Tag Archives: GLAMA

2015/06/07 (N) Too Soon, Too Late

Unlike the Escapees Rallies, which always have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, the FMCA rallies always end with the entertainment the evening before departure day.  On departure day there is an asynchronous but generally smooth exodus of motorhomes that can start as early as 6 AM.  A small group of members from the Ontario Rovers chapter was parked across from our row of GLCC buses and they started firing up their engines at 7 AM and pulled out shortly thereafter.  No one objects to, or is disturbed by, this as it is understood and accepted that folks need to get on the road as suits their personal plans and travel styles.  We are usually required to vacate the rally venue by noon unless we are part of the debriefing meetings.

One of the things I find most interesting about rallies is the somewhat contradictory feelings many of us seem to have on departure day that the rally is ending too soon but we would have been glad to leave sooner.  The sense that it is over too quickly has to do, for me at least, with the fact that we enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow converted bus owners who we only see very occasionally.  The sense that it has gone on too long is just the fatigue of an intense multi-day event where every day is packed full of things to do.

John and Paulette pulled out around 9:30 AM followed by Don and Sandra and then Larry and Alma.  The Canadian contingent of our chapter (two buses and a Class C motorhome) was headed to a campground in Middlebury, Indiana about 17 miles away.  They had planned to leave just before noon on the presumption that they would not be able to check in any sooner than that.  Karen called and found out their sites were vacant so they all prepped their coaches, hooked up their cars, and were gone by 10:30 AM.  Once we saw they were getting ready to leave we did not have any reason to linger so we prepared our coach for departure and so did Scott and Tami.  We both decided to hook up by our sites rather than at the dump stations.  We pulled away just after 11 AM with them not far behind us.

We took the outer road along the southern boundary of the Fairgrounds over to the dump stations at the southeast corner.  There are at least five parallel lanes that RVs can use to dump their holding tanks.  We have never had to wait for one but when we got over there they were all in use and there were five motorhomes waiting to get in.  We had to dump before we left, and so did Scott and Tami, so there was nothing to do but wait our turn.  Soon enough we were able to pull up, hook up our sewer hose, dump our holding tanks, rinse out the hose, put it away, close up the bay’s, and head for the exit.

The easiest way in/out of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds is NOT through Goshen, Indiana which involves narrower streets, lots of traffic, and railroad grade crossings.  From Gate 5 at the far northeast corner of the fairgrounds we turned right on CR-34 (Monroe St.) and headed east.  About a mile later, give or take a bit, we turned left and headed north on CR-29.  A couple of miles later CR-29 ended at IN-4 which we took east to IN-13.  IN-13 starts (ends) at that point and only goes north from there.

We discussed whether to turn east onto US-20 or continue north on IN-13 but finally opted for the US-20 route.  IN-13 becomes US-131 in Michigan and we could have taken it up to I-94, passing through Three Rivers, Michigan on the way.  But US-20 is a good route that we have traveled many times and is the quickest way home from this part of Indiana, getting us over to I-69 very directly.

Once we got to I-69 the rest of our trip was on Interstate highways except for the last 13 miles.  We stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center / Rest Area at mile marker 5 and then continued up to Lansing where we exited onto I-96 east.  As we approached the exit for the Mobil Truck Stop at M-52 our fuel level was indicating just below a half tank and I decided not to stop and top it off.  We talked about taking the Latson Road exit but M-59 is the most direct route home so I took that exit like we usually do.  M-59 only goes east from there and rolls along interrupted by only two stop lights.  Approximately 11 miles later I turned south on N. Hacker road and we completed the drive to our house.

We had very light and intermittent rain from the time we left the fairgrounds but it did not affect the drive.  The only issue with the bus was that the Battery Balance Light and Vanner Equalizer Light both came on twice.  Both times it happened I had just hit a very bumpy section of road so I am wondering if I have some loose cables.  I have not checked the batteries in a while and terminal connections are probably due to be cleaned and tightened.  The batteries are three or four years old at this point and are standard lead-acid maintenance-free batteries.  I keep them on maintenance chargers when the coach is parked, but these batteries typically only last about 5 years so I need to check them and keep an eye on them.

We pulled into our driveway around 2:45 PM and Linda got out to direct me as I parked the rig.  We were level without any adjustments so I shut down the main engine, switched off the batteries, closed all of the air valves, and plugged in the shorepower cord.  It was not raining so we busied ourselves emptying the bus, including the refrigerator, of items we needed to get into the house sooner rather than later.  We did not empty the freezer section as Linda needs to clean out and rearrange our home refrigerator freezer section first, and we left a lot of the clothes on board.

The wind was gusting stronger as the afternoon progressed.  It continued to spritz off and on but the heavier rains finally came around 6 PM.  They were initially isolated and intermittent but became stronger and more persistent as the evening hours advanced and by 9 PM we had lightning and thunder.  Our son called around 9:30 PM just to check in with us, see how our week was, and bring us up to date regarding their activities.  Last week was grand-daughter Madeline’s first full week of part-time day care.  She will be staying home on Monday’s and Friday’s through the summer and hopefully be able to spend some time with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Bruce.


2015/06/06 (S) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 4)

Today was the last day of the 2015 GLAMARAMA rally.  It started at 7 AM with a pancake breakfast that ran until 9 AM.  For the third year the rally organizers hired Chris’s Cakes to provide the pancakes.  They had three long propane fueled griddles with sliding depositors.  The operator stopped the depositors and used a lever to release the batter for six pancakes at a time and then moved it to the next position and did the same thing until the griddle was full.  All of the pancakes had to be flipped by hand but the operators (cooks) were fast and generally accurate.  They would occasionally flip three of them into the air at once and someone would try to catch them on their plate.

Linda and both had coffee.  She had to work registration from 8 – 10 AM and left to go do that.  I was hungry so I had three pancakes even though they probably contained eggs and/or milk products.  I should have saved the calories; neither the pancakes nor the syrup had any flavor.  Zero, zip, nada, nothing; no taste.  I cannot remember the last time I had food that was that bland.  But Scott, Mark, and I settled into an in-depth bus conversation that lasted until after 9 AM and the coffee was OK.

Linda and I met up back at the coach a little after 10 AM.  I got a call from Gaye a Young letting me know we had a meeting with FMCA Executive Director Jerry Yeatts at 2:30 PM.  Linda and I went back to the Coach Supply Direct booth and talked to Josh some more about fabrics.  He confirmed that the Flexsteel 529 captain’s chair had a skirt around the base and that we could do a 2-tone fabric on the Flexsteel 591 captain’s chairs.  We got the set of Lambright fabric samples from him along with the MCD shade material samples, and took them back to our coach to study in situ.

Although we liked the Bonkers Havana fabric we had previously selected, we ultimately selected two different ones.  The Lone Wolf Brass was similar to the Bonkers Havana but lighter and much less green.  Until we saw them together we did not realize the Bonkers Havana was green at all.  The Legacy Borpeaux was a deep maroon, a color that appears in the Lone Wolf Brass and Bonkers Havana weaves.  We will use the Lone Wolf Brass as the main fabric for the 591 chairs with the Borpeaux as the inset for the lower back and center aft seat panels.  The 529 chairs will be all Borpeaux as the design of the chair does not lend itself to a 2-tone approach and we wanted some variety in the fabrics as long as they coordinated well.

The selection of materials for the MCD night shade was limited to six choices with one of them being black and another one white.  Of the other four there was one we liked (B33).  It was a bone (bisque, biscuit, etc.) color with a subtle but nice pattern.  We wanted this opaque material to be light, but not “white,” so it would reflect artificial interior light when it was pulled down.  The day shade is only available as a black fine-mesh screen.  It is designed to block sunlight during the day but allow you to see out without anyone outside being able to see in.

With our selections made we went back to see Josh and return his sample materials.  We keep feeling like we are close to placing an order but Josh needs to work up his pricing and get us the line drawings of the chairs.  For our part we need to determine the dimensions of the cushions for the sofa and talk to A–1 Upholstery and get their estimate of how many yards of material we need so Josh can order all of the fabric at one time.

We went for our first walk around the Fairgrounds for this rally, although Linda has been walking every evening with Vicki Lintner.  We were back at Building A at 12:30 PM.  Linda had signed up for the Ladies Tea, which started at 1 PM so she headed over to the Home and Arts Building and I went back to our coach.

Frank Griswold drove down and bought a day pass.  He and Sandy had planned to come to the rally in their Prevost H3-45 Vantare conversion but were unable to attend due to family issues.  Jim and Lydia Marin decided to leave and go visit their children and Tim Olsen decided to depart right behind them and get home before the rain got his newly acquired, and freshly washed, Royale Coach Prevost XL dirty.  When you have inside storage for your bus you have the option of being concerned about such things.

I was eating a sandwich for lunch, had Jasper on my lap, and was working on this blog post when Pat Lintner knocked on the door around 2 PM.  He had purchased 18″ LED replacement lights for one of the ceiling fixtures in their Prevost bus conversion and wanted help wiring it.  I took my voltmeter over to his coach to check the wiring.  All we needed to do was identify the +12VDC and DC ground wires and while it seemed obvious how the fixture should be wired I was getting some odd readings on my meter.  I did not want to rush and clip any wires until I was confident that I understood how the fixture was wired, and I had a meeting at 2:30 PM, so I told Pat I would be back before diner to finish the job.

I met with Gaye Young (FMCA national education committee chair) and Jerry Yeatts (FMCA executive director) for about 30 minutes to discuss the current status of the national education committee and its work.  I then participated in a roundtable discussion with FMCA national secretary Vicki Ferrari and six other chapter secretaries.  It was a very informative session that lasted for 90 minutes.

I had a chance to think about the fixture wiring while walking to and from my meetings, so after the chapter secretaries roundtable ended I went back to Pat’s coach, identified the +12VDC and DC ground wires, verified the voltage, clipped the supply wires, and got the LED bulbs installed in the ceiling fixture.  I was done in time to walk back to my coach, which was not far from Pat’s, drop off my volt meter and iPad, and walk over to Building A for the Volunteer Dinner where Linda was waiting for me at the front door.

We went in and were greeted by Charlie Adcock, FMCA National President, who addressed Linda as Mrs. Bruce, and then by Jane Roush, who addressed Linda as Fay, all of which she found slightly amusing.  I suggested that she had an identity crisis but she assured me she liked it that way.  Dinner was green beans in butter with bacon, mashed potatoes (milk and butter), beef tips in gravy, and dinner rolls.  There was no salad so we had dinner rolls with margarine for dinner.  Mostly we go to these events to sociable and visible but it would be nice if a bit more consideration was given to having food available for people who have gluten issues or do not eat meat, eggs, or dairy for whatever reason.  Green beans, properly prepared, are actually very tasty without butter and bacon.

We returned to our coach for a while and finished the leftover seitan stroganoff so we at least had something other than bread for dinner.  We walked back to Building A, which we are parked behind one end of, for the evening entertainment.  Sarah Ghetto performed at the first GLAMARAMA in September 2013 and was popular with the crowd so they invited her back.  She was born blind and with a cleft pallet.  The pallet was corrected surgically and she is an attractive and talented 31 year old woman with a college degree in music education and a voice that does justice to the Ann Murray covers and other songs she performs.  She owns her own motorhome and travels with her parents from her home base in Norman, Oklahoma about five months of the year.  Her dad sets up the lights and sound, MC’s the show, and plays guitar and/or sings on a few numbers, but dad makes it clear that Sarah is the star and keeps the spotlight on her.

FMCA is an International organization with members from Canada and Mexico in addition to the U.S.A. and yet they insist on hiring performers who pay tribute to the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and sing God Bless America and other nationalist songs.  The Great Lakes Area (GLAMA) in particular includes all of Ontario and our Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter includes members from the entire area (IN, MI, OH, and Ontario).  Our Canadian friends seem to take all of the religious-patriot nonsense in stride, but we find it inconsiderate at best and offensive at worst.  Still, we enjoyed Sarah’s concert, most of which was not this kind of stuff.  The Marlin’s also did some of this kind of music but most of their show was just great renditions of oldies.

We all walked the short distance back to our coaches after the concert and stood around in conversational groupings.  To our surprise Mark Lovegreen had pulled out.  He was headed to a relative’s farm outside Topeka, Kansas and wanted to get started with the trip.  Linda and Vicki went for a walk, as they have every evening, and returned as the daylight was fading.  They took down the American and Canadian Flags for the last time and folded them properly.

As darkness fell so did the temperature and once again it was just Scott and I having a conversation.  This time it was mostly about holding tanks.  By 10 PM we were getting a bit chilled and finally returned to our respective coaches for the night.  I had some fresh fruit for desert and then went to bed and wrote for a little while before turning off the lights.  At rallies our days usually start early, are filled with things to do, and run well into the evening.  By the end of four or five days of that everyone is tired, but it’s a good kind of tired.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/06/03 (W) GLAMARAMA 2015 (Day 1)

Today was the opening day of the 2015 rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Great Lakes Area MotorCoach Association (GLAMA).  We were expecting three more arrivals from our Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter but only two of them made it in before the 5 PM parking cutoff.  Jim and Lydia Marin, who parked next to us at Elkhart Campground on Sunday, arrived during the morning while Linda and I were out running errands.  Larry and Alma Baker arrived mid-afternoon.

Linda and I had our usual breakfast and then left around 8:30 AM.  Our first stop was Martin’s supermarket on US-33 northwest of downtown Goshen where Linda ordered the food for our chapter social tomorrow.  She and Karen Gerrie will pick up the deli trays, chips, pop, plates, napkins, and eating utensils tomorrow just before the social begins.

When we were done at Martin’s we continued up US-33 towards Elkhart, took CR-20 over to SR-19 and followed that north to W. Franklin Street where we headed west to the Elk Park Industrial Park and Paul’s Seating.  We met with Paul who was as helpful as he could be but it was basically a wasted trip.  He did not have a showroom, did not have additional information about the products shown on his website, and no longer carried any form of barrel chair.  His business appeared to mostly be recovering existing furniture, although later in the day we were looking at Pleasureway motorhomes (made in Elkhart) that featured furniture from Paul’s Seating.  It did not impress us as the highest quality RV furniture we have seen.

Paul suggested we look at MasterCraft for barrel chairs.  Linda pulled them up on the web browser on her phone.  They were in LaGrange, Indiana, which was quite a drive to the east on US-20, and did not have anything illustrated on their website that looked like the kind of chair we wanted/needed.  We went back down US-33 to Goshen, stopped along the way for a soft pretzel at Ben’s, and then returned to the fairgrounds.

I made phone calls to Isringhausen, Suburban Seating, Villa International, and Glastop RV Furniture.  I chatted with someone at Isri, Carlos at Suburban, Melanie at Villa (in Elkhart), and Peter from Glastop.  The calls to ISRI and Suburban were in connection with getting an ISRI 6800/6832/6860 bus driver seat.  The calls to Villa and Glastop were for barrel chairs.

We sat outside our coach for a while and chatted with Mike Dickson.  He and Kathy are in the Jayco Class C next to us.  We eventually got hungry and Linda made faux deli slice sandwiches for lunch.  By that point I was ready for a nap and slept for about two hours.  We had some of the seitan stroganoff for dinner around 5:30 PM.  I put on my nice GLCC shirt and at 6:05 PM we took the GLCC chapter flag over to Building A to line up for the opening ceremonies.  I thought I could handle the flag alone but we decided to have Linda help carry it.  She was wearing her Desert Bar T-shirt so she went back and changed into her GLCC shirt.

The opening ceremonies started at 6:30 PM.  After the presentation of the Canadian and American colors, the singing of both national anthems, the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag, and a very religious invocation, we had the parade of chapter flags.  That was followed by the introductions of a long list of FMCA dignitaries and announcements.  Fortunately it was all done by 7 PM.  There was a short break before the Frustrated Maestros started playing and we took that opportunity to return to our coach as did many of our other chapter members.  Several groups of us stood around and chatted until it got chilly and we all went inside.  The rest of the evening was spent in our coach using our iPads.


2014/06/15 Family Time

We were parked in a fenced compound area next to the regular “campground” at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  The campground has gravel sites with 50A full hookups, and we were allowed/encouraged to use the sewer connections to dump our holding tanks before departing this morning.  We had checked out the campground last night and decided that it would be easier for us to pull around to the dump stations on the outer road than to maneuver into and out of one of the open campground sites, all of which were back-ins.

I have mentioned before what a nice facility this is.  Several of our GLCC members are from north central Indiana and explained to us that the fairground is as nice as it is because it is booked every week for most of the year, winter being the exception.  Elkhart is considered the center of the RV industry in the U.S., but the reality is that RV-related industry is located throughout north central Indiana, and a little bit of southern Michigan, with a few facilities in other parts of Indiana and Ohio.  There is also significant RV industry in California, Oregon, and Florida, and to a lesser extent in Pennsylvania and Alabama.  By “RV Industry” I am referring to manufacturing, not RV parks, resorts and campgrounds, or RV dealers and service facilities, which are obviously located all over the place.

We skipped breakfast and coffee, as we always do on travel days.  Linda prepared the inside for travel and then we visited for a while with our GLCC friends.  Around 9:00 AM I unplugged the electrical power, stowed the cord, turned on the chassis batteries, opened the air valve for the engine accessories, and fired up the engine.  I did not have any trouble getting out of our parking spot or the compound.  I drove over to the dump station, which can accommodate nine RVs at one time, and Linda followed in the car.  While the holding tanks were emptying we hooked up the car for towing.  With everything stowed and secured for travel we checked the toad controls and lights and were on our way, exiting the fairgrounds at 9:25 AM.

We followed the same route home that we used when we left the Escapade rally a month ago: CR-34 (Monroe St.) east to CR-29 north to IN-4 east to IN-13 north to US-20 east to I-69 north to I-96 east to M-59 east and finally a couple of miles of dirt roads to our house.  We stopped at the Travel America (T/A) truck stop on M-60 at I-69 to put biocide and Stanadyne diesel additive in the tank along with 75 gallons of diesel fuel.

We had just over 1/4 tank of fuel indicated on the fuel gauge when we pulled in to the T/A.  If the gauge is anywhere near accurate that was approximately 50 gallons of fuel, enough to travel another 200 miles and still have 15 – 20 gallons in the tank; more than enough to get us to the Mobil truck stop on I-96 about 25 miles before our house.  I wanted to use as much of the fuel in the tank as I could before adding more but did not want to risk running out or sucking sediment off the bottom and clogging the fuel filters.  In the end we decided it was safer to stop and add fuel while we still had the 1/4 tank.  The 75 gallons brought the fuel gauge up to 5/8ths, which is what I expected.  The fuel tank capacity is 235 gallons, but I assume the full mark on the gauge corresponds to 200 gallons.  That makes every 1/8 of a tank on the gauge correspond to 25 gallons.  We also presume that our average fuel economy, based on prior data, is 6 MPG which equates to 150 miles per 1/8 tank.

We did not fill the tank because the bus is going to be sitting for a while and we did not want to have all of that fuel onboard aging in the summer heat.  There is a reason, however, to keep the fuel tank as full as possible.  Most of the fuel that is pumped to the engine is used to cool the injectors and the DDEC engine computer and returned to the tank. The more fuel in the tank, the less frequently any particular molecule passes through the engine giving the fuel in the tank more time to dissipate the heat.

Our trip was easy and un-eventful other than the powered driver-side windshield shade quite working.  Add that to the list.  We got home by 1:30 PM which gave us time to unload food and a few essentials from the bus and take showers.  Since Linda spent Saturday morning preparing food, she only had minimal cooking to do for dinner.  Our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter arrived at 3:30 PM and our daughter and son-in-law arrived at 4:00 PM.  Madeline had a cold, wasn’t feeling well, and had only had a short nap, but she was fine as long as she was busy.  This was a combination birthday and Father’s Day gathering, but mostly an excuse to gather our small, immediate family.  We had a lovely summer meal of potato salad, collard greens cole slaw, baked beans, and cheeseburgers with chocolate cupcakes (from a local bakery) and fresh strawberries for dessert.  All vegan, and all delicious.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline left shortly after dinner and Meghan and Chris left around 8:00 PM.  Although our morning departure and drive home had been quite routine and the family gathering had been relaxed and relatively easy, it all added up to a long day.  I started the download of an update to my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription that looked like it was going to take a while, so we skipped watching an Episode of Doc Martin and turned in for the night.


2014/06/14 (S) Day 4 Rally Conclusion

Each rally has a slightly different approach to food.  On the last full day of the GLAMARAMA they switch the breakfast carbohydrate delivery mechanism from donuts to pancakes and serve them with sausage links.  The coffee and tea are still there, of course, so we had coffee.  Other rallies, like the Escapades, have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, with coffee and donuts.  When Nick and Terry Russell were running their Gypsy Journal Gathering rallies they also had coffee and donuts on departure day as I recall.

In order to serve a lot of pancakes to a lot of people in a relatively short period of time GLAMARAMA hires a specialized food service.  The one they hired this year had long griddles with an overhead depositor that moved the length of the griddle like a gantry crane.  It would precisely deposit the batter to make a row of 5″ pancakes.  The operator would then move it by hand and deposit the next row, repeating this as they moved along the griddle.  Another worker followed behind the depositor with a pancake turner (flapjack flipper) and turned the pancakes when they were done on the first side.  Although hand labor was still involved it was an efficient, high volume, production process that did not require an army of volunteers.

When we were done drinking coffee and chatting Linda headed back to our motorcoach to prepare food for our family gathering on Sunday afternoon.  I headed over to the seminar building for a presentation by Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone with the Wynn’s.  They were joined by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia and did a panel discussion on earning income on the road.  They also covered work-camping and volunteering in exchange for a camp site.  They did an excellent job, relaxed and low key, and streamed the event live to the web.  The logins indicated that 68 people viewed the presentation online, which was probably more people than were in the room.

Geeks on Tour got their flash drives in (Nick and Terry Russell brought them down from Elkhart).  I wanted to restart our subscription, but wanted the flash drive instead of the CD as Linda needed it to store some files.  I ended up with both.  Their Tutorial Video series ( http://geeksontour.tv ) is an amazing resource for learning how to use a wide range of technologies for Planning, Preserving, and Sharing you RV adventures.

At 10:45 AM I met with Jerry Yates, Executive Director of FMCA, in my role as a member of the national education committee, to talk about RVillage.  It also gave me a chance to further explore making online education available to FMCA members, such as that provided by the Geeks On Tour, either directly from the FMCA website or through discounted subscriptions to provider websites.

Linda helped Alma Baker get situated for the Fleetwood hot dog lunch and had a tomato and onion sandwich while she was there.  I had a couple of tofu hot dogs in our coach and eventually headed over to a 1:30 PM seminar on 120 VAC by Gary Bunzer.  It was very good, as usual, but by Saturday afternoon seminar attendance had thinned.  This was a repeat of a session he had done on Wednesday, so many attendees who wanted to see probably already had.

Linda hung around the coach waiting for Butch and Fonda, who drove over from Twelve Mile, Indiana to work with her on some aspects of their pending business sale.  I came back to the rig to say hello and around 4:45 PM we gathered up some hummus, chips, and beverages and headed over to the 5:00 PM RVillage get-together.  The volunteer dinner started at 4:30 PM, but we decided not to go as we knew there would be little-to-nothing we would be able to eat.

Nikki Wynn had scheduled the RVillage get-together in the Dog and Cat Pavilion and we ended up with a nice turnout of 17 people.  It was not a pot luck, but enough folks brought munchies and extra beverages that everyone had something.  We milled around conversing in shifting groups and eventually formed chairs into a (sort of) circle.  Chris Guld suggested we go around and introduce ourselves and say where we were when we were 15 years old and whether we had any notion that we would find ourselves where we are now.  It turned out to be a fun, low key, way to get to know each other by filing in a few personal details.

We disbanded by 6:30 PM, went back to our coach for a few minutes, and then headed over to the final evening’s entertainment.  The Walker Family hails from Nashville and we saw them a few years ago at the G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  Dad, mom, and seven kids; four girls and three boys.  The “girls” are now young women; two are married and one just had her first child.  They perform as “The Redhead Express.”  The boys are now 15, 13, and 11.  The older two play drums for their sisters and perform as a trio with guitar backup from one of their sisters.  Mom and dad joined the sisters for a couple of numbers, but the entire family never performed together.  My recollection was that they had the last time we saw them, but that’s been at least four years, maybe five, and Linda disagrees with my memory.  Regardless, they are very talented and put on a spirited show of country songs with a bit of gospel and patriotic stuff mixed in; just what you would expect from a Nashville-based group.  They did not, however, use any pre-recorded sound tracks.

Following the concert there were drawings for prizes and the 50/50 raffle.  The Grand Prize was a gift certificate for an 11-day Adventure Tours Mega-Rally worth $3,000 (one motorhome with two people).  One of our GLCC members won $200 in the raffle.  Those of us “camped” in the GLCC area gathered by our rigs after the drawings and stood around talking until it cooled of to the point that everyone was ready to retreat into their rigs for the evening.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/06/12 (R) Rallying Day 2

First of all, yesterday was our daughter’s 33rd birthday.  Happy birthday, Meghan!

At most rallies “breakfast” consists of coffee and doughnuts, with a pancake and sausage meal thrown in somewhere.  We like our own coffee a lot better than what is typically served at rallies, but these breakfasts are included in our rally fee, so we go have coffee and sit and talk with folks.  Mostly it’s about sitting and talking with folks.  Larger rallies are social/educational events.  Smaller rallies tend to just be social events.

The GLAMARAMA organizers had arranged for a morning and afternoon tour of a local Dometic factory today, with tours of a local Jayco factory tomorrow.  Slots were limited, requiring an advance reservation, and a single school bus was contracted to transport each group.  We did not go, but our GLCC friends who did said it was an excellent tour of a very impressive factory.

We went through the vendor buildings when they opened at 9:00 AM and took stock of who was there and what they were selling.  We usually check out the vendors early in the rally but do not buy anything right away, giving us time to ponder possible purchases.

We did not attend any seminars today.  Most of the chapter socials were scheduled to start at 4:00 PM including our Great Lakes Converted Coaches meeting.  Linda and I were responsible for the food, most of which we had ordered from Pizza Hut on Tuesday.  At 2:15 PM we drove to the Kroger on the northwest side of Goshen to get ice, bottled water, and diet Coke.  (Pizza Hut is part of PepsiCo, so they only sell Pepsi soda products.  I do not care for Pepsi and usually forego a soda beverage if Pepsi is the only thing available.)  The food was supposed to be delivered to Gate 5 of the Fairgrounds at 3:35 PM but the driver was delayed by trains blocking his route.  (This is common in Goshen.)  He finally arrived at 3:50 PM.  We transferred all of the food to our car, paid him, and headed for the pavilion.  A few people had already arrived and they helped us unload the food and set it up on two tables.  By the time we had it ready to serve most folks had arrived and most of them were hungry.  We did not take a head count but I estimated 35 people, plus or minus.  Once everyone had a chance to eat we had a short business meeting.  By the time we were done and had everything cleaned up it was 6:30 PM.  We went back to our GLCC parking area and visited a little longer with our immediate neighbors before retire to our buses for the evening.  On the day of the chapter socials there is no evening entertainment; those who want to usually gather for cards or bingo.


2014/06/11 (W) GLAMARAMA14 Day 1

Although the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) area rally (GLAMARAMA14) took place at 7:30 PM, the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds were busy with activity all day.  The golf cart shuttles started running at 7:30 AM and the parking crew members were at their stations and started parking motorhomes at 8:00 AM.  The registration building was open at 8:00 AM, the indoor vendors were open at 9:00 AM, and the food vendors were open at 10 AM.

The Fleetwood Motorhome Association (FMA) had rolled their rally into the GLAMARAMA, and as part of their participation they sponsored Gary Bunzer, the RV Doctor, as the featured speaker.  Gary normally only does national rallies and GLAMARAMA14 was the first time he had agreed to speak at an FMCA area rally.  He was scheduled for a full set of presentations starting at 1:30 PM today.  There were no other seminars at that time and he drew a large crowd, as he usually does.  He had a second seminar starting at 3:30 PM but we could not attend as we were scheduled to drive golf carts from 4:00 – 6:30 PM.  Fortunately he is repeating that seminar on Saturday.

Sometime during the last day or so I received a draft copy of the June 2014 Bus Conversion Magazine for review of my cover/centerfold article on the Cool Cruiser; a GM PD4106 I photographed at the 2014 Arcadia Bus Rally in late December.  I sent back a few minor corrections.  The editor had some health issues that delayed the May issue and they are working very hard to get the caught up so I got my comments back to the ASAP.

We had received an e-mail a week or so ago regarding the RVillage Ambassador Program and had responded that we were definitely interested in participating.  Earlier this week we were notified that a webinar was scheduled for Saturday May 14 at noon.  I e-mailed back that we could not participate in the webinar at that date/time due to GLAMARAMA activities.

At 4:00 PM we picked up our golf carts and headed out for two and a half hours of fun driving around the fairgrounds meeting people and providing rides and/or directions.  There had been a threat of rain all day but it held off until after our shift ended.

The evening entertainment was provided by New Odyssey, an extremely high-energy three-man group out of Chicago, Illinois that plays 30 different instruments.  They put on a great, but slightly familiar, show and we finally figured out that we had seen them a few years ago at a G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  (Great Lakes Area Spring Spree.)

Before the show ever started the skies opened up and it rained very hard.  We had left the roof vents/fans open/on, with a running computer sitting directly under one of them, so I ran back to the coach to close everything up.  It was a short distance, but I was soaked by the time I went 10 feet.  Ironically, but luckily, not a single drop of rain had entered the coach, perhaps because we were parked under a very large tree.  Still, I closed everything, dried off and changed into my rain gear for the walk back to the assembly hall.


2014/06/10 (T) Early Entry

Today was early entry day for the FMCA Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) area rally, known as the GLAMARAMA.  Following our usual departure routine I dumped our holding tanks and prepared the outside of the bus for travel while Linda secured the inside.  We pulled out of Elkhart Campground around 9:30 AM and headed west on CR-4 to IN-19 where we turned north back towards Michigan.  IN-19 becomes M-205 at the border and we followed it around to US-12 east.  A few miles down the road we turned onto M-217, the Michiana Parkway, and followed that south back into Indiana where it became CR-17.  We exited CR-17 at US-20 and headed east towards Middlebury, Indiana.  The reason for going this way was to avoid driving through Elkhart and Goshen.  Monroe Street in Goshen is closed at the railroad tracks forcing detours to get to the fairgrounds when approaching from the west.  We knew from our recent visit to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds for the Escapees RV Club Escapade rally that the easy way in and out of the venue was from/to the northeast.

GLAMARAMA14 is the second rally organized by GLAMA.  The first one was in September 2013 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  I wrote an extensive article about that rally that appeared in the January 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  A version of that article also appeared in the November 2013 newsletter of the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) Chapter.

We encountered unexpected road construction on eastbound US-20, but we had no particular time constraints and patiently worked our way through.  At IN-13, south of Middlebury, we turned south, drove down to IN-4, and headed east.  Before getting to Goshen we turned south on CR-29 and followed that to its terminus at CR-34 (Monroe Street) where we headed east a short distance to the northeast entrance to the Fairgrounds (Gate 5).  The trip took us a little over an hour whereas the direct route, without road closings, would have taken 30 minutes.  But it was an easy, stress-free drive and we arrived relaxed and ready to enjoy the rest of the day.  Northern Indiana is a particularly easy place to drive a large RV; the roads are relatively flat with very few overhead clearance or weight restriction issues.  The one thing you have to watch out for are the Amish buggies; they are everywhere in this region.

We indicated on entry that we were with the Great Lakes Converted Coaches Chapter.  After unhooking the car in the staging area the parking crew escorted us to the sites reserved for our chapter in the fenced area directly behind the vendor and entertainment buildings known as “the compound.”  We were the second bus to arrive; the Lintner’s having already been here for a few days.  A short while later Bill and Karen Gerrie (1965 GM Transit) arrived with Mike and Kathy Dickson and Joe and Mia Temples (GM 4905 “Buffalo”).  Later in the day Don and Sandra Moyer arrived in their 1948 Spartan with John and Paula Lingafelter in their 1958 Flxible Starliner.

In the early afternoon Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia) walked over from the FMA area to the GLCC area with Jason and Nikki Wynn (Gone with the Wynn’s).  I introduced them to Bill Gerrie and Linda joined us for a brief chat.  It’s always good to cross paths with Chris and Cherie and it was nice to meet Jason and Nikki.

We volunteered to drive golf carts during the rally and our first shift was today from 2:30 to 5:00 PM.  Although the rally does not start until tomorrow the registration office was open and attendees from all over the fairgrounds needed to go there, without knowing where “there” was, so we had our share of customers.


2014/01/03 (F) Power Dinner

Linda went to the Publix grocery store in Gainesville yesterday, so we are well stocked for the next week or so.  We also learned last night from Donna and Michael Bartolomeo that there are several vegan restaurants in Gainesville as well as a vegan ice cream parlor / bakery / brewery and a vegan pizzeria.  While we don’t plan to eat out very often, having vegan dining options less than 20 miles away is a nice plus.  The Happy Cow website confirmed their addresses and menu selections.

The overnight low hit 35 degrees F, but that is not unexpected in this part of Florida in January.  We had closed up the rig before we went to bed and did not turn on any of the heaters (other than the refrigerator) so the temperature inside dropped to just under 60 degrees F; a bit nippy, but not uncomfortable.  The refrigerator is a compressor driven residential unit that exhausts heat out the bottom front into the kitchen/dining area.  In warmer weather (no rain) we usually have the ceiling vent open and the exhaust fan running to pull that warm air out of the coach.  But in colder weather the vents are closed and the heat from the fridge helps keep the coach from getting too cold.

We lost power to the coach around 11:15 AM, but only for a few minutes.  The inverter kicked in immediately and did what it is supposed to do.  The microwave clock did not lose its time and the UPS that powers the NAS kept it double protected.  The power was restored before I could go investigate what had happened.  When I checked later there was no code set in our Progressive Industries EMS, indicating that we had simply lost power and then had it restored, which clears any previous error codes.

The View From Our Coach on Site 439 at WCRVR.

The View From Our Coach on Site 439 at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

After her morning walk Linda worked on her needlepoint while the light was good and I took care of e-mail, finished up the blog post for yesterday, and started working on the Arcadia Rally article for BCM.  I had an e-mail from BCM publisher Gary Hall indicating that they planned to bump the rally article to the March 2014 issue, so that gave me a little breathing room in terms of getting it done.  Gary also sent me the January 2014 special edition they produced for the FMCA Great Lakes Area Motor Coach Association (GLAMA).  This issue has an extensive article that I wrote on the September 2013 GLAMARAMA rally.  GLAMA is going to include the entire issue in their next newsletter, which will go out to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 members.

Tonight was one of the scheduled fire pit nights at the resort.  The fire pit is only 100 feet from our site so we checked it out.  It‘s under cover and surrounded by large rocking chairs and a couple of benches.  We often enjoyed campfires when tent camping, but have not made very many since we started RVing in 2005.  We were planning on going when I got a call from Michael Bartolomeo inviting us to their motorhome for dinner.

Michael indicated that it had been a strange night and that’s when we found out that the whole north section of the park had lost power overnight.  Apparently the short power outage we experienced this morning was connected with the restoration of power to the north section.  We stopped by the office later and inquired as to what had happened.  Sometime the night before someone ran into a utility pole (outside the park) and took out power to half the city of Williston including the north section of the RV resort.  When utility crews finally repaired the damage and restored power, the transformer that feeds the southern half of the northern section failed.  A replacement had to be brought in from some distance away, and residents in that part of the resort were without power for about 18 hours.

Donna and Michael had been without power overnight and when they got it back their furnace decided not to work.  Michael was able to locate a loose connection and tighten it this morning which brought the furnace back to life, but they had a chilly night in their rig.  They had us over for dinner nonetheless and it was wonderful.  We had pistachios (in the shell) for an appetizer, butternut squash soup with fresh apple slices and croutons, and whole bean burritos with guacamole, spicy salsa, and steamed kale.  They served dark chocolate covered almonds for dessert and we drank Pinot Grigio to wash it all down as we continued our conversation from the night before.  No pictures yet, however, as we have not crossed paths with them during the day when I also had my camera with me.

2013_09_18 (Wed) Under A Harvest Moon

I was up early this morning to check e-mail and work on my backlog of blog posts.  The WiFi at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds is excellent; our WiFi Ranger is picking up nine open fairground signals, with five of them quite strong.  Even so, WiFi always works better when fewer devices are trying to use it.

A 1948 Spartan and aour1990 Prevost.

A 1948 Spartan and aour1990 Prevost.

Linda was up in time to go to the registration building at 8:00 AM with the intent of reserving one of the pavilions adjacent to where the GLCC chapter is parked.  Alas, they were both taken.  She and Vicky scouted out the ones that were still available, selected one, and reserved it for our Thursday evening pizza social and business meeting.  We will be meeting at the Elkhart Noon Optimists building, 603 Locust St, by the big blue Fish Fry sign.  While they were taking care of this I brewed a pot of coffee using two parts Ethiopian Yirga Cheffe to one part Columbian decaf, a very nice blend that cuts down a little on the amount of caffeine.  When Linda returned we had a light breakfast of her very yummy homemade granola and fresh orange slices.

Don and Sandy Moyer’s restored 1948 Spartan bus conversion.

Don and Sandy Moyer’s restored 1948 Spartan bus conversion.

Mid-morning Linda, Fonda, and Vicky drove to the Shipshewana flea market, which is only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  I took that as an opportunity to wander the fairgrounds and photograph the arrival and parking activities.  Today was the official beginning of the 2013 GLAMARAMA and motorhomes arrived all through the day.  The arrival and parking process appeared to go quite smoothly, which makes for a good start to a large RV rally.  The all-volunteer parking crew put in long hours, but were patient and cheerful throughout.

Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

While I was wandering around I found Ron and Meredith Walker’s Prevost XL-45.   They just joined our GLCC chapter this past summer, but are not camped with us at this rally.  Ron is the conductor of the Frustrated Maestros, who are doing several scheduled performances during the rally, so the FM chapter is their primary focus while they are here.

A motorhome approaching the fairgrounds entrance from the east on IN-34 / Monroe St.

A motorhome approaching the fairgrounds entrance from the east on IN-34 / Monroe St.

They were home but rather busy.  A muralist was air-brushing a mural on their rear cap and their front entrance door was partially disassembled.  Meredith had me check out the mural and then Ron filled me in on the door situation.  The main door handle had failed that morning while he was outside talking to someone, as a result of which he was locked out and she was locked in.  They managed to find a technician who was able/willing to climb in a bedroom window and disassemble the door enough to get it open.  I looked at the mechanism to see if there was anything I could do to fix it.  There wasn’t, of course, but I told them I knew someone who might be willing/able to help.

Welcome to GLAMARAMA at the Gate 5 entrance.

Welcome to GLAMARAMA at the Gate 5 entrance.

I returned to the GLCC camp to see if Butch would be willing to lend some assistance to fellow GLCC members.  He was, of course; RVers tend to be helpful to other RVers when they can, but converted bus owners really tend to look out for one another.  We went back over to the Walker’s coach and Butch determined that a weld had failed.  While he couldn’t fix the latch on the spot we realized that the whole mechanism could be unbolted and moved out of the way so it couldn’t engage the latch pin on the door frame.  Ron did the work, and that temporarily removed the lockout problem until they could get a new latch assembly from Prevost.  In the meantime they could lock/unlock the door from inside or outside using only the deadbolt.

The staging area where towed vehicles get unhooked.

The staging area where towed vehicles get unhooked.

When the ladies got back from Shipshewana we pulled our camp chairs into a circle by Butch and Fonda’s MC-9 and spent a relaxing afternoon visiting with our fellow GLCCers.  While we were sitting there, Frank and Sandy Griswold arrived in their Prevost H3-45 Vantare conversion along with Dean and Cindy Chipman in their Holiday Rambler Endeavor motorhome.  A bit later Scott and Tammy Bruner arrived in their MCI MC-12 conversion.  This completed our set of nine GLCC rigs that would be camping together for the duration of the rally.  Our chapter had originally requested 8 spots, but the parking crew did a great job of getting nine coaches parked.

The holding area where RVs are queued for entry and escorted to their sites.

The holding area where RVs are queued for entry and escorted to their sites.

During the afternoon conversation someone asked how long we had owned our coach.  That’s when we realized it was our 4th anniversary; we purchased our Prevost H3-40 on September 18, 2009.  We met the owner at a restaurant in western Pennsylvania, gave him a certified check and got the title.  The coach was at Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) just south of Columbus, Ohio where it had been sitting for about two years.  The owner had taken it there for service and then decided to sell it instead of fix it.  CMI allowed him to leave it there while they advertised it on their website and tried to find a buyer.  I described some of this story in the cover/centerfold article of the February 2013 issue of Bus Conversions Magazine.

A caravan being assembled for entry.  They will be parked together.

A caravan being assembled for entry. They will be parked together.

We eventually broke for dinner and a little quiet time before heading over to the opening ceremonies.  Linda made a simple green salad and a bow-tie pasta dish with olive oil, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling from Black Star Farms in Michigan’s Leelanau peninsula was the perfect accompaniment.  Their late harvest Riesling and pear wines are two of our all-time favorites.

A different kind of motorhome, called a Class D, with a fancy paint job.

A different kind of motorhome, called a Class D, with a fancy paint job.

A group of us from GLCC walked over to the evening activities building around 7:00 PM and were greeted with handshakes and hugs by Jon and Sondra Walker, Charlie Addcock, and Jane Roush.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it was.  Hugs are an Escapees RV Club tradition, not something we had ever seen before at an FMCA rally.  When Charlie and Jon were elected to national office they promised a new tone and new direction for FMCA, and it appears they are putting themselves behind that in a very personal way.

The Frustrated Maestros performed from 6:45 to 7:30 PM.  The opening ceremonies began at 7:30 PM with Dane Bailey, The Singing Auctioneer, as the master of ceremonies, a role he will be performing for the duration of the rally.  We had the usual opening consisting of an invocation, Canadian national Anthem, and U.S. national anthem, the posting of the colors by the local VFW color guard, and the chapter parade.  There were 12 chapters officially in attendance.  Notably by their absence were the Michigan Knights of the Highway, who formerly ran the GLASS rally.  Dane then introduced Jon Walker, the FMCA Senior National Vice-President, who welcomed everyone.  Jon was the GLAMA president and FMCA area vice-president until this past July when he was elected to the senior national vice-president office.  He and Sondra are well-liked and well-respected within the Great Lakes area, and remained as the co-rally hosts for this event along with Jane Roush.  (Jon and Sondra are also members of our GLCC chapter and Jon was our National Director for a while.)  Jon announced that we had 469 coaches in attendance, although Vicky told us that one more had arrived.  (Pat and Vicky were the official coach counters.)

FMCA National President Charlie Adcock was introduced next and said a few words.  Charlie is a very enthusiastic, upbeat guy, as is Jon.  Charlie administered the oath of office to Jane Roush, who was elected as the GLAMA president when Jon resigned to take his new national office.  Charlie acknowledged the long list of VIP attendees, which certainly helped the rally coach count.  The rally was budgeted for a break-even point of 400 coaches, so everyone involved in the planning and execution was very pleased with the turnout.  I suspect that many of the VIPs were here as a show of support for this first ever attempt by GLAMA to organize its own rally.

With the opening ceremonies concluded Sgt. Daniel Clark, The Singing Trooper, was introduced.  Dan is a former U. S. Marine and retired Massachusetts State Trooper, but has been singing since he was a child.  He was clearly a trained opera singer and mentioned that he spent time at Tanglewood.  He did a very tightly constructed and energetic show of patriotic and sentimental American favorites, ending with a medley of U. S. armed services theme songs, including the one for the U. S. Merchant Marines.  The evening’s activities concluded, we had a leisurely walk back to our coach under a harvest moon.

And that is part of why we go RVing.


2013_09_17 (Tue) To Goshen We Go

We awoke this morning to temperatures in the mid 40’s.  As we had no reason to rush we stayed under the covers a bit longer than usual.  Lazy mornings are always a source of consternation for our cats who, in spite of the obvious presence of food in their bowls, expect us to get up at the first sign we are awake and attend to their perceived need for fresh(er) food.

I turned on the electric toe-kick heater in the bathroom to take the chill out of the air, but then decided to fire up the Aqua-Hot instead to warm up the entire coach and preheat the main engine.  At a seminar in Gillette, Wyoming this past summer we learned that the Aqua-Hot needs to run with some regularity in order to run well, so this was an opportunity to do that and to check my work from yesterday for leaks.  The Aqua-Hot ran quite well, but as I feared there was a small leak at the gasket between the two halves of the check valve.  I will try one more time to get a couple of wrenches on this part and tighten it, but if that is not successful I will have to install the new check valve, which would take another entire day.  Ugh.  I like doing projects, but I don’t care so much for doing them more than once.

We had oatmeal for breakfast, which is always nice on a chilly morning and has a certain staying power for days when lunch is uncertain.  After breakfast we got our coach ready for travel while Butch and Fonda did the same with theirs’.  We departed Twelve Mile, Indiana a little before noon with Butch and Fonda in the lead and headed for Goshen, Indiana to attend the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) 2013 area rally (GLAMARAMA13).

Our route was IN-16 (Co Rd 700 N) westbound to N Co Rd 600 E northbound to IN-25 northbound to US-31 northbound to US-6 eastbound to IN-15 where we stopped for a stretch break.  We moved into the lead and continued northbound on IN-15 to Goshen with Linda navigating based on directions provided by the rally organizers.  We had been advised by FMCA to follow the directions they provided in order to avoid a bridge that was out on the main road to the fairgrounds from the west.

We tend to travel on Intestate and US highways, but have also found State highways to generally be good for travel.  Even county roads are OK if we know in advance we will not encounter weight, height, or width restrictions.  This is where it is helpful to have local information from folks familiar with the roads.  It also helps that our Rand-McNally RVND7710 GPS is configured to know the parameters of our rig, so we are able to travel with some confidence that we will not encounter unexpected obstructions.  As an added feature it also provides real-time traffic information, especially near larger metropolitan areas.

The trip up IN-15 brought us quickly into the outskirts of Goshen with heavy, slow traffic.  This presented a challenge for us as the buses do not accelerate that quickly and the lights do not stay green for that long.  It was important that I not lose Butch at a light as Linda had the detailed directions for getting to the fairgrounds.  As we came to downtown Goshen there was construction with lanes closed and traffic rerouted through barrel lined jiggy-jogs.  We pressed ahead none-the-less as we needed to go east on IN-4, just three short blocks beyond the construction.  We made it through but it was the kind of situation that adds a bit of stress to the usual pleasure of driving the coach.

We continued east on IN-4 looking for Co Rd 29 southbound.  Along the way we spotted an official looking sign that said “RV Rally and Fairgrounds” with an arrow pointing down a nicely paved road to the south.  I slowed down and considered taking this road—even though the turn looked a bit tight—until I noticed the “NO TRUCKS” sign on the adjacent pole.  We are never sure whether or not we are a “truck” so we generally decide one way of the other depending on what is to our advantage.  In this case I took a “pass” and continued on down IN-4 to CR-29.  We headed south on CR-29 until it ended at CR-34 where we turned westbound back towards the fairgrounds.  Our directions said to enter at Gate 3, but as we approached the northeast corner of the fairgrounds an orange-vested parking crew member motioned us to turn in.  I hesitated again, but decided to follow his directions.  The parking procedures are usually well thought out and the crews usually know what they are doing.  The whole arrival/parking experience generally goes much more smoothly if you simply follow their directions.

(It is worth noting, however, that as with a boat or airplane the driver of an RV bears the ultimate responsibility for it’s operation and is the ultimate decision authority with respect to that operation.  If the driver is unclear or uncomfortable with what parking crew are asking them to do, the correct response is to STOP, ask for clarification, and not move until they are certain they understand where they supposed to go and are comfortable (willing and able) going there.  Arguing with parking crew, however, is counterproductive, and ignoring them and moving the RV is potentially dangerous.  Parking crew are there to move large numbers of RVs efficiently and safely to planned parking areas and drivers should always give them their full cooperation but never surrender their ultimate decision authority.)

We arrived at the rally venue a little before 2 PM.  The usual procedure is to unhook a towed vehicle and drive it, separate from the motorhome, to the site or a designated parking area.  And so it was today.  They had changed the entrance gate to channel us into an area where there was more room to unhook our towed vehicles.  With the cars unhooked, we proceeded to the holding area where we queued up and waited to be escorted to our site.  For this rally parking areas had been reserved for chapters so they could park together without having to arrive together (caravaan style).  We were part of the reservation for the Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter (GLCC).  The parking crew was friendly and efficient and we “wheels down” (an aviation term) in our site by 2:30 PM with the coach set up and ready to use by 3:00 PM.

The reserved parking was an unusual feature of this rally, and an attempt by GLAMA to be as accommodating as possible in spite of the added complexity of this arrangement.  If you have not been to an RV rally, you won’t fully appreciate how nice it was to be able to park with “our group” without having to coordinate our arrival with everyone else.  Generally if RVs want to park together at a rally they have to arrive together in a caravaan.  The only aspect of their parking that is usually pre-arranged is the area of the facility they will be in based on the hookups (electricity, water, sewer, generator use) they have paid for as part of their pre-registration.  Even with a small number of RVs caravaning can be a challenge.  Wile some rallies provide an arrival area where RVers can meet up and form their caravan, many rallies do not have the space for this.  In that case, the RVers first have to find a place to rendezvous.  (Walmart is a popular choice, especially if folks are staying overnight there anyway.)  They then have to make their way to the rally site while trying to keep the group together at stop lights (which isn’t possible with more than two rigs).  GLAMA is to be applauded for trying this new approach.

Goshen is the county seat for Elkhart County, Indiana and the home of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  We had been to this facility once before for The Escapees RV Club Escapade in September 2010 and it is a nice facility for an RV rally.  Access to the fairgrounds is good, and the interior roads are more than adequate for large motorhomes (and converted buses).  The campgrounds can provide 30 Amp power and water for a large number of rigs (800+), and there are also some full hookup, 50 A sites.  There are many buildings and covered outdoor areas available for entertainment, vendors, seminars, and meetings.  And yet all of this is neatly contained in a surprisingly compact space that makes the venue very walkable while the paved roads make for good driving of toads and courtesy transportation golf carts.

This is the first Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) rally being organized by the officers and volunteers of GLAMA.  For many, many years the Great Lakes Area Spring Spree (GLASS) rally had served this purpose.  Held at the Berrien Springs, Michigan youth fairgrounds, GLASS was a nice rally at a nice venue held over Memorial Day weekend and consistently drew 800+ motorhomes until the last few years.  Unlike most FMCA area rallies, however, the GLASS rally was organized by the Michigan Knights of the Highway, the 4th FMCA chapter ever formed, and the oldest FMCA chapter still in existence.  MKH handled the registration process, and any financial benefit (or loss) went to them, not GLAMA.

GLAMA takes in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario Canada, so obviously it does not include all of the states that border on the Great Lakes.  Even so, it covers a large geographic area with lots of FMCA members.  GLAMARAMA 2014 is also slated for the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, but the intent is to then rotate it to each state and Ontario for two years each.  That will entail more work for GLAMA organizers, but will open up the chance for more people to attend and build a stronger sense of ownership across the association.

Today was early entry day, so there were no official activities beyond arrival and registration/check-in.  Pat and Vicky Lintner were already parked at the GLCC area as Pat is the GLAMA VP for Indiana and part of the rally organizing committee responsible for all of the rally specific signage.  We pulled in next to Pat and Vicky, followed by Butch and Fonda.  Mike and Laurie Minnick pulled in shortly thereafter in their 1968 MCI MC-7 bus conversion.  Don and Sandy Moyer then arrived in their 1948 Spartan bus conversion.

[Note: The Spartan bus was built for three years, post World War II, in Sturgis, Michigan.  The owner/president of the company was the chief test pilot for the B-25 bomber.  All of the engineers and craftsmen came from the aircraft industry and the bus was designed/built much more like an airplane than a motor vehicle.  Only 57 Spartan buses were built and most of them ended up being used outside the U. S., including some used to make a 12 hour daily run from Damascus, Syria to Baghdad, Iraq and a 12 hour run back, making it the fastest bus line in the world at the time.  The Moyer’s bus was the last one built, a 28 foot model.  It was destined for a bus company in Wisconsin but they never took delivery.  It left the factory as a seated coach, was driven out of the factory, and the front tires came off the ground because it was too heavy in the rear end.  Within two years someone had purchased it, taken out the seats, and had it converted to a motorhome.  Many of the details suggest that it was “professionally” done, but the Moyer’s have not been able to track down who did the conversion.  It was eventually parked and left to rot for 35 years until Don and Sandy rescued it.  Based on their research there are no more than 12 of the original 57 buses still in existence and theirs’ is almost certainly the only motorhome.  Don worked 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 18 months to put it back in usable condition.  It is a truly unique RV.]

GLCC reserved space for eight motorhomes and the other three planned to arrive tomorrow. The chapter will have more members/rigs in attendance than that, but they will be parked elsewhere.  George and Sue Myers are parked within close sight of our group, but are located for their convenience in running the golf cart courtesy transportation service.  Don and Kathy Crawford from Ontario are in the VIP row as Don is a past president of GLAMA, which also entailed being the national vice-president representing the Great Lakes Area.  Ditto for Jon and Sondra Walker, who was the GLASS National Director until he moved on to become GLAMA President.  Jon was elected the FMCA Senior National Vice-President this past summer at the FMCA national convention in Gillette, Wyoming, so the number two national FMCA officer is a GLCC guy.  Ron and Meredith Walker, who just joined our chapter, are also here but are parked with the Frustrated Maestros.  Ron is a retired K-12 music teacher and is the conductor of the FMs.

Linda made something new for dinner: firm tofu slices pan fried with onions and Bar-B-Que sauce.  She served it on a sesame seed bun with a side of sweet corn on the cob and some Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer to wash it down.  Sometimes simple is best.


2013_06_23 (Sun) FMCA Comes To A Close

As usual, the exodus from the FMCA 50th Anniversary rally started early, with some motorhomes pulling out as early as 6:00 AM.  It is always an interesting experience to watch the departure process from a major RV rally.  Unlike the arrival process, which is highly organized and managed by the organization running the rally, the departure process is completely asynchronous and self-managed.  It is not, however, chaotic; to the contrary, it is quite orderly.  People leave when they need to and are ready to go, and that just seems to work out well.  They are attentive and considerate, and there’s never any congestion; just a random but steady flow of RVs.

We had considerable rain the past few days, and some of the parking areas developed minor flooding and very muddy soil.  Inevitably, some motorhomes were stuck and had to be pulled out.  We have been in that situation on two previous occasions, but our site this past week was high with good drainage and well-graveled roads.  Except for a few soft spots, notably where people cut corners too tight at intersections, there were no serious problems in Boxelder RV Park.

We had already arranged with the CAM-PLEX office to move to the Windmill RV Park this morning, so after breakfast we drove the car over to scout out a level, 50A full-hookup site.  We left the car there to “hold” a spot, which were first-come, first-served, and walked back to the coach.  We did our usual departure thing of unhooking the utilities, putting up the awnings, and otherwise preparing for the short, slow move.  We had no problems pulling out, and took paved roads over to our new site.  Once we were parked we did our arrival thing and leveled, hooked up, and settled in for the next few days.

We are staying at the CAM-PLEX while we wait for our early entry date on the 27th for The Escapees RV Club Escapade rally, which will also be at the CAM-PLEX June 30 – July 5.  We will extend our stay here until July 7 and then move to Sheridan, Wyoming for two weeks to work on a Habitat For Humanity build.  It appears that we will have to move again on the 27th to a different RV Park here at the CAM-PLEX as the Escapade is not using this one.  But for now we have 50A power, which will allow us to run our air-conditioners.  With some hot days forecast, that’s a good thing.

We decided to deploy our new Zip Dee Awnings, both to shade the coach and to let them dry out.  Much to or surprise, we discovered that we could fully deploy the large patio awning following the directions we had.  (We left our directions at home.  The ones we had came from the Zip Dee booth and did not match our hardware exactly.)  With the upper rafter arms hooked onto the roller tube shaft we could not get the latch pins on the rafter arms to engage.  Our analysis of the problem was that that the fabric was either 2″ too short or the upper rafter support arms were 2″ too long.  I wrote an e-mail to Zip Dee, but fortunately it never got sent.  Further study of the rafter arm revealed that the hook on the free end was attached to a spring-loaded inner tube that was free to slide inside the outer tube.  The available travel was just enough that the hook could be placed over the roller tube shaft AND the latch pin could be engaged.

Perhaps it is part of still being new to extended-time RVing, but the awning episode was yet another example of the emotional roller-coaster that sometimes comes with this lifestyle.  First comes the surprise and then the disappointment of discovering (yet another) problem.  This is followed by the frustration and annoyance of not being able to figure out what’s wrong and/or fix it.  Then a certain sense of helplessness arises at not being able to get assistance or parts (things always seem to break on Sunday, so it’s rarely a “day of rest”).  Next is the dread brought on by considering the possible dire consequences of continuing the journey with the problem unresolved.  A sense of resignation settles over you as you accept that the problem will remain unfixed for the time being and will probably require a change of plans and added expense somewhere down the road.  Then the “ah-ha” that comes from food, release from anxiety, and time for further thought.  And finally, the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from having figured it out and fixed it, even if only temporarily.

Along the same line, we were discussing our broken searchlight over lunch and decided that it would be better to seal it up with Rescue Tape and not use it than try to repair it.  The wires inside the base go through a hole in the roof that is not sealed.  Removing the base opens up the possibility of water getting in through that hole if I am not able to get it resealed.  As we rarely need/use the searchlight, that was too big a risk for too little benefit.

As we were finishing up our encampment routine, we had motorhomes pull in on either side of us; Peter & Sybil on the passenger side and Rick on the driver side.  Peter & Sybil had purchased a Progressive Industries portable 50A EMS from Lawrence RV Accessories during the FMCA rally.  It had been working fine, even through the big storm, but quit working when they moved to Windmill RV Park and hooked up.  I looked at the unit and noticed moisture in the LCD display (where it should not be).

I shook the unit and thought heard a sloshing sound, indicating that water had probably gotten in to the unit and shorted something out.  I checked the outlet with my multi-meter to make sure the power supply was properly wired and providing the correct voltages so they could at least plug in and have power.  Sybil called Daryl Lawrence and he answered the phone even though it was Sunday!  They were still at the CAM-PLEX and came right over.  Daryl examined the unit, came to the same conclusion I had, and swapped it out for a new one.  The PI EMS units are generally very reliable, and the company stands behind them and the vendors who sell them.  Peter & Sybil were leaving the next day for North Dakota, so this was truly great service for a great product from a great RV vendor.  (We got our Progressive Industries EMS-50 from Daryl a year or so ago and rely on it to protect our coach’s electrical systems from problems arising outside the coach.)

As long as I am on the subject of PI EMS units, when we changed campsites and plugged in I followed the maintenance recommendation I received a few days earlier from the owner regarding the buzzing coming from the unit.  Immediately after applying power, during the 2′ 16″ time delay before power switches through, I quickly cycled the contactor by moving the override switch back and forth.  Sure enough, the buzz disappeared.  (Technical note:  Although the unit is sealed, it is designed to have the cover removed so wiring connections can be made.  Dust can and will build up on the contactor contacts which results in a degraded electrical connection and the resultant buzzing.  The contacts arc slightly when they close and open, and cycling them quickly and repeatedly cleans them.)

Fixing the "ET" searchlight

Fixing the “ET” searchlight in Windmill RV Park

In the afternoon we got the Little Giant ladder out and configured it as a 14′ extension ladder.  I climbed up and attached the searchlight head to the base using some of the rescue tape we bought from a vendor at FMCA.  The light can still be turned on and tilted up/down, but cannot be turned side-to-side.  This is a temporary fix until we can get the bus inside at Phoenix Paint and do a proper repair with Michele Henry’s help.  This will probably be in conjunction with the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen, IN September 18 -22.  What is unknown at this point is how well it will hold up to travel at highway speeds.  That test comes in a couple of weeks.

While I was on the roof I inspected the skylights and vent fan domes for damage from the recent hail storm, but they all appeared to be fine.  I then made a temporary installation of the WiFi Ranger Mobile Titanium (WFR-MT) by zip-tying it to the weatherhead cable entrance on the front roof.  I fed the cable through the weatherhead while Linda pulled it into the former ceiling mounted TV cabinet directly below.  (This cabinet originally housed a 19″ CRT TV.  That TV was removed and a door made by Jaral Beatty of Logansport, Indiana to cover the opening.  The door is walnut veneered plywood with solid walnut edging and Jaral managed to match the existing wood finish very well.  Because this was a former TV cabinet, AC power was already available inside.

With power to the WFR-MT, we were able to connect to the local/secure network and reconfigure it.  We were then able to select one of the public/open WiFi signals that were still available at the CAM-PLEX and connect through to the Internet.  The signals were very strong and the connection steady and reasonably fast.

After dinner we went for a walk and watched another beautiful sunset.  As dusk turned to night we witnessed the rising of a “super moon”, which appeared 14% larger than normal due to a slightly closer lunar orbit.  (The 14% is something Linda read online, we did not measure it.)

When we got back to the coach, Linda decided to watch Inspector Lewis on her iPad via our free WiFi connection.  We were able to stream the entire episode without hesitations due to frame-buffering.  That’s a pretty good WiFi connection!  A lot of RVs had left the CAM-PLEX by this time, so competition for the bandwidth was obviously less than during the FMCA rally, but it was still impressive.

Since we appeared to be on a technological roll, I decided to (finally) hookup the front over-the-air (OTA) TV Antenna, rotor controller, and TV set (monitor).  What’s this about going online to get an Access Code to enable ATSC scanning on the TV set???  Yup, our Westinghouse 22″ LCD/LED TVs require an activation code that can be obtained online, by text message, or by phone.  Fortunately, we had all three methods available to us so we got the code, entered it into the set, and away it went.  Ta-da; we have PBS and Create!  Now it feels like home.  🙂


2013_06_21 (Fri) FMCA Day 3

We went to bed last night with a 20% chance of rain in the overnight weather forecast.  We are not sure when the rain started, but around 5:00 AM the skies opened up and it rained hard for an hour.  We are camped on somewhat higher ground with good grass sites and red rock roads, so the water drained away and we did not have flooding or muddy site/road issues.  This was not the case in other CAM-PLEX RV parks, as I discovered while walking to the 9:45 AM International Area (INTO) meeting.  My timing was bad, and I walked the 3/4 mile to the Wyoming Center in a downpour that included pea-size hail.  My raincoat and small umbrella were no match for the rain, and there was not a golf cart or shuttle (school) bus to be found anywhere.  In the end it was just water, and clothes eventually dry out.  Always looking for the learning experience in any situation, I resolved that we would purchase serious wet weather gear when we had the chance.

Linda remained in the coach to make sandwiches for lunch as we planned to meet up with Louise Stuart and Craig Davis after the 11:30 seminars.  We went to the Nostalgic Look Back at the Early Coaches of FMCA, moderated by Mike Middaugh, F3456.  Mike is yet another member of the Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter that we also belong to.  Mike was joined by several other vintage converted coach owners who shared photographs of buses from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, some of them buses they had owned.

We then walked over to Louise and Craig’s motorhome, a very nice 38′ Monaco Dynasty.  We had our respective lunches and a great chat as we got to know fellow members of our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  The service tech from HWH showed up around 2 PM to fix their slideout, so we took that as our cue to return to the vendor area in search of more knowledge and solutions to problems.

After some further discussion with the folks from A-1 Water Treatment we decided to purchase one of their water softeners with attached pre-filter.  It was both heavy enough and bulky enough that we arranged to have them deliver it to our coach after the vendor area closed today.

We then stopped at the WiFiRanger booth and purchased a WiFi Ranger Mobile Titanium (WFR-MT) and optional AC power supply.  (The Titanium version is identical in functionality to the standard version except for a metal case in place of a plastic one, and a 5-year warranty instead of a 1-year warranty.)  The WFR-M/MT device mounts outside the coach and combines a WiFi “booster” (transceiver) and a WiFi router.  The booster communicates with available Wi-Fi signals that can serve as on-ramps to the Internet.  These signals originate somewhere beyond our coach and are paid for, and controlled by, someone other than us. These can be public/open (unsecured) or private/closed (secured).  Use of a secured signal requires the correct authorization (password).  Public/open networks are, by definition, free to use as you do not need a password to connect to them.  Secured networks may be free, such as at some businesses, or there may be a charge, as in airports, and some hotels and campgrounds.  There is an extensive system of public/open WiFi access points available at the CAM-PLEX, sponsored by WiFiRanger.  It has been very good around the Wyoming Center, but varies out in the Boxelder RV Park.  The booster allows us to receive this weak signal, use it, and send a suitably strong signal back.  It does not, however, guarantee on-demand, robust access, as this is also a function of how many other stations are trying to access the system at the same time.

The router section of the WFR-MT generates a secure, local network that we control.  Although it is generated on the outside of the bus, it should be strong enough inside and around the coach to allow us to use our devices wherever we want around our campsite (within reason).  We won’t know this for sure until we hook it up, of course, but the device has been used and well reviewed by other travelers, including Technomadia.  Being a full-fledged router, it not only allows multiple WiFi devices to securely connect to the Internet (via the external WiFi source), but should allow them to securely communicate with each other.  (BTW:  Technomadia has the definitive book on mobile connectivity.  http://www.technomadia.comor Amazon.com)

I plan to mount the WFR to the cable entrance weatherhead with zip ties if it will work.  The device has an Ethernet cable that plugs into a POE (Power Over Ethernet) power supply.  The front cable entrance weatherhead opens into the cabinet behind/above the drivers head where a 19″ CRT TV was once housed.  It comes with a DC power adapter, but we purchased the AC power adapter as there is already AC power in this cabinet that is supplied from the inverter subpanel.

Our Verizon 4G/LTE MiFi 5510L Jetpack device does essentially the same thing as the WiFi-M, except it communicates with Verizon cell phone towers instead of external WiFi sources.  We will be using the Wi-Fi Ranger when possible, and the Verizon 5510L otherwise (assuming it has a usable signal).  This means we could have two different WiFi networks running simultaneously.  The upside to this is that we could have multiple devices accessing the Internet through different pipelines, resulting in faster data transfer.  The downside to this is that devices on one network can’t communicate with devices on the other one.  (We could solve that problem with a WiFi Ranger GO.)  Although interference between the networks is possible, it is unlikely.

We needed an additional length of hose to hook up the new water softener when it arrived, so Linda picked up a 10′ long food grade hose from the Camco booth.  She then returned to the coach to straighten it up for a visit later from Louise & Craig while I went off to the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) gathering at 3:15 PM.

I attended the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (area) meeting in the late afternoon.  The main items of interest at the GLAMA meeting were the upcoming GLAMARAMA in mid-September 2013 and the 2014 GLAMARAMA planned for next June.  Both rallies will be at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN.  After that the intention is to move it around through Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario (Canada), perhaps doing two consecutive years in each state/province.

On the walk back to the coach I had a long, technical conversation with Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint in Edwardsburg, Michigan regarding how to remove and reinstall the broken searchlight on the front roof while minimizing damage to the paint.  Michele’s shop did the roof repair and repaint on our coach, and she always has a good sense about how to approach something like this.  She talked me through the best way to approach it, and after considering the process carefully, I decided to defer an actual repair until we can get the coach back to her shop.

Louise & Craig came by around 5:30 PM and we continued our conversation over snacks and some Red Ass Wine from the Prairie Berry Winery in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The new water softener got delivered just as they showed up, so hookup was deferred until later.  We put out the Blue Diamond Wasabi Soy almonds, and I think they caught Louise by surprise.  (Sorry Louise.  We really should warn folks about these.  If you like almonds, and you like spicy, you will find these addictive.)


2013_06_19 (Wed) FMCA Day 1

A Flxible bus conversion, the original Family Motor Coach

A Flxible bus conversion, the original Family Motor Coach

The FMCA 50th Anniversary Rally (Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase) kicked off with seminars starting at 8:00 AM.  We attended a seminar at 11:45 AM on the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system.  The speaker was supposed to be from the factory, but didn’t make it, so a tech out of Arkansas stepped up and winged it.  Lloyd Degerald did a good job, and we now have a better understanding of what factory recommended annual preventative maintenance should include, and why it should be done annually.

Basically, it has to do with the properties of diesel fuel, which require that filters be changed and the burner nozzle replaced on a regular basis.  The filters were obvious but the nozzle wasn’t.  The nozzle has a very small orifice that atomizes the fuel under pressure and spays it into the combustion chamber.  It is subject to clogging and wear, both of which alter its ability to properly atomize the fuel.  This can happen both from overuse and underuse.  Besides changing parts, the best preventative maintenance appears to be regular, but not excessive, use of the unit.

We then attended a seminar by Mike Wendlend on “Sharing Your Travels On The Internet.”  Mike was a long-time reporter for the NBC TV affiliate in Detroit, Michigan, so we were familiar with his work.  He retired recently, and now travels with his wife in a RoadTrek Class B and reports on their travels.  He is FMCA’s official traveling reporter and does a monthly column for FMC Magazine.  He also does a weekly segment that is fed to all of the NBC TV affiliates.  But most of his time/effort seems to go into his online presence.  He uses a lot of technology tools, but we were particularly interested in his self-hosted use of WordPress with his own domain name, as this is what we are setting up.  He did not go into much detail about the workings of WordPress, but there are lots of videos available on YouTube for that purpose.

Although warm today (it reached the upper 80’s) it was pleasant outside due to the 25+ MPH winds out of the ESE.    We hung around the coach, keeping the cats company, until 5:30 PM, when we headed over to the new coach display area for the Motorhome Preview.  We ran into Pat & Vicky Lintner again, who told us that Jon Walker had won election as National VP at the Governing Board meeting that afternoon. (Charlie Addcock was elected National President).  Jon is another long-time member of the Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter and was our national director before becoming the Great Lakes Area Vice-President, and President of the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA, which is still part of the FMCA structure).

Upon returning to our coach we discovered that the head of our “ET” light (roof-mounted remote-controlled searchlight) had come loose from the base and was laying on the roof behind it.  We have no idea when this happened.  The winds here have been strong, but not as strong as driving 65 MPH on the highway.  We got the Little Giant ladder out, opened it to full extension configuration, and I went up to investigate.  Not good.  There are cables inside the base that go through the roof and the holes are not sealed.  There is a retaining ring inside the base that attaches to the head (from inside) with 4 screws.  All of the screws had come loose and were lying in the bottom of the base, with the head unit only being retained by the wiring.  To reattach the head to the base you have to remove the base from the roof.  That’s really not good.  The base is retained by three screws and (hopefully) sealant/adhesive.  How much?  Who knows?  Also, the coach was repainted with the whole thing in place, so the paint is continuous from roof to base.  I set the head back on the base and wrapped the joint with green Frog Tape until I could figure out how to remove the base and fix it properly.