Tag Archives: Lou Petkus (K9LU)

2015/12/01 (T) Home Again

I got up at 7:45 AM, got dressed, and fed the cats.  The Magnum BMK was showing the house battery pack at 24.2 VDC and 47% SOC with the refrigerator and other significant loads not drawing any power.  I worked on my iPad for a while until I heard muffled voices from the compound around 8 AM and saw Pat (John’s son) working on the roof of one of the trailers.  Linda got up at 8:30 and we had granola for breakfast and had a leisurely morning.

Check-in time at Williston Crossings RV Resort WCRVR) was noon.  We only had 75 miles to travel to get there and did not need to be there right at noon.  Around 10:45 we started getting the inside of the coach ready to travel and by 11:15 we were taking care of the outside stuff.  Paul and Eugenia were already hooking up their car and obviously preparing to leave as well.  We walked around the coach and checked that the bay doors were closed and locked.  On the way around we got the tow bar off the ground and secured it.  I then switched on the chassis batteries, opened the engine accessories air valve, and returned to the cockpit.

The chassis battery gauges read lower than normal for a fully charged condition but had plenty of energy stored in them to crank the engine quickly.  With Linda spotting from outside I did a three point turn to get the bus pointed towards the exit.  John came over in his Kubota utility cart and chatted with Linda while I moved the car behind the bus and we continued to chat with John as we hooked up the car.  We thanked him for his hospitality and assured him that we would be back; both for a solar system and to just hang out for a longer time in the woods by the Suwannee River.  I started the engine and Linda checked the lights.  Everything was good and when she was back on board we started the slow roll back to the county road.

We pulled out of John Palmer’s place around 11:30 AM and slowly made our way back to CR-354.  I stopped there (to check for traffic, of course) and raised the tag axle to shorten the turning radius.  I did not have a sign post at the edge of the road on the left, as I did when turning in, but the ditch on the other side was deeper closer to the road so I did not to get the passenger side steer tire very far off the pavement.  I completed the left turn cleanly and put the tag back down before continuing.

It was closer to 11:45 by the time we passed the east boundary of the property and saw the sign for the River Rendezvous RV Park.  We took CR-354 to US-27 and headed east to US-129.  Just south of Trenton we vectored off onto SE CR-339 and then picked up NE US-27 Alternate which eventually became Main Street in Williston.  The trip took about an hour and 40 minutes and we arrived at the main entrance to Williston Crossings around 1:25 PM.

It’s usually nice to return to a place you have been to before and liked.  We enjoyed our time here during winter 2013/14 and it felt a little bit like being home again in that the place, and some of the people, were familiar to us and pleasant to be around.  One of the most familiar people was John, our next door neighbor of two years ago.  He was doing site escort duty and led us to our site after Linda got us registered.  We pulled up in front of site #233 and disconnected the car while John read the electric meter.  John then helped me back onto the concrete pad.  We were in place and level at 2 PM and visited briefly with John, giving him a quick tour of our interior remodel.  After John left we hooked up the shorepower cord and put power to the coach.

I checked the chassis battery voltage on the dashboard gauges with the engine off and they were 28+ and 14.  We went through our usual arrival routine with the addition of checking the reading on the electric meter.  We pay for our electricity here so checking the meter on arrival is prudent.  I checked the maintenance chargers and they showed the charge level on the upper and lower 12V portions of the chassis batteries as 75% each.  They should have been fully charged after almost two hours of engine operation so something was still not right.  The house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC and showing a 43% SOC.  The battery charger section of the Magnum 4024 went into Bulk charging mode, charging the house batteries at 107 Amps.

We are parked facing approximately WSW so the front of the coach gets the afternoon sun.  It was in the low 80’s, and a bit warmer in the coach, but we turned on the ceiling exhaust fans rather than run the air-conditioning, deployed the window awnings on the driver side, and lowered the day screens on the inside.  We used AntennaPoint.com to locate broadcast TV towers.  The two we cared about, CBS and PBS, were both north of us.  I rotated the front antenna to point in that direction and did a channel scan.  They both came in with solid signals so I repeated the set up with the rear antenna and bedroom TV.

Once we were set up we had vegan hot dogs for lunch and then walked to the CVS Pharmacy just outside the front entrance to the resort.  We crossed paths with John again and this time he had Ali with him so we had a quick reunion.  When we got back to the coach I was tired and with the warm conditions I dozed off.  When I woke up I set up the printer, NAS, and Amped Wireless router.

Meanwhile Linda had started preparing red beans and rice for dinner and discovered that she did not have diced tomatoes.  I drove to the Grocery Depot, which is also just outside the front entrance to the Resort, and bought a couple of cans that included green chilies.  It was 6:30 PM and the Resort gates were already closed so I had to use the code to get back in.  The dish was excellent and would not have been the same without the tomatoes.

After dinner I e-mailed Butch, Chuck, and Lou.  We are parked close to one of the Resort’s Wi-Fi towers with a strong N signal and reasonable speed, leading me to wonder if the Resort has upgraded their system and Internet connection.  Linda made a stovetop apple crisp and finished it just before our Tuesday evening TV programs began at 8 PM.  The crisp was different from an oven baked one but still very tasty.  We watched a few TV programs on PBS and CBS.  Linda has been fighting something and took some OTC Tussin nighttime medicine for her cough, congestion, and itchy throat.  She has coughed enough that it now hurts and is very tired from many nights of poor sleep.


2015/10/06 (T) Trimming & Stripping

We did not get an early start to our day today.  I got up a little after 8 AM and Linda got up 15 minutes later.  Even so, she still had our granola and berries ready before I had the coffee made, but in my defense I had the extra step of transferring the three pounds of coffee we bought yesterday from their paper bags to our metal containers with the air-tight lids.  We were wondering about whether grapes are berries so Linda Googled the topic.  Botanically, grapes are berries but strawberries and raspberries are not.  Also included among the “true” berries are bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants.  That’s right, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants are fruits.

Linda left at 9:30 AM to meet Diane at Kensington Metropark for a 10 AM walk.  Mike from Bratcher Electric showed up at 10:30 to revisit the wiring project I needed his company to do.  They are going to install a 100 Amp disconnect switch next to the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage, run power to the disconnect switch from the transfer switch, and then run a 4-wire service entrance cable (SEC) from the disconnect switch through the garage attic to the electrical distribution panel in the closet with the HVAC system for the library.  The electrical panel is currently a 60 A sub-panel of the main distribution panel in the basement and this project will convert it to a 100 A main panel while still allowing it to be powered by the generator if the utility power goes out.

When Mike left I gathered up the two metal cutting tools I borrowed from Chuck, our corded 1/2″ Craftsman drill (which I needed to power one of the nibblers), the small Rigid drill kit, and my telescoping inspection mirror.  My plan was to cut one or two openings in the passenger side HVAC duct for the heater hoses but I decided to do some yard work instead.

We still had some bushes growing out over the drainage ditch by the mailbox and I wanted to get them trimmed up and add the waste material to the timber pile before Phil hauled it away tomorrow (hopefully).  I was still working on this little distraction when Linda got back from her walk so she got a pair of gloves and helped.  The bushes and trees in this area have an extensive system of vines running through them.  I got a lot of the smaller vines cut and pulled free and I managed to trim one bush back enough to create an “entrance” to the inner part of this stand of trees.

Once I was “inside” the grove I found one of the main sources of the vine, a massive thing that looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie.  It was easily 10″ in diameter where it came out of the ground and had 4″ to 6″ pieces branching off in different directions.  I have no idea what kind of vine this but I suspect it is a wild grape vine.  Given its size I surmised that it has been there for a very long time gradually chocking off the trees.  I will have to eventually cut it out, but I would like to find out first just exactly what it is.

Linda helped drag all of the clippings over to the disposal pile where we cut some of them into smaller pieces before adding them to the pile.  We noticed a small tree hanging out into the space above the driveway that Phil is about to build.  We thought the tree was dead and decided to cut it down.  It was 5″ in diameter 6″ above the ground–big enough to require the chain saw–and also had a lot of branches that were large enough to be more expeditiously dispatched with said same machine.

After felling the tree and de-limbing it I was not so sure that it was dead.  We had a half dozen other trees along the northern edge of this stand woods that looked to be similarly dead but I decided not to cut them down.  One in particular had a lot of obviously new, small branches.  We will wait until spring and see which, if any, of these trees develop leaves.  If they are alive I will trim them instead of cutting them down.

We put away the yard tools and took a break to have a light, late lunch of vegan cold cuts sandwiches and black grapes with a glass of beet juice.  I like beets on salads and as a side vegetable.  Beet juice is OK but a bit more of an acquired taste.  We have added it into our daily food plans because of its ability to control blood pressure.  Linda is adding ground flax seed to her granola for the same reason.

Measuring and cutting wallpaper on the dining room table in the house.

Measuring and cutting wallpaper on the dining room table in the house.

At 2 PM we decided to hang the wallpaper in the hallway of the bus so we gathered all of our tools and took them to the coach.  I measured the wall and determined the lengths (30″) and widths of the four pieces; two full width (26.5″) and two partial width (15.5″), one for the left end and one for the right end.  We cut the four pieces on the dining room table in the house where we could unroll over six feet of wallpaper, measure more accurately, and cut more easily.  We cut the two full pieces out of the end of the first double roll and cut the two partial pieces out of the beginning of a new double roll.

Linda took the pieces to the bus and laid them out on the bed.  I was getting ready to pour some GH-95 paste into the tray and roll it onto the wall when I decided to remove the trim board that separates the upper wall from the vertical mirror strips on the lower wall.  My intent was to avoid having to trim the bottom edge of the wallpaper by tucking it behind this board.  What I discovered was that the strip mirrors on the lower portion of the wall were glued to the wallpaper and some of them were loose.

The fact that the mirrors were glued to wallpaper and not to the plywood wall surface meant that they could be removed.  I unscrewed the four vertical pieces of wood trim that framed the mirrors in three panels and then removed the bottom trim piece.  I carefully removed each mirror by prying the underlying wallpaper loose from the wall using a large screwdriver and working from the top down.  When the entire strip was loose I cut the wallpaper to release it.  I handed them to Linda and she stored them carefully inside the built-in sofa.  I managed to get all of them off except one which fractured in several places.  We taped it up and vacuumed up the few glass fragments that were created when it broke.

At this point we were clearly not going to hang the four pieces of wallpaper we just cut as we needed to finish stripping the base layer of the old wallpaper first.  We also had to take a little time to decide how to finish the lower wall.  One option would be to wallpaper the entire wall and not put the wood trim back.  We probably have enough wallpaper to do that, even after cutting the four smaller pieces for the upper wall, but we did not think the wall would look right if we did that.

Another option would be to install wood panels to replace the mirror strips.  In this case we would use a light wood with a natural finish to provide an intentional contrast with all of the walnut trim.  The mirror strips are slightly beveled on their long edges and measure 3/16″ thick at those edges.  That means a 3/16″ hardwood veneered plywood should be a perfect fit, allowing all of the wood trim to go back in place.  Maple or Birch with a natural finish are the most likely choices.

The wood panels is the option we will almost certainly pursue and we do not have to resolve exactly what panels to use in order to finish wallpapering the upper part of the wall.  All told this will push our finish date back a couple of days, but we don’t really have a finish date anyway, and we will like the final result a lot better.  We really do not like the strip mirrors and wish we could remove or cover all of them.

It was only 4:30 PM when we quit working in the bus for the day but we had both had a relatively physical day and were ready to quit.  The lighting in the hallway was also a little dim due to the continuing heavy cloud cover which was having the added effect of lowering our energy level and enthusiasm a bit.

My last couple of e-mails to Lou Petkus of the SKP Photographers BoF had gone unanswered so I called Lou to make sure everything was OK.  It was; he and Val have just been very busy.  We know about busy.  We had a nice chat about cameras and RVing plans for the upcoming winter.

Linda always puts nice dinner meals on the table and tonight was no different.  She halved and cored a white acorn squash and baked it in the oven with a little vegan butter and brown sugar.  She had a few Brussels sprouts left over and some baby carrots so she added onions and sautéed them to make a very good vegetable medley.  Finally, she heated a package of mock chicken in orange sauce.  The trio of dishes was not only tasty but lifted my spirits; not that either of us are down, but the weather has been heavily overcast for several days and had a slightly depressing effect on our moods.

I got a call from Phil after dinner updating me on his availability to work on our driveway and French drain project.  The 2-day job he started yesterday morning is probably going to take him the entire week to finish so there is very little chance we will see him back at work on our project before next Monday.  He did, however, find time to call a company that can hydrojet the culvert under our road and find out their pricing.  He gave me the name and phone number and I will call them tomorrow and try to set something up.  The other upside is that we have more time to pull dead trees out of the woods in front of our house, cut them up, and add them to the disposal pile, if we so choose.

Linda’s favorite TV shows are concentrated on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings so we watched NCIS and NCISNOLA followed by an episode of LIMITLESS, just to see what it was like.  I watched Two and a Half Men, which I happen to find very amusing, and then went to sleep.


2015/05/01 (F) May Day

Wow, another month gone.

We got up after 8 AM this morning, were having coffee, and had not yet had breakfast when I got a call from Diane at SteelMaster Building Systems.  They are certainly prompt in their follow up as I just submitted an RFQ last night via their website.  I had a very informative conversation with her that left me favorably impressed with the company and inclined towards their products should we decide to build our barn this way.  By the time I finished with her and we spent time studying SteelMaster’s website we sat down to have breakfast at 9:45 AM.

I started a load of laundry and puttered at my desk until Linda had chores for me to do.  She vacuumed the main floor and tidied up the kitchen in advance of tomorrow’s dinner visit with John and Diane and wanted to take the storm door insert out of the front entrance frame and put in the screen.  We like fresh air and have an abundance of it out here in the country.

We drove to the Sears Outlet at Fountain Walk in Novi to buy a box spring mattress foundation.  They were already discounted and also on sale.  The shipping was 50% of the sale price but we could not get it home in our car so that was our only choice.  It was still a bargain and we will have it next Tuesday.  We have been using the heavy, elaborate foundation that came with our Sleep Comfort mattress years ago, but it is broken and needed to be replaced.

We stopped at Lowe’s on the drive back to look at vinyl floor tiles and bought some Oxygenics shower spray heads and soap.  We took a drive up Latson to see if we could find a metal arch garage that Phil Jarrell had recently spotted.  We think we caught a glimpse of it on the west side of the road as we headed north towards M-59.  Heading east on M-59 we took a detour up Argentine Road to see if we could find Phil’s place but never saw anything we felt confident was his.  We headed east on Clyde Road and took Old US-23 back to M-59 where we stopped at Kroger for a few things before returning home.  To Linda’s surprise and delight, the Kroger has some of the mock dairy vegan products, like Daiya cheeses, that she occasionally uses and cannot get at Meijer’s.

Linda had an agenda for today and next up was putting the umbrella in the outdoor table.  Once that was taken care of we sat outside enjoying blue skies, bright sunshine, an air temperature of 71 degrees, and a slight breeze, none of which required the umbrella, but the point was to get it off the floor in the library where it was stored all winter.  Next we moved the natural gas grill from the garage to the lower rear deck, reassembled it, and connected it to the gas supply (it has a quick connect and shutoff valve).  I then busied myself removing the three shower heads and replacing them with the removable spray heads we bought at Lowe’s.  If I did not do that right away they would still be sitting around in their boxes months from now.

Linda used the grill to make dinner.  She grilled seasoned Brussels sprouts, tofu hot dogs, and bananas sliced in half the long way.  This will be the first summer in a long time that we have had a grill.  Linda is excited to have it as it expands her cooking options and provides a way to not heat up the kitchen in the warmest weather.  I am looking forward new dimensions in our meals.

I had planned on reviewing an article for BCM but ended up involved in two phone calls after dinner.  One was with Pat Lintner from GLAMA and our GLCC chapter and the other was with Lou Petkus from the SKP Photographers BOF.  That left just enough time to watch Season 1, Episode 1 of Sherlock on DVD before turning in for the night.


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

2015/03/01 (N) Clean Flying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another view of the storm.

Another view of the storm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/03/02 (T) Farewell Q

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

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

And another view of the storm.

And another view of the storm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/05/11 (N) A Pre-Game Show

Linda received Mother’s Day wishes this morning from our daughter and son.  Modern communications technology has certainly changed the RV experience, making it possible to stay in contact with family and friends, and even work or conduct business from the road.  The Elkhart County 4-H Fairground has WiFi and the WiFi Ranger Company is sponsoring WiFi connectivity and the WiFi Cafe during Escapade.  Our friends were having difficulty staying connected from inside their metal hulled bus, but we found and locked onto a strong signal using our WiFi Ranger Mobile Ti and shared it with them.

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Today was still early arrival–the Escapade doesn’t officially start until tomorrow–but many rigs were already here and more arrived during the day.  For a rally that had not yet started there was a lot of activity.  Escapees runs a very popular “RVers Boot Camp” as a pre-rally before every Escapade.  They also have their SmartWeigh program set up to weigh vehicles.  The Geeks On Tour (Jim and Chris Guld) were also running pre-rally workshops on technologies for travelers, including Windows 8, cell phones, Picasa, and blogging.  Yesterday and today were big setup days for the vendors and Escapade volunteers were busy setting up the registration area, seminar rooms, and other venues.

I got a call from Lou Petkus (K9LU) regarding photography during the Escapade.  Linda and I had previously volunteered to be part of an official SKP Photographers BOF Escapade photography team.  He picked us up in a golf cart around 9:00 AM and we drove back to Building A to meet up with Sue Spahn, the forth member of our team.  Since the advent of digital photography, Escapade has featured a slide show of the previous day’s events just ahead of the evening announcements, door prizes, and entertainment.  Kathy Carr, Escapees RV Club president, and her daughter-in-law, Angie Carr, have handled this in the past, but asked the SKP Photographers BOF if they would take responsibility for it this year.  It was fortuitous that the BOF agreed to do this as Kathy and Bud had to return to Texas for medical reasons.  Kay Peterson, SKP founder and SKP #1, returned to Texas with them.

Molly Pinner (Escapade Director) and Lou Petkus (head photographer).

Molly Pinner (Escapade Director) and Lou Petkus (head photographer).

The photography team met for about an hour, looked at the schedule of events for the week, and discussed the kind of photos we were after and the logistics of covering all of the activities and still having some time to participate.  Head and shoulders shots of smiling people were at the top of the list, of course.  We each got a flash drive to use for transferring our photos each day to Lou whose job it would be to assemble the daily slide show.

Registration opened at 10:00 AM so we took care of that and picked up our 54th Escapade polo shirts we had pre-ordered.  I got a few photos of the Registration area/process, coffee/donut area, and Escapade banners in the WiFi Cafe.  Kelly Hogan, the president of WiFi Ranger, had his magnificent Class D motorhome and matching communications trailer parked just outside the building and we were able to chat with him briefly to thank him personally for figuring out how to get our WFR-MTi working with the Williston Crossings RV Resort WiFi system this past winter.

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

Linda headed back to our coach to start working on a project with Butch and Fonda while I stopped at the AG building to take a few photos of the Geeks On Tour in action.  I also stopped by the RVers boot camp for some photos and then climbed the grandstand to take a panorama of the fairgrounds.  Back at our rig I shot another panorama of our row and then settled in to work on Butch and Fonda’s project until we had to meet with Lou again at 3:30 PM.  We found Lou and Val’s rig and then drove over to Sue’s rig in Lou’s golf cart.  While we were there Lou got Wayne to take a picture of the photography team.

We decided to go to dinner with Lou and Val and headed back down US-33 looking for Culver’s.  Linda and I were able to get nice salads there and split some French fries.  Lou started to drive us back to our site but we kept stopping for photo ops.  One of those opportunities was the Vendor pizza party/social.  We got our photos and visited briefly with folks we knew like Chris Guld of Geeks On Tour, Nick/Terry Russell of The Gypsy Journal, and Charles/Chris Yust of C &’C Marketing (our RV insurance agents).  Escapade directors Bob and Molly Pinner were there along with some other vendors that we recognized.  Molly invited us to stay, which we appreciated, but we are not RV vendors and this was their social.

Terry Russell, Chris Guld, and Nick Russell at the vendor/speaker social.

Terry Russell, Chris Guld, and Nick Russell at the vendor/speaker social.

The RV vendors are their own little community (sub-culture) within the larger community/sub-culture of RVing.  Many (most?) of them are full-time RVers who make their living traveling the RV rally and show circuits selling their goods and services.  As such they share experiences and perspectives that are different from those of us who just attend rallies and shows, especially those of us who are retired.  They are often at the same events and, even when they are competitors, frequently become good friends.

Wallce Lewis (Escapade Assistant Director), Dortha Hall (Escapade Coordinator), and Jim Guld (speaker) at the vendor/speaker social.

Wallce Lewis (Escapade Assistant Director), Dortha Hall (Escapade Coordinator), and Jim Guld (speaker) at the vendor/speaker social.

We finally got back to our coach where I downloaded photos from our Sony alpha 100 SLR camera to my laptop computer while Linda downloaded photos from her Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone to her laptop computer and then onto her SKP flash drive.  I used Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) to process the two panoramas I had photographed and then transferred everything to my SKP supplied flash drive.  We walked over to Lou and Val’s 5th wheel and visited for a while as Lou downloaded the photos from the flash drives and took a quick look at them.

We decided to take the long way back to our coach by walking through some of the campground areas we had not yet visited.  Thick clouds had moved in and the skies to the west were getting ominously dark.  Several people stopped us to let us know that possibly severe storms were headed our way portending damaging hail and wind gusts of 70 MPH.  We shortened our walk and headed back to our rig where we found Butch outside talking on his cell phone.  We put up the two awnings we had down for sun shade and stowed our chairs and end table.  High wind and awnings don’t mix well.  Butch and I chatted until the mosquitoes got bad and then retreated to our respective buses for the evening.

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

It got into the low 80’s today and the humidity was up with the approaching weather, so the coach interior was in the upper 80’s.  We were watching the approaching storms on our weather apps and the weather/radar sub-channel out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  It was a fairly aggressive system but showed signs of dividing and going around us to the north and south.  The rain eventually started, forcing us to close our ceiling vents and narrow our window openings.  Serious lightning developed and the rain intensified to the point where we had to close the large entrance door window and reduce the awning window openings to about an inch.  With a forecast of continued rain overnight and a low of only 65 degrees F we knew it would not be the best night for sleeping.  Still, I love storms and enjoyed seeing/hearing nature’s power while I worked on blog posts for yesterday and today.


2013_10_17 (R) The Middle Prong

It rained lightly all last night and into the first part of the morning.  That may not bode well for many outdoor activities, and you might assume that it would be a bad thing for photography, what with everything being wet and the sky being overcast.  Au contraire; while overcast skies reduce lights levels, we tend to work on tripods for landscape photography anyway, so that is not a problem.  On the plus side, the lighting is much more uniform, which helps in situations such as narrow river valleys with lots of tree cover where strong direct sunlight causes unmanageably large dynamic ranges and can create troublesome specular highlights.  On the downside, colors tend not to be as vibrant as one might like.  On the upside, having everything freshly wet deepens the color and overall tone of the scene.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP. (Luminance HDR, 3 10Mp raw images).

But first we went to breakfast and kept an eye on the weather, because none of us felt like actually working in the rain.  The overcast hung around, with low clouds in the valley by our camp, but the rain stopped and we headed back into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Cades Cove entrance.  We immediately headed up the road that runs along the Middle Prong of the Little River.  Lou had scouted this road previously and knew that it ran for about 6 miles, the first couple paved and the rest newly redone gravel.  There were two narrow bridges before the turnaround at the end, and lots of places for one or two cars to pull off.  We had a caravan of three vehicles, so finding good spots to stop was a little hard, but I think we found some good ones as I hope the photographs in this post demonstrate.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP (Luminance HDR, 6 exposures w/ Mantiuk08).

The Middle Prong drops gently but persistently for its entire length, and is littered with rocks and boulders the whole way, providing lots of possible “water shots.”  There was one waterfall opportunity as well, but it did not have much water running over it today.  We stopped anyway.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP (Luminance HDR, 6 exposures w/ Reinhard05).

My main “focus” for today was learning how to use the High Dynamic Range technique.  This is a two step process that is primarily suitable for photography stationary objects or scenes, such as landscapes.  Step 1 involves shooting the scene with a range of exposure settings from under-exposed to over-exposed.  Step 2 involves the use of post-processing software to combine the set of images into a single final image.  I downloaded Luminance HDR (32 bit) the other night and installed it, but hadn’t had a chance to work with it yet.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP.

The Middle Prong, GSMNP (Luminance HDR, 6 exposures w/ fattal).

I got a set of images to work with while Linda took some excellent photographs on her cell phone.  She is much more inclined to capture images with her cell phone or her iPad than I am and we have spent a little time on cell phone camera/image apps in the workshop.  We headed back around noon, had a bite of lunch, and headed back to the classroom around 1:30 PM for our final session.  The topics today included HDR, cell phone apps, programs for making collages and videos from still photos, and Adobe Lightroom.

E The Middle Prong, GSMNP.

Lou and Vince shooting the Middle Prong, GSMNP (single image).

We originally planned to meet Friday morning to review images, but we wrapped up around 4 PM and decided that we had taught/learned as much as we could for the week.  That will allow Linda and me to get an earlier start tomorrow than we originally expected.  Back at the rig I hooked up the water softener and water line to the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  I then worked on editing images and composing this blog, with some time out for a simple but very tasty dinner of green salad with granola topping and whole wheat penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and homemade marinara sauce.

Panorama of the Middle Prong, GSMNP.

Panorama of the Middle Prong, GSMNP. (constructed with MS Image Composite Editor from 9 images).

Lou was interested in seeing how WordPress works, so I agreed to meet him back at the classroom after dinner.  I decided to show him how I create a blog entry in real time by building this one.


2013_10_13 (N) A Fork In The Road

We spent a quiet night with only an occasional car passing by.  Someone nearby must have a pack of dogs and fed them around 6 AM as I heard them howling in the distance.  At first I thought they were coyotes, but it wasn’t the right kind of howl.  We finally got up around 8 AM to cool temperatures and light fog.  I checked the house batteries state of charge (I really need to get the Magnum ME-ARC remote panel installed up in the house) and it was 71%, not bad for having powered the coach for 8 hours.

Sunrise at Acres of Land near Richmond, KY

Sunrise at Acres of Land near Richmond, KY

A nice sunrise lit up the bedroom and by 9 AM the fog had burned off as we ate our breakfast of Linda’s homemade granola with fresh bananas, orange juice, and a cup of coffee.  This morning’s coffee was the Breakfast Blend from World Markets that Kathy brought to our open house.  It was delicious and already ground.  We generally grind our coffee beans, but it’s always nice to have ground coffee on hand, especially when we only want to make a couple of cups.

We had 186 miles to travel today, and check-in time at Tremont Outdoor Resort was 1 PM, so we targeted 10 AM as our departure time.  We left a little after 10 and took KY-876 east back to I-75 and continued south towards Tennessee.  Just after crossing the border we started down a long, steep grade but had to come to a complete stop before reaching the bottom.  We sat still, or moved along very slowly, while police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and emergency management vehicles sped past us on the right shoulder.  We eventually had to move to left as the accident was in the right lane, and got the ire of an SUV who apparently felt we had cut them off.  Sorry.  It was an accident scene everyone in the right lane had to move to the left.  Here’s a tip for folks driving cars: when a semi or large RV puts on its turn signal, you might want to consider letting them move over.  These are large, slow vehicles and they need your cooperation to operate safely.

When we reached the accident scene there were two motorhomes on the side of the road, one with a towed vehicle that had the driver’s side smashed in, and a small white car that had been rear-ended and squashed pretty bad.  We tried to move through the accident zone as quickly as traffic allowed, but were not able in that short span of time to surmise just what had happened, other than something bad.

The rest of the trip to Knoxville was uneventful although traffic was heavier as cars and trucks cleared the accident scene and tried to make up for lost time.  We finally left  I-75, picking up I-275 through the city to where it was supposed to join up with I-40, which we thought we would take west and shortly thereafter pick up US-129 headed south towards Maryville.  That was the plan.  Remember plans from a recent post?  The Knoxville highway system is complex, and we were following the directions on our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS while Linda double checked what we were doing on her Samsung Galaxy III smartphone.  Everything was fine until we came to a literal fork in the road and the GPS failed to tell us which way to go.  Intuitively we needed to go to the right, but that exit sign said “Downtown” and that didn’t seem right so we took the exit to the left and ended up…downtown.  Not just downtown, but on a very steep hill going up where we had to stop at a red light.  I don’t know what the grade of this hill was, but the bus was barely able to get moving from a dead stop.

On the plus side, while we were stopped there, a man crossed the street wearing a nice suit and bow tie and smiled and waved to us.  Also on the plus side, Sunday afternoon traffic was very light, so we didn’t have any further difficulties driving the 1.8 miles through the University of Tennessee campus back over to US-129 southbound.

At that point we were back on plan.  Just north of Maryville we picked up TN-35 which links up with the E Lamar Alexander Parkway, US-321 / TN-73 eastbound, which continued on as TN-73 and took us to Townsend.  Although the road got narrow and twisty in places, it was a pleasant and pretty drive.  All told, the accident scene and the Knoxville sight-seeing delayed our arrival at the Tremont Outdoor Resort by about 45 minutes from what the GPS originally predicted and we pulled in around 2:30 PM.

We turned off of TN-73 and crossed a bridge over a small river to enter the resort, at which point the GPS alerted us that we exceeded the weight limit of the bridge.  There were no weight limits posted  on this bridge, so we are not sure what that was all about.  We pulled up to the check-in area, scraping the top of the coach with the low over hanging branches that they assured us on the phone they did not have, and Linda went in to take care of the paperwork.  I could see from the driver’s seat that the roads in this RV park were not generous and might be problem.  When she returned with the map we unhooked the car and drove the route they wanted us to take to our site.  Right.  There were trucks parked where they shouldn’t be, and a maintenance golf cart by the restrooms that block part of the road.  I backed up and took the left fork in the entrance road, pulled up the tag axle, and made the hard left in sections B & C of the park.  From there I made a hard right, scratching the passenger side of the coach on some low pine/fir branches, finally got lined up, and back down into our section and into site B3.

The reason I mention all of this is that when we call to make a reservation we are very, very specific with people about the size and weight of our coach and specifically ask about overhead obstructions such as tree limbs.  (We always call, never book online, because of this.)  People consistently tell us that “you won’t have any problem” and it is, quite frankly either an ignorant response (they have no idea if we will have a problem or not) or they just plain lie about it.  I am also convinced that when we tell them we are 8.5 feet wide, 40 feet long (closer to 60 feet with the car in tow), 13 ft 2 inches tall, and weigh about 41,000 pounds those are just numbers that don’t mean anything to them.

But we got parked, leveled the coach, shut down the engine, and “made camp.”  I pulled out our Kenwood TH-F6 HTs (small hand held ham radios known as handi-talkies) and gave Lou, K9LU, a call on the previously agreed frequency of 146.550 MHz.  He was monitoring the frequency and came right back to my call.  Lou is the founder of the SKP Photographers BOF, and the organizer of the photography workshop we are here to participate in.  We went for a stroll around the RV park, as we usually do when we first arrive, and eventually made our way to Lou and Val’s 5th wheel where we had a nice chat.

We skipped lunch today, so Linda started dinner preparations when we got back to the coach.  She improvised a dish of diced potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, and garlic, seasoned with basil and pan fried in a little bit of olive oil.  She served it with a side of broccoli and glass of red wine.  A couple of hours later we had some more of the wonderful blackberry pie we bought on the Fulton Farm Market on Friday.  I will be sorry to see the end of that pie, it really has been that good.

Since we are here for a digital photography workshop, I presume we will have more photographs to post over the next few days, but not today.


2013_09_05 (Thu) A Picture Perfect Day

Today was a picture perfect day in more ways than one.  We are in the middle of one of those weather spells that makes Michigan the perfect place to be; highs approaching 70, lows around 50, light breezes, and clear, blue skies.  It was also the day we decided to start putting paintings and photographs back up on the walls of our new-to-us house.  It’s an easy job to put off because it is slightly tedious work requiring careful measuring, trips up and down ladders, putting pencil marks on walls we paid someone to patch and paint just 7 months ago, poking holes in them with screws and nails, getting the piece actually hung, and hoping it ended up were you intended for it to be.  We got 13 paintings hung, and a number of others positioned where we think they are going to hang.  Not only does it make the house start to feel a lot more like home, it finally started clearing the art clutter out of the library, opening up the possibility of finishing other unpacking and shelving projects that the stacked artwork was blocking.

Today was also a day for delving a little deeper into digital image processing software.  Although our website only has a few pages, and I have only been doing this blog since early June (2013), I was surprised to find out from Scott at QTH.com that our WordPress installation had already expanded to 1 Gb of disk space.  While I don’t necessarily consider 1 Gb to be a lot of data, web-hosting companies do keep an eye how much resource you use, and will put caps on it and/or raise the monthly price.  Any company that tells you they will give you unlimited everything for $2 /month is probably practicing the virtual reality version of bait-and-switch.  Getting to that level in only 2 months seemed to indicate that I needed to do something different going forward, besides simply paying for more disk space.

The culprit, of course, was all of the photographs I have uploaded as part of the blog entries.  I tend to shoot high resolution JPEGs, as they are usable for a variety of things just as they come from the camera.  The images are 3,872 x 2,592 pixels (10 Mpixel sensor) and roughly 10 Mb files in raw mode.  The JPEG files are typically between 2.5 – 3.5 Mb each.  That’s a substantial compression compared to raw format, but 300 of those and you’ve got yourself a gigabyte of photo data.  Hmmm, that sounds familiar.  While 300 photos may sound like a lot, it’s only five per day for two months.  I haven’t gone back to check, but I would not be surprised if that is what I have averaged.

What I find interesting is that WordPress sizes these images to 300 x 200 pixels when I insert them into a blog.  That’s a reduction factor of approximately 167, suggesting a file size of approximately 20 Kb.  Kate de Fuccio, who I mentioned in a recent blog post, told me that she can click on the images in the blog and get the full resolution photos.  But if my intent is to only make them big enough to view in the blog, it doesn’t serve any purpose to have the hi-res files available.  So, what to do?  Resize before uploading, of course.  The two default Microsoft programs for manipulating images on a Windows XP Pro / Office 2007 platform are Microsoft Image Composer and Paint.  They can do a lot of things, but resizing images easily (or at all) is not one of them.

Lou Petkus, K9LU, of the SKP Photographers BOF had mentioned at a BOF meeting back in July that he generally shoots in raw mode and uses a couple of different free programs for a variety of post-processing tasks.  We are attending a SKP Photographers BOF photography workshop/rally in October, organized by Lou, and the schedule of events indicates that there will be a session on post-processing software for digital images.  I contacted Lou to find out what programs he will be discussing and to ask about re-sizing my photos prior to uploading them to WordPress.  The programs he will be discussing are Faststone Image Viewer and Photoscape.  He suggested I use Faststone to re-size and then sharpen the images (in that order) before uploading them.  I downloaded the programs successfully and have explored Faststone Image Viewer a little bit.  I will see how well it works the next time I post images.