Tag Archives: Garmin 465T GPS

2016/04/11–15 (M–F) Water Pumps on the Road Again

2016/04/11 (M) Parts Run

I was up at 7:30 AM, so I slept over seven hours last night, and felt like I had slept well enough to take on the day I had ahead of me.  I fed the cars, put fresh water in their bowl, and cleaned their litter tray.  I also cleaned part of the shower as one of them has developed loose stools in the last couple of days and has not always made it to the tray in time.  I moved the SunPass transponder, Garmin GPS, and my sunglasses to the car in preparation for my trip today.  By the time I had done all those chores Linda was up and both used our iPads for a while.  I was not going to make coffee this morning since I had a long drive ahead of me sometime today, but Linda wanted some so I made it and had some myself.  We eventually had bagels for breakfast.

I called Action Mobile around 9 AM and talked to Service Manager John Provo.  He expected my three brake calipers to be delivered between 10 AM and noon but that was just a guess on his part.  Rather than make an issue of getting a more accurate ETA I decided I would leave at 10 AM for the two hour drive from Williston to Orlando.  I went out after breakfast and unloaded most of the stuff in the back of the car and stored it on the picnic table.  I then walked to the resort office to let them know we were expecting a package from Amazon today.

Just before 10 AM I wrote out a short grocery list as I planned to stop on my way back from Orlando at The Publix supermarket on US-27 by the Ocala exit (#354) of I-75.  I took my iPad in case I needed to kill some time at Action Mobile, and actually left a little after 10 AM.

The trip down was smooth, with no traffic issues, and it was uneventful except for a text message from my sister asking me to call our broker and transfer funds for our dad.  Based on when I received it the best I could do was pull into one the Florida Turnpike Service Areas closest to Orlando’s northwest corner and call the brokerage.  The person I needed to speak to (Maggie) was on another call and I did not want to deal with a return call while driving so I left a message that I would call again when I got to my destination, which was still 20 minutes away barring any unforeseen traffic problems.

Traffic was thicker and a little slower as I neared Orlando but it moved along well enough and I reached Action Mobile just after noon.  I called Maggie again and got her this time as she is in the Central Time Zone.  Maggie is our broker’s office manager and is also a registered agent.  We have an extremely good relationship with her and our broker, John, so we chatted briefly before I gave her the transaction details.  I then texted my sister back to let her know I had taken care of her request.

I went inside and found John P. (the Service Manager).  The parts were not there yet so he called Rex at Rush Trucking to check on them.  Rex said they should have been there and made a call.  Not too long after that a white can showed up and the driver unloaded three Meritor boxes of the right size, shape, and apparent weight, and took off.

It occurred to me that I should check the parts before paying the balance and taking off myself so I opened all three boxes.  I was expecting one of the castings to have an “L” in the casting number and the other two to have an “R” in the casting number, but all three had “L”s and that caused me some concern.  I also noticed that one of the calipers had both grease fittings broken.  John P. called Rex back and Rex explained the Left and Right calipers used the same (“L”) casting.  The difference was in the helical drive shaft and gear inside, and difference was reflected in the part number on the box label.  The left side caliper part number began with “A 1” while the right side caliper began with “A 2.”   (The shaft for the calipers on the left side of the bus rotate clockwise, as viewed from the end where the slack adjuster attaches, while the calipers for the right side rotate counterclockwise.)

Rather than have Action Mobile remove and replace the damaged grease fittings Rex had a different left caliper sent over as he did not want to risk a small piece of debris falling inside the mechanism.  When the driver dropped it off I checked the label and the grease fittings.  There were OK, so he put the damaged one in his van and left.

While I was waiting I called Butch and gave him the information on how the left and right calipers were labeled.  He is working with someone at ABC Bus in Muncie, Indiana, who is working with someone at Rockwell-Meritor, who says we can still get these parts with a 45 to 60 day lead time.  I’m guessing that these are also rebuilt/remanufactured calipers, not new ones, but at this point in time we don’t really know.  He was quoted a price that was $200 less per caliper than I paid, but I have mine now, not two months from now; if in fact I could get them.

Bill, the mechanic who fixed our left tag axle brake last week, was taking his lunch break so we got to chat a bit.  John D. (the owner) was also around so we also got to chat for a little while.  I was running behind the schedule I had hoped to keep, so I loaded the three boxes into my car and went inside to pay the balance of the bill.  A quick chat with the billing clerk, Lisa, and I was on my way back to Williston.  It was 1:30 PM and I figured I would be back by 4 PM, including my stop at Publix.

I stopped at the Florida’s Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Area for some lunch but just ended up getting a frozen coffee thing at Dunkin Donuts.  Traffic moved along nicely all the way onto northbound I-75.  I had just passed exit 341 and was just 13 miles short of exit 354, when traffic came to a complete standstill.  The backup stretched as far as I could see in front of me and the flurry of emergency response vehicles driving up both shoulders meant there had been a serious accident somewhere up ahead.

It took at least an hour to reach the accident scene, where police had closed all three lanes of the highway.  All of that of traffic, which included two lanes of nose-to-tail tractor-trailers, had to funnel onto the right shoulder to get around the blockage.  The accident looked really bad and appeared to have involved at least a motorcycle, a large Suburban-like vehicle, and a utility trailer.  There may have been other vehicles involved that I did not see as I drove past or that had already been moved, although I doubted that.  There was no sign of the people involved and I presume they had already been transported from the scene by ambulances or helicopters.

Once I was past the accident I had clear sailing the rest of the way, but from the accident scene north the southbound lanes of I-75 were also completely stopped.  There were also emergency vehicles on the southbound side of the highway, but it did not appear that any of the accident was over there.  I exited I-75 at exit 354 (Ocala, Williston), made a left onto US-27, and pulled into the strip mall on the right where the Publix supermarket is located.

I took my short list of grocery items and went in.  In an unusual move for me I found everything on my list except for one item and did not buy anything that wasn’t on my list.  The only thing I could not get was fresh blueberries, which is odd because just today I had seen billboards advertising the Florida Blueberry Festival as running from April 11 – 16 in a town nearby.  Maybe all of the available blueberries were being routed to the festival?

I was back at our rig around 5:10 PM.  After getting the groceries inside, I turned my attention to reloading the car.  My first task was to transfer the new (to me) A1/Left caliper to the box the DS tag axle caliper came in last week as the box the new caliper came in was in very bad condition.  Linda found our roll of bubble wrap under the bed and I used pieces to protect the grease fittings on the top of each of the three new (to me) calipers.  (I say “new (to me)” because I believe the four calipers I have purchased are all rebuilt, and possibly even remanufactured.)

With that taken care of, I moved a couple of low boxes from the picnic table to the car and put them on the floor behind the two calipers that were behind the driver’s seat.  I then moved the tire covers from the front passenger seat and put them on top of the boxes.  The covers are a soft nylon mesh material which I figured would provide additional protection for the grease fittings.

We disassembled the damaged box to get flat cardboard pieces to use as a cushioning layer on top of the two caliper boxes that I had put inside the wooden storage structure.  The reason for all of this was that I had to store other boxes on top of the caliper boxes and, having received one that had damaged grease fittings, wanted to make sure I was not responsible for causing similar damage.  I had already taken the precaution yesterday of moving heavier items to the front bay of the bus, leaving lighter items for the car.

With the car repacked I opened the box from Amazon, which Linda said arrived around 10:30 AM, to verify that it was the correct Shur-Flo 4048 fresh water pump.  It was the correct box so I left it at that and we went for a long, slow walk around the resort.  When we concluded our walk we sat outside for a while and doodled on our iPads.  John and Ali returned around 6:30 PM.  As we suspected, they had gone out to dinner.  We presumed they had gone to The Blue Highway, but they had gone to The Olive Garden in Gainesville instead.

For dinner Linda made sandwiches with vegan deli slices and lots of greens, kind of like a salad on a bun, and sliced up a Honey Crisp apple.  It was a simple, easy meal, but it was all good.  As the hour approached 8 PM and the light faded we went next door to visit with John and Ali.  Earlier in the day John had taken one of his propane tanks over to be refilled but the person responsible for that task had not taken care of it.  When he tried to light the propane firepit it would not ignite.  We could smell the gas, and hear the spark, but if the tank was near empty it probably did not have enough pressure to make it work.  No problem; the conversation, if not the “mood,” was just as good without the fire.

It was a warm, still evening and there were more bugs out than the last few nights.  Everyone was tired by 10 PM and we all retired to our own rigs.  We watched the end of NCIS-LA and the beginning of the news and then went to bed.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickel, and then went to sleep.  Although I had not really done very much it had been another long, and somewhat stressful, day.

2016/04/12 (T) Water Pump Up

I got up at 7:30 AM and quietly took care of the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  I measured out the beans for our morning coffee but waited to grind them until Linda was up.  I updated my spreadsheet for GLCC parking at the upcoming FMCA GLAMARAMA16 rally in June and then continued working on my blog post for yesterday.  When Linda got up at 8 AM I finished making the coffee.  We then spent a couple of hours engaged in our usual morning routine of using our iPads while enjoying our coffee and having granola with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

By 10 AM we were dressed and I got to work replacing the fresh water pump.  The pump is a Shur-Flo 4048-153-E75.  It is a 4 GPM (max), 55 PSI (max), self-priming, 12 VDC pump with thermal overload protection and the ability to run dry without damage (although our friends, Butch and Fonda, discovered that it cannot do this for an extended period of time).  Shurflo also makes this pump in 24 VDC and 120 VAC versions.  I am seriously considering adding a 120 VAC pump to the water system when I redo the utility bay, but I would like something a bit more robust.  I seem to recall that Chuck has a Paragon AC powered pump in their Liberty conversion and it impressed me as a very serious piece of equipment.

Since the new water pump was an exact replacement for the failed one installation was very straightforward.  I shut off the incoming fresh water line as a precaution and had Linda make sure the pump power was switched off.  I then disconnected the two power leads which I had wired using mating insulated spade connectors.  There are two fresh water supply lines, each of which gas a 1/4 turn shutoff valve, so I closed those.  (The conversion had two domestic water pumps plumbed in parallel when we first bought it.  I replaced them with a single 4048 and removed the surge tank at that time as Shur-Flo recommended not using one with the 4048 pump.)  The threaded water line connections to the pump are plastic and only hand tightened, so were dealt with easily.  Before removing them I got a towel to absorb the water that was inevitably going to drain out of the lines.  Once the lines were off I removed the four screws that secured the unit to the floor through the rubber shock mounts.  The unit was now completely disconnected and I was able to remove it.

The new and old water pumps along with tool boxes and other stuff needed to make the repair.

Installing the new unit was basically a matter of reversing the steps just described, more or less.  I  needed to attach the proper insulated spade connectors to the power wires on the new pump.  I found my spade lug kit and even though I had a variety of connectors I did not have the ones I needed.  Fortunately there is a NAPA Auto Parts Store very close to Williston Crossings RV Resort and auto parts stores are an excellent place to find a large variety of spade connectors.  It’s walking distance to the store, but I drove there to save time.  I bought several different packs to make sure I had what I needed.

Back at the bus I prepared the power leads and set the new unit in place.  I connected the water lines first as it was easier with the unit loose.  I connected the power leads and then screwed the unit to the floor.  The new pump came with a strainer and adapter fittings.  I used the new strainer bowl to replace the old one, in which I found little curly queues of plastic.  I opened the two shutoff valves and then had Linda turn on the power to the pump and open the kitchen faucet so that both the hot and cold lines were open.  The unit came to life and water flowed, albeit with a sputter until all of the air was out of the lines.  With that, the water pump problem was fixed and I cleaned up the work area and put my tools away.

Next on my task list was checking tire pressures.  I really did not want to check all 12 tires with the digital gauge so I turned on the TireTraker TT-400 TPMS and waited 20 minutes for the readings to update.  Although the sensors are not “dead on” accurate they are close enough to let me know if a tire has lost enough air to require topping up.  They all appeared to be OK so I did not have to get out the air-compressor and air hose.

Barring any further unforeseen circumstances this was our last planned night in Florida for the 2015-16 winter season.  We wanted to go to Satchel’s in Gainesville for pizza one last time.  We decided to have an early dinner and take care of a couple of errands so we left at 2 PM.  Our first stop was at the Kangaroo filling station for gasoline.  Our next stop was Pet Supplies Plus in the Archer Road mega strip mall shopping complex.  We also stopped at the CVS pharmacy in the same complex and then drove to Satchel’s on the east side of town.

Although it was a lovely afternoon, weather wise, we chose to sit inside.  At Satchel’s we had our usual meal; an excellent salad and a pizza with mushroom, onion, sun-dried tomato, and Daiya non-dairy cheese.  It is, quite simply, one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, and it is vegan!  We got their largest pie and brought most of it home.

When we got back to Williston Crossings John and Ali were not around and we figured they had gone out to dinner again.  Happy hour usually takes place at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel so we walked down there to visit for a while.  John and Ali eventually returned and as evening fell over the resort we went next door to sit around their propane campfire and visit.  Smitty made a large bowl of popcorn popped in peanut oil and lightly salted with Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum. Note for T 20160412 blog post.  Jim and Janet Rawley came over to John and Ali’s site to visit and John played his guitar and sang for a while.  Jim’s professional name is “Sonny Fox” and he was a big time rock ‘n roll D. J. during the ear when radio stations started playing “album rock.”  Jim quizzed me about my musical background and the first record (45 or LP) that I bought but I had no recollection of that.

We returned to our rig just before 10 PM and were in bed, with the lights out, by 10:30 as we planned to pull out of our site around 7 AM in the morning.  Tomorrow we head north and leave Florida.

2016/04/13 (W) Unbalanced Travel

I set an alarm for 6:20 AM and we got up at 6:30 and got dressed.  Today was a travel day so we did not have coffee or breakfast.  While we prepared the interior of the coach for travel I encountered a problem with the 12 VDC charging plug for the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS unit.  A small threaded plastic insert, which holds the spring-loaded +12V center contact, had broken and could not be repaired on short notice (if at all).  The two lower 12 VDC “cigarette lighter” outlets were dead again and it occurred to me that the failed plug might have been responsible for shorting the outlet and blowing the supply fuse last Wednesday.  Not realizing this at the time, and desperate to get the GPS back into service, I vaguely recall having plugged it into one of the upper outlets and probably shorted it out too.  I replaced all of the blown fuses last Wednesday but did not realize at that time what the root cause was and was rather perplexed by the failure, which reoccurred on the lower pair of outlets.

I removed the R-M GPS from its usual mounting position (on the driver side lower windshield next to the center pillar and resting on the top of the dashboard cover) and set it aside and I installed the Garmin 465T GPS unit in its place.  I took care of the remaining outside tasks of disconnecting/storing the shorepower cord, connecting the chassis batteries, and opening the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  Linda moved the car to another site so it was out of the way as I started the bus motor and aired up the chassis (brakes and suspension).  She then spotted for clearance from obstructions as I slowly and carefully pulled out of our site.

We wanted to be on the road at 7 AM but it was about 10 minutes past the hour when I finally pulled out of the site.  Our friend and neighbor, John (Smitty) Smith, was up and outside to wave goodbye, which was nice.  I proceeded north through the resort on Covered Bridge Road and Linda followed in the car.  We drove through the covered bridge, for which the road is named, and stopped just short of the north bath/laundry building to hook up the car for towing.  There are no park model trailers or RV sites close to this location, so we knew we could hookup here without bothering anyone.  With the car attached we double checked the settings and then did our light check.  Everything was OK so Linda got into the coach and we set our destination in the Garmin GPS unit.

We finished our slow roll through the RV resort, out the back/northwest gate, and pulled out onto FL-121 headed northeast towards Gainesville.  About two miles from I-75 we encountered stop-n-go traffic.  The morning rush hour in Gainesville was underway and was something we had not previously experienced.

Linda kept a close eye on our tire pressures and temperatures, especially the driver side tag axle, as we rolled along.  We stopped at the Pilot station at Exit 460 and took on 60 gallons of diesel fuel.  That was our last stop until we got to the end of our trip for the day.  I would have liked to note here that the trip was uneventful but, alas, that was not the case.

The drive up I-75 through northern Florida and southern Georgia is generally an easy one, without any serious grades to climb or descend, attractive enough scenery, and reasonable traffic volumes except during the April 1st northward snowboard migration.  As we got to the Macon, Georgia area and then on up to Atlanta, traffic was heavier but moved along.  Somewhere along the way the Battery Balance (BAL) light came on, flickering at first but then staying on.  Not good.

The Battery Balance light is controlled by a Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is supposed to indicate that the “12V” center tap on the battery bank is not within +/- 0.75 VDC of 1/2 of the voltage between the “24V” terminal and ground.  The relationship of these voltages is supposed to be regulated by a pair of Vanner Voltmaster Battery Equalizers.  It is normal for this light to come on occasionally, especially when starting the motor, but it is not normal for it to come on and stay on.  Assuming the monitor module is not defective, it means the 12V center tap is out of tolerance with respect to the 24V terminal and implies that the Vanner equalizers are not doing their job.  Ugh.

Having the yellow Battery Balance (caution) light come on immediately added stress to the trip but when the red Hi/Low Battery (warning) light came on the stress level went way up.  This light is also controlled by the Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is (supposed to be) activated if the voltage at the “24V” terminal (relative to ground) is less than 24V or more than 30V.  Voltages outside the 24 – 30 VDC range could indicate a malfunction of the voltage regulator and/or engine-mounted alternator.  Either one would be a problem that could put the bus on the side of the road as the engine is controlled by a computer that is powered by the chassis battery 12 V center tap.

The normal full-charge resting voltage of a “24V” lead-acid battery is 25.2 VDC (12 cells in series at 2.1 volts per cell) and the normal voltage at the 24V terminal with the motor running is around 28 VDC, so the 24 – 30 VDC range is a reasonable one. I also have 24V and 12V analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard that are connected to the batteries independent of the Vanner Battery Voltage Monitor Module.  While they would also show high or low voltage conditions, and, by comparison, a battery imbalance condition, it is appropriate to have warning lights to get your immediate attention as you might not notice the gauges for a while.  What was odd about this situation was that the 24V gauge was sitting at about the 29V position and the 12V gauge was sitting at about the 14V position.  I knew these gauges worked because they do not always show these readings, but I did not know if the readings were accurate.  They are, however, close to what I normally see, and they do not usually result in caution or warning lights.

We left I-75 (GA) at exit 296, Cassville-White Road, drove 0.2 miles east to the Pilot truck stop, and got in a long to wait for a pump.  When it was finally our turn I added 92 gallons of diesel fuel.  From the truck stop we drove west back towards I-75 and continued 0.5 miles on the other side of the highway before turning left into the Cartersville Castle-White KOA.  Linda was hearing and speaking well enough by now to be able to register us, which is normally her job.  We were escorted to a water/electric pull-through site in the center of the park with less than ideal access but I was able to get in and park the bus.  We leveled as best we could, shut off the engine, batteries, and air and then plugged in the shorepower and turned it on.

Linda made a really good salad for dinner and we each had a piece of leftover pizza, slightly warmed.  Yum.  After dinner I made calls to Joe Cannarozzi, Ed Roelle, and Butch Williams and sent a text to Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Joe was working on a coach in Williamston, Michigan and was looking for a local facility that could service the over-the-road air-conditioning system.  Ed has been around converted buses in Michigan for a long time so I contacted him to see if he had any suggestions for Joe.  We went for a long walk around the campground during which I had a long chat with my sister.  When we got back to our coach I exchanged text messages with Smitty back at Willison Crossings RV Resort.

Our TV options were limited but we were able to get PBS, so we watched whatever was on.  We planned to pullout out of our site at 7 AM, which meant we had to be up around 6:15.  Not that we have that much to do, but we do not like to rush through our morning routine.  We were in bed with the lights out by 11 PM.

2016/04/14 (R) A Relatively Smooth Run

There was a possibility of rain last night so we closed all of the roof vents and narrowed the window openings before we went to bed.  I set the alarm on my phone last night for 6:15 AM this morning, but I was aware of the rain, and woke up around 4 AM when I heard one of the cats making a strange noise.  I wanted to turn on the electric engine block heater anyway so I got up and did that, checked on the cats (they were fine), and went back to bed.  I tried to go back to sleep without complete success.

We finally got up to stay at 6:30 AM and got dressed.  I had an e-mail from Gary at BCM that needed a reply and cc:d Dave Aungier.  I also texted Dave as he was who Gary needed to contact.  I shut down all of the technology and packed up my computer while Linda cleaned off counters and secured windows.  The car was already connected for towing so we just had to go through the towing procedure and double check it.  I disconnected and stowed the shorepower cable, connected the chassis batteries, and opened the air valves in the engine bay.  I started the engine and we did the light check while the chassis aired up.  Since it was 7 AM we tried to avoid idling any longer than necessary before pulling out.

We were in an angled water/electric site in the middle of the campground with fairly tight ingress and egress.  I raised the tag axle so shorten the turning radius and pulled out while Linda kept an eye on the driver side front corner.  I had to get the driver side nose of our coach fairly close the passenger side rear corner of the 5th wheel trailer directly in front of our site in order to get our passenger side rear end and toad to clear a tree on our site and a post near the road on the next site to our passenger side.  I also had to avoid the rear end of the next 5th wheel trailer and the picnic table in-between them.  Fun.

Without being over-confident, I think I have gotten a lot better at maneuvering the bus in tight situations.  That skill has come with some good teaching, some practice, and at the expense of two mistakes that caused some damage, but it certainly paid off this morning.  Once I was cleanly out of our site and into the road I stopped and put the tag axle down.  Linda got on board and we rolled slowly out of the center of the campground and headed for the exit.  We stopped before exiting so Linda could find Juniper.  We knew she was onboard, but we wanted visual confirmation before pulling out.  Linda found her under one of the living room captain’s chairs, and we were on our way.

We recharged the Rand-McNally GPS last night using a 12 V car outlet splitter with USB ports and a compatible USB cable that I borrowed from the Sony a99v DSLT camera.  Linda turned it on and entered the address of today’s destination to verify that the unit was working.  It was, so I set it up on the dashboard by the windshield center pillar so it was ready to go this morning.

Our route took us north on the final 70 miles of I-75 in Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee where we headed northwest on I-24.  I-24 was mostly in Tennessee, but dipped back into Georgia briefly as it swung around the southern side of a mountain.  Unless you head far to the west on I-10 before turning north, there isn’t a practical way to get back to Michigan from Florida without crossing mountains.

As you head north from Florida on I-75 the ground rises steadily.  As you approach Atlanta it starts to get hilly, and that continues north of town all the way to Tennessee.  As soon as you head west on I-24 you are perpendicular to mountain ridges running SW to NE.  The highway winds around these ranges, sticking to valleys as much as possible, but inevitably there comes a point where it simply has to go over the top.  And so it did.  I think the grade was at least five miles long, perhaps seven, with lots of turns but nothing I would call a switchback.  The road surface was excellent with wide lanes and truck lanes.  The grade was just steep enough that I had to climb it in 4th gear doing around 50 MPH at 2000 RPM with 14 to 15 PSI of turbo boost.  With cool outside air the engine coolant temperature never rose above 195 degrees F, which is its normal operating temperature (on the gauge) and I was very pleased with the way the bus ran.  Replacing the turbo boost sensor tube last year was no doubt partly responsible for this performance.

The temperature was in the low 50’s when we left the Cartersville Castle-White KOA around 7:15 AM and we ran through cool temperatures under overcast skies, with intermittent drizzle and fog, all the way over the mountains in southwest Tennessee.  Once we were on the northwest side of the mountains the cloud cover started to break up and reveal patches of blue sky.  Somewhere southeast of Nashville we encountered our last raindrops and by the time we merged onto northbound I-65 we had clear, blue skies.  Traveling “north” from late morning to early afternoon we had the sun at our backs, making for a comfortable cockpit without using the air-conditioning.

I was concerned about the issue we had yesterday with the Battery Balance (BAL) telltale caution light and the Hi/Low Battery (Voltage) telltale warning light and presumed it would reoccur today.  In order to reduce the chance of that happening again today I tried to minimize the power draw from the +12 VDC center tap of the chassis batteries and perhaps cause an imbalance between the upper and lower halves of the battery bank.   To that end I did not use the cockpit HVAC fan and kept the headlights off as much as possible.

We had a pretty smooth run all the way to and through Nashville.  Pat and Vickie had alerted us to “construction on I-65” but were not more specific.  North of Nashville we encountered a major construction project that lasted for at least 20 miles.  Traffic flow, however, was very smooth if a bit slower than normal posted speeds.  As we approached Louisville we saw signs announcing major construction ahead and advising I-283W as an alternate route.  We were less than 15 miles from our destination and needed to take the second exit just after the bridge so we rejected the alternate route suggestion and stayed on I-65.  The construction was, indeed, major—the reconstruction of a bridge over the Ohio River—but we made it through without having to stop.  The campground website had very specific and detailed directions on how to exit I-65 and we followed them instead of the GPS.  We were momentarily confused after exiting, never a good thing when driving a bus in an urban area, but we were in the right place and made the last couple of turns to get to the Clarksville KOA campground without difficulty.

Linda checked in at the office and the woman at the desk lead us to a pull-through site that was very easy to get into but might be challenging to exit in the morning.  We were sitting level without having to adjust anything so I shut off the engine and we went through our usual arrival routines.  Linda then walked over to the office and finished registering us.

We walked the park, which was not large, and scoped out our departure route and any possible problems.  The sites here are closely spaced, the roads are a little narrow, and some campers are parked with their vehicles sticking part way out into the road.  Some of the people camped here appeared to be younger men who were itinerant workers.  As such, we suspected they might be gone in their cars before we pulled out in the morning.  If so, we will probably get out OK without having to unhook the car, but I doubt that we will ever return here.  While the location is convenient to I-65 and Louisville, the park itself is not worth the $50 a night they charge.  If not for the location, it wouldn’t be worth half of that.

We did not plan to unhook the car to explore the area and there did not appear to be anywhere to walk although Vickie had texted us that we were only a half mile from the river and there was, in fact, a nice walk down to there.  Even so, we were tired and perfectly content to retire to our coach, have dinner, and watch our favorite Thursday evening CBS comedy shows.  We went to bed at 11 PM as we planned to be on the road at 7 AM so we could be at Butch and Fonda’s home in Twelve Mile, Indiana before noon.

2016/04/15 (F) Back In Twelve Mile Again

I set the alarm on my smartphone last night for 6:30 AM this morning.  Like last night, I woke up around 4 AM, turned on the engine block heater (electrical), and tried to go back to sleep.  I was awake again before 6:30 and the alarm was just my signal to actually get out of bed and get dressed.  Linda woke up with the alarm and was also up and dressed fairly quickly.

As usual for a travel day, we did not make coffee or have breakfast and instead set about preparing the coach for travel.  I had turned off my computer last night so all I had to do was pack it up.   We also left the car and bus connected together, so all we had do was check the connections and go through the towing procedure.  I turned the block heater and Aqua-Hot electric heating element off, disconnected the shorepower cord and stowed it, opened the auxiliary air supply valves, and started the main engine.  We did a light check while the chassis aired up and then Linda climbed aboard.

I was concerned about getting our rig out of the small, tight site and through the narrow interior gravel roads of the campground, but our neighbor’s to the left moved their truck before they went to bed last night and the guy directly in front of us on the other side of the street left in his car just before 7 AM, presumably to go to work.  That meant I had plenty of space to pull forward and to turn to the left, which is the direction the site was angled.  By 7:25 AM we were exiting the park and on our way to Twelve Mile, Indiana.

Although we had less than 200 miles to travel today, I-65 continued to be one long construction zone with lots of very rough surfaces which made for more difficult and tiring driving.  In-between Clarksville and Twelve Mile was Indianapolis, so that meant major urban traffic.  “Indy” is a major shipping hub with a good, but extensive highway system.  I-465 circles the metro area while I-65, I-69, I-70, and I-74 all tie into it, along with several U.S. highways.  The speed limit is 55 MPH and most drivers seemed to obey it, which made for easier urban driving, but there was still a LOT of traffic.

As we got on the north side of town headed west we were looking to exit onto US-31 north.  The GPS told me to exit at Keystone Avenue and turn right onto the relatively new Keystone Parkway, which bypasses the initial stretch of US-31 before joining it some miles farther north.  Fortunately I spotted a sign before exiting the highway that said vehicles over 19,000 pounds GVW were not allowed on the Parkway.  Also fortunate was that I knew the exit for US-31 was only a couple of more miles ahead and was a perfectly acceptable place for us to get off of I-465.  I had not been this way in a while and discovered, to our pleasant surprise, that it is a completely new, limited-access highway heading northbound.  Sweet.

We handled the situation smoothly and without too much consternation, but it was concerning that our GPS tried to direct us onto a road for which we were too heavy by more than double.  That had us wondering if the RV characteristics parameters were not set correctly, and perhaps got reset when I updated the unit while we were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort, but now was not the time to check all of that.  This is a relatively recently rebuilt roadway, and it was been my experience with both GPS units that the map updates do not include these newer roads.

Another possibility was that the Indiana Highway Department has not updated the state road database as that is where Rand-McNally (and other mapping companies) get the information for their road maps.  I encountered this a while back when traveling US-24 from Peru, Indiana to Defiance, Ohio.  Even though my GPS database was up to date, it had no knowledge of the new construction between Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Defiance.  The same us still true of the new stretch of US-31 running south from US-20 for many miles even though it has been open for quite a while.  The State highway departments are responsible for updating the database that the GPS/mapping companies use.  If they do not update the database there isn’t much the GPS/mapping companies can do.

Indiana has made major improvements to US-31 over the last 3 to 4 years, building whole new limited access sections.  Besides the section coming south from US-20 and the section going north out of Indianapolis, there is one that now bypasses Kokomo.  The older sections are four lane divided but have grade crossings and occasional traffic signals.  They are posted at 60 MPH and traffic is usually light and moves along well.

All-in-all we had an easy final leg from Indy up to State Road 16 and west into Twelve Mile.  At 11 AM, just 3-1/2 hours after we pulled out of the Clarksville KOA we were back in Twelve Mile again.  We pulled into the gravel driveway for the grain elevator, which is not in use this time of year, to unhook the car.  The driveway is exactly opposite where I park the bus when it is here and positions me to basically back across SR-16 into our spot next to Butch and Fonda’s bus.  Linda spotted for me as I backed across SR-16 and into our spot.  I leveled the coach, shut off the engine, and took care of the exterior arrival tasks while Linda took care of the interior ones.

Butch and Fonda did not come out of the house and we were not sure they were home.  We usually have a very poor Verizon signal when the bus is parked in this spot, and today was no exception, but I was able to get our Verizon Mi-Fi online.  About that time Butch and Fonda came out to check on us and we visited for a while.  We had not knocked on the door because we knew there was a possibility they might not be home when we arrived.

Butch needed to be at a local county fairgrounds at 5 PM to help set up a large room for a hamfest tomorrow.  Fonda was reviewing for the General Class license exam, so Linda studied her Amateur Extra Class flash cards with Fonda while Butch and I went to the do the set up.  The hamfest was an annual joint event put on by four county amateur radio clubs.  After the tables were all set I helped Butch carry in all of the stuff from his truck and arrange it on three adjacent tables.  When we were done, and there was nothing else to do, we returned to Twelve Mile.

It was 6:30 PM by the time we got back and we decided to go out for dinner even though the options for us are very limited.  We drove to Rochester hoping to eat at a Mexican restaurant but it was closed (permanently).  We ended up at Tweedle Dee’s instead, mostly because they have a salad bar.  We were the last diners to leave and only then because they needed to run the vacuum cleaner which cut off any chance of Linda hearing any further conversation.  We stopped at Butch and Fonda’s new (to them) house on IN-25 in Metea but Butch did not have the key with him so we did not get to go inside.

By the time we got back to Twelve Mile we were all tired.  Butch and Fonda had to be up very early to go to the hamfest so they signed their tax returns, got them ready to mail, and brought them to our bus for Linda to mail in the morning.  I planned to go to the hamfest too, but not first thing in the morning.  I also wanted to take our car so I could come back to Twelve Mile before the hamfest ended at 1 PM.

Our series of equipment failures seems to be continuing as I was unable to get the Amped|Wireless SR20000G router/network-extender to recognize any hard wired devices.  I tried plugging in both my computer and our NAS to all five of the ports but none of them responded to either device.  It’s unlikely that the wired networking had failed on both the computer and the NAS so the failure of the SR20000G is the more likely cause.  The SR20000G’s wireless networks are still working but the loss of the wired ports means I cannot access the NAS.  Fortunately we will be home in a few days and I can try to sort this out in the comfort of my office.

Being tired, and with no TV reception, we were in bed by 10:30 PM and I was asleep by 11 with no alarm set for the morning.


2015/03/14-16 (S-M) Escapade to RVillage

2015/03/14 (S) Wrapping Up; Signing Up

I spent most of the day and evening processing photos, although I took time to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank.  Linda and Val did Laundry and then went grocery shopping after which Linda started preparing the inside of our coach for travel.  It was a long, busy, productive day but it was mostly chores and work, so not much to write about.  We did, however, sign up to be staff at the July 2016 Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont.  I signed up to be the assistant staff photographer again while Linda signed up for any job that was in a quiet environment so she can hear.  We really do enjoy the Escapade rallies.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

Sunset as viewed from our campsite at the Pima County Fairgrounds near Tucson, AZ.

2015/03/15 (N) Back to RVillage WHQ

Today was our scheduled departure date but we did not need to vacate the Pima County Fairgrounds until noon.  We would be caravanning a relatively short distance with Lou and Val and targeted 11 AM for our departure.

The more time we spend in our bus the less anxious we are the night before we are going to move to a new location, but there is still a certain anticipation about it.  Moving the bus is not like getting in a car to go to work.  It’s a big, complicated, machine and there are many details to attend to before we can move it.  It also rarely travels the same route twice so we spend time researching and planning travel routes.  Fortunately, we enjoy these aspects of the RV lifestyle and had most everything in order by the time we went to bed last night.  We both slept well enough having worked and played fairly hard all week.

We had a leisurely morning and took care of the final preparations for travel.  As it was getting to be 10 AM we had to ask someone to move a car so we could pull out.  Paul Evert’s RV dealership had moved some of the rigs they had sold during the rally to the full hookup area where we were camped all week and had folks pull there trade-in units there so they could transfer their belongings.  As a result the area was getting crowded and obstructed with cars parked wherever it was convenient (for the owner).  The RV Driving School was also busy in one of the parking lots near us teaching people how to turn, back up, and park, including teaching the “spotter” (co-pilot/navigator) how to give hand signals to the driver.  (This is actually the more difficult job requiring judgement, proper positioning, and clear/timely signals.)  As long as the driver can see the spotter all they have to do is follow directions.  Many of the Escapade staff were still at the fairgrounds and attendees who signed up for HOPs (Head Out Programs) were still camped there as well.  The HOPs are organized outings that sometimes involve a tour bus for transportation, a tour leader/guide, admission to one or more venues, and possibly food.

We pulled out roughly on time with Lou and Val right behind us.  We headed out of the fairgrounds and then north on Houghton Road to I-10 where we headed west.  They needed fuel so we took an exit on the west side of Tucson where there was supposed to be a truck stop, but it wasn’t there.  Lou pulled into a station where we could not get in/out so we found a spot a little farther down the road where we could turn around and waited for them to pull out of the station.

We followed them back on to the highway and then retook the lead.  We exited at Eloy where there were both Pilot and Flying J truck stops.  We topped up our diesel tank while Lou filled their propane tank.  We got back on I-10 for another eight miles and then exited at Sunland Gin Road and headed south into Arizona City.  A few miles, and a bunch more minutes, later we pulled into the rental property that currently serves as Curtis Coleman’s residence and headquarters for the RVillage social network.  Good things are happening for RVillage and it was good to be back here to spend a little more time with Curtis and his adorable dog Augie, a Bevar (sp? may be Biewer) Yorkshire Terrier.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters.  It was very peaceful here.

A panoramic view looking west from the deck of RVillage World Headquarters. It was very peaceful here.

We got settled in and then visited a bit.  We eventually went to Duffer’s Restaurant at the golf course and then went back to the house for movie night.  The film for this evening was “The Social Network” about the founding of Facebook; a most appropriate choice given where we are boondocked.

2015/03/16 (M) Florence, AZ

Someone at the Escapade told Lou about a road that runs between Florence and Kelvin Arizona.  They said it was mostly good gravel and very scenic and Lou was determined that we find it, drive it, and photograph it.  Linda and Val packed a picnic lunch while Lou and I prepared our photography gear.  I grabbed the Garmin GPS out of our car (just in case) and we took off, leaving Curtis some peace and quiet to attend to RVillage.

I managed to navigate us to Florence where we decided it would be prudent for Lou to top off the fuel tank in his truck.  We pulled into a Circle K (Kangaroo?) and took care of that.  When Lou tried to start the truck the starter would not engage.  It would turn but made a really bad grinding sound.  Sometimes the throw-out gear binds and we tried tapping on the starter with a long stick and hammer but it did not help.  The starter had just been replaced a month ago in Mesa, Arizona and had a 60 day towing policy in addition to the parts and labor warranty.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Val, Lou, and Linda having lunch by the fuel pump island at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou called the repair shop and they dispatched a tow truck.  I then called Curtis to see if he could fetch Val, Linda, and me from the Circle K and he graciously agreed to come get us.  We let the station attendants know what was going on and they were cool with the whole thing even though we were blocking one of the pumps.  It took a while for the tow truck to arrive so we ate our lunch standing in the shade at the end of the fuel island.  We must have made an interesting sight to passersby.  The tow truck eventually arrived, pulled the pickup truck up onto the flatbed, and drove off with Lou riding shotgun.  A little while later Curtis arrived.  We loaded our picnic supplies and camera gear into the back of his SUV and he drove us back to his place.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

Lou photographs their pickup truck being loaded onto the flatbed hauler at the Circle K in Florence, AZ.

I expected to get a call from Lou letting me know that I needed to drive to Mesa to pick him up.  What we got instead was a call that the truck was repaired and he was on his way back.  The problem was that the starter mounting bolts had not been torqued tight enough and had backed out about 1/4 inch.  As a result the throw-out gear was pushing the starter back rather than engaging with the gear teeth on the flywheel.  As we thought about it we were realized we were very lucky this did not happen on the road from Florence to Kelvin.

Bonnie was also staying at the RVillage compound and joined us for dinner last night.  This evening we did a pot luck thing and dined at the outside table by the lake.


2014/02/14 (F) Valentine’s Day

“Hallmark Holidays” have never been a big deal for us, and Valentine’s Day is no exception.  However, we had no plans to visit state parks today, had been looking for a day to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville, needed to make a visit to Walmart, and wanted to try one of the vegan-friendly restaurants in Gainesville, so Valentine’s Day provided the needed excuse to do all of that in the same trip.  Before I go on, I am including a picture of us taken by Marian Hagan on our outing with her and John to the two Crystal River state parks last Sunday.

Us at Crystal River Buffer Preserve State Park.  (Photo by Marian Hagan.)

Us at Crystal River Buffer Preserve State Park. (Photo by Marian Hagan.)

We selected The Jones Eastside which was open all day serving breakfast and lunch, and was staying open for dinner.  We can usually find acceptable food for lunch and dinner if we are thoughtful about our choice of restaurant, but breakfast is often limited to dry toast with jam and/or fresh fruit.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but also nothing special about it.  At The Jones Eastside, however, we were able to order a tofu scramble with sides of potatoes and fruit and a stack of vegan flax seed pancakes with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We split each dish in half and had a really nice breakfast.  The Jones Eastside was highly recommended on both HappyCow.com and Yelp.com, and deservedly so.  It’s a quaint little place using organic ingredients and providing attentive service; you go for the food, not for an upscale setting.

From The Jones Eastside we drove through the heart of downtown Gainesville to where we thought the Florida Museum of Natural History was located.  We enjoyed seeing the non-university part of town, and parts of the UF central campus, but the museum was not where I thought it was.  Our Garmin 465T GPS did, however, and we followed its directions into a major traffic jam.  We had been to Gainesville several times, but had not seen traffic like this before.

We found the museum, paid $4 to park, and went in.  Admission was free except for the Butterfly Rainforest and special exhibits.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the free exhibits and plan to return for the Butterflies and a special exhibit titled “Wolf to Woof” on the evolution of the domestic dog.  Like most serious museums, you could spend days here depending on the level of detail you wanted to absorb.

By the time we were done at the museum it was 4 PM.  Our Valentine’s Day still needed something “sweet” so we headed to Karma Cream for vegan ice cream.  We fought our way (slowly) through more terrible traffic, but it was worth it.  🙂

“GPS, find us a Walmart, please.”  It showed two in Gainesville so I picked the closer one just up the street.  It was closed, the building vacant.  🙁  So I selected the other one on SW Archer (US-24).  We routed ourselves over to FL-121 southbound which intersects Archer close to the Walmart.  YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE ON THIS ROAD DURING AFTERNOON RUSH HOUR, which is actually “hope you’re not in a rush” hour.  Truthfully, you do not want to be in Gainesville during the evening rush hour.  Period.  End of story.  Total gridlock.  Fortunately we were not in a rush to be anywhere in particular by any certain time so we only had to deal with our self-imposed frustration at being stuck in traffic.  It won’t happen again, at least not in Gainesville.

We eventually got to the Walmart (thank goodness they are open 24/7).  We do not go out of way to shop there, but it’s the only place locally where we can find Calgon Bath Beads which we mix with water and Pine Sol and add to our holding tanks.  It is also where we bought our microwave popcorn popper and have to get the disposable cardboard heating discs that go in the bottom.

Shopping done, we had no choice but to venture back out into traffic.  OK, we had a choice; we could have sat there for a couple of hours until traffic thinned.  If we had been the least bit hungry we could have gotten something to eat while we waited, but having just had ice cream our appetites were satisfied.  Fortunately we were close to the SW corner of Gainesville by now where FL-121 turns SSW and heads through the country to Williston.  We arrived back at the RV resort after 6 PM, but there was no fire going in the fire pit.

WCRVR was having a Valentine’s Day dinner/dance starting at 5 PM so the Friday night fire had not been built by Kevin at its usual time as he and his wife had gone to the dinner/dance.  But a short time later I noticed a flickering flame and went to investigate.  Next door neighbors John and Ali had not gone to the dinner/dance either and John, being the backup fire guy, was getting one going.  We opened our bottle of sparkling pink moscato, bundled up a bit against the cool evening air, and went over.  Ali brought John’s guitar, the rocking chairs slowly filled up (~16 people), and we sang along when we knew the words.  It was a lovely capstone to a very nice Valentine’s Day (traffic notwithstanding).


2014/01/13 (M) Prevost-Stuff Show

The Tampa Convention Center waterfront plaza, Tampa (FL).

The Tampa Convention Center waterfront plaza, Tampa (FL).

We spent most of the day and evening traveling to, attending, and returning from the Prevost-Stuff Show at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.  Prevost-Stuff.com is part of the Prevost Owners Group (POG) owned and operated by Jamie Bradford.  We have been POG members for a few years now but this was the first event we have been able to attend.  The Prevost-Stuff show is strictly used Prevost coach conversions.  Jamie organized the show starting last year to run for the two days immediately prior to the Tampa RV Supershow at the Tampa Fairgrounds because the Supershow only allows new units to be displayed.

TCC Beer Pavilion and Fish Sculpture.

TCC Beer Pavilion and Fish Sculpture.

Before heading to Tampa we stopped at the CVS Store in Williston to purchase an electronic pass for the Florida Tollway System.  We purchased a SunPass Mini, activated it via the website using Linda’s cell phone, put an initial balance on it, and mounted it to the inside of the car windshield behind the mirror.  We planned to use the Tollway for part of our trip to Tampa and did not want to be bothered with stopping to pay cash tolls.  We also knew that we would want/need to use the toll roads as we traveled around Florida over the next few months and the SunPass is both more convenient and slightly less expensive on a per toll basis.  A quick stop at the Williston post office to mail a flash drive full of photos to Bus Conversions Magazine editor Mike Sullivan and we were on our way.

View towards Tampa Forum arena from TCC plaza docks.

View towards Tampa Forum arena from TCC plaza docks.

Rather than take I-75 to Tampa, which we have already done once when we went to Arcadia, we headed to the west edge of downtown Williston and picked up US-41 S.  We stayed with US-41 S through Inverness to Brooksville where we took FL-50 over to the Tollway, FL-589, and then headed south towards Tampa.  Our Garmin nuvi 465T GPS was rather persistent in trying to route us away from the Tollway until we checked the settings and discovered it was set to “avoid toll roads.”  From there on it steered us through the convoluted Tampa freeway system, onto the surface streets, and directly to the entrance to the Tampa Convention Center parking garage.

TCC east entrance stairs.

TCC east entrance stairs.

The Prevost-Stuff show was in the West Hall at the Tampa Convention Center.  It was free and open to the public but there were no signs announcing it, almost as if it was an invitation only event; and in a sense that was true, the only real marketing being through the POG and Prevost-Stuff.com websites.  Much to our surprise, the first person we met as we entered the hall was Joe Cannarozzi, our mobile mechanic.  I knew Joe was in Florida for part of the winter, but wasn’t sure just where.  It turns out that he is staying at an RV park an hour or so south of us.

TCC east upper entrance level.

TCC east upper entrance level.

There were at least 30 units on display, all used and all for sale, with a roughly equal number of H3s and LeMirage / XL / XL2s.  All of them were very nice, of course, but most of them were not to our taste (too fancy).   Almost all of them were not in our price range either, so that made it a lot easier to not buy one : – ) (We agreed on the drive down not to make an impulsive purchase.)  I did, however, see a few interesting “features” that may eventually find their way into our coach.  I forgot to take my camera so the photos in today’s posts were taken with my smartphone.

TCC West Hall lobby.

TCC West Hall lobby.

The best part for me was the Prevost reception at 5:30 PM.  I got to meet several people including the owner of AAP.  AAP is the company that now handles Cruise Air units.  It was good to know that they are still available as our coach has three of them.  I got some suggestions from him about what we might do to reduce the noise when they are running.  We also met Jamie Bradford, the owner of the Prevost Owners Group (POG), and Dale Farley, who handles administration for POG.  Jamie said that in addition to the New Orleans rally he is planning for March, he is planning a rally in East St. Louis for the last week in September.  The RV park closes after the third weekend in September but remains “open” for another week for exclusive use by the POG rally.  He will have room for 90 coaches.  I have no idea what it will cost, and I am sure food will be an issue for us, as always.  St. Louis, however, is our home town and we not had the coach down there yet, so we’ll see.

TCC West Hall entrance, Prevost-Stuff Show

TCC West Hall entrance, Prevost-Stuff Show

Finally, we met several folks from Prevost, including:  Gaetan Bolduc, Eng. (president/ceo), Steve Ziegler (national sales manager for conversions shells), Martin –?— (factory product manager), and Bill Jensen, national service manager (conversion shells).  I now have faces and business cards to go with the names.

A whole row of Marathon conversions.

A whole row of Marathon conversions.

I had a chance to talk to Martin about the lack of availability of rubber seals for our awning windows and describe how we were able to get new ones made.  I offered to supply them if they have any other customers who need them : – )  I also got to discuss our intermittent speedometer/odometer problem with Bill Jensen.  Bill agreed that it sounded like we had a wiring problem somewhere after the engine and transmission computers and told me that the two wires of importance are numbers 16 (speedo +) and 20 (speedo ground).  He also indicated that the coach probably does have a “speed switch” and that it is most likely located in the electrical bay above the tag axle on the driver’s side.  The purpose of the switch was to disable the kneeling feature on a seated coach above 5 MPH.  The speedometer wires are “looped through” the switch, however, and it is a potential failure point.

A pair of late model, lightly used, Prevost H3-45 conversions.

A pair of late model, lightly used, Prevost H3-45 conversions.

By the time we left around 6:30 PM it was dark and Linda’s hip was bothering her so I drove home.  Our GPS got us to I-275 northbound, an easy, straight shot west from the Tampa Convention Center parking garage.  I-275 merged into I-75 N.  We exited at US-27 W in Ocala and were home before 9 PM including a brief fuel stop along the way.  Heavy and persistent rain was forecast to start sometime after 9 PM and go through the night, but we made it back to the coach before it started raining.  I took care of some e-mails, posted my blog entry for yesterday, and called it a day.

2013_10_03 (R) The Sound of Music

Today was a bakery day for Linda, so I was left to my own devices.  I let the Garmin Express update run all night last night.  When I checked this morning it indicated there had been an error, so I downloaded the 2014.20 map update, again.  It took another 3+ hours, again.  It said it downloaded it so I installed it.  It said it was “done”, but that the “update failed.”  At this point I have no idea if my maps are up-to-date or not.  We have had the Garmin nuvi 465T GPS unit for quite some time now, and I really like it.  I also liked the desktop docking software that came with it, which always worked fine.  The replacement desktop docking software, Garmin Express, is simpler to use but doesn’t seem to work very well.  A quick Google Search yesterday indicated that lots of other folks have apparently had issues with it as well.

In terms of getting ready for the open house / warming on Sunday, I am down to what builders call a “punch list.”  I don’t know the origin of that term, and yet it seems somehow appropriate.  (I always supposed that it came from the idea that the workers were going to “punch these things out,” but that doesn’t make any more sense than the original phrase.  The other day Linda made some final selections for artwork for the small bedroom, so today I hung those up.  That was one of the items on my punch list.

One of the things that came with the new house was built in speakers, two in the main floor hallway ceiling and two in the Florida room (library) ceiling.  The speaker wires for these all run to a basement wall opening where the previous owners had their audio entertainment equipment.  We have enough else to do without completely re-wiring the house, so we put some of our audio equipment in the same spot.  Linda had asked that I try to wire up the audio system so we could have music on Sunday; another item on my punch list.  With the house mostly ready, I decided to see if I could get the built-in speakers wired up, along with a pair of our freestanding ones.  I used my volt-ohm meter (VOM) to check for continuity and resistance to figure out which wires did what.  As part of the harness wiring harness, there were also two pairs of wires with both ends free that I could use to wire up the local freestanding speakers.

Measuring DC resistance through a speaker does not tell you what its rated impedance is as impedance is a characteristic of a device when AC (alternating current, from an applied alternating voltage) flows back and forth through it.  It does, however, give you some idea of what’s at the other end of the wire pair.  The amplifier in our receiver is designed to drive two sets of speakers (A and B) and prefers not to see less than 8 ohms impedance at the connection terminals.  There is a switch on the back, however, that allows you to select 4 ohm or 8 ohm speakers.

Connecting impedances in parallel results in lower total impedance and connecting them in series adds the impedances.  The pair of speakers in the hall has a volume control, and the pair in the library also has one, and it appeared that turning them from one extreme position to the other increased the DC resistance slightly, but not that much.  So, just to be safe, I decided to wire one speaker from the hall in series with and one from the library (think “left speakers”) and then repeated that for the other pair (think “right speakers”).  I connected the CD changer to the receiver, started a CD, and voila, the sound of music…everywhere!

The main (basement) speakers were too loud relative to the ones upstairs, so I connected the built-ins in parallel, which resulted in more power going to them relative to the main speakers.  It also allowed the volume control in the hall to control both of the hall speakers, and only those.  Ditto for the volume control in the library.  I also switched the amplifier to work with 4 ohm speakers instead of 8 ohm.  The name of the game is impedance matching, and if you can’t match impedances choosing a higher impedance load rather than a lower impedance one is generally better for the amplifier (up to a point).

Tom and Tom from TOMTEK HVAC showed up as scheduled around 3 PM to finish the work on the hydronic heating system.  This time they had all of the parts they needed: new burner cone, igniter, expansion tank, expansion / quick fill value, shutoff value, fittings, and copper pipe to re-plumb the pressure relief discharge pipe from the domestic hot water tank.  I tried to check in on the progress of the work periodically without getting in their way and slowing them down.  I always do this when anyone works on anything in our house as I want to know as much as possible about the system.  They finished up around 6 PM.  While we did not anticipate the furnace / hot water system needing this much work, or this soon, it was fortunate that we had TOMTEK come out for a “routine maintenance” visit and discover/fix all of the other problems as a result.

When Linda got home we were both too tired to even go out, so we had the left over “sloppy Joes” from yesterday’s dinner along with fresh fruit.  This particular recipe used textured vegetable protein, known as TVP, instead of the soy crumbles she normally uses.  The two products are very similar in taste (nothing strong or characteristic) and texture (kind of like ground beef) and work well in “mock” dishes like chili, sloppy Joes, or anything else that would normally call for ground beef as an ingredient.  These products do not work well, however, to make mock “hamburger” patties; there are other products made to directly satisfy that market.


2013_10_02 (W) Decks, Maps, & TV

Linda and I both worked around the house today and by dinner time we finally felt confident that the house would be presentable for the open house / house warming on Sunday.  Another half day and my office will be ready for visitors.  While Linda vacuumed, I installed new flappers in the two upstairs toilets and a new handle mechanism in one of them.  They now flush and shut off correctly without having to do anything special with the handles or take the top off the tanks to seat the flappers by hand.  Although we figured company would appreciate that, the real motivation was to make sure they did not draw water continuously through our water softening and purification system.

Jim Pipoly was back to finish the deck and had Adam to help him.  A much younger guy by comparison to us, it was nice to watch the two of them work.  Experience and attitude count for a lot, and quality paint work requires a careful yet efficient approach; you have to keep moving without ever rushing or letting your attention drift.  They started around 9:30 AM in order to let the dew evaporate and worked until about 7 PM, but they got all of the painting done, and it looks very nice.

By late morning it was sunny but not hot.  We opened all of the awnings on the motorcoach to let them dry.  A couple of weeks ago at the RV rally in Goshen we had to roll them up wet and had not had a chance to unroll them since then.  Not good, but not much we could do about it until today.

Linda needed some things from the grocery store, so I decided to try updating the maps in our Rand-McNally GPS again.  The last time I tried this it said it was going to take 14+ hours to download the updates.  It did, in fact, take that long and it hung up before it finished.  Today, however, things went much better.  The map and device update combined took about 2 hours and completed successfully.  Yea!  She brought home two Sam Adams seasonal variety 12-packs and I put them in the bus fridge to chill them down and add some mass to the refrigerator compartment.  Refrigerators and freezers work much better when they are full, as long as they are overstuffed to the point where air cannot circulate.

While I was working with the GPS, Linda decided to play with the TV sets in our bus.  We had never tried tuning in any local, over-the-air (OTA) stations.  When Ed and Betty Burns were here in their RV in late August, they were only able to tune in one station, and that was FOX, so we figured we were out of luck.  To our surprise, the front TV set found 27 digital channels, including sub-channels of the main channels.  She even picked up PBS from two different sources!  Yippee.  And this was without aiming the antenna.  Once we have a better idea of which direction to point it for each station, or cluster of stations, we may be able to pick up even more signals.

I decided to try the rear TV, which is the one with the defective rotor mechanism.  It did not find as many channels on the first try, so I rotated it to the right (I think) about five positions (maybe) and tried again.  This time we got 25 channels.  Not bad.  So much for needing satellite TV at our house!  I am sufficiently impressed with the performance of these antennas that I may get two more for the house.  Ideally I will mount them on the tower (existing or new).  The problem will be running the co-ax and control cables (it always is).

So why the sudden interest in TV?  Well…the open house is Sunday, and Sunday is professional sports day, and some of our guests are making a huge sacrifice coming to visit instead of watching their favorite sports, so….we thought making some sports broadcasts available would be a nice gesture.  Of course, that means we will have to make popcorn too.

After dinner we loaded some leftover wood from the ham shack/office remodeling project into the back of the Element and got it off the lower walkout deck.  We also moved the leftover suspended ceiling tiles and the shop vac back to the garage.  The only projects I have left in the basement are hanging a wine glass rack over the bar and reassembling the corner of the room where I removed the knotty pine wall boards to facilitate the installation of the 240V, 100A cable to the subpanel that powers the RV outlet, ham shack, and office computer outlets.  But those are tasks for another day.

Having had a reasonably productive day, I made the classic mistake of thinking I could get one more thing accomplished starting at 9 PM.  I wanted to update our Garmin nuvi 465T GPS unit that we use in the Honda Element.  The last time I tried to do this the Garmin Express client couldn’t connect to the Garmin servers.  And so it was again tonight.  Fiddle with USB cables and ports, but no success.  I finally Googled Garmin Express server problems and got a lot of hits.  After reading through a few knowledge base Q&As and trying to update some drivers (I had the Gamin website instead of the Garmin website and they wanted $$) I decided to just reinstall Garmin Express.  I downloaded it, saved, ran the installation .exe file, and voila! it finally worked again.  And my maps and other date were still there and it even recognized our specific device.  It updated the device software successfully and 10:30 told me it was “Safe to Walk Away”.  Really; that’s the message it gave me.  Apparently the map update was going to take approximately 3 hours.  The software must have known what time it was and figured I wanted to go to bed.  And so I did; right after I uploaded and edited this post.  Night, night.


2013_08_09-12 (F, S, N, M) Odds And Ends

There is a certain routine to being back at the house, and when we are here it feels like we should get back into that routine.  Otherwise, it becomes too easy to sleep in, start slow, and not get around to even thinking about doing things until the afternoon, by which time it is too late to start anything.

Friday we were still unloading a few things from the bus, finishing up laundry (me), weeding the flower beds (Linda), catching up on accounting tasks (Linda), catching up on operating system updates (me), and other such necessities of daily living.  I placed calls to various service providers and filled out an online trouble report to try and get our AT&T phone line back in service.  Based on the missed calls on our answering machine, it appears that the phone line quite working around June 25th.  What I found interesting was that our High Speed Internet (HSI/DSL) worked fine and never went out.

With necessary chores attended to I turned my attention to writing first drafts of articles for Bus Conversions Magazine (BCM).  I had started an article a while back on the exterior makeover so finished a first draft of that and sent it off to Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint for review.  I had six other projects I had worked on the last 11 months that I also thought would make good articles.  Over the course of the weekend I completed first drafts of all six and sent all seven article drafts off to the Publisher (Gary Hall) and Editor (Wendy Crosby) of BCM, sans pictures.

Until today (Monday) the weather has been delightful since we returned, with blue skies, a few puffy white clouds, highs in the low-to-mid 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s.  Friday evening we decided to get out of the house for a while so we drove to downtown Brighton and went for a walk along the Mill Pond.  This is a large pond formed by a small dam in the heart of downtown, and it has a boardwalk that runs along the east side for about 1/2 mile.  Besides people there were ducks and geese, including babies, and a swan.  We also saw bluebirds and two muskrats.  Downtown Brighton is a happening place on a Friday night.  There were lots of people at the many restaurants, but equally many out walking.

Part of our routine is Saturday morning ham radio breakfast, usually with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) of which we are members, but occasionally with the Novi Radio Club.  Having been gone for a while we went to the SLAARC breakfast.  It was good to see our ham radio friends and catch up on what everyone has been doing.  Folks were interested in our travels, of course, and we enjoyed sharing a little bit about that.

Back home I decided to run a computer network cable from our AT&T Gateway to my office in the basement so I could connect the computers down there to a hub and and connect it back to the Gateway.  I’ve been trying to accomplish this connectivity with WiFi, but have had limited success.  I ran a small experiment first to make sure it would work, plugging my laptop into the hub and the hub into the Gateway with all of the components in close physical proximity to the Gateway.  It worked, so I proceeded with the larger project.

I had to enlarge a hole from the basement up into the wall cavity behind Linda’s desk, and managed to nick the Cat5 cable that carries the DSL/phone signal to the Gateway.  Naturally the AT&T repair truck showed up a short time later.  That did not turn out to be problem, however, as the technician very quickly determined that the problem was somewhere upstream in their system.  He had our signals restored at the outside junction box long before I was ready to reconnect to them.

I managed to get the Cat6 network cable run through the suspended ceiling in the basement and into the office.  I put the hub in the center of the room and ran the longest cables I had from various devices across the floor and over things.  I would include a picture, but it isn’t a pretty sight.  😉  The hardwired connection isn’t necessarily faster than the wireless one, but it stays connected, which is more important than speed.

While I was at it I decided to run a new, higher quality Cat6 cable from the AT&T junction box (outside) to the AT&T Gateway (inside).  After poking around in the attics above the garage and the house, I decided that this was not a project that had to be done at this time.  As I have worked on projects in the basement I have been removing old telephone wires as we use a cordless phone system and the wiring is obsolete.  I was going to to continue that work, but decided for now to just fix the cable I had damaged and get our phone/DSL connections back on line.

Another part of our routine is the Sunday morning Howell Farmers Market.  The nice weather continued and we enjoyed strolling through the market and talking to the vendors.  We bought some corn and peppers and herbs.  We bought some more coffee beans from Irene’s Beans of Milford, and also from Teeko’s of Howell.  Teeko’s is not far from our house and they keep their beans green until you buy them.  They then roast them to your taste while you wait.  They have a very wide selection of beans, including 100% Kona and Jamaica Blue Mountain.  These are premium coffee beans and are not generally available even at upscale food markets.

On Sunday Linda split her time between weeding, her computer, and just relaxing, which usually involves reading.  Of course she also took time to make meals, which were good, as usual.  I continued working on articles drafts and started updating our GPS units.  I had the docking/update software for both units installed on an older laptop that is not very fast, even with a hardwired network connection.  I replaced the hard disk drive in that laptop some time ago with a solid state drive as I plan to use that computer to run the Silverleaf VMSpc software for monitoring the bus engine while I drive.  I figured the SSD would be more tolerant of bumps and vibrations.  It probably is, but I did not figure on how incredibly slow it would be.

It took quite a while, but I got the Garmin nüvi 465T updated.  This is a nice little GPS unit designed for truckers (the T model) with a 4″ diagonal screen.  Because it is designed for truckers, we can create profiles for different vehicles/combinations, including length, width, height, and weight.  That is very handy when driving a large vehicle.  We use it in the toad, and as a backup for the bus.  I need to move the docking software to my newer laptop if I can figure out how to do it.  Part of the problem is that I also have map subscriptions installed on the old laptop and have to move those as well.

Sunday night was our monthly SLAARC meeting in South Lyon.  Linda opted not to go, but as the Vice-President of the club for this year, I really needed to make an appearance.  Besides, the program was on how to use an oscilloscope.  The presenter was (Dr.) Steve Smith, N8AR, a member of our club and retired electrical/communications engineer who worked on the space program at one point in his career.  Steve has done a number of presentations for our club.  They are always good, and they always draw a crowd, and this was no exception.

This morning (Monday the 12th) we woke to find it very overcast with a high probability of showers for most of the day.  That meant we would not be doing much outside work today.  Our Honda Element (towed vehicle) was overdue for it’s 75,000 mile service, so we took it to Brighton Honda right after breakfast.  While I was getting it written up Linda picked up my favorite Amy’s frozen pizza for dinner as she had plans for dinner and movie with Diane; their belated annual birthday night out.

I planned to continue working on my articles for BCM, selecting, adding, and annotating photos to illustrate them.  But first I decided to install the docking software for our Rand-McNally RVND7710 GPS.  That was easy; the software resides in the non-volatile memory of the unit, which connects to the computer via a USB cable.  I checked for updates; there were some, so I installed them.

I then decided to purchase the Lifetime Map updates, which I had not done previously.  I accomplished that easily enough but had a little trouble getting the docking software to accept the Activation Key.  Closing the software, powering the GPS down, turning it back on, and re-launching the docking software got it to work, but that wasn’t part of the instructions.  Great; time to download and install updated maps, which I did.  It took eight (8) hours!  I know our Internet connection is not very fast, and  I have no idea how much data got downloaded, but 8 hours?!  Unfortunately that tied up my laptop for most of the day, so whatever else I had hoped to accomplish got delayed.  But that was OK; it rained all day, and a slower pace with a subdued tone somehow seemed appropriate.