Tag Archives: Jim & Flo Liebherr

2015/03/01-03 (N-T) Wrapping Up In Q

2015/03/01 (N) Clean Flying

I had coffee and toast for breakfast.  That finished the sourdough bread, which lasted two weeks, and the strawberry preserves, which had been around a lot longer than that.

I spent most of the rest of the morning cleaning the inside of the coach, specifically the tile floor, and putting things away so that there was someplace for two people to sit.  The floor and kitchen counter looked better than they have most of the time Linda has been away.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

Heavy rain over the mountains and desert east of Quartzsite and south of Plomosa Road.

I left a little after 11 AM to drive to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.  Linda’s flight was scheduled in at 2:35 PM MST but was delayed on departure with a revised ETA of 2:56 PM.  The weather was overcast with intermittent rain; something we have not seen much of since we arrived here in early-mid December.  It is approximately a two hour trip from Quartzsite to the airport so that left me two hours to take care of two shopping errands.  That seemed like plenty of time but I had not calculated in the time required to deal with Sunday noon traffic at a major shopping location.  I needed cat food and had an address for a PetSmart.  I also needed a GE water filter and had an address for a Home Depot.

As I approached the Dysart Road exit on I-10 I saw a Home Depot.  It was not the one I had programmed in my GPS, but it was right there.  Little did I know that the area around that exit was a massive shopping complex that felt like square miles of retail stores.  The Home Depot did not have the GE housing or filter element I was looking for, even though I bought it at a Home Depot in Logansport, IN.  I no sooner got on the highway when I saw the sign for a PetSmart on the north side of I-10.  I took the next exit and doubled back.  In retrospect I should have taken W McDowell Road and snuck in (and out) the back way but I had no way of knowing that in advance.  They had the Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin cat food and I bought a 20# bag.  There was a Lowe’s on the same (north) side of I-10 on the west side of Dysart Road so I went there looking for the GE water filter but they also did not have it.

Although I still had plenty of time to get to the airport the delays associated with dense shopping traffic and finding stores led me to abandon my quest for a new water filter.  I didn’t really need it anyway as the filter in question fits in a GE inline housing under the kitchen sink and provides the final filtering for our drinking and cooking water.  It’s a 1 micron cartridge that filters for at least five different classes of things and costs $35 – $40 as I recall.  I think it is supposed to be good for six months of ‘normal’ use.  Our filter has been installed for about four to five months, and has not had that much water run through it, so it should be good for quite a while yet.

I got to the west cell phone lot at 2:38 PM, about the time Linda’s flight was originally scheduled to arrive.  I knew it was delayed because she texted me when she boarded.  I checked the status on my smartphone and it showed the flight arriving at 3:10 PM.  It was a bit latter than that when Linda texted that they had landed.  She called me from the terminal at 3:30 PM and I headed for Terminal 3, Door 5.  I missed the pull-off and then missed the turn-around, ending up six miles east of the airport before I could exit and head back.  I called Linda to let her know but she saw me drive by and knew I was out there somewhere trying to get turned around.  Fortunately the airport was easy to get back to and this time I pulled in to the correct place, looped around, and picked her up.  Another loop-around and we were headed back to I-10 West.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

The first serious weather we had was on our last full day in Q.

Linda picked up a bug yesterday, perhaps just a cold, but she was obviously tired and not feeling well.  She dozed off and on the whole trip back to Q.  The weather had lifted a bit, with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds, but closed in the farther west we traveled and we encountered light but steady rain for the last 60 miles.  The skies were especially dark, and the rain heavier, as we cleared the last mountain range and made the long descent into the La Paz Valley and took exit 19 into the east end of Quartzsite.  I stopped at the Road Runner Market for a bag of salad greens, sandwich bread, and bananas and then headed to our coach.

It was cool in the coach so I made some hot tea.  I fixed a big salad for dinner after which we were not hungry enough to have soup.  Linda went to bed early while I checked e-mail and then worked on my blog post for the third week of January.  I took a lot of photos that week and did not have enough time left to make selections, process them, and upload the post.  I won’t have time to work on it tomorrow but I will try to finish it on Wednesday and upload it.

2015/03/02 (M) Our Last Full Day In Q

Today was our last full day in Quartzsite, Arizona unless something prevents our departure tomorrow morning.  After our usual breakfast of coffee, juice, and granola we filled out our mail forwarding form for the P. O. Box, signed our tax returns, and got them ready to nail.  We left around 9:15 MST for the post office.  There was a line so we decided to come back later and headed for the UPS Customer Service Center in Blythe, California.  The center is only open for will call pick up from 9 to 10 AM PST Monday through Friday.  We pulled into the parking lot at 8:57 PST and were second in line behind a couple from Alberta, Canada.  I retrieved my package and then had a nice chat with the other couple in the parking lot.

We stopped at Albertson’s for cat litter and a few other sundry items and then headed back to Q.  We stopped at the RV Lifestyles store to buy a repair kit or replacement for the fresh water tank blade valve.  They had both 2″ and 1.5″ and I did not know which one I needed so I left empty-handed.  By then it was after 11 AM MST and we avoid the Post Office between 11AM and 1 PM as those are the hours for General Delivery pickup.  I stopped at the Union 76 station just behind the post office and topped off the tank before heading back to our motorcoach.

Another view of the storm.

Another view of the storm.

We spent the next four hours straightening up the interior of the bus.  Linda sorted through all of the brochures and guides we had picked up and designated most of them as trash.  I consolidated bus parts in cardboard boxes and put them in the car.  I cleaned out the storage space under the bed and we pulled out the air pump for our old Select Comfort air mattress.  The pump went in a big bag and we took it over to Butch and Fonda along with some literature on things to do in/around Yuma.  I reorganized the space under the bed which created room for us to store things.

At 3:15 PM we drove back to the Post Office.  There was a line but it was short and was moving along.  We turned in our mail forwarding form, put postage on a letter to the FMCA Freethinkers chapter treasurer, Dan Fregin, and mailed our federal and state tax returns certified mail with electronic tracking.

Back at camp Linda put a load of laundry in the washing machine.  Fonda had taken Butch to pick up a “desert bug.”  He found a 1969 VW bug for sale that had been modified to be an ATV.  Butch drove it to Bouse with Fonda following him and we made the trip a short time later.  We got to see the dune buggy and the park where they will be the working next season as the managers.

On the drive back to Q we drove through some heavy rain and pulled over at one point on Plomosa Road to take pictures.  We stopped again on AZ-95 to photograph brilliant white RVs against the very dark storm clouds and then finished our return trip to Q.  Linda and Fonda had left a few items on the clothesline to dry when the rains came through so she put them in the dryer.  The laundry was done by 6 PM and we headed over to Crazy Jerry’s for our last meal together for a while.

I got a call from Lou Petkus.  He had just found out that they are supposed to be at the fairgrounds on Wednesday rather than Friday.  He wanted us to check our e-ticket which Linda did back at the bus.  We were definitely setup for Friday entry which means we will not be able to enter and park together.

On the drive back we scouted out places to hook up the car and decided the ARCO station on the east end of town looked like out best bet.  I had e-mails from Stacy indicating that she had finished proof-reading two more of my articles.  I retrieved them from our Dropbox and did the final editing on them while Linda streamed the last episode of Downton Abbey for the season on her iPad using our Verizon MiFi.  She went to bed to nurse her cold and I uploaded the final versions of the two articles and also updated/uploaded my article tracking spreadsheet.  I then headed off to bed too.

2015/03/02 (T) Farewell Q

We arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on December 12, 2014 with Butch and Fonda Williams and got our buses parked at the Liebherr-Brockner lot on the north central end of town.  Our bus remained in that spot for 80 full days and was there for all or part of 82 days.  We were up at 7 AM to have a cup of coffee and some granola early enough to have time to digest it before we hit the road.

After breakfast I dumped the holding tanks, flushed out the drain hose, and stowed it away.  We were down to 1/2 tank of fresh water so I topped it up.  I then disconnected the water softener and all of the hoses and filter housings that go with it and stowed those away.

And another view of the storm.

And another view of the storm.

We were aiming for a 10 AM departure so around 9:30 AM Jim L. read the electric meter and calculated our final bill.  Linda added in the loads of laundry and wrote a check to cover our obligations.  I shut off the power, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stowed it away.  I connected the chassis batteries, turned on the air supply valve for the engine accessories, and turned on the air valves for the auxiliary air system accessories.  I also checked the oil level in the engine and it was at the ‘full’ mark.

Butch and Fonda were also supposed to leave today for Yuma but when they checked on their reservation they were told the rains yesterday had softened the ground and they should wait a day before coming down.  Larry and Sandy had not returned from Yuma yet, but Butch/Fonda, Jim/Barb, and Jim L. were all gathered to wish us farewell and safe travels.  Jim L. was also there to help me get the bus out of the lot with damaging anything.

The engine fired right up, I switched it into high idle, switched the Level Low system to ride height mode, and lifted the tag axle.  Once the air pressure was fully up (~130 PSI) I dropped the engine back to low idle and got out to do a walk around, checking the suspension height and securing the bay doors.  Linda did her own walk around to verify everything was closed and locked.  At that point there was nothing left to do but pull out.  Jim L. suggested I back up while swinging the noise gently to the passenger side to get a better angle going forward.  I was going to back up a short distance anyway to release the brakes in case they had frozen while sitting.  The humidity has generally been quite low here and the brakes were fine.

I cut the steer wheels hard to the right (PS) and pulled forward aiming for the gap between the concrete patio pad on the left and the Palo Verde tree and light pole on the right.  Jim L. spotted me on the DS while Linda kept an eye on the PS and I made it through with plenty of room to spare.  Once clear of those obstacles I pulled up to the left and straightened out.  I then backed between the park model trailer on the PS and the cactus garden on the driver side with Linda watching the rear of the bus and the street and Jim watching the front and sides.  I backed into the street and then pulled forward so I was not blocking any driveways.  I shut the engine off and then guided Linda has she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Hooking up the car usually takes 15 to 20 minutes or a bit longer if we gave not done it for a while.

We were ready to go for real at 10:35 AM, had one last round of “farewell for now, see you down the road” and finally pulled away at 10:40 AM.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

Looking east from AZ-95 at part of the Plomosa Road BLM STVA with heavy storm clouds in the distance.

I had some concern about the turn from southbound Lollipop Lane onto eastbound Kenoyer with the car attached but Jim assured me it would be fine and it was.  We turned south on Central Ave (AZ-95) to Main Street (BL-10) then east to Riggles Road and south over I-10 to the eastbound entrance ramp.  I got on the accelerator and the bus responded nicely coming up to speed as I merged onto the freeway.  Leaving Q to the east or west involves long, steady climbs of 700 feet and I wanted the speed, RPMs, and turbo boost up going into the grade.

All of my gauges indicated that everything on the bus was running well except I wasn’t sure the air dryer was purging.  When the air pressure in the system reaches the maximum set point the governor actuates the unloader valves, stopping any additional compression, and sends a pneumatic signal to the dryer to open the purge valve and release any water it has removed from the compressed air.  The brief puff of air sounds a little bit like a “sneeze” and is often referred to as such.  I always listen for the “sneeze” when the chassis first airs up but did not recall hearing it.  As we were driving, however, the pressure in the auxiliary air system cycled between ~100 and 130 PSI, indicating that the air compressor and governor were doing their main jobs.  Later, as we were getting ready to pull out of a rest stop, I heard the air dryer sneeze so I finally had confirmation that everything appeared to be working correctly.

The other thing that surprised me was that I never saw over 15 PSI on the turbo boost gauge.  The old gauge only went to 15 PSI but the needle would routinely go past that to the limit of its movement.  I had gathered from the POG and PC forums that 22 to 25 PSI was more like what I should see when asking for maximum power.

The drive over I-10 was nice as the recent rain had changed the appearance of the desert.  Just before coming to the western edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area we took AZ-85 south.  As we did we could see rain to the southeast and wondered if we might encounter some of it.  The run down AZ-85 was flat but there were interesting mountains on either side of us.  We eventually reached I-8 and got on going east.  Much of the drive across I-8 was through the Sonoran Desert National Monument but we could not locate a headquarters for it on any of our maps.  We also drove through rain and started to get a glimpse of the desert in spring.

Not long into our trip Linda used my phone to text Curtis and give him our ETA.  He called back and asked if we could delay our arrival until 3:30 PM as he had a meeting at 2 PM.  Linda found a rest stop on I-8 not too far from I-10 so we pulled in there, had lunch, and took naps.  It turned out to be a picnic area with no facilities but that was OK with us; we are self-contained and it was a lovely day to sit and enjoy the scenery.

The final leg of our trip took 45 minutes.  Linda texted Curtis when we exited I-10 at Sunland Gin Road and he texted back that the gate was open.  Although wide enough for the bus we decided to unhook the toad before going in.  We were going to have to unhook the car anyway as we will have to back up to get turned around when we leave.  Curtis came out to greet us, closed the gate behind us and directed us into a parking spot.  He let Augie out so he could greet us and run around, which he loves to do.  Augie is a small, six year old, white dog who is full of energy but has spent most of his life living in a bus.  Having the enormous yard of the house Curtis is renting to run in is very exciting for Augie and he takes full advantage of it.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene.  AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Rainbow colors refract from the rain near the center of this scene. AZ-95 looking NE over the Plomosa Rd BLM STVA.

Forrest & Mary Clark were already here in their Foretravel U295 so it was good to see them again.  When we crossed paths with them at the RoVers Roost SKP Co-op they were waiting to have solar panels and a charge controller installed.  Forrest said they did not run their generator once while boondocking for five weeks near Quartzsite so their system appears to be correctly sized and working properly.  Randy & Marianne (Boondockers Welcome founders) pulled in about 20 minutes after us.  After greetings and introductions Curtis gave us a tour of what is currently serving as the World Headquarters of RVillage.

The house is hexagonal and sits on a bump out into the northeast corner of a man-made lake.  The house was originally a bar/restaurant, with the bar on the main floor and the restaurant seating on the second level, which was not enclosed except for railings.  The property is extensive because it was once a parking lot.  When the restaurant was closed in the early 1990s the owner converted it to a house, enclosing the upper level and dividing it to make bedrooms.  He retained a portion of it as an outside deck that most of the bedrooms open onto.  Back on the main floor the central bar was converted to a residential kitchen surrounded by an open floor plan with a generous outside deck.  The building still has a functioning walk-in refrigerator that Curtis uses as a pantry.  It is an extraordinary property and the driveway could accommodate eight buses as long as the neighbors did not complain.

Exciting things are always going on behind the scenes with RVillage so one of the perks of crossing paths with Curtis is hearing about them or even getting a sneak peak at some of them.  It is also an opportunity to see the “back end” of the site which has the tools Curtis and his team use to develop and manage the system.

After tours and demos we all stood around on the lawn chatting and enjoying the view and the cool evening air.  Too soon the air was chilly.  Forrest and Mary returned to their motorhome to have dinner while Linda and I did the same thing.  Randy and Marianne had business to discuss with Curtis and hung out with him on the deck a while longer.  They may have gone out to dinner but we did not see them leave or return.

I had turned our generator on to bring the batteries up to charge and so Linda could cook dinner.  She made a green salad and red beans and rice, which went well with the Franzia Fruity Red Sangria.  After dinner we got our technology set up and got online.  Linda is still recovering from the cold she picked up just before flying back to Arizona so she went to bed early.  I checked e-mail and saw that Stacy had proofread another article so I made the final edits to it and uploaded it to the READY folder in my Dropbox BCM Articles folder.  Since we are boondocking I shut off most of the unessential electrical loads and then shut down the generator for the night.

Travel days are exciting but also a bit stressful, especially when we have been sitting in one place for a long time, be that at home or away.  But it felt good to be on the road again and to have landed in such a lovely place for the night.  It’s harder on the cats, who do not like it when the engine is running and the bus is moving, but they came out of their travel (hiding) spots as soon as we were parked and were fascinated by the change of scenery.  We were both tired but it was a good kind of tired.


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

2015/02/24 (T) Little Bus Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/26 (R) LiveStream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car-wise, I need to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/27 (F) Granola Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

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

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/01/22-26 (R-M) Q 2015 W4

2015/01/22 (R) Sister Marilyn

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly's "adult day care" outdoor bar.

Marilyn & Linda in front of Beer Belly’s “adult day care” outdoor bar.

The temperature dropped into the low 40’s last night in the wake of the cold front that brought strong winds to Quartzsite yesterday.  We were up at 6:30 AM to give us time to eat breakfast and enjoy our coffee before Linda left at 8 AM for the Phoenix airport to pick up her sister.  Marilyn was scheduled to arrive at 11 AM MST and the airport is a 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive from Quartzsite but Linda wanted to take her time getting there and be in the cell phone lot before the flight got in.  The plan was to go to lunch and then drive back to Q so she was going to be gone most of the day.

I had turned off the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot last night so this morning I turned on the three electric toe-kick heaters and the Broan cube heater to take the chill off of the interior.  With the coffee pot also turned on we were drawing 26 A at 115 VAC on leg 1 and 15 A at 118 VAC on leg 2.  That was more current than we were able to draw before Jim L. changed the shorepower connection from 30 A (120VAC) to 50 A (240VAC) and the first time we have had reasonable voltage levels since we arrived here.

I rode over to the RV show with Butch at 9 AM to look at tire pressure monitoring systems and we both ended up buying TireTraker TPM Systems from Darryl Lawrence.  We have both done business with Darryl in the past and trust him as a vendor.  I also bought three products from the Carnu-B booth.

Back at the coach I checked the coolant level in the Aqua-Hot expansion reservoir.  It was right at the maximum cold level so there was nothing else to do for the moment.  I needed to redo the overflow hose, but not today.  I then used two of the Carnu-B products on the driver-side side window and surrounding painted body surfaces.  It removed the hard water stains and polished everything up very nicely.  I then did a test patch on the front of Butch and Fonda’s bus and it appeared to clean the stainless steel nicely.  They later cleaned an adjacent patch with straight food-grade vinegar and it seemed to work just as well although it did not provide a wax finish.

While I was fiddling with the Aqua-Hot and the cleaning/waxing process Butch started reading the manual for the TT-TPMS and found information that indicated the system did not work the way we thought it did and needed it to.  The manual more than implied that the sensors were activated by motion and stated that readings would appear “… within 20 minutes of starting to drive.”  Say what?!  We both want to use the system to check our tire pressures BEFORE we start to drive, as would most RVers.

Although there are things we do not like about our current Pressure Pro TPM systems they certainly give us the current pressure in the tires without having to drive the vehicle.  They also allow us to monitor just the bus, just the car, or both.  Most systems do this, including the TireTraker, but the Truck Systems Technology (TST) does not.  That was Butch’s first choice system until he found that out.

At 12:45 PM I rode over to the Quartzsite Senior Center with Butch and Fonda for a 1 PM meet and greet with Chuck Woodbury of RV Travel and the Geeks On Tour.  It ran until 4 PM but we were anxious to get back to the RV Show tent and talk to Darryl.  We took our TT-TPMS units with us with the intent of returning them but Darryl assured us that they do work the way we need them to so we decided to keep them for another day or so to test them.

Fonda had not been to the RV Show yet so we walked the entire tent.  I spent a little time talking to the guy at John Carrillo Hydronic Heating.  He had a brand new, never been fired, Webasto DBW2010 burner (with the controller) for $1,800 (cash).  I have seen them online for $3,300, so I knew that was a good price.  I wish I needed one, but we already have a spare.  He also had a new combustion chamber for $200 and I may go back and get one of those.  They wanted $450 for an ignition coil, which I also need, but I can get one from Sure Marine Service for $303.  We spent a long time looking at flag poles at the Flag Pole Buddy booth and Butch bought a 22′ model with an extra set of mounts.

Linda was texting me her status on a regular basis and by the time we got back to camp she and Marilyn were already there and relaxing on the porch of Joe and Connie’s park model trailer.  We sat outside until the sun kissed the tops of the southwestern mountains and then moved inside to escape the chill.  While we were sitting in the coach visiting and cooking Butch installed one of the TT-TPMS sensors on the driver-side front tire of their Suburban, programmed it into the monitor, noted the readings, and went for a test drive.  He noted the readings when they got back and plans to check it again in the morning before moving the car.  That will be the real test.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a lovely mushroom kale risotto with Arborio rice.  We then went to the apartment so I could light the pilot flame on the wall-mounted propane heater.  I visited for a bit and then went back to the coach and Linda followed a bit later.  We were both tired and turned in early.

240 degree panorama from atop 'Q' Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ.

200 degree panorama from atop ‘Q’ Mountain, Quartzsite, AZ. Left edge is N, right edge is SSW.

2015/01/23 (F) Q Mountain

We were up by 7:30 AM and Marilyn eventually arose and joined us for coffee and toast.  The only bread we had was a package of whole wheat pitas, but they toasted just fine and were very good with orange marmalade.  I am not, however, thrilled with the Soy Delicious Almond milk coffee creamer.  It is not as ‘creamy’ as Silk soy creamer and it tends to separate into tiny bubbles in the coffee.  I do, however, like the Almond milk that we sometimes buy, especially on granola type cereals.

Butch called just after breakfast to let me know that the TireTraker TPMS works the way Darryl said it does.  That was welcome news as we both like the system, including the small sensors and the rechargeable monitor, and we both like Darryl.  He and Fonda had things to do today so I borrowed his hose crimper pliers before they left.

Linda and Marilyn left shortly after Butch and Fonda and drove to Blythe, California to do some grocery shopping and sight-seeing.  That left me with some alone time to concentrate on getting some things done that I have needed to work on for a week, such as categorizing FMCA seminars, and have just not found (made) the time.  I value and enjoy my work with the FMCA National Education Committee but we have a significant personal investment in our presence here in Quartzsite, and although we will likely return here again in the years to come that is not guaranteed, and this could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The FMCA work took about an hour to complete and e-mail too Jim A., with who has been the lead person on this.

I also needed to make a minor change to the Aqua-Hot expansion tank plumbing and turn the burner back on.  I removed the overflow hose, shortened it, re-routed it, and re-connected it to the drain tube on the tank.  I also tried to tighten the clamp on the middle zone pump hose.  I noted that the coolant level was at the ‘minimum cold’ mark on the expansion tank.  I will check everything again tomorrow.

With the Aqua-Hot project done I decided to replace the old Sentry turbo boost gauge with the new VDO gauge.  I removed the dashboard cover, disconnected the lightbulb connectors, removed the retaining bracket, and pulled the gauge out the front of the dashboard.  I removed the lightbulb socket to give me better access to the main air fitting and undid that, completely freeing the unit from the dashboard.  I pulled the light socket out of the new gauge to give me more room to put the air fitting on and to check the bulb type.  It was a miniature glass wedge base 12VDC 3W and will need to be replaced with a 24V, 3W bulb.  I then slipped the gauge into the dashboard from the front and secured it with the supplied bracket on the back side.  Linda and Marilyn returned at this point so I quit working on the gauge, put the cover back on the dashboard, and helped bring in the groceries.  I will have to get the 24V bulb and also rewire the leads to match the harness connectors.

We had a light lunch and then drove down to the market area and wandered through the big tent RV show.  We got new Ballisti-Tech screen protectors for our Samsung Galaxy S III smartphones.  We also strolled through a small part of the Tyson Wells and Prospectors Panorama areas.  When we left the RV show we headed south on US-95 to the BLM Roadrunner STVA so Marilyn could see the Quartzfest RVs in the desert.  We found Lou and Val Petkus at their 5th wheel and visited briefly before heading back to town.  The light was good and the sun was still high enough that I made an impromptu decision to climb Q Mountain and try to get pictures of the RVs spread across the desert around Quartzsite.

I got my pictures, and got off the mountain before it got dark, but missed the best color, which we saw while driving back to camp to close up the rig before going to dinner.  The Geeks were out viewing and photographing the sunset before walking to the Grubstake restaurant for dinner so and we chatted with them briefly and then drove to Crazy Jerry’s for our evening meal.  The very thin crust mushroom, onion, and tomato no-cheese pizza was excellent and the French fries were also good.  When we got back to our coach Linda prepared some fresh strawberries for desert.

After visiting with Jim and Chris on Wednesday we decided that we would join the Quartzsite Yacht Club, which claims to have the largest membership of any yacht club in the country (world?, universe?) at over 7,500., although we later heard that it was more than 9,000.  Membership is $30 which gets you a hat, T-shirt, membership card and certificate.  Apparently the membership is good at other (real) yacht clubs that honor reciprocal arrangements.  We had planned to join today but did not fit it in.  It may be Sunday or even a day next week at this point.

I spent some time transferring photos from my camera to my laptop computer and our NAS unit.  I processed three panoramas and three individual images taken on Q Mountain, checked my e-mail, and went to bed.

Sunset glow looking NE from 'Q' Mountain.

Sunset glow looking NE from ‘Q’ Mountain.

2015/01/24 (S) Lake Havasu City

We were up at 7:15 AM and I brewed a pot of coffee while Linda showered.  I took my turn and also trimmed up my beard a bit.  Marilyn came over around 8:25 AM and we all had coffee followed by breakfast.  Linda and I had granola while Marilyn had toast and jam.  She is not that found of breakfast and does not care for milk or milk substitutes.

I removed some of the parts boxes from the back of the Element to eliminate the rattling just in case we decided to drive in to the Desert Bar on the way back from Lake Havasu City (LHC).  We left around 9:15 AM and headed up AZ-95 towards Parker.  It was a cool morning with clear skies and the sun lit up the mountains to the west and north.  When we got to Parker we decided to cross the Colorado River into California and take the Parker Dam Road 17 miles up to Parker Dam, drive across back into Arizona, re-connect with AZ-95, and continue north to LHC.

We knew that the stretch of the River from the dam downstream to Parker had quite a few RV Parks, campgrounds, and mobile home communities because we caught glimpses of some of them from AZ-95, or saw signs for them, the last time we were in LHC.  The drive from Parker to LHC is very scenic but you do not have a view of the river most of the time.  Much of the drive from Parker to the dam on the California side, however, was close to water level so we were able to see the resorts on both sides of the river.  We had also heard that there were wild burros along the California route and indeed there were.  We saw five total, two of them just before the dam.  They appear to be docile animals, but they are wild, and you are not allowed to feed or harass them.

Once we got to LHC we followed the signs for the London Bridge and found the parking lot and visitor center.  We watched a video on the history of the London Bridge, which was actually the second most recent in a long succession of bridges across the River Thames dating back before Roman Times.  The Bridge was purchased, disassembled, moved, and reconstructed in LHC.  It was placed at the entrance to a peninsula and then a channel was dug out under it and connected to the Colorado River on either end, turning the peninsula into an island.  There is an “English Village” at the base of the bridge on the mainland side, which was not very special, but a wonderful pedestrian path winds along the channel all the way down to Rotary Park.  The air was cool and the wind was very strong, but the sun was very warm and we had a lovely stroll.

After walking the path we drove over the bridge and around the island, stopping at one of the reproduction 1/8 scale lighthouses.  The LHC Lighthouse Association has erected some two dozen scale replicas of U. S. Lighthouses.  The ones on the island are all replicas of lighthouses from the Great Lakes while the ones on the Arizona shore are east coast replicas and the ones on the California shore are west coast replicas.  While we were driving Linda researched places we might be able to eat lunch and settled on The Black Bear Diner.  She and Marilyn had garden burgers with French fries and I had the Sweet Garden Harvest Salad.  All of the food was very good, and I was particularly pleased with the salad, which had raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, fresh strawberries, and shredded coconut with a honey Dijon dressing.

The restaurant was in a corner of the parking lot for the Albertson’s grocery store so we went in looking for regular Silk soy creamer.  They did not have any so we started back to Quartzsite and stopped at the Basha’s market on the south end of town.  They had the Silk Vanilla Soy Creamer, not the regular, but I got some anyway.  They also had a nice selection of Daiya cheeses and vegan sausages.  We picked up some sourdough bread and preserves on our way to the checkout.  Of all the food stores we have been in Basha’s was the nicest so far.

By the time we got to Parker I was getting tired so I pulled into the casino parking lot.  I switched places with Linda and she drove the rest of the way to Q.  Back at camp she and Marilyn went to the apartment and started assembling a 500 piece puzzle on the dining table.  As I do on any day that I have taken a lot of pictures I transferred them from my camera to my computer and backed them up to the NAS unit.  I used the Microsoft Image Composite Editor to create two panoramic images of the California mountains just south of LHC.

None of us were hungry enough to warrant fixing dinner so we snacked on hummus and chips (vegan junk food).  Marilyn went back to the apartment at 9 PM and we went to bed shortly thereafter.  A long day of fresh air and sunshine had once again worn us out.

2025/01/25 (N) Visitors

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village.  It's a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Linda& Marilyn at the London Bridge English village. It’s a real London phone booth, but no phone.

Today was basically a stay at home day.  Marilyn is officially “on retreat” and spent part of the day by herself reading and contemplating.  I made coffee for breakfast, as usual, and Linda made her amazing vegan cinnamon rolls for brunch.  They were brunch because they take hours to make and she did not feel like getting up early enough to have them ready by breakfast and we did not expect her to.

Butch dropped Fonda at church and then came back to get me on his way to the Big Tent RV Show.  Today was the last day of the show so I bought a 2″ wide roll of rescue tape and got three smaller rolls in the deal.  I bought more of the Carnu-B wax but the vendor was out of the Metal Shine cleaner.  That’s the risk one takes waiting until the end of a rally or show.  I also bought two small LEDs that looked like the might work in our spotter/downlights.  We then stopped by Mac McCoy’s booth to chat.  He was busy with customers but Charles Martin was there so we chatted with him instead.

We got back to camp just after 11 AM as Linda was putting the finishing touches on the cinnamon rolls and Marilyn joined us for brunch.  I tried one of the new LED bulbs but it would not fit in our fixtures.  I dealt with some e-mail and thought about spending the rest of the day writing but decided to work outside instead.  My outside task today was cleaning some of the bus windows using the Carnu-B Metal Shine to remove hard water stains.

Chris and Jim of Geeks On Tour did their weekly live broadcast from their rig and then started making preparations to leave.  We had two cinnamon rolls left so Linda took them over as a going away gift.  Charles and Connie Martin dropped in and a short time later Mara and her friend Michael arrived.  Marilyn came over followed by Butch and Fonda so we circled the chairs and had quite a gabfest.

Eventually everyone left and I returned to my window cleaning while Linda and her sister started preparing dinner.  Linda made her wonderful warm Farro dish with kale and dried cranberries while Marilyn made a shredded Brussels sprout dish with pistachios and dried cranberries.  Both dishes were excellent and the use of dried cranberries in each one tied them together nicely.

Linda and Marilyn went to the apartment to watch Downton Abbey but the satellite receiver was not activated so they worked on the jigsaw puzzle instead.  I stayed in the coach and took a call from Lou Petkus who had questions about RVillage.  I then consolidated my blog posts from the first seven days of October (2014) into a single post, selected five photos to go with it, and uploaded it to our WordPress site, the first post I have done since September 30, 2014.  If I do one consolidated post each evening I should be caught up to our arrival in Quartzite on December 12, 2014 in about two weeks.  After that I may go back to daily posts or continue to consolidate three or four days at a time.  I would like to be caught up and making current/daily posts by the time we pull out of here on March 1st.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City (LHC), AZ.

2015/01/26 (M) A Plethora of Jims

We had toast and jam (strawberry preserves and orange marmalade) for breakfast along with our usual coffee and juice.  Jim A. called just after breakfast to update me on work we are doing for FMCA HQ.  Jim G. (&  Chris) pulled out yesterday.  Jim B. (& Barb) are here for the winter.  Jim L. (The brother of owner Joe L.) manages this place and stops by almost every day.  I think we have met several other Jims along the way.  When we meet someone new I just assume their name is Jim until I learn otherwise.  This winter has truly seen a plethora of Jims.

Jim and Barb let me know they were headed to Blythe, California to go grocery shopping and offered to pick up anything we might need.  Butch and Fonda also left but Larry and Sandy did not, which was unusual for them.  Linda and Marilyn wanted to walk around Tyson Wells so I drove them down to Kuehn Street and Central Avenue, stopping at the Post Office on the way.  I stopped on the way back at Herb’s Hardware store to get some 000 steel wool and then topped off my fuel tank at the Union 76 station.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Connie Martin visiting us at the Camp Liebherrvile / Brocker.

Back at our coach I started assembling my blog posts from October 8 through 15 into a single post and selecting photos to go with it.  I do not like to sit and do this kind of work for long stretches of time so I got out my cleaning supplies and worked on the outside of some of the bus windows.  I tried using straight vinegar to clean them followed by rubbing with the steel wool, and tried it in the opposite order.  I decided to stick with steel wool first figuring the vinegar would help clean it off.  I did not apply wax to the outsides of the windows as I want them as clean as possible before I wax them.  Rain was forecast for today and it eventually started so I moved indoors and cleaned the insides of several windows on the passenger side of the coach.  These were clean enough that I used the Carnu-B spay wax that I bought yesterday on them.  The rain let up so I moved back outside and worked on the upper windshields.  I got both of them steel wooled and wiped down with vinegar and got a coat of wax on the driver side glass before it started drizzling again.  I put my supplies away again and headed back inside.  Linda called and asked to be retrieved so I drove back down to Kuehn and Central to pick them up.

Linda put out some hummus, chips, and grapes for lunch and we heated up the leftover Farro dish and divided it up between us.  Marilyn went back to the apartment to take a nap and Linda laid down to read and snooze while I continued working on e-mails and blog posts.  Gary Hatt, publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, sent me several photos of himself standing in front of his Eagle.  I selected the one I thought would work best to go with his “Publisher’s Letter” in the January 2015 issue, post-processed it several different ways, and sent it back with an explanation of what did and why.  I also got the blog post for the second seven days of October completed and uploaded before dinner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

Mara Culp and Charles Martin visiting us at Camp Liebherrville / Brockner.

As the afternoon progressed the rain settled in.  Although not heavy, like a thunderstorm, it was steady well into the evening.  Jim and Barb returned and Marilyn eventually came back over to the coach.  That got Linda out of bed and working on dinner.  She made a dish that has become a standard; pasta with onions, garlic, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes lightly sautéed in olive oil.  Instead of wheat noodles, however, she used “zoodles.”  Zoodles are long slender pieces of zucchini made with a hand operated SpiraLife spiral slicer.  They get added to the sauté just before serving and are simply heated rather than cooked.  We had a green salad with Ken’s Steak House Asian Sesame dressing, dried cranberries and pistachios.  We had slices of a sourdough baguette with pepper spiced olive oil for dipping and Linda and I had a glass of Franzia sangria.  Fresh strawberries for desert completed a nice meal.

Marilyn helped with the dishes after which she and Linda checked on the developing storm out east and then played Scrabble and other games while I stayed out of their way and worked on this post.  Hey, it’s a small kitchen.

The rain stopped at 7:38 PM but started again in earnest around 8:30 PM.  It was still raining at 9:15 PM when Marilyn went back to the apartment and the forecast said we could have rain overnight until 5 AM tomorrow.  We have had very little rain here this winter so I am sure this is welcomed.  It will be interesting to see if the precipitation triggers any sort of desert bloom tomorrow on our drive to Yuma or perhaps the following day.

Linda’s iPad battery was down to about 10% at 9:45 PM so she retired to the bedroom, where the charger is located, and continued to read for a bit longer.  I am usually very sleepy an hour after dinner but get my second wind a couple of hours after that.  I had an e-mail from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine regarding the use of soft water in the Webasto-based Aqua-Hot in his Eagle and sent him a reply.  I then went through the article on Butch’s main engine air-compressor failure, finalized all of the changes, and uploaded it to our Dropbox along with the photo files.  I updated my BCM Article Status Sheet and uploaded it to the BCM folder in our Dropbox.  I then e-mailed Gary and editor Mike Sullivan to let them know that the new material was ready and available.  By the time I finished it was going on midnight.


2015/01/01-07 (R-W) Q 2015 W1

2015/01/01 (R) Hola 2015

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing.  The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

The salt restraining tube for the water filter housing. The slotted end (R) goes down and the o-rings sit in the other end.

Having stayed up later than usual last night to see the old year out and welcome the new year in we were in no hurry to get up this morning, especially given that the temperature outside was in the upper 20s.  But Linda said she would make her yummy vegan cinnamon rolls for breakfast so I felt obligated to get up and eat them.  Besides, it’s my job to make the coffee.  The rolls took quite a while to make and we ended up having them for brunch, but they were worth the wait.

I spent much of the morning looking for new games in the iStore.  I downloaded a dozen free ones and then started trying them in turn.  Most of them immediately tried to sell me a full version or ran a full-screen advertisement each time I tried to start a new round of play.  If they did that I immediately deleted the app.  I cannot imagine what makes a game developer think someone with tolerate that more than once.  At some point I realized that my AppleID was still associated with an old e-mail address so I initiated the process of changing it.  The process was not as seamless as I thought it could/would/should be, but I eventually got it sorted out.  Or as they say or Doc Martin, “sorted.”  As it turned out my credit card information was also out of date so I updated that as well.  Obviously I do not make iStore purchases very often.

I needed to regenerate our portable water softener even though it was 48 degrees F outside in the shade.  It was, however, comfortable enough in the sun to be able to work.  I started at noon cutting the plastic drain pipe that I bought at Herb’s Hardware the other day to a length of 10″ which is the length of a standard water filter.  I cut eight 3/8″ slots in the bottom end of the tube and got an O-ring from Butch to fit in the swaged upper end.  The purpose of the tube is to hold salt so that incoming water is required to pass through it to get to the softener but the salt crystals cannot actually wash into the softener.

Linda helped me transfer the contents of a 40 pound bag of solar salt to several two-gallon zip lock bags.  I then put a small quantity of salt in a one-quart zip lock bag and gently smashed it with a two-pound sledgehammer, although as I write that it seems to be something of an oxymoron.  I inserted the tube into the removable filter housing, slotted side down, and poured the salt around the outside of the tube.  I smashed a second bag of salt and added it to the housing.  I put the housing back on the filter head and slowly ran water through the softener for almost two hours.  I got a water hardness test strip from Butch and tested the output of the softener.  It was still showing 7 grains of hardness, exactly the same as two days ago.  It appeared that the regeneration process had not had any effect.  Bummer.

I discussed the situation with Butch and he suggested I back flush the softener.  To do that I needed a hose with female hose fittings on each end.  This is the kind of hose used to hook up a washing machine but neither one of us had one with us.  Butch, however, had a female-female adapter which allowed me to connect a male hose end to a male fitting on the outlet of the water softener.  (Backflushing literally means running water through the softener in the reverse direction to flush out any debris that may after gotten in through the normal inlet.)

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

The salt retaining tube in the filter housing with salt around the bottom outside and the o-ring visible at the top.

After backflushing the softener I tried regenerating it again.  This time I used a 26 ounces of fine grain non-iodized table salt.  With my homemade diverter tube still in place I added the salt around the outside and screwed the housing back on.  I let the salt sit in the housing for 20 minutes to start to make a brine and then ran water through the softener until I got a very salty taste at the output.  I then shut the outlet valve and let it sit for 20 minutes.  When the time elapsed I ran water through the softener for another 15 seconds, checked it for saltiness, and shut the outlet valve.  At the end of another 20 minutes I ran water through it at a very slow rate for 20 minutes and then checked it again for salty taste.  It was still slightly salty and as it was getting close to sunset I decided to let it sit overnight.  I will finish flushing it tomorrow and check the hardness again.

While I was fussing with our water softener Butch recharged theirs in about 30 minutes.  When he tested the water at the end it indicated zero (0) grains of hardness; completely softened.  Their softener is different from ours and the regeneration procedure is very straightforward and apparently works.  For now I need to figure out a guaranteed procedure for regenerating ours, but long-term I need to figure out some other arrangement of just get a different softener.

The arrangement I am considering would be in conjunction with redoing the water bay. With a different arrangement of tanks I could create space in the bay for the softener, multiple filter housings, and associated plumbing.  I could set up an arrangement that would divert the incoming water (after the first/sediment filter) through a clear filter housing into which I could put the salt.  That clear housing/head would be permanently modified to force water through the salt and allow me to see when the salt was gone.  It would also eliminate the need to remove and reinstall the filter the way I have to now.  Alternatively I could put a tank between the filter housing and the softener (instead of the clear housing) and use it as a brine tank.  If the tank was big enough to hold a 40 pound bag of solar salt it would work just like a home softening system.  Water would sit in the tank with the salt for days so that the brine was ready to use when it was time to regenerate the softener.  I could even rig up a separate pump just for pumping the brine into the softener.  I’m going to give this a lot of thought before I start changing things around, but last winter in Florida and this winter in Quartzsite have made it very clear that hard water is a problem and we need a very effective and efficient way to deal with it.

While I worked with the water softener Linda began preparing a Tex-Mex bean soup for dinner and then went for a long walk.  She finished making the soup when she got back while I took a short nap.  It cooled off quickly as the sun set and nothing is quite as satisfying on a cool evening as hearty, hot soup.  It also had a bit of red pepper heat which was a nice bonus.  It was really good soup.

I had a few e-mails from Gary at BCM and a nice follow-up e-mail from Kathy at the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  She attached a copy of their holiday letter so I attached a copy of ours in reply.  I spent a little time browsing websites for OTA TV antennas and turbo boost gauges and finally went to bed without resolving what to do about either thing.  I have a lot of nights that end like that.

2015/01/02 (F) Crazy Days In Q

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

Contact is established with our cat, Jasper.

The “show” at Desert Gardens officially opened yesterday and runs through the end of February, so Quartzsite is quickly be transformed into a crazy place.  We were chatting with Butch, Fonda, Jim, and Barb after breakfast and Barb reminded us that starting now driving and parking “downtown”, and especially along Kuehn Street south of I-10, during the day will be difficult to impossible.  She offered to drive us down in the golf cart and come pick us up if we did not want to walk.  She also told us that many vendors will hold purchases for pickup at the end of the day.  We exchanged cell phone numbers, which we had not yet done since they arrived.  She suggested that if we wanted to eat out we should go early or right before closing as we might not be able to get seated/served otherwise.  There’s no doubt that we have lucked out on our arrangements this winter, and the situation just keeps getting better.

Linda was browsing on her iPad and discovered an all vegan grocery store in Rancho Cucamonga, California; the largest all-vegan grocery store in the world.  I looked up Rancho Cucamonga on Google Maps and it is located about half way between Los Angeles and San Bernardino.  Based on the speeds I like to drive (often just below the speed limit or 68 MPH, whichever is less) it looks like a four hour drive one-way from Q.  That’s obviously too far for a regular grocery run, but we might make a day trip in that direction sometime this winter and find the store while we are over there.

One of the things I did after climbing in bed last night was spend a little time looking at the Sure Marine Service website.  SMS is a major supplier of repair parts for Webasto diesel-fired hydronic systems headquartered in Seattle, Washington.  After studying their parts diagrams I became unclear (and concerned) as to whether the burner we removed from Butch’s old unit was a DBW2010 or a DBW2020.  They are very similar but not identical.  I am almost certain that our original burner is a DBW2010, but our AHU-xxx Aqua-Hot is so old that the model number is no longer referenced on the website and model specific documentation, like a service manual, is not available for download.

The reason I was looking at the parts diagrams was to identify the bearing kit for the blower as I wanted to order two of them today.  What I could tell from the website was that the 2020 is a higher BTU output burner and so one of the differences is that the 2010 uses a 0.35 GPH nozzle while the 2020 uses a 0.60 GPH nozzle.  That alone might account for why we seem to have poor combustion, although even money is still on bad bearings.  The unresolved issues and the inability to investigate at midnight did not make for a good night’s sleep.

I have the Aqua-Hot service/repair manual for the unit I bought from Butch, both on paper and on my iPad, so I spent some time this morning looking at the iPad version.  I could not tell if they used the same bearing parts so I did not order anything today and won’t until I can determine model numbers.  I asked Butch if he knew which burner was in the Aqua-Hot I bought from him, but he did not.  The service manual shows a Webasto label that identifies the burner model, but does not show where the label is located.  More investigation was needed.

After I got dressed I e-mailed Bill Gerrie (RetiredBusNut) in Ontario, Canada with questions about gauges and sending units for our bus engine and transmission.  I then started dealing with the water softener.  Linda returned from her walk and started preparing lunch, so I emptied the filter housing of the little bit of salt that was still in the bottom, rinsed it clean, re-installed the filter, and let it run for 20 minutes to fully flush out any residual salt water.

Linda made a warm garbanzo bean and kale salad for lunch with lemon juice and garlic.  It was the first time she had tried this recipe and we both agreed it was a keeper. After lunch I tested the hardness of the water coming out of the softener and it registered on the test strip between zero (completely soft) and 1.5 (definitely soft) so I dumped the remaining (hard) water in the fresh water tank and refilled it with 120 gallons of nice, soft water.  After the tank was full I retested the water coming out of the softener and got the same reading as before.  Finally, some good news on the water softener front.

With water softening taken care of (for now) I did an online search for a panoramic camera tripod head.  I really like shooting panoramas and the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MS-ICE) does a remarkable job stitching images together.  Most of my panoramas have been handheld, which makes the performance of MS-ICE all the more impressive.  I have shot a few panoramas using a tripod but without a nodal point (spherical) pan head, so that is what I was searching for online.  B&H Photo had a Manfrotto on sale for $280, marked down from $600, but their order desk was closing for the day and I did not want to be rushed making this decision so I did not order it.  They will reopen tomorrow, so I will think about it overnight and do some more research.

I got our old Webasto burner out of the front bay and found the label.  It is, indeed, a DBW2010, specifically a DBW2010.75 with a 0.35 GPH nozzle rated at 45,000 BTU.  Linda recorded the details, including the serial number, and then helped me rewrap it in bubble wrap so I could put back in its storage pail.

Linda then went to Parker, Arizona with Butch and Fonda to check out the Safeway grocery store and look for some things at Walmart.  The Parker Safeway was supposed to carry Daiya vegan cheese products but they were nowhere to be found.  It appears that our closest source will be Whole Foods.  There are five of them in the greater Phoenix area but that is a two hour drive one way.

While the three amigos were gone I removed the cover from the Aqua-Hot in our coach and found its label.  Much to my relief it is also a Webasto DBW2010.75, 45,000 BTU.  It should also have a 0.35 GPH nozzle, and probably does, but I did not pull the burner out to check.  I noticed some soot on the final fuel filter inside the housing and in other places so that gave me something new to be concerned about.  I was pondering the situation when Jim and Barb and Roho came over to visit and we had a good long chat.  When they went back to their motorhome I put the cover back on the Aqua-Hot and put all of my tools away.

My plan for tomorrow is to turn the Aqua-Hot off, let it cool down, and pull the burner to check the nozzle.  It’s possible, though not likely, that I do not have the burner seated quite right and there’s a chance, though very small, that reinstalling it will fix, or least improve the performance.  My money (literally) is still on the blower bearings.  Hopefully it does not also need a new motor as everything on a Webasto is more expensive than seems reasonable. It’s another fine example of precision German engineering and manufacturing.

Even though I have quite a few e-mail addresses that I use to segregate electronic correspondence into manageable categories my inboxes still end up flooded with e-mails.  Very few of them are spam—we have good spam filtering on all of the accounts—but some of the highest volume inbound traffic is notifications of things like failed login attempts on WordPress websites.  Those e-mails do not get replies and often do not require any specific action on my part, but they sometimes obscure the presence of other e-mails that do require my attention.

Microsoft Outlook is able to deal with incoming (and outgoing) e-mails based on user-defined “rules” but I had never played with that feature until today.  I used the online help system to read about the whys and wherefores of e-mail rules and then tried creating some.  Once I understood what I was trying to accomplish it was mostly point and click to get it done, with a little typing thrown in.  What I ended up doing was creating sender/subject subfolders under the inbox of certain accounts and then creating a rule for each subfolder that directs incoming e-mails matching the criteria to the correct folder.  By keeping the sub folders under the inbox folder it will be clear to me that these are e-mails that I have received but not yet dealt with.

For dinner Linda made a cooked shredded Brussels’ Sprouts dish with tomatoes, dried cranberries, and pistachios and served it alongside the leftover Mexican rice with a glass of sangria.  Ole!  We agreed that both of these dishes were keepers and went well with the fruity wine.  The rest of the evening was quiet.  Linda read and played her online games while I finished up working on this post.  I finally went to bed and started reading the service and repair manuals for the Aqua-Hot system and the Webasto burner.  According to the long-term weather forecast tonight should be our last night with an overnight low temperature below freezing.


A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

A few of the vendors at Desert Gardens, Quartzsite, AZ.

2015/01/03 (S) Hammer Stahl

I got up at 6:30 AM today.  I had been awake for a while before that and had some things I needed/wanted to do on my computer.  These were quiet tasks that I could do in the front of the coach, with the heat turned up, without disturbing Linda.

I always check my e-mail first.  There was a group message from Hillary at RVillage to all of the Ambassadors regarding a new feature they will be rolling out soon and seeking our assistance.  I mentioned this to Linda when she got up and we watched the two YouTube videos.  We did not have time today but will work on it tomorrow in advance of a 5 PM (4 PM PST) web meeting.

My first project today was updating the spreadsheet I maintain for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter, which I started working on last night.  The chapter treasurer maintains our checking account but as the secretary I maintain the records including the roster and who has paid their dues for what years.  Because I have all of those details I also generate the quarterly and annual financial statements.  I entered the information for dues payments that had been received between November 1 and December 31.  I then added the five worksheets for 2015 (four quarters and year), which tie together and link back to the 2014 statement, and updated the cumulative financial statement.

Linda got up so I put my work aside to make coffee while she made breakfast.  We had a few bananas that were ripe so she made green smoothies for breakfast.  We happen to like kale but if we didn’t, green smoothies would be an excellent way to get our daily dose along with several other healthy ingredients.

We talked about visiting the market area today and decided to go later when it was a bit warmer.  The temperature a 9AM was still only 40 degrees F so Linda bundled up and went for her morning walk while I continued to work on my spreadsheet.

Once I finished the spreadsheet I worked outside for a bit.  I removed the cover from the burner end of the Aqua-Hot while it was running to check for an exhaust leak (sight, smell, touch) but I could not detect one.  When the cycle finished I turned the burner off.  My plan was to let the unit cool off and then remove the burner to check the nozzle size and do a general inspection of the combustion chamber and visible parts, but that did not happen today.

What I did instead was return to my computer and start putting Webasto repair parts in my shopping cart on the Sure Marine Service website.  The bearings on the installed burner are definitely whining and need to be replaced.  They are supposed to be replaced regularly anyway, so I put two sets in the cart.  It is very likely that they are causing the motor to run slow which means insufficient combustion air, and possibly lower fuel pressure, leading to the dark smoky exhaust.  I also put a fuel solenoid valve in the cart.  There is a good chance that the valve and/or the solenoid are not working on the other burner.  There’s also a chance that the ignition coil has failed, but the solenoid valve costs 1/2 as much as the coil, so I’m hoping it’s the valve.  I got the order submitted with UPS ground shipping and used PayPal to make the payment.

Once I completed the SMS order I loaded the B&H Photo app onto my iPad and spent quite a bit of time going between their website and the Sony online store trying to figure out if I should order a panoramic tripod head and/or new camera, possibly with a lens and flash unit.  Sony has the Alpha 99 FF body marked down from $2,800 to $1,900 with the vertical grip and an extra battery thrown into the deal, an additional $500+ value.  They will also bundle in the SAM 28-75mm f/2.8 lens for $400.  The lens by itself is normally $900, so that’s another $500 savings.

So for $2,500 I could get $4,200 worth of Sony’s top-of-the-line “flagship” DSLR (DSLT, actually) equipment, except for one thing; it was all on back order with an ESTIMATED ship date of February 4, 2015.  That’s my birthday, so if it actually shipped on that date it would be quite the birthday present, but if it was delayed very much there would be the very real possibility of it arriving at our location in Q after we had left.  Not good.

So what about B&H Photo?  It turns out that they (claim to) have all of these pieces in stock and they are selling the body with the added pieces for the same price as Sony, but they are not offering the lens at the bundled price.  That was the deal breaker that saved me spending a lot of money today.  Besides, I have been waiting a long time for Sony to officially announce and the ship the new (rumored) flagship alpha a99-II with its 36MP FF 35mm sensor and long list of awesome features.  To decide now to by prior generation technology it would have to be a very attractive deal, much better than what I was seeing online.

I ended up ordering a Manfrotto Nodal Point Pro panoramic tripod mount from B&H.  It should be here by the end of the week.  When it arrives I think we will hike up to the top of “Q Mountain” and try to capture the true essence of Quartzsite in the winter, which is RVs from horizon to horizon.

We headed down to the market area on Kuehn Street with Butch and Fonda and walked around for a couple of hours in the Tyson Wells Show grounds north of Kuehn Street and west of Central Avenue (US-95).  This particular market area had really filled up with vendors in the last few days.  Linda bought a nice white apron and really nice Hammer Stahl 5.5″ Santoku knife.  She checked online when we got back and she paid about 55% of the MSRP on the HS website.  She bought it from Cutlery by LeClaire, which also has a website, and has it on sale for $20 more than the price on the HS website, marked down $20 from their “regular” price.  The point is, she got it for what appears to be a good price of $59 and it came in a nice box with a ceramic sharpener thrown into the deal.

We drove farther west on Kuehn Street and pulled into the Desert Gardens show grounds.  It was getting near sunset, so we did not stay long, but Linda and I walked enough of it to get a feeling for the place.  It was a “rougher” setup than Tyson Wells and many of the booths were selling large, rough rocks and gemstones.  The vendors also had a lot more equipment set up and were using it to process materials.  We’ll be back, probably more than once, and earlier in the day so we can spend more time.

When we got back to our motorcoaches Fonda came over and worked with Linda for a little while on their business records.  We then had a nice salad and some of the spicy bean and pasta soup (that Linda made the other day) with crackers and sangria.  I spent more time after dinner researching stuff on my iPad and working on this post.

We appear to be in one of the few places in the country that is not getting clobbered by bad weather. The temperature is not even supposed to drop below freezing overnight. It will still be cool tomorrow, however, and we did make specific plans before going to bed.


A view of "Q" Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

A view of “Q” Mountain from the Desert Gardens Show area.

2015/01/04 (N) Our Village

We had vegan pancakes for breakfast which prompted me to suggest that Linda invent some recipes, even if they are interesting and successful variations on existing ones, and feed them to our grand-daughter.  Linda could put them on our website using the WP Ultimate Recipe plug-in and, if they met with her approval, name they after “Bitty” (youngest grand-daughter’s latest nickname, although I think I will always prefer “Schmoo”).  Perhaps Pancakes Madeline; Sautéed greens a la Madeline; Pasta Madeline; or Madeline’s vegan mac and cheese.  Being retired gives me a lot of time to think.

Joe’s brother, Jim L., finally returned from Nevada today and was able to get the park model trailer unlocked.  Barb has been wanting to get in and clean it since she and Jim (different Jim) arrived.  Barb is a keep busy kind of gal.  She is responsible for maintaining the apartment and laundry room while she is here and told Connie she would also do some deep cleaning on their house trailer, so it’s been bugging her that she could not get in to do it.  As for my part, all I did was lock the door on the trailer the way Connie asked me to.  Barb and Jim (husband) had lots of keys but could not get any of them to work.


Today was shower day.  This is always more of a production than we would like because we keep the cats’ litter tray in the shower.  Most of the time that works really well—it is out of the way and contains any mess they might make—but it is inconvenient when we want to use the shower for its intended purpose.  Besides pulling the tray out into the hall by the bathroom door we have to clean up any stray litter in the shower to make sure it does not end up in the gray water waste tank.  Litter tray or not we still have to spray the shower walls when we are done, squeegee off the glass door, let everything dry, and then reassemble it as a giant cat litter box.  But it works and it’s one of the compromises we willingly make to live with our cats in so few square feet.


Once I was dressed I went outside to chat with Jim L. (Joe’s brother) and we discussed the possibility of upgrading the electrical service at our site to “50 Amp” (240VAC, 50A, 4-wire, the equivalent of a 120VAC, 100A residential service).  It’s not an issue for us right now as the cool weather has us burning diesel fuel to make space heat, but once the weather turns warm we may need our air-conditioners.  We have three but can only run one on a “30A” service and still have enough power to run other things.  A 30A service is just what it says; 30A of current at 120VAC.  A “50A” RV service is slightly more than three times that amount of power.


The electrical hookups here are very interesting.  Perhaps all RV park power pedestals work the same way, but I have never looked inside one so I don’t know.  The meter is at the top and the area below it has a top-hinged cover.  Under the cover are three panels about 3″ wide and 15″ tall.  The panels have an outlet towards the bottom and a circuit breaker near the midpoint.  Behind the panels are busses for the hot, neutral and ground with male blade connectors.  The panels have female blade connectors that engage their male counterparts when the panel is slipped and then hinged into place.  It is secured with a single screw.  If Jim L. can find a 50A panel all we will have to do is unscrew and remove the 30A panel and plug in the new one, once we verify that 240 VAC (L1& L2) are present in the box and wired to the distribution busses.


Instead of her usual morning walk Linda setup her laptop on the dinette table and worked on accounting and tax issues for Butch and Fonda.  I set my laptop there as well to work on the roster for our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter and Jasper got in between us, so we had a nice, cozy computing session.  When I placed my order with B&H Photo yesterday I checked a box to receive shipping status information via TXT message.  I got one this morning letting me know that my package had shipped from NYC.  Cool.


With accounting chores done for now Linda prepared vegan hot dogs with mustard, onion, and relish for lunch.  She then went for a long walk while I stayed at the coach and worked with a new feature on the RVillage website.  I was posting a lot of suggestions to the topic thread on the Ambassador forum and got a phone call from Curtis, the founder/CEO of RVillage.   We had a long chat and I was still on the phone with him when Linda got back.  I worked with the website some more and at 5:00 PM we connected to an Ambassador meeting using GoToMeeting on my computer.  This is a very exciting new feature and I think RVillagers and RV-related businesses are really going to like it once they know about it and see how it works.


Linda made mock (vegan) stroganoff for dinner.  She normally uses Basmati but the only rice she had enough of was Texmati so she used that.  Although I did not care for the texture of the Texmati in this dish (a bit crunchy), the taste was still very good.  This dish requires real cooking, which means it makes a real mess.  By the time everything was cleaned up and put away it was 8 PM and we were both tired.  I continued to research engine and transmission gauges while Linda read and played word games.  I also revisited the SonyAlphaRumors website but there was absolutely NO new information on the a99-II.  I went to bed wondering if this camera will ever actually exist.  Based on the comments I see online I am not the only one wondering if this camera will ever be a reality.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.

One of the hundreds of vendors at the Tyson Wells market area in Q.


2015/01/05 (M) VSWR 1.0

Yesterday we finished up the coffees we have been using since we left Michigan at the end of November so this morning I had to open new bags and transfer the contents from their vacuum sealed bags to our metal storage canisters.  I had Teeko’s roast Ethiopian Yirgacheffe regular and decaffeinated separately, so I opened 1/2 pound bags of each.  I also opened a 1/2 pound bag of our special Sweet Seattle Dreams, which is 1/2 Sweet Dreams (decaf) and 1/2 Seattle Blend (regular).  I then made a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 1/2-n-1/2 while Linda prepared our granola with fresh bananas and fresh blueberries.


Linda went for her morning walk while I continued to do online research regarding the enigma known as the Sony a99-II DSLT camera and the supposedly discontinued, but apparently still very much available, Sony alpha a99.  If I did not already have a nice assortment of compatible Minolta A-mount lenses and flash equipment I think I would stop wasting my time with Sony cameras.  But I do, and so I continue to wait and be frustrated along with thousands of other “enthusiast” (sub-professional) photographers.  Because Sony builds the image stabilization (anti-shake) feature into the alpha bodies instead of the A-mount lenses the feature is available even with older Minolta lenses and the new lenses are slightly less complicated and less expensive than the Nikon and Canon lenses, which have the image stabilization built into each lens.  I think this was one of Sony’s best innovations.


I also continued to look at automotive gauges and sending units and decided to call Bill Gerrie (in Ontario, Canada) to follow up on his reply to an e-mail I sent a few days ago.  We had a great chat and he was able to clarify some things and add quite a bit of specificity to his written reply.  As a result I have a pretty good idea of what I am looking for; now it’s just a matter of finding it and deciding to place the order.


I was starting to work at my computer when Linda returned from her walk.  She eventually fixed a couple of vegan hot dogs wrapped up in tortillas with mustard, onions, and relish.   As I was finishing my meal I got a call from Gary Hatt at BCM.  He recently acquired an Eagle bus conversion and had some questions about the air-conditioners and the Aqua-Hot.  He plans to be in Quartzsite next to week and we are looking forward to finally meeting in person since I have been writing articles for the magazine for almost two years.


Linda has been having a problem with the brightness (or lack thereof) of the touch screen on her 19 month old Windows 8.1 Samsung laptop.  It will go very dim for no apparent reason and cannot be adjusted.  There was a driver update available for the Intel HD Graphics processor so we downloaded it, installed it, and re-started her computer.  The screen was now bright, which was more useful than dim, but still not adjustable.  That could be a coincidence or a fix, we will have to wait and see.  Even though it was working (for now) I drove to the local Family Dollar and bought an HDMI cable and some lightly carbonated water.  (The water had nothing to do with Linda’s laptop computer display, we were just low on sparkling water.)  The cable will allow us to connect her computer to one of our two flat panel LCD (LED) TV/monitors if needed.  (We did that after dinner and it worked, mirroring the built-in display to the monitor and setting the resolution to match the monitor’s 1900x1080p native mode.  But it also caused the built-in monitor to dim, although not as much as before.  When we turned off the monitor and unplugged it the built-in display did not return to full brightness.)


Mid-afternoon I saw Butch working on his Tarheel screwdriver antenna so I inquired as to what he was doing.  He had connected his MFJ VSWR meter to it through a six foot length of coax.  He had also unplugged the control harness for the tuning motor and rigged up a temporary switch to extend and retract the antenna.  He had done this because he was getting meter readings when connected through the installed coax that indicated the antenna was not resonant at any frequency or that the meter was not working correctly.  I climbed up on his ladder to have a look and saw VSWRs that were often greater than 31:1, and never fell below 10:1, with complex impedances that were rarely 50 ohms and with both resistance and reactance values that were all over the place.  Clearly something was not right.  It was not his installed coax and I was fairly certain I was not his meter, which I had used back at their house to check the VSWR on his CB and 2m ham antennas.


I climbed onto the roof of their bus so it would be easier to reach things and I could work sitting down.  We tried adding a ground strap as a counterpoise but it didn’t help.  Butch then grounded the strap to the chassis at the motor but that did not help either.  Our concern was that the antenna was not sufficiently bonded (grounded) to the roof but nothing we tried made any difference.  I decided to set the antenna to its shortest length (highest operating frequency), set the meter to a lower frequency, and then slowly lengthen the antenna, thereby lowering the operating frequency, while looking for some sort of response on the meter.


I got no change on the meter and finally realized that the antenna (via the meter) was behaving as though it was not grounded.  I noticed what looked like a thick washer between the SO-239 antenna connector and the base mounting plate of the antenna.  The mounting plate is the ground reference for the antenna and is connected to the base of the antenna through a coil of insulated wire (an inductor) known as a base loading coil.  The spacer was a plastic insulator that was, indeed, preventing the case of the SO-239 antenna socket from making contact with the mounting plate.  As a result the antenna was not grounded through the coax cable shield, preventing the meter from obtaining meaningful readings.


We removed the antenna connector, removed the insulated spacer, reassembled the connector to the antenna, reattached the coax and meter, and took additional measurements.  This time we got excellent readings that made very good sense.  We checked the upper bound, lower bound, and the midpoint of most of the high frequency (HF) ham bands and were always able to obtain VSWRs of 1.3:1 or less, which was excellent.  Butch had been considering redoing the mounting of the large motorized fold-over base so it was a good thing we figured this out as it saved him a lot of unnecessary work.  If I can solve one problem without creating others I figure it’s a good day.  BTW:  VSWR stands for Voltage Standing Wave Ratio and 1.0 is not a beta version, it is shorthand for a ratio of one-to-one (1:1), which is the best SWR you can have.  Anything below 1.5:1 is considered excellent, below 2.0:1 good, and below 3.0:1 usable if that’s the best you can do.


Chayote is a fruit that is a member of the squash family and is related to other gourds such as melons and cucumbers.  Linda bought one last week when we went to Albertson’s grocery store in Blythe, California and decided to prepare it for dinner tonight.  She sliced it into long thin broad strips and sautéed them with onions, oregano, salt, and pepper.  She served it alongside the leftover mock (vegan) stroganoff with a glass of sangria.  Our wine friends can cringe all they want; we find the Vella and Franzia boxed wines generally agreeable and the sangrias go surprisingly well with a variety of dishes.  And it has me drinking red wine, so it’s healthy too!


We lost our WiFi connection this evening.  Not sure why.  The wireless gateway still shows up in the WFR list but won’t associate with the WFR.  Butch had the same problem at the same time so something obviously changed.  We will ask Barb to open the trailer tomorrow, or get Jim to do it if she is not comfortable, so we can reset the gateway.  Hopefully that will do the trick.

The sunsets in Quartzsite are amazing almost every night.  This shot was taken from our campsite in Q.

The sunsets in Quartzsite are amazing almost every night. This shot was taken from our campsite in Q.


2015/01/06 (T) You’ve Got Mail (Maybe)


Our mail situation here is interesting.  Remember that, per our Jamaican tour guide, we do not have problems, only situations, and situations are easier to deal with if I regard them as interesting rather than annoying.  With regards to receiving mail, the “situation” is as follows.  Although every structure in town has a street address—necessary for police, fire, EMS, trash collection, and other municipal services—the Quartzsite post office does not deliver mail to said locations.  They have an annex building on the northeast side of town that is nothing but P. O. boxes and all of the locals, and a lot of seasonal residents (including Joe and Connie, who own the property where we are staying) have a P. O. Box.


Where things get interesting is that the main post office and the street addresses are associated with one ZIP code but the P. O. boxes have a different ZIP code.  If something is coming to us via UPS or FEDEX we have to use the street address and associated ZIP code, but if it is being mailed to us USPS we have to use the P. O. Box number and associated ZIP code, or have it sent c/o General Delivery using the main ZIP code.  To confuse matters further, Joe and Connie had to return to Nevada because of Joe’s health and are having their Quartzsite mail forwarded back to their home, so we cannot have mail sent to us “care of” them as we originally planned as it just gets forwarded to Nevada.  Outbound mail does not appear to be a problem, but then why would it be?


The other situation that developed yesterday was that our WiFiRanger Mobile Ti disconnected from Joe and Connie’s WiFi (DSL) gateway and would not reconnect.  The WFR is telling us that the WPA password may be incorrect, but that is unlikely as we have been using it since we arrived last month, as have Butch and Fonda who also lost their connection yesterday and could not reestablish it.  The evidence suggests that the gateway needs to be reset.  Why?  Who knows?  DSL gremlins perhaps.  Or mischievous Internet fairies.  Or a problem with the local DSL service?  Or perhaps Butch keyed up his 600 Watt linear HF ham radio amplifier and blew out every wireless DSL router within a quarter mile?  Whatever the cause, once we can get Barb or (brother) Jim to open the trailer we will power cycle the gateway and see if that restores our ability to connect to it.


In the meantime, in order to get online last night and again this morning, we turned on our Verizon MiFi.  The Verizon signal here is strong and steady, and the data rate is much faster than the DSL/WiFi connection, but we only have a 4 GB data plan so we tend to use WiFi when available.  It is not always available, of course, especially while traveling (and especially if we are boondocking at Wally World or other such locations) and when it is available it is not always reliable or is so slow as to be useless.  This can be the situation, for instance, at larger RV rallies and even some RV parks.


So we logged into our Verizon Wireless account, looked at our current plan, and saw that for a mere $10 more per month we could increase our data plan from 4 GB to 10 GB.  The cost for exceeding your monthly data plan limit is $15/GB, so the extra $10/month was a no-brainer.  And VZW made it soooo easy to change our plan (once we were logged in); just click the data plan we want, review changes to our account, and click “Apply Changes.”  Done; they have our money and we have more data allocation.  Interestingly, they upped our data allocation immediately for the current billing cycle, which is Dec 20 – Jan 19, and added the $10 to the bill we will receive for that cycle.  No pro-rating going on here, but then we can use the whole 10 GB if we want/need to.


Interestingly the cost to go from 10 GB to 15 GB was an additional $20/month, so the 10 GB plan seems to be a sweet spot after which you pay a premium for additional access.  On the one hand Verizon wants to sell you data bandwidth but on the other hand there is a finite amount of data they can move through their network, so if you want to use a larger chunk of their capacity it figures that it would come with premium pricing.


Until a few months ago Millenicom was reselling 20 GB MiFi plans (on Verizon’s network) for $70.  It was the best deal around; a sufficient amount of data for the same price we were paying Verizon for only 4 GB.  Kind of unfair, when I think about it.  Well, Verizon decided to stop selling bulk capacity to Millenicom (and other MVNAs?), took all of the accounts in-house, and Millenicom went out of business.  Not really a big surprise when you think about it.  Verizon also notified those customers (as I understand the situation) of their “options” which were not, apparently, as attractive as the deal they had with Millenicom.  Not really a big surprise when you think about it.


Anyway, we will see how we do with 10 GB/month while we are on the road.  We can change back to our 4GB plan when we get home, but I doubt that we will, and we can increase it to 15, 20, or even more GB per billing cycle if we need to, but that is unlikely.  We have an AT&T landline at home with DSL service that provides an “always on” Internet connection (when it works).  It has a 150 GB/month data allowance and allows us to monitor and control our whole house generator and WiFi thermostat.  We have discussed adding a security system and a personal weather station linked in to Weather Underground’s Wundermap when we get home.  I don’t think our DSL connection is fast enough, however, that we could use 150 GB in a month if we tried.


Linda went for her morning walk and I made a quick run to Barry’s Breads.  Barry is a really nice older gentleman who has a small bakery stand on the north side of Kuehn Street east of Central Avenue.  Just behind the stand, however, is a larger trailer in which he bakes all of his products.  Those products include breads, rolls, savory items, and sweet goods.  Most of his products use butter, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, or ranch dressing, but his Basic Bread is just that, flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast.  I have had some difficulty figuring out what time of day to stop by but this morning he finally had loaves of bread, and some hamburger buns made from the same recipe, so I bought a loaf and a pack of four buns.


When I got back I started working on another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  A little over a year ago I installed an RV-Critter Guard to seal around the shorepower cord and water hose where they enter the utility bay through the floor.  I took a few pictures during the installation and have had the article on my “future” list ever since.  By the time Linda got back from her walk I had the article mostly finished and was starting to look at the photographs.


She had stopped at the Salvation Army store, which was open, to use their facilities and ended up buying a grocery bag full of clothes for $1.  Not $1/item, $1 for the entire bag.  Most of the items were tagged with color codes indicating prices of one or more dollars each but they had too much inventory and needed to move some product.  They told Linda that when that happens they have their $1 bag sale.  Deal.  She called Butch and Fonda to let them know and I think they headed there before going to check the post office box and then stop at the post office if needed.


Linda cooked a couple of our Boca vegan mock hamburger patties and served them with fresh sliced onion, lettuce, and pickles on two of the buns I had just purchased.  Not an entirely WFPB meal, but very few of our meals are.  Still, we try to get as much plant-based whole foods as we can every day.


Linda went for a second walk after lunch and headed down Central Avenue towards the Kuehn Street markets.  She is so fond of her 5.5″ Hammer Stahl Santoku knife that she wanted to buy the 3.5″ paring knife if Cutlery by LeClaire had it for sale as an individual item.


While Linda was gone I finished working on the photos for my RV-Critter Guard article.  When she returned from her walk she had both the Hammer Stahl 3.5″ Paring Knife AND the 3.0″ Birdsbeak Paring Knife.  As we learned the other day from an Alton Brown video paring is actually a technique in which food is held in one hand and a knife in the other; no cutting board is involved.  Paring knives are generally smaller with a shorter blade and most of the weight is in the handle, allowing very fine control of the cutting edge and tip.


The Birdsbeak is a particularly interesting and unusual knife.  The bottom/cutting edge is slightly concave rather than convex like the classic chef knife.  The bottom edge joins the top edge in a point with a shape that resembles certain types of curved bird beaks.  In use, the knife is often held stationary and the food is pressed or turned into it, such as decorative peeling, pitting of fruit, or slicing strawberries.  Linda is often reluctant to spend money on herself so I think it’s nice that she found something she wanted and made the decision to buy it.  Like any high quality tool it will make the work it is designed to do easier and more enjoyable.


While I was uploading my article to our Dropbox Linda went outside to sit.  Barb wandered over and I mentioned that the DSL wireless Internet gateway had quit working.  She let me in the trailer where I found it sitting on the dining room table.  I powered it off, waited 60 seconds, and powered it back on.  All of the status lights came back on in the expected sequence and I was once again able to connect our WiFiRanger Mobile Ti to it.  We ended up standing by their Country Coach Intrigue motorhome and having a long chat.


Butch and Fonda were gone for most of the afternoon so we only got to chat for a little while when they returned before the sun dropped behind the southwestern mountains and the temperature dropped along with it.  Linda and I talked about going out to dinner, which we have only done once since we got here, but she remembered that we had a FedEx package scheduled for delivery today and that it might arrive as late as 8 PM.  So we had leftover soup with crackers and sangria.  This was the third and final meal we got out of this pot of soup and it was good to the last drop.  It was a packaged mix but Linda thinks she can recreate it; getting the spices right will be the tricky part.


After dinner I read DSLR reviews on the Digital Photography Reviews website and continued to look at gauges and sending units for the bus.  Around 8:30 PM I was having trouble staying awake but by 9 PM I had gotten my second wind and decided to write another short article for BCM.  This one was on the failure of Butch and Fonda’s main engine air-compressor on the drive down, how he dealt with it on the road, and eventually ended up installing a rebuilt one here at our campsite in Quartzsite.  I had the article written by 11 PM and decided to work on the photos tomorrow.

Sunset envelopes our coach as Linda prepares dinner.

Sunset envelopes our coach as Linda prepares dinner.


2015/01/07 (W) Catch 22


My main pair of reading glasses broke yesterday; not the lenses or the frame, but one of the nose pads.  Well, not the actual pad, but the small plate and mounting loop, specifically the mounting loop.  I was cleaning them and the whole assembly fell out.  The loop was split and had opened up.  The loop was a very small and delicate piece of ductile metal so I squeezed it back into a circle.  I removed the very tiny retaining screw, reinserted the mounting loop, and put the screw back in.  I was able to do this using only the tools available on my Leatherman.  The repair did not hold and it fell out again last night.  This time a piece of the loop broke off so the only repair will be a new mounting pad if I can find one.  There is a Wal-Mart in Parker that probably has an optical shop but I don’t know how universal this mounting system is.


I checked the level of the floor and counter in the kitchen last night and the coach appears to have settled slightly on the driver side.  Not a lot, but enough that I can feel it and it registers on the level.  I generally have to start the main engine and build up full air pressure in order to level the coach but I thought today would be a good day to finally pull the portable air compressor out of the car and see if the leveling system will work without the main engine running.  As it turned out that did not happen today because we ended up driving to Parker, Arizona.


Our destination in Parker was the Wal-Mart.  The store did not have an optical department but we found an eyeglass repair kit in the pharmacy area with a pair of screw-in pads and a pair of snap-in pads.  They also had a repair kit with a tiny screwdriver, spare screws, and other parts.  Between the two kits I was able to install a new pad in the car to replace the broken one.  That saved us a trip the optical shop in town.


Parker sits on the Arizona side of the Colorado River which is the boundary with California.  We decided to drive across and then take CA-62 over to US-95, follow it south along the River back down to Blythe, and then take I-10 back to Quartzsite.  Butch called while we were in Parker to let us know that there was a Farmer’s market at Desert Gardens.  It operates on Wednesdays from 8 AM to noon so we did not make it back in time but resolved to go in future weeks.


I worked on my “roadside repair” article for BCM while Linda went for a walk.  Jim and Barb had gone to Blythe to buy a new faucet and Jim L. stopped by and helped Jim B. install it.  They borrowed a caulk gun from us (we carry two in the bay) but had to go buy caulk.  UPS showed up with yet another package for us, after which we had a long conversation about the inadequacies (incompetence) of the U. S. Post Office in Quartzsite.  (The UPS driver told me that both UPS and FedEx have extra drivers and trucks delivering into Quartzsite during the peak season.  What a novel idea.)


Back to the post office.  We are waiting for a shipment of two bottles of water hardness test strips that we ordered through Amazon but were shipped via USPS by a swimming pool supply company in Elkhart, Indiana.  I gave them the P. O. Box here in Q since the post office does not deliver mail to street addresses and it appears that they will likely get returned to the sender rather than delivered to us.  The root cause of the problem (and it is a problem) is that Joe and Connie are having their mail forwarded to their home in Nevada.  If their names are not on the mail the post office won’t put it in the box, but if their names are on the mail it still does not get put in the box, it gets sent to Nevada.  So as of now the box is sitting there but cannot be used; a genuine “catch 22.”


Fine, we will just use General Delivery.  The problem with that (and it is a problem) is that you can only pick up the GD Mail at the Quartzsite post office between 11AM and 1 PM, and there are untold numbers of people trying to do the same thing.  That means ridiculously long lines and ridiculously long waits.  Considering that the influx of seasonal “residents” to Quartzsite has been going on for over 30 years the postal “service” has had ample time to figure out how to handle the situation.  I mean, Amazon practically runs its holiday operations with seasonal employees, many of whom are RVers.  Gee, I wonder if there are any RVers around Quartzsite this time of year.  While the post office is trying to figure out how to not deliver our mail we have two more UPS shipments scheduled to arrive on Friday.


Linda made a zoodle dish for dinner.  She used her SpiraLife to turn a zucchini into long thin strips which she cut into 6″ lengths and then used like spaghetti in the dish.  The other ingredients were onions, garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, and green beans.  Everything got sautéed in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  We had a glass of Lamb’s Valley Organic Sweet White wine and it was a lovely meal.


After dinner I put the finishing touches on my BCM air-compressor repair article and e-mailed it to Butch to proof-read.  The only thing worse than writing an article that makes me look stupid is writing one that makes someone else look stupid, especially a friend.


I had an e-mail from Gary, the publisher of BCM, letting me know that the December 2014 issue was finally available online.  I downloaded both the SD and the HD versions.  I then clipped the cover from the SD version, pasted it into MS Paint, and saved it as a JPEG file.  I opened it in Faststone Image Viewer, resized it to a thumbnail, and sharpened it.  I then edited the BCM page on our website, adding the thumbnail image, the title of my article, and a brief description.  I have a similar entry on that page for every issue in which I gave had an article, starting with the February 2013 issue. The December 2014 article was my 14th in 23 months.

The last glow of this sunset reflects off the passenger side of our motorcoach in Quartzsite, AZ.

The last glow of this sunset reflects off the passenger side of our motorcoach in Quartzsite, AZ.


2014/12/09-12 (T-F) On to Q

2014/12/09 (T) Elvis Is Not Dead

No, indeed, Elvis is alive and well and living in Alvarado, Texas with his owner, Donn and fellow dog Lucy.  Sweet animals both, we enjoyed their presence while visiting with Donn.

We heard Donn pull out a few minutes before 5 AM, in an attempt to beat the worst of the morning rush hour traffic headed into Dallas, but we were not ready to get up.  I think we finally piled out of bed around 7:30 AM to find that the fog was so thick we could not see the road at the end of Donn’s driveway.  We had targeted 9 AM as a departure time that would have us miss most of the morning traffic, and actually pulled out of our parking spot at 9:11 AM.  The fog was still thick but it was bright enough that we could usually see at least a quarter of a mile in our direction of travel.

We worked our way back onto northbound I-35W towards Fort Worth and kept to the right in spite of entering traffic.  We chose not to stop at the QT (Quick Trip) even though Diesel fuel was $3.08 per gallon, the least expensive we have seen in years.  The transition to I-20 westbound was via one of the very high ramps that are used to connect intersecting freeways around the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolis, but it was not a problem.  We continued to drive through fog for at least 90 minutes, so we could not tell you what Texas west of Fort Worth looks like if had to.  We stayed on I-20 all the way to Midland, Texas only stopping to fuel up at the Flying J Truck Stop on the far side of Abilene, Texas by which point the fog had lifted and it was partly sunny with temperatures in the upper 60s.  Eventually, however, the clouds closed back in, which made the last 90 minutes of the drive a bit less bright and easier on the eyes.

The bus ran well all day and I did better at getting on the accelerator in advance of climbing grades, spinning up the turbocharger and keeping the engine RPMs in the 1900-2000 range.  The bus took 98.135 gallons of fuel at the truck stop and we had traveled 553.8 miles since the last fill-up for an average of 5.64 MPG.  That included running our generator at the Wal-Mart in Texarkana, Texas on Friday. Our previous fill-up computed out at 5.45 MPG.  In our previous use of the coach I figured we were getting 6.0 MPG, but we had not done as much dry-camping as we did on this trip.  We have used the generator and the Aqua-Hot on this trip, both of which draw fuel from the main tank.

The only issue I had today was with the dual pyrometers, specifically the right one.  Historically the right pyro has read 50 – 100 degrees F higher than the left one, which would often stick on “0” and then swing up if I tapped on the gauge.  Both gauges have been tracking within 50 degrees since I rechecked the DDEC II connectors, but today the right gauge started lagging behind the left one, sometimes by a couple of hundred degrees.  If that difference was real it would be a real problem, but everything else looked, felt, and sounded OK, so I think this is a continuing problem with the instrument, and/or sensors, and/or wiring and connectors, but I will have to keep an eye on it.

A half hour before the GPS said we would arrive Linda tried calling the Wal-Mart in Midland several times but never got an answer.  We exited at Midland just before 3 PM and did not have any problem getting into the Wal-Mart parking lot which was very convenient to the freeway but relatively busy for that time of day on a Tuesday.  Not surprising, though, as Midland is the epicenter of the current oil and wind boom in west Texas.  The stretch of I-20 from Fort Worth to Midland is not desolate.  Sweetwater is the wind power capital of the USA, and all along I-20 there are “RV Parks” on both sides of the freeway.  Some of them were genuine, nice looking, RV Parks but most were makeshift looking places that appeared to have been created quickly to service (take advantage of?) a sudden need for places to park almost anything that might serve as shelter for energy workers.

As always, we checked with Customer Service to make sure it was OK to stay overnight.  They said it was but twice told us to “be careful.”  The warning had to do with leaving our vehicle for an extended period of time and risk having it towed.  Apparently “extended” meant weeks, not hours, and I assured them we would be gone first thing in the morning.  While we were in the store we picked up several bottles of PineSol and a couple of boxes of Calgon bath beads.  We prefer the larger, cylindrical plastic containers of Calgon but rarely find them in retail stores and pharmacies.  After we carried everything back to the coach I went for a walk to confirm our exit options for tomorrow morning.  We looked at satellite images on Google Maps last night so I had a good understanding of the parking lot and access roads, but I wanted to verify that information while it was still daylight.

For dinner we had a nice salad, a fresh apple, and Tofurkey brand turkey and vegan cheese sandwiches.  We were going to have the leftover chili from last night’s dinner, but the microwave and the Magnum charger are on the same leg, and the microwave acts like it is going to self-destruct if we try to use it while the charger is also drawing a large amount of current.  I may try moving the circuit breaker for the microwave to a position in the sub-panel that puts it on Leg 2 and see if that helps, but I have to maintain a reasonable load balance between the two legs.  It may be, however, that the microwave is more sensitive to a reduced voltage level than the other high power devices or things like lights or entertainment equipment, which just converts the AC to DC internally anyway.

I called Butch before dinner and they were still on the road in New Mexico.  He called me back after our dinner to let me know they were in a rest stop on I-25 and had the place to themselves.  By comparison, the Midland Wal-Mart was a busy place and most of the vehicles (drivers) seemed to find driving up and down the aisles to be a great inconvenience.  Instead, they took straight line paths across the parking lot, driving between closely spaced parked vehicles (including buses) at surprisingly high speed and didn’t always stop to see if another vehicle might be driving in the lane (where it belongs).  There was a Murphy USA filling station on the property, as well as a McDonalds, which contributed to the constant flow of traffic.

Butch had talked to Luke at U. S. Coach earlier today and got prices for the parts he presumes he needs to repair the main engine air-compressor (Bendix Tu-Flo 700 series) on their bus or replace it with a factory rebuilt one.  Either way the work will wait until we get to Quartzsite, Arizona.

We had a good a Verizon 4G/LTE cellular signal so I sent TXT messages to Donn and Chuck letting them know where we were and ended up having brief TXT message exchanges with both of them.  When we first arrived Linda sent TXT messages to both of our children updating them on our location.  We received messages while we were driving that our older grand-daughter, Katie, had been accepted to Michigan State University.  She applied to three state schools and Michigan Technological University was the first to accept her.  She is waiting to hear about a scholarship from them but knows for sure that she will be going to college somewhere in the fall of 2015 and will have to make a choice as to where.

2014/12/10 (W) Dream Catcher

We went to bed early last night knowing we planned to drive over 400 miles today and wanted to get an early start.  I was awake by 4 AM and finally got up at 5 AM.  The parking lot had thinned out and quieted down overnight but even at that hour tractor-trailer rigs were coming and going.  The house batteries were at 95% SOC when I turned the generator off at 8:45 PM last night and were at 70% SOC when I turned it back on when I got up.

Although I do not like to eat a big breakfast and drink coffee on days that I have to drive, I also do not like to travel too long on an empty stomach.  I have also noticed that lack of liquids can lead to a headache or general feeling of unwellness.  I was up early enough that I had a piece of raisin bread, a banana, and a small glass of grapefruit juice with time to digest it before we hit the road.

Linda got up at 5:30 AM and we started preparing the bus for travel at 5:45 AM.  We pulled out at 6 AM, using the route I had scoped out last night to work our way around behind the Wal-Mart and onto the service drive for I-20 and get position for the freeway entrance.  Once we were on the Interstate it was dark, of course, but it was also foggy.  In spite of those conditions traffic was heavy until we were well past Odessa.  Midland and Odessa are at the center of the current Texas energy (oil and wind) boom and between them are spread out along 30 miles of I-20.  I was definitely not the most scenic part of our trip to date.

The fog stayed with us almost to where I-20 ends and merges with I-10.  We drove through it for hours.  The rest of the day was a mix of sun and clouds.  The bus generally ran well but the turbocharger did not seem to be as responsive as it should be.  I continued to do better at anticipating grades and getting the engine RPMs and turbo boost up ahead of time but noticed that the turbo boost was not peaking off the scale the way it used to.

The speed limit on I-20 yesterday between Fort Worth and Midland was 75 MPH.  That continued through Midland and Odessa but once we were past Odessa it went up to 80 MPH.  I usually travel 60 to 62 MPH when the speed limit allows it but for stretches of today’s trip I set the cruise control at 65 MPH and sometimes traveled at 70 MPH.  Texas is a big place and west Texas is vast.  The speed limits are this high because it is safe to drive that speed out here, and you just have to go faster if you want to get across west Texas in any reasonable amount of time.

Towards the end of I-20 and once we were on I-10 the terrain became rolling and then slightly mountainous and was very pretty in a southwestern desert kind of way.  At some point we notice very large mountains off to the southwest.  Just before reaching El Paso we were very close to the Rio Grande River and realized that the mountains were now very close on the Mexican side of the river and were very large and very rugged.  I-10 through El Paso, Texas was an experience unto itself as there was road construction along its entire length for what seemed like endless miles.  On the other side of El Paso we had to stop at a Homeland Security check point where we went in with the trucks by mistake but got waived through.  Whenever I am unsure about overhead clearances I stick with the big rigs.

We continued on I-10W into New Mexico where it was joined by I-25 in Las Cruces and completed our run to Deming.  We pulled into the Escapees Dream Catcher RV Park at 11:50 MST, just shy of 7 hours after we pulled out of the Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas.  We had traveled 407 miles at an average speed of 58 MPH which was faster than our usual 50 MPH average.

Butch and Fonda were already checked-in to the RV Park and we took one of the sites next to theirs’.  They had developed an apparent chassis battery problem and Butch was trying to sort it out.  I got the shorepower hooked up while Linda prepared lunch.  She made open faced chili cheese dogs with some tofu hotdogs and the leftover chili from Monday night.

Butch needed a new battery for their Suburban so I rode with him to the local Wal-Mart.  He had them install it (no extra charge) but had to teach the “technician” how to do it.  He was also scoping out batteries for the bus but Wal-Mart did not have the Group 31’s he was looking for.  We stopped at both O’Reilly’s and NAPA auto parts stores and got prices then went back to do some additional diagnosis.  Butch suspects a shorted cell but has not confirmed that.

Linda suggested that I connect the sewer hose and fresh water line while it was still daylight with comfortable temperatures so that is what I did.  I decided to check out the two pyrometer sensors.  In the process I “discovered” a metal plate with an electrical harness plugged into it and a fitting for a hose but with only a small piece of hose attached to the fitting.  Butch identified the plate as the turbocharger boost sensor.  I found the loose end of the hose and followed it back to turbocharger outlet manifold.  That explained why I was not able to get the turbo boost and engine power I expected from the engine.  The hose was incredibly brittle and had to be replaced; not good.  We discussed options and appeared to have two: 1) Attach a new hose to the sensor tube and then try to splice it into the old hose, or 2) get a new barbed fitting for the manifold and run a new hose from there to the sensor.  We drove back to the NAPA store and got the parts we might need.

Butch removed the old fitting from the intake manifold and decided we could re-use it.  It took some doing but he got it installed.  We routed the new hose (fuel injector rated) to the sensor plate and connected it.  I could not figure out how to mount the plate so I left it sitting behind the computer on top of the engine where I found it.  I do not know if the old hose has been broken for a while or if it finally failed this afternoon when I grabbed it, but either way it was certainly leaking and was another potential disaster averted.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-grilled tofu slices with Bar-B-Que sauce and caramelized onions.  After dinner we took advantage of our full hookups to take showers and get additional water in our waste tanks.  We watched an episode of Nova on the local PBS station and then went to bed.  Both sides of the air mattress were very hard.  When we checked the settings, my side was at 50 and Linda’s was at 85, both much higher than we usually set them.

The thought crossed my mind that the cats might have stepped on the controls, but that seemed unlikely as the buttons are slightly recessed and have to be pushed in to activate the system.  Besides, the odds of them stepping on the controls for both sides of the bed were very small.  Linda made an off-hand comment about altitude and I realized immediately that this was the effect of having climbed from 765 feet above sea level (ASL) in Alvarado, Texas to 2,862 ft. ASL in Midland, Texas, to 4,300 ft. ASL in Deming, New Mexico.  I also realized in that moment why the tire pressures were higher than I expected when I checked the PressurePro TPMS this morning before we pulled out of Midland.  Sometimes that which should be obvious is not.  We reset the air mattress pressures and drifted comfortably off to sleep.

2014/12/11 (R) RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP

I was up at 6 AM after a good night’s sleep and Linda got up around 7 AM.  The overnight low was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and we did not have any of the heaters turned on, so the front of the coach got a bit chilly.  We were parked facing east so the rising sun lit up the front of our coach and helped warm it up.  I checked on the house battery SOC and then settled in to write for a while.  We had a light breakfast of oatmeal and juice around 7:30 AM.  At 7:45 AM I turned on the engine block heater and Aqua-Hot pre-heat pump.  Linda gathered up the trash shortly thereafter and went for a walk.

I failed to mention in yesterday’s blog post that our grand-daughter Katie called Linda yesterday to let us know that she had received a full academic scholarship to Michigan Technological University in Marquette, Michigan.  We were, of course, very excited to receive this news.  Katie has been an excellent student throughout high school and we are confident she will do well at MTU if she decides to go there.

Fonda was out with their two dogs, Rascal and Daffy, around 7:30 AM but there was no sign of activity beyond that until 8 AM when Linda returned from her walk and said Butch was outside looking at their chassis battery situation.  I put on the hooded sweatshirt I use when I have to work outdoors in cool weather and joined them.

Butch had left the 24 VDC battery charger on the chassis batteries overnight.  Both batteries seemed to be holding an adequate voltage so he decided to swap them rather than replace the one that seemed to be a problem yesterday (lower 12 volts).  After disconnecting the cables we pulled both batteries out.  These are 8D lead acid (wet cell) batteries and weight ~160 pounds each.  Butch topped off the fluid level in all of the cells.  He then put the batteries back in place, reversing their position, and reconnected the cables.  We re-checked voltages and everything looked OK so Butch decided they were ready to travel today rather than spend another night in Deming.

Yesterday we had discussed driving to the Escapees Saguaro Co-op RV Park in Benson, Arizona.  Called them just before 5 PM and they said they had plenty of spaces available.  Linda was checking the details of the park online and discovered that they have a 40,000 pound weight limit, but no one at the park could explain why.  Further research revealed that the last 0.3 miles into the park might be a weight restricted road.

Benson would have been a short drive of just over 180 miles, leaving us a longer drive for Friday if we wanted to get all the way to Quartzsite.  Looking at the map it appeared that Casa Grande, Arizona, 280 miles from Deming, might be a better stopping point.  As it turned out, the Escapees (SKP) RoVer’s Roost CO-OP RV Park is located near Casa Grande and did not have weight restrictions.  Linda called to make sure they had space for us, and after consulting with Butch and Fonda decided that was where we would head.

Linda checked online for fuel stops and prices.  The best price was $3.15 at a Pilot/Flying J just 10 miles shy of Casa Grande, but I wasn’t sure we could comfortably make it that far with adequate reserves as we were already at 1/2 tank mark on the fuel gauge.  I dumped our waste tanks, stowed the hoses, turned on the chassis batteries, opened the various air valves, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stored it.  We secured all of the bays and then hooked up the car for towing.  When Butch and Fonda were close to being ready we fired up the bus engine and checked the exterior lights.

We pulled out of the SKP Dream Catchers RV Park at 10 AM with our first stop planned for a Flying J Truck Stop about 60 miles west of Deming.  We had a good run on I-10 across the rest of New Mexico and into Arizona, exiting onto I-8 about 13 miles from the RoVer’s Roost RV Park.  The bus ran like it had a new engine.  The turbocharger was very responsive to the accelerator, producing more boost than I saw yesterday.  The engine had noticeably more power climbing grades, with the pyrometers reaching 850 – 900 degrees F and the engine coolant temperature reaching 195 – 200 degrees F.  Repairing the turbo boost sensor hose yesterday was clearly the right thing to do.

The scenery was beautiful and the largest city on our route was Tucson, which appeared to have a very nice downtown area.  The city was spread out for 30 miles from east to west and was not nearly as hectic as the drive through El Paso, Texas yesterday.  We arrived at RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP AT 3:15 PM MST with 3/4’s of a tank of fuel.

RoVer’s Roost is a very dense RV Park with closely spaced lots that are permanently assigned to co-op members and most of which were occupied.  The lots were all perpendicular to the long, straight, narrow roads.  All sites, including the boondocking area, were back-in which required us to unhook our cars.  The sites were also limited to a 40 foot long RV maximum, but many of them were “developed” in such a way that they would not accommodate a rig that long.  Registration took longer than it should have but eventually we were escorted to our site by a man in a golf cart who guided me as I backed into the site.  He had obviously done this many times and knew how to get a 40 foot motorhome into a tight space with limited room to turn so we were glad to have his assistance.

Once we were in our spot he escorted Butch and Fonda to their site and helped back them in.  Their bus developed an air problem after they pulled into the park, producing a squealing sound when Butch applied the parking breaks.  Butch had to bleed the pressure down to 30 PSI to get the noise to stop.  He re-pressurized the system and the noise did not reappear, so he put the Quadra Big Foot leveling jacks down.

I updated our recent locations in RVillage.  The four of us then went for a walk around the park to check it out and scope out our exit path.  We met a very nice lady resident who has painted a number of murals on storage sheds around the park and the ones we saw were very well done.  We returned to our coach and had dinner.  I had a TXT message from Chuck and called him after dinner to tell him about the turbo boost problem and solution.  We turned in early and watched a football game for a while before turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2014/12/12 (F) RR to Q

Today was our 13th day on the road since leaving home on November 30th.  We could easily have taken a month to do this repositioning, stopping along the way at more places for more nights and exploring each area, but we chose not to.  In part this was because we were caravanning with friends, and in part because we both had bus issues along the way and we were all anxious to just “get there.”

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

RoVer’s Roost has WiFi but we were not offered the use of it when we registered.  We had an excellent Verizon 4G/LTE signal, however, so I checked RVillage last night and realized that I had not updated our location since Alvarado, Texas.  In the span of just a few minutes I checked into Midland, Texas, the SKP Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, and finally the RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP in Casa Grande, Arizona.  I posted a comment about this and drew a comment about “…living in the fast lane” and several “likes.”  RVillage is not only useful, it’s fun.

The park home page showed 11 check-ins, so I perused the list and discovered that Forrest and Mary Clark were apparently here.  I say “apparently” because, like our situation, the information is only accurate if the person has kept it up to date.  I sent Forrest a message and he replied that they were, indeed, at the park and provided their site number.  I did not see the reply until this morning, however, so I messaged him back and said we would stop by before we pulled out.  Like us, they are also headed to “Q” for the first time this winter.

I was up by 6:30 AM and made a half pot of coffee.  We have not been making coffee in the morning and really miss it.  We enjoyed our Teeko’s Cafe Europe Blend while watching a gorgeous sunrise, the first of many we expect to see.  The temperature had dropped to 50 degrees F overnight from the high of 76 yesterday afternoon; warmer than normal for this time of year.  RoVer’s Roost has recycling bins, so Linda gathered up the various packaging materials she has been saving and walked them over to the bins along with the trash.  She likes to go for morning walks and has missed doing so while working on the software conversion project for the bakery since mid-September.

At 8 AM the house batteries were at 93% SOC.  The last time they were at 100% was at the end of our stay in Alvarado, Texas where we sat for three night plugged-in to “50 Amp” shorepower.  The Magnum ME-ARC remote was showing 116-120 VAC in, which more closely matched the main panel gauges than I have seen recently.  I obviously have some investigating to do (voltage measurements) and need to revisit the manuals for the 4024 inverter/charger and its add-on modules.  As with everything on this coach, there is no magic involved, just basic engineering principles.  The problem comes when there is inadequate documentation on the construction of the systems, including their principles of operation and their specific interconnections.  That’s when the detective work begins and I have to be particularly cautious about coming to premature conclusions regarding all of this.  It is better to admit that I do not understand how something works than to assume that I do and turn out to be wrong (not that that has ever happened).

In my chat with Chuck last night he suggested that I might want to eventually replace the turbo boost (manifold) sensor hose with a silicon one.  The two hottest places on the engine are the exhaust manifolds and the turbocharger and this hose connects to the latter.  He planned to check the hose on his coach, which is the same type and age as ours, first thing this morning.  His coach has more miles on it than ours (we think) so this hose is likely to be in bad shape on his coach too.  At some point I would like to have the radiator re-cored and that would be the time to replace ALL of the coolant hoses, and anything else on the engine that is made of rubber, with new silicon parts if possible, or at least with new rubber.

Along those same lines we were discussing air-powered accessories last night.  We do not use the bedroom pocket door and I will probably disconnect it or add a shutoff valve.  The waste tank dump valves are also air-powered and I may do the same thing to them.  That would leave the toilet and the shutters for the two front air-conditioner condensers as the only devices that needs air to work while we are parked.  We like the air flush toilet—it is fairly water efficient—and we would keep it if we could eliminate air leaks to the point that the auxiliary air-compressor only runs a few times a day.  The other downside to the toilet, however, are the difficulty and expense of getting spare parts.  We are considering replacing it with a standard gravity flush “RV style” toilet when we redo the water tanks, hopefully next year.  That would greatly reduce the need to run the auxiliary air-compressor while we are parked.  It does, however, also help maintain the air pressure in the suspension system.

We walked down to Forrest and Mary’s site at 8:30 AM and they came out to greet us.  Precision RV pulled up just as we got there.  They are affiliated with AM Solar in Oregon and are installing a solar electric system on Forrest and Mary’s Foretravel motorhome.  They wanted to see our bus so we all walked back to our site.  Butch walked up and joined us and we had a long chat.  Several folks walked by and were very friendly which help mitigate our first impressions of the place.

While we were standing there the man who parked us yesterday drove by in his golf cart and also stopped to chat.  He and his wife have been coming to RoVer’s Roost since 2004 and help manage the park.  With the co-op you obtain a leasehold on a specific lot which is then yours to use until you move to a different lot or sell your leasehold.  The lots are not deeded; your leasehold buys you a fractional ownership of the co-op.  Leaseholds are currently $8,500 with a $500 annual maintenance fee, and many leaseholders are full-timers; their RV is the only home they have.  Under $10K for a place to live plus $500 in association fees and metered electric is not bad.  In the last few years many of the original residents, who built the park, have given up their RV’s for assisted living or passed away.  At the present time there are a few lots available and, for the first time in the park’s history, there is no waiting list.  The hope is that a new generation of retirees will discover the Escapees RV Club and the Rainbow Parks and SKP co-ops.

RoVer’s Roost is an odd place when you first see it, a kind of “RV oasis” in the dessert.  It’s a compact, low-walled, compound surrounded by endless miles of nothing; no housing, no industry, not even agriculture.  It turns out that such places are not uncommon in the southwest but it got me wondering why it was built here and why it was built this way.  I presume the reason for the location had to do with climate, land costs, and the willingness of local, county, and state agencies to allow it.

We learned that some of the reasons RoVer’s Roost is built the way it is had to do with it being the first SKP CO-OP and when it was built.  Construction began in 1981 and Escapees RV Club Founders Joe and Kay Peterson helped build it with their own hands and had a lot there for a while.  RV’s over 35 feet long were rare in those days.  Although 40 foot highway buses existed, such as the Eagle, and some were already being converted into motorhomes, many conversions were based on the 35 foot Flxible and GMC buses.  Pull-behinds (trailers and 5th wheels) were rarely longer than 30 feet, although there were exceptions.  The size of the lots, the width of the roads, and the tightness of the turns all reflect the RV realities of the time and provide a living example of how difficult it is to see into the future.

Another reason, I presume, had to do with the costs associated with building RoVer’s Roost.  Even if the cost of the land was negligible, doubling the size of each lot would have at least doubled the cost of the infrastructure.  Roads, electrical wire, fresh water pipes, sewer lines, and the perimeter wall would all have involved at least double the material and the associated cost.  The visit to RoVer’s Roost reminded me that I need to carefully consider the historical context of something before I can hope to understand it.

We targeted 10 AM as our departure time, but there was no urgency to our leaving as we had less than 180 miles to get to our winter home in Quartzsite.  Butch discovered the digital dashboard on the Rand-McNally RVND 7710 last night and called to let me know how to access it.  I vaguely recalled that it was there, having been to several seminars on the unit, but I had not developed the habit of using it.  I decided I would try it out on this last leg of our journey to “Q.”  One of its features is the display of elevation.  On the downside, it does not display the current posted speed limit, which is shown on the map view.

We prepared the coach for travel and I fired up the engine at 10 AM.  Linda watched to make sure I did not hit anything as I pulled out.  Once I was out of our site (#77) I drove to the end of the street and around the corner to a spot where we could hookup the car, which Linda drove down and positioned behind the bus.  I shut off the engine while we hooked up as the park is posted as a “No Idle Zone.”  Several residents stopped to chat and all of them were very nice, wished us a safe journey, and invited us back.  After a less than 100% positive experience yesterday when we arrived and registered we were feeling very good about the park by the time we left.  That, however, did not change the fact that the park design is only marginally usable by a 40 foot highway bus, and not really a good choice for an overnight stay as they do not have any pull-through sites.

Butch and Fonda pulled out of their spot about 15 minutes after us and by 10:30 AM had their car hooked up and were ready to roll.  We pulled out in the lead and 1.5 miles later pulled back onto westbound I-8.  We exited I-8 34 miles later near Gila Bend and got on a connecting road leading to AZ-85.  We came to a split and were not sure where the GPS intended to take us as it told us to turn left which would have put us on AZ-85 southbound whereas the signs clearly showed that AZ-85 N to I-10 was a turn to the right.  Linda was double checking on her phone what we needed to do.  We went to the right and that turned out to be correct.

The 39 mile run up AZ-85 to I-10 was a 4-lane divided highway, although the road surface was a bit rough initially.  When we left I-10 for I-8 at Casa Grande yesterday the signage indicated that I-8/AZ-85 was the designated bypass route to get around Phoenix.  Once we rejoined I-10 westbound there was noticeably more traffic even though we were already 70 miles west of Phoenix.  The traffic eventually spaced out and we finished the 180 mile trip easily while enjoying the other-worldly scenery of the deep Southwest U. S.

We climbed over several small mountain ranges and stopped briefly at a rest area.  We climbed over one last mountain range, reaching an elevation of ~1,600 feet ASL (on the RVND 7710 dashboard display), and finally saw the valley where Quartzsite sits at the bottom nestled against the next mountain range to the west.  We then dropped 700 plus feet over the next 12 miles on a gradual but constant grade.  As we descended and neared Quartzsite we saw the first RV’s parked on the BLM land south of the highway, which was very exciting.

In spite of studying satellite images I did not have a good picture in my mind of what I was now seeing.  I did not expect the mountains to the east and west of town and I did not expect vegetation.  I thought this area would be a vast expanse of flat, barren, sun baked desert.  What lay before us was much nicer than that and we could see immediately why RVers have come here for years and returned year after year.

There are two exits for Q, one at either end of Main Street (B-10) which parallels I-10 on the north side.  We took the second (west most) exit as that is where the Pilot Truck Stop is located.  We both topped up our tanks and then pulled out of the way to disconnect our cars.  We had 5/8ths of a tank but I wanted to add biocide and top it off to eliminate as much air as possible.  With changes in temperature moisture in the air (in the fuel tank) can condense out.  Water in the fuel then contributes to the growth of algae.  I wanted to prevent that since we will be sitting for almost three months.  I will run our fuel polishing pump as well, but the biocide and full tank will really help prevent fuel problems.

Butch had already called Jim (Joe’s brother) and he drove over to escort us back to Joe and Connie’s property.  We made a little caravan with two buses and two cars following him there.  I really did not know what Quartzsite would be like.  My first impression was that it was a combination of the world’s largest RV rally with the world’s largest flea market.  There are RV’s everywhere, and stuff for sale everywhere else.  It is not an “upscale” place, but it is not trashy and rundown either.  It’s a little funky and a bit alternative, a kind of 1960s meets the old west vibe, and I think it will be a great home base for the winter.

Joe and Connie’s property is on a small side street in the NNW part of the city.  Butch pulled in first and I waited in the street while Jim got him backed into their spot facing due south.  Jim then directed me into a spot parallel to the fence on the north property line facing east, which is how I had hoped we would be parked.  It was much easier to get into than Butch and Fonda’s spot.  Fonda and Linda pulled the cars in and parked them after I was out of the way.  The property was smaller than I thought it would be from the satellite images, but large enough, and nicer looking than I expected as well.  There was one motorhome here already, an older Country Coach, and it turns out that they will be the only other rig here.  The owners had gone home for Christmas unexpectedly and will be back around January 1st.

We were pointing slightly up hill so I initially raised the rear end rather than drop the front.  To get level, however, I still needed to drop the front and the Level Low system once again failed to respond.  I checked the pneumatic solenoid valves in the bay under the driver’s seat but nothing seemed to be amiss.  I switched the selector valve in the cockpit between its various positions and the front finally responded.  I have replacement parts for one pneumatic solenoid valve but I am now wondering if the problem might be the selector switch?  I have not checked the maintenance manual but I presume this is a strictly electrical switch that determines which pneumatic solenoid valve the “up/down” rocker switch controls.  I presume the rocker switch is working correctly as it controls the left rear and right rear leveling valves and puts the suspension in driving mode without difficulty.

The easiest/cheapest fix is the pneumatic solenoid valve, unless that turns out not to be the problem.  The next easiest fix is probably replacing one or both Norgren valves in the bay because they are somewhat accessible.  I know the cost of those valves, so it is both a more expensive and more involved repair, especially if it turns out to be unnecessary.  I have no idea what the selector switch costs and it appears to be in a difficult location to service, but if that is the problem then that is what has to be repaired.  There are several possibilities besides the pneumatic solenoid valve.  It’s possible that the selector switch connections for controlling the front height control valve have become marginal and intermittent.  It’s also possible that the switch itself is failing and needs to be replaced.  Another possibility is the electrical connections at the solenoid.  Whatever it turns out to be it won’t be the first marginal/intermittent thing we have found on the bus.

I eventually got it leveled, and having the rear end raised and the front end lowered is not a bad thing as it makes it easier to get in/out of the front door and provides more clearance under the utility bay for the dump hose.  We will be in this spot for the next 12 months, except possibly for a few days in February to attend an informal gathering of a few members of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter at the Peg Leg Monument near Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California.  We will leave Quartzsite in early March for the Escapade rally in Tucson, Arizona.

Once I had the coach leveled I shut off the engine and went through my arrival routine.  When I went to connect the shorepower cord I discovered that we only had a “30 Amp” RV service.  A “30 Amp” service is just that; a single 120 VAC connection (line, neutral, ground) protected by a single pole 30 Amp circuit breaker (on the line).  A “50 Amp” RV service, by comparison, is two 120 VAC lines (180 degrees out of phase) with a shared neutral and a ground.  The two lines are protected by a 50 Amp double pole circuit breaker and are actually a 240 VAC, 50 Amp service.  However, in most RV’s each line (leg) is used as a 120 VAC, 50 Amp service in conjunction with the neutral, so a “50 Amp” RV connection is actually used as a 120 VAC, 100 Amp service.  That’s over three times the power of a “30 Amp” RV service.

We can manage on a 30 Amp service—we have before—especially if we do not have to run the air-conditioners.  Our air conditioners are not working at present anyway, but we do not expect to need them while we are here, so that will help.  We cannot use the Gaggenau cooktop, as it is a 240 VAC device, but that’s OK too.  Linda prefers to use the portable induction cooker anyway; it is more efficient and doesn’t heat up the coach.  Still, operating our coach on a 30 Amp service requires much more conscious management of our electrical usage and is thus a tad inconvenient.  On the other hand, our electricity is metered so we pay for what we use.  Having a 30 Amp service inherently limits how much electricity we can use.

Many (most) circuit breakers will only carry 80% of their rating on a continuous basis so we effectively have 24 Amps available to run things.  That’s not a lot of power for a large, “all electric” coach.  I adjusted the “AC Input” setting on the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger to 25 Amps before turning the power on.  The unit limits the amount of current it uses to charge the house batteries to a percentage of that setting.  Setting it to 25 Amps instead of 30 Amps gave us a bit more cushion to run other devices while the batteries were charging.  Once they are fully charged I will dial this back up to 30 Amps.

I joined Linda, Butch, Fonda, and Jim and introduced myself to Connie.  Joe and Connie own this place but Joe was not here today.  He ended up in the hospital being treated for a scorpion sting and is now recovering in a care facility for a week.  By his own admission he was careless; he took a pair of shoes out of a closet he had not worn in a year and put them on without checking to see if something had taken up residence therein.  Not being from the desert southwest this would not even have occurred to us.  We know there are snakes, scorpions, and other “things” here, but this scorpion was in their park model trailer living in a shoe in their closet just 60 feet from our bus.  That certainly served as a heads up for us.

After chatting for a while I finished hooking up the water softener to the water supply and the coach.  We had about 1/2 tank when we arrived and I brought the level up to 2/3rds.  Butch had some test strips so we used one to check the hardness of the water.  It showed 25 grains per gallon (gpg), the highest mineral content it could indicate.  Our portable water softener has a capacity in grains which determines how much water it can soften before it needs to be recharged.  A “1,000 grain” water softener will only treat 40 gallons of 25 grain hardness water (1,000 / 25 = 40) whereas it will treat 100 gallons of 10 grain hardness water (1,000 / 10 = 100).

Butch and Fonda have a 10,000 grain portable water softener but the information we got with ours did not include the grain capacity.  Our softener is similar in size to theirs so I can probably safely assume that it has at least a 7,500 grain capacity.  Given the hardness of the water here that means it can treat about 300 to 400 gallons before needing to be recharged.  Our fresh water tank holds approximately 125 gallons.  If we use most of the water before refilling it we will need to recharge the water softener after every third filling.

Recharging (regenerating) the water softener is simple and inexpensive but takes a little time.  The filter is removed from the housing and the housing filled with crushed salt.  Water is allowed to flow very slowly through the salt and then through the softener and onto the ground.  When the salt is gone the unit is recharged.  If this seems wasteful of water it is, in fact, how almost all water softeners work.  The advantages of softened water are worth the little bit of added water use, especially since we have an Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system that specifies the use of softened water for optimum performance and reduced maintenance.

Rain had been in the forecast all day and we finally started to get an occasional drop so I closed up the bay doors and went inside.  Once we were settled in Linda sent a TXT message to our children letting them know we had arrived.  She attached a photo she took on her camera of our coach in situ.  I took a few photos on mine and TXT’d one to Chuck to let him know we were finally here.  I then laid down on the sofa and took a nap.  I eventually woke up to the sounds and smells of dinner being prepared.  Linda made a very yummy crushed lentil curry and opened a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir.  It was a bit dry for my taste but she enjoyed it.  It’s a good life.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our "camp."  Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our “camp.” Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

Storm clouds gathered and shrouded the mountains to the west but all we got was light rain; nothing like the weather that swept through the Pacific coast from Los Angeles up into Oregon.  Not that far north of us Las Vegas, Nevada, got rain, ice, and snow.

After dinner Linda signed-in to RVillage and updated our location.  She indicated that we were not in an RV park as we are on private, non-commercial property that is not, and should not, be in the RVillage (AllStays) database.  I will check tomorrow to see if the website shows us other Villagers in and around the Q.

I checked the house batteries at 9:45 PM.  They were at 25.6 VDC drawing 0 Amps and showed “Full Charge” even though the BMK showed the SOC at 95%.  Like our stay in Alvarado I suspect the SOC will be back up to 100% in a couple of days.  I made note of the readings and headed to bed.  It was good to finally be here and we are looking forward to an interesting, pleasant, productive, and enjoyable winter.