Tag Archives: Katie Bortz

2015/07/09 (R) Graduation Celebration

My main focus this morning was my dentist appointment at 10:30 AM.  I wanted to leave the house at 9 AM so I had plenty of time to get there and actually left at 9:15.  Once I was on I-96 eastbound and clear of the construction at US-23 I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back to my call.  I-96 was very slow as I approached Wixom Road so I exited at Beck Road and dropped down onto Grand River Avenue (GRA).  I got off GRA at M-5 in Farmington Hills and took that to where it ended and rejoined GRA.  I continued to Telegraph Road and headed south.  My QSO with Steve lasted until there by which point there was too much noise and not enough signal for a pleasant conversation.  In spite of the change from my intended route I was still at the dentist’s office by 10:10 AM and they were able to take me in early.

On the way home I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Mike (W8XH) responded to the call.  As a result of differing weekend plans I decided to head to his QTH and pick up his climbing harness.  While I was there I took a few minutes to look at his reconfigured ham shack and his Canon EOS D7 Mark II DSLR.  To say that I am unhappy about Sony’s failure to release the alpha 99 II FF DSLT would be a gross understatement and I am not alone in the sentiment.

Back at the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  I then went to my office to continue working on the custom desk design for our bus.  But first I was taking care of e-mails when Williston Crossings RV Resort called back and said they had a spot for us for December.  We had not heard back from Suncoast Designers regarding an appointment to have a fogged window repaired so I called them.  They said they had replied to my e-mail letting us know that we were scheduled for December 7 but the e-mail had not come through, so I need to check the spam filter.

Linda called back and accepted the spot at Williston starting December 1st.  We will have to leave for one to three days to have the window taken care of and we will depart on the 26th for the Arcadia Bus Rally but the monthly rate will still be cheaper than paying for three weeks at the weekly rate.  Besides, they did not have a two or three week opening.

I did get a couple of hours of work done on the desk design and then had to quit.  A month ago our elder grand-daughter, Katie, missed her high school graduation due to a sudden illness.  Meghan and Chris (Katie’s dad) made reservations at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for 5:45 PM today and we gathered to celebrate this milestone in Katie’s life.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline also joined us and we all enjoyed quizzing (and teasing) Katie about her upcoming college experience at Northern Michigan University where she plans to major in Wildlife and Fisheries within the larger biology program.

Linda and I had the black bean burger with fresh, hand-cut fries.  Although it was tasty, and vegan, it did not have any binders and completely fell apart when I tried to assemble it as a sandwich.  We ordered them on sourdough bread as the buns had an egg wash.  Zingerman’s has excellent bread, but it is the rustic style with crusts that are so tough you cannot cut them with a knife (or a chainsaw).  Thus the “burger” was difficult to eat even as an open faced sandwich and was basically a messy pile of “stuff” on my plate.  Linda seemed to enjoy hers but I regretted ordering it even though I ate the whole thing.  I did, however, have a glass of Schramm’s Raspberry Mead made by my friend, and former colleague, Ken Schramm.  It was excellent.  The hand-cut fries were also good and the waitress was delightful, which is always a plus.

Back home I worked for a couple more hours in my office and then worked on this post.  I put my new N.T.I. dental appliance on my lower front teeth just before going to bed.  It obviously felt a little strange but did not keep me from falling asleep.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/05/10 (N) Mother’s Day

The dinette in our Prevost H3-40 before removal.

The dinette in our Prevost H3-40 before removal.

Our son invited us to their house in Ann Arbor for Mother’s Day brunch.  We arrived at 10 AM and Madeline was very excited to see us.  Besides Shawna and Madeline, Meghan, Chris, and Katie arrived shortly after us.  After some coffee and initial visiting we started the meal with grapefruit juice and champagne cocktails.  Meghan made three kinds of vegan scones and Brendan and Shawna made granola and fruit salad.  It all made for a very tasty brunch.  Katie had to leave for work but was able to stay long enough to enjoy brunch.  Brendan and I stayed at the house to chat while everyone else went for a walk.  By the time they got back Madeline was ready for her 1 PM nap, right on schedule.

HVAC grills removed from front of J-lounge (L) and dinette (R) in our bus.

HVAC grills removed from front of J-lounge (L) and dinette (R) in our bus.

After Meghan and Chris left Shawna needed to run to a local market to pick up a few things for dinner with friends who were coming over later.  They are going to need another vehicle and we potentially have one to spare.  They have kept Linda’s Honda Civic at their house the last two winters while we traveled, so they are very familiar with that car.  Shawna had never driven a Honda Element, or even ridden in one, so she drove our car and Linda went with her.  When they got back from the market we visited a while longer.

OTR HVAC duct and Aqua-Hot fan-coil unit.  These were under the  dinette in our bus.

OTR HVAC duct and Aqua-Hot fan-coil unit. These were under the dinette in our bus.

We left at 3 PM and stopped at Whole Foods Market for a few items.  We had seen the 2009 Egri Merlot at Whole Foods in the past but the vintage they are now receiving is 2013.  There is no guarantee it will taste anything like the 2009, but it was already on sale and we got an additional 10% discount on six or more bottles so that is how many we bought.  We have lots of other wines in the wine fridge so these bottles may get to age a little before we drink them.

Forward end of passenger side sofa with end panel, footrest, table, and drawer removed.  The footrest, table, and drawer were all motorized.

Forward end of passenger side sofa with end panel, footrest, table, and drawer removed. The footrest, table, and drawer were all motorized.

Back at the house we had a light supper and slices of the 6-inch multi-layer cookies and cream vegan cake we got at Whole Foods as the final Mother’s Day treat.  I had a long, late evening phone chat with Butch about dual-orbital polishers and bus barns before turning in for the night.


2015/04/21-25 (T-S) IN, MI, Home

2015/04/21 (T) Back to Twelve Mile, IN

The outside air temperature dropped into the 30’s (F) last night and the air temperature in the coach fell to 60, so when I got up this morning I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system to take the chill off.  We eventually got up, got dressed, and walked across to Small Town Brew to get a couple of cups of coffee and chat with owner Lisa Paul and her friend/neighbor, Ashley, who helps her run the coffee shop.  Both of them remembered both of us, which was nice.

It’s interesting sitting in a small town coffee shop, where everyone is a friend or relative, and just listening to the conversation.  We are outsiders her, of course, strangers to most of the folks who drop in, but everyone is nice to us.  Some are curious about who we are, and where we are from, but rarely ask why we are there, in this little coffee shop in this little town, surrounded by corn fields.  Of course, we usually mention that we are friends of Butch and Fonda, so that probably answers whatever questions they may have had.

We eventually returned to our coach and had breakfast.  We tried connecting our WiFiRanger to Butch and Fonda’s Wi-Fi router yesterday and it was able to connect and obtain an IP address but the data transfer rate was so slow that web pages would not load and e-mail would not download before timing out.  I turned our Verizon Mi-Fi on and we had a very weak but usable signal, so I connected the WFR to the Mi-Fi and we were able to do the few things we needed to do online.  We then went in the house to let Butch and Fonda know we were awake and see what they were up to.

Butch’s brother, John, and his nephew, Brock, showed up and helped Butch with the driver side front wheel assembly on Butch and Fonda’s MC-9 bus.  The tire/wheel was off when we arrived yesterday and I learned that Butch is replacing the hub bearings and seals, installing an automatic slack adjuster for the brake, and replacing the brake pads.  It looked like quite a job with some large, heavy parts, so I did my part by staying out of the way.  I also took a few pictures at Butch’s suggestion.  He does not want to write articles for Bus Conversion Magazine, but he has been interested in having me write articles about projects on his bus.

Linda spent some time working with Fonda’s new sewing machine that she got while they were in Quartzsite, Arizona.  It is a little smaller than a regular sewing machine, only weighs 13 pounds, and only cost about $130.  Linda gave her sewing machine to her sister many years ago but now that she is retired she is thinking that it might be nice to have one for mending tasks or projects, such as new privacy curtains for the bus.

Butch got a catalog recently from Crimp Supply in Royal Oak, Michigan, which is not at far from our house.  I glanced through it last night and it contains a lot of specialized parts that would be useful to a ham radio hobbyist or someone converting a bus into a motorhome.  I called and requested a catalog and had a nice chat with Debbie.  She was willing to provide me with additional catalogs that I can give to members of GLCC and CCO at the Back-to-the-Bricks and/or Surplus & Salvage per allies in August and September respectively.  She was also willing to show up in person and give a brief presentation on her company and hand out the catalogs.  Cool.

Brock had to leave after which Butch and John decided to go to the shooting range along with a third guy whose name I did not get.  I went along to see the range and watch what they were doing.  Butch had home-brewed some shotgun shells for his Ruger revolver and wanted to test them.  They caused the revolving chamber to jam so they will require some additional work.  John had a new semi-automatic pistol and wanted to see how it handled.  He also had ammunition he had loaded with bullets he had cast and wanted to test fire them.

I was offered the opportunity to shoot but declined.  I have never handled a pistol and it would have been a waste of good ammunition.  I did take a class in rifle marksmanship while I was at the University of Missouri – Columbia many years ago.  I was in the Air Force R.O.T.C. Program at the time and thought I should know something about how to handle a firearm.  Learning to handle a pistol correctly would have been more relevant, but I do not recall a course being offered for that.  I bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle at that time, and I still have it.  It’s a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle designed to look like an M-1 carbine and features a 10-round rotary clip that is flush to the bottom of the stock when inserted.  I was only interested in shooting at paper targets so I added a scope to it.  It is safely tucked away with a trigger lock on it, but I have not fired it in many, many years.  I should probably bring it to Twelve Mile the next time we come down, let Butch inspect and clean it properly, and take it to the range just for grins and giggles.

John and the other guy went back to Logansport from the range.  When Butch and I got back to the house he continued working on the driver side front wheel of their bus.  I helped a little, but mostly by taking photographs for a possible future article.  After putting tools and parts away we sat and relaxed for a while and then all of us went to Logansport for dinner at Pizza Hut.  It was 8:45 PM by the time we got back so everyone said “good night” and turned in for the evening.

2015/04/22 (W) Chillin’ in Twelve Mile

Yesterday looked and felt more like winter than spring with gray, cloudy skies and blustery, cold winds.  The temperature overnight dropped into the mid-30s but we were toasty warm under blankets with our electric heating pad turned on.  I got up at 7:30 AM and turned on the thermostats.  The temperature in the kitchen was reading 63 degrees F but the temperature by the dashboard was only 53.  The Aqua-Hot has performed very well since I rebuilt the blower bearings and quickly brought the temperature in the coach up to 70 degrees F.

We put on our sweats and walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whomever else might be there.  Three local guys were enjoying their morning brew when we arrived.  They eventually left and were replaced by others.  Most of the patrons seemed to be retired or semi-retired farmers.  One fellow, Lee, chatted with us at length about a canvas covered hoop barn he put up.  It was constructed using laminated wood hoops rather than steel, was 30′ wide by 70′ long and cost about $4,000 15 years ago, although I was not clear whether that included the 4-foot high poured concrete walls.  He already owned concrete forms and the heavy equipment that one finds on farms, so he was able to do a lot of the work himself without renting equipment or hiring contractors.  Still, it has to be the lowest cost way to create a structure for getting our bus out of the weather and out of sight.  It is unknown, however, whether the Township and County would let us to put it up.

Butch left at 8:30 AM for medical appointments in Logansport and Fonda came over at 10:45 AM to gather up Linda for a girl’s day out.  Linda wanted to go to McClure’s Apple Orchard on US-31 between IN-16 and US-24.  Although it is very close to Twelve Mile Fonda had never been there.  They were then headed to Peru.  Although it is the same distance from Twelve Mile as Logansport and Rochester it is the city that Butch and Fonda visit the least.  Peru’s claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Cole Porter and Emmet Kelly and was the winter home of several circuses many, many years ago.  I believe there is a circus museum there that Nick Russell wrote about in the Gypsy Journal.

With no bus project or social interactions I settled in to work on my blog and await everyone’s return.  It started out sunny this morning but by 11 AM was thickly clouded over and looking wintery with blustery winds.  The only bus project I had in mind to do today was to pull out the chassis batter tray, check the circuit breakers, disconnect the batteries, swap the upper 12 V pair with the lower 12 V pair and reconnect them.  It was not something I wanted to do alone and I did not have to do it today, especially under cool, windy, overcast conditions, so I ended up not doing it.

Linda and Fonda eventually returned, having first gone to the Walmart in Logansport.  Linda picked up some hummus and Snyder’s sourdough pretzels so we snacked on those for lunch.  Linda then hung out with Fonda while I continued to work in blog posts.  Butch finally returned from his medical appointments and busied himself with something.  Whatever it was, he was not outside working on their bus and neither was I.  I managed to get the post for April 1 – 3, 2015 uploaded to our blog.

Linda and Fonda developed a plan for dinner.  Fonda made a nice salad and baked a loaf of par-baked bread that we got from Marilyn.  Linda made black beans and rice and prepared a mix of fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert.  Linda and I each had a glass of Franzia Red Sangria.  After taking all of dirty serving containers back to our coach we returned to the house to visit a bit longer and finally returned to our coach just after 9 PM.  That left me enough time to pull together the posts for April 4 – 6 and upload it before turning in for the night.

2015/04/23 (R) Return to Michigan

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7 and put on my sweats.  The Aqua-Hot was already on so I turned up the thermostats and turned on the engine pre-heat loop.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater and pointed it into the cockpit as the temperature on the dashboard was only 50 degrees F.  I walked over to Small Town Brew, got a cup of coffee, and said “so long for now” to owner Lisa Paul.  Linda was still asleep when I got back so I fixed a couple slices of toast for my breakfast, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and settled in to take care of a few e-mails.  Linda finally got up and, as I suspected, had not slept well last night.  She had some toast and orange juice but had no interest in coffee, a strong indicator of just how tired she was and not feeling completely well.

When she was done with the toaster I turned the cube heater off and turned the electric block heater on.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to drop into the upper 20’s and starting the big Detroit Diesel at that temperature is hard on the engine so I wanted it nice and warm before I cranked it over.

Butch had an appointment with an ophthalmologist in Indianapolis around noon and had some other things to do down that way as long as they were there so he and Fonda planned to leave by 9 AM.  He came to our bus just before 9 AM to let us know they were close to leaving and that he put an air hose out by the automotive bay so I could fill the front tires on the bus if needed.  Based on the readings from our TireTraker TPMS, however, no adjustment was needed.

We planned to leave sometime after they did but not later than 10 AM.  The main reason for not leaving sooner was to give us time to digest our breakfast, but the other reason was our relatively short drive today to Camp Turkeyville, an RV park on I-69 just north of I-94.  This will be the first time I have been in Michigan, which I certainly consider home, since we left on November 30, 2014.  Turkeyville is only 80 miles from our house, but we will have a full hookup site so we can dump our waste tanks tomorrow morning and not need to use them on the final short drive to the house.

We started getting ready to leave around 9:45 AM.  I shut off the block heater, put Butch’s air hose away, and then took care of the chassis batteries, auxiliary air, and shorepower.  The DD fired right up and I switched it to high idle while it built air pressure.  As soon as the chassis was at ride height and the air dryer purged I pulled onto IN-16 pointing eastbound and pulled into the curb/parking lane.  That was around 10 AM.  I left the engine idling while Linda pulled the car up behind the bus.  By the time we hooked up the car for towing, checked the lights, and pulled away it was closer to 10:20.  I noted that the time was 10:30 AM EDT as we pulled onto US-31 N from IN-16 E.

Traffic was light and we had an easy run up US-31 to US-20 except for the 15-20 MPH crosswind from the WNW.  I also had a very cold breeze blowing into the cockpit by my feet and had to turn the heat up to stay comfortable.  We were an hour into our trip when I finally realized that I had not opened the air supply valve for the shutters on the two front house air-conditioner condensers which are installed in what is normally the spare tire bay.  Those shutters are held open by a spring and held closed by air pressure.  When they are open air can easily find its way into the cockpit.  There is also a mechanical damper that is supposed to regulate fresh air flow to the cockpit, or cut it off completely, but the flexible actuator cable broke some time ago and the damper/cable are difficult to access so it has not been repaired.  Either the cable broke with the damper in the closed position or I taped some sort of cover over the air inlet once upon a time because once I closed the shutters for the A-C compressors I no longer had cold air coming in by my feet.

Traffic was heavier on US-20 eastbound but it always is as it runs just south of South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, and a bit north of Goshen.  It is still a limited access highway until east of Elkhart, so it moved along up to that point.  There was one stretch between there and Middlebury where major construction was taking place, but we got through that easily enough.  After that it was a nice, rolling, 2-lane highway and we rolled along at 55 MPH except for the occasional town on intersection.  We always enjoy driving through this part of Indiana.

We turned off of US-20 onto I-69 N, crossed into Michigan at 12:53 PM EDT, and pulled into the Michigan Welcome Center five minutes later.  We only had 37 more miles to our destination but we both needed a short stretch break and I wanted to open the air valve for the A-C shutters, which is in the bay under the driver’s seat.  We resumed our trip and exited I-69 at exit 42 around 1:45 PM, crossed over the highway, and traveled the 500 yards to the Camp Turkeyville entrance.  We followed the long, wide, winding entrance road and stopped at the office where Linda got us registered.  They put us in a 50A full hookup pull-through site with easy access that was long enough for us to leave the car hooked up for towing.

We went through our usual arrival routine and then Linda fixed a light lunch of French Country Vegetable Soup and a tofu hotdog on pita bread with mustard and relish.  She also made a pot of coffee.  We connected our WiFiRanger to the RV Park Wi-Fi system but did not seem to be able to move any data so we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it.

Linda spent the afternoon reading a book on her iPad and I mostly worked on my blog post for April 7, 8, and 9.  I had 14 photos for that post but inserted them into the post rather than put them in a WP image gallery.  I logged into our personal WordPress site, installed WordPress 4.2, and then installed updates to plugins and themes.  Once that was done I uploaded the blog post and uploaded/captioned/inserted the photos and generated the tags.  I clicked the “Publish” button about 7:10 PM.

Linda put dinner on the table about 10 after I finished working.  She made a nice tofu scramble, a dish that vaguely resembles scrambled eggs, and served it with toast and jam, a small glass of juice, and black seedless grapes.

I thought about working on my blog post for April 10th, as it is the last one for which I have photos, but I was too tired to get involved in that tonight.  We pointed our front OTA TV towards Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, found the local CBS station, and watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory and whatever else was one.  We caught some local weather and decided to enable the diesel burner on the Aqua-Hot, turn the thermostats on, and set the temperatures for 60 degrees F.  The overnight low temperature was forecast to be 27 and it was already 29 when we went to bed.  Welcome to Michigan in late April.

2015/04/24 (F) Touchdown

I awoke at 6:30 AM to an outside temperature of 27 degrees F.  Our coach has several ways it can be heated if we are plugged into adequate electrical power, including three electric toe-kick heaters.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and electric heating element last night before going to bed and left the living room and bathroom thermostats turned on with the temperature dialed back to just under 60 degrees.  I also turned on the Broan cube heater, dialed back the thermostat, and set in on the step to blow into the cockpit.

I got up at 7:15 AM and put on my sweats. It was 60 degrees F on the kitchen counter, but the refrigerator adds some heat mid-coach.  The thermometer on the dashboard read 53.  I turned the thermostats up to 68 and turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  I also turned on the front electric toe-kick heater.  I made coffee and then turned on the electric block heater for the engine.  I checked e-mail and monitored our amperage while I waited for the coach to warm up and for Linda to get up.  We were drawing about 30 A on Leg 1 and 20 A on Leg 2.  On a true “50 A” RV electrical service with a main circuit breaker that functions correctly we can safely draw 40 Amps on each leg, so our usage was not going to trip any breakers.

By 10 AM the temperature was up to 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and it’s was delightfully cozy in the rig.  I got a call from Michele Henry at Phoenix Paint in response to an e-mail I sent her yesterday and talked to her for 15 minutes.  We had planned on a 10:30 AM departure but by the time I connected the sewer hose, dumped the waste tanks, and put the hose away it was 10:45.  We had the bus and car ready to travel by 11AM and pulled out of our site.  We had to wait for a few minutes until someone moved a 5th wheel which they had temporarily parked in the middle of a two-way road while waiting to get into their site.  We finally made our way out of Camp Turkeyville and pulled onto I-69 N at 11:13 AM.

We had an easy run to our house and our wheels “touched down” on our driveway at 12:45 PM.  Even the dirt roads for the last two miles of our trip were in reasonably good shape, which made for a nicer homecoming.  We opened the house, put the cats in their carriers, and took them inside.  I got the bus plugged in and the air shut off while Linda put the batteries back in the water softener and sanitizer and turned the well pump on.  I turned the gas back on for the kitchen and fireplace and then set all of the thermostats up to 65 degrees F.  We unloaded a few things from the bus and then had lunch, after which I sent text messages to both of our children and to Chuck Spera to let them know we were home.

After lunch we unhooked the car from the bus and continued unloading the bus but did not get everything taken off.  I was tired and took a long nap, only getting up when Linda told me it was time for dinner.  We had a Daiya Mushroom and Garlic pizza.  We have used Daiya vegan cheese for a while but did not know they made pizza products until we saw them at the Dierbergs Market in Edwardsville, Illinois.  It had a thin, crispy, rice flour crust (gluten-free), lots of garlic and cheese (of course), and was very tasty.  I wish we could buy them near our house.

After dinner I called Butch to let him know we made it home safe and without any new or reoccurring bus issues.  He had reassembled the driver side steer wheel and discovered that the new brake drums he got from MCI some time ago are the wrong ones, so he is going to have to track down the correct ones next week.

2015/04/25 (S) Return to Regular

Do you remember when OTA TV stations used to break in to programs with special news bulletins or emergency alert tests?  At the conclusion of such interruptions the announcer would say “we now return you to your regular programming.”  Having spent most of 61 years living in stationary dwellings we still consider being back at our house to be the baseline for our regular lives.  The last two years, however, we have spent half of the year, more or less, living in our converted motorcoach.  That fact, combined with the fact that we moved to a new-to-us house just before we started our extended traveling, has altered our perception of what constitutes “regular.”  All we know for sure is that living this dual lifestyle is our new normal and we like it.

Whether living at home or in the bus we have routines.  Part of our “at home” routine is Saturday morning breakfast with our friends from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) and that is how we started our day.  We took our usual route to South Lyon and were surprised by the extent of the construction work at the I-96 and US-23 interchange.  We knew this interchange was scheduled to be rebuilt starting this year but as of March 1st, when Linda last drove through there, work had not started.  A lot has happened since then, and from the look of things this is going to be a BIG project.

There were a LOT of people at breakfast, 24 by Linda’s count.  It was good to see our friends and ease back into ham radio talk.  The club president, Harvey Carter (AC8NO), had the personalized club jackets we ordered from Sunset Sportswear in South Lyon over the winter so we got those from him after we were all done eating.  The jackets are dark blue with fleece lining and yellow embroidery that looks very sharp.  The left breast says “South Lyon Area” on top and “Amateur Radio Club” underneath.  On the right breast is our first name (in script) on top and our call sign underneath in block letters.

We stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home to pick up a gift for grand-daughter Katie and found two books that we thought would interest her.  One was on rocks and gems and the other was on snakes, both of which are interesting to Katie.  Both are also an integral part of the desert southwest where we spent the winter.

When we got home I set about the tasks of moving various pieces of technology from the entrance foyer to my basement ham shack/office, reconnecting it to power and our network, and starting it up.  I started up our Linux box but the video driver would not “catch” so I shut it down and restarted it in Windows 2000 Pro, updated the es|et nod32 anti-virus database, and installed three Microsoft updates.  I checked e-mail on my primary laptop, responded to a couple, and then installed updates on all of the websites I manage.  WordPress just released version 4.2 and each new release triggers a flurry of plug-in and theme updates.

Our daughter, Meghan, had arranged for us to come over mid-afternoon to visit and have dinner without the bother and fuss of fixing a big meal.  Minn, the female cat, hid immediately but Inches, the male cat, hung around for a while.  Grand-daughter Katie is working at Pizza House in Ann Arbor where he dad, Chris, has been the general manager for a long time, but she got off work and arrived just after us followed by Chris, who had run out to pick up dinner at Seva.

Our son, Brendan, daughter-in-law Shawna, and grand-daughter Madeline showed up a little later, and Inches promptly disappeared.  Madeline is very sweet and interacts with her two kitties, Gus and Iggy, just fine but our cats, and Meghan’s/Chris’s cats, disappear whenever she comes to visit.  They are just not used to the size, motions, and sounds of a 28 month old.

Seva is a vegetarian restaurant that has been a staple of the Ann Arbor restaurant scene for many years but recently moved out of downtown to a location on the far west side of Ann Arbor.  While not just around the corner from Chris and Meghan’s house it is much closer, and easier to get to, than driving into downtown.  Many of their menu items are vegan, or can be made vegan, and that is mostly what they ordered.  We had a nice visit with excellent appetizers and main dishes, a dozen choices in all, and a nice Riesling wine from Washington State.

After appetizers we distributed the gifts we had picked up for everyone.  Besides Katie’s books Madeline got a “Dr. Seuss” book about deserts and a t-shirt from Marilyn with a design on the front that changes color in the sunlight. Both of our children, who kept an eye on our house for us over the winter and took in our mail, got the following:  A bottle of Red Chile Wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico; a bouquet of pequin chiles from Hatch Chile Sales in Hatch, New Mexico; a box of Prickly Pear Cactus jellied candies and a jar of Prickly Pear Cactus jelly from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona; a bag of Green Chile Pistachios from Eagle Ranch (Heart of the Desert) in Alamogordo, New Mexico; a two box set of olive oil and peach balsamic vinegar glaze from Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona; and a non-stick grilling mat from the “Big Tent” RV Show in Quartzsite, Arizona.  We appreciate what they do when we are away which would be more complicated for us without their assistance.

We enjoy looking for gifts that are unique to the areas we visit and tend to limit ourselves to items that are consumable so no one has to find room to store or display something, at least not for very long.  We saw many wonderful art and craft objects this winter but they present a special challenge beyond simply getting them home.  We are no longer collecting “things,” as we already cannot display or store the stuff we have, and our children are in somewhat the same situation (which is why we still have a lot of stuff instead of them having it).

Then there is the matter of taste.  Both children have their own taste in art and have carefully arranged items for display on their walls and shelves.  As much as we might like something, and think someone else might like it, buying art for other people is fraught with peril because there is an implied expectation that it will be displayed.  If it is displayed but the recipient does do not like it then the gift is intrusive.  If it is not displayed the giver is disappointed and potentially offended.  Better to stay clear of all that by avoiding surprise gifts.  The exception is if we know they are looking for something in particular and we come across one.  In that case it is a simple matter to take a photo with one of our smartphones and message them to see if they want it, making it clear that “no” is an acceptable answer.

Madeline goes to bed at 8 PM so she left (with her parents) at 7 PM.  Both Minn and Inches came out shortly thereafter to have a bite to eat and get the attention they had missed for the last four hours,  We stuck around for another hour which gave us just enough time to get home before it got really dark.  Brendan and Shawna had kept/used Linda’s Honda Civic all winter. They came in two cars and went home in one so that Linda could get the Civic back to our house.  There is a chance that she will have to go into the bakery a day or two this week and I do not like be without transportation, especially when we have a lot going on.

We sat in the living room for an hour reading and relaxing with our favorite iPad apps/games but without the benefit of our natural gas fireplace logs.  I lit them when we got home and they operated for about 60 seconds and then shut off and would not relight.  I turned the pilot flame off and will deal with that tomorrow.  I went to bed, read for a while longer, and then went to sleep.


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

2015/02/01 (N) Hola February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A typical sunset in Quartzsite, Arizona.

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

2015/02/02 (M) Market Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/04 (W) 63 and Counting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/02/05 (R) A Screwy Tire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/12/21-25 (N-R) The Holidays Arrive

2014/12/21 (N) Winter Solstice

Linda was reading an interesting tidbit online this morning about the winter solstice, which occurs today in the northern hemisphere.  It usually occurs on the 21st, like today, but occasionally slips into the 22nd.  While it is the day of the year with the least hours of sunlight (between sun up to sun down) it is not the day with the latest sunrise (which occurred a couple of weeks ago) or the earliest sunset (which does not occur for a couple of more weeks).  Why is that?  Axial tilt, elliptical orbits, and a “day” that is not exactly 24 hours.  Science is fun.

Today was a stay-at-home / stay-in-town day for us.  Linda vacuumed the coach and mopped the floor tiles.  She says she likes to do this once a week to keep the cat hair under control.  By “likes” I think she means “needs.”  She also decided to do the laundry.  When we are at our house the laundry is usually my chore but for some reason, to which I am not privy, she takes over this chore when we are living in the RV, at least initially.  The same thing happened last year at Williston Crossings RV Resort, although we eventually both did laundry until I was able to win back my rightful chore.  So far again this year it has been her self-selected task here at Quartzsite and I have not gone out of my way to reclaim my rightful place as master of the laundry.

What I did instead of laundry was spend the morning finishing our 2014 Year-in-Review holiday letter.  Linda proof read it and then I converted it to PDF and did a final check of the layout to make sure the text and photos had not shifted or been clipped.  I copied it to a flash drive so we can take it someplace in Blythe tomorrow and have it printed.

The other day I noticed that the manifold pressure sensor (turbo boost) on Butch and Fonda’s 6v92 was mounted vertically on the front passenger side of the ECM.  I could not see exactly how it was mounted, however, so today I finally looked it up in the DD 92 Series manual.  I did not attempt to reattach our sensor module today but I was curious to see what would be involved.  I also continued to interact with other Prevost owners on the Prevost Community forum regarding the turbo boost issues and the dashboard gauge, which does not have the correct scale for our engine.  That thread has led to a dialogue about the SilverLeaf systems, including the VMSpc that we have, and an alternative system from RV Tech Tools that uses an iPad app named “RV Dash” and a wireless (WiFi) interface named “CANpod” from Cubix Labs.

With our various chores done we had a light lunch of chickpea salad on a bed of mixed greens and then went for a long walk.  The walk took us down Washington Ave. and then over to Kitsap Ave. to see a gorgeous Adobe house that Linda had discovered on a previous walk.  That led us to the backside of the west-central “vendor” (flea market) area on the north side of Main St.  We are not collectors, and we are not into antiques, guns, rocks, jewelry, or junk, so we saw very little that interested us.  We did see a few pieces of Pyrex, which our daughter and son-in-law were collecting at one time, and I am always on the lookout for a good deal on a tool I can’t live without, but mostly we saw endless quantities of stuff that we could not fathom anyone buying.

We crossed Main Street and visited the Tyson’s Well Stagecoach Stop Museum.  The grounds and building were open, admission was free, and it was unattended.  There were items for sale and if we had wanted something we would have put the money in the collection box.  That’s small town.

We headed east on Main Street and crossed back to the north side using the crosswalk at AZ-95 (Central Ave.).  We then continued east and stopped at the Road Runner Market.  We were pleased to find that they had a small but good selection of fresh produce.  On our way out the door the florist gave Linda a red and white carnation.  We will definitely be doing some of our local grocery shopping there.  We knew there was a restaurant/bakery on the far east end of Main Street so we kept on walking.  Sweet Darlene’s looked like a nice local place for a home-cooked style meal, but did not have anything on the menu we could eat.  The bakery turned out to be a small display case with pies and sweet rolls, but they did not make their own bread, so we won’t have any reason to come back.

By this time it was getting to be late afternoon, the cloud layer had thickened, and it was getting a bit chilly so we headed back towards Central Avenue.  We counted laundromats along the way, and passed at least four before getting back to our coach.  Not that we need a laundromat—we have a laundry where we are staying—but with all of the boondockers in and around Q it is a matter of some curiosity to us how/where they take care of things like this.  By the time we got back to our coach we had walked just over five miles.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

By 5:15 PM the sun had slipped just below the mountains to our southwest and the sky started to glow pink for 360 degrees around us.  The sunset went on for over 30 minutes, the pinks deepening to reds.  And then, just like that, the color was gone and darkness enveloped the valley.

For dinner Linda made a simple green salad with raisins and peanuts.  She then heated up some vegan re-fried beans, pan-grilled a package of fajita vegetables she got from Connie before they left, and then heated two tortillas.  We each made a tasty roll up, adding some salsa and vegan sour cream.  She washed some black seedless grapes and set them out for desert.  They were very refreshing after the somewhat heavier and spicy main course.

2024/12/22 (M) Compressed

We had planned on driving to Blythe, California today but those plans changed fairly early in the morning.  Butch got an update that his air-compressor was on a UPS truck in Blythe and scheduled for delivery today.  I had promised to help him with the installation and provide a few tools he did not have with him so we decided to stick around camp.  We were also waiting for Connie’s realtor, Carolyn, to come by and pick up two yellow Post Office slips.

Linda took her morning walk after breakfast while I downloaded the October and November issues of Bus Conversion Magazine in both standard- and high-definition.  I was really glad to finally see these issues.  The October issue included my article on our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II Centrifugal By-pass Oil Cleaner project.  That was my one remaining article waiting to be published.  I have at least a half dozen in process, at least that many more for which I have taken photos (and written blog posts), and a very long list of future projects, so it’s time to get the next batch of articles ready to submit.

When Linda got back I drove to the print/copy/fax/pack/ship/etc. store on east Main Street to see if they could print our holiday letter.  They had plain 8.5×14 white paper, and the photos looked OK, but it was going to cost $4 per letter ($2/side) so I paid for the one copy and left.  They suggested that I try Weeks Printing in Blythe (20 miles west) or Staples in Lake Havasu City (70+ miles north).  Since we will likely head to Blythe tomorrow we will check out Weeks first.

As long as I was out I stopped at Barry’s Breads and bought a couple of fresh “rolls” which were really small loaves of bread.  Barry runs a little seasonal bakery out of a temporary vendor stand on the northeast corner of Central Avenue (US-95) and Kuehn Street.  Most of his products have butter or cream cheese as ingredients—his Danish pastries are as big around as a dinner plate—but he does make just plain bread and everything is made fresh daily.  Back in camp Linda called Weeks Printing and they quoted $1.25 for each 2-sided letter.  Much better.  We will check them out when we make it to Blythe; probably tomorrow.

For lunch Linda made a batch of her scrumptious chickpea salad/spread and served it on one of the rolls I bought at Barry’s.  After a week of cloudy skies, cool temperatures, and a little rain we finally had a day with clear, sunny skies and the high temperature up into the 70s.  Butch decided to remove his defective air-compressor and there wasn’t anything we could do to help (or stop him) so we decided to clean some more of our coach exterior.  I wanted to work from the top down, which meant starting with the roof.  That, in turn, meant getting out the Little Giant convertible extension/step ladder and setting it up as a 14 foot extension ladder.  In this configuration it extends beyond the top edge of the roof at the front, making it safer for me to get up on the lower roof area from the driver’s side.

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

The roof was very dirty and it appeared that we might have more than just embedded dirt to deal with.  The roof has a sprayed-on ceramic-infused white coating with a surface akin to medium grit sandpaper.  It reflects sunlight and provides a nice nap for walking on, but also traps dirt.  The last time the roof was cleaned was in early April, just before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort.  I had been on the roof subsequent to that, in our pull-through driveway at home, using it as a platform for trimming tree limbs.  I do not recall it being unusually dirty at that time, but I was focused on other things.  If it had been, I probably would have washed it, but maybe not; I was focused on other things.

I used a little bit of Dawn dish soap in several gallons of water and our soft, long handle, brush to try and scrub it clean and then rinsed it with softened water.  It was better by the time I was done but far from 100% clean.  I also scrubbed all of the metal awning covers and then hosed them off and rinsed the awning fabric.  When I was done on the roof I sprayed off all four sides of the bus, but even with the softened water it left spots and streaks.  Another unfortunate side effect of this work is that it frightened our male cat, Jasper, who ended up hiding behind the steering column in an attempt to escape the sights and sounds of a ‘monster’ on the roof.

We would like to get the body clean but there’s no point doing anything until I get the roof finished (Linda does not climb ladders and she does not get on the roof of the bus.)  At a minimum I am going to have to use a stiff scrub brush and a stronger solution of Dawn dish soap, or perhaps a commercial cleaner that can treat mold/mildew along with just plain dirt.  We will then have to do the vertical surfaces in small sections, scrubbing, rinsing, and drying as we go.  We have a sprayer for our hose that has a small bottle for additives and one of the reasons I bought it was to try using a dishwasher rinse aid, like Jet Dry, to see if it would eliminate spotting.  To-date, however, I have not tried that.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.  The governor is the silver thing on the left.  The open port on top is the air discharge where the unloader valves are located.

Once Butch had the old air-compressor out of their bus he turned the input shaft and noted that the pistons were not pumping air.  This confirmed that something had failed internally and ordering a replacement was the right thing to do.  There wasn’t much else to do so we all sat around in the warm sun and waited for the UPS truck to show up, which it finally did around 3:45 PM.  We (me, Linda, and Fonda) suggested that Butch wait until tomorrow to start installing it, but we knew that was not going to happen.  The compressor was a significant road failure that had bugged him since it happened and he was anxious to get it fixed.


The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The Bendix Tu-Flo 700 he received is designed specifically for mounting on Detroit Diesel 92 series 2-stroke engines but has more ports on it than are typically used in this application.  Making sure to match the configuration of the old compressor, Butch installed new plugs in the unneeded ports.  He then removed the fittings from the old unit one at a time and installed them in the new one, being careful to line them up exactly the same way.  I helped by holding the compressor on a work table while Butch tightened the pipe threads.  This was the easy part of the project as we were standing at a tall bench with plenty of room to work and good light.


The new air-compressor with fittings.  Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.

The new air-compressor with fittings. Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.  The spline is in the upper left of the photo.

The hard part was getting the air-compressor re-installed.  Butch eventually got it onto two of the four mounting studs, which then took the weight.  We discovered a clearance issue with one of the port plugs and he had to pull the compressor back out.  He removed a plug from the old compressor, which did not stick out as far, and reused it in the new compressor.  With the compressor back on the studs it now lined up better but the spline would not engage the drive gear on the end of the engine camshaft.  He put a wrench on the crankshaft pulley nut and turned the engine slightly by standing on the end of it while I jiggled the air-compressor.

The "governor" mounted on the new compressor.

The “governor” mounted on the new compressor.

The spline eventually engaged the engine gear and the air-compressor gear enough that Butch was able to fully seat the flange and insert/tighten the four mounting studs, lock washers, and nuts.  Per the instructions, he reconnected all of the lines except for the air discharge and called it a night.  The coolant goes back in tomorrow and Butch will then start the main engine to make sure the compressor works, check for leaks, and let any contaminants get blown out the discharge fitting.  If everything looks good he will attach the discharge line, which connects the outlet port of the air-compressor to the coach air system, and air up the bus.

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the engine block (towards the front of the bus).

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the DD6V92TA engine block (towards the front of the bus) in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9B NJT.

At least we were successful in convincing Butch to wait until tomorrow to put the coolant back in the engine.  By the time we finished working, put our tools away, and got cleaned up it was 7:30 PM and had been dark for two hours.  Linda reheated the leftover fajita fixings and we had open-faced tortillas with Fritos corn chips, salsa, black grapes, and Sangria.  We were both tired so we relaxed for a while after dinner and then went to bed.

2024/12/23 (T) Blythe, CA

We got a call from Connie right after breakfast letting us know that the two packages Carolyn picked up yesterday were for us and Butch.  We needed to pick them up before 11AM as Carolyn had an appointment at that time.  Linda was headed out for her morning walk anyway so she walked to Rock Reality, near the post office and uptown drugs, to get the packages from Carolyn.  (Carolyn is Joe and Connie’s realtor.)  She dropped off the two P. O. Box – Mail Pickup Notice cards at the post office while she was there.

Our package was from Madeline (Brendan and Shawna), to be opened on Christmas Day.  Butch’s package was the unloader valve kits for our Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressors.  He ordered them while we were in Forest City, Arkansas for delivery to Amarillo, Texas but they did not arrive in time so his friend forwarded them to our Quartzsite location.

Butch and Fonda used most of the morning to put the coolant back into the engine.  Our buses, which still have their over-the-road heating systems, hold a lot of coolant.  Ours requires 34 gallons.  The buses are not identical, but I suspect theirs requires at least 30 gallons.  And it is very important that the cooling system is filled to capacity and has had all of the air purged out of it.  It’s a big, messy job.

They got as much in as they could by standing on a ladder and pouring it through a funnel into the filler tube for the surge tank.  The radiators on the MCI MC-9 are located above the engine, one on each side wall at the rear of the bus, and the surge tank is located above them, so the filler tube is approximately 9 feet from the ground.  Butch started the engine to warm it up enough for the thermostat to open and to circulate the coolant and opened a couple of bleeder valves to let air out.  He also checked the outlet fitting on the new air-compressor to verify that it was pumping air.  It was (hurray!), so he shut the engine off, attached the air line to the outlet fitting, and started it back up.  The chassis air system (suspension and brakes) came up to pressure and the air-dryer “sneezed” (momentarily opened its purge valve) so the system was fully operational.

We planned to go to Blythe, California today and Butch and Fonda wanted to go too, so he shut off the engine and they cleaned up their campsite.  We were sitting in our coach when the winds came up rather strong.  Linda checked the weather and the winds were out of the north at 20 MPH and forecast at 22-25 MPH until 6 PM.  That was strong enough for us to retract our awnings, close our roof vents, collapse our folding chairs, and stow our patio mat.  Butch and Fonda also retracted their patio awning and stored all of their outdoor equipment and furniture.  We had the old patio awning on our Itasca Sunrise torn off by strong (thunderstorm) winds while we were away from the motorhome and have been extra careful about awnings and wind ever since.

With all of that done we headed to Blythe in their Chevy Suburban.  From 879 feet ASL in Q we climbed to about 1200 feet ASL over the low mountain range that separates the two valleys, and then descended to 240 feet ASL as we crossed the Colorado River and entered California.  A few miles later we took the 7th Street exit and we were there.  The 20 mile drive was only five more miles than the trip we made from Williston Crossings RV Resort to the Publix grocery store (at the southwest corner of Gainesville, Florida) last winter, so it did not feel like a long way to go for groceries.  At home we have supermarkets about five miles away in three different directions.  Butch and Fonda typically drive into Logansport for their groceries, a distance of 12 miles, so we are all used to traveling some distance to purchase our food.

The Smart & Final Extra and the Albertson’s were on the NW and SE corners of 7th and Hobsonway, just north of I-10, making them especially convenient for us, so this is where we will likely shop every other week or so.  But our first destination was a few blocks farther west on S. Main St. where we found Weeks Printing.  They were eventually able to access our flash drive and open the PDF of our holiday letter.  They had a high quality paper in 8.5”x14” size, and were able to print our letter 2-sided on a good quality color laser printer for a very reasonable price of $1.25 per letter ($0.625 per side).  They did not take credit cards so we paid cash, but it saved us a 73 mile trip (one way) to Staples in Lake Havasu City.

Self-portrait of the blogger.  I am merely a reflection of my former self.

Self-portrait of the blogger. I am merely a reflection of my former self.

At the Smart & Final Extra we bought fresh produce, soy milk, and some bulk, canned, and packaged items.  They did not carry the Silk brand soy coffee creamer that I like, and there were a few items Butch and Fonda needed that the store did not have, so we drove across the street to Albertson’s and got those items.  I stayed in the car with the groceries, but I already knew that the Albertson’s would be a nice store based on our experience with the chain in Sheridan, Wyoming during summer 2013.  With our shopping done we returned to Quartzsite.

I carried the groceries from the car to the bus and Linda stored them, discovering that she had an empty tub available in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  By the time she was done it was approaching 4 PM so she prepared chickpea salad sandwiches as a quick, light lunch and then announced that we should go for a walk before it got dark.  She let me chose the route so we crossed Central Avenue (AZ-95) and walked to the city park, which has a very nice baseball field with lights and the only grass we have seen in Quartzsite.  There was also a skateboard facility, a football field, and two F4 Phantom jets (minus the engines and other equipment).  The Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club (QMDC) has a practice field adjacent to the park.  The park is located near the following municipal facilities:  Community Center and Library, County Court, Police Station, and Post Office Annex (where most of the P. O. Boxes are located).  The Fire Department is a little farther north on Tyson Wells Street just east of Central Avenue.

The sun was getting near the tops of the mountains to our southwest so we headed pack to our coach and settled in for the evening.  For dinner Linda made a barley risotto with garlic, shallots, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetable both, and seasonings.  While she was cooking I got a call from my dad and got him caught up on our whereabouts and activities.  The risotto was excellent and we each enjoyed a glass of sangria with our meal.

I don’t know if we are just relaxed, or really tired after a hard summer and fall, but we have both been going to bed earlier and waking up later than usual.  Or perhaps it is just the effect of fresh air and sunshine.  Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be able to just sleep when that is what we feel like doing and get up when we are read.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q.  Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone.  If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q. Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone. If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

2014/12/24 (W) Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and we woke to a temperature of 37 degrees, clear skies, light winds, and no snow.  The forecast high for today was 66, with no snow.  Do I miss snow at the holidays?  Not really.  At one time (high school) I considered myself something of a “romantic” in the sense that I liked the classical music of the romantic era, but I am not particularly nostalgia.  If I was, we would own a restored 1957 Chevy; red, of course.  No, we had snow at home before we left and as a harbinger of things to come we took it as a sign that our departure was overdue.  Christmas in the desert will be a new experience for us, but so far it looks very agreeable.  We will miss being with family, of course, but we are not alone here and technology keeps all of us much more connected than it once did.

Having been to Blythe yesterday we did not have any last minute shopping to do today.  The desert was there yesterday and will be there tomorrow (I presume) so we did not have to see it today.  With the holidays upon us I did not feel like working on bus projects.  Linda started addressing the envelopes for our Year-In-Review Holiday Letter and then worked on food preparations for tomorrow’s dinner with Butch and Fonda.  It seemed like a good day for me to finally start catching up on some things that I have not had time for in a while.  For instance, I need to work on articles for Bus Conversions Magazine, update our bus project list/status, update our website, upload some blog posts (OK, a LOT of blog posts), and catch up on the blogs I follow using the Feedly app on my iPad.  I am way behind on all of these tasks and starting to feel some pressure about it, albeit self-imposed.  I do not have to do any of these things if I don’t want to, of course, but they are activities that I enjoy and want to do.  Still, being way behind takes some of the fun out of it and makes it a bit more like work.  I won’t get caught up in one day or one week or even one month; it will take many weeks of persistent effort.

After checking e-mail, I settled in to work on my article about the exterior renovation of our motorcoach.  Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint helped me finish the article in early October but I still needed to select and caption all of the photos.  While I worked on that Linda walked to the Road Runner Market and managed to snag the last 3-pack of yeast.  When she got back she made her orange cranberry relish for tomorrow’s dinner.

We took a break for lunch and then Linda headed out for her daily power walk.  When she got back she continued addressing envelopes for our holiday letter.  Just as I was feeling like I needed a break, Butch knocked on the door to let me know he was working on a small project that might interest me.  He had already burped the coolant lines that supply heat to the living area of their bus when driving and gotten the last of the coolant into the system.  His new project was getting an alternator driven tachometer connected and calibrated.

It turned out that he needed positive DC power to the tachometer in addition to the ground and RPM signal.  He was able to temporarily pick up 24VDC from the positive terminal of the starter, found a convenient ground point, and picked up the rotational speed from the stator terminal on the back of the alternator.  With the engine running at low idle he measured the RPM of the main crankshaft pulley using an optical sensor instrument.  It was just over 600 RPMs so he adjusted the tach via a set screw on the rear to match the reading.  He kicked it into high idle and measured the rotational speed as 950 RPM.  That is what the tach displayed within the precision of the markings.  He already has a signal wire run from the engine compartment to the cockpit but needs to mount the tachometer in a separate bullet housing, connect the wire on both ends, and provide positive and negative (ground) DC to the instrument.  He decided not to take on that project today.

(Note:  RPM is universally understood to be an abbreviation for “Revolutions Per Minute” but that is not necessarily correct.  An object such as the pulley on the end of an engine crankshaft rotates about its own axis, just as the earth does, and has angular velocity which is properly measured in rotations per some unit of time or angular displacement per some unit of time.  The abbreviation is, of course, still RPM.  In the case of the pulley, however, Butch put a small piece of white tape on the face of the pulley at the outside edge to act as a target for his optical sensor.  If we consider the piece of tape as a separate object then it does, indeed, revolve around the center axis of the pulley, just as the earth revolves around the sun.  Viewed thus way, revolutions per minute is technically correct.  As with many things in physics, it depends on your frame of reference.  So much for today’s physics lesson.)

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop.

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop at our compound.

As long as I was outside I borrowed Butch’s metal detector and went in search of a couple of tie downs that Joe told us were buried somewhere near the outer edge of our patio awning.  I knew they were lined up with a reference mark on one of the concrete patio slabs and it did not take long to locate and uncover them.  We put a couple of medium-sized rocks on top of them so we could relocate them easily.

We got several multimedia messages from our son today with pictures of our grand-daughter at our daughter’s house helping make cookies.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline are spending the night and Katie is joining them tomorrow.  Butch and Fonda will spend most of the day at the local church Fonda selected, including a carry-in (pot luck) luncheon, but will have dinner with us around 6:30 PM.

I finally returned to our coach and worked on my article about the Zena power generating system I installed to charge our house batteries while driving.  Again, the article was mostly finished a long time ago, but I could not submit it until I completed the installation, got the system operational, and took a few more photos.  All of that happened in October and November but I was too busy with other projects and preparations to pull it all together at that time.  I had a couple of e-mails today from Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, indicating that the December 2014 issue might not be out until early January 2015, and wondering if I might have a finished article they could use.

For dinner Linda made a salad of dark mixed greens with raisins, nuts, and pear slices drizzled with raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing followed by pan-seared tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-que sauce served open-faced on hamburger buns.  We split a Sam Adams Pumpkin Spice Ale.  I am not a big fan of ales or pumpkin but beer seemed like the right beverage for this dish.  It was OK, but I would have enjoyed a Yingling or Shiner Bock more.

I made good progress on both articles today.  I got an e-mail from Mike, the editor of BCM, wondering if I had a finished article.  The ZENA article was close enough that I decided to finish it and upload it to our Dropbox before going to bed.  I e-mailed Mike back to let him known it was there and offered to finish the other one by the end of the weekend.

Earlier in the day I updated our personal WordPress site to the just released version 4.1 and updated several plug-ins and themes.  My last task before turning in for the night was to replicate the update process on the other three sites I manage.  By the time I got to bed it was Christmas Day.

2014/12/25 (R) Christmas in Q

The wind came up strongly overnight and we were awakened by the rattling of the vent fan domes.  From our north facing bedroom window we could see flags and the tops of trees blowing briskly in the wind.  We could also hear and see the awnings on the south/passenger side of the coach flapping.  Linda checked the weather channel app on her iPad and it reported winds at 20 MPH.  We were not expecting winds that strong until the daytime and they were strong enough for us to be concerned about our awnings.  By that point we were wide awake so we put on our sweatpants and shirts, slipped on some shoes, found a set of keys, got the step-stool out of the front bay and the awning rod out of the folding chair bay, retracted the two awnings, returned the rod and step-stool to their respective storage compartments, and finally went back to bed.

Linda got up at 6:30 AM in order to start making cinnamon rolls from scratch.  I usually get up first and make a pot of coffee but I was up past midnight working, so I slept in for another hour.  The yeast she bought yesterday wasn’t cooperating so we turned on one of the Broan ceramic cube heaters to try and create a warmer and more consistent environment to get the dough to rise.

We borrowed Butch and Fonda’s Verizon MiFi (unlimited data plan) so we could Facetime with our children and their families, who were gathered at our daughter and son-in-law’s house.  We got to watch all of them open the presents we left for them when we were there on Thanksgiving and they got to watch us open the gifts they sent with us or shipped to us here in Quartzsite.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline (son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter) sent a 2015 Shutterfly Calendar with photographs of all the different family members placed on the dates for birthdays, anniversaries, and such.  We do not need much at this point in our lives, but a collection of photographs that also reminds us of the people and dates that are most important to us is something we appreciate and treasure.  Meghan and Chris (daughter and son-in-law) bought us each a genuine Tilley hat.  I have known about these hats for a while but never bought one.  Given our outdoor oriented RV lifestyle, these were excellent gifts.

After we were done with our Facetime session Linda took the cinnamon rolls over to the apartment to bake since it has a range with an oven.  She will finish cooking dinner there later and the four of us will eat there this evening as it has a table that will seat four people.

The apartment bedroom.

The apartment bedroom.

In spite of early indications to the contrary the cinnamon rolls rose and baked just fine. The dough used flour, salt, vegan butter, yeast, and flax meal with water (egg substitute) and a little sugar.  The filling was made with brown sugar, vegan butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup.  The topping was a glaze of sugar, water, and vanilla with raisins and chopped walnuts.  Linda took two of them over to Butch and Fonda and we had some for breakfast still warm from the oven.  It’s a good thing that these are as much work to make as they are or I might want them for breakfast every day.   🙂

Linda had a call and TXT message from her sister (Marilyn) and sent a reply.  She was on her way to her housemate’s family gathering and they agreed they would talk later today.  She also sent merry Christmas TXT messages to her sister-in-law, Mary, and good friend, Diane.  At noon our time (1 PM CST, UTC-6) I called my sister to wish her a happy holiday.  Her daughter, grand-daughter, and future son-in-law had already been there in the morning as Ryan had to work that afternoon.

I made a second pot of coffee, which is unusual for us, but we planned to spend the day lounging around the coach cooking (Linda) and working on the computer (me).  Linda cleaned up the breakfast cookware, poured another cup of coffee, and started working on the chocolate cake for tonight’s dessert.  With the cake prepared and in the apartment oven she turned her attention to making the candied yams.  Once those were done the only thing left to do was bake the Tofurkey, roast the asparagus, and heat the gravy.  It was a lot work for her but it was spread out over two days and she enjoyed, and did it, willingly.  We could have gone out for dinner if she wanted, even though we would not have found much we could eat, but I am glad she preferred to cook.

Once I wrapped up the conversation with my sister I got back to work on the Outside Makeover (Exterior Renovation) article.  Although I thought I was done writing I made a few more edits and selected additional photos.  By 5 PM I had 74 photos selected and placed in sequence to match the flow of the article.  I had also done as much of that work as I cared to for the day.

We were down to 1/4 tank of fresh water so I decided to refill it.  About that same time Linda decided it was chilly enough in the apartment that she wanted the propane space heater turned on so I shut off the water and took care of that.  The heater had a hose that went through the wall at floor level to the outside with a regulator and POL fitting on the end of it.  I found a couple of 20 lb. propane tanks in the workshop and connected one of them to the regulator.  It took a while but I eventually got the pilot flame to light and then got the heater to ignite.  I then went back and finished filling our water tank.

The little apartment is very cute with three rooms: a bathroom on the east end, a bedroom on the west end, and a kitchen/dining/living room in the middle.  It has a shower, a 4-burner electric range with an oven, a refrigerator/freezer, a small microwave oven, the aforementioned space heater, a small window air-conditioner, a small TV/monitor with a satellite receiver, two easy chairs, a small dining table with four chairs, and a queen sized bed.  Marilyn is seriously considering coming for a visit the last week of January and if she does she will stay in the apartment and get to experience Quartzsite.

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner.  No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner. No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

We bought a bottle of Sternthaler Nurnberger Christkindles Gluhwein spiced red holiday wine at Central Market in Fort Worth, Texas to serve with our Christmas dinner.  It is a mulled wine that is supposed to be gently heated before serving, but we found it quite agreeable straight from the refrigerator.  About 20 minutes before dinner time we set it out on the counter to warm up slightly, the space heater doing a very effective job heating the small apartment even on its lowest setting.

Linda and Fonda both contributed dishes to the meal and Fonda made a couple of things that we could eat.  They brought chicken and traditional mashed potatoes for themselves but also tried some of the Tofurkey roast.  Linda made a vegan chocolate cake for dessert and whipped refrigerated coconut milk solids to use as a whipped cream substitute.  Our daughter did this for the Thanksgiving meal and we really liked it.

We sat in the apartment for a long time after dinner and just talked until we were all tired.  Linda and Fonda had already cleaned the dishes so we turned off the propane space heater and carried all of our stuff back to our coaches.  Linda put the leftovers away while I did a final check of my e-mail for the night.  I then shut my computer off and we headed to bed.  Like so many things in our retirement RV lifestyle, this Christmas holiday was a new and good experience.


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.


20141030-1102 Fixing Buses in Indiana

2014/10/30 (R) To Kokomo We Go

Well…sort of.  Our actual destination was Maple Grove Distributors in Galveston, Indiana, which was in the general direction of Kokomo, but not as far.  (It’s pronounced “gal VES ten” with the emphasis on the second syllable.)  The tie rod ball ends that Butch ordered had finally come in and he wanted to get them early this morning so that: 1) We could get back and take advantage of a relatively nice late October day, and 2) He would have them for tomorrow when the weather is forecast to be lousy and thus a good day for inside work such as fabricating ride height linkages.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

PS rear corner bedroom cabinet with slot in door for TV/monitor wires.

In spite of the nice weather I spent most of the day working inside my bus, stopping occasionally to help Butch with something.  I don’t have a lot of outside projects at the moment, or at least none that I felt like working on, and I really wanted to get the bedroom TV cabinet taken care of.  As with the front TV cabinet that I worked on for the last couple of days, the bedroom cabinet once housed a 19″ CRT TV set and a VHS tape deck.  I removed those in late 2011 while the bus was at Phoenix Paint and had Jaral Beaty make doors to cover the openings.  Once those doors were installed, I mounted 22″ diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, LCD/LED flat panel TV/monitors on each door. The power and signal connections, however, were inside the cabinets, so for the last couple of years the cables have come out of the bottom/rear of the TVs and under the bottom edge of the doors and into the cabinets.  This arrangement prevented the doors from being closed, even though they had spring loaded ball catches, so we have held them closed with a couple of pieces of bright green Frog Tape.  The tape is sticky enough to hold the door closed but does not seem to leave any reside even after being in place for a while.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

The wires from the TV/monitor pass through the slot in the door so the dorr can be closed and latched.

As with the front TV cabinet door, I created a horizontal slot behind the TV, positioned to allow the cables to come down out of the back of the TV and bend gently through to the inside of the cabinet.  I removed some unneeded cable and coiled up other cables and secured them with zip ties that have a mounting tab with a hole for a screw.

My two outside projects were brief.  I got back under the front of the bus between the front tires and unbolted the ride height linkage.  It unbolted from the ride height valve lever arm easily but not from the axle bracket.  Fonda got a can of Cyclo Breakaway and some paper towels for me, but even after spraying the nut and letting it sit it would not come loose.  I am not the strongest guy in the bus yard so I put some more muscle into it and broke the bolt off with the nut still stuck tight to it.  The other half of the bolt then slide out easily.

As long as I had my wrenches out I slide under the rear end of the bus to see if I could free a couple of wires for the auxiliary braking system that were pinched under a mounting pad for the rear bumper fascia.  The stud had a Nylok nut on it that was barely threaded onto the stud.  The reason, I guessed, was the stud was at an angle that made it difficult to get a socket and ratchet on it.  I was able to loosen/tighten it using a universal (swivel) adapter between the socket and the ratchet.  While I was under there I noticed a second stud with a barely threaded Nylok so I tightened it as well.  One of the things you have to watch out for on a used RV is all the work that other people have done ‘just well enough’ to get it ‘out the door’ without something falling off in the parking lot.  These are always things that are hidden and relatively inaccessible, which is why they were not done correctly or completely in the first place, but the assumption is you will never see them.

My other inside project was to separate the load wires for the lighted entrance handle and the patio light and put them on separate switches.  It turned out that the front most switch just inside the entrance door (next to the passenger seat) was supplying 12VDC power to three circuits, the two just mentioned and a third one that, as of this writing, is still a mystery in that I was unable to determine anything that was being controlled by those wires.  The first (front) switch now controls only the lighted entrance handle, the second (middle) switch controls only the patio light, and the third (rear) switch controls…well, I don’t know what it controls but it definitely puts 12VDC power onto a wire that goes somewhere.

I assisted Butch briefly in locating their front fan-coil heat exchanger relative to the bay where the coolant lines will go.  Later in the day I helped him position the front suspension of their coach to the MCI specified spacing for the air springs so he can fabricate the ride height linkage to the correct length.

I needed a few parts for projects I might want to work on tomorrow so I left at 7 PM and drove to the Home Depot in Logansport.  That also gave me a chance to call Linda and chat about cell phone data plans.  I got back to Twelve Mile at 8:30 PM.  Butch and Fonda were already having their dinner so I went to my bus and made a salad.  After I cleaned up the day’s food utensils I installed the 6-outlet surge protected adapter in the AC duplex outlet in the bedroom TV cabinet.  That completed my work for the day and I returned to the house, visited briefly, and retired to my room to check e-mail, offload photo files from my camera, and write this post.

2014/10/31 (F) Boo! Snow (Boo)

After a relatively mild October the weather decided to turn more seasonable just in time for Halloween.  I was originally going to title this post “Foot Pounds and Gigabytes” but decided to acknowledge All Hallows’ Eve instead, along with the dramatic change in the weather.

A couple of days ago I bought a torque wrench from Butch that is adjustable up to 600 foot pounds, which is the kind of torque needed to tighten and loosen the lug nuts on our bus wheels.  It’s a very big torque wrench; over three feet long.  I need to buy a compatible socket to go with it.  Today was also the last day for the Verizon and AT&T double your data plan promotions, so I planned my day to put me in Elkhart, Indiana while one of the corporate stores was still open.

I got up around 8 AM and spent 45 minutes doing some preliminary packing after which I went out to my coach and had breakfast.  We had snow flurries around 9 AM this morning and did not work outside today save the few minutes I spent adjusting the air pressure in the tires of my Honda Element.  Today was mostly about shopping.

I got a cup of coffee from Small Town Brew and then we headed to Logansport where we did most of our usual circuit:  NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Rural King, Aldi’s, and Walmart.  (The only regular place we did not go was Home Depot.)  My only purchase was a 12VDC dual outlet with a mounting flange that I found at O’Reilly’s.  I plan to use it to create power connections for the GPS and TPMS receiver.  (I realized later that I should have bought three of them as I also need to supply power to the DVD camera/recorder up front and the TPMS repeater which I plan to mount in the rear TV cabinet.)

We got back around noon and I spent the next couple of hours straightening up the inside of the bus and packing everything that was going home with me.  Around 2:45 PM I finished packing the stuff I had in the guest bedroom and began loading the car.  I wrote up a list of things we owed each other money for and, as I expected, I owed Butch more than he owed me.  (He tends to order things we need on his accounts and I pay him back.)  I bought a Variac from him, added it to the list, and put it in the car.  Fonda has been working on a wedding dress for their daughter Gene for quite some time and was done except for some trim, so I got to see it before I left, which I did at 3:15 PM.  It was very nice.

I had located a Verizon corporate store on US-33 just south of US-20 which was on my normal route home.  I arrived at that intersection around 4:45 PM and first stopped at the Burger King next door for some French Fries.  The Verizon sales associate, Hector, claimed to know nothing about the double data promotion and insisted there was no such thing available.  I called Linda from their parking lot and we discussed what to do as today was the last day for the promotion.  She had checked our account online last night, and although we could change our monthly data allowance online (for a price, of course) there was no information about the promotion available there either.  Very strange considering how much this has been in the media all month.

Linda was stuck in traffic coming home from the bakery so we chatted while I made my way over US-20 to CR-17 (IN) to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to the I-69 exit where I had to pay my toll.  Traffic on her end had also loosened up by then so we ended our call.

My entire trip home was in some form of precipitation; mostly rain but occasionally sleet or snow, with very strong and gusty winds from the north that made for somewhat more difficult driving.  It also made it difficult to judge the effect of the adjusted tire pressures on handling although the shimmy seemed to be gone.  I stopped at the Michigan Welcome Center on I-69 and unpacked some of the food I had with me.  I stopped again at M-60 for coffee at McDonald’s and fuel at the TA/Shell station where Regular gasoline was $2.929.  It’s been a long time since we have seen gasoline prices below $3/gallon.  That was my last stop before arriving home at 8:45 PM.  The last few miles were through moderate snow and the strong winds had coated the north facing side of trees and road signs.

Linda helped me unload the car and get everything into the house.  I gave Butch a call to let him know I had arrived home safely and we chatted briefly about bus projects.  I took a shower and went to bed where I finished this post before 11 PM and went to sleep.

2024/11/01 (S) Words

Although we were both very tired we did not sleep well last night.  We awoke early to find a thin covering of snow on our rear deck and over parts of our yard with the temperature in the upper 20s.  We went to our SLAARC ham radio club breakfast this morning anyway, the first time in several weeks for Linda, and there was a good turnout.  Those members who came from east or south of us did not have snow on the ground.

When we got back to our house Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances while I worked at the dining room table on e-mail, websites, and bus project documentation.  Our son and daughter-in-law showed up around 3:30 PM with their daughter.  They had a baby shower to attend in Detroit and Madeline was spending the night with us.

Linda had given me the heads up that Madeline’s vocabulary had increased significantly since I last saw her and that certainly proved to be the case.  She finally had understandable words for many things including the counting words from one to ten.  She is now 22-1/2 months old and is a very active and busy little girl.  We played with lots of different toys, including a new little Thomas The Train locomotive that Grandma Linda bought for her.

We had dinner between 6 and 6:30 PM.  Madeline had mock chicken tenders with broccoli, cauliflower, mandarin orange segments and sliced strawberries.  Linda and I had yummy homemade chili that she had been cooking in the crockpot most of the day.  I played with Madeline after dinner while Linda cleaned up the dishes and then joined the fun.  Nighty-night is her current pre-bedtime game, but by 7:15 PM she was tired enough let Linda get her into her pajamas and then sit quietly while I read a couple of story books to her.  As always, she went to bed without a fuss.

Once Madeline was asleep Linda read and played online word games with friends and relatives and I continued working on my bus projects list, light bulb inventory, and reconciliation of purchases that Butch and I have made for each other.  By 10:45 PM I was tired and ready to do something else so I climbed in bed and worked on this post.

2014/11/02 (N) An Extra Hour

At 2 AM EDT this morning it was suddenly 1 AM EST so when Linda got Madeline out of her porta-crib at 8 AM, according to the clocks in our house, it was officially 7 AM.  We all slept well last night and Madeline woke up well rested and in a pleasant mood.  She enjoys her meals so before any playtime we had breakfast of toast and juice and fresh fruit.  Brendan called around 9 AM to see if we could keep her until after her afternoon nap as he and Shawna had professional work they needed to concentrate on.  I suggested they come for an early dinner and they agreed.  Linda checked her ingredients on hand and then agreed to make her seitan stroganoff served over rice.  This is one of my favorite vegan dishes and a standard ‘go to’ when we are having non-vegan company for dinner.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

You cannot have too many bows in your hair, apparently.

We played with Madeline all morning and she was a very busy girl.  She has understandable words for a few things and a much richer, if somewhat secret, vocabulary that she takes great delight in using.  She knows the names of her basic colors and has started to get the idea of counting.  She enjoys building tall structures with her Lego blocks and is still fascinated with the organ.  Running around the island in our kitchen is another favorite activity; sometimes chasing, sometimes being chased, and sometimes holding someone’s finger.

I got a TXT message from Chuck asking if I was back in town and had time to talk.  Linda let me take a break from playing with Madeline so I could call him back.  He has been working on their bus and wanted to bring me up to date on his projects and get caught up on my projects and timeline.

Our other grand-daughter, Katie, is up in the U. P. with Chris (her dad) and Meghan (our daughter) visiting Northern Michigan University in Marquette.  They visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore yesterday and made it out to Castle Rock.  This evening they had a banquet to attend and tomorrow she has an interview for a scholarship.  Katie is interested in animals and wants to study zoology.  NMU is one of the few universities that offer a true zoology major rather than a biology major with an emphasis in zoology.  It may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it is an important distinction to Katie.  Katie is a serious young lady who has done well in school and will certainly represent herself as such during the interview.  We are excited for her and hope she is successful in obtaining this merit-based financial support.

By 11:30 AM we were anticipating lunch and Madeline requested pizza.  We happened to have an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza in the freezer (our favorite) so Linda preheated the oven and baked it on our pizza stone.  We sat down at noon and enjoyed our pizza accompanied by seedless red grapes.  We were all full by 12:30 and Madeline was showing signs of being ready for her nap so Linda helped her wash her hands and face and then got her settled in her porta-crib.  Madeline enjoys sleeping almost as much as eating and went to bed without any fuss.

The cats, who had retreated to the basement this morning as soon as they heard/saw Madeline, are keenly aware of when she is eating and sleeping.  Once we have her in her high chair at the table we usually open the safety gate at the top of the basement stairs so they can come up.  Both of them did and walked around under the dining room table, apparently aware that she was not mobile.  They eventually went back downstairs but came back up once she was asleep.  We decided to leave the door to the middle/blue bedroom open about six inches to see what the cats might do.  Jasper immediately turned around and went back downstairs but Juniper stuck her head in the room, probably got sensory overload, and also left.

Linda needed a few grocery items and went to Meijer’s in Brighton where she topped up her gas tank for $2.919 a gallon.  If only the price of diesel fuel would pull back to corresponding levels.  It has dropped but not by the same amount.  I stayed home and worked on my bus projects spreadsheet.  When Linda got back with batteries I changed all of the clock batteries and reset the time.

Brendan and Shawna arrived at 3 PM just as Madeline was waking up from her nap.  She was thrilled to see her parents, of course, as they were thrilled to see her.  It was a beautiful, if somewhat chilly, day and they got her coat, hat, and mittens on and played in the yard while Linda started preparing dinner while I cleared the table of my computer and papers and set it for the meal.  We sat down to eat at 4:15 PM and started with a nice salad of chopped greens and cabbage, an Asian dressing, and crispy Asian noodles.  The main course was the seitan stroganoff served over white rice and accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts and a sliced multi-grain baguette.  The adults had a small glass of the Leelanau Cellars Witch’s Brew, a seasonal mulled (spiced) red wine.

After dinner Brendan and Shawna began the process of getting ready to leave which includes delay tactics on Madeline’s part and their response to them which is always gentle but persistent.  They were out the door at 5:30 PM and by 6 PM we had cleared the table, rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and picked up the few toys that were left out in the living room.  Although the clock said 6 it felt like 7.  As hard and as long as I have been working on bus projects, I am surprisingly tired after spending a whole day with Madeline.  I opened the safety gate and Jasper came upstairs right away, eager for our company and attention.  He curled up in my lap while I worked on this post.

We watched Inspector Lewis (streamed), the first TV program I have watched in quite some time.  Part of the PBS Masterpiece Mystery series, it is a really excellent production.  I did some online research on 2m/70cm ham radio antennas and dual (co-phased) CB antennas but did not come to any conclusions about what to get.  The problem remains the same; I cannot put anything tall on the roof of the bus and even if I wanted to I have little-to-no access to the underside of most of the roof.  The fact that the lower roof sections in the front and rear are part of the front and rear fiberglass caps just complicates matters even more as they do not provide a conductive path or ground plane.