2015/04/21 (T) Back to Twelve Mile, IN
The outside air temperature dropped into the 30’s (F) last night and the air temperature in the coach fell to 60, so when I got up this morning I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system to take the chill off. We eventually got up, got dressed, and walked across to Small Town Brew to get a couple of cups of coffee and chat with owner Lisa Paul and her friend/neighbor, Ashley, who helps her run the coffee shop. Both of them remembered both of us, which was nice.
It’s interesting sitting in a small town coffee shop, where everyone is a friend or relative, and just listening to the conversation. We are outsiders her, of course, strangers to most of the folks who drop in, but everyone is nice to us. Some are curious about who we are, and where we are from, but rarely ask why we are there, in this little coffee shop in this little town, surrounded by corn fields. Of course, we usually mention that we are friends of Butch and Fonda, so that probably answers whatever questions they may have had.
We eventually returned to our coach and had breakfast. We tried connecting our WiFiRanger to Butch and Fonda’s Wi-Fi router yesterday and it was able to connect and obtain an IP address but the data transfer rate was so slow that web pages would not load and e-mail would not download before timing out. I turned our Verizon Mi-Fi on and we had a very weak but usable signal, so I connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi and we were able to do the few things we needed to do online. We then went in the house to let Butch and Fonda know we were awake and see what they were up to.
Butch’s brother, John, and his nephew, Brock, showed up and helped Butch with the driver side front wheel assembly on Butch and Fonda’s MC-9 bus. The tire/wheel was off when we arrived yesterday and I learned that Butch is replacing the hub bearings and seals, installing an automatic slack adjuster for the brake, and replacing the brake pads. It looked like quite a job with some large, heavy parts, so I did my part by staying out of the way. I also took a few pictures at Butch’s suggestion. He does not want to write articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, but he has been interested in having me write articles about projects on his bus.
Linda spent some time working with Fonda’s new sewing machine that she got while they were in Quartzsite, Arizona. It is a little smaller than a regular sewing machine, only weighs 13 pounds, and only cost about $130. Linda gave her sewing machine to her sister many years ago but now that she is retired she is thinking that it might be nice to have one for mending tasks or projects, such as new privacy curtains for the bus.
Butch got a catalog recently from Crimp Supply in Royal Oak, Michigan, which is not at far from our house. I glanced through it last night and it contains a lot of specialized parts that would be useful to a ham radio hobbyist or someone converting a bus into a motorhome. I called and requested a catalog and had a nice chat with Debbie. She was willing to provide me with additional catalogs that I can give to members of GLCC and CCO at the Back-to-the-Bricks and/or Surplus & Salvage per allies in August and September respectively. She was also willing to show up in person and give a brief presentation on her company and hand out the catalogs. Cool.
Brock had to leave after which Butch and John decided to go to the shooting range along with a third guy whose name I did not get. I went along to see the range and watch what they were doing. Butch had home-brewed some shotgun shells for his Ruger revolver and wanted to test them. They caused the revolving chamber to jam so they will require some additional work. John had a new semi-automatic pistol and wanted to see how it handled. He also had ammunition he had loaded with bullets he had cast and wanted to test fire them.
I was offered the opportunity to shoot but declined. I have never handled a pistol and it would have been a waste of good ammunition. I did take a class in rifle marksmanship while I was at the University of Missouri – Columbia many years ago. I was in the Air Force R.O.T.C. Program at the time and thought I should know something about how to handle a firearm. Learning to handle a pistol correctly would have been more relevant, but I do not recall a course being offered for that. I bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle at that time, and I still have it. It’s a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle designed to look like an M-1 carbine and features a 10-round rotary clip that is flush to the bottom of the stock when inserted. I was only interested in shooting at paper targets so I added a scope to it. It is safely tucked away with a trigger lock on it, but I have not fired it in many, many years. I should probably bring it to Twelve Mile the next time we come down, let Butch inspect and clean it properly, and take it to the range just for grins and giggles.
John and the other guy went back to Logansport from the range. When Butch and I got back to the house he continued working on the driver side front wheel of their bus. I helped a little, but mostly by taking photographs for a possible future article. After putting tools and parts away we sat and relaxed for a while and then all of us went to Logansport for dinner at Pizza Hut. It was 8:45 PM by the time we got back so everyone said “good night” and turned in for the evening.
2015/04/22 (W) Chillin’ in Twelve Mile
Yesterday looked and felt more like winter than spring with gray, cloudy skies and blustery, cold winds. The temperature overnight dropped into the mid-30s but we were toasty warm under blankets with our electric heating pad turned on. I got up at 7:30 AM and turned on the thermostats. The temperature in the kitchen was reading 63 degrees F but the temperature by the dashboard was only 53. The Aqua-Hot has performed very well since I rebuilt the blower bearings and quickly brought the temperature in the coach up to 70 degrees F.
We put on our sweats and walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whomever else might be there. Three local guys were enjoying their morning brew when we arrived. They eventually left and were replaced by others. Most of the patrons seemed to be retired or semi-retired farmers. One fellow, Lee, chatted with us at length about a canvas covered hoop barn he put up. It was constructed using laminated wood hoops rather than steel, was 30′ wide by 70′ long and cost about $4,000 15 years ago, although I was not clear whether that included the 4-foot high poured concrete walls. He already owned concrete forms and the heavy equipment that one finds on farms, so he was able to do a lot of the work himself without renting equipment or hiring contractors. Still, it has to be the lowest cost way to create a structure for getting our bus out of the weather and out of sight. It is unknown, however, whether the Township and County would let us to put it up.
Butch left at 8:30 AM for medical appointments in Logansport and Fonda came over at 10:45 AM to gather up Linda for a girl’s day out. Linda wanted to go to McClure’s Apple Orchard on US-31 between IN-16 and US-24. Although it is very close to Twelve Mile Fonda had never been there. They were then headed to Peru. Although it is the same distance from Twelve Mile as Logansport and Rochester it is the city that Butch and Fonda visit the least. Peru’s claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Cole Porter and Emmet Kelly and was the winter home of several circuses many, many years ago. I believe there is a circus museum there that Nick Russell wrote about in the Gypsy Journal.
With no bus project or social interactions I settled in to work on my blog and await everyone’s return. It started out sunny this morning but by 11 AM was thickly clouded over and looking wintery with blustery winds. The only bus project I had in mind to do today was to pull out the chassis batter tray, check the circuit breakers, disconnect the batteries, swap the upper 12 V pair with the lower 12 V pair and reconnect them. It was not something I wanted to do alone and I did not have to do it today, especially under cool, windy, overcast conditions, so I ended up not doing it.
Linda and Fonda eventually returned, having first gone to the Walmart in Logansport. Linda picked up some hummus and Snyder’s sourdough pretzels so we snacked on those for lunch. Linda then hung out with Fonda while I continued to work in blog posts. Butch finally returned from his medical appointments and busied himself with something. Whatever it was, he was not outside working on their bus and neither was I. I managed to get the post for April 1 – 3, 2015 uploaded to our blog.
Linda and Fonda developed a plan for dinner. Fonda made a nice salad and baked a loaf of par-baked bread that we got from Marilyn. Linda made black beans and rice and prepared a mix of fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert. Linda and I each had a glass of Franzia Red Sangria. After taking all of dirty serving containers back to our coach we returned to the house to visit a bit longer and finally returned to our coach just after 9 PM. That left me enough time to pull together the posts for April 4 – 6 and upload it before turning in for the night.
2015/04/23 (R) Return to Michigan
I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7 and put on my sweats. The Aqua-Hot was already on so I turned up the thermostats and turned on the engine pre-heat loop. I also turned on the Broan cube heater and pointed it into the cockpit as the temperature on the dashboard was only 50 degrees F. I walked over to Small Town Brew, got a cup of coffee, and said “so long for now” to owner Lisa Paul. Linda was still asleep when I got back so I fixed a couple slices of toast for my breakfast, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and settled in to take care of a few e-mails. Linda finally got up and, as I suspected, had not slept well last night. She had some toast and orange juice but had no interest in coffee, a strong indicator of just how tired she was and not feeling completely well.
When she was done with the toaster I turned the cube heater off and turned the electric block heater on. The overnight low temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 20’s and starting the big Detroit Diesel at that temperature is hard on the engine so I wanted it nice and warm before I cranked it over.
Butch had an appointment with an ophthalmologist in Indianapolis around noon and had some other things to do down that way as long as they were there so he and Fonda planned to leave by 9 AM. He came to our bus just before 9 AM to let us know they were close to leaving and that he put an air hose out by the automotive bay so I could fill the front tires on the bus if needed. Based on the readings from our TireTraker TPMS, however, no adjustment was needed.
We planned to leave sometime after they did but not later than 10 AM. The main reason for not leaving sooner was to give us time to digest our breakfast, but the other reason was our relatively short drive today to Camp Turkeyville, an RV park on I-69 just north of I-94. This will be the first time I have been in Michigan, which I certainly consider home, since we left on November 30, 2014. Turkeyville is only 80 miles from our house, but we will have a full hookup site so we can dump our waste tanks tomorrow morning and not need to use them on the final short drive to the house.
We started getting ready to leave around 9:45 AM. I shut off the block heater, put Butch’s air hose away, and then took care of the chassis batteries, auxiliary air, and shorepower. The DD fired right up and I switched it to high idle while it built air pressure. As soon as the chassis was at ride height and the air dryer purged I pulled onto IN-16 pointing eastbound and pulled into the curb/parking lane. That was around 10 AM. I left the engine idling while Linda pulled the car up behind the bus. By the time we hooked up the car for towing, checked the lights, and pulled away it was closer to 10:20. I noted that the time was 10:30 AM EDT as we pulled onto US-31 N from IN-16 E.
Traffic was light and we had an easy run up US-31 to US-20 except for the 15-20 MPH crosswind from the WNW. I also had a very cold breeze blowing into the cockpit by my feet and had to turn the heat up to stay comfortable. We were an hour into our trip when I finally realized that I had not opened the air supply valve for the shutters on the two front house air-conditioner condensers which are installed in what is normally the spare tire bay. Those shutters are held open by a spring and held closed by air pressure. When they are open air can easily find its way into the cockpit. There is also a mechanical damper that is supposed to regulate fresh air flow to the cockpit, or cut it off completely, but the flexible actuator cable broke some time ago and the damper/cable are difficult to access so it has not been repaired. Either the cable broke with the damper in the closed position or I taped some sort of cover over the air inlet once upon a time because once I closed the shutters for the A-C compressors I no longer had cold air coming in by my feet.
Traffic was heavier on US-20 eastbound but it always is as it runs just south of South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, and a bit north of Goshen. It is still a limited access highway until east of Elkhart, so it moved along up to that point. There was one stretch between there and Middlebury where major construction was taking place, but we got through that easily enough. After that it was a nice, rolling, 2-lane highway and we rolled along at 55 MPH except for the occasional town on intersection. We always enjoy driving through this part of Indiana.
We turned off of US-20 onto I-69 N, crossed into Michigan at 12:53 PM EDT, and pulled into the Michigan Welcome Center five minutes later. We only had 37 more miles to our destination but we both needed a short stretch break and I wanted to open the air valve for the A-C shutters, which is in the bay under the driver’s seat. We resumed our trip and exited I-69 at exit 42 around 1:45 PM, crossed over the highway, and traveled the 500 yards to the Camp Turkeyville entrance. We followed the long, wide, winding entrance road and stopped at the office where Linda got us registered. They put us in a 50A full hookup pull-through site with easy access that was long enough for us to leave the car hooked up for towing.
We went through our usual arrival routine and then Linda fixed a light lunch of French Country Vegetable Soup and a tofu hotdog on pita bread with mustard and relish. She also made a pot of coffee. We connected our WiFiRanger to the RV Park Wi-Fi system but did not seem to be able to move any data so we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it.
Linda spent the afternoon reading a book on her iPad and I mostly worked on my blog post for April 7, 8, and 9. I had 14 photos for that post but inserted them into the post rather than put them in a WP image gallery. I logged into our personal WordPress site, installed WordPress 4.2, and then installed updates to plugins and themes. Once that was done I uploaded the blog post and uploaded/captioned/inserted the photos and generated the tags. I clicked the “Publish” button about 7:10 PM.
Linda put dinner on the table about 10 after I finished working. She made a nice tofu scramble, a dish that vaguely resembles scrambled eggs, and served it with toast and jam, a small glass of juice, and black seedless grapes.
I thought about working on my blog post for April 10th, as it is the last one for which I have photos, but I was too tired to get involved in that tonight. We pointed our front OTA TV towards Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, found the local CBS station, and watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory and whatever else was one. We caught some local weather and decided to enable the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot, turn the thermostats on, and set the temperatures for 60 degrees F. The overnight low temperature was forecast to be 27 and it was already 29 when we went to bed. Welcome to Michigan in late April.
2015/04/24 (F) Touchdown
I awoke at 6:30 AM to an outside temperature of 27 degrees F. Our coach has several ways it can be heated if we are plugged into adequate electrical power, including three electric toe-kick heaters. I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and electric heating element last night before going to bed and left the living room and bathroom thermostats turned on with the temperature dialed back to just under 60 degrees. I also turned on the Broan cube heater, dialed back the thermostat, and set in on the step to blow into the cockpit.
I got up at 7:15 AM and put on my sweats. It was 60 degrees F on the kitchen counter, but the refrigerator adds some heat mid-coach. The thermometer on the dashboard read 53. I turned the thermostats up to 68 and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop. I also turned on the front electric toe-kick heater. I made coffee and then turned on the electric block heater for the engine. I checked e-mail and monitored our amperage while I waited for the coach to warm up and for Linda to get up. We were drawing about 30 A on Leg 1 and 20 A on Leg 2. On a true “50 A” RV electrical service with a main circuit breaker that functions correctly we can safely draw 40 Amps on each leg, so our usage was not going to trip any breakers.
By 10 AM the temperature was up to 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and it’s was delightfully cozy in the rig. I got a call from Michele Henry at Phoenix Paint in response to an e-mail I sent her yesterday and talked to her for 15 minutes. We had planned on a 10:30 AM departure but by the time I connected the sewer hose, dumped the waste tanks, and put the hose away it was 10:45. We had the bus and car ready to travel by 11AM and pulled out of our site. We had to wait for a few minutes until someone moved a 5th wheel which they had temporarily parked in the middle of a two-way road while waiting to get into their site. We finally made our way out of Camp Turkeyville and pulled onto I-69 N at 11:13 AM.
We had an easy run to our house and our wheels “touched down” on our driveway at 12:45 PM. Even the dirt roads for the last two miles of our trip were in reasonably good shape, which made for a nicer homecoming. We opened the house, put the cats in their carriers, and took them inside. I got the bus plugged in and the air shut off while Linda put the batteries back in the water softener and sanitizer and turned the well pump on. I turned the gas back on for the kitchen and fireplace and then set all of the thermostats up to 65 degrees F. We unloaded a few things from the bus and then had lunch, after which I sent text messages to both of our children and to Chuck Spera to let them know we were home.
After lunch we unhooked the car from the bus and continued unloading the bus but did not get everything taken off. I was tired and took a long nap, only getting up when Linda told me it was time for dinner. We had a Daiya Mushroom and Garlic pizza. We have used Daiya vegan cheese for a while but did not know they made pizza products until we saw them at the Dierbergs Market in Edwardsville, Illinois. It had a thin, crispy, rice flour crust (gluten-free), lots of garlic and cheese (of course), and was very tasty. I wish we could buy them near our house.
After dinner I called Butch to let him know we made it home safe and without any new or reoccurring bus issues. He had reassembled the driver side steer wheel and discovered that the new brake drums he got from MCI some time ago are the wrong ones, so he is going to have to track down the correct ones next week.
2015/04/25 (S) Return to Regular
Do you remember when OTA TV stations used to break in to programs with special news bulletins or emergency alert tests? At the conclusion of such interruptions the announcer would say “we now return you to your regular programming.” Having spent most of 61 years living in stationary dwellings we still consider being back at our house to be the baseline for our regular lives. The last two years, however, we have spent half of the year, more or less, living in our converted motorcoach. That fact, combined with the fact that we moved to a new-to-us house just before we started our extended traveling, has altered our perception of what constitutes “regular.” All we know for sure is that living this dual lifestyle is our new normal and we like it.
Whether living at home or in the bus we have routines. Part of our “at home” routine is Saturday morning breakfast with our friends from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) and that is how we started our day. We took our usual route to South Lyon and were surprised by the extent of the construction work at the I-96 and US-23 interchange. We knew this interchange was scheduled to be rebuilt starting this year but as of March 1st, when Linda last drove through there, work had not started. A lot has happened since then, and from the look of things this is going to be a BIG project.
There were a LOT of people at breakfast, 24 by Linda’s count. It was good to see our friends and ease back into ham radio talk. The club president, Harvey Carter (AC8NO), had the personalized club jackets we ordered from Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon over the winter so we got those from him after we were all done eating. The jackets are dark blue with fleece lining and yellow embroidery that looks very sharp. The left breast says “South Lyon Area” on top and “Amateur Radio Club” underneath. On the right breast is our first name (in script) on top and our call sign underneath in block letters.
We stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home to pick up a gift for grand-daughter Katie and found two books that we thought would interest her. One was on rocks and gems and the other was on snakes, both of which are interesting to Katie. Both are also an integral part of the desert southwest where we spent the winter.
When we got home I set about the tasks of moving various pieces of technology from the entrance foyer to my basement ham shack/office, reconnecting it to power and our network, and starting it up. I started up our Linux box but the video driver would not “catch” so I shut it down and restarted it in Windows 2000 Pro, updated the es|et nod32 anti-virus database, and installed three Microsoft updates. I checked e-mail on my primary laptop, responded to a couple, and then installed updates on all of the websites I manage. WordPress just released version 4.2 and each new release triggers a flurry of plug-in and theme updates.
Our daughter, Meghan, had arranged for us to come over mid-afternoon to visit and have dinner without the bother and fuss of fixing a big meal. Minn, the female cat, hid immediately but Inches, the male cat, hung around for a while. Grand-daughter Katie is working at Pizza House in Ann Arbor where he dad, Chris, has been the general manager for a long time, but she got off work and arrived just after us followed by Chris, who had run out to pick up dinner at Seva.
Our son, Brendan, daughter-in-law Shawna, and grand-daughter Madeline showed up a little later, and Inches promptly disappeared. Madeline is very sweet and interacts with her two kitties, Gus and Iggy, just fine but our cats, and Meghan’s/Chris’s cats, disappear whenever she comes to visit. They are just not used to the size, motions, and sounds of a 28 month old.
Seva is a vegetarian restaurant that has been a staple of the Ann Arbor restaurant scene for many years but recently moved out of downtown to a location on the far west side of Ann Arbor. While not just around the corner from Chris and Meghan’s house it is much closer, and easier to get to, than driving into downtown. Many of their menu items are vegan, or can be made vegan, and that is mostly what they ordered. We had a nice visit with excellent appetizers and main dishes, a dozen choices in all, and a nice Riesling wine from Washington State.
After appetizers we distributed the gifts we had picked up for everyone. Besides Katie’s books Madeline got a “Dr. Seuss” book about deserts and a t-shirt from Marilyn with a design on the front that changes color in the sunlight. Both of our children, who kept an eye on our house for us over the winter and took in our mail, got the following: A bottle of Red Chile Wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico; a bouquet of pequin chiles from Hatch Chile Sales in Hatch, New Mexico; a box of Prickly Pear Cactus jellied candies and a jar of Prickly Pear Cactus jelly from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona; a bag of Green Chile Pistachios from Eagle Ranch (Heart of the Desert) in Alamogordo, New Mexico; a two box set of olive oil and peach balsamic vinegar glaze from Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona; and a non-stick grilling mat from the “Big Tent” RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona. We appreciate what they do when we are away which would be more complicated for us without their assistance.
We enjoy looking for gifts that are unique to the areas we visit and tend to limit ourselves to items that are consumable so no one has to find room to store or display something, at least not for very long. We saw many wonderful art and craft objects this winter but they present a special challenge beyond simply getting them home. We are no longer collecting “things,” as we already cannot display or store the stuff we have, and our children are in somewhat the same situation (which is why we still have a lot of stuff instead of them having it).
Then there is the matter of taste. Both children have their own taste in art and have carefully arranged items for display on their walls and shelves. As much as we might like something, and think someone else might like it, buying art for other people is fraught with peril because there is an implied expectation that it will be displayed. If it is displayed but the recipient does do not like it then the gift is intrusive. If it is not displayed the giver is disappointed and potentially offended. Better to stay clear of all that by avoiding surprise gifts. The exception is if we know they are looking for something in particular and we come across one. In that case it is a simple matter to take a photo with one of our smartphones and message them to see if they want it, making it clear that “no” is an acceptable answer.
Madeline goes to bed at 8 PM so she left (with her parents) at 7 PM. Both Minn and Inches came out shortly thereafter to have a bite to eat and get the attention they had missed for the last four hours, We stuck around for another hour which gave us just enough time to get home before it got really dark. Brendan and Shawna had kept/used Linda’s Honda Civic all winter. They came in two cars and went home in one so that Linda could get the Civic back to our house. There is a chance that she will have to go into the bakery a day or two this week and I do not like be without transportation, especially when we have a lot going on.
We sat in the living room for an hour reading and relaxing with our favorite iPad apps/games but without the benefit of our natural gas fireplace logs. I lit them when we got home and they operated for about 60 seconds and then shut off and would not relight. I turned the pilot flame off and will deal with that tomorrow. I went to bed, read for a while longer, and then went to sleep.