Tag Archives: Butch & Fonda

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

2015/10/20 (T) Pop-X Pickle

It’s a good thing there are still five weeks until we depart for Florida; there are a lot of unfinished items that need to be taken care of on the bus and around the house/property before we go.

When Phil is here my attention tends to be on what he is doing.  He really knows his stuff, and is an excellent contractor to work with, but since he is not working from drawn plans there are inevitably questions and discussions about just exactly what it is I want and whether that is the best idea or even doable.

Phil had ordered a load of sandy soil for delivery first thing this morning and the “train” (double trailer) showed up not long after he did.  The sandy soil he wanted was not available so he got clean sand instead.  The train driver of the backed it over our third culvert and into the part of our yard were Phil wanted the material dumped.  That took a lot of skill and was impressive to watch.  I took a few photographs but video was really required to capture what was happening.  The Sony SLT-a99v does video in several different modes but I am just beginning to learn how to use it as a still camera and did not want to mess around with shooting video.  Besides, I am not a videographer; it’s a completely different way of thinking than being a still photographer.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

Phil digs the trench for the electrical conduit from the SW corner of the garage to the far side of the driveway extension where he also dug a hole for the post that will support the RV outlet box.

With the material on site Phil was at the point where he needed to dig the trench for the RV electrical feed.  That meant I had to quickly make some final decisions.  I had an 8 foot 4″x4″ treated post and the PVC conduit pieces I needed to go from the post under the driveway to the other side but not enough to go all the way to the garage.  If I only put conduit under the driveway I could cap it, let Phil bury it, and then dig it up later and finish trenching from there to the garage.  I would not do that by hand, however, so it would mean having Phil come back next year just to dig this little trench.  Although I could have him dig the foundation hole for the ham radio tower at the same time that still did not make any sense to me.  Among other considerations I would have to fill the trench in by hand after I ran the cable.

Another option was to still use conduit just under the driveway but go ahead and run direct burial cable like we did two years ago for the pull-through driveway in front of the house.  I would need three (120VAC) or four (240/120VAC) large wires (or equivalent service entrance cable, each at least 80 feet long to get from the outlet box location in the post to the riser pipe on the garage and through the wall into a circuit breaker box.  Not only would I have to get the wire, which would be expensive, I did not have the outdoor outlet box or other parts I needed, so it would take me quite a while to go buy everything.  I also did not know exactly where/how I would feed the circuit.  (I had some ideas about that but they depended on just what the electricians do tomorrow.)

The most expeditious, and least expensive, option was to get more conduit and additional fittings and run the conduit all the way from the post to the southwest corner of the garage.  I left at 9:30 AM for Lowe’s as Phil started digging the trench and the hole for the post.

At Lowe’s I picked up five more 10′ pieces of 2″ PVC conduit, a 45 degree elbow, another 90 degree elbow, a right angle entry box, and a bag of 2″ conduit clamps.  By the time I got back to the house Phil had the post set in place and most of the trench dug.  I got all of the conduit pieces laid out on the ground and got the PVC cement, a hack saw, and the rope and weight.

Since Phil could not do anything else on the driveway until the conduit was installed he helped me install it (or vice-versa).  We joined 10′ sections to both ends of one of the 90 degree elbows and then dropped the weighted rope through it.  We then set the elbow and one of the straight sections in the trench with the elbow at the base of the post and the other straight section going straight up the post where I secured it with two clamps.  We proceeded to drop the weighted rope through additional straight sections of conduit, applied PVC cement to the ends, and put them together.  The conduit had to be inserted about 3″ into the mating piece and twisted as it went in.  I was glad Phil was there to help with this as I did not have the grip strength to do it by myself.  (I don’t have a lot of physical limitations but the arthritis in the base of my thumbs makes itself known in specific situations.)

When we got near the southwest corner of the garage we measured and cut a section of straight pipe to get us to a turn in the trench.  Because of a decorative grass plant the trench could not go directly to the desired location on the west side of the garage and had to go between the grass plant and a nearby small evergreen bush and then turned towards the garage.  We installed a 45 degree elbow to get around the corner and it ended up in the center of the trench.  When I said Phil knew what he was doing I meant it.  We again measured carefully and cut a short section of straight pipe to get us to a 90 degree elbow that would turn up and bring the conduit out of the trench and up the side of the garage.  I measured and cut the vertical riser section and we cemented it into the elbow.  We now had a complete run with conduit coming out of the trench vertically on both ends.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

Phil back fills the trench for the electrical conduit from the corner of the garage to the RV electrical post.

While Phil used his excavator to scoop and push dirt back into the trench and tamp it down I closed off both ends of the conduit.  At the garage end I removed the gasketed cover from the entry box, cut a short piece of 2″ conduit, and put it in the fitting hole on the back side.  Next I brought the weighted rope up through the bottom fitting hole of the box and used Gorilla tape to secure it inside the short back pipe.  I put a cap on the other end of the short back pipe and then put the entry box on top of the riser sideway.   I coiled up the extra rope, taped it inside the box, and put the gasketed cover back on.   I did not cement any of these connections.  When permanently installed the gasketed cover will point away from the wall and the hole in the back will have a longer piece of paper 2″ conduit cemented in and going through a hole into the wall of the garage.

At the post I used a Rigid brand pipe cutter, designed specifically for cutting large plastic pipe and conduit, to cut off the vertical riser at a convenient height above the top of the post.  I threaded the rope through a 3/8″ hole in the center of a 4″ disc of 3/4″ plywood and tied a big knot in it.  I modified the 2″ cap by drilling three adjacent holes lengthwise from the bottom up and cutting out material with a hacksaw to make a slot.  With the rope hanging over the edge of the conduit I lined up the slot in the cap with the rope and put the cap over the end of the conduit.

Since I decided to not have Phil build the area leading up to the planned barn location I wanted to pull all of the unneeded yellow plastic stakes out of the yard and put them away.  Re-staking the layout, however, is a time-consuming task so I put 10″ metal (iron) spikes at the locations of the front corners of the barn and the center point for the curved transition into the driveway.  I drove them flush with the soil so Keith would not hit them with his mower but we can find them later with a metal detector.

With the conduit installed and the trench filled and tamped, Phil filled started building the “curbs” for the driveway.  He had excavated parts of the driveway path and filled in other areas to create a base for the construction fabric and road gravel that was eight inches below the finish grade.  The construction fabric is 12’6″ wide and Phil likes to wrap it up on the sides about 8″ so when he staked out the driveway to be 11′ 2″ wide.  Phil used the sand to build up the areas along both sides of the driveway so that it looked like he had cut the driveway out, but that is not, in fact, what he had done.

My main bus project today was cleaning up the kitchen and living room, which mostly involved moving tools back to the garage.  It is a confined workspace and tends to get cluttered over time as we fetch tools for this and that.  I also wanted to be able to see the desk and its Corian countertop.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

Two of the three sets of cushions in place on the new built-in custom walnut sofa/storage base.

I called Butch in Quartzsite, AZ regarding the distributor tester.  He suggested that I send him an e-mail requesting Bill’s e-mail address and he would send it in his reply.  We then discussed the refrigerator and he suggested that I set the freezer to a colder setting, leave the fresh compartment setting as is, and monitor it for a while to see if it changes.  I did that and reset the min/max memory for both compartments.

Phil is not done with the French drain yet and spent part of the afternoon working on that instead of the driveway.  He made lots of trips back and forth with the front loader to take the topsoil he had removed to create the driveway, spread it out along on top of the pea gravel that fills the drain trench, and grade it off to blend with the undisturbed yard along either side of the drain.  Before he is all done with these two separate, but inter-related projects, he will have to bring in several truckloads of topsoil.  It will be used to fill low spots, especially at the west end of the property, and to cover everything that has been disturbed.  All of the topsoil will be finish graded to blend into the existing contours of the property and then seeded with grass seed.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway.  The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

The view from the living room looking towards the hallway. The new built-in custom walnut desk has its Corian countertop in place and the new refrigerator is in place next to the built-in custom pull-out pantry.

I did not want to get involved in any complex or time-consuming projects so I hung out on the west half of our yard where Phil was working and took lots of pictures with the new camera.  Actually, I had been doing that all day trying to document the work as it progressed.  When I wasn’t taking photos I gathered up broken branches and larger deadfall and carried or dragged it to the brush pile on the west side of the line of large fir trees that separate the east and west halves of our five acres.

Linda called around 3:30 and asked me to see if her wallet was on her desk.  She thought she had it with her but could not find it.  She finally located it in her car where it had been since falling out of her case this morning.  She was on her way home by 3:50 PM.

I had a final chat with Phil, who won’t be back until Saturday, and then closed up the bus and the garage.  We were headed to Ann Arbor this evening and I needed to get cleaned up and put on nicer, more appropriate clothes for our evening out.  I used to wear Oxford shirts and nicer pants every day for work, and sometimes a sport coat and tie or even a suit.  These days it’s mostly polo shirts and blue jeans or sometimes REI ripstop nylon convertible cargo pants.  And this summer it has mostly been my work jeans and work shirts.

We left around 5:15 PM and were parked in Ann Arbor before 6 PM.  We agreed to meet Kate at the Lab Cafe which was just around the corner from the Thompson Street parking garage.  (This garage is behind the former Border’s book store #1 which also housed the company’s corporate headquarters.  Our daughter started with Border’s as a cashier at this store and within four years was a regional manager for their PaperChase product line before the company imploded and went bankrupt.)

Kate was sending Linda text message updates on her travel status and ETA so we ordered a couple of decaf coffees to go.  At $3.75 each they were pricier than we are used to paying for coffee but they were “hand-crafted” and the coffee was very good.  It took the barista at least 10 minutes to make our cups, grinding the beans just before brewing and then slowly pouring hot water through individual filter holders after pre-wetting the filters.  In the time it took to make our coffee I would have been on my second cup at Panera.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

Linda (front) and Kate (behind) take in the interior of one of the Pop-X art exhibit sheds.

The music was too loud and really awful, a bad combination in our opinion, so we sat outside in spite of the occasional attempt to rain.  When Kate showed up we walked the short distance to Liberty Park to see the Pop-X Art Exhibit.  Organized by the Ann Arbor Art Center, all of the art was displayed in “sheds” designed by an architect, one artist per shed.  The sheds were approximately 10 feet square with steep pitched roofs.  The roofs, and the two sides they pitched down to, were covered in clear wavy plastic panels to let in a lot of natural light.  The back end was solid and the front had a pair of sliding “barn style” doors hung from tracks.  There was a solid floor that was elevated relative to ground level and provision for electrical power.  They were designed to be sold as potting sheds after the exhibit was removed at the end of the week.  Although the light was fading I was still able to get some decent shots with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.  It has much greater light sensitivity than the Sony alpha 100 it is replacing as my primary camera and this was my first opportunity to take advantage of that since getting it.

Our main reason for coming to Ann Arbor was to have dinner with Kate but Pop-X was a nice bonus.  Ann Arbor has a LOT of dining options; hundreds I would guess just in the very walkable downtown area.  We decided to try the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company after Linda confirmed that they had some things on the menu we could eat.  It was a bit of a walk but the rain held off and it was an otherwise pleasant evening.

Linda had a dark Porter with definite chocolate tones and I had a hard cider with distinct cinnamon/vanilla tones.  It was also supposed to have roasted pecan notes but I did not detect that.  Kate had a red beer that was not hoppy and thought I might have liked it.  I had a sip of Linda’s Porter and it was very agreeable.  We both had small couscous and greens dinner salads, which were very nice, and both had wild mushroom burgers, which were excellent.  Linda said her chips were also very good and my French fries were tasty and generously portioned.  Kate had a burger and all of our meals came with pickles.  Kate does not care for pickles, which I knew, and does not care for vinegar in general, which I did not know, so Linda and I split her pickle rather than have it go to waste.  The waiter was very attentive and a good sport when I asked for a gallon of ketchup for my fries.  He brought two very full bottles for the table and a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce.  We tipped him accordingly.

At 9:30 PM we started a slow stroll back to the parking garage and chatted a while longer by our cars, which coincidentally were parked very close together.  It was 10:40 PM by the time we got home.  I fed the cats and we went straight to bed.  I was up later than I wanted to be trying to outline this post but I had not had much opportunity to work on it throughout the day.

 

2015/07/08 (W) Custom Desk Design

Linda continued to research Florida RV parks this morning over coffee.  Riverside RV Resort which was fully booked but she found Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida.  It is located in a similar part of the state and Arcadia is where the annual Arcadia Bus Rally is held between Christmas and New Year’s.  Big Tree is a Carefree Resort, which means they had a nice, professionally done video on their website.  We checked it out on Google Earth and it looked OK.  Hey, the entrance is right across the street from a Walmart, so the shopping is convenient.

Linda called Big Tree and talked to Pat.  They only had five openings for the 2015/16 winter season so we reserved a spot for January and February 2016 with the understanding that we can probably extend through March if needed.  First, however, we want to see if we can find someplace else to stay in another part of Florida for March and perhaps some of April.  We would like to spend some time in northeast Florida.  Our friends, Pat and Vicki, spend late February and early March at Jetty Park near Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.  Besides their presence there is a lot to see and do in that area, so that is appealing to us.  However, the spring FMCA national rally will be in Perry, Georgia the third week of March, so we are being pulled in several directions.  Such is the RV life; so many places, so little time.

Breakfast was cinnamon raisin toast and fresh melon.  After breakfast I called Chuck It Junk Removal and left a message that we would like to rent their dumpster trailer for starting on Monday 20 July with pickup on Friday 24 July.  Brad called back and said those dates would work for him.

Linda continued to research RV parks in Florida for December and March.  She called Williston Crossings to ask about space for December but the lady on the phone said someone else would have to call us back.  As much as we liked Williston Crossings the winter before last we wanted to spend the heart of the winter farther south in the state.  A more southerly location would afford us a warmer climate and position us to explore a part of the state we did not see last time.  It would also put us closer to many of our friends who winter in southwest Florida.  We really enjoyed the southwest Arizona climate this past winter and have talked about trying a winter in southern Texas and/or southern New Mexico.  I have no doubt we will visit those areas in future years but this year we wanted to return to Florida.

I typed up a short letter to go with the defective Morgan M-302N coaxial cable lightning arrestor and boxed it up for shipping back to Morgan Manufacturing in Martinsville, Indiana.  Linda got a new 90-day prescription for me when she saw the dermatologist yesterday so we also got that ready to mail.  She then left for the library, post office, and grocery store.

My focus for the rest of the morning was on uploading posts to our personal blog but before I even got started I discovered a mouse at the entrance to the utility area in the basement.  It had not survived its encounter with one of our cats, probably Juniper, so I put it in a small zip lock bag and put it in the trash.  I know that food and shelter are powerful attractions for mice but I am surprised that the presence of two cats in the house is apparently not a deterrent for them.  Other than the one mouse we live trapped in the bathroom the mice are not taking the bait so far.  Indeed, it may be that we are luring them out of hiding and Juniper has figured out where to lie in waiting to ambush them.  From what we have seen she is a very skilled, and determined, mouser.

Linda went for a walk as soon as she got back from running her errands.  By the time she returned and prepared tofu hotdogs for lunch I had uploaded eight blog posts covering June 8 through 15.  After lunch I sent an e-mail to a dozen or so folks letting them know where we would be this winter.  I then got to work on the design for the custom desk.  Except for a dinner break I worked on it until 9 PM when I quit for the day and went upstairs to watch the final episode of The First Peoples on PBS.

Butch and Fonda are at the Crosley Automobile Club national gathering in Wauseon, Ohio this week and will be back home on Sunday.  I would like to have the design for the desk and other custom woodwork done by this Sunday so I can drive it down on Monday or Tuesday next week, give it to Jarel Beatty (the cabinet maker), and visit with Butch and Fonda before heading home.  The desk will take some time to build and I would like to take the bus to Butch and Fonda’s in August before they leave for Arizona so Jarel can bring it to their place and help me install it, assuming, of course, that I have the new floor installed by then.

The desk is proving to be quite challenging to design but after thinking about it for the last couple of weeks I had several “breakthrough” ideas today.  One was to turn the printer 90 degrees so it faces fore and aft rather than side-to-side.  Another was to leave the front of the printer box open and cover it with a swing up work surface.  But the basic difficulty I am having is figuring out how to draw it.  I finally decided to draw a plan view of the base which really helped me see where the Aqua-Hot fan-coil heat exchangers will go and how the coolant lines will run.  I still have a lot of work to do, and I really wish I had AutoCAD (and knew how to use it), but I went to bed feeling like Sunday was a realistic target date for this piece of the project.

 

2015/02/07-11 (S-W) In and Around Q

2015/02/07 (S) Bouse, AZ

We got up around 8 AM, got cleaned up, and had coffee and granola.  Linda then cut my hair, which seems to be a once every 4 to 6 weeks thing when we are traveling.  Butch and Fonda went to Yuma to meet up with Bell, Bell’s daughter, and Bell’s three grand-daughters.  Bell’s daughter was in Yuma with her Roller Derby team and the family came along.  We wanted to get out and do some more sight-seeing and decided to drive to Bouse, Arizona.

Cholla "teddy bear" cacti at Quinn's Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Cholla “teddy bear” cacti at Quinn’s Pass on the road to Bouse, AZ.

Bouse is a small town located in the next valley to the east of Quartzsite, which sits in the La Paz valley.  It is on AZ-72 at the eastern end of Plomosa Road.  The western end of Plomosa Road is at AZ-95 seven miles north of the city limit of Quartzsite.  The first three miles of Plomosa Road heading east from AZ-95 runs through the BLM Plomosa Road STVA.  The road is paved its entire length and provided a fun and scenic drive out to Bouse and back.  We stopped at Quinn Pass to read the historical marker and ended up going on a short hike.  We have wanted to do this little trip ever since friends told us about it, but today provided an added incentive to finally go; the Parker 425.

The Parker 425 is an annual off-road race in the desert east of Parker, south of the Buckskin Mountains, and north of Bouse.  The course is a little over 140 miles in length and the race consists of three loops for a total of 425 miles.  It begins and ends at the Bluewater Resort and Casino in Parker.  Last year’s winner completed the race in just over seven hours.  That’s an average speed of 60 MPH, and there are plenty of curves and bumpy areas where it is not possible to go that fast, so the vehicles are really moving every place they can.

When we got to AZ-72 we crossed the highway, drove three short blocks, and made a left on Swansea.  I could see from the GPS that it was a paved road that continued in a northeasterly direction.  I had looked at a map yesterday and had a general sense that one of the spectator areas was out that way.  We did not have to drive very far before we saw Jeeps and ATVs parked on top of a big hill all facing the same direction.  We drove past the turnoff for that area and just around the hill was a large parking area full of cars and RVs.  The dirt road was closed, the Fire Department was set up there, and there was a checkpoint for the race.  I found a place to park and we got out to check out the action.

We stayed long enough to see a dozen different vehicles pass through the checkpoint and I shot photos from several different vantage points.  There are different classes of vehicles, but the ones we saw were of two types: highly modified small pickup trucks, and custom built off-road racers known as “grasshoppers” because of their long shape and the suspensions allow them to “bounce” over bumps in the road.

View looking NW from the Quinn's Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

View looking NW from the Quinn’s Pass area between Quartzsite and Bouse, AZ.

The air temperature was pleasant but the sun was very hot so we drove the short distance back to Bouse, stopped at AZ-72, and quickly scoped out the town.  We spotted the Coachman Restaurant just northwest of the intersection and drove over there to have lunch.  We each had a garden salad and iced tea, and I had French fries.  We can pretty much count on lettuce and potatoes in any restaurant we visit.

Bouse was founded in 1908 as a mining camp but as a waypoint between Phoenix and Parker it now survives on tourism, agriculture, and retirees.  Measuring 10.1 square miles at 947 feet ASL with 996 residents (2010 census) the area enjoys sunny skies year-round.  We saw RVs of all types throughout town and in the dessert along Plomosa Road which is all BLM land.  There were also quite a few RVs in the Bouse Community Park.

We drove back to Quartzsite the way we came, a distance of 30 miles, because the only other ways back were via Parker (64 miles) and Phoenix (at least 250 miles).  Linda wanted to walk through the Tyson Wells market area one more time as this is the last weekend for the Craft Show.  We bought a cute hand puppet that we think grand-daughter Madeline will find very interesting.  We drove over to Barry’s Breads to get a loaf of his Barry’s Basic Bread but he was not open.  In fact, it looked like he was done for the season.  Activity really has slowed down here and he is presumably getting ready to move to his next venue.

We stopped at the Road Runner Market and bought a loaf of French bread and some red grapes.  We then drove to the Quartzsite Cemetery to take photographs of Hadji Ali’s (Hi Jolly’s) gravesite, which is marked by a small pyramid with a silhouette of a camel on top.  As long as we were there we wandered around the rest of the cemetery, which was an interesting and well-kept place.

Once we were back at the coach Linda sat outside and read while I transferred photo files from my camera to my computer and backed them up to our NAS.  I then continued selecting and processing images from yesterday’s outing to KOFA NWR Palm Canyon.  I was starting to work on the images from today when Linda cane in and started making dinner.

She decided to make “Mustard Greens and Beans” using Great Northern beans.  In addition to the usual onion and garlic, it had vinegar, a little sugar, and honey mustard.  It was very tasty and we agreed it was a keeper.  She served sautéed green beans on the side, cut up some of the French bread, and poured a couple of glasses of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  Sliced fresh strawberries and cookies for desert completed the meal.

Butch and Fonda got back from Yuma while Linda was cooking.  I gave Butch a call after dinner to discuss our TireTraker systems.  He needs to charge their monitor this evening and I asked him to check on the behavior of the LEDS on the 12/24VDC plug.

As we do most evenings, Linda read and played online word games while I worked on this post for a while and then resumed editing photos on my computer.  I checked e-mail again and had several regarding the upcoming Freethinkers gathering at the Liar Peg Leg Smith Monument boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  One of them posited the question of how often Friday the 13th occurs?  I did a quick online search and the answer appeared to be 1 to 3 times per year and every 12/7 or 1.714 times per year, on average.  That is 171.4 times per century or 1,714 times per millennium.  I posted that back to the e-mail reflector and went to bed.

Rocks and flora at Quinn's Pass, AZ.

Rocks and flora at Quinn’s Pass, AZ.

2015/02/08 (N) Another Meetup

I was up at 7:30 AM this morning and got the coffee made right away.  Linda did not sleep well last night but got up as soon as she smelled the coffee.  Breakfast was toast and preserves.  I was planning on putting in a long day at my computer and Linda was planning on doing laundry and some work for the bakery but our plans changed before we got started.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Lou and Donna Rice of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter indicating that they were at Mile Marker 2 on Plomosa Road.  We drove right past them twice yesterday on our visit to Bouse but had no idea they were there.

Plomosa Road is about seven miles north of Quartzsite on AZ-95.  We left at 10 AM and were parked next to their Jeep before 10:15.  We sat and talked for four hours before returning to our coach.  As soon as we got back I took our TireTraker monitor and charger over to Butch’s coach.  We tried our charger on his monitor and it worked fine.  We then tried his charger on our monitor and it did not work.  Between our four devices it was clearly our monitor that was defective.  I will have to call Darryl Lawrence tomorrow and see what we can figure out.

We each had a pear, some red grapes, and something to drink.  Linda gathered up laundry and I got to work editing consolidated blog posts.  In between loads she sat outside and read.

Fonda had two Poblano peppers she got at the Farmers Market on Wednesday and gave them to Linda.  Linda found a recipe for stuffed grilled poblanos.  The stuffing was white rice, scallions, black beans, tomatoes, vegan sour cream and cheddar cheese, and cumin.  It resembled Mexican rice but with a creamy/cheesy dimension.  She cooked the stuffed peppers on Butch and Fonda’s little grill and cooked the extra stuffing on our cooktop.  She served the dish with Clementine orange wedges and a glass of Franzia Refreshing White wine to make an outstanding meal.

After dinner we sat outside Butch and Fonda’s bus enjoying the cool desert night air and watching the lights of airplanes flying overhead.  It eventually cooled off enough that we returned to our coach where I continued to work on blog posts and Linda worked on the bakery accounting.  She eventually went off to bed and I uploaded survey items to the FMCA Education Committee folder in our Dropbox and sent an e-nail to the committee.  We have a committee work session tomorrow at 4 PM EST (2 PM MST).

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

Vehicles positioned east of Bouse, AZ to watch the Parker 435 off-road race.

2015/02/09 (M) A Bright Idea

Butch called around 8:20 AM to let me know that our light bulb order was at the Post Office awaiting pickup.  He and Fonda were headed to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club for a day-long class on faceting, so he gave me the parcel slip so I could go pick up the package.

While we were eating breakfast it suddenly occurred to me that we should visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West while we are camped near Tucson next month.  Linda went to the website and discovered that it is in Scottsdale which is a northern Suburb of Phoenix and is closer to Quartzsite than it us to Tucson.  We selected a couple of possible dates and she went online to get tickets.  The “Behind the Scenes” tours are only done on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.  She tried to get tickets for Monday February 16 but they only had one left.  She called but they would not sell us two tickets.  We waited way too long to think of this and painted ourselves into a corner so it may not happen on this trip to the southwest.

I drove to the Quartzsite Post Office after breakfast and retrieved the package, only my second trip to the Post Office to transact business since we arrived in Q.  The first trip was to sign up for the P. O. Box.  Linda usually takes care of the mail while she is out walking and Butch usually checks the P. O. Box, which is at a different location that is not quite as convenient a walk from our camp as the main building.  We have not used the P. O. Box very much, but it has been invaluable when we have.

I worked most of the day on some of my blog posts for December 2014.  I took a break around 12:30 for a bite of lunch and then called Daryl Lawrence and left a message regarding our TireTraker TT-400C monitor which appears to not be recharging.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ.  This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

The Parker 425 checkpoint east of Bouse, AZ. This race is a BIG deal with fire, EMS, and helicopter coverage.

Gaye Young called around 1:30 PM to make sure I was going to participate in the FMCA Education Committee work session at 2 PM.  (Gaye is the chairperson of the committee.)  There were only two items on the agenda and I had to give the status report on both of them.  Our work sessions and meetings are conducted by telephone conference.  They usually last an hour and today was not an exception.  If committee members provide me with additional input this week regarding an education survey we are developing I will have some work to do the last two weeks of the month in addition to working on articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, completing some minor repairs on the bus, finishing the cleaning/waxing of the exterior of the bus, and cleaning/waxing the car.

I managed to upload consolidated blog posts, including some photographs, for December 5 – 8, 9 – 12, and 13 – 16, 2014.  I did not take very many photos while we were traveling but once we got settled in Q I got the camera out and started using it.

I got a call back from Jeff at TireTraker support.  I explained what the monitor was (not) doing and he agreed to mail me a new one along with a new charger.  We will return the defective one to Daryl at Escapade next month.

Linda cooked up a couple of Tofurkey brand vegan Italian sausages with sweet onions and sweet red bell peppers and served some broccoli as a side dish.  After dinner I removed my bulbs from the Bulbtown shipment and checked the quantities and prices against my spreadsheet.  I then took the remaining bulbs over to Butch.  He had ordered 10 #4003 bulbs to use in his bay fixtures and realized when he saw them that he should have ordered #4004s.  Both are 24VDC bulbs but the #4003s have a single contact base whereas #4004s have a double contact base.  I think my bay light fixtures may take #4003s.  I will check tomorrow and if so I will buy them instead of Butch.

We sat outside with the lights off enjoying a glass of wine while watching the long lingering sunset backlight the mountains to our west.  As the sunset faded we looked at the stars and watched aircraft lights moving east and west high over the desert.  It still cools off here after the sun sets but not as quickly, nor as dramatically, as it did just  a week ago.

I combined the blog posts for December 17 – 20, 2014.  I had selected and processed photos for this post earlier so it was ready to upload at 11 PM but I did not want to go through the process at that late hour.  I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then went to bed.  A short time later Jasper threw up a large quantity of food so I had to get up and deal with that.  It looked like it had some hair mixed in with it, but I don’t know if that was the root cause.

2015/02/10 (T) Deionized

We were planning on heading to the Peg Leg Monument boondocking area on Thursday, spending the night in Indio, California and visiting Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) on Friday before driving home Friday evening.  Ken Harrison from the FMCA Freethinkers indicated that he and Linda would not make it to Peg Leg until Friday.  That prompted us to consider flipping our plans, doing JTNP on Thursday and Peg leg on Friday.  Either way we will stay in Indio as we already have reservations at a motel.

The Polaris RZR ("razer") was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

The Polaris RZR (“razer”) was one of the most popular 4-wheel ATVs in and around Q.

We had another stay-at-home day relaxing while getting things done.  Linda was going to drive to Blythe for groceries, but decided to go on Sunday as we will be away from camp all of Thursday and Friday and much of Saturday.  She is going to see if the Farmers Market is still operating tomorrow morning.  If not she will stop by the Road Runner Market.

As has been our pattern recently Linda went for a long walk (5 miles) while I continued to work on blog posts.  We had a light lunch when she returned.  I then called Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan and ordered six pounds of roasted coffee beans to be shipped to us here in Q.  We are approaching the midpoint of our snowbird season and are almost out of the five pounds of coffee we started with.  Jeff is going to roast two pounds each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caff, Sweet Seattle Dreams half-calf, and Cafe Europe Blend half-caff.  He will let it out-gas for a couple of days and then vacuum seal it in one-pound portions and mail it to us in a USPS flat rate box that will go to our P. O. Box in Q.  That should be enough to get us home even if we do not get there until late April.

Butch is always looking out for us and trying to help us spend our retirement dollars so he sent me a link to a portable two-tank water de-ionizing system that is available from RVupgrades.com.  The system is intended for washing/finishing cars and RVs as de-ionized water has had all of the dissolved minerals removed and does not leave spots on surfaces when it dries.  It is not, however, considered suitable for drinking.  The two tanks are plumbed in series and use special resin beds that have to be replaced when exhausted rather than recharged.  The first tank removes cations and the second removes anions, leaving the water completely deionized.  The cations are the positively charged ones typically “removed” by water “softeners”, such as calcium, iron, and magnesium, through ion exchange with sodium.  The anions are the negatively charged ones that water softeners typically do not remove, including fluoride and sodium.  The dual tank system is about 33% more expensive than a single tank portable water softener, but given the time, expense, and frustration I am experiencing trying to clean and wax our motorcoach I am seriously considering ordering one tomorrow.

I uploaded two consolidated blog posts yesterday and another one this afternoon.  I consolidated the posts for December 21 – 26, 2014, selected and processed the photos, and then took a break to sit outside and just enjoy the weather.  No book, no iPad, no computer; just ahhhh.  It was 78 degrees F with 19% relative humidity, a steady breeze from the northwest, and a hot sun shining through absolutely clear blue skies.  Linda and I agreed that it was the most perfect weather day we have had so far this winter.

Linda had some seitan ‘mock’ beef in the freezer that she heated in a saucepan and served with basmati rice accented with soy sauce.  Very simple but very tasty.  After dinner I uploaded the December 21 – 26 consolidated blog post along with 12 photos, entered all of the tags, and published it.

I got an e-mail yesterday from Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia asking if we would be interested in previewing/testing another new website.  I said ‘yes’ and she responded with the URL for the development site.  When I was done with our website I went to the new one and created an account.  I got an activation e-mail, clicked the link, and was able to login.  I spent an hour looking around the site and captured my impressions and suggestions in an e-mail back to the development team.  I took a few minutes to investigate portable water deionizers but by then it was too late to get involved in any serious research so I went to bed.

2015/02/11 (W) Update This!

Hi Jolly's (Hadji Ali's) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Hi Jolly’s (Hadji Ali’s) gravesite in the Quartzsite Cemetary; allegedly the most visited place in Q.

Linda’s cell phone rang just before 8 AM.  It was Barb.  She and Jim were up, dressed, and had the golf cart out and ready to go to the Farmers Market.  When we mentioned it yesterday Barb said she wanted to go and Linda indicated that it was open from 8 AM to noon.  Somehow that got translated into leaving at 8 AM to go to the market.  Linda, being a good sport, got up, got dressed and walked over about 8:15 and said she was ready to go.  No breakfast, no coffee, just the “git er done” spirit of the old west.  I stayed behind and got the coffee ready to brew when she returned.  I then got to work on computer stuff in the true “git er done” spirit of the new/virtual west.

They returned from the Farmers Market around 9:30 AM.  Linda bought another Romanesco brocciflower, some Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, and oranges.  To our delight Barry’s Breads was also there and had a few loaves of Barry’s Basic Bread.  He told Linda he will be around, at least at the Wednesday Farmers Market, through the end of this month.

As much as I would like to have de-ionized water available for rinsing the coach as I wash it, I decided not to speed hundreds of dollars without first doing deeper research into the available technologies and their life cycle costs.  I had enough other stuff to do today that I did not want to make time to dig into this new topic.

Linda saw a photographers vest at the Salvation Army resale store the other day but did not buy it as it was $15, pricey for the SA, and she wasn’t sure it would fit me.  We drove over to the store to see if it was still there.  It was, and it was too small for me.  It also had a defective zipper.  For a moment I thought we were going to have to buy it so I could take it home and cut it off.  I managed instead to pull it off over my head like a t-shirt and Linda was then able to get the zipper undone and put it back on the rack.  This was my first time in the store so while we were there I found two pairs of shorts for $2 each, a third pair for $0.50, and a lightweight, lined, waist-length London Fog jacket for $0.25.  Linda found a white hand-held mixer with two beaters for $4.  Deal.

When we got back Linda called the Prince of Tucson RV Park and made a reservation for the evening of Thursday, March 5th.  Lou and Val Petkus will already be there and this will allow us to caravan into the SKP Escapade at the Pima County Fairgrounds first thing Friday morning.   By coming in together we will be able to park together which will make our staff photography work more convenient.

My computer indicated that it had a large number of updates to install; 34, to be exact.  It was a 334 MB download so I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and switched my computer over to it.  The Mi-Fi is much faster than the Wi-Fi and I find that with large downloads the faster I get them done the more likely they are to complete successfully.  When those were done downloading and installing I had to restart my computer to finish the installation.  I also had an updated driver available for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor, so I downloaded and installed that.

 

I figured that if I had updates for my computer Linda would have them for hers.  I switched her computer over to our Mi-Fi and checked for updates.  She had 20 recommended and 4 optional.  I selected all 24 and the download was 980 MB.  That’s a lot of updates so I started it and let it run.  As always, finishing the installation required the computer to be rebooted.  When it restarted her computer the screen was once again functioning normally.  Go figure.  She also had an Adobe Creative Cloud update so I started that.  It failed at the 29% point so closed it and restarted it.  The second time it ran to completion.

Linda needed to work at her computer so we both sat at the dinette table and did our respective computer things.  She brought our financial records up-to-date in Quicken and I compiled and then uploaded a consolidated blog post for the last six days of December 2014.  I had e-mails going back and forth with some of our fellow FMCA Freethinkers regarding the Peg Leg gathering and ended up joining the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  I’ve meant to do that for a while and the electrons finally aligned just right this afternoon.

Hi Jolly's pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Hi Jolly’s pyramid gravesite marker is a State Historical Site.

Somewhere during the course of the afternoon we had sandwiches for lunch and snacked on dried fruits and nuts.  Kathi Slater called to check on Linda’s travel arrangements, after which I made popcorn.  Linda borrowed a small cooler from Butch and Fonda for our 2-day trip to California and back.  Fonda came over to go through the chores involved in caring for the cats while we are away and Linda gave her a set of keys to the bus.

I had seen a quick notification from the RV Internet Resource Center (Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website) that WiFiRanger had finally released their new firmware upgrade for the WiFiRanger Mobile.  Using my iPad as the control panel I switched our WFR-MT from the Wi-Fi/DSL connection to our Verizon Mi-Fi.  Again, I wanted to make sure this upgrade got downloaded as quickly as possible through the most reliable connection we have.  The download was reasonably quick but the installation took quite a while.  My iPad eventually lost contact with the WFR-MT and I just left it to finish and went over to visit with Butch and Fonda and Linda.  We came back to our coach when their dinner was ready and the WFR-MT firmware upgrade had finished installing successfully.  I switched the connection back to the Wi-Fi/DSL that we get to use as part of our “rent” while we are here.  I switched our laptops back to our internal Wi-Fi network and then shut the Verizon Mi-Fi off to let it recharge.

Neither of us was very hungry after snacking late this afternoon so Linda sliced the remaining tofu and pan-seared it.  She caramelized onions, added BBQ sauce, and served it open faced over the tofu.  After dinner Linda made a list of things we needed to take tomorrow while I made a final check of e-mail.  I e-mailed Lou Petkus to let him know that we were booked into the Prince of Tucson RV Park for March 5th.  I sent a message to Curtis Coleman via RVillage to accept his invitation to boondock in his driveway and see if March 3 and 4 would work for him.  He phoned back to confirm that it would be OK and then sent his address via TXT message.  I also had an e-mail from Kate de Fuccio and replied to that.  I checked for updates and my computer had several more to install so I started that process.  I checked Linda’s computer but she did not have any updates pending.  Although we got a lot of other things done today it felt like I had mostly dealt with computer updates.  Update days are often like that and you cannot schedule them because you never know when Microsoft is going to drop a big ‘update bomb’ in your lap.

Linda went to bed around her usual time.  I turned in shortly thereafter and much earlier than I have been.  We plan to get up at 6 AM tomorrow, have a light breakfast, finish packing for our trip, and be on the road at 7 AM.  We will stop at Albertson’s in Blythe, California for some water, ice, and other snack items to get us through the day to dinner at Native Foods in Palm Springs and give us something to eat on Friday while we are at the Peg Leg gathering.  Albertson’s opens at 6 AM PST, which corresponds to our 7 AM MST departure time.  We should arrive at the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park around 7:30 AM PST which will give us a good, long day to explore the park.

 

2015/01/8-14 (R-W) Q 2015 W2

2015/01/08 (R) Up On The Rooftop 

A panorama from the roof of our bus.  Left edge is NE, center is S, right edge is NW.

A panorama from the roof of our bus. Left edge is NE, center is S, right edge is NW.

As forecast, we woke up to cloudy skies and milder temperatures.  The clouds to the southwest looked like they might produce rain but the winds were blowing gently from the southeast so the rain would not be for us.  This was the day we’ve been waiting for, the perfect kind of weather for washing a bus.  But not first thing in the morning.  Coffee and breakfast come first while we wait for slightly warmer temperatures.

The waste water tank level sensors are not accurate but our fresh water tank sensors are OK.  The fresh water level gauge was showing less than 1/3 tank and the grey water tank gauge was showing full so it was probably time to dump and fill.  When I checked the fresh water level visually we were at 1/6th tank.  I dumped the black water tank and then the grey water tank, both of which were fairly full, and then filled the fresh water tank.  I have the city water regulated to ~50 PSI (static) which drops to ~30 PSI when the fill valve is fully opened.  At that pressure it takes about 40 minutes to fill the tank.

I last dumped the waste tanks on December 30th and added 25 gallons of (hard) fresh water.  On December 31st I added another 30 gallons of (hard) fresh water.  On January 2nd I recharged our water softener, drained about 1/6 tank (~20 gallons) of (hard) fresh water and filled the tank with 120 gallons of soft water.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after that fill and it was 1.5 grains/gallon (25 ppm).  I checked it again after today’s fill and it was still 1.5 gpg.  Since we are keeping a log of the dumps and fills I plan to check the hardness after each fill so can regenerate the water softener before it gets depleted and we end up with really hard water in our tank and system.

Butch happened to be at the Post Office Annex today checking the P. O. Box at exactly the same moment a postal worker was about to put something in the box and then stopped because of the forwarding tag.  The “something” was our package of water hardness test strips from Bristol, Indiana and the worker was kind enough to give it to Butch to give to us.  He also learned that they still have P. O. Boxes available so he went to the main post office to find out more about that.  He came back with a form to fill out and it had room for all of our names so the six of us are going to share the box and the cost, which is $56 for six months, or just under $20 per couple.

While the fresh water tank was filling I started getting ready to clean the roof by getting out our Little Giant step/extension ladder and various cleaning supplies.  The dump and fill was done by 11 AM and it was warm enough by then to start working.  Swim trunks, a white T-shirt, and Kean sandals was the uniform of the day.  I carried the hose sprayer up the ladder with me and then lowered it down to use as a hook and lift wash water bucket, scrub brush, and other paraphernalia up to the roof.

It turned out to be sunnier than I had hoped but I worked for about four hours, not including a lunch break, and scrubbed the entire roof.  I used McGuire’s red automotive soap and rinsed thoroughly.  I had already washed the roof once using Dawn dish soap (a big ‘no no’, apparently) and a long-handle soft brush.  That washing had removed surface dirt and revealed the full extent of the dark “spotting” that gave the entire roof a mottled appearance.  The roof looked a lot better after I scrubbed it but a lot of the spotting remained.

We are anxious to clean the sides of the bus but there is no point doing that until we are done with the roof.  We want the roof “like new” clean so dirt doesn’t run off it onto the sides, but we also want it clean because we are seriously considering having Discount Solar (here in Quartzsite) install solar panels and a charge controller and do all the wiring.  As long as we had the hose, brushes, and soap out we decided to wash the car.  It was even filthier than the bus, if that’s possible, and it was nice to finally have it clean.

After cleaning up our equipment I got cleaned up and then sat and visited with Butch for a while.  Linda came over and announced that she wanted me to take her to dinner.  Butch and Fonda decided to go too so we went to Crazy Jerry’s, which is not to be confused with Silly Al’s.  Silly Al’s is supposedly the #1 eatery in Q, at least for pizza, but they have karaoke every night starting at 7 PM.  Thank you, no.  Crazy Jerry’s also has pizza and we tried the vegetarian, hold the cheese.  Very thin crust (the way we like it) and lots of topping.  A couple of side salads and a side order of French fries.  FWIW, we did not eat the entire pizza and brought home the leftovers.

Linda split a pair of Scrabble games with her brother, the first one he has won in quite some time.  She had an e-mail reply from Mara.  She is camped about 70 miles south of Q and is headed here in the near future and is going to camp with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network).  I checked e-mail, updated my BCM article spreadsheet with two more story ideas, played a few games, and worked on this post before turning in for the night.  We will have been here a month as of Sunday.

The Hi Jolly Daze Parade.  Quartzsite, AZ

The Hi Jolly Daze Parade. Quartzsite, AZ

2015/01/09 (F) The P. O. Box

I left the ladder setup yesterday so I could check the roof again this morning and determine what additional cleaning measures, if any, I might want to take.  I also wanted to get back up on the roof and measure the space we have available for solar panels.  I was expecting two packages via UPS; one from B&H Photo (Manfrotto nodal panoramic tripod head) and one from Sure Marine Service (Webasto repair parts).  I had a nice view of the mountains surrounding Quartzsite from the roof of our bus and wanted to shoot some panoramas with the new head when it arrived.

Butch, Fonda, Jim, Barb, Linda, and I all went to the U. S. Post Office in Quartzsite this morning to sign up for our very own P. O. Box which means we finally have a way to receive USPS mail while we are here.  Just in time, too, as Q has really filled up in the past week and there is more to come.  I have an FMCA national education committee meeting on Monday and need to write a few items for a member survey and review other materials.  Gary (from BCM) is also due to arrive on Monday, and both Curtis (from RVillage) and Mara Culp (HFH build acquaintance) may be headed this way as well.  I believe Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia are already in the area.  The big RV tent is up and those vendors are arriving and setting up.

Once we were done at the post office I went to Discount Solar to discuss a possible installation on our coach.  The Kyocera panels are 26.5″ W x 59.0″ L.  They are “12 V panels” but are rated at 140 Watts putting out 7.9 Amps.  They cost $350 each.  Those numbers compute to an output voltage of 17.5 VDC and $2.50/W.  (If a 140 Watt panel was operating at 13.8 Volts it would produce just over 10 Amps.)  Because we have a 24V battery system we would need to install the panels in series-connected pairs.  The preferred installation for the rectangular panels is to have the long dimension lined up fore-n-aft to either side of the centerline of the roof.  Tilt mounts are available ($45/panel) but we would probably not install them due to the difficulty of getting onto our roof to use them.

“12 volt” batteries typically charge at around 13.8 to 14.1 volts.  Our “24V” system charges at 27.6 to 28.2 volts and a series-connected pair of panels produces 7.9 A at 35V (full sun) for 276.5 volt-amps, which is essentially “watts.”  Two pairs would produce 15.8 A (553 V-A), and three pairs would produce 23.7 A (829.5 V-A).  The higher voltage output of the panels is reduced and regulated by a solar charge controller before getting to the batteries.  Discount Solar carries Blue Sky and Trimetric maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers and the Blue Sky Solar Boost 50 would handle three series-connected pairs for about $550.  The MPPT controllers are DC-to-DC converters so they convert the excess voltage into additional current.  With full sun this six panel system could supply up to 30 A of charging current at the proper voltage, which is why we would need an MPPT controller that can handle more than 30 A of charging current.  We would also want room for expansion or replacement with higher wattage panels if they were available at some point in the future.  One of the nice things about the solar system is that it would always be on and would “play nice” with our other charging systems. Another nice feature is that they are silent when operating.  Ahhhh.

Because of the size of our house battery bank (400 A-Hr at 24 VDC) and the fact that we have a residential refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, and other AC loads, we would need/want at least six panels.  (I have not included the four Group 31 wet cell batteries that are used to start the engine and power the chassis as part of the solar system.)  If the batteries were discharged 50% (200A-Hr) it appears that it would take just under seven hours to bring them back to full charge based on the 30A charging current.  In actuality it would take longer in a boondocking situation as the sky is not always clear, the sun is rarely directly overhead (perpendicular to the panels), there would be devices using some of the energy, and the amount of current the batteries can accept falls off as they get closer to being fully charged.

Installation is $90/hour plus mounts ($15/panel), wire, connecting blocks, and other parts, and would take 4 – 5 hours to complete.  The owner assured me they would have it in and out in one day so we could be back in our parking spot before dark.  The last three weeks of January are the busiest time of year for Discount Solar and since we are plugged-in to shorepower we do not need the solar system right away.  If we have it installed in early February we would have a month to make sure it works and resolve any problems.  The system would cost about $3,300 installed.  We have at least a month to think about it.

When I returned to our coach Linda was out walking.  When she got back I went up on the roof with a tape measure to see if/how the solar panels might fit.  With a four-n-aft orientation we could put two towards the front outside edges, one just aft of the kitchen skylights on the driver side, and one aft of the hall skylight on the passenger side.  We could put two more somewhere in the rear.  The options for the rear appeared to be inline (almost touching) on the driver side starting just behind the bathroom skylight or putting one there and the other one sideways across the back just ahead of the dropped portion of the roof and aft of the bedroom vent fan.  Placing the panels in these locations would leave the center of the roof open so I could climb up on the driver side front and walk all the way to the back.

Barb stopped by to let us know there was a mattress in the house (park model trailer) if we wanted to try it out.  It had been in their rig for about two years until they removed it yesterday and replaced it with a thicker one they got from Connie.   It is a regular queen size mattress about 6″ thick, so not one of the oversized behemoths that have become the norm.  They also had a 1.5″ thick memory foam pad to go on top of it.  We took a look at it and decided to give it a try.

We have been using our old Select Comfort adjustable air mattress in the RV since summer 2013.  One side (mine) has a slow leak so I have to adjust it every other night.  I could live with that indefinitely but what we really dislike about it, and have for a long time, is that we tend to roll into the center or off the edge.  It also takes up valuable storage space under the bed for the pump, has wires and hoses to deal with, and has a controller for each side.  We were definitely ready to try something else so we stripped the bed, disconnected the two air hoses, and carried the mattress out of the bus.  It was surprisingly heavy and bulky for an air mattress and lacking in self-supporting structure, but that also made it easier to bend it around the front passenger seat, down the entry stairs, and out the door.  We stored it in the bedroom of the house trailer pending a final decision about the replacement mattress.

We carried the new mattress in, which was definitely easier than getting the old one out, and got it positioned on the plywood bed platform.  We put the memory foam pad on top and put our mattress topper over that which added another inch.  We put our electric heating pad on and then the sheets and the blanket.  We will try it out for a while and if we like it we will see if the Salvation Army wants the old one.  If not, it may end up at the Quartzsite dump as we really do not have any way to get it home or a reason to do so.  We will leave the pump, hoses, and controllers under the bed until we decide on its final disposition.

The suspension on the bus had settled slightly in the driver side rear since we parked and leveled it almost a month ago.  It would not have been enough to require an adjustment except that our bed sits crosswise with the head on that side and I find that sleeping with my head even slightly downhill is not comfortable.  Rather than start up the main engine we got the Dewalt portable air-compressor out of the car and connected it into the brake system fill port in the passenger side engine bay.  I had to connect the chassis batteries and turn the ignition on (without starting the engine) in order to activate the leveling controls, but that allowed me to raise that corner up and get the coach level side-to-side.  At some point we will re-position the bus, but not until I have completed some work on the turbo boost sensor mounting plate and hose and the level low system components for the front end.

We put the air-compressor back in its special storage divider in the car and decided to rearrange a few things so we could put the rear seat down.  Starting next week we will need to be able to carry a passenger.  We thought about heading down to the market area but remembered that we were expecting UPS deliveries.  I started working on two more articles for BCM instead while Linda went for a walk.  It was warmer today and so it was warmer in the coach and I ended up taking a nap.

Our UPS and FedEx shipments usually arrive late in the afternoon or early evening but had not shown up by dinner time.  I had planned to disassemble the Aqua-Hot burner and replace the bearings, nozzle, and perhaps a few other small parts tomorrow but it now appears that will have to wait until Tuesday, assuming our shipments arrive on Monday.  I will likely need to clean the unit as well, given that it has been running so rich, and that may include pulling the combustion chamber.

Linda made two cold salads for dinner; chickpea and wild rice Waldorf.  Both are favorites of ours, especially in warmer weather.  We had some Barry’s Basic Bread with our meal and another glass of Lamb’s Valley organic sweet white wine was a most agreeable accompaniment.

Yup, that's a real, live camel in the Hi Jolly Daze Parade. These animals are strongly linked to the 19th century history of Quartzsite, AZ.

Yup, that’s a real, live camel in the Hi Jolly Daze Parade. These animals are strongly linked to the 19th century history of Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/10 (S) Hi Jolly Daze Parade

Today was the annual Hi Jolly Daze Parade.  As first time winter visitors to Quartzsite there was no way we were going to miss this event.  I was up at 7 AM to make coffee and we were done with breakfast by 8 AM.  We checked the parade route online and figured we would go to the Quartzsite Improvement Association grounds as the parade ended in the parking lot there.  It was scheduled to start at 10 AM so we snagged Fonda about 9:40 and headed that way in the car.

When we got to Central Avenue and Main Street the police had Main Street closed so we could not turn left to get to the QIA.  I stayed on Central down to Kuehn Street and took it east over to the exit 19 overpass and back to Main Street.  On the way we saw Lloyd DeGerald’s motorhome parked along Kuehn with a big banner advertising his Aqua-Hot technician services.  I am hopeful that I will be able to repair both of our burners myself but if not Lloyd is the guy I would call, so I was glad to see that he is in town.  But back to the parade.

The police had Main Street closed on that end too.  We knew the parade started at Plymouth Avenue and Quail Trail so we headed in that direction and parked at the Quartzsite Library.  We were surprised that no one else was parked there as it was a short walk from there to the start of the parade route which turned out to be an excellent spot from which to view the parade.  What we realized after we got there was that the west side of Plymouth Avenue was lined with cars from the starting point all the way to Main Street.  I suspect that Main Street was similarly lined with people, most likely in cars, but we were not able to observe that directly.

We had a few drops of rain leading up to the start of the parade.  There were plenty of grey clouds around, but the sun was also shining and the parade did not get rained out.  In fact, a full 160 degree rainbow formed behind the parade and lingered until most of the participants had passed us.  The highlight of the parade was a live camel.

“Hi Jolly” was the Americanized pronunciation given to Hadji Ali, who came here in 1856 as part of an experiment by the U. S. Army in the use of camels.  There are conflicting accounts of his exact place of origin but it seems clear that he came to the U. S. from the Middle East as one of the first, and the lead, camel driver.  For a more complete account check the entry in Wikipedia for “Hi Jolly.”

The experiment did not work out as the Army’s horses, mules, and burrows were apparently terrified of the giant animals and would panic in their presence, but Hadji Ali remained in the U. S. and eventually ended up in Quartzsite where he died in 1902 and was buried in the local cemetery.  We got the impression that he was something of a living legend in his own time and in the 1930’s the governor of Arizona had a monument erected at Hi Jolly’s gravesite.  It is a small pyramid made of local stone with a metal plaque on one side and a metal profile of a camel on top.  According to Wikipedia the monument is allegedly the most visited location in Q.

When the parade was over we returned to our coaches.  Linda went for a walk and I wrote another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  This was another short one, less than two pages and only 11 photos, on the installation of the new speedometer in our bus.  When Linda returned from her walk she made a broccoli-potato mash.  In addition to the broccoli and the potato it had soy milk, vegan butter, salt, and pepper.  The potatoes were not completely mashed and the dish was both tasty and had a nice mouth feel.

After lunch Linda made a shopping list.  We headed to the Kuehn Street market area and stopped at Barry’s Breads but our timing was bad, again.  We drove south on Central and found the entrance to the parking lot for “the big tent.”  This is where the RV vendors will be in another week or so, but nothing was open yet, so we went over to the Tyson Wells area west of Central Avenue and found some miscellaneous items and a pair of Crocs for me.  For all the shoes I brought I did not have something that was easy on, easy off.  We are parked on gravel and I needed something I could slip on quickly and easily to step outside the coach.

Most of Linda’s list was groceries so we drove to Blythe, California to do our shopping.  To vary our trip and see some new sights we stayed on Kuehn Street heading west past the edge of town where it became West Dome Rock Road.  The road parallels I-10 on the south side for a long way through BLM land and eventually ends at an interchange with the Interstate.  We saw lots of RVs, and a few tents, spread out on either side of the road, but not nearly as many as we thought we would.  There are probably a lot more RVs here than we realize, but the desert is a vast place.

When we got to Blythe we took a few minutes to drive through town and get a feel for the place.  It had a more developed, modern, and prosperous business district than Quartzsite and more houses, as opposed to park model trailers and mobile homes. The houses were not fancy but they were in decent condition.  Schools and municipal buildings were also nice, and there is nothing in Q to compare to the two supermarkets and name brand stores like Auto Zone, NAPA Auto Parts, and K-Mart.  We started at Albertson’s and got most of the items on our list.  We then went across the street to Smart and Final Express and picked up a few things there.  Once again we were not able to find the Silk brand Soy Coffee Creamer, which has us wondering if we last bought it at Wal-Mart in Parker.

When we got back to camp I unloaded the car and Linda put the food away.  I wandered over to say high to Butch and Fonda and play with their dogs, Daffy and Rascal, for a few minutes.  I then went over to say high to Jim and Barb’s dog, Roho, which brought them out of their motorhome and got me invited in.  Linda eventually wandered over looking for me and the four of us had a nice chat.  It was the first time since they got here that I had been inside their rig, a Country Coach Intrigue, and it was very nice.  It has one slide on the front half of the driver’s side, and there is no doubt that it really opens up the interior.  Before we bought our bus we were looking seriously at Country Coach motorhomes (but not their Prevost bus conversions) and the Tiffin Allegro Bus (which is a purpose-built motorhome, not a true bus).  But in the end we were bitten by bus fever and we still have it.

We stopped to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda on the way back to our rig.  Butch has always had an interest in metal detecting and has developed an interest in rocks since arriving in Quartzsite.  If you had the slightest inclination towards rocks, gems, and minerals then being in Quartzsite during the winter would likely push you over the edge into a full-blown hobbyist.  Sometime in the last couple of days Butch bought a used contraption that consists of a table saw, two grinding wheels with a water delivery system, and an electric motor.  He and Fonda acquired a bucket of rocks, including a piece of petrified wood, and they are setting up an area outside their bus to work on their new hobby.

For dinner Linda made pan-grilled tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-cue sauce, but with a twist.  Instead of hamburger buns or slices of bread she heated 12″ tortillas and made wraps.  Of the various ways she has served this simple, but delicious, dish this was definitely my favorite so far.  As much as I like a nice, fresh bun the tortilla wrap kept all of the ingredients contained so that I got onion and BBQ sauce with each bite, and they did not end up all over my plate and all over me.

As we do most evenings, we relaxed, played games, worked puzzles, read, and wrote. We are always a bit surprised at how tired we are after dinner, but we are up and about during the day and the fresh air and sunshine just seem to wear us out.

The roof of our bus after cleaning looking SW as viewed from the driver side front corner.  Quartzsite, AZ.

The roof of our bus after cleaning looking SW as viewed from the driver side front corner. Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/11 (N) Swimsuit In January

I turned the lights off last night at 11 AM and was up at 7 AM this morning which seems to have become my current routine.  Because of the new (to us) mattress I was able to get up without waking Linda up.  I turned up the heat in the front of the coach but not the back as Linda does not sleep well in a warm room.  I started getting the coffee ready but did not grind the beans because of the noise it makes.  I worked at my computer on organizational tasks such as copying files to the NAS, copying blog posts from e-mail to Word, and backing up website and photo files to the NAS.

Linda got up around 8:30 AM and set the microwave convection oven to preheat in convection only mode.  When it was ready she heated up the leftover cinnamon raisin rolls she took out of the freezer yesterday and put in the refrigerator.  While the rolls were heating I finished making the coffee.  Although they are not gigantic, one of these rolls would probably be plenty of calories for breakfast.  Two rolls, however, made for a very satisfying meal.  Still, they take about four hours to make fresh and about 25 minutes to reheat.  She makes a batch of eight, so if we each had one for breakfast her efforts would cover four meals instead of two.

Today was another bus cleaning day, but first Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to organize photo files on our network attached storage device.  It was forecast to be a cloudy but mild day and by late morning the clouds had moved in, so when Linda got back we got busy.  Even with the cloud cover it was warm enough that I was able to wear my swimsuit and a T-shirt, my preferred outfit for working with water.  We bought some CLR Mold & Mildew remover yesterday and I tried using it on the lower rear roof.  It did not appear to have any effect so I abandoned any further roof cleaning and we got started on the sides.

The upper sides of our bus are not easy to clean.  Even with our Little Giant extension/step ladder set up as a step ladder at its maximum height I cannot quite reach the top curve of the side walls.  Knowing that was the case I cleaned all the way around the edge of the roof, where it meets the side walls and the front and rear caps, from the roof.  Once I was done with that we took the Little Giant extension/step ladder and converted it from extension configuration to step ladder configuration.

We worked all afternoon until after 5 PM and managed to clean the front and the passenger side.  We wanted to get the passenger side done because it faces south and we wanted to do this on a cloudy day.  Working a section at a time we used McGuire’s red automotive soap, scrubbed with an automotive microfiber sponge, rinsed thoroughly (with Q’s incredibly hard water), and dried with microfiber clothes.  We could not get all of the hard water stains off but it was a lot cleaner, and looked a lot better, than when we started.

The weather forecast for tonight was for heavy rain sometime between 9 and 11 PM with accumulations of up to 1/2″.  For a place that typically only gets 4″ of rain a year that would be a lot of rain for one storm.  We put our lawn chairs, mats, and other outdoor items in the carport for the night just to be safe.  Shortly after 6 PM we had our first sprinkles.

For dinner we had chickpea salad and wild rice vegan Waldorf salad with strawberries and peach slices and some Barry’s Basic Bread with a small glass of Franzia Fruity Red Sangria.  I responded to some e-mails after dinner and deferred work on possible survey questions for the FMCA national education committee until tomorrow.

Linda makes her selections at the Quartzsite Farmers Market.

Linda makes her selections at the Quartzsite Farmers Market.

2015/01/12 (M) E-mail Groups

It has stayed warm enough the last few nights that I have not needed the electric heating pad and we have been able to leave windows slightly open.  We both sleep better in a cool room with fresh air.  The deluge of rain that was forecast for last night did not develop but it was still mostly cloudy when we got up this morning.  After breakfast, coffee, morning puzzles, and checking in with the world we got on with our chores.

My major tasks for the day revolved around preparations for, and participation in, a 2 PM FMCA National Education Committee work session.  While I worked on that stuff Linda went for her morning walk, made an appointment to get her hair cut tomorrow, and made garlic naan (Indian bread) from scratch.  When the phone meeting was over I transferred photographs from my camera to my computer and then joined Linda over at Butch and Fonda’s coach for a late afternoon visit.

Jim L. showed up while we were chatting, read the electric sub-meters, and figured out our bills.  Linda had to write four separate checks to cover our site fee, electricity usage, laundry, and the rental for the apartment, which Jim gave to Barb to cover the cleaning before and after Marilyn’s upcoming visit.  Butch placed an order with PartDeal.com for a VDO speedometer so I had him order a VDO Cockpit Series 0-30 PSI Boost Gauge for me.  The UPS truck also showed up and had the two packages I have been waiting for.  All too soon the sun dropped below the western mountains and it turned chilly so we retreated to our coach.

Linda made curried red lentils for dinner and served it along with the garlic naan bread she made earlier in the day.  Warmed and energized by this fabulous meal I launched into my second major task of the day; the creation of an e-mail group in Microsoft Outlook for our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter.  I got the latest roster from Linda, who is the treasurer, and was able to rearrange it, save it as a CSV file, import it into Outlook, and map it to the standard contact fields.  It was then easy to create a Contact Group and select all of my new entries to go in it.  Once I got the group set up I wrote an e-mail to the members, my first since being elected President of the chapter back in October.  I was up much later than usual, but I got it done.

Escapees RV Club happy hour SE of Q in one of the BLM STVAs.

Escapees RV Club happy hour SE of Q in one of the BLM STVAs.

2015/01/13 (T) Geekiness

Today was a day for Geeks and geekiness.  Chris and Jim Guld, AKA The Geeks On Tour, arrived in Quartzsite yesterday and are staying at an RV Park not far from our encampment.  Butch knew they were headed this way and after he and I were unable to get EchoLink working on his computer yesterday he contacted Jim to see if he would be willing to stop by and take a look.  Jim is a former network administrator and knows a lot more about stuff like networking, protocols, ports, port forwarding, and proxy servers than we do.  But before he came over Linda and I had breakfast after which she walked over to the beauty parlor and got her hair cut while I worked on a seminar classification task for the FMCA National Education a Committee.

Jim G. arrived on his bicycle around 10:30 AM and stayed for a couple of hours.  He re-checked the things Butch and I had already tried and tried some things we had not, but we could not get Butch’s system to let the EchoLink program connect successfully to the EchoLink servers.  For the record, Butch’s system consists of a Windows Vista laptop that connects to the Internet one of two ways:  1) through a Verizon MiFi or,  2) through a WiFiRanger Go2 into a WiFiRanger Mobile into a DSL WiFi gateway of unknown make and model.  Jim also tried connecting through the WiFi hotspot on his Android-based smartphone.  Same result.  Mixed in with work we had a great visit with Jim and hope to meet up with he and Chris at least once while they are in Q.

After Jim left Linda and I were headed in to have a bite of lunch when an unfamiliar car pulled into the lot.  Barb was by the road and pointed the driver in our direction.  We quickly realized that it was Mara.  She had called Linda first but Linda did not hear the phone ring so it was a wonderful surprise when she showed up.  We visited for a couple of hours while we snacked on hummus, pretzels, and red grapes.

Mara is camped on BLM land north of town with the WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) and has been traveling off and on with groups of WINs since we last saw her in Gillette, Wyoming in July 2013.  Since that time she has also gotten a different motorhome, a 35′ Fleetwood Bounder, with which she is very pleased.  She invited us to join a group of WINs on Sunday to go to The Desert Bar and I think we will.  Linda checked it out online and it is a completely solar-powered, off-the-grid, place.  You have to take dirt roads or ATVs to get there.

It appears that things are finally going to get busy for us.  Gary, from BCM, is supposed to arrive tomorrow and Curtis, from RVillage, is supposed to arrive on Saturday.  Forrest and Mary are already here as are Chris and Cherie of Technomadia.  The Escapees RV Club has happy hours scheduled tomorrow and Thursday at one of the BLM areas east of town.  Blythe, California has a bluegrass festival starting Friday and running through Sunday.  We will probably go on Friday as there is also a Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu the same three days which we will probably attend on Saturday.  Somewhere in there I need to repair our Aqua-Hot and I am thinking that it will probably be Thursday.  The “Big Tent” Sports, Vacation, and RV Show starts on Saturday (17th) and runs through the Sunday the 25th.  Marilyn arrives on the Thursday the 22nd and leaves on the Thursday the 29th.  The last full week of January really is the peak of the winter season in Q.

After Mara left I used my macro lens to photograph the front and back of both of our amateur radio operator licenses.  I post-processed the images to improve the readability and reduce the file size.  Once I had the photos ready I downloaded and installed the EchoLink software on my Asus laptop.  I went through the initial configuration for my license and tried the server connection test.  As with Butch’s installation, two of the four UDP port tests failed.  I ignored that for the moment and went ahead with the validation procedure for my ham license.

Anyone can download and install the EchoLink software but only licensed hams can legally use it.  That is because it can, and often does, connect a computer to a ham radio repeater that is “on the air” and only licensed hams are allowed to transmit on those frequencies.  Validation was a multi-step process.  When first starting EchoLink I had to supply my FCC callsign, name, and (base station) location.  That information was transmitted to a database on the EchoLink servers but the EchoLink organization needed to validate that I was actually the person to whom that callsign was issued.  Through a separate process on the EchoLink.org website I had to upload JPEG image files of the front and back of my wallet license.  Once someone examined the images and made sure the call was active in the FCC database they “flipped the switch” on the server side and I was finally able to connect to stations if I wanted to.  I repeated the process later for Linda’s license.

While I was waiting to have my license validated I started trying to figure out how to get the EchoLink program to connect successfully to the EchoLink servers.  When the communications test with the servers runs it identifies the IP address assigned to the computer.  I went into the WiFiRanger Mobile and enabled UDB port forwarding for ports 5198 and 5199.  The TCP test was successful so I did not set up TCP port forwarding for port 5200.  Enabling port forwarding, however, was necessary but not sufficient.

What I ended up doing was switching the operating mode on the ESET Smart Security program from “Automatic” to “Interactive.”  With that change, the program would pop up a message box every time another program had outbound or inbound traffic through a port and ask if I wanted to allow the communication and optionally create a rule for it.  Several of those messages had to do with EchoLink and after clicking “Allow” to all of them the server/router tests were finally all successful and the program was fully functional except for the license validation.

Sometime in the late afternoon another motorhome showed up and backed in to the property with Jim L.’s help.  It was Larry and Sandy, who normally stay at Jim L.’s RV Park near the QIA.  Jim’s park is full so he put them over here in the spot by the laundry where Jack and Maria parked for a couple of nights a week or so ago.

We had leftover red lentil potato curry (thick soup) for dinner with the rest of the garlic naan and a glass of sangria and it was very good, again.  I finished up my FMCA education committee task and e-mailed it off.  I received an e-mail that my ham license had been validated so we played with the EchoLink program and User’s Guide for a while but did not try to connect to any stations.

While I was working on all of this I noticed that nine updates were pending for Windows 8.1 and there were four optional ones as well.  Installing updates is often an iterative process and so it was again this evening.  One of the optional updates was a roll up from November 2014 that was 723.9 MB.  That’s a big update.  I started downloading it at 23:52 MST and then went to bed.  My hope was that fewer people would be trying to use the local DSL system to get online at that hour and the update might actually load and install successfully.  But I would have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out.

L-to-R: Travis & Melanie Carr from the Escapees RV Club and Cherie Ve Ard & Chris Dunphy of Technomadia.

L-to-R: Travis & Melanie Carr from the Escapees RV Club and Cherie Ve Ard & Chris Dunphy of Technomadia.

2015/01/14 (W) SKP Happy Hour

As soon as I got up this morning I checked the huge Windows 8.1 optional rollup update that I started last night.  It had completed successfully except for restarting the computer, so that’s what I did.  While the update finished installing I made coffee and got the juice ready and Linda prepared our cereal.

Once the update finished I checked e-mail and websites.  Linda made white bean hummus to take to the SKP Happy Hour later today.  She then remembered that the Farmers Market at Desert Gardens was this morning from 8 AM to noon so we drove over there.  There was only one stand selling produce, but they were from Blythe, California only (20 miles away) so the produce was very local and very fresh.  Linda bought an assortment of veggies and a grapefruit.

We had parked at the south end of the western parking area and from there we could see a road going back towards “Q” Mountain and a well-defined trail going up the western side.  We drove back there and determined that we could park there when we decide to climb the mountain and do some panoramic photography.

We drove to Barry’s Breads and bought a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and then continued east on Kuehn Street to confirm Lloyd DeGerald’s location.  We took Riggles Avenue back over I-10 to Main Street and headed back towards Central Avenue, stopping at the Road Runner Market for a few things.  When we got back Jim and Barb were aggressively trimming the Palo Verde trees in the cactus garden.

As we often do most mornings, Linda went for a walk and I worked at my computer, installing three more optional updates and taking care of some e-mail.  We gathered up chairs, food, and beverages at 12:45 PM and drove over to the SKP Happy Hour on East Dome Rock Road.  There was already quite a crowd when we arrived and everyone was in a good mood.  And why not.  The sun was shining, the air temperature was pleasant, there were tables arrayed with food, people had beverages of their choice, Johnny Cockrum was performing, and lots of folks were meeting old and new friends.  We had a thoroughly pleasant time, but we always do when we are with groups of Escapees.

On the way back to camp we spotted Lloyd DeGerald and his wife out walking their dog and stopped briefly to chat about our Aqua-Hot.  We then stopped at the trailer for the Two Crazy Ladies and ordered engraved hang tags with our call signs and a sign asking emergency responders to rescue our cats.

When we got back to camp Linda went for another (short) walk and I sat down to work at my computer.  We lost our Internet connection while we were away and the DSL gateway would not re-associate with our WiFiRanger Mobile so I had Barb open the house and I power cycled the gateway.  I was then able reestablish the connection to our WFR-M.  That is the second time this has happened since we arrived here but so far has not caused us any real difficulty.

Butch has been having problems with their Progressive Industries EMS cutting off their shorepower due to high voltage.  We noticed during dinner that our PI-EMS was also showing a PE-3 (previous error – high voltage).  I do not know if our Magnum inverter switches on “instantly” when outside power is lost or if there is a delay but I am now wondering if we lost our Internet connection due to loss of power to the WiFi Ranger Mobile after which it was not able to reconnect with the gateway.  The next time this happens I may try powering the WFR-M off for 60 seconds and restarting it.  It’s also possible that the high voltage is wreaking havoc on the DSL gateway.

After dinner I sent a TXT message to Gary at BCM inquiring if he had arrived in Q as planned.  He called back and said they had just cleared Indio, California.  I suggested they find someplace to stop and rest and finish the trip tomorrow morning in the daylight.  They are headed to the Quartzsite Market Place dry camp area for the Eagles International bus gathering.  I spent the rest of the evening working on five different articles for Bus Conversion Magazine before finally turning in around midnight.

 

2015/01/01-07 (R-W) Q 2015 W1

2015/01/01 (R) Hola 2015

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing.  The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing. The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

Having stayed up later than usual last night to see the old year out and welcome the new year in we were in no hurry to get up this morning, especially given that the temperature outside was in the upper 20s.  But Linda said she would make her yummy vegan cinnamon rolls for breakfast so I felt obligated to get up and eat them.  Besides, it’s my job to make the coffee.  The rolls took quite a while to make and we ended up having them for brunch, but they were worth the wait.

I spent much of the morning looking for new games in the iStore.  I downloaded a dozen free ones and then started trying them in turn.  Most of them immediately tried to sell me a full version or ran a full-screen advertisement each time I tried to start a new round of play.  If they did that I immediately deleted the app.  I cannot imagine what makes a game developer think someone with tolerate that more than once.  At some point I realized that my AppleID was still associated with an old e-mail address so I initiated the process of changing it.  The process was not as seamless as I thought it could/would/should be, but I eventually got it sorted out.  Or as they say or Doc Martin, “sorted.”  As it turned out my credit card information was also out of date so I updated that as well.  Obviously I do not make iStore purchases very often.

I needed to regenerate our portable water softener even though it was 48 degrees F outside in the shade.  It was, however, comfortable enough in the sun to be able to work.  I started at noon cutting the plastic drain pipe that I bought at Herb’s Hardware the other day to a length of 10″ which is the length of a standard water filter.  I cut eight 3/8″ slots in the bottom end of the tube and got an O-ring from Butch to fit in the swaged upper end.  The purpose of the tube is to hold salt so that incoming water is required to pass through it to get to the softener but the salt crystals cannot actually wash into the softener.

Linda helped me transfer the contents of a 40 pound bag of solar salt to several two-gallon zip lock bags.  I then put a small quantity of salt in a one-quart zip lock bag and gently smashed it with a two-pound sledgehammer, although as I write that it seems to be something of an oxymoron.  I inserted the tube into the removable filter housing, slotted side down, and poured the salt around the outside of the tube.  I smashed a second bag of salt and added it to the housing.  I put the housing back on the filter head and slowly ran water through the softener for almost two hours.  I got a water hardness test strip from Butch and tested the output of the softener.  It was still showing 7 grains of hardness, exactly the same as two days ago.  It appeared that the regeneration process had not had any effect.  Bummer.

I discussed the situation with Butch and he suggested I back flush the softener.  To do that I needed a hose with female hose fittings on each end.  This is the kind of hose used to hook up a washing machine but neither one of us had one with us.  Butch, however, had a female-female adapter which allowed me to connect a male hose end to a male fitting on the outlet of the water softener.  (Backflushing literally means running water through the softener in the reverse direction to flush out any debris that may after gotten in through the normal inlet.)

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

After backflushing the softener I tried regenerating it again.  This time I used a 26 ounces of fine grain non-iodized table salt.  With my homemade diverter tube still in place I added the salt around the outside and screwed the housing back on.  I let the salt sit in the housing for 20 minutes to start to make a brine and then ran water through the softener until I got a very salty taste at the output.  I then shut the outlet valve and let it sit for 20 minutes.  When the time elapsed I ran water through the softener for another 15 seconds, checked it for saltiness, and shut the outlet valve.  At the end of another 20 minutes I ran water through it at a very slow rate for 20 minutes and then checked it again for salty taste.  It was still slightly salty and as it was getting close to sunset I decided to let it sit overnight.  I will finish flushing it tomorrow and check the hardness again.

While I was fussing with our water softener Butch recharged theirs in about 30 minutes.  When he tested the water at the end it indicated zero (0) grains of hardness; completely softened.  Their softener is different from ours and the regeneration procedure is very straightforward and apparently works.  For now I need to figure out a guaranteed procedure for regenerating ours, but long-term I need to figure out some other arrangement of just get a different softener.

The arrangement I am considering would be in conjunction with redoing the water bay. With a different arrangement of tanks I could create space in the bay for the softener, multiple filter housings, and associated plumbing.  I could set up an arrangement that would divert the incoming water (after the first/sediment filter) through a clear filter housing into which I could put the salt.  That clear housing/head would be permanently modified to force water through the salt and allow me to see when the salt was gone.  It would also eliminate the need to remove and reinstall the filter the way I have to now.  Alternatively I could put a tank between the filter housing and the softener (instead of the clear housing) and use it as a brine tank.  If the tank was big enough to hold a 40 pound bag of solar salt it would work just like a home softening system.  Water would sit in the tank with the salt for days so that the brine was ready to use when it was time to regenerate the softener.  I could even rig up a separate pump just for pumping the brine into the softener.  I’m going to give this a lot of thought before I start changing things around, but last winter in Florida and this winter in Quartzsite have made it very clear that hard water is a problem and we need a very effective and efficient way to deal with it.

While I worked with the water softener Linda began preparing a Tex-Mex bean soup for dinner and then went for a long walk.  She finished making the soup when she got back while I took a short nap.  It cooled off quickly as the sun set and nothing is quite as satisfying on a cool evening as hearty, hot soup.  It also had a bit of red pepper heat which was a nice bonus.  It was really good soup.

I had a few e-mails from Gary at BCM and a nice follow-up e-mail from Kathy at the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  She attached a copy of their holiday letter so I attached a copy of ours in reply.  I spent a little time browsing websites for OTA TV antennas and turbo boost gauges and finally went to bed without resolving what to do about either thing.  I have a lot of nights that end like that.

2015/01/02 (F) Crazy Days In Q

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

The “show” at Desert Gardens officially opened yesterday and runs through the end of February, so Quartzsite is quickly be transformed into a crazy place.  We were chatting with Butch, Fonda, Jim, and Barb after breakfast and Barb reminded us that starting now driving and parking “downtown”, and especially along Kuehn Street south of I-10, during the day will be difficult to impossible.  She offered to drive us down in the golf cart and come pick us up if we did not want to walk.  She also told us that many vendors will hold purchases for pickup at the end of the day.  We exchanged cell phone numbers, which we had not yet done since they arrived.  She suggested that if we wanted to eat out we should go early or right before closing as we might not be able to get seated/served otherwise.  There’s no doubt that we have lucked out on our arrangements this winter, and the situation just keeps getting better.

Linda was browsing on her iPad and discovered an all vegan grocery store in Rancho Cucamonga, California; the largest all-vegan grocery store in the world.  I looked up Rancho Cucamonga on Google Maps and it is located about half way between Los Angeles and San Bernardino.  Based on the speeds I like to drive (often just below the speed limit or 68 MPH, whichever is less) it looks like a four hour drive one-way from Q.  That’s obviously too far for a regular grocery run, but we might make a day trip in that direction sometime this winter and find the store while we are over there.

One of the things I did after climbing in bed last night was spend a little time looking at the Sure Marine Service website.  SMS is a major supplier of repair parts for Webasto diesel-fired hydronic systems headquartered in Seattle, Washington.  After studying their parts diagrams I became unclear (and concerned) as to whether the burner we removed from Butch’s old unit was a DBW2010 or a DBW2020.  They are very similar but not identical.  I am almost certain that our original burner is a DBW2010, but our AHU-xxx Aqua-Hot is so old that the model number is no longer referenced on the website and model specific documentation, like a service manual, is not available for download.

The reason I was looking at the parts diagrams was to identify the bearing kit for the blower as I wanted to order two of them today.  What I could tell from the website was that the 2020 is a higher BTU output burner and so one of the differences is that the 2010 uses a 0.35 GPH nozzle while the 2020 uses a 0.60 GPH nozzle.  That alone might account for why we seem to have poor combustion, although even money is still on bad bearings.  The unresolved issues and the inability to investigate at midnight did not make for a good night’s sleep.

I have the Aqua-Hot service/repair manual for the unit I bought from Butch, both on paper and on my iPad, so I spent some time this morning looking at the iPad version.  I could not tell if they used the same bearing parts so I did not order anything today and won’t until I can determine model numbers.  I asked Butch if he knew which burner was in the Aqua-Hot I bought from him, but he did not.  The service manual shows a Webasto label that identifies the burner model, but does not show where the label is located.  More investigation was needed.

After I got dressed I e-mailed Bill Gerrie (RetiredBusNut) in Ontario, Canada with questions about gauges and sending units for our bus engine and transmission.  I then started dealing with the water softener.  Linda returned from her walk and started preparing lunch, so I emptied the filter housing of the little bit of salt that was still in the bottom, rinsed it clean, re-installed the filter, and let it run for 20 minutes to fully flush out any residual salt water.

Linda made a warm garbanzo bean and kale salad for lunch with lemon juice and garlic.  It was the first time she had tried this recipe and we both agreed it was a keeper. After lunch I tested the hardness of the water coming out of the softener and it registered on the test strip between zero (completely soft) and 1.5 (definitely soft) so I dumped the remaining (hard) water in the fresh water tank and refilled it with 120 gallons of nice, soft water.  After the tank was full I retested the water coming out of the softener and got the same reading as before.  Finally, some good news on the water softener front.

With water softening taken care of (for now) I did an online search for a panoramic camera tripod head.  I really like shooting panoramas and the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS-ICE) does a remarkable job stitching images together.  Most of my panoramas have been handheld, which makes the performance of MS-ICE all the more impressive.  I have shot a few panoramas using a tripod but without a nodal point (spherical) pan head, so that is what I was searching for online.  B&H Photo had a Manfrotto on sale for $280, marked down from $600, but their order desk was closing for the day and I did not want to be rushed making this decision so I did not order it.  They will reopen tomorrow, so I will think about it overnight and do some more research.

I got our old Webasto burner out of the front bay and found the label.  It is, indeed, a DBW2010, specifically a DBW2010.75 with a 0.35 GPH nozzle rated at 45,000 BTU.  Linda recorded the details, including the serial number, and then helped me rewrap it in bubble wrap so I could put back in its storage pail.

Linda then went to Parker, Arizona with Butch and Fonda to check out the Safeway grocery store and look for some things at Walmart.  The Parker Safeway was supposed to carry Daiya vegan cheese products but they were nowhere to be found.  It appears that our closest source will be Whole Foods.  There are five of them in the greater Phoenix area but that is a two hour drive one way.

While the three amigos were gone I removed the cover from the Aqua-Hot in our coach and found its label.  Much to my relief it is also a Webasto DBW2010.75, 45,000 BTU.  It should also have a 0.35 GPH nozzle, and probably does, but I did not pull the burner out to check.  I noticed some soot on the final fuel filter inside the housing and in other places so that gave me something new to be concerned about.  I was pondering the situation when Jim and Barb and Roho came over to visit and we had a good long chat.  When they went back to their motorhome I put the cover back on the Aqua-Hot and put all of my tools away.

My plan for tomorrow is to turn the Aqua-Hot off, let it cool down, and pull the burner to check the nozzle.  It’s possible, though not likely, that I do not have the burner seated quite right and there’s a chance, though very small, that reinstalling it will fix, or least improve the performance.  My money (literally) is still on the blower bearings.  Hopefully it does not also need a new motor as everything on a Webasto is more expensive than seems reasonable. It’s another fine example of precision German engineering and manufacturing.

Even though I have quite a few e-mail addresses that I use to segregate electronic correspondence into manageable categories my inboxes still end up flooded with e-mails.  Very few of them are spam—we have good spam filtering on all of the accounts—but some of the highest volume inbound traffic is notifications of things like failed login attempts on WordPress websites.  Those e-mails do not get replies and often do not require any specific action on my part, but they sometimes obscure the presence of other e-mails that do require my attention.

Microsoft Outlook is able to deal with incoming (and outgoing) e-mails based on user-defined “rules” but I had never played with that feature until today.  I used the online help system to read about the whys and wherefores of e-mail rules and then tried creating some.  Once I understood what I was trying to accomplish it was mostly point and click to get it done, with a little typing thrown in.  What I ended up doing was creating sender/subject subfolders under the inbox of certain accounts and then creating a rule for each subfolder that directs incoming e-mails matching the criteria to the correct folder.  By keeping the sub folders under the inbox folder it will be clear to me that these are e-mails that I have received but not yet dealt with.

For dinner Linda made a cooked shredded Brussels’ Sprouts dish with tomatoes, dried cranberries, and pistachios and served it alongside the leftover Mexican rice with a glass of sangria.  Ole!  We agreed that both of these dishes were keepers and went well with the fruity wine.  The rest of the evening was quiet.  Linda read and played her online games while I finished up working on this post.  I finally went to bed and started reading the service and repair manuals for the Aqua-Hot system and the Webasto burner.  According to the long-term weather forecast tonight should be our last night with an overnight low temperature below freezing.

 

A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/03 (S) Hammer Stahl

I got up at 6:30 AM today.  I had been awake for a while before that and had some things I needed/wanted to do on my computer.  These were quiet tasks that I could do in the front of the coach, with the heat turned up, without disturbing Linda.

I always check my e-mail first.  There was a group message from Hillary at RVillage to all of the Ambassadors regarding a new feature they will be rolling out soon and seeking our assistance.  I mentioned this to Linda when she got up and we watched the two YouTube videos.  We did not have time today but will work on it tomorrow in advance of a 5 PM (4 PM PST) web meeting.

My first project today was updating the spreadsheet I maintain for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter, which I started working on last night.  The chapter treasurer maintains our checking account but as the secretary I maintain the records including the roster and who has paid their dues for what years.  Because I have all of those details I also generate the quarterly and annual financial statements.  I entered the information for dues payments that had been received between November 1 and December 31.  I then added the five worksheets for 2015 (four quarters and year), which tie together and link back to the 2014 statement, and updated the cumulative financial statement.

Linda got up so I put my work aside to make coffee while she made breakfast.  We had a few bananas that were ripe so she made green smoothies for breakfast.  We happen to like kale but if we didn’t, green smoothies would be an excellent way to get our daily dose along with several other healthy ingredients.

We talked about visiting the market area today and decided to go later when it was a bit warmer.  The temperature a 9AM was still only 40 degrees F so Linda bundled up and went for her morning walk while I continued to work on my spreadsheet.

Once I finished the spreadsheet I worked outside for a bit.  I removed the cover from the burner end of the Aqua-Hot while it was running to check for an exhaust leak (sight, smell, touch) but I could not detect one.  When the cycle finished I turned the burner off.  My plan was to let the unit cool off and then remove the burner to check the nozzle size and do a general inspection of the combustion chamber and visible parts, but that did not happen today.

What I did instead was return to my computer and start putting Webasto repair parts in my shopping cart on the Sure Marine Service website.  The bearings on the installed burner are definitely whining and need to be replaced.  They are supposed to be replaced regularly anyway, so I put two sets in the cart.  It is very likely that they are causing the motor to run slow which means insufficient combustion air, and possibly lower fuel pressure, leading to the dark smoky exhaust.  I also put a fuel solenoid valve in the cart.  There is a good chance that the valve and/or the solenoid are not working on the other burner.  There’s also a chance that the ignition coil has failed, but the solenoid valve costs 1/2 as much as the coil, so I’m hoping it’s the valve.  I got the order submitted with UPS ground shipping and used PayPal to make the payment.

Once I completed the SMS order I loaded the B&H Photo app onto my iPad and spent quite a bit of time going between their website and the Sony online store trying to figure out if I should order a panoramic tripod head and/or new camera, possibly with a lens and flash unit.  Sony has the Alpha 99 FF body marked down from $2,800 to $1,900 with the vertical grip and an extra battery thrown into the deal, an additional $500+ value.  They will also bundle in the SAM 28-75mm f/2.8 lens for $400.  The lens by itself is normally $900, so that’s another $500 savings.

So for $2,500 I could get $4,200 worth of Sony’s top-of-the-line “flagship” DSLR (DSLT, actually) equipment, except for one thing; it was all on back order with an ESTIMATED ship date of February 4, 2015.  That’s my birthday, so if it actually shipped on that date it would be quite the birthday present, but if it was delayed very much there would be the very real possibility of it arriving at our location in Q after we had left.  Not good.

So what about B&H Photo?  It turns out that they (claim to) have all of these pieces in stock and they are selling the body with the added pieces for the same price as Sony, but they are not offering the lens at the bundled price.  That was the deal breaker that saved me spending a lot of money today.  Besides, I have been waiting a long time for Sony to officially announce and the ship the new (rumored) flagship alpha a99-II with its 36MP FF 35mm sensor and long list of awesome features.  To decide now to by prior generation technology it would have to be a very attractive deal, much better than what I was seeing online.

I ended up ordering a Manfrotto Nodal Point Pro panoramic tripod mount from B&H.  It should be here by the end of the week.  When it arrives I think we will hike up to the top of “Q Mountain” and try to capture the true essence of Quartzsite in the winter, which is RVs from horizon to horizon.

We headed down to the market area on Kuehn Street with Butch and Fonda and walked around for a couple of hours in the Tyson Wells Show grounds north of Kuehn Street and west of Central Avenue (US-95).  This particular market area had really filled up with vendors in the last few days.  Linda bought a nice white apron and really nice Hammer Stahl 5.5″ Santoku knife.  She checked online when we got back and she paid about 55% of the MSRP on the HS website.  She bought it from Cutlery by LeClaire, which also has a website, and has it on sale for $20 more than the price on the HS website, marked down $20 from their “regular” price.  The point is, she got it for what appears to be a good price of $59 and it came in a nice box with a ceramic sharpener thrown into the deal.

We drove farther west on Kuehn Street and pulled into the Desert Gardens show grounds.  It was getting near sunset, so we did not stay long, but Linda and I walked enough of it to get a feeling for the place.  It was a “rougher” setup than Tyson Wells and many of the booths were selling large, rough rocks and gemstones.  The vendors also had a lot more equipment set up and were using it to process materials.  We’ll be back, probably more than once, and earlier in the day so we can spend more time.

When we got back to our motorcoaches Fonda came over and worked with Linda for a little while on their business records.  We then had a nice salad and some of the spicy bean and pasta soup (that Linda made the other day) with crackers and sangria.  I spent more time after dinner researching stuff on my iPad and working on this post.

We appear to be in one of the few places in the country that is not getting clobbered by bad weather. The temperature is not even supposed to drop below freezing overnight. It will still be cool tomorrow, however, and we did make specific plans before going to bed.

 

A view of "Q" Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

A view of “Q” Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

2015/01/04 (N) Our Village

We had vegan pancakes for breakfast which prompted me to suggest that Linda invent some recipes, even if they are interesting and successful variations on existing ones, and feed them to our grand-daughter.  Linda could put them on our website using the WP Ultimate Recipe plug-in and, if they met with her approval, name they after “Bitty” (youngest grand-daughter’s latest nickname, although I think I will always prefer “Schmoo”).  Perhaps Pancakes Madeline; Sautéed greens a la Madeline; Pasta Madeline; or Madeline’s vegan mac and cheese.  Being retired gives me a lot of time to think.

Joe’s brother, Jim L., finally returned from Nevada today and was able to get the park model trailer unlocked.  Barb has been wanting to get in and clean it since she and Jim (different Jim) arrived.  Barb is a keep busy kind of gal.  She is responsible for maintaining the apartment and laundry room while she is here and told Connie she would also do some deep cleaning on their house trailer, so it’s been bugging her that she could not get in to do it.  As for my part, all I did was lock the door on the trailer the way Connie asked me to.  Barb and Jim (husband) had lots of keys but could not get any of them to work.

 

Today was shower day.  This is always more of a production than we would like because we keep the cats’ litter tray in the shower.  Most of the time that works really well—it is out of the way and contains any mess they might make—but it is inconvenient when we want to use the shower for its intended purpose.  Besides pulling the tray out into the hall by the bathroom door we have to clean up any stray litter in the shower to make sure it does not end up in the gray water waste tank.  Litter tray or not we still have to spray the shower walls when we are done, squeegee off the glass door, let everything dry, and then reassemble it as a giant cat litter box.  But it works and it’s one of the compromises we willingly make to live with our cats in so few square feet.

 

Once I was dressed I went outside to chat with Jim L. (Joe’s brother) and we discussed the possibility of upgrading the electrical service at our site to “50 Amp” (240VAC, 50A, 4-wire, the equivalent of a 120VAC, 100A residential service).  It’s not an issue for us right now as the cool weather has us burning diesel fuel to make space heat, but once the weather turns warm we may need our air-conditioners.  We have three but can only run one on a “30A” service and still have enough power to run other things.  A 30A service is just what it says; 30A of current at 120VAC.  A “50A” RV service is slightly more than three times that amount of power.

 

The electrical hookups here are very interesting.  Perhaps all RV park power pedestals work the same way, but I have never looked inside one so I don’t know.  The meter is at the top and the area below it has a top-hinged cover.  Under the cover are three panels about 3″ wide and 15″ tall.  The panels have an outlet towards the bottom and a circuit breaker near the midpoint.  Behind the panels are busses for the hot, neutral and ground with male blade connectors.  The panels have female blade connectors that engage their male counterparts when the panel is slipped and then hinged into place.  It is secured with a single screw.  If Jim L. can find a 50A panel all we will have to do is unscrew and remove the 30A panel and plug in the new one, once we verify that 240 VAC (L1& L2) are present in the box and wired to the distribution busses.

 

Instead of her usual morning walk Linda setup her laptop on the dinette table and worked on accounting and tax issues for Butch and Fonda.  I set my laptop there as well to work on the roster for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter and Jasper got in between us, so we had a nice, cozy computing session.  When I placed my order with B&H Photo yesterday I checked a box to receive shipping status information via TXT message.  I got one this morning letting me know that my package had shipped from NYC.  Cool.

 

With accounting chores done for now Linda prepared vegan hot dogs with mustard, onion, and relish for lunch.  She then went for a long walk while I stayed at the coach and worked with a new feature on the RVillage website.  I was posting a lot of suggestions to the topic thread on the Ambassador forum and got a phone call from Curtis, the founder/CEO of RVillage.   We had a long chat and I was still on the phone with him when Linda got back.  I worked with the website some more and at 5:00 PM we connected to an Ambassador meeting using GoToMeeting on my computer.  This is a very exciting new feature and I think RVillagers and RV-related businesses are really going to like it once they know about it and see how it works.

 

Linda made mock (vegan) stroganoff for dinner.  She normally uses Basmati but the only rice she had enough of was Texmati so she used that.  Although I did not care for the texture of the Texmati in this dish (a bit crunchy), the taste was still very good.  This dish requires real cooking, which means it makes a real mess.  By the time everything was cleaned up and put away it was 8 PM and we were both tired.  I continued to research engine and transmission gauges while Linda read and played word games.  I also revisited the SonyAlphaRumors website but there was absolutely NO new information on the a99-II.  I went to bed wondering if this camera will ever actually exist.  Based on the comments I see online I am not the only one wondering if this camera will ever be a reality.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.

 

2015/01/05 (M) VSWR 1.0

Yesterday we finished up the coffees we have been using since we left Michigan at the end of November so this morning I had to open new bags and transfer the contents from their vacuum sealed bags to our metal storage canisters.  I had Teeko’s roast Ethiopian Yirgacheffe regular and decaffeinated separately, so I opened 1/2 pound bags of each.  I also opened a 1/2 pound bag of our special Sweet Seattle Dreams, which is 1/2 Sweet Dreams (decaf) and 1/2 Seattle Blend (regular).  I then made a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 1/2-n-1/2 while Linda prepared our granola with fresh bananas and fresh blueberries.

 

Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to do online research regarding the enigma known as the Sony a99-II DSLT camera and the supposedly discontinued, but apparently still very much available, Sony alpha a99.  If I did not already have a nice assortment of compatible Minolta A-mount lenses and flash equipment I think I would stop wasting my time with Sony cameras.  But I do, and so I continue to wait and be frustrated along with thousands of other “enthusiast” (sub-professional) photographers.  Because Sony builds the image stabilization (anti-shake) feature into the alpha bodies instead of the A-mount lenses the feature is available even with older Minolta lenses and the new lenses are slightly less complicated and less expensive than the Nikon and Canon lenses, which have the image stabilization built into each lens.  I think this was one of Sony’s best innovations.

 

I also continued to look at automotive gauges and sending units and decided to call Bill Gerrie (in Ontario, Canada) to follow up on his reply to an e-mail I sent a few days ago.  We had a great chat and he was able to clarify some things and add quite a bit of specificity to his written reply.  As a result I have a pretty good idea of what I am looking for; now it’s just a matter of finding it and deciding to place the order.

 

I was starting to work at my computer when Linda returned from her walk.  She eventually fixed a couple of vegan hot dogs wrapped up in tortillas with mustard, onions, and relish.   As I was finishing my meal I got a call from Gary Hatt at BCM.  He recently acquired an Eagle bus conversion and had some questions about the air-conditioners and the Aqua-Hot.  He plans to be in Quartzsite next to week and we are looking forward to finally meeting in person since I have been writing articles for the magazine for almost two years.

 

Linda has been having a problem with the brightness (or lack thereof) of the touch screen on her 19 month old Windows 8.1 Samsung laptop.  It will go very dim for no apparent reason and cannot be adjusted.  There was a driver update available for the Intel HD Graphics processor so we downloaded it, installed it, and re-started her computer.  The screen was now bright, which was more useful than dim, but still not adjustable.  That could be a coincidence or a fix, we will have to wait and see.  Even though it was working (for now) I drove to the local Family Dollar and bought an HDMI cable and some lightly carbonated water.  (The water had nothing to do with Linda’s laptop computer display, we were just low on sparkling water.)  The cable will allow us to connect her computer to one of our two flat panel LCD (LED) TV/monitors if needed.  (We did that after dinner and it worked, mirroring the built-in display to the monitor and setting the resolution to match the monitor’s 1900x1080p native mode.  But it also caused the built-in monitor to dim, although not as much as before.  When we turned off the monitor and unplugged it the built-in display did not return to full brightness.)

 

Mid-afternoon I saw Butch working on his Tarheel screwdriver antenna so I inquired as to what he was doing.  He had connected his MFJ VSWR meter to it through a six foot length of coax.  He had also unplugged the control harness for the tuning motor and rigged up a temporary switch to extend and retract the antenna.  He had done this because he was getting meter readings when connected through the installed coax that indicated the antenna was not resonant at any frequency or that the meter was not working correctly.  I climbed up on his ladder to have a look and saw VSWRs that were often greater than 31:1, and never fell below 10:1, with complex impedances that were rarely 50 ohms and with both resistance and reactance values that were all over the place.  Clearly something was not right.  It was not his installed coax and I was fairly certain I was not his meter, which I had used back at their house to check the VSWR on his CB and 2m ham antennas.

 

I climbed onto the roof of their bus so it would be easier to reach things and I could work sitting down.  We tried adding a ground strap as a counterpoise but it didn’t help.  Butch then grounded the strap to the chassis at the motor but that did not help either.  Our concern was that the antenna was not sufficiently bonded (grounded) to the roof but nothing we tried made any difference.  I decided to set the antenna to its shortest length (highest operating frequency), set the meter to a lower frequency, and then slowly lengthen the antenna, thereby lowering the operating frequency, while looking for some sort of response on the meter.

 

I got no change on the meter and finally realized that the antenna (via the meter) was behaving as though it was not grounded.  I noticed what looked like a thick washer between the SO-239 antenna connector and the base mounting plate of the antenna.  The mounting plate is the ground reference for the antenna and is connected to the base of the antenna through a coil of insulated wire (an inductor) known as a base loading coil.  The spacer was a plastic insulator that was, indeed, preventing the case of the SO-239 antenna socket from making contact with the mounting plate.  As a result the antenna was not grounded through the coax cable shield, preventing the meter from obtaining meaningful readings.

 

We removed the antenna connector, removed the insulated spacer, reassembled the connector to the antenna, reattached the coax and meter, and took additional measurements.  This time we got excellent readings that made very good sense.  We checked the upper bound, lower bound, and the midpoint of most of the high frequency (HF) ham bands and were always able to obtain VSWRs of 1.3:1 or less, which was excellent.  Butch had been considering redoing the mounting of the large motorized fold-over base so it was a good thing we figured this out as it saved him a lot of unnecessary work.  If I can solve one problem without creating others I figure it’s a good day.  BTW:  VSWR stands for Voltage Standing Wave Ratio and 1.0 is not a beta version, it is shorthand for a ratio of one-to-one (1:1), which is the best SWR you can have.  Anything below 1.5:1 is considered excellent, below 2.0:1 good, and below 3.0:1 usable if that’s the best you can do.

 

Chayote is a fruit that is a member of the squash family and is related to other gourds such as melons and cucumbers.  Linda bought one last week when we went to Albertson’s grocery store in Blythe, California and decided to prepare it for dinner tonight.  She sliced it into long thin broad strips and sautéed them with onions, oregano, salt, and pepper.  She served it alongside the leftover mock (vegan) stroganoff with a glass of sangria.  Our wine friends can cringe all they want; we find the Vella and Franzia boxed wines generally agreeable and the sangrias go surprisingly well with a variety of dishes.  And it has me drinking red wine, so it’s healthy too!

 

We lost our WiFi connection this evening.  Not sure why.  The wireless gateway still shows up in the WFR list but won’t associate with the WFR.  Butch had the same problem at the same time so something obviously changed.  We will ask Barb to open the trailer tomorrow, or get Jim to do it if she is not comfortable, so we can reset the gateway.  Hopefully that will do the trick.

The sunsets in Quartzsite are amazing almost every night.  This shot was taken from our campsite in Q.

The sunsets in Quartzsite are amazing almost every night. This shot was taken from our campsite in Q.

 

2015/01/06 (T) You’ve Got Mail (Maybe)

 

Our mail situation here is interesting.  Remember that, per our Jamaican tour guide, we do not have problems, only situations, and situations are easier to deal with if I regard them as interesting rather than annoying.  With regards to receiving mail, the “situation” is as follows.  Although every structure in town has a street address—necessary for police, fire, EMS, trash collection, and other municipal services—the Quartzsite post office does not deliver mail to said locations.  They have an annex building on the northeast side of town that is nothing but P. O. boxes and all of the locals, and a lot of seasonal residents (including Joe and Connie, who own the property where we are staying) have a P. O. Box.

 

Where things get interesting is that the main post office and the street addresses are associated with one ZIP code but the P. O. boxes have a different ZIP code.  If something is coming to us via UPS or FEDEX we have to use the street address and associated ZIP code, but if it is being mailed to us USPS we have to use the P. O. Box number and associated ZIP code, or have it sent c/o General Delivery using the main ZIP code.  To confuse matters further, Joe and Connie had to return to Nevada because of Joe’s health and are having their Quartzsite mail forwarded back to their home, so we cannot have mail sent to us “care of” them as we originally planned as it just gets forwarded to Nevada.  Outbound mail does not appear to be a problem, but then why would it be?

 

The other situation that developed yesterday was that our WiFiRanger Mobile Ti disconnected from Joe and Connie’s WiFi (DSL) gateway and would not reconnect.  The WFR is telling us that the WPA password may be incorrect, but that is unlikely as we have been using it since we arrived last month, as have Butch and Fonda who also lost their connection yesterday and could not reestablish it.  The evidence suggests that the gateway needs to be reset.  Why?  Who knows?  DSL gremlins perhaps.  Or mischievous Internet fairies.  Or a problem with the local DSL service?  Or perhaps Butch keyed up his 600 Watt linear HF ham radio amplifier and blew out every wireless DSL router within a quarter mile?  Whatever the cause, once we can get Barb or (brother) Jim to open the trailer we will power cycle the gateway and see if that restores our ability to connect to it.

 

In the meantime, in order to get online last night and again this morning, we turned on our Verizon MiFi.  The Verizon signal here is strong and steady, and the data rate is much faster than the DSL/WiFi connection, but we only have a 4 GB data plan so we tend to use WiFi when available.  It is not always available, of course, especially while traveling (and especially if we are boondocking at Wally World or other such locations) and when it is available it is not always reliable or is so slow as to be useless.  This can be the situation, for instance, at larger RV rallies and even some RV parks.

 

So we logged into our Verizon Wireless account, looked at our current plan, and saw that for a mere $10 more per month we could increase our data plan from 4 GB to 10 GB.  The cost for exceeding your monthly data plan limit is $15/GB, so the extra $10/month was a no-brainer.  And VZW made it soooo easy to change our plan (once we were logged in); just click the data plan we want, review changes to our account, and click “Apply Changes.”  Done; they have our money and we have more data allocation.  Interestingly, they upped our data allocation immediately for the current billing cycle, which is Dec 20 – Jan 19, and added the $10 to the bill we will receive for that cycle.  No pro-rating going on here, but then we can use the whole 10 GB if we want/need to.

 

Interestingly the cost to go from 10 GB to 15 GB was an additional $20/month, so the 10 GB plan seems to be a sweet spot after which you pay a premium for additional access.  On the one hand Verizon wants to sell you data bandwidth but on the other hand there is a finite amount of data they can move through their network, so if you want to use a larger chunk of their capacity it figures that it would come with premium pricing.

 

Until a few months ago Millenicom was reselling 20 GB MiFi plans (on Verizon’s network) for $70.  It was the best deal around; a sufficient amount of data for the same price we were paying Verizon for only 4 GB.  Kind of unfair, when I think about it.  Well, Verizon decided to stop selling bulk capacity to Millenicom (and other MVNAs?), took all of the accounts in-house, and Millenicom went out of business.  Not really a big surprise when you think about it.  Verizon also notified those customers (as I understand the situation) of their “options” which were not, apparently, as attractive as the deal they had with Millenicom.  Not really a big surprise when you think about it.

 

Anyway, we will see how we do with 10 GB/month while we are on the road.  We can change back to our 4GB plan when we get home, but I doubt that we will, and we can increase it to 15, 20, or even more GB per billing cycle if we need to, but that is unlikely.  We have an AT&T landline at home with DSL service that provides an “always on” Internet connection (when it works).  It has a 150 GB/month data allowance and allows us to monitor and control our whole house generator and WiFi thermostat.  We have discussed adding a security system and a personal weather station linked in to Weather Underground’s Wundermap when we get home.  I don’t think our DSL connection is fast enough, however, that we could use 150 GB in a month if we tried.

 

Linda went for her morning walk and I made a quick run to Barry’s Breads.  Barry is a really nice older gentleman who has a small bakery stand on the north side of Kuehn Street east of Central Avenue.  Just behind the stand, however, is a larger trailer in which he bakes all of his products.  Those products include breads, rolls, savory items, and sweet goods.  Most of his products use butter, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, or ranch dressing, but his Basic Bread is just that, flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast.  I have had some difficulty figuring out what time of day to stop by but this morning he finally had loaves of bread, and some hamburger buns made from the same recipe, so I bought a loaf and a pack of four buns.

 

When I got back I started working on another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  A little over a year ago I installed an RV-Critter Guard to seal around the shorepower cord and water hose where they enter the utility bay through the floor.  I took a few pictures during the installation and have had the article on my “future” list ever since.  By the time Linda got back from her walk I had the article mostly finished and was starting to look at the photographs.

 

She had stopped at the Salvation Army store, which was open, to use their facilities and ended up buying a grocery bag full of clothes for $1.  Not $1/item, $1 for the entire bag.  Most of the items were tagged with color codes indicating prices of one or more dollars each but they had too much inventory and needed to move some product.  They told Linda that when that happens they have their $1 bag sale.  Deal.  She called Butch and Fonda to let them know and I think they headed there before going to check the post office box and then stop at the post office if needed.

 

Linda cooked a couple of our Boca vegan mock hamburger patties and served them with fresh sliced onion, lettuce, and pickles on two of the buns I had just purchased.  Not an entirely WFPB meal, but very few of our meals are.  Still, we try to get as much plant-based whole foods as we can every day.

 

Linda went for a second walk after lunch and headed down Central Avenue towards the Kuehn Street markets.  She is so fond of her 5.5″ Hammer Stahl Santoku knife that she wanted to buy the 3.5″ paring knife if Cutlery by LeClaire had it for sale as an individual item.

 

While Linda was gone I finished working on the photos for my RV-Critter Guard article.  When she returned from her walk she had both the Hammer Stahl 3.5″ Paring Knife AND the 3.0″ Birdsbeak Paring Knife.  As we learned the other day from an Alton Brown video paring is actually a technique in which food is held in one hand and a knife in the other; no cutting board is involved.  Paring knives are generally smaller with a shorter blade and most of the weight is in the handle, allowing very fine control of the cutting edge and tip.

 

The Birdsbeak is a particularly interesting and unusual knife.  The bottom/cutting edge is slightly concave rather than convex like the classic chef knife.  The bottom edge joins the top edge in a point with a shape that resembles certain types of curved bird beaks.  In use, the knife is often held stationary and the food is pressed or turned into it, such as decorative peeling, pitting of fruit, or slicing strawberries.  Linda is often reluctant to spend money on herself so I think it’s nice that she found something she wanted and made the decision to buy it.  Like any high quality tool it will make the work it is designed to do easier and more enjoyable.

 

While I was uploading my article to our Dropbox Linda went outside to sit.  Barb wandered over and I mentioned that the DSL wireless Internet gateway had quit working.  She let me in the trailer where I found it sitting on the dining room table.  I powered it off, waited 60 seconds, and powered it back on.  All of the status lights came back on in the expected sequence and I was once again able to connect our WiFiRanger Mobile Ti to it.  We ended up standing by their Country Coach Intrigue motorhome and having a long chat.

 

Butch and Fonda were gone for most of the afternoon so we only got to chat for a little while when they returned before the sun dropped behind the southwestern mountains and the temperature dropped along with it.  Linda and I talked about going out to dinner, which we have only done once since we got here, but she remembered that we had a FedEx package scheduled for delivery today and that it might arrive as late as 8 PM.  So we had leftover soup with crackers and sangria.  This was the third and final meal we got out of this pot of soup and it was good to the last drop.  It was a packaged mix but Linda thinks she can recreate it; getting the spices right will be the tricky part.

 

After dinner I read DSLR reviews on the Digital Photography Reviews website and continued to look at gauges and sending units for the bus.  Around 8:30 PM I was having trouble staying awake but by 9 PM I had gotten my second wind and decided to write another short article for BCM.  This one was on the failure of Butch and Fonda’s main engine air-compressor on the drive down, how he dealt with it on the road, and eventually ended up installing a rebuilt one here at our campsite in Quartzsite.  I had the article written by 11 PM and decided to work on the photos tomorrow.

Sunset envelopes our coach as Linda prepares dinner.

Sunset envelopes our coach as Linda prepares dinner.

 

2015/01/07 (W) Catch 22

 

My main pair of reading glasses broke yesterday; not the lenses or the frame, but one of the nose pads.  Well, not the actual pad, but the small plate and mounting loop, specifically the mounting loop.  I was cleaning them and the whole assembly fell out.  The loop was split and had opened up.  The loop was a very small and delicate piece of ductile metal so I squeezed it back into a circle.  I removed the very tiny retaining screw, reinserted the mounting loop, and put the screw back in.  I was able to do this using only the tools available on my Leatherman.  The repair did not hold and it fell out again last night.  This time a piece of the loop broke off so the only repair will be a new mounting pad if I can find one.  There is a Wal-Mart in Parker that probably has an optical shop but I don’t know how universal this mounting system is.

 

I checked the level of the floor and counter in the kitchen last night and the coach appears to have settled slightly on the driver side.  Not a lot, but enough that I can feel it and it registers on the level.  I generally have to start the main engine and build up full air pressure in order to level the coach but I thought today would be a good day to finally pull the portable air compressor out of the car and see if the leveling system will work without the main engine running.  As it turned out that did not happen today because we ended up driving to Parker, Arizona.

 

Our destination in Parker was the Wal-Mart.  The store did not have an optical department but we found an eyeglass repair kit in the pharmacy area with a pair of screw-in pads and a pair of snap-in pads.  They also had a repair kit with a tiny screwdriver, spare screws, and other parts.  Between the two kits I was able to install a new pad in the car to replace the broken one.  That saved us a trip the optical shop in town.

 

Parker sits on the Arizona side of the Colorado River which is the boundary with California.  We decided to drive across and then take CA-62 over to US-95, follow it south along the River back down to Blythe, and then take I-10 back to Quartzsite.  Butch called while we were in Parker to let us know that there was a Farmer’s market at Desert Gardens.  It operates on Wednesdays from 8 AM to noon so we did not make it back in time but resolved to go in future weeks.

 

I worked on my “roadside repair” article for BCM while Linda went for a walk.  Jim and Barb had gone to Blythe to buy a new faucet and Jim L. stopped by and helped Jim B. install it.  They borrowed a caulk gun from us (we carry two in the bay) but had to go buy caulk.  UPS showed up with yet another package for us, after which we had a long conversation about the inadequacies (incompetence) of the U. S. Post Office in Quartzsite.  (The UPS driver told me that both UPS and FedEx have extra drivers and trucks delivering into Quartzsite during the peak season.  What a novel idea.)

 

Back to the post office.  We are waiting for a shipment of two bottles of water hardness test strips that we ordered through Amazon but were shipped via USPS by a swimming pool supply company in Elkhart, Indiana.  I gave them the P. O. Box here in Q since the post office does not deliver mail to street addresses and it appears that they will likely get returned to the sender rather than delivered to us.  The root cause of the problem (and it is a problem) is that Joe and Connie are having their mail forwarded to their home in Nevada.  If their names are not on the mail the post office won’t put it in the box, but if their names are on the mail it still does not get put in the box, it gets sent to Nevada.  So as of now the box is sitting there but cannot be used; a genuine “catch 22.”

 

Fine, we will just use General Delivery.  The problem with that (and it is a problem) is that you can only pick up the GD Mail at the Quartzsite post office between 11AM and 1 PM, and there are untold numbers of people trying to do the same thing.  That means ridiculously long lines and ridiculously long waits.  Considering that the influx of seasonal “residents” to Quartzsite has been going on for over 30 years the postal “service” has had ample time to figure out how to handle the situation.  I mean, Amazon practically runs its holiday operations with seasonal employees, many of whom are RVers.  Gee, I wonder if there are any RVers around Quartzsite this time of year.  While the post office is trying to figure out how to not deliver our mail we have two more UPS shipments scheduled to arrive on Friday.

 

Linda made a zoodle dish for dinner.  She used her SpiraLife to turn a zucchini into long thin strips which she cut into 6″ lengths and then used like spaghetti in the dish.  The other ingredients were onions, garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, and green beans.  Everything got sautéed in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  We had a glass of Lamb’s Valley Organic Sweet White wine and it was a lovely meal.

 

After dinner I put the finishing touches on my BCM air-compressor repair article and e-mailed it to Butch to proof-read.  The only thing worse than writing an article that makes me look stupid is writing one that makes someone else look stupid, especially a friend.

 

I had an e-mail from Gary, the publisher of BCM, letting me know that the December 2014 issue was finally available online.  I downloaded both the SD and the HD versions.  I then clipped the cover from the SD version, pasted it into MS Paint, and saved it as a JPEG file.  I opened it in Faststone Image Viewer, resized it to a thumbnail, and sharpened it.  I then edited the BCM page on our website, adding the thumbnail image, the title of my article, and a brief description.  I have a similar entry on that page for every issue in which I gave had an article, starting with the February 2013 issue. The December 2014 article was my 14th in 23 months.

The last glow of this sunset reflects off the passenger side of our motorcoach in Quartzsite, AZ.

The last glow of this sunset reflects off the passenger side of our motorcoach in Quartzsite, AZ.

 

2014/12/26-31 (F-W) Wrapping Up 2014

Note: This post covers the last six days of 2014. It is long and there are no pictures.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/12/26 (F) Cool Letters

When we woke up at 7 AM the temperature was 41 degrees F but by 8:30 it had dropped to 35.  According to the Weather Channel app on our iPads we have a freeze warning posted for the overnight hours tonight (Saturday 0000-0800).  The 12-day forecast is for an extended period of cooler temperatures with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s, including a few nights near freezing, but that is normal for Q at this time of year.  Desert regions are not always hot and actually experience an extreme range of temperatures.  The forecast back home has lows dropping into the teens with one night forecast at 13 degrees F.  Burrrrr.

Connie was apparently tracking the weather in Q as well, even though she and Joe are back in Nevada for most of the winter, as she called to ask me to turn the water off at the street if the temps got down to freezing.  The city water system here has supply pipes that come straight up out of the ground near the street, turn horizontal, go through a valve, then through a pressure regulator or small meter (not sure which or both), go through another valve, and then turn 90 degrees and go back down into the ground.  Joe and Connie keep all of this covered under a wooden box and we have noticed other properties doing the same thing, but not all.  Although the temperatures here can/do drop below freezing in December and January it is never for more than a few hours just before sunrise.

Presumably the city water lines are deep enough to avoid ever having freezing problems, but I do not know how deeply the pipes are buried on Joe and Connie’s property.  The main thing at risk are the stand pipes that come up out of the ground at each RV site and any hoses that are attached to them. I discussed all of this with Butch as it seemed to me that it would have to get below freezing and stay there for quite some time before we would have any problems.  It also seemed to me that if we were going to turn the main water supply off we should open a faucet on each of the supply risers so the water would have somewhere to go as it expanded.  (Water expands as it cools, reaching a maximum volume at around 34 degrees F.  As it changes state from liquid to solid it actually contracts slightly in volume.)  To be really safe we would need to drain all of the flexible hoses.  That struck both of us as unnecessary.

The aisle lights did not work again last night.  It’s always something with a RV and you have to be psychologically prepared for that or the lifestyle will drive you crazy.  This problem has occurred before and the usual reason is that the (3-way?) switch by the dinette gets toggled and renders the push switch in the bedroom inoperative but that was not the case this time.  One of the three wires that go to that switch was only attached by a few strands and broke when I checked it.  None of the connectors are in good shape so repairing those connections moved to the top of my bus project list today.  I did not get to this today, I only moved it to the top of my list.

While I made our morning coffee Linda put together an Amazon order.  Amazon Prime has worked well for us and Butch has already successfully received a UPS shipment here, so it was easier to order a bag of Science Diet cat food for delivery to our bus than to deal with the limited hours and selection of the local veterinarian or drive to one of the larger surrounding cities in the hope that a pet supply store that might stock the specific formulation we feed our cats.  She also ordered two bottles of Hach SofChek water hardness test strips and some additional silicon utensils.

Linda had our holiday letters stuffed and addressed on Christmas Eve, but not in time to get to the post office before it closed at noon, so she went today, bought stamps, and sent them on their way.  Hopefully they will arrive by New Year’s Eve while folks are still in the holiday spirit.

Sometime during the morning we got a visit from missionaries of the (local) Jehovah’s Witnesses cult.  Our conversation did not last long.  After they left I was pondering this day after Christmas visit and it occurred to me that perhaps they do an inventory of Quartzsite and the surrounding BLM camping areas so they know when someone knew has pulled into town.  I guess saving souls can be a lot of work.

Linda was doing the dishes and the Black & Decker SpaceMaker coffee carafe broke.  She checked online and was going to order a generic replacement but decided she should check the model of our unit.  When we lifted it up to look for the model number we discovered water on the shelf underneath it.  Ugh.  Suddenly we were no longer looking for a carafe but a new coffee maker.  We removed the cabinet door, latch, and lower front retaining bar and pulled the unit out.  I then removed the shelf, wiped it off, and took it outside to dry in the sun.  There are definite advantages to being someplace with bright sunshine and low humidity.

We spent a long time researching a replacement.  The particular model/style of SpaceMaker we have has not been made for years (of course), was only available used (naturally), and only for exorbitant prices (can you believe $300?) on Ebay.  To add insult to injury all of the reviews were negative, noting in particular that the unit tends to develop leaks.  Ya think?  We looked instead for something we could install, or at least store, in the same cabinet cubby as the old one.  Most of the countertop models were too tall and most of the built-ins and under cabinet models were too big, and very expensive.  We ended up ordering a simple Proctor-Silex non-programmable countertop unit without a clock for under $20 on Amazon Prime so the price included the shipping.  The reviews were good and it will store in the corner cabinet with room to spare for coffee canisters, freeing up space in the pantry for other things.  We will have to take it out and set it on the counter to use it, but that’s OK.

As noted in a previous post, there are quite a few houses and RVs around town with Over-The-Air (OTA) TV antennas on top of 20-30 foot poles and pointed approximately NNE.  There is one antenna in particular that we have seen a lot, a high-gain (directional) rotatable unit, and there are several vendors selling it as part of a kit.  The unit has an integrated amplifier and rotor and includes the rotor controller and power supply, plus 50 feet of coax and control cables.  All of the vendors are selling this kit for $70.  That’s a lot of stuff for that price, which suggests something about its quality (not good).  Another vendor is selling the poles and fittings that all of the other vendors use to build their “booths” (tents).  They have a huge assortment of connectors and will cut the sections to length if asked.  Getting the antenna 20-30 feet in the air would cost about $35.  We have been pondering whether it is worth it to us to spend this money as our bus-mounted antennas have always worked in the past and this is the first place we have been where they will not pick up even a trace of a signal.  We do not have an OTA TV antenna set up at home and it occurred to me that buying one here made more sense if it could be used back at the house.  I spent quite some time online researching long-range DTV antennas but did not come to any conclusions.

I needed a break from working at my computer and drove over to K & B Tools to see if they had shorter poles.  In the 1″ diameter they had 10′ and 8′.  The 8′ length would work well for us.  Three sections with two connectors would get an antenna 20-25 feet up depending on the mounting and we can store 8′ lengths in the front bay of the bus or in the car for transport.  We would use a base section with a flange by the driver side mirror, put a couple of long spikes through the base to keep it from moving sideways, slip the bottom pole section in it, and bungee cord the next section to the mirror support arm after wrapping it with something to keep it from scratching the paint.  Before making a purchase, however, I decided to do some more online research.

The unit being sold by several vendors is the Vortex HD from SewellDirect.com so I checked their website.  The unit is discontinued and they are selling the same kit online for $25.  That means the unit is of even cheaper construction than I originally thought and the $70 asking price suddenly seemed very excessive.  Many of the online reviews confirmed that this was not a serious antenna.  Another vendor had the Vortex and two competing units all for the same $70 price and I have concluded that they are all equally junk.

One of the websites I spent some time at was AntennasDirect.com. They appeared to have some serious antennas, with prices to match.  One of the challenges in this situation is that it appears we need to pull in OTA TV signals from a very long way away here in Q (70+ miles), whereas at home the distances are more like 40 miles.  Here in Q all of the signals appear to be coming from the same direction (although no one can explain why) so a high-gain, highly directional antenna is ideal and does not need to be rotated once it is aimed.  At home the TV signals potentially come from 270 degrees and the correct solution is an antenna with a broader reception pattern combined with an accurate and repeatable rotor.  If we do not need the rotor in Q we can forego that expense and technical complication until we get home.

One of the websites directed me to www.antennaweb.org.  This site is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).  You enter your ZIP code, and optionally your address, and it tells you what TV stations you might be able to receive and what direction the towers are from your location.  I put in the ZIP code for Quartzsite and it indicated five stations (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and Independent), all 11 miles away at 234.8 degrees.  There are towers on top of a mountain in direction but they do not look like TV towers.  The direction was also surprising as it is almost 180 degrees opposite to where everyone has their antennas pointed.

As we know from our ham radio hobby RF waves can do strange things.  At the frequencies used for OTA Digital TV (DTV), however, things are “line-of-sight.”  The local speculation is that there are “repeaters” to the NNE but if that was the case I would expect the website to indicate that as the signal direction.  Another possible explanation is that the signals are coming over the mountains to the SW and bouncing off of the more distant mountains to the NE.  I would expect some multi-path distortion in this case, as the signals scatter off the mountains and arrive at the antenna from different directions, but if the antenna is sufficiently directional it might eliminate this problem.

My plan for today had been to work on my Exterior Makeover article for Bus Conversion Magazine and I finally got started on that late in the afternoon.  I finalized my selection of photos (I think) and split them up into those that will go in line with the article, print and digital, and those that will appear in the extra section of the digital edition.  I had just begun post-processing them when Linda started preparing dinner.  I have been wanting some pasta and tonight I finally got my wish.  She made a whole wheat linguine with mushrooms, onions, garlic, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus.  What a treat.

I stopped over at Butch and Fonda’s bus to let them know about the www.antennaweb.org website.  Butch was watching an archived webcast that Technomadia did a few months ago with Nina Fusing, of the WheelingIt blog, on health care options for full-time RVers.  He had also installed Echolink software on his laptop but it was failing the Internet Connection test for UDP (User Datagram Protocol) ports.  The error messages indicated that it was probably a firewall- and/or router-related problem.  He had both so I tried opening UDP ports for forwarding in both places but it did not fix the problem.  I have never played with Echolink or UDP ports, so I was trying to figure out what to do in real time.  More research will obviously be needed.

I continued working after dinner processing photos for my article.  I received my draft of the Zena Power Generating System article back from Gary with corrections made by Stacy, his new administrative assistant.  I accepted them, made an additional correction, and returned it.  They are trying very hard to get the December 2014 issue out on December 31st and my Zena article will be one of the four in that issue.

2014/12/27 (S) Cool Temps

By 6:30 this morning our various weather apps were reporting that the temperature in Q was 31 degrees F.  At 7:00 I turned the thermostats up and climbed back in bed (electric heating pad).  I had not shut the main water supply off at the street last night so at 7:30 I got up, put on my “sweats,” grabbed a jacket, and went outside to tend to the water.  I cracked opened a faucet at each standpipe, ran water through hoses, and ran water through the hot and cold lines for both sinks in the apartment.  I shut everything off and went back inside where it was comfortably warm.

By the time I came back in Linda was up and making coffee.  How was that possible?  We have a single serving coffee funnel that sits on top of a mug.  It’s designed for cone filters but she simply folded one of our flat bottom filters and made it fit.  She ground up some beans, boiled some water in the microwave oven, poured it over the grounds, and let it drip.  I did not think we would have morning coffee in the coach again until the new coffee maker arrived next week so it was a nice treat.

I finished yesterday’s blog post while I enjoyed my brew.  I was busy enough yesterday that by the time I went to bed and tried to finish it there was too much to write and I was too tired to write it.  Linda developed a headache overnight and spent much of the day medicated and resting.  She does not get these very often anymore but when she does they put her out of commission for a day or so.  I then spent most of the day processing the photos for my next BCM article.

I took a break after lunch and worked with Butch setting up his laptop to work with Echolink ham radio software.  The software use TCP and UDP ports and requires firewalls and routers to be configured to provide port forwarding.  His laptop OS is Windows Vista, which has the Windows Firewall.  I was not familiar with UDP ports, had never set up port forwarding, and had never worked with Vista, so I was feeling my way as I went.  Their computers are connected to the Internet one of two ways, MiFi or WiFi, although the WiFi is sometimes connected through the MiFi.  Their MiFi is a Verizon Jetpack (Novatel 5510L), just like ours, so I (sort of) knew my way around that device.  Their WiFi setup consists of two WiFi repeater/routers; the WiFiRanger Mobile and the WiFiRanger Go2.  We also have a WiFiRanger Mobile, so I also knew my way around that device (sort of) but I had never worked with the WFR Go2.  We got the Echolink software to test successfully through the WFR gear using the WiFi signal at our campsite but we could not get it to test successfully through the MiFi.

In the early evening Butch called and said he was having Internet connection issues.  I went to their bus and worked four a couple of hours trying to sort out what was going on.  I was able to get him back online but saw some strange behaviors that we could not explain and were not able to resolve.  He has Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal Blog set as his Firefox home page and it kept redirecting to the website’s home page.  I tried opening it in Internet Explorer 9 and it opened without difficulty.  Website’s do not always react the same way with different browsers, but he had been on Nick’s blog earlier in the day using Firefox.  I will have to look at it again tomorrow.

When I got back to our coach Linda was starting to prepare dinner.  It felt very cold outside even though the weather apps said it was 41 degrees F.  I decided to turn off the water supply at the street and opened some of the faucets to relieve the pressure in the pipes and let some of the water out.  Dinner was leftovers from our Christmas Day meal and everything was very good the second time around.

I finished up my photo editing a little before 10 PM and backed up my files to the NAS.  We turned the three thermostats on and set them for ~15 degrees C (~59 degrees F).  We put the extra blanket on the bed and I turned my electric heater pad up to 4. The forecast low for tonight was in the low 30’s and it was already 36 when we turned in for the night.

2014/12/28 (N) Cooler Yet

Our cats snuggled in with us more than usual last night.  They like the extra blanket and the heater pads as much as I do.  At sunup the air temperature was reported as 28 degrees F, a few degrees lower than the last forecast we saw before we turned in last night.  If it seems that we are preoccupied with the weather it is because we are in closer contact with it when RVing than we are when we are at our house.  In the motorcoach we have to more actively manage our utilities to ensure they work properly and to maintain our comfort.

We had tea instead of coffee this morning.  Until about 15 years I did not drink coffee and enjoyed morning, afternoon, and evening tea.  Hot, of course; I have never been a big fan of iced tea and I have never developed a taste for iced coffee, unless it was a Starbucks Frappuccino (in my pre-vegan days).

Linda was finally feeling better and went for a long walk this morning.  Before she left I noticed that there wasn’t any water coming out of the bird fountain so she unplugged it and helped me partially disassemble it so I could clean it.  I ended up taking it completely apart, which was fun given that it was made of large slabs of granite, in order to get to the pump so I could clean it.  I was surprised to find a small gecko-like lizard inside the pedestal base.  Butch helped me reassemble and level the unit, allowing the reservoir to hold more water, and we got the outlet tube (fountain) tightened up so the water once again squirts about four inches above the tube.  It needs to be filled every day or two.  I have not determined if the water is being consumed by birds (there are a lot of doves and Gambrels Quail here) or evaporating (low humidity and sunshine).  It is probably a bit of both.

I worked on my article most of the day, inserting photos into the Word doc and writing captions.  I took a break mid-afternoon and rode into town with Butch.  We found the LED vendor where the hams (amateur radio operators) hang out but the booth was closed.  We wandered around looking at flea market junk and I found a set of four ratcheting tie down straps, 25mm wide by 15 feet long, for $5.  I had seen similar straps at another vendor for $14, so I bought the $5 set.  We stopped at Dorothy and Toto’s Ice Cream Parlor on west Main Street and bought some excellent kettle corn.

Back at the coach I continued working on my article but was having trouble keeping my eyes open so I took a nap.  Linda had started making dinner about the time I got up when a white SUV pulled in that we had not seen before.  A reddish-chocolate-brown dog appeared and took off after some of the rabbits followed by a man with a leash.  We figured Jim and Barbara, the owners of the third motorhome at our camp, had arrived so we put our shoes on and went out to meet them.  Jim got Roho on leash and Barbara appeared shortly thereafter, followed by Butch and then Fonda.  It was dusk and cooling off quickly, so the conversation was short before everyone returned to their motorhomes.  Before going in I turned the water off at the street and opened one of the faucets on our standpipe to relieve the pressure and let some of the water out.

For dinner Linda made skillet black beans with potatoes and tortillas.  Besides the title ingredients it had onions, garlic, poblano pepper, and salsa.  I added a little Tabasco Chipotle sauce to mine.  We each had a glass of sangria, which was refreshing with this hearty dish.  After dinner I finished working on my article and I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox.  I sent an e-mail to the publisher, editor, and new administrative assistant.  I then started uploading the photo files and went to bed.

2014/12/29 (M) Cool Cruiser Redux

We had English Breakfast Tea to start our day, followed by store bought (bulk) granola for breakfast.  We have run out of Linda’s homemade granola and I really miss it.  The stuff we buy at the store just doesn’t taste like much of anything by comparison.  After breakfast I started working on my next article for BCM.  Actually, it was an article I wrote back in February of this year but had not quite finished.  Besides the text I had already selected the photos but, as often happens, I had not finished the process of putting them in order, sorting them into print edition and digital edition extra section, post-processing them, and inserting thumbnail versions into the Word document.  So that’s what I started working on this morning.

Late morning I took a break from the photo work and pulled the cover off of the dashboard to check the turbo boost gauge.  It was, indeed, a mechanical gauge with a very small nylon tube coming out the back of it.  I opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer and looked up the part, thinking I might order one today.  The specified part was a VDO gauge, 1/8-27 NPT, but did not give the mounting hole size, the, range, or the sweep degrees.  Both 24V and 12V bulbs were listed.  I think we need 24V.  What I found interesting was that the gauge for the VIP (conversion shell) was shown as “dummy,” which meant the unit was originally shipped with a filler plate rather than an actual gauge.  The turbo boost gauge in our coach is functional but is the wrong gauge for our engine. It’s a Sentry vacuum/boost gauge.  The vacuum side is useless on our turbocharged engine and the boost side only goes to 15 PSI, which is not high enough.

VDO makes two turbo boost gauges that should work as replacements.  Both are 2-1/16 (52mm) size, 0 – 30 PSI, 270 degree sweep, mechanical units.  They come with 12V bulbs but those are easily changed.  The differences are in the faceplate markings and the mounting systems.  The Cockpit Series gauge is marked in 1 PSI increments, which I prefer, but uses the traditional rear U-bracket to hold the instrument in the dashboard.  The Vision Series gauge, which is what our new speedometer is, has 2 PSI increments but mounts using a collar that threads onto the body of the instrument from the back side of the dashboard.  I was going to call Prevost and order a gauge but both gauges are available from PartDeal.com, which is run by ISSPRO.  ISSPRO sells their own line of gauges in addition to VDO and other brands.  I was chatting with Butch and he mentioned that they were closed for the holidays and would reopen on January 2nd, so I did not order a gauge today.

We left around noon and drove to the vendor area at Central Avenue and Kuehn Street.  We parked the car and wandered around checking out vendors who were not set up or open the last couple of times we were here.  While we were strolling I got a call from Frank Morrison.  Frank was at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida and wanted to know if we were there.  I photographed Frank’s bus, the Cool Cruiser, at last year’s rally and the article was the cover story in the June 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Frank said that in the welcome bag each attendee received there was a second bag from BCM and in that bag was the June 2014 issue.  Cool.  I wrote two other articles for BCM as a result of that rally.  The February 2014 issue was on the rally itself and the April 2014 issue featured the Iron Horse, an Eagle bus conversion.  Both articles ran in the cover/centerfold position.

For lunch we had chickpea salad on sourdough bread with dark greens and were surprised to see a Trek motorhome backing in to the property.  Jim and Barb obviously knew the people and helped them get parked.  Once they were in their site we went out and introduced ourselves, as did Butch and Fonda.  Jack and Maria were only here for the night.  They had been camped at the BLM Pyramid Lake LTVA, about 60 miles south of Quartzsite, but developed issues with their solar charger and a squealing/screeching noise when they start their engine.  They had appointments first thing in the morning to have these problems addressed and were planning on heading back to the desert tomorrow.  Barb mentioned that she had talked to Joe and Connie and Joe said we did not have to turn the water off at night.  One less chore is good by me.

Linda went for another power walk while I worked on my article.  I want to get my “almost finished” articles done and off to the magazine so I can work on some new pieces.  It’s easier on me and them if I can keep the pipeline flowing and stay ahead of them.

For dinner we had soy riblets with barbecue sauce, macaroni and cheese (gluten and dairy free), and fresh sautéed green beans.  The riblets were tasty, as always, and the green beans were excellent, but the mac & cheese was not good eats.  It was the second of two boxes we bought somewhere and Linda even added some things to try to improve them but it didn’t help.  We won’t be buying this product again.

Having spent a portion of the day processing photos I did not feel like doing more of that after dinner.  I played a few puzzles on my iPad while Linda played word games on hers with Karen and Ron.  We were in bed by a little after 9 PM and I went right to sleep.

2014/12/30 (T) Trash Day

Tuesday is trash day.  The collection truck comes at noon so the trash can has to be to the curb by 11AM.  I happened to glance outside as we were sitting down to enjoy our mourning tea and it was already at the curb.  Jim or Barb are responsible for this when they are here, along with maintaining the apartment and laundry room, and one of them had obviously taken it out.

Jack and Maria pulled out around 8:30 AM with Maria driving their Trek and Jack following in their SUV.  We figured we had seen the last if them and did not even get to say ‘goodbye’ so we were surprised when they returned an hour later and backed their motorhome back into their spot and leveled it.  They left in their car fairly soon thereafter and did not return until later in the day.

Linda went for her usual morning walk and I continued working on my Habitat For Humanity article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  Around 11:15 AM my Bluetooth mouse signaled that its battery was critically low and needed to be recharged.  I plugged it in and figured that was a good time to take a break and do something else.  Butch was outside with his tool bay open and Jim was out there with Roho so I went out and chatted for a while.  I needed to repair the connections on the front switch that controls the aisle lights so I borrowed Butch’s VOM, wire stripper, and terminal crimper and got three 1/4″ female crimp connectors from him.  I have all of these tools and supplies, but his were more convenient.

Being a 3-way circuit the switch has three wires.  It’s a double-pole double-throw switch so it had a second set of unused contacts.  I used the VOM to determine if the unused set of contacts worked as expected.  They did, so I removed the old connectors, one at a time, cut the wire loose from the connector, cut about an inch off of the end, crimped the new connector onto the wire, and pushed the connector onto the corresponding unused terminal.  I tested the circuit and I was able to turn it on and off from both switches.  (The other switch is in the control panel in the bedroom by my side of the bed).

My recollection is that the 3-way circuit feature did not work prior to this.  That could have been because the wire that broke off the other day was only attached by a few strands, or because of a failure in the switch on that set of contacts, or both.  The plastic insulated housings on the old connectors were very brittle and showed signs of heat damage, which could have occurred as the result of a very marginal connection.  When I tried to pull them off of the switch terminals they shattered.  I was also unable to pull the metal connectors off of the lugs and had to pry them open and then pry them off.  The first 1/2 inch of each wire was also discolored and brittle, indicating heat damage.  I did not bother to check the other set of switch contacts for correct function as the lugs also showed signs of heat damage and I do not plan to use them again.  In fact, I plan to replace the switch if/when I happen to find one or get around to ordering one.  The whole repair, including borrowing and returning tools, took less time to do than it took me to describe the work in this post.

Linda confirmed that our Fedex delivery was scheduled for today.  We have been rationing the cats’ food the last 48 hours and they are confused as to why.  They do not usually finish the dry kibble in their bowls but insist on having fresh kibble added each morning and evening.  To accommodate this expectation we have been adding very small quantities of fresh kibble to their bowls.  I don’t think cats can count, but they can definitely tell the difference between serving sizes of kibble and are not pleased at our puny offerings.

Jack and Maria returned sometime during the afternoon.  I saw them pull in but did not note the time.  We had sandwiches for lunch and then went for a walk.  We headed southwest from our campsite and worked our way over to Moon Mountain Avenue.  Our destination was the Salvation Army Store but we stopped to look at things along the way.  We checked out the Mountain Quail Cafe, but the only thing on their menu we could eat was the side salad.  Too bad, it looked like a cozy, comfortable place and the sign said they featured ‘home cooking.’  Well, not our home, of course.  ‘Home cooking’ is usually code for “everything is cooked in butter, we make liberal use of eggs and dairy, and treat bacon as a condiment.”

Moon Mountain Avenue between Main Street and Quail Trail seems to mostly be developments rather than individual lots.  We stopped at one place that had a lot for sale at the corner of Moon Mountain and the entrance road.  All of the lots were separated on three sides by the exact same low brick wall construction that we have seen all over town.  Some of the lots had the brick wall with a gate across the front.  As we were studying this lot the man across the street pulled out and drove over to see if we had any questions.  We really didn’t, but he answered them anyway.

It turned out that most of the developments on Moon Mountain Avenue were co-ops.  The price on this particular lot ($49,900) did not buy you a deed but rather a fractional ownership of the co-op with a lease for the perpetual use of that particular lot.  The price also included compensation to the current leaseholder for improvements to the lot, and whatever appreciation in value the market would bear.  You were free to sell your ownership share along with the leasehold for your lot, or will it to your children.  (This co-op, like many of the RV Parks in town, was a 55+ community, so it would be a long time before our “kids” could use it if they were interested, which I doubt.)  The annual maintenance fees for this co-op were $56/month ($672/year) and included water, sewer, property taxes, and association dues; everything except electricity.  Each site had its own billable electric meter.  The only added expense would be property taxes for improvements, such as a park model trailer or RV port.

We were glad we stopped and that this fellow was willing to share this information with us.  We suspect that many of the similar looking areas around town are probably also co-ops or even developments with deeded lots.  Every little thing we learn like this helps us develop a better understanding of Quartzsite.  BTW:  the Salvation Army store was closed.  We have walked or driven by at various times on different days and have yet to find it open for business.

When we got back to camp Linda needed a few things for dinner and thought the Road Runner Market might have them.  She grabbed Fonda and they took off in our car.  Butch was working on his HF mobile ham radio antenna on the roof of their bus and Barb was scurrying around the property taking care of things.  I was going to help Butch but got a phone call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint to discuss the spots on our roof and what to do about them.  Once we were done talking I was able to lend Butch some assistance with the antenna project which involved the installation of bonding (grounding) straps between the antenna and the roof of the bus.

The FedEx truck showed up before Linda and Fonda got back so I opened the box and unpacked the contents.  The kitties recognize Science Diet cat food bags and were very happy to see it.  I was opening the new coffee maker when Linda returned.  We got it unpacked and stored in the cubby where the old one was installed.  She had started cleaning and rearranging drawers before our walk so she finished putting everything away or set aside things she had decided she did not need to have on board.

I’ve been needing a haircut for a while and prevailed on Linda to take care of it while we still had sunlight.  After she was done I used the clippers to trim my beard and then put everything away.  Linda checked our log book and according to our records the last time we dumped our holding tanks was on the 20th.  We like them to be as full as possible before dumping, as they evacuate better but cannot let them overfill so we decided to dump them while it was still daylight.  Better safe than sorry.

I got another Hach SofChek water hardness test strip from Butch and checked the output of our water softener.  It measured 7 on a scale of 0 (soft) to 25 (very hard).  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ water but the softener was still working somewhat as the water coming straight out of the tap measured 25.  We still had 1/3 tank of fresh water and I decided to add 1/6th of a tank, about 20 gallons, and bring it up to the 1/2 level.  I will have to recharge the water softener tomorrow before adding any more water to our tank.

I was able to finish editing photos while Linda prepared dinner.  She cut a large poblano pepper in half lengthwise and stuffed it with leftovers from two nights ago.  She also made Mexican rice from scratch using Texmati rice, onions, garlic, tomato sauce, cumin, and vegetable broth.  The peppers and rice were very good and went well with a glass of sangria.

Early this morning I thought I might finish my HFH article for BCM and be able to upload it this evening, but that did not happen.  I still needed to insert the thumbnails into the Word document and write the captions.  I was too tired to start that work, knowing how long that would take, so I played a few puzzle games and went to bed.

2014/12/31(W) Adios 2014

The polar outbreak that is gripping most of Canada and the U. S. A. has also made its presence felt here in Quartzsite.  The overnight low was 35 and we had light rain.  The high today won’t break 50, and the lows for the next two days are forecast to be in the upper 20s.  Not that far from us (~180 miles) Joshua Tree NP had a rare dusting of snow and the forecast for Flagstaff is for as much as 16 inches of holiday whiteness.  The temperature back home is in the teens, so we have no complaints about the weather in Q.

Linda went for a long morning walk and found the Salvation Army store open.  Apparently their hours are 8 AM to 1 PM Monday through Friday and we had managed to always walk past outside that time frame.  She picked up a few things from the Road Runner Market while she was out.  By the time she got back at 1 PM I had just finished inserting photos into my Habitat For Humanity article and captioning them so I had her proofread it.

With the proofreading done we had a bite of lunch and then drove to Blythe, California to pick up some grocery items that are not available here in Q.  We stopped first at the AutoZone store, in the northwest corner of the Albertson’s parking lot, and bought supplies for cleaning the bus.  Now all we need is a nice warm day so we can get out early and work at it until we are done.  We need to do the car, too.

We got a TXT message from our son while driving back to Q.  It was a short video of grand-daughter Madeline climbing into her car seat all by herself.  That led to an exchange of messages leading to the question from our daughter as to whether she could climb out by herself.  That question will apparently be answered tomorrow.  The growth from age one to age two is quite amazing.

When we got back to our coach I carried in the groceries.  While Linda put them away I added 30 gallons of water to our fresh water tank.  I really wanted to recharge the water softener first, and bought a 40 pound bag of solar salt at Albertson’s for that purpose, but it was too late in the afternoon and too cold to start that process.  I still need to fabricate the special perforated tube for the water filter housing, so it will take longer than a normal recharge.

We had some hot tea and cookies and relaxed for a while.  Linda finished proofreading my HFH article and I then went through it one more time to make sure it was ready to upload.  She also e-mailed Mara, one of the women who participated in the HFH build, to wish her a happy holiday and see what part of the country she was in at the moment.

Dinner was a simple, easy affair; a nice salad of fresh greens with other goodies mixed in and a couple of Asian noodle soup bowls.  Sometimes Linda does not feel like cooking and we keep a certain amount of packaged convenience food on board for such occasions.

It has been our tradition since we started dating in high school to stay up and celebrate the coming of the New Year.  We rang in three calendar changes while dating and have observed 42 more since getting married.  Tonight was number 43.  For all of that time we have rarely gone out on New Year’s Eve, preferring to stay close to home and off the streets.  Besides, large, loud parties have never been our style, especially since I do not dance.

When we were dating, and in the early years of our marriage, we would spend the holidays in the St. Louis, Missouri area visiting family.  My parents hosted a New Year’s Eve party that, in retrospect, was quite a large and well-attended event, and that is where we hung out, often joined by a few friends from our high school days.  As we attained legal age a champagne toast became part of the tradition (although in the privacy and safety of my parents’ home we probably started this tradition a bit sooner).

As our children came into the picture we still traveled to St. Louis but when they got a bit older we started spending our holidays at home.  Linda’s sister, Marilyn, started visiting us between Christmas and New Year’s and the tradition of assembling a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve began.  Linda usually did not cook a New Year’s Eve meal.  Instead we had California Dip (made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix) and chips, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, smoked salmon, and other munchies that we nibbled on throughout the day.  This was, of course, all pre-vegan.  Starting around 11 PM we would turn the TV to one of the networks doing the countdown from Times Square in New York City.  I think it was ABC as we usually watched Dick Clark.  At 11:55 PM we would open a bottle of champagne and fill our glasses.  When the ball dropped and the clock struck 12 we would toast the New Year.

Since our children became adults they have spent New Year’s Eve with their friends and families.  Besides Marilyn we have had occasional guests at our house but more often it has been a quiet evening at home with just the two or three of us and we often went to bed shortly after the arrival of the New Year.  The last two years have been unusual in that we moved to a different house in 2013 but have never celebrated New Year’s there.  Given that we plan to do most of our extended RVing from mid-fall to mid-spring it may be quite (if ever) before we celebrate New Year’s at the new house.

For the 2013-to-2014 change we were at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida where we attended a party with 200 other people and a live band.  We spent much of the evening outside where the volume was about right and the temperatures were pleasant.  This year we are camped on private property in Quartzsite with three other couples, none of whom seemed interested in staying up until midnight, so we toasted the New Year in the privacy of our coach three times before going to bed.  We are unable to receive OTA TV signals here, so we watched (listened to) the ball drop in Times Square on Linda’s iPad (at 10 PM MST) and shared a champagne toast.  She then sent TXT messages to both of our children.  At 11 PM MST we shared another champagne toast.  I sent a TXT message to my sister and niece while Linda sent one to her sister, all of whom live near St. Louis, Missouri in the Central Time Zone.  At our local midnight we shared our final toast and welcomed the New Year in the Mountain Time Zone.  If we had been so inclined we could have driven to Blythe, California, returning temporarily to 2014, and celebrated the coming of the New Year in the Pacific Time Zone.  But we didn’t.  That kind of thing is more fun to “brag” about than it actually is to do.

Before turning in for the night I updated my article status spreadsheet and then uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox along with the HFH article and associated photos.  I then e-mailed the team at BCM to let them know it was there and wished them a Happy New Year.  I also e-mailed a link to a PDF version of the article to Steven Gullette, our team leader on the HFH build that was the main focus of the article, and wished him a Happy New Year as well.  So endith another year.  Adios 2014.

 

2014/12/21-25 (N-R) The Holidays Arrive

2014/12/21 (N) Winter Solstice

Linda was reading an interesting tidbit online this morning about the winter solstice, which occurs today in the northern hemisphere.  It usually occurs on the 21st, like today, but occasionally slips into the 22nd.  While it is the day of the year with the least hours of sunlight (between sun up to sun down) it is not the day with the latest sunrise (which occurred a couple of weeks ago) or the earliest sunset (which does not occur for a couple of more weeks).  Why is that?  Axial tilt, elliptical orbits, and a “day” that is not exactly 24 hours.  Science is fun.

Today was a stay-at-home / stay-in-town day for us.  Linda vacuumed the coach and mopped the floor tiles.  She says she likes to do this once a week to keep the cat hair under control.  By “likes” I think she means “needs.”  She also decided to do the laundry.  When we are at our house the laundry is usually my chore but for some reason, to which I am not privy, she takes over this chore when we are living in the RV, at least initially.  The same thing happened last year at Williston Crossings RV Resort, although we eventually both did laundry until I was able to win back my rightful chore.  So far again this year it has been her self-selected task here at Quartzsite and I have not gone out of my way to reclaim my rightful place as master of the laundry.

What I did instead of laundry was spend the morning finishing our 2014 Year-in-Review holiday letter.  Linda proof read it and then I converted it to PDF and did a final check of the layout to make sure the text and photos had not shifted or been clipped.  I copied it to a flash drive so we can take it someplace in Blythe tomorrow and have it printed.

The other day I noticed that the manifold pressure sensor (turbo boost) on Butch and Fonda’s 6v92 was mounted vertically on the front passenger side of the ECM.  I could not see exactly how it was mounted, however, so today I finally looked it up in the DD 92 Series manual.  I did not attempt to reattach our sensor module today but I was curious to see what would be involved.  I also continued to interact with other Prevost owners on the Prevost Community forum regarding the turbo boost issues and the dashboard gauge, which does not have the correct scale for our engine.  That thread has led to a dialogue about the SilverLeaf systems, including the VMSpc that we have, and an alternative system from RV Tech Tools that uses an iPad app named “RV Dash” and a wireless (WiFi) interface named “CANpod” from Cubix Labs.

With our various chores done we had a light lunch of chickpea salad on a bed of mixed greens and then went for a long walk.  The walk took us down Washington Ave. and then over to Kitsap Ave. to see a gorgeous Adobe house that Linda had discovered on a previous walk.  That led us to the backside of the west-central “vendor” (flea market) area on the north side of Main St.  We are not collectors, and we are not into antiques, guns, rocks, jewelry, or junk, so we saw very little that interested us.  We did see a few pieces of Pyrex, which our daughter and son-in-law were collecting at one time, and I am always on the lookout for a good deal on a tool I can’t live without, but mostly we saw endless quantities of stuff that we could not fathom anyone buying.

We crossed Main Street and visited the Tyson’s Well Stagecoach Stop Museum.  The grounds and building were open, admission was free, and it was unattended.  There were items for sale and if we had wanted something we would have put the money in the collection box.  That’s small town.

We headed east on Main Street and crossed back to the north side using the crosswalk at AZ-95 (Central Ave.).  We then continued east and stopped at the Road Runner Market.  We were pleased to find that they had a small but good selection of fresh produce.  On our way out the door the florist gave Linda a red and white carnation.  We will definitely be doing some of our local grocery shopping there.  We knew there was a restaurant/bakery on the far east end of Main Street so we kept on walking.  Sweet Darlene’s looked like a nice local place for a home-cooked style meal, but did not have anything on the menu we could eat.  The bakery turned out to be a small display case with pies and sweet rolls, but they did not make their own bread, so we won’t have any reason to come back.

By this time it was getting to be late afternoon, the cloud layer had thickened, and it was getting a bit chilly so we headed back towards Central Avenue.  We counted laundromats along the way, and passed at least four before getting back to our coach.  Not that we need a laundromat—we have a laundry where we are staying—but with all of the boondockers in and around Q it is a matter of some curiosity to us how/where they take care of things like this.  By the time we got back to our coach we had walked just over five miles.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

By 5:15 PM the sun had slipped just below the mountains to our southwest and the sky started to glow pink for 360 degrees around us.  The sunset went on for over 30 minutes, the pinks deepening to reds.  And then, just like that, the color was gone and darkness enveloped the valley.

For dinner Linda made a simple green salad with raisins and peanuts.  She then heated up some vegan re-fried beans, pan-grilled a package of fajita vegetables she got from Connie before they left, and then heated two tortillas.  We each made a tasty roll up, adding some salsa and vegan sour cream.  She washed some black seedless grapes and set them out for desert.  They were very refreshing after the somewhat heavier and spicy main course.

2024/12/22 (M) Compressed

We had planned on driving to Blythe, California today but those plans changed fairly early in the morning.  Butch got an update that his air-compressor was on a UPS truck in Blythe and scheduled for delivery today.  I had promised to help him with the installation and provide a few tools he did not have with him so we decided to stick around camp.  We were also waiting for Connie’s realtor, Carolyn, to come by and pick up two yellow Post Office slips.

Linda took her morning walk after breakfast while I downloaded the October and November issues of Bus Conversion Magazine in both standard- and high-definition.  I was really glad to finally see these issues.  The October issue included my article on our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II Centrifugal By-pass Oil Cleaner project.  That was my one remaining article waiting to be published.  I have at least a half dozen in process, at least that many more for which I have taken photos (and written blog posts), and a very long list of future projects, so it’s time to get the next batch of articles ready to submit.

When Linda got back I drove to the print/copy/fax/pack/ship/etc. store on east Main Street to see if they could print our holiday letter.  They had plain 8.5×14 white paper, and the photos looked OK, but it was going to cost $4 per letter ($2/side) so I paid for the one copy and left.  They suggested that I try Weeks Printing in Blythe (20 miles west) or Staples in Lake Havasu City (70+ miles north).  Since we will likely head to Blythe tomorrow we will check out Weeks first.

As long as I was out I stopped at Barry’s Breads and bought a couple of fresh “rolls” which were really small loaves of bread.  Barry runs a little seasonal bakery out of a temporary vendor stand on the northeast corner of Central Avenue (US-95) and Kuehn Street.  Most of his products have butter or cream cheese as ingredients—his Danish pastries are as big around as a dinner plate—but he does make just plain bread and everything is made fresh daily.  Back in camp Linda called Weeks Printing and they quoted $1.25 for each 2-sided letter.  Much better.  We will check them out when we make it to Blythe; probably tomorrow.

For lunch Linda made a batch of her scrumptious chickpea salad/spread and served it on one of the rolls I bought at Barry’s.  After a week of cloudy skies, cool temperatures, and a little rain we finally had a day with clear, sunny skies and the high temperature up into the 70s.  Butch decided to remove his defective air-compressor and there wasn’t anything we could do to help (or stop him) so we decided to clean some more of our coach exterior.  I wanted to work from the top down, which meant starting with the roof.  That, in turn, meant getting out the Little Giant convertible extension/step ladder and setting it up as a 14 foot extension ladder.  In this configuration it extends beyond the top edge of the roof at the front, making it safer for me to get up on the lower roof area from the driver’s side.

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

The roof was very dirty and it appeared that we might have more than just embedded dirt to deal with.  The roof has a sprayed-on ceramic-infused white coating with a surface akin to medium grit sandpaper.  It reflects sunlight and provides a nice nap for walking on, but also traps dirt.  The last time the roof was cleaned was in early April, just before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort.  I had been on the roof subsequent to that, in our pull-through driveway at home, using it as a platform for trimming tree limbs.  I do not recall it being unusually dirty at that time, but I was focused on other things.  If it had been, I probably would have washed it, but maybe not; I was focused on other things.

I used a little bit of Dawn dish soap in several gallons of water and our soft, long handle, brush to try and scrub it clean and then rinsed it with softened water.  It was better by the time I was done but far from 100% clean.  I also scrubbed all of the metal awning covers and then hosed them off and rinsed the awning fabric.  When I was done on the roof I sprayed off all four sides of the bus, but even with the softened water it left spots and streaks.  Another unfortunate side effect of this work is that it frightened our male cat, Jasper, who ended up hiding behind the steering column in an attempt to escape the sights and sounds of a ‘monster’ on the roof.

We would like to get the body clean but there’s no point doing anything until I get the roof finished (Linda does not climb ladders and she does not get on the roof of the bus.)  At a minimum I am going to have to use a stiff scrub brush and a stronger solution of Dawn dish soap, or perhaps a commercial cleaner that can treat mold/mildew along with just plain dirt.  We will then have to do the vertical surfaces in small sections, scrubbing, rinsing, and drying as we go.  We have a sprayer for our hose that has a small bottle for additives and one of the reasons I bought it was to try using a dishwasher rinse aid, like Jet Dry, to see if it would eliminate spotting.  To-date, however, I have not tried that.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.  The governor is the silver thing on the left.  The open port on top is the air discharge where the unloader valves are located.

Once Butch had the old air-compressor out of their bus he turned the input shaft and noted that the pistons were not pumping air.  This confirmed that something had failed internally and ordering a replacement was the right thing to do.  There wasn’t much else to do so we all sat around in the warm sun and waited for the UPS truck to show up, which it finally did around 3:45 PM.  We (me, Linda, and Fonda) suggested that Butch wait until tomorrow to start installing it, but we knew that was not going to happen.  The compressor was a significant road failure that had bugged him since it happened and he was anxious to get it fixed.

 

The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The Bendix Tu-Flo 700 he received is designed specifically for mounting on Detroit Diesel 92 series 2-stroke engines but has more ports on it than are typically used in this application.  Making sure to match the configuration of the old compressor, Butch installed new plugs in the unneeded ports.  He then removed the fittings from the old unit one at a time and installed them in the new one, being careful to line them up exactly the same way.  I helped by holding the compressor on a work table while Butch tightened the pipe threads.  This was the easy part of the project as we were standing at a tall bench with plenty of room to work and good light.

 

The new air-compressor with fittings.  Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.

The new air-compressor with fittings. Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.  The spline is in the upper left of the photo.

The hard part was getting the air-compressor re-installed.  Butch eventually got it onto two of the four mounting studs, which then took the weight.  We discovered a clearance issue with one of the port plugs and he had to pull the compressor back out.  He removed a plug from the old compressor, which did not stick out as far, and reused it in the new compressor.  With the compressor back on the studs it now lined up better but the spline would not engage the drive gear on the end of the engine camshaft.  He put a wrench on the crankshaft pulley nut and turned the engine slightly by standing on the end of it while I jiggled the air-compressor.

The "governor" mounted on the new compressor.

The “governor” mounted on the new compressor.

The spline eventually engaged the engine gear and the air-compressor gear enough that Butch was able to fully seat the flange and insert/tighten the four mounting studs, lock washers, and nuts.  Per the instructions, he reconnected all of the lines except for the air discharge and called it a night.  The coolant goes back in tomorrow and Butch will then start the main engine to make sure the compressor works, check for leaks, and let any contaminants get blown out the discharge fitting.  If everything looks good he will attach the discharge line, which connects the outlet port of the air-compressor to the coach air system, and air up the bus.

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the engine block (towards the front of the bus).

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the DD6V92TA engine block (towards the front of the bus) in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9B NJT.

At least we were successful in convincing Butch to wait until tomorrow to put the coolant back in the engine.  By the time we finished working, put our tools away, and got cleaned up it was 7:30 PM and had been dark for two hours.  Linda reheated the leftover fajita fixings and we had open-faced tortillas with Fritos corn chips, salsa, black grapes, and Sangria.  We were both tired so we relaxed for a while after dinner and then went to bed.

2024/12/23 (T) Blythe, CA

We got a call from Connie right after breakfast letting us know that the two packages Carolyn picked up yesterday were for us and Butch.  We needed to pick them up before 11AM as Carolyn had an appointment at that time.  Linda was headed out for her morning walk anyway so she walked to Rock Reality, near the post office and uptown drugs, to get the packages from Carolyn.  (Carolyn is Joe and Connie’s realtor.)  She dropped off the two P. O. Box – Mail Pickup Notice cards at the post office while she was there.

Our package was from Madeline (Brendan and Shawna), to be opened on Christmas Day.  Butch’s package was the unloader valve kits for our Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressors.  He ordered them while we were in Forest City, Arkansas for delivery to Amarillo, Texas but they did not arrive in time so his friend forwarded them to our Quartzsite location.

Butch and Fonda used most of the morning to put the coolant back into the engine.  Our buses, which still have their over-the-road heating systems, hold a lot of coolant.  Ours requires 34 gallons.  The buses are not identical, but I suspect theirs requires at least 30 gallons.  And it is very important that the cooling system is filled to capacity and has had all of the air purged out of it.  It’s a big, messy job.

They got as much in as they could by standing on a ladder and pouring it through a funnel into the filler tube for the surge tank.  The radiators on the MCI MC-9 are located above the engine, one on each side wall at the rear of the bus, and the surge tank is located above them, so the filler tube is approximately 9 feet from the ground.  Butch started the engine to warm it up enough for the thermostat to open and to circulate the coolant and opened a couple of bleeder valves to let air out.  He also checked the outlet fitting on the new air-compressor to verify that it was pumping air.  It was (hurray!), so he shut the engine off, attached the air line to the outlet fitting, and started it back up.  The chassis air system (suspension and brakes) came up to pressure and the air-dryer “sneezed” (momentarily opened its purge valve) so the system was fully operational.

We planned to go to Blythe, California today and Butch and Fonda wanted to go too, so he shut off the engine and they cleaned up their campsite.  We were sitting in our coach when the winds came up rather strong.  Linda checked the weather and the winds were out of the north at 20 MPH and forecast at 22-25 MPH until 6 PM.  That was strong enough for us to retract our awnings, close our roof vents, collapse our folding chairs, and stow our patio mat.  Butch and Fonda also retracted their patio awning and stored all of their outdoor equipment and furniture.  We had the old patio awning on our Itasca Sunrise torn off by strong (thunderstorm) winds while we were away from the motorhome and have been extra careful about awnings and wind ever since.

With all of that done we headed to Blythe in their Chevy Suburban.  From 879 feet ASL in Q we climbed to about 1200 feet ASL over the low mountain range that separates the two valleys, and then descended to 240 feet ASL as we crossed the Colorado River and entered California.  A few miles later we took the 7th Street exit and we were there.  The 20 mile drive was only five more miles than the trip we made from Williston Crossings RV Resort to the Publix grocery store (at the southwest corner of Gainesville, Florida) last winter, so it did not feel like a long way to go for groceries.  At home we have supermarkets about five miles away in three different directions.  Butch and Fonda typically drive into Logansport for their groceries, a distance of 12 miles, so we are all used to traveling some distance to purchase our food.

The Smart & Final Extra and the Albertson’s were on the NW and SE corners of 7th and Hobsonway, just north of I-10, making them especially convenient for us, so this is where we will likely shop every other week or so.  But our first destination was a few blocks farther west on S. Main St. where we found Weeks Printing.  They were eventually able to access our flash drive and open the PDF of our holiday letter.  They had a high quality paper in 8.5”x14” size, and were able to print our letter 2-sided on a good quality color laser printer for a very reasonable price of $1.25 per letter ($0.625 per side).  They did not take credit cards so we paid cash, but it saved us a 73 mile trip (one way) to Staples in Lake Havasu City.

Self-portrait of the blogger.  I am merely a reflection of my former self.

Self-portrait of the blogger. I am merely a reflection of my former self.

At the Smart & Final Extra we bought fresh produce, soy milk, and some bulk, canned, and packaged items.  They did not carry the Silk brand soy coffee creamer that I like, and there were a few items Butch and Fonda needed that the store did not have, so we drove across the street to Albertson’s and got those items.  I stayed in the car with the groceries, but I already knew that the Albertson’s would be a nice store based on our experience with the chain in Sheridan, Wyoming during summer 2013.  With our shopping done we returned to Quartzsite.

I carried the groceries from the car to the bus and Linda stored them, discovering that she had an empty tub available in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  By the time she was done it was approaching 4 PM so she prepared chickpea salad sandwiches as a quick, light lunch and then announced that we should go for a walk before it got dark.  She let me chose the route so we crossed Central Avenue (AZ-95) and walked to the city park, which has a very nice baseball field with lights and the only grass we have seen in Quartzsite.  There was also a skateboard facility, a football field, and two F4 Phantom jets (minus the engines and other equipment).  The Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club (QMDC) has a practice field adjacent to the park.  The park is located near the following municipal facilities:  Community Center and Library, County Court, Police Station, and Post Office Annex (where most of the P. O. Boxes are located).  The Fire Department is a little farther north on Tyson Wells Street just east of Central Avenue.

The sun was getting near the tops of the mountains to our southwest so we headed pack to our coach and settled in for the evening.  For dinner Linda made a barley risotto with garlic, shallots, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetable both, and seasonings.  While she was cooking I got a call from my dad and got him caught up on our whereabouts and activities.  The risotto was excellent and we each enjoyed a glass of sangria with our meal.

I don’t know if we are just relaxed, or really tired after a hard summer and fall, but we have both been going to bed earlier and waking up later than usual.  Or perhaps it is just the effect of fresh air and sunshine.  Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be able to just sleep when that is what we feel like doing and get up when we are read.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q.  Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone.  If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q. Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone. If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

2014/12/24 (W) Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and we woke to a temperature of 37 degrees, clear skies, light winds, and no snow.  The forecast high for today was 66, with no snow.  Do I miss snow at the holidays?  Not really.  At one time (high school) I considered myself something of a “romantic” in the sense that I liked the classical music of the romantic era, but I am not particularly nostalgia.  If I was, we would own a restored 1957 Chevy; red, of course.  No, we had snow at home before we left and as a harbinger of things to come we took it as a sign that our departure was overdue.  Christmas in the desert will be a new experience for us, but so far it looks very agreeable.  We will miss being with family, of course, but we are not alone here and technology keeps all of us much more connected than it once did.

Having been to Blythe yesterday we did not have any last minute shopping to do today.  The desert was there yesterday and will be there tomorrow (I presume) so we did not have to see it today.  With the holidays upon us I did not feel like working on bus projects.  Linda started addressing the envelopes for our Year-In-Review Holiday Letter and then worked on food preparations for tomorrow’s dinner with Butch and Fonda.  It seemed like a good day for me to finally start catching up on some things that I have not had time for in a while.  For instance, I need to work on articles for Bus Conversions Magazine, update our bus project list/status, update our website, upload some blog posts (OK, a LOT of blog posts), and catch up on the blogs I follow using the Feedly app on my iPad.  I am way behind on all of these tasks and starting to feel some pressure about it, albeit self-imposed.  I do not have to do any of these things if I don’t want to, of course, but they are activities that I enjoy and want to do.  Still, being way behind takes some of the fun out of it and makes it a bit more like work.  I won’t get caught up in one day or one week or even one month; it will take many weeks of persistent effort.

After checking e-mail, I settled in to work on my article about the exterior renovation of our motorcoach.  Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint helped me finish the article in early October but I still needed to select and caption all of the photos.  While I worked on that Linda walked to the Road Runner Market and managed to snag the last 3-pack of yeast.  When she got back she made her orange cranberry relish for tomorrow’s dinner.

We took a break for lunch and then Linda headed out for her daily power walk.  When she got back she continued addressing envelopes for our holiday letter.  Just as I was feeling like I needed a break, Butch knocked on the door to let me know he was working on a small project that might interest me.  He had already burped the coolant lines that supply heat to the living area of their bus when driving and gotten the last of the coolant into the system.  His new project was getting an alternator driven tachometer connected and calibrated.

It turned out that he needed positive DC power to the tachometer in addition to the ground and RPM signal.  He was able to temporarily pick up 24VDC from the positive terminal of the starter, found a convenient ground point, and picked up the rotational speed from the stator terminal on the back of the alternator.  With the engine running at low idle he measured the RPM of the main crankshaft pulley using an optical sensor instrument.  It was just over 600 RPMs so he adjusted the tach via a set screw on the rear to match the reading.  He kicked it into high idle and measured the rotational speed as 950 RPM.  That is what the tach displayed within the precision of the markings.  He already has a signal wire run from the engine compartment to the cockpit but needs to mount the tachometer in a separate bullet housing, connect the wire on both ends, and provide positive and negative (ground) DC to the instrument.  He decided not to take on that project today.

(Note:  RPM is universally understood to be an abbreviation for “Revolutions Per Minute” but that is not necessarily correct.  An object such as the pulley on the end of an engine crankshaft rotates about its own axis, just as the earth does, and has angular velocity which is properly measured in rotations per some unit of time or angular displacement per some unit of time.  The abbreviation is, of course, still RPM.  In the case of the pulley, however, Butch put a small piece of white tape on the face of the pulley at the outside edge to act as a target for his optical sensor.  If we consider the piece of tape as a separate object then it does, indeed, revolve around the center axis of the pulley, just as the earth revolves around the sun.  Viewed thus way, revolutions per minute is technically correct.  As with many things in physics, it depends on your frame of reference.  So much for today’s physics lesson.)

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop.

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop at our compound.

As long as I was outside I borrowed Butch’s metal detector and went in search of a couple of tie downs that Joe told us were buried somewhere near the outer edge of our patio awning.  I knew they were lined up with a reference mark on one of the concrete patio slabs and it did not take long to locate and uncover them.  We put a couple of medium-sized rocks on top of them so we could relocate them easily.

We got several multimedia messages from our son today with pictures of our grand-daughter at our daughter’s house helping make cookies.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline are spending the night and Katie is joining them tomorrow.  Butch and Fonda will spend most of the day at the local church Fonda selected, including a carry-in (pot luck) luncheon, but will have dinner with us around 6:30 PM.

I finally returned to our coach and worked on my article about the Zena power generating system I installed to charge our house batteries while driving.  Again, the article was mostly finished a long time ago, but I could not submit it until I completed the installation, got the system operational, and took a few more photos.  All of that happened in October and November but I was too busy with other projects and preparations to pull it all together at that time.  I had a couple of e-mails today from Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, indicating that the December 2014 issue might not be out until early January 2015, and wondering if I might have a finished article they could use.

For dinner Linda made a salad of dark mixed greens with raisins, nuts, and pear slices drizzled with raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing followed by pan-seared tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-que sauce served open-faced on hamburger buns.  We split a Sam Adams Pumpkin Spice Ale.  I am not a big fan of ales or pumpkin but beer seemed like the right beverage for this dish.  It was OK, but I would have enjoyed a Yingling or Shiner Bock more.

I made good progress on both articles today.  I got an e-mail from Mike, the editor of BCM, wondering if I had a finished article.  The ZENA article was close enough that I decided to finish it and upload it to our Dropbox before going to bed.  I e-mailed Mike back to let him known it was there and offered to finish the other one by the end of the weekend.

Earlier in the day I updated our personal WordPress site to the just released version 4.1 and updated several plug-ins and themes.  My last task before turning in for the night was to replicate the update process on the other three sites I manage.  By the time I got to bed it was Christmas Day.

2014/12/25 (R) Christmas in Q

The wind came up strongly overnight and we were awakened by the rattling of the vent fan domes.  From our north facing bedroom window we could see flags and the tops of trees blowing briskly in the wind.  We could also hear and see the awnings on the south/passenger side of the coach flapping.  Linda checked the weather channel app on her iPad and it reported winds at 20 MPH.  We were not expecting winds that strong until the daytime and they were strong enough for us to be concerned about our awnings.  By that point we were wide awake so we put on our sweatpants and shirts, slipped on some shoes, found a set of keys, got the step-stool out of the front bay and the awning rod out of the folding chair bay, retracted the two awnings, returned the rod and step-stool to their respective storage compartments, and finally went back to bed.

Linda got up at 6:30 AM in order to start making cinnamon rolls from scratch.  I usually get up first and make a pot of coffee but I was up past midnight working, so I slept in for another hour.  The yeast she bought yesterday wasn’t cooperating so we turned on one of the Broan ceramic cube heaters to try and create a warmer and more consistent environment to get the dough to rise.

We borrowed Butch and Fonda’s Verizon MiFi (unlimited data plan) so we could Facetime with our children and their families, who were gathered at our daughter and son-in-law’s house.  We got to watch all of them open the presents we left for them when we were there on Thanksgiving and they got to watch us open the gifts they sent with us or shipped to us here in Quartzsite.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline (son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter) sent a 2015 Shutterfly Calendar with photographs of all the different family members placed on the dates for birthdays, anniversaries, and such.  We do not need much at this point in our lives, but a collection of photographs that also reminds us of the people and dates that are most important to us is something we appreciate and treasure.  Meghan and Chris (daughter and son-in-law) bought us each a genuine Tilley hat.  I have known about these hats for a while but never bought one.  Given our outdoor oriented RV lifestyle, these were excellent gifts.

After we were done with our Facetime session Linda took the cinnamon rolls over to the apartment to bake since it has a range with an oven.  She will finish cooking dinner there later and the four of us will eat there this evening as it has a table that will seat four people.

The apartment bedroom.

The apartment bedroom.

In spite of early indications to the contrary the cinnamon rolls rose and baked just fine. The dough used flour, salt, vegan butter, yeast, and flax meal with water (egg substitute) and a little sugar.  The filling was made with brown sugar, vegan butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup.  The topping was a glaze of sugar, water, and vanilla with raisins and chopped walnuts.  Linda took two of them over to Butch and Fonda and we had some for breakfast still warm from the oven.  It’s a good thing that these are as much work to make as they are or I might want them for breakfast every day.   🙂

Linda had a call and TXT message from her sister (Marilyn) and sent a reply.  She was on her way to her housemate’s family gathering and they agreed they would talk later today.  She also sent merry Christmas TXT messages to her sister-in-law, Mary, and good friend, Diane.  At noon our time (1 PM CST, UTC-6) I called my sister to wish her a happy holiday.  Her daughter, grand-daughter, and future son-in-law had already been there in the morning as Ryan had to work that afternoon.

I made a second pot of coffee, which is unusual for us, but we planned to spend the day lounging around the coach cooking (Linda) and working on the computer (me).  Linda cleaned up the breakfast cookware, poured another cup of coffee, and started working on the chocolate cake for tonight’s dessert.  With the cake prepared and in the apartment oven she turned her attention to making the candied yams.  Once those were done the only thing left to do was bake the Tofurkey, roast the asparagus, and heat the gravy.  It was a lot work for her but it was spread out over two days and she enjoyed, and did it, willingly.  We could have gone out for dinner if she wanted, even though we would not have found much we could eat, but I am glad she preferred to cook.

Once I wrapped up the conversation with my sister I got back to work on the Outside Makeover (Exterior Renovation) article.  Although I thought I was done writing I made a few more edits and selected additional photos.  By 5 PM I had 74 photos selected and placed in sequence to match the flow of the article.  I had also done as much of that work as I cared to for the day.

We were down to 1/4 tank of fresh water so I decided to refill it.  About that same time Linda decided it was chilly enough in the apartment that she wanted the propane space heater turned on so I shut off the water and took care of that.  The heater had a hose that went through the wall at floor level to the outside with a regulator and POL fitting on the end of it.  I found a couple of 20 lb. propane tanks in the workshop and connected one of them to the regulator.  It took a while but I eventually got the pilot flame to light and then got the heater to ignite.  I then went back and finished filling our water tank.

The little apartment is very cute with three rooms: a bathroom on the east end, a bedroom on the west end, and a kitchen/dining/living room in the middle.  It has a shower, a 4-burner electric range with an oven, a refrigerator/freezer, a small microwave oven, the aforementioned space heater, a small window air-conditioner, a small TV/monitor with a satellite receiver, two easy chairs, a small dining table with four chairs, and a queen sized bed.  Marilyn is seriously considering coming for a visit the last week of January and if she does she will stay in the apartment and get to experience Quartzsite.

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner.  No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner. No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

We bought a bottle of Sternthaler Nurnberger Christkindles Gluhwein spiced red holiday wine at Central Market in Fort Worth, Texas to serve with our Christmas dinner.  It is a mulled wine that is supposed to be gently heated before serving, but we found it quite agreeable straight from the refrigerator.  About 20 minutes before dinner time we set it out on the counter to warm up slightly, the space heater doing a very effective job heating the small apartment even on its lowest setting.

Linda and Fonda both contributed dishes to the meal and Fonda made a couple of things that we could eat.  They brought chicken and traditional mashed potatoes for themselves but also tried some of the Tofurkey roast.  Linda made a vegan chocolate cake for dessert and whipped refrigerated coconut milk solids to use as a whipped cream substitute.  Our daughter did this for the Thanksgiving meal and we really liked it.

We sat in the apartment for a long time after dinner and just talked until we were all tired.  Linda and Fonda had already cleaned the dishes so we turned off the propane space heater and carried all of our stuff back to our coaches.  Linda put the leftovers away while I did a final check of my e-mail for the night.  I then shut my computer off and we headed to bed.  Like so many things in our retirement RV lifestyle, this Christmas holiday was a new and good experience.

 

2014/12/17-20 (W-S) Second Winter Birthday

2014/12/17 (W) Clammy Q

The first rain came last night at 11 PM as forecast.  It then rained off and on through noon today and we had little pools of standing water in low-lying areas, an unusual site here in Quartzsite.  The cloud cover remained complete into the early afternoon, keeping the coach slightly chilly, but we just dressed accordingly.

Linda went for a morning walk and then spent part of the morning making broccoli, cauliflower, carrot soup.  She served some for lunch along with vegan grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches (on sourdough bread) and fresh grapes.  She went for another walk after lunch.  Butch and Fonda left around 9 AM for her women’s bible study group and did not return until 2:30 PM.

Kuehn Street market area looking west towards Central Avenue (US-95).  Quartzsite, AZ.

Kuehn Street market area looking west towards Central Avenue (US-95). Quartzsite, AZ.

I spent the morning and the early part of the afternoon researching products for testing water hardness, checking-in to a few social media websites, updating our calendar, and continuing to clean up my e-mail accounts.  Getting all of my accounts cleaned up is going to take weeks as I can only spend so many hours a day on this task before I need to do something else.  Mid-afternoon I got our sewer hose out and connected it.  I unscrewed the pressure gauge on our Valterra water pressure regulator, which has been stuck on 60 PSI for quite some time, and took it with me to Big Market to make sure the threads were the same before I bought a replacement.

When I got back I put a couple of wraps of Teflon tape around the threads, screwed it in by hand, and snugged it down with a pair of adjustable pliers.  I turned on the water supply and the gauge registered ~35 PSI with no leaks.  I adjusted the regulator pressure up to 45 PSI and called it good.  It is an inexpensive gauge, not liquid filled, but it will do for now.  I doubt that the old gauge can be repaired, but I will let Butch look at it before I throw it away.  When we eventually redo the water bay I plan to install better gauges as part of a coach-mounted plumbing system.  The reason to have one at the spigot, however, is to protect everything downstream from excessively high water pressure, including the hoses.

The name says it all.  Located in Tyson Wells near Prospectors Panorama and the "Big Tent".

The name says it all. Located in Tyson Wells near Prospectors Panorama and the “Big Tent”.

Linda was outside reading when I left to go to Big Market but thicker clouds moved in from the west and it got too chilly to sit outside comfortably.  We spent a quiet afternoon on the sofa with our cats and watched the skies darken as the afternoon advanced towards sunset.  By 4:30 PM it was raining lightly again and a beautiful mist hung over the mountains to the southwest and west.  Even though we are in the desert the humidity has been quite high on these cool, cloudy, rainy days.  The conditions have not been uncomfortable, just unexpected.

Connie returned home with Joe at 5:15 PM but we did get to meet him because of the rain.  He has been in a care facility in Blythe, California recovering from a scorpion sting so this was the first time he has been back in Q since we arrived.

Linda made a slightly fancier salad for dinner and served it along with the soup she made earlier in the day.  Both were delicious and the soup really hit the spot on a cool and unusually clammy day in Q.  Hot tea was also much appreciated.  After dinner we had a quiet evening at home.  Linda read while I worked at my computer.  The seating in the coach seems less comfortable this year compared to last winter, or at least we are more aware of it, and we finally went to bed when we could no longer sit comfortably.

Some of the vendor tents in the Tyson Wells market area on the south side of Kuehn Street.

Some of the vendor tents in the Tyson Wells market area on the south side of Kuehn Street.

2014/12/18 (R) Schmoo Is Two

Today was grand-daughter Madeline’s 2nd birthday.  It’s the first birthday where she is aware that it is a special day and the specialness has something to do with her.  Of course at her age every day is a special day and has something to do with her, but this one is more specialer.

I shut my computer off last night before I went to bed.  I don’t always do that, but I do occasionally.  It’s a habit leftover from my Windows XP Pro days when I’ll-behaved programs that did not conform to Microsoft’s programming rules would fail to release memory and eventually the machine would run out and stop working correctly.  The fix was to do a full power off shutdown and restart it.  When I started it this morning it installed updates, although it did not indicate last night that there were any to install.

One of the things I did yesterday morning was get us registered as staff for the Escapees RV Club Escapade rally in March.  After leaving messages on Monday and Tuesday for Kim, as instructed in an e-mail I received, Tamika (who answers the phone) indicated that she could handle the registration.  I then got online and placed our Escapade clothing order.  Hopefully it gets shipped to the rally venue, and not to our house in Michigan, as again the website did not match the instructions we received.  I was glad to have these taken care of and checked off of my list as I find it a bit frustrating (irritating?) when I decide to do something and then cannot get it done.  Just because we are retired does not mean we have nothing to do or all the time in the world to not do it.

View looking west of our coach and site in the late afternoon sun.

View looking west of our coach and site in the late afternoon sun.

Breakfast was homemade granola with fresh blueberries and bananas, spicy V8, and coffee.  Even though it was overcast and cool Linda went for her morning power walk.  Besides the exercise (10,000+ steps per day) she enjoys having the time to herself and it helps her get familiar with the layout of a new place.

We did not interact at all with Butch and Fonda yesterday.  Not that we needed to; by the time we pull out of Q in early March we will have been traveling/camping together for over three months.  Add to that the fact that I was living at their house for much of October and November working on our bus, and theirs, and I can understand why they might want some time to themselves.  They left early in the morning yesterday, so Fonda could attend a women’s bible study group, and did not return until mid-afternoon.  They looked at something in their engine bay, presumably the air-compressor, and then retreated to their coach and we did not see or hear them the rest of the day.

Joe was out this morning on his power chair picking up after their miniature schnauzer Otis so we went outside and introduced ourselves.  Butch came out soon after that, followed by Fonda and the dogs.  We all stood (or sat) around and had a nice long chat.  Connie eventually came out on her power chair with a basket of laundry.  I carried that over to the laundry room for her and after she loaded it in the washing machine she joined the conversation.

Joe wanted to run some errands and Butch offered to drive him around so we took our car and went on an ‘explore.’  We found the Post Office annex on Plymouth Avenue, which is just a couple of trailers with P. O. Boxes but no counter service.  I did not even notice a place to drop off outgoing mail.  Quartzsite has two ZIP codes and there is some confusion regarding which one to use when.  We do not expect to receive much mail while we are here, nor do we expect to receive a lot of UPS shipments, but we will probably need to receive a little bit of each and they need to be addressed correctly in order to get to us.  We may end up using General Delivery for mail, as the Quartzsite Post Office does not have rural delivery (they do not deliver mail to street addresses), whereas UPS does deliver to street addresses, but they have to be correct.  We plan to go to the main post office “downtown” tomorrow and clarify the situation.

Partial view of our winter compound looking north.  Our bus is to the left and Butch & Fonda's MC-9 is to the right.  Look carefully and you will see someone napping.  And why not.

Partial view of our winter compound looking north. Our bus is to the left and Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 is to the right. Look carefully and you will see someone napping. And why not.

We drove south on Riggles Avenue across I-10 at exit 19 to Kuehn Road and headed east in search of the location where the SKP gathering will be held.  Kuehn becomes Dome Rock Road (east and west) as you head out of town into the desert.  The 4-mile mark coincided with the end of the pavement and one of the BLM STVAs.  We turned south and drove another mile into the desert on a freshly graded dirt road before turning around.  The dirt road was actually better than the crumbling pavement, which is clearly not being maintained.  We then headed back to the area of Kuehn Street, to either side of AZ-95, where most of the seasonal vendors are (will be) located.

We had some Indian Fry Bread for lunch and it was both tasty and filling.  Linda had cinnamon and granulated sugar while I had honey and powdered sugar.  We walked the whole area and at least peaked in each tent while spending a bit more time with a few vendors.  We were going to walk past the Beef Jerky shop but the lady proprietor started chatting with us.  As it turned out she was a vegetarian and had a nice selection of non-animal products.  Which just goes to prove the old adage “you never know.”

Linda got a TXT message from our son letting us know that our grand-daughter was home from day care so we headed back to the coach.  We borrowed Butch and Fonda’s Verizon Jetpack MiFi and used it to Facetime with our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.  (Their MiFi has an unlimited data plan; ours does not.)  We got to wish Madeline a happy birthday and watch her open her present from us.

View looking south on Lollipop Ln from the entrance to our compound.

View looking south on Lollipop Ln from the entrance to our compound.

When Linda returned the MiFi device on her way to her second walk of the day Butch let her know that Joe and Connie wanted the six of us to go out to dinner, so she planned her walk to be back in plenty of time.  Joe suggested we try the Main Street Eatery as they have a garden burger on the menu that he likes.  It turned out to have cheese mixed in with the patty so we did not get one but Linda had a brown rice and veggies dish and I had French fries with ketchup and Tabasco sauce.

In a reversal of our normal routine, I was tired and went to bed early while Linda stayed up reading and playing her online spelling games.

2014/12/19 (F) Hasta La Vista

When we were at the Walmart in Parker last weekend we looked for holiday cards but all they had was a limited selection of Christmas cards.  The last few years we have done a “year in review” letter with captioned photos and short blurbs about each month.  We did not bring a printer with us so Linda searched for places that could print this for us and found one in Blythe, California.

Quartzsite is in the Sonoran Desert and many of the properties have Sugauro Cactus.  Palo Verde and Greasewood bushes are also common with some smaller cactus, but no lawn grass.

Quartzsite is in the Sonoran Desert and many of the properties have Sagauro Cactus. Palo Verde and Greasewood bushes are also common with some smaller cactus, but no lawn grass.

Breakfast was spicy V8 juice, cinnamon raisin toast, sourdough toast with orange marmalade, and coffee.  At dinner last night at the Main Street Eatery the waitress/owner, Michelle, mentioned that a Smart & Final (Extra) store had opened in Blythe and she was excited to have one so close to Quartzsite.  Blythe is only 20 miles away; about half the distance to Parker and a quarter of the distance to Yuma.  Although it is a non-membership warehouse store she said they also have a lot of good quality fresh produce.  We were prepared for Quartzsite to be challenging for us food wise, but so far it has been OK and is looking up.

Linda went for her morning walk and while she was out I strolled down to Herb’s Hardware in search of a piece of plastic pipe with an appropriate inside diameter for fabricating the insert I need for recharging our water softener.  Although Big Market is a good place for this kind of general purpose hardware I went to Herb’s because it is on Central Avenue (AZ-95) not far from where we are staying.  It was small but well-stocked.  I did not find exactly what I needed, of course, but I found something that might work.  It was worth $2.50 to find out.  The problem is that I am looking for a part that does not exist so I have to repurpose/fabricate something using whatever tools I have with me, can borrow from Butch, or buy in town.

When I got back to the coach I spent much of the rest of the day working on our holiday letter with breaks for food and a little socializing.  During an afternoon break Butch and I disassembled my old, non-functioning, water pressure gauge so I could see how it works.  For lunch Linda served the leftover fajita veggies and seitan over basmati rice, which was yummy.  For dinner she made a tomato, mushroom, onion ragu with a little broccoli thrown in and served it over half of a baked potato.  It was very satisfying on a cool evening.

'Q' is criss-crossed with "washes" (drainage ditches) that are usually dry and used by ATVs.  This is one of the smaller ones, but is big enough for a full-size SUV.  When the flash floods come (springtime) these washes fill and flow fast and a dangerous.

‘Q’ is criss-crossed with “washes” (drainage ditches) that are usually dry and used by ATVs. This is one of the smaller ones, but is big enough for a full-size SUV. When the flash floods come (springtime) these washes fill and flow fast and a dangerous.

Joe and Connie’s son, Dale, and other family members drove down from Nevada after work today and were expected to arrive sometime after midnight.  The plan was to pick up Joe and Connie, load their minivan into the “toter,” and head back; a nine hour trip each way.  Given that plan we did not get to meet Dale, et al, and said “farewell, see you later” to Joe and Connie before we all turned in for the evening.

2014/12/20 (S) Yuma, AZ

Yesterday Butch suggested we that we drive to Yuma today so that is what we did.  Quartzfest, the RV/ARO gathering, takes place the last full week of January at the BLM Road Runner STVA near mile marker 99 on US-95 south of Quartzsite.  We wanted to find that location and just see the desert south of town.  Joe had also suggested that we take the Old Yuma Road down to La Paz.  Linda had found the road on her iPad yesterday and what looked like a small community about four miles out, but the community was not named on the map.  From Kuehn and Central it looked to be a five mile hike, if we were inclined to walk it.

I tried logging in to the Prevost Community (PC) website last night but our login did not work.  I contacted the site administrators and had two e-mails waiting for me this morning with the info I needed.  I logged in and posted some information and a question about our turbo boost and dashboard gauge and searched the site for posts about the Level Low system.  I also checked the Prevost Owners Group (POG) website but there seemed to be more information on PC about older H3s and 92 series Detroit Diesel engines.

Map of the Yuma, AZ downtown / historic area.

Map of the Yuma, AZ downtown / historic area.

Connie called around 8:30 AM and asked me to take care of a couple of things at the site, which I did.  We left for Yuma at 10:15 AM and drove south on US-95 through 85 miles of mostly scrubby desert surrounded by mostly barren mountains until we got near Yuma.  Much of the drive was through BLM administered land and part of it was through the U. S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds.  The area around Yuma was unexpectedly green but we learned that the area grows more leafy greens during the winter months than anyplace else on the planet

By the time we got into town and got our bearings it was time for lunch.  We spotted a Golden Corral and Butch assured us they had a nice salad bar, and probably other things we could eat, so we went there.  We all ate too much, which is one of the reasons we rarely go to buffets of any kind, but the food was OK and we did have quite a variety to choose from.

Butch was feeling a bit sleepy after lunch so I drove us down to the Quartermasters Depot Historic Park on the Colorado River.  The other side of the river was California, the closest we have been on this trip, but we did not cross over the bridge.  We spent some time in the visitor information center reading about the depot and picking up literature for various area attractions and activities but did not pay the $4 per person admission and go in.  We then drove around to the parking lot for the Yuma Territorial Prison Historic Park but did not park the vehicle and get out.  Admission is $6 per person and we will come back another day (and leave earlier in the morning) so we have time to visit these and other sites.

Historic Quartermaster Depot State Park.  Note that the cover of the wagon says "AT" (Arizona Territory).

Historic Quartermaster Depot State Park. Note that the cover of the wagon says “AT” (Arizona Territory).

While we were driving back to Q we both got messages on our smartphones from our son with pictures and video of our grand-daughter Madeline’s birthday party.  All of her aunts and uncles and cousins were there and she was having a wonderful time.  While we would like to be present on such occasions there are choices to be made.  We have discussed celebrating Madeline’s “half birthday” each year on June 18th as we will likely be home at that time of year.

Scenic travels notwithstanding, chores still have to be done.  When we got back to camp I dumped the waste tanks, which were near full, and topped up the fresh water tank which was at approximately 40%.  The last time we dumped was a week ago Thursday at the SKP Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico so we went nine days without being conservative in our use of water.  We did top up the fresh water tank shortly after we arrived in Q with approximately 50 gallons of softened water and today I added approximately 75 gallons (60% of capacity).  Although it is not essential, I like to fill the fresh tank whenever I empty the waste tanks.  Our waste tank level gauges do not work but the fresh water tank gauge does, so it gives us an approximate idea of the state of the waste tanks.

As long as I was doing water chores I borrowed another Hach SofChek test strip from Butch and checked the hardness of the water coming out of the water softener.  It registered between 1.5 and 3 grains per gallon (gpg).  The water coming out of the spigot is testing at 25 gpg, the highest amount the test strips can register, so the softener now appears to be doing its job after having been recharged.  Linda recorded the details in the notepad we are using to log these things.

Butch did a minor upgrade on their ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system that should make a big difference in their comfort.  He cut out 15″ sections from the rigid metal supply and return fuel lines and replaced them with rubber fuel lines.  The rubber lines will isolate the unit, which is mounted to the floor of the bay, from the plywood ceiling of the bay to which the metal fuel lines are clamped coming back from the fuel tank.  The plywood ceiling is also the house subfloor and the pulsing of the fuel pump was being telegraphed throughout their coach.  The rubber lines greatly reduced the noise.

A view of the Quartermaster Depot SP.

A view of the Quartermaster Depot SP.

Linda called Brendan back and we got a chance to sing “happy birthday” to Madeline.  She also got to call her sister (Sister Marilyn) and chat for a bit.  Marilyn is considering flying down for a visit and staying in the guest apartment but we are unsure yet of the timing.  Speaking of flying, Linda booked her flight home and back yesterday.  She will fly home from Phoenix on February 17 to take care of various tax returns and bakery accounting details and fly back on March 1st.

We had a quiet evening at home.  Because we had such a big lunch we did not have dinner, as such, just a little hummus with some chips and a small glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine.  Linda read and I worked on selecting/editing photos for our 2014 year in review holiday letter.

 

2014/12/13-16 (S-T) In Q

2014/12/13 (S) Ahhhh

Linda was very tired last night and was asleep by 10 PM.  Although I was up until almost midnight we were both wide awake by 5:30 AM, so I got up and made a full pot of coffee.  We enjoyed our brew while watching the slow but inevitable progression of night to day.  It was very quiet last night; the only sounds I was aware of were the noises the coach makes (refrigerator and auxiliary air-compressor).  The rain last night was gentle and a somewhat rare event for this area at this time of year, so Linda got online with her iPad to check historical weather data and forecasts.

The average rainfall for Quartzsite in December is 0.07 inches, the maximum is 0.7 inches (10 times as much) and the minimum is zero.  The average high is in the mid-60s and the average low is in the low-40s.  On any given day the forecast is sunny with gentle winds and no fog or rain.  January is slightly cooler on average and February warms back up a tad.  You can see why people spend the winter months here.  Sunrise was at 7:32 AM.  We are ~20 miles from the California border, as far west as we can go without moving into the Pacific Time Zone, so sunrise and sunset are later here relative to the local time.

Linda made fresh blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast with real maple syrup and they were excellent.  After breakfast we got out the vacuum cleaner hose and attachments and vacuumed the coach.  This terrified the cats, who have limited places to hide, but it had to be done.  Linda then mopped the tile floor.  She wanted to dust but I suggested the all the cleaning did not have to be done the first morning we were here.  She bundled up the trash and took it to the large garbage can and stopped to chat with Fonda and Connie (our landlady) on the way.

Our motorcoach set up in its winter home in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Our motorcoach set up in its winter home in Quartzsite, Arizona.

By 8:30 the sun was climbing in the southeastern sky and the coach was warming up a bit.  We are parked facing east so we decided to deploy the passenger side awnings (patio and bedroom) which shaded approximately 65% of the upper half of the south-facing side of the coach.  Linda then decided we should wash the front of the coach.

I got the step stool and Little Giant ladder out of the front bay while Linda got the collapsible water bucket.  We started with the front of the bus using water directly from the tap but it dried too quickly in the sun and left spots.  We switched to softened water from our fresh water tank and took a team approach with me scrubbing using a Microfiber sponge and Linda following right behind drying with Microfiber cloths.  That seemed to work better.

After we finished the front we moved to the rear.  The sun had not yet pulled around to west of south so we did not have direct sunlight on the rear cap.  We hooked up our longest hose to the other water softener outlet and then wet the surface, scrubbed the cap with our soft brush, and rinsed it off without using the Microfiber drying clothes.  We will clean the two sides of the coach over the coming week, doing a little bit each day.  We also deployed the awnings on the driver (north) side of bus just to unwind them and let them air out and dry.  We then set out our patio mat and welcome mat and our two bag chairs, completing our cleaning work for the day.

Butch spent some time emptying out their Suburban so we could explore Quartzsite in one vehicle.  We all had lunch and then headed off to explore our winter home town.  Fonda wanted to locate a church where she could attend services on Sunday mornings so we found one that looked like it might suit her.  We drove down Main Street and Kuehn Street checking out the vendors and ended up at Big Market on west Main Street where we bought some grocery items and postcards.

Back at the ranch we settled in for a while before dinner.  I worked at my computer and started checking up on e-mail, which I had not done in several days.  I had a few from Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, and replied to those.  I also spent a little time in RVillage and updated our profile.  Jim Liebherr (Joe’s brother) came around to collect the first month’s rent and clarified access to the laundry room.

View of our motorcoach looking NE from Lollipop Ln.  There are mountains in the distance to right of the rig.

View of our motorcoach looking NE from Lollipop Ln. There are mountains in the distance to right of the rig.

For dinner Linda made a green salad using spinach, Mandarin oranges, and walnuts with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing.  She then prepared a zoodle dish using a tool called a “SpiraLife” that spiral slices vegetables with or without cross-cutting them.  The cross-cut mode turns carrots, zucchini, etc. into long slender strips like flat pasta.  She spiral sliced a zucchini and used it instead of wheat pasta in an olive oil sauté with mushrooms, onions, garlic, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Some vegan “Parmesan” cheese on top, bread on the side, and a glass of Pinot Noir to wash it down made for a wonderful, healthy meal.

Linda found information online that suggested we should have anywhere from 11 to 21 over-the-air (OTA) TV channels.  The Huffington Post even had the complete programming schedule for Quartzsite by channel and time-of-day.  Our TV sets normally scan for standard OTA channels, both analog (very few left) and digital.  We used both the front and rear TV to repeatedly scan for signals, pointing our amplified directional antennas around an entire 360 degrees, but did not find a single station.

The TV sets can also scan for QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) signals.  We had to obtain an Access Code from the Westinghouse support website and enter it into the front TV to get it to scan for QAM signals, but it did not find any of those either.  I called Butch to see if they had tried tuning in any stations.  They had tried and got the same results as us.  It’s not a big deal, the only TV we watch at home is streamed over the Internet, but it was puzzling as we saw lots of TV antennas around town.  Most of them, however, where on top of tall poles.

The overnight low was forecast to be 41 degrees F and by 9 PM it had cooled off in the coach quite a bit.  I decided to shut my computer for the evening and head to bed where we have a dual control electric heating pad to keep each of us in our own comfort zone.  As sometimes happens, Microsoft decided that my computer needed to be updated.  This often turns out be a recursive experience and tonight was no exception.  Five updates were initially downloaded and installed, requiring a restart of the computer.  After it rebooted and finished starting up I tried to shut it off again and there were six more updates, requiring another restart.  I checked again after it rebooted and finished starting up and it appeared to be done, but I decided to leave it on overnight in case additional updates wanted to make their presence known.

I turned up the temperature on my side of the electric heating pad, got cozy under lots of covers, wrote for a while, and turned off the lights.  It was a good first full day in Q.

2014/12/14 (N) Parker, AZ

The temperature in our motorcoach dropped below 60 early in the morning and the Aqua-Hot bedroom zone pump and heat exchanger fans came on even though we did not have a heat source turned on.  That was because I had failed to turn the thermostat off before going to bed last night.  With a 50 Amp shorepower connection I would have turned the three electric toe-kick heaters on, but with our 30 Amp connection I turned on the diesel burner and the electric heating element.  Twenty minutes later the coach was warming up and I turned the electric element off so Linda could start cooking breakfast.

Linda made a tofu scramble using a different recipe that did not call for nutritional yeast as she forgot to pack any.  We had sourdough toast with strawberry jam to go with the scramble, grapefruit juice, and coffee.  Always coffee.  After breakfast Linda went for a walk while I stayed at the bus.  When she got back from her walk and Fonda got back from Church we discussed driving to the Wal-Mart in Parker, Arizona for groceries and sundry items.  Butch left seating for four people in their Suburban so after lunch, he drove all of us to Parker.

See the mountains?  Quartzsite is surrounded by mountains!

See the mountains? Quartzsite is surrounded by mountains!

What we saw of Parker looked like a nice little town.  The Wal-Mart had a reasonable variety and quantity of fresh produce and we got most of the items on our shopping list.  We noticed when pulling out that there was a Safeway supermarket across the street with a CVS Pharmacy next door.  Parker is located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River and is the county seat for La Paz County which includes Quartzsite.  It is also the location of the tribal headquarters for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a consortium of tribes with reservations along both sides of the Colorado River for many miles north and south of Parker.  The Bluewater Resort and Casino is one of the attractions in town.

Back at our winter home base we unloaded our groceries and then sat outside to read, write, and surf the web.  It was cool in the shade and warm in sun.  We chatted with Connie for a while and then retreated to our coach as the outside air temperature dropped.  Linda had picked up a guide to the Lower Colorado River region while walking this morning so I settled in to read it.  As it got dark Linda assembled our dinner.  We had another nice salad, a bowl of the left-over curry, some bread, and finished the bottle of Pinot Noir.  We read for a while after dinner and then went to bed.

2014/12/15 (M) Hard Water

The outside temperature dropped to 38 degrees F overnight, colder than at our house back in Michigan, but the high there won’t make it past 50, which is above average for this time of year, while the high here will be in the low 60s, which is normal.  Add in the warmth of direct sunshine here and you typically have shirtsleeve weather.

I turned on the Aqua-Hot at 6:30 AM and went back to bed for half an hour while the coach warmed up.  When I got up I put on the new sweatshirt and sweatpants that we bought yesterday and made a pot of coffee.  We got the sweat clothing yesterday to wear in the coach while lounging around in the morning.  I only brought a lightweight robe from home, and Linda only brought a lightweight nightshirt, both of which proved to be inadequate against the morning chill.

After breakfast we took showers and then called the Escapees RV Club to register for the Escapade rally and clarify the process for ordering clothing.  I got transferred to Kim’s voice-mail and left my information.  Rather than hang around the coach waiting for a return phone call we walked to “downtown” Quartzsite.  Main Street is only 8/10ths of a mile straight south of our location and is only two miles long from Exit 19 to exit 17 of I-10.  The city is basically four square miles (2×2)—with most of it north of I-10—and is flat terrain, so it’s a compact, easy place to get around on foot or bicycle.

Our first stop was the post office so Linda could mail a few postcards.  There was quite a crowd there picking up and dropping off mail.  From what we understand mail does not get delivered to street addresses here so everyone has a P. O. Box.  UPS, however, does deliver to street addresses.  We went next door to the Chamber of Commerce trailer and picked up a couple more maps and some flyers and booklets on area attractions.  We also bought a pair of Quartzsite 2014-2015 Snowbird commemorative pins.  We then walked to the west end of Main Street and wandered through the Main Event warehouse building.  They sell all manner of inexpensive (cheap) Chinese tools but we did not buy anything on this visit.

Joe & Connie's park model trailer as viewed through the cactus garden by our coach.

Joe & Connie’s park model trailer as viewed through the cactus garden by our coach.

We crossed Main Street to the McDonalds, had some French fries, and used the restrooms.  We did not see any signs for “public” restrooms on our walk today, so the fast food places and truck stops were important pedestrian waypoints.  We headed back east on Main Street and stopped at Big Market to check out the hardware portion of the store.  Butch went through it the other day and said it was surprisingly good given its size.  Having now seen it for myself I have to agree with his assessment.

Most north-south roads in Q are Avenues while larger E-W roads are Streets.  Studying the map we got from the Chamber of Commerce it appears that Avenues and Streets connect to other roads at each end and/or at intermediate points.  Dead end roads are usually named Lanes, but a few are Roads, Drives, or Trails.   There are only four Avenues that run all the way from Main Street to the north end of town.  From east to west they are Plymouth Ave., Central Ave. (AZ-95), Moon Mtn. Ave., and Kofa Ave.  Tyson’s Wash runs north-south between Central Ave. and Moon Mtn. Ave.  Perhaps because of the wash, or perhaps for other reasons, there are only three streets that run all the way through from east to west.  Tyson St. is essentially the north edge of town while Main St. and Kuehn St. parallel I-10 on the north and south side respectively.

We got back to our coach a little after 1 PM.  Cool air temperatures and cloudy skies made it a less comfortable day to sit outside so we gathered up our soiled clothes and Linda took them over to the laundry room.  Because this is private property, not a large commercial RV park, the laundry room is just that, a room with a standard residential washer and dryer.  They are not coin operated so usage is on the honor system; $2 per load (washed and dried).  We are keeping a log of the loads we do and will add the corresponding cost to our rent or electrical bill next month.

Linda sliced an apple, got out the hummus, and put out some baby carrots, pieces of cauliflower, and broccoli along with pita chips.  As we finished our late lunch/snack I noticed that Butch was working in his engine bay.  That meant he was probably doing something with the air-compressor so I went over to find out exactly what he was up to and see if I could be of any assistance.  He was unbolting the compressor from the engine block so he could pull it away from the back of the engine and check the drive gears and spline.  It turned out that I had several socket wrench related tools with me that he needed, so that was my contribution to the process.

Once he had the compressor unbolted and pulled away from the block he was able to determine that there wasn’t anything wrong with the drive gear on the end of the camshaft or with the free-floating spline.  The Bakelite gear was also still intact and the compressor was not seized.  Based on a conversation he had with Bill at U. S. Coach the only thing that appeared to be amiss was a missing spring.  The purpose of the spring is to keep the Bakelite gear engaged with the spline.  Lots of grease packed behind the Bakelite gear can have the same effect as the spring, at least for a while.  Since Butch had already done some of the hardest work required to remove the compressor he was still leaning towards buying a rebuilt unit and installing it.  The “engine” in their bus was newly rebuilt when they bought it, but all of the accessories that attach to it, including the air-compressor, were not.

We did not fill our fresh water tank when we dumped our waste water at the Dream Catcher SKP RV Park on Thursday morning.  After five days of heavier use, including showers, it was nearing empty and needed to be refilled.  We try to fill it with softened water whenever possible and then use the water from the tank.  On the road it is via our portable water softener.  This approach keeps the water in the tank from going stale and also allows us to track how many times we have run a tank’s worth of water (100 – 125 gallons) through the softener.  The number of gallons we can soften depends on the hardness of the water.  We tested the city water in Q when we got here and it is very hard.  It probably comes from very deep wells.

I borrowed a test strip from Butch to check the hardness of the water coming out of our softener.  To my dismay, it was the same as the water going in.  In other words, the softener wasn’t doing anything.  That meant I had to recharge (regenerate) it before I could use it to fill the fresh water tank.  It was near sunset, which meant most this work was done the dark.  Bad planning on my part, but there it is.

I like our little portable softener but have never been satisfied with the recharge procedure.  I followed the directions but without much success and with what I thought was way too much wasted water.  After unscrewing the filter housing on the softener inlet and removing the filter I filled the housing ~3/4s full with non-iodized table salt.  I inserted the special plastic tube onto the outflow port inside the head and then worked the housing up and screwed it into place.  I tried using a trickle flow and also full inlet water pressure with a constricted outlet flow.  I checked every half hour for two hours, but most of the salt was still there.

The view to the SW from our patio.

The view to the SW from our patio.  Just over those mountains is California!

The problem was obvious to me.  When a filter is installed in the housing it is sealed at the top and bottom by a post (bottom) and the outlet port (top).  Water flows into the housing around the outside of the filter, through the filter media, and up the hollow center of the filter and out the port.  What I needed was a tube that was exactly the same inside diameter and length as a standard filter, so it would seal on both ends, but with holes near the bottom.  This would force water, under pressure, to flow down through the salt, through the holes, and up through the tube and into the softener where it could restore the ion exchange capability of the resin media.  I jury-rigged just such a solution by taking the old filter and drilling 1/4″ holes around the bottom.  Not my best piece of work, but it finally got the job done.  I plan to make a better, more permanent, version of this solution sometime soon.

When all of the salt had finally been dissolved and run through the softener I removed the modified filter from the housing, rinsed it out, and installed a new 5 micron filter cartridge.  The housing was leaking and I thought it was the plastic NPT nipple so I released any residual pressures and unscrewed the filter head from the threaded pipe.  I cleaned the old Teflon tape out of the threads, wrapped new tape around them, and screwed the filter housing head back on the nipple.  Fonda had wandered over by this time and was holding the flashlight which was a great help.  It turned out that the problem was a missing O-ring; it fell out of the housing when I dumped it out.  By chance I was walking around the back of the bus (with a flashlight), where I had dumped out the housing, and spotted it on the ground.  I cleaned it off, put it back in, re-installed the new 5 micron filter element into the housing, and screwed it back onto the head.  Valves open; pressure good; no leaks; good to go.

I opened the valve to fill the fresh water tank and went inside for a while.  It took about 30 minutes to fill the main tank because the 5 micron filter does not pass water as quickly as the 20 micron that was in there.  There is also a “whole house” filter housing installed in the water bay.  As best I can tell, all of the water entering the coach goes through that filter, whether directly to the plumbing or into the fresh water tank (which is filled by opening a valve plumbed into the main supply line to the house).  What I need to do now is replace that filter cartridge with a carbon element that removes chlorine and other such things.  We also have a 1 micron drinking/cooking water filter under the kitchen sink that removes five or six different things.  By the time I turned off the water, closed all of the supply valves, and went inside it was 9:45 PM so I grabbed my iPad and headed to bed.

2014/12/16 (T) Shopping In Q

Connie asked me last night if we would help her load her car today and of course we agreed.  Our “landlady” for the winter is a truly delightful person.  She has limited mobility but gets around without complaint.  She’s picking Joe up from the care facility on Wednesday afternoon and bringing him here so we will finally get to meet him in person.  Their sons are driving down from their homes in Nevada on Friday after work and taking the whole family back on Saturday.

Linda went for her morning power walk and I started working on cleaning up my e-mail inboxes.  While Linda was gone Connie indicated that she was ready to start loading her car so I took care of that task.  It was not a big or heavy job, but was more than Connie could do.  I was close to being done when Linda returned and Butch/Fonda emerged from their bus.  We all stood around chatting for a while and Connie invited us in to see the park model trailer she and Joe live in when they are here.  It was not large but was more spacious than either of our buses.

Butch and I headed into town while Fonda and Linda stayed in camp.  Linda wanted to work on her cross-stitch project and Fonda had things to do.  We stopped at the Tool Mart at the Main Event on the west end of Main Street and each picked up some odds and ends tools.  We then drove across to the south side of I-10 and headed west in search of the home where Fonda wants to attend a women’s bible study group on Wednesdays.  The house we were looking for was in a development on the other side of the first ridge of mountains that lie SW of Quartzite.  We found the development and the house without difficulty.  Both were nice but the location was a bit surreal; I mean this development was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by low mountains.  Butch captured the location in his GPS so that Fonda could find her way here and back tomorrow.

We drove back into Q, staying on the south side of I-10, and checked out the various vendors.  We spotted the M & T Enterprises RV water filter store and pulled in to park.  We spent some time there talking to the owner.  They were one of the vendors selling an OTA TV antenna and had one set up on top of a 20 foot pole.  The unit had a built-in rotator, and they claimed they were able to get 21 channels, but they said all of the signals were coming from the NNE to NE.  Other folks have told us that the only signals in town are from Yuma, 85 miles away in a S to SSW direction.  That seems unlikely given the terrain.

We walked down a few booths to the east to K & B Tool.  Among many other things they sell the aluminum tent poles that are being used to get the aforementioned TV antennas up in the air.  Our final stop was at Discount Solar at the NE corner of Main Street and Plymouth Ave.  Butch bought all of their solar equipment from Discount Solar some years ago and thinks highly of the owners and staff.  We were treated most cordially and they took time to talk to both of us.  Butch is considering buying some Full River AGM batteries from them and I was just curious about what they had.

We have two humingbird feeders in the cactus garden by our coach.  Look carefully to the right of the feeder.

We have two humingbird feeders in the cactus garden by our coach. Look carefully to the right of the feeder.

When we got back to camp I had some of the leftover curry for lunch with some hot tea to help me warm up.  Heavy clouds set in over the course of the afternoon and the air temperature was cool enough that I got slightly chilled.  In spite of the chill, Linda went outside to continue working on her cross-stitch project.  Butch set up their two-burner propane stove and made candy as he wanted to give some to Joe and Connie as a gift before they left on Saturday.  With all that work going on around me I decided to take a nap.

Linda made a black beans and rice dish for dinner along with a green salad, both of which were very tasty.  We bought a box of Franzia Sangria at Big Market the other day and finally tried it this evening.  As with most of the Franzia wines it was not outstanding but also not offensive.  Among inexpensive wines the Red Guitar Sangria is much fruitier and I like it better.  While I would prefer a better wine, the Franzia boxed wines are around $13 for 5 liters, fit nicely in the refrigerator, can be consumed over a long time (at least eight weeks), and minimize garbage and recycling.  All of those are positive attributes when living in the motorhome.  We had fresh strawberries later for dessert, which are always a treat.

Our son (Brendan) sent a TXT message with a picture of our grand-daughter (Madeline) and the ornaments she had hung on their Christmas tree.  She put five of them in a group at her eye level.  She will be two years old in two more days and is fully aware that special things are happening and that she is a full participant in them, if not the center of attention.  After dinner I resumed the task of cleaning up e-mails.  I always promise myself that I will do better at managing my e-mails, but I never do.

 

2014/12/09-12 (T-F) On to Q

2014/12/09 (T) Elvis Is Not Dead

No, indeed, Elvis is alive and well and living in Alvarado, Texas with his owner, Donn and fellow dog Lucy.  Sweet animals both, we enjoyed their presence while visiting with Donn.

We heard Donn pull out a few minutes before 5 AM, in an attempt to beat the worst of the morning rush hour traffic headed into Dallas, but we were not ready to get up.  I think we finally piled out of bed around 7:30 AM to find that the fog was so thick we could not see the road at the end of Donn’s driveway.  We had targeted 9 AM as a departure time that would have us miss most of the morning traffic, and actually pulled out of our parking spot at 9:11 AM.  The fog was still thick but it was bright enough that we could usually see at least a quarter of a mile in our direction of travel.

We worked our way back onto northbound I-35W towards Fort Worth and kept to the right in spite of entering traffic.  We chose not to stop at the QT (Quick Trip) even though Diesel fuel was $3.08 per gallon, the least expensive we have seen in years.  The transition to I-20 westbound was via one of the very high ramps that are used to connect intersecting freeways around the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolis, but it was not a problem.  We continued to drive through fog for at least 90 minutes, so we could not tell you what Texas west of Fort Worth looks like if had to.  We stayed on I-20 all the way to Midland, Texas only stopping to fuel up at the Flying J Truck Stop on the far side of Abilene, Texas by which point the fog had lifted and it was partly sunny with temperatures in the upper 60s.  Eventually, however, the clouds closed back in, which made the last 90 minutes of the drive a bit less bright and easier on the eyes.

The bus ran well all day and I did better at getting on the accelerator in advance of climbing grades, spinning up the turbocharger and keeping the engine RPMs in the 1900-2000 range.  The bus took 98.135 gallons of fuel at the truck stop and we had traveled 553.8 miles since the last fill-up for an average of 5.64 MPG.  That included running our generator at the Wal-Mart in Texarkana, Texas on Friday. Our previous fill-up computed out at 5.45 MPG.  In our previous use of the coach I figured we were getting 6.0 MPG, but we had not done as much dry-camping as we did on this trip.  We have used the generator and the Aqua-Hot on this trip, both of which draw fuel from the main tank.

The only issue I had today was with the dual pyrometers, specifically the right one.  Historically the right pyro has read 50 – 100 degrees F higher than the left one, which would often stick on “0” and then swing up if I tapped on the gauge.  Both gauges have been tracking within 50 degrees since I rechecked the DDEC II connectors, but today the right gauge started lagging behind the left one, sometimes by a couple of hundred degrees.  If that difference was real it would be a real problem, but everything else looked, felt, and sounded OK, so I think this is a continuing problem with the instrument, and/or sensors, and/or wiring and connectors, but I will have to keep an eye on it.

A half hour before the GPS said we would arrive Linda tried calling the Wal-Mart in Midland several times but never got an answer.  We exited at Midland just before 3 PM and did not have any problem getting into the Wal-Mart parking lot which was very convenient to the freeway but relatively busy for that time of day on a Tuesday.  Not surprising, though, as Midland is the epicenter of the current oil and wind boom in west Texas.  The stretch of I-20 from Fort Worth to Midland is not desolate.  Sweetwater is the wind power capital of the USA, and all along I-20 there are “RV Parks” on both sides of the freeway.  Some of them were genuine, nice looking, RV Parks but most were makeshift looking places that appeared to have been created quickly to service (take advantage of?) a sudden need for places to park almost anything that might serve as shelter for energy workers.

As always, we checked with Customer Service to make sure it was OK to stay overnight.  They said it was but twice told us to “be careful.”  The warning had to do with leaving our vehicle for an extended period of time and risk having it towed.  Apparently “extended” meant weeks, not hours, and I assured them we would be gone first thing in the morning.  While we were in the store we picked up several bottles of PineSol and a couple of boxes of Calgon bath beads.  We prefer the larger, cylindrical plastic containers of Calgon but rarely find them in retail stores and pharmacies.  After we carried everything back to the coach I went for a walk to confirm our exit options for tomorrow morning.  We looked at satellite images on Google Maps last night so I had a good understanding of the parking lot and access roads, but I wanted to verify that information while it was still daylight.

For dinner we had a nice salad, a fresh apple, and Tofurkey brand turkey and vegan cheese sandwiches.  We were going to have the leftover chili from last night’s dinner, but the microwave and the Magnum charger are on the same leg, and the microwave acts like it is going to self-destruct if we try to use it while the charger is also drawing a large amount of current.  I may try moving the circuit breaker for the microwave to a position in the sub-panel that puts it on Leg 2 and see if that helps, but I have to maintain a reasonable load balance between the two legs.  It may be, however, that the microwave is more sensitive to a reduced voltage level than the other high power devices or things like lights or entertainment equipment, which just converts the AC to DC internally anyway.

I called Butch before dinner and they were still on the road in New Mexico.  He called me back after our dinner to let me know they were in a rest stop on I-25 and had the place to themselves.  By comparison, the Midland Wal-Mart was a busy place and most of the vehicles (drivers) seemed to find driving up and down the aisles to be a great inconvenience.  Instead, they took straight line paths across the parking lot, driving between closely spaced parked vehicles (including buses) at surprisingly high speed and didn’t always stop to see if another vehicle might be driving in the lane (where it belongs).  There was a Murphy USA filling station on the property, as well as a McDonalds, which contributed to the constant flow of traffic.

Butch had talked to Luke at U. S. Coach earlier today and got prices for the parts he presumes he needs to repair the main engine air-compressor (Bendix Tu-Flo 700 series) on their bus or replace it with a factory rebuilt one.  Either way the work will wait until we get to Quartzsite, Arizona.

We had a good a Verizon 4G/LTE cellular signal so I sent TXT messages to Donn and Chuck letting them know where we were and ended up having brief TXT message exchanges with both of them.  When we first arrived Linda sent TXT messages to both of our children updating them on our location.  We received messages while we were driving that our older grand-daughter, Katie, had been accepted to Michigan State University.  She applied to three state schools and Michigan Technological University was the first to accept her.  She is waiting to hear about a scholarship from them but knows for sure that she will be going to college somewhere in the fall of 2015 and will have to make a choice as to where.

2014/12/10 (W) Dream Catcher

We went to bed early last night knowing we planned to drive over 400 miles today and wanted to get an early start.  I was awake by 4 AM and finally got up at 5 AM.  The parking lot had thinned out and quieted down overnight but even at that hour tractor-trailer rigs were coming and going.  The house batteries were at 95% SOC when I turned the generator off at 8:45 PM last night and were at 70% SOC when I turned it back on when I got up.

Although I do not like to eat a big breakfast and drink coffee on days that I have to drive, I also do not like to travel too long on an empty stomach.  I have also noticed that lack of liquids can lead to a headache or general feeling of unwellness.  I was up early enough that I had a piece of raisin bread, a banana, and a small glass of grapefruit juice with time to digest it before we hit the road.

Linda got up at 5:30 AM and we started preparing the bus for travel at 5:45 AM.  We pulled out at 6 AM, using the route I had scoped out last night to work our way around behind the Wal-Mart and onto the service drive for I-20 and get position for the freeway entrance.  Once we were on the Interstate it was dark, of course, but it was also foggy.  In spite of those conditions traffic was heavy until we were well past Odessa.  Midland and Odessa are at the center of the current Texas energy (oil and wind) boom and between them are spread out along 30 miles of I-20.  I was definitely not the most scenic part of our trip to date.

The fog stayed with us almost to where I-20 ends and merges with I-10.  We drove through it for hours.  The rest of the day was a mix of sun and clouds.  The bus generally ran well but the turbocharger did not seem to be as responsive as it should be.  I continued to do better at anticipating grades and getting the engine RPMs and turbo boost up ahead of time but noticed that the turbo boost was not peaking off the scale the way it used to.

The speed limit on I-20 yesterday between Fort Worth and Midland was 75 MPH.  That continued through Midland and Odessa but once we were past Odessa it went up to 80 MPH.  I usually travel 60 to 62 MPH when the speed limit allows it but for stretches of today’s trip I set the cruise control at 65 MPH and sometimes traveled at 70 MPH.  Texas is a big place and west Texas is vast.  The speed limits are this high because it is safe to drive that speed out here, and you just have to go faster if you want to get across west Texas in any reasonable amount of time.

Towards the end of I-20 and once we were on I-10 the terrain became rolling and then slightly mountainous and was very pretty in a southwestern desert kind of way.  At some point we notice very large mountains off to the southwest.  Just before reaching El Paso we were very close to the Rio Grande River and realized that the mountains were now very close on the Mexican side of the river and were very large and very rugged.  I-10 through El Paso, Texas was an experience unto itself as there was road construction along its entire length for what seemed like endless miles.  On the other side of El Paso we had to stop at a Homeland Security check point where we went in with the trucks by mistake but got waived through.  Whenever I am unsure about overhead clearances I stick with the big rigs.

We continued on I-10W into New Mexico where it was joined by I-25 in Las Cruces and completed our run to Deming.  We pulled into the Escapees Dream Catcher RV Park at 11:50 MST, just shy of 7 hours after we pulled out of the Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas.  We had traveled 407 miles at an average speed of 58 MPH which was faster than our usual 50 MPH average.

Butch and Fonda were already checked-in to the RV Park and we took one of the sites next to theirs’.  They had developed an apparent chassis battery problem and Butch was trying to sort it out.  I got the shorepower hooked up while Linda prepared lunch.  She made open faced chili cheese dogs with some tofu hotdogs and the leftover chili from Monday night.

Butch needed a new battery for their Suburban so I rode with him to the local Wal-Mart.  He had them install it (no extra charge) but had to teach the “technician” how to do it.  He was also scoping out batteries for the bus but Wal-Mart did not have the Group 31’s he was looking for.  We stopped at both O’Reilly’s and NAPA auto parts stores and got prices then went back to do some additional diagnosis.  Butch suspects a shorted cell but has not confirmed that.

Linda suggested that I connect the sewer hose and fresh water line while it was still daylight with comfortable temperatures so that is what I did.  I decided to check out the two pyrometer sensors.  In the process I “discovered” a metal plate with an electrical harness plugged into it and a fitting for a hose but with only a small piece of hose attached to the fitting.  Butch identified the plate as the turbocharger boost sensor.  I found the loose end of the hose and followed it back to turbocharger outlet manifold.  That explained why I was not able to get the turbo boost and engine power I expected from the engine.  The hose was incredibly brittle and had to be replaced; not good.  We discussed options and appeared to have two: 1) Attach a new hose to the sensor tube and then try to splice it into the old hose, or 2) get a new barbed fitting for the manifold and run a new hose from there to the sensor.  We drove back to the NAPA store and got the parts we might need.

Butch removed the old fitting from the intake manifold and decided we could re-use it.  It took some doing but he got it installed.  We routed the new hose (fuel injector rated) to the sensor plate and connected it.  I could not figure out how to mount the plate so I left it sitting behind the computer on top of the engine where I found it.  I do not know if the old hose has been broken for a while or if it finally failed this afternoon when I grabbed it, but either way it was certainly leaking and was another potential disaster averted.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-grilled tofu slices with Bar-B-Que sauce and caramelized onions.  After dinner we took advantage of our full hookups to take showers and get additional water in our waste tanks.  We watched an episode of Nova on the local PBS station and then went to bed.  Both sides of the air mattress were very hard.  When we checked the settings, my side was at 50 and Linda’s was at 85, both much higher than we usually set them.

The thought crossed my mind that the cats might have stepped on the controls, but that seemed unlikely as the buttons are slightly recessed and have to be pushed in to activate the system.  Besides, the odds of them stepping on the controls for both sides of the bed were very small.  Linda made an off-hand comment about altitude and I realized immediately that this was the effect of having climbed from 765 feet above sea level (ASL) in Alvarado, Texas to 2,862 ft. ASL in Midland, Texas, to 4,300 ft. ASL in Deming, New Mexico.  I also realized in that moment why the tire pressures were higher than I expected when I checked the PressurePro TPMS this morning before we pulled out of Midland.  Sometimes that which should be obvious is not.  We reset the air mattress pressures and drifted comfortably off to sleep.

2014/12/11 (R) RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP

I was up at 6 AM after a good night’s sleep and Linda got up around 7 AM.  The overnight low was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and we did not have any of the heaters turned on, so the front of the coach got a bit chilly.  We were parked facing east so the rising sun lit up the front of our coach and helped warm it up.  I checked on the house battery SOC and then settled in to write for a while.  We had a light breakfast of oatmeal and juice around 7:30 AM.  At 7:45 AM I turned on the engine block heater and Aqua-Hot pre-heat pump.  Linda gathered up the trash shortly thereafter and went for a walk.

I failed to mention in yesterday’s blog post that our grand-daughter Katie called Linda yesterday to let us know that she had received a full academic scholarship to Michigan Technological University in Marquette, Michigan.  We were, of course, very excited to receive this news.  Katie has been an excellent student throughout high school and we are confident she will do well at MTU if she decides to go there.

Fonda was out with their two dogs, Rascal and Daffy, around 7:30 AM but there was no sign of activity beyond that until 8 AM when Linda returned from her walk and said Butch was outside looking at their chassis battery situation.  I put on the hooded sweatshirt I use when I have to work outdoors in cool weather and joined them.

Butch had left the 24 VDC battery charger on the chassis batteries overnight.  Both batteries seemed to be holding an adequate voltage so he decided to swap them rather than replace the one that seemed to be a problem yesterday (lower 12 volts).  After disconnecting the cables we pulled both batteries out.  These are 8D lead acid (wet cell) batteries and weight ~160 pounds each.  Butch topped off the fluid level in all of the cells.  He then put the batteries back in place, reversing their position, and reconnected the cables.  We re-checked voltages and everything looked OK so Butch decided they were ready to travel today rather than spend another night in Deming.

Yesterday we had discussed driving to the Escapees Saguaro Co-op RV Park in Benson, Arizona.  Called them just before 5 PM and they said they had plenty of spaces available.  Linda was checking the details of the park online and discovered that they have a 40,000 pound weight limit, but no one at the park could explain why.  Further research revealed that the last 0.3 miles into the park might be a weight restricted road.

Benson would have been a short drive of just over 180 miles, leaving us a longer drive for Friday if we wanted to get all the way to Quartzsite.  Looking at the map it appeared that Casa Grande, Arizona, 280 miles from Deming, might be a better stopping point.  As it turned out, the Escapees (SKP) RoVer’s Roost CO-OP RV Park is located near Casa Grande and did not have weight restrictions.  Linda called to make sure they had space for us, and after consulting with Butch and Fonda decided that was where we would head.

Linda checked online for fuel stops and prices.  The best price was $3.15 at a Pilot/Flying J just 10 miles shy of Casa Grande, but I wasn’t sure we could comfortably make it that far with adequate reserves as we were already at 1/2 tank mark on the fuel gauge.  I dumped our waste tanks, stowed the hoses, turned on the chassis batteries, opened the various air valves, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stored it.  We secured all of the bays and then hooked up the car for towing.  When Butch and Fonda were close to being ready we fired up the bus engine and checked the exterior lights.

We pulled out of the SKP Dream Catchers RV Park at 10 AM with our first stop planned for a Flying J Truck Stop about 60 miles west of Deming.  We had a good run on I-10 across the rest of New Mexico and into Arizona, exiting onto I-8 about 13 miles from the RoVer’s Roost RV Park.  The bus ran like it had a new engine.  The turbocharger was very responsive to the accelerator, producing more boost than I saw yesterday.  The engine had noticeably more power climbing grades, with the pyrometers reaching 850 – 900 degrees F and the engine coolant temperature reaching 195 – 200 degrees F.  Repairing the turbo boost sensor hose yesterday was clearly the right thing to do.

The scenery was beautiful and the largest city on our route was Tucson, which appeared to have a very nice downtown area.  The city was spread out for 30 miles from east to west and was not nearly as hectic as the drive through El Paso, Texas yesterday.  We arrived at RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP AT 3:15 PM MST with 3/4’s of a tank of fuel.

RoVer’s Roost is a very dense RV Park with closely spaced lots that are permanently assigned to co-op members and most of which were occupied.  The lots were all perpendicular to the long, straight, narrow roads.  All sites, including the boondocking area, were back-in which required us to unhook our cars.  The sites were also limited to a 40 foot long RV maximum, but many of them were “developed” in such a way that they would not accommodate a rig that long.  Registration took longer than it should have but eventually we were escorted to our site by a man in a golf cart who guided me as I backed into the site.  He had obviously done this many times and knew how to get a 40 foot motorhome into a tight space with limited room to turn so we were glad to have his assistance.

Once we were in our spot he escorted Butch and Fonda to their site and helped back them in.  Their bus developed an air problem after they pulled into the park, producing a squealing sound when Butch applied the parking breaks.  Butch had to bleed the pressure down to 30 PSI to get the noise to stop.  He re-pressurized the system and the noise did not reappear, so he put the Quadra Big Foot leveling jacks down.

I updated our recent locations in RVillage.  The four of us then went for a walk around the park to check it out and scope out our exit path.  We met a very nice lady resident who has painted a number of murals on storage sheds around the park and the ones we saw were very well done.  We returned to our coach and had dinner.  I had a TXT message from Chuck and called him after dinner to tell him about the turbo boost problem and solution.  We turned in early and watched a football game for a while before turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2014/12/12 (F) RR to Q

Today was our 13th day on the road since leaving home on November 30th.  We could easily have taken a month to do this repositioning, stopping along the way at more places for more nights and exploring each area, but we chose not to.  In part this was because we were caravanning with friends, and in part because we both had bus issues along the way and we were all anxious to just “get there.”

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

RoVer’s Roost has WiFi but we were not offered the use of it when we registered.  We had an excellent Verizon 4G/LTE signal, however, so I checked RVillage last night and realized that I had not updated our location since Alvarado, Texas.  In the span of just a few minutes I checked into Midland, Texas, the SKP Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, and finally the RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP in Casa Grande, Arizona.  I posted a comment about this and drew a comment about “…living in the fast lane” and several “likes.”  RVillage is not only useful, it’s fun.

The park home page showed 11 check-ins, so I perused the list and discovered that Forrest and Mary Clark were apparently here.  I say “apparently” because, like our situation, the information is only accurate if the person has kept it up to date.  I sent Forrest a message and he replied that they were, indeed, at the park and provided their site number.  I did not see the reply until this morning, however, so I messaged him back and said we would stop by before we pulled out.  Like us, they are also headed to “Q” for the first time this winter.

I was up by 6:30 AM and made a half pot of coffee.  We have not been making coffee in the morning and really miss it.  We enjoyed our Teeko’s Cafe Europe Blend while watching a gorgeous sunrise, the first of many we expect to see.  The temperature had dropped to 50 degrees F overnight from the high of 76 yesterday afternoon; warmer than normal for this time of year.  RoVer’s Roost has recycling bins, so Linda gathered up the various packaging materials she has been saving and walked them over to the bins along with the trash.  She likes to go for morning walks and has missed doing so while working on the software conversion project for the bakery since mid-September.

At 8 AM the house batteries were at 93% SOC.  The last time they were at 100% was at the end of our stay in Alvarado, Texas where we sat for three night plugged-in to “50 Amp” shorepower.  The Magnum ME-ARC remote was showing 116-120 VAC in, which more closely matched the main panel gauges than I have seen recently.  I obviously have some investigating to do (voltage measurements) and need to revisit the manuals for the 4024 inverter/charger and its add-on modules.  As with everything on this coach, there is no magic involved, just basic engineering principles.  The problem comes when there is inadequate documentation on the construction of the systems, including their principles of operation and their specific interconnections.  That’s when the detective work begins and I have to be particularly cautious about coming to premature conclusions regarding all of this.  It is better to admit that I do not understand how something works than to assume that I do and turn out to be wrong (not that that has ever happened).

In my chat with Chuck last night he suggested that I might want to eventually replace the turbo boost (manifold) sensor hose with a silicon one.  The two hottest places on the engine are the exhaust manifolds and the turbocharger and this hose connects to the latter.  He planned to check the hose on his coach, which is the same type and age as ours, first thing this morning.  His coach has more miles on it than ours (we think) so this hose is likely to be in bad shape on his coach too.  At some point I would like to have the radiator re-cored and that would be the time to replace ALL of the coolant hoses, and anything else on the engine that is made of rubber, with new silicon parts if possible, or at least with new rubber.

Along those same lines we were discussing air-powered accessories last night.  We do not use the bedroom pocket door and I will probably disconnect it or add a shutoff valve.  The waste tank dump valves are also air-powered and I may do the same thing to them.  That would leave the toilet and the shutters for the two front air-conditioner condensers as the only devices that needs air to work while we are parked.  We like the air flush toilet—it is fairly water efficient—and we would keep it if we could eliminate air leaks to the point that the auxiliary air-compressor only runs a few times a day.  The other downside to the toilet, however, are the difficulty and expense of getting spare parts.  We are considering replacing it with a standard gravity flush “RV style” toilet when we redo the water tanks, hopefully next year.  That would greatly reduce the need to run the auxiliary air-compressor while we are parked.  It does, however, also help maintain the air pressure in the suspension system.

We walked down to Forrest and Mary’s site at 8:30 AM and they came out to greet us.  Precision RV pulled up just as we got there.  They are affiliated with AM Solar in Oregon and are installing a solar electric system on Forrest and Mary’s Foretravel motorhome.  They wanted to see our bus so we all walked back to our site.  Butch walked up and joined us and we had a long chat.  Several folks walked by and were very friendly which help mitigate our first impressions of the place.

While we were standing there the man who parked us yesterday drove by in his golf cart and also stopped to chat.  He and his wife have been coming to RoVer’s Roost since 2004 and help manage the park.  With the co-op you obtain a leasehold on a specific lot which is then yours to use until you move to a different lot or sell your leasehold.  The lots are not deeded; your leasehold buys you a fractional ownership of the co-op.  Leaseholds are currently $8,500 with a $500 annual maintenance fee, and many leaseholders are full-timers; their RV is the only home they have.  Under $10K for a place to live plus $500 in association fees and metered electric is not bad.  In the last few years many of the original residents, who built the park, have given up their RV’s for assisted living or passed away.  At the present time there are a few lots available and, for the first time in the park’s history, there is no waiting list.  The hope is that a new generation of retirees will discover the Escapees RV Club and the Rainbow Parks and SKP co-ops.

RoVer’s Roost is an odd place when you first see it, a kind of “RV oasis” in the dessert.  It’s a compact, low-walled, compound surrounded by endless miles of nothing; no housing, no industry, not even agriculture.  It turns out that such places are not uncommon in the southwest but it got me wondering why it was built here and why it was built this way.  I presume the reason for the location had to do with climate, land costs, and the willingness of local, county, and state agencies to allow it.

We learned that some of the reasons RoVer’s Roost is built the way it is had to do with it being the first SKP CO-OP and when it was built.  Construction began in 1981 and Escapees RV Club Founders Joe and Kay Peterson helped build it with their own hands and had a lot there for a while.  RV’s over 35 feet long were rare in those days.  Although 40 foot highway buses existed, such as the Eagle, and some were already being converted into motorhomes, many conversions were based on the 35 foot Flxible and GMC buses.  Pull-behinds (trailers and 5th wheels) were rarely longer than 30 feet, although there were exceptions.  The size of the lots, the width of the roads, and the tightness of the turns all reflect the RV realities of the time and provide a living example of how difficult it is to see into the future.

Another reason, I presume, had to do with the costs associated with building RoVer’s Roost.  Even if the cost of the land was negligible, doubling the size of each lot would have at least doubled the cost of the infrastructure.  Roads, electrical wire, fresh water pipes, sewer lines, and the perimeter wall would all have involved at least double the material and the associated cost.  The visit to RoVer’s Roost reminded me that I need to carefully consider the historical context of something before I can hope to understand it.

We targeted 10 AM as our departure time, but there was no urgency to our leaving as we had less than 180 miles to get to our winter home in Quartzsite.  Butch discovered the digital dashboard on the Rand-McNally RVND 7710 last night and called to let me know how to access it.  I vaguely recalled that it was there, having been to several seminars on the unit, but I had not developed the habit of using it.  I decided I would try it out on this last leg of our journey to “Q.”  One of its features is the display of elevation.  On the downside, it does not display the current posted speed limit, which is shown on the map view.

We prepared the coach for travel and I fired up the engine at 10 AM.  Linda watched to make sure I did not hit anything as I pulled out.  Once I was out of our site (#77) I drove to the end of the street and around the corner to a spot where we could hookup the car, which Linda drove down and positioned behind the bus.  I shut off the engine while we hooked up as the park is posted as a “No Idle Zone.”  Several residents stopped to chat and all of them were very nice, wished us a safe journey, and invited us back.  After a less than 100% positive experience yesterday when we arrived and registered we were feeling very good about the park by the time we left.  That, however, did not change the fact that the park design is only marginally usable by a 40 foot highway bus, and not really a good choice for an overnight stay as they do not have any pull-through sites.

Butch and Fonda pulled out of their spot about 15 minutes after us and by 10:30 AM had their car hooked up and were ready to roll.  We pulled out in the lead and 1.5 miles later pulled back onto westbound I-8.  We exited I-8 34 miles later near Gila Bend and got on a connecting road leading to AZ-85.  We came to a split and were not sure where the GPS intended to take us as it told us to turn left which would have put us on AZ-85 southbound whereas the signs clearly showed that AZ-85 N to I-10 was a turn to the right.  Linda was double checking on her phone what we needed to do.  We went to the right and that turned out to be correct.

The 39 mile run up AZ-85 to I-10 was a 4-lane divided highway, although the road surface was a bit rough initially.  When we left I-10 for I-8 at Casa Grande yesterday the signage indicated that I-8/AZ-85 was the designated bypass route to get around Phoenix.  Once we rejoined I-10 westbound there was noticeably more traffic even though we were already 70 miles west of Phoenix.  The traffic eventually spaced out and we finished the 180 mile trip easily while enjoying the other-worldly scenery of the deep Southwest U. S.

We climbed over several small mountain ranges and stopped briefly at a rest area.  We climbed over one last mountain range, reaching an elevation of ~1,600 feet ASL (on the RVND 7710 dashboard display), and finally saw the valley where Quartzsite sits at the bottom nestled against the next mountain range to the west.  We then dropped 700 plus feet over the next 12 miles on a gradual but constant grade.  As we descended and neared Quartzsite we saw the first RV’s parked on the BLM land south of the highway, which was very exciting.

In spite of studying satellite images I did not have a good picture in my mind of what I was now seeing.  I did not expect the mountains to the east and west of town and I did not expect vegetation.  I thought this area would be a vast expanse of flat, barren, sun baked desert.  What lay before us was much nicer than that and we could see immediately why RVers have come here for years and returned year after year.

There are two exits for Q, one at either end of Main Street (B-10) which parallels I-10 on the north side.  We took the second (west most) exit as that is where the Pilot Truck Stop is located.  We both topped up our tanks and then pulled out of the way to disconnect our cars.  We had 5/8ths of a tank but I wanted to add biocide and top it off to eliminate as much air as possible.  With changes in temperature moisture in the air (in the fuel tank) can condense out.  Water in the fuel then contributes to the growth of algae.  I wanted to prevent that since we will be sitting for almost three months.  I will run our fuel polishing pump as well, but the biocide and full tank will really help prevent fuel problems.

Butch had already called Jim (Joe’s brother) and he drove over to escort us back to Joe and Connie’s property.  We made a little caravan with two buses and two cars following him there.  I really did not know what Quartzsite would be like.  My first impression was that it was a combination of the world’s largest RV rally with the world’s largest flea market.  There are RV’s everywhere, and stuff for sale everywhere else.  It is not an “upscale” place, but it is not trashy and rundown either.  It’s a little funky and a bit alternative, a kind of 1960s meets the old west vibe, and I think it will be a great home base for the winter.

Joe and Connie’s property is on a small side street in the NNW part of the city.  Butch pulled in first and I waited in the street while Jim got him backed into their spot facing due south.  Jim then directed me into a spot parallel to the fence on the north property line facing east, which is how I had hoped we would be parked.  It was much easier to get into than Butch and Fonda’s spot.  Fonda and Linda pulled the cars in and parked them after I was out of the way.  The property was smaller than I thought it would be from the satellite images, but large enough, and nicer looking than I expected as well.  There was one motorhome here already, an older Country Coach, and it turns out that they will be the only other rig here.  The owners had gone home for Christmas unexpectedly and will be back around January 1st.

We were pointing slightly up hill so I initially raised the rear end rather than drop the front.  To get level, however, I still needed to drop the front and the Level Low system once again failed to respond.  I checked the pneumatic solenoid valves in the bay under the driver’s seat but nothing seemed to be amiss.  I switched the selector valve in the cockpit between its various positions and the front finally responded.  I have replacement parts for one pneumatic solenoid valve but I am now wondering if the problem might be the selector switch?  I have not checked the maintenance manual but I presume this is a strictly electrical switch that determines which pneumatic solenoid valve the “up/down” rocker switch controls.  I presume the rocker switch is working correctly as it controls the left rear and right rear leveling valves and puts the suspension in driving mode without difficulty.

The easiest/cheapest fix is the pneumatic solenoid valve, unless that turns out not to be the problem.  The next easiest fix is probably replacing one or both Norgren valves in the bay because they are somewhat accessible.  I know the cost of those valves, so it is both a more expensive and more involved repair, especially if it turns out to be unnecessary.  I have no idea what the selector switch costs and it appears to be in a difficult location to service, but if that is the problem then that is what has to be repaired.  There are several possibilities besides the pneumatic solenoid valve.  It’s possible that the selector switch connections for controlling the front height control valve have become marginal and intermittent.  It’s also possible that the switch itself is failing and needs to be replaced.  Another possibility is the electrical connections at the solenoid.  Whatever it turns out to be it won’t be the first marginal/intermittent thing we have found on the bus.

I eventually got it leveled, and having the rear end raised and the front end lowered is not a bad thing as it makes it easier to get in/out of the front door and provides more clearance under the utility bay for the dump hose.  We will be in this spot for the next 12 months, except possibly for a few days in February to attend an informal gathering of a few members of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter at the Peg Leg Monument near Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California.  We will leave Quartzsite in early March for the Escapade rally in Tucson, Arizona.

Once I had the coach leveled I shut off the engine and went through my arrival routine.  When I went to connect the shorepower cord I discovered that we only had a “30 Amp” RV service.  A “30 Amp” service is just that; a single 120 VAC connection (line, neutral, ground) protected by a single pole 30 Amp circuit breaker (on the line).  A “50 Amp” RV service, by comparison, is two 120 VAC lines (180 degrees out of phase) with a shared neutral and a ground.  The two lines are protected by a 50 Amp double pole circuit breaker and are actually a 240 VAC, 50 Amp service.  However, in most RV’s each line (leg) is used as a 120 VAC, 50 Amp service in conjunction with the neutral, so a “50 Amp” RV connection is actually used as a 120 VAC, 100 Amp service.  That’s over three times the power of a “30 Amp” RV service.

We can manage on a 30 Amp service—we have before—especially if we do not have to run the air-conditioners.  Our air conditioners are not working at present anyway, but we do not expect to need them while we are here, so that will help.  We cannot use the Gaggenau cooktop, as it is a 240 VAC device, but that’s OK too.  Linda prefers to use the portable induction cooker anyway; it is more efficient and doesn’t heat up the coach.  Still, operating our coach on a 30 Amp service requires much more conscious management of our electrical usage and is thus a tad inconvenient.  On the other hand, our electricity is metered so we pay for what we use.  Having a 30 Amp service inherently limits how much electricity we can use.

Many (most) circuit breakers will only carry 80% of their rating on a continuous basis so we effectively have 24 Amps available to run things.  That’s not a lot of power for a large, “all electric” coach.  I adjusted the “AC Input” setting on the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger to 25 Amps before turning the power on.  The unit limits the amount of current it uses to charge the house batteries to a percentage of that setting.  Setting it to 25 Amps instead of 30 Amps gave us a bit more cushion to run other devices while the batteries were charging.  Once they are fully charged I will dial this back up to 30 Amps.

I joined Linda, Butch, Fonda, and Jim and introduced myself to Connie.  Joe and Connie own this place but Joe was not here today.  He ended up in the hospital being treated for a scorpion sting and is now recovering in a care facility for a week.  By his own admission he was careless; he took a pair of shoes out of a closet he had not worn in a year and put them on without checking to see if something had taken up residence therein.  Not being from the desert southwest this would not even have occurred to us.  We know there are snakes, scorpions, and other “things” here, but this scorpion was in their park model trailer living in a shoe in their closet just 60 feet from our bus.  That certainly served as a heads up for us.

After chatting for a while I finished hooking up the water softener to the water supply and the coach.  We had about 1/2 tank when we arrived and I brought the level up to 2/3rds.  Butch had some test strips so we used one to check the hardness of the water.  It showed 25 grains per gallon (gpg), the highest mineral content it could indicate.  Our portable water softener has a capacity in grains which determines how much water it can soften before it needs to be recharged.  A “1,000 grain” water softener will only treat 40 gallons of 25 grain hardness water (1,000 / 25 = 40) whereas it will treat 100 gallons of 10 grain hardness water (1,000 / 10 = 100).

Butch and Fonda have a 10,000 grain portable water softener but the information we got with ours did not include the grain capacity.  Our softener is similar in size to theirs so I can probably safely assume that it has at least a 7,500 grain capacity.  Given the hardness of the water here that means it can treat about 300 to 400 gallons before needing to be recharged.  Our fresh water tank holds approximately 125 gallons.  If we use most of the water before refilling it we will need to recharge the water softener after every third filling.

Recharging (regenerating) the water softener is simple and inexpensive but takes a little time.  The filter is removed from the housing and the housing filled with crushed salt.  Water is allowed to flow very slowly through the salt and then through the softener and onto the ground.  When the salt is gone the unit is recharged.  If this seems wasteful of water it is, in fact, how almost all water softeners work.  The advantages of softened water are worth the little bit of added water use, especially since we have an Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system that specifies the use of softened water for optimum performance and reduced maintenance.

Rain had been in the forecast all day and we finally started to get an occasional drop so I closed up the bay doors and went inside.  Once we were settled in Linda sent a TXT message to our children letting them know we had arrived.  She attached a photo she took on her camera of our coach in situ.  I took a few photos on mine and TXT’d one to Chuck to let him know we were finally here.  I then laid down on the sofa and took a nap.  I eventually woke up to the sounds and smells of dinner being prepared.  Linda made a very yummy crushed lentil curry and opened a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir.  It was a bit dry for my taste but she enjoyed it.  It’s a good life.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our "camp."  Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our “camp.” Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

Storm clouds gathered and shrouded the mountains to the west but all we got was light rain; nothing like the weather that swept through the Pacific coast from Los Angeles up into Oregon.  Not that far north of us Las Vegas, Nevada, got rain, ice, and snow.

After dinner Linda signed-in to RVillage and updated our location.  She indicated that we were not in an RV park as we are on private, non-commercial property that is not, and should not, be in the RVillage (AllStays) database.  I will check tomorrow to see if the website shows us other Villagers in and around the Q.

I checked the house batteries at 9:45 PM.  They were at 25.6 VDC drawing 0 Amps and showed “Full Charge” even though the BMK showed the SOC at 95%.  Like our stay in Alvarado I suspect the SOC will be back up to 100% in a couple of days.  I made note of the readings and headed to bed.  It was good to finally be here and we are looking forward to an interesting, pleasant, productive, and enjoyable winter.

 

2014/12/05-08 (F-M) On To Texas

2014/12/05 (F) Parting Company (for now)

A set of standing jokes with us involves our answers to the question “what time is it?”  The most common response is the day of the week, such as “Friday” (if we know what day it is) or perhaps “I think it’s Friday” (if we are less sure).  Variations include “daytime” or “nighttime” both of which only restate the obvious but at least we are usually correct, or perhaps “morning,” “afternoon,” or “evening” if we are trying to be more precise.  More globally we might answer “eastern” or “central” referencing the time zone we (think) we are in.

I was awake and ready to get up at 5:30 AM (technically the morning but still dark as night).  I checked the house batteries and they were down to 66% SOC (State Of Charge).  The coach had been running on the batteries/inverter since 9 PM last night, so 8.5 hours.  At 3.6 percentage points per hour I expected a 31 percentage point drop to around 60% SOC, so this charge level seemed reasonable, except that we had very few things running last night.  The refrigerator and auxiliary air-compressor were on, of course, although the air-compressor only runs for a few minutes every couple of hours and the fridge runs around 20-24 minutes per hour.  The Aqua-Hot was turned on but I did not hear the fans come.  I had the thermostats set to 15 (Celsius, 59 Fahrenheit) before we went to bed and the temperature in the coach this morning was in the upper 60s, so I don’t think any of the zone pumps or heat exchanger fans came on overnight.  In other words, it seemed to me that we had used more charge from the batteries than we should have.  Although I installed the 24 VDC battery bank and the new Magnum inverter/charger two years ago, we have not done very much boondocking (dry camping, no hookups) so we are still figuring out the finer points of this system.

I started the GenSet and the charger came on in bulk charge mode delivering 89 Amps to the battery bank at 29.1 VDC.  It switched to absorption mode fairly quickly and by 7:30 AM it was delivering 34 Amps at 28.3 VDC and the SOC was up to 86%.  The battery bank has a 400 A-Hr capacity (at “24” VDC, which is actually 25.4 VDC when fully charged) so 10% of that is 40 A-Hr and the generator had returned approximately 80 A-Hrs of charge at 24VDC to the battery bank.  (“A-Hr” stands for Ampere-Hours and is actually a measure of energy, specifically electrical charge, which technically should be stated in Coulombs.)  “40 A-Hr” means a steady flow of current at a 40 Amp rate for one hour.  Note, however, that this also depends on the voltage.  40 A-Hr for a nominal 24 VDC system is twice the energy of 40 A-Hr for a nominal 12 VDC system.  Most RVs are set up with a nominal 12 VDC house battery system.  Our house battery bank is thus equivalent to an 800 A-Hr, 12 VDC system.)

The downside to all of this is that conventional lead-acid batteries, including our AGM batteries, do not tolerate very well being repeatedly discharged below 50% SOC, so the effective/useable capacity is about 1/2 of the stated capacity.  The more deeply the batteries are drained the fewer times they can be brought back up to full charge. Whereas shallow discharging allows for more cycles, and more total energy in and out, but requires a larger battery system to provide power for a reasonable amount of time.  Batteries are heavy and bulky, so you cannot just take as many as you would like.  For lead-acid batteries 50% discharge seems to be the optimal compromise for battery life, useful run time, and size/weight.

We were up early enough to have a light breakfast and a cup of coffee and have time to digest our meal before we started driving.  I powered on our Verizon MiFi and my computer and downloaded e-mails while Linda used her iPad to preview the truck stop options at the interchange just this side of Little a Rock, Arkansas.  She also pulled up the satellite image of the Wal-Mart in Texarkana, Texas where we planned to spend the night.  Cellular access to the Internet, mapping programs, and satellite imagery, along with GPS receivers have changed the nature of motor vehicle travel in general and RVing in particular.  There are certain things where the element of surprise associated with discovery is a good thing, such as an unexpected view when hiking, but when it comes to maneuvering a 40 foot motorcoach with a 20 foot car/towbar attached to its rear end surprises are usually not a good thing.

Around 8 AM we stepped outside and saw Fonda outside with their two dogs (Rascal and Daffy) so we walked back to their bus.  Butch was on the phone with U. S. Coach in New Jersey discussing the main engine air-compressor situation.  They confirmed that the unloader valve(s) are a common failure point and that the replacement parts were inexpensive and available.  He ordered four sets for delivery to Amarillo, Texas where they will be visiting someone while we are in Alvarado, Texas.  Two sets are for them and two sets are for us.  The parts may not make it to Amarillo until Wednesday, so we will be as flexible in our travel planning as we can.  If Donn will let us stay at his place in Alvarado, Texas we may just sit there, unhook the car, and go explore the area.

By 8:30 AM the house battery charger was showing zero (0) Amps at 25.3 VDC, indicating that the batteries were fully charged.  The Magnum Battery Monitor Kit (BMK), however, was showing the SOC as 88%.  I am inclined to believe that in this case the BMK is not showing the correct SOC, but I will keep a close eye on this.  When we get to Donn’s place we will be plugged into a “50 Amp” RV electrical service for at least 40 hours and see what that does to the readings.

While Butch and Fonda had breakfast we went for a stroll around the Wal-Mart parking lot to stretch our legs and scoped out the best egress route.  Around 9 AM we started preparing the interior for travel and by 9:45 I had the car prepared for towing and the main engine running.  We pulled out at just before 10 AM and took the lead.  I drove the first 80 miles at 55 MPH due to light to moderate rain and greatly reduced visibilities.  We took exit 161 just east of Little Rock, Arkansas and pulled into a Love’s Truck Stop.  Butch picked a better lane than I did and we ended up leaving and driving to the Pilot Truck Stop on the other side of the highway.  But before we left Linda walked over to let them know what we were doing and say “so long, see you down the road.”  Two miles after we got back on the highway we stayed left for I-430 around the south side of Little Rock while Butch and Fonda stayed on I-40 around the north side of the city.  We were headed to I-30 and then southwest towards Dallas while they were headed west towards Amarillo.  We will meet up with them next week, perhaps in Midland, Texas or on down the road in New Mexico.

Most of the rest of our drive was through rain but otherwise uneventful.  In spite of the weather the drive was very pretty.  I-30 west of Little Rock climbs through rolling hills with extensive woodlands on both sides of the highway.  We finally drove out from under the rain about 30 miles from Texarkana and finished the trip with bright sun and an ambient temperature of 74 degrees F.

It was easy enough getting off I-30 onto the southbound connector but a bit trickier getting over to make a right turn in the short distance we had.  But we did, and turned onto the road that runs in front of the Walmart and down to the far entrance, as planned.  I started my left turn into the parking lot road when a guy pulled up to make a left turn coming out of the parking lot.  I had tried to swing wide but he realized he needed to back up or risk damage to his truck, so he did.  I could not make the first left into the actual parking lot so I went down to the next entrance by the store.

I barely made a 180 degree turn into the first row, causing a women sitting in her car to just stare at us as I missed her by inches (apparently it did not occur to her to back up).  I had to straighten out before completing the turn to prevent scraping the driver’s side of the car on a huge boulder at the inside corner of the turn that I somehow did not see before I started the turn but caught sight of in my rearview mirror.  Considering that I just completed a drive through less than ideal conditions, which was probably more stressful than I acknowledged, this was not the way I wanted to end our driving for the day.  Like with airplanes, however, the takeoffs and landings are usually the trickiest parts.

We pulled into our selected parking spot at the back (east) end of the parking lot, in parallel with several tractor-trailer rigs, at 2:40 PM.  I went through our arrival procedure with one glitch; I could not raise or lower the front end of the coach using the Level Low system.  It worked fine yesterday so something had obviously changed.  I leveled the coach by adjusting the rear tires instead.  Once the coach was set I checked the house battery bank SOC.  It was 71% but the inverter/charger readout said the battery bank was at 25.0 VDC and the charger was delivering zero (0) Amps.  Since no loads were being powered I presumed the voltage was probably a good indication of the battery state.  A “12 volt” battery is fully charged at a resting (no load) voltage of 12.6 volts (2.1 volts per cell times six cells).  Double that for a “24 volt” battery bank and the full charge resting voltage is 25.2 volts, so our batteries being at 25.0 volts indicated they were probably near full charge.

I decided to wait and turn the generator on later when it was time to cook dinner and let it bring the batteries up to full charge.  At this point, however, I am suspicious of the reading I am getting from the Magnum BMK.  The data suggests that I do not have the ZENA power generating system tied in to the battery/charger/inverter system in such a way that the BMK can correctly account for the charge the ZENA is providing, but that seems unlikely.  Still, I will have to check when we get settled in Quartzsite (or back home in the spring) and/or see if there is a way to reset the 100% SOC level on the BMK.  We will be plugged in to a 50 Amp RV service tomorrow at Donn’s so I will see if the SOC rises to that level after being on shorepower for almost 48 hours.

Linda opened a few windows so the cats could have some fresh air.  We then walked over to the store for some exercise and fresh air ourselves.  I found a case for my Samsung Galaxy S III phone as a tab on my old holder has broken and it no longer holds the phone securely.  When we got back a pickup truck towing a 5th wheel trailer had pulled up next to us on the driver’s side.  It was parked such that our generator exhaust would blow in their entrance door.  I introduced myself to Gary and explained that we would be starting the GenSet in a little while.  He appreciated the heads up and elected to back up to where he was clear of our exhaust.

By the time I got back inside Linda was on the phone with Butch.  They were at a Wal-Mart in Checotah, Oklahoma just off I-40 about 60 miles west of the Arkansas border.  They also ran through rain the rest of the day and it was still raining there when he called.  The temporary air-pressure solution had continued to work well all day.

We ran on batteries/inverter until 5:30 PM and then started the generator so Linda could prepare dinner.  She needed to cook two baking potatoes in the microwave and sauté some onions, mushrooms, and broccoli using the induction cooker.  The microwave kept clicking and I noticed the current drop on that leg each time.  The other leg wasn’t drawing much current so I had her keep using the induction cooker and turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element.  That brought the current draw on each leg roughly into balance and the microwave behaved fine after that.  The charger was also drawing a few amps but not the much.

The microwave is wired through the inverter sub-panel.  With the generator running, each leg of the AC power is simply passed through the inverter to the sub-panel along with the neutral. I recall that the inverter relays are designed to carry 30 Amps on each leg, but we were only drawing about 20 Amps when the problem occurred so that should not be the source of the problem.  It appears that the genset may not tolerate 20 Amps on one leg and zero on the other, or perhaps a differential current draw of 20 Amps.  If that’s the case it is either an unfortunate design limitation or an indication that the generator is developing a problem.

In discussing this with Butch he said that gensets wired to produce 240VAC are usually set up to regulated that voltage but the 120VAC from L1 and L2 to Neutral can vary widely.  If the voltage on the microwave leg is dropping too low it will cause problems for the unit.  It is possible to rewire the genset to produce 120VAC and regulate that voltage, although it might require a new voltage regulator.  We would lose the use of our Gaggenau 2-burner cooktop but could live with that limitation.  Of more concern to me is the currents from L1 and L2 would now add in the Neutral wire rather than cancel, meaning the current in the Neutral conductor(s) could exceed their design specifications.

I got a TXT message from Chuck inquiring about our trip so I provided a few details.  I decided to check the bay under the driver’s seat to see if there was anything obviously wrong with the pneumatic solenoid valves that control the Level Low system.  There are red plastic fittings that screw into each solenoid and the fitting on the top one was unscrewed quite a bit.  The others were in tight so I screwed the top one back in.  I won’t know until tomorrow if that made a difference, but I decided to call Chuck and consult with him as I recalled him mentioning having had problems with these pilot valves on his H3-40.

Chuck did not think the plastic fittings were the problem but offered other salient advice about coils, ‘C’ clips, valves, and rubber ‘O’ rings.  If Donn will let us hang around for an extra day I will probably unhook the car and drive to the Prevost service facility near the Dallas Ft. Worth airport and pick up some new solenoid valves and perhaps a couple of Norgren valves and a windshield wiper motor.

We ended up with tractor-trailers pulling in and out around us well into the evening.  One in particular parked one spot over from us on the passenger side and let his engine idle for hours.  It felt like we were in a truck stop instead of a Wal-Mart parking lot, but given the price we had no basis to complain.  Still, if we wanted to stay at a truck stop we would have stayed at a truck stop.  Hopefully we can get a decent night’s sleep as I would like to be on the road at sunrise, which is 7:15 AM.

At 8 PM we went for a stroll around the store and the parking lot.  Wal-Mart parking lots are well lit as a rule and being 24/7/52 stores, there are always lots of people around making it a comfortable enough environment for an evening walk.  As we were getting ready to go to sleep I got a TXT message from Donn, with turn-by-turn directions for getting to his house and a couple of questions, which turned into a short TXT message conversation.  While I was texting with Donn our male cat, Jasper, came up by our pillows to look out the window and have a long back-stroking and chin-scratching session with Linda.  Traveling is stressful for the cats, especially at first, and they seek the comfort of our attention quite a bit (when they are not sleeping).  Squared away on tomorrow’s travel arrangements we drifted off to sleep to the gentle hum (rattle?) of large diesel engines.

Donn Barnes' place in Alvarado, Texas.  Yee Haw!

Donn Barnes’ place in Alvarado, Texas. Yee Haw!

2014/12/06 (S) Alvarado, Texas

I was awake at 5 AM and got up shortly thereafter.  The house batteries were showing 58% SOC and 24.3 volts with no current draw.  I thought about not recharging the batteries and seeing how the ZENA system did on the drive today, but decided I did not want to risk depleting them below 50% SOC.  I turned on the generator and the Aqua-Hot electric heating element to balance the load and make hot water for our use this morning.  The charger went into Bulk Charging mode putting 88 Amps into the battery bank at 27.4 volts, so the batteries definitely needed recharging after running the coach for 8 hours.

We have and older, 22 cubic foot, residential (AC compressor) refrigerator that I presume accounts for most of the battery use overnight.  For each Ampere of current the inverter produces at 120 VAC it would draw 5 Amps from the “24 volt” batteries if it was 100% efficient, which it is not.  If I assume the SOC actually dropped from 88% last night at 9 PM (when I shut the generator off) to 58% at 5 AM this morning, the 30 percentage point drop would represent 120 A-Hrs of charge removed from the batteries (30% of 400) which equates to an average continuous draw of 15 Amps per hour at “24” volts.  Divide that by 6 (to account for inverter inefficiency) and you get 2.5 Amps per hour at 120 VAC, not that much, really.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, as the refrigerator draws more current when it starts and has an electric heating element around the edge of the doors as well as an automatic defrost feature.  Those last two features are nice when connected to shorepower, but are not battery friendly, and I need to rig up a switch that allows me to turn these “features” off when we are dry-camping.  We also have an auxiliary air-compressor that supplies pressurized air to operate the toilet and other air-powered accessories.  It doesn’t run often but it draws a fair amount of current (at 120 VAC) when it does.  We also have small miscellaneous AC and DC loads that are on all the time, but collectively they add up.

By 6:30 AM the charger had shifted to Absorb Mode at 27.9 VDC and was putting 63 Amps into the batteries.  Between the charger, the refrigerator, and the electric heating element we were drawing 14 Amps on both legs.  I was hoping to be on the road this morning by 7:30 AM.  The batteries will not be fully charged by then, so this may be the first real test of the ZENA systems ability to maintain and recharge them while we drive.  My ultimate goal is to adjust the ZENA system so it can power the Magnum inverter/charger while we are driving at a level that is sufficient to run the refrigerator and fully, or almost fully, recharge the house battery bank.  That will apparently require some tweaking and additional testing which I am not going to do while parked at a Wal-Mart or other dry-camping location.

As we were getting ready to pull out I noted that the batteries were at 83% SOC and shut off the generator.  The drive from Texarkana to Alvarado was easy with dry conditions and sunny skies. Traffic was mostly light and we enjoyed the east-central Texas countryside.  Traffic got a lot denser as we neared Dallas but once we exited I-30 onto I-635 south it thinned out again.  It thickened again as we approached the exit for US-67 south and then thinned out and stayed that way for the rest of the trip to Alvarado.  We turned back north on I-35W and pulled in to Donn’s place a few miles north of Alvarado proper around 11:30.  I stopped in his driveway, exited the coach, was met by Donn, and we discussed where he wanted me to park.

The desired parking arrangement required us to unhook our car so we did that.  With Linda’s assistance I made a four-point turn to get the bus parked.  I pulled it up somewhat parallel to Donn’s Bluebird, backed up between the end of a building and a tree, swung forward into the driveway, and then backed around close to, and parallel to, the building.  I leveled the coach and this time the front adjustment of the Level Low system worked just fine.

Donn had a 50 Amp RV extension cord available to plug into conveniently located near our utilities bay.  By the time I got our coach plugged in it was noon.  I checked the meters for the house batteries and they indicated 76% SOC with the charger in Absorb Mode putting 56 Amps into the batteries.  For the 4.5 hours we were operating on batteries the expected drop would have been 13.5 to 16.2 percentage points at 3.0 to 3.6 percentage points per hour for a SOC of approximately 70 to 67, so 76 seemed OK, suggesting that the Zena system was doing something.

Linda got things squared away inside the coach and then we sat outside and chatted with Donn for a while.  He suggested we get lunch at Spiral, a vegan restaurant in the Ft. Worth medical district.  He drove since this is his home turf and he knows his way around.  Donn had quesadillas, Linda had a Philly cheesesteak, and I had a patty melt.  The food was very, very good.

After lunch Donn took us to Central Market.  The Market was not as refined as Whole Foods but had an amazing selection of fresh organic produce and specialty items, such as the tahini Linda needed to make her mock beef stroganoff tomorrow.  Our shopping done, Donn took us to meet his friend Jeanine, whose age (85) and health (not the best) prevent her from getting out much.  In spite of her issues we had a thoroughly delightful visit, after which we worked our way back to Donn’s place.

Linda checked on the cats and then drew three glasses of Shiner Bock draft beer.  Yes, Donn has beer on tap at all times; two taps, actually, but both had Shiner Bock.  We sat inside and had a long chat while enjoying our brews.  Neither of us had ever heard of bock style beer or the Shiner Company but it was good.  Donn was involved in raising mules, building wagons, and participated in a wagon trip around the state of Texas in 1986.  At 7 PM Donn started assembling a vegan pasta salad using quinoa pasta, bell pepper, and grape tomatoes.  Donn is an excellent cook but was very gracious about accommodating our vegan dietary preferences.

By 8:45 PM we were tired so we said “good night” and returned to our coach for the evening.  We read and wrote for a little while.  Butch called t let us know they had made it all the way to Amarillo in one day and were safely in the mobile home park where their friend lives.  The earliest they will be leaving is Tuesday morning, which may coincide with our travel plans.

Linda coming back from Donn's laundry room.  Elvis is following her and Lucy is farther back to the right.

Linda coming back from Donn’s laundry room. Elvis is following her and Lucy is farther back to the right.

2014/12/07 (N) A Day Of Rest

We slept in this morning, which meant I was awake at 6:30 AM, were up/dressed by 7:30, and enjoying our morning coffee (yeah) by 8:00.  It was in the mid-40s outside with dense fog, and 62 in the coach; perfect conditions for sleeping but a bit cool for sitting around.  The toilet would not flush and I suspected immediately that I had shut the wrong air valve last night.  In the excitement of our arrival yesterday, and finally being able to plug in to shore power for the first time since we left Indiana, I had forgotten to switch off the chassis batteries and close the unneeded air valves.  I did all of that using a flashlight right before going to bed and once again closed the wrong valve (I have made this mistake before).  Opening it this morning fixed the problem, so at least it was an easily corrected operator error and not something that was actually broken and needed to be repaired.

Donn, who is part Comanche, leant us a book by historian T. R. Fehrenback on their history and Linda started reading it this morning.  I scanned for WiFi networks with our WiFi Ranger (WFR) and found eight, including two that were “open.”  Open networks are not encrypted, so we prefer not to use them, but they may still require a password to gain access.  As a general rule we do not “borrow” open WiFi connections from unknown sources.  Our Verizon cellular signal here is a very strong 4G/LTE with five bars, but we prefer to use WiFi when available and save our limited cellular data for situations where it’s our only way to get online.  I suspected that one of the WiFi signals was Donn’s but could not tell which one it was.

We had oatmeal for breakfast, a nice treat on a cool morning.  Linda usually makes oatmeal from scratch these days, but she brought Quaker Instant Raisins, Dates, and Walnuts, which is my favorite.  It’s creamy without being mushy, and I just like the way it tastes.

We finally met up with Donn after breakfast and asked him about the available WiFi.  He was kind enough to give us the password to his wireless network.  He also gave us some Green Tomato Relish he had made and it was spectacular.  I mean, this guy can cook.  He put on some more coffee and we got back into a long morning discussion on a wide range of topics, so playing with our communications technology had to wait until later.

By 12:30 PM we were all getting hungry and Donn suggested the Mellow Mushroom in the TCU (Texas Christian University?) district of Ft. Worth.  We took the long way to get there so we could see the route we would follow when leaving the area and continuing our westward journey on I-20.  Our route took us down Camp Bowie Road, past the zoo, and a lovely adjacent neighborhood.  While not a vegan restaurant like Spiral, Mellow Mushroom had good vegan pizza options including Daiya non-dairy (non-animal) cheese.  We had a thin crust pizza with an olive oil and garlic base, with cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Yum.

After lunch we headed back to Alvarado but stopped first at Donn’s next door neighbor’s house so he could get his hair cut.  Back at his place we continued our conversation.  When it became clear that we were all a bit tired we went back to our coach to give Donn some personal space and downtime.  We agreed to meet back in his house between 7:00 and 7:30 PM for dinner.  Donn is slightly allergic to cats, so we did not visit or dine in our coach.

With the WiFi network key Donn had provided earlier I was able to connect our WFR to one of the available WiFi signals and upgrade its firmware.  I was then able to connect our Amped Wireless Access Point (AWAP) to the WFR, and connect our devices, including the NAS device, to the AWAP.  This was our standard setup this past winter in Florida.  We used this setup again at the Escapade in May and the GLAMARAMA in June but had not set it up yet on this trip.  The advantage of this setup is that the AWAP creates a secure wired/wireless network to which we connect all of our devices and can share data between them.  When we cannot connect the WFR to an external WiFi network we turn our Verizon MiFi on and connect the WFR to its WiFi signal instead while all of our devices remain connected to the AWAP.  It’s a pretty slick setup that has worked well for us and I was glad it was still working as we appeared to have issues with the WFR while in Twelve Mile, Indiana.

Linda checked online and most of the museums we thought about visiting tomorrow turned out to be closed on Mondays.  I was checking e-mail and had a announcement/confirmation for the FMCA National Education Committee worksession tomorrow at 3:00 PM CST.  If we do not leave until Wednesday morning we may try to go to a couple museums in Ft. worth on Tuesday while Donn is at work.

A little after 6 PM Linda started preparing her Seitan Mushroom Stroganoff.  This is a dish she has made and served at home to our non-vegan friends with great success.  Although Donn is a dedicated omnivore, he has other friends who are vegans and has been very thoughtful in the foods he has prepared for us and his selection of restaurants.

Linda used our Gaggenau electric cooktop to cook the dish.  She finished it at 7:25 PM and we took it over to the house.  We would normally have wine with this dish, but Donn has Shiner Bock beer on tap at the moment and, although I am not a big fan of beer, I found this one to be very much to my taste.  It also went well with the dish.  We talked for a while after dinner and retired to our coach at 10:45 PM as Donn had to be up early to drive into the office in Dallas.

Our male cat, Jasper, resting on the front couch.  He's fine as long as the bus isn't moving.

Our male cat, Jasper, resting on the front couch. He’s fine as long as the bus isn’t moving.

2014/12/08 (M) Lucy, I’m Home!

Donn left for his office in Dallas long before we got up at 7:30 AM.  Granola with fresh bananas, grapefruit juice, and coffee made for a fine breakfast.  Donn left us access to the house so we could use the bathroom, which we greatly appreciated.  Yes, we have a bathroom onboard, but the less of our stored fresh water we use, and the less we put into our holding tanks, the longer we can go without stopping at a full-hookup RV park.  We left home on Sunday, November 30, so this is our 9th day on the road, and we are still above 2/3rds on our fresh-water tank, and probably below 1/3rd on each of our two holding tanks (black- and gray-water).  I say “probably” because the level sensors for those two tanks are not very accurate.

We left in our car at 9:30 AM and drove to the Fort Worth Prevost Car Inc. Parts and Service Center just south of the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport in search of some spare parts for our Level Low system and lower windshield wipers.  The CatView program on my laptop showed a “641055 Manifold Valve / w/4 Solenoid” on drawing “H4-1640-00 Level-Low – Control Panel & Valves” but I knew I did not want this entire assembly.  Art, in the parts department, helped figure out the parts I was looking for, which turned out to be a “641928” for $41.28 and a “641929” for $35.60.  One is the solenoid coil and the other is the pneumatic valve, but I’m not sure which is which.

I was also looking for an “800304 Motor Wiper Assembly / 24V / Nidec” as shown on the “H4-2305-05 Lower Windshield Wiper – Installation” drawing.  CatView indicated that it had been superseded by “Kit #300506.”  That was correct and the cost was $200.03, but they saved me from spending the money as they did not have one in stock.  I was also thinking about getting a “641057 Valve, 5 Ways, 3 Positions” (Norgren K41EA00) and a “641056 Valve, 3 Ways, 2 Positions” (Norgren K910058).  They were $150.91 and $143.80 respectively so I did not even ask if they were in stock.  My diagram also showed a “562353 Diode / 1 Amp” but I decided not to ask about it at this time.  I can get most parts delivered in 2 – 3 days via UPS by ordering through their Elgin, Illinois center, but I am trying to stock a set of replacement parts that might be needed for a roadside repair.

Parts in hand we headed back south on TX-360 towards Six Flags to see if we could find the home stadiums of the Dallas Cowboys (AT&T Stadium) and Texas Rangers (Globe Life Park).  They were located just west of Six Flags and south of I-30, part of an amazing sports/entertainment complex euphemistically known as “Jerry World” after the owner of the Cowboys.

We got on I-30 westbound, exiting some 14 miles later at Montgomery Street, and followed the signs to the Fort Worth Cultural District.  We knew that most of the museums were closed today but we still wanted to see them from the outside.  Even if they had been open we did not have time today to go in as I had an FMCA National Education Committee meeting (telephone conference call) at 3 PM CST.  We did, however, have time to find Central Market again.

We walked up and down every isle and realized we had seen less than half of the store when we were here on Saturday.  Central Market may be the most amazing market we have ever been in.  As much as we like Whole Foods, it simply does not rise to the level of Central Market when it comes to fresh/organic items.  We picked up some additional fresh and packaged items, including a mix for white bean chili with jalapeños to make for dinner.

When we got back to our coach Linda started the chili.  We then took advantage of Donn’s hospitality to do a load of laundry only to discover his dryer was out of commission.  No problem; we just hung the laundry outside to dry in the late afternoon Texas sun and let it dry the old fashioned way.

Shortly before 3 PM CST I dialed in to the FMCA National Education Committee meeting and participated in the hour long work session.  There were good ideas put forward and it looks like I will have some specific things to do over the next several months.

While the chili cooked we both took a shower, again avoiding using our onboard water and waste tanks.  Donn is in the process of getting rid of lots of books and invited us to peruse them and take anything that looked interesting.  Linda found a half dozen titles, mostly paperback mysteries, that she will enjoy reading and then leaving in an RV park “library” someone down the road.  For never having met prior to noon on Saturday, Donn has treated us like old friends; a most considerate host.

Donn got home from work at 6:15 PM and I let him know that Linda had prepared the chili for dinner.  We waited 15 minutes for him to change clothes and tend to his dogs (Elvis and Lucy) and then brought the chili and some crackers to the house.  He provided the bowls, spoons, glasses, and draft beer.  I don’t think I will give up wine in favor of beer but the Shiner Bock that Donn keeps on draft was easy to drink and very tasty.  I detected a subtle hint of sweet citrus in the finish, but no one else did.

Butch called as I was finishing my first bowl of chili.  He reminded me that the SKP Dreamcatcher RV park is in Deming, NM just a few miles farther on past Las Cruces, NM and we discussed possibly meeting up there and staying the night.  He indicated that he had looked at the unloader valves on their main engine air-compressor and they may not be the problem.  Since the parts won’t make it to Amarillo until Wednesday or Thursday they are not going to stick around and planned to head out in the morning.  Linda got online to check distances and potential stopping points and found that it was 720 miles from here to Deming, NM and 313 miles to a convenient Wal-Mart in Midland, TX.  We let Donn know that we would probably leave in the morning and said our “farewells until next time” and thanked him for his generous hospitality.  If our future travels take us anywhere near Dallas Ft. Worth we will definitely stop and spend time with Donn.  Heck, we would travel here just to visit with him.

 

2014/12/01-04 (m-r) Westward Ho!

2014/12/01 (M) Back in Twelve Mile IN

As I indicated in yesterday’s post we are back in Twelve Mile, Indiana for a couple of days before heading on towards the southwest United States.  Butch and Fonda are scrambling to get ready and although there isn’t much we can do to help, we have made ourselves available.  If nothing else we can cheer them on.

We went to bed early last night, tired from our final departure preparations and 270 miles of travel yesterday, and slept in this morning.  Once we were up we had our usual granola with fresh fruit for breakfast and then walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whoever else happened in while we were there.

Well caffeinated, and pushing 9:30 AM, we checked in on Butch and Fonda.  There wasn’t anything we could help with so we both set up our computers and got online.  Linda paid bills while I updated the spreadsheet I use to track cross-purchase costs.  I hooked up their small Canon iP90 inkjet printer and printed out a copy for Butch and wrote him a check for the balance we owed them.  I showed Linda the MFJ-998 full legal limit antenna tuner that Butch wanted to sell and decided to buy it, resulting in a second check.  We plan to (eventually) use this in our base station, but it was a good enough deal that it was worth buying now and transporting to Arizona and back.  Buying it now also helped out our friends.  I logged in to RVillage and updated our location while Linda walked down to the Post Office two buildings to the west.  (Twelve Mile is a pretty small, compact town.)

Bill and Butch finished repairing Brittiny’s car this past week and she and Rock showed up mid-morning to pick it up.  We visited with them for a while and then Rock headed back while Brittiny visited with her mom.  While they were talking someone stopped across the street and off-loaded a camel.  They had three on the trailer but I’m not sure where they put the other two.  The three wise men, however, were nowhere to be seen.

Although the air temperature was in the upper 20’s it was sunny most of the day, which kept the front of the bus comfortable and well lit.  Given those conditions I decided to work on some projects in the center cockpit area.

First up was (finally) mounting the inclinometer, which turned out to be quite the little project.  I had to remove the mounting bracket from the case in order to attach it to my mounting blocks on the center windshield pillar.  That, in turn, required me to take the case apart and remove the mechanism so I could get to the ‘C’ clips that prevented the bracket retaining screws from coming all the way out of the body.  But I got it apart, mounted, and reassembled, minus the retaining clips.  Really, why would I put them back in?

Linda split the one remaining Tofurkey brand Italian sausage and served it on a couple of hotdog buns for lunch along with a couple of Clementine oranges.  A quick and simple but tasty lunch.

The inclinometer and the compass both have light bulbs in them and needed to be wired up to 12VDC accessory plugs.  The inclinometer already had a power cord but the compass did not, so I got some scrap wire from Butch and fashioned a 2-conductor power cable.  I only have four accessory outlets and three of them were already in use so I attached both power cables to a single plug using wire nuts.  I then dressed all of the wires to make for a neater looking installation that would keep them out of the way and prevent snagging and/or tripping problems.  All of this was a long-term temporary solution; I plan to eventually install a 12 VDC PowerPole distribution system for all of these accessories and hide the wiring to the extent possible or enclose it split cable loom.

I removed the four screws that hold the panel with the 12 VDC house system switches so I could get to the back side of them.  It took a while but I eventually puzzled out how the three air-conditioner switches were wired.  I removed the wire that feeds +12 VDC to the Rear A-C switch and checked for voltage at the loose end of the wire.  There wasn’t any, as expected, so I put a 2 Amp blade fuse in the 12 VDC distribution panel and checked again.  This time I had +13.2 VDC, so everything was good down to that point.  I removed the line and load wires from each switch in turn and checked to make sure the contacts opened and closed the way they should.  They did, so I checked each pin to ground to see if any of them were somehow shorted to ground.  They were not, so the problem was probably downstream from there.  I did not, however, specifically check the bulb circuit for each switch, so I don’t know if there’s a problem there or not.  The bulbs, however, get their power from the load side of each switch, so in the next paragraph the tests I did included the bulbs in parallel with whatever other loads existed.

I tested each load wire for continuity to ground and was surprised that they each appeared as a short.  I did this test with the DC- lead to ground and the DC+ lead to the wire.  When I reversed the leads each wire tested as open.  That suggested there was a diode, or something, acting as a one way current check valve.  I switched the VOM to measure resistance and rechecked each wire.  Where I had previously seen short circuits I saw 0 ohms; where I saw open circuits I now saw about 630 ohms.  Those readings might be a problem, but I don’t yet understand them well enough to know.

The bulbs are incandescent, so their resistance should measure the same in either direction.  If they are 0.6 W they would draw ~0.047 A and have a resistance of ~265 ohms (when illuminated), not the 630 ohms I saw with the red test lead grounded.  Regardless of the exact value, if a bulb was shorted I would see 0 ohms whichever way the test leads were connected.  With the black test lead to ground the 0 ohm readings were, therefore, presumably through the load wires not the bulbs.  If the relay coils were very low resistance (and protected by diodes) they would determine the meter reading in the forward direction, but I would have expected something more than a zero reading.  It seems very odd to me that all three of these loads tested as short circuits in one direction.

I had a weak Verizon 4G/LTE signal at the front of the bus so I tried calling Donn Barnes in Alvarado, Texas.  I got his voice mail and left a message indicating he could TXT message me back.  He did later and I replied that I would call him from Logansport a bit later.  Butch needed a 1/2″ x 1-1/2″ NPT male nipple so Linda and I drove to Logansport to buy one at Home Depot.  While we were there I called Donn and confirmed that he would be home this weekend and that we were still welcomed to visit and spend Saturday and Sunday at his place.  The timing looks like it will work out well as he has to work on Friday and Monday, so we will take our leave on Monday morning.

When we got back to the coach we had some pita chips with hummus while Linda prepared a green salad and started heating some lentil soup.  While we enjoyed the soup she reheated some pita bread and the leftover Koshary.  A small glass of Moscato went nicely with the meal.  After dinner we went in the house to visit with Butch and Fonda for a while and transfer some PDF files onto a flash drive for Butch.  We returned to our coach for the evening at 9 PM.  It was certainly an easier day for us than for Butch and Fonda, but we were tired nonetheless.

We were sitting quietly, reading and writing, when things suddenly got exciting.  Juniper made a sudden movement near the food bowls and I immediately glanced in her direction to see that she had caught a mouse.  We knew at least one was probably still living in the bus because yesterday we found a partially shredded blue paper shop towel in the tray where we store the shore power cords, along with two nuts that had been chewed open.

Juniper is a very skillful huntress but I was surprised that the mouse attempted to get to the cats’ food bowls, which are not in a really safe place for a mouse, with two cats on board.  Juniper is very protective of her catches, so she headed off towards the bedroom, trying to find someplace where we could not try to take it away from her.  We wanted to get it from her and remove it from the coach but our main concern was that she not kill it and try to eat it.

I got a container to try to capture it and Linda managed to get hold of the scruff of Juniper’s neck which caused her to drop the mouse.  It immediately ran further under the bed, a direction from which there did not appear to be an escape path, but we could find no sign of it save a few stool pellets.  I would have needed a much deeper container, like the trash can, to capture it.  Our best guess is that it disappeared into the OTR HVAC duct on Linda’s side of the bed.  Once in there it could travel the length of the bus with impunity, including moving from side to side and between the house and the bay’s.  With any luck it took the hint and moved outside.

Juniper took up her post by the rear corner of the dinette, where she originally caught the mouse, to wait for its reappearance.  A black cat sitting quietly on black tile at night is a pretty effective camouflage.  The problem for the mouse is that it needs to eat and even in its natural (outdoor) environment constantly takes risks to obtain food.

2014/12/02 (T) Tire(d) Pressures

Some nights we sleep better than others.  Last night was not one of our better nights.  The cats were still wound up because of the mouse and I suspect we were anticipating its return as well.  Because neither of us slept well, we slept in this morning.  By the time we were up and dressed it was 8:30 AM.  Linda was pretty sure she had left her gloves and knit hat at the coffee shop yesterday so we decided to go have coffee at Small Town Brew before we ate breakfast.

Linda’s things were there waiting for her to claim them.  We had a nice long chat with proprietor Lisa Paul and invited her to stop over after she closed the coffee shop for the day and get an inside tour of both buses.  We also inquired as to whether she had any post cards of Twelve Mile.  She did not but thought it would be nice to have a few available.  She has a friend, Derinda, who is an artist and thought she would ask her to make a few.  We were interested in one we could mail to our grand-daughter, Madeline, who will be two years old in less than three weeks.

Breakfast was raisin toast and grapefruit, simple but yummy.  We were both dressed to work and went in search of Butch and Fonda to see if we could be of any assistance.  Linda took her computer in the house to transfer some PDF manuals to Butch and then take care of some bakery-related issues.  I used Butch’s MFJ-269 SWR Analyzer to check the VSWR on his 2 meter ham antenna and his (11 meter) CB antenna.  Both antennas are glass mount.  The 2m ham antenna was tuned fairly well, showing a VSWR of 2.1 at the low end of the band (144.000 MHz) and 1.8 across most of the band (up 148.000 MHz).  That is certainly a usable range.

The CB antenna did not test nearly as well.  The CB band is channelized, with channel 1 just below 27.000 MHz and channel 40 just above 27.400 MHz.  At 27.0 MHz the VSWR was greater than 6.0.  It declined steadily as I went up in frequency but was only down to 2.9 by the time I got to Channel 40.  A reading greater than 2.0 (a ratio greater than 2:1) becomes problematic for a transmitter and readings greater than 3.0 are generally unusable.  Both of Butch’s antennas are tunable but we did not take the time to adjust them today.  Butch is taking the analyzer so we can work on the antennas while we are in Quartzsite.

Their bus is parked in between our bus and their house as a consequence of which our WiFi Ranger is not able to pick up their WiFi network signal which is already weak outside the house.  I am having a problem with the unit that has me concerned, but I won’t be able to sort it out until I can get it connected to a working Internet connection.  The problem is that the WFR finds their network and tries to connect to it, requests an IP address, and while it is waiting for a response disconnects from my iPad, which serves as its control panel.  This annoying at best since the WFR and the iPad are only 10 feet apart.

We had lunch at 1:30 PM.  Linda heated up a couple of Thai Kitchen brand hot and sour rice noodle soup bowls.  It had been cold, damp, and dreary all day and we were both feeling a bit chilled so the soup was very soothing in addition to being very tasty.  By 2 PM it was obvious we were not going to get the mid-to-upper 30’s temperatures that had been forecast and there was no advantage to waiting any longer to check/set the tire pressures.  I bundled up, put on my mechanic’s gloves, and set about the business at hand.

Butch turned the auto shop compressor on and I pulled the air hose out and connected it to our hose.  I removed the Pressure Pro sensors from all 12 tires and then worked my way around both vehicles in the same order.  When the sensors have been off for a minimum of one minute putting them back on resets the baseline pressure, which determines the pressures at which you get over- and under-pressure warnings.  I set the bus tires as follows:  front tires to 115 PSI, drive tires to 95 PSI, and tag tires to 85 PSI.  I set the car front tires to 32 PSI and the rear tires to 34 PSI.  I noted that the ambient temperature was 30 degrees F.  I then plugged in the Pressure Pro receiver and repeater and checked the pressures they were reporting.  The four car tire readings were essentially identical to the known pressures in the tires, but the sensors on the eight bus tires all registered low, in one case by 6 lbs.  As I indicated in a previous post I think the batteries are just about drained and are giving tire(d) pressure readings.  I know that I am tired of the discrepancies as I count on these readings to tell me it’s OK to drive or I need to add air to certain tires.

Bill and Bell showed up in his custom car hauler while I was working on the tires.  Bill and Butch worked on some stuff and Bell helped Fonda load food and sundries onto the bus.  Lisa Paul showed up for a brief visit and tour of both buses.  See also brought a postcard that her friend Derinda made.  It featured the building that houses Lisa’s Small Town Brew coffee shop.  Linda is going to post it to Madeline in the morning so it has a Twelve Mile, Indiana postmark.  It will be the first of what we hope are many such postcards from far away exotic places.  Being almost two years old we hope these mementos will provide a tangible connection to us while we are traveling.  I know her parents will use them as learning opportunities.

Linda and I took showers in the house to minimize the use of our stored water and waste tank capacity.  The six of us then drove down to The Old Mill restaurant just west of town for an earlier than normal dinner.  The restaurant also allowed us to use their dumpster to dispose of our accumulated household trash.  That was nice because Butch and Fonda had already suspended their dumpster service for the winter.

When we got back from dinner we got online and checked the weather forecast and road conditions along our planned route.  Bill had recently driven I-70 west of Indianapolis and strongly advised us to avoid going that way.  Our check of the INDOT website confirmed that we were well advised to avoid Indianapolis altogether.  We settled on SR-16 east to US-31 south to US-24 west to I-57 in Illinois.  From there we will take I-57 south to Mt. Vernon, Illinois where we will overnight at Wally World (Walmart).

Bill and Bell said they would be back in the morning to see us off (“watch this thing launch” is how Bill put it) and took their leave.  We hung out a while longer trying to be useful but mostly providing moral support and comic relief until it was time to winterize the plumbing.  Butch hooked up a line from his big shop air compressor, ran it through a pressure regulator, and attached it to the main plumbing line at the surge tank and pump.  Just like an RV he used air pressure to drain both water heaters and then had us open each fixture in turn and let the air blow the water out and down the drain.  We then filled the traps and toilet tanks with potable RV antifreeze.  The reason for using potable antifreeze is that it will eventually end up in the septic tank and drain field.

We finally retired to our coach leaving them to finish up some last minute things before retiring to their coach for the night.  We had some very tasty red grapes for dessert (and a couple of cookies) while we studied maps for our next few days of travel.  We had not really looked at them carefully before now and were surprised to find that we will not be in either Kentucky or Tennessee.  We had presumed that we would be, but I-57 runs into the extreme southwest corner of Illinois and then crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri, ending at I-55 in Sikeston.  From there we will continue south into Arkansas on I-55, which stays on the west side of the Mississippi river, until we intersect I-40 west of Memphis and head west towards Little Rock.  Thus we will never enter Kentucky or Tennessee and we will not drive through Memphis; at least not on purpose.

Fonda has to run to Logansport first thing tomorrow and while she is gone we will prep our bus for travel, hitch up our car, and give Butch whatever assistance we can.  We plan to be on the road by 10 AM and safely parked at the Walmart in Mt. Vernon, Illinois well before dark.

2014/12/03 (W) Finally On Our Way

We were up around 7:45 this morning anticipating a 9 AM departure even though we knew that was unlikely.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump to start warming the engine.  There was a dusting of snow on the ground and on our car; a sure sign that our departure had been delayed long enough.

Bill and Bell arrived a little after 8 AM so we invited them into the coach and chatted for over an hour while Butch and Fonda got their morning organized.  Fonda left for her run to Logansport at 9:15 AM followed by Bill and Bell at 9:25 AM when they decided they needed to go to Logansport to get breakfast.  Fonda returned at 9:50 AM and we started making our final departure preparations.  We had hoped to leave by 10 AM but suspected that was optimistic.  It’s Butch and Fonda’s first extended use of their converted coach and they have had a lot to do to get ready to leave.

We straightened up the interior for travel as soon as Bill and Bell left so all that remained for us to do was unhook the shorepower cord and store it, start up the main engine, move the bus across the street, and hookup the car for towing.  We can do all of that in 15-20 minutes if absolutely necessary, especially in warmer weather, but it typically takes a half hour.  We do not like to rush this process; it’s important that we do it correctly each and every time.  It is also a commonly understood etiquette among RVers that you do not try to chit-chat with, or otherwise disturb, fellow road warriors while they are hitching something up.

Butch & Fonda's MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

We were idling and ready to go by 10:25 AM but Butch had to make some final adjustments to his toad towing/braking setup.  Bill and Bell were back in time for Bill to help and Bell to take pictures and give us a good send off.  We pulled out a little after 11 AM and headed east on SR-16 with Butch in the lead but only got to the edge of town before Butch pulled off the road.  We pulled off behind him and Bill pulled off the on the other side.  We had noticed that their bus was smoking but they realized something was wrong before we could even call them on our 2m ham radio.  It wasn’t the engine; the brakes on the toad were partially engaged and he could feel the drag.  He readjusted it and we were on our way again, this time for good.

The trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois was an easy and uneventful run.  From SR-16 we turned south on US-31 and picked up US-24 westbound.  We took this same route in June 2013 when we left Twelve Mile headed to the state of Wyoming so we knew it was a good route for us.  We had to slow down going through small towns, but that gave us a chance to catch a glimpse of these quaint little places.  A couple of larger towns had stop lights, but mostly we were able to keep rolling.

We stopped at a Pilot Truck Stop just west of I-65 for a quick walk-around and so Fonda could take the dogs out.  We continued west on US-24 into Illinois and eventually got to I-57 where we headed south.  We saw occasional construction signs but very little construction and did not incur any delays.  Butch lead most of the day and we just followed along with generally light traffic.

We stopped at the rest area just north of I-70 and took a stretch break, after which we took the lead.  A few miles later we got to the construction on the short stretch where I-57 and I-70 run together.  We had to drive 45 MPH but rolled right through.  After the construction zone we took the center lane knowing that I-57 would split to the left from I-70 and continue southbound.  Slow traffic is often worse than fast traffic as the cars end up bumper-to-bumper leaving no space for larger vehicles to change lanes.

Following the directions on our GPS we took exit 95 for Mt. Vernon, Illinois, drove a quarter mile, and turned left onto a road that ran down the west side of the Wal-Mart property.  Linda had called ahead and been told it was OK for us to spend the night in their parking lot.  The first two access drives, however, had crossbars at 12 feet so we could not turn in. The third driveway was for delivery trucks so we turned in there and headed back towards the north end of the lot by Ryan’s as Linda had been instructed on the phone.  There were signs posted prohibiting semi-truck parking so we parked temporarily while Linda went in to check on the situation.

A women at customer service confirmed that we could spend the night and asked that we stay near the periphery of their parking lot away from the main doors.  No problem.  The lot we had pulled into was not the Wal-Mart lot and was a little tight but were able to extricate both coaches without unhooking our toads and moved them to the northeast corner of the adjacent/connected Wal-Mart parking lot.  I leveled up as best I could, shut the engine off, and then closed the various air valves and switched the chassis batteries off.

The house batteries were at an 89% state of charge (SOC) when we arrived.  We locked the bus and went for a walk around the east end of the building to scout out an exit route.  We stopped in the store and bought a bag of Fritos and some popcorn oil.  When we got back to the coach I started the diesel genset and turned on two of the electric toekick heaters while Linda used the induction cooker to prepare vegan burgers for dinner.

After we had eaten Linda and I sent TXT messages to several people.  We then went over to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda and look at maps for tomorrow’s leg of the trip.  When we returned to our coach we noticed that the generator had stopped running.  Not good.  I was able to restart it but each time it shut down, so I got Butch to come look at it.

There’s a solenoid that holds a fuel valve open and we thought that might be the problem, but it wasn’t.  We checked the level of the oil but it was OK.  I started it again and Butch noticed that the squirrel cage fresh air blower was not turning so I shut the engine off.  Linda had been watching the gauges inside and said the water temperature was very high (off the end of the scale).  Butch checked the blower to make sure it wasn’t stuck. I traced the wiring back to a panel with a couple of circuit breakers and one of them was popped.  I reset it and restarted the engine and the blower came on.  Linda reported that the water temperature immediately dropped.  We suspected, but did not confirm, that the same breaker controlled the power to the large squirrel cage blower for the radiator, which is located in the inverter bay on the other side of the bus.  I let it run for another hour and brought the house batteries up to 95%.  It ran fine with normal water temperature and oil pressure so I think we found the problem and fixed it.

Linda read while I changed most of the clocks to Central Standard Time.  I turned off the electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot to unload the GenSet and then shut it down for the night.  I dialed the three Aqua-Hot thermostats back to 15 degrees C (59 degrees F) and turned on the Diesel burner.  It is only supposed to get down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit overnight but Linda put an extra blanket on the bed since we will not be using the electric heating pads as they would draw too much energy from the batteries.

It was a long day but largely uneventful except for the beginning and the end.  But all’s well that ends well, and this day did.

2014/12/04 (R) Roadside Repair

I was awake at 4:30 AM and got up to check on the SOC of the house batteries and turn on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump.  The batteries were at 68 SOC.  They were at 95% when I shut the generator off around 9 PM last night, so they had dropped 27% percentage points in 7.5 hours, a rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour or 10 percentage points every 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We did not go out of our way to minimize loads, leaving some night lights on (DC), the Aqua-Hot (DC), and the main inverter loads (refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, microwave clock, outlets with chargers, etc.). At that rate it would take just under 14 hours for the batteries to drop to a 50% SOC, starting from 100%.  I was satisfied with the performance of the system and went back to bed.

It started to rain off and on around 5:30 AM, the first sign of a wet day.  I got up to stay at 7:15 AM and got dressed.  I checked the SOC of the house batteries and it was 58%, so it had dropped another 10% in 2 and 3/4 hours, consistent with the 4:30 AM data.  I started the generator to provide power for hot water, lights, and additional engine pre-heating.  It would also start to bring the SOC of the house batteries back up before we started driving for the day, although the Zena power generating system on the main engine should be capable of recharging them in a couple of hours while we are driving.

Since we were not leaving until at least 9 AM we decided to have a light breakfast of raisin bread and grapefruit.  After breakfast I powered up our Verizon Mi-Fi device, got my laptop connected to it, e-mailed yesterday’s blog post to myself (from my iPad), and then checked my e-mail (on my computer).

We had the coach straightened up and ready to go well ahead of our departure.  Around 8:45 Butch indicated that they would be ready to go in 15 minutes.  That was all the time I needed to get the car ready to tow, switch the coach batteries on, open the various air valves, shut off the Aqua-Hot pre-heat loop, and start the main engine.  With the main engine running I turned off all of the loads on the generator, let it run unloaded for a few minutes to cool down, and then shut it off.

We pulled out at 9 AM and worked our way around behind the store and back out the unblocked entrance we came in yesterday.  Instead of turning on Broadway to go back to the Interstate we crossed over and pulled into the Pilot Truck Stop so Butch could top off their fuel tank.  We did not need fuel yet but I pulled in right behind him so we were positioned to pull out together.

We were back on I-57 headed south by 9:25 AM with Butch in the lead.  We ran at 60 MPH through light rain and fog with overcast skies all the way to the end of I-57 at I-55 near Sikeston, Missouri, where we continued south towards Memphis, Tennessee.  We eventually crossed into Arkansas and out of the rain, although the cloudy skies continued.  About 25 miles north of the junction with I-40 Butch called on the radio to let us know that he needed to get off the road at the first safe place I could find.  His air pressure had dropped to 60 PSI and was not building.  A couple of miles later I pulled off onto the shoulder of an entrance ramp and he pulled off behind me.  The brakes and suspension most highway buses are air-powered.  Without proper air-pressure the bus cannot be driven.

The pressure in the system was holding which indicated a supply issue rather than a leak.  The usual suspect in this situation is the “governor” (or less likely the unloader valves) on the main engine air-compressor.  Butch had a spare governor in his parts kit but we were not in an ideal spot for changing it.  He decided instead to hook up his portable air-compressor to his air system auxiliary fill connector.  He put the portable air-compressor in the bedroom at the rear of the bus and had Fonda run the air hose out the passenger side window were I took it and zip tied it to the side radiator grill.  Butch then ran it through a small access door by the passenger side rear lights and connected it to the fill valve.  The portable air-compressor is an AC powered device, so Butch had to start their generator to power it.  It gradually built the pressure to 100 PSI.  The pressure was holding so Butch dial it up to 110 PSI.  He left the portable air-compressor on for the rest of the trip and allowed us to get back on the road, making this a very clever emergency roadside fix.

After a 20 minute delay we pulled back onto I-55 and finished the run to I-40 with heavier traffic.  We exited onto westbound I-40 in West Memphis, Arkansas and completed the 38 miles to Forest City, Arkansas without difficulty.  We negotiated a tight turn onto the street where the Wal-Mart was located but had an easy time getting in at the far west entrance.  From there we pulled up parallel to a north-south curb that ran the length of the west edge of the parking lot.  We leveled up the coach (using the air springs), shut down the engine, and went through our usual dry-camping arrival routine.

As soon as we were set up Butch was back looking at his main engine air-compressor and then on the phone with Luke at U. S. Coach in New Jersey.  He decided to change the governor as it couldn’t do any harm.  I helped him (as best I could) but once the new governor was installed the compressor still would not build air pressure.  The unloader valves were the next most likely (easiest to fix) culprits, but neither of us had the parts.  There was an O’Reilly’s Auto Store across the main road from the Wal-Mart so we walked over there.  They did not stock them either, but at least we got some exercise.

The house batteries were at 78% SOC when we arrived which disappointed me as I expected them to be at least at 88% like they were yesterday at the end of our drive.  We were on the inverter from the time we started up at 9 AM until I turned the generator on at about 3:30 PM.  At our normal rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour we would have been at ~72% SOC without any charging from the ZENA system, so 78% did not seem very good to me.  It appears that I am going to have to adjust the charge voltage up somewhat on the ZENA power generating system as it should be supply enough current to run any AC loads while traveling (mostly the refrigerator) and fully recharge the house batteries.  I let the generator run through dinner until bedtime.  It brought the SOC back up to 91% with the charger in float mode supplying 10 Amps of current at 26.3 VDC.  Once the charger is in float mode it can take a surprisingly long time to finishing bringing the batteries to full charge.

Some weeks back Butch bought a grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plan on Ebay using the Assumption Of Liability (AOL) process.  He also picked up a used phone and a used Jetpack MiFi device.  Both devices can use the SIM card, but he had not had a chance to connect the MiFi through to the Internet.  We removed the card from the phone, installed it in the MiFi and powered it up.  It found a strong Verizon 4G/LTE signal right away.  The menu gave us the password and we were able to connect his laptop computer and my iPad.  He started searching the web while I downloaded e-mails.

Linda and Fonda had walked to the store to buy a few things.  When they got back we chatted for a bit and then went back to our coach.  Linda made popcorn for me (she wasn’t hungry) and we relaxed for a while before going to bed.

 

2014/10/23-29 The Bus Work Continues

2014/10/23 (R) Close Encounter of the 1st Kind

My two main bus projects today were the lighted handle by the entrance door and the Progressive Industries remote display installation.  The lighted handle needed new machine screws and some additional gasketing on the upper securement.  It turned out that all five of the screws that I removed were stripped to a greater or lesser extent.  After trying several different screws I concluded that the threaded holes must be messed up.  Butch loaned me a 10-24 tap and I used it to re-tap all five of the mounting holes.  I cut two additional pieces of the vinyl shower pan liner and trimmed them to fit just inside the upper securement.  That allowed the piece to be reattached to the body using the 10-24 stainless steel screws I bought last night without causing interference with the LED bulb.

Some time ago I bought a remote display kit for our Progressive Industries Energy Management System (EMS).  The kit consists of a second display unit and a selector switch unit.  I mounted the selector switch in the utility bay in place of the display unit, moved the display unit to the left, and connected it to the switch with the short cable provided in the kit.  I routed the long cable from the switch through the bay to the other side by the Aqua-Hot and fed it through a small hole into the electrical bay, which is the next bay going towards the front of the coach.  I temporarily mounted the remote display in the house panel.  I then repeated the work I had done yesterday to relocate the Magnum inverter/charger remote.  This time I used serial cable #1, removed the DB-9 connectors from each end, and connected the wires on each end.  The difference from yesterday is that Progressive Industries wires their cables so that pin 1 of the RJ-11 on one end is wired to pin 1 of the RJ-11 on the other end.  That meant I had to keep the wire colors the same between the two surface-mount phone jacks, i.e., black-to-black, red-to-red, green-to-green, and yellow-to-yellow, rather than cross wiring them like I did yesterday.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.

Butch’s major focus today was the ITR Oasis Combi.  He and Fonda worked for much of the day running new diesel fuel lines.  By late afternoon I was done with my projects and went to work on the fresh water plumbing for the Oasis.  Prior to the last couple of weeks I had not worked with PEX tubing and fittings.  Butch has a crimper that he showed me how to use.  By the time we quit working to have dinner we had the fresh water tank connected to the inlet of the Shur-Flo 4048 pump, the outlet of the pump connected to T-fitting that supplies cold water to the house and to the Oasis Combi inlet, and the outlet of the Combi connected to the line that supplies hot water to the house.

For dinner I fixed a salad, a Thai Kitchen mushroom noodle soup bowl, and a bowl of fresh strawberries for dessert.  I took everything in the house and dined with Butch and Fonda.  After dinner I went back to the coach to try and straighten things up a bit.  I must have opened the cabinet door under the kitchen sink a dozen times to throw away food scraps, product packaging, and paper towels.  I had bundled up the various recyclables and opened the cabinet to remove the trash bag when the mouse jumped out and ran under the passenger side couch.

I say THE mouse because I presume it is the mouse that has obviously been in the coach recently based first on getting into my loaf of bread and then finding a nest where none had been previously.  It was a cute little dark gray field mouse, not more than two inches long (without its tail), but I am going to have to find a way to catch it and remove it.  I will set a live (no kill) trap next week and see if I can find it a nice field to live in somewhere far away from Butch and Fonda’s house and both of our buses.

It was still in the upper 40s and rather pleasant outside so I straightened up the back of my car rather than wait until morning.  After retiring to the guest bedroom I organized most of my clothes.  I should be packed and on the road about an hour after I get out of bed in the morning.

2014/10/24 (F) Around the World in 80 Days

As much as I have been traveling back and forth between Michigan and Indiana I feel as if I could circumnavigate the world in 80 days but today my “journey of a thousand miles” began with a 260 mile trip home.  I was up a little before 8 AM and finished packing all of my stuff in the guest bedroom and loading it into the car.  I gathered up some last minute laundry, foodstuffs, and recyclables and put those in the car as well.  I sat and chatted with Butch and Fonda until 9:10 AM and then said farewell until Sunday evening.  I pulled my car out its normal parking spot at 9:15 AM and headed east on SR-16.  I followed my usual route home from there: US-31 north to US-20 east to CR-17 north to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) east to I-69 north to I-96 east to M-59 east to Hacker Road south and then home.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Our friend Kate had contacted us yesterday to see if we were available to go to the Meadow Brook Theater to see a live theatrical performance of an adaption of Jules Vern’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  Her cousin is working as an intern at the theater this season and was able to get courtesy tickets.  Linda was feeling well enough to go so we left early and stopped at a Panera on the way over to the theater where we met up with Kate.  The performance was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We wanted to have coffee together afterwards, but by the time we met her cousin and chatted for a while it was late and everything was closed.  Besides, we had an hour’s drive to get home and Kate probably had at least 90 minutes.

2014/10/25 (S) Here And There

Linda slept in to rest and try to recover from her cold so I went to the SLAARC Ham Radio Club Breakfast by myself.  She was awake by the time I got back and feeling well enough to run errands with me.  We stopped at Recycle Livingston and then picked up our new natural gas fireplace logs from Country Squire in Howell.  We got the business card of the independent technician who does installations for them and gave them a call to set up an appointment.  I left a message and they called us back later.  We stopped at our Bank of America branch enroute to Staples in Brighton in search of a larger size of graph paper, but they did not have the size I wanted.  I need larger paper to draw accurate designs for the custom desk/pantry and printer stand/table that we want to have made for our converted bus.  We fueled up at the Brighton Meijer’s and then bought groceries.  We needed a new coffee maker but decided not to purchase one until we had checked online.

Back home we searched for coffee makers in a white finish rather than black/stainless.  There were only a few choices and one of them was a Mr. Coffee programmable model that was available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  As long as we were looking for things online we found a pad of 50 sheets of 17″x22″ graph paper with a 1/4″ grid pattern and added that to our Amazon Prime shopping cart.  We also added a Camco RhinoFLEX RV sewer hose kit and various accessories.

Back side of house systems panel.  Bus conversions are complex.

Back side of house systems panel. Bus conversions are complex.

Linda had arranged for us to meet John and Diane at Camellia’s in Farmington Hills for dinner at 6 PM.  We left the house around 4 PM and stopped at the Brighton Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get the Mr. Coffee coffee maker.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Wixom and picked up the filters and then stopped at J. C. Penney’s at Twelve Oaks Mall for some necessary clothing items.  We headed into Farmington Hills but were still early for dinner so we drove through our old neighborhood, which is very close to the restaurant.  Our former across-the-street neighbor, Dan, was working on a car in his driveway so we stopped to chat.  While we were there the young man who bought our house arrived home on his motorcycle.  He never removed his helmet before putting the bike in the garage and shutting the door, so we never actually saw him.  Our daughter handled the closing in July 2013 since we were in Wyoming at the time, so we never meet the buyer or his parents.  He has apparently been a very quiet neighbor who keeps to himself.

We got to the restaurant shortly after 6 PM and John and Diane were already seated so we did not have to wait for a table.  We had the veggie fajitas, our standard choice at this particular Mexican restaurant.  While we were dining our friends, Jim and Kristine Gullen, came in and sat in a booth near us.  When we were done with dinner John and Diane headed to their house (nearby) and we lingered for a few minutes to chat with Jim and Kristine before joining them.  Diane had bought some Coconut Bliss Chocolate with Salted Caramel non-dairy “ice cream.”  It was the best vegan ice cream we have had.  By 10 PM we were all having trouble staying awake so we said farewell and headed for home and went quickly to bed.

2014/10/26 (N) Pack and Go

We both slept in this morning, the combined effect of being tired (both of us), sick (Linda), and having taken Tylenol PM last night (both of us, again).  In spite of her cold, Linda wanted to cook something for me before I took off again for Indiana, so she made her wonderful vegan blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  We used the new coffee maker and, as expected, the coffee tasted the same as with the old one.

After breakfast we sorted and folded laundry (we have such exciting lives) and I selected and packed the items I needed for the week ahead.  I had not copied photos from my laptop to the network drives since October 10th so I took care of that.  I also made more careful measurements of the dimensions of our color laser printer to use in refining the design of the printer cabinet for the bus.  Likewise, I took measurements of our Dewalt air compressor as I plan to build a wooden divider for the back of the Honda Element that will secure it on the floor and create space next to it and above it for storing other things.  Obviously the two rear seats will be removed when this insert is in use.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

By 2 PM I was ready to load the car so Linda helped me with that task.  I pulled out of the driveway at 2:16 PM and followed my usual route to Indiana: Hacker Road north to M-59 west to I-96 west to Lansing Road south to I-69 south to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to CR-17 south to US-20 west to US-31 south.  I exited US-31 at IN-25 (Rochester), topped off my fuel tank and then picked up fresh greens and fruit at the Kroger.  I headed south on IN-25 to Fulton where I took Aitken Road east to Meridian then headed south to SR-16 and finally headed east to Twelve Mile.

Butch and Fonda had their family holiday gathering today.  They had 27 family members in attendance during the day and for dinner but by the time I arrived (7:45 PM) everyone had left except Brittiny and Rock, and they departed while I was unpacking food and storing it in the coach.  I moved all of my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, like I always do, and then visited with Butch and Fonda for a while before retiring to my room for the evening.  If the weather forecast holds true we have two unseasonably nice days in store on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week doesn’t look too bad either. We have a lot to do and could use some favorable weather.

2014/10/27 (M) Heat and Light

We had an unseasonably nice day for working outside.  It was already in the upper 40s when we got up and made it in to the 70s under partly cloudy skies with breezes from the southwest.  I was up before 8 AM and had my usual granola, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast and then got to work.

Butch worked most of the day on assembling the two fan-coil heat exchanger units that will get plumbed into their ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic furnace to provide heat to the house portion of their converted bus.  While he worked on that I worked on replacing our patio light.  The ballast on the old one was no longer working and the way the unit was designed it could not be replaced.  Butch happened to have an identical unit, so I used it as the replacement.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach.  Not pretty.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach. Not pretty.

The old unit was not removed from the coach when it was painted.  This was a nice idea at the time as it provided a paint seal on the top and both sides where the unit met the side wall of the bus.  Unfortunately, removing the unit required me to cut the paint seal with a very sharp knife.  The unit was secured with two screws, but it was stuck to the side of the coach with a generous amount of automotive putty.  Most of it came off with the fixture, but not all, so after I cut the two wires and removed the fixture I had to carefully scrape the rest of it off using the thin end of a wood shim.

I checked the voltage at the two wires coming out of the wall and I definitely had 13 VDC controlled by the same switch that turns the lighted entrance handle on and off.  I prepared the back of the new fixture using new automotive putty to create a seal all the way around the back at the outside edges.  I also placed a ring of putty around each of the screw holes in the back and the access hole for the wires.  I attached shielded spade lug disconnects to all four wires, held the fixture in place, and connected them.  I pressed the fixture into position, lined up the screw holes, and secured it.  I put the two F8T5 florescent tubes back in, snapped the cover back in place, and made sure the on/off pushbutton switch on the bottom was in the on position.  I then applied a bead of NAPA RTV Black Silicon Rubber sealant along the top seam and the two sides.  (Sorry Michele, but I had to make sure it was not going to leak.)

The switch that controls this light is one of three in a 3-gang box next to the passenger seat and is the one closest to the entrance door.  I had removed the cover plates last week so today I took another look and it appeared that the other two switches did not have any wires connected to them.  I removed them and that was indeed the case.  I think tomorrow I will re-wire this so the first switch controls only the lighted entrance handle and the second switch controls only the patio light.  If I cannot figure out something to control with the third switch I will probably leave it out and get a new cover plate that has two switch openings and a blank, assuming I can find one.

With the patio light project done Fonda helped me remove the fan belt and the two A-C compressor drive belts from the engine in our bus.  We put the two compressor drive belts (NAPA CG-96) back on but reversed their position.  The inside one seemed loose compared to the outside one last week and we wanted to see if switching them would fix that problem.  We then installed the new fan belt that I ordered/received last week.

I started the main engine and let it run for a while on high idle with the air-conditioning turned on to put some load on it.  The CG-96 that was now on the outside of the pulley still appeared to be looser than the other one, so I think I will order a replacement set.  The new fan belt ran very smoothly.  I turned the A-C off, dropped the idle down, and shut off the engine.  I started to close the rear access hatch but found that it was stiff and made a sound like an elephant trumpeting.  I sprayed some WD-40 on all the hinges and on the piston rods for the air springs.  I then put a small amount of NAPA Syl-Glide on the piston rods, worked them up and down a few times, and wiped off any excess.  The hatch now opens and closes smoothly and quietly with less effort.

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers.  MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers. MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

While I was lubricating the hatch Butch was using a pressure washer to clean the radiators (heat exchangers) for their fan-coil units.  As long as he had it out, he sprayed around all of our front windshield seals while I looked for leaks inside.  We found three for sure.  One was in the upper inside corner of the lower driver-side windshield between the center pillar and the seal.  The second one was in the lower outside corner of the upper driver-side windshield between the seal and the glass.  We were not able to identify the point(s) of entry for the third one but it appeared to be somewhere above the upper windshields near the center pillar, a least that was where the water was coming in on the inside.  I cannot see the underside of the front cowling in that area and there are lots of places water could come in: five front marker lights, two upper windshield mounts, and perhaps a dozen screws on top of the front roof holding various things down.

Leaks are annoying and potentially destructive so I am still pondering what I want to do.  We have new windshield seals but have had trouble finding someone locally to install them.  For one thing, the bus really needs to be inside for that work and most glass shops, including ones that work on “semi tractors,” do not have overhead doors high enough for the bus.  I may make judicious use of the NAPA RTV Silicone Rubber sealant or I may just use black tape as a temporary fix.

When we were done checking the windshields I used the pressure washer to clean off the coach as best I could.  The last time it was cleaned was right before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort in early April and it had accumulated a few miles, bugs, and dirt in that time.

Because the weather was so nice Butch decided to replace a short section of badly deteriorated coolant hose on their engine rather than risk having it fail on the road.  He shut some valves to isolate the engine from the coolant lines that provide heat to the coach and drained quite a few gallons out of the engine (almost three 5-gallon buckets).  The old hose turned out to be extraordinarily difficult to remove. The new piece was no easier to get in and required modification of two parts.  This was definitely not a job you want to do on the side of the road in any kind of weather.

While Butch and Fonda worked on the coolant hose I tinkered in the dashboard area of my bus.  First I replaced a couple more bulbs in illuminated switches.  I then pulled the CB radio out of the dash to see how the coaxial cable (transmission line) was marked.  That allowed me to identify the other end in the old ceiling-mounted TV cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I also looked around in that cabinet for the other end of the coaxial cable that was once connected to the antenna for in-dash AM/FM radio/cassette/CD player.  I did not see anything that looked right, so I pulled the radio out of the dash (actually the whole panel along with four switches) to get the identifying marks off of it. Even with that information I was not able to locate the other end of the cable.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

By that point it was 6 PM and we had weather approaching from the southwest.  Clouds had moved in, greatly reducing our natural light, and gave the first indications of the rain that was forecast for the evening hours.  I will look again for the radio antenna cable tomorrow as I have a TuneTrapper antenna that I want to install on the underside of the front roof via the old TV cabinet and I need to plug it into the cable that goes to the radio.

I had a small glass of Moscato while I prepared my dinner.  I fixed a salad of power greens with peanuts, dried cranberries, and fresh diced onions and finished a bottle of Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.  I grabbed a can of Amy’s “No Chicken Noodle” soup, some crackers, my jar of peanut butter, and some ICE brand water and went inside to eat with Butch and Fonda.  I returned to the coach after dinner, cleaned up my dishes from the day, and bagged up my recyclables.  We bought a small container on Saturday that is intended for storing pet food but it has a gasketed lid with a snap latch that I thought would make a nice mouse-proof kitchen trash can.  (I figure the mouse will leave if it cannot get any food.)  Alas, the container does not fit in the base cabinet under the kitchen sink so it will likely end up being used for its intended purpose after all.

2014/10/28 (T) Under the Bus

In corporate life “getting thrown under the bus” is not a good thing, but if you are the owner/builder/maintainer of a converted highway coach, getting under the bus will eventually be a necessity.  Today was finally my day, but not until mid-afternoon.

The forecast for today was for rain in the morning tapering off to zero by noon and then turning sunny; and that is exactly the day we had.  Knowing that the morning would be wet, I took a couple of Tylenol PM last night and slept in a bit later than normal.  After my usual breakfast of granola, orange juice, and coffee, with some spicy V8 thrown in for good measure, I set to work on the interior of the old TV cabinet located above and behind the driver’s seat.

Yesterday I pulled the CB radio and the AM/FM radio out of the dashboard and identified how the coaxial antenna cable for each one was marked.  I located the cable for the CB in the TV cabinet but was not able to find the one for the AM/FM radio.  I got my twin tube florescent worklight and rigged up a couple of zip ties with mounting tabs to hang it from.  I looked again this morning but still could not locate the AM/FM radio antenna cable.  Rather than waste time not finding it I decided to organize the inside of the cabinet which has had an outlet strip, an OTA TV antenna controller, the Wi-Fi Ranger POE adapter, DC power supplies, and a mess of cable that has been lying around in it for a couple of years now.

Using the tab mount zip ties I coiled each cable and secured it to one of the two side walls.  The OTA TV antenna cable (signal and control) was very long, so I wound it around a 5-gallon plastic bucket to make a nice round, large coil.  The outlet strip had mounting slots on the back, so I mounted it to the wall on the lower half of the back of the cabinet.  The upper half of the back is open to the area above the driver and entrance stairs and under the front cap of the roof.

Late in the morning I took a break from the TV cabinet work and helped Butch cut access panels out of a 1/8″ aluminum sheet that will cover the inside of their entrance door.  We tried using a sabre saw but the only blade we had was not sharp enough or was the wrong type.  We used his Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade and it made much quicker, and surprisingly clean, cuts.  I then used Butch’s angle grinder to round the corners of the sheet and remove burrs from all of the cut edges.

I stopped for lunch around 2 PM and enjoyed a hummus and onion sandwich.  By the time I was done the day was as warm and sunny as it was going to get so I decided to scoot under the bus and measure the ride height linkages.  This was the first time I have been under the bus.  Please note that the bus was supported on four stands that Butch made for me out of 1/2″ steel plate and 4″ square steel tube with 1/2″ thick walls.  In other words, the bus was not supported by the tires and air springs so the bus would not move if there was a failure in one of those components.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

The linkage in the front was easy as I could slide under the bus just in front of the driver side steer tire and then sit up between the front tires with lots of room to work.  The linkage is directly above the center of the front axle and connects the axle to a lever arm on an air valve that determines the amount of air that goes into the front airbags (when in drive mode), and thus sets the suspension at “ride height.”  Butch wanted me to remove the linkage but I chose not to.  As it turned out I should have and will probably slide back under the front tomorrow and remove it.

The rear linkages were much more difficult.  First of all, there are two on them, one for each end of the drive axle.  They are located just inside the body panel directly in front of the outside dual drive tire and are covered by a protective shield.  The shields are bolted on at four points, none of which are easy to reach and one of which ultimately required me to get under the rear end of the bus.  Access is much tighter here because of:  1) The dual drive tires on each end of the drive axle; 2) The drive axle carrier, and; 3) The exhaust pipe for the Aqua-Hot which runs under the bus from the passenger side to the driver side where it ends up next to the exhaust pipe from the generator.  I was able to scoot under the bus from the passenger side just in front of the drive tires, but just barely, and once I was under far enough to sit up there was much less room to work compared to the front.  Because of the difficulty of getting to the linkages to make an accurate measurement of the center-to-center distance between the mounting bolts I went ahead and unbolted them and removed them.

The linkages consist of a length of metal rod approximately 1/4” in diameter with a rubber bushing on each end that looks a bit like and eye-bolt.  The rubber bushings slip over the ends of the metal rods and are secured with band clamps.  They appear surprisingly fragile given the critical nature of their function, and Butch has already had one that was only a couple of year’s old break on their coach.  He ordered metal versions in both left-hand and right-hand threads and is going to assemble replacements using threaded rod and stop nuts.  With a left-hand threaded bushing on one end and a right-hand threaded bushing on the other end we will be able to turn the threaded rod one way to increase the distance between the two mounting bolts and the other way to shorten it, affecting both ends equally in the process.  The stop nuts will lock the bushings relative to the threaded rod so they do not move in operation.  All-in-all this will be a neat little project.

In spite of the lovely weather Butch needed to get to the NAPA store in Logansport before they closed at 5:30 PM.  At 4:30 PM I wrapped up my work with the linkages, put all of my tools away, washed up, and grabbed my wallet, cell phone, and shopping list.  We got to the NAPA store a little after 5 PM and took care of our business there.  We then headed to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store for a few other things.  I called Linda and chatted briefly with her and was relieved to hear that she sounded, and was feeling, considerably better.  Butch called Jaral Beatty to see if he had finished cutting the oak valences for the front of their bus.  He had, so we swung by Jaral’s shop to pick them up.

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed.  Look ma, no wires!

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed. Look ma, no wires!

While we were at Jaral’s he ripped a nice piece of 3/4″ thick oak for me to just under 3″ wide.  The piece was about 4′ long and he did not charge me for it.  I plan to attach this piece of wood to the center windshield pillar and use it as a mounting plate for a compass, flat panel monitor, PressurePro TPMS receiver, and the mirror that is currently mounted at the intersection of the four windshields.  I have to do this, of course, in such a way that it does not obscure my vision while driving.  From Jaral’s shop we went to Home Depot where I bought a thin (1″ thick), 13″ long, under-cabinet, single-tube florescent, AC powered light fixture.  I also got a blade for my Porter-Cable oscillating saw.

When we got back to Twelve Mile a little after 7 PM Fonda started preparing their dinner and I did the same.  I had a nice salad of power greens with onions, dried cranberries, and roasted peanuts topped with a sweet and sour dressing.  I also had a bowl of Thai Kitchen spring onion soup, some canned pears, and half a piece of pita pocket bread.  After dinner I washed my recyclable containers and went back to the coach for a while where I cleaned and dried a few utensils.  I then mounted the new light fixture in the TV cabinet.  As I expected, it provides very nice illumination for the entire inside of the cabinet.

Depending how the day goes tomorrow I plan to continue working in the front TV cabinet.  I would like to mount the TuneTrapper AM/FM antenna and get it connected to the AM/FM radio.  Butch’s brother, Tom, is coming over sometime during the day to winterize his motorhome.  Butch called and asked him to bring the faceplate from an old Kenwood radio that he had that was very similar to the one in our dashboard.  The backlight illumination bulb is burned out on ours.  I also need to create an access slot in the door for cables to pass between the back of the flat panel TV (which is mounted to the outside of the door) and the inside of the cabinet.  To create this access slot I will have to drill holes centered along a line and then use Butch’s root-zip tool to connect the holes into a slot.  The bushings for the ride height linkages are supposed to be in tomorrow, so we will be making a morning trip towards Kokomo to pick them up.  Butch is also trying to tap into the engine coolant loop that provides OTR heat for their bus as part of the Oasis Combi installation, so it is likely to be a very full day.

2014/10/29 (W) Outside In

My main project today was once again the front TV cabinet only this time the focus was on cutting a horizontal opening in the door behind the flat panel TV that is mounted on the outside of the door.  The approach I used was to drill two 1″ holes, one at either end of a horizontal line, and then use a roto-zip tool as a mini-router to connect the tops of the holes together and the bottoms of the holes together, creating a horizontal slot with rounded ends.  The slot is below the horizontal center line of the TV set and offset to the left (as viewed from the front of the TV) to line up with the area on the back of the set where the power, video, and data cables exit downward.  The position of the slot allows them to gently bend and pass from the outside of the cabinet to the inside of the cabinet where they get connected.  This also allows the cabinet door to be closed and latched with none of the cables visible.  It sounds simple but it took me a good part of the day to get it done.  We have a second flat panel TV in the bedroom mounted on a similar door that covers another old TV cabinet.  Cutting a similar slot in that door is on my task list for tomorrow.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10" CRT was mounted.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10″ CRT was mounted.

When I wasn’t working on the TV cabinet I spent a few minutes learning how to use an air-powered cutoff tool and giving Butch a break by using it to help cut off a piece of the center tunnel sidewall in their passenger side front bay.  Butch is removing this panel in order to gain access to the engine coolant lines that provide heat for the bus when it is underway.  He needs to tie a stacked-plate heat exchanger into these lines as part of the ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system installation.

Butch spent most of his day working on their Suburban installing a Ready-Brake auxiliary braking system and extra rear lights for towing.  I checked in with him from time to time, but he was either in the middle of one-person tasks or had Fonda helping him.  Late in the afternoon we rolled his Ryobi belt sander out of the warehouse and used it to sand his two valence boards and my piece of oak that we picked up yesterday from Jarel.  We had to change the sanding belt and it took us a few tries to get it right, but it did a nice job on the boards once we had a good piece of sandpaper on it.

By the time we finished it was twilight and very cool.  Tom and Tracy showed up about then to winterize their motorhome.  There was a locked cover over the fresh water fill connector and none of Tom’s keys would open it.  I got a long flat-blade screwdriver and was able to slip it up under the cover and pop the lock.  I left the winterizing to Butch and Tom and retreated to my coach to putter and contemplate (and eat) at a lovely 67 degrees F.  The Aqua-Hot has been working very reliably, cycling on and off automatically in response to the space and water heating demands of the coach.

Tom brought an old Kenwood car stereo that he got from Butch a while back.  Although similar in appearance to our Kenwood dashboard radio, it was not similar enough.  The electrical connector on the back of the removable faceplate was in a different location than ours.  I had a Singapore Noodles dish in the coach and then made a salad to take into the house and dine with Butch and Fonda.  It was after 9 PM by the time we were done eating and I turned in for the night shortly thereafter.

 

2014/10/16-22 More Bus Work

2014/10/16 (R) More Wiring

Butch had to go to Logansport this morning for parts and groceries.  I stayed behind to continue working on the AC wiring for their bus conversion; after breakfast, of course.

I mounted two 6-position AC main lug panels, one above the other, to the right of the 20-position panel we installed yesterday for the inverter circuits.  The panels I installed today were for AC circuits that only run on shore power or the generator, not the inverter.  The reason for two panels was: A) Butch already had them, and B) they were narrower than the larger panels and would fit in the available space on the right rear wall of the closet.

I had tied the main shore/generator power line to the inverter AC input line last night so the refrigerator, which is wired through the inverter panel, would have power overnight.  I left those tied together for most of the day so the lights would work.  I pulled all of the existing circuits that we disconnected yesterday into the boxes, dressed the wires, and connected/mounted the circuit breakers.  By the time I finished Butch had returned from his morning errands.  He connected the shoreline and I checked to see that we had 240 VAC between L1 and L2 and 120 VAC from each line to the neutral conductor.  He then disconnected the shoreline and made sure the generator was off.  Using the inverter to power a work light, I pulled the main power cable into the lower box and secured it.  I then pulled the cable that feeds AC power to the inverter into the lower box and connected it to a 30 Amp breaker.

MC-9 house wiring.  Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right.  DC upper left, solar upper right.

MC-9 house wiring. Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right. DC upper left, solar upper right.

I plugged the shoreline back in but got a low voltage with no current on L2 and an Error Code 6 on the Progressive Industries EMS remote monitor display.  Butch checked the plug and I just did not have it fully inserted into the outlet.  Once he fixed that we got the correct voltages and no errors.  We checked each circuit and everything checked out perfectly.

(Note: The shoreline is wired for “50 A” RV service, which is 240 VAC service from L1 to L2 but with an active neutral that provides two 50 A, 120 VAC power feeds with L1 and L2 180 degrees out of phase.  As a result the currents in the neutral wire from L1 and L2 cancel rather than add.  Butch has his generator wired for 120 VAC output and has L1 and L2 tied together on the generator side of the transfer switch.  This makes the full 100 A output of the generator available to be shared between L1 and L2 in any proportion.  Although this system can supply a full 50 A of current on both L1 and L2 at the same time, it could also supply 70 A or one and 30 A on the other unless this is prevented by circuit breakers.  Also, regardless of the distribution of current between L1 and L2 the currents will add in the neutral as much as 100 A of current.  Although sensible load management would prevent this from ever happening it is entirely possible to draw 30 or 35 A on each leg and end up with 60 – 70 A in the neutral.  Thus, when designing your house AC electrical system this way, provision should be made for a neutral conductor that is sufficient to carry this amount of current.  The advantage to doing your system this way is that the voltage regulation will be better under load than with a 240 VAC generator powering imbalanced 120 VAC loads on both legs as the 240 VAC configuration regulates the voltage between L1 and L2 but the voltage from L1 to N and L2 to N can be off substantially.)

Butch needed another non-inverter circuit for the front of the bus so we pulled a 10-2+g Romex cable from the electrical closet along the driver’s side wall/ceiling area and down into the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter. He and Fonda spent a bit of time cutting openings in the end of the cabinet for a two-gang outlet box and a single-gang outlet box.  The two-gang box was for a pair of duplex outlets fed from the inverter panel and the wires were already run.  The single-gang was for the new circuit we just pulled.  When they were done I disconnected the shoreline so I could safely tie the new circuit into the lower panel.  I then installed the cover plates on all three boxes and plugged the shoreline back in.  We had the breaker turned off for the new circuit while I wired the outlet.  I then energized it and it tested OK.

I repositioned a 12 VDC fused distribution box above the inverter panel and mounted it.  I then moved a terminal strip for their solar panel wiring to a slightly different location to open up a space for Butch to drill a hole.  At that point we were done working for the day.  I changed into my non-work blue jeans and relaxed for an hour before dinner.  During that time Butch called Jaral Beatty, a cabinet maker in Logansport and personal friend of Butch’s, and put me on the phone with him to see if he could come to Twelve Mile and finalize plans for a custom desk and printer cabinet for the bus.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is for mild, mainly sunny, conditions and Jaral said he could come out mid-afternoon.

Butch and Fonda’s younger daughter, Brittani, and her husband, Sterling (Rock), were expected for dinner at 7:00 PM so I fixed a salad and heated some Amy’s chili for my dinner.  Dinner was jovial and the first time I have eaten with Butch and Fonda at home on this latest round of working visits.  Butch called Joe Leibherr and put me on the phone with him.  Joe and Connie own the lot in Quartzite where we plan to spend part of the winter and I had a few questions for him.  (Dale and Sherry Leibherr bought most of Butch and Fonda’s business assets.  Dale is Joe and Connie’s son.)  I had a nice long chat with Joe and was satisfied that it will be an OK place to spend part of the winter.  Besides the full hookup 50A sites there is a laundry on site and Wi-Fi.  Verizon cellular service is also apparently very good.  Joe filled me in on some of things to do in town and suggested we bring our passports and visit Los Algodones, Mexico while we are in the area.  Brittiny and Rock stayed until 11:30 PM so it was a nice, long visit.  We were all really tired by the time they left and immediately turned in for the night.

2014/10/17 (F) VDO Air Power

After Brittani and Sterling (Rock) left last night I retired to the guest bedroom immediately but was up for a couple of hours responding to e-mails and writing my daily blog entry.  I do not shut my computer down every night but I do shut it down occasionally, especially if there are updates available.  Last night there were 28 updates.  I was not up at the crack of dawn today, which was a shame as it was the nicest weather day we’ve had for the week just past and looks to be the nicest of the week ahead.  Butch was up late last night as well, so we were both dragging a bit this morning.

Following breakfast I readied the coach for travel, securing loose objects inside and checking that all of the bays were shut tight and locked.  I switched on the chassis batteries and air valves, unplugged the shorepower cord, and went for a short test drive to calibrate our new VDO electronic speedometer.  Butch mentioned that there was a funeral home on the northwest corner of SR-16 and US-31 where he had easily turned their bus around in the past.  That turned out to be just what I needed for my test run as it kept me from having to go south on US-31 in order to make a U-turn to get headed back to Twelve Mile.

I had driven the coach last Sunday from Elkhart to Twelve Mile with the new speedometer set to its default pulses per mile and it indicated less than 1/8th of the actual speed as shown on our Rand-McNally 7710 RVND GPS.  When I got to Twelve Mile I calculated the pulses per mile I thought would be close to correct and programmed that number into the instrument.  On the first leg of my test drive this morning the indicated speed was still about 1/8th of actual.  Either my programming did not “stick” or I based my calculation on a grossly inaccurate assumption.

I pulled into the far entrance to the funeral home parking lot and made a broad turn to get lined up with the other entrance.  I switched off the ignition, held down the button on the face of the VDO, turned the ignition back on, and started the engine.  The speedometer cycled through its three calibration modes and I stopped it on ADJUST and then selected UP as the direction the needle needed to move.  The adjustment was a little tricky, especially while driving, but I figured out how to switch it between up and down.  I got it adjusted to my satisfaction before getting back to Twelve Mile and after not adjusting it for a minute or so it reset and reverted to its standard speedometer/odometer display, only this time showing the correct speed and recording the correct mileage.

When I got back to Butch and Fonda’s house I pulled the bus around, blocking the street temporarily, and backed it in next to theirs.  Fonda helped spot me for the final few feet.  Instead of shutting the engine off I let it idle while I got my four chassis stands out of the warehouse and positioned them at the four corners of the bus.  I put the engine in high idle and raised the body as high above the axles as it would go.  I slid the stands into place under four frame members, dropped the idle to low, and gently lowered the bus until it was resting firmly on the stands.  With the bus sitting on the stands it will now be safe to work underneath it when we get around to those projects.

The next project was to replace the air filter / water separator for our auxiliary air system.  Butch did most of the work on this project.  He disconnected two air lines from the existing filter assembly, which includes a pressure regulator and a Schrader valve, and then unscrewed the mounting bracket from the rear wall of the bay under the driver’s seat where a lot of the auxiliary air system is housed.

With the old unit out of the bus he was able to work in his shop to remove the inlet and outlet fittings and clean them up on a wire wheel before reusing them.  He installed the old fittings in the new housing using pipe thread compound and matched the alignment of the old unit so the air lines would fit back on to them.  The two machine screws that were used to mount the old unit’s mounting bracket to the wall were too big for the slots in the new unit’s mounting bracket so Butch used his Bridgeport vertical mill to slightly enlarge the upper slots.

With the shop work done I took everything back out to the bus and installed it, which consisted of attaching the two air lines (with compression fittings), attaching the mounting bracket to the housing, attaching the mounting bracket to the rear wall of the compartment, and then tightening the two air line nuts.  Butch checked my work and snugged the air line nuts another partial turn.

I turned on the auxiliary air compressor but it seemed to take a long time to start to build air pressure and Butch heard and felt a leak at the unloader valve coming out of the auxiliary air compressor.  I shut of the aux compressor and he hooked up his portable air compressor to the air hose fitting in the passenger side engine bay which brought the pressure up in the auxiliary system very nicely.  We turned his compressor off, turned the aux compressor back on, and bled enough air off to cause the aux compressor to run.  It finished bringing the pressure up to the cutout value without difficulty.  I sprayed all of the fittings with Simple Green and did not detect any leaks.  We had noticed earlier that the lower half of the filter housing, which locks and unlocks in only 1/8th of a turn, had a loose fit.  Once the system was pressurized, however, it tightened up.

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

The old unit had to be replaced because it was no longer made and the replaceable filters were no longer available.  Once we had it out of the coach and disassembled I was surprised by how badly deteriorated it was internally.  Aluminum, by definition, does not “rust” but it certainly can and does corrode (oxidize).

Butch and Fonda spent part of the day building and installing a slide out tray for one of the passenger side bays.  It will hold his tool box on top and have room for miscellaneous storage underneath.

I got the Zena power generating module wiring diagrams for Butch to study while I ate lunch.  We were just getting ready to start working on this when Jaral showed up.  He and Butch and Fonda talked for quite a while about personal stuff while I started probing around in the driver side rear electrical bay for a place to tap into an ignition switched source of 24VDC power.  I located a relay that looked like it would do the trick (R53).  I broke off working on this to spend time with Jaral, who rode his scooter from Logansport to discuss some cabinetry project.

Jaral looked at Butch’s projects first as they are immediate.  He then looked at what we want to do with the front part of our coach.  We need to have a desk and a printer cabinet built out of walnut to match the woodwork that is already in the bus and Jaral is our cabinetmaker of choice.  It sounds simple enough, but the reality is more complex.  After talking it through with him (again) and taking some measurements we agreed that I need to make very careful dimensioned drawings of exactly what we need.  I may try to do that over the winter but worst case is that it will have to wait until next spring and probably after we have removed the current furniture.

Butch and I worked on the Zena wiring for a little while after Jaral left.  We determined that the two blue wires in the electrical bay ran to the Zena control modules in the engine bay and to the fan terminals on the Zena rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay.  He had a tandem spade lug adapter that we used to tap into the power to the coil of relay 53.  With the coach batteries on but the ignition off we did not have power to the fans on the rectifier assembly or the control modules in the engine bay but with the ignition on we did.  That was a small but important success.

The weather had turned cloudy, windy, and chilly as the afternoon progressed.  We spent a little while studying my house electrical bay and discussing how I might get the large battery charging cables from the ceiling-mounted rectifier to a Class T fuse and then to the batteries.  I decided that was a problem I was not going to solve in the remaining hour of daylight and called it a day.  By then it was 6 PM so I went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of a salad, tofu hot dog, apple, and a glass of Franzia Moscato.  I retired to the guest bedroom around 9 PM, worked on my computer and iPad until about 10:30, and then turned off the lights.

2014/10/18 (S) Cold Wet & Windy

Even though I went to sleep at 10:30 last night I did not get out of bed until 8 AM this morning.  Today’s weather forecast was for a 50% chance of rain with winds out of the WNW shifting to N at 15+ MPH and a high temperature of 50 degrees F.  The 50% chance of precipitation turned out to be an all-day drizzle; not an ideal day for working outside.  Nonetheless, I spent the late morning (post breakfast) working in our house electrical bay on the wiring for the Zena 24 VDC power generating system.

The only thing I actually accomplished was mounting a Class T fuse holder (with a fuse) to the ceiling of the compartment.  That was a bigger accomplishment than it seems, however, as its location determined the lengths of the cables needed to finish the project.  With a nicer day on tap for tomorrow I expect to get those cables made and installed.  A final check of the wiring and installation of the drive belts on the alternator will complete the project, which I stated almost exactly two years ago.

20141018-09012

Zena rectifier (upper left) and Class T fuse (upper center).

 

Butch and I went to Logansport in the early afternoon.  He needed plumbing parts for his fresh water tank and ITR Oasis Combi project.  I needed 2/0 lugs for my battery cables, some 3/8 compression nuts and sleeves, and some duplex outlet expanders.  I found the lugs at Rural King (where we also got some free popcorn) and everything else at Home Depot.  These stores happen to be conveniently located across the street from one another.  The nuts and sleeves will be used to rig up a hose or tube so we can test the water flow coming out of the pipes that feed the kitchen faucet.  The flow is much lower than it should be and we want to determine if it is due to the faucet or upstream in the piping.  I found a small duplex to 6-out expander that would fit under the thermostat on the end of the kitchen counter based cabinet.  I also found a duplex to 6-outlet expander with integrated surge protection and two USB charging ports.  I bought two, one for the outlet on my side of the bed and one for the outlet on the outside wall just behind the passenger seat.  This model is not illuminated like the one I installed on Linda’s side of the bed, but that’s OK.

We stopped at Butch’s parents’ house to investigate the source of a mechanical noise. It turned out to be a dehumidifier in which the fan motor bearings were squealing.  Butch loaded it in his truck to take back to his house where he could more conveniently try to oil the bearings.  We chatted for a while and then headed to Martin’s Supermarket so I could pick up a few grocery items.

When we got back to Twelve Mile I unloaded and stored my groceries and then installed two of the three outlet expanders.  I could not install the one by the passenger seat as the outlet was too close to a wooden structure.  There is an outlet box with a solid cover plate next to the duplex outlet and I will see if the outlet can be moved over.  If not, I will install this unit behind Linda’s night stand at our sticks ‘n’ bricks house.

Butch’s brother, Tom, showed up and the two of them worked on installing the Blue Ox base plates on Butch’s Suburban.  I spent the afternoon making a scale drawing of the passenger side of the front half of the coach showing the two Lambright Comfort Chairs, custom printer cabinet/table, and custom desk with pantry.  I checked in with Butch and Tom and helped them a little bit with the base plate project.  When they reached a stopping point, or at least a point where my assistance was no longer needed, I returned to my coach and fixed dinner.

I had a salad of power greens with cranberries and peanuts, some apple sauce, and the leftover Mjadra from La Marsa, the last of my frozen leftovers from our dinner at the Brighton location with Bruce and Linda Whitney.  A glass of Franzia Moscato was quite agreeable.  Butch and Fonda had not eaten their dinner yet, so I worked in the guest bedroom at my computer while they ate.

Linda called around 8:45 PM and chatted with Butch about an accounting issue related to their business and then chatted with me about our grand-daughter, Madeline, who is finally pronouncing words clearly enough to be understood and quickly developing a spoken vocabulary.  Brendan and Shawna brought her to our house around 11:15 AM this morning and stuck around through lunch to get her down for her nap and then took off.  Grandma Linda had her all to herself the rest of the day and will have her tomorrow until they pick her up.  I chatted with Butch and Fonda for a while after that and then retired for the evening, checking and responding to a couple of e-mails, doing a little web-surfing, and working on this post.

2014/10/19 (N) Of Mice And Men

Although I really enjoy Linda’s homemade granola I decided to make toast with some of the Brownberry Country White bread I bought.  I was surprised to discover that someone, or something, had chewed a hole through the plastic bag and eaten some of my bread.  A mouse, no doubt, but I only bought this bread on Tuesday, so it was a recent visitor.  The surprise was that the bread was in a cabinet that I assumed was inaccessible to mice.

I emptied the cubby and discovered a hole in the back wall big enough to stick my finger through for some distance, which meant it was plenty big enough for a mouse to get through.  The walls are covered with the same thin carpet that is used to line all of the other cabinets in the coach.  In this case it was applied to fairly thin wood with space behind it.  Butch looked at it with me and we found that the glue used to install the carpet had lost much of its hold.  We lifted it up and found a 2″x2″ cutout in the wood with the hole in the carpet roughly centered on it.  There was a Romex electrical cable coiled up behind the wall with the ends taped.  We presumed the wire had once passed through the hole into the cubby but was now a way for the mouse to travel vertically through the cavity and get to the back entrance.

I threw the bread out, of course and cleaned the counter surface, which forms the floor of the cubby, with Lysol.  Mouse proofing the bread cubby will have to wait until tomorrow but my plan is to feed the wire through the hole in the carpet and then lift the carpet at the bottom and run a bead of caulk (or hot glue) along the joint between the counter and the wood walls.  I will then install a surface mounted outlet over the hole.  At a minimum it will seal the hole and it might prove useful someday for plugging in an appliance, assuming the wires are still energized.

Although it was in the low 30s when we got up this morning, it was finally a decent day for outside work.  The high temperature only made it to the mid-50s but it was sunny most of the day with a light breeze.  Appropriate layers of clothing made for comfort while working.

My main focus today was completing the installation of the Zena 24VDC power generating system in the bus.  I started this project two years ago this month and today was the day to finish it.  I had also written a complete draft of an article about this project for Bus Conversion Magazine but held off finishing and submitting it pending completion of the project.  Now that the work is completed and the system functions correctly I hope to finish the article in the next few weeks.

The purpose of the system is to charge/maintain the 24VDC house battery bank while we are driving the bus, during which time the refrigerator, and other minor loads, are being powered by the inverter.  The system consists of a high-output, continuous-duty, 24VAC, 3-phase alternator driven by the main bus engine (Detroit Diesel 8V92TA).  The alternator feeds a large rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay and is controlled by three interconnected modules mounted in the engine bay near the alternator.  Redundant voltage sense wires run from the rectifier back to two of the three control modules.  The system is activated by ignition switched 24VDC power which we wired up a couple of days ago.

The unfinished part of the project involved the connections between the DC output of the rectifier and the 24VDC house battery bank.  I mounted a Class T fuse on the ceiling of the electrical bay yesterday which then allowed me to determine several cable lengths.  On the +24VDC side I made three cables from 2/0 welding cable as follows:  1) Rectifier DC positive to ceiling fuse terminal A; 2) Inverter/charger fuse terminal B to ceiling fuse terminal B, and; 3) Ceiling fuse terminal B to +24VDC battery disconnect switch.  With this configuration both the rectifier and inverter outputs go through separate fuses to a common point (ceiling fuse terminal B) and that point is connected to the battery disconnect switch.  I also made a cable to go from the rectifier DC negative (ground) to the house DC electrical system ground lug; again using 2/0 welding cable.

I used a metal blade hacksaw to cut the welding cable to length and cut through the heavy rubber sheath 1/2 inch from the end to expose the copper conductors.  I attached crimp style through-hole terminals to the ends of the cables and held them in position to get the alignment correct.  I made reference marks to ensure the alignment and then crimped the lugs onto the wire using a very large hand-operated press in Butch’s shop.  Projects like this are a lot more fun with access to the correct tools.

I attached as many cable ends as I could without touching any live voltages.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot, the UPS, and the inverter/charger before disconnecting the main AC shore power.  I then turned the +24VDC disconnect switch to the off position, isolating the coach/inverter from the 24VDC battery bank.  (Note, however, that I did not disconnect the 12VDC center tap.)  With power off I completed all of the needed connections, including the small ground wire for the 24VDC fan on the rectifier, turned the 24VDC batter disconnect switch to ‘on’, and turned the inverter back on.  It immediately started supplying power so I knew my wiring was correct.

Back in the engine bay I checked all of the wiring against my diagram and everything was good to go.  I taped off two wires with bullet connectors on the ends to prevent accidental shorting.  One of the wires is used to reset the system by grounding it and the other wire is tied to chassis ground.  With all of the electrical connections verified I got Butch to help install the two drive belts from the DD8V92TA pulley to the alternator (power generating module).  That was when we discovered that the lower side of the belts were in contact with a pressurized oil hose for the Spinner II centrifugal by-pass oil cleaner.

The hose was secured with zip ties in several places so I clipped and removed those.  I disconnected the hose from the Spinner II and re-routed it to avoid the drive belts and other rotating parts on the front of the engine (which faces the rear of the bus).  I reattached the oil hose to the Spinner II and secured it with zip ties.

Butch used a pry bar to move the alternator and put tension on the drive belts while Tom and I tightened the alternator mounting bolts.  The inverter had been supplying AC power to the coach for a while and a check of the house battery voltage showed +24.5VDC.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessories air valve, started the DD8V92TA, and put it in high idle.  I re-checked the voltage at the rectifier output and it was 24.8, higher than before and rising, but not too high; an excellent set point at least for now.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

We observed that some of the belts on the engine seemed loose and floppy.  Butch also noticed what appeared to be a stone embedded in the outside surface of the Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92 triple V drive belt that runs from the DD8V92TA crankshaft pulley to the drive pulley for the engine cooling fan.  Butch called O’Reilly’s in Logansport but they were unable to locate the 2.125″ wide triple-V belt in their system.

The oil dipstick tube was also too close to the new drive belts but when I tied to move it (bend it slightly) I noticed that it was very loose.  The fitting at the block was not tight and it was obvious that some oil had leaked out from there.  I slid under the engine from the rear of the bus and tightened it at the block.  (It is nice having the bus supported on stands so I can work under it without concern.)

While I was working on the Zena system Butch installed an outlet fitting on their fresh water tank.  He and Fonda, and eventually Tom (Butch’s brother), re-installed the tank in their bus and then mounted the ITR Oasis Combi next to it, securing it to the floor of the bay.  To accomplish that they had to drill holes, align holes, and determine a location for the water pump, which required more information regarding allowable pump orientation.  Sometime during the day Butch shifted his focus towards an antenna project on the roof of their bus.  He had previously purchased a Tarheel motorized fold-over mount for his large Tarheel screwdriver antenna and wanted to at least get the fold-over mount attached to the roof before they left for the southwest.

The key lock on our passenger side engine bay door was getting difficult to turn so I removed an access panel on the inside of the bay door to investigate the mechanism.  As I loosened the access panel water ran out the bottom.  We determined that the gasket surrounding the handle/lock assembly was dried out and cracked, allowing water in at the top.  I removed the handle/lock assembly by pulling it out of the door from the outside, dried it out, and lubricated it.  I reassembled it for now, but I need to apply some kind of sealant behind the gaskets or get new ones from Prevost (if they are still available).

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Butch shifted his attention yet again, this time to their Suburban where he and Tom re-attached the front bumper.  It was removed a few days ago so he and Tom could install the Blue Ox base plate kit which will allow them to tow it with the bus.

As the sun dropped low in the western sky the temperature dropped along with it.  I buttoned up my coach and helped Butch get his tools and supplies moved inside.  I then went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of an Annie’s Spicy Mongolian noodle bowl with added peanuts and a tofu hotdog with mustard, onion, and relish.  A glass of Moscato with the meal and a cup of Oriental Treasure green tea afterwards provided a soothing and warming end to the meal.  I returned to the house and we chatted for a short while before I retired to my room to check e-mail and write.

2014/10/20 (M) Bad Timing

I have settled into something of routine on this extended visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana; up late, sleep late, eat breakfast, get to work.  Usually.  Butch spends the early morning on his computer and is usually ready to work about the same time I am.  Usually, but not always.  Sometimes he gets to work earlier than me, and sometimes much later.  Although we had a beautiful weather day (except for the brief thunderstorm around 10 AM) we were not able to take full advantage of it for various reasons.  I had left the Aqua-Hot turned off over night to see if it would start reliably when cold.  The burner fired after a short 10 second purge.  It was smokey at first, but ran its full cycle and eventually cleared up.  I turned it off and will test its cold start capabilities again tomorrow morning.

We discovered yesterday that the triple V fan belt on my bus engine was worn and had something embedded in it.  The belt was a Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92.  We spent some time looking for one online but were not sure we had found exactly the right one so I decided to see if Prevost had it in stock.  They did, and it was only a few dollars more, included free shipping (as always), and would be at my house before I got home.  I ordered two.  This belt drives the engine cooling fan and if it breaks the bus isn’t going anywhere until it is replaced.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Butch and Fonda worked on re-conditioning a pair of fan-coil heat exchangers that will get tied-in to their new ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system on the bus.  Butch and I had both been assembling shopping lists and I was at the point where I needed to get some small parts in order to move forward with some small projects.  We left around 11:30 AM and drove to Logansport where we visited NAPA, O’Reilly’s, Rural King, Aldi’s, Home Depot, and Walmart.  All of these stores are located close to one another on the east end of town except for the O’Reilly’s and NAPA which are just a bit farther down the main road towards downtown.  When it comes down to it, Logansport is just not that big.

By the time we got back it was after 3 PM and we were suddenly very busy as we tried to take advantage of the few remaining hours of daylight.  Butch and Fonda worked on installing the Tarheel fold-over mount and I worked on sealing the bread cubby, installing a Wiremold surface mount outlet over the hole in the back wall, and installing a small battery powered LED puck light in the back closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.  I cut a small triangle of thin aluminum for the hole in the corner floor of the bread cabinet and then sealed the joint between the floor (counter) and three walls with a silicone-based paintable tub and tile caulk in a convenient squeeze tube.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

When I finished those tasks I checked in with Butch and Fonda and found out that they had run into problems with the Toggler(R) bolts Butch was using and had to undo what they had already done and seal up the holes in the roof for the night.  There wasn’t anything I could do to help at that point, so I started working on the wiring that will allow me to relocate the Magnum ME-ARC remote control/display module from the electrical bay to the house panel next to the refrigerator.  Rather than try to route the 4-wire telephone cable between the inverter/charger and the house panel, John Palmer had suggested two years ago that I re-purpose one of the existing cables that had previously connected the Heart Interface inverter/chargers to their remote displays.  All that was required was to attach RJ-11 plugs on each end to four off the nine available wires.  As long as I used the same four wires on each end, and got the colors in the same order, it should work fine.  Butch already had the necessary crimper and I bought a small bag of the plugs today at Home Depot.

Sunset is just before 7 PM these days.  It not only comes earlier, it comes quickly.  We were done working by 6:30 PM and I withdrew to my coach to have dinner.  I had a nice salad of power greens with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, artichoke hearts, dried cranberries, and peanuts with peanut butter and crackers on the side and a small glass of Franzia Moscato.  I cleaned up from dinner, closed up the coach, set the two small electric cube heaters for around 60 degrees F, gathered up a few things and went back to the house for the evening.  Butch and Fonda were just getting ready to eat their dinner so I retired to my room to work on my computer.

2014/10/21 (T) Fair Weather Ahead

One of the first things I do each morning, even before I have breakfast, is to check the current and forecasted weather.  The guest bedroom at Butch and Fonda’s place is an interior room with no windows and is well insulated, including the ceiling, so I have no visual or auditory reference to what is happening outside.  If not for the clock on the headboard of the bed (or my various communications and computing technologies) I would have no idea what time it was, or even if it was day or night.

There was widely scattered light rain across northern Indiana at 7:30 AM with single digit precipitation probabilities through the day dropping to zero chance of rain for Wednesday and Thursday with high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s.  That is about as good as it gets for the fourth week in October.  Hopefully it bodes well for our project work and will be a very productive few days.

Butch plans to attend a gun show on Saturday morning and needs to spend most of Friday getting ready.  Butch and Fonda’s family members (parents, siblings, children, etc.) are gathering at their house on Sunday to celebrate the holidays early since Butch and Fonda plan to be in the southwest with us this winter.  Given the weather forecast I will probably work the whole day on Thursday, spend the night, and then head for home early Friday morning, or at least as early as I can manage.

Butch’s main focus today was re-mounting his Tarheel antenna lift to the roof of their bus.  He figured out last night what parts he needed to make the installation work after his Togglers(R) broke yesterday.

My main focus was diagnosing and repairing the very low water flow from the kitchen faucet but before I got too deep into that project I called Prevost’s U. S. parts office in Elgin, Illinois to check on a couple of things.  They had the CX-96 cogged fan belts in stock in the U. S. but wanted $90 for a pair (they only sell them in pairs).  I found them last night online for $21 each, so that was a big difference.   They also had the bay door handle/lockset gaskets I needed but they were only stocked in Canada.  They were only $4 each, so I ordered the 12 I need to redo every door.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

I found the installation and instruction manual for the Kohler kitchen faucet in our conversion binder.  It said that the handle and cover should slide straight off of the body once the handle set screw was removed.  Butch and I both tried this but we could not get it off.  While studying the diagram and parts list I noticed a “restrictor” that also served as an adapter from the 8mm outlet pipe on the faucet to the 1/2″ NPT fitting on the retractable hose assembly.  At Butch’s suggestion I shut off the bus fresh water pump, shut the valves on both the hot and cold supply lines that feed the kitchen sink faucet, and disconnected the supply lines from the inlet tubes that are part of the Kohler faucet.  I inserted the barbed end of the 1/2″ NPT adapter into a piece of rubber hose that I got from Butch and threaded the pipe thread into the cold supply line.  I placed the end of the hose in a bucket, turned on the pump, and then opened the cold supply valve.  I had lots of flow.  I closed the valve, shut off the pump, and repeated this for the hot supply which also had good flow.  That meant the problem was either in the restrictor, in the valve cartridge, or somewhere in the faucet body.  The good news was that the restriction was not in the upstream plumbing.

By mid-morning Butch was ready to make a parts run so I grabbed my short shopping list and rode into Logansport with him.  When we got back I disconnected the kitchen faucet hose from the restrictor/adapter and then disconnected the restrictor/adapter from the 8mm outlet tube.   The garbage disposal was in my way so I disconnected and removed it temporarily.  Initial inspection revealed that the restrictor was clogged so I started taking it apart and Butch finished the disassembly.  I reinstalled the adapter without the restrictor parts and tested the flow.  It was now very strong, which meant that the valve cartridge and valve body were OK and did not need to be serviced or replaced.  That was a good thing as we had not been able to remove the cartridge earlier when we tried.  With the water shut off I removed the flow restrictor/adapter cleaned out the entire assembly, and removed one small rubber O-ring.  I reassembled all of the pieces, turned the water on, and checked for leaks.  I did not see any so I turned off the water and cleaned up the area.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

It was early afternoon by the time I finished the faucet project—too early to stop working on such a perfect weather day—so I started working on the wiring for the Magnum ME-ARC remote, which I want to relocate from the electrical bay to the house panel in the kitchen.  Because of the difficulty of running wires between these two locations I decided to follow John Palmer’s advice and re-purpose one of the two nine-conductor serial cables that connected the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 inverter/chargers to their remote panels in the house panel.

I decided to use the cable labeled #2.  I removed the snap-together Amphenol DB-9 connector from the house panel end and cut the molded DB-9 connector off of the inverter end.  I tried using Butch’s RJ-11 strip/crimp tool and discovered that the wire in the cable was one size too large to fit in the stripper so I stripped and trimmed them by hand.  The wires were stranded so I twisted them tightly but found that I could not get them inserted and lined up properly in the RJ-11 connectors I bought at Home Depot the other day.  Ugh.  Time for Plan B.

While we were working today plans got made for dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet in Kokomo, Indiana at 6:30 PM.  I decided to drive myself and leave early enough to go to Discount Tire in Kokomo and have them balance all four of my tires.  They closed at 6 PM so I stopped working around 3:30 PM, changed into cleaner clothes and headed for Kokomo at 4:15 PM.  Kokomo is about 30 miles south of Twelve Mile and takes about 45 minutes with speed limits and stop lights.  It used to be on US-31 but Indiana has made significant changes (improvements) to US-31 so that it is now a four lane divided limited access highway in many places and bypasses a lot of towns, including Kokomo.  What was US-31 is now SR-931.  Why they named it that instead of “Old US-31” as they have done in other spots is a mystery to me.

Before I got to Discount Tire I passed a Gordon Food Service (GFS) and a Menard’s located next to one another.  I needed things from both but wanted to get the car taken care of first.  Discount tire said it might be 90 to 105 minutes before they could get to me.  I could not wait that long but had them write it up anyway.  They took my car in about 25 minutes later and had it done in another 15 minutes, so I had time to do some quick shopping.

I got a package of 25 16 oz. hot cups at GFS to go with the lids we already had.  At Menard’s I got two surface mount 4-wire phone jacks and a double-ended phone cord for my Magnum inverter/remote project.  Butch and Fonda also stopped at Menard’s looking for dryer vents to use with their bathroom and shower ventilation fans.

Dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet was a family gathering.  Beside Butch and Fonda (and me) we had Butch’s mom and dad, his sister Robin and her mother-in-law Betty, Butch’s brother Tom and his wife Tracey, their son Brock and his wife, and another young couple and their kids.  I think the wife was Tom and Tracey’s daughter.  There were four or five kids whose names I did not get.  We all ate too much.  The food was OK, but Butch’s family and the conversation were more interesting.  It was 9 PM by the time we got back to Twelve Mile and I headed off to bed to take care of correspondence and writing.

2014/10/22 (W) Plan B

You always need to have a “Plan B,” or be prepared to come up with one on short notice.  Backup plans are not a sign of indecision or a lack of commitment to a primary plan.  Rather, they are an acknowledgement of the reality that things do not always work the way you thought they would no matter how brilliantly conceived, carefully planned, and skillfully executed.  So it was with my inverter/remote re-wiring project.

I spent most of the day working on the wiring that would allow me to move the Magnum ME-ARC remote from the electrical bay, where it was plugged directly into the Magnum MS4024 inverter/charger, to the house systems monitoring and control panel next to the refrigerator.  It was simple enough in concept, but I had to make sure it was correct as I did not want to damage the inverter or the remote unit.

I used four of the nine wires in one of the old serial cables (#2) that runs from the electrical bay to the house panel.  Since the phone line cables with the RJ-11 plugs on the ends used Black, Red, Green, and Yellow I decided to stick with those colors all the way through.  However, because of the way the RJ-11 connectors are assembled onto the cable the signals move back and forth between pins.  I ended up wiring the cable end in the electrical bay to the same color wires in the baseboard outlet and mounted it to the ceiling of the bay.  I cross-wired the other end of the cable to another baseboard outlet and mounted it to the side of the cavity behind the house system panel.  Fortunately the back side of the panel is accessible via a removable panel in the back of the closet that is on the other side of that wall.

With all of the wiring done I used a jumper with alligator clips on each end to bridge two of the wires in the electrical bay outlet and do a continuity check at the house panel outlet to verify the wiring.  Everything looked good so I unplugged the remote, brought it inside, and plugged it in.  It worked!  Now all I had to do was mount it.

There were already two cutouts at the bottom of the house systems panel from the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 remotes (the coach had two of these inverter/chargers when we bought it and each one had its own remote).  The cutouts measured 4.625″ W by 2.875″ H.  The housing on the ME-ARC was slightly wider than the opening but not as high.  Depth was not an issue.  I borrowed a small roto-tool from Butch with a small router bit and carefully opened up the left hand edge of the right hand cutout.  Using the remote as a template I marked the locations for the four corner screws, moved the remote out of the way, drilled out the holes, moved the remote back into position and attached it to the house panel using four #6 machine screws and Nylok nuts that I got from Butch.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

While I was working on my project, I periodically asked Butch if he needed any assistance, but Fonda was providing the needed help.  They managed to mount an 18″ H by 24″ long piece of 3/4″ plywood to the back wall of the Oasis/water bay with a 1/4” heavy rubber separator between the wood and the metal.  Butch then mounted their Shur-Flo 4048 water pump to the plywood.  This should cut down considerably the noise and vibration transmitted from the pump to the structure of the bus and into the living quarters, but only experience will prove if that is the case.  Butch moved their fresh water tank slightly to make room for their portable water softener.  They also installed the two dryer vents, one on each side of their bus, which they picked up at Menard’s last night.  Their final project for the day was to cut a hole in the roof and install a right angle cable junction box that will be used to route coaxial cable and other lines from the roof into the passenger-side cabinet in the bedroom at the rear of their bus.

I looked at installing the remote readout for our Progressive Industries EMS-50 and decided it was more work than I wanted to start late in the day.  Butch suggested that I do it the same way I did the Magnum remote, re-purposing some of the wires in the old serial data cables.  That was going to require additional parts, so I started a list for my next trip to town.

My final project for the day was to try and fix the lighted entrance handle and the non-functioning patio light.  The lighted entrance handle had a badly deteriorated gasket behind the top securement so I fashioned a replacement from a piece of heavy vinyl shower pan liner that Butch and Fonda had.  The bulb was an LED I installed some time back.  It was still working but the socket was loose so I tried to squeeze it down a bit.  Butch pushed the spring loaded center section out, stretched the spring, and put it back in.  The bulb is now nice and tight.

The patio light proved to be more difficult.  The lens was cracked and difficult to get out but I finally did.  It’s a florescent fixture with two F8T5 bulbs.  I tried turning them in their lampholders but that did not help.  I pulled the wires far enough out of the wall to find two butt connectors.  I was able to get my multimeter probes far enough into one end of each connector to verify the presence of 13 VDC that was controlled by the same switch as the lighted door handle.  I removed the two bulbs and tested them in the fixture over the kitchen sink.  They both worked fine, so the problem appeared to be the ballast.

The way the fixture is designed there was no way to get to the ballast to replace it so I put the bulbs back in and got them to glow faintly.  I tried to replace the lens, which was already cracked, and the top inch split off all the way across.  Fonda though she could fix the cover and epoxied the two pieces back together.  While the epoxy was setting up I noticed that both lamps had come on full bright.  By the time Butch reinstalled the lens they had both gone out.  Definitely a bad ballast.

As it turned out, Butch had an almost identical brand new fixture that he did not intend to use.  The only difference was that his fixture had an on/off button on the underside whereas the one on our coach has a plastic plug in that hole.  His fixture has black end caps, which is fine, and is not painted to match the color of our coach, which is also fine.  Removing our current light fixture will be a bit of project and will have to wait until next week.

I ended up going to Logansport at 7:15 PM for a few parts that I would need tomorrow.  I got back around 8:30 PM and it took me 20 minutes to get my dinner ready and take it into the house.  I was straightening up the bus after dinner and looking for a new roll of paper towels for the kitchen when I discovered a mouse nest in the small cabinet between the sleeper/sofa and the kitchen base cabinets.  I put on nitrile gloves and cleaned it up and then inspected the compartment.  It was open at the back to the area above the HVAC chase that is part of the bus.  The more I have peaked in and under cabinets the more I have come to realize that our coach is a lot like Disney World; there is a network of passageways that are hidden from view but interconnect the bays with the areas behind and under cabinets and furniture, providing an subterranean road system for small critters.  It’s always something when it comes to bus conversions.  The long term challenge will be to figure how where the critters are getting in and see if we can plug those ports of entry.

 

2014/10/08-15 GLCC and Bus Work

2014/10/08 (W) Rally Ho!

Today was a travel day so I had a light breakfast and went to the Small Town Brew for a cup of coffee rather than create a mess making my own.  I donated $2 for this cup and did not have a refill so the three cups I consumed over the last two days averaged out to $1 each.  I spent most of the morning helping Butch investigate possible routes for the engine preheat plumbing for their new International Thermal Research (ITR) Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  I also adjusted the front bus tire pressures and all four of the car tire pressures.

As noon approached I switched to departure mode.  I changed out of my work clothes into something cleaner and more comfortable for driving, finished packing all the stuff I had in the guest bedroom, and loaded it into the bus or the car.  I targeted a 1 PM departure.  Butch had to go to town so we said farewell until Friday and he took off.  By the time I started the bus, pulled it across the street, moved the car over, hooked it up for towing, and checked the lights (with Fonda’s help) it was closer to 1:30 PM than 1:00 PM.

The drive to Elkhart was pleasant and uneventful.  The speedometer sat on zero for the first quarter of the trip, bounced around for the second quarter, indicated 85 MPH (max speed) for the third quarter, and settled in to something like the correct speed for the final quarter.  This is the way it had behaved for quite some time before it got unplugged so this confirmed that it did not work correctly and needed to be replaced.

I took SR-16 east to US-31 north to US-20 east to CR-17 north.  CR-17 becomes MI-217, the Michiana Parkway, which ends at US-12.  I took that west to Old M-204 west and followed it past Phoenix Paint back into Indiana where it becomes SR-19 south.  I turned east on CR-4 and a mile later turned into the entrance to Elkhart Campground on the south side of the road.  This route is at least 15 miles longer than necessary.  There is an exit for SR-19 north off of US-20, which is a much more direct route, but requires driving through the heart of Elkhart.  There was major road construction on this stretch of SR-19 the last couple of years, including a bridge, with narrow lanes and weight restrictions.  That work is all completed, and the road is much better now, but it is still a more urban route with stop lights, turns, and traffic.

Our coach (front, right) at the FMCA GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally, Elkhart CG (Elkhart, IN).

Our coach (front, right) at the FMCA GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally, Elkhart CG (Elkhart, IN).

I checked in to the campground and then got parked in my assigned site.  I was one of the last coaches to arrive.  I went through my arrival routine and got the coach setup to use before visiting with fellow GLCC chapter members, some of whom I had never met.  I chatted briefly with Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint to confirm her availability to work on a BCM article later in the evening and then went to Martins supermarket to get a salad for dinner.  The Martin’s supermarket on SR-19 at CR-4 has a really nice salad bar and I made a big salad with lots of ingredients, all vegan of course.

I took my salad over to the meeting room at 6 PM and had dinner with the group.  I was expecting Michele at 6:30 PM so I excused myself and went back to my coach.  She showed up a little after 7 PM.  We worked until almost 10 PM and managed to go through the entire article.  I did not have the photos on my new computer so the selection, processing, and captioning of images will occur later.

2014/10/09 (R) GLCC Surplus and Salvage

I went over for coffee around 8 AM without eating breakfast first.  By 9 AM plans had been made for car pools to visit the various RV surplus and salvage businesses in the area.  I went back to the coach and had a grapefruit for breakfast and then spent the morning taking care of e-mail and uploading blog posts starting with September 19th.

By noon I was tired of staring at my computer so I turned my attention to the speedometer.  After removing the dashboard cover I figured out a socket and ratchet combination that allowed me to remove the two Nylok nuts from the back of the instrument.  With the retaining bracket removed the old instrument slipped out the front of the dashboard.

Rear view of new VDO speedometer with custom adaptor cables.

Rear view of new VDO speedometer with custom adaptor cables.

I needed to redo the wiring so I got out my electrical tools.  I also tested to voltage to verify that the lighting circuit was 24VDC.  It was, and the actual instrument runs on either 12 or 24, so it didn’t care.  The existing connectors for the old instrument appeared to be the same 4-pin flat connectors used in personal computers for providing power to hard disk drives, CD drives, and other peripheral components.  I checked online and found that Michiana PC was located behind Menard’s a short distance away on the other side of the toll road.  I got an adapter cable with the proper connectors on it and then stopped at Menard’s for two different spade connectors.  As long as I was out driving around I stopped at Phoenix Paint to pick up coupons for Marco’s Pizza.  Since I had to drive past Martin’s on the way back to the campground I stopped and bought groceries.

The new VDO speedmeter temporarily connected.

The new VDO speedmeter temporarily connected.

Back at the coach I put the groceries away and got back to work on the speedometer project.  I cut leads from the old instrument light wiring as I needed the plug.  I then cut the unneeded end off the computer power cable.  I wired the lighting connector, spade connectors, and jumpers.  I then wired the instrument connector spade lugs to the computer power cable.  When all the wiring preparation was done I attached all of the wires except the two for the signal (#16 & #20) and connected the cables to mating chassis connectors.  I temporarily set the speedometer in dashboard hole, turn the chassis batteries on, and then turned the light switch on for the dashboard lights.  The speedometer lights worked, so I turned the ignition to ‘ON’ without starting the engine.  The gauge needle swept up to max and back to zero and the odo displayed 0.0.

I turned the ignition off and disconnected the chassis batteries.  I then pulled the instrument out of the dashboard and disconnected the two cables.  I got the H3-40 Service Manual out and figured out which wire was the + signal (#16) and which one was the ground (#20).  With the cables protruding through the mounting hole from the rear I pushed the spade terminals fully on and reconnected the cables.  It was getting to be late afternoon by this point and I decided to leave the finally assembly for tomorrow.

The new VDO speedometer (above & right of center).

The new VDO speedometer (above & right of center).

I took a shower and shaved and had plenty of hot water as the Aqua-Hot continued to cycle automatically.  I prepared an Annie’s Kung Pao noodle bowl for dinner and took it over to the meeting room at 6 PM.  I stayed there until 8 PM enjoying bus chat with a small group of chapter members that I know well.

The new VDO speedometer installed in the old hole.

The new VDO speedometer installed in the old hole.

Several members developed problems with their BCM subscriptions over the summer.  Pat Lintner gave me a flash drive so I could provide him with the issues he did not receive.  I took care of that back at the coach and then continued to upload blog posts and respond to e-mails.  I was two days behind on writing blog posts and stayed up until I was caught up which made for a very late night.

2014/10/10 (F) Bus Business

I was up way too late last night catching up on writing drafts of blog posts for the last few days.  Linda sent a text message this morning at 6 AM that I read at 7:30 AM letting me know that she was starting the drive to Elkhart.  I went over to the meeting room at 8 AM to have coffee and Linda showed up at 9 AM.  We visited with the other rally attendees until 10 AM and then went back to our coach to have granola for breakfast.

L-to-R:  GLCC secretary Tami Bruner, Newsletter editor Scott Bruner, and Treasurer Linda Fay.

L-to-R: GLCC secretary Tami Bruner, Newsletter editor Scott Bruner, and Treasurer Linda Fay.

At 10:30 AM we drove to Phoenix Paint to deliver some additional copies of Bus Conversion Magazine to Michele and visited with her and Roxanne for a while.  Josh was supposed to come look at our coach in the afternoon but had to make an unexpected trip to Chicago.  Michele called him and got him rescheduled for tomorrow morning between 9 AM and noon.

Before returning to the campground we stopped at Martin’s supermarket for salad toppings and Radio Shack for a miniature “grain of wheat” light bulb.  Radio Shack did not appear to have the bulb I was looking for, but I learned later in the day from Butch that the bulb I need comes with two bare wire leads that fold over to form the contacts.

GLCC members gathered for the Friday evening dinner and business meeting.

GLCC members gathered for the Friday evening dinner and business meeting.

When we got back to the coach we were going to have lunch but I got busy giving a tour of our bus tour and then touring the late 1990’s MCI 102D Vantare conversion parked next to us.  Butch and Fonda arrived (in their car) while all of that was going on.  We visited for a while and then they took off for Bontrager’s RV Surplus store.

Many of the GLCC members were away shopping for surplus bargains so we hung around our coach where I worked at my computer and Linda read until she got tired and laid down briefly.  I was thinking about lying down too when Pat Lintner stopped by and then Butch/Fonda returned.  Before we knew what had happened to the afternoon it was getting to be dinner time.  Linda made our dinner salads and we went over to the meeting room a little before 6 PM where we enjoyed our salads in the company of our friends.  President Larry Baker conducted a brief business meeting at the conclusion of which Linda was elected to another 2-year term as chapter Treasurer and I was elected to a 2-year term as chapter President.  Dean Chipman was elected chapter Vice-President and Tami Bruner was elected chapter Secretary.  Pat Lintner stayed on as National Director and Frank Griswold as Alternate National Director.

L-to-R: GLCC National Director Pat Lintner talks to newly elected President Bruce Fay and members Charles Martin and Ed Roelle.

L-to-R: GLCC National Director Pat Lintner talks to newly elected President Bruce Fay and members Charles Martin and Ed Roelle.

Butch and Fonda had to get back to their home to tend to their dogs and left shortly after the voting was concluded.  We visited for quite a while with the chapter members before returning to our coach for the evening where we had a glass of wine and went to bed.

2014/10/11 (S) Transfers

The day dawned clear and cold with the morning low temperature in Elkhart at 32 degrees F and frost on the ground and vehicles.  We went over for coffee at 8 AM and chatted with fellow chapter members while they had breakfast.  Josh was supposed to come look at our coach between 9AM and noon but called to see if late afternoon would be OK.  It was fine with me and he agreed to call before he came over.

We returned to our coach and had granola for breakfast.  We spent the morning chatting with folks, including the Thornton’s, who stopped by to pay their dues.  We had transferred some things to Linda’s car yesterday and transferred some more things this morning.  By noon Linda was packed and ready to leave for home.  She texted me later to let me know she had stopped in Ann Arbor to visit family and shop at Whole Foods Market before getting back to our house.

Ed Roelle and Marty Caverly came to our coach to listen to our Aqua-Hot.  Ed agreed that it should not be producing any visible exhaust after initial startup and thought a likely cause was worn bearings in the blower shaft causing reduced rpm which resulted in reduced air flow which resulted in a rich fuel/air mixture.  Ed and Marty both thought the unit sounded normal for a unit with worn bearings.

After looking at the Aqua-Hot I found former chapter President Larry Baker at his coach and we transferred quite a lot of “presidential stuff” to my car.  He had been collecting and transporting this “stuff” for the last six years and was all too eager to be rid of it.

Josh called at 3:45 PM to let me know he would be at my coach around 4:45 PM.  I made a quick run to Radio Shack to check again for the “grain of wheat” 12 VDC bulb, but they did not have it in stock.  Josh arrived a little before 5 PM and we discussed our desired interior renovation for over an hour during which time he also took measurements.  By the time we wrapped up our discussion most of the rally attendees had left for dinner at a local restaurant.  I called Linda and then had dinner in the coach; a simple green salad, a roll with garlic vegan butter spread, and grapes.

I decided to top off our fresh water tank while there was still some daylight rather than doing it in the morning when it was forecast to be cold.  After the tank was full I shut off the water, disconnected and drained the hoses, and stowed them in our fresh water tub.  I removed and stowed the pressure regulator and water softener.  I then turned each of the three Aqua-Hot loops on, one at a time, to see if I could figure out which circuit included the heat exchangers in the water bay and front storage bay.  As best I could determine, the bays are plumbed into the bedroom circuit.  I would have preferred to have them plumbed in with the bathroom as we like the bedroom cool for sleeping but want to be able to keep the bays warm enough to avoid freezing.

Scott Bruner and his dad, Richard, were out so I chatted with them about the Aqua-Hot.  The Marin’s had a propane camp fire going at their rig next to ours so we went over there to talk for a while.  I finally got cold and went in for the night around 9:45 PM.  I uploaded the blog posts for the last three days of September and then went to bed and worked on this one.

2014/10/12 (N) Arduino SBC

I got up around 7 AM, got dressed, and spent an hour packing clothes, computers, and other things that would eventually be transferred to the car for the trip home.  I went to the meeting room at 8 AM to have one cup of coffee and socialize with the GLCC chapter members who had come over for breakfast.  There are special names for breakfast on the last morning of a rally.  The one I like best is “hitch up breakfast.”  Whether you have a motorhome towing a car or a car/truck pulling a trailer, most RVers have something that has to be hitched up for towing before they can depart.  It is also a distant but quaint reference to hitching up a team of horses to a wagon; the original RV having one to six horsepower.

I do not normally have coffee or breakfast on days when I have to drive the bus, but the bus driving portion of my day was only going to be two hours and I would not be pulling out until sometime between 10 and 11 AM.  Those who wanted to eat breakfast were done by 9 AM and a crew of women busied themselves cleaning the kitchen and re-packing the supplies.  Some of those supplies were destined for my car which was already connected to the back of our bus, so everything got loaded into Pat and Vicky Lintner’s car and they brought it over to my site and I transferred it to my vehicle.

I dumped the waste water holding tanks and stowed the drain hose.  By 9:45 AM I was packed and had the bus and car ready to travel except for a few last minute details.  I joined a small group of guys for some final conversation as several coaches pulled out.  I was in a site directly behind Scott and Tami Bruner and although I could have left before them it was going to be a lot easier to wait until they pulled out, which they did shortly after 10 AM.

I went through the final steps of preparing the car to be towed, turned the coach chassis batteries on, turned the shore power off, disconnected the shore power line, and stowed it.  I had opened all the air valves earlier, so I secured all of the bay’s, locked the entrance door (from the inside), and started the engine.  While it was building air pressure for the suspension and brakes I called Linda at 10:29 AM to let her know I would be underway shortly and then called Butch.  I did not get an answer at Butch and Fonda’s house so I called Butch on his cell phone.  He had misunderstood my travel timing and indicated that they might not be home yet when I arrived at their place.

I pulled out of my site at 10:30 AM and reversed the route I had taken on Wednesday, going east on CR-4 (IN) to SR-16 (IN) north, to Old M-204 (MI) eastbound to US-12 (MI) east to M-217 (MI) south (the Michiana Parkway), which became CR-17 (IN) southbound.  I left CR-17 and got on westbound US-20 over to US-31 south which I stayed on all the way to SR-16 west towards Twelve Mile.  I had a call from Pat Lintner while I was driving regarding the dates for the 2015 Surplus and Salvage rally which will be in mid-September.

I arrived in Twelve Mile at 12:15 PM.  I got the car detached and moved it out of the way.  While I was doing that Fonda got home from church.  After tending to their two dogs (Rascal and Daffy) she helped me back the bus across the street into its parking spot next to their bus.  I plugged in the shore power cord to get AC power to the house systems but left the bus systems on temporarily so I could reprogram the new VDO speedometer.

On the drive from Elkhart the speedometer, which had not been calibrated, was indicating just under 8 MPH when I was traveling 60 MPH according to my GPS.  That meant the signal from the Allison ATEC transmission computer was putting out fewer pulses per mile than the default speedometer program.  For some reason I thought the default might be 200,000 PPM so I computed the ratio between actual and indicated speed and divided  200,000 by that number which gave me 26,316.  I programmed that in using the PULSE mode but would not be able to test it until later in the week.  If the indicated speed is in the ballpark I will use the ADJUST mode to manually move the pointer to indicate the same speed as the GPS.  There is also a CALIBRATE mode that counts the pulses over a one mile distance and then programs that into the instrument.  That is the most accurate way to calibrate the speedometer/odometer if you have someplace safe to do it with accurate mile markers.

With that done, I turned off the chassis batteries and the unneeded air circuits in the front bay but left the valve for the engine air accessories turned on.  I typically do this when I leave it with someone in case they have to start it.  I turned the Aqua-Hot electric heating element on and turned on the bedroom thermostat but set the temperature to a cooler setting.  The heat exchangers in the water bay and front storage bay appear to be tied-in with the bedroom heat exchanger.

I transferred stuff from the coach to car the car and by 1:25 PM I was ready to roll, but Butch called and said he was almost back to the house so I waited for him.  He had made progress on the Wiremold in the bus kitchen and wanted me to see it.  He had also bought a 125 A main lug electrical panel so we discussed the mounting and installation, part of which I will probably work on later this week.  He had also received the ITR Oasis Combi unit, so I had to see that too.  Fonda built a 3-D cardboard mockup and Butch had it sitting in the water bay where he plans to install the Combi.  We will probably do more work on their bus than on ours over the next two weeks, but that’s OK; their bus has more/critical projects at this point than ours and he has helped me a lot with our projects.

I pulled out at 2:05 PM and decided to take a slightly different route home:  SR-16 east, US-31 north, US-6 east, I-69 north, M-60 east, I-94 east, M-14 east, US-23 north, M-36 (Nine Mile Road) east, Pontiac Trail north, to Dorothy Street and the SLAARC monthly meeting at the South Lyon Witch’s Hat Depot.  I do not usually take US-6 across Indiana although it is a fine road known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.  It is flatter than US-20 with more towns and associated lower speed limits and stop lights, but it was a nice drive with different scenery.

I arrived at the SLAARC meeting at 7 PM.  The business meeting was already concluded and Mike (W8XH) was setting up for his program on the Arduino SBC (single board computer).  He bought the experimenters kit and had been playing with it enough to discuss it with the group.  Larry (K8UT) discussed the four projects he has built using the Raspberry Pi platform and passed around some of the hardware.

It was 9 PM by the time I finally got to our house.  Linda helped me completely unload the car as I had an 8:30 AM service appointment at Brighton Honda and she was leaving before 6 AM for the bakery.  She had fixed some strawberries for me and they made a nice treat after a long day of snacking on vegan junk food while driving.  I worked for a while on this post before turning in for the night.

2014/10/13 (M) Grain Of Wheat

Linda was up early and out the door at 5:45 AM.  I got up a little after 7 AM, started a load of laundry, had a couple of homemade muffins, and got ready to take my car to Brighton Honda for its 90,000 mile service.  I got coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from the dealership first and waited in the lounge working on yesterday’s blog post while they worked on my car.

I forgot to specify synthetic oil so the put in regular oil.  When the car was done I headed to Novi and immediately noticed a front-end shimmy that was not there when I dropped it off.  They had rotated the tires and may not have re-torqued the lug nuts correctly.  It also pulled to left, which might be a tire inflation issue.  I did not have time to take it back so I will see if it settles out on the drive to Indiana tomorrow.  If not, I will need to get at least the front tires/wheels loosened and retightened, and perhaps balanced.  Worst case I will have to get the front end aligned.

I found the FedEx/Kinko’s on Grand River Avenue just east of Novi Road and made 10 copies each of two 24″x36″ electrical diagrams; one for the DDEC I ECM (Engine Control Module) and one for the Allison 700 Series ATEC (Automatic Transmission Electronic Control).  I folded up an ATEC diagram for me and one for Chuck and rolled up the other eight and put them in a tube for safe keeping.  Chuck and I have DDEC II’s controlling our main engines so I rolled the 10 DDEC I diagrams up and put them in a second tube to protect them.  By the time I was done it was 10:45 AM and Chuck was at his shop just up the street so I drove there.

He had installed a dual battery maintainer and wanted me to see it.  He mounted it on the back wall of the small bay above the passenger side drive tire of their bus which got it close enough to the chassis batteries (in a tray above the tag tire) for the built-in charging cables to reach the correct battery terminals.  He was still pondering where to tie in the AC power source so we discussed some alternatives.  He had also put the red covers on the bulbs in his new VDO speedometer so I got to see that.  Ours are white for now but most of the dash lighting is green.  The red makes the speedo stand out, but if I change ours from white it will likely be to green.  Chuck had a supply of spare 12VDC, 1.2W “grain of wheat” light bulbs that are used in our illuminated switches and let me have four.  Our Aqua-Hot switch does not currently light up when it is turned on.

After checking out his projects we went to the Panera at Grand River Avenue and Novi Road for lunch.  We had a good chat and solved all of the world’s problems so he went back to the shop to find some new ones and I went home to take care of chores.  I continued doing laundry and worked on the SLAARC WordPress website setting up user accounts for several new club members.

Linda got home around 5:30 PM and got busy making dinner.  She started with a nice salad featuring a ginger dressing.  Dinner was 45 minutes later; a baked potato with Brussels sprouts on the side, a glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White with Peach wine, and grapes for dessert.  She worked on something for Butch while the potatoes baked and I worked on e-mail.

We were both tired after dinner but took some time to sort and fold the laundry from which I selected and packed the clothes I will need for the next 10 days.  We were tired and turned in after that.  I had received an e-mail from Butch with seven photos attached of the place we are considering staying in Quartzite, AZ.  It took us a while, but we eventually matched them up with the correct lot on the Google Maps satellite view.  It is not the corner lot as Butch and I previously thought, but the 3rd lot north of Kenoyer on the east side of N Lollipop Lane.  With that issue resolved we turned out the lights and went to sleep.

2014/10/14 (T) A Crowning Achievement

Linda was up at 5:15 AM again and out the door on the way to the bakery at 5:45 AM.  At this hour of the morning she has clear sailing all the way to Hamtramck which is much less stressful than the parking lot that develops on I-96 inbound just a short time later.  I was up at 7:15 AM, showered, and started gathering and organizing all of the stuff that I had to load into the car for the trip back to Indiana.

Keith showed up at 9 AM to cut the grass as I was loading my car.  He was rained out yesterday and today was not looking too good either but he figured he would have a go at it.  I wrote out his check and paid him in advance as I would be gone long before he finished.  I had time for a cup of green tea and pulled out of my driveway at 9:30 AM.

My first destination was Gusfa Dental in Dearborn, Michigan where I had an 11 AM appointment.  Dr. Steve and his assistant, Margaret, installed my new permanent ceramic crown on the upper right tooth that had a root canal procedure in mid-September.  The crown fit almost perfectly and only required a little modification on the surfaces that abut the two teeth immediately adjacent.  The bite was just right.  Gusfa Dental is definitely not the cheapest clinic around, but the work is top notch and they have been our dentists for almost 40 years.

I was done and out the door at 11:20 AM and headed directly for Twelve Mile, Indiana.  The drive was wet but uneventful.  Given my starting point in Dearborn I changed my route yet again, this time taking I-94 west to M-60 southwest to I-69 south to the I-80/90 Indiana Toll Road west to exit 92 at SR-19 (IN) in Elkhart.  From there I headed south on SR-19 and wound my way slowly through Elkhart until I picked up US-20 westbound on the south side of Elkhart.  From US-20 I picked up US-31 south and exited at IN-25 south of Rochester, Indiana where I bought some groceries at the Kroger store.  I texted Linda and then called Butch.  As I was getting ready to head south on IN-25 I got a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint with some questions about the Zip Dee awnings we had installed on our coach after she finished painting it.  I took IN-25 as far south as Fulton and turned east onto a small farm road that took me to Meridian then south to SR-16 and east to Twelve Mile.

While driving down Meridian I saw one of the most intense and perfect rainbows I have ever experienced.  It was deeply colored, very clear, and an entire semicircle was visible.  A second rainbow, fainter and partial, formed above the first one on the right (south) end.  The sky was very dark to the east with bright, low sun from the west.  The trees were blazing with color, intensified by the rains, and white farm houses glistened as if they had just been freshly painted.  It was spectacular but I was not able to get a photo of it.  I arrived in Twelve Mile at 5 PM and immediately unloaded and stored my groceries.  I then brought my clothes and technology items into the house and put them in the guest bedroom where I stay when I am here.

Butch needed some parts for various bus projects so I drove us to Home Depot in Logansport.  One the drive in he got a call from his brother Tom.  He had a problem with his air compressor and wanted Butch to look at it so we went there after our stop at Home Depot, with a stop at the local Mobil station so I could fill the fuel tank in my car.  Butch quickly made a tentative diagnosis of the compressor problem as the starting capacitor and/or switch.  Tom and Butch did some pondering about details of Tom’s project in which he is converting the front half of a Crosley sedan into a trailer.

We visited for a while back at the house and looked up the grain of wheat bulb I needed for the illuminated switches in the H3-40.  Napa Auto Parts shows it in their automotive lighting catalog as a #37, 12 VDC, 1.26 W, wedge based.  Butch looked online and found a place (Bulbtown) that sells them for $0.42 each.  Orders over $50 get free shipping and handling so we discussed doing a bulb inventory of each bus and then pooling our orders.

I spent a few minutes showing Butch how the photos that Joe sent of the lot in Quartzite matched up with the Google Maps/Earth satellite and Streetview images.  By the time we were done with that it was late and we all turned in for the night.

2014/10/15 (W) MC-9 AC Wiring

Cockpit house systems switch panel.

Cockpit house systems switch panel.

Butch bought a brass nipple (NPT) last night to thread into the fitting on his fresh water tank but the fit was still too loose.  He needed the nipple in order to put the fresh water tank back in the bus.  Between that and the really soupy 54 degree F weather it was obvious that today was not going to be an outside work day.  I suggested that we work on the AC wiring on their bus instead—a nice inside project—after breakfast.

House electrical closet in Butch & Fonda's MC-9 before rewiring.

House electrical closet in Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 before rewiring.

I had homemade granola with fresh blueberries and soy milk, a glass of orange juice, and two cups of Seattle Blend 1/2 decaf coffee.  While the coffee was brewing I unscrewed the switch panel with the Aqua-Hot switch and replaced the “grain of wheat” bulbs in the Aqua-Hot switch and the Engine Preheat switch.  We then got to work on the AC (house) wiring for their bus conversion.

New 20-slot AC panel for inverter circuits.

New 20-slot AC panel for inverter circuits.

The bus had three small main lug load centers, with six circuit breakers each, mounted in a future closet in the bedroom.  We ran an extension cord through the passenger side rear slider window to power a work light, disconnected the shoreline, and switched off the inverter.  I then removed the three panels one at a time, labeling each cable as I pulled it out.  With all of the old panels out we mounted the new 20-position panel box for use with the inverter circuit.  I spent the rest of the work day, except for a lunch break, pulling old and new electrical cable into the new box and making the connections to the ground bar, neutral bus, and the GFCI circuit breakers for all of the circuits that will be fed by the inverter.  We tied in the main AC power to the inverter AC input and checked that all of the circuits worked as planned, which they did.  I will mount two of the smaller boxes tomorrow and pull the cables for the shorepower/generator only circuits into those boxes.

We quit working for the day at 7:30 PM and I washed up before making my dinner.  I had a nice salad with “power greens” and various toppings and leftover Koshary.  Yum.  I drew a glass of Moscato, did the dishes, and went back to the house.  I had a text and an e-mail from Linda so I replied to those.  We were all tired and turned in a little after 9 PM.

 

2014/10/01-07 Bus Work Plus

This post covers October 1 – 7, 2014

2014/10/01 (W) Aqua-Hot (Plus)

I woke up this morning sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 AM and worked for a while in the bedroom.  By 8:30 AM I heard voices, which meant Butch and Fonda were up and dressed, so I emerged from the guest bedroom to see what the plans were for the day.  I knew they would involve trying to fix our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system, but I was not sure exactly how that work would proceed.

The first task, however, was to have breakfast.  Granola with fresh blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries, plus orange/grapefruit juice and coffee.  Ahhh, coffee.  I did not get any yesterday, so I enjoyed having some this morning.

Butch & Fonda's Aqua-Hot in a bay of their MC-9.

Butch & Fonda’s Aqua-Hot in a bay of their MC-9.

Sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 AM Butch and I got to work on the Aqua-Hot situation.  We tried firing up my unit multiple times but it would not ignite and we had no evidence of fuel getting to the nozzle.  Butch added water to his unit and fired it up just to verify that it worked.  We unplugged the controllers from both units and connected my controller to his unit to see if the controller was the problem.  It wasn’t; his unit ran fine with either controller.  We put his controller on my unit, just to check, but the unit still would not ignite.

We decided that the most expedient course of action was to simply install his burner in my unit.  That was the point at which we realized that our units are not identical.  Ours is an AHU-103-000, originally made in the late 1980’s and early 990’s while theirs is an AHE-100-02s (?? check this).  The differences are minor but important, namely:

  • the fuel connections into and out of the burner are not the same so our fuel lines would not connect directly to their burner.
  • their burner had two fuel lines that ran down to bulkhead connectors while our unit did not use bulkhead connectors.

I had agreed to buy their entire Aqua-Hot to use for spare parts, so we started by removing the burner from our unit and setting it aside.  My plan is to repair it eventually or disassemble it for parts.  The problem is that I suspect the fuel pump and/or fuel valve and/or fuel valve solenoid are defective so I would have to determine whether that is the case.

Removing our burner was a bit more complicated that we thought it would be.  Besides the fuel lines, which had to disconnected and plugged, we had to disconnect a wiring harness that had four wires running into the main boiler box for the temperature control thermostat and over-temperature safety thermostat.  These wires were terminated in female spade connectors pushed on to the male spade lugs on the thermostats.  Rather than try to feed them through the small hole in the case I made a diagram of which color wire went where and then cut the connectors off allowing the wires to pull out easily.  We had to repeat this procedure on Butch’s burner.  Quite a bit of diesel fuel leaked out of various fuel lines and I kept soaking it up with paper towels.  With our burner out of the way we evaluated the situation and decided to take care of two other issues before proceeding with the Aqua-Hot.  That’s how it goes with bus projects.

The first issue was the check valve on the Parker FPM-50 Fuel Polishing Module installation, which had been leaking at the gasket between the two halves of the body since I had redone the fittings and reinstalled it.  I had a new (unused) check valve that I should have installed when I redid the fittings, but I didn’t.  The fuel line on the inflow side of the check valve was already loose so we disconnected the other end.  That allowed us to work in the shop with a vice to help hold parts.  We removed the fittings from the old check valve, cleaned them up, and assembled them to the new check valve using pipe thread compound rather than Teflon tape.  We then reassembled the new check valve assembly back into the FPM-50 system.  We turned the FPM-50 on and did not have any leaks; finally.

The second issue was related to the fresh (potable) water plumbing.  When we purchased the coach five years ago the fresh water system had two 12VDC water pumps plumbed in parallel with independent shutoff valves for the input and output sides of the pumps.  The system also had a surge tank.  Last spring (or fall?) I had replaced these two pumps with a single Shur-Flo 4048 model, removed the surge tank (which was not needed or recommended for the 4048), and used flexible hoses and various adapters to get the new pump connected in to the existing plumbing, including plugs to seal unused fittings.  That left a lot of plumbing in this part of the bay (just off the end of the Aqua-Hot) that did not perform any useful function and was in the way of other things, like the FPM-50.

All of the original plumbing in the coach is Quest, which is no longer made.  After studying the system for a while Butch realized that that Quest tubing at the valve on the end of the outlet hose had to be connected by being slipped over a barbed fitting and tightened with a swaged band.  If we could cut the band and get the fitting out of the tubing we could cut a different section of tubing, allowing us to remove all of the unnecessary plumbing, reinsert the barbed fitting into the cut line, and put a clamp on it to seal it.  Butch had a special tool for clamping bands on PEX tubing and it appeared that the bands were a compatible size for the Quest tubing.  He also had his tubing cutter handy, so we removed the band (which was copper and easily cut), and proceeded as just described.  The PEX band swaged down nicely and passed the “Go /No-Go” test (a special tool that gages the clamped band to ensure it is tight enough without being too tight).

We turned the water pump on and had a leak at the plastic double-ended male nipple between the end of the hose and the Quest fitting.  With the pump off Butch removed the hose and then the nipple.  It was cross-threaded but the threads were OK.  Both the hose and the fitting are sealed by rubber gaskets anyway, not by the threads, so I reassembled the three pieces snug but not over tight.  I turned the water pump on (up in the house portion of the coach) with Butch watching for leaks and we did not have any.  It was shaping up to be a very good day.

With those two issues resolved, and lots more room to work on my Aqua-Hot, we removed the bulkhead fittings from Butch’s unit and cleaned them up with a wire brush wheel in his shop.  Butch reassembled some of the parts in the shop with pipe thread compound and I installed them in two unused bulkhead holes in our unit.  I then threaded in the two final fittings on the outside of the unit and had Butch do the final tightening.  He is stronger than I am, and very experienced at working with this sort of technology, so he has a good feel for how tight things need to be and can make them to correct tightness.

It was finally time to install their burner in our unit.  I stripped the ends of the wires that go into the burner box, set the burner roughly in place, taped the wires to a piece of plastic banding, and fished the wire harness up into the boiler box.  Butch installed the new female spade connectors onto the wires while I was doing something else, but I do not recall what it was.  I installed the connectors onto the mating pieces on the temperature limit switches.  (Because of the way my Aqua-Hot is installed I have to work bent over at the waist.  This is very hard on Butch’s back, and by the end of the day my back was a bit sore and stiff as well.)

The burner assembly is held against the combustion chamber by two captive bolts that swing into position.  The bolts have flanged nuts on them that tighten down and hold the burner snug to the boiler.  Because our unit is installed “sideways” it is very difficult to see and reach the nut on the lower back side of the burner.  The nuts are 10mm (Webasto is a German company) and a ratchet with a 10″ extension is needed to reach them.  I found the best way to attach the burner was to hold it in position with my left hand, get the upper/outside bolt in position with my right hand, and then run the nut down with my right hand, but not too tight.  I continued to support the burner with my left hand while I reached over the top to find the other bolt by feel, flip it into position, and tighten the nut enough to keep it from slipping off.

I knew I had to be very careful with these bolts as over tightening them can crack the mounting flange on the combustion chamber; a big mistake.  I held the burner with my left hand and made sure it was fully and properly aligned with the combustion chamber flange and then alternately snugged the two nuts down.  The specifications on these nuts is for “20 to 40 inch-pounds.”  That is not a lot of torque.  Butch had a really good digital readout torque wrench, but it only went down to 60 in-lbs, so I had to guess.

With burner re-installed, Butch attached the two burner fuel lines to the appropriate bulkhead fittings.  These are flare connectors so they did not use pipe thread compound.  I then attached the supply and return fuel lines to the appropriate fittings on the outside of the bulkhead connectors.  These were barbed fittings that the rubber fuel lines slipped over and were secured with band clamps.

We turned the unit on (in the coach) but it did not fire.  One concern, which I will remedy tomorrow, was that the level of fuel in the tank might be close to the lower end of the pickup tube for the Aqua-Hot.  These tubes are usually installed so that accessory devices, like heaters and generators, cannot use the last 1/4 tank of fuel, ensuring that there is fuel available to start the main engine and travel a reasonable distance (to get more fuel).  It took three tries to get it to ignite and when it did it produced a lot of white smoke, which is unburned fuel.

While the unit was running Butch checked the exhaust leak and said it appeared to be under the coach, not up at the Aqua-Hot itself.  That was a lucky break and big relief.  The beginning of the exhaust pipe slips over a pipe thread nipple that is threaded into an elbow and is secured with an exhaust pipe clamp.  Butch saw telltale streaks of black soot indicating that exhaust gases were leaking out at this point.  We shut the unit off and let it cool down enough that I could remove the pipe clamp securing the exhaust pipe to the nipple.  Both bolts were very rusty, and did not come off easily, but I got them off.  Butch had one clamp of the correct size on-hand so I installed it.  I will get a second clamp tomorrow when we go to town, plus a replacement if a Butch wants one.

We turned the unit back on and again it did not want to ignite.  Butch though it was a fuel delivery problem, such as a loss of prime, or perhaps air was getting into the line.  After a couple of attempts I turned the Parker FPM-50 on and let it run for a while, thinking that it might re-prime the line.  I turned it off after 10 minutes and turned the Aqua-Hot on.  It went through a long pre-combustion purge stage and then finally ignited.  It produced copious amounts of white smoke initially, but after 10 minutes there were no visible exhaust fumes.  Butch is suspicious of the FPM-50, either the unit itself or the installation, but I have run the Aqua-Hot successfully many times subsequent to its installation until it failed to fire this summer.  Clearly the situation requires further investigation which will happen tomorrow or Friday, depending on the weather.

The unit heated up fully and shut off automatically after which I turned it off.  I then mounted my burner onto Butch’s combustion chamber, both to protect it and to make sure some small animal did not take up residence in the combustion chamber.  The only thing left to do on our Aqua-Hot was to mount the new Oasis expansion reservoir.  We determined that we could mount it to the side of the unit with short sheet metal screws.  I held it in place and marked the hole locations, center-punched them, and drilled the out using a bit that Butch gave me.  The housing is stainless steel and was difficult to drill even though it was thin.  I had 1/2″ screws and Butch found some washers.  It took some fiddling, but I finally got it attached through all eight holes.  We will switch the overflow tube from the undersized reservoir that came with the coach to the much larger Oasis reservoir tomorrow after the unit has cooled down overnight and drawn most (all) of the coolant back into the boiler.  I put the cover back on the burner end, we put our tools away, and called it a day.  And a good day it was.

Butch’s brother, Tom, and his wife, Tracey, came over during the late afternoon.  It was 7 PM by the time we were done working, so we got cleaned up (sort of) and drove down to the Old Mill Restaurant just west of town on SR-16.  I had a small pizza, no cheese, with onions and mushrooms.  They made the crust thinner than their usual and it baked up very nicely.  Once we got back to the house I worked on this post while Butch dealt with e-mail and Fonda worked on the wedding dress she is making for their daughter Jean, who is getting married just before Thanksgiving.  After we turned in for the night I off-loaded all of the photos I took of our day’s work and then went to sleep.

Our Aqua-Hot in a bay of our Prevost H3-40.

Our Aqua-Hot in a bay of our Prevost H3-40.

2014/10/02 (R) Aqua-Hot (Or Not)

I was up at 7:30 AM and fixed breakfast in the coach at 8; granola with fresh blueberries, red raspberries, blackberries, and almond milk.  A glass of orange/grapefruit juice, but no coffee.

Butch and I left at 9 AM to run errands in Logansport.  He stopped at a filling station that sold kerosene and bought four gallons.  I will explain why later.  I got a big cup of coffee there and it was a decent brew.  Our next stop was NAPA Auto Parts where I bought a 1.75 inch exhaust pipe (muffler) clamp and Butch picked up some things he had ordered.  Next stop; Rural King.  We do not have this chain anywhere near where we live.  It’s a kind of hardware, sporting, and home goods store that carries an interesting assortment of items that might be of use to farmers.  It’s not a fancy store, but it carries a lot of stuff and is well organized.  Butch needed some carpet tacks and I bought a fruit fly trap and an insect fogger.  Rural King also has free popcorn.  (Now you know the real reason we stop there.)  I got some on the way in and on the way out.  🙂  Our last stop was at Aldi’s where Butch picked up some things they needed for their dinner tonight.

When we got back to Twelve Mile I changed clothes and got to work.  The weather forecast was for rain and warm temperatures.  Rain had already wet the pavement around the buses so Butch gave me a large sheet of corrugated plastic to lie on while I installed the muffler clamp on the Aqua-Hot exhaust pipe.  I installed it next to the one I put on yesterday but pointing in the opposite direction.  These clamps are just “U” bolts with a matching saddle that completes the other half of a circle when slipped over the U-bolt and tightened with the nuts.

The Aqua-Hot had cooled off overnight and suctioned all of the coolant in the expansion reservoir back into the boiler.  That allowed me to disconnect the overflow tube from the bottom of the reservoir with a minimum of mess and attach it to the main fitting on the new Oasis tank.  I added a 50/50 mix of water and ethylene glycol antifreeze to the tank until the level was halfway between “minimum cold” and “maximum cold.”  This should have been the final Aqua-Hot task, but it would not ignite when turned on even though it worked yesterday after the burner swap.

I removed the service cover and Butch and I started to puzzle out what the problem might be.  When I turned the switch on at the dashboard the blower came on immediately but the fuel valve apparently did not open.  We don’t know if the spark igniter was working, but the burner never lit and eventually the blower shut off.  When that happens, the controller “locks out” the unit from even attempting to turn on again and I have to turn the switch off to clear the lockout and then turn it back on.

Butch had me disconnect the supply and return fuel lines on the outside of the bulkhead and replace them with clear fuel lines about 5 feet long so they would reach into the bottom of the kerosene container.  (Remember the kerosene Butch bought earlier?  Now you know what it was for.  He will eventually use it to fuel a heater.)  He thought we might have an air leak in the fuel lines/connections and the clear fuel lines would allow us to see the air bubbles.  By drawing kerosene out of the container, pumping it through the unit, and returning it to the container we could recirculate it indefinitely as long as none of it was being burned.  Even with combustion taking place most of the fuel gets returned as the unit only burns fuel at the rate of 1/4 gallon per hour.

With the kerosene setup we had taken the coach’s diesel fuel lines, including the Parker Fuel Polishing Module, completely out of the system.  Butch suspected the FPM-50 might be the culprit and thus did not except to see air bubbles, but we did; a lot of them.  And the unit still wasn’t firing.  We were perplexed and a bit frustrated.  On the other hand, it appeared that the FPM-50 was no the culprit, or at least not the only culprit.

Since his burner had always worked well in his unit we figured the problem had to be something in my unit.  Butch got the service manual for his unit, which is almost identical to mine, and we started looking at wiring diagrams.  The units have four thermostats; two for the diesel burner and two for the 120VAC electric heating element.   We thought those might be the problem and checked the two for the burner but they were OK and appeared to be functioning correctly.  There are also six fuses.  I pulled and checked each one and they were also OK.  When Butch works on his unit he often starts it by connecting a jumper wire across the two terminals for the switch wires to save himself the trip to the bus (where the switch is located) and back to the bay (where the unit is located).  He connected a jumper wire across the switch terminals on my unit and it fired up after the normal 25 second purge cycle.  It was good that it started, but not good that we did not know why.

We were still seeing a lot of air in the kerosene and Butch decided to remove the secondary fuel filter from its holder and change its orientation so the output was lower than the input, ensuring the outlet was covered by fuel.  The air bubbles lessened considerably when he did this but did not clear up completely and the unit was producing a lot of white smoke (unburned fuel).  It always produces some on startup until the combustion chamber heats up, so we decided to let it run.  The exhaust fumes eventually cleared up and the coolant eventually expanded to within 1.5 inches of the top of the (new) overflow reservoir when the unit reached maximum operating temperature, automatically shut off the burner, and completed the purge cycle.

We wanted to cool it down so we could test it again so I removed the jumper wire to keep it from restarting.  I then opened all of the coach windows, opened all three ceiling vents, turned the ceiling exhaust fans on high, turned the three Aqua-Hot house thermostats on, and turned them up to their highest temperature settings.  I also turned on the engine pre-heat coolant circulating pump.  As the unit cooled down it started drawing the coolant from the reservoir back into the unit.  We turned the unit on using the switch at the dashboard and it fired up.  At this point we had not found anything wrong and had not fixed anything, but it seemed to once again be working correctly.  While the unit was heating up and cooling down Butch repaired a flat tire on a semi-trailer that they used to store parts for their business.

I still had the fan coil heat exchangers and the engine pre-heat running to cool the unit down.  The power for these units, and for the coolant circulation pumps, is independent of the diesel burner as the Aqua-Hot can also be heated by an electric element and by the main engine.  When the unit had cooled sufficiently I removed the temporary fuel supply line and reattached the supply line from the diesel fuel system.  I left the clear fuel return line connected at the bulkhead.  I removed the heavy rubber fuel line from the bottom of the FPM-50 check valve, cut the clear line to a workable length, and attached it to the bottom of the check valve.  By leaving the section of clear line in place we would still be able to monitor for air bubbles.

After cleaning up diesel fuel that had leaked out of hoses and fittings I turned the burner on using the front switch.  The unit immediately came to life and the burner ignited the way it is supposed to.  We still had some air bubbles in the return line, but no worse than before until I moved the secondary fuel filter back into its normal horizontal position.  That created a lot of air bubbles so I moved it back so the outlet was lower than the inlet.  I am suspicious of this filter and/or the lines attached to it.  The unit was working and there was no point in bringing it up to full temperature so I shut it off and installed the service cowling.  It will be interesting to see if it ignites tomorrow morning when it is cold.

Butch and Fonda worked on uninstalling their Aqua-Hot while I unloaded most of the parts, supplies, and tools from my car and put them on a cart in their now mostly empty warehouse.  As I was finishing it started to rain lightly.  We quickly gathered up our tools, stowed our tool boxes, closed up our bus bays, and moved everything else into the garage.  I shut off the ceiling exhaust fans, closed the vents, and then closed all of the coach windows.  I shut off the three house thermostats and the engine pre-heat pump and then moved my car back to its usual parking spot.  By that point it was raining harder.

Today was Fonda’s birthday but they did not have any special meal plans.  Around 4:15 PM I decided to go fill the fuel tank on the coach.  Gallahan’s Truck Stop is only 10 miles from their house and an easy run there and back on SR-16 and US-31.  I arrived on Tuesday with only 3/8ths of a tank and I wanted to eliminate the main tank fuel level as a potential source of the no-fire problem.  I was going to need fuel anyway for the trip to Elkhart and back next week and any subsequent movement of the bus.  I texted Linda from the truck stop to let her know it was Fonda’s birthday and suggested that she call their house later.

Butch and Fonda had leftovers while I was out so I dined alone in the coach.  I had a large green salad, some pretzels with hummus, and a tofu hot dog.  Apple cider and reheated apple/pear crisp topped off the meal.  Yum.  I brought my dishes and cutlery in the house and washed them.

Linda called while I was eating so I did not get to talk to her.  Butch was very tired and turned in early so I chatted with Fonda for a while about their various family members, many of whom I have met over the years, and what they were up to before retiring to my room to check e-mail and work on this post.  Although not as productive as yesterday it was still a long and tiring one.  Actually the days when you don’t feel like you have accomplished anything definitive are the hardest.

2014/10/03 (F) The Other Bus

I got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed to work, and then spent a half hour doing some preliminary packing.  I had breakfast in the coach (granola with fresh berries) and was enjoying my first cup of coffee while cleaning up a few dishes when Butch knocked on the door.  He was curious if I had tried starting my Aqua-Hot.  I had not, so I turned on the switch for the diesel burner.  The blower came on right away and then the burner ignited after a short purge cycle of perhaps 15 seconds.  The combustion was clean on startup with no visible exhaust smoke.  I checked the expansion reservoir and the coolant level had dropped overnight to the “minimum cold” reference mark.  The unit was running well and I left it on to complete a full heating cycle.

When I arrived in Twelve Mile on Tuesday I noticed some small flies in the kitchen as I was setting up the interior.  We had not used the coach since mid-June and had left a couple of windows slightly open to keep it aired out and prevent it from getting too hot.  We did not turn the refrigerator off, which adds heat to the interior.  The windows have screens, but the little bugs could have gained access through any number of places.  I set up the fruit fly trap I bought yesterday to try and rid the coach of the little bugs.

I also bought a fogger yesterday that I had planned to use today just before leaving for home, but the directions said to only leave the fog for two hours and then ventilate the space.  There were also cautions about removing/protecting food and cooking/eating utensils and eliminating ignition sources, including the refrigerator.  The refrigerator (and freezer) are full of food so that was more trouble than I was prepared for today.  I put dryer sheets in the cabinets under both sinks (kitchen and bathroom) and in the bay by the Aqua-Hot.  We found several acorns inside the Aqua-Hot when I removed the service cowling on Wednesday and I have read that animals do not like these dryer sheets.  The sheets cannot do any harm so there was no down side to trying this.

Our major focus today was two interior projects in Butch and Fonda’s bus, a 1987 MCI MC-9 Crusader II NJT (New Jersey Transit).  Like most owner-converted buses, it started life as a seated coach in revenue service and got a lot of use over the years before being sold for a small fraction of its original cost.  In the case of their coach the New Jersey Transit Authority ordered a large number of these MC-9 model coaches with special modifications for use as commuter buses, as opposed to a city bus or a tour bus.  The MC-9 proved to be a reliable coach and used ones make an excellent but economical platform for a DIY conversion project.

They needed help installing a piece of “FRP” (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) on a section of wall.  They have used this material, in white and almond, for wall paneling and as a ceiling headliner.  The material comes in 4’x8′ panels and is flexible but durable.  It brightens the interior, as it reflects light, and is very easy to clean.  The piece had to be fitted, marked, and trimmed several times.  This project occupied Fonda for much of the day, Butch for some of the day, and me for a small part of the day.

Butch & Fonda's MC-9 conversion in the process of being wired.

Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 conversion in the process of being wired.

The other project was electrical wiring for switched kitchen outlets and the ceiling lights in the kitchen and living room.  I spent most of the day working on this.  Butch had finally decided that I know enough about electrical work that I can be entrusted with these tasks.  He is using Wiremold surface mount boxes and wire channels, which makes a lot of sense in a bus conversion where you cannot necessarily run wires through the walls of the bus.

Butch had previously installed Wiremold 2-gang base plates for electrical boxes to hold switches and outlets.  We routed electrical cable (10, 12, and 14 AWG wire, both NM cable and separate conductors) between base plates and the AC power distribution boxes.  I wired up outlets and switches and tied in lines and loads.

Larry “the scrap metal guy” showed up about noon so Butch had to use the forklift to load a pallet of old Crosley radiator cores into Larry’s truck.  After Larry left Butch used the forklift to remove their Aqua-Hot from their bus.  Fonda and I helped get it off the forklift into the back of my Honda Element after which we returned to our electrical and paneling work.

I quit working around 2:15 PM, changed out of my work clothes into something cleaner and more comfortable for driving, and washed up.  I finished packing and then loaded the car for the trip home.  I had planned to leave at 3:00 PM and pulled out of their parking area at 2:59 PM.  I did not have lunch and would not be having dinner until 8 PM, so 30 miles up the road I stopped at a BP/McDonald’s, topped off the fuel tank, and had some French fries.  The stop added 30 minutes to my ETA but it took the edge off of my hunger which made for a more comfortable drive.

On the drive home I suddenly had the vague feeling that I had not turned off the 12VDC fresh water pump in the bus.  I called Butch and had him check it.  As I suspected, it was on so he switched it off.  The only reason this was a concern was that a leak downstream of the pump would result in the (full) fresh water tank eventually being pumped dry (lots of water flowing somewhere) and the pump then continuing to run until it burned out or burned up (fire?).

A little farther down the road it occurred to me that leaving the Aqua-Hot turned on tomorrow, while Butch and Fonda were gone for most of the day, was probably also not the best idea I’ve had recently.  I stopped at the Travel America on M-60 at I-69 and called Butch again to ask him to turn the Aqua-Hot off in the morning right before they left.

On the drive home fall was definitely in the air and perhaps even an early touch of winter.  I drove through heavy, blinding rain with strong cross winds just northeast of Elkhart, Indiana and was in and out of rainy/windy conditions for most of the drive in Michigan.  I called Linda as I passed Charlotte, Michigan which was less than an hour from the house.  I got home at 8:10 PM and she had dinner waiting which was nice.  We had a green salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza.  After dinner I unloaded everything from the car except the few tools I had brought back with me, and the defective Aqua-Hot.  We were both tired after long days and turned in early.

2014/10/04 (S) Chores

It continued to rain overnight and into this morning and we awoke to temperatures in the upper 30’s (F).  We went to our ham radio club breakfast and lingered until 10:15; longer than usual.  When we left we headed to Country Squire in downtown Howell to pick up the hose and cover for the Broil King outdoor grill.  We stopped at the bank and then at Teeko’s for three pounds of fresh roasted coffee beans.  Our last stop was Meijer’s, just across the street from Teeko’s, to stock up on non-perishable food for me for the next week.  While we were there I got a phone call from Chuck and agreed to meet him at his bus garage at 1 PM.  By this time it was already 11:30 AM.  We unloaded groceries at home and had a quick lunch of hummus, chips, and grapes. I left at 12:30 PM and Linda settled in for the afternoon to work on her bakery project.

Chuck had re-installed his repaired tachometer and installed his new VDO speedometer and I wanted to see how the speedometer/odometer was wired and get the model number.  It was a VDO-437-152 85mm 85/130 (MPH/KPH).  Chuck had also purchased a dual multistage battery maintenance charger and we had a long chat about where to install it and how to wire it in.  While I was there Linda sent a text message asking me to pick up rolled oats so she could make another batch of granola.

I stopped at the Meijer’s in Wixom, topped off my fuel tank, and bought three bags of Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats and two bottles of wine.  Back home I started doing the laundry and working on my computer off-loading photos from my camera.  Linda wrapped up her work and took a break to read before starting dinner.  I backed the car up to the garage and we unloaded the spare Aqua-Hot onto a wheeled platform.  The unit was very heavy, but we got it out and down safely.

For dinner, Linda made a nice green salad, cooked up a really yummy squash we had not tried before, and made seitan stroganoff served over basmati rice.  After dinner she read and played online word games with her friends and relatives while I edited blog posts at my computer.  I brought the laundry up and Linda helped get my clothes packed for tomorrow.  Butch called to let me know that they were back from their family reunion and the Aqua-hot started right up when he turned it on.  Cool (hot).

2014/10/05 (N) Indiana Bound

Linda helped me get partially packed yesterday and I stayed up later last night than I should have, so I slept in a little bit this morning, but the smell of coffee brewing and breakfast cooking got me out of bed.  Linda made a tofu scramble with onions, mushrooms, and green peppers and served it with toast and coffee.  That was a nice way to start the day.

After breakfast I checked e-mail and then started gathering up the remaining items I needed to take with me to Indiana.  I had more clothes than the last trip since I would be gone seven nights rather than three and I would be involved in working on buses initially and then attending a rally.  This time of year the clothing needed to work outdoors can also vary considerably from day to day and even during the course of a day.

By 11:30 AM I was ready to load everything into the car.  Bags of food went on the floor in front of the passenger seat, my computer and carry bag went on the passenger seat, and the suitcases and bag of shoes and coats went behind the front seats.  I then backed the car up to the garage and loaded the items we hoped to get rid of at the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) Surplus and Salvage Rally later in the week.

With the car packed, Linda reheated the seitan stroganoff from last night for lunch.  Even left over it was delicious.  By the time we finished eating and cleaning up it was 1:15 PM.  There wasn’t anything left to do at home, and Linda was waiting for me to leave before she got to work on the bakery software conversion project, so a farewell-until-later kiss sent me on my way.  I pulled out of the driveway at 1:24 PM.

The weather looked and felt more like early winter than early fall with moderately strong coldish winds moving an endless layer of mottled gray clouds from west to east.  It was neither gloomy nor foreboding but had that wintery edge to it.  I thought about alternate routes out of town but decided to take Hacker Road to M-59 the same way I do in the bus.  Most of my route was the usual; M-59 west to I-96 west to I-69 south to M-60 where I stopped at a McDonalds to rest and get a cup of coffee.  I then took M-60 west through Three Rivers to M-40 where I made a rest stop and topped off the gas tank at the Shell station.  Regular was $3.19, a price I have not seen in quite some time.  I took M-40 south seven miles to US-12 and headed west to M-217 (the Michiana Parkway) which runs south into Indiana where it becomes CR-17.  Instead of continuing on to US-20, however, I took CR-4 west to Elkhart Campground.

I stopped at the campground to make a reservation for Wednesday through Sunday (for the rally) but found out that I did not need one.  I confirmed the availability of 50A electrical service while I was there, took the opportunity for a pit stop, texted a trip update to Linda, and then continued my trip to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Since I was in Elkhart and had a good phone signal I called Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint to remind her that I would be in Elkhart later in the week and that we had talked about getting together to review and finalize an article I had written some time ago on the process of renovating the exterior of our coach.

I took SR-19 south through Elkhart to US-20 west to US-31 south. The conversation with Michele lasted about three quarters of the way to Twelve Mile where I finally reached an area with no Verizon cell phone service.  (I find it odd that there is any stretch of US-31 without Verizon service as it is the major connection between Indianapolis and South Bend.)  I exited at Rochester onto SR-25 south and took that as far as Fulton where I took a couple of small county (farm) roads down to SR-16 at a point slightly west of Twelve Mile and drove east into town.  The trip took almost five hours, including the two stops, and covered 245.7 miles.

I had a marginal cell phone signal so I sent a text message to Linda letting her know I had arrived and asked her to call my hosts’ phone around 7:30 PM.  I said “Hi” to Butch and Fonda and then excused myself while I unloaded the car.  I unpacked the suitcase and stored most of the clothing in the bus, taking enough items into the house for the next couple of days.  I also unpacked and stored all of the food in the bus pantry.  I put my technology, toiletries, shoes, and work jackets in the house and then went back to the coach to have a quick bite of dinner.

I made my final trip for the night from the coach to the house just before 7:30 PM but managed to be in the house when Linda called.  She chatted briefly with Butch about some business related forms and then chatted briefly with me.  She will be working at the bakery most of the week, but plans to drive to Elkhart on Friday morning to visit with GLCC chapter members, have dinner, and participate in the business meeting.  She’s the chapter Treasurer.  She will stay the night, and through breakfast and lunch on Saturday and then head back to the house.  We can only leave the cats alone for so long.

Butch was working at his computer but cleared a chair off for me.  He had his 2m ham rig dialed in to the Miami County Amateur Radio Club repeater and they started their weekly net at 8 PM.  We had a long chat before I retired for the evening around 9:45 PM.

The plan for tomorrow is to continue working on the kitchen and ceiling light wiring in their bus.  I also have a few more places to look for the diagrams and installation notes for the Zena 24 VDC engine-driven power generating system.  Butch has an appointment on Tuesday morning and will pick up some things while he is in town.  I need a fuel line coupler (double barbed male) so I can remove the fuel lines from the final/secondary fuel filter on my Aqua-Hot, connect them together, and see if that eliminates the air bubbles.  He also needs parts for the rigid links he is making for the leveling valves for the bus chassis air-suspension system.  He is going to get extra material and make a set for me too.  It should be an interesting and varied week.

2014/10/06 (M) No Fuel Flow

Getting our Aqua-Hot to work is proving to be quite a challenge.  When Butch and Fonda got home early Saturday evening Butch turned on the burner and it fired up perfectly within the normal startup cycle time limits.  He left it on and I assumed it was working correctly when I arrived yesterday.  It wasn’t until this morning that I realized I did not have hot water.  The switch was on but when I checked the expansion reservoir it was below the minimum cold level.  The unit had obviously cycled off and then failed to restart sometime later.  Once that happened the control circuitry locked out the fuel and ignition spark as a safety measure.  I tried cycling it four times but it would not ignite.

Butch found a small inline (secondary) fuel filter and I replaced the one in the unit.  It still would not start.  I disconnected the fuel line from the outlet of the Racor fuel filter (which feeds to Parker FPM-50), disconnected the fuel line from the outlet of the FPM-50 (which supplies the burner), and connected the supply line directly to the Racor filter.  It still would not start.  Based on what we could see in the transparent secondary fuel filter the unit was not getting fuel.  There are a limited number of things that could be wrong: no fuel; bad fuel; clogged/restricted fuel line(s); clogged/restricted fuel filters; weak/broken fuel pump; stuck fuel valve or defective fuel valve solenoid; clogged nozzle.  We started the generator, which may use the same main tank pickup tube as the Aqua-Hot, and it ran beautifully.  I turned the electric toe-kick heaters on to put some load on the genset and let it run for a while.

Our next step was to change the Racor fuel filter / water separator and/or by-pass it, but it started to rain.  The forecast was for rain throughout the morning turning to thunderstorms in the afternoon with temperatures in the upper 50’s.  I did not want to work in those conditions so I put away my tools, closed up the coach, and spent the rest of the day (except for a quick lunch break) working on the 120 VAC wiring in Butch and Fonda’s coach.  I hope we have power to their new switched kitchen outlets and ceiling mounted fluorescent lights by the end of the day tomorrow.

I had leftover Ghallaba for dinner.  It was delicious.

Butch ordered a VDO-437-152 electronic speedometer/odometer for me from PartDeal.com which is part of ISS Pro (Instrument Sales and Service) with overnight shipping.  He then called Joe and got the address of the place in Quartzite, Arizona where we are thinking about spending part of the winter.  He and I spent some time checking it out on Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Street View before turning in for the night.  I spent some more time checking out Quartzite and distances to the nearest towns with decent shopping.  I dealt with several e-mails, worked on yesterday’s blog post, and finally turned out the lights.

2014/10/07 (T) Loose Connectors

I was up much too late last night and stayed in bed this morning until just after 8 AM to make sure I got my 7 hours of beauty rest.  I was up and dressed by 8:40 AM, just in time to converse briefly with Butch before he took off for a shopping run and an appointment in Logansport.  Our plan was to attack the Aqua-Hot fuel flow problem when he got back, weather permitting.

After Butch left for town I had my usual bowl of yummy homemade granola for breakfast.  Rather than make coffee, however, I went across the street to the Small Town Brew coffee & bake shop that Lisa Paul opened a little over two years ago.  Lisa wasn’t there, but her friend Ashley was covering for her.  Coffee is on a donation basis and the only small bill I had was a $1, so I got a large mug of coffee, with a refill, for a buck.  Ashley was engaged in a conversation with a local farmer when I arrived.  She was very friendly, and included me as much as she could, but they were discussing local issues (of course) which involved family relationships and property sales, none of which meant anything to me.

I found out that Ashley’s boyfriend, Jeff, is slowly trying to buy up the whole town of Twelve Mile and turn it into a rental community.  Ashley helps Jeff renovate each property to make it rentable.  What they are doing probably makes some economic sense but long-term will destroy any sense of community that may exist in this place.  Renters simply do not have the same stake in a community as owners.  The town is very small with very little employment but is only 12 miles from three much larger towns (Logansport, Peru, and Rochester) and only 30 miles from Plymouth (north) and Kokomo (south), so it is possible to live here and drive to employment elsewhere.

Although Twelve Mile has a bank and a post office it seems like the sort of place younger and middle aged folks might rent for a while rather than someplace to settle for the long term.  I am, of course, looking at this through the eyes of a lifelong urbanite.  Butch and Fonda have lived here for a very long time and it has certainly met their needs for a place to live and run their business, as well as build/store their bus conversions.

I finished my coffee and returned to our bus to see if I could remove the defective speedometer.  The dashboard cover just lifts off, providing access to everything on the back side.  Not good access, as the dashboard is fairly close to the windshield, but access nonetheless.  I can also see the back side of the dashboard clearly through the windshield, so a second person can help direct tools into position if needed.

The old speedometer is held in with a U-shaped bracket secured with two Nylok nuts on machine screws that are part of the case.  The machine screws protruded far enough beyond the nuts to require a deep socket or a socket with a large enough through hole to allow the screws to pass through.  In order to get the socket onto the nuts I had to hold wiring cables out of the way.  I traced the wires coming out the back of the speedometer and discovered that the instrument connector was disconnected from the mating piece in the wiring harness.  The connector for the instrument lights was also unplugged.  Whatever the condition of the instrument it was guaranteed not to work in this configuration.

I do not recall how this situation came to be.  I was working on the dashboard wiring this past March while we were in Williston and presumably cleaned these contacts as the intermittent speedometer was the primary thing we were trying to fix.  Presumably I either failed to plug these connectors back together or did not plug them together fully and they eventually worked loose.  Having the connectors touching loosely could certainly have caused the intermittent and erratic readings I was seeing.  I decided to leave the speedometer in the dash, reconnect it, and see what it did on the drive to Elkhart.  I will have to decide whether to install the new speedometer when it arrives or keep it as a spare.  Either way I will need to test drive the bus.  Whatever I decide I do not plan to return the new one since it is the correct replacement part (per Prevost) for a speedometer that may eventually fail if it hasn’t already.

While Butch was away I worked at my computer selecting and editing photos for a few of the late September blog entries that I have not yet posted.  I should have some free time at the upcoming FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally to get the blog and website caught up and also get some writing/editing done on articles for Bus Conversion Magazine.

With regards to my Aqua-Hot, Butch’s plan was to install short fuel lines on the inlet and outlet sides of my Racor fuel filter / water separator, insert T-fittings, reconnect the normal fuel lines to the T-fittings, and attach vacuum gauges to the T-fittings.  This configuration would allow us to monitor the relative pressure in the fuel lines on either side of the Racor to see if there was a restriction.  I have a replacement filter cartridge for the Racor but we did not want to install it unnecessarily.  It would have been easier but provided us with less information.

Although there are several components inside the Aqua-Hot that could restrict or prevent fuel flow, all of those came from Butch’s unit and were known good components before we swapped them over.  We also had the unit in our coach operating as recently as this past Saturday.  At this point all indications are that the no-start problem is fuel supply related and external to the unit, i.e., in our coach.  Ugh.

My new VDO speedometer arrived while Butch was gone.  I could not find Fonda so I signed for it.  I was eating lunch when Butch got back.  He bought barbed brass couplings for 1/4″ fuel line and 11′ of fuel line.  He did not buy T-fittings because he had a quantity on hand.  Unfortunately we could not find them so I made a quick run to Logansport to get the missing pieces.

Pressure gauges and T-fittings for testing the Aqua-Hot fuel delivery.

Pressure gauges and T-fittings for testing the Aqua-Hot fuel delivery.

When I got back I hookup up the two vacuum gauges as previously described and initiated a start cycle on the Aqua-Hot.  We did not see an indication of a restriction but the unit still would not fire. On two prior occasions we had gotten it to ignite by using a jumper wire across the two terminals where the cockpit switch wires connect.  We tried that again and it lit up. It was producing a lot of black exhaust so I let it run long enough to clear up.

The jumper wire may be a coincidence but I developed a hypothesis that we could test.  If the initial switch closure provided a sufficient voltage and current to start the operating cycle but then dropped below some lower threshold the controller would never open the fuel valve or apply power to the ignition coil for spark and the blower would complete the shutdown purge stage of the operating cycle.  I recall a quote from Thomas Huxley:  “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”  With the cockpit switch closed (on) Butch measured 12.7 VDC across the terminals without any noticeable drop.  Even so, we investigated the switch and it’s wiring to see if the contacts might be intermittent.  They were not.  We did discover that the small “grain of wheat” light bulb in the switch was not coming on even though the filament appeared to be intact and there was voltage on the wire pair from the Aqua-Hot that powers it.

One of the house systems switch panels.  The Aqua-Hot burner switch is one of these.

One of the house systems switch panels. The Aqua-Hot burner switch is one of these.

We cycled the unit on and off several times and it ignited every time.  I removed the vacuum gauges and T-fittings, spliced the supply hose back together on the inlet of the Racor fuel filter /water separator, reconnected the outlet to the inlet of the Parker FPM-50, and installed a new piece of 1/4″ fuel line from the outlet of the FPM-50 to the inlet of the secondary fuel filter.  I checked all of the band clamps, turned the unit on, and it started right up.

I did a little more interior electrical work on Butch and Fonda’s coach, helped them install an FRP panel, and called it a day.  Since I was leaving tomorrow I did some preliminary packing of stuff in the bedroom.  I made and ate my dinner in the coach and then did some straightening up before returning to the house and turning in for the night.

 

2014/09/30 (T) To Indiana

Linda was up early again and off to the bakery.  I got up just before 8 AM, showered and shaved and had a grapefruit for breakfast.  I did not have any coffee.  I do not eat or drink on lot on days when I have to drive the bus.  I checked and adjusted the tire pressures on the bus while it was still cool and cloudy.  I then hooked up the car and checked the rear lights.  I spent the rest of the morning gathering up last minute things and loading them on the bus.  My plan was to leave at noon.  There were a lot of last minute things but I was packed and ready to go by 11:45 AM.

I called Linda to let her know I was getting ready to leave, secured the house, and took care of the final departure items.  I started the car, put it in D (drive) for 20 seconds, slipped it into neutral, made sure the parking brake was off, the steering wheel was free to turn, and the Pressure Pro repeater was plugged in.  The key has to be in the ignition switch and turned to the “on” position while the car is being towed so I travel with two car keys so I can lock the car.  I turned off the shore power to the bus, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.  I closed up the utility (shore connections) bay, checked that the air accessories circuits were open in the DS front bay, checked that the inverter was working, and made a final check that all of the bays were closed and locked.

I secured the entrance door (from the inside), checked that everything was ready for travel on the interior, buckled myself in, and started the engine.  I gave it a minute to get oil flowing through the engine and start to build air pressure and then switched it to high idle to finish airing up the suspension and brake systems.  I switched the suspension system from Level Low mode to driving mode, pulled the tag axles up, let the suspension come back up to ride height, and slowly pulled out.  (Lifting the tag tires off the ground helps the bus make slow tight turns like the 180 degree turn to pull out of our pull-through driveway and into the street pointed in the right direction to get out to the main road.)  I stopped in the street to lower the tag axles, let the suspension readjust to ride height, and was finally on my way.  (The bus is not supposed to be moving when the tag axles are raised or lowered.)  The dashboard clock turned 12:00 when I was half way down our street.  That’s the departure drill.  The morning turned out to be busier than I would have liked, but that was pretty good time management, I would say.

It had rained hard around midnight and there was a heavy cloud layer all morning with occasional mist, so it was a cool, damp morning.  I took my usual route north on Hacker Road to M-59 west to I-96 west to the southwest corner of Lansing where I picked up I-69 south.  I stayed on I-69 into Indiana where I picked up US-20 west.  I always enjoy the drive across this stretch of US-20; it’s a 2-lane highway posted at 55 MPH (except through towns) and is hilly from I-69 west to the Elkhart area.  It is not unusual to see Amish buggies along this route but they were out in force today from Lagrange to Middlebury.  There was also road construction along the way so it was a slightly trickier and slower drive than normal.

I exited US-20 onto US-31 southbound and was immediately routed onto a new section of highway.  I have seen stretches of this highway under construction on trips to Twelve Mile Indiana over the last couple of years but this was the first time I had driven on it.  The road I used to take is now “Old US-31.”  The new highway rejoined the old highway near Plymouth, Indiana.  From this point south to Kokomo US-31 has long been a four lane divided highway, but not limited access.  At the point of rejoining one side was closed with traffic routed on the other side, making a 2-lane construction zone.  In spite of that I was able to keep rolling and made good time.  I was out of the construction quickly enough.

Once the highway made the turn back to the south near Rochester I was in the home stretch.  Another 10 miles and I saw the familiar communications towers that tell me to look for the barn on the east side of the highway at SR-16.  I made the turn onto SR-16 westbound and another 7 miles brought me to the heart of downtown Twelve Mile, Indiana where Butch and Fonda’s home and business are located.  (Twelve Mile, Indiana is 12 miles from Rochester, 12 Miles from Logansport, and 12 miles from Peru, thus the name.)  I pulled into the driveway for the grain elevator across the street from their parking area, let the engine idle for a few minutes to cool down and stabilize, and shut it down while I unhooked and parked the car.

Butch and Fonda had gotten home from a day of errands and family visits just before I arrived.  They unloaded groceries while I attended to my car.  Butch then served as spotter while I backed across SR-16 into their lot and got me parked next to their bus.  As parked, the coach was level side-to-side but low in the front.  I switched the suspension to Level Low, raised the front end, and shut off the engine.

I use their spare bedroom when I am here, so I unloaded clothing and technology items and took them inside.  I left all of my food onboard the bus, however, as I prepare my own (vegan) meals and usually eat breakfast and lunch in the coach by myself (if I even have lunch).  I try to prepare dinner and bring it in the house to eat with them if the timing works out, but tonight it did not.  They had a large, late lunch and I had a small, light breakfast and a handful of pretzel nibblers and peanuts (literally) for lunch.  Linda sent a lot of food with me for such a short trip, so I had a green salad and a hummus sandwich for dinner after which I settled in to visit for the evening.  My iPad remembered how to connect to their Wi-Fi and I got my ASUS laptop connected as well.  This is the first time the laptop has been to there place and only the second time it’s been out of the house since I bought it.

It was a bit strange seeing the place somewhat emptied out although there is still a lot of stuff there.  I was surprised at what the company in Nevada did not take, but Butch and Fonda both explained that the buyer had taken the stuff they were most likely to sell, had space to store, and could afford to ship 2,000 miles to Nevada.  Some remaining items with unique value may be sold but much of the remaining inventory will be sold as scrap.  Things are a bit chaotic at the moment as they had to move a lot of stuff to get to other stuff and are now going through their stuff trying to figure out what stuff to get rid of and how to get rid of it.  They are working towards being full-timers, so they have a big task ahead of them.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2014/09/19 (F) Renewed Acquaintance

After I installed iOS8 on my iPad2 yesterday morning my Logitech Bluetooth keyboard seemed to change its behavior, giving me double letters in some cases and feeling a little sluggish in its response.  The keyboard itself has not changed, so I presume this has something to do with iOS8.  I also presume the keyboard batteries have not run down already, but I suppose that is a possibility.  If so, I will be replacing them once a week.  While creating an image gallery for the SLAARC WordPress website last night I noticed that the drag and drop feature of the gallery editor did not work.  I upgraded to WP Version 4.0 about a week ago but this was the first time I had tried to use the gallery feature.  If there is a problem with this feature there is no way that I am the first person to discover it and I presume WordPress is aware of it.  I find it strange, however, that they have not released a maintenance update fixing it since an improved and more visual editor was a major feature of the 4.0 release.

A few weeks back I re-established contact through Linked-In with a colleague from 10 years ago.  Jim was Director of General Education Services at Livingston Educational Service Agency at the time and we went through NCA Ambassador training together.  It turns out that he lives and works in the Brighton area, so we are now neighbors of sorts.  He suggested we meet up for coffee and I finally called him this morning to arrange that.  We both had time at 1:30 PM today and agreed to meet at the Panera on Grand River Avenue by I-96 at that time.

Linda got the new Global Bake bakery software installed on her laptop yesterday so this morning she was able to start working on the software conversion process in earnest.  Her work requires a lot of concentration, and she gets very focused when doing it, so I went to my office to continue working on editing blog posts and photos.

In checking my e-mail I noticed that I was still getting failed login attempts from foreign countries on this site and on the FMCA GLCC website, which is sub-domain of this site, in spite having installed the premium (paid) version of the Wordfence Security plug-in.  I looked at the installed plug-ins for the GLCC website and discovered that I had one named “Limit Login Attempts” that I did not have installed on our personal website or the other two sites I manage.  I surmised that this plug-in might be doing just what the name implied and in the process preempting Wordfence from ever doing its job.  I deactivated it and saw a reduction in failed attempts, with none from outside North America, suggesting that the country blocking feature of Wordfence was now working properly.  I saw a similar drop in failed login attempts on our personal website when I activated the country blocking feature for all countries except the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  Only time will tell, however, if Wordfence is indeed blocking login attempts from outside North America.

We had hummus and apples for lunch after which I hung up one load of laundry and put another load in the washer.  I left at 1 PM to have time to stop at Best Buy to get something to clean our various touch screens and monitors.  Traffic was very heavy in the I-96 and Grand River Avenue shopping area, but Best Buy is in the same shopping complex as the Panera, so I made it there on time.  Jim and I talked for almost two hours and which covered the highlights of the last eight years.

Back home I kept my focus on getting the blog caught up.  Linda wrapped up her work for the day and we finished the bottle of Alpha Rose from Red Trail Vineyards while she fixed a simple but tasty dinner of vegan burgers and corn.  I got a call from Butch letting me know that the company in Nevada had arranged for a semi and taken all of the parts they plan to take.  Everything that is left is Butch and Fonda’s to do with as they please.  The important thing for us is that I can now take our bus down there at my convenience.  I would like to get all of the natural gas related work taken care of and put the finishing touches on the garage project before I move the bus, but I may go ahead and move it next week if the scheduling of contractors works out.

During the evening I had an exchange of TXT messages with Chuck.  He had ordered some miniature 24VDC light bulbs (1829s) that are used in our bus dashboards and the order had arrived.  Rather than go to his shop after breakfast tomorrow we arranged to meet him for dinner tomorrow night.  I also got a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint.  She had a new customer who just bought a mid-1990’s Prevost XL converted coach and she gave him my name and phone numbers in case he had any questions about the rig.  We agreed that we would try to find time during the GLCC Surplus and Salvage a Rally to work on the article I started last year about the process she used to repair the body and roof of our coach, seal and coat the roof, and paint the body.  We capped off the evening with the second to last episode of Season 5 of Doc Martin. We need to return the DVDs to the Howell Library on Sunday, so we want to make sure we get through all of the episodes for Season 5.

 

20140911 (R) Rooted

After a breakfast of zucchini muffins and a banana (soft foods) I tried playing with the new RVillage mobile site on my Samsung Galaxy S III phone but I was unable to log in so I read a few blog posts.  We had gusty winds overnight after the rain cleared out so I checked the weather to see what might be headed our way today.  There wasn’t any additional rain in the forecast, but it looked like we would stay shrouded from the sun all day.  The wild turkeys were not put off by the weather and spent some time foraging back by the fire pit.  There were there long enough that I was able to get my good telephoto zoom lens on the camera and get this shot from the basement walkout doorwall.

These three adults and three young have been regular visitors to our yard of late.

These three adults and three young have been regular visitors to our yard of late.

My endodontics appointment was at 11:45 AM with Root Canal Specialty Associates in Brighton, Michigan.  Their offices are on Grand River Avenue just northwest of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.  That’s only about five miles from our house; much more convenient than driving to Dearborn.  Although I have been having discomfort in both the upper and lower rear teeth on my right side, the bad tooth turned out to be one of the uppers.  Once they had determined that it needed a root canal I never even had to get out of the chair; they just seamlessly moved from diagnostic mode to repair mode.  Endodontic operations are very efficient.

They were done and I was on my way by 1:30 PM.  I stopped at Smead & Son just up the road to see if they could fabricate a rebar cage for our ham radio tower foundation.  They can, and they also sell Sonotubes if we decide to use one.  They stock diameters up to 36″ locally, and have tubes up to 48″ diameter at their Pontiac location.  They can bend the round horizontal sections, fold over the ends of the vertical sections, and supply the twist ties for tying the pieces of rebar together.  They even sell a special tool for twisting the twist ties.  The pieces would not be welded, but the assured me that twist tying them together is the standard way that rebar is held in place.  They can also supply the threaded steel anchor bolts if I decide to get them locally.

My next stop was Staples in Brighton for a new touch screen stylus/pen.  I ended up getting a Wacom Bamboo stylus with no pen, and a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard to pair with my iPad2.  I create the rough drafts of all of my blog posts on the iPad, and I should have gotten a keyboard a long time ago.  I also picked up a sympathy card for a friend and co-worker of Linda’s whose father just passed away.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way home and got some hot apple cider but could not drink it right away as the local anesthetic had not yet worn completely off and I dribbled every time I took a sip; not a pretty sight.  Back home I took my 3 PM dose of Tylenol.  I will be taking Ibuprofen every six hours for the next 24 hours and also taking Tylenol every six hours spaced halfway in-between the Ibuprofen doses.  Between the anesthetic wearing off and the apple cider cooling down I was finally able to drink it in small careful sips.  I unpacked the wireless keyboard and got it connected to my iPad2 and used it to finishing typing this post.  The keyboard comes with a case that turns into a stand that can hold my iPad2 at two different angles in each of portrait or landscape position.  All-in-all a very nice little package.  I have generally been very happy with Logitech products over the years.

I wanted to play with the RVillage mobile development site but still could not get logged in.  On a suggestion from Linda I figured out how to tell my Samsung Galaxy S III phone to NOT remember logins for websites and was finally able to login and navigate around.  The initial login was a 2-step process and my phone was automatically providing the username and password for step 1 even though I was manually entering the information for step 2.  Once I was in I joined a test group, replied to a topic post, created a new topic and made an initial post.  I also replied to a message, searched for two members of the development team, and sent messages to each of them with some site feedback.  Based on our limited testing of the site it appears that the development team has done a great job on the mobile version.

Linda made a barley, kale, white bean stew for dinner.  She has made it before and it is a wonderful blend of tastes and textures.  Besides the named ingredients, it included onions, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  For dessert she made apple crisp.  Apple cider and apple crisp in the same day; nothing says “fall” like apples.

Butch called to bring me up-to-date on their situation regarding the transfer of parts from their business in Indiana to the buyer in Nevada.  It looks like the 53′ trailer won’t be there to pick up material until the 29th of this month but I could take our bus there any time after the 18th, when their younger daughter (Brittani) is getting married.  And once our natural gas situation is resolved.  As of this writing we have no idea when they will run the line to our house and hang the meter.  The only date we have ever been given was project completion by September 26.

 

2014/07/25 (F) Assessing The Situation

We finally got a letter yesterday from Consumer’s Energy requesting payment of the $200 fee for hanging the natural gas meter.  The letter included a rough drawing showing where the meter will be located (south end of the east side of the house where the propane currently enters).  It also shows the route the gas line will take to get there from the opposite side of the street.  The drawing did not correctly show our pull-through driveway in relation to the house, so the actual path will be different.  This was also the first indication we’ve had that the main line will be run down the opposite side of the street, which we prefer over running down our side of the street.

At 9:15 AM we still did not have any landscape workers on site so I went to my office to continue working on assessment items.  No one from Village Landscape Development showed up today and we never got a phone call.  It’s a way of doing business that I simply do not understand.

I finally got around to making my annual appointment with my dermatologist only to find out he is still on medical leave.  I didn’t know he was on medical leave in the first place.  They scheduled me with someone else in the same clinic.

After lunch I had a nice chat with our financial advisor / stock broker at Stifel-Nicholas even though we just saw him three weeks ago.  We got a post card a few days ago indicating that he and his assistant were moving to a different S-N office.  He had not mentioned this when we met in person so we wanted to see what the reason was for the move, which he gladly explained.  No cause for concern on our part, which left me free to worry about other things instead.

As long as I was making phone calls I called Butch to see how things were coming along following the sale of a large portion of their business assets to a company in Nevada.  They still have a lot of loose ends to tie up and a bus conversion to finish, so they are not sitting on their hands.  When the buyers were there a week ago they loaded up as many parts and as much material as they could transport in the vehicles they had, but by Butch’s estimate it wasn’t 20% of the total.

I also had a series of TXT messages with Joe Cannarozzi, the mobile mechanic who has taken care of our bus the last four years.  Joe is relocating from Chicago, Illinois to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and giving up the mobile aspect of his bus repair business.  Apparently his new place has a garage where he will continue to work on rigs, but they will have to come to him.  I hope that works out for him, but it leaves us having to find a mechanic closer to home or willing to travel here.

I finished writing the assessment items for the three remaining Michigan Assessment Consortium Common Assessment Development modules and got all seven sets of items e-mailed to the team.  With that task checked off, at least until I get some feedback, I was free to go to Lowe’s after dinner and pick up some of the materials I need for the HVAC projects in the garage.  There’s a better than even chance that we will not go to our ham radio club breakfast tomorrow in favor of an early start on the garage work.

 

2014/07/24 (R) Back To Work

We were up earlier than normal.  Linda went into the bakery today and likes to be on the road ahead of the worst of the morning traffic rush.  Since she was working I figured it was a good day for me to also do some paid work (plus a couple of loads of laundry).  Earlier in the summer I agreed to write assessment items for some of the modules in the Michigan Assessment Consortium professional development series on Common Assessment Development.  The items are needed for use with the Lectora platform, which Bill Heldmyer at Wayne RESA is using to re-package the modules.  These are modules that other team members developed, so I have to spend some time with the content before I can write the items.

I did some work on this in June and then got busy with contractors and out-of-town trips.  I am still tied up with construction, contractors, and other projects but a timely completion for this work would be early August so I spent much of today working on it.  I already had one module done and hoped to finish the other six but only managed to complete three of them.  I am anxious to get back to work on the HVAC prep in the garage but I plan to continue working on the assessment items tomorrow as I would like to e-mail them to the team for feedback before the end of the day.

I have a lot going on at the moment.  I like being busy, but this is starting to feel like “work.”  I have a growing list of “must do” bus projects that I have yet to start:  1) fogged window replacement; 2) auxiliary air filter / water separator replacement; 3) Aqua-Hot expansion reservoir replacement; 4) Aqua-Hot exhaust leak repair; 5) motorized windshield shade repair; 6) finishing the installation of the ZENA power generator (for charging the house battery bank while driving), and; 7) redoing the water bay (that’s a big one).  I have an optional project to replace the rear view camera system.

Butch is building new ride height linkages for his bus and wants to build some for me as well, so that makes nine “bus projects” I would like to accomplish before the weather turns too cold to work outside.  Some of these are projects I can do with the bus in front of the house once I can move it back into its normal parking spot.  The rest are things I will work on once I get it down to Butch and Fonda’s place in Twelve Mile, Indiana, probably this September.

The FMCA education committee work is ramping up and I have three websites I am trying to launch, one of which has an August 11 target date, plus our own website/blog to maintain (as of this writing I am over two weeks behind on blog posts).  I am also supposed to be writing a “featured bus” article for Bus Conversion Magazine on Marty and Pat Caverly’s MCI MC-5B conversion “Scooby Doo & Bookworm.”  It’s a great conversion that has taken 20 + years to build and will be the cover/centerfold story when it is published.  I have 1,500 photos from Marty and the only way I will make sense of the project is to sit down with Marty, select images, and make notes.  Once I have a sense of the chronology of the work, and the images to illustrate it, I can weave the words together to tell the story.

Kyle and Spencer were here working on the landscaping for most of the day.  Steve stopped by in the morning to go over the work from yesterday and outline the work for today.  It’s coming along, albeit much more slowly than I think it should.  For a job that requires a lot of manual labor we normally only have two guys on site, sometimes three and sometimes only one.  And, sad to say, they simply do not work as hard and as persistently when Steve is not here.

Linda got home ahead of the afternoon traffic.  We had leftover potato and lentil curry and naan for dinner and both the dish and the bread were still excellent.  A few black grapes and dark, sweet cherries for desert and we were off to bed early.

 

2014/07/14 (M) Education

Linda was up at 6 AM and was out the door and on her way to Twelve Mile, Indiana at 6:30 AM.  She decided last night not to have breakfast at home in favor of getting on the road.  I slept in and got up at 7:30 AM.  Lind’s homemade granola made for an easy, tasty breakfast.

Two landscapers showed up a little before 9:00 AM as I was getting ready to leave to run some errands and said Steve was on his way, so I stuck around until he got there.  We looked at a few things together and then I left.

On the way home from running my errands I got a call from TOMTEK reminding me that we have an annual service contract with them for the main house furnace (hot-water base-board heat) and air-conditioner.  I agreed to have them come on Thursday to service the A-C.  Perhaps while they are here they can figure out why it makes a noise that sounds like the thump, thump, thump of a helicopter blade.

About a mile from the house I spotted a small Painted Turtle trying to cross Hacker Rd.  A truck going the other way spotted it at the same time.  We both turned around and came back.  I got there first and put it on the front passenger floor mat after assuring the other driver that I was going to take it to our property and release it near the (neighbor’s) pond.  Turtles have very little chance of successfully crossing a road most places, including around here.

The two landscapers worked into the afternoon.  They could only go so far before needing Steve to inspect and approve their work.  He did not make it back today and I think they quit working around 3 PM.

Education is what I did professionally for the last 21 years before I retired, and I am still doing it to some small extent.  Back in the late winter I agreed to serve on a newly reconstituted FMCA national education committee.  There are 6 – 10 people on the committee, depending on how you count, and except for a couple of staff at FMCA headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio we are spread out all over the U. S.  Our meetings are, therefore, conducted by telephone conference with ideas and information shared via e-mail in-between.  I also set up a folder in our personal Dropbox as a place to put documents so the committee can retrieve them.

We had our third meeting today from 4:00 to 5:30 PM EDT.  I spent the rest of the evening creating an outline of a possible RV curriculum and dealing with e-mail related to our meeting.  Linda got home at 8:00 PM and we had leftovers for dinner, after which I returned to my work and she headed to bed.

I have one, maybe two, days to concentrate on desk tasks.  Once the Pack-Rat storage container arrives on Wednesday I will be tied up with house-related chores through the 19th and then company through the 23rd.  I expect delivery of some HVAC equipment and materials during that window.  With any luck Darryll will be here starting on the 24th and I will be tied up working with him through the end of the month.  I’m hopeful, if not optimistic, that the landscapers will also be done with their two projects by the end of the month.

 

20140713 (N) Pack-Rat

Guilty as charged.  I am one of those guys who likes my stuff; it’s one of the main reasons we are not full-time RVers.  In order to get the garage and library ready for Darryll, and not trash the house in the process, we checked online for portable storage units.  We decided to order one from 1-800-Pack-Rat.  They were slightly less expensive than PODS, but the main factor was their ability to deliver a 16-foot long unit on Wednesday this coming week.  That will give us Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to clear enough stuff out of the garage to store the materials for Darryll and give him the space he needs to work.

Linda got a call from Butch at Service Motors to let her know they were back home from the Crosley Automobile Club national meet in Wauseon, Ohio and to see if she was available to come down tomorrow to finish up some critical accounting tasks related to the sale of most of their businesses assets.  The purchasers were in Wauseon for the rally and arrived at the business as I was chatting with Butch.  They plan to load all of the stuff they have bought into the five vehicles they brought with them and leave sometime on Tuesday, so Linda will be there mid-morning tomorrow and probably be home by 9:00 PM.  It will be a 15 hour day for her; 8 hours of driving and 7 hours of accounting, but she can/will do it.  I would normally go along, if for no other reason than to keep her company and share the driving, but I expect to have landscapers here tomorrow (and the rest of the week) and need to be here to interact with them.  Besides, there isn’t anything useful I can do at Service Motors at the moment so I would just be in the way and twiddling my thumbs.

We were both tired this morning and slept in a little later than normal.  That meant a later breakfast, which meant we skipped lunch and had an early dinner.  That, in turn allowed me to have dinner before going to our monthly Ham radio club meeting in South Lyon.

The morning overcast gave way to scattered clouds and blue skies on pleasant northwest winds, bringing cooler temperatures and lower humidity.  It was a perfect day for sitting on the (north facing) deck and doing sit down things, and that is exactly what we did.  Linda spent some time reading Veganomicon while I finished up a couple of blog post drafts and reviewed the SLAARC/WP website in advance of having to demonstrate it this evening for the ham radio club.  The site still needs work.  Some pages still need content, I found a few spelling errors, and I still need to resize photos so they take up less disk space and load faster.  The login feature is still working and the roster/database still displays correctly, if somewhat inelegantly.  But it’s functional enough to give the club members a preview and I will only demonstrate one photo gallery with a limited number of images so it shouldn’t be too sluggish.

By mid-afternoon it was warm enough that I decided to work in my office and get a few more blog posts uploaded to our WordPress site.  Linda made a “pasta e fagioli” recipe from Veganomicon and added some chopped dark leafy greens she had on hand.  She needed a dry white wine for the recipe and opened our bottle of Semi-Dry Riesling from Chateau Chantal, a gift from our daughter’s recent trip to the Traverse City area.  It was a little dry for my taste as a before dinner wine but paired very nicely with the meal.

I got to South Lyon just ahead of the 6:30 PM start of our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) monthly meeting.  The business meeting was short.  We then had a lengthy presentation/discussion of our ARRL Field Day participation followed by a short preview of the new WordPress website.  It was generally well received and I got a few good suggestions during the discussion.

When I got home around 9 PM we had chocolate cake (vegan, of course) with raspberry sauce and relaxed for a while before turning in for the night.

 

2014/06/14 (S) Day 4 Rally Conclusion

Each rally has a slightly different approach to food.  On the last full day of the GLAMARAMA they switch the breakfast carbohydrate delivery mechanism from donuts to pancakes and serve them with sausage links.  The coffee and tea are still there, of course, so we had coffee.  Other rallies, like the Escapades, have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, with coffee and donuts.  When Nick and Terry Russell were running their Gypsy Journal Gathering rallies they also had coffee and donuts on departure day as I recall.

In order to serve a lot of pancakes to a lot of people in a relatively short period of time GLAMARAMA hires a specialized food service.  The one they hired this year had long griddles with an overhead depositor that moved the length of the griddle like a gantry crane.  It would precisely deposit the batter to make a row of 5″ pancakes.  The operator would then move it by hand and deposit the next row, repeating this as they moved along the griddle.  Another worker followed behind the depositor with a pancake turner (flapjack flipper) and turned the pancakes when they were done on the first side.  Although hand labor was still involved it was an efficient, high volume, production process that did not require an army of volunteers.

When we were done drinking coffee and chatting Linda headed back to our motorcoach to prepare food for our family gathering on Sunday afternoon.  I headed over to the seminar building for a presentation by Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone with the Wynn’s.  They were joined by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia and did a panel discussion on earning income on the road.  They also covered work-camping and volunteering in exchange for a camp site.  They did an excellent job, relaxed and low key, and streamed the event live to the web.  The logins indicated that 68 people viewed the presentation online, which was probably more people than were in the room.

Geeks on Tour got their flash drives in (Nick and Terry Russell brought them down from Elkhart).  I wanted to restart our subscription, but wanted the flash drive instead of the CD as Linda needed it to store some files.  I ended up with both.  Their Tutorial Video series ( http://geeksontour.tv ) is an amazing resource for learning how to use a wide range of technologies for Planning, Preserving, and Sharing you RV adventures.

At 10:45 AM I met with Jerry Yates, Executive Director of FMCA, in my role as a member of the national education committee, to talk about RVillage.  It also gave me a chance to further explore making online education available to FMCA members, such as that provided by the Geeks On Tour, either directly from the FMCA website or through discounted subscriptions to provider websites.

Linda helped Alma Baker get situated for the Fleetwood hot dog lunch and had a tomato and onion sandwich while she was there.  I had a couple of tofu hot dogs in our coach and eventually headed over to a 1:30 PM seminar on 120 VAC by Gary Bunzer.  It was very good, as usual, but by Saturday afternoon seminar attendance had thinned.  This was a repeat of a session he had done on Wednesday, so many attendees who wanted to see probably already had.

Linda hung around the coach waiting for Butch and Fonda, who drove over from Twelve Mile, Indiana to work with her on some aspects of their pending business sale.  I came back to the rig to say hello and around 4:45 PM we gathered up some hummus, chips, and beverages and headed over to the 5:00 PM RVillage get-together.  The volunteer dinner started at 4:30 PM, but we decided not to go as we knew there would be little-to-nothing we would be able to eat.

Nikki Wynn had scheduled the RVillage get-together in the Dog and Cat Pavilion and we ended up with a nice turnout of 17 people.  It was not a pot luck, but enough folks brought munchies and extra beverages that everyone had something.  We milled around conversing in shifting groups and eventually formed chairs into a (sort of) circle.  Chris Guld suggested we go around and introduce ourselves and say where we were when we were 15 years old and whether we had any notion that we would find ourselves where we are now.  It turned out to be a fun, low key, way to get to know each other by filing in a few personal details.

We disbanded by 6:30 PM, went back to our coach for a few minutes, and then headed over to the final evening’s entertainment.  The Walker Family hails from Nashville and we saw them a few years ago at the G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  Dad, mom, and seven kids; four girls and three boys.  The “girls” are now young women; two are married and one just had her first child.  They perform as “The Redhead Express.”  The boys are now 15, 13, and 11.  The older two play drums for their sisters and perform as a trio with guitar backup from one of their sisters.  Mom and dad joined the sisters for a couple of numbers, but the entire family never performed together.  My recollection was that they had the last time we saw them, but that’s been at least four years, maybe five, and Linda disagrees with my memory.  Regardless, they are very talented and put on a spirited show of country songs with a bit of gospel and patriotic stuff mixed in; just what you would expect from a Nashville-based group.  They did not, however, use any pre-recorded sound tracks.

Following the concert there were drawings for prizes and the 50/50 raffle.  The Grand Prize was a gift certificate for an 11-day Adventure Tours Mega-Rally worth $3,000 (one motorhome with two people).  One of our GLCC members won $200 in the raffle.  Those of us “camped” in the GLCC area gathered by our rigs after the drawings and stood around talking until it cooled of to the point that everyone was ready to retreat into their rigs for the evening.

 

20140605 (R) Apple Roku

Linda had to go into the bakery today which left me to catch up on phone calls and errands.  I made more phone calls to contractors this morning and had better luck than yesterday reaching people or at least leaving messages.  I rescheduled with Gary from GM Construction to come discuss the pole barn project.  I also got hold of Bratcher Electric and determined that the annual maintenance on the whole house generator could wait until we are ready to do the conversion from propane to natural gas, which they can handle.  In talking to Mike Bratcher I also determined that we can install a main panel in the garage just after the transfer switch and then run power directly from there to the pole barn rather than from the main panel in the basement.  While we are at it, we could redo the sub-panel in the garage, feeding it directly from the new main panel rather than the main panel in the basement.  The basement panel is very crowded and we have wires carrying electricity back and forth unnecessarily.

I got a call from Butch with an update on the negotiations of the sale of the major portion of their business assets.  Linda has been advising them relative to valuation, accounting, and tax issues and we have been helping them with purchase agreement language.  It looks like they are in the final stages leading up to a closing of the deal.  Their big annual event is coming up in early July and they will likely be busy with the transfer of inventory and training of the buyer during and after that event.  I need to get our bus down to their place to work on some projects and help Butch work on getting their bus conversion done enough that they can live in it this winter in the southwest.  Based on things going on at both ends, it looks like the window for that work will be mid-September to sometime in November, weather permitting.

Our converted coach friends, Pat and Vickie, have some older Motorola GMRS handheld radios that they like but the charger bases have disappeared.  My ham radio friend Scott (AC8IL) is in the commercial mobile communications business so I checked with him to see if chargers were still available.  They were and he had a couple of the drop-in style charger/bases in stock!  Scotty is just that kind of guy.  I picked them up this morning and will deliver them to Pat and Vickie at the GLAMARAMA rally.

Apple Roku sounds like an interesting dessert, but it’s not.  It might be an either/or situation, but it could be a both/and.  John Dewey was a both/and kind of guy, so I favor that approach.  We were intrigued by Steve and Karen’s Roku Internet TV streaming device last night so I stopped at Best Buy today on my way home from running my errand to see if they had them in stock and if so at what price.  Not only did they have them, they had three different models.  The “stick” was $50, the Roku 2 was $70, and the Roku 3 was $100.  (The Roku 3 does not have A/V connectors like the Roku 2, only HDMI, but it has a five times faster processor.)  But that was not all, oh no.  They also had the Apple TV device for $100 and two other similar products, one of which looked like an Amazon/Kindle thing and the other one a WD thing, whatever that is.

The Roku units (2 and 3) have access to a lot of content on a free, subscription, and pay-per-view basis.  The Apple TV unit has access to content on the same basis but the selection may not be as extensive; it’s hard to say for sure as the devices are not easy to compare directly.  The Apple TV unit, however, has one huge, unique feature; it can mirror anything on an iOS device, such as our iPads, to a TV/monitor.  The iPad can also be used as a control panel for the Apple TV device.

We do not have to choose between a Roku and an Apple TV unit, of course, we can get and use both if we want; it’s just a matter of money.  Between the two TVs in the house and the two in the bus it could be a lot of money if we wanted dedicated units of both types on all four TV/monitors.  We always have the option of moving things back and forth, but in general I prefer not to do that.  To the extent we can afford it I prefer to have the house and the bus set up so that the only things we move between them are the things we have to, such as ourselves, our food, our laundry, our computers, our cats, and some of our ham radio gear (at least for now).  The best solution, however, may be to get one of each device and move them around as needed.  That would give us the best cost/benefit ratio, but not the most convenience.

When Linda got home from her day at the bakery we finished the Egri Merlot we had opened the other night and caught up on the day’s events.  We decided to try the Apple TV device first and see how it worked in our situation.  Linda made an onion, mushroom, tomato Ragu, and served it over the leftover power grains.  It was very tasty.  After dinner I went to Best Buy to get the Apple TV device while Linda prepared fresh strawberries for dessert.  Fresh strawberries are a favorite treat of ours.  She served them with small pieces of Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate made from 70% Ambanja Madagascar 2013 Harvest beans.  The chocolate was excellent and unique.  It was a thank you gift from our son and daughter-in-law for Linda’s babysitting services while they were in San Francisco, California.

We connected the Apple TV box to one of our HD TV/monitors and went through the setup procedure.  We decided to test it on some PBS content, which required us to set up an account with PBS and enter a validation code that the Apple TV box provided.  We also downloaded an app onto Linda’s iPad2 that allowed it to mirror whatever was on its screen to the Apple TV.

We used the mirroring feature to watch Season 1, Episode 5 of Doc Martin, but it proved to be unusable.  The image was fine on the iPad2 but the Apple TV could not keep up.  I found that to be odd as our home WiFi network should have more than enough bandwidth to deliver the data stream between the devices, but maybe not.  I presumed that the limiting factor in our network was the data rate coming into our DSL gateway from our AT&T landline, but that was obviously fast enough to deliver the content from the gateway to the iPad without buffering hesitation.

We turned off the mirroring and finished watching the episode on the iPad.  Still, the content delivered directly from the gateway to the Apple TV looked great, and the mirroring will be useful for showing photos and anything else on our iPads.  We may reconfigure the Apple TV to use one of our other wireless networks and see if that helps.

 

20140418 (N) Taxi Turn Oops

We complied with the Fairgrounds’ request that we not depart until today, but we wanted to be on the road by 9 AM.  We were up at 7:30 AM and got busy right away with our departure routine.  The 5th Wheel parked next to us decided to leave last night.  They were from Alaska and the husband was an instructor for the RV Driving School.  He had also been an “ice road trucker” at one time.  I told him that I was not sure what the best technique was for exiting the infield over soft ground with freshly spread loose gravel.  He suggested the following technique: 1) Pull up the tag axles to put more weight on the drive tires and to keep them from dragging on the ridges created by the space between the drive tires; 2) transmission in 1st gear (manual selection); 3) Keep the engine at 900 – 1,100 RPM (high-idle) and avoid quick changes in engine RPM to keep from spinning the drive tires; 4) keep moving; don’t stop.

We were ready to go by 8:00 AM and said our farewells to Butch and Fonda.  We were anxious to get home and decided not to stop at the dump stations.  Linda went ahead of me in the car to block any traffic from entering the infield through the gate.  I made it through the soft part of the infield just fine using the technique as previously described.  I got across the horse track without difficulty and then made a sharp turn onto an interior road where we could stop to hook up the car.  As I came around the corner I clipped a sign with the driver side rear view mirror.  In my defense I thought it was a cloth banner, but it wasn’t.  The mirror was pulled loose from the motorized base and plastic parts were broken in the process.  Butch and Fonda were pulling out behind us and stopped to see what the problem was.  We used some of the Rescue Tape we keep on board to tape the mirror onto the base and adjusted it by hand as best we could.  I had an adequate view down the driver’s side of the coach, allowing me to drive it safely.  We hooked up the car and were on our way by 9:00 AM.

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing and without incident.  We exited the fairgrounds onto Monroe Street east to County 29 north to IN-4 east to IN-13 north to US-20 east to I-69 north to I-96 east to MI-59 east to Hacker Rd south to our house.  We had light traffic and pleasant weather for the whole drive.  When we pulled up in front of our house (on the street) Linda got out to help position the coach in the driveway.  Jasper immediately came out from under the passenger seat and got down in the stairwell to look out the lower window and I had the sense that he recognized we were home.  As soon as we got parked, Linda took the cats inside and then took off for the grocery store while I plugged in the shore power, unhooked the car, and started unloading the bus.

I spent a little time getting a couple of blog posts uploaded to WordPress before John and Diane arrived around 5:00 PM.  Linda made a very nice green salad with walnuts and dried cranberries and a bow-tie pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and pesto for dinner.  John and Diane brought a bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red wine which we had with the meal.  We had fresh mixed berries with biscotti cookies for dessert.  Tomorrow was a work day for everyone but me, so John and Diane took their leave around 8:30 PM and Linda headed off to bed shortly thereafter.  Since I did not have to get up at Oh-Dark-Thirty I worked at my desk for a while before retiring for the night.  Linda has not been feeling well for the last few days and cannot figure out if she has a cold or allergies or both.  I’ve been tired too, but rallies can do that, especially when we are working.

 

2014/05/17 (S) Working While We Wait

As soon as the fairgrounds and Escapade management had asked those of us parked on the horse track infield to delay our departure until Sunday (with a free night’s stay Saturday evening) we decided to comply with their request.  Our friends, Butch and Fonda, are parked next to us and also decided to delay their departure.  Butch and I hung out this morning while Linda worked with Fonda on their business accounting.

Butch and I were not having any luck solving all of the world’s problems so we decided to investigate our Aqua-Hot problem.  The expansion reservoir had apparently overflowed again so I cleaned up the coolant as best I could.  I turned on our Aqua-Hot so Butch could observe the smoke on startup and try to detect if it had an odor associated with it.  The unit startup up on the first try and produced a lot of white smoke.  The white smoke eventually disappeared, but it took quite a while.  Neither of us detected the slightly sweet smell of combusted coolant.

I had hoped to have a definitive analysis of our Aqua-Hot situation, but I ended up with data that was inconclusive, at best, and inconsistent, at worst.  Recent experiences with a failure to start, excessive white smoke on startup, needing to add coolant, and failure to hold pressure all suggested a coolant leak, possibly into the combustion chamber.   On the other hand, it started fine today and the white smoke did eventually clear up.  There were alternative explanations for some of the data and these always need to be considered.  Jumping to conclusions about what is wrong with a bus/conversion can be unnecessarily expensive.

The loss of pressure may have been due to our inability to keep the pressure tube vertical because of the tight quarters.  The pressure is released by pushing this tube to the side where it connects to the radiator fill spout.  The loss of coolant could be due to the undersized expansion reservoir overflowing when the unit heats up.  I know for a fact that it does this if I have too much coolant in the reservoir when the unit is cold.  To pin down whether or not there is a coolant leak into the combustion chamber I will have to remove the burner assembly from the combustion chamber, pressurize the closed coolant system, and visually check for leaks.  Even if I don’t find a leak there that will not rule out a leak somewhere.  Ugh.  Aqua-Hot units are expensive to replace and the model we have is not longer made, so our only direct replacement option is a rebuilt unit.  The unit in the coach is a rebuilt one that was installed sometime between Sep 2009 and April 2010.

We quit working with the Aqua-Hot around 1:00 PM to have lunch before heading over to the Tri-Chapter Rally (TCR).  A little before 2:00 PM we drove over to the AG Hall for the opening of the TCR.  The TCR is an annual joint event of SKP Chapters 6 (Michigan – Great Lakes), 36 (Ohio – Erie Shores), and 51 (Indiana – Hoosier Neighbor).  The TCR is usually held in late June on the same weekend as the ARRL Field Day ham radio operating event so we have never been able to attend.  Because Escapade was in Goshen, Indiana the TCR was scheduled at the same fairgrounds immediately following the national rally.

We are members of Chapter 6 and Butch/Fonda are members of Chapter 51 but neither of us registered for the TCR because we had planned on leaving today.  Since we were “stuck” here we figured we would make an appearance at the 2 PM opening of the rally and play it by ear from there.  It turned out that 2:00 PM was the beginning of registration; the opening social was scheduled for 4:00 PM with dinner at 5:30 PM.  The rally organizer said we could come to the social without registering, but wanted us to pay if we were staying for dinner.  That seemed reasonable and we indicated that we would return at 4:00 PM to be sociable for an hour.

We never made it back.  By the time 4 o’clock came around we were all tired and none of us felt like being sociable.  We eventually got hungry and went to the South Side Soda Shop (SSSS).  SSSS was featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (Triple-D).  It was appropriately quaint, the wait staff was very friendly, and the food was good and plentiful; exactly what you would expect from a place featured on Triple-D.  Linda and I had garden salads with a dressing we had never had before; oil and capers.  It was delicious; a new favorite.  We split a veggie sandwich, flat bread with pesto and hummus, and an order of curly fries.  The fries alone would have been a meal!

Butch bought a WiFi Ranger Mobile and Go2 combo at the Escapade.  Earlier in the day he attached the Mobile unit to a couple of pieces of PVC pipe which he used as a mast by securing them to the driver’s side mirror on their bus.  He ran the coax in through a window and hooked it all together.  After dinner I worked with him to get the WFR Mobile/Go2 configured while Fonda visited with Linda.

I have done a couple of posts this past week that brought up concepts from aviation because I used to fly airplanes and thought there were interesting analogies to be made.  Well, here’s another one:  RVing, much like flying, is weather dependent, and more so than you might realize.  We have had to be pulled out of two different fairgrounds at the conclusion of week-long rallies where we were parked on grass and it rained (hard) most of the week.  Unless you only stay at campgrounds with paved roads and sites this will eventually happen.  When threatening weather is in your path, you ground yourself; a high profile vehicle with an amateur driver does not belong on the road in high winds, blinding rain, or icy conditions any more than a private pilot should be in the air under those conditions.  An RV has no more business crossing a flooded road than a car or pedestrian does, and the reason you have a home that can be moved is so you can get it out of harm’s way; RVs are not designed to be driven into tornadic storms, hurricanes, or blizzards.

We really need to be on the road Sunday morning as we have company coming for dinner that evening, Linda has to go into the bakery on Monday and Tuesday, and someone is coming to the house on Wednesday to discuss our pole barn project.  But just because we need to leave doesn’t mean we will be able to.  That will be decided by Mother Nature.  If we cannot get the bus out on Sunday Linda will take the car and return home and I will return with the bus (and the casts) when I can.

 

2014/05/14 (W) The Mid-Point

The Escapees RV Club Escapade started on Monday afternoon and ends on Friday afternoon, so the middle of the event is sometime Wednesday afternoon.  Many attendees arrived on Sunday and many others, including us, on Saturday.  Most of the event staff, and many of the volunteers, arrived before that so today probably did not feel like the mid-point of the event to them, even though it was.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Linda still wasn’t feeling 100% so we skipped breakfast and went to the hospitality building for some coffee.  We like our own coffee better, but this coffee was included in the price of admission.  We took a stroll through the Marketplace (vendor area), which is in the two buildings adjacent to the hospitality area, and picked up a new regen tube and end caps for our portable water softener from RV-Water-Treatment.  We stopped to visit with Nick and a Terry Russell and renewed our Gypsy Journal subscription for two years.  As much as I love to read TGJ on newsprint, we switched our subscription to digital.  Printed materials are just more difficult to deal with in a mobile lifestyle.  Along with other informational and transactional activities we are trying to make our lives as paperless and mobile friendly as possible.

Our photo work continued even as the rains returned and intensified.  We tried to drop in on every seminar and the crafters to get photos.  Today was the Ladies Tea & Social, and some of the Ladies wore their Red Hats.  We attended the Ham Radio seminar, put on by Tom Abernathy (W3TOM), and Nick Russell’s seminar on Boondocking and off-the-grid RVing.  I got a few photos of the Ham-O-Rama (talent show) dress rehearsal while Linda went back to our coach to get some things.  As busy as we are, we always take time to smell the flowers and admire their beauty.