2016/04/21 (R) More Bad Brakes
[NOTE: There are no photos for these posts.]
We were up before 8 AM, had coffee in the living room by the warmth and glow of the fireplace, and had fruit for breakfast around 8:45 AM. We left at 9:40 to take my car to Brighton Honda for its 110,000 mile service appointment at 10 AM. Linda followed me in the Civic to drive me back to the house but as long as we were that close to Brighton we decided to go to the Verizon corporate store. To our surprise, the store was permanently closed. We were pretty sure there was still an “authorized retailer” a little farther down on Grand River Avenue (which never made any sense to me) but after the authorized retailer in Arcadia, Florida was unaware of the Mi-Fi device I was interested in (AC791L) I really wanted to talk to someone in a corporate store.
We did not investigate further as to whether the store had been moved and, not having any other business in Brighton, we headed home. On the way I got a phone call from our State Farm insurance agent’s office about a long-term care premium that was due last month. Apparently one of our children did not recognize it was a bill when they checked our mail and did not alert us to its presence. It wasn’t a big deal, and Linda took care of it when we got home.
I started a load of laundry and settled in to work at my desk. I did not have a reply yet to my support ticket for our WiFiRanger. I checked-in to RVillage and saw that our member status had been upgraded to GOLD. I did a search for used tractors and was researching a portable water deionizing system at AutoGeek.com when I got a call from Curtis Coleman of RVillage. While Curtis and I were talking I got a call from Gary at Brighton Honda. He left a message and I called him back. The rear brake rotors and pads on my Element needed to be replaced. It seems we have not been able catch a brake break in the last six weeks.
Linda made a haircut appointment with Renee for tomorrow at 10 AM but got a call back from Renee that she was not working tomorrow. Renee had an opening at 1:15 PM today so Linda took that instead. It was already noon so Linda heated a can of Amy’s Chili and we split that for lunch along with some fresh black grapes. We left at 12:40 PM for the drive to Twelve Oaks Mall. I went along because I wanted to stop at the corporate Verizon store in Novi.
I don’t usually go along with Linda to her haircut appointments since she now cuts my hair at home, but it was good to see Renee again. She did a nice job with Linda’s hair and we were out of there in under 30 minutes. For many years the Verizon store was located on the Twelve Oaks Mall property near Twelve Mile Road but it recently moved, so we put the address in the GPS unit. The new location was nearby on Novi Road just the other side of I-96 from Twelve Oaks and West Oaks Malls.
We were assisted by Christina, who was both knowledgeable and helpful. We went in thinking we might upgrade both of our phones and our Mi-Fi device and increase our data plan. I was interested in the AC791L Mi-Fi device. They did not have one in stock but she knew what it was and said we could have one delivered to our house on Monday via FedEx. We then looked at phones and Christina steered us towards the latest offerings from Motorola. We selected one for pricing purposes and she worked up the costs, including a higher data plan.
The new phones would have each cost $26 a month for 24 months, and the extended warranties would have been another $11 each per month for as long as we cared to pay it. The phones had some nice features—specifically a shatterproof screen, wireless charging, and a screen-facing flash (for those all-important selfies)—but $74/month ($37 x 2) for two years seemed like a lot of money to us, especially given that our Samsung Galaxy S3 phones still work just fine. Another negative for us is that the new phones are also bigger and we like the size of our S3’s. Besides, I have a belt clip flip-top soft case for mine that fits nicely and works well.
Offsetting the increased phone costs was the fact that the line charges for our phones would drop from $40 per month per line to $20 per month per line. Also, the $80 we currently pay for 10 GB of shared data per billing cycle would now buy us 12 GB of data for the same time period. Finally, upgrading the phones would get us an additional 2 GB of data per phone per billing cycle for “life”, so our 12 GB plan would actually be 16 GB. We would lose the bonus data, however, if we ever reduced the monthly gigabytes on our plan.
In looking at the cost worksheet I noticed that for $100 per billing cycle we could get 18 GB of shared data and bump that up or down at will without losing anything. In the end we bought the AC791L Mi-Fi device for $90 ($100 with a $50 rebate and a $40 activation fee), changed the data plan to 18 GB for $100 (per billing cycle), and decided to keep our current phones. Ignoring the one-time charges connected with the new Mi-Fi device we increased our monthly data from 10 GB to 18 GB, got a new/better Mi-Fi device, dropped our monthly cost from $180 to $160 (before taxes), and were not locked in to anything. Christina also said to keep our eyes open for special deals on phones, especially around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Roger that, and will do.
By the time we got back to I-96 and Grand River Avenue (GRA) in Brighton it was 3 PM so we stopped at Brighton Honda to check on my car. While waiting for parts the technician got shifted to another job so my car was not ready yet. Making a left out of the dealership onto GRA is always difficult and can be impossible in heavy traffic. Our solution is often to turn right and go to Panera on GRA just south side of I-96, which is exactly what we did. They did not have any decaf brewed but were happy to make some for us. It had been cool and overcast all day so we sat by the gas fireplace and enjoyed several cups of coffee.
While we were sitting there I took a minute to call Philip Jarrell and let him know we were back in town. We discussed the French drain he installed at the west end of property last fall, which seemed to be working well, and the trenching on the other side of the road, where the culvert empties, which had become a small pond. I mentioned that the new driveway and RV pad looked nice, and that I really wanted to get the ham radio tower erected this year. That project would require his services for a morning. By 4:15 PM I had not heard anything further from Gary at Brighton Honda so we drove home.
Gary called at 5 PM to let me know the car was done and the technician was test driving it to make sure everything was correct. The dealership was open until 8 PM, and we did not want to fight rush hour traffic, so Linda fixed dinner. We had a salad of arugula and Italian kale with slivered almonds and dried cranberries, microwaved sweet potatoes, and vegan Italian sausage. Everything was very tasty and I particularly liked the spices in the mock sausage. Linda tries to make our diet primarily plant-based whole foods, but not having been vegans for most of our lives we find a certain satisfaction (comfort) in the occasional veggie burger, soy hotdog, seitan stroganoff, or other “mock” dish.
After dinner I hung up some laundry and started another load in the washer. I checked e-mail and had one from my niece Amanda. She and Ryan were looking at Wednesday, September 27, 2017 as a wedding date and wanted to know if all of us could make it to Hermann, Missouri for the event. I replied that it would not be a problem for Linda and me and cc:d Brendan and Meghan. I then texted both of them to alert them to the e-mail. I also had an e-mail from Kate de Fuccio wanting to know when we expected to be back in Michigan. I let her know we were back and had gotten preoccupied with opening the house and unloading the bus, but I felt bad that I forgot to text her as soon as we were home.
I also had a reply to my WiFiRanger support ticket requesting that I send screen shots of three of the tabs in the control panel. I replied that I would try but did not mention that I really wasn’t sure how to do that. Linda (the Google Queen) suggested that I “Google that” so I did. It turns out that “alt+prtsc” captures the current window as an image and copies it to the clipboard. From there you can do what you want with it. Easy breezy. (I subsequently ended up with something called “Easy Capture Manager” on my computer that just requires me to push the “prt sc” key and then lets me select what I what to capture.)
By 6:545 PM we were headed back to Brighton Honda to retrieve my car. Linda dropped me off and returned home. I paid the bill and returned home a few minutes later. Thursday night is CBS comedy night and by 8 PM we were ready to just sit and laugh. But first I had to transfer some of the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. I worked on blog posts while being entertained and hung up the dry laundry before going to bed.
2016/04/22 (F) Networking
I was up a little later than usual last night and would have slept in this morning but the cats had other ideas; they always do. We were up by 8 AM and I made a pot of the Costa Rican Terrazu half-caff coffee that we bought yesterday at Teeko’s Coffee and Teas. We were both still a little tired, and the thick fog further subdued our moods. We countered that by treating ourselves to an easy start to our day enjoying our coffee in the living room to the warm glow of the fireplace.
We eventually got dressed, had breakfast, and got on with our day. Linda got a call from Bill, who handles computer and networking technology for the bakery, and he walked her through the VPN setup for the bakery’s upgraded server. She then made a grocery list and went shopping. When she returned I discovered two boxes on the front porch. UPS had obviously been here without my being aware of it. The large box was the Instant Pot Linda ordered the other day and the small box was my prescriptions, which I was not expecting to see for another week.
My main focus for the afternoon was dealing with networking issues. I uncoiled a long Cat 7 Ethernet cable that I found in the ham shack yesterday. I unplugged the network cable for Linda’s computer from our AT&T gateway/router and plugged in one end of the Cat 7 cable in its place. I took the other end of the cable into the bus, plugged it in to the HP Color LaserJet 3600 printer, and turned the printer on. I brought my laptop computer upstairs, connected it wirelessly to the gateway, and tried printing a simple Word document without success. I checked the printer settings and the TCP/IP addressing mode was configured for a manual address that did not match the address range of our home network. I reconfigured it for DHCP and it acquired a new IP address in the correct range. I tried printing again but it still did not work. I reconfigured the address in the printer device properties on my computer and was finally able to print. That was a relief as we would really like to leave this printer on the bus and have it networked rather than operating from a USB cable.
I then turned my attention to the WiFiRanger Mobile Ti (WFR-MTi). I took my computer to the bus so I could use it to control the WFR and capture screen shots. I was able to connect it to the WFR without difficulty but the WFR could not “see” (detect) any external Wi-Fi signals even though it is on the roof outside the bus and my computer could see them from inside the bus. Back in the house I plugged in the Amped|Wireless SR20000G Range Extender / Router and configured it to repeat the AT&T gateway which does not broadcast a very strong signal. Back in the bus my computer could see the strong signals from the Range Extender but the WFR still could not detect any external Wi-Fi signals. I captured the screen shots for the MAIN, WIFI, and SETUP tabs, as requested by technical support at WiFiRanger, and pasted them into Word documents for uploading to their support system.
I took my computer back to my basement office and cabled it in to the network switch. I wrote a reply to the WiFiRanger tech support thread, attached the screen shots, and posted it. Clearly the WFR is not working and I am certain I will end up requesting an RMA and returning it for service, probably sooner than later, but I wanted to start with the online tech support system in case they had any good ideas that had not occurred to me.
Linda spent the afternoon getting acquainted with the Instant Pot and running it through its test procedure. It checked out as fully functional so she used it to prepare seitan stroganoff for dinner. I laid down at 5 PM and napped for an hour, finally getting up at 6 PM when Linda put our dinner salads on the table. She served the stroganoff over brown rice with a side of steamed broccoli and the whole meal was wonderful.
We sat in the living room until 8 PM and then decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle on PBS. I had forgotten what a good movie it is and enjoyed seeing it again. Linda fell asleep right after the movie ended and I watched Episode 6 of Ken Burn’s JAZZ before calling it a night. Like all of Ken Burn’s documentaries, JAZZ is a masterpiece of historical storytelling. At some point I would like to watch all 10 episodes back-to-back.
2016/04/23 (S) Ham & Eggs
Today was our first Saturday back home, and that meant it was also our first opportunity to have breakfast with our fellow amateur radio operators (hams) from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC). Before going to sleep last night I set wake-up alarms for 7 AM this morning, but I was awake before then and had time to grab a quick shower before getting dressed. I also took a few minutes to reattach the ham radio antenna to the magnetic mount on my car and reinstall the ICOM IC-2820 radio control head and microphone. Even so, we were still on our way by 7:30 AM and arrived at George’s Senate Coney Island on the north edge of South Lyon around 7:50 AM. During the drive I was part of a group chat with Steve (N8AR), Mike (W8XH), and Bill (W8NN), who was on an HT while riding with Larry (K8UT). The Yaesu Fusion repeater sounded good and it was good to be on the air again with friends.
Besides our coffee, dry toast, and dry English muffin, Linda and I split a fresh fruit plate. It was OK at best, but we don’t go for the food. It was good to see and talk to folks in person and to be back into this part of our “at home” routine. Today was testing day so a few people left to run the testing session, but most of the group, which numbered 19 people, stayed until 10 AM.
There was an accident this morning on westbound I-96 just east of the US-23 interchange. It was still being cleared when we drove home so we got stuck in a traffic backup that could easily have been avoided. Fortunately we did not have to be any particular place by any particular time and worked our way slowly through the congestion.
Back at the house I worked at my desk while Linda started cooking black beans in her new Instant Pot as she wanted to use some on a salad for our lunch. Normally she would have to soak dry beans overnight and then cook them for quite a while, but the Instant Pot, which can function as a pressure cooker, took them from bag-to-plate in 45 minutes, during which time Linda went for a walk. Pressure cookers can be very useful.
Once we got back to our house my initial task was to proofread and markup corrections to my article in the latest draft of the June 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine. Once that was done I uploaded the PDF to a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed Gary and Jorge that it was there. Next I checked my WiFiRanger support ticket and discovered that my reply yesterday, with screen shots attached, did not post correctly. I replied again and this time it posted correctly, or at least appeared to. With that task taken care of I copied a few images from the Sony a99v camera to my computer. I then started transferring files from my computer to the NAS that we had with us in the bus. I was about to start copying files for from that NAS to the older one we left at home when Linda called me up to lunch.
She made a large salad for each of us with tomatoes, blueberries, sliced strawberries, black beans, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. She also made some hot tea after lunch which we took to the living room. Both of us were tired and by 2 PM laid down and took naps. It was 68 degrees F in the house but it felt very cool. I think winters in Florida and Arizona have reset my comfort zone from 70 degrees F, plus or minus, to 78 degrees to 80 degrees F. Jasper found a sunny spot on the floor by one of the living room windows and Juniper curled up with me. I got up at 3:15 PM and took my iPad out on the deck to work in the crisp air and warm sun. Linda came out around 3:45 PM but decided it was too cool and went back inside; I did the same around 4 PM.
Linda arranged for us to meet John and Diane Rauch at Camelia’s Mexican Restaurant at 6 PM. Camelia’s is walking distance from our old house, but we never walked there because the route was not pedestrian friendly. It’s a half hour drive from where we live now. I reinstalled the cellular booster in my car and we left at 5:20 PM to leave a little extra time in case we encountered traffic problems. And sure enough, we did. The right lane of eastbound I-96 was closed where it ties in to southbound I-275 as the right lane continued to be closed for a construction project.
Our children’s grade school vocal music teacher, Jennifer Davidson, (who moved here from Tennessee) once remarked that Michigan only has two seasons “winter and road construction.” Truer words were never said. We stayed to the left, because that’s what we had to do to get onto eastbound I-696. Although traffic was slow it was moving, unlike the right hand lanes trying to stay on I-96/I-275. Vehicle speeds returned to “normal” once we got past the split, which around here is 5-to-10 MPH over the maximum posted limit, and a few minutes later we exited the freeway at Orchard Lake Road. This is the same exit we used for 35 years to get to our house, and I have undoubtedly used this exit more than any other Interstate highway exit in country. It was familiar, yet strange, as we rarely get back here anymore except to visit with John and Diane, meet someone at Camelia’s (or one of the other many restaurants that can be accessed from the Orchard Lake Road exit), or go to our optometrist or veterinarian, both of whom are two to three miles south of this exit.
We had our fill of chips and salsa and split an order of vegetarian fajitas. They were OK, and much better than the ones we had a week ago at Mi Camino Real in Logansport, Indiana. After dinner we went to John and Diane’s house, which is very close to the restaurant, and continued a nice conversation in a quieter setting. By 9:30 PM we were all tired and started wrapping up our visit. We left a little before 10 PM, got home at 10:30 PM, and went right to bed on stomachs that were still very full. WTVS (Detroit PBS) was fundraising around an early Rolling Stones performance that did not grab my interest so I watched Lidia’s Kitchen and the beginning of Martha Stewart’s Cooking school. She was filleting fish so I turned the TV off and went to sleep.
2016/04/24 (N) Family
We went to bed on full stomachs last night and I did not sleep well, suffering from indigestion for much of the night. I should have used a second pillow and tried sleeping on my back with my head elevated, but that is not a natural sleeping position for me and I doubt that would have slept any better. To compensate for the poor sleep I stayed in bed and kept falling back to sleep. Linda was up way before me, having apparently slept better than I did, and I finally got up to stay at 9 AM. That was unusually late for me, but at least I felt somewhat rested.
As soon as I got up Linda sliced oranges for our breakfast and prepared to toast bagels while I prepared our morning coffee. We were not quite done with our preparations when I got a phone call. It was from Chuck Spera so I answered it.
Chuck and I talk frequently but not usually at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning. He and Barbara were on the road and had just crossed into Kentucky on I-75 having left Sevierville, Tennessee early this morning. Before pulling out this morning Chuck had noticed a little oil by the driver side tag axle during his walkaround, specifically in the holes of the Alcoa aluminum wheels. He had removed the decorative hub cap and found an oil film there as well, but did not see any pooling. He assumed that an axle seal was leaking a little but was not sure how to check the oil level in the hub or add oil if needed. Because of both past and recent experiences, Chuck figured I would know the answers to both questions. While that was probably unjustified optimism, in this case I did, and gladly shared what I knew about the sight glass and rubber plug in the wheel hub for the oil reservoir.
We had just finished our bagels and orange slices when Brendan texted Linda to see about plans for today. We had all planned on getting together at Meghan and Chris’ house this afternoon to visit and have dinner but Madeline had come down with Hand, Foot, & Mouth disease (a virus) earlier in the week and Brendan thought he might be getting it too. Given that Linda had not yet fully recovered her hearing we agreed that it would be best to avoid contact until we knew that no one was contagious.
Madeline was understandably disappointed that she would not see us today and, in lieu of that, requested a FaceTime session. We were equally disappointed that we would not get to see her (and her parents) but an hour of FaceTime made up for it a bit. After our FaceTime session we lingered in the living room by the fireplace enjoying our coffee and doodling on our iPads. We finally got dressed at noon and left for Meghan and Chris’ house at 12:30 PM.
We arrived around 1:15 PM and were greeted by our daughter with a paper grocery bag full of some of our mail. We had a long, relaxed afternoon to visit and catch up. Meghan made vegan burgers from scratch and a salad with beans, corn, red bell pepper, and avocado with a lime-based dressing. We brought a bottle of Barefoot Red Moscato and I found it very much to my taste (sweet).
We departed just after 7 PM and stopped at the new Gas 2 Go station at the northwest corner of I-96 and Latson Road. The station was still under construction when we left in November. I was pleased to see that it is a Shell Oil Company station with a Tim Horton’s. I have had a preference for Shell gasoline for most of my adult life and Tim Horton’s has coffee on a par with Dunkin Donuts, although I do not like the lids they use. There is also a traffic signal on Latson at the side road for the station, no doubt because this is also the access road for the Livingston County Road Commission complex. (Leave it to them to take care of themselves while the rest of rest life and limb to get out of the Lowe’s/Walmart center just south of there.) Whatever the reason, it will slow down traffic exiting I-96 and heading south on Latson Road, making it easier to get out of the Lowe’s/Walmart parking lots.
We were home a little after 8 PM and turned on the TV to watch Grantchester on PBS and Elementary on CBS. Around 8:40 PM I realized I had missed the SLAARC Information Net which started at 8 PM. I need to reestablish the habit of tuning in on Sunday evenings, but that time slot competes with some of our favorite programming on PBS.
2016/04/25 (M) Pick Up Sticks
We had a typical start to our day. After catching the weather on channel 10.2 we were up by 8 AM, had coffee and granola with blueberries and bananas, and used our iPads in the living room with the fireplace turned on. Our Kitchen Aid mixer broke last year and today Linda was finally ready to replace it. She decided to get the slightly larger and more powerful model with the crank up mixing bowl as she wants enough power to mix bread dough. She also wanted it in white to match most of the other kitchen appliances. To our surprise the white color was more expensive than red or blue but less expensive than some other colors including copper bronze. She was trying to convince herself that red or blue would be OK but I convinced her to order white. All of our appliances (and cabinet knobs) are white. With Amazon Prime it will be here on Wednesday.
The weather forecast was calling for a cold front to move through our area triggering rain, and possibly thunderstorms, starting late in the afternoon and extending through the evening and into the overnight hours. The grass in most of the yard is not very tall yet, except right in front of the house by the concrete driveway. The yard is also moist, but not soggy, and we do not expect Keith to be here to cut the grass for the first time this season until sometime next week at the earliest. The temperature mid-morning was in the low 60’s and was forecast to reach a high of 72. All-in-all it was an excellent day to pick up sticks around the yard in advance of Keith’s first visit and get the Honda self-propelled lawn mower out and cut the grass in front of the house.
I started my yard cleanup with area around the front berms, raking small branches out of the grass and stacking larger ones on existing brush piles. While I was working out front a UPS truck showed up with our Max Burton Induction Cooktop and our new Verizon Mi-Fi unit. I signed for the Mi-Fi and took the packages inside. Linda used the induction cooker to make some nectar for our hummingbird feeder and also prepared a batch of homemade granola. She eventually came outside and helped me pick up some of the downed tree limbs in the back yard. We got the easternmost two acres (2/5ths of our yard) picked fairly well. We will work on the westernmost three acres another day.
I got the Honda lawnmower out and topped up the tank with fresh fuel. Small engine Honda equipment is known for starting on the first pull, but my experience is that this is only true when they are new. No doubt our lawnmower needs to be cleaned up and tuned up, and would start more easily if it was, but I eventually got it started and once it warmed up it ran fine. I mowed the little bit of the lawn near the house/driveway that looked like it was overdue for a cut. This is also one of the only parts of the yard anyone really sees if they pull into the driveway.
I had just shut the lawnmower off and was putting it in the garage when the U. S. Mail truck pulled into the driveway. It was our mail carrier, Michelle, and she had a very large box for us, along with our typical bundle of Monday junk mail. The box was not very heavy and Linda informed me that it was the 48 rolls of toilet paper she recently ordered. Well, alrighty then.
It was approaching 1 PM so Linda made salads for our lunch with the leftover bean-corn-tomato salad (that Meghan made yesterday) on top of a bed of mixed greens. After lunch Linda took her Amateur Extra flash cards outside to study and I focused on getting the new Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi (Netgear AC791L) assembled and activated. Assembly consisted of installing the Lithium Ion battery and back cover. I decided to charge it for a bit while I read the user guide and activation procedure.
When I was fairly certain I had all of the information I needed at my fingertips I called the 877 activation number and keyed in the requested information. It took a couple of tries to get it right but I finally did. With the activation completed I turned the device on, looked up the SSID and Password, and connected my iPad to it. I then entered the relevant information in a new entry in Passwords Plus.
I got a phone call from Gaye Young and chatted with her at some length about RVillage and its relevance to FMCA. (Gaye is the FMCA National Secretary and chairperson of the National Education Committee.). She and husband Jerry are at the Rally in the Pasture at FMCA National President Charlie Adcock’s place in Arkansas (or maybe it’s Alabama?) and I knew from talking to Curtis Coleman last week that he was on his way there too. A year and a half ago the NEC researched and recommended that FMCA partner with RVillage and a year ago the FMCA executive board accepted and endorsed that proposal but then nothing happened. The FMCA Executive Director was recently let go and Charlie is now trying to get the RVillage train back on the tracks, along with lots of other things as FMCA continues to loose members at an alarming rate.
I suspect that the loss of members is a combination of several factors. For one, the median age of FMCA members has been in the upper 60’s for quite some time. That means a certain number of members are “aging out” almost daily. For another, the downturn in the economy in 2007 was particular hard on the RV industry. Not only was the industry slow to recover, when it did it was building mostly towables, not motorhomes. In the past many RV dealers basically “included” an FMCA membership with the purchase of a motorhome, or at least provided information about the Association and an application form. Another possible factor is that RVers under 50, including Gen-Xers and Millennials, don’t tend to join things. FMCA is not the only organization suffering membership decline and having difficulty attracting new members, especially younger ones.
Chuck and Barbara got home yesterday and were settled enough for Chuck to call me at 5 PM and update me on their hub oil leak. Linda made salads for dinner and reheated the brown rice and seitan stroganoff. After dinner I replied to an e-mail from Gaye and then settled in to watch TV with Linda. And so it goes.