so it was good to see them again.  When we crossed paths with them at the RoVers Roost SKP Co-op they were waiting to have solar panels and a charge controller installed.  Forrest said they did not run their generator once while boondocking for five weeks near Quartzsite so their system appears to be correctly sized and working properly.  Randy & Marianne (Boondockers Welcome founders) pulled in about 20 minutes after us.  After greetings and introductions Curtis gave us a tour of what is currently serving as the World Headquarters of RVillage.

The house is hexagonal and sits on a bump out into the northeast corner of a man-made lake.  The house was originally a bar/restaurant, with the bar on the main floor and the restaurant seating on the second level, which was not enclosed except for railings.  The property is extensive because it was once a parking lot.  When the restaurant was closed in the early 1990s the owner converted it to a house, enclosing the upper level and dividing it to make bedrooms.  He retained a portion of it as an outside deck that most of the bedrooms open onto.  Back on the main floor the central bar was converted to a residential kitchen surrounded by an open floor plan with a generous outside deck.  The building still has a functioning walk-in refrigerator that Curtis uses as a pantry.  It is an extraordinary property and the driveway could accommodate eight buses as long as the neighbors did not complain.

Exciting things are always going on behind the scenes with RVillage so one of the perks of crossing paths with Curtis is hearing about them or even getting a sneak peak at some of them.  It is also an opportunity to see the “back end” of the site which has the tools Curtis and his team use to develop and manage the system.

After tours and demos we all stood around on the lawn chatting and enjoying the view and the cool evening air.  Too soon the air was chilly.  Forrest and Mary returned to their motorhome to have dinner while Linda and I did the same thing.  Randy and Marianne had business to discuss with Curtis and hung out with him on the deck a while longer.  They may have gone out to dinner but we did not see them leave or return.

I had turned our generator on to bring the batteries up to charge and so Linda could cook dinner.  She made a green salad and red beans and rice, which went well with the Franzia Fruity Red Sangria.  After dinner we got our technology set up and got online.  Linda is still recovering from the cold she picked up just before flying back to Arizona so she went to bed early.  I checked e-mail and saw that Stacy had proofread another article so I made the final edits to it and uploaded it to the READY folder in my Dropbox BCM Articles folder.  Since we are boondocking I shut off most of the unessential electrical loads and then shut down the generator for the night.

Travel days are exciting but also a bit stressful, especially when we have been sitting in one place for a long time, be that at home or away.  But it felt good to be on the road again and to have landed in such a lovely place for the night.  It’s harder on the cats, who do not like it when the engine is running and the bus is moving, but they came out of their travel (hiding) spots as soon as we were parked and were fascinated by the change of scenery.  We were both tired but it was a good kind of tired.


2015/02/24-28 (T-S) Bus Projects

2015/02/24 (T) Little Bus Projects

I went to bed early (for me) last night but slept in until almost 8 AM.  It was cool in the coach and I had cats snuggled up with me enjoying the warmth of the electric heating pad.  When I finally got up I tended to their needs—food, water, and litter—and then tended to mine; fruit juice, granola, coffee, and grapefruit.  It is Tuesday, which is trash collection day, so I gathered up the trash from the kitchen and took it to the refuse container by the curb.  We will only have one more trash collection while we are here and that will likely occur after we have pulled out on Tuesday March 3rd.

I finished up yesterday’s blog post, got dressed, and got to work on my bus projects.  I started by wiping off the spotting on the windows and body from the recent rains.  I thought the reason I spent 40 hours cleaning and waxing the body was so water would run off if it but apparently I was mistaken.  I had also noticed that the wax on the passenger side of the bus had not been fully rubbed down.  I started working on this but without using additional water it just made it look worse so I quit somewhat disgusted with the whole situation and got to work on other stuff.

First up was the dashboard instrument lighting.  For the turbo boost gauge I made a 5 inch extension lead with red #14 wire and insulated female spade connectors on each end to connect to the +24VDC supply wire for the old gauge.  I made a similar lead with black wire for the ground but only put a connector on one end to attach to the new gauge bulb holder.  I used a crimp style speed connector to splice the free end into the existing ground wire which had a fork connector on the end that I did not want to cut off.  I put one of the 24VDC wedge base bulbs in the holder and snapped it into the gauge.

I undid the retaining ring on the speedometer and pulled the instrument out the front of the dashboard.  I thought I had wired the two light bulbs in series to use 12VDC bulbs on a 24VDC circuit but discovered that they were already wired in parallel.  I pulled the two bulb holders out and the bulbs were discolored as if they had been too hot.  I could not determine the voltage rating on the bulbs so I replaced them with 24V ones.  I reinstalled the speedo into the dashboard and put the dashboard cover back on.  I will test the lights the next time I connect the chassis batteries.

I next considered replacing the MAC valve that controls the air shutters for the two A-C compressor/condenser units in front.  I looked at the existing valve and decided to hold off until I could talk to Butch.  He and Fonda had taken off for the day, so that would have to wait.  The valve has a diagram on it that indicates how it operates but I was not completely clear on how to read it.  When I built the new air panel I used identical replacement valves and plumbed them the same as the old ones.  I searched online for “pneumatic valve symbols” and got all kinds of sites.  One of them had a 25 slide presentation on ANSI standard symbols and schematics so I downloaded and studied it.  With my new knowledge I was able to verify that the valve was, in fact, installed correctly.  I figured it was since it seemed to work correctly (until it failed) but it was nice to know for sure.  I am not certain that the three control switches are wired correctly, however, but that is a different project for a different day.

I really did not want to change the entire valve.    I bought the replacement valve from Hei/Tek in Phoenix so I called them for technical support.  They confirmed what Butch suspected; the operator (solenoid) can be changed without replacing the entire valve.  They had a defective valve and offered to take the solenoid off and mail it to me for no charge.  Deal.  I should have it tomorrow so I deferred any further work on this project until the part arrives.

By now it was time for lunch so I made a nice sandwich with toasted sourdough bread, vegan deli slices, Daiya havarti style vegan cheese with jalapeños, lettuce, onions, pickles, veganaise, and honey mustard.

Next up was mounting the turbo boost sensor.  It was a beautiful, sunny day but rather cool so I put on one of my long-sleeve flannel work shirts.  Hey, who said the desert in the winter was paradise?  Oh yeah, I did.  I knew this was going to be an annoying little project and it was.

The turbo boost (intake manifold pressure) sensor is a small rectangular part about 1″ wide by 2″ long by 1/2″ thick.  It has a weatherproof 3-wire electrical connector and a 1/2″ long tube that the pressure hose from the intake manifold slips over.  The sensor is mounted to a somewhat larger flat bracket with a slight bend in it.  The bracket has an angled slot and is supposed to be secured to the back side (towards the front of the bus) of the engine computer mounting bracket by a single bolt that the slot slips over.

No doubt there is an easy (correct) way to mount the bracket, but it probably requires disassembling other stuff to create access.  That was not going to happen, at least not today.  One problem was that there was not a lot of space to get my hands in there to work.  Another problem was that I was working “blind.”  Even though I had a telescoping mirror I could not position it correctly in the available space and I needed both hands to install the bracket.  But the real problem was that the retaining bolt had long ago disappeared and I had no idea what bolt was supposed to be used or if it threaded into a hole or required a nut.

I had looked this up in my engine manual some time ago so I knew where and how the bracket was supposed to mount, but the manual did not call out the diameter, thread pitch, or length of the mounting bolt.  I tried several bolts that I had but none of them where right.  I asked Barb to keep an eye on my tools and bus while I made a quick run to Herb’s Hardware where I bought an assortment of bolts.  None of them fit.

One of my original bolts was “close” but a little loose.  I decided to wrap it generously with Teflon tape to see if I could fatten it up enough to hold.  I reattached the electrical harness, shortened the pressure hose, and reattached it as I would not be able to make these connections after the bracket was mounted.  I finally managed to get the bracket installed and I think my taped bolt will hold it until we get home and I can figure out the correct bolt.  Even if/when I do, there is no good way to get in there and tighten it.  I ended up using a 7/16″ short socket with a swivel adapter and 6″ long drive extension that I turned by hand.  At least it was mid-late afternoon on a beautiful day with abundant sunshine illuminating the west-facing engine bay.

I still have a half dozen projects to take care off over the next four days but it was good to have the dashboard and turbo boost sensor completed.  During the course of the afternoon I discussed with Barb and Jim what I had found about the use of potassium bromide (KBr) to control seizures in dogs and cats.  I really hope they will discuss this with their vet.

I made popcorn for a late afternoon snack and then checked my e-mail to see if Stacy had proofread my Quartzsite 2015 article and deal with any other correspondence from publisher Gary Hatt.  She had called in sick again, so the proofreading was delayed yet another day.  Linda had called while driving home but caught me in the middle of working on the turbo boost sensor mounting.  I called her back around 6:30 PM my time (8:30 PM EST).  She was really tired so we did not talk very long.

At 7:30 PM (MST) I called David Lambert.  David currently lives in a group home in Olympia, Washington (PST).  He has long been the adult best friend of J.C. Armbruster, my best friend from high school (besides Linda, of course).  I met David on a visit to Washington State many, many years ago and we also became friends.  I learned then that David had struggled with bi-polar affective disorder all of his life and it has not gotten better for him with time.  He does not have much contact with people outside of the group home other than J.C., who has really come to his rescue over the last couple of years.  David does not usually have much to say, but I try to let him know that I know he exists.  Tonight, however, he was a bit more talkative and told me about recent visits with his sister Mary Kay from Everitt, Washington and his half-sister Soliel, who is moving to Sacramento, California.  He also like to watch the TV program “Axe Men.”  He is at least a 3rd generation native northwesterner and logging is part of his family heritage.

For dinner I heated up the “Soyrizo” we bought at Albertson’s supermarket.  I diced garlic, shallot, sweet onion, carrot, green and jalapeño peppers and sautéed them is a little olive oil before adding the soy Chorizo and heating it thoroughly on high heat.  It was a filling but tasty dish.  After dinner I resumed working on the photos of Larry and Carol Hall’s GM bus conversion.  By the time I got to bed and turned the lights out it was midnight.

2015/02/25 (W) Another “Little” Bus Project

I was up at 7:30 AM, which seems to be my norm when I’m in bed by midnight.  The local Farmers Market operates on Wednesdays and this would be my last opportunity to buy a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread.  I skipped coffee and breakfast, got dressed, and counted out enough dimes and nickels from the cup where we store our change to cover the $3 cost of a loaf.

Once I got back to the coach I made coffee and had breakfast and then settled in to finish yesterday’s blog post, which needed a lot of work, and start on today’s post.  Jasper sat on my lap purring and enjoying my attention for quite a long time before moving to the dinette.  Juniper ate breakfast and then stretched out on the passenger seat as she does most mornings.  The cockpit is the part of the bus that gets coldest at night but since we are parked facing east it is the first place to warm up in the morning.  The sun is not coming up due east yet, of course; that doesn’t happen until March 21st, but it is rising more directly in front than it did in late December and much of January.

I still had a list of bus projects to work on, but first I checked my e-mail.  I did not have a communique from Stacy or Gary so I logged in to our WordPress website/blog and replied to a comment Kate had recently posted.  While I was logged in I updated three plug-ins, deleted 80 spam comments, and initiated a Wordfence scan.  I repeated the update process for the FMCA Freethinker and Great Lakes Converted Coaches websites and the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club website.  “In for dime, in for a dollar,” and “no time like the present” are phrases that came to mind.

I don’t seem to get started on bus projects much before noon, but that’s OK; nowhere is it written that I have be working on the bus at sun up.  The bus projects still to be done include:

  • Replacing the solenoid operator on the air-conditioning shutters.
  • Replacing the solenoid on the pilot valve that controls the level low front axle.
  • Securing the wheel well body panel just forward of the PS drive axle.
  • Starting the generator and making sure it works by turning on all three A-C units + Starting the bus and making sure everything works, including repositioning the bus and re-leveling it to make sure the Level Low system is working.

Butch and Fonda were gone all morning so I did not know if my operator solenoid had arrived yet via the USPS.  I don’t have time at the moment to sit in a holding pattern so I decided to work on the body panel.  It was being held on by only two screws and a bolt without a nut, so I was able to remove it without too much difficulty.  (When someone says “without too much” it means “with some.”).  Once the body panel was off I could see clearly that it was supposed to be attached at six points plus the bolt that connected it to the next piece of wheel well trim.  Two more things also became obvious:

  1. that the missing screw I had set out to replace could not be reached without removing the splash guard panel in front of drive tires, and
  2. I was going to have to slide under the bus in order to reach some of the screws.

Given that reality, I slid one of my stands under the chassis just aft of the passenger side rag axle.  The chassis was about 1″ above the stand but I was reasonably confident it would keep the bus from falling on me if the passenger side air springs failed suddenly.  I also pulled out one of my large sheets of plastic that make it a lot easier and more comfortable to slide under the bus, especially on gravel.

I had removed and replaced the two splash guards at Butch and Fonda’s house this past fall when we replaced the ride height linkages.  Fonda helped me with that project so we both knew how obnoxious a job it was even with the bus sitting on four chassis stands so I could get under it easily and work safely and comfortably.  But there was no way around it, so the splash panel came off.  We put the body panel back in place but had trouble lining it up with the holes in the chassis.  Where the front top corner attached we could see that an old fastener had rusted into the hole and sheared off, probably when someone tried to remove it.

Someone showed up to talk the Butch and Fonda about their work-camping job for next winter so I continued working alone.  I eventually got the panel secured at all six points plus the bolt and got a nut on the bolt.  I also got the splash guard back in place with the three retaining screws installed.  The fourth mounting point, however, used a bolt with a spacer tube and a locknut and was in a location that made it impossible to install by myself without getting completely under the bus and sitting up by the transmission or pulling both drive wheels off, neither of which was going to happen.  That meant I needed Fonda’s assistance again.

I started putting my tools away and cleaning up my worksite while I waited for Butch and Fonda’s visitor to leave.  He eventually did and Fonda came over to help me with the last attachment point on the slash guard.  Once that was done, again with some difficulty, I put my tool boxes away and locked up the bays and the car.  It took a whole afternoon for what started out as a job to replace one missing screw.  That’s often how it goes with buses.

I washed up (buses can be dirty work) and then worked on this post for a while.  I called Linda a little after 5:45 PM my time (MST) figuring she would be close to being done working for the day.  I figured correctly and we talked for about 15 minutes.  The issue with the generator required a new pressure regulator and some new hoses.  Natural gas operates at 1/2 to 1/3 the pressure of propane and, even though the generator engine is supposed to work on either just by changing an electrical connection, Bratcher Electric said they have seen this delayed failure quite a few times when switching from propane to natural gas.  It is still programmed to self-test on Thursdays at 11AM EST, so we will see if it auto-starts tomorrow like it should.

For dinner I made a mixed greens salad with onion, carrot, green pepper, dried cranberries, honey roasted peanuts, Daiya pepper jack vegan cheese, and Tofurkey brand deli slices cut into thin strips, dressed with Newman’s Own Creamy Balsamic dressing, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper.

I was starting to run low on the lightly flavored/carbonated water that I enjoy and we were almost out of raisins which I use on my salads.  I was also out of hummus and Snyder’s Sourdough Pretzel Nibblers both of which are unacceptable things to be without.  I had checked the Road Runner Market here in town a couple of days ago but they did not have any of these products.  Our supply of small paper bowls and plates was also getting low.  The forty mile round trip to Albertson’s in Blythe, California would take 75 to 90 minutes and two gallons of gasoline, costing $5 to $6, but I decided to make the trip after sunset rather than work at my computer.  The left side of my neck and left upper back were bothering me more than usual as a result both of long hours at the computer and working under the bus on the body panel today.

As long as I was at the store I picked up a few things that were not on my list including:  Ken’s Steak House salad dressings, several different fruit preserves, another bottle of honey mustard (with real honey), another pack of Tofurkey peppered mock deli slices, some black grapes, extra chips, and two bottles of Goslings Ginger Beer.  It was an easy run over and back, a nice drive over the small mountain range that separates this part of Arizona from California.  We have not driven around much at night since we have been in the southwest and I discovered that both Blythe and Quartzsite sparkle like gems at night.  On the drive from Blythe back to Q I could easily see all the way to the other side of the valley once I was clear of the pass.  Not only were the lights of the city spread out before me, I-10 was a ribbon of white and red light snaking up the KOFA Mountains until it disappeared over the next pass.  It was quite a sight.

Back at the coach I got all of the groceries moved from the car to the kitchen and put away.  The plastic bags often end up with holes in the bottom because they are so thin so I sorted them according to whether they had holes or not and ended up with five of each.  How convenient.  I put one holy bag inside each unholy bag creating five ready-to-use double bags.  Sometimes I amaze myself.  But I can only bask in the glory of my accomplishments for so long and then I have to get back to the processes of daily life. Tonight that meant cleaning up the dishes from dinner and checking e-mail.  I lose track of time when I am working and it was well after midnight by the time I turned off the lights.

2015/02/26 (R) LiveStream

For some reason I was awake at 7 AM.  I can function on only six hours sleep but I do better on seven.  By eight hours I am uncomfortable and need to get up whether I am rested or not.  Even before I got up I heard engine noses and voices outside and looked to see what was going on.  It took me a moment to recognize Larry and Sandy’s motorhome and then remember that they were taking it to Yuma for a long weekend.  Larry had told me yesterday they were going to do that so they would be in a good position to watch an air show at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

It has been getting cool overnight, dropping into the upper 40’s, so I put on my sweat pants and shirt.  We bought these not long after we got to Quartzsite so we would have something easy and comfortable to wear on mornings when it was cool in the coach.

I fed the cats, refreshed their water, cleaned their litter tray, bundled up the trash, ground up some Sweet Seattle Dreams coffee beans, and brewed a pot of coffee.  I got out the two blue blankets and put one on the dinette seat and one on the passenger seat.  Jasper immediately curled up on the dinette blanket and Juniper curled up on my lap while I sat on the coach working on my blog posts for yesterday and today and enjoyed my first cup of coffee.

I like the start of the day; it is one of my favorite times.  I am usually rested and generally relaxed and have the comfort of my small morning routine.  The whole day is in front of me and it is still possible to accomplish something, anything really, but not everything, and sometimes not much.  The end of the day is always more variable.

I only have a few repair tasks left to do on the bus plus one or two on the car.  Bus-wise, I need to:

  • Replace the solenoid operator on the air-conditioning shutters.
  • Replace the solenoid operator on the pilot valve that controls the level low front axle.
  • Replace one of the driver side headlights (it has a small hole in it).

Car-wise, I need to:

  • Replace the two auxiliary tail lights in the car.
  • Wash and wax the car.

Although I have most of the parts I need I was expecting another solenoid operator for the shutters to arrive in yesterday’s mail.  It did not, so I hope it arrives today as I really do not want to replace the whole valve nor do I want to disassemble the new one, even though I’ve been told that it is OK to do so.  I think the headlight can wait until I get home, but I need to see if I have one with me.

The other things I have to do are not maintenance/repairs, just routine checks to make sure that we, the car, and the bus are ready to roll on Tuesday.  These include:

  • Starting the generator and making sure it works by turning on all three A-C units + some additional load(s).  That will also verify that the air-conditioners work.
  • Starting the bus and making sure everything works, including repositioning the bus and re-leveling it to make sure the Level Low system is working.

The things that will wait until Monday include checking/setting all of the tire pressures, which I will do on Monday morning, and making sure the hitch and tie bar are ready to go.

While I was working on this post I got a call from Joe Cannarozzi, the mobile mechanic who has maintained our bus chassis, generator, and some aspects of our main engine for the last four years.  He is still in Mississippi but starting to arrange his spring service calls enroute to his summer job in upstate New York.  Unfortunately it looks like he will be in Michigan in early April and we will miss him this time around.

By the time I finished breakfast it had warmed up enough in the coach to take a shower.  I then started a load of laundry and settled in to upload some blog posts from early January.  I decided to keep doing consolidated posts and started pulling together the ones for January 1st through 7th.  I selected nine photos from these dates and processed them.  My work was frequently interrupted by the three loads of laundry I was doing and some necessary housekeeping.

The water level in our fresh water tank was indicating below 1/3rd so I checked it visually.  It was at 1/4 so I filled it, which took about 90 gallons.  I tested the water coming out of the softener for total hardness (TH) using a test strip from each bottle as I wanted to make sure the strips gave me the same reading.  They did, and it was somewhere above 0.0 and below 1.5.

As the tank was nearly full I noticed water on the floor of the bay and determined that it was coming from the fresh water tank drain valve.  I soaked up the water that was there and tried moving the valve quickly open and then closed to see if that might clear a small piece of debris or somehow “seat” the valve.  The leak was not coming out the drain pipe onto the ground.  It was seeping around the top of the valve housing but I could not determine if it was coming from a seam or around the metal rod that comes out the top and attaches to the knife blade inside.  This is a 1-1/2″ diameter valve of the type used on smaller RV waste tanks, especially grey water tanks.  I will check in the morning to see if it leaked overnight and probably make a trip to several of the RV stores here in town to see if I can locate a spare valve.  I won’t be able to attempt a repair, however, until the tank is almost empty so I only have to dump (waste) a small amount of softened fresh water.

Interspersed with my blog work I had some pretzel nibblers and sun-dried tomato hummus and eventually ate a grapefruit.  I did not feel like fixing anything fancier so that constituted lunch.  Butch and Fonda left at 1:45 PM to check the P. O. Box and then go to a meeting of the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club.  They stopped at the post office on the way hone but there was no package for me.

Linda called at 2:45 PM my time.  She had wrapped up her year-end work at the bakery and was back at the house making a cup of tea before settling in for one more evening of tax return work.  She was fairly confident that she would have everything wrapped up tonight or tomorrow morning.  There was a tentative plan in place for her to babysit Madeline Friday evening so Brendan and Shawna could go out.  Plans were also in the works to attend a women’s gymnastics competition at the University of Michigan on Saturday and then go to dinner.  She did not mention whether Meghan would be joining them.

Sometime during the afternoon I got the last load of laundry out of the dryer and put away.  I took a break from working at my computer around 6 PM to sit and chat with Butch and watch yet another gorgeous Quartzsite sunset.  In spite of a cooler air mass the sun was very hot today, but once it started to set the air temperatures asserted their presence and we eventually retreated to our coaches for the evening.

I continued working on my blog post, checking e-mails as they popped up.  I had one from Gary with my Quartzsite 2015 article attached.  Although Stacy had not made it into work she was feeling well enough to edit it at home.  I had planned to view a live Technomadia chat on “Making Connections on the Road” at 7 PM but forgot to tune in.  I realized my oversight around 7:30 PM and joined the event in progress, but first I had to create an account with the LiveStream service which involved the usual e-mail verification process.  But it was quick and I got to see/hear the last 20 minutes of the event which was mostly Q&A.  The whole thing was archived, however, so after it ended I nuked a vegan hot dog for dinner and then replayed the part I had missed.

I had not yet made the bed so I took care of that and then resumed working on my blog post.  I finally uploaded the post sometime around 10:30 PM and by the time I uploaded and captioned the photos, created all of the tags, and clicked the “publish” button it was after midnight.  Rather than wait until tomorrow, I went through Stacy’s edits of my article, accepted most of them, and rewrote a couple of awkward sentences.  I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox and then e-mailed Mike (editor) and Gary (publisher) that it was there along with all of the photos.  I also e-mailed it back to Stacy and Gary so she could compare it to the one she sent me.  I got to bed at 1:30 AM, later than I like but with some things accomplished.

2015/02/27 (F) Granola Express

In spite of going to bed so late last night (early this morning, actually) I was up at 7:45 AM.  That was mostly because the cats do not care what time I went to bed.  They have their routines and by 8 PM they figure breakfast and fresh water are way overdue.

Linda called around 9:15 AM my time to ask me about a bucket full of water in the furnace room. The double wall stainless steel flue pipe for the furnace runs horizontally under the floor joists through the furnace room and then through my office above a suspended ceiling and finally out the east side of the house.  Moisture tends to condense inside the pipe and drip out of it at the joints between sections if they are not sealed.  The bucket is there to catch the drips and it was full.  It used to drip on the furnace but Tom from TOMTEK HVAC sealed that gap so now it drips somewhere else.

Linda checked the status of the UPS delivery of the “care” package Linda shipped to me.  It was in Blythe, California at 5:15 AM this morning and scheduled for delivery by the end of the day.  It will be nice to finally have my pillow and once again be able to enjoy Linda’s homemade granola.

After breakfast I checked my e-mail, updated my water usage spreadsheet, and finalized my FMCA Freethinkers 2014 financial statements.  The statements are now ready for Linda to audit, which will take her all of 10 minutes (at most).  I then took stock of my BCM articles that are “in-process” and decided to finish the one on the Turbo Boost Repair and move it to the proofreading stage.  With that done, I started pulling together the next consolidated blog post for January 8 – 14, 2015.

For lunch I made a sandwich with sourdough bread, salad greens, vegan deli slices, vegan cheese, pickles, veganaise, and honey mustard.

The solenoid operator from Hei/Tek in Phoenix was not in today’s mail so something obviously went wrong.  I called Hei/Tek and talked to Brie.  She checked with her shipping department and called me back to let me know it got sent UPS ground to our P. O. Box.  UPS does not deliver to P. O. Boxes so it was sitting in Blythe, California in an undeliverable status.  I gave them our P. O. Box number because she told me on Tuesday they were going to mail it (USPS).  Brie gave me the number for UPS, but it was a national 800 number.  I looked up the local Blythe UPS center but it had the same national number listed.  It also indicated their Will Call hours were M – F, 9 – 10 AM.  I called the 800 number and Jose fielded my call.  He changed the status to “hold for pickup” and we will have to drive to Blythe on Monday to get it.

Somewhat ironically I had a UPS delivery scheduled for today and it arrived around 4 PM.  My part could have been on the truck had I done something about this on Wednesday or Thursday.  The box contained an envelope for Butch and Fonda and a small envelope for me.  My envelope contained license plate tabs and registration cards for both vehicles, and dues check for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter.  The box also contained my pillow, which I have missed, and four bags of Linda’s homemade granola, which I have really missed.

Since I could not get my part until Monday I decided to take the operator solenoid off of the new valve and put it on the old valve.  This was certainly a faster, easier job than replacing the entire old value/operator with the new valve/operator.  I put air to the shutters and used the low voltage control circuits to test the new operator solenoid and it worked as designed and built.

I settled in at my computer to work on the next consolidated blog post, stringing seven separate posts together and selecting/processing photographs.  I worked on a detailed e-mail reply to Gary at BCM and then worked for a while on another article that has been “in-process” since January.

I was finally hungry around 9:30 PM and heated up an Amy’s frozen Sweet and Sour gluten free noodle dish.  Much to my surprise it was not very good, which is unusual for Amy’s products.  I needed to get up and adjust tire pressures first thing in the morning so I made sure I was in bed with the lights off by midnight.

2015/02/28 (S) Out With A Roar

I got up at 7 AM and debated whether to go ahead and adjust the tire pressures or make coffee and eat breakfast first.  I was a short debate and I won.  It was 8 AM by the time I finished my granola and my first cup of coffee.  The sun was well above the horizon but partially obscured by clouds and the temperature was 57 degrees F.  I put on my zip front work hoodie (sweatshirt jacket) and went out to take care of business.

I turned on the TireTraker Monitor and stuck it in my pocket.  As I removed each sensor it triggered a brief alarm on the monitor.  Most of the bus and car tires were close to correct according to my air pressure gauge, with some slightly over-inflated and some slightly under inflated, except the driver side steer tire on the bus which was four pounds low.  When I put a sensor back on the valve stem it reestablished communication with the monitor.  This is supposed to trigger a new/current reading on the monitor but it appeared to me that all of the displayed pressure values were off, reading high in most cases by 3 – 4 pounds.  I am not convinced yet that this system works the way I was told it does.

With the tires taken care of I disconnected the air hose from the air-compressor and stored it in the tray over the driver side drive wheels along with the air pressure gauge and air chuck.  I disconnected the power cord and rolled it back up on its reel and then put the air-compressor back in its travel compartment in the car.  I then went back inside to have my second cup of coffee.

A wind advisory was in effect for today and through the overnight hours.  Winds were forecast at 25-30 MPH with gusts over 40 MPH and that is what we got.  The temperature barely reached 70 degrees F while the sun played peek-boo with partly cloudy skies all day.  The combination made for a brisk day.  The forecast for Sunday morning through Tuesday noon is for rain, with possibly an inch along and north of I-10, and a flash flood watch from 5 PM Sunday until 5 PM Monday.  February was definitely going out with a roar.

I spent the central part of the day cleaning out the front bay of the bus and re-packing it.  We acquired a few things while we here, most notably supplies for cleaning and waxing the bus, and they had to be stored someplace for travel.  We had kept several cardboard boxes from UPS shipments and I used those to organize the new cleaning supplies and stow them in the back seat of the car.

Butch and Fonda put their mats away yesterday and I should have done the same but was busy with other things.  Jim L. stopped by to use Joe and Connie’s WiFi DSL gateway.  I gave him about 30 pounds of solar salt for his water softener and he helped me fold up our large patio mat.  As I have written here, the solar salt is simply not effective in recharging our portable water softener.  We could use it at home in our residential water softener but it is a heavy, bulky, and inexpensive commodity so it made more sense to leave it here with someone who could use it than to transport it over 2,200 miles.

Jim L. suggested that I pull out by pulling forward, cutting my front tires hard to the right, and angle out between a concrete pad and the Palo Verde tree (bush) by the light pole.  The Palo Verde was hanging out far enough that I decided to trim a few branches so as to avoid any possibility of scratching the passenger side of the coach.

My one little repair project today was to try building a “retaining pond” on the floor of the water bay underneath the leaking fresh water tank drain.  I used self-stick weather seal formed to circles, one inside the other.  I had noticed that there is a small gap where the discharge pipe turns and goes through the floor.  My solution was to contain the water that is seeping from the drain valve in the little retaining pond and give it a chance to flow down through the gap.  We are going to pick up some inexpensive bath towels on Monday to soak up the water.  We can ring them out, line dry them in the dry Arizona air and brilliant sun, and re-use them.

The only outside chores I have left to do to get us ready to leave are to:

  • dump the waste tanks.
  • clean and stow the dump hoses and fittings.
  • top up the fresh water tank.
  • recharge the water softener (maybe).
  • check the engine oil and top it up if needed.
  • check the hitch, tow bar, and cables.

Mid-afternoon I called J. C. and left a message.  He called me back a short time later and we talked for almost two hours.  J. C. was my best friend in high school (Linda had her own special status) and is one of the only people from that period in my life with whom I am still in contact.  J. C. works at Boeing Aircraft as an inspector in the 737 production facility.  He is only a few months younger than me but is looking at age 66 as his earliest possible retirement point.

I also had a call from Pat Lintner.  Pat is the National Director for our FMCA GLCC chapter and is also the Senior VP of the FMCA GLAMA.  He wanted to give me a heads up that Jane Roush, the GLAMA President, would be sending an e-mail later today to all of the GLAMA chapter presidents and national directors regarding a recommendation that the Midwest and Great Lakes areas be merged.  The Great Lakes Area consists of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario and has 21 chapters, the smallest number of any FMCAA area.  The Midwest Area is made up of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and has 24 chapters.  All of the other nine areas have more chapters.  I did, in fact, receive Jane’s e-mail a few hours later and forwarded it to all of the GLCC members for whom I have valid e-mail addresses along with a few additional comments.

The rest of the day was spent doing this and that.  Linda called and brought me up to date on her day.  She went with Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline to Crisler Arena at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor to watch part of a women’s gymnastics competition.  Meghan and Chris met them back at the Fay-Lee house for dinner.  I cleaned up the dishes, mostly silverware that had accumulated over the last few days.  I checked and replied to e-mails, mostly from Gary at BCM.  I worked on my consolidated blog post for the second week of January and had it ready to upload by 11 PM but was too tired to start the process at that hour.


2015/02/19-23 (R-M) Solo in Q

2015/02/19 (R) Over-Cranked

I have been busy cleaning/waxing the outside of the bus and writing articles so I have not been able to spend much time writing my blog posts or uploading them to our website.  A couple of weeks ago I uploaded the posts through the end of December 2014 but then we got busy and I have not uploaded anything since then.

Here is how my day went.  I Got up at 7:30 AM and had granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  It was cloudy and cool most of the morning, so I tried to focus on the bus cleaning/waxing and was able to clean and wax the passenger side of the bus from the front to the back edge of the dinette fixed window.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver's side of our coach.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver’s side of our coach.

The whole house generator at home runs a self-test every Thursday at 11 AM (EST) and e-mails its status to us.  Instead of getting a message at 9 AM I got one at 9:10 AM (MST).  The message was an Over Crank fault indicating that the Genset had failed to start, had dropped out of Auto mode, and would not attempt to restart until the controller was reset to clear the fault.  I did not assume that Linda had paid any attention to the details of the message so I called her.  She called Bratcher Electric and they told her how to reset the controller.  They also said they had received similar notifications/calls from other customers.  Sure, the temperatures have been below negative 10 degrees F, but the whole reason we have the generator is to protect us against power loss which usually occurs under the worst weather conditions.  The service technician is coming out on Wednesday to check the unit, which is still under warranty.

I took a lunch break at 2PM and had a jumbo tofu hot dog and some hummus with a few Fritos corn chips.  For most of the rest of the day I worked at my laptop selecting and editing photos for my Quartzsite 2015 BCM article.  I made a quick trip to the Road Runner market for some 26 ounce containers of salt and stopped at Herb’s Hardware store looking for a clear filter housing, but they did not have any.

I made a nice, large salad for dinner and finished up the box of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  I continued to process photos for my article late into the evening, taking an occasional break to check e-mail and check out the SteelMasters website.  They sell steel Quonset hut style building kits and this might be a more economical way to build our bus barn, and easier as a do-it-ourselves project.

2015/02/20 (F) Touch of Oranges

I was up late last night so I slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I awoke to cloudy skies and cool temperatures so I skipped breakfast and got right to work cleaning/waxing the passenger side of the bus, which faces south and gets a lot of sun.  I have been working front to back but decided to reverse direction.  The reason was to do as much of the side aft of the patio awning as possible while it was cloudy.  The area under the patio awning is shaded (by the awning) so I can work there anytime I feel like it.

Butch was working on their new VDO electronic speedometer and needed to borrow my air-over-hydraulic bottle jack so I dug it out of the front bay for him.  Mid-morning Lou and Donna Rice stopped by to say “hi.”  They were in town looking for newspapers that Lou could use to mask off their motorhome so he could spray some paint.  It just so happened that there was a large box of newspapers over by the trash container and they were able to get all that they needed at our campsite.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

I quit cleaning/waxing around 11:45 AM and turned my attention to the water softener.  I have regenerated it twice this week, first with solar salt and then with non-iodized table salt, but the water coming out of it is still testing in the 3 – 7 gpg range.  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ so at this point I am not very happy with our water softener.

I filled the filter housing with yet another 26 ounces of finely ground non-iodized table salt and started the regen process for the third time this week.  This time I ran the water more vigorously for a short time and then slowly (two minutes per gallon) and checked for salty water from the outlet of the softener.  When I got very salty water I shut off the flow and let it sit for an hour.  I repeated this a couple more times.  When I took the filter housing off there was very little salt left in the bottom.  I rinsed it out, reinstalled it, and ran water through the unit at the rate of four minutes per gallon for one hour, figuring 15 gallons of filtered water should be enough to flush the saltiness out of the softener.  I tested the discharge water from the softener and it measured somewhere between zero and 1.5 gpg TH.  It should have been zero, but I do not know if the test strips are sensitive to residual salinity.  This process took all afternoon, intermixed with my computer and bus waxing work.

I had granola with fresh blueberries for lunch and then finished yesterday’s post and started this one.  I settled in to work on photographs for my article with periodic breaks to check the water softener.  It was more sunny than cloudy from noon to 2 PM at which point the clouds thickened and filled in.  The air was warm but not hot and the conditions were ideal for cleaning/waxing the “sunny” side of the bus.  That is what I did until 5:45 PM, with a short break to talk to Linda on the phone.  I should be able to finish the waxing tomorrow, put a second coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme on the passenger side tires, and put a first coat on the driver side tires.

I cleaned up all of my supplies and materials, washed up, and had a few corn chips and hummus as an appetizer.  I washed some red grapes for later and got out an orange.  I have a lot of grapefruit and oranges on board at the moment and try to at least one of each every day.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

Speaking of oranges, Barb has been using a pair of products from Touch of Oranges; Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner & Re-conditioner, and Touch of Beeswax Wood Preserver; http://www.TouchOfOranges.com.  I went to their motorhome yesterday to see how it works and the results were quite impressive.  I thought about ordering some but decided not to for several reasons.  For one, we already have Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner on board.  It has orange oil in it and I would like to do a side-by-side test.  For another, we are getting too close to our departure date to risk a delayed delivery.  Finally, we don’t have time to use it before we get home anyway.  I might order some in May if I like the way it works better than the Murphy’s product.

I made a fancy salad for dinner.  We bought a large container of mixed salad greens on Monday and I need to have salad every day in order to use it up before it goes bad.  I found carrots and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used, so those went on the salad along with dried fruits, peanuts, Daiya pepper jack “cheese” and other yummies.

I continued processing photos after dinner.  By 10:30 PM I was too tired to concentrate and went to bed.

2015/02/21 (S) Facetime with Madeline

I was awake off and on starting at 6 AM and finally got up at 7:15 AM.  The Yuma Hamfest started yesterday and runs through tomorrow but I have too much to do here to spend three hours driving just to window shop.  Besides, Butch had to leave early this morning for a rock and mineral swap meet to try selling some of the equipment they have purchased and decided not to keep.

I did not have coffee yesterday so that was my second task this morning.  My first task was getting the cats their food and water and cleaning their litter tray.  I had granola with raisins and fresh blueberries for breakfast and then sat and enjoyed my coffee while Jasper sat beside me on the couch and groomed himself.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

It was cool again this morning with a thin cloud layer so as soon as I finished my coffee and checked my e-mail I got to work on the outside of the bus.  That was at 9:15 AM.  It took me until 11:45 AM to finish the passenger side of the bus and apply a coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the driver side tires.

I finished the hummus for lunch with the help of a few Fritos corn chips.  Afterwards I called Jeff to check on our coffee order.  He said it was in the mail but went out a few days later than expected.  He said he expedited the shipping because of that and was supposed to e-mail the USPS tracking number to me.  I then went over to Jim and Barb’s rig and asked if I could test their Touch of Oranges products.  Barb lent me both the wood cleaner/restorer and the beeswax wood preserver along with pieces of terry cloth for each and a piece of 0000 steel wool.  I set those aside and worked on my Quartzsite 2015 article for a while.

I took a break from working at my computer to test the cleaning products.  Following the directions, I sprayed the left side of the kitchen base cabinets with the cleaner/restorer, waited two minutes, rubbed it with steel wool (with the grain), and wiped it off.  I then applied the beeswax preserver with a piece of terry cloth and let it sit for one hour.  While the beeswax product was soaking in I went over and visited with Butch and Fonda.  While I was doing that I got a TXT message from Linda asking if I wanted to Facetime. That meant she was back at the house and had grand-daughter Madeline with her.  I indicated that a little bit later would be better.

My one hour wait was up so I excused myself, went back to my coach, and wiped down the left side of the cabinet.  I then used the Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner (with orange oil) on the right side of the cabinet.  The results did not compare favorably with the Touch of Oranges products which definitely improved the appearance of the wood.

I turned on our Verizon MiFi, switched my iPad to it, and then called Linda to set up the Facetime session.  Either I never configured the Facetime app or failed to reconfigure it but it would not let me log in.  Once I got the correct e-mail address and password set up it worked fine.  I called Linda’s iPad and when she answered I got to see Madeline.  When Linda picked her up earlier today Madeline said she was going to grandma and grandpa’s house to see grandma and grandpa.  Linda explained that I wasn’t at the house but Madeline could still see me in the bus using the iPad.  It is a fabulous technology, and fascinating to see how completely natural it is for a 2-year old.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

Bill Stewart from our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter had requested to see some photos from the recent gathering at the Peg Leg boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  Last night I selected seven images, re-sized and processed them, uploaded them to the Freethinkers folder in my Dropbox, generated the “share” link, and e-mailed it to our open forum e-mail reflector.  While I was working on that it occurred to me that Lou Petkus is always looking for images for the SKP Photographers BOF newsletter and member album and I had not sent him anything in a while.  I was too tired by then to do the work so I put that on my “to do” list for today.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon and evening working on my article and the photos that go with it except for a break to photograph a beautiful sunset.  Linda called around 6 PM (8 PM at home) to chat.  She suggested that we wait to see if someone at Escapade is selling the Touch of Oranges products.  She also suggested that I check to see if Carnu-B is going to be at any car shows near us as they sell the product for a lot less at shows than they do online.

I took a break for dinner and microwaved a jumbo tofu hotdog and a potato.  The potato had started sprouting so I figured I needed to eat it or plant it.  I had been accumulating dishes and utensils for the last few days so I washed, rinsed, and dried all of them.  By the time I finished my chores, played a few games on my iPad, and finished this post it was midnight.  Completing the waxing of the bus was an important milestone, and although I have a lot more to get done on the bus this coming week I plan to take it easy tomorrow and try to wrap up my Quartzsite 2015 article and perhaps some other writing.  The most I may do to the bus is apply some more Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the tires.

2015/02/22 (N) Q 2015

I did not use up the second package of blueberries fast enough and they started to go bad.  I picked out the bad ones, rinsed off the rest, and had some granola with my blueberries for breakfast.  I worked for a little while finishing up yesterday’s blog post and then got to work at my computer.  It was cloudy and windy when I got up and the winds continued to strengthen during the day.  I had closed the vent fan domes last night so I would not have to listen to them rattle.  The patio awning was flapping more than I liked so I got Butch to hold the strap while I released the rafters and then rolled it up and latched it.  I was able to retract the small passenger side bedroom awning by myself.  In the light of day I discovered that I had not wiped the Carnu-B wax off of the body as completely as I thought.  That, however, will be a task for another day.

I wanted to make a sandwich for lunch but I was out of onion so I went to the Road Runner Market to get one.  I also wanted pretzels and hummus.  They did not have any hummus and they did not have the kind of pretzels I like but I was able to get two large sweet onions.  Sourdough bread with Tofurkey brand mock deli slices, Daiya cheddar “cheese” slices, veganaise, honey mustard, fresh onion, and salad greens made a tasty treat.

I finally finished my Quartzsite 2015 article for Bus Conversion Magazine, including the 95 photos and captions, and uploaded it to my Dropbox for proofreading.  I had an e-mail back from Gary indicating that they would probably use it for the February issue, so very late this evening I uploaded all of the photo files.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

About the time I needed to take a break Fonda left for church and I saw Butch sitting outside with his camera.  Another beautiful Quartzsite sunset was taking form so I grabbed my camera and shirt jacket and went out to join him.  It had been cloudy and windy all day and was rather brisk.  We both worked the sunset until it was played out and got some nice photos considering that they were all handheld in low-light conditions.

For dinner I made a Thai Kitchen Noodle Bowl and added some honey roasted peanuts.  I closed all of the bus windows to a crack and made some hot tea.  Tea is still my beverage of choice with any type of Asian cuisine and was very satisfying on a chilly evening.

With the Quartzsite 2015 article done (except for corrections) I started pulling together the “featured bus” article on Byron Pigg’s 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion.  I went through the photos I took last month of his coach at the Eagles International Bus Rally and was pleased that I had a good variety with good technical quality to choose from.  I made my selections, post-processed all of them, and inserted the small versions into the Word doc.  The article narrative itself was less than one page in length as I do not know very much about Byron and his wife Betty or their bus.  The Word doc template I use for featured bus articles includes two “Specifications” pages, one for the bus and one for the conversion, so the article was three pages.  I e-mailed the Word doc (with embedded photos) to Byron and cc:d Gary at BCM.  In order to complete the article I need Byron to fill in a lot of the details about his bus and conversion.

2015/02/23 (M) Seizure

Toast with apricot preserves is as close as I get anymore to the Danish pastries that were once one of my favorite treats, but I am OK with that.  I am absolutely enjoying retirement more as a result of being much healthier and more active, both of which are a direct consequence of eating better, weighing less, and not having to take a cocktail of drugs every day.  Toast, coffee, and a little fruit juice makes a very agreeable breakfast.

I finished up yesterday’s blog post after breakfast and then got into my computer-based work.  I had planned to work on the photos of Larry and Carol Hall’s GM PD4106 bus conversion and write a brief narrative, similar to the one I did on Byron and Betty’s Eagle bus, but other things kept interfering with the work.  Except for lunch and dinner breaks, and brief chats with Barb, Butch, and Fonda, I sat on my butt most of the day working away at my computer on a template for featured bus articles but had very little to show for it at the end of the day.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.  Panorama stitched together with MS-ICE.

For lunch I had the last jumbo vegan hotdog in the open pack.  They microwave nicely, so they are quick and easy to fix, and are so yummy with honey mustard, pickle relish, and chopped sweet onion.

I had not yet seen the e-mail from Jeff at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan with the USPS tracking number for my coffee order so I call them at noon (2 PM EST) and Mary gave the number to me over the phone.  It only occurred to me much later that the e-mail may have gotten trapped by our spam filter.  I direct all of the notifications from the spam filter to a special inbox and I have not made a habit of checking that inbox or going into the filter to release or delete the e-mails that are being held.

Butch and Fonda drove over to Bouse this morning to talk with the General Manager and park managers of an RV Park about working there next season.  They stopped at our shared P. O. Box on their way back and then went to the main office downtown.  When they got back to camp they had my coffee shipment and an envelope from Dan Fregin, the treasurer of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter.

At one point in the afternoon I looked out the picture window by the dinette, where I sit and work at my computer, and Roho was lying on the ground with Jim and Barb and Jim L. gathered around him.  He appeared to be twitching and Barb confirmed that he was having a seizure and typically has one once a month like clockwork.  We had a dog with Epilepsy (Scout) and it did not turn out well.  The standard treatment at the time (18 years ago?) was phenobarbital, the same drug used to control the condition in humans.  Scout did not respond to small doses and the amount we had to give him eventually destroyed his liver.  But we had no choice; he went into a grand mall seizure one night and would not come out of it.  We had to take him to an emergency veterinary clinic at 2 AM and they had to inject him with phenobarbital and something else to get the seizure to stop.

We had just started him on an experimental treatment using potassium bromide (KBr) dissolved in flavored pancake syrup when his liver failed and he died.  I told Barb about this but I did not know if the KBr treatment had become standard practice or not.  The apparent effect of the KBr was to mediate the uptake of the phenobarbital, allowing much smaller doses to be much more effective.  I searched online later and found that KBr has, indeed, become part of the standard treatment arsenal for canine and feline seizures.

For dinner I made a big green salad.  While pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator I found a bunch of asparagus that was spoiled so I threw it out.  That was too bad because I really like asparagus and this bunch probably came from the farmers market where we have bought very good produce.  I also had to throw away some blueberries and carrots this week but managed to salvage some of each.  I did, however, finish up the mushrooms in my salad.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography.  Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography. Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Linda called around 7 PM (my time) and we brought each other up to date on how our days went.  Around 8 PM I prepped the remaining strawberries for later and then heated an Amy’s vegan tamale with Mexican rice.

I finally put aside the featured bus article template I worked on much of the day and started selecting and processing the photos for the article on the Hall’s bus.  By that point, however, I was tired and frustrated and making mistakes so I went to bed.  The southerly winds that brought the rain had shifted to the northwest bringing cool, clear air with them.  It had cooled off enough in the bus that I turned on the electric heating pad for the first time in quite a while.


2015/02/14-18 (S-W) Busy Times in Q

20150214 (S) The Lights of the City

Note:  There are no photos for this post.

We stuck around Q today.  While driving through Borrego Springs yesterday afternoon we came upon the Sea View roadside fruit stand.  It was on the northeast corner of an intersection north of town surrounded by citrus and palm orchards.  The stand had 5 pound bags of tangelo oranges and 10 pound bags of jumbo grapefruit for $3 per bag; self-serve.  We stuffed $6 in the collection box and took one of each.  We had grapefruit for breakfast this morning and several oranges throughout the day.  After breakfast Linda went for a morning walk and I settled in to work at my computer on Bus Conversion Magazine articles.

We had planned to drive to Sara Park in Lake Havasu City mid-afternoon for the Western Pyrotechnic Association fireworks show but decided we would go tomorrow instead.  We were tired after our whirlwind 2-day visit to California and did not feel like making the 150 mile round trip.  Larry and Sandy drove up to see the show on Friday evening and said it was spectacular.

For dinner Linda made pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and honey, quinoa, and mashed Romanesco brocciflower with salt and pepper.  A small glass of white wine completed the meal, which we ate outside, and it was all delicious.

We had just finished eating when Butch and Fonda brought their chairs and their dogs over.  They have gotten deeply involved in the Quartzsite Road Runners Gem and Mineral Club and we have been busy with travels so we have not had as much opportunity to chat as when we first got here.  We sat and talked until long after the sun set.  It still cools off here when the sun goes down but not as quickly or as much as it did in December and January.  With proper clothing or a light blanket we can now sit outside well into the evening.  Even with the lights of the city the stars are bright and numerous.  Once we came inside we did our usual evening things for a while and then went to bed.

2015/02/15 (N) Winterfest 2015

We had a quiet morning at home that included the last of our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans and some of the grapefruit we bought on Friday.  One of the couples we were visiting with on Friday, Steve and Liz Willey, started, owned, and operated Backwoods Solar in Idaho for many years.  They sold the business a few years ago but they still carry copies of the Backwoods Solar Planning Guide and Catalog when they travel.  Much of the information in the planning guide section was written by Steve and he gave me a copy of the 2014 edition.  We had exchanged several e-mails about a solar system for our bus so he knew I was interested in the subject.

I spent the entire morning reading through the Backwoods Solar book while Linda checked up on the state of the world, the weather back home, and, finding no good news, went for a walk.  I checked my e-mail at 1 PM and then started getting ready to leave for Lake Havasu City at 1:30 PM.  Today was the final day of the Western Pyrotechnics Association 26th annual conference which was also billed as Winterfest 2015.  The gates opened at 3 PM and we wanted to be there by then so we could get a good spot for our chairs.

The ground displays were set up in the infield of the small Havasu 95 Speedway.  Like most race tracks it had a high, curved fence surrounding the track.  We entered from the east and by bleachers that were there facing west towards the mountains and, way off in the distance, the Colorado River.  To either side of the bleachers were large areas where spectators could set their own chairs.  We put ours to the left up against a border fence designed to keep spectators about eight feet back from the track fence.  The aerial displays were launched from beyond the other side of the track.  That area sloped downhill away from track so that the firing stations were not visible.

The sky was clear, the air temperature was warm but not uncomfortable, and the sun was hot.  We brought a lightweight blanket to protect us from the chilly night air that would inevitably occur after sunset but we hung it on the fence as a sunscreen which kept the sun off of our legs.  Although our Tilley hats could shade our heads and faces, we also had two small umbrellas that we brought just for this purpose.  With all of our sun paraphernalia in place we relaxed, snoozed, and waited which was actually a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

We eventually got hungry.  Given that the venue had food vendors and bathrooms we did not have a reason not to eat.  Our choices were popcorn, soft pretzels, and veggie burgers with lemonade to drink.  Unlike a lot of closed venues, the food was not overpriced and all of the workers looked to be high school age.

Just after 6 PM the sun slipped behind the small mountain range nearest to the track and we put our umbrellas away and took down our blanket.  Although it was still daylight the crews started shooting off small aerials sporadically.  By 7 PM the sun had set and there was a beautiful glow along the distant mountains.  By 7:30 PM it was dark and the fireworks got started in earnest around 7:40 PM.

A local radio personality served as MC.  Being a Western Pyrotechnics Association event it was different from other fireworks displays we have seen over the years.  Before the main (commercial) display began they shot off shells and ground displays that had been made by WPA members in workshops during the four days of the Association convention.  They were shot off (or lit) one at a time and the MC announced the name of the builder and type of firework.  Most of us just watch a fireworks display and say “ooh” and “ahh” at the appropriate times, and maybe clap for a particularly impressive burst.  Not surprisingly, however, the things we are watching all have names.  Indeed, pyrotechnics has its own specialized vocabulary but most of us are never exposed to it.  It made for an interesting as well as entertaining evening.

As the evening went on the air temperature cooled off and the fireworks heated up.  We put on our shirt jackets and threw our blanket over our legs.  The two professional displays were done by the Not Yet Ready For Prime Time Players and AM Pyrotechnics.  The NYRFPTP show was all done from the infield and was very interesting.  The AMP show was all large aerials that were shot one at a time.  The main reason for this was so the buyers in attendance could see each shell by itself, but it had the same benefit for the other spectators and had the added benefit of extending the show without overloading the senses.

When the main show was finished around 8:30 PM most of the audience left, but WPA members were instructed to come to the launch areas and finish shooting off their products.  Some people sitting next to us had advised us to stick around, so we did.  By 8:45 PM more fireworks were being launched and lit and that was still going on when we finally packed up at 9:30 PM and headed back to the car, which was parked right by the entrance to the track.

There was a soundtrack but the fireworks were not synchronized to it.  Perhaps the best part of the evening was that we were much closer to the ground displays and launch sites than is usually the case at a major Fourth of July celebration.  One of the “effects” was a “wall of flame” that was set off on the far side of the track.  I do not know what they used for fuel but we felt the heat where we were sitting!  An interesting side note was that the larger aerial “bombs” (technically “salutes”) kept triggering car alarms.

We drove home in the dark but it was not our first time driving this route and traffic was light at that hour.  We got back at 11:15 PM, checked e-mail, and headed off to bed.  If we are back in this area again at this time of year we would likely position our coach closer to Lake Havasu City and attend the fireworks display all four nights.  As with many other things this winter it was a new and unique experience.

2015/02/16 (M) Travel Preparations

With the Western Pyrotechnics Association fireworks display last night at Sara Park in Lake Havasu City our sightseeing and tourist activities in and around Quartzsite came to an end.  Linda is flying home tomorrow for two weeks to deal with corporate accounting and both corporate and family tax returns.  That meant today was spent getting her ready to leave and me ready to have her gone.

After our usual coffee, juice, and granola breakfast we drove to the Albertson’s supermarket in Blythe, California to stock up on grocery items for me.  We bought lettuce so I can make salads, but we bought a lot of prepared/packaged vegan foods that do not require much cooking time or technique and have minimal cleanup.  While Linda has a lot to do back home I also gave an ambitious list of things I want to accomplish while she is away.  I also want eat well while she is away, but I do not want to spend a lot time cooking and cleaning up.

At the top of the list are six or seven small, but critical, bus projects.  Right behind those is to finish cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the bus.  We have acquired a certain amount of “stuff” since we got to Q and it needs to be organized and stowed for travel, after which the inside needs some deeper cleaning.  After that it’s continuing to catch up on blog posts and working on drafts of articles for Bus Conversion Magazine.

When we got back and had the groceries stored Linda started a load of laundry and began gathering up her stuff for the flight home tomorrow while I worked on programming our new TireTraker TT-400C monitor and re-installing all of the sensors on the tires.  Our original monitor had a charging problem and Daryl Lawrence mailed a replacement to us along with a charging cable.  It arrived on Friday and Butch picked it up at the Post Office and gave it to me on Saturday morning.  I tried all of the possible combinations and verified that the original charging cable was fine but the original monitor was not.  We will return the old monitor and cable to Daryl and Cheri at Escapade in a few weeks.  The driver side front tire was giving a low pressure alarm so I checked the pressure with my digital gauge.  It was 97 PSI (it is supposed to be 115 PSI).

The Dewalt air-compressor was already out of the car and secured to the fence along the north property line so I plugged it in, got the air hose out, and filled the tire back up to 115 PSI.  I was going to check/fill all of the driver side tires, since they were in the shade, but I really needed to do that in the morning when the temperature was near its overnight low and before the sun stared to warm up the passenger side of the bus.  I may do this Wednesday, just to get them close to right, and will do it again on Monday, March 2nd so we are ready to leave on the 3rd without too much to do other than pull out and hook up.

When I was done with the TPMS we trimmed our two cats’ claws, which were overdue.  This has been a “mañana” task for a while but finally became a “hoy” task when we ran out of days.

I called Buck Bolding to see if I could stop by his place tomorrow on the way back from dropping Linda at the Phoenix airport.  Buck and his wife, Pat, were at the Eagles International Rally last month in Quartzsite with their gorgeous Eagle Bus Conversion and we discussed having me photograph it for a Bus Conversion Magazine featured bus article.  Buck remembered the conversation but unfortunately this was not a good week for him for this project.  He and Pat hope to make it back to Quartzsite yet this month.  If so, they will probably stay at the Quail Run RV Park just north of us on Central Avenue (AZ-95) which would be very convenient for me.

Linda and I sat on the north-facing porch of Joe and Connie’s park model trailer to escape the sun and enjoy the light breeze that was blowing.  Barb stopped by for a while and then retired to her motorhome.  Fonda came over to show us the small opal she spent part of the day grinding and polishing.  She went back to her bus and Butch cane over followed by Larry and Sandy.  We discussed and compared the WPA fireworks display they saw on Friday to the one we saw last night.  They returned to their motorhome and Linda went over to talk to Fonda leaving Butch and me to sit on the porch and solve all of the world’s problems.  While we were doing that Linda and Fonda decided we should all go out to dinner at Crazy Jerry’s.

We had our usual 12″ pizza–thin crust, no cheese, with mushrooms and onions–and a side order of French fries.  Our waitress was Michele and we had a nice chat with her about the restaurant and the town of Quartzsite.  She and her husband own both the Main Street Eatery and Crazy Jerry’s.

When we got back to our coach Linda finished gathering up her stuff.  All she has to pack in the morning are her computer, power supply/charger, and iPad.  We were in bed by 10 PM and set the wake-up alarms for 6 AM.

2015/02/17 (T) Fly Away

We were awake before 6 AM but stayed in bed waiting for the wake-up alarms to go off.  Linda set one on her iPad or phone, I’m not sure which one, but it did not go off.  I set the alarm on the panel mounted click by my side of the bed and it did go off.  Linda prepared herself for traveling and packed up her iPad, computer, charging cables, and other electronic paraphernalia without which modern life would be unbearable at best and impossible at worst.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as the Phoenix Airport was a two hour drive with limited rest stops.

We had targeted a 7 AM departure but by 6:40 AM we were ready to go.  Linda’s “suitcase” was a zip top nylon bag that I got at a conference some years ago.  Everything she had with her, except her down coat, fit in that bag or in her computer bag.  We pulled out at 6:45 AM, made our way through town to Exit 17, and got on I-10 going east.

We made good time as the speed limit on I-10 away from major cities is 75 MPH, allowing me to travel comfortably at 68 MPH.  We got to watch night give way to dawn give way to the sunrise and then daylight.  Once the sun was up driving was more difficult until it rose high enough in the sky that our sun visors could do their job.  Traffic was light heading eastbound but there was a steady stream of trucks headed west.  We made good time, even as we entered the Phoenix metropolitan area, until we were about 12 miles from the airport where traffic came to a standstill across all six lanes.  The GPS indicated heavy traffic ahead and one hour to reach our destination.

We had planned to drop Linda at the terminal at 9 AM, two hours before her scheduled departure, so a one hour delay would be cutting it too close.  Linda grabbed the atlas (so glad we brought it along) while I moved to the right hand lane.  There were major surface streets paralleling I-10 to the south so I exited the Interstate, drove down to the first one, and turned left to continue our eastward travel.  It moved a long reasonably well and eventually put us on I-17 southbound, which almost immediately curved eastbound.  About five miles later we intersected I-10, headed north, and took the airport exit 1/2 mile later.  From that point we just followed the signs for Terminal 3 which is the one that Delta Airlines uses.

As we were driving through the airport I got a phone call.  I dug my phone out of its case and handed it to Linda.  She said it was identified as possible spam and declined the call.  She set my phone in the console between the front seats and we pulled up to the departure curb at Terminal 3.  She took off the light jacket she wore in the car, grabbed her two bags and her down coat, gave me a quick kiss, and trotted off into the terminal.  I pulled away and before I got to the turn-around to get back to I-10 reached for my phone only to discover it was not there.

A missing phone is a sickening feeling, on a par with a missing wallet.  I searched around as best I could while driving and could not locate it.  I thought that Linda might have inadvertently taken it with her.  If so, my hope was that she would discover the mistake when she went through security and head back to the curb to look for me, realizing that I would be looking for her.  I circled through the terminal road system for 20 minutes but she never appeared.  As inconvenient as it would have been for her to take it with her, she could have shipped it back to me overnight.  My worst fear was that it fell out on the ground at the airport, in which case the best (?) I could hope for was that someone ran over it and rendered it unusable.  I should have found one of the cell phone lots and done a more thorough search of the car, but if it wasn’t in the car there wasn’t anything I could do about short of finding a pay phone, and when/where was the last time/place you saw one of those?

I circled the terminal one last time and then followed the signs for I-10 west and headed for Quartzsite.  Phoenix has an extensive highway system, which always has its own complexity, but the traffic was ridiculous.  We avoided Phoenix on our way to Q, using I-8 and AZ-85 to bypass the “big city.”  We will be avoiding it again in a few weeks when we relocate to the Casa Grande area and then to Tucson.

I remembered seeing a QT (Quik Trip) filling station and convenience mart on the west edge of town when driving in this morning.  Their listed price for Regular gasoline was $2.099, cash or credit.  I could have made it back to Q on the fuel in tank but why risk running out, especially given the price?  I exited the Interstate, used the facilities, and bought a cup of coffee.  This QT had the fanciest coffee and tea self-serve area I have ever seen.  I topped off the tank with some inexpensive gasoline, cleaned the windshield, and continued on my way.  I also found my phone, which had not been placed in the center console like I thought, but just in front of it, allowing it to slip down in front of my seat where I could not see it while driving.  Whew.  I suddenly felt a lot better.

With the delay getting to the airport, the added time driving around the airport, and the stop for fuel I got back to our motorcoach around noon instead of 11 AM.  Butch and Fonda were outside contemplating what appeared to be all of their worldly possessions which were arrayed on and around their patio.  Butch was studying his new VDO electronic speedometer, a 437-152 just like mine.  All of the printed directions referred to using a 12VDC power source but the instrument case said “12/24V”.  Chuck Spera and I have both installed this exact same model gauge in our Prevost H3-40s and my recollection was that we had them wired to 24VDC ignition switched sources.

Butch put in a call to VDO technical support (Continental) and I called Chuck.  He did not recall even checking the voltage and just used whatever was there.  I was almost certain that I had checked the voltage and it was 24VDC, which is why I wired the two 12V light bulbs in series.  Butch got a call back from VDO verifying that the gauge would work on either voltage while I had a long chat with Chuck in which he brought me up-to-date on their winter at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Naples, Florida.

Chuck mentioned that Prevost Community is having a “non-rally” rally April 17-20 at the Bella Terra Luxury Motorcoach Resort near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  There is no rally fee and they negotiated a special group rate of $35/night.  That may be a bit late in April for us to be that far south, but maybe not.  We would like to be home by May 1st and we would like to visit family in St. Louis on the way.  I-55 starts at I-10 just northwest of New Orleans and Bella Terra is an easy day’s drive from there.  Chuck said there is an Indian Casino on Lake Charles that has an excellent RV park for $13 per night that might be a good stopping spot for just before/after the rally.  He also mentioned that there is a thread on the POG forum about bus barns.

I made a nice, large salad for dinner, had a small glass of wine, and turned in early.  I plan to start on cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the coach in the morning.

2015/02/18 (W) Wax On, Wax Off (Continued)

Today was my first full day without Linda here.  This how it went.

I set my alarm and got up at 6 AM.  I made coffee and had the raspberry pastry bites for breakfast.  Yeah, they’re vegan, but definitely not WFPB.  I got the trash and plastic bottles ready to take out and then worked on yesterday’s blog post.  It was still dark out so I spent a little time straightening up the inside of the coach.

Once it was daylight I started cleaning and waxing the passenger side of the coach.  I wiped the windshields off (again) and then did the side from the front corner back to the patio awning front support arm.  I worked from 8:30 to 10:30 AM which was a bit too long as the sun was very bright and the body panels were getting quite warm causing the wax to dry too quickly.

I put away my supplies and gathered up my microfiber towels.  I had enough clothing and towels to do a load of laundry and added the microfibers to the batch.  This was the first time I have used the laundry room since we arrived so Barb showed me how to set washer controls.

Whenever I was not doing something else I worked at my computer.  Other than a few e-mails my focus was BCM articles.  In particular I am trying to finish an article on “Quartzsite 2015.”  The article was basically written a couple of weeks ago, but we have done other things since then so I want to expand it a bit.  What I mostly spent the day and evening working on were the photos.

I got the trash and plastic bottles ready and took them to their respective containers.  I let Barb know that I needed to use the car port sometime in the next 10 days.  I want to wash and wax the car and will need to get it in the shade.  When I was done with the laundry I finally ate the grapefruit I got out for breakfast.  I was still hungry so I also had a sandwich for lunch.

I checked the total hardness of the water coming out of the water softener and it was still somewhere between 3 and 7 grains per gallon, indicating that more regeneration was still needed.  First I switched the hoses around and gently back-flushed the unit using filtered water.  I switched it back to the regular configuration and added a 26 ounce container of non-iodized table salt.  I ran the water through the unit until it was noticeably salty and then shut it off and let it sit for 20 minutes.  I repeated this, letting about 10 gallons of water go through the softener each time.  Late afternoon I removed the housing, rinsed out the little bit of remaining salt, reinstalled the housing, and gently ran about 15 gallons of filtered water through the unit to get the residual salinity out if it.  It was dark by then so testing the TH will be a task for tomorrow.

I had several text messages and calls from Linda throughout the day.  One was a photo indicating evidence of mice in the pantry.  Oh joy.  We were gone all last winter, which was bitter cold and snowy, and did not have a problem so we do not know what is different this year.  Linda though that perhaps all of the construction work (landscaping and natural gas) had disturbed the local mice.  Whatever the cause there wasn’t anything I could do about it from 2,200 miles away so I made a nice green salad for dinner and then continued working on photos for my article.


2015/02/01-05 (N-R) Another Month in Q

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

Yesterday would have been an excellent day to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus—cool and cloudy without a lot of breeze—but it was also an excellent day for the inside computer work that we both needed/wanted to do.  I downloaded the free version of the Simple:Press forum WordPress plug-in the day before yesterday and was going to make a priority of installing it today on the FMCA Freethinkers website I have been developing until the activation of the Jetpack Site Management feature caused the admin panel (app) to crash.  We have had a problem for a while with one member who was unable (or unwilling) to interact appropriately online via our e-mail reflector.  The reflector does not require a login and does not have any way to moderate discussions or block/remove posts, so our options as a chapter were very limited.  A WordPress-based forum would give us all of those features.

I had an e-mail reply from support@ipower.com indicating that the Wordfence plugin had caused the problem.  They needed the answer to the security question in order to authenticate my support request and fix the problem. Bob Pelc provided me with that information which I supplied back to ipower.com.  Later in the day I got an e-mail indicating that the problem was resolved and I was, in fact, able to log in without any problems.  The e-mail said the Wordfence plugin had caused the crash and that they disabled it, but after I logged in it was still activated.  I did not, however, take the time to check if it was functioning correctly.  I also did not install the Simple:Press forum at this time.

For breakfast Linda improvised a potato tofu scramble with nutritional yeast, garlic, and other seasonings.  It was a hearty and flavorful start to the day.  After breakfast I called Jim A. back to discuss the FMCA seminar listing categorization document we have been working on.

I settled in to work at my computer on the consolidated blog post for November 10-16 while Linda settled in to work on accounting for the bakery.  She is also approaching the time of year when she has to pull tax returns together.  She uses Turbo Tax and needs an updated version each year.  The products she needed were on sale through Amazon Prime.  She purchased and download them, which also placed them in her Amazon software library, and they installed and opened without a hitch.

I got an e-mail from Harvey Carter (AC8NO), president of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC), asking me to update the officer listing on the club website.  I took care of that and also changed that contact form (Contact Us page) to e-mail him instead of former president Mike Sharpe (WX8H).

By 2:30 PM I was tired of sitting in front of my computer so I changed into my work clothes and spent an hour trying to clean and wax a couple of windows on the bus.  The passenger side, which faces south, was so hot I cloud not touch it for very long, so I worked on the north side in the shade.

Jim/Flo L. and Jim/Barb B. disassembled the Select Comfort air mattress we had put in the park model trailer and divided up the parts.  We were going to donate it to the Salvation Army but did not get it done fast enough.  Jim B. would like the pump and controllers but Butch and Fonda need them to replace the defective unit on the mattress in their guest bedroom.  Since that is where I sleep when I am there, it is in my best interest to give it to them.

We invited all of our neighbors to come over for happy hour at 4 PM.  Barb B. came over with a glass of wine at 4:20 PM, so I poured a glass for Linda and me.  Jim B. was taking a nap as were Butch and Fonda.  (Hey; retirement is hard work!).   Butch and Fonda eventually shook the cobwebs out and came over.  Jim and Flo L. arrived but busied themselves with dinner preparations.  They were joining Jim/Barb B. for a belated Christmas dinner.  Jim B. eventually awoke and Barb left to join the other three for dinner.  Fonda left just before 6 PM to go to church but returned a few minutes later.  Apparently the evening service had been cancelled because of the Super Bowl.  She and Butch visited as the sun set and eventually it got chilly enough that we all decided to go inside.

I e-mailed Chuck Spera and my long-time friend John (J. C.) Armbruster earlier in the day but had not gotten responses from either of them by bedtime.  During the evening I had e-mails going back and forth with Steve Willey regarding the upcoming informal FMCA Freethinker gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area in Borrego Springs, California.  I also e-mailed Jim Ellmore regarding the same event.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona as seen from our campsite on the north end of town.

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

The last 24 hours have brought into focus why we are here for the winter.  It will be sunny and 80 degrees F today.  Detroit got 16.7 inches of snow from the storm that hit over the weekend, with 12 inches in Ann Arbor and similar amounts in Dexter, Howell, and Brighton.  When we checked this morning it was 7 degrees at home and going up to a high of 14.  Yeah, we are not missing that.

Breakfast was the bland store-bought bulk granola we have had to eat since running out of Linda’s homemade granola some weeks ago.  I wish we could carry a five-month supply of her granola; it’s that good.  Right after breakfast Linda started putting together menu ideas and a shopping list while I reviewed the latest seminar listing from Jim A. and e-mailed it back to him.  He called later to discuss it briefly.  I started working on yet another consolidated blog post for 17-23 Nov 2014 and did that until I could not stand to sit any longer.  The antidote for was go outside and work on cleaning and waxing the rear cap of the bus.

Butch and Fonda left around 9 AM and drove to Parker to go shopping at Wal-Mart.  Back home they shop at the Wal-Mart in Logansport and are familiar with the items there.  Not long after they left Linda drove to Blythe, California to do our grocery shopping for the week.  Of the supermarkets available to us we prefer the Albertson’s in Blythe, followed by the Smart & Final Extra at the same intersection.

Butch and Fonda returned from shopping and so did Jim and Barb.  Butch asked if I had ordered the coil for the MAC solenoid air valve that controls the a-c shutters behind the front bumper.  I hadn’t, so I took a break from cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus and called MAC Valve to order a replacement coil for the 111B601BAAA solenoid valve.  (I still have the old valve but I do not think I have it with us in the bus.)

Jim L. stopped by with some very fresh grapefruit and we got to talking about automotive detailing.  He recommended Finesse from 3M for polishing paint without leaving marks.  He said it works so well that the paint looks “wet” when you are done.  Butch had also suggested that I look at the Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  Apparently this machine can finish paint with no swirl marks.

The FMCA Freethinker website /WP-admin/ panel was back up and running.  I logged in and checked the plugins.  They were all there but they had ALL been deactivated.  Tech support at ipower.com had indicated that they were going to disable the Wordfence plugin.  I re-activated most of them, but not all, and specifically did not re-activate the Jetpack plugin.  It is a large, feature rich plugin and the only thing I use is the Carousel feature to manage native WordPress image galleries.  Unfortunately I need that feature and have not found another plugin that does what I need.

I worked for most of the evening on the consolidated blog post.  By the time I finished it was too late to start selecting and editing photos, so I will do that tomorrow if I have time.

2015/03/03 (T) Wax On, Wax Off

I knew there was something else I was supposed to do yesterday, but I could not remember what it was.  I sometimes put “tasks” on my calendar, but that does not help if do not check it.  I remembered this morning what it was; I needed to call Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon, Michigan and follow up on an e-mail I sent last Thursday regarding our order for personalized SLAARC jackets.  I made that call and Pam took our credit card information.  Barb handles sales but had not made it in yet due to the snow.  Sunset Sportswear was closed yesterday because of the storm so if I had remembered to call them it would have been for naught.  Things often work out like that.

I also got an e-mail from the Escapees RV Club regarding the upcoming Escapade rally.  It indicated we could extend our stay until Sunday noon.  I called Lou Petkus, the head staff photographer for the Escapade, to let him know.  The rally ends on Thursday with normal departure on Friday and staff departure on Saturday.  Lou is trying to arrange a photography field trip for Saturday so the fact that anyone can stay until Sunday should help with participation.  I called the SKP headquarters and booked the extra night.

I confirmed which RV Park Lou and Val will be in on March 5th and I think we will try to get in there as well.  That location will position us close to the rally venue and allow us to caravan in together and park together.  (We have to be in by 11AM on the 6th.)  That, in turn, should make our staff photography work more convenient.  We plan to hang out (dry camp) with RVillage founder Curtis Coleman for a couple of nights before this at his rental home near Casa Grande, which will put us a lot closer to Tucson than we are here in Quartzsite.

We had also mentioned to Lou and Val at Quartzfest that we were thinking of heading to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument after the Escapade.  They had been discussing it and decided they would like to go there as well so we will probably caravan there with them.  After OPCNM we plan to head to Big Bend NP (BBNP) in Texas and Lou and Val would also like to go there.  That is a three day drive for us, and we may take six or seven days to get there depending on where we might stop and what there is to see long the way.  Whether we travel together or separate will be determined later.  Our friend, Mara, and another women from the WINs are also headed to BBNP sometime in March and we have tentatively agreed to meet up with them if we can work out the timing.

I checked my e-mail and had a reply from Jetpack tech support at WordPress.com. “Happiness Engineer” Jeremy said that Wordfence has been known to cause issues with the Jetpack plugin.  He acknowledged that Wordfence is a powerful and important plugin but can be very aggressive in protecting websites.  Given that Wordfence appears to have caused the crash of the FMCAA Freethinkers WordPress /WP-admin/ Jeremy said I probably did not need to reinstall the Jetpack plugin.  I filled out a support ticket yesterday for this issue on the Wordfence website as I have a premium (paid) membership.  They acknowledged the support ticket right away but an actual response will likely take longer.

I had all of these communications chores done by 11 AM and decided to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  I started with the rear, as it was still in the shade, and finished the lower half.  It was tedious as that is the engine hatch and it has numerous horizontal indentations that run the full width.  These indentations are open on the inside top for airflow and have screens to keep things from getting in (like fingers).

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

I continued on around to the driver side of the bus which faces north.  The temperature this afternoon got up to 80 degrees F, and it was very hot in the sun, but it was pleasantly cool in the shade of the bus.  It was near perfect conditions for the work I was doing.  I worked most of the afternoon and did not quite get the back half of the bus cleaned and waxed.  A couple of bay doors and I will be past the half way point on that side.

I am going to try to work on this at least a few hours every day, otherwise it will never get done and this is an ideal place to work on it as long as I am not working in the sun.  The south facing passenger side is going to be more of a challenge and I will have to limit my work to the morning before the body panels heat up.

UPS showed up today with my coil for the MAC valve which turned out to be an entire new valve.  Rather than try to remove the solenoid coil I may just install the whole valve.  UPS also brought Fonda’s new sewing machine.  It only weighs 13 pounds.

Butch got back from a rock hunting field trip late in the afternoon and we stood around chatting as an amazing sunset developed around us.  As I have mentioned before, sunsets here are often 360 degree events and this one surrounded us with color before finally fading into another starry night.

Linda made a wonderful dish for dinner last night and we had it again this evening.  She pan-grilled polenta and served it on a bed of dark leafy greens topped with puttanesca sauce made from scratch.

After dinner I selected photographs for my November 17 – 23, 2014 blog post and processed them.  I uploaded the text to our WordPress site and then uploaded, captioned, and integrated each photo in turn.  I also had to enter all of the tags, which I figure out as I read through the post.  If there is one thing I would like to have at this point it is the ability to highlight key words and phrases in my Word document and have them automatically become tags when the text is uploaded.

By the time I published the post and went to bed to finish this one it was midnight.  At eight minutes after midnight MST I was one hour into my 63rd year as I was born on this date at 00:08 in the Central Time Zone, where eight minutes past midnight happened an hour ago.

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

I finished my blog post for yesterday late last night and e-mailed it to myself at eight minutes after midnight, the hour and minute of my birth, or so I have always been told.  Linda and the cats were all asleep and I observed the moment in quiet solitude.  As I noted at the end of yesterday’s post I was actually an hour late in my observance as we are currently in the Mountain Time Zone and I was born in the Central Time Zone.  But it was the thought that counted.

Sixty-three is not a milestone birthday anniversary, other than making it that far.  On my 60th birthday I became eligible to retire, and did so four months later.  On my 62nd birthday I became eligible to start drawing social security, but didn’t.  On my 65th birthday I will become eligible for Medicare.  The year I turn 66 Linda will apply for Social Security benefits and immediately suspend them.  I will be eligible for my full Social Security benefit but will not apply for it.  I will apply for the spousal benefit instead.  Our monthly Social Security benefits continue to increase by 8% per year until age 70, a solid and guaranteed return, so Linda will start taking her benefits then and I will file for, and take, my benefits when I turn 70.

Having thought through the complexities of birthdays, we had breakfast and then I got to work cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  My plan was to finish the driver side but not spend all day at it.  As it turned out, I spent most of the day at it, taking breaks to check e-mail.  It is just slow work, especially since so much of it has to be done on a step ladder.  I have no idea how many trips I made up and down that ladder, but it was a lot.  It is only a seven foot step ladder so I have to stand near the top to reach the top of the sides which are over 12 feet from the ground.  I cannot reach very far to the side either, so I work from one side of the ladder then climb down and climb up the other side and work from there.  I then climb down and move the ladder about three feet and do it all again; over, and over, and over.  But as Long as I keep going it eventually gets done.  I am, however, seriously considering getting a Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  There is simply too much bus to do this by hand.  I am also considering getting a platform to put between two ladders and/or a four-wheel elevated work platform to use in the barn if/when we get it built.

I got a call from our daughter wishing me a happy birthday and had a nice chat with her.  I asked if Katie had made a final college selection but she is not done with interviews yet.  Perhaps we will know in a few weeks where she is headed in the fall.

Yesterday Linda invited all of our camping neighbors to come over today at 4 PM for happy hour to celebrate my birthday.  In preparation she spent part of the day making cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  When she wasn’t cooking she did accounting and tax return work for Butch and Fonda.  Around 3 PM she prepared bruschetta using what was left of a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and the puttanesca sauce she made a couple of nights ago.  Larry/Sandy, Jim/Barb, and Butch/Fonda all brought chairs and beverages of their choice.  Butch and Fonda brought chips, salsa, and hummus and the peanut and dried fruit mix they make.  We sat around talking until the sun set at which point the air temperature cooled off and we all retreated to our rigs.

I got a call from our son during our happy hour and excused myself for a few minutes to chat with him.  It was 7:40 PM back in Ann Arbor and Madeline was getting ready for bed.  I got to “chat” with her and she wished me a happy birthday.  With encouragement from her mom she asked me “How is Arizona?”  I told her it was very nice here.

We skipped lunch today and did not have dinner because we filled up on happy hour snacks.  Linda played online word games while I started assembling the consolidated blog post for November 24 – 30.  She turned on the MiFi and trundled off to bed to watch an episode of Downton Abby on her iPad.  I finished editing the post and selected two photos to go with it.  When I checked I found that I did not have photos for most of the days covered by the post.  I thought about uploading it but decided against it as it still takes time to upload the text, upload and insert the pictures, and create all of the tags and I was too tired to maintain the needed concentration.  Somewhere in there I read through a reply from Chuck Spera and sent him the next volley in our e-mail conversation.

Overall it was a good 63rd birthday.  Given our winter travel lifestyle I face the interesting prospect of celebrating my birthday somewhere different every year for many years to come.

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour.  L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me.   Photo by Linda (not shown).

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour. L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me. Photo by Linda (not shown).

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

The overnight lows are now dropping into the upper 40’s at night and the coach cools off just enough that I turn the heat on in the front of the bus while I make coffee in the morning.  Soon enough the sun starts heating up the coach and we are pulling the accordion shades down to keep it out and opening windows and turning on ceiling exhaust fans to draw cool air in.  A couple of days ago we finally put the awnings out on the south facing passenger side of the coach.  Between the patio awning and the bedroom awning they shade more than half of the upper portion of the coach and help keep the interior temperatures in check.  We have not had them out much, however, because of the somewhat persistent winds in the La Paz Valley.

After breakfast I wanted to setup the TireTraker TT-400C TPMS.  Once I started I would need to install the sensors on all 13 tires.  In order to install the sensor on the spare tire in the car I had to empty out the back so I could get to the tire.  Linda was helping me and noticed a screw in the passenger side rear tire.  It was right at the edge of the tread but not technically in the side wall.  The tire was holding pressure but when I started to back the screw out it started to hiss so I screwed it back in.  Nuts.

Linda got online to look for tire repair shops in Quartzsite.  The first three numbers we tried were out of service and the Love’s Truck Stop only repaired big tires, not small ones, so I called Jim Liebherr to see if he knew of some place in town.  Flo answered the phone and could not locate Jim so I asked for a return phone call.  Butch then offered to drive me downtown where he thought he remembered seeing a tire shop.  As we were pulling out of our camp it occurred to Butch that the RV Pit Stop, just south of us on Central Avenue, might do tire repairs.  Before we even got that far we saw the sign for Best Auto and Tires.  We have walked or driven past this place dozens of times but never paid any attention to the fact they sold and serviced tires.  At the time we did not care.

They said they would have to see the tire so we drove back to camp and I drove back in the car.  They said they could repair it properly with an internal patch and they would get right on it if I wanted to wait for it.  $14.  Deal.  I could easily have walked back to camp from there but I was back with the car within an hour.  If the tire had not been repairable we would have had to take it off the car and use Butch’s Chevy Suburban to drive it to Yuma or Lake Havasu City where there are Discount Tire Locations.

Jim L. returned my earlier phone call while I was waiting for the tire.  He and Flo use a dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico and are very satisfied with the service and price.  I have a tooth that is bothering me just a bit and was giving some serious consideration to making an appointment with someone in Los Algodones.

I installed the batteries in our new TT-400C sensors and programmed the baseline pressures into the monitor (receiver).  I then installed the sensors on the bus and car tires, linking each one to the monitor as I went.  Programming the baseline pressures first is the easier way to install the system.  In setup mode the monitor displays each tire position in turn.  While the position is displayed a sensor is screwed onto the valve stem.  The application of pressure to the sensor “wakes it up.”  When the sensor starts transmitting the monitor associates it with the displayed tire position.  After exiting setup mode only the programmed tire positions display on the monitor.

In addition to the overall setup procedure there are several things I like better about the TT-400C system compared to the PressurePro system we have had since the 2008 FMCA national rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.  A major one is that the baseline pressures are programmed into the monitor.  On the PP-TPMS the baseline pressures are determined by the pressure in the tire at the time the sensor is put on.  Another thing I like is that the TT-TPMS monitor is powered by rechargeable batteries and is not plugged in when in use.  That makes it much more convenient to move it between the bus and the car, but especially to carry it around while installing and associating the sensors to wheel positions.  Finally, I like the sensors, which are much smaller and only weigh 0.4 ounces each.

Linda helped me reload the back of the Element and sort through all of the “stuff” that was “stuffed” in the glove box and the passenger side dashboard trays.  (When was the last time someone actually stored gloves in an automotive glove box?).  With everything sorted out and repackaged in ZipLock bags I stored it back in the glove box and locked up the car.

Linda spent part the morning working on accounting and tax returns for Butch and Fonda and talking on the phone to Dave, the controller at Metropolitan Baking.  I got a call later from Jim Ammenheiser and then did a final proofreading of our Education Committee recommendation to FMCA staff for how to restructure the categorization and listing of seminars and activities in the national rally programs.

We took a break and had the last two cupcakes from yesterday with some vegan Mocha Almond Fudge coconut “ice cream.”  We were supposed to have these last night for my birthday but we were not hungry after snacking at the happy hour birthday gathering.  Linda then went for a walk.  Linda got me a birthday card and a towel with an elastic edged hole for my head.  I tend to get food on my shirts when I eat and the towel is basically an adult bib that can be easily laundered.

Our fresh water tank was a bottle cap shy of empty so I filled it.  It usually takes about 50 minutes to fill the tank starting from empty so I set the timer on my smartphone for 40 minutes.  When it signaled me to check on the progress the tank was already overflowing.  (It has a vent tube on top of the tank that runs through the floor of the bay.)  I don’t think I wasted more than a few gallons of soft water so it should not throw my water usage and softening calculations off by much.  The good news was that the post-fill hardness test showed the water coming out of the softener at 0.0 to 0.5 gpg total hardness (0 to 10 ppm.)  That was better than the reading I got right after I recharged the softener, so perhaps it still had some residual salt in it initially.

At 4 PM I was getting ready to upload a blog post when the UPS truck showed up and dropped off two boxes for me.  It was the Chemical Guys microfiber products I had ordered recently, including two microfiber auto detailing aprons.  Butch returned a few minutes later with a small package for me.  It was the lens hood I had ordered for my Sony zoom lens and it had been mailed USPS.  He also had eight (8) Full River 6V L16 AGM batteries.  I helped him unload them from the Suburban onto the concrete pad on the driver side of their bus.  Fonda emptied out the driver’s side of their battery bay and she and I then moved the batteries to the bay where Butch positioned them.  He left them in their boxes and will install them when they get back to Twelve Mile.

At 5:15 PM I finally got around to uploading the consolidated blog post for the last week of November (2014).  I then started thinking about what to do with my December 2014 posts.  As of today I am still 67 posts behind and putting up daily posts is not realistic.  In looking through my photos I was surprised to find that I took very few from the time we left the house until we arrived in Quartzsite.  I decided to do consolidated posts for Dec 1 – 4 (Twelve Mike, IN to Alvarado, TX), 5 – 8 (visit with Donn Barnes), and 9 – 12 (travel from Alvarado to Quartzsite, AZ).  I have more pictures for the rest of the month, so I will have to figure out what makes sense.  I compiled the posts for December 1 – 4, selected and processed one photo, uploaded it, selected the categories, and entered all of the tags.  I posted it and then realized I wanted to edit the URLs slightly so I logged back in and found that I was unable to type anything.

It took me a while to figure out that the problem was the built-in keyboard on my ASUS G750JM ROG notebook computer.  I got it at the end of April last year, so I have only had it for eight months.  I decided to run a full scan using ESET Smart Security since I could do that with just a mouse and the Bluetooth mouse was working just fine.  It found 18 threats and dealt with 16 of them.  I then ran CCleaner, after which I enabled the onscreen keyboard.  Although intended for use on touchscreen computers, at least I could type things into a search box using my mouse.

I found some references to similar problems on answers.microsoft.com with the suggestion to examine the keyboard device properties.  If it indicated the device was installed and working correctly it was probably not a Windows 8.1 problem.  The other suggestion was to try an external keyboard.  If that worked it would confirm a keyboard hardware problem.  I had already gotten my Gigaware wireless keyboard out so I plugged in the USB dongle, turned on the keyboard, and voilà, I could type again!

Another post on the Windows forum listed website links for ASUS support so I started following those.  One ASUS website wanted the serial number of my computer, which I had to get off of a tag on the bottom of the case with really small type.  Once I had that entered correctly I was able to go to a download page with 81 files available, including bios and chipset code.  There were two files that seemed to have something to do with the keyboard.  By 1:15 AM I had a half dozen tabs open in two different browsers with no definitive understanding of what had happened or what to do to fix it.  I then realized that the Shift Lock key on the keyboard was illuminated and I could toggle it on and off.  I could also toggle the Number Lock, so I tried typing and the keyboard was working once again.  That, however, did not give me any confidence that it would continue to do so.  I decided I was not going to shut the computer down for fear of not being able to log back in on startup.  I was not about to start downloading and installing anything at that hour so I went to bed tired, annoyed, and, frankly, a bit discouraged by this unwelcomed turn of events.


2015/01/22-26 (R-M) Q 2015 W4

2015/01/22 (R) Sister Marilyn

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly's "adult day care" outdoor bar.

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly’s “adult day care” outdoor bar.

The temperature dropped into the low 40’s last night in the wake of the cold front that brought strong winds to Quartzsite yesterday.  We were up at 6:30 AM to give us time to eat breakfast and enjoy our coffee before Linda left at 8 AM for the Phoenix airport to pick up her sister.  Marilyn was scheduled to arrive at 11 AM MST and the airport is a 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive from Quartzsite but Linda wanted to take her time getting there and be in the cell phone lot before the flight got in.  The plan was to go to lunch and then drive back to Q so she was going to be gone most of the day.

I had turned off the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot last night so this morning I turned on the three electric toe-kick heaters and the Broan cube heater to take the chill off of the interior.  With the coffee pot also turned on we were drawing 26 A at 115 VAC on leg 1 and 15 A at 118 VAC on leg 2.  That was more current than we were able to draw before Jim L. changed the shorepower connection from 30 A (120VAC) to 50 A (240VAC) and the first time we have had reasonable voltage levels since we arrived here.

I rode over to the RV show with Butch at 9 AM to look at tire pressure monitoring systems and we both ended up buying TireTraker TPM Systems from Darryl Lawrence.  We have both done business with Darryl in the past and trust him as a vendor.  I also bought three products from the Carnu-B booth.

Back at the coach I checked the coolant level in the Aqua-Hot expansion reservoir.  It was right at the maximum cold level so there was nothing else to do for the moment.  I needed to redo the overflow hose, but not today.  I then used two of the Carnu-B products on the driver-side side window and surrounding painted body surfaces.  It removed the hard water stains and polished everything up very nicely.  I then did a test patch on the front of Butch and Fonda’s bus and it appeared to clean the stainless steel nicely.  They later cleaned an adjacent patch with straight food-grade vinegar and it seemed to work just as well although it did not provide a wax finish.

While I was fiddling with the Aqua-Hot and the cleaning/waxing process Butch started reading the manual for the TT-TPMS and found information that indicated the system did not work the way we thought it did and needed it to.  The manual more than implied that the sensors were activated by motion and stated that readings would appear “… within 20 minutes of starting to drive.”  Say what?!  We both want to use the system to check our tire pressures BEFORE we start to drive, as would most RVers.

Although there are things we do not like about our current Pressure Pro TPM systems they certainly give us the current pressure in the tires without having to drive the vehicle.  They also allow us to monitor just the bus, just the car, or both.  Most systems do this, including the TireTraker, but the Truck Systems Technology (TST) does not.  That was Butch’s first choice system until he found that out.

At 12:45 PM I rode over to the Quartzsite Senior Center with Butch and Fonda for a 1 PM meet and greet with Chuck Woodbury of RV Travel and the Geeks On Tour.  It ran until 4 PM but we were anxious to get back to the RV Show tent and talk to Darryl.  We took our TT-TPMS units with us with the intent of returning them but Darryl assured us that they do work the way we need them to so we decided to keep them for another day or so to test them.

Fonda had not been to the RV Show yet so we walked the entire tent.  I spent a little time talking to the guy at John Carrillo Hydronic Heating.  He had a brand new, never been fired, Webasto DBW2010 burner (with the controller) for $1,800 (cash).  I have seen them online for $3,300, so I knew that was a good price.  I wish I needed one, but we already have a spare.  He also had a new combustion chamber for $200 and I may go back and get one of those.  They wanted $450 for an ignition coil, which I also need, but I can get one from Sure Marine Service for $303.  We spent a long time looking at flag poles at the Flag Pole Buddy booth and Butch bought a 22′ model with an extra set of mounts.

Linda was texting me her status on a regular basis and by the time we got back to camp she and Marilyn were already there and relaxing on the porch of Joe and Connie’s park model trailer.  We sat outside until the sun kissed the tops of the southwestern mountains and then moved inside to escape the chill.  While we were sitting in the coach visiting and cooking Butch installed one of the TT-TPMS sensors on the driver-side front tire of their Suburban, programmed it into the monitor, noted the readings, and went for a test drive.  He noted the readings when they got back and plans to check it again in the morning before moving the car.  That will be the real test.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a lovely mushroom kale risotto with Arborio rice.  We then went to the apartment so I could light the pilot flame on the wall-mounted propane heater.  I visited for a bit and then went back to the coach and Linda followed a bit later.  We were both tired and turned in early.

240 degree panorama from atop 'Q' Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ.

200 degree panorama from atop ‘Q’ Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ. Left edge is N, right edge is SSW.

2015/01/23 (F) Q Mountain

We were up by 7:30 AM and Marilyn eventually arose and joined us for coffee and toast.  The only bread we had was a package of whole wheat pitas, but they toasted just fine and were very good with orange marmalade.  I am not, however, thrilled with the Soy Delicious Almond milk coffee creamer.  It is not as ‘creamy’ as Silk soy creamer and it tends to separate into tiny bubbles in the coffee.  I do, however, like the Almond milk that we sometimes buy, especially on granola type cereals.

Butch called just after breakfast to let me know that the TireTraker TPMS works the way Darryl said it does.  That was welcome news as we both like the system, including the small sensors and the rechargeable monitor, and we both like Darryl.  He and Fonda had things to do today so I borrowed his hose crimper pliers before they left.

Linda and Marilyn left shortly after Butch and Fonda and drove to Blythe, California to do some grocery shopping and sight-seeing.  That left me with some alone time to concentrate on getting some things done that I have needed to work on for a week, such as categorizing FMCA seminars, and have just not found (made) the time.  I value and enjoy my work with the FMCA National Education Committee but we have a significant personal investment in our presence here in Quartzsite, and although we will likely return here again in the years to come that is not guaranteed, and this could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The FMCA work took about an hour to complete and e-mail too Jim A., with who has been the lead person on this.

I also needed to make a minor change to the Aqua-Hot expansion tank plumbing and turn the burner back on.  I removed the overflow hose, shortened it, re-routed it, and re-connected it to the drain tube on the tank.  I also tried to tighten the clamp on the middle zone pump hose.  I noted that the coolant level was at the ‘minimum cold’ mark on the expansion tank.  I will check everything again tomorrow.

With the Aqua-Hot project done I decided to replace the old Sentry turbo boost gauge with the new VDO gauge.  I removed the dashboard cover, disconnected the lightbulb connectors, removed the retaining bracket, and pulled the gauge out the front of the dashboard.  I removed the lightbulb socket to give me better access to the main air fitting and undid that, completely freeing the unit from the dashboard.  I pulled the light socket out of the new gauge to give me more room to put the air fitting on and to check the bulb type.  It was a miniature glass wedge base 12VDC 3W and will need to be replaced with a 24V, 3W bulb.  I then slipped the gauge into the dashboard from the front and secured it with the supplied bracket on the back side.  Linda and Marilyn returned at this point so I quit working on the gauge, put the cover back on the dashboard, and helped bring in the groceries.  I will have to get the 24V bulb and also rewire the leads to match the harness connectors.

We had a light lunch and then drove down to the market area and wandered through the big tent RV show.  We got new Ballisti-Tech screen protectors for our Samsung Galaxy S III smartphones.  We also strolled through a small part of the Tyson Wells and Prospectors Panorama areas.  When we left the RV show we headed south on US-95 to the BLM Roadrunner STVA so Marilyn could see the Quartzfest RVs in the desert.  We found Lou and Val Petkus at their 5th wheel and visited briefly before heading back to town.  The light was good and the sun was still high enough that I made an impromptu decision to climb Q Mountain and try to get pictures of the RVs spread across the desert around Quartzsite.

I got my pictures, and got off the mountain before it got dark, but missed the best color, which we saw while driving back to camp to close up the rig before going to dinner.  The Geeks were out viewing and photographing the sunset before walking to the Grubstake restaurant for dinner so and we chatted with them briefly and then drove to Crazy Jerry’s for our evening meal.  The very thin crust mushroom, onion, and tomato no-cheese pizza was excellent and the French fries were also good.  When we got back to our coach Linda prepared some fresh strawberries for desert.

After visiting with Jim and Chris on Wednesday we decided that we would join the Quartzsite Yacht Club, which claims to have the largest membership of any yacht club in the country (world?, universe?) at over 7,500., although we later heard that it was more than 9,000.  Membership is $30 which gets you a hat, T-shirt, membership card and certificate.  Apparently the membership is good at other (real) yacht clubs that honor reciprocal arrangements.  We had planned to join today but did not fit it in.  It may be Sunday or even a day next week at this point.

I spent some time transferring photos from my camera to my laptop computer and our NAS unit.  I processed three panoramas and three individual images taken on Q Mountain, checked my e-mail, and went to bed.

Sunset glow looking NE from 'Q' Mountain.

Sunset glow looking NE from ‘Q’ Mountain.

2015/01/24 (S) Lake Havasu City

We were up at 7:15 AM and I brewed a pot of coffee while Linda showered.  I took my turn and also trimmed up my beard a bit.  Marilyn came over around 8:25 AM and we all had coffee followed by breakfast.  Linda and I had granola while Marilyn had toast and jam.  She is not that found of breakfast and does not care for milk or milk substitutes.

I removed some of the parts boxes from the back of the Element to eliminate the rattling just in case we decided to drive in to the Desert Bar on the way back from Lake Havasu City (LHC).  We left around 9:15 AM and headed up AZ-95 towards Parker.  It was a cool morning with clear skies and the sun lit up the mountains to the west and north.  When we got to Parker we decided to cross the Colorado River into California and take the Parker Dam Road 17 miles up to Parker Dam, drive across back into Arizona, re-connect with AZ-95, and continue north to LHC.

We knew that the stretch of the River from the dam downstream to Parker had quite a few RV Parks, campgrounds, and mobile home communities because we caught glimpses of some of them from AZ-95, or saw signs for them, the last time we were in LHC.  The drive from Parker to LHC is very scenic but you do not have a view of the river most of the time.  Much of the drive from Parker to the dam on the California side, however, was close to water level so we were able to see the resorts on both sides of the river.  We had also heard that there were wild burros along the California route and indeed there were.  We saw five total, two of them just before the dam.  They appear to be docile animals, but they are wild, and you are not allowed to feed or harass them.

Once we got to LHC we followed the signs for the London Bridge and found the parking lot and visitor center.  We watched a video on the history of the London Bridge, which was actually the second most recent in a long succession of bridges across the River Thames dating back before Roman Times.  The Bridge was purchased, disassembled, moved, and reconstructed in LHC.  It was placed at the entrance to a peninsula and then a channel was dug out under it and connected to the Colorado River on either end, turning the peninsula into an island.  There is an “English Village” at the base of the bridge on the mainland side, which was not very special, but a wonderful pedestrian path winds along the channel all the way down to Rotary Park.  The air was cool and the wind was very strong, but the sun was very warm and we had a lovely stroll.

After walking the path we drove over the bridge and around the island, stopping at one of the reproduction 1/8 scale lighthouses.  The LHC Lighthouse Association has erected some two dozen scale replicas of U. S. Lighthouses.  The ones on the island are all replicas of lighthouses from the Great Lakes while the ones on the Arizona shore are east coast replicas and the ones on the California shore are west coast replicas.  While we were driving Linda researched places we might be able to eat lunch and settled on The Black Bear Diner.  She and Marilyn had garden burgers with French fries and I had the Sweet Garden Harvest Salad.  All of the food was very good, and I was particularly pleased with the salad, which had raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, fresh strawberries, and shredded coconut with a honey Dijon dressing.

The restaurant was in a corner of the parking lot for the Albertson’s grocery store so we went in looking for regular Silk soy creamer.  They did not have any so we started back to Quartzsite and stopped at the Basha’s market on the south end of town.  They had the Silk Vanilla Soy Creamer, not the regular, but I got some anyway.  They also had a nice selection of Daiya cheeses and vegan sausages.  We picked up some sourdough bread and preserves on our way to the checkout.  Of all the food stores we have been in Basha’s was the nicest so far.

By the time we got to Parker I was getting tired so I pulled into the casino parking lot.  I switched places with Linda and she drove the rest of the way to Q.  Back at camp she and Marilyn went to the apartment and started assembling a 500 piece puzzle on the dining table.  As I do on any day that I have taken a lot of pictures I transferred them from my camera to my computer and backed them up to the NAS unit.  I used the Microsoft Image Composite Editor to create two panoramic images of the California mountains just south of LHC.

None of us were hungry enough to warrant fixing dinner so we snacked on hummus and chips (vegan junk food).  Marilyn went back to the apartment at 9 PM and we went to bed shortly thereafter.  A long day of fresh air and sunshine had once again worn us out.

2025/01/25 (N) Visitors

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village.  It's a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village. It’s a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Today was basically a stay at home day.  Marilyn is officially “on retreat” and spent part of the day by herself reading and contemplating.  I made coffee for breakfast, as usual, and Linda made her amazing vegan cinnamon rolls for brunch.  They were brunch because they take hours to make and she did not feel like getting up early enough to have them ready by breakfast and we did not expect her to.

Butch dropped Fonda at church and then came back to get me on his way to the Big Tent RV Show.  Today was the last day of the show so I bought a 2″ wide roll of rescue tape and got three smaller rolls in the deal.  I bought more of the Carnu-B wax but the vendor was out of the Metal Shine cleaner.  That’s the risk one takes waiting until the end of a rally or show.  I also bought two small LEDs that looked like the might work in our spotter/downlights.  We then stopped by Mac McCoy’s booth to chat.  He was busy with customers but Charles Martin was there so we chatted with him instead.

We got back to camp just after 11 AM as Linda was putting the finishing touches on the cinnamon rolls and Marilyn joined us for brunch.  I tried one of the new LED bulbs but it would not fit in our fixtures.  I dealt with some e-mail and thought about spending the rest of the day writing but decided to work outside instead.  My outside task today was cleaning some of the bus windows using the Carnu-B Metal Shine to remove hard water stains.

Chris and Jim of Geeks On Tour did their weekly live broadcast from their rig and then started making preparations to leave.  We had two cinnamon rolls left so Linda took them over as a going away gift.  Charles and Connie Martin dropped in and a short time later Mara and her friend Michael arrived.  Marilyn came over followed by Butch and Fonda so we circled the chairs and had quite a gabfest.

Eventually everyone left and I returned to my window cleaning while Linda and her sister started preparing dinner.  Linda made her wonderful warm Farro dish with kale and dried cranberries while Marilyn made a shredded Brussels sprout dish with pistachios and dried cranberries.  Both dishes were excellent and the use of dried cranberries in each one tied them together nicely.

Linda and Marilyn went to the apartment to watch Downton Abbey but the satellite receiver was not activated so they worked on the jigsaw puzzle instead.  I stayed in the coach and took a call from Lou Petkus who had questions about RVillage.  I then consolidated my blog posts from the first seven days of October (2014) into a single post, selected five photos to go with it, and uploaded it to our WordPress site, the first post I have done since September 30, 2014.  If I do one consolidated post each evening I should be caught up to our arrival in Quartzite on December 12, 2014 in about two weeks.  After that I may go back to daily posts or continue to consolidate three or four days at a time.  I would like to be caught up and making current/daily posts by the time we pull out of here on March 1st.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

2015/01/26 (M) A Plethora of Jims

We had toast and jam (strawberry preserves and orange marmalade) for breakfast along with our usual coffee and juice.  Jim A. called just after breakfast to update me on work we are doing for FMCA HQ.  Jim G. (&  Chris) pulled out yesterday.  Jim B. (& Barb) are here for the winter.  Jim L. (The brother of owner Joe L.) manages this place and stops by almost every day.  I think we have met several other Jims along the way.  When we meet someone new I just assume their name is Jim until I learn otherwise.  This winter has truly seen a plethora of Jims.

Jim and Barb let me know they were headed to Blythe, California to go grocery shopping and offered to pick up anything we might need.  Butch and Fonda also left but Larry and Sandy did not, which was unusual for them.  Linda and Marilyn wanted to walk around Tyson Wells so I drove them down to Kuehn Street and Central Avenue, stopping at the Post Office on the way.  I stopped on the way back at Herb’s Hardware store to get some 000 steel wool and then topped off my fuel tank at the Union 76 station.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Back at our coach I started assembling my blog posts from October 8 through 15 into a single post and selecting photos to go with it.  I do not like to sit and do this kind of work for long stretches of time so I got out my cleaning supplies and worked on the outside of some of the bus windows.  I tried using straight vinegar to clean them followed by rubbing with the steel wool, and tried it in the opposite order.  I decided to stick with steel wool first figuring the vinegar would help clean it off.  I did not apply wax to the outsides of the windows as I want them as clean as possible before I wax them.  Rain was forecast for today and it eventually started so I moved indoors and cleaned the insides of several windows on the passenger side of the coach.  These were clean enough that I used the Carnu-B spay wax that I bought yesterday on them.  The rain let up so I moved back outside and worked on the upper windshields.  I got both of them steel wooled and wiped down with vinegar and got a coat of wax on the driver side glass before it started drizzling again.  I put my supplies away again and headed back inside.  Linda called and asked to be retrieved so I drove back down to Kuehn and Central to pick them up.

Linda put out some hummus, chips, and grapes for lunch and we heated up the leftover Farro dish and divided it up between us.  Marilyn went back to the apartment to take a nap and Linda laid down to read and snooze while I continued working on e-mails and blog posts.  Gary Hatt, publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, sent me several photos of himself standing in front of his Eagle.  I selected the one I thought would work best to go with his “Publisher’s Letter” in the January 2015 issue, post-processed it several different ways, and sent it back with an explanation of what did and why.  I also got the blog post for the second seven days of October completed and uploaded before dinner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

As the afternoon progressed the rain settled in.  Although not heavy, like a thunderstorm, it was steady well into the evening.  Jim and Barb returned and Marilyn eventually came back over to the coach.  That got Linda out of bed and working on dinner.  She made a dish that has become a standard; pasta with onions, garlic, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes lightly sautéed in olive oil.  Instead of wheat noodles, however, she used “zoodles.”  Zoodles are long slender pieces of zucchini made with a hand operated SpiraLife spiral slicer.  They get added to the sauté just before serving and are simply heated rather than cooked.  We had a green salad with Ken’s Steak House Asian Sesame dressing, dried cranberries and pistachios.  We had slices of a sourdough baguette with pepper spiced olive oil for dipping and Linda and I had a glass of Franzia sangria.  Fresh strawberries for desert completed a nice meal.

Marilyn helped with the dishes after which she and Linda checked on the developing storm out east and then played Scrabble and other games while I stayed out of their way and worked on this post.  Hey, it’s a small kitchen.

The rain stopped at 7:38 PM but started again in earnest around 8:30 PM.  It was still raining at 9:15 PM when Marilyn went back to the apartment and the forecast said we could have rain overnight until 5 AM tomorrow.  We have had very little rain here this winter so I am sure this is welcomed.  It will be interesting to see if the precipitation triggers any sort of desert bloom tomorrow on our drive to Yuma or perhaps the following day.

Linda’s iPad battery was down to about 10% at 9:45 PM so she retired to the bedroom, where the charger is located, and continued to read for a bit longer.  I am usually very sleepy an hour after dinner but get my second wind a couple of hours after that.  I had an e-mail from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine regarding the use of soft water in the Webasto-based Aqua-Hot in his Eagle and sent him a reply.  I then went through the article on Butch’s main engine air-compressor failure, finalized all of the changes, and uploaded it to our Dropbox along with the photo files.  I updated my BCM Article Status Sheet and uploaded it to the BCM folder in our Dropbox.  I then e-mailed Gary and editor Mike Sullivan to let them know that the new material was ready and available.  By the time I finished it was going on midnight.


2015/01/21 (W) Quartzfest

Quartzfest 2015 at the Road Runner BLM area south of Quartzsite, AZ.

Quartzfest 2015 at the Road Runner BLM area south of Quartzsite, AZ.

There are so many things going on this week it’s hard to decide what to do.  Linda decided to do laundry right after breakfast because her sister is arriving tomorrow and she doesn’t want to have to do it while Marilyn is here.  The short list included:

  • SKPs Chapter 6 Loose Gathering at Plomosa Road BLM north of town (we are members of Chapter 6).
  • Quartzfest at US-95 MM 99 south of town on BLM land (we are both amateur radio operators).
  • Bluebird Wanderlodge Rally south of town at BLM La Posa South (Bus Conversion Magazine would love to have photos of this gathering).
  • The “Big Tent” RV Show (there are a couple of things we are looking to buy).
Quartfest is where RVing Hams meet up.  There were almost 300 rigs, all with radios and antenna.

Quartfest is where RVing Hams meet up. There were almost 300 rigs, all with radios and antenna.

While Linda was doing laundry I finished up yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  A large APS (Arizona Power System) truck pulled into our camp around 10 AM.  Jim L. had contacted them and succeeded in getting them to send someone over to check the power.  They happened to have someone in town already, so he got here, diagnosed and fixed the problem, and was gone before Jim arrived on his bicycle.  We knew the voltage was high and the linesman confirmed that.  The transformer had several tap positions and he was able to change it to provide more windings and reduce the voltage.  We were consistently seeing 127 to 131 VAC (to neutral) on each leg (258 VAC across the legs) and we know it was rising above 132 because it was causing all of our power protection devices to trip, cutting off the shore power.  We are now seeing 118 to 122 VAC (240 VAC across the legs), which is near perfect.

A Crank-IR antenna from Stepp-IR.

A Crank-IR antenna from Stepp-IR.

Butch, Fonda, Jim, and Barb were all gone but I walked over to let Jim and Chris know that the power would be off for about 10 minutes.  I was too late.  The power had already been cut and restored and Jim was outside checking their connection.  Linda was on her way back from the laundry room and we ended up chatting with Jim and Chris for a while.  Chris and Linda went back to what they were doing and Jim L. showed up on his bicycle so we filled him in on the morning’s events.  We agreed to get-together at 4 PM for happy hour and went back to our various chores.

The wind had come up so we decided to use the ratcheting tie-down straps I bought a few weeks ago.  We rigged up two of them between the ends of the patio awning and the anchors we found weeks ago with Butch’s metal detector.  We watched the wind for a while and decided to just put the awning up.  Better safe than sorry.  Been there, done that, bought the new awning fabric (in our previous motorhome).

The Crank-IR fully deployed.

The Crank-IR fully deployed.

With the laundry done and the awnings secured we headed for the southern desert to find the Quartzfest and Bluebird/Wanderlodge encampments.  I set the 2 meter radio in the car to 146.55 MHz simplex mode.  Quartzfest (and RV hams generally) use that frequency for talk-in, info nets, and general contact purposes.  Quartzfest was at the Road Runner BLM Short Term Visitor Area (STVA) just south of Mile Marker 99 on the west side of US-95.  As we were driving down someone called on frequency requesting assistance.  They had just exited I-10 at exit 19 and did not know how to get to Quartzfest from there, so I gave them directions.

When we got there we checked in with the camp host to confirm that we did not need entry permits for a daytime visit.  He directed us to the area where Quartzfest was taking place and we eventually found the check-in station after Gordon West (Gordy), WB6NOA gave us directions over the air.  We met him going out of the sheltered area as we were going in.  We walked around looking at, and photographing, antenna setups and stopped to talk to a few people.  Part way through our stroll I thought I heard someone calling my name, albeit somewhat indistinctly.  I looked back over my right shoulder and realized we had just walked past the Montana 5th wheel trailer and pickup truck belonging to Lou and Val Petkus.  We had a short visit with them and then continued on our walkabout.

That is a Hi-Q HF antenna, just like the one we have but with a different capacitance hat.

That is a Hi-Q HF antenna, just like the one we have but with a different capacitance hat.

With the wind came dust and we decided to drive around the area and then leave to find the Bluebirds.  We headed back towards town as far as the BLM La Paz Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) and turned east into La Paz North.  The other side of the road was the La Paz Tyson Wells LTVA but we recalled Jim Guld telling us that the Bluebird Motor Coach / Wanderlodge group was at La Paz North.

We drove in quite a ways and eventually found the BMC/Wanderlodge buses.  There were very few people around, and those that were there stayed in their coaches.  One guy came out, probably to see who we were and what we were doing, so we introduced ourselves and explained why were there.  He directed us to the rally organizer’s bus, but he wasn’t there.  There were 28 buses formed into a circle, noses pointed in towards the center, and I shot a full 360 degree panorama from the fire circle at the center.  I then shot at least two photos of each bus from just off either side of the front.  More buses were arranged in a second, incomplete circle outside the main one, but those rigs were more difficult to photograph.

We saw some fairly sophisticated portable ham setups at Quartzfest.

We saw some fairly sophisticated portable ham setups at Quartzfest.  It reminded us of Field Day.

A classic older Bluebird Wanderlodge outfitted for serious desert boondocking.

A classic older Bluebird Wanderlodge outfitted for serious desert boondocking.

Linda was keeping an eye on the time and at 3 PM we started working our way towards our camp.  We were back before 4 PM and I made sure Butch/Fonda and Jim/Barb were invited to join the happy hour.  We all gathered at the appointed hour in front of our coach.  Everyone brought a chair, a snack to share, and a beverage of their choice.  The bus provided some shelter from the strong northeast winds and the very warm late afternoon sun balanced out the chilly air until it set, at which point our happy hour gathering ended.

The Bluebird/Wanderlodge logo done in rocks on the desert floor.  These folks were serious about their gathering.

The Bluebird/Wanderlodge logo done in rocks on the desert floor. These folks were serious about their gathering.

Jim and Chris stuck around to see our coach and we looked at a few videos on YouTube that he made with his Quadcopter mounted Go-Pro camera.  We also introduced them to the music videos of the group “OK Go.”  The groups’ most recent video was shot entirely with a Quadcopter mounted video camera.  We moved over to their rig, which we had not been in before, and ended up talking for another hour.  Some of that conversation was about diet and health.  They still had work to do this evening, and we had not had dinner, so we returned to our coach a little after 7 PM.

While Linda prepared two of the Thai Kitchen noodle soup bowls we keep on hand for such occasions I checked the level of the coolant in the expansion reservoir for the Aqua-Hot.  I had turned the unit off two days ago to let it cool down and most of the coolant in the reservoir had been drawn back in as it did.  There was only about a half inch of coolant in the reservoir so I added some of the 50/50 premix that we carry with us, bringing the level halfway between the “Minimum Cold” and “Maximum Cold” marks.  I turned the burner on, let it run through a full cycle while we ate our soup, and then checked the reservoir as soon as it shut off.  The level was less than an inch below the bottom of the fill cap, so I had guessed correctly how much to add.  I am going to let it cool off again and see where the level ends up.

Happy hour at Camp Lieberville.  (L-2-R): LInda (hidden), the Gulds, Williams, and Brockners.

Happy hour at Camp Lieberville. (L-2-R): LInda (hidden), the Gulds, Williams, and Brockners.

After working on this blog post while my camera battery charged I transferred today’s photographs to my computer, organized them, and backed them up to our NAS unit.  It was yet another long but very satisfying day.


2015/01/20 (T) Buses, A-C’s, and a Get-Together

Today was another day of variety.  After our usual coffee and granola I drove over to the Quartzsite Market Place dry-camping area where the Western GM Bus Rally was still taking place.  I met with Larry and Carol Hall and spent over an hour photographing their GM PD4106 bus conversion.  It was very nicely done and they had straightened it up so that there wasn’t anything extraneous lying around inside.  Larry was also kind enough to move the bus several times to allow me to get an angle of view with a good background and lighting.  An article on this bus conversion will appear in a future issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.

Larry & Carol Hall's GM PD4106 bus conversion at the Quarzsite Market Place.

Larry & Carol Hall’s GM PD4106 bus conversion at the Quarzsite Market Place.

When I was done with the photo shoot I returned to our coach to transfer the image files from my camera to my computer, organize them, and back up them up to our NAS device.  For lunch we had tofu hotdogs wrapped in tortillas with mustard, onions, and pickle relish.  I then talked to Butch briefly about the TPMS vendor Linda and I spoke to yesterday in the “Big Tent” and discovered that we had talked to different vendors about different products.  I also let him know that I was going to work on our air-conditioners.

The three house air-conditioners (A-C) in are bus are Cruise-air split units and are initially controlled by three 12 VDC switches on the lower right dashboard.  Those switches get their power from a single 2 Amp fuse in the low voltage distribution panel.  The A-C’s did not work the last time I tried to use them (at Martin Diesel) and I found that this fuse was blown (open) so that was the place to start.

I pulled the old 2 A blade style fuse out of the distribution block and checked for voltage on the supply side and no voltage on the load side, and that is what I found.  I then checked for resistance from the load side of the fuse holder to ground with all three switches off and with each switch turned on, one at a time.  The resistance was infinite (open circuit) with all three switches off (as expected), ~45 Ohms for A-C switches 1 and 3, and ~450 ohms for A-C switch number 2.  All three switches control relays in the DS rear corner of the bus that switch on AC power from the breakers in the AC distribution panel.  Two of the switches also control the solenoid air-valve that controls the air-powered shutters for the two condenser units in the front spare tire bay.  So it was reasonable that one of the switches might show a different resistance from the other two when closed, but at this point I did not know if any of these measured values were correct or even reasonable.

I borrowed a 6 Amp auto-resettable circuit breaker from Butch and inserted it into the fuse slot.  Our testing revealed that switches 1 and 3 caused the breaker to trip but switch 2 did not, and it did not matter whether the 120 VAC power for each unit was turned on at the circuit breaker.  The evaporator units and control panels in the house, however, did not come on unless the 120 VAC power was on along with the 12 VDC corresponding dashboard switch.  That confirmed that the dashboard switches are controlling AC power relays.  I knew from previous work that those relays were in the driver’s side rear corner of the bus/bedroom but our testing indicated that they were probably not the problem.

The common element for switches 1 and 3 was the MAC solenoid air valve on the air panel in the bay under the driver’s seat.  This valve controls air-powered shutters at the front of the spare tire bay where the living room and kitchen A-C condenser/compressor units are installed.  The shutters are held closed by air pressure and held open by a spring in the absence of air pressure.  I keep the air supply valved off when we are parked to minimize air leaks and reduce how often the auxiliary air-compressor runs, but when compressed air is applied to the valve, which is ‘normally open’ when the front A-C units are off, the air pressure closes the shutters.  If either front-located A-C unit is enabled at the dashboard the MAC valve closes off the air supply and vents the pressure on the shutter actuator, allowing the spring to pull them open.

I disconnected the wires from the solenoid and confirmed which wire was the +12 VDC supply to the terminal strip.  I checked the resistance of the solenoid coil and it appeared to be shorted, so I left it disconnected.  We rechecked the A-C units and the two located in the front bay would still not turn on.  Butch figured that there was probably a limit switch on the shutters to prevent power from being applied to those two A-C’s unless the shutters were open.  I loosened the fitting at the valve to relieve the pressure and the shutters opened up.

With the shutters open and the solenoid disconnected we finally got all three A-C’s working, so we have fixed the problem for now but not permanently as the system not does function as designed.  As a side note, it appears the three control switches are incorrectly wired.  Switch 1 is the front A-C, switch 2 is the center unit, and switch 3 is the bedroom.  Switches 1 and 3 are wired to control the shutters for the spare tire bay but the compressor/condenser units for the front and middle A-C’s (1 & 2) are located there.  My guess is that this has been miswired since the coach was built.  The wiring needs to be corrected and I added it to my project list.  Until then, the “fix” is to just make sure all three switches are ‘ON’ anytime we are going to use any of the air-conditioners, ensuring that the shutters are open and the units will operate.

Camp Lieberville in Quartzsite, AZ (our coach is not shown).

Camp Lieberville in Quartzsite, AZ (our coach is not shown).

We left around 3:40 PM and drove over to the Quartzsite Yacht Club for the 4 PM RVillage get-together that founder/CEO Curtis Coleman had scheduled.  Curtis was already there with Patti (the Village Tart) as were Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia), Jim and Chris Guld (Geeks On Tour), and our friends Butch and Fonda Williams (MCI MC-9 NJT and W9MCI and K9MCI respectively).  Lots of other folks showed up including Forrest and Mary Clark, the first two RVillage Ambassadors.

We left a little after 6 PM and drove out to the WINs area on Plomosa Road to deliver a birthday card to Mara.  Her sister and brother-in-law were there but left shortly after we arrived so we stayed until after 8 PM visiting with Mara.  When we got back to our coach Linda heated up the leftover root vegetables for dinner.  She read while I updated my BCM article status spreadsheet, checked e-mail and RVillage, and worked on this blog post.