Tag Archives: fresh water tank

2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I was up at 7:45 AM and skipped breakfast and coffee.  I put on Weather Nation and took stock of the forecast while I folded the clean laundry.  I took a shower, got dressed, made a cup of tea, and had a small glass of orange juice to wash down my pills.

My main objective for today was to get the bus fueled which would also serve as a test run.  The forecast had the chance of rain increasing through the morning and heading towards certainty by early afternoon, albeit intermittent and not very intense.  I wanted to take care of the fueling before the rain settled in but wanted to wait long enough for the temperature to rise so I set 11 AM as my target departure time.  Before I moved the bus, however, several things had to be done.

First on the list was turning on the electric block heater for the main engine.  It wasn’t cold enough for this to be necessary but having the oil warmed up a bit never hurts, especially with the straight 40 weight oil.  It helps the engine crank over and get oil to the bearings more quickly.

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

Next was simply cleaning up the interior so the coach could be safely moved and nothing would get broken.  I gathered up all of the tools and materials that I no longer needed and moved them into the house and garage.  I then installed the solid brass door stop on the bottom of the pull-out pantry.  Finally I mounted the two aluminum angles to the inside of the refrigerator alcove, one by the freezer door and the other by the fresh food door.

The angles were 1/2″x3/4″ with holes drilled in the 3/4″ flange for #6 SR self-drilling wood screws.  I had carefully countersunk (chamfered) each hole so the screw head would be close to flush with the surface of the flange.  The aluminum was only 1/16″ thick so I had to be careful not to overdo it.  With the freezer door open I set the 1/2″ flange against the face of the refrigerator case (on the side opposite the hinges) and held the 3/4″ flange square to the side of the alcove.  I used a #5-6 self-centering VIX drill bit to drill three holes about 3/8″ deep and installed the 5/8″ #6 screws with a manual screwdriver so as not to over torque them.  I repeated the procedure for the second angle which was longer and had five mounting holes.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

I had a little spare time so I drove my car up and down the new driveway to compact the gravel.  I won’t drive the bus on this new driveway until next year but it already supports the cars very nicely and the weight of the Honda Element was sufficient to knock down some of ridges and compact the surface.

I checked all of the tire pressures and they were OK so I did not have to get out an air compressor and adjust them.  I will have to do this next week before we leave, however, as the temperatures will have cooled off significantly by then.

Around 11 AM I turned on the coach batteries and opened the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  I turned off all of the electric heating elements and made sure the inverter was turned on and then started the main engine.  I let it run for one minute and then switched it go high idle.  While the engine was warming up and the air pressure was building I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.

I pulled out at 11:15 AM and headed for the Mobile Truck Stop at exit 122 on I-96, approximately 22 miles from the house.  While there are a couple of closer places I could get fuel this truck stop has very good egress and is fairly busy, which means the fuel is being turned over frequently and is thus relatively fresh.  The drive is a mix of Interstate and Michigan Highways with a few stoplights and a couple of miles of dirt road, so the bus has to run up and down through its gears.  It is also a long enough round trip to get the engine up to normal operating temperature under load.

I estimated that the tank would take on about 120 gallons of diesel fuel so I added two bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula and one bottle of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The tank started whistling at 112 gallons, which meant it was getting full.  I added the last few gallons by controlling the flow manually and stopped at 119.990 gallons, so my 120 gallon estimate was pretty good.  I paid for the fuel and got a free beverage to go with it.

I had some occasional light rain on the drive out and on the drive back but the trip was otherwise uneventful.  I was back at 12:45 PM, parked the coach, and started the auxiliary generator, which I had not done for several months.  To load the generator I turned on all three electric toe-kick heaters, the engine block heater, the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and front bay electric heater.  I let it run for 90 minutes with an average current draw of 25 Amperes on each leg, which is about 35% of its full load capability.

I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn it on.  As long as I had water and air pressure I flushed the toilet and then ran a little water through the various faucets in the coach.  I set a rubber door mat under the drain for the fresh water tank to keep the water from drilling a hole in the driveway and then let the tank drain slowly.  While it was draining I got the long fresh water hose out and connected it to the spigot on the front of the house and the water port for the coach.  With the fresh water tank empty I checked that the outside water spigot was configured to provide filtered/softened water.  I closed the drain valve, opened the fill valve, and opened the valve at the house.  I then went in the house, set a timer, and had a bite of lunch.

I had a phone call while I was driving back from the truck stop but did not answer it.  The caller left a message so I listened to it and then called him back.  Kevin Stufflebeam, from the southwest part of Michigan, had a 1995 Marathon Prevost conversion with a non-functioning Webasto system.  It turned out that he had the system worked on by a company in that area and the guy from the company had called me during the summer.  They got my name and contact information from Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct, with my permission.

The fresh water tank has an overflow tube so that is how I knew it was full.  I closed the fill valve on the bus, closed the spigot valve at the house, and then opened the fill valve to relieve the pressure in the hose.  Sure, it was a lot of back-n-forth, but it eliminated the spray that occurs when unscrewing a fitting on a pressurized hose.  It also makes the fitting easier to unscrew.  I removed the hose from the coach and then from the house.  The spigot is about four feet higher than the driveway so I pulled the hose up towards the spigot, allowing it to drain as I coiled it up.  Once it was coiled I connected the two ends together, put it back in its storage tub, and put the tub back in the front bay.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to say she was on her way home.  It had been raining, off and on, all afternoon so I took about 45 minutes to drive on the new driveway with my Honda Element and compact it even more.  But first I got the metal toothed rake and evened out the few remaining ridges and valleys.  Besides going up and down the driveway I drove across it at various angles at both ends.  Most of the driveway has fresh topsoil along both edges, which is soft and has grass seed and straw on top of it, so I stayed off of those areas as they definitely should not be compacted.  The end of the new driveway by the house ties into our concrete driveway and some solid, undisturbed lawn with a flare.  The far end, which ties into the street at our third culvert, is much wider (to allow the bus to make the turn), relatively flat, and ties in to solid, undisturbed lawn.  The concrete, road, and undisturbed lawn allowed me to drive beyond the edges of the driveway in these areas and go across them at various angles.

Any kind of weather always slows commuter traffic and Linda did not get home until 6 PM.  It had been a long day for both of us and she just wanted to relax for a while.  She opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and poured each of us a glass.  For dinner we had mock oriental orange chicken with reheated frozen broccoli and white rice with soy sauce.  It was an easy but very tasty meal.

After dinner I finally settled in at my desk to finish updating the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter roster, financial statements, and minutes from the 2014 annual meeting.  Linda reviewed the financial statements and helped me reconcile them to the bank statements.  Once we were satisfied they were accurate I saved everything as PDFs, uploaded them to our Dropbox, and sent the folder link to the members via e-mail.  We then headed to bed and watched the last episode of The Brain on Detroit PBS.  Linda went to sleep and I wrote for a while, finally turning the light out at 11:30 PM.


2015/09/14 (M) Final Prep (for now)

We were up at 8 AM and had breakfast but I did not take the time to make coffee.  I gathered up the laundry and started a load.  I then headed to Lowe’s to buy an outlet strip that I could easily hardwire.  I looked at angle iron to support the upper back edge of the interpedestal desk cover at the wall but did not buy any.  The iron has holes and slots manufactured into it that I thought might allow me to adjust its location vertically without having to move the location of the screws.  Alas, the slotted openings were horizontal rather than vertical.

Linda was cooking a batch of granola when I got home and made a pot of coffee.  I decided to tend to some travel preparation items before getting back to work on the remodeling project.  I wanted to check/adjust the tire pressures while it was still cool.  The tires were all down about 1.5 PSI, which was very good given how long it has been sitting.  I used the new 6-gallon air-compressor to bring them up to the pressures I like to run and it worked OK.  I will have to pause a little more often while it re-pressurizes but it is less than half the size of the 15-gallon DeWalt and will travel with much more easily.

My next task was to unload the front bay which I did while Linda continued to work on our food for the week.  We find it much easier to deal with food at rallies if she “cooks ahead” and “reheats to serve.”  I set everything in the driveway in front of the bus and tried to sort it into two groups; things were staying home for this trip and things that were going with us.

I then opened the drain valve on the fresh water tank, which goes through the floor of the water bay, and let the water run onto a container lid so it wouldn’t dig a hole in the gravel driveway.  I was getting ready to deploy the fresh water hose(s) when I noticed that they were in need of some serious cleaning.  Linda agreed to take care of that and cleaned their storage tub too.  Ditto for the waste water (sewage) hoses and their storage tub.  Her taking on this task allowed me to return to working on the installation of the desk.

I had a 12″ long piece of 1/8″ aluminum angle and decided to use it to support the upper back edge of the interpedestal shelf/cover.  I drilled and countersunk five holes in one of the flanges.  Linda finished cleaning the hoses and then got our wireless thermometer from the house.  It has a base thermometer and two wireless remotes so she put one remote in the freezer and the other one in the fresh food compartment.  We wanted to monitor the temperature and dial it in to where we needed it before loading the refrigerator with food.

The stacked mending plates used to create a tongue-&-groove alignment system between the center cover and both the left and right desk pedestals/bases.

The stacked mending plates used to create a tongue-&-groove alignment system between the center cover and both the left and right desk pedestals/bases.

I removed the interpedestal cover and set the left pedestal aside so I could complete the AC wiring connections.  I mounted the outlet strip to the wall centered between the two pedestals and about two inches below the level of the underside of the plywood that will support the Corian top.  The outlet strip had a 15 foot cord.  I determined how much of that length I needed to get through the right pedestal and forward along the wiring chase to where the other wires were located.  I cut off the extra length, routed the power cord into the right pedestal at the left upper rear corner, down the inside left rear corner, and out the left end of the upper base.  From there it ran forward to the other wires where I connected them.  I turned on the circuit breaker and then turned on the outlet strip.  The switch lit up, indicating the presence of 120V AC.  I used my Etcon tester to check the duplex outlet by the passenger seat.  It also had power so the wiring was good.

I set the interpedestal shelf/cover back in place, aligned with the right base, and then aligned the left base to it.  I checked the distance from each end of the base to the HVAC duct and adjusted it to be the same.  We then adjusted the position of the left pedestal until we were satisfied with the alignment with the interpedestal cover.  We checked the alignment of the front top edges of the pedestals with a 6′ metal ruler.  Everything looked OK so I secured the pedestal to the base using two screws that will be hidden by the laser printer in normal use.

I needed to screw the pedestal to the wall in the two upper corners to minimize the visibility of those screws.  It was not flush to the wall at those points so I used a shim in the upper right.  We will have to cover the vertical gap at the left rear with molding.

Bruce finds the center of a drawer front by finding the point where the diagonals of the face intersect.  The handle mounting holes were located horizontally 1-1/2” to either side of this center point.

Bruce finds the center of a drawer front by finding the point where the diagonals of the face intersect. The handle mounting holes were located horizontally 1-1/2” to either side of this center point.

We put the removable plates back in the bottom of each pedestal.  I drilled the holes for the pulls in the four desk drawers, installed the pulls, and put the drawers back in the desk.  To find the correct location for the holes Linda suggested that we put a piece of painter’s tape in the center of the face and then draw a small segment of the two diagonals to find their intersection.  For the two small drawers that was all we needed as they got single knob style pulls.  For the two larger drawers we needed to locate the holes 1-1/2″ to either side of the center on a line through the center parallel to the top and bottom edges.  I measured carefully and I think we did a pretty good job.

Sometime during the morning I texted Jarel the dimensions for a 3/4″ thick piece of walnut 1-7/8″ high by 34″ long to use as a face for the edges of the three layers of plywood under the refrigerator.  He texted back and said “no problem” which lead to an exchange of a dozen e-mails clarifying just exactly what I wanted.  I did not mind, better that than assumptions that result in wasted time making parts that don’t fit.  Jarel is an experienced cabinet maker and is meticulous in his work.  He knows all the questions to ask about things I did not specify and does so before cutting any wood.

Our last construction task before departure tomorrow was rehanging the bathroom door.  I measured the distance from the bottom hinge to the bottom edge of the door and compared it to the distance from the hinge in the door frame to the floor.  It looked like it should fit without rubbing so we hung the door.  (The old ceramic tile rubbed as the door was swung to its fully open position, but the thickness of the underlayment and vinyl tile is less than the ceramic and thinset, at least in that area.)

Linda was still trying to prepare our food for the rally as there will be very little of the included food that we can eat.  She made a grocery run while I returned to emptying out the front bay of the bus.  I plan to leave most of the stuff that was stored in that bay at home so Josh has access to the ceiling to see if we can through-bolt mount the two captain’s chairs in the living room.  I might also store all of the GLCC stuff down there as Linda will be coming down on Wednesday in the car with the cats and we want to minimize the amount of other stuff in the car.

I thought about sanitizing the fresh water system by using the 12V DC water pump and the winterizing valves/tubes to draw a dilute chlorine solution from a bucket and pump it through the fresh water pipes.  I decided against it based on available time and higher priority items that needed to be done.  I connected the clean fresh water hoses to the coach and started filling the tank.  I checked that the fuel polishing pump was off and checked the air springs and latch on the generator.  I made a mental note that the aft air springs (front of the Yanmar diesel engine) needed air and made sure the slide tray was latched in place.  I was going to start the generator and let it power the air conditioners but decided to forego for now that as well.

We had unlatched and removed the towbar from the bus receiver earlier in the summer.  I used one of our hand trucks to move it over by the car.  I put the passenger side rear seat down and loaded the towbar in behind it along with the bag that holds all of the other pieces.  That left plenty of room for the two cat carriers, litter tray, and any miscellaneous things she may bring along on Wednesday.

We put the mattress back onboard and Linda made the bed, but forgot the electric heating pad.  Linda did some cleaning and then we loaded clothing and food.  Computers, cameras, and other technology will go on first thing tomorrow morning.  We then got the various GLCC items out of the garage and staged them by the passenger side of the bus.  I loaded our personal items onto the driver’s side half of the slide tray and loaded the GLCC stuff onto passenger side half.

Our goal was to be done by 5 PM but it was 6 PM when I finally had the pressure washer ready to use.  It took me a little over an hour to spray the car and the coach and I wrapped up for the day at 7:30 PM.  We had seitan stroganoff for dinner with the 2013 Egri Merlot and had watermelon for dessert.  It was another long day but we got a lot accomplished and most it did not require me to work on my hands and knees, for which I was grateful.


2015/05/31 (N) Age of Disco Camping

We were up around 8 AM.  Linda took a shower after which I started the last load of laundry while she made coffee.  We had our usual granola breakfast.  When the washer finished I trimmed up my beard and shaved and then took my shower while Linda moved the wash to the clothes dryer.  Once we were both dressed we got very busy loading the bus and preparing it for travel.

I put on my work clothes and selected my clothes for the week.  Linda took care of loading the bus while I attended to preparing it for travel.  The preparations went something like this.  First I loaded our GLCC banner, flags, T-shirts, door prizes, tools, and our new 6 gallon pancake style Porter-Cable air compressor into our Honda Element.  I turned on our TireTraker TPMS monitor and plugged in the power cord for the TPMS repeater which is installed in the passenger-side rear corner cabinet in the bedroom.  I then got out our long fresh-water hose, connected it to the faucet on the front of the house, ran it under the bus, and connected it to the fresh water inlet.  I got a mat to put under the fresh water tank drain and emptied about 40 gallons of water that had been in the tank since we got home on Friday, April 24.  I closed the drain valve and then opened the fresh water tank fill valve.

At 3.4 gallons per minute the 120 gallon fresh water tank takes about a half hour to fill.  While that was happening I got our DeWalt 15 gallon upright tank air compressor out of the garage and rolled it over to the front of the bus (it has wheels).  I got our long extension cord out of the front bay and ran it from the front porch outlet to the air compressor.  I then got the air hose out of the bay where it was stored along with the air chuck, and digital tire pressure gauge, and retrieved a knee pad and slip pliers from two other bays.  I removed the TT TPMS sensor from each wheel in turn, checking and adjusting the pressure as I went.  I always do both dual drive tires on each side at the same time to make sure they are the same.

The inside duals have valve stem extensions so I use the pliers to keep them from loosening while I unscrew the sensor.  The two front tires were at 111.5 and 112.0 PSI, both above the minimum required 110.0 PSI, but I brought them up to 115.0 PSI.  I like to run the tires 5 PSI over the correct pressure to allow for changes in overnight low temperatures and to provide some margin against slow leaks.  The two tag axle tires were around 82.5 PSI so I reset them to 85.0 PSI.  The four drive tires were around 92.5 PSI so I brought them up to 95.0 PSI.

By the time I was done with the tires the fresh water tank was full so I shut off the water and stored everything back where it came from.  I then pulled the Element around behind the bus.  Everything was on board by this point except the cats, the cat tree, and us.  We hooked up the car for towing and checked all of the lights.  I switched on (connected) the chassis batteries, opened all of the air valves, switched off the Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump and diesel burner, started the main engine, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  While coach was airing up I pulled the 50 A shorepower cord and stowed it away.  Back in the house we put the cats in their carriers and left them in the front hallway while we took their “tree” out to the bus.  We then brought them out, locking the house behind us, and put them on board.  Both cats immediately went under the front passenger seat which is their “go to” spot while the coach is moving.

All of what I have just described took place with intermittent light rain.  We could not recall the last time we had to load the motorcoach, or our previous motorhome, in the rain, but we agreed that having it parked with the entrance door opposite the sidewalk to the front door of the house made it much more convenient.  Still, it was reminiscent of the “age of camping,” a time in our lives when we camped frequently in a tent with our pre-teen children.  While not a constant companion, rain was a frequent visitor on these outings and yet it never deterred us from going and never lessened our enjoyment.  Indeed, we tried to show our children the special beauty of a hike in a Michigan woodland in the rain or the power of standing near the shore of a Great Lake during a storm.  Cooking was more of challenge, to be sure, but we had a screen room in addition to our tent and made preparing and eating meals part of the adventure.  Our friend Chuck said to me once that we were different from most of the other Prevost owners he and Barbara know because we were “campers.”  True enough, although what we do now hardly seems like camping to us. Still, we are quite comfortable with having the furniture and flooring removed from our motorcoach, sitting on lawn chairs instead, and dining at our fold up plastic side table.

We pulled out of our driveway at 12:30 PM and made our way slowly down our muddy, pot marked dirt road to N. Hacker Road.  It was nice not having to worry about scratching the side of our rig as a result of our tree trimming raid late last night.  Instead of taking our usual route north to M-59 we went south on Hacker which got us on pavement a short distance later.  Most of the trees on the west side of S. Hacker Road were trimmed up high enough but just before getting to Grand River Avenue we got clunked.  Our front OTR TV antenna is the highest thing on the bus.  It is centered side-to-side near the front and probably took the branch.  I should check it for damage the next time I am on the roof.

We went south on Grand River Avenue towards Brighton and less than a mile later took the entrance ramp to I-96 west.  Twenty-three miles later we took exit 122 and stopped at the Mobil Truck Stop for fuel.  We were at 3/8ths of a tank and rather than fill it we only put 80 gallons on board.  That was enough added fuel for approximately 480 miles and our round trip to/from the RV rally would be less than that.

We will not be using the coach for a while after this week and it is not clear what the best thing is to do relative to long term storage.  Filling the tank with fuel minimizes the air in the tank and thus the opportunity for moisture to condense out.  Moisture is a bad thing in diesel fuel as it enables the growth of algae.  I use a biocide additive to inhibit that growth, especially at a fill up just before it is going to sit for a while, and we have a fuel polishing pump to slowly circulate the fuel and remove water and other gunk while the coach is sitting.  That would seem to solve the problem, except for the fact that it is not ideal to store diesel fuel any longer than necessary before using it.  I suspect that we will fill the tank at the Mobil Truck Stop just before returning home, using an extra dose of biocide, and then run the fuel polishing pump all summer.

We continued west on I-96 to the southwest corner of Lansing and then exited onto southbound I-69.  It continued to be overcast with a noticeable wind out of the east.  We thought we were done with the rain but continued to get an occasional sprinkle.  We exited I-69 at US-12 and headed west through Coldwater and the southern tier of Michigan counties.  US-12 is a good 2-lane highway with some left and right and some up and down, sometimes at the same time.  It is a fun drive with nice scenery and passes through three other small towns:  Bronson, Sturgis, and White Pigeon.  We eventually left US-12 onto Old 205 (M-205) and a couple of miles later entered Indiana where the road became SR-19 (IN-19).  A few more miles and then left (east) on CR-4 and a mile later we pulled into Elkhart campground at 4:10 PM.

Linda checked us in and then we drove to site 738, leveled the coach, and shut down the engine.  We went through as much of normal arrival routine as we could, setting up the cat tree, two folding lawn chairs, and our plastic folding side table.  Linda got our WiFi Ranger connected to the RV Park WiFi and got online with her iPad while I used mine to write.

We snacked on pretzels while we were traveling and by 5:30 PM we were ready for dinner.  Linda made a simple salad and then cooked a couple of vegan “burgers” and served them with the remainder of the potato salad she made the other day.  We went for a walk around the campground after dinner and thought we spotted Nick and Terry Russell’s Winnebago Ultimate Advantage motorhome but did not see any sign of them.  The rig had Florida plates but there was a new Honda SUV parked in front.  The last time we saw them they had a Ford Explorer but I have not been keeping up with Nick’s blog so they could have gotten a new car without us knowing about it.

When we finished our walk we unhooked the car.  I forgot to pack my toothbrush so we drove back to the intersection of CR-4 and SR-19 where there is a CVS, a Walgreen’s, and a Martin’s supermarket.  The CVS was the most convenient, and we have a discount card there, so we bought my toothbrush and picked up some pistachios and almonds on sale.  Back at the coach we had small glasses of Moscato and some red grapes.  It’s been a very physical week for us and by 8:30 PM Linda was ready to lie down and watch a little TV.

The TV stations here serve the area surrounding South Bend and Elkhart including the area of Michigan along the Indiana border.  It took me a while to figure out where to point the antennas but I eventually remembered that there a quite a few very tall towers on the south side of US-20 about half way between Elkhart and South Bend.  That was roughly southwest of our location and we were parked facing southwest so it was a simple matter to point the antennas straight forward.  Bingo!  (I should have remembered that the AntennaPoint.com website will give you the bearing and distance to all of the broadcast TV towers with a certain radius of a specified location, but I didn’t at the time.)

The local PBS station was in the middle of a fund raiser (they probably all were nationwide).  That usually means vintage (nostalgic) musical performances and tonight was no exception with a reunion concert by the BeeGees (Brothers Gibb).  Although best known (to my generation) as the “sound of disco,” personified in the movie Saturday Night Fever, the BeeGees performed actively for many years and have a very deep catalog of surprisingly familiar songs.  This concert was filmed in Las Vegas in 1997 and several of the brothers have since passed away.

Good music is good music but popular music tends to take on significance for individuals based on where they were and what they were doing at the time it became popular.  The BeeGees, like Ernest Hemingway, we’re so popular that it became popular to put down the music of the disco era.  Thankfully that time has passed (in both cases) and we can remember fondly “the age of disco” and enjoy the art and artists for what they are, enjoyable and talented.

The BeeGees concert was followed by Motown 25.  I was 12 in 1964 and although I studied and played classical music I was definitely listening to popular music on the radio and that included the new Motown sound.  I was enjoying this concert as well but it was late and even I get tired and sleepy so I turned it off and went to bed.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/04/17 (F) My Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2015/02/24 (T) Little Bus Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/26 (R) LiveStream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car-wise, I need to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/27 (F) Granola Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

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

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had all of these communications chores done by 11 AM and decided to continue cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  I started with the rear, as it was still in the shade, and finished the lower half.  It was tedious as that is the engine hatch and it has numerous horizontal indentations that run the full width.  These indentations are open on the inside top for airflow and have screens to keep things from getting in (like fingers).

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

Another view of the sunset from our campsite in Quartzsite, AZ.

I continued on around to the driver side of the bus which faces north.  The temperature this afternoon got up to 80 degrees F, and it was very hot in the sun, but it was pleasantly cool in the shade of the bus.  It was near perfect conditions for the work I was doing.  I worked most of the afternoon and did not quite get the back half of the bus cleaned and waxed.  A couple of bay doors and I will be past the half way point on that side.

I am going to try to work on this at least a few hours every day, otherwise it will never get done and this is an ideal place to work on it as long as I am not working in the sun.  The south facing passenger side is going to be more of a challenge and I will have to limit my work to the morning before the body panels heat up.

UPS showed up today with my coil for the MAC valve which turned out to be an entire new valve.  Rather than try to remove the solenoid coil I may just install the whole valve.  UPS also brought Fonda’s new sewing machine.  It only weighs 13 pounds.

Butch got back from a rock hunting field trip late in the afternoon and we stood around chatting as an amazing sunset developed around us.  As I have mentioned before, sunsets here are often 360 degree events and this one surrounded us with color before finally fading into another starry night.

Linda made a wonderful dish for dinner last night and we had it again this evening.  She pan-grilled polenta and served it on a bed of dark leafy greens topped with puttanesca sauce made from scratch.

After dinner I selected photographs for my November 17 – 23, 2014 blog post and processed them.  I uploaded the text to our WordPress site and then uploaded, captioned, and integrated each photo in turn.  I also had to enter all of the tags, which I figure out as I read through the post.  If there is one thing I would like to have at this point it is the ability to highlight key words and phrases in my Word document and have them automatically become tags when the text is uploaded.

By the time I published the post and went to bed to finish this one it was midnight.  At eight minutes after midnight MST I was one hour into my 63rd year as I was born on this date at 00:08 in the Central Time Zone, where eight minutes past midnight happened an hour ago.

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

I finished my blog post for yesterday late last night and e-mailed it to myself at eight minutes after midnight, the hour and minute of my birth, or so I have always been told.  Linda and the cats were all asleep and I observed the moment in quiet solitude.  As I noted at the end of yesterday’s post I was actually an hour late in my observance as we are currently in the Mountain Time Zone and I was born in the Central Time Zone.  But it was the thought that counted.

Sixty-three is not a milestone birthday anniversary, other than making it that far.  On my 60th birthday I became eligible to retire, and did so four months later.  On my 62nd birthday I became eligible to start drawing social security, but didn’t.  On my 65th birthday I will become eligible for Medicare.  The year I turn 66 Linda will apply for Social Security benefits and immediately suspend them.  I will be eligible for my full Social Security benefit but will not apply for it.  I will apply for the spousal benefit instead.  Our monthly Social Security benefits continue to increase by 8% per year until age 70, a solid and guaranteed return, so Linda will start taking her benefits then and I will file for, and take, my benefits when I turn 70.

Having thought through the complexities of birthdays, we had breakfast and then I got to work cleaning and waxing the outside of the bus.  My plan was to finish the driver side but not spend all day at it.  As it turned out, I spent most of the day at it, taking breaks to check e-mail.  It is just slow work, especially since so much of it has to be done on a step ladder.  I have no idea how many trips I made up and down that ladder, but it was a lot.  It is only a seven foot step ladder so I have to stand near the top to reach the top of the sides which are over 12 feet from the ground.  I cannot reach very far to the side either, so I work from one side of the ladder then climb down and climb up the other side and work from there.  I then climb down and move the ladder about three feet and do it all again; over, and over, and over.  But as Long as I keep going it eventually gets done.  I am, however, seriously considering getting a Cyclo 5 dual head orbiting buffer/polisher.  There is simply too much bus to do this by hand.  I am also considering getting a platform to put between two ladders and/or a four-wheel elevated work platform to use in the barn if/when we get it built.

I got a call from our daughter wishing me a happy birthday and had a nice chat with her.  I asked if Katie had made a final college selection but she is not done with interviews yet.  Perhaps we will know in a few weeks where she is headed in the fall.

Yesterday Linda invited all of our camping neighbors to come over today at 4 PM for happy hour to celebrate my birthday.  In preparation she spent part of the day making cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  When she wasn’t cooking she did accounting and tax return work for Butch and Fonda.  Around 3 PM she prepared bruschetta using what was left of a loaf of Barry’s Basic Bread and the puttanesca sauce she made a couple of nights ago.  Larry/Sandy, Jim/Barb, and Butch/Fonda all brought chairs and beverages of their choice.  Butch and Fonda brought chips, salsa, and hummus and the peanut and dried fruit mix they make.  We sat around talking until the sun set at which point the air temperature cooled off and we all retreated to our rigs.

I got a call from our son during our happy hour and excused myself for a few minutes to chat with him.  It was 7:40 PM back in Ann Arbor and Madeline was getting ready for bed.  I got to “chat” with her and she wished me a happy birthday.  With encouragement from her mom she asked me “How is Arizona?”  I told her it was very nice here.

We skipped lunch today and did not have dinner because we filled up on happy hour snacks.  Linda played online word games while I started assembling the consolidated blog post for November 24 – 30.  She turned on the MiFi and trundled off to bed to watch an episode of Downton Abby on her iPad.  I finished editing the post and selected two photos to go with it.  When I checked I found that I did not have photos for most of the days covered by the post.  I thought about uploading it but decided against it as it still takes time to upload the text, upload and insert the pictures, and create all of the tags and I was too tired to maintain the needed concentration.  Somewhere in there I read through a reply from Chuck Spera and sent him the next volley in our e-mail conversation.

Overall it was a good 63rd birthday.  Given our winter travel lifestyle I face the interesting prospect of celebrating my birthday somewhere different every year for many years to come.

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour.  L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me.   Photo by Linda (not shown).

Our fellow campers gathered by our bus for my 63rd birthday happy hour. L-2-R: Sandy, Larry, Barb, Jim, Butch, Fonda, me. Photo by Linda (not shown).

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

The overnight lows are now dropping into the upper 40’s at night and the coach cools off just enough that I turn the heat on in the front of the bus while I make coffee in the morning.  Soon enough the sun starts heating up the coach and we are pulling the accordion shades down to keep it out and opening windows and turning on ceiling exhaust fans to draw cool air in.  A couple of days ago we finally put the awnings out on the south facing passenger side of the coach.  Between the patio awning and the bedroom awning they shade more than half of the upper portion of the coach and help keep the interior temperatures in check.  We have not had them out much, however, because of the somewhat persistent winds in the La Paz Valley.

After breakfast I wanted to setup the TireTraker TT-400C TPMS.  Once I started I would need to install the sensors on all 13 tires.  In order to install the sensor on the spare tire in the car I had to empty out the back so I could get to the tire.  Linda was helping me and noticed a screw in the passenger side rear tire.  It was right at the edge of the tread but not technically in the side wall.  The tire was holding pressure but when I started to back the screw out it started to hiss so I screwed it back in.  Nuts.

Linda got online to look for tire repair shops in Quartzsite.  The first three numbers we tried were out of service and the Love’s Truck Stop only repaired big tires, not small ones, so I called Jim Liebherr to see if he knew of some place in town.  Flo answered the phone and could not locate Jim so I asked for a return phone call.  Butch then offered to drive me downtown where he thought he remembered seeing a tire shop.  As we were pulling out of our camp it occurred to Butch that the RV Pit Stop, just south of us on Central Avenue, might do tire repairs.  Before we even got that far we saw the sign for Best Auto and Tires.  We have walked or driven past this place dozens of times but never paid any attention to the fact they sold and serviced tires.  At the time we did not care.

They said they would have to see the tire so we drove back to camp and I drove back in the car.  They said they could repair it properly with an internal patch and they would get right on it if I wanted to wait for it.  $14.  Deal.  I could easily have walked back to camp from there but I was back with the car within an hour.  If the tire had not been repairable we would have had to take it off the car and use Butch’s Chevy Suburban to drive it to Yuma or Lake Havasu City where there are Discount Tire Locations.

Jim L. returned my earlier phone call while I was waiting for the tire.  He and Flo use a dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico and are very satisfied with the service and price.  I have a tooth that is bothering me just a bit and was giving some serious consideration to making an appointment with someone in Los Algodones.

I installed the batteries in our new TT-400C sensors and programmed the baseline pressures into the monitor (receiver).  I then installed the sensors on the bus and car tires, linking each one to the monitor as I went.  Programming the baseline pressures first is the easier way to install the system.  In setup mode the monitor displays each tire position in turn.  While the position is displayed a sensor is screwed onto the valve stem.  The application of pressure to the sensor “wakes it up.”  When the sensor starts transmitting the monitor associates it with the displayed tire position.  After exiting setup mode only the programmed tire positions display on the monitor.

In addition to the overall setup procedure there are several things I like better about the TT-400C system compared to the PressurePro system we have had since the 2008 FMCA national rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.  A major one is that the baseline pressures are programmed into the monitor.  On the PP-TPMS the baseline pressures are determined by the pressure in the tire at the time the sensor is put on.  Another thing I like is that the TT-TPMS monitor is powered by rechargeable batteries and is not plugged in when in use.  That makes it much more convenient to move it between the bus and the car, but especially to carry it around while installing and associating the sensors to wheel positions.  Finally, I like the sensors, which are much smaller and only weigh 0.4 ounces each.

Linda helped me reload the back of the Element and sort through all of the “stuff” that was “stuffed” in the glove box and the passenger side dashboard trays.  (When was the last time someone actually stored gloves in an automotive glove box?).  With everything sorted out and repackaged in ZipLock bags I stored it back in the glove box and locked up the car.

Linda spent part the morning working on accounting and tax returns for Butch and Fonda and talking on the phone to Dave, the controller at Metropolitan Baking.  I got a call later from Jim Ammenheiser and then did a final proofreading of our Education Committee recommendation to FMCA staff for how to restructure the categorization and listing of seminars and activities in the national rally programs.

We took a break and had the last two cupcakes from yesterday with some vegan Mocha Almond Fudge coconut “ice cream.”  We were supposed to have these last night for my birthday but we were not hungry after snacking at the happy hour birthday gathering.  Linda then went for a walk.  Linda got me a birthday card and a towel with an elastic edged hole for my head.  I tend to get food on my shirts when I eat and the towel is basically an adult bib that can be easily laundered.

Our fresh water tank was a bottle cap shy of empty so I filled it.  It usually takes about 50 minutes to fill the tank starting from empty so I set the timer on my smartphone for 40 minutes.  When it signaled me to check on the progress the tank was already overflowing.  (It has a vent tube on top of the tank that runs through the floor of the bay.)  I don’t think I wasted more than a few gallons of soft water so it should not throw my water usage and softening calculations off by much.  The good news was that the post-fill hardness test showed the water coming out of the softener at 0.0 to 0.5 gpg total hardness (0 to 10 ppm.)  That was better than the reading I got right after I recharged the softener, so perhaps it still had some residual salt in it initially.

At 4 PM I was getting ready to upload a blog post when the UPS truck showed up and dropped off two boxes for me.  It was the Chemical Guys microfiber products I had ordered recently, including two microfiber auto detailing aprons.  Butch returned a few minutes later with a small package for me.  It was the lens hood I had ordered for my Sony zoom lens and it had been mailed USPS.  He also had eight (8) Full River 6V L16 AGM batteries.  I helped him unload them from the Suburban onto the concrete pad on the driver side of their bus.  Fonda emptied out the driver’s side of their battery bay and she and I then moved the batteries to the bay where Butch positioned them.  He left them in their boxes and will install them when they get back to Twelve Mile.

At 5:15 PM I finally got around to uploading the consolidated blog post for the last week of November (2014).  I then started thinking about what to do with my December 2014 posts.  As of today I am still 67 posts behind and putting up daily posts is not realistic.  In looking through my photos I was surprised to find that I took very few from the time we left the house until we arrived in Quartzsite.  I decided to do consolidated posts for Dec 1 – 4 (Twelve Mike, IN to Alvarado, TX), 5 – 8 (visit with Donn Barnes), and 9 – 12 (travel from Alvarado to Quartzsite, AZ).  I have more pictures for the rest of the month, so I will have to figure out what makes sense.  I compiled the posts for December 1 – 4, selected and processed one photo, uploaded it, selected the categories, and entered all of the tags.  I posted it and then realized I wanted to edit the URLs slightly so I logged back in and found that I was unable to type anything.

It took me a while to figure out that the problem was the built-in keyboard on my ASUS G750JM ROG notebook computer.  I got it at the end of April last year, so I have only had it for eight months.  I decided to run a full scan using ESET Smart Security since I could do that with just a mouse and the Bluetooth mouse was working just fine.  It found 18 threats and dealt with 16 of them.  I then ran CCleaner, after which I enabled the onscreen keyboard.  Although intended for use on touchscreen computers, at least I could type things into a search box using my mouse.

I found some references to similar problems on answers.microsoft.com with the suggestion to examine the keyboard device properties.  If it indicated the device was installed and working correctly it was probably not a Windows 8.1 problem.  The other suggestion was to try an external keyboard.  If that worked it would confirm a keyboard hardware problem.  I had already gotten my Gigaware wireless keyboard out so I plugged in the USB dongle, turned on the keyboard, and voilà, I could type again!

Another post on the Windows forum listed website links for ASUS support so I started following those.  One ASUS website wanted the serial number of my computer, which I had to get off of a tag on the bottom of the case with really small type.  Once I had that entered correctly I was able to go to a download page with 81 files available, including bios and chipset code.  There were two files that seemed to have something to do with the keyboard.  By 1:15 AM I had a half dozen tabs open in two different browsers with no definitive understanding of what had happened or what to do to fix it.  I then realized that the Shift Lock key on the keyboard was illuminated and I could toggle it on and off.  I could also toggle the Number Lock, so I tried typing and the keyboard was working once again.  That, however, did not give me any confidence that it would continue to do so.  I decided I was not going to shut the computer down for fear of not being able to log back in on startup.  I was not about to start downloading and installing anything at that hour so I went to bed tired, annoyed, and, frankly, a bit discouraged by this unwelcomed turn of events.


2014/04/07 (M) Big Wheels Keep On Turning

The boots may have been made for walking, but the wheels were made for turning and it does not make much sense (to us) to own a motorhome and not use the motor to move the home around at least occasionally.  Checkout time at Williston Crossings RV Resort is nominally 11 AM.  We were planning to leave by then, but a call to Suncoast Designers at 9 AM caused us to push our departure time back.  They suggested we not arrive until about 4 PM to make sure we had a place to park with hookups.  That put our departure time target at 2 PM.  We walked up to the office to make sure this would be OK.  It was; we have been here a long time and been good residents, and no one was scheduled to go in to “our” site today.

Given some extra time we had not planned on, we went for one last, long walk around the RV resort.  How different it looked and felt.  The resort is turning over from long-term winter/seasonal use to short-term summer/vacation use and there were many empty sites.  Eighty-nine rigs left yesterday.  Many were Carriage 5th wheels that were part of the 70 rig Carriage Travel Club rally that was here all last week.  But some were winter seasonal residents who have been dribbling out since April 1st and will continue to do so into May.  We were not the only rig pulling out today.  Our other neighbor, Sharon, is leaving this coming Sunday.  A few rigs were pulling in, of course, but the departures currently exceed the arrivals on any given day.

When we returned from our walk I mixed up a batch of the concoction we use in the waste holding tanks (48 oz PineSol, 48 oz water, 1cup Calgon).  I dumped the black-water tank and back-flushed it, followed by dumping the grey-water waste tank.  I ran additional water through the drain hose and then disconnected the hoses and fittings and stowed them for travel.  I reconnected the water softener and filled the fresh-water tank.  Once that was done Linda helped me disconnect, clean, and stow the fresh water hoses and the water softener.

We tend to forego coffee and breakfast on travel days, but had a little of both this morning as we were not leaving right away.  Because of the delay in our departure we did not have lunch.  To pass the time I continued with travel preparations.  The last time I had the coach batteries connected I noticed that the Pressure Pro TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) was not reading one of the sensors (PS outside drive tire).  We have a repeater for this system that I plan to install in the rear of the coach someday, but for now it gets attached to the rear view mirror of the car.  I took care of that task and then decided to move the car up onto the patio next to passenger side of the coach.  I left the ignition on to power the repeater and connected the coach batteries to power the TPMS receiver.  After a few minutes all of the tire sensors were active and the tire pressures were OK for travel.  I disconnected the coach batteries and put the car back in front of the coach.

At 1:30 PM we started our final travel preparations, clearing off the counters and moving stuff from the cockpit to the sofa, the bed, and the bedroom floor.  At 1:45 PM I shut off the 240/120 VAC electrical power to the coach, disconnected the shoreline, and stowed it in the slide-out tray over the DS drive tires.  I installed the screw-in cover for the utility port hole in the bay floor, and closed/locked the bay.  I then checked the Magnum 4024 to make sure it had switched to inverter mode, which it had.

Once the shore power is cut we seem to develop an increased sense of urgency about leaving.  I think this is due, in part, to the fact that I do not have the ZENA power generator operational yet, so our house batteries do not get charged while we are driving.  That’s OK, up to a point; the battery bank was designed to be large enough to run the inverter and power reasonable loads for a reasonable length of time.  But the sooner we leave, the sooner we arrive, and the sooner we arrive, the sooner we can plug back in to shore power.  We have an auxiliary power plant, of course, so we always have the option of using that if needed.  The other reason we are probably anxious to leave is more psychological.  Once we are completely disconnected (physically) we are become disconnected mentally, although not necessarily emotionally.  We are no longer “tethered” to that spot, and that means it is time to go.

I connected the chassis batteries, fired up the engine, and set the level low system to the driving position.  While Linda moved the car to street I drained the auxiliary air tank using the nice dry air from the main engine air compressor.  With John’s assistance we got the coach out of the site and lined up on the street.  Linda pulled the car up behind the coach and we went through our procedure for hooking it up to the tow bar.  We did our standard light check and found that the turn signals on the car were not working.  A quick check of the connectors on both ends of the cable revealed a socket on the car end of the cable that was corroded.  I used the awl on John’s Swiss Army Knife to clean it up.  A recheck of the lights indicated that everything was working.  After a final “goodbye” with John and Ali we were on our way.

Our departure delay meant we would be traveling SSW into the sun at the hottest part of the day.  The air temperature was 85 degrees F when we left, and the engine ran slightly hotter than usual, indicating just above 195 degrees F on the coolant temperature gauge, so I decided not to run the coach air conditioning.  The drive to Hudson was warm, but not unbearable.  A cold front was approaching the gulf coast of Florida so we had increasing cloud cover as we progressed south and west towards the coast, which helped keep the cockpit from getting too warm.

We had a nice run from Williston to Hudson.  We headed south out of Williston on US-41/US-27/FL-121.  US-27/FL-121 split off to the west a mile south of town, made a sweeping turn to the left and then followed a nice straight line SW for 17 miles to its southern terminus at US-19.  This stretch of FL-121 is straight but hilly.  With the cruise control set the engine is very sensitive to hills.  I always know we are on a grade, however slight, by the reaction of the turbo boost gauge and the pyrometers.

Most of the rest of trip was on US-19 except for the last three miles.  Traffic was light until we got to Crystal River, which had slower speed limits, lots of stop lights, and lots of vehicles on the road.  It opened up a bit after Homosassa Springs, but got congested as we approached Weeki Wachee where FL-50 ends at US-19.  From Weeki Wachee to just north of Hudson traffic remained slow and congested with increasingly dense commercial use on both sides of the road and stop lights every mile.  Just north of Hudson we turned east onto Little Road, which immediately swung south, and followed it for about two miles to New York Avenue, where we turned west and went another mile to Labor Place, the location of Suncoast Designers.

The coach ran fine, although the Check Engine Light came on almost immediately and was on more than it was off for the whole trip.  That did not surprise me as we had not done any work over the last couple of months to fix the fuel temperature sensor voltage problem that is apparently setting a fault code in the DDEC II.  I had hoped that the repairs we made in the dashboard wiring harness would fix the speedometer/odometer problem, but they did not; the gauge sat on zero for the whole trip.  The left pyrometer (exhaust gas temperature) gauge, however, was much more responsive and tracked the right pyrometer gauge much more closely than it ever had before.  It appears that the wires we repaired were for this gauge rather than the speedo/odo.

Once we pulled in to Suncoast Designers we pulled to the side of the road, so as not to block traffic, and unhooked the car.  While Linda parked the car I found the office and checked on parking arrangements.  Suncoast Designers has at least a dozen RV sites with water and 50 A electric hookups.  The only one open was a somewhat tight spot between two other large Class A motorhomes that required me to back in.  The maneuver was made more difficult by the fact that the road in front of the sites had a curb on the far side and was not wide enough to allow me to swing the front end without scrubbing the front tires.  I repositioned the coach so that I was turning in from the driver’s side, but Linda and I could not figure out how to get the coach into the site.  The guy next to us on the driver’s side offered to help.  A former truck driver, he knew exactly what to have me do.  Unlike some RVers, our pride is not injured by not knowing how to do something, and we gladly accepted his help.

I pulled past the site close to the front of his rig and then turned out to the passenger side, putting the coach at an angle to the open site.  He had me back part way into the front of the site at that angle and then turn the steer tires full left to start to bring the coach around.  He had me stop and then turn the steer tires full right and pull forward.  Steer tires full left again and back up some more, then full right and pull forward. We repeated this one more time and finally had the coach lined up straight and centered between the coaches on either side without having hit either one!  Linda was keeping an eye on the back of the coach the whole time (to make sure I did not hit anything) and guided me into our final position.  We then leveled the coach and shut the engine down.

The outside air temperature was only in the upper 70’s, but it was 90 degrees F in the coach and the outside humidity was high.  In spite of having nine windows that open, the three ceiling vent fans are not very effective at cooling down the interior under such circumstances.  In theory we can run all three air conditioners on a “50 A” shore service, but we have tripped breakers before when doing that.  (The issue is that circuit breakers are commonly designed to only carry 80% of their rated current on a continuous basis, so two of our A/C units plus a little bit of miscellaneous load can exceed 40 A on one of the legs.)  Besides, as soon as I plugged in the Magnum 4024 was going to switch to charger mode and start recharging the house batteries.

I got the shore power connected and checked the Magnum 4024.  It went into bulk charging mode and started charging the house batteries at 86 Amps. Since it is a 24 VDC charger, it was drawing ~1/5 that much AC current, or ~17 A, the equivalent of one of our air conditioners.  The front (living room) and center (kitchen) A/C’s are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC power supply, so we can run them at the same time.  The bedroom A/C is on the same leg as the front A/C and the Magnum is on the other leg.  We ran the front and center A/C’s along with Magnum and let the bedroom stay warm for the time being.

Suncoast Designers provides free WiFi for customers camped at their facility, but the signal we thought was theirs indicated it was “filtered” and we had not obtained the login information from the office before it closed.  We used our Verizon MiFi instead and had a good, strong signal.  I had a chance to ask our neighbor (helpful truck driver guy) later, and he said the open signal was the one they were using.  Although it was a weak (one bar) “g” signal, our WiFi Ranger latched on to it without difficulty.

Linda needed a few grocery items and located a Publix grocery store on Little Road less than three miles from Suncoast Designer’s.  As evening settled in we switched off the front A/C and turned on the bedroom unit.  Linda reheated some of the leftover Sloppy Joe’s from the pot luck dinner the night before, and we had that on the skinny buns we have started using, along with a simple spinach salad and a few Fritos corn chips.

After dinner Linda sent e-mails to several of our new friends from WCRVR while I checked in to RVillage and took care of a few e-mails of my own.  The overnight temperature was forecast to only drop into the upper 60’s with high humidity, and with rain starting before sunrise, so we decided to leave the rig closed up and the kitchen and bedroom A/C’s on all night.  We rarely do this because of the noise and because we prefer fresh air, except when it is too warm and/or too humid.  Considering that we had traveled less than 100 miles and been on the road just under two hours today, we both felt like it had been a very long day.  As much as we enjoyed the social life at WCRVR, it was nice to not have anything to do but go to bed and get some rest.