Tag Archives: Darin Hathaway (Aqua-Hot)

2015/09/08 (T) Polyurethane

I was awakened at 6:30 AM by heavy rain.  I was not sleeping comfortably and had to get up anyway, so I put on my lightweight robe and slippers and took my iPad to the living room.  Naturally the cats wanted to be fed so I took care of that and then settled in to put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post.  The rain lasted for about 20 minutes.  I e-mailed the post to myself at 7:15.  Linda got up at 7:30 AM so I made coffee but we deferred breakfast until later.

I was thinking about the house battery voltage issues Butch was having and the role of the Vanner battery equalizer in his (and our) house battery system.  I did another Google search on “battery equalizer …”, and selected “batter equalizer circuit” from the list.  One of the listings was for the original patent application by James D. Sullivan as assigned to Vanner, Inc. ( http://www.google.com/patents/US4479083 ).  (I found it interesting that Google has a special directory for patents.)  As I expected, it is a DC-to-DC converter and in its most common configuration it is designed to take charge from the upper portion of a series battery pack and supply it to the lower part of such a pack or to any loads connected across just the lower bank.

One of its features is that it looks at the voltage across the entire battery pack and uses a voltage divider network (two resistors in series) to generate a reference voltage that is compared to the voltage across the lower bank.  Differences as small as 0.01 volts result in the transfer of charge from the upper to the lower bank when the lower bank has the lower voltage.  As implemented for use with buses and other vehicles that have 24/12 dual voltage DC electrical systems the divider network consists of two equal resistors and the reference voltage is 1/2 the overall battery pack voltage.  The design can “balance” other configurations, in which the “upper” and “lower” banks do not have the same voltage, by changing the divider resistors to have the correct ratio.  I will call Butch again this evening to report what I found and see how things stand with them in general.

When we had consumed a sufficient amount of coffee to be alert enough to work intelligently and safely we went to the garage to finish assembling the left plenum/support box for the built-in sofa.  I forced mating pieces into alignment while Linda drove in the screws.  These parts dry fit perfectly so this should not have been a problem.  I blame the slight misalignment on the corner clamps that I used.  I was reminded, once again, that cheap tools are almost never a bargain.

We had breakfast at 8:30 AM; homemade granola with leftover mixed berries.  We also spilt a banana that was getting past ripe.  As we were finishing our meal I got a call from Steven Weber at Martin Spring with another question on the Webasto system in the Prevost Bus Conversion he is servicing.  He had isolated a cracked fuel pipe and needed to order a replacement.  I suggested Sure Marine Service but also mentioned Lloyd DeGerald and Darin Hathaway.

Linda needed to spend some time at her desk preparing for a 1 PM meeting with the I.T. department at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor so I took a shower and got dressed to work.  I gathered up the laundry, started a load, and then spent some time in the garage sanding pieces of the built-in sofa while Linda showered and got dressed for her meeting.  She planned to leave at 11:45 AM.  I left at 11:30 and went to Lowe’s to buy tack cloth.

Tack cloth is like sticky cheesecloth and is probably called that because it is “tacky” to the touch.  It is used to remove sawdust, drywall dust, and other little tiny particles from surfaces such as sanded wood just prior to the application of finishes.  While I was there I looked at inline water separators and inline oilers for use with air compressors supplying air to pneumatic tools.  I also looked at copper fittings to see if they had 90 degree elbows that I could use to modify the Aqua-Hot coolant lines that feed the two front fan-coil hear-exchangers.

Linda left before I got home.  I moved the laundry to the dryer and went back to the garage to work.  I was contemplating what I wanted to do next when Keith pulled up in his truck and trailer.  I chose to skip having the lawn mowed this week which will help Keith get the rest of his clients taken care of in his shortened 4-day workweek.  The grass has grown since last Monday but not that much and is still short and brown in places.  With rain in the forecast today, tomorrow, and Thursday giving it another week should be good for it.  I showed him the floor in the bus before he left.

I returned to the bus project and realized that I needed to stain the underside of the built-in sofa shelf as part of it might be visible through the notch in the vertical front panel at the floor.  As long as I was staining that I also stained the tops of the plenum/support boxes so they would blend with the two stationary pieces at either end of the seat.

With the staining done I came inside to make a few phone calls.  The first one was to Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct to check on the details of the Corian countertop for the custom desk.  Josh said the Corian normally comes bonded to plywood which protects it from cracking in shipment.  I want to go ahead and cut the 3/4″ plywood top that will join the two pedestals together.  I also wanted to know if his Corian vendor could come out on the afternoon of the 14th to measure and possibly install the countertop by the end of the week.  His vendor turns out to be an Amish craftsman who does not “come out and measure” or “come back and install.”  Josh said he would check with the vendor to see if he would use my plywood base and also see if he had the Sandstone product in stock.

My next call was to Pat Lintner to check on dinner plans for the upcoming GLCC Surplus and Salvage rally.  I need to coordinate with Crimp Supply to have them provide catalogs for the attendees and perhaps speak to the group before dinner.  I got his answering machine and left a message.

My third call was to Jim Miteff (N8KUE) returning his call/message from earlier.  We had a long chat about RVing and Prevost bus conversions.  It’s a big topic and I sometimes forget that I have spent the last 10 years learning about it.  When I think back to the beginning of this adventure, however, I recall how exciting yet overwhelming it was initially.  I see Jim in the same place, but he is a very quick study and professional researcher so he will get past the overwhelming part fairly quickly.

While I was talking to Jim I heard a loud bang and then another one.  They sounded like it had come from within the house.  After the second one I got up to investigate.  As I peeked out the front door a Consumer’s Energy truck was backing out of the driveway.  I flagged the driver down and asked what was up.  He said they had detected a leak and that he had just fixed it.  I presumed it was at our meter but he wasn’t any more specific than that.  I thought it was odd that he did not knock on the door first to let me know he was on site, but I guess they have the right to service their infrastructure.  I have smelled gas on that side of the house occasionally ever since they installed it but dismissed it as a “purge valve” doing its thing.  We had the same issue at the old house and they kept telling me it was a “vent” mechanism on the meter.  I never belief that, but whatever.

I wrapped up my call with Jim, put in another load of laundry, and returned to the garage to apply polyurethane to as much of the built-in sofa pieces as I could.  Each piece has to be done in two steps and requires two coats, so that’s four applications that will have to spread out over a couple of days.

There wasn’t much else I could do, and I did not feel like working at my desk, so I hung up the dry laundry and then worked on my iPad in the living room.  Linda had made an appointment with Renee to have her hair cut at 4:30 PM.  She stopped at Meijer’s on the way home and finally arrived at 5:45 PM.  I went back to the garage at 6 PM and applied another coat of polyurethane.

Linda bought an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza for dinner and made a nice salad to go with it.  I had some more of the Leelanau Cellars Apricot wine and we had the last two vegan cupcakes for dessert.  I tried calling Butch twice but his phone was either off or out of range.  I called Pat Lintner again and this time he was home.  Saturday dinner will be at a restaurant so that will not be a good time for Crimp Supply to talk to the rally attendees and pass out catalogs.  I will call them tomorrow and see what I can arrange.

I headed back to the garage yet again, applied polyurethane to all the surfaces that had not yet been coated, put the brush in the soapy water, sealed up the can, and closed up the garage.  I think I have just enough polyurethane left to put one more coat on the top surface of the shelf.  I plan to do that in the morning before I start anything else.

On the drive home Linda heard a weather forecast that thunderstorms were headed our way this evening with up to 1″ of rain, strong wind, and possibly small hail.  Linda headed off to bed at 8 PM to watch NCIS and I caught the last half of the show.  I turned the channel to Create on Detroit PBS and watched A Chef’s Life, a series about a wife and husband who run the Chef & The Farmer restaurant in eastern North Carolina, and then turned the TV off.

I checked the weather with my iPad and it appeared that system had fallen apart although there was still a reduced chance of scattered thunderstorms at 11 PM and again from 2 to 4 AM.  I turned the light out at 10:30 PM.


2015/06/05 (F) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 3)

Today was day 3 of the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2015 rally.  We were up at 7 AM after a poor night’s sleep in which the trains seemed to be almost continuous and the engineers seemed to leave their horns on for prolonged periods of time rather than just tooting them.  We were at breakfast before 7:30 AM and had coffee while conversing at length with our friends from GLCC.  Unlike the full breakfast that was included as part of the rally yesterday, today’s breakfast was simply coffee and donuts.  The day’s rally activities got started at 9 AM so everyone went their own separate way at that time.

Linda and I went back to our coach for a while.  We got word from our daughter that our step grand-daughter, Katie, woke up very ill this morning with a temperature of 103 degree F and unable to keep food down.  When Linda headed to the 9:45 AM presentation on the FMCAssist program I stopped in one of the vendor buildings to pick up a receipt from Daryl Lawrence and chat with Josh Leach from Coach Supply Direct about our interior remodeling project.  I then returned our GLCC sign to the office and went back to our coach.

The luncheon was at 11:15 AM, which seemed a bit early, but we walked over with our Canadian friends from our GLCC chapter and got in line.  As usual we could not eat most of the food (by our choice) but we were able to make tomato and onion sandwiches using hamburger buns.  Our daughter contacted Linda during lunch to let us know that Katie’s mom was taking her to the emergency room and we did not need to travel home in the car as Katie would probably not be attending her high school graduation this evening or the family dinner planned for afterwards.  Although that greatly simplified our day we were disappointed for Katie and concerned that she get better very soon.

After lunch we went back to talk to Josh some more.  Darin Hathaway was still out on Aqua-Hot service calls but things were so slow in the vendor area that Josh was willing to step away from his booth for a little while and bring his Corian samples box to our coach.  It turned out that the Sandstone color/pattern was a perfect match to our existing kitchen counter.  We do not always have that kind of good fortune when working on our 24 year old bus conversion.

We talked about chairs and Josh suggested that a Flexsteel Class C captain’s chair (model 529) might be a better choice for our dining/work table grouping than the barrel chairs we thought we wanted.  The 529 is only 24 inches wide (to the outside of the arms) and can be mounted on a bolt down swivel/slide base with a seatbelt bar.  It has a higher back than the barrel chairs but appears to be better proportioned for our space.  The higher back would also be more supportive and the back does recline, so it would be adjustable the extent we have room.

We also talked about the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chair, with and without a footrest, for the passenger and driver seats respectively.  Josh looked at the motorized bases for both chairs and thought they could be reused.  That would be nice if true as it would save us cost and potentially simplify the installation.  We still like the Lambright Havana Bonkers cloth fabric but are wondering if it might be too dark to use on all of the furniture.  He gave us the name and phone number of A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart and said that they could make our custom sofa cushions and were the best upholsterers he has worked with.  We will not have time to call them until Monday.

Last, but not least, Josh took measurements of all of our windows (except the windshields and cockpit windows) for MCD duo-shades.  While potentially not as attractive as the Specialty Window Coverings (SWC) pleated day-night shades we currently have they would probably work better mechanically and be more effective in blocking light while affording us a view.  We will almost certainly replace the shades in the bedroom as one of them is already broken.  Whether we do the others will depend, at least partially, on cost but the quality of the design and manufacturing is very low and many of the metal pieces are actually bowed and have been since the day they were installed.  In retrospect we should never have accepted them.

We spent the afternoon in/near our coach reading, writing, and paying attention to our cats.  The Chapter Officers and Vendor’s Reception started at 4:15 PM.  We walked over with Bill and Karen Gerrie who are officers in the Ontario Overlanders chapter.  We had a sampling of items from the fresh fruit and relish trays.  Linda had the Franzia Moscato and I had the Franzia Refreshingly Red wine.  While waiting in line we finally made the acquaintance of Gaye Young, the chairperson of the national education committee, and her husband Jerry.  Gaye is a candidate for FMCA national secretary.  The election will be held at the national convention in Madison, Wisconsin at the end of July.

We went back to our motorcoach for a while and then returned to Building A to hear The Marlins.  A group of four brothers, The Marlins gave a high energy 90 minute performance of an eclectic mix of popular music from the last 75 years.  Back at our coach several of us stood outside talking until it got cool and dark.  Vicki and Linda took down the American and Canadian flags and folded them.  Linda then went in for the evening while I remained outside talking to Mark Lovegreen, who owns the highly modified MCI MC-8 parked next to us with the Laughing Raven Touring Co. markings.  Mark is from Alaska and we continued our conversation for quite a while talking about buses and travel.  It finally got chilly enough that we both retired to our respective coaches, although Mark was probably just hitting his comfort zone.  I worked for a while on this post and then went to bed.


2015/05/18 (M) Ceramic Floor Tile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/08/31(N) By Any Other Name

My first task after breakfast was to sand drywall compound and apply the next coat where needed.  I’m down to touch up work in most spots and so I am trying to apply very thin layers with feathered edges that will dry quickly and require minimal sanding.  The old A-C opening in the library, however, is taking many, many overlapping layers.  Fortunately I can finish that at my leisure as Darryll is not working in that location.  Since he just this week installed the two pieces of duct in the lower part of the wall between the garage and the library I am still building up drywall compound to fill the irregular and, in places, large gaps on the garage side.  Unfortunately, the thicker compound takes longer to dry and watching drywall compound dry is worse than watching paint dry as it’s even slower.  The trick is to have something else to do while I wait.  Fortunately, I have lots to do.

I had some e-mail correspondence on Friday with the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, Gary Hall, whose name turns out to actually be Gary Hatt.  He had his reasons for not using his real name when he first took over BCM, which he explained and which made good sense.  BCM is running my article on Suncoast Designers in the August 2014 issue and he sent me a Dropbox link to the draft.  It looks like another really good issue, but is again coming out a month late.  Ever since the editor had a minor heart attack in early May they have been a month behind.  It appears that they will be doing an article on spin-on oil filters in the October issue and will also use my article on the Spinner II centrifugal oil cleaner that Joe and I installed a year and half ago.  I only have one other article ready for them to use, so I guess I need to get busy and write some new ones.

When I am not working on the house, the yard, or the bus, there’s always computer work to be done.  I have multiple projects to work on, but I also like to relax on a pleasant day and catch up on reading the blogs and RV magazines that I follow.  It was very pleasant today so we turned off the air-conditioning, opened up the house, and sat on the back deck reading and watching wildlife.  I addition to our resident American Red Squirrel we were treated to a visit by three Sandhill Cranes.  The squirrel has been busy for most of the month harvesting and stockpiling pine cones in what we presume is a midden under a cluster of very large fir trees northwest of the house.  The cranes spent a long time wandering around the back yard foraging.  We sat quietly and watched them and they came closer to the house than usual so we got a very good look at them.  They are large and magnificent.

I finally decided to continue editing the rough drafts of my blog posts for this month and get them ready to upload.  I still need to select photographs to go with some of the posts, or to put in separate gallery posts, but I finally uploaded the tree photos I took on the 21st to our Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Paul at Detroit Tree Recycling.

I spent some time online searching for sources of supply for an ignition coil for our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  I can get one from Darin, but he quoted me MSRP and it is an expensive part.  I wasn’t having much luck so I called Butch mid-evening to discuss the situation.  He suggested that I hold off on getting a new ignition coil until I got the coach to his place and we were able to look at it more carefully.  He said I should have had white smoke and a definite smell from the atomized but unburned diesel fuel.  I didn’t which made him wonder if the problem might be fuel delivery rather than ignition spark.  Good advice, as always.  I don’t know enough about the control circuitry on the Aqua-Hot (it’s actually a Webasto inside) to know how the operation of the spark and fuel solenoid might be intertwined.  I have the manuals, but I have not had time to dig into them.  Besides, I have enough other things to work on right now that I am willing to let this one go for a few more weeks.


2014/08/29 (F) Sand Mud Press

Before breakfast this morning I tried to start the Aqua-Hot (hydronic heating system) in our converted coach, but the burner would not ignite.  We had the same problem back on June 9th when Darin Hathaway of Hydronic Heating Specialists serviced the unit while we were at Elkhart Campground waiting to go to the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen.  Darin suspected a bad coil but managed to jiggle a few wires and got it to work.  It started several times in a row, so we decided not to spend the money for a new coil at that time.  I hoped then the decision wasn’t a mistake, but it looks like perhaps it was.  I will try to find some time over the next few days to jiggle some more wires and see if anything comes of it.  I recall Darin saying the ignition coils were expensive, so I don’t want to replace ours if it is not actually broken.

For breakfast we had some of the vegan muffins that Linda made yesterday.  They were yummy.  We took a little time to revisit our options for a white, free-standing, double oven, 5-burner, gas range with a convection feature in at least one of the ovens but did not come to any decision regarding purchasing a new one.  Linda made a grocery list and then went to the Howell library to see what Consumer’s Reports had to say about gas ranges before stopping at Meijer’s.

While Linda was gone I placed follow-up calls to Heights Tower Systems and Bratcher Electric to check on the status of their pending quotes and then e-mailed Darin about the Aqua-Hot.  I then got to work in the garage and library working on the drywall.  I sanded all the drywall compound (mud) I had applied yesterday and added the next layer to the places that needed it.  Patching the library side of the opening where the window A-C was installed has proven to be particularly challenging, or at least tedious.  The new piece of drywall is recessed slightly compared to the original wall surface surrounding it, so I have been building up layers of drywall compound to “fill the hole.”  It has taken many passes so far and it is going to take quite a few more before it’s done.

I finished up for the day, cleaned up the tools, and changed out of my work clothes.  Rather than spend a lot of time at the library, Linda photographed the relevant pages of recent issues of Consumer’s Reports with her iPad so we could study them at home.  What we got from the reviews was that LG, GE, Electrolux, and Samsung are making good gas ranges while Kitchen Aide, and Jenn-Air are best avoided.  Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Best Buy all carry LG, GE, and Samsung appliances, so we have a choice of local dealers.  While we were pondering all of this over lunch a group of wild turkeys came through the back yard several times foraging for food.  There were three large adults and three much smaller birds, obviously this year’s brood.

I spent most of the rest of the day working at my desk getting the SLAARC WordPress website to the point where I was comfortable creating user accounts.  I had hoped to have user accounts set up by August 13th, but that did not happen.  One reason for the delay was that I was trying to find a way to automatically e-mail each user as I created their account.  It took me a while, but I figured out how to do this with the WP-Members plug-in.  I also found a plug-in that hides the WordPress Toolbar from users based on their WordPress user role.  In this case I was only concerned about users with the Subscriber role but the plug-in allows me to control all defined user roles.  I did a final edit of the User’s Guide, uploaded it to the private Members Only Area of the website, and e-mailed Mike (W8XH) and Larry (K8UT) that the site was ready to go.  Our DSL connection was pretty good most of the day but got flaky for a while during the evening.  The phone continued to be unusable with loud noise masking weak audio.  So far AT&T’s response to our MPSC complaint has been a phone call and e-mail from someone in the “Office of the President.”  Impressed?  I’m not.


2014/06/13 (F) Day 3 Shop-Learn-Eat

Day 3 of the 2014 GLAMARAMA kicked off with coffee and doughnuts at 7:30 AM.  Those attendees going on the morning tour of the Jayco factory had to assemble early.  We had coffee and visited with friends until the vendors opened at 9:00 AM.

At the 2013 GLAMARAMA last September I had decided to buy a small video camera/recorder to mount on the inside of the windshield and record what is happening in front of the coach.  By the time I went to buy it on the last day at 3:00 PM the vendors were closed.  I did not make the same mistake this time and bought one this morning.  We still need to get a 32 GB high speed SD card to go with it.

We had spotted some Velcro straps at another vendor and decided to buy a pair to use for securing the Pressure Pro TPMS repeater to the inside rear view mirror in our Honda Element.  The same vendor had an LED light that looked like it might fit in our downlights.  They loaned us one to try.  It fit well and the light was OK.  I returned the sample and bought a new one.  Lloyd De Gerald had his Aqua-Hot service booth right next to the Aqua-Hot factory booth and I purchased an inline secondary fuel filter from him.

Michele Henry from Phoenix Paint ordered some silver (white) reflective tape for us as it was on sale and we thought it might look OK around the lower portion of our bus.  (There is a channel on all of the lower body panels, as well as the front and rear bumpers, where this reflective tape is intended to go.)  Our hope was that the tape would reflect the adjacent paint color while making the bus much more visible at night.  Alas, it did not pick up the surrounding color and the tape was a little wider than the channel, which would complicate the installation.  I did not see it, but Linda did, and did not like the way it looked.

Josh Leach specializes in interior projects and is currently working out the Phoenix Paint facility.  He teamed up with Darin Hathaway (the Aqua-Hot technician who serviced our Aqua-Hot system on Monday) and Michele Henry (who painted our coach two years ago) to get a booth at the GLAMARAMA.  We discussed our interior remodeling ideas and agreed to have him come by the coach to see it.

Just after noon Linda drove to the Whole Foods store in Mishawaka, Indiana to get ingredients for dishes she planned to serve back at the house on Sunday.  I attended two seminars, both by Gary Bunzer (the RV Doctor).  The first one was on balanced battery systems.  The key concept of that seminar was that there are poor, OK, and optimal was to interconnect multiple batteries to form a battery bank of the required voltage and energy storage capacity (Amp-Hours).  The second seminar was on controlling/eliminating holding tank odors.  Linda dropped in on this one for a little while and then headed over to the reception for vendors and chapter officers.  I joined her at the reception after the seminar concluded.  Gary has published a column somewhere on RV maintenance and operation every month for the last 38 years.

The vendor and chapter officers reception was very nice, with fresh fruit and veggies, cheese and crackers, some deli meats, and a choice of wines.  We returned to our coach for a little while after the reception before heading over to the evening entertainment.  Keith Longbothum and his sidekick, an excellent harmonica player, put on a high energy show that was initially Nashville country but morphed into gospel and patriotic.  One thing I noticed about entertainment tonight and on Wednesday was the use of pre-recorded instrumental soundtracks which make it possible for a small ensemble to produce a very full sound without having to pay a lot of musicians.

There was a door prize drawing after the entertainment.  We did not win.  The head of the parking crew also gave instructions for departure on Sunday.


2014/06/09 (M) Mobile Service

One of the interesting things about RVing is the availability of mobile service providers.  The mechanic who maintains our bus chassis, Joe Cannarozzi, travels all over the U. S. from his base in Chicago, Illinois.  Other vendors, many full time RVers themselves, travel the RV rally circuit providing on-site service.  We stopped by Phoenix Paint late in the morning to visit with Michele Henry, who painted our motorcoach in 2011/12, and met Darin Hathaway there.  Darin is an independent Elkhart-based factory trained/authorized Aqua-Hot service technician.  Our Aqua-Hot has not been running well the last few of times we have tried to use it, even failing to ignite once and producing copious amounts of white smoke for as long as five minutes if/when it did.  I described the symptoms we’ve experienced and what we have done to try and diagnose the situation.  Darin had time in his afternoon schedule to service our unit so we arranged to have him come over to Elkhart Campground to do the work there.

Darin arrived around 2:15 PM and performed the standard annual maintenance / tune up.  He let me watch and ask questions and I learned a bit more about the unit and how it functions.  He removed the burner and then removed the swirl chamber which had a buildup of carbon soot.  He removed the nozzle, flame sensor (photo eye), igniter electrodes, and the photo (mounting) disk.  He also noticed a small inline final fuel filter that needed to be replaced.  He clamped off the lines, removed it, and installed a new one.  I wanted a spare, but he only had the one with him so he said he would order one for me.

He disconnected the two main electrical harnesses, plugged in his service control box, and then installed a pressure gauge into the nozzle port.  He activated the fuel pump and the fuel pressure was just over 160 PSI.  It was supposed to be 145 PSI so he showed me the adjustment screw and backed it down to the proper level.

The photo disk was slightly wrapped which is not unusual, but could prevent it from sealing the combustion chamber, so he installed a new one showing me how to make sure it was loose enough that it could position itself correctly when the main blower/pump housing was re-installed.  I got a second disk to keep as a spare.  He installed a new nozzle and then reinstalled the two igniter electrodes and showed me how to set the spark gap.  He also pointed out that the cable clamp on top of the main blower/pump housing is the spark gap tool.  Nice touch.  He said the old nozzle was a bit loose which might have allowed a little fuel to get into the combustion chamber without going through the nozzle.  His tips for nozzle installation were to always use two wrenches and to tighten the nozzle, back it off, and tighten it a second time.  Apparently this helps the threads seat and seal.

He checked the four rubber grommets around the housing and said they were still in good shape and probably relatively new.  I got four for spares, two lefts and two rights.  I might as well get parts while I can.  He cleaned up the swirl chamber and re-installed it, seam side up.  Very important.  He checked the spark igniter and it worked and then failed.  He spent some extra time that was not part of the routine service diagnosing and fixing this issue.  He thought it might be a marginal or failed coil, but after tightening the wire connections and flexing the wires a bit, it seemed to work fine with repeated testing.  The coils are relatively expensive and decided not order one as a spare at this time.  Hopefully I don’t regret that decision somewhere done the road.

With critical components replaced, and everything cleaned and adjusted, Darin inspected the main combustion chamber for signs of fuel or coolant leakage but did not see anything out of the ordinary.  He secured the main blower/pump housing to the combustion chamber / “boiler” assembly using a short quarter-inch socket ratchet with a 12″ extension and suggested that I do the same.  Apparently it is very easy to over-torque these bolts and break the mounting tabs, which is a very bad thing to do.  A final test resulted in the unit starting up immediately with clean exhaust; no smoke, black or white.

We spent a few more minutes trying to determine which thermostats in the house (there are three) controlled which of the three circulating pumps, but did not figure it out.  The is important because the radiator for the water bay (where the Aqua-Hot is installed) is clearly part of one of the coolant circulation loops controlled by one of the thermostats in the house (the leftmost of the three at the top).  The radiator for the front bay is also part of one of the house loops but I do not know if it is tied in with the water bay radiator or with a different zone.  Darin said there was usually a separate thermostatically controlled zone for the bays, but I assured him that our coach was not configured that way.  Our unit does have a forth circulation pump that is tied in with the main engine coolant.  It can be used to pre-heat the engine or to provide heat from the engine to the coach.  Darin indicated that anytime the burner is lit one of the circulation pumps will be running, usually the middle one.  In our unit it seemed to be the engine pre-heat pump, but I later discovered that I had the pump turned on.

It was after 3:30 PM by the time Darin was finished and I had a 4:00 PM conference call meeting of the FMCA national education committee.  We turned the diesel burner on from its normal control switch and let it run for one complete cycle while he finished up the paperwork.  As the cycle finished I saw a little white smoke in the bay, which was still open.  I opened the door to the small compartment underneath the Aqua-Hot and it was full of white smoke.  I have the battery for the fuel polishing module installed in there but the compartment us otherwise empty save for a large diameter tube (5″?) that runs from the bottom of the Aqua-Hot through the compartment, and out the floor.  This tube provides fresh air to the combustion chamber and also provides a conduit for the exhaust pipe.  There was obviously a double problem:  1) exhaust gas was leaking from the exhaust pipe somewhere, and 2) the large outer tube was not sealed.  Add that to the project list.

I called in to the FMCA national education committee meeting at 4:00 PM and by 4:10 PM (EDT) we had enough members for a quorum.  Committee chair Gaye Young worked us through the agenda and we were done with our first meeting an hour after we started.  The committee is charged with looking at four topics, one of which is RVillage.

We had a quiet evening and had pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions and bar-b-que sauce for dinner, followed by a final stroll around the campground.  We got online with the campground WiFi via our WiFi Ranger and took care of e-mail, RVillage, and WordPress tasks before turning in for the evening.