Tag Archives: Madeline (MEF3)

2016/04/01-05 (F-T) J-P-Shuffle CCAFS Farewell Celebration

2016/04/01 (F) The J. P. Shuffle

Linda was up before me and got to see one of the cruise ships come in at 6:20 AM.  She said it was all lit up and quite a sight.  I got out of bed at 8:20 AM and made coffee.  Linda prepared toast and jam for breakfast and gave each of us half of an orange.

I finished up my post for yesterday, worked on this one, and then noticed that an iOS 9.3.1 update was available for the Apple iOS 9.3 update that I installed Wednesday evening and Linda installed last night.  It was only 18 MB but still took a long time to download and install.

Today was April Fool’s Day and time for us to once again do “the Jetty Park shuffle.”  I have checked at least once, and often twice, each day to see if an appropriate full hookup site had become available through cancellation for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but it had not.  Around 10 AM I walked to the office to check one last time.  Scott Ward was the JP staff person on duty and was very helpful but a site was just not available.  He was able, however, to put us on site #357 for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night’s.  I shortened our stay on site #3 to two nights and paid the balance for the one night.

Site #3 is a water only site, no electricity and no sewer connection, and the rules say that NO pets are allowed in that section, which is right along the channel and outside the regular fenced campground.  The staff was aware, however, that we have two cats onboard and let us have the site anyway.  We do not ever want them to escape, but especially here.

Our generator can produce more power than we can get from a “50 Amp” RV electrical connection, so not having electricity is not really a problem.  The only real downsides, other than having to move, are that we can feel, hear, and sometimes smell the generator.  We also had a problem with a circuit breaker for its cooling fan last winter.  I made a temporary fix to it but have never fixed it permanently.  We also do not like to leave the genset running when we are away from the coach, such as will be the case on Saturday morning.

I selected/processed three photos of the manatees we saw on Tuesday at Merritt Island National Wildlife a Refuge and e-mailed them to Pat and Vickie.  I then replied to a couple of e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine.  By this time it was 11 AM so we prepared the bus, inside and out, to be moved.  With all of the Windows and roof vents closed it warmed up quickly inside even with a lot of the coach in the shade.  When I turned the ignition key the engine turned over but would not catch and my heart just sank.

I really like this bus, but I have grown weary of the uncertainty of whether things will work when needed.  I turned the ignition key off and rechecked the transmission selector and parking brake settings.  I also switched the suspension out of Level Low to drive mode although that should not have mattered.  With the ignition key turned to the ‘ON’ position the 12 V chassis battery seemed a little low and a red light flashed a few times on the transmission selector, so I turned the key off, went to the outside battery disconnect switches, and turned both the 12V and 24V disconnects off and then back on.

Back in the driver’s seat I tried again.  Normally the engine only turns over a few times before it fires.  This time I let it turn for four or five seconds and it finally started.  If I had any sense I would have driven it to the W. W. Williams Detroit Diesel service center in Orlando, but I moved it to site #3 at J. P. instead.

Our coach in Site #3 at Jetty Park & Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL. This is the “water only” camping by the shipping channel. All of these rigs are parked facing north towards the channel. It’s a great spot to watch the ships come and go.

To get from site #358 to site #3 I had to exit the fenced campground and drive around the east end of the park past the beach parking, concession building, and playground and then west along the edge of the shipping channel and around to the back row of the water only sites, all of which face the shipping channel.  As such it was a long drive to get to a site we could see from the one we just vacated.

We left the car at site #358 temporarily and Linda rode along in the bus.  I made the whole trip in 1st gear, to keep the RPMs up, and turned on the OTR A-C, both to cool the interior of the coach and to put more load on the engine and help get it up temperature.  I did not pull the tag axle up as we had walked the park/campground enough to know that I did not need to make any really tight turns.  When I was mostly into position on site #3 Linda got out and spotted the final position of the rear end.  These channel-side sites slope down towards the channel (facing north) and the back row sites get steeper the farther off the back off the site you go.  I wanted to pull forward just enough to get our tow bar clear of the access road behind the site and Linda accomplished that with an inch or two to spare.

I left the engine running and switched it to high idle to run the OTR air-conditioning.  While Linda went back to get our car I got out the step stool and awning pole and deployed all four awnings.  I then started the Genset to make sure it was going to run and produce electricity.  I also thought we might run the residential air-conditioners.  When Linda returned with our car she wanted to open up the coach so I shut off the OTR bus A-C, dropped the engine idle to low, and let it idle for a couple of minutes before shutting off the engine.  I left the genset on for the time being.

Both of our systems had been reacting to what we had eaten the last few days so we passed on lunch and just hung around our new site which was, in fact, very pleasant with a view of the water in the channel and the high ground of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the opposite bank.

Our driver side neighbors stopped to chat on their way to the beach and let us know that they had just spotted dolphins in the channel.  I walked over and caught a glimpse of several arching repeatedly out of the water but by the time Linda got there they had submerged and not resurfaced.  Given where we are parked we should have a good chance to see dolphins and view cruise ships coming and going from the Port.

Linda made a cold garbanzo bean salad for dinner last night.  After dinner I was trying to get us connected to the park Wi-Fi system but could not maintain the connection or get us logged in.  I tried using our Verizon Mi-Fi but could not get the WiFi Ranger to work with it.  I tried to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with the Mi-Fi but there were problems with that as well.  At one point my ASUS notebook computer decided that it could not detect any Wi-Fi networks even thought it had two of them sitting within a couple feet of it.  I got disgusted with the whole situation, shut everything off, and we went for a walk.

Linda waves to the Disney “Magic” cruise ship as it heads out to sea from Port Canaveral, FL. There is always a crowd along the channel to wave the cruise ships in and out.

We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach and Vickie joined us.  We headed to the beach where we enjoyed a very brisk breeze until lightning to the southwest signaled that it was time to return to the safety of our rigs or one of the park buildings.  We headed back past the playground area towards our coach and Vickie split off for the gate in the campground fence that provided the most direct access to her site.

Back at our site we closed up the coach against the humidity and coming storm.  I then started the auxiliary powerplant (genset) and turned on the air conditioners.  Not long after that it started to rain, lightly at first, but it eventually became very heavy for a while before finally moving offshore.

With the A-C’s running I was reminded that I need to change some of the AC circuits in the main panel.  The front and middle air-conditioners are on different legs of the AC power system, front on L1 and middle on L2.  That makes sense as we would normally want to run both of them at the same time to cool the front half of the bus (living, cooking, office space) when we are awake and using the bus.  The 3rd/bedroom A-C has to go on one of the two legs and either one could create load balancing issues.  Unfortunately, the middle A-C unit is not currently producing any cooling.

To make matters worse, the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger also draws its power from L1.  Again, it had to go somewhere, but the current configuration tends to put too much load on L1 and not enough on L2.  Even though the genset is oversized for our electrical needs an imbalance between L1 and L2 is still a problem because it is set up as a 240 VAC unit with a 240 VAC voltage regulator.  Although it has an active neutral, allowing it to supply 120 VAC to both L1 and L2 (180 degrees out of phase) the regulator is only concerned with maintaining the 240 VAC between the two legs, not the 120 VAC between each leg to neutral.

If the loads on the two legs are not reasonably balanced, the 240 VAC will “drift” off center from neutral with the voltage on the high load leg dropping and the voltage on the low load leg rising.  That, in turn, can/does cause havoc with some of the devices onboard, especially the microwave oven, APC uninterruptible power supply that powers the Amped|Wireless router, and the APC line voltage stabilizer that powers the laser printer.

We were, however, able to watch TV and found Ken Burns’ JAZZ documentary on channel 24.1.  By 11 PM we needed to get to bed as we had to be up and ready to go by 7:45 AM tomorrow morning.  I turned the genset off around 11:30 PM and let the house electrical system switch to the inverter.  I tried to watch the end of JAZZ on the TV in the bedroom but the TV and antenna controller kept losing power.  That, in turn, caused the TV to shut off and the controller to reset to position 8.  My phone and iPad chargers, both of which were plugged into AC outlets, also kept cutting in and out.

I encountered this same issue when we were boondocking at John Palmer’s place in Mayo, Florida at the end of November 2015.  At that time I turned off the SEARCH WATTS feature thinking that it was causing the problem.  Apparently that was not the problem.  My best guess is that under very low load conditions the inverter is either:  a) not inverting at all, or b) producing a voltage and/or current that is not well regulated.  In either case, it would play havoc with our entertainment and communications electronics.

Rather than screw around with this anymore tonight I gave up , turned off the TV, unplugged the antenna controller, resolved to ignore the device chargers, figuring they would work when the refrigerator or air compressor ran, and tried to fall asleep.  I could have turned on the AC lights in the living room, or our small portable fan, to draw enough AC current to keep the inverter working, but that’s really contrary to the whole notion of minimizing your energy usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary when running on batteries.

2016/04/02 (S) Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour

I was awake at 6 AM and we were both up and dressed by 7 AM.  I did not make coffee or have breakfast and Linda just had a piece of bread as making toast would have required me to start the genset.  The batteries were at roughly 24.6 VDC (and showing 72% SOC) with no load being drawn by the inverter so there was no need to recharge them this morning.  We were due at Pat and Vickie’s coach at 8 AM so I gathered up my camera, holster, and extra batteries.  We left at 7:40 and took our time walking over to their site.

Pat and Vickie have seating for four in their Jeep Grand Cherokee and have been providing transportation for our group outings.  We left just after 8 AM for the short drive to the Exploration Tower at the west end of Port Canaveral.  We signed up for a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse that departed from the Tower at 8:30 AM and included admission to the Tower when we returned.

There were only twelve of us on the small tour bus plus a driver (Mike) and two tour guides.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  One of the tour guides (Jim) had worked at the Station and was our main guide for information about the Station and the various launch sites we visited; and we visited a number of them.  One of the things we learned was that CCAFS is a Station rather than a Base because no one lives there.  All of the Air Force personnel working at CCAFS are from Patrick Air Force Base, which is located south of Cocoa Beach.  The U. S. Navy also has a presence here with facilities that service ICBM and attack submarines.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Lighthouse had its own cadre of docents, and was very interesting to see and learn about, but only accounted for a little less than an hour of a 3-1/2 hour tour.  The other tour guide was Ron and he provided most of the information about Port Canaveral.  Just after exiting CCAFS we visited a small museum devoted to the history of the Station.  It was located next to the building that now houses the launch control facility for SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight venture of Elon Musk of PayPal.  There are other private/commercial companies operating at CCAFS besides SpaceX .  One of the largest is United Launch Alliance (ULA), an independent company that was formed by merging the space operations of Boeing (which absorbed McDonnell-Douglass years ago) and Lockheed-Martin.

All that remains of one of the launch pads at CCAFS, FL.

We did not really understand ahead of time what we were going to see and we were surprised by the dilapidated condition of the old launch sites.  All that remains at most of them are concrete and brick works.  Metal superstructures that were subject to rusting were long ago removed and control centers that were once stuffed full of equipment are now “abandoned in place” or used for storage.  It was like visiting an ancient historic site, which in fact it is; the first rocket launched from this site was a German V-2 in 1950 and the Mercury missions occurred in the early 1960’s over 50 years ago.

A continuation of the previous image, this is the command bunker and tunnel. CCAFS, FL.

Back at the Exploration Tower, which is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority (CPA), we got wrist bands good for admission through closing time today.  The weather had been overcast all day and a check of the radar on our smartphones showed heavy rain moving our way.  Even though we were hungry we decided to experience the Tower before the rain moved in.

This is all that is left of what was once a heavily reinforced HVAC building at the launch pad. The superstructure in the distance is in active use by SpaceX and ULA. CCAFS, FL.

The Exploration Tower has seven floors plus additional structure at the top.  We took the elevator to the top floor which features an outdoor observation platform oriented to give a commanding view of Port Canaveral, CCAFS, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center to the north, as well as the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  There are also views to the south of the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.  We took the stairs down to each floor in turn.  Each floor has a theme with related exhibits and we stopped at each one.  The 3rd floor is a small theater that shows a 20 minute film about Port Canaveral and the surrounding area; past, present, and future.  The film starts on the hour and half hour so we caught the 1 PM show.  The second floor is a balcony that affords a view of art hanging above the 1st floor lobby and gift shop.

The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL. The top floor includes an outdoor observation deck.

Back on the 1st floor I bought two coffees while Linda and Vickie shopped for gifts.  Linda found a stuffed toy of a manatee for our grand-daughter Madeline.  When we finally got back to Jetty Park at 2 PM Linda made sandwiches for lunch and I washed off some grapes.  I checked the house battery bank voltage and it was still OK.  The temperature had cooled off under cloudy skies with a strong southerly breeze, so I did not need to run the air-conditioners.

I took a nap for an hour.  Not long after I got up we noticed activity in the shipping channel so I took the camera and we went out to see what was going on.  We set up two chairs in front of the bus to watch the action.  The blue tug boat was hanging around the entrance to the Trident Turning Basin, which we had not seen it do before.  The Brevard County Sheriff boat came out along with one of the harbor pilot boats.  A U. S. Coast Guard boat, with a large caliper machine gun on the bow that was manned, headed out the channel towards the ocean at high speed.  We thought perhaps we were going to get to see a submarine arrival, which are always unannounced, but the reason for all this activity turned out to be the Carnival Cruise Ship “Valor” coming into port.  It was delayed from its scheduled arrival by almost 12 hours but that worked to my advantage as the cloud cover had thinned and provided nice lighting on the bow of the ship as it traveled west into the channel.

A 180 degree panorama, from west through north to east, from the observation deck of the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL.

A little while later the Norwegian Cruise Line “Spirit” left its dock and headed for the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by the police, Coast Guard, and harbor pilot boats.  About 20 minutes behind the NCL Spirit, the Disney “Fantasy” left its dock and started its slow trip down the channel.  Vickie showed up before it got to our position and had her iPad with her.  As the boat came abreast of our position, Vickie spotted dolphins swimming just in front of the bow.

I got out another chair and we sat in front of the bus and chatted for a while.  Vickie eventually returned to her coach to fix dinner and we went inside.  I transferred today’s photos to my computer and selected two to process and send to Vickie.

A dolphin swims in front of one of the Disney cruise ships as it heads down the channel from Port Canaveral, FL. towards the sea.

For dinner Linda improvised a potato and broccoli dish with onion, garlic, and couscous.  It was light and very tasty.  After we were done eating I texted Vickie.  They were also done with dinner so we met her at the office and went for a walk.  Back at our coach Linda checked online and found a news story about the Carnival Valor.  The Valor was delayed due to a medical situation that required them to return to the Turks and Cacos.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, passengers were being advised to embark starting at 9 PM and to be onboard by 11 PM, with departure shortly thereafter.

Back at our coach we watched some TV and waited up for the Carnival Valor to leave as the nighttime departures are rather something to see with the ships all lit up.  Linda waited until midnight and then turned in for the night.  I stayed up until 1:30 AM but it was still docked at the west end of the port so I gave up and went to bed.

2016/04/03 (N) Bon Voyage

I was waiting for the Carnival Valor to leave Port Canaveral last night but by 1:30 AM it was still at its terminal.  It was all lit up but going nowhere, so I finally went to bed.    By midnight the skies had begun to clear and the wind, which had been steady all day, became stronger and started shifting around to the northwest and becoming noticeably cooler.

The cruise ships are particularly magical at night and I had hoped to capture some images of them, having set my camera to SCeNe selection mode (SCN) and selected “Night.”  In spite of being up late I did not sleep soundly and was aware of headlights around 5 AM.  Someone had apparently driven over from the campground to watch ships, or perhaps driven into the park, which opens at 5 AM, for this purpose.  I then noticed a ship in the shipping lane heading for the mouth of the channel.  Around 5:30 AM another cruise ship came in.  I got up, put on my robe, and tried to photograph it from the cockpit of the bus.

The nighttime arrival of the Carnival “Victory” cruise ship at Port Canaveral, FL.

I got up to stay a little after 8 AM and started the genset so I could make coffee and heat water.  Linda got up shortly thereafter and prepared our breakfast cereal.  We could see cruise ships docked at the west end of Port Canaveral so Linda checked the CruiseTimeTables.com website, and found that there were four cruise ships scheduled to depart today; three at 4 PM (the Carnival Sunshine and Victory, and the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas) and one at 4:30 PM (the Disney Magic).

The Magnum ME-ARC indicated the house battery bank was at 24.6 VDC and 69% SOC.  I turned on the genset and the charger started in Bulk Charging mode drawing 110A at 24VDC, or just over 2,600 Watts, on L1.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, which is on L2, to balance the load on the genset a bit.  When the battery charger had backed off a bit and switched to Absorption mode I turned on the block heater for the main engine, which is currently on the same leg (L1) as the charger.  Balanced loads lead to balanced voltages, but it is also better for the genset mechanically to run under a somewhat heavier load than a light one.

Around 10 AM I walked over to check site #357.  It was already vacant so I went to the office to confirm that we still had it reserved for tonight through Tuesday night.  We did, so I told the office clerk that I was going to go ahead and move, if I could get the engine started, and would then come in and register.  If I couldn’t get it started I would extend our stay on site #3 until we could get the problem resolved or get it towed.  The clerk was not particularly sympathetic, but then he was the one who would have to deal with an irate customer who could not have their reserved site, and the people who camp here have very particular preferences about their sites.  Fortunately, site #3 was open so we could have stayed there until we needed to dump our holding tanks.  We could minimize water usage by using the campground bathrooms, so we could have stretched our dry camping if needed.

Back at our rig we started preparing to move it.  I moved the car over near the pedestrian gate that is very close to site #357 and walked back to the coach.  Linda had secured the inside enough for the short, slow trip.  I checked the maintenance chargers for the chassis batteries and they indicated 100% charge levels.  I opened the air supply valve for the engine accessories, engaged the 12 and 24 volt chassis battery disconnect switches, pulled the wheel chocks, and put the entry step stool away.  I put the Level Low system in Drive mode, just in case that mattered, and turned the ignition key.  The bus motor cranked quickly and fired right up!  That was a relief.

The Centurion Battalion of the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps had arrived at the picnic area sometime before 8 AM with a large contingent of cadets and their adult leaders/chaperones.  And they had arrived in a large number of cars that filled the available parking spaces just on the other side of the road that ran behind the back row of RV sites where we were parked.  There was still plenty of room to back out, but Linda positioned herself outside to keep an eye on the back end of the rig.

The motorhome on our passenger side was also ready to leave and backed out before I did.  I don’t think he would have presented an obstacle, but having him gone was one less thing to have to keep an eye on.  I pulled up the tag axle and then pulled forward to the right to position the coach at an angle to the road behind it.  I then backed up and cut the steer tires hard left to swing the nose around to the passenger side and guide the rear end cleanly into the road well clear of any other vehicles.  Linda climbed on board and I turned on the OTR A-C, partly for comfort and partly to put more load on the engine.

We made the 5 MPH trip around the east end of the park and campground back to the campground entrance on the south side where Linda got out to open the gate.  Once I was clear of the gate she got back onboard.  We wound our way through the campground, familiar now with the road system.  When I got to the 2nd to last turn I saw that the last turn was blocked by a pickup truck pulling a 5th wheel trailer out of its site so I continued straight ahead and went clockwise around Red Knot Circle.  By the time I got back to the same intersection the pickup truck and 5th wheel were out of the way and I was able to proceed to site #357.

Linda hopped out to act as spotter.  Using what I learned two years ago from Big Bill while getting parked at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida I moved to the right edge of the road as the back-in site was on that side.  As I pulled past the site and the rear wheels were by the front of the site I cut the steer tires to the left, positioning the coach at an angle to the site, all the while avoiding trees, RVs, cars, and other obstacles.  I backed straight, keeping an eye on Linda in the driver side rear view mirror, and started swinging the nose to the driver side while keeping an eye on the car parked on the other side of the road.

As soon as I was clear of that car I swung the nose hard to the driver side.  We were well clear of the Sea Grape trees on the passenger side so I straightened the steer tires and pulled forward until I had a good view of the concrete pad on one side.  I backed in following Linda’s hand signals until I could see the pad on both sides, got the rig straight and centered, and backed up until Linda gave me the stop signal (arms crossed at the wrist above her head).  We ended up parking with the front tires just off the front edge of the concrete pad as the coach was close to level and we wanted to avoid lower branches at the rear of the site.  As it was, I still had to lower the front slightly, but at least the Level Low system worked this time.  I also had to adjust the rear on one side, which worked a lot better after I lowered the tag axle.

With the coach neatly tucked in to its site and sitting level Linda walked the short distance back to where the car was parked and drove it around to our site.  Once the car was parked I walked to the office and took care of the registration.  When I got back I tried to get our network up and running but encountered all sorts of problems.  I wasted most of the rest of the afternoon trying to resolve them, to no avail.

While we were camped on site #3 I had to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router/range-extender to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  That configuration worked OK out there, but was not working here.  The Wi-Fi ranger was seeing a number of campground Wi-Fi signals with adequate to very good signal strength, but was having a very difficult time connecting to them.  When it did, the connection would drop after a very short time.  The Amped|Wireless router/range-extender was having an equally difficult time connecting to the Wi-Fi Ranger and staying connected when it did.  I tried connecting the Wi-Ranger to our Verizon Mi-Fi but that did seem to work either.  I also noticed that the cellular signal was not as strong as usual.  Linda commented that her phone was having trouble connecting.  I finally got disgusted with the whole thing and set it aside.  Sometimes the best solution is to “just walk away.”

There were four cruise ships starting down the shipping channel roughly on time and in the order specified and Vickie joined us for the ship parade.  We were out there waiting for them, camera at the ready, and by the time the last ship was headed out to sea I had shot about 200 images.  Vickie had already eaten, and we were not ready for dinner yet, so we walked the campground and park, including the pier.

It was chilly all day yesterday with a high temperature in the low 70’s and a steady breeze from the north that resulted in a hazardous conditions warning for the beach.  As the light faded it got colder and we returned to our motorhomes.

Dinner was a nice salad and Amy’s enchiladas.  Simple, easy, tasty.  It turned colder after sunset under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, initially, but eventually the coach was a bit too cool so I closed the roof vents and Linda narrowed the window openings to just an inch.  We were a little tired, not particularly captivated by what was on TV, and had to be up earlier than usual in the morning, so we were in bed before 11 PM.

2016/04/04 (M) Farewell For Now

It turned chilly after sunset last night under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, actually, but eventually the coach felt chilly and we closed it up, mostly, and were in bed a bit earlier than usual.

We were up at 7 AM this morning and got dressed right away.  I made coffee, which used up our supply of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans, and we headed over to site #303 at 7:30 to see Pat and Vickie off.  They have been here since mid-February and today was departure day.  The bus motor was already running when we got there and we just watched while they got ready to pull out.  We learned long ago not to “chat” with RVers during their final departure preparations.  They drove around by the office to hook up their car and we walked over to watch.  I took a couple of pictures with my phone and used the “dawn” setting for the first time.  Soon enough they were ready to go, so we said our final “farewells for now,” and, just like that, they drove off and were gone.  Assuming no mechanical or weather issues they will be home in northern Indiana Wednesday evening.

A group of five brown pelicans coming up the channel just above the water. Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, FL.

We always find that leaving an encampment after we have been there for an extended period of time has a strange feeling and we experienced that vicariously as Pat and Vickie drove away.  The strangeness, as best I can describe it, is a combination of a sense of loss—the giving up of a familiar place and the people there—and anticipation of the journey ahead, both positive and negative.  The anticipation is positive in the sense of the possibilities of new experiences that come with the adventure of the road while the negative anticipation stems from the potential for mechanical, weather, traffic, or health problems.

With Pat and Vickie out of sight we returned to our coach and had a light breakfast of toast and jam and finished our coffee.  Linda then worked on a grocery list while I tackled out networking problems.  I gave up in disgust around 10 AM and we drove to Cocoa Beach to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Publix supermarket first and found most of what we needed there.  A quick stop at Sunseed Food CO-OP filled in our list with blueberries, coffee, and vegan mayonnaise.  I stopped at one of the Shell stations on the way back to J. P. and topped off the fuel in the car so we would not have to deal with that tomorrow morning.

Back at our coach we got the groceries unloaded and put away.  Linda then heated some leftovers for lunch and washed some grapes.  After lunch I put in a call to Chris Yust, our National General Insurance Agent, to ask her about the letter/form we received regarding Coordination of Medical benefits.  She called back a short time later and we discussed it.  She logged into her agent support system but there was no indication of the letter/form.  Normally she can see anything the insurance company has sent to her customers.  She confirmed that we really did need to send the form in with the requested documentation.

Linda had already photographed the fronts and backs of our MPSERS/BCBS cards.  When she tried to print them the printer was “offline”.  We had this same problem at the beginning of our winter travels and it turned out to be NETWORK related.  The fix back then was to use the Advanced IP Scanner to determine what IP address was assigned to the printer and then manually reconfigure the printer to that address.  That was under Windows 8.1.  Under Windows 10 the IP Scanner didn’t work the same way and the manual reconfiguration didn’t work either.  What is particularly puzzling and annoying is that the printer does not appear to be responding correctly when set as a DHCP client.  If it was, we would not be having a problem communicating with it.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this past week dealing with network and wireless communications malfunctions, so I did what I often do and we went for a walk at 2:30 PM.  We went out on the pier and were just starting back when someone spotted a manatee between the pier and the jetty swimming towards the ocean.  The water was clear and we got a good look at it for quite a while.  It was large and presumably a full-size adult.  They really are gentle giants and it was a thrill to see it.

We walked back to the office for coffee before returning to our rig.  As soon as we went in Scott Ward handed Linda a card.  She has not been in the office that much but I have, and have often interacted with Scott while checking on, or registering for, sites.  Still, I was impressed that he remembered my last name and made the connection to the card.  The card was from our younger grand-daughter, Madeline.  It was a ‘thank you’ card for Linda for all of the custom photo postcards she has created using the PhotoPostCard app and had printed and mailed to Madeline by the PhotoPostCard service out of San Diego, California.  Linda took a picture of the card, texted it to our son, and asked him to tell Madeline “thanks” in return.  He texted back a photo of Madeline looking at the most recent postcard, which was a photo of Linda by the channel with one of the Disney cruise ships heading out to sea.

The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas was due to sail at 3:45 PM followed closely by      the Disney Dream at 4 PM.  We walked over to the shipping channel at 3:40 PM and by the time we got there the Enchantment was starting to move away from its dock.  Something did not look right and then I realized we were looking at the stern of the ship.  The cruise ships usually dock facing the ocean, so it needed to turn around to get out of Port Canaveral.

One of the amazing things about these amazing machines is their ability to maneuver in close quarters.  When in port, they can independently push the bow and stern to either side, which means they can move sideways or turn the ship around its center (or any other point).  In this case they pushed the stern out from the dock on the south side of the channel and into the opening of the middle turning basin on the north side of the channel opposite the dock.  They then backed it up slightly into the turning basin, brought the bow around into the channel, pushed the stern out into the channel, and then started moving forward down the channel towards the ocean.  It was quite a skillful maneuver and the first time we have seen this in the two weeks we have been here.

Not long after the Enchantment cleared the Jetty and turned southeast to stay in the channel, the Disney Dream started moving slowly forward and away from its dock.  The Disney terminal/dock is in an alcove (basin) on the north side of the west end of the Port so it has to turn into the straight portion of the channel.  Of all the cruise ships we have seen come and go the Disney ships appear to be in the best condition, not that any of them look bad.

We returned to our coach and I transferred photos to my computer from the camera and from my cell phone while Linda started preparing dinner.  Dinner consisted of a kale salad followed by a brown rice and kale dish with sautéed carrots, onions, and garlic.  Linda has not had any wine in a couple of weeks because of the medications she’s been taking, but I had a glass of the Arbor Mist Raspberry.  I find “flavored” wines a questionable choice, although I like Sangria and hot mulled or spiced wine.

We went for a walk after dinner that included some time on the beach.  The park and beach were a beehive of activity yesterday but things were quiet all day today and there were only a handful of people on the beach this evening.  Both conditions are nice, in their own way.  There was, however, some activity in the Trident submarine turning basin today.  The big crane was moving and a Coast Guard cutter was in and out of the basin.  An attack helicopter from Patrick AFB also made repeated passes over the area and up/down the beach.  Our friends told us that when things start getting active around the basin it usually means a submarine is coming in but that did not happen while we were watching.

Back at our coach we turned on the TV but all of the CBS programs were repeats because the NCAA Basketball final game was on cable.  I reconfigured the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi and was able to get my computer connected to the Internet and to our NAS, which is critical for backing up photos and documents.  I did not, however, mess around further with the printer.  My plan is to move it back into my office at home and leave it there.  I will find a newer one, with better networking functionality, to put in the bus.

We planned to be on the road in the morning between 8 and 8:30 AM so we went to bed before 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep before NCIS-LA ended but I watched the channel 6 news/weather before turning out the lights.  The Cleveland Indians baseball home opener was postponed because of snow on the field and the TV weatherman reported that the average last date for snow in Cleveland is April 18, and for Detroit, April 22.  In spite of a mild winter and early spring, I knew there was a reason we were not in a hurry to return home.  The low at our house was forecast to be 18 degrees F overnight.

2016/04/05 (M) Celebration

We were up at 7 AM, showered, and got dressed.  We tended to our cats and prepared the motorcoach for them to be comfortable while we were away for part of the day.  We each had a banana, and a little orange juice to wash down our vitamins, but did not have a full breakfast or our usual morning coffee.  We gathered up all of the things Linda needed for her doctor’s appointment and were in the car and on our way at 8:10 AM.

Our destination was the office of Dr. Michael Seidman in Celebration, Florida, a trip of 60 to 65 miles from Jetty Park that would take about as many minutes.  Most of the route was Toll Road (FL-528 and FL-417) and we did not have to slow down for the toll booths because we have a Florida SunPass transponder that we can move between the bus and the car.  We put the address of the clinic, which is attached to Florida Hospital, into the GPS.  It accepted Celebration as the city, but the routing showed the destination as Kissimmee.  I didn’t care what it called the place as long as it got us to the correct location.

We left earlier than needed in order to arrive earlier than required and allow for traffic and navigational contingencies.  Less than a mile from the medical center we spotted a Panera Bread Company store and stopped to have bagels and coffee.  While we were there we made use of the free Wi-Fi to update apps on our iPads and smartphones.  We left at 10:15 and finished the short trip to the Florida Hospital complex.  We found a parking spot, found the clinic building, and found the suite for the Head & Neck Surgery Center of Florida (H&NSCF).  Linda had already completed much of the required new patient paperwork so we were there with time to spare.

Sheila, one of the office assistants, got Linda checked in and wanted to know if we had brought copies of her records from Henry Ford Health System, where Dr. Seidman worked for 30 years and treated Linda for the last 20 of those.  I had e-mailed Sheila the day after she asked me to get those records to let her know that HFHS would not send them to another hospital or clinic at Linda’s request and that the H&NSCF would have to request them.  Sheila said she did not receive that e-mail, even though I replied to one she sent Linda.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done at that point.

It was a great relief to Linda to be able to get in to see Dr. Seidman.  Dr. S and his PA, Katherine, carefully went over the history of Linda’s illness and treatment of the last three weeks.  He indicated that the treatment was what he would have prescribed, which was comforting to know.  His routine ENT examination did not reveal any indication of infection or fluid in her “good” (right) ear, which was also good to know.  He really wanted to compare the recent audiological results with her last tests from HFHS so he made a call to someone at the HFHS ENT clinic and was able to get them to fax the test results.  He chaired the ENT department for much of his time at Henry Ford, and that was apparently still worth something with former colleagues.

Dr. S also inserted a scope through Linda’s right nostril and into her throat to exam the areas that cannot be seen any other way.  The scope is a thin, flexible cable with a camera and LED light source at the tip.  The image is fed to a monitor, where I got to see it in real time, but was also recorded so Linda got to see it afterwards.  Her vocal cords did not close completely and were slightly bowed, which Dr. S thought probably accounted for her weak, slightly horse, voice but there was no sign of infection or other pathology, such as tumors.  He noticed that the Eustachian tube opening was “bubbling” which he thought was a good sign.  He also examined the left nostril and did not see anything unusual there either.

All of that was good news, of course, but we were both a bit let down that there wasn’t any additional treatment he could provide at this time.  Direct injection of steroids into the middle ear was still a possibility but he wanted Linda to wait at least four weeks to see if she improved on her own before going down that path.  Equally frustrating was that her hearing, while marginal, was too good for a cochlear implant.  Not that she is eager to have one of those, of course, what she wants is the hearing in her right ear restored to what it was before she got sick a month ago.

Our friend, Mara, was moving her motorhome today from Clermont to Winter Haven and her friend, Michael, was driving to Orlando International Airport to drop off a rental car and fly back to Phoenix, Arizona.  They had hoped to do all of that by way of Celebration and have lunch, with or without us, at Ari, a Japanese sushi restaurant.  We had indicated that it was very doubtful we would make it to lunch, given the timing of Linda’s appointment, but called Mara when we got back to our car to update her.  It turned out that when she got ready to leave her motorhome slideout would not slide in.  (I think that’s why they are called slide “outs.”)  Michael returned home as planned while Mara arranged for a technician to fix her non-sliding slideout.

We needed to fax a few documents to National General Insurance Company, so we went in search of a Staples with a copy center.  Having taken care of that we wanted to have lunch before heading back to Cape Canaveral so as not to be eating dinner too late in the day.  We found another Panera near FL-417 and Orange Blossom Trail and ate there.  The kale-romaine-couscous-almond salad was excellent and the black bean soup was as good as usual.  Well fed, we got on the FL-417 Toll Road and headed back towards the FL-528 Toll Road, which we took back to Cape Canaveral.

We were back at Jetty Park before 2:30 PM and just relaxed for a while.  Around 4 PM we went outside to take care of a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  I got out the waste drain hoses and connected two of them together to reach from the utility bay connection to the sewer connection, which was inconveniently located directly behind the RV pad.  We drained the waste tanks, rinsed out the hoses, and returned everything to their storage tub.  Using the 3-step stool, I retracted the two awnings on the driver side, which I had previously deployed to shade the Windows from the mid-afternoon sun.

We then emptied out the back of the car so I could add air to the temporary spare, which gave us a low pressure alarm on the drive from Webster to Cape Canaveral.  I had turned on the TireTraker TPMS earlier and most of the readings looked OK, but as long as I had the portable air compressor, hose, air chuck, and pressure gauge out I checked the front right (curb, PS) tire as a check on the TPMS. The tire gauge pressure was several pounds lower than the TPMS indicated pressure and was fairly close to where I wanted it so I left it alone.

Our destination tomorrow was Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida, a trip of about 140 miles.  We had about a half tank of fresh water so I did not get out the softener and add any.  Somewhere in the middle of all this work we chatted with several neighbors, but eventually we got the car and bus repacked, including the patio mat and the two bag chairs.  At that point we only had the entry mat, entry stool, and power cord to deal with and the outside would be ready for travel.

Before dinner we went for a walk out by the shipping channel, the pier, and the beach.  There were people out and about but the park did not feel crowded and was quiet and calm, unlike the festive energy of the weekend with its day visitors, picnickers, and family campers with younger children.  It’s as if J. P. has moods, and one has to spend enough time here and experience them to begin to get a sense of the place.  We could understand why Pat and Vickie like to come here every year, even if that is not what we would choose to do.

I could not recall what Linda made for dinner because I am trying to finish this post a week later.  What I do recall is that the Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to set sail at 9 PM, well after sunset.  It had been a pleasantly cool day with clear skies but turned chilly with the setting of the sun and a noticeable breeze, especially outside the campground by the water.  Linda was tired and a little chilled and chose not to walk out and watch the ship leave.  At 8:45 PM I got my camera, walked over to the channel, and positioned myself by the “Minimum Wake” sign.  I had a good view of the Port to the west and could lean on one of the posts for support if needed.  I put my camera in SCN (scene selection) mode, selected the “Night” setting, and waited.

I had not noticed that the ship was docked with its stern facing the ocean until it started to move.  Its position at the dock meant it would have to do a 180 degree turn before moving down the channel and into the ocean.  And that meant it was going to take longer to exit the port and give me more opportunity to photograph it.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines “Breakaway” doing a 180 degree maneuver in the turning basin. Port Canaveral, FL.

The cruise ships are always brightly illuminated when coming and going in the dark and are quite pretty to see as they glide almost silently by.  They are also challenging to photograph as they are often very high contrast (high dynamic range) subjects, especially at night.  Ideally I would shoot multiple bracket exposures and combine them using HDR software, but I would have to get the camera on a tripod and even then the exposures would be just long enough that the ship would change position slightly between frames.  I did the best I could with single frame, hand-held exposures braced against the sign post.  By the time the Breakaway was in open water I was getting chilled and headed back to the warmth of our bus.  I transferred the images to my computer and took a quick look at them before settling in to watch a few minutes of TV and then go to bed.


2015/12/22 (T) Blog Chores

Linda was up at 7 AM again this morning but I did not get up until sometime between 7:30 and 8.  I made our coffee, as I do almost every morning, and we worked on our iPads, as we do almost every morning.  We had granola with fresh blueberries around 9 AM, as we do on many mornings, and then extended our leisurely morning until 10, which is also common for us.

Heavy cloud cover had moved in starting yesterday afternoon bringing higher humidity and some chance of rain.  It also minimized radiational cooling overnight and the temperature barely dropped into the upper 60’s.  All things considered it was not the kind of day that made us want to get up and go, but eventually we did as today was chore day.

First up on my list was doing laundry.  While Linda went for her solo morning walk I gathered up our laundry and sorted it on the bed.  I had what looked like three loads but we only have one collapsible laundry basket so I ended up making three trips to the laundry room.  I found an unused tote bag to carry the two containers of laundry detergent, the dryer sheets, and a large quantity of quarters, so that helped.  The laundry building is not that far from our site but the laundry and supplies are bulky and heavy so I used the car.  If I had a wheeled laundry cart I would have walked.  Depending on the situation at Big Tree RV Resort we might order one after we get there.

The washing machines run a 25 minute cycle but it takes over an hour from when I start to get to the point where I can transfer the laundry to the dryers.  During that time there isn’t much else I can do.  Once the dryers are going I have about 45 minutes before I have to empty them and fold/hang the clothes.  That’s good iPad time.

Linda got a call from our daughter (Meghan) with pictures of the armoire she is building for her niece (our grand-daughter) Madeline to hold “dress up” clothes, some of which she is getting for Christmas.  Meghan still has quite a collection of clothes from her childhood and is passing them on to Madeline, so the armoire will be fully stocked.  That will be a very nice gift for a fashion conscious three year old.

Linda went with me to the laundry room at 12:30 PM and helped sort/fold/hang our clothes and put it all away when we got back to our coach.  We will do another batch of laundry on Saturday or Sunday including all of the bedding.

For lunch, Linda made folded flat bread hummus sandwiches with onions and greens and sliced up an apple.  It was slightly cooler outside with an occasionally gusty breeze so we sat out there and used our iPads.  I finished up yesterday’s post, started on today’s, and moved a few chores to future dates.  I was reading a back issue of The Gypsy Journal when a few rain drops fell on my screen.  We immediately decided to move back inside but the full on rain came quickly.  Linda took our iPads in while I put the two bag chairs away and then scurried inside.  It rained hard for a while but eventually passed and the outside air temperature dropped 10 degrees, which was refreshing.

Inside I directed my efforts towards my blog.  When I uploaded seven posts early last week I forgot to “tag” them with keywords so my next task was to edit those posts and take care of that.  Once that was done I started uploading posts beginning with August 9th, 2016.  I worked until 5 PM and managed to upload 10 posts through August 18th.  So far I have uploaded 17 posts in the first 22 days of December which means I am still generating new ones faster than I am uploading old ones!  The flow of time is relentless that way.

Linda made a salad and a potato lentil curry for dinner.  She has been reading Dr. Michael Greger’s newest book in which he describes how he personally eats and why.  Based on his guidelines she added turmeric to the curry, which was appropriate given the Indian nature of the dish, but mostly because she is trying to figure out how to incorporate it into her menu planning on a daily basis.  Daily consumption of turmeric has been shown to have a number of health promoting effects but most notably a carcinogen blocking effect with only a teaspoon per day.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening TV shows, even though they were repeats, after which I stayed up for the 11 PM news.  Gainesville got 0.5″ of rain this afternoon and I suspect we got at least that much at the RV resort.


2015/12/18 (F) MEF3 @ 3

It rained off and on all night with a heavy downpour around 5:30 AM.  Once again we did not close up the coach and run the air-conditioners so the bedding was a bit damp, but we slept through the night and did not get up until after 8 AM.

I took care of the cat chores and then made a full pot of coffee.  We used our iPads, as we do almost every morning, while we enjoyed our morning brew and finally had half of a grapefruit (each) for breakfast around 9:30.  It was in the upper 60’s when I got up but was forecast to drop to 55 degrees F by dinner time and into the upper 30’s overnight.  Burrr.

I took a few pictures yesterday at the Breezy Oaks Music Jam so my first task today was to copy those to my computer and back them up to the NAS.  I then continued working on selecting and processing photos for blog posts and spent most of the rest of the day doing just that except for some time out for lunch, a mid-afternoon stroll, and dinner.

Today was our younger grand-daughter’s third birthday.  Our daughter and son-in-law went to our son and daughter-in-law’s house this evening for Madeline’s birthday and Linda arranged for us to Facetime while they were all there.  We initiated the call at 6:35 PM and Facetimed for almost 30 minutes.  We got to see Madeline open the gifts we bought for her and interact with her and everyone else.

We had closed up the windows and changed into warmer clothes for the fire circle before we made the Facetime call so as soon as we were done with “happy birthday” we got our sweatshirts and wine supplies and headed for the firepit.  There were already folks there but there were also empty seats, the cooler weather keeping some folks away (which made no sense to us; it’s a FIREpit after all).  John was tending the fire but Ali was not there yet.  Tom and Cindy were there and I took the open chair next to Tom.

We were at the campfire until 10 PM when John had to go lock up and Ali was ready to go in for the night.  I spread out the remaining fire logs and then we walked back to our bus in the cool night air.  The temperature in the coach was 74 when we left and had dropped to 70 by the time we returned.  We both changed into our warmer lounging clothes (sweats), turned on the TV, and nibbled on pretzels and hummus.  Linda trundled off to bed around 11:30 PM but I stayed up a bit longer.

I checked e-mail and had one from Technomadia about their latest Mobile Internet Aficionados report on mobile cellular boosters.  I logged in to read it and discovered that our MIA membership had expired in August so I renewed it online.  I read the report and then went to bed where I wrote briefly on my iPad.

The outside temperature had already dropped to 45 degrees F but Linda had turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before going to sleep so it was nice and toasty.  The overnight low was forecast to drop to 36 degrees which meant the inside temperature would drop to around 60; not freezing cold, but chilly enough that we would need the furnace for a while in the morning.  I went to sleep around 12:30 AM.


2015/12/14 (M) Christmas Stocking

I was up just before 7 AM to feed the cats, who were crying rather than using their usual technique of circling the mattress, and decided to just stay up.  I tried connecting my iPad to one of the nearby RV resort Wi-Fi access points but was still unable to connect to the Internet.  I tried to connect our WiFi Ranger to the access point but it was unable to acquire an IP address.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, connected the Wi-Fi Ranger to it, and started up my computer.  Linda was also up by this time and played a few word games on her iPad while I made coffee.

It was heavily overcast, but not foggy, and the sky glowed briefly with the rising sun before turning to a muted gray.  It was 71 degrees F outside, as dense cloud cover had prevented the temperature from dropping overnight, and 78 inside.  We left windows and the roof vents open last night with the bathroom exhaust fan on, so we had airflow but the humidity was higher than we like.  Still, we slept OK.

We had granola for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda drove to the Publix at the southwest corner of Gainesville to buy groceries.  I updated the other three WordPress websites that I manage and then got back to work on the HFH article for BCM which I did not finish yesterday.

I finished selecting and inserting photos for Part 2 of the article.  I then selected and organized the remaining photos for the digital edition Bonus Content sections for Part 1 and Part 2.  The penultimate step was to upload all of this to our Dropbox in a way that reflected the two-part organization of the article.  The final step was to e-mail Gary and let him know it was done.  Unfortunately this is at least the third time I have been “done” with this article so I won’t know if I am really, finally done until I see it in print.

We had a mock turkey sandwich for lunch and split an apple.  After lunch I sent e-mails to three friends who live south of our RV resort to try and arrange get-togethers before we leave at the end of the month.  I heard back from Bruce and Linda Whitney (really) right away.  They are members of our ham radio club back home and are in the process of relocating to their new home near Brooksville, Florida.  We agreed to get together this coming Sunday.  I eventually heard back from John and Marian Hogan and they were also interested in getting together.  By dinner time I had not heard back from Al Hesselbart, but I will.

Linda finished the needlepoint part of her project and walked to the sewing room by the office where she was able to use one of the sewing machines to attach the needlepoint matrix to a piece of white felt to make Madeline’s holiday stocking.  Our Verizon Mi-Fi had shut down when the battery drained so I plugged it in to recharge it.  I tried connecting our WiFi Ranger to the RV resort Wi-Fi and this time it worked.  There was obviously a problem with the system and it took until this afternoon for the office to get a technician out to fix it.

Gary Hatt at BCM had Kathy proofread the draft of my article on servicing the Webasto burner in our Aqua-Hot and sent it back to me.  I accepted all of her edits except one and then reformatted the article in two columns with the photos for the print edition inserted in-line.  I uploaded it to our Dropbox and e-mailed Gary.

We had both spent a long day mostly sitting so we went for a long stroll around the RV resort.  When we got back to the coach Linda started preparing dinner.  She added Halo orange slices to the salad, which included dried cranberries, walnuts, and sun-dried tomato dressing.  Yum.  The main course was couscous and black beans with corn, onion, and garlic.  Double yum.  We went for another walk after dinner.

When we got back we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs and had a small glass of wine.


2015/12/03 (R) 2015 Year in Review 

It cooled off overnight and was 60 degrees F outside when I got up at 8 AM.  We left the windows open a bit when we went to bed last night but it only dropped to 71 in the coach.  The forecast high for today was only 73 with partly to mostly cloudy skies, so the coach was going to be comfortable all day with just fresh air and perhaps the bathroom exhaust fan running.  I made a pot of coffee and then Linda got up and made oatmeal for our breakfast.

Linda’s goal for the next couple of weeks is to finish the counted cross-stitch needlepoint Christmas stocking she is making for grand-daughter Madeline.  She has to keep very careful count of her stitches, so I am not allowed to talk to her, or myself, while she is working.  It should be a very quiet two weeks.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

My first goal today was to finish the BCM article on servicing the Webasto WDB2010 burner in our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  This was work I did back in January while we were in Quartzsite, AZ.  I post-processed the last 10 photos, inserted them into the Word docx, added captions, and then rearranged them according to print edition and digital edition bonus content section.

I had an e-mail back from Chuck about the Prevost Community AITA NAPA discount card.  I followed his directions and completed the online application.  He called mid-morning and we talked about the chassis batteries.

I finished the Webasto article but did not upload it right away.  I had an e-mail from Gaye Young, FMCA National Secretary and chair of the Education Committee, with the preliminary results of the survey that went out this fall.  After looking through the data I wrote an e-mail to the committee with some observations.

Today was pretty much a stay-at-home day except for an early afternoon walk.  We had black bean soup and vegan grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and then walked up to the office to make copies of the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers group.  I will mail the forms to FMCA HA in Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow.

We talked briefly with Janet Rawley in the office and checked out the activities center across the street.  They have moved the library and game tables from the office to the AC and are going to redo at least part of the space as offices.  Given the number of additional park models and RV sites they should expand the mailboxes as well.  There was a basket of tomatoes at the AC, free for the taking, so Linda selected a few.  On our way back to our rig we stopped to chat with Jim Rawley (Sonny Fox on XM) at their 5th wheel.  Jim and Janet were part of our circle of friends two years ago and their rig is just a few sites down from John and Ali’s.  We dropped off the tomatoes and paperwork and continued on our walk around the newer section of the park.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

Back at our coach I started working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  I was working on my ASUS laptop when the file manager suddenly would not respond to mouse clicks or let me close it.  I tried clicking a few other things and windows popped open that I could not then close.  This was strange behavior indeed, and something I had not seen before.  I was able to click the shutdown icon in the tray and forced the machine to close programs and turn off.  I restarted my computer and ran a complete scan with the ESET Smart Security program.  Complete scans take quite a while so I used my iPad to play a few games and work on this post.  When the scan was finally done I reviewed the findings and got back to work.

I uploaded the Webasto service article to Gary at BCM and then got back to work on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  Linda can only count so many cross stitches per day before she gets cross-eyed.  She also needs very strong light, so when the sun gets low in the afternoon sky she quits for the day.

Dinner was salad and reheated red beans and rice, a dish that holds up well over multiple servings.  After dinner I got back to work on our holiday letter and worked on it until bedtime.  I selected about 50 photos and will try to do captioned pictures instead of extensive narrative.  The local CBS affiliate had the Lions–Packers game on instead of our usual Thursday evening programs so Linda flipped between the game and whatever was on PBS.  My computer worked fine for the rest of the evening.


2015/11/10 (T) A Rainy Day

I checked the TV weather station before I turned off the lights last night.  Rain covered most of Indiana and Ohio and was moving northeast.  We were going to get clipped by the western edge of the moisture but the heaviest rain was forecast to pass to our south and east.

Linda planned to go into the bakery today and had her alarm set for 5:45 AM.  It went off and I woke her up enough to shut it off and go back to sleep.  Around 6 AM we both received e-mails on our iPads and phones, a sure sign that we had lost power to the house.  I was awake at this point but stayed in bed until 6:45.  I was not falling back asleep, so I put on my robe and made coffee.  I finished up the Kenya AA, which is not decaffeinated, figuring we could both use the boost this morning.

While the coffee was brewing I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and checked my e-mail.  I had a reply from Bill Tharpe which decided for me that I would be going to Indiana on Friday.  I also had replies from the two Mitch’s who had contacted me as about articles I wrote in Bus Conversion Magazine and replied to both of those.  I edited the e-mail with the minutes of Sunday’s SLAARC meeting and forwarded it on to the club officers.  An e-mail from Gary at BCM indicated that they still needed a photo of Byron and Betty Pigg for the December featured bus article, so I replied and cc:d Byron.  Writing for BCM is sometimes a lot of work, but it’s a hobby for and I enjoy it so I do not mind.

It was wet outside and still raining lightly, a perfect day to sit by the fireplace in a robe and drink hot coffee.  Phil was hoping to return today with a load of screened topsoil and get it placed and graded along the edges of the driveway but said it would depend on the weather.  Once the topsoil is taken care of he will grade the driveway with his bulldozer and make sure the 40 foot long parking area is as flat and level as possible.

Linda finally got up at 8:30 and was starting to get dressed to go to the bakery when I suggested she stay home, rest, and get well.  She was immediately OK with that idea, put on her robe, and took her iPad to the living room to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and some hot coffee.  I finished up my draft blog post for yesterday, e-mailed it to myself, and started this one.  I really cannot afford to lose a whole day of work on the bus but this is the kind of day where we like to just sit and do quiet things, or even nothing at all.  We finally finished our coffee, got dressed, and had a light breakfast at 10 AM.

Taking care of Madeline for three days and nights took a lot of Linda’s mental and physical energy and her cold took what was left.  She headed back to bed and I got my thoughts organized relative to working in the bus.  I talked to Jarel yesterday and found out that it would cost $50 to have a sheet of 1/4″ Baltic Birch plywood delivered to his shop because he did not have a regular delivery scheduled and the $50 cost of the 60″x 60″ sheet would not meet the minimum cost for free delivery.  I did not need the piece of plywood badly enough to pay a 100% surcharge to get it so that idea was off the table until next year.

My goal for today was to get a piece of SurePly underlayment cut and installed on the passenger seat platform.  Before I even started on the piece I had to resolve what to do about the four carriage bolts that are used to mount the base.  One of the four bolts has some messed up threads but I have a tap and die set and might be able to clean them up.  However, I am adding the thickness of the underlayment and floor tile plus a washer to what was there before so I wanted to use a longer bolt.  I already knew that Lowe’s and O’Reilly’s did not have what I needed and I presumed that The Home Depot did not either.

I finally went to Howell Hardware and had a good QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the drive there.  As I had been told they had a very good selection of hardware, by the piece, but they did not have fine thread carriage bolts in the 1/2″ size I needed.  I bought four of the 2″ long coarse thread bolts, four flat washers, four lock washers, and four nuts.  I also picked up a large washer to match the other three I already had for securing the central mounting stud along with two nylon washers.  That trip took over an hour out of my day before I even got started on my main task.

It took me several hours and many trips back and forth between the bus and the shop (in the garage) to get the piece of underlayment to fit just right.  I made one small mistake but the piece was large enough and complicated enough that I did not want to take the time or material to remake it.  Before I could install it I needed to get the outside end of the floor patch secured.  Yesterday I tried to screw that end to the material underneath it but the screw would not penetrate.  I scratched my head for quite a while until it occurred to me that I could use a small angle bracket attached to the vertical wood wiring chase in the forward outside corner.  I had limited access to that area, and it took me multiple attempts before I finally got the screw in, but I did.  Securing the bracket to the floor patch was a lot easier.

After securing the end of the patch I realized that the area between the front mounting channel and vertical front of the platform was slightly concave.  It was not a big dip but it was big enough that it needed to be patched.  Floor patching compound was the last thing I wanted to deal with today but it turned out to be just that, because once I applied it it had to dry for hours.  It was heavily overcast all day and my mood was correspondingly suppressed so I felt like I was doing everything in slow motion.  Based on the fact that I did not even get the piece of underlayment installed perhaps I was.

I try to keep an eye on the “house” batteries in the bus.  When I checked them this afternoon the reported voltage was higher than normal so I turned off the charger function on the Magnum 4024 to let the batteries rest and see where the voltage really was.  The DC draws on the battery bank were minimal.

I am finishing this post a couple of days later and no longer recall what Linda fixed for dinner but whatever it was I’m sure it was good.  After dinner we relaxed in the living room for a while, watched our Tuesday evening TV programs on the larger TV set in the basement recreation room, and then went to bed.


2015/11/09 (M) Clever Mouse

Madeline coughed quite a bit last night and we were up several times to check on her, so we did not have the best possible night’s sleep.  We got up to stay at 7:30 AM and Madeline got up about 15 minutes later.  I made our morning coffee while Madeline helped her grandma wash blueberries and make vegan blueberry pancakes.  We had a lovely breakfast with orange juice, pancakes with real maple syrup, and blueberries, raspberries, and bananas on the side.

I check the mouse traps in the pantry every morning.  A couple of days ago I found one of them broken with the food gone and some mouse poop left in its place.  The pantry doors had been left open overnight so I figured one of the cats had discovered the trap (we use live traps) and tossed it around until the door fell open and the mouse escaped.  I threw it away since it was broken.  This morning I discovered that the food in the other trap had been replaced by mouse poop but the trap was upright with the door closed and was not broken.  The pantry had been closed all night so I knew the cats had nothing to do with it.  Apparently we have a mouse that has figured out how to defeat the traps.  We are not going to set kill traps so we will have to see what else we can find.

We lingered in the living room for a while enjoying our coffee by the fireplace, listening to Madeline play (with) the organ, and watching her play with some of her toys.  She made her futon into a car and took her two “bunnies” for a ride.  By 9:30 AM I had finished my coffee and changed into my work clothes.  It was just below freezing when we got up this morning, but it was a bright, sunny day with no wind, so it would be a comfortable enough day for working on the bus once I turned up the thermostats and warmed up the interior a bit.

My focus today was to get the SurePly underlayment installed on the floor of the passenger seat platform and maybe the two walls.  I also wanted to get the outside wall panel trimmed off so it will fit around the tile and needed to build a new step with an open front, but I did not expect to get to those tasks today.  First up, however, was getting the small patch I worked on yesterday to fit better and be secure.

I trimmed both ends of the underside of the main patch and recut the side/support panel.  I trimmed the side panel several times before I was satisfied with the fit.  I used heavy-duty double-sided tape to hold the top patch and side panel to the metal structure underneath.  I used a 1-1/2″ stainless steel self-drilling wood screw to secure the top to the vertical piece of 3/4″ plywood that forms the face of the passenger seat platform, and a shorter screw to secure the side panel to the same piece of plywood.  I then attached a temporary plate of SurePly over the side panel to the edge of the top plate to hold the side in alignment with the top.

The metal under this patch is rounded leaving a small space between the top and side pieces where they meet.  The vertical plywood front face is also beveled leaving a void.  I used Door and Window Trim Spray Foam Insulation to fill these areas.  This foam has a lower expansion than most spray foam insulation.  I did not overfill the voids but put enough in that it expanded out past the edge.  I will trim it off flush tomorrow when it is cured.  The foam adheres to anything it touches and is rigid enough to be somewhat structural so it should stabilize and secure the patch.  Once I trim it and cover it with underlayment it should be good as new.

Madeline’s Aunt Meghan, who is also her buddy, came to visit and play with her today.  She arrived at noon and I took a break to visit and have lunch.  After lunch Madeline, Meghan, and Linda went to the Brighton Mill Pond Playscape and I resumed working on the bus.  They were gone for several hours.

Floor patching compound being applied to the co-pilot/navigator platform.

Floor patching compound being applied to the co-pilot/navigator platform.

Before I could put a layer of underlayment on the passenger seat platform I needed to use floor patching compound to fill in some low spots and create a smooth taper from the plywood to some metal edging.  But first I removed all of the screws that secure this edging and counter-bored the holes so the screw heads would be flush.  As often seems to happen when I am working on something like this some of the screws were rusted and I did not have appropriate replacements.  I then have to make a trip to Lowe’s, which is what I did, and bought a small quantity of three different size flathead wood screws.  I stopped at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts to see if they had the large metal or nylon washers that are used with the swivel base for the front chairs.  They didn’t, but once again suggested that I try Howell Hardware in downtown Howell.  I have received that suggestion from people at several different stores so guess I need to check the place out.

When I got back home I finished installing the new screws.  The floor patch compound takes a minimum of three to four hours to dry, sometimes much longer, but after two hours it was dry enough for me to use a sanding sponge to smooth out some ridges and feather some edges that needed it.  It was clear, however, that I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish what I set out to do today.  And so it goes; I need to do the work correctly which means doing all the things that need to be done in the order that they need to occur.  Everything takes time and things that have to dry, set, or cure do so on their own schedule, not mine.

Phil had shown up around 3 PM so I went out to chat briefly with him and then went inside to change clothes.  He had a partial load of topsoil left from a job earlier today and dumped it on the other side of the street by the 3rd driveway culvert.  He used his front loader to place it along the south side of the new pull-through driveway extension and moved the small pile from the west end of the property to the north side of the driveway.

I still had plenty of daylight and wanted to make some good use of my time so I started thinking ahead to the layout of the tile in the cockpit.  I measured various parts of the cockpit and although the number of square feet is small compared to the main floor the layout will be more difficult.  As with all tile layouts it needs to be “balanced” while avoiding small pieces.  Linda and I agreed that the pattern in the cockpit does not need to match the main floor, which is laid out diagonally, so that opens up options for how to lay out the tile.

The main landing is less than two tiles wide (front-to-back) so the best layout for that area is with a grout line dividing it in half, but that might not work well in the driver’s area.  The driver’s area presents the additional problem of a steering column, brake pedal/valve, an accelerator pedal with its electrical cable that goes through the floor.  The “holes” in the tile to accommodate these things have to be created using two notched pieces so they can be installed around the protrusions.  I also need holes for the seat base mounting bolts and power cable for the 6-way power base.  Those can be actual holes but I do not want grout lines to fall at the edges of the base.  I also have to be cognizant of the walls, which are getting tiled.  The distance along the face of the passenger seat platform is close to 65″.  The tiles are 16″ squares so four tiles with three 1/8th” grout spaces is only 64-3/8″.  See, it’s complicated.

The other thing I pondered and measured was the new step between the passenger seat platform and the main floor.  Again there are several parameters:  (1) We want the finished (tiled) height to split the distance from the tiled platform to the tiled main floor exactly in half; (2) we want the finished depth to be half the finished depth of the platform, and; (3) we want an open front so we can store shoes under the step.  The total rise will be just under 14″ so the step rise will be a little less than 7″.  Subtracting about an inch for wood and tile will leave a 6″ high space for shoes.  The platform is 29″ deep so splitting that in half results in two treads of 14-1/2″, plenty deep for shoe storage.  I considered having the step angle across the platform, being deeper by the driver seat and shallower by the passenger seat.  While it would add an element of aesthetic interest it would greatly complicate the construction without adding any practical utility, so I rejected that idea.

As I considered the construction of the new step I was also thinking about the fact that there is a hole in the front end of the passenger side HVAC duct.  The hole opens into the space behind the switch panel on the wall next to the passenger seat and just aft of the entry door but there is nowhere for the air to go from there.  The hole is easy to see but not easy to reach so I estimated it to be three inches in diameter which is approximately seven square inches in area.

One possibility is to install a 4″ diameter circular louvered duct in the switch panel.  It would be large enough in area, could be rotated to direct the flow in any desired direction, and has internal shutters that could be closed down to reduce or cut off the air flow.  The main downside is lack of space behind the panel but I could cut off the tube behind the locking tabs.  Another downside is that the cats sleep under the passenger chair while the bus is moving and the direct airflow might be uncomfortable and/or annoying for them.

Another possibility is to create a narrow duct along the back wall of the platform the same height as the new step and tie it in to the inside of the step, allowing the conditioned air to come out the open front.  That will involve a bit more woodworking and complicate the tile installation, but could be added later, so I will probably opt for the round louvered register for now, if I do anything.

When I was done pondering the HVAC possibilities I put the seat pedestals back on the landing, locked up the bus, and went inside to change clothes.  Meghan left while I was changing clothes so I did not get to say goodbye.  Apparently Linda thought I was taking a shower and would be a while.  Since we needed to get Madeline back to her house well before her bedtime we decided to head to Ann Arbor and have dinner there.  I deflated and rolled up her portable toddler bed while Linda and Madeline gathered up her clothes, books, toys, and other things.  I loaded the car while Linda got her dressed to travel.  I checked in with Phil to get a status update and let him know we were leaving.  We were on our way at 4:45 PM.

The drive down was OK as the really heavy traffic was headed north out of Ann Arbor.  We tried to keep Madeline awake by reviewing all the fun things she had done since she got to our house late Friday afternoon but we were not successful.  As I exited M-14 eastbound onto US-23 southbound I could see that traffic was stopped not far after the Plymouth Road exit so I left the highway and headed west on Plymouth Road to Huron Parkway.  From there I headed south, paralleling US-23 to the west.  At Washtenaw Avenue I turned east, and after a short distance turned left into the small shopping plaza where Elevation Burger was located.

I order a grilled cheese sandwich and Mandarin oranges for Madeline.  Linda and I had vegan burgers and fries and Linda shared her fries with Ms. M.  Madeline was slow to wake up but perked up when her food arrived.  That girl likes to eat!  🙂  After dinner we made the short trip to Madeline’s house and arrived at 6:30 PM.  Linda got Madeline into her pajamas while I brought all of the stuff in from the car and turned up the thermostat.

Madeline was wide awake and full of energy so she played with her kitchen toys and tools and had Grandma Linda read her four stories.  I dozed off for a little while and then spent some quality time with Gus the cat.  Gus loves people but tends to keep his distance from Madeline who is just a bit too energetic and enthusiastic for him.

Brendan and Shawna’s flight was due in to Metro Airport at 6:50 PM and he texted Linda at 6:51 that they had landed.  They were home before 8 PM and got to spend time with their very awake, excited, and active daughter.  We left at 8:30 and stopped at Biggby Coffee on Washtenaw Avenue.  Rain was moving into our area from the south but had not yet arrived and the drive home was uneventful.  We were home by 9:15 PM and headed straight to bed where we watched Scorpion and NCIS-LA.  Linda came down with a cold while Madeline was here and went to sleep as soon as NCIS was over.  I watched Travelscope on the Create channel and left the TV on while I worked on this post.  It was another long, busy day during which I made forward progress on the bus.


2015/11/08 (N) SLAARC Elections

Madeline was in bed last night at 8 PM and fell asleep quickly.  We were in bed before 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep right away and I put my iPad away and turned off the light at 10:30 PM.  Good thing, too, as Madeline started coughing at 5:30 AM.  Linda got up at 6 AM and brought her into our bed.  I don’t know if she ever fell back asleep but we all stayed there quietly enjoying the warmth of the covers until 7:30 AM, by which time the house was warming up.  Hurrah for programmable thermostats!

Being Sunday morning, and having Madeline here, we were in no hurry to get up, get dressed, or get busy.  Not that we had nothing to do, we just were not in a hurry to do anything.  Linda prepared baked French toast last night, with a little help from Madeline, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  She got up at 6:45 to pre-heat the oven and again at 7 to put the dish in to bake.

I got up at 7:30 and made coffee.  The downlight over the end of the counter where I make the coffee burned out last night so I replaced the bulb.  Linda set the table and took the French toast out of the oven at 8.  When she cut into it and served out pieces for each of us it was obvious that something was very wrong.  Instead of baked French toast we had inedible goo.  Linda has had very few recipe failures since we switched to a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet but this one took first place.  She mentioned that it was a different recipe than she has used in the past and that she used an egg replacer she has not used before which did not seem to dissolve correctly last night.

Linda was willing to make vegan pancakes but I did not see any reason for her to go to that trouble.  We still had plenty of granola, part of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, and fresh berries, all of which made for an easy but tasty breakfast.]

Madeline plays (at) the organ.  It is one of her favorite “toys” at our house.

Madeline plays (at) the organ. It is one of her favorite “toys” at our house.

After breakfast I cleared the table and then read a book to Madeline while Linda cleaned off the dishes.  I turned on the fireplace and we drank our coffee in the living room while Madeline found various things to play with, ultimately ending up at the organ.

By 9:30 AM we were feeling like getting dressed.  I put in my work clothes and finally got to work in the bus at 10 after turning up the thermostats in the library, garage, and bus.  The first thing I needed to do was screw down the last/top layer of SurePly underlayment in the landing and driver area.  I used #6 SR (square recessed) self-drilling wood screws in three different lengths based on what was underneath the underlayment.  I chose to use screws rather than staples for several reasons.  The main one was that I needed the ability of the screws to pull things together.  The other reason was that I did not want to get the air compressor and stapler out for this relatively small number of fasteners.  (The SurePly underlayment for the main floor of the bus was stapled with approximately 350 staples per full 4’x8’ sheet.)

I pulled up the larger piece of SurePly one last time, measured the location of the boundary between the original bus floor and the new patch, marked the boundary on the top of the large piece, and put it back in place.  I carefully aligned the smaller piece to the stair edge and along the front and made sure the larger piece also fit correctly.  The smaller piece sits entirely on the new landing, which is 3/4″ plywood, so I secured it with 1″ screws, spacing them 2-to-3 inches apart along every edge and about 4 inches apart in the field.

The 1/2″ piece of plywood just forward of the driver’s seat was partially unscrewed and needed to be screwed back down.  Since it was installed over the original 1″ thick plywood bus floor I replaced the existing screws with 1-1/4″ screws and added more, especially along the edges.

To secure the larger piece I used 1-1/2″ screws over the patch, which was already about 1-1/4″ thick.  Over the original 1″ thick plywood bus floor I used the 1-1/4″ screws and over the 3/4″ thick landing I used 1″ screws.  I ran out of the 1″ length before I got the larger piece secured.  As much as I did not want to spend time driving around today I could not finish this task without the proper screws so around 11:15 AM I headed off to Lowe’s.  As long as I had to make the trip I looked for washers to space up the mounting bolts for the passenger seat pedestal base and nylon washers to go under the nut on the main mounting stud for the two swivel bases.  I found something that might work for the former but not the latter.

Linda and Madeline were getting ready to leave as I returned home just before noon.  Madeline was upset because Linda made her wear a sweater under her coat and she did not want to.  She is generally a cheerful and pleasant little girl but we never know when or why she is going to draw a line in the sand.  She doesn’t always or even usually get her way but she is persistent.  The tears, of course, are not the result of genuine injury and are usually quickly enough wiped away by focusing her attention on something else.  They finally pulled out of the driveway at 12:15 PM for an outing at Kensington Metropark.

I finished securing the larger piece of SurePly over the landing and then started on the next task.  I had decided to patch in an area at the end of the passenger platform where it drops down into the back of the driver area.  The area to be patched was only 12-3/4″ long and less than 4″ wide but the underlying metal was rounded over in this area and there wasn’t much I could use to attach new wood.  The area was also deep and not level.  I ended up making a sandwich with two layers of SurePly, two wood shins on top of those, and a piece of 3/4″ plywood on top.  I got all of the pieces cut and fitted and then marked them with pencil lines down the exposed edges to act as alignment marks.

I carefully assembled the sandwich upside down in the shop and screwed it together from the bottom.  I then put it in place in the bus and measured for a vertical piece with an angled rear edge to catch the outside edge of the patch and hold it up.  I secured the patch with one 1-1/2″ screw near the front and secured the vertical piece with one screw into the same piece of wood.

Building and installing this patch took a while and I was just finishing it when Linda and Madeline got home around 3:30 PM from their trip to Kensington Metropark.  By this time it was too late to start working on the underlayment for the passenger seat platform as I needed to stop working at 4 PM and get cleaned up for our amateur radio club meeting this evening.  With the little time remaining I unscrewed the top of the step and removed the two screws that held it to the rear and side walls of the co-pilot/navigator platform.  I then removed a half dozen flat head wood screws that held a piece of metal trim to the front edge of the platform.

The screws were rusted but came out.  The issue for my work was that the heads were not countersunk and stuck above the metal in a way that would interfere with installing the sheet of underlayment.  I used a 7/16″ drill bit to create tapered holes and may go back tomorrow and use my countersink bit.  I looked, but did have any appropriate screws to replace the ones I took out.  That meant another trip to Lowe’s which I could do after dinner on my way to the ham radio club meeting.

I put the two swivel pedestal/bases back in the landing and locked the bus.  I made sure everything was in the garage that needed to be and closed the overhead door.  I showered and shaved and put on clean clothes.  I then sat on the living room sofa with Madeline while Linda fixed dinner.  I worked on this post while Ms. M played games on Linda’s iPad.  It’s amazing to watch a 3-year old manipulate an iPad.  Their use of the touch screen is intuitive, which is cool, and it holds their attention in a way that other activities do not, almost to the point of obsession or addiction, which can border on troubling.  In spite of how much Madeline likes to eat, Grandma Linda had to gently take the iPad away and get her to come to the table for dinner.

As part of her food planning for this weekend Linda had picked up some mock turkey patties with gravy.  She also picked up some vegan heat-n-serve mac-n-cheese.  Those were the main course this evening along with a nice green salad and the rest of the fresh pineapple.  Dessert was going to be cake but I had to leave before it was served.

I left at 5:30 PM and drove to Lowe’s in New Hudson.  I monitored a QSO between Mike (W8XH) and Steve (N8AR) until Steve reached the meeting location in South Lyon.  I then called for Mike and we chatted until I reached Lowe’s.  I bought a box of 1-1/4′ long # 12 flathead wood screws and picked up three 40 W appliance light bulbs for the microwave in the house as the installed ones had burned out.

I got to the Witch’s Hat Depot at 6:35 PM so I had a chance to visit with my fellow hams before the meeting started at 7 PM.  Steve (N8AR) had a display set up with several different DC power meters he ordered off of EBay.  The business meeting was longer than usual because we had to elect officers for 2016.  The process was very smooth, surprisingly so actually, but still took 10 minutes.  The meeting was done by 7:20 after which the club president, Harvey (AC8NO), did a presentation on his Icom IC-7200 portable base station transceiver.

I was back home by 8:40 PM.  Madeline had already gone to bed so Linda and I had some quiet adult time to enjoy a cup of hibiscus tea.  We were both tired after long days of work and play but we did a lot today and felt good about the things we accomplished.


2015/11/07 (S) Measure One, Cut Twice 

We were all up at 7 AM.  I got dressed and left at 7:25 AM for the SLAARC breakfast in South Lyon.  Linda and Madeline had toaster waffles and fresh berries for breakfast at home.  The main reason I went to breakfast was to talk with Larry (K8UT) about a plug-in for WordPress that he recently found and though I might want to use for the SLAARC website.  He purchased a five site license for the full version of a survey plug-in and was willing to donate one use to the ham radio club.

When I got home at 9:30 AM the girls were getting ready to leave.  Linda’s plan for the morning was to take Madeline to the Howell Public Library.  The library has a very nice play area for younger children and a good selection of children’s books.  Apparently they planned to be gone for a while because they had a bag packed with snacks and other things for an extended outing.  I changed into my work close and when they left I resumed working on the bus.

My first objective was to cut the final piece of SurePly underlayment for the entry landing and area under the driver’s seat.  It was a large and complex piece that took me a long time to lay out even using the piece that goes under the driver’s seat as a template.  When I finally had it cut and drilled with the holes for the seat mounting bolts I took it to the bus to see how it fit.  Unfortunately I could not get it in.  It had to go under something on the front and back and also had to fit around curves and angles, and it just was not physically possible to get it in place in one piece.  It was immediately obvious that I would have to cut the piece into two parts but not so obvious how best to do that.

Linda and Madeline returned about this time (12:30 PM) and I was ready for a break.  They brought in their “haul” from the library—eight books and five videos—and laid it out on the living room coffee table.  The play market that Madeline likes so much had been replaced by a play kitchen.  The librarian told Linda they rotate the playsets every three months to keep it interesting for the children.

After going to the library Linda drove to the Brighton Mill Pond so Madeline could play at the Playscape.  Linda reported that Madeline has figured out how to pump a swing and is able to keep it going once someone helps her get started.  As a special treat they went to the ice cream shop nearby and Ms. M got a scoop of ice cream.  She did not tell me what flavor, but she said it had sprinkles on it.

It was going on 1 PM and seemed like a good time to have lunch, so Linda made hummus sandwiches with sliced onion for us and hummus on bread for Madeline.  She washed off a big bunch of grapes and we all enjoyed some of those too.  After lunch I read one of the library books to Madeline and then Linda read her a different one.  At that point I excused myself and went back to work on the bus.

I pondered the situation with the piece of underlayment and finally saw what appeared to be a natural cut line.  After considering where the tile would go, however, I decided against it.  Unlike the tile on the main floor of the bus, which is installed on the bias, the grouted joint lines in the cockpit/entry are going to run straight fore-and-aft and side-to-side.  I was not sure, however, exactly where they would fall.  I needed to avoid having a grout line fall on a joint between two pieces of underlayment so I ended up cutting the piece that covers the landing at an angle.  This gave me a smaller piece that tucked under the center console on the dashboard and a larger piece that tucked under some metal trim behind the driver’s seat.  I was now able to get both pieces in but they did not fit properly.

I had used my last large piece of SurePly to make the original single piece, and it had taken me hours to do, so I did not want to remake it.  I made any trips between the bus and the garage/shop, trimming a little bit at a time and rechecking the fit, until I finally got the piece to fit correctly.  In the process the piece had changed enough that the smaller piece was now too small and could not be trimmed to fit.  I searched through my scrap pieces of SurePly and found one that was almost big enough to remake the smaller piece, but not quite.

It was now 3:30 PM, and I still had some good daylight to work by, so I secured the floor patch under the driver’s seat.  The patch consisted of a 1/4″ thick layer of SurePly with a 3/4″ thick layer of oak veneered plywood on top of it to make a 1″ thick piece.  The SurePly was screwed to the 3/4″ plywood from underneath.  With the patch in place I installed another piece of 1/4″ SurePly that covered the patch and extended out over the old surrounding wood, which was still sound, and filled in the area once occupied by a 1/2″ thick piece of plywood.  I used 1″ self-drilling screws to secure the top layer of SurePly to the underlying wood, slightly countersinking the heads and pulling the underlying patch up tight while pulling the SurePly down tight to the old wood.  I walked on it and it felt secure.  There will be one more layer of SurePly and a layer of tile before the seat base gets re-installed.  Bolting down the base will obviously pull everything down tight to the structure of the bus if it isn’t already.

Linda and Madeline spent part of the afternoon baking vegan cupcakes.  Linda usually makes chocolate ones but I requested white/vanilla ones this time.  She found a recipe that looked promising and used it.  They needed frosting to finish the cupcakes so they bundled up and went to Meijer’s.  They got back a little before 4 PM, frosting and sprinkles in hand.

I needed more SurePly to continue working, not that I was eager to; I had spent most of the day trying to make one stupid piece of wood and still wasn’t finished.  The temperature had been dropping all afternoon and it was down to 55 in the garage, which was open so I could go back-and-forth to the bus.  I still had the antique SUN distributor tester in my car and determined that I could not get 4’x8′ sheets of material in the car with the machine in there.  Linda and Madeline put on their shoes and coats and came outside so Linda could help me get the tester out of the car.  I then went to Lowe’s.

I had a nice QSO with David (W8DRD) from our ham radio club on the way to Lowe’s.  At the store I was struggling to get the SurePly off of the top of the stack, which was above my head at the limit of my reach.  A customer stopped and helped me which I appreciated.  I needed one sheet to finish the driver/landing area and get the piece I need for the passenger seat platform floor, but I bought two sheets just in case the various scraps I have are not large enough to do the walls of the passenger seat platform.

I was back home by 5 PM and unloaded the two sheets of SurePly.  I put one on the 2x4s across the sawhorses and the other one in the small bay with the other sheet materials.  Linda and Madeline put their shoes and coats on once again and came outside so Linda could help me load the distributor tester back into my car.  Linda said we would eat dinner around 6 PM so I started working on remaking the small piece for the front portion of the landing.

I used the original piece as a pattern for the edges that fit properly but cut it larger than needed for the edge that needed to match the other piece where I cut it into two parts.  After getting it trimmed to fit correctly on three sides I put the larger piece in place overlapping the smaller one and traced the edge on the smaller piece.  I took it back to the garage and used the clamp-on saw guide to get a clean, straight cut.  When I took it back to the bus and set it in place it fit.  Success at last.

By now it was dark and getting close to dinner time.  I decided to leave the securement of this last layer of SurePly until tomorrow when I was refreshed and had better light.  I had hoped to get this landing/driver floor finished today, as well as the floor for the passenger seat platform, but given the difficulties and frustrations of today I felt like I had ended at a good place.  I locked up the bus and closed the garage door on my way in.  I expect tomorrow to be another good day, but then if I didn’t, why would I bother?

I changed out of my work clothes and put on my sweats.  Dinner was vegan cheeseburgers with a vegetable medley on the side and fresh pineapple.  Dessert was vanilla frosted white cupcakes with sprinkles.  After clearing the table I interacted with Madeline while Linda cleaned up a few dishes.  She and Madeline then prepared the baked French toast, which has to sit overnight.  As promised, once all of the stuff was done we went to the basement and watched one of the Daniel Stripped Tiger videos.  When we had seen enough episodes we turned off the TV set and went upstairs.  Madeline got into her pajamas and went to bed.  I put a load of laundry into the washing machine and then settled in to my usual evening routine.  I pulled the laundry out of the dryer at 9:45 PM and we turned in for the night at 10 PM.


2015/11/06 (F) MEF3

Rain was forecast for overnight with the highest probability between 4 and 7 AM.  I think we had some light rain starting a little after midnight but around 6:45 AM a front moved through with intense thunderstorms.  The heavy rain lasted at most 15 minutes, but while it was coming down I could not see past the railing on our deck.  The winds were also very intense judging by the sound and movement of the Crimson King Maple Tree next to the deck.

When we finally got up Linda checked the weather.  The storm front had already pushed into Ontario, Canada and it looked like we were done with the rain.  Temperatures will drop during the day and we have some below freezing lows coming up the next few nights, but it’s November so we can’t claim to be surprised and have no basis to complain.

Linda left around 9:45 AM to go to the supermarket.  While she was gone I worked on my iPad finishing my posts from Wednesday and yesterday.  I made a few phone calls and sent several e-mails before getting to work on the bus.

One call was to SLOAN’s in Linden to see about having the lawn tractor repaired.  The service tech said the normal turnaround this time of year is about two weeks depending what is needed and whether they have the parts on hand.  He said that if I brought it in soon and they did not get it finished before Thanksgiving they would store it for us until spring.  Given the limited space in our garage and the need to get Linda’s car in there for the winter having them store it would be a real bonus but would require the better part of day to borrow Mike’s trailer, haul the lawn tractor up there, and return the trailer to Mike.

The second call was to A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Terry said the fabric was sewn for our spacer cushion and she was expecting the foam today or Monday.  Once the foam was stuffed into the fabric she would have to stitch the seam closed.  She figured it should be ready by Wednesday.

My last call was to Pat Lintner from our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter.  He and Vickie live just outside of Elkhart, Indiana and found several pieces for an old Nutone kitchen counter mounted multi-function appliance.  We have a Nutone power base in our bus that works and got a few accessories from Pat and Vickie at the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  They subsequently found more, and were going to bring them to Florida, but I let them know I would very likely be passing through Elkhart late next week and could pick them up.  Pat offered me the use of the guest room, as he always does, and I may take him up on it this time.  Given the number of places I have to stop it will likely be a very long day.

One of my e-mails was to our cabinet maker, Jarel Beatty, to update him on when I might be coming to Logansport and to see if he could/would get a 60″x60″ sheet of Baltic Birch plywood and cut it into four 30″x 30″ pieces for me.  I then e-mailed Bill Tharpe to let him know I would be in his part of Indiana late next week and would drop off the antique SUN Distributor Tester at his place in Mexico, Indiana.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat.  Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating.  Seat mounting rails (center) are visible.  Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat. Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating. Seat mounting rails (center) are visible. Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Linda got back around 11 AM and we finally got to work on bus-related projects at 11:15.  The POR-15 and black spray-on rubberized undercoating paint seemed to have dried adequately overnight but the wood I treated with Thompson’s Water Seal was still tacky.  The directions said it took 48 hours to dry but we don’t have that kind of time to wait.

We removed all of the painter’s plastic and painter’s tape from the cockpit of the bus and put it in a trash bag.  I then drilled a 1/4″ drain hole in the bottom of each tray area where water had accumulated.  The one under the passenger seat opened into a dark space but I was fairly certain it was outside the body behind the plastic wheel well trim.  I could see the driveway gravel through the driver side hole so I knew it was outside the body.

The next task was putting spray foam insulation in a few critical spots.  We did not need much for the bus so I sealed two holes in the floor of the bedroom in our house (under a couple of the baseboard radiators) and then added some around the back door frame of the garage.  Once I start using a can of this spray foam insulation I find it best to use it up.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Patching the floor under the passenger seat involved three pieces of wood.  The tray area under the plywood floor between the seat mounting channels is slightly raised along the inside edges of the channels.  I had cut a piece of 3/16″ SurePly to fit between the raised edges and slide under the existing floor towards the center of the bus.  I set it in place and slid it under the old floor while Linda and I help it up slightly with pry bars.  Because of the geometry of the situation I had to cut about six inches off of the end of this piece towards the outside of the bus.  I had notched this piece to fit around the drain line for the front AC evaporator, so it slipped in behind the first piece just right.  The third part of the patch was a piece of recycled 3/4″ plywood that I had cut yesterday to just fit between the mounting channels.  With that in place I screwed through the old wood into SurePly and screwed through the 3/4″ plywood into the SurePly and pulled it up tight.

By this time it was 1:15 PM and I was ready for lunch.  Linda made hummus and onion sandwiches and served them with tangerine halves.  A simple but delicious mid-day meal.

After lunch we worked on the driver side floor patch.  The driver side was trickier because the patch has to rest on and span structural members.  As with the passenger side I am trying to replace 1″ thick plywood without having access to material of that thickness.  The plywood sold as 3/4″ actually measures from 0.707″ to 0.717 inches in thickness.  As it turned out the combination of so-called 3/4″ plywood with the SurePly underlayment plywood was just thick enough to match the old 1″ stuff.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

I had to trim the piece of SurePly several times and drill holes for the seat mounting bolts.  The holes were not quite in the right place but I was able to trim it to my satisfaction and it was generally a good fit.  We then used it as a template for laying out the same shape on a piece of 3/4″ oak veneered plywood.

Hardwood veneered plywood is more expensive than regular fir plywood but it has more layers and is dimensionally more stable.  I had a piece that was flat and big enough to cut out the part we needed so I used it.  After some minor trimming it fit properly and lined up with the SurePly layer.  I turned them upside down, aligned them carefully, and screwed the SurePly to the underside of the 3/4″ piece.  I then installed them back into the open area.

We now needed another piece of SurePly, but it needed to be larger and a different shape.  It would be one of two pieces that would replace the 1/2″ thick top layer of plywood.  I removed the old piece from the bus after feeding two wires back through a hole.  We used the old piece as a template to outline the new piece and mark the four holes for the mounting bolts and the one for the wires.  I cut out the new piece and drilled the holes and then put it in place.  I was surprised by how much it was off.  It needed to be wider and longer and the holes were not as well aligned with the holes in the plywood below it as they needed to be.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment.  The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment. The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

SurePly is not expensive but it’s not free either.  It is relatively easy to work with, however, so making a second piece was not a big deal.  What was a big deal was the cloud cover, dropping temperature, wind, and diminishing light, all of which were making outside work more difficult and less enjoyable with each passing minute.  But we took our time and got it cut, and after some minor trimming it fit very nicely.  I did not, however, secure it, or the 1″ plywood sandwich under it, as I needed the top piece to use as a template for the final piece.  This last piece will not only cover the area under the driver’s seat, it will extend out towards the door and cover the landing.  Once I have that cut correctly I will secure the bottom sandwich and then use floor leveling compound to fill in gaps.  I will then install the last two layers of SurePly.  At that point I will need to go to Lowe’s for another sheet of SurePly to finish the passenger seat platform and will probably get two sheets just to make sure I have enough.  As much as I like going to Lowe’s and The Home Depot, each trip takes time away from actually working on the bus.

We quit working at 4:30 PM to get the tools put away before Brendan and Madeline arrived.  They got here at 5:15 PM and she was very excited to see us and be at our house.  Linda and Brendan got all of Ms. M’s stuff from the car to the house and Brendan transferred the car seat to Linda’s car.  Brendan entertained Madeline while Linda got the inflatable toddler bed set up.  Madeline went immediately for the cabinet under the sink in the hall bathroom where we keep the bandages and found one to put on.  She likes cartoon character bandages.

Brendan hung around until 6 PM and left just as Linda put dinner on the table.  He and Shawna are headed to Ajo, Arizona this weekend for a wedding.  Their flight to Phoenix leaves tomorrow morning so Madeline will be with us until Monday afternoon when Linda takes her back to her house in Ann Arbor.  Her parents’ flight is due in at 7 PM so Linda won’t be home before 9 PM that evening.

For dinner Linda made roasted potatoes and mock chicken tenders.  She and Ms. M had broccoli and peas but she was kind enough to only serve me broccoli.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste for green peas.

By the time we finished dinner Madeline was a little tired and had a brief crying episode when I told her she could not use our bed as a trampoline.  Linda offered to let her watch an episode of Daniel Stripped Tiger and that seemed to ease her distress at having been told ‘no’ which is a very traumatic experience for her at this age.  She wanted to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth first, so Linda helped her with that.  The two of them climbed into our bed and watched the video on Shawna’s iPad while I stayed in the living room and wrote this blog post.

When the video was over Madeline wished me ‘good night’ and went quietly off to bed.  Linda and I lingered in the living room and I texted Chuck to inquire about their travels yesterday and today.  I then went to my office for a while where I updated our WordPress site, off-loaded photos from today’s work, logged in to RVillage and checked the forums of various groups, and dealt with a few e-mails.  I came back upstairs at 9:45 PM and we were in bed by 10 PM where I finished the draft of this post.


2015/10/10 (S) The New Camera

Madeline was awake before 7 AM and coughing loose a bit of nasal/chest congestion.  A little after 7 Linda put on her robe and went to check on her.  I put my robe on too and Linda brought her to bed with us.  She lay quietly between us for a half hour, as dawn gradually illuminated the outside world, but never fell back asleep.  I needed to change position and offered to hold her on the sofa in the living room, which she accepted.  I turned on the fireplace and she climbed up in my lap and snuggled up.  Linda joined us a little while later and the three of us cuddled in the dancing light and warmth of the fire for another 20 minutes.  These are the special moments.

Madeline wanted to see the last part of the Curious George video we watched last night so Linda did video duty while I made a pot of coffee.  By the time the cartoon was done Madeline was awake enough to help make breakfast; vegan pancakes with blueberries incorporated into the batter.  Madeline helped mix all of the ingredients but Linda handled the cooking.  Madeline is only 34 months old after all, and not ready to work with sharp objects or heat.  We had hot real maple syrup and mixed berries on the side with orange juice (not from concentrate).

The whole morning was accomplished in our robes and pajamas and it felt like it was Sunday.  Madeline even got to see a half dozen very large wild turkeys in the street in front of our house.  The cats seem to know when Madeline is seated at the table and often emerge long enough to get a few kibbles and a drink of water.  Madeline got some berry stains on her pajamas so Linda got her undressed to get them out.  Madeline took that as an opportunity to enjoy the freedom of running around in her birthday suit for a few minutes.  You can get away with that when you are not yet three years old.

Everyone got dressed and then took up their stations in the living room.  Linda and Madeline played with Legos and played (with) the organ.  Ms. M and I then played “soccer,” throwing, catching, and kicking a large beach type ball and a small soccer type ball.  Madeline was still a little tired so Linda sat with her while she played an iPad game that involved taking care of a dog.

Yesterday the UPS truck delivered a package from B&H Photo in New York.  Inside was a Sony alpha 99 camera body, specifically an SLT-A99V, which included an infoLithium (Lithium ion) battery and charger, a camera strap, a hot shoe flash adapter, Getting Started instructions, a CD-ROM with software and manuals, and various pieces of paper that included warranties and special offers.  Also in the box was a vertical battery grip (VG-C99AM), five additional infoLithium batteries, a belt-mount battery holder, and two 64 GB SDXC memory cards.

Linda suggested that this was my Christmas and birthday present for the next five years, but the reality is that the old Sony alpha 100 body was an increasingly unsatisfactory camera and needed to be replaced.  I bought the a100 in 2007 or 2008 and have not spent hardly any money on photographic equipment since then.  The a99 has been around for a few years now but is still Sony’s top-of-the-line full-frame (36mm x 24mm) sensor, A-mount lens body, which means it is compatible with all of my old existing A-mount Minolta lenses.  As it turns out, I can also use A-mount lenses designed for smaller sensors, such as the lens that came with the a100.  The a99 detects the lens format and adjusts the use of the sensor accordingly.  The a100 zoom lens, however, was an inexpensive “kit” lens that turned out not to be very sharp, especially around the edges, so it is unlikely that I will ever use it with the a99.

At 24 MP (mega pixels) the a99v is not a state-of-the-art camera by comparison to the newest offerings from Canon and Nikon, or even Sony’s own E-mount product line, but it is double the pixel count of the 12 MP a100, and has many features that the a100 does not have, including much better auto-focus and much better sensitivity to low light.  The maximum effective ISO speed on the a100 is 1600 whereas the a99v is 25600 and can be set even higher if needed.  The a99v also includes a built-in GPS receiver that enables it to geotag images.  It includes a hot shoe flash adapter, as well as a PC flash connection, so I have some hope that I will be able to use my old flash equipment, something I have not been able to do with my much older Sony alpha 100.

The old a100 holds one Lithium ion battery and one Compact Flash card, 4 GB maximum.  It also has an adapter so it can use SD memory cards, but the maximum usable capacity is still 4 GB.  The a99v also holds one Lithium ion battery in the camera body but holds two additional batteries in the vertical grip accessory.  Not only will the vertical grip be handy for shooting in portrait orientation, the two additional batteries should allow for extended shooting time even when using flash.  The body also has two memory card slots both of which can accept SD memory cards up to 64 GB.  Slot one can also accept a Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo.

Digital cameras are sophisticated combinations of mechanical, optical, electronic, and computer technologies.  Compared to film cameras of yesteryear prosumer and professional cameras, both single lens reflex (SLR) and single lens translucent (SLT) like the a99v, are feature-rich devices designed to give photographers complete control of the images that are produced.  That also means they are complicated devices with significant learning curves.  Throw in the fact that cameras like the a99v can shoot HD movies with sound and it takes considerable practice over an extended period of time to really master their use.  But I am retired, and photography is one of my three hobbies, so I have, and will take, the time to learn to use this new camera competently.  Competence in this case means the ability to quickly and intuitively select modes and adjust settings to allow me to capture (create) the images I envision.

Brendan called to see how Madeline was doing and arranged to pick up her up later in the afternoon, after the 3:30 PM start time of the U of M football game.  Unless you are attending the game you do not want to drive in, or anywhere near, Ann Arbor for the four or five hours preceding the opening kickoff.  It’s not a great place to be after the game ends either, especially as regards getting in to a restaurant or pub, unless you specifically want to be part of the pre/post game experience.

Madeline wanted to go outside and swing so we put on our shoes and got her into a light jacket.  She is just learning to pump her feet.  She understands the concept but does not yet having the timing.  When she was done with the swing we collected branches and twigs that were lying in the yard and added them to the burn pile.  We then walked around part of the back yard but her shoes got wet from the grass and she wanted to go back inside.

I checked our apple tree and was surprised to see damage that looked similar to that caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.  It’s possible that deer have been chewing at the bark but whatever the cause there are some very large limbs that are now dead.  What concerned me is that I do not recall them being in that condition the last time I looked.  The tree is very old, very large, and has not been properly pruned for a very long time.  We may end up losing it in the end, which would be a shame, but the time to prune is late winter to very early spring and we have not been here at that time of year the last two seasons.  I have my eye on a portion of the western 2/3rds of our yard, however, as prime real estate for some new trees, including some fruit trees.  But not this year, and probably not next year either.

Madeline was hungry after her backyard adventure.  She had soy yogurt and pistachios for lunch and found the pistachios very much to her liking.  She and Linda watched a Daniel Stripped Tiger cartoon and then she laid down for a nap at 1:30 PM.  I snuck off to my office to check e-mail, install the software that came with my new camera, and start downloading updates for the Linux box.  Completing the installation of the Sony Play Memories Home software required the camera to be connected to the computer, so I installed the two SDXC memory cards and one of the fully charged batteries.  On first power up I had to set the date and time.  I then connected it to the computer with the provided USB cable and completed the software installation.

One of the things the PMH software does is go through the PICTURES folder and catalog all of the images it finds by date and makes them accessible through a calendar view.  The camera also came with the Image Data Converter program for dealing with RAW format image files and Remote Control software that allows the camera to be tethered to a computer and controlled from there.  I will eventually have to figure out if/how Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop deal with Sony RAW files.

I quit working at 3 PM, Linda got Madeline up at 3:30, and Brendan arrived at 3:35.  Madeline had been sleeping pretty soundly and did not wake up easily.  She was initially upset that her mom did not come with her dad to get her and got herself worked up enough that she took quite a while to settle down.  To make matters worse she really wanted to stay another night at our house and was resisting going home even though she wanted to see her mommy.  When you are not yet 3 years of age it’s hard to understand that you cannot have mutually contradictory things at the same time, although I suppose in this case that had Shawna come to the house and stayed overnight Madeline could have had everything she wanted.

Linda got Madeline’s toddler bed deflated and packed for travel and rolled up her sleeping bag.  She and Brendan then gathered up all of the things that had to go back to Ann Arbor.  Madeline does not travel light; the clothes, books, toys, stuffed animals, and other accoutrements filled four carry bags in addition to the bed and sleeping bag.

After Brendan and Madeline left I checked my e-mail and replied to several having to do with my duties as secretary of the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  We will be holding our annual meeting by teleconference in the next three to six weeks and I have to update the roster and prepare financial statements.

I transferred the complete User’s Manual for the Sony a99v from the CD-ROM to my laptop, backed it up to the NAS units, and then e-mailed it to my iPad.  I downloaded it to my iPad and spent much of the evening reading it.  We headed off to bed a little after 9 PM.  I tuned into the Create channel on Detroit PBS (WTVS) and watched a series of back-to-back episodes of Cooking with Nick Stellino while I worked on this post.  Nick’s show is charming and he is the poster boy for unapologetic high self-esteem but with no hint of arrogance.  His love of food and passion for cooking is infectious and I enjoy his show.


2015/10/09 (F) All Charged Up

We finished the current batch of granola for breakfast and had just finished our meal when Chris, from Bratcher Electric, showed up at 8:45 AM to service the whole house generator.  He let me watch and explained the various steps in the process.  The trickiest part appeared to be replacing the spark plug on the back side of the engine.  Everything else was fairly accessible.  There is a 1/4 turn valve to drain the oil and a rubber tube to get it out to a collection vessel.

Chris had what looked like a small gas can but it was painted blue.  It had a clear plastic tube attached to what would normally be the air vent.  The tube was sized to just fit inside the oil drain hose.  A vacuum pump was threaded on to opening where the pour spout would normally go.  A few pumps of the handle and the device sucked the oil right out of the engine and contained it so he could transport it easily and cleanly.  It was a very clever device, and obviously very handy for someone who does several generator maintenance procedures every day.

He gapped the spark plugs at 0.028″, checked the air filter (it was fine), replaced the oil filter, noting the date on the filter with a permanent marker, and put ~2-1/3 quarts of 5W-30 synthetic oil back in the engine.  He cautioned me to only use the specified filter and pure synthetic oil.  The engine runs hot under load and regular oil can lead to problems.  He checked all of the settings and changed the weekly self-test to run at full speed for the entire time.  He prefers that setting as it gets the engine up to normal operating temperature and helps burn off any moisture in the oil.  He started the unit manually, let it run for a while, and then shut it down and put in back in AUTO mode.

Linda prepared the dry ingredients for her vegan chocolate cupcakes and then put together a grocery list.  She left to go to Meijer’s while Chris was still working.  He finished up around 10:15.  I worked on the bus, using split plastic wire loom to protect the wires that power the fans on the heat exchangers.  I then worked on reconnecting the wires from the front bay electric heater to the supply wires.

A close up view of the fill/bleeder valve assembly for the heat exchangers in the desk bases.

A close up view of the fill/bleeder valve assembly for the heat exchangers in the desk bases.

The supply wires run inside the HVAC duct.  They originally came out of the duct and went through a hole in the floor into the OTR air-conditioning bay and then through the partition wall into the front bay.  I had to cut the cable and pull it through the floor from underneath so I could install the new floor tile.  I could clearly see where the OTR HVAC supply duct came into the distribution duct but when I tried drilling from below I seemed to hit metal.   The bottom of the duct was clearly plywood so I drilled from above with a 1/2″ spade bit.  I got through most of the plywood but again seem to hit metal.  I knew there wasn’t anything in that location, like wires, pipes, or air lines, so I switched to a 1/2″ twist drill and finished the hole.

I dropped a screwdriver through the hole so I could locate it from below.  I then pushed the electrical cable from the heater up through the hole and secured it to a fastener on the forward wall with a cable tie.  Linda got back at this point so I helped get the groceries into the house.  She then mixed a new batch if granola and put it in the oven to bake.  I gathered up my electrical tools, uncapped the feed wires, checked them with a volt meter to make sure they were not energized, connected the feed wires to the load wires, and tucked them back inside the duct.

We had a choice as to what to work on next—fill the heat exchangers and hoses with antifreeze or hang the wallpaper in the hallway—so we had lunch.  Summer has passed, but tofu hotdogs with mustard, onion, and relish, along with some red grapes, was still a tasty lunch.

When we got back to work in the coach we decided to hang the wallpaper.  The pieces were already cut and laid out on the bed.  Hanging them not only got them off the bed, it would allow us to get the wood trim off the bed as well and back on the lower wall.  But not today.  The wallpaper adhesive needs to cure for 24 hours before we work around it and does not achieve its full cure for 5 to 7 days.  We have one piece of wallpaper to hang behind the forward end of the sofa but the wall prep is not finished in that area.  Once that piece is up, and we have the Corian top for the desk, we can complete the installation of the desk and sofa.

Shawna was bringing Madeline at 4:30 PM to spend the night with us.  It was already 2:30 and I needed to get cleaned up and put on non-work clothes before they arrived so we called it a day.  I had once again accumulated quite a few tools in the bus.  I gathered up all of the ones I was done with, returned them to the garage, and locked up the coach.  The UPS truck showed up with my package from B&H Photo which I set aside temporarily while I took a shower and got dressed.

The box looked like it had been treated well in shipment.  I opened the box, carefully removed all of the contents, and compared them to the order/packing list.  Everything was there and appeared to be in pristine condition.  I unwrapped the battery charger and Lithium ion battery, put the battery in the charger, and plugged it in.  The new charger is essentially the same as the one that came with my Sony alpha 100 years ago so I got the old one from the basement.  I bought five additional batteries so I opened one of them and plugged it in to the old charger.  I then found the Instruction Manual and curled up with it on the living room sofa while Juniper (the cat) curled up on me.

The directions with the charger and the batteries indicated that it can take up to 175 minutes to fully recharge a battery and that full charge is not obtained until an hour after the charging light goes out.  So, basically, I need to leave the batteries in the charger for three hours to ensure they are fully charged.  The camera takes one battery, and the vertical grip accessory takes two batteries, so my normal operating configuration will be to have three batteries in the use.  That’s why I have a total of six batteries for this new camera.  I will probably buy another charger so I can charge three batteries simultaneously.

I called Chuck to let him know I got my car back late yesterday but would not be able to move the windshields box until sometime next week.  It turned out that he and Barbara were also busy all weekend.  His daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were in town with more family arriving from Trinidad and Tobago this evening.  Tomorrow is his grandson’s first birthday and Sunday he is being baptized at the church in Ann Arbor where Chuck’s daughter was married.

Shawna showed up just after 4:30 PM.  Madeline had fallen asleep in the car and was slow to wake up, clinging to her mom for quite a while.  Linda brought in the various bags of clothes and toys along with the inflatable bed and got everything situated in the middle bedroom.  When Linda mentioned making cupcakes Madeline finally woke up and became cheerful.  Once her focus was on baking with Grandma Linda Shawna was able to slip away without any drama on Ms. M’s part.

Today was Brendan and Shawna’s friend Jorge’s birthday and the three of them were headed to a new restaurant in Detroit to celebrate.  The restaurant does not take reservations and is apparently very popular at the moment so Shawna was not sure if they would actually get to eat there.

With Linda’s help Madeline mixed the ingredients for the cupcakes and managed to pour most of the batter into the baking tray.  Linda then prepared dinner while I played with Madeline.  We did the ABCs on her placemat, and then colored with crayons.  Dinner was mock chicken tenders, edamame, and steamed carrot rounds with fresh orange segments and sliced strawberries, so it was mostly fresh, whole plant-based foods.

As soon as the cupcakes were cool enough to be frosted Madeline coated each one with the special Halloween orange frosting and the back and orange Halloween sprinkles.  I was summoned to inspect the work and then it was time to eat.  Madeline selected a cupcake for herself and then one for me and one for Linda.  We ate them at the table and they were very good.

After cupcakes we played soccer with two different balls, kicking and throwing them all around the house.  By 8 PM we needed to start winding things down.  Shawna had left her iPad and Madeline selected a Curious George video about Christmas.  Linda and Madeline climbed up in our bed where they could stretch out their legs and watched the first 60% of the cartoon.  I opened two more camera batteries and put them in the chargers and then joined the girls.  We will watch the rest of the cartoon tomorrow morning.

I helped Madeline brush her teeth and Linda got her into her pajamas.  Linda read her several stories and finally got her in bed around 9:15 PM.  During dinner Madeline inquired about having pancakes for breakfast.  (I had made the same inquiry over lunch.)  Linda did not have all of the ingredients she needed so after Madeline went to bed I went to Meijer’s in Howell and bought avocado oil and all-purpose flour.  Linda is trying to use up ingredients rather than stock up on them so I bought a two pound bag of King Arthur organic unbleached enriched all-purpose flour even though I could have bought a 10 pound bag of the Meijer’s brand (bleached and not organic) for only 50 cents more.

Just before going to bed I opened two more batteries and put them in the chargers.  We went to bed at 11 PM but did not turn on the TV to ensure that we did not disturb Madeline’s sleep.  I was basically done with the draft of this post and read some more of the Instruction Manual for my new Sony alpha 99 (SLT-A99V) camera and vertical battery grip (VG-C99AM).  I am really looking forward to using this new equipment but it takes a couple of days to charge batteries, install software, and read manuals enough to be able to configure it for first use.  This class of camera has a lot of adjustable parameters with default settings that may or may not be what any particular user wants.


2015/09/07 (M) Grouted

Linda got up at 6:45 AM to get a shower before Madeline woke up.  She peeked in the bedroom at 7:30 and there was no Madeline to be seen!  She pushed the door open a little farther and felt some resistance.  She looked behind the door and there was Ms. M, playing hide and seek with Grandma Linda.  🙂  Madeline was not fully awake, however, and sat with Linda on the living room sofa and read stories for a while.

All of this was retold to me as I was up late last night working on yesterday’s blog post and did not get up this morning until 8 AM, just in time for breakfast.  Breakfast was gluten-free toaster waffles with real maple syrup and mixed berries on the side (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries); simple but delicious.

After breakfast Linda took Madeline to the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.  They needed to return a book to the lending library and Linda wanted to make sure Ms. M had an active morning so she would be tired enough to lie down for her nap at 1 PM.

Bruce grouting the tiles in the hallway by the new bus refrigerator.

Bruce grouting the tiles in the hallway by the new bus refrigerator.

I got back to work on the grout immediately after breakfast.  My goal was to be done by noon as it needed to cure, undisturbed, for 24 hours before we could clean it and resume working inside the bus.  I picked up where I left off last night with the area in front of the refrigerator where the kitchen blends into the hallway.  I was now out into the front half of the bus which is much more open than the hallway, bathroom, and bedroom.  Also, most of the tiles in this area are full 16 inch squares so I thought I might be able to work faster.  That was optimistic to say the least.

It was forecast to be hot today with a high near 90 degrees F and elevated relative humidity.  I turned on the front and middle air-conditioners initially but eventually had to turn off the middle unit when I got to the point where I would no longer be able to reach it.  I was a bit surprised that the front A-C alone kept the coach comfortable but we are approaching the autumnal Equinox so the transit of the sun is enough lower in the southern sky that the coach is in shade for most of the day.

It felt like I was moving right along but by noon it was obvious that this was going to be an all-day task so I stopped to have lunch.  Linda served vegan hotdogs with pickle relish and onions and set out a large bunch of grapes.  After lunch I resumed the grouting while Linda and Madeline watched a video.  Madeline laid down for her nap right on schedule.  Linda then took a few minutes to help me move the Aqua-Hot fan-coil heat exchangers so I could grout the area where they had been sitting on the floor.  Linda cleaned up the kitchen and then had some well-deserved and needed quiet time.

I had a call from Butch around 1:30 PM.  I was in the middle of applying grout and said I would call him back later.  They left on Saturday for the southwest U.S. and were planning to spend this evening at a Walmart near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  By 5:25 PM I had one small set of inter tile spaces to grout when Linda and Madeline came out to tell me that dinner was ready.  I had just finished a section so I had already cleaned my tools.  I put the lid back on the grout container and went inside to eat.

Dinner was mock chicken tenders (vegan), green beans, kale chips, sliced plums, and grapes.  There was a little left over “gravy” (vegan) from last night so I had that on my chicken.  Madeline helped make the kale chips and really liked them.  As soon as I was done eating I excused myself from the table and went back to the bus.

I finished grouting the last four grout spaces and then cleaned up the tools and put them away.  I also cleaned up the cockpit area of the bus which is where everything ended up as I worked my way out of the living area.  I turned off the front A-C and locked the bus.  While I did that Linda cleaned up the kitchen and then gathered up all of Madeline’s things.

When I was done with my chores I cleaned up and changed clothes.  The three of us then loaded all of Madeline’s things into Linda’s car which has had the car seat in it all weekend.  We closed up the house and headed for Ann Arbor.  Linda drove so that I could return Butch’s phone call.

Butch had a possible issue with his house battery bank and wanted to discuss it.  He bought eight AGM batteries last winter in Quartzsite, Arizona and finally installed them over the summer.  They are 12V DC batteries and he has them in a series-parallel configuration to make a 24V DC battery pack with a 12V DC center tap.  A 24V Magnum 4024 inverter/charger is connected to the +24V and DC ground and a Vanner Equalizer is connected to those same points and to the 12V center tap, which is where 12V DC loads, like the water pump, draw their power.  In addition, Butch wired three LED display voltmeters to the battery pack; one for the lower 12V bank, one for the upper 12V bank, and one for the overall 24V bank.

His issue/concern was that the upper and lower 12V banks were not reading the same voltage.  They were different by one volt, which is a lot, and the upper bank had the lower voltage, which I agreed was an odd situation.  Without the Vanner Equalizer 12V loads would draw their energy from the lower 12 V bank and as the charge in that bank got depleted the voltage would drop.  The Vanner Equalizer’s purpose in the system is to draw charge from the upper battery bank to make up for this depletion and keep the voltage the same, or equalized, on both banks.  I presumed that all three voltmeters were accurate and that the Vanner was connected correctly, all of which would be easy enough to check.

After talking about all of this his plan was to temporarily disable the Vanner by removing its connection to battery ground and see what affect that had.  He also thought the Vanner might have a circuit breaker and would check to see if it had tripped.  I could not confirm or deny whether this would work.  I have looked for information on how the Vanner does what it does and not found much although I have found circuit diagrams for other battery equalizers.  My presumption is that it is a small inverter/charger, taking DC power from the upper 12V bank, creating some sort of AC waveform, and applying it to one side of a 1:1 transformer.  The other side of the transformer sees the same AC waveform, converts it back to 12V DC, and applies it to the lower battery.  The transformer is the key as it isolates the two banks relative to ground.  I wrapped up the call a few minutes before we got to our destination.

We arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s house at 7:45 PM. They had pulled up just minutes before us and were unloading their car.  They had not dropped Jorge at his home yet so we got to visit with him too.  Madeline had me read her a book about what happens if you give a cat a cupcake.  We stayed until 8:15 PM and offered to drive Jorge home as Brendan and Shawna had to get Madeline to bed and then eat something for dinner.  Madeline got out the cupcakes she helped make and offered those for their evening meal.  Tomorrow is a work day for her parents and she has to go to her new school.  Jorge is also starting a new job as the wine department manager at the new Plum Market on the northeast side of Ann Arbor, so everyone needed their rest this evening.

We were going to stop at Meijer’s supermarket on the way home but encountered rain before we got to the Brighton exit.  We stopped at the Shell station instead, filled up the gas tank, and bought two large decaf coffees at the Dunkin Donuts co-located with the station.  Back at the house we each had a vegan cupcake and then sat quietly in the living room working on our iPads while enjoying our brew and the company of our cats.  By 10 PM Linda was sleepy and went to bed.  I was also tired but stayed up longer to finish this post.  Scattered thunderstorms were forecast over a several hour period starting at 11:30 PM.  That is when I turned off the light but they had not yet started.  We could use a good soaking rain so I hope we get one overnight.


2015/09/06 (N) Grouting

We got up quietly at 7:30 AM as Madeline was still sound asleep.  Linda did not want to let her sleep too long and get off schedule so I got the “all clear” to grind the coffee beans just before 8 AM.  I made the Costa Rican half-caff because I am trying to use it up so we can replace it with something we like better.  Madeline emerged with Grandma Linda a few minutes later.  After stretching they decided to sit quietly on the living room sofa and read stories while everyone woke up and the adults enjoyed our coffee.

Sometime between 9:30 and 10 AM we left for the Howell Farmers Market.  We walked from one end to the other, with Madeline in her stroller, scoping out this week’s bounty. We then walked back through and Linda bought a few things including hard stem garlic which we had never seen before.  We stopped and chatted with our favorite vendor, Marjorie.

When we got home and put the produce away Linda prepared a snack lunch for herself and Madeline.  The two of them then went on an outing to the farm at Kensington Metropark (KMP) while I stayed behind to work on bus projects.  I decided to start by finishing the assembly of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  I attached the center support for the return air shelf as follows:

  • I determined the center of the long edges of the shelf and drew a line between them.
  • I carried these center marks to the other side and then measured 3/8″ to either side.
  • I connected corresponding marks to create a pair of parallel lines 3/4″ apart and centered on the underside of the shelf.
  • I placed the support in position, determined its fore-aft position, and marked the ends.
  • I then marked a piece of scrap wood, cut it into four pieces, and used them to hold the support in place; two long pieces the same length as the support, and two short pieces across the ends.
  • This allowed me to turn the shelf right side up with the center support held in the correct place and then mark and drill countersunk pilot holes for the screws.
  • I removed the support piece, sanded off any rough spots, put Titebond II wood glue on the edge, and replaced it between the temporary blocking.
  • I stood on the shelf to force the pieces together and ran all the screws down tight.
  • I then removed the temporary blocking.

After sleeping on it last night I decided I would attach the plenum/support boxes to the vertical front panel and the wood wire chase on top of the HVAC chase rather than to the adjacent cabinets or to the floor.  That meant I could go ahead and assemble them as complete, single units.  Easier said than done.

Even though I used right angle corner clamps the two halves I built for each box did not want to go together perfectly.  I managed to get one of them assembled but could not complete the other one by myself.  The problem was that I needed both hands to pull the pieces into alignment and two more hands to operate the drill and screw gun.

By now it was 1 PM, which is Madeline’s normal nap time, but they were not back from the Metropark yet so I gathered up all of the tools and materials I needed to grout the floor tiles in the bus.  That included the special Armstrong S-288 Glacier White sanded vinyl grout, a flat blade screwdriver, the 4″x8″ hard edge float, the smaller margin trowel, the 2″ putty knife (wall scraper), the ScotchBrite sponges, the Revel scrubber, two large buckets for rinse water, paper towels, a large cloth towel, and paper bags.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Madeline pets one of the sheep at the Kensington Metropark animal farm.

Since Linda and Madeline had still not returned I had a few pretzels with hummus.  They finally got home around 1:30 PM and I heard all about the farm and the animals Ms. M got to see and touch.  The 2-day old piglets were apparently a big hit but so was the playroom.  It was a good outing and I wish I could have gone but I got stuff done that needed to be done.

Madeline finally laid down for her nap at 2 PM but Linda could not help me with the tile grouting as she needed to be within earshot of Madeline’s bedroom.  I decided that we could not afford any further delay for this aspect of the interior remodeling project and resolved to do it by myself.  Without Linda to walk me through the steps, have materials ready, and clean the tools, I needed to be very clear about the steps and their timing.  I must have read the directions on the container of grout a dozen times in an attempt to internalize them but they just would not stick with me.  I needed a spray bottle for water so Linda found one for me.

The afternoon was very warm so I turned off the air-conditioning in our home library, closed up the coach, and turned on two of the three air-conditioners, making sure they were on opposite legs of the electrical service.  I staged all of the stuff in the bedroom storage box as I planned to start on the back side of the bed in the driver side corner by the head of the bed and work my way out.

I finally got started at 2:30 PM.  The grouting involved a specific set of steps that got repeated many times as the directions said to only do 6 – 10 sq. ft. at a time.  That range had to do with the time required to apply and strike the grout, setup time (3 – 8 minutes), misting with water, waiting 20-30 seconds, scrubbing, and finally wiping with a square edged cellulose sponge.  I had to divide the U-shaped bedroom floor into six sections and it took me until 5:30 PM to do that much so my average time was 30 minutes per section, each of which was smaller than 6 square feet.

I took a short break, had something to drink, and checked with Linda on the timing of dinner.  We settled on 6:30 PM and I returned to my grouting.  I had to do the bathroom floor in two sections, which got me into the hallway and joined up with the work from the bedroom.  I went in to clean up for dinner and was greeted by the smell of something baking.  Madeline wanted to make cupcakes so Linda assembled the ingredients and walked her through the steps, letting her do as much of the work as possible.  For not even being three years old yet she is very interested in cooking, but only if it is something she will get to eat! 🙂

Dinner was vegan cheeseburgers, corn-on-the-cob (from the Farmers Market), left over black beans and edamame, and sliced pears.  I worked in the bus from 7 to 8 PM and finished the hallway as far as the bend that transitions into the kitchen.  I cleaned all of the tools and sealed the grout container using Cling-Wrap pressed down onto the surface of the grout to keep air away from it, and locked up the bus.

I washed up and turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm radio in the ham shack while Linda helped Madeline take a bath.  Steve, N8AR, was serving as net control for the weekly SLAARC information net and had already started the net but not yet called for check-ins so I got to participate in the entire net.  We had a small group this evening, most likely due to it being a holiday weekend, but it was still a good net.

I came upstairs to have dessert with Linda and Madeline; chocolate cupcakes (vegan) with sprinkles.  Yum.  I then returned to my office to re-read an article I wrote about replacing the speedometer in the bus and editing it to indicate where the pictures should be placed.  I dealt with several BCM related e-mails and then came upstairs.

Madeline was in her pajamas and sitting in her portable bed while Linda read a story.  She decided that she wanted me to read a couple stories too, so I did.  We got her tucked in with her stuffed animals arranged at the four corners of her bed, turned on the night light, and left her to fall asleep.

I opened the bottle of Apricot wine that Brendan and Shawna picked up from Leelenau Cellars and we each had a small glass.  I worked on this post while Linda cleaned up the kitchen.  It had been a long and very tiring day for both of us but a very satisfying and productive day as well.  We don’t mind that kind of tired.


2015/09/05 (S) Building the Built-in

We set the alarm for 7 AM as we had to return the 100 pound floor roller to The Home Depot by 8:08 AM.  We got the roller out of the bus, reattached the transport wheels, and loaded it into the back of my car.  We positioned it so that Linda could hold on to the handle while I drove.  One-hundred pounds that is designed to roll is not something you want loose in your car.  We got to the store at 7:40 AM but the associate was busy renting a ditch digging machine to someone.  We had to wait 15 minutes but that was OK.  After returning the roller we drove back to the house so Linda could get her car and our iPads and then drove separately to Panera in Brighton.

Linda had her usual Everything bagel and I had my usual Cinnamon Swirl & Raisin bagel, both sliced and toasted with nothing on them.  Two large coffees rounded out the order.  The coffee was hot and did not have grounds in it (for a change).  For some reason we got an extra Everything bagel that we did not order so which we split it.

Linda left at 9 AM to drive to Ann Arbor to pick up grand-daughter Madeline who will be with us until sometime on Monday.  Her mom and dad are attending a wedding on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin so they are driving over today and driving back on Monday.  I stayed at Panera getting my money’s worth of coffee while finishing yesterday’s blog post and starting on today’s missive.

I left Panera at 9:45 and stopped for gasoline at the Shell station on the way home.  $2.29/gallon.  I would love to see $2/gallon gasoline again.  Better yet, I would love to see $2/gallon diesel fuel.  Linda planned to stop at the grocery store on the way back but I wanted to start a load of laundry and be home when Linda got back to the house with Madeline.

I got the laundry sorted and the first load started and then spent a little time at my desk.  I had to reset a password for someone on the SLAARC website and I logged in I was reminded that WordPress 4.3 was now available.  There were seven other updates available as well; three plug-ins and four themes.  I don’t use any of those themes and should probably delete them, but for now I just updated WP and then updated everything else.  I then logged in to our personal website, the FMCA-GLCC website, and the FMCA Freethinkers website and did the same updates.

While I was in our personal website I cleared out the 104 spam comments that had accumulated since my last house cleaning.  In the Freethinkers website I activated all of the plug-ins except Wordfence.  I have problems with this website and tech support at iPower says it is the Wordfence plug-in that is at fault.  They ask for permission to deactivate it and I give them permission but ask that they only disable that one plug-in.  Instead they disable ALL of them; every time.  I would really like to move this website to QTH.com and I may just do that as an add-on domain to our account.  Unfortunately our e-mail reflectors are set up on through the iPower account and I doubt that the club will want to pay for two different web hosting services.

It was a nicer day than we have had for most of the week, cooler with clearer skies and a nice breeze, so I opened up the windows in the motorcoach and turned on all three ceiling exhaust fans to air out the interior and get rid of the lingering smell from the floor tile adhesive.  (Yes, that is one, long sentence, but since I have added this one, it is now a proper paragraph rather than a single sentence paragraph.)

Linda and Madeline stopped at the Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, which is not far from our son and daughter-in-law’s house, and got to our house at 11 AM.  Madeline and I helped Grandma Linda unload the groceries and put them away.  I moved a few things from the front hallway into the library where Linda put most of the bus drawers last night (three of them are in our bedroom).  Madeline wanted her inflatable porta-bed set up so Linda took care of that.  Once her bedroom was arranged we got out her toy box and started playing with things.  She also had a couple of bags of things she brought with her and got a small soccer ball out of one of them.  We had a great time throwing and rolling it around the living room.  It is always wonderful to see the pure joy of a young child at play doing something as simple as this.

By 12:30 PM Madeline was ready for lunch so Linda made a PB&J sandwich and washed some green grapes.  She washed some black organic grapes for us and I had a few pretzels dipped I Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  It’s my favorite hummus from them, or pretty much anyone else.

After Madeline laid down for her afternoon nap at 1 PM Linda and I both got busy with chores.  As much as I would like to have taken today off, at least from hands and knees work, we only had eight days left to get some significant tasks accomplished on the bus.  In terms of a critical path view of the overall project the critical task is grouting the floor tile that we finished installing at 9 PM last night.  Not only will it take some time to do but once it is done it cannot be walked on for 24 hours.  As much as it needed to be done, however, I needed a day of not being on my hands and knees.  If I get it done on Sunday I can resume work inside the coach on Monday.

While Linda made a batch of granola I worked on assembling some of the pieces for the built-in sofa.  My plan was to fully assemble the two plenum boxes that will support the ends of the plywood seat, and I intended to do that by gluing and screwing the four pieces together for each.  In order to do that I needed screws of the appropriate type (#6 SR) and length (1-1/4″) so I went to Lowe’s to get them.  While I was there I looked at continuous hinges and angle brackets but did not buy any.  I need a 72″ hinge but all they had were 48″, 30″, and 12″.  I may be able to use two 30″ and one 12″ but I need to check the actual dimension.  I also needed a #6 drill but with an integral countersink but Lowe’s did not seem to have what I needed so I went to The Home Depot and found something there.

I think this marking scribe belonged to my mother’s father.

I think this marking scribe belonged to my mother’s father and is at least 100 years old.

Back home I was getting all of my tools and supplies ready when I realized that I would not be able to attach the plenum/support boxes to the adjacent cabinets if they were fully assembled.  This was an example of incomplete design; either I have forgotten how I planned to anchor these boxes, changed my thinking about this in the time since I did the design work, or never figured out this detail in the first place.

Ideally I could anchor them in a way that does not destroy the cabinets or the floor.  One way to accomplish that would be to attach them to the HVAC plenum at the back and the vertical front support board using angle brackets, and to the top of the wiring chase above the HVAC plenum via the two filler strips on either side of the seat.  If I do that I can fully assemble the two plenum/support boxes before installing them.

For now I only assembled half-boxes with one side piece attached to the bottom piece and the other side piece attached to the top piece.  I built one of them for the left end and the other one for the right end. What this leaves open as an option is screwing the side/bottom assembly to its adjacent cabinet and then screwing the other assembly to the first one without using any glue.  The dry assembly would allow everything to be disassembled later if needed.

Madeline was up by this time and helped Grandma Linda put the new seed block in the bird feeder.  They then walked around to the front of the garage to see what Grandpa Bruce was doing.  I showed them my tools and the pieces of wood and explained how everything was going to work and fit together.

Two pieces of one of the plenum boxes held at right angles for gluing and screwing.

Two pieces of one of the plenum boxes held at right angles for gluing and screwing.

I aligned the pieces being joined, which are all 3/4″ cabinet grade 13 ply plywood, using two corner clamps.  I then scribed a line 3/8″ from the edge of the piece that was sitting on the edge of the other piece.  I marked screw locations every two inches with the spacing centered along the line.  I drilled pilot holes with countersinking to ensure the screw heads would be below the surface of the wood.  I disassembled the two pieces, leaving the piece that the screws would go in first in the clamps, and sanded off any rough edges.  I ran screws part way into each hole so the tips protruded just enough to put the two pieces back into alignment when they were rejoined.  I applied Titebond II wood glue to the edge piece spread it out, and wiped off my finger with a wet cloth.  I inserted the edge piece back into the clamps, used the screws to make sure it was aligned, tightened the clamps, and ran the screws most of the way down.  I then loosened the clamps holding the edge piece and drew it up tight by running the screws all the way down.  I used a wet towel to wipe off the excess glue that was squeezed from the joint and set it aside to dry.  I took a lot of pictures too.

The center portion of the storage space under the seat will have an elevated platform with closed ends to create a plenum for the OTR HVAC return air.  I assembled the two end pieces to the ends of the platform using the same method I used for the plenum/support boxes.  There is also a support piece for the middle of the platform but I cannot use the clamps to hold it in position relative to the platform so I will have to do something else.  I was thinking that I did not feel like tackling that task when Linda and Madeline came back to the garage to let me know it was almost time for dinner.  Saved by the food bell, I closed up the garage and went inside to eat.

Linda set out some carrot slivers, diced peaches, and home grown cherry tomatoes.  She cooked some mock chicken patties and heated up some vegan gravy to go with them as a main course.  For sides she heated black beans, edamame, and vegan Mac-n-cheese.  We all enjoyed our meal.

Madeline really enjoys the swings at the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.

Madeline really enjoys the swings at the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.

Our son let Linda know that Madeline had not been sleeping through the night recently and had developed a sensitivity to noises.  Linda figured Madeline might sleep better if she engaged in some vigorous play after dinner and suggested that we go to the Brighton Mill Pond Imagination Station Playscape.  Ms. M liked the idea but wanted to make sure I was coming too.  I found a reasonably good parking spot and pushed her over in the stroller because she does not like to walk for the sake of walking.  But once we got to the playscape she was in “go mode.”  As the sun set and the light faded we strollered her over to Jack’s for a scoop of vanilla ice cream with sprinklers.  We then strollered her back to the car and drove home.

Linda had promised Madeline that she could watch a video before she went to bed.  She had selected an episode of Daniel Tiger, an animated children’s program based on the Daniel Striped Tiger character from the old Mr. Rogers TV program.  We had Shawna’s iPad with access to her Netflix account but the program was downloading slower than molasses poured on a cold day.  We had problems with video, then audio, but eventually got it to work after I turned off the Wi-Fi transceiver on my smartphone.  Linda got Madeline ready for bed while fiddled with the technology.

After the video Grandma Linda carried Ms. M around to look at all her favorite artwork, a bedtime ritual that goes back to the first time she ever stayed at our house overnight.


2015/07/20 (M) Chuck It

Our morning got busy right away.  We had breakfast and I made coffee while Linda entertained Madeline.  Brad, from Chuck It Junk Removal, dropped off the dumpster trailer at 9 AM.  Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up at 9:30 to cut the grass.  Linda took Madeline to the Mill Pond to use the playscape and Mara started scrapping old caulk and putty from around the base of her refrigerator roof vent.  I tried using another set of tools for removing the stripped screw in the stop block on the bus to no avail.  I even managed to break off two drill bits in the hole I was drilling in the screw.  The more I work on this the worse it gets.

When Linda and Madeline got back Madeline had lunch and then laid down for her nap.  The three adults then had vegan hotdogs for lunch after which I put the finishing touches on my design drawings for the pull-out pantry.  Mara and I then went on an errand run.

Our first stop was the FedEx store in Novi where I made copies of all of the drawings for the desk and the pullout pantry.  We then stopped at General RV to return the refrigerator vent cover as it did not fit the base section on Mara’s roof.  They had a Camco cover that claimed it would work, and looked like it might fit, so she exchanged them and got a small credit.  When we got back at 3:15 PM Brendan and Shawna were already there.  They got Madeline up at 3:20 PM and stayed until about 4 PM.  After they left I got up on Mara’s roof to help with tasks there.

First we checked the refrigerator vent cover.  The mounting holes lined up but the flanges (shields) on the long sides were not wide enough to fit outside the base flanges.  The proper fit requires the upper flanges to be outside the lower flanges by at least 1/4″ so heat can escape and extend below the lower flanges to keep rain from getting into the refrigerator cavity.  I was going to install the 24″ x 24″ piece of thin sheet steel for the magnetic cell phone booster antenna when I discovered that the antenna would stick to the old satellite dish.  We experimented some more with the location of the inside antenna but could not improve on yesterday’s placement.  The performance was as good as with the metal sheet so I decided not to install the metal sheet.  Mara then caulked around the refrigerator vent base and touched up a few other spots around tank vent caps.

Linda grilled a variety of veggies for dinner.  I opened a bottle of Pinot Noir wine and we ate outside.  It was cloudy and 76 degrees F with light winds; very pleasant and bug free.  We had fresh strawberries with the meal and dark chocolate for dessert.  We eventually moved inside to chat but did not stay up late as I needed to be up early in the morning and on my way to Indiana.


2015/07/19 (N) Another Buddy Visit

Linda was up at 6:30 AM to get showered before Madeline woke up at 7 AM.  Once Madeline was up they got busy right away making vegan blueberry pancakes.  I was up at 7:20 AM, got a quick shower, and was dressed and seated at the table just in time for breakfast.  The pancakes cooked especially well this morning although I would like to try them sometime without the blueberries cooked in.  After we were done eating I made coffee while Linda and Madeline prepared vegan sloppy Joe’s in the crock pot for lunch.

Mara has been getting up when she feels like it and eating breakfast by herself.  By 9 AM she was outside emptying the passenger side storage bays on her motorhome.  She spent the rest of the morning going through the stuff she had removed, deciding what to keep, organizing it, and putting it back.  I gathered up our laundry, sorted it, and started a load.

Aunt Meghan (our daughter) and Uncle Chris (her husband) arrived at 10 AM and I brewed another pot of coffee.  This was the second buddy visit of Madeline’s stay (the first was Cousin Katie on Friday).  Meghan provided a lot of child care during Madeline’s first 18 months and Madeline adores her “buddy.”  She took Meghan on a tour of the house showing her where various things, like snacks and kitty cats, were to be found.  It was a sure sign that Madeline is finally feeling very comfortable at our house.

Having other adults around gave Linda a break and some time to finish preparing lunch, although once Madeline realized Grandma Linda was at work in the kitchen she had to help.  I went out around 11:45 AM to fetch Mara.  We all sat down at noon and enjoyed a simple but delicious meal of vegan sloppy Joe’s (based on textured vegetable protein aka TVP), corn on the cob, raw baby carrots, and black grapes.

Madeline had very busy days yesterday and the day before and got up a little tired this morning so by 1 PM she was more than ready for her nap.  Meghan and Chris had things to do and took their leave.  Mara went back to work on her rig and Linda laid down for a nap.  I tended to the laundry and then went out to work on our bus and Mara’s motorhome.

I used the Speedout set to try and remove the screw with the stripped head from the stop block on the passenger side fixed glass frame.  I was not successful with this tool so I switched gears and worked on Mara’s cell phone booster system.  I climbed on the roof and she handed me the 12″ x 18″ thin galvanized sheet steel plate.  I took it to the front of the roof, set it down on the fore-aft centerline, and positioned the 4″ magnetic mount antenna in the center.  I dropped the coax over the edge by the driver’s side window and climbed back down from the roof.

Mara opened the sliding side window and screen by the driver’s seat and I passed the coax in to her.  Inside the rig we positioned the amplifier on the driver’s seat and started experimenting with various positions for the inside antenna.  We found one that worked well and left it for her to try.  I checked the laundry and then laid down for a nap.

I skipped dinner as I had a SLAARC meeting at 6:30 and had to leave before 6 PM which is when Madeline was having her evening meal.  Our ham radio club meetings start with social time from 6:30 to 7:00 PM.  The meeting was called to order at 7 PM by president Harvey (AC8NO) and I agreed to act as recording secretary.  Linda was not able to attend because she was taking care of Madeline so I gave the treasurer’s report in her absence.  The meeting adjourned at 7:10 PM.  We reconfigured the room for the program which was a presentation and debrief of our recent field day activity.  Larry (K8UT) reported on the N1MM Logger Plus networked computer logging software.  Steve (N8AR) reported on the radios and antennas and conducted the debriefing.

I got back home before 9 PM.  Madeline was asleep and the ladies were each enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio on the back deck.  I poured one for myself and joined them.  The mosquitoes eventually appeared and we retreated indoors.  I reheated the bowtie pasta from the other night and finished it for dinner.  We said “good night” at 10 PM after which I checked e-mail and websites and then headed to bed.  I wrote for a while before turning out the lights.


2015/07/18 (S) RV Shopping

Madeline was awake at 7 AM and Linda got her up shortly after that.  I slept in until 8 AM.  They had already eaten breakfast by then so I made coffee and had cinnamon raisin toast.  Metropolitan Baking Company makes a very tasty cinnamon raisin bread.  We all sat in the living room while Madeline played with various toys and I worked on finishing yesterday’s blog post.

Linda and Madeline left at 10 AM for the Howell Library.  The plan was to let Madeline play in the children’s area, which has a lot interesting things to do for children her age.  After selecting some books and DVDs to bring home they were headed to Meijer’s to do some grocery shopping.

I continued working on my iPad until Mara came in the house.  We had a chat about blogging and I showed her the Feedly app on my iPad.  She has attended workshops put on by The Geeks On Tour and has their training materials.  I think Blogger is probably the right tool for her and Picasa is probably the right way to manage her photos.  They are both Google products so they work well together and they are free to use.  There are downsides to that, especially for professionals, but for most people it’s a great solution.

Mara and I left around 11:45 AM and drove to General RV in Wixom.  This was my first visit to their new facility and it is nice.  The parts department is larger and better stocked than the old one and is bright with natural light from large south and west facing windows.  We were asked several times if we needed assistance but we were never pestered.  They did not have any of the white Dicor self-leveling caulk we were looking for but one of the employees checked their stock and brought out six tubes.  Mara bought four of them along with a new Norcold refrigerator roof vent cover, a small roll of Eternabond tape, and some concentrated RV wash/wax.  I picked up eight brown circular adjustable air vents for the bus.  The ones in there now are black but I think the brown will look better with the new floor tile.  We won’t really know, however, until we install them.

We drove to Lowe’s in Howell where I bought two pieces of 12″ x 18″ thin galvanized steel plate and three rolls of 3M double-sided tape suitable for outdoor use.  The plan is to put one of these on the roof of Mara’s motorhome and possibly put the other on the roof of our bus to allow the use of the magnetic base cell phone antennas that came as part of the weBoost Drive 4G-X cellular booster systems.  Once the steel sheets are affixed to the roof I will caulk around them.  First, however, I will just set the sheets up there and see what sort of difference the system makes.

We stopped at O’Reilly’s auto parts store and Mara bought some 10, 15, and 20 Amp mini fuses.  These fuses have a small LED that glows if the fuse opens.  They were more expensive than the regular ones, but that is a very handy feature and I may stock up on these the next time I need to buy fuses.

Back at the house Linda informed me that when the storm blew in it pulled the sun umbrella out of the table on the deck.  We put the glass top back in the table and re-installed the umbrella.  This has happened a couple of times and we have been lucky that the glass top has not broken.  Mara returned to her rig.  She had left her patio awning out but it was not damaged.

Linda got Madeline up from her nap at 3 PM and read her a story about flying in an airplane.  Madeline then played with her toys for a while.  Around 4 PM Madeline wanted to bake a cake.  Linda was planning on this anyway but it was nice that it was Madeline’s idea.  They got busy in the kitchen and I sneaked off to my office for a while.

Madeline had dinner at 6 PM so I came up from my office while she ate.  Meals are a social time and I was ready for a break anyway.  After dinner Linda helped Madeline get cleaned up.  I slipped back down to my office while they watched an Elmo DVD, but by 7 PM I was done working on the pantry design for the evening and went back upstairs.  Linda was reading the airplane ride book (again), after which Madeline played (with) the organ after which they drew for a while and then played with the Play-Doh.  Madeline is a busy girl.

I was just getting ready to go ask Mara what temperature to preheat the oven when she came to the house with an armful of ingredients for the pizza.  She has a recipe for a wheat-free (gluten-free) pizza dough that she wanted us to try.  It calls for cheese and eggs so to make it vegan Linda had her buy Daiya mozzarella shreds and gave her egg replacer to use.  The other ingredients include almond meal, chickpea flour, golden flaxseed, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, olive oil (EVVO), and water.

It took another 25 minutes to get Madeline to bed but once Linda had her tucked in I opened a bottle of Nebiola wine from the St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  I often write that I am not a fan of red wines and continue to not like dry wines with lots of tannins.  The Nebbiolo, however, is one of the nicest wines I think I have ever tried.  That probably means it is too sweet for most red wine drinkers, but I did not find it to be sweet; I found it to be smooth and complex.

We ordered a couple of things from Amazon on Wednesday and they showed up yesterday.  When I unboxed the Notier capacitive touch screen precision stylus I was surprised by what I found.  It’s a 2-part housing that unscrews and the cover screws onto the other end of the bottom part, which is needed for comfort and balance.  The stylus tip is small but has a 1/4 in clear plastic disc on the end.  It was on sale for $11 and I decided right away I would not return it.  Besides, I had not actually tried it yet.  So I finally tried it while the pizza was cooking.  It is an amazing little device!  It is, indeed, very precise and works with a delicate touch so I will have to re-calibrate my “typing” style, but it just goes to show that you never know until you try.

I lost track of time but it was somewhere between 9:30 and 10 PM when the pizza was ready to eat.  It was, however, worth the wait and might be the best vegan pizza I have ever had.  The recipe is definitely a keeper.  We each had a chocolate cupcake (with sprinkles) while we finished our wine.  We then adjourned to the living room and talked until almost 11 PM.  It was a very full day for all four of us and everyone was tired but satisfied.  It’s nice having family and friends here.


2015/07/06 (M) Arrested

Our morning started with coffee, once we got up, and then granola for breakfast.  We are both in better health, generally, than we were in our 30s, 40s, and early 50s, but having Madeline here requires a different kind of constant energy and attention and we are somewhat tired by the time her parents take her home.  It’s a good tired, of course, but we were still tired this morning and slept in for a while.

I had hoped to get back to work on the bus today but the afternoon highs were forecast for the mid-80’s which would make for less than comfortable working conditions.  The forecast for the rest of the week was for highs in the 70’s so I decided to wait another day.  I really needed to get back to work on the bus but I also had other things to take care of that seemed at least as pressing.

At the top of my list was the SLAARC website.  Scott Neader had successfully copied the SLAARC WordPress website from GoDaddy.com to QTH.com and changed the domain pointers to point to the QTH servers.  He needed me to check that everything was working correctly.  He was also preparing to transfer the domain name registration and needed my involvement for that process.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Continuing with the ham radio theme, I needed to resolve how I was going to mount the new Diamond X-300NA 2m/70cm antenna and possibly remount the outside omnidirectional antenna for the cellular booster system.  That meant doing some minor engineering and possibly ordering parts.  I was also preoccupied with the fact that I was unable to participate in the SLAARC info net last night, apparently due to some malfunction in our ham radio system, and it was going to bug me until I figured it out.

Last, but not least, was the fact that I was now one month behind on uploading posts to our blog.  The farther behind I get the more of a chore it is to get caught up.  Like cleaning up my e-mail inboxes, which I also need to do, it finally becomes “the” thing I “have” to take care of before I can concentrate on any other work.  I hate it when that happens, but it is a recurring problem and I have no one to blame except myself.

I often seem to spend the first part of each morning finishing up my blog post (draft) for the previous day and outlining the one for the current day or making notes for future days.  It’s my way of reflecting on what I have done and thinking ahead to what I need/want to do next.  By the time I actually got to work this morning it was after 10 AM and Keith showed up to cut the grass.  It did not rain this past week and he was finally able to cut the grass at the west end of the property, which is low and often wet.

Before going to my office I checked the rebate paperwork which Linda had assembled for the new Yaesu ham radio and got it ready to mail.  I also started filling out the prescription form to send in to Catamaran Home Delivery when I realized the doctor had written the Rx for 30 days instead of 90.  I called the clinic and they said it would (probably) be OK to have Linda bring it to her appointment tomorrow and have the doctor rewrite it.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

When I finally got to my office I looked at the SLAARC WordPress website on my computer to make sure everything was working.  The only thing that was not working was an online tool for logging check-ins for the Sunday evening info net.  I e-mailed Scott about that and then logged in as an administrator and updated several plugins.  I logged in to the FMCA-GLCC website and updated it and then did the same for our personal website.  I then created a support ticket at iPower.com regarding the broken FMCA Freethinkers website.  I dealt with SLAARC related e-mails throughout the day.

I spent the rest of the morning editing blog posts for the second half of June and early July and then started selecting and processing photos to use with blog posts, and processed those further.  By the time I quit working I had photos ready for everything except the three days of the ARRL Field Day event.

It was a nice day, if a bit warm, and we had the house opened up including the basement doorwall.  Other than a short break for lunch by 2 PM I had sat long enough and decided to setup the new Diamond X-300 2m/70cm antenna on a temporary pole.  I rummaged around the garage and found the four section pole I had used at the old house.  The pieces were buried under a pile of GLCC related PVC flag pole sections but I was able to slide them out.  I cleaned up the swaged connections and used a light coating of anti-seize compound before assembling them.  I stood it upright on the ground at the NE corner of the deck and zip tied it to the corner post at three points.  I then set up the 7-foot step ladder on the deck and removed the upper two sections.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

I unbolted the X-300 antenna from its storage place on the side of the 40-foot tower and set the base on the east deck railing.  I then got one of the 35-foot heliac coax cables from the basement and attached it to the feed point of the antenna.  With Linda’s assistance I mounted the antenna to the top of the topmost mast section and zip tied the coax to the mast.  Back up on the ladder I was able to slip the upper mast sections into the lower mast sections and add a couple more zip ties to secure the coax.

I routed the coax over to the cable entry box (CEB) so that it was not visible.  The antenna is shielded from view by our Norway Crimson King Maple tree and the mast is very inconspicuous; not bad for a temporary installation.  I disconnected the X-50 antenna coax from the Morgan UHF/VHF Lightning Arrestor in the CEB and attached the coax from the X-300 in its place.  I went back to the ham shack, turned on the Yaesu radio, and listened.  Nothing.  I tried calling the South Lyon 2m repeater but nothing came back.  I tied the Novi 440 MHz repeater…nothing.  I turned the radio off and moved the coax to our Icom IC-7000 radio and repeated the tests.  Same results.  Something was clearly wrong so I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he could help me figure it out.

Mike was out but on his way back home and called me when he was back at his base station.  We verified the transmit and receive squelch settings on my radios and then tested both antennas on both radios.  Using our cell phones we confirmed that he was not hearing my transmissions and I was not hearing his, either direct (simplex) or through the repeaters.  It was now clear that RF signals were not making it into or out of my system and there was one component that was common to all configurations; the Morgan M-302N VHF/UHF Lightning Arrestor.

I have a coaxial cable adapter kit that allows me to temporarily interconnect most of the connectors used in amateur radio coaxial cables.  At Mike’s suggestion I used the kit to assemble an adapter (barrel connector) with N-female connections on both ends.  I then disconnected the antenna and radio coaxial cables from the lightning arrestor and connected the radio coax directly to the X-300 antenna coax.  Back in the ham shack I tested this configuration with both radios on both repeaters.  I was receiving both repeaters with S7 to S9 signal strength, which is good, and very little noise, which is also good.  Mike reported that my signal was very strong into both repeaters and that he was receiving me full-quieting.  I shut the radios off and then switched the connection in the cable entry box to the X-50 antenna.  We repeated the tests with the same results, confirming that the problem as the lightning arrestor and only the lightning arrestor.

The current status of the cable entry box.

The current status of the cable entry box.

Although I was disappointed that the M-302N was defective I was overjoyed, or at least relieved, that everything else was working perfectly.  Although the new X-300 antenna turned out not to be “necessary” having it on a mast above the tower will give us an even better transmit and receive capability than the current X-50 installation.  I even have some hope of being able to reach repeaters farther away in the Detroit metro area as well as in the Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti areas, and perhaps much farther beyond.  Windsor (Canada) and Kalamazoo are possible when atmospheric conditions are right for longer range propagation, and the Saginaw, Mt. Pleasant, Fort Wayne (Indiana), and even Cleveland (Ohio) areas are not out of the question.  Once, at the old house, I was on the Spirit of 76 repeater atop the Renaissance Center in Detroit when it picked up a 2m station from Iowa.

Relieved of my concerns, especially about the operation of our new radio, I returned to my computer-based tasks.  The first thing I did was e-mail Chris Perri at KF7P Metalwerks regarding the lightning arrestor, which I purchased from him as part of the cable entry box.  He apparently forwarded my e-mail to Morgan Manufacturing Inc., or at least e-mailed them, as I got an e-mail from Bob at Morgan with instructions on where to return the unit.  It has a lifetime warranty and he indicated they would repair or replace it as needed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, except for dinner, working on photos.  Dinner was chickpea salad on a bed of greens with steamed baby bok choy dressed in rice vinegar.  It was a perfect meal for a warm summer evening.

The humidity had been up all day and rose as the temperatures dropped at sunset, although they did not drop much.  Linda was watching an episode of Scorpion when I finally came upstairs.  We watched an episode of NCIS Los Angeles after that and then an episode of Two and a Half Men, which I have always enjoyed.  We turned on a small fan but it was a warm, uncomfortable evening for sleeping.  For whatever reason we did not turn on the air-conditioner although in hindsight we should have.


2015/07/05 (N) Return to HFM

Madeline helps Grandma Linda mix the batter for vegan blueberry pancakes.

Madeline helps Grandma Linda mix the batter for vegan blueberry pancakes.

The day started with Grandma Linda’s fabulous, made from scratch, blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast, which Madeline helped make!  After breakfast we took Madeline to the Howell Farmers Market (HFM).  She had been to this market with us once before and it was a beautiful Michigan summer morning for a return visit.  On the drive over we discussed why it is that you cannot buy a farmer at a farmers market and you cannot buy a garage at a garage sale.  English can be a funny/strange language.

We walked the entire market, which is not really that big, and Linda bought some fresh strawberries.  A couple of the regular vendors were missing.  In particular we wanted to buy some more soap from Marjorie but she was not there.  Madeline enjoyed checking out the child and doll sized wooden furniture that one vendor had for sale.  We kept an eye out for someone selling jelly beans but did not see any so we stopped at the CVS on the way home and got a small bag of them.

We had just gotten home and I was unlocking the front door when Brendan and Shawna arrived.  We had a nice visit and they stayed for a light lunch.  By the end of lunch Madeline was showing signs of being ready for her nap so Brendan transferred the car seat and stroller from Linda’s car to their car, gathered up all of Madeline’s things, and loaded their car.  Madeline left with her parents at 12:30 PM and Linda laid down for a nap shortly thereafter.

I looked at the SLAARC WordPress website on my iPad to make sure it was working.  I checked most of the pages except for the Member Only Area, which requires a login, and they appeared to be OK.  I then went to my office to deal with things that needed to be dealt with from there.

Madeline tries on a child sized rocking chair at the Howell Farmers Market.

Madeline tries on a child sized rocking chair at the Howell Farmers Market.

My first task was to update the roster and financial records for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  I sent e-mails to new members, uploaded the updated roster to our Dropbox, and e-mailed everyone that they were available.  I had received the draft copy of the June 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine on Friday.  I proofread part 3 of my 4-part article on the exterior renovation of our motorcoach and sent corrections to the editor.  I then settled in to edit blog posts.

I took a break for dinner.  Linda cooked Brussels sprouts and heated some vegan riblets.  The barbecue sauce on these riblets is very tasty.  We had vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert and they were very tasty too.  I then went back to my office and continued editing blog posts.

I took a break just before 8 PM to join the South Lyon 2m Information Net using our new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE RADIO but I did not hear anything except noise.  I left the radio on for a while and then turned it off.  I switched the coax to the Icom IC-7000 and turned it on but did not hear anything there either.  I turned the IC-7000 off, switched the coax back to the FTM-400, turned it back on, and went back to work at my desk.  Around 8:30 PM the squelch started opening and I heard very faint voices way down in the noise.  After listening carefully I was able to determine that it was Steve (N8AR) running the net but I could not understand most of what was being said.

It was the first time in a long time that I had tried to participate in the net and I was disappointed that the new installation of the antenna on the tower and coax cables to the radios in the basement was not working adequately.  They were working OK when I tested them with Mike (W8XH) so it could have been an unusual band condition but Steve was obviously getting in from farther to the west than our QTH.  I enjoy operating and am looking forward to finally having our larger tower up and some HF antennas in operation but for now I need to concentrate on getting the VHF/UHF stuff working reliably (correctly and consistently).

I exchanged some e-mails with Gary at BCM regarding the magazine and then continued editing blog posts.  I got through the end of June by 11 PM and quit for the night.

2015/05/29 (F) Many Celebrations

I was up late last night so Linda got up this morning before me, made coffee, and moved all of her plants to the front porch.  I got up a little while later and we had grapefruit and toast for breakfast.

Today was a day of many celebrations, starting with a mutual “happy anniversary.”  We were married on this date in 1971; 44 years ago.  The wedding took place in the lobby of the St. Louis (Missouri) Ethical Society at 5 PM on a Saturday with about 50 people in attendance.  The reception was held in the basement.  It was a simple affair with about 200 people.  A lot has happened in those 44 years.  As we approach our mid-60’s it is unlikely we will see 44 more anniversaries but a 75th anniversary is at least possible and is a goal.

We loaded up the plants and left around 9:20 AM for Ann Arbor.  We arrived at Madeline’s daycare center a little after 10:00 AM.  She is in the “Ducks” group and they were outside in the play yard when we arrived.  It was fun to see Madeline in this context interacting with other children around her age.  The Ducks eventually joined the other groups in the assembly room for the Welcome Shabbat which was already in progress.  The rabbi, whose name we did not get, was patient with his young audience and did a nice job.

Lunch followed the singing and ceremonies and Madeline got to eat with us instead of going back to the Ducks room.  The food at the daycare center is always vegetarian (not vegan) but we had plenty to eat.  After lunch we took Madeline back to the Ducks room and read stories while the other children ate their lunch.  The teachers set up the cots for nap time and we left at 12:25 PM, about five minutes before the nap time routine got started.  We enjoyed the “grandparents and special friends Shabbat.”

We went to Brendan and Shawn’s house to drop off the plants and pick up the electric pressure washer.  Brendan is going to take care of Linda’s plants while we are at the Great Lakes MotorCoach Association GLAMARAMA RV rally next week.  We have a higher pressure (3500 PSI) gasoline engine powered pressure washer but I have not used it in years and did not want to mess with it.  I need to wash the bus on Saturday and the electric pressure washer just makes that a lot easier.

We left for Westland Mall at 2:30 PM to allow plenty of time to buy cards for Ken, Brendan, and Shawna before arriving at Ashley’s Beer & Grill for Ken Schramm’s gathering.  Today was Ken’s last day at the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency where we were colleagues for the 12 years that I worked there.  Ken was the TV and Media Production Manager and was one of the truly good guys.

Besides Ken and our friend Kate de Fuccio I had a chance to reconnect with former colleagues, including:  Bill Heldmyer, Andy Henry, Jeff Gnagy, and Brenda Hose from the media department.  Greg Johnson, Cheryl Yokum, and Libby Pizzo were there from my former Instructional Services department and Libby’s husband Vince from the computer group was there too.  Maggie Mateer, Shirley Dushane, and Sandy Ellis were also there and my first secretary, Sheri Bartz, arrived just as we were leaving around 4:45 PM.  I had a ginger-pineapple cider (hard) and Linda had a Dogfish 90 beer.  I think her’s was more alcoholic than mine.

We headed back to Ann Arbor and traffic was a mess as we expected it would be.  Brendan and Shawna’s employment/tenure celebration was at Dominic’s across from the University of Michigan Law Quad.  I dropped Linda at the door and found a parking spot around the corner but did have any change for the meter.  I texted Brendan and Linda and a few minutes later Meghan came out with some change.  I only needed to feed the meter for 15 minutes, but failing to do so is risking a parking ticket in this town.  The only thing I like less than driving in Ann Arbor is parking in Ann Arbor.

We sat and chatted with Meghan and Chris and watched Brendan and Shawna greet and mingle with their friends and colleagues.  Many of their friends have children close to Madeline’s age so there were lots of kids for Madeline to interact with, especially Fiona.  By 7 PM Madeline was getting tired so we swapped keys with Brendan and took her back to their house in their car.  By the time we got her home and she had some black raspberries for a snack she was showing signs of being tired after a long, busy day.  Linda took her upstairs to use the bathroom but ended up getting her ready for bed.  There was some tearful “I want my mommy and daddy” but Grandma Linda is able to handle such situations very well and got her calmed down and into her crib.

Brendan had picked up some hummus, pretzel nibblers, and grapes for us so Linda and I had a snacky 44th anniversary dinner once she came downstairs.  We used our iPads until Brendan and Shawna got home around 10:25 PM, visited briefly, and then drove back to our house.  There was a message on our answering machine from FirstMerit Bank which handles the account for our SLAARC ham radio club.  Tomorrow starts early with our ham radio club breakfast followed by a trip to the bank so we went straight to bed.


2015/05/17 (N) A Tale of Two Sittings.

Our day had two parts.  Part 1 was at home and Part 2 was in Ann Arbor.  The first part started with our normal morning routine:  coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and then checked/replied to e-mails, which I had not done for a couple of days.  We then got busy on tasks and chores.

Linda’s focus for the first part of the day was cleaning and straightening up the house in advance of Jack coming on Wednesday to clean all of the carpets.  Jack Hoskins runs Duraclean as a one-man business and has done our carpets and upholstery for a while.  My focus was the bus and my first task was to carry all of the “stuff” that came out from under the bed into the house.  All of that stuff then went various places downstairs, but not on the carpets.  By the time we finished the morning chores it was almost 1 PM so we had a few pretzels with hummus for lunch.

I only worked in the bus for a few of hours but I got some things done.  First I broke all of the carpet tack strips into pieces small enough to fit in a trash can.  Linda then helped me get the Shop-Vac into the bus and I vacuumed up most of the loose debris.  I had not yet removed the carpet from the right wall of the entry stairs so I did that next.  To remove it I had to take a light fixture loose and remove a piece of upholstered trim from around the bottom door hinge.  The two door hinges have thick rubber covers and after I removed the carpet I pulled back the rubber cover of the lower hinge and measured the width of the opening from the left edge of the door frame to the hinge.  It looks like we have 27″ to work with if needed.  I put the trim back on and re-installed the light fixture.  I then spent the rest of my time pulling carpet pad staples and carpet strip nails out of the plywood subfloor.  Removing the staples was tedious but it was part of what had to be done.

I quit working around 3:30 PM and took a shower and then relaxed for a bit while Linda was busy in the kitchen making a mushroom and power greens risotto.  She often uses barley in her risottos but this time she used Arborio rice which is the type normally used to make risotto.  I really like her barley risotto, but the rice version was outstanding.  After our early dinner I set an alarm on my iPad and we both took short naps.  We up at 5:30 PM and I gathered up my laptop computer, digital camera, and iPad while Linda closed up the house and got her iPad.  At 5:45 PM we were off to Ann Arbor to entertain (and supervise) grand-daughter Madeline while her parents went to a friend’s house for dinner.  We stopped at Whole Foods for some Almond Dream non-dairy ice cream.

Madeline was very excited to see us and showed us her house and back yard.  We went for a short stroll with her in her tricycle and then again in her car.  She had a Little Tykes kitchen playset on the back porch, just outside the real house kitchen, and she made “coffee and tea” for us to enjoy on the veranda.  Brendan has been working on the back yard and slowly but surely getting it into shape.  Yards are a lot of work.

Madeline was a little teary when Brendan and Shawna left but she settled down quickly as Linda got her engaged with some of her puzzles.  I sat on the floor with her and helped build the giant animal puzzles.  (The puzzles are large and have large pieces, they are not puzzles of giant animals, although giraffes are rather large.)  We learned that lions are nice but we do not pet “dinos” (alligators).

Linda prepared a bedtime snack for Madeline of grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and crackers and we had a few grapes too.  By 8 PM Madeline was tired and Linda got her ready for bed, which is a whole routine unto itself.  While they did that I got out my computer and set it up.  I checked my e-mail and then copied the photos I had taken since May 1st from my camera to my laptop.  I had photos of the work on the bus from four separate days so I selected a few photos from each day and post-processed them.  I then copied my draft blog posts for May 10 through 17 from my e-mail to separate Word documents and edited all of them.

I was spell checking my blog post drafts when Brendan and Shawna got home around 10:20 PM.  I shut down my computer and we visited while I packed up.  By 10:45 PM we were ready to be on our way.  We drove down in Linda’s car so she drove us home.  It rained several times between 8:30 and 10 PM but riding home we had clear skies in some directions (we could see stars) and lightning in other directions.  The roads were mostly wet and we drove in and out of a few showers.  We were hoping the rain would hold off as we have had a wet week and Keith is supposed to cut our grass tomorrow.


2015/05/06 (W) Old and New

The morning was devoted to Miss Madeline.  She helped Grandma Linda put the toys away before lunch.  Brendan arrived around noon and began packing up her stuff.  They left at 12:30 PM to get her home in time for her nap.

We unwrapped the box spring mattress foundation and discovered several defects.  We bought this at the Sears Outlet Center in Novi and it wasn’t very expensive.  Most of the appliances at the outlet center were visibly dinged, dented, and scratched so perhaps some defects should have been expected.  The plastic bag, however, was intact.  The defects appeared to be the result of improper handling, but that is not to say that XPO was responsible.  The bottom dust cover fabric, which is very thin and flimsy, was torn but Linda was able to stitch it back together, at least enough to dissuade the cats from climbing in.  There was also a small puncture, about the size of my finger, in the top surface, which again was a very thin material.  Since it will have a mattress on it we did bother fixing it.  There were also smudge marks on two corners.  Again, they will not be visible with the mattress and linens in place so we did not worry about them.

We had e-mails from Kate inquiring about our availability to attend the Thursday evening performance of “Meshuggah Nuns” at the Meadow Brook Theatre.  That worked for us so she suggested we meet at the Rochester Mills Beer Company for dinner first.  Linda checked the menu online and it looked like it would work for us, so we agreed to the plan.

We spent much of the evening doing online research for a new refrigerator for the bus.  The old one is still running and maintaining the temperature fairly well, but it is rather old, not particularly energy efficient, and very loud when running.  It has also been repaired twice by our friend Butch and is very difficult to service because of how/where it is installed.  As often seems to happen, there were almost no new units available with the same dimensions as our current unit. One of the things we are considering is getting a smaller, 24″ wide, model and building a tall, narrow, 29″ deep slide-out pantry in the unused space.

The smaller fridge would still be a compressor based residential unit, just smaller than the current one.  Linda will have to decide if that is a fair trade-off although if I stop drinking Ice brand water it would reduce the need for storage volume.  Our current Jenn-Air is a side-by-side and we mostly keep milk jugs full of frozen water in there for thermal mass to help with temperature stability.  With a better fridge we would not need nearly that much freezer space as our frozen foods on the bus are usually one or two pizzas, a couple of Amy’s frozen entrees (for when Linda really does not feel like cooking or going out), and perhaps a container of non-dairy “ice cream.”


2015/05/05 (T) BAF & MEF3 Visit

Today was a family visit day.  We were up a bit earlier than usual and enjoyed a light breakfast and a quiet first half of the morning.  One of the things I’ve had on my to-do list is ordering Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner and Touch of Beeswax Wood Preservative.  I finally got those ordered today directly from the company with free ground shipping.  I checked Amazon but the prices were no better and the products were not eligible for Amazon Prime.  I also found what I think is an exact replacement for my iPad2 flip cover and put it in our Amazon shopping cart.

Our son (Brendan) and grand-daughter (Madeline) arrived around 10 AM.  Madeline knows her way around the main floor of our house at this point and headed directly for the pantry to see what snacks we might have.  We tend to have dried fruit on hand, especially raisins and cranberries, as a tasty but healthy choice.  She is very fond of dried cranberries.  We spent the morning playing and talking and having a drawn out snacky lunch.  Somewhere in there Brendan setup the Pack-n-Play.

Pat Davidson from Apex Roofing showed up around noon to look at our roof and give us a quote.  Apex has done two roofs for us on the previous house and did excellent work at a fair price both times.  The quote was about what I expected and I gave Pat the verbal go ahead to put us in the schedule.  They are scheduling out about six weeks, so mid -June looks like the timeframe.  That potentially runs into the SKP Tri-Chapter Rally or the ARRL Field Day, as well as bus and bus barn projects, so we will have to see exactly where things fall.  We like to be around while this sort of work is going on.  This time, however, I also need to build a dormer on the back side of the roof to provide better access to the attic, generally, and the air-conditioner evaporator/air-handler, specifically.

The quote is for a new roof, with new underpayment and ice shield, so it is a “tear off” where they first remove all of the old roofing and repair any damaged/missing roof decking or boards.  They always look for at least a three day window with a dry weather forecast.  Pat said they would work with me relative to the dormer.  Specifically, they would start the tear off in the area where I want to build the former and then move to a different part of the roof so I can do the carpentry.  Linda and I need to visit ABC Supply Co. in new Hudson to pick out the specific shingle we want, and we plan to do that sooner rather than later.

The dormer is simple in concept but a bit trickier in execution.  I would build two tapered walls on the ground that look like right triangles.  The hypotenuse would attach to the roof with the long leg on top and horizontal and the shirt leg facing out and vertical.  Joists would be installed across the two walls, tying the together.  The front wall would be framed for an access door between the two short legs.  Two rafters would be installed at the end wall.  The ridge board would be set in place and cut to tie into the roof.  Two backer boards would be installed on the roof running at an angle from the ends of the side walls up to the ridge board.  The rest of the rafters would then be installed.  The walls and roof would then get plywood sheeting and decking.  The final carpentry would be fascia boards and siding.  Fortunately we have a pile of Hardy Board left over from when the house was sided.  Hopefully there is enough to side the dormer and it is in good enough shape to use.  I would then install the door, which I might have to build.  Apex would then roof the dormer, including continuous ridge venting.  The final steps would be painting the door and door trim and installing fascia and vented soffit material to match what is already on the house if I can find a supplier.  We would like the dormer to blend in and look like it belongs there.

Brendan got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM and then spent a little time looking at what we plan to do with the floor in the bus before heading back to Ann Arbor.  I gathered up the Armstrong vinyl floor tile samples and drove to Lynch Carpet in Howell to return them and see what else they might have.  Clint let me keep the one we like for a couple more days and gave me a grout color chart.  I then headed to Best Buy in Brighton to pick up a Sony Blue-Ray/DVD player and a couple of flash drives, all of which were on sale.  I stopped for gas and got back to the house just as Madeline was waking up from her nap.

I was able to spend a little time researching a potential new vehicle.  As much as we are enamored with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited the Consumer Reports data on them is very discouraging, especially the reliability data.  Viable alternatives may be the Nissan Frontier Pickup Truck or the Nissan Xterra SUV, both of which are available in 4×4 configurations.  Even the Ford F-150 might be a possibility as it is available in a 4-door, short-bed, 4×4 version.  They all have much better CR reliability data that the Jeeps.  The problem is, they are not Jeeps.  If we can wait a year, Ford is releasing an F-150 Raptor in fall 2016 that will feature a 10-speed transmission with six selectable driving modes including rock, mud & sand, and Baja (high speed desert racing).  It will probably also feature a ridiculously high price, but then none of these vehicles are inexpensive.

We got a phone call from XPO around 4:20 PM to let us know they would be delivering our box spring mattress foundation around 5 PM.  They showed up right on time and carried it to our bedroom.  Linda signed the delivery slip and they were gone as quick as they arrived.  We will wait until Brendan retrieves Madeline tomorrow to disassemble and reassemble the bed.

I entertained Madeline while Linda prepared dinner, but Madeline was very interested in what her Grandma Linda was doing, so we kept going to the kitchen to check on the work.  Linda served some “mock” chicken tenders, but she also fixed fresh green beans and homemade mashed potatoes, reheated some frozen edamame, and set out fresh black grapes and pineapple chunks.  Madeline is a good eater and we all enjoyed our meal.

Madeline is “potty trained” and very proud of the fact that she is no longer wearing a diaper.  She had a very successful day letting us know she needed to use the toilet.  We have a booster ring for the hall bathroom and put a stool in there for her.  She uses the stool to get up in the toilet seat and then uses it to stand up at the sink and wash her hands.  The hall bathroom sink/counter is lower than normal and turns out to be a great height for Madeline with the use of the stool.

We played after dinner until Madeline was tired.  She has always been comfortable staying with us but at 29 months of age is starting to have some anxiety about being away from her parents.  She wanted her daddy, and was briefly a little bit teary, but it wasn’t anything Grandma Linda couldn’t handle.  Linda followed the usual routine of looking at the rug (wall art) and all of the pictures in the hallway, the small bedroom, and finally the middle bedroom where Madeline’s Pack-n-Play is set up.  She selected the Construction Kitties book (again) for a bedtime story.  It was one of the books we got from the library yesterday and was her favorite choice all day today.  She fell asleep easily as she usually does.  We are active, busy people, but it’s a different kind of busy from having a 2-year old in the house.  We were tired, and turned in about an hour after our grand-daughter, but it was a good kind of tired.

We were so busy today that we failed to notice that it was Cinco de Mayo until it was almost over.


20150416-20 (R-M) MO, IL, IN

2015/04/16 (R) Carthage, MO to Edwardsville, IL

[Note:  There are no photos for these posts.]

I was awakened from a light sleep this morning by a change in the sound of our auxiliary air compressor and the pneumatic systems on the bus.  A valve that whines in a certain way as the system fills with air changed its tune and the compressor ran longer than it normally does and did not shut off.  I got up, turned it off, turned it back on and it finally completed its cycle and shut off automatically.  At that point I was up and wide awake so I got dressed.  Linda was awake by that point too so I suggested that we just get an early start on today’s journey, and that is what we did.  We pulled out of our site at the Coachlight RV Park at 7:30 AM and a few minutes later we were headed south on I-49.  Less than a mile later we looped around the cloverleaf interchange onto I-44 headed east.

The sky was overcast and we ran in and out of fog and mist as we traveled up and down the rolling hills of southwest Missouri with spring in full bloom.  The temperature was cool and the conditions made for easier driving than having a bright morning sun in my eyes.  Traffic was light to moderate for the first 2/3rds of the trip, albeit heavier passing through Springfield and Rolla.  About 200 miles into our trip we stopped at the Flying J at exit 226.  I-44 was now six lanes and we were at the fringe of heavier urban traffic and encountered a center lane closure on a bridge which brought traffic to a halt.  We patiently worked our way through that and a little farther along exited I-44 onto I-270 which became I-255 and took us across the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois, most of the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area to our north.

Once we crossed the river and traveled a few miles traffic thinned out but we bumped our way along as the road surface on this stretch of I-255 was very rough.  We exited I-255 onto I-55N/I-70E and then stayed with I-55 when it split from I-70.  It was a good thing, too, as I-70E was backed up all the way to the split with traffic stopped and a sign announcing long delays and advising motorists to seek an alternate route.  A few more miles and we were at our exit for IL-143, crossed over the highway, did a 180 onto the service road, and drove the last mile to the entrance to the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park just east of Edwardsville, Illinois.

The entrance to the RV Park was a bit narrow but wide enough that I was able to swing in off the service road.  The interior gravel roads were also narrow, and I had to snake past the office, but they turned out to be just wide enough to accommodate an RV our size.  The office was closed but there was a note on the door with our name and site number.  The site had trees on either side that did not appear to be trimmed up high enough but it turned out that they were.

While not a destination park Red BaRn RendezVous is a nice little place in a location convenient to Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois, where Linda’s sister lives, and the Interstate highways that will get us to my sister’s house in 30 to 40 minutes.  The office building has men’s and women’s restrooms with showers and a small but well equipped laundry.  We had no commitments to visit anyone today and were in early enough that Linda gathered up the laundry and we carried it over to the laundry room.

Linda had some fresh blueberries that needed to be used so she made vegan blueberry pancakes for dinner.  We do not have these very often but they are a real treat when we do.  We were both tired and had headaches, unusual for me but not for Linda, and decided to drive into Edwardsville and find the Walmart.  We wanted to buy a present for Lilly and it gave us a reason/place to stretch our legs.  Back at the rig we located the OTA TV towers, oriented our front OTA TV antenna, and watched episodes of The Big Bang Theory while diddling on our iPads and computers.  I hate to lose a block of potentially useful time but I was not up to working on photos and blog posts and diddling was the best I could manage.

The only “issue” we had with the bus today involved the behavior of the air system.  There are three air pressure gauges in the cockpit—primary and secondary on the dashboard, and auxiliary to the side—corresponding to the three “systems” that operate the chassis (brakes and suspension), and accessories (belt tensioners, radiator shutters, air horns, step slides, and house components).  The air from the main engine air compressor goes through a dryer that removes moisture and then goes to the primary, secondary, and auxiliary tanks.  It sounds simple but it is a bit more complicated than that.  I returned an earlier phone call from Butch and discussed this with him.

As best I understand it (and care to take time to explain it here) a valve, or set of valves, regulates where the compressed air goes and the top priority is the brakes.  The primary tank/system supplies air to the rear brakes and the secondary tank/system provides air to the front brakes (or vice versa).  Until the air requirements of the brake systems are satisfied air does not flow to the suspension or accessories.  Once all of the systems are pressurized they are isolated from one another so that a failure of any component will not affect the other systems.  It is a clever, fault-tolerant design that works well and has stood the test of time.  The components are used on 18-wheelers, fire trucks, and all manner of heavy highway equipment, including commercial buses in passenger service.

When the system is working correctly this is what I normally see when driving.  When the systems are fully pressurized the primary, secondary, and auxiliary air pressure gauges all read ~130 PSI.  The primary and secondary gauges will stay at that pressure unless/until I apply the brakes.  The auxiliary gauge, however, will drop over time due to small leaks somewhere that I have not been able to isolate.  Once the pressure in any of the systems drops to about 90 PSI, which is almost always the auxiliary system, the main engine air compressor kicks in and brings the pressure in all of the systems back up to ~130 PSI.

What I saw for most of the drive today was different, and that is always a cause for concern and makes driving less enjoyable.  All three gauges were showing a loss of pressure and the pressure in all three systems was the same.  The compressor was still working and would kick in at ~90 PSI and bring all three back up to ~130 PSI, so that was good, but the behavior suggested that one or more isolation valves had “stuck” in a position that kept all three systems tied together, which was not good.  Because of the larger volume of air being lost through the leak(s) in the auxiliary system it took a lot longer for the pressure to bleed down and it took longer for the compressor to bring it back up.

About four hours into our six hour trip we stopped for fuel at the Flying J Truck Stop at exit 226.  When we resumed our travel I noticed that one of the gauges (primary or secondary, not sure which) was holding its pressure while the other one continued to drop along with the auxiliary gauge.  An hour after that I noticed that both the primary and secondary gauges were holding pressure while the auxiliary gauge was cycling, and this behavior continued for the rest of the trip.  Thus it appeared that whatever caused the abnormal behavior had self-corrected.  My suspicion is that a stuck valve had gotten unstuck.  Once we were parked and set up the auxiliary air compressor cycled on and off properly, confirming that the isolation valve(s) was(were) once again working correctly.

2015/04/17 (F) My Side

We were up between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, not because we had to be but because we were rested and awake.  We had a quiet, relaxed morning enjoying our coffee and granola and using our iPads to check on the world (L) and work on yesterday’s blog post (me).  We configured the bus to ensure the cats’ comfort while we were away and left at 10:30 AM to drive to my sister’s house in Bridgeton, Missouri.  We stopped for fuel just short of her house and finally arrived around 11:30 AM.

We were greeted by Patty and Maggie, her one remaining dog.  We visited for an hour and then went to a Panera (St. Louis Bread Company) not far from her house for lunch.  We returned to her house to continue our visit and await the arrival of Ryan, Amanda, and Lilly, who showed up a little after 3 PM.  They would have come earlier but Ryan had a routine work-related physical on which his continued employment depended.  To everyone’s relief he passed so everyone was relaxed.  Lilly was initially surprised to see us but immediately gave us a big smile and went to Linda’s outstretched arms.  Lilly is 27 months old and is a cheerful, happy child who interacts easily with whomever is around.

Ryan and Amanda were hungry so at 4:30 PM we headed to El Maguey Mexican Restaurant for dinner.  We had taco salads with beans instead of animal protein and everyone seemed to like their food.  It is Amanda and Ryan’s favorite Mexican restaurant.  Amanda and Ryan headed home with Lilly and we drove back to Patty’s house to wrap up our visit while we waited for rush hour traffic to subside.

Brendan called and Linda got to “chat” with Madeline and then each of us took turns talking to him.  He had received his offer letter from Eastern Michigan University and acknowledged it, so he will start his tenure track assistant professorship in the art history department in September.  The discussions about initial course assignments, however, have already started.  He also mentioned that Shawna’s application for tenure at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor is looking very positive.  Both of those pieces of information were very good news for us.

We took our leave at 7:30 PM and got back to our coach just before darkness settled in.  Having spent a long day enjoying the company of family we settled in to watch a few shows on the local PBS station’s Create sub-channel before turning in for the night.

2015/04/18 (S) LF-M-LH Day 1

Yesterday Linda (LF) talked to Marilyn (M) briefly as we (B & LF) were driving back to the rig from Patty’s house and they (LF & M) agreed that we (LF & B) would arrive at Linda H’s (LH) house around 11 AM tomorrow, which is now today.  (Hopefully the LF and LH designations will help keep straight which Linda I am referring to.  Most of the rest of this post is about today not yesterday.)

We were up this morning at 7 AM and had our usual coffee and granola.  It’s a good thing we will be getting home soon because we only have one day’s supply left of LF’s homemade granola.  It is so good that we have stopped buying commercial granolas because they do not have any taste by comparison.

After a suitably relaxing start to our day I continued plugging away at editing blog posts and selecting/processing photographs to go with them.  I dealt with some e-mails and then we gathered up our stuff and headed to (LH’s) and Marilyn’s house in Glen Carbon, Illinois.  Glen Carbon and Edwardsville flow together to form a contiguous urban area but they are distinct municipalities with Glen Carbon being to the south of Edwardsville.

We are camped just to the east edge of Edwardsville on the edge of a corn field.  The RV park is conveniently located to I-55 and just 10 minutes from LH and M’s house so we were there by 11:15 AM.  LH and M had purchased various fresh ingredients for a salad and after sitting and visiting for a while Marilyn assembled the salad.  There was something going on at the house across the street that resulted in the wife calling the police and three cars/officers being dispatched to the scene.  LH said the husband was himself involved in law enforcement so that added a certain tension to the whole situation as he almost certainly had firearms in the house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting until Marilyn had to leave for a gala fundraiser for a school that her Congregation supports.  We decided to continue visiting with LH and stay for dinner.  LH had a bag of shredded vegan mozzarella “cheese” so we ordered a mushroom and onion no-cheese pizza from Imo’s and she ordered a medium supreme.  I drove into town and picked up the pizzas.  When I got back we added the vegan cheese to ours and heated it in the oven long enough to melt it.  It was very good.

In recent times Imo’s was our favorite pizza (after the demise of the Luigi’s restaurants in the St. Louis area many years ago) but the last time we tried one without cheese it was not very satisfying.  The crust is thin and crisps nicely, the way we like it, and the sauce is slightly sweet and used sparingly, the way we like it, but their normal cheese, a mozzarella and provolone mix, is (apparently) what pulls together the pie’s uniquely fabulous taste.  While the vegan mozzarella was not an exact replacement it made for a very tasty meal, bringing both taste and texture to the pizza.

We needed to do some grocery shopping so we took our leave at 7:30 PM and drove to the Dierbergs supermarket in Edwardsville.  There are three grocery stores at the intersection of IL-159 and Governors Parkway, but Dierbergs was the most likely to have what we were looking for.  Our shopping done we headed east on Governors’ Parkway almost to I-55 and took the service road back to our RV park.  We gave our cats the attention they were seeking while Linda (LF) settled in with her e-book and I worked on the blog post for our two-day visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I also proofread the final draft of the March 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and sent back my corrections.  I uploaded the blog post and then went to bed to work on the posts for yesterday and today.

2015/04/19 (N) LF-M-LH Day 2

Linda (LF) was up at 6:30 AM, earlier than usual, and I got up at 6:50 AM.  Before I had a chance to start making our morning coffee she pulled up the weather and showed me the radar.  Rain had been forecast to start just after midnight, and continue all day today and into tomorrow, but it appeared that it had not rained last night.  The radar, however, indicated that the rain was on our southern doorstep.  I needed to dump our holding tanks and refill our fresh water tank, so I took care of that while Linda made the coffee and updated her cost-of-camping spreadsheet.

The dump and fill process took me about an hour but we now have enough waste tank capacity and fresh water onboard to get us home with room to spare.  Based on Linda’s data our average nightly cost to “camp” this winter has been about $8.75.  Not bad.  Our average daily cost for our winter in Florida was over $20 which we felt was a very reasonable cost for wintering there.  We drove more miles this winter compared to last, almost double in fact, so we spent the money we saved on camping buying diesel fuel.  Fortunately diesel fuel prices in the central and western states where much lower than the prices in the southeast last year.  They were, in fact, the lowest prices we have seen in years so that was a nice break.

I updated my water usage spreadsheet while Linda got caught up on our personal accounting and bills.  Cell phones and cellular data, in conjunction with the Internet and electronic banking, have fundamentally transformed the full-time and extended-time RVing experience in ways that no one could have imagined 15 years ago.  I had an e-mail from Dropbox that Kate had joined a folder I had shared with her so I sent her a short e-mail updating her on our travel plans.  I also had an e-mail with the final draft of the print version of the March 2015 issue of BCM and verified that the corrections I uploaded last night had been made to my article.  I consolidated my blog posts for March 22 and 23 and finished editing them.  I had just started looking at the unprocessed photos for those posts when it was time to pack up and head to Marilyn and Linda’s (LH) house for the day.

The weather was overcast and gloomy and the rains eventually came, a perfect day to stay inside and eat, talk, and play games.  Marilyn has been making a real attempt at moving to a vegan diet so she prepared tomato soup and black bean burgers for lunch.  We then put the leaf in the dining room table and got out the Mexican Train dominoes game.  We brought hummus and Linda (LH) had made vegan guacamole so we enjoyed those with a few Fritos corn chips.  We also had fresh grapes and toasted almonds to munch on and a couple of bowls of popcorn.  We played 16 rounds of Mexican Train starting with the double 15 tile in the center and ending with the double “zero” (blank) in the center.  It was evening by the time we finished and everyone enjoyed having a whole day to hang out with family and friends with nothing more important to do than play a game.

We left just before 8 PM and drove through Edwardsville to get back to the RV Park rather than get on the Interstates.  There was very little on TV that interested us and we ended up watching an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  It was a very popular show in its day but is now very dated to the point of being almost silly.

Linda (LF) read and I selected/processed photos for my blog post about our visits to Ajo, Arizona on March 22nd and 23rd.  I got the post and photos uploaded and then went to bed.

2015/04/20 (M) Edwardsville, IL to Twelve Mile, IN

Linda was up a little before 7 AM and I was up a little after.  Today was a travel day, so we did not make coffee or have breakfast.  We were not hungry anyway having had our fill of food, both good and junk, yesterday.  We each had a cup of tea while we got our day started.

We started getting ready to leave around 9 AM and finally pulled out of the Red BaRn RendezVous RV Park at 9:50 AM.  We had about 330 miles to travel to get from Edwardsville, Illinois to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Since the RV park is just off of I-55 we took I-55 north to I-72 near Springfield, followed that east to I-57 and then took that north to US-24.  We followed US-24 east and moved from Central Daylight Time to Eastern Daylight Time sometime after we crossed into Indiana.  US-24 joined up with US-35 to bypass Logansport, Indiana to its south and then split off to continue east towards Peru.  We picked up US-31 just before Peru and took that north to IN-16 where we headed back west about five miles to Twelve Mile.  It was 5 PM (EDT) when we arrived at Butch and Fonda Williams’ place.  The bus ran well except for a couple of tattletale lights that started blinking briefly towards the end of the trip.  The previous problem with the chassis air systems did not reoccur.

I checked the manual after we got parked and one of the lights was for a chassis battery voltage Hi/Low condition and the other was for the upper and lower 12 V strands of the chassis battery being out-of-balance.  Both conditions, if true, might implicate the Vanner battery equalizer but the first diagnostic step will be to check the circuit breakers.  The next step will be to check all of the battery connections, including the Vanner.  One of the things on my To-Do list is to swap the upper and lower batteries as the “24V” gauge on the dashboard usually reads 29 V and the “12V” gauge usually reads 14 V or slightly less if I have the headlights turned on.

Butch and Fonda had to take his parents to medical appointments in Lafayette, Indiana today and got home just before we arrived.  We did not realize they were there but that was OK; they knew we were coming and we have a nice level spot to park on concrete with a “50 A” electrical connection when we are here.  (It’s a 240 VAC connection with a 50 A RV outlet but we can only draw about 30 amps on each leg.)  Even though we left home on November 30, 2014 Twelve Mile feels like the place where our trip to the southwest U.S. began as we left from here in a caravan with Butch and Fonda on December 3rd.

We were settled in our spot and had our WiFiRanger connected to their Wi-Fi access point when Butch and Fonda either realized we were there, or that we were not going to knock on their door, and came over and knocked on ours instead.  They came in our bus and we talked for over an hour at which point Butch needed to deal with a Facebook group admin issue.  After they returned to the house Linda started preparing our dinner while I checked e-mail and then continued working on this blog post.

Linda sautéed onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a little olive oil and added torn spinach at the end.  She cooked two baking potatoes in the microwave oven and served them with the sautéed vegetables as a topping along with some almond milk jalapeño pepper jack vegan cheese.  A simple but satisfying dish on a cool, clammy evening.  We also had some black grapes with the meal which were tasty and refreshing.  We made two large cups of hot tea and took them to the house where we visited with Butch and Fonda some more.  By 10 PM we were too tired to be good company so we returned to our coach and went to bed.


2015/02/19-23 (R-M) Solo in Q

2015/02/19 (R) Over-Cranked

I have been busy cleaning/waxing the outside of the bus and writing articles so I have not been able to spend much time writing my blog posts or uploading them to our website.  A couple of weeks ago I uploaded the posts through the end of December 2014 but then we got busy and I have not uploaded anything since then.

Here is how my day went.  I Got up at 7:30 AM and had granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  It was cloudy and cool most of the morning, so I tried to focus on the bus cleaning/waxing and was able to clean and wax the passenger side of the bus from the front to the back edge of the dinette fixed window.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver's side of our coach.

Another dramatic sunset reflected off the recently waxed driver’s side of our coach.

The whole house generator at home runs a self-test every Thursday at 11 AM (EST) and e-mails its status to us.  Instead of getting a message at 9 AM I got one at 9:10 AM (MST).  The message was an Over Crank fault indicating that the Genset had failed to start, had dropped out of Auto mode, and would not attempt to restart until the controller was reset to clear the fault.  I did not assume that Linda had paid any attention to the details of the message so I called her.  She called Bratcher Electric and they told her how to reset the controller.  They also said they had received similar notifications/calls from other customers.  Sure, the temperatures have been below negative 10 degrees F, but the whole reason we have the generator is to protect us against power loss which usually occurs under the worst weather conditions.  The service technician is coming out on Wednesday to check the unit, which is still under warranty.

I took a lunch break at 2PM and had a jumbo tofu hot dog and some hummus with a few Fritos corn chips.  For most of the rest of the day I worked at my laptop selecting and editing photos for my Quartzsite 2015 BCM article.  I made a quick trip to the Road Runner market for some 26 ounce containers of salt and stopped at Herb’s Hardware store looking for a clear filter housing, but they did not have any.

I made a nice, large salad for dinner and finished up the box of Franzia Refreshing White wine.  I continued to process photos for my article late into the evening, taking an occasional break to check e-mail and check out the SteelMasters website.  They sell steel Quonset hut style building kits and this might be a more economical way to build our bus barn, and easier as a do-it-ourselves project.

2015/02/20 (F) Touch of Oranges

I was up late last night so I slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I awoke to cloudy skies and cool temperatures so I skipped breakfast and got right to work cleaning/waxing the passenger side of the bus, which faces south and gets a lot of sun.  I have been working front to back but decided to reverse direction.  The reason was to do as much of the side aft of the patio awning as possible while it was cloudy.  The area under the patio awning is shaded (by the awning) so I can work there anytime I feel like it.

Butch was working on their new VDO electronic speedometer and needed to borrow my air-over-hydraulic bottle jack so I dug it out of the front bay for him.  Mid-morning Lou and Donna Rice stopped by to say “hi.”  They were in town looking for newspapers that Lou could use to mask off their motorhome so he could spray some paint.  It just so happened that there was a large box of newspapers over by the trash container and they were able to get all that they needed at our campsite.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

The sunset in Q backlights Saguaro cactus, a palm, and a Palo Verde tree.

I quit cleaning/waxing around 11:45 AM and turned my attention to the water softener.  I have regenerated it twice this week, first with solar salt and then with non-iodized table salt, but the water coming out of it is still testing in the 3 – 7 gpg range.  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ so at this point I am not very happy with our water softener.

I filled the filter housing with yet another 26 ounces of finely ground non-iodized table salt and started the regen process for the third time this week.  This time I ran the water more vigorously for a short time and then slowly (two minutes per gallon) and checked for salty water from the outlet of the softener.  When I got very salty water I shut off the flow and let it sit for an hour.  I repeated this a couple more times.  When I took the filter housing off there was very little salt left in the bottom.  I rinsed it out, reinstalled it, and ran water through the unit at the rate of four minutes per gallon for one hour, figuring 15 gallons of filtered water should be enough to flush the saltiness out of the softener.  I tested the discharge water from the softener and it measured somewhere between zero and 1.5 gpg TH.  It should have been zero, but I do not know if the test strips are sensitive to residual salinity.  This process took all afternoon, intermixed with my computer and bus waxing work.

I had granola with fresh blueberries for lunch and then finished yesterday’s post and started this one.  I settled in to work on photographs for my article with periodic breaks to check the water softener.  It was more sunny than cloudy from noon to 2 PM at which point the clouds thickened and filled in.  The air was warm but not hot and the conditions were ideal for cleaning/waxing the “sunny” side of the bus.  That is what I did until 5:45 PM, with a short break to talk to Linda on the phone.  I should be able to finish the waxing tomorrow, put a second coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme on the passenger side tires, and put a first coat on the driver side tires.

I cleaned up all of my supplies and materials, washed up, and had a few corn chips and hummus as an appetizer.  I washed some red grapes for later and got out an orange.  I have a lot of grapefruit and oranges on board at the moment and try to at least one of each every day.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

This was a very dramatic sunset.

Speaking of oranges, Barb has been using a pair of products from Touch of Oranges; Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner & Re-conditioner, and Touch of Beeswax Wood Preserver; http://www.TouchOfOranges.com.  I went to their motorhome yesterday to see how it works and the results were quite impressive.  I thought about ordering some but decided not to for several reasons.  For one, we already have Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner on board.  It has orange oil in it and I would like to do a side-by-side test.  For another, we are getting too close to our departure date to risk a delayed delivery.  Finally, we don’t have time to use it before we get home anyway.  I might order some in May if I like the way it works better than the Murphy’s product.

I made a fancy salad for dinner.  We bought a large container of mixed salad greens on Monday and I need to have salad every day in order to use it up before it goes bad.  I found carrots and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used, so those went on the salad along with dried fruits, peanuts, Daiya pepper jack “cheese” and other yummies.

I continued processing photos after dinner.  By 10:30 PM I was too tired to concentrate and went to bed.

2015/02/21 (S) Facetime with Madeline

I was awake off and on starting at 6 AM and finally got up at 7:15 AM.  The Yuma Hamfest started yesterday and runs through tomorrow but I have too much to do here to spend three hours driving just to window shop.  Besides, Butch had to leave early this morning for a rock and mineral swap meet to try selling some of the equipment they have purchased and decided not to keep.

I did not have coffee yesterday so that was my second task this morning.  My first task was getting the cats their food and water and cleaning their litter tray.  I had granola with raisins and fresh blueberries for breakfast and then sat and enjoyed my coffee while Jasper sat beside me on the couch and groomed himself.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

The sunsets in Q were usually good but this one was better than usual.

It was cool again this morning with a thin cloud layer so as soon as I finished my coffee and checked my e-mail I got to work on the outside of the bus.  That was at 9:15 AM.  It took me until 11:45 AM to finish the passenger side of the bus and apply a coat of Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the driver side tires.

I finished the hummus for lunch with the help of a few Fritos corn chips.  Afterwards I called Jeff to check on our coffee order.  He said it was in the mail but went out a few days later than expected.  He said he expedited the shipping because of that and was supposed to e-mail the USPS tracking number to me.  I then went over to Jim and Barb’s rig and asked if I could test their Touch of Oranges products.  Barb lent me both the wood cleaner/restorer and the beeswax wood preserver along with pieces of terry cloth for each and a piece of 0000 steel wool.  I set those aside and worked on my Quartzsite 2015 article for a while.

I took a break from working at my computer to test the cleaning products.  Following the directions, I sprayed the left side of the kitchen base cabinets with the cleaner/restorer, waited two minutes, rubbed it with steel wool (with the grain), and wiped it off.  I then applied the beeswax preserver with a piece of terry cloth and let it sit for one hour.  While the beeswax product was soaking in I went over and visited with Butch and Fonda.  While I was doing that I got a TXT message from Linda asking if I wanted to Facetime. That meant she was back at the house and had grand-daughter Madeline with her.  I indicated that a little bit later would be better.

My one hour wait was up so I excused myself, went back to my coach, and wiped down the left side of the cabinet.  I then used the Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner (with orange oil) on the right side of the cabinet.  The results did not compare favorably with the Touch of Oranges products which definitely improved the appearance of the wood.

I turned on our Verizon MiFi, switched my iPad to it, and then called Linda to set up the Facetime session.  Either I never configured the Facetime app or failed to reconfigure it but it would not let me log in.  Once I got the correct e-mail address and password set up it worked fine.  I called Linda’s iPad and when she answered I got to see Madeline.  When Linda picked her up earlier today Madeline said she was going to grandma and grandpa’s house to see grandma and grandpa.  Linda explained that I wasn’t at the house but Madeline could still see me in the bus using the iPad.  It is a fabulous technology, and fascinating to see how completely natural it is for a 2-year old.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

I have enjoyed creating panorama images this winter using MS-ICE.

Bill Stewart from our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter had requested to see some photos from the recent gathering at the Peg Leg boondocking area near Borrego Springs, California.  Last night I selected seven images, re-sized and processed them, uploaded them to the Freethinkers folder in my Dropbox, generated the “share” link, and e-mailed it to our open forum e-mail reflector.  While I was working on that it occurred to me that Lou Petkus is always looking for images for the SKP Photographers BOF newsletter and member album and I had not sent him anything in a while.  I was too tired by then to do the work so I put that on my “to do” list for today.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon and evening working on my article and the photos that go with it except for a break to photograph a beautiful sunset.  Linda called around 6 PM (8 PM at home) to chat.  She suggested that we wait to see if someone at Escapade is selling the Touch of Oranges products.  She also suggested that I check to see if Carnu-B is going to be at any car shows near us as they sell the product for a lot less at shows than they do online.

I took a break for dinner and microwaved a jumbo tofu hotdog and a potato.  The potato had started sprouting so I figured I needed to eat it or plant it.  I had been accumulating dishes and utensils for the last few days so I washed, rinsed, and dried all of them.  By the time I finished my chores, played a few games on my iPad, and finished this post it was midnight.  Completing the waxing of the bus was an important milestone, and although I have a lot more to get done on the bus this coming week I plan to take it easy tomorrow and try to wrap up my Quartzsite 2015 article and perhaps some other writing.  The most I may do to the bus is apply some more Carnu-B Coconut Creme to the tires.

2015/02/22 (N) Q 2015

I did not use up the second package of blueberries fast enough and they started to go bad.  I picked out the bad ones, rinsed off the rest, and had some granola with my blueberries for breakfast.  I worked for a little while finishing up yesterday’s blog post and then got to work at my computer.  It was cloudy and windy when I got up and the winds continued to strengthen during the day.  I had closed the vent fan domes last night so I would not have to listen to them rattle.  The patio awning was flapping more than I liked so I got Butch to hold the strap while I released the rafters and then rolled it up and latched it.  I was able to retract the small passenger side bedroom awning by myself.  In the light of day I discovered that I had not wiped the Carnu-B wax off of the body as completely as I thought.  That, however, will be a task for another day.

I wanted to make a sandwich for lunch but I was out of onion so I went to the Road Runner Market to get one.  I also wanted pretzels and hummus.  They did not have any hummus and they did not have the kind of pretzels I like but I was able to get two large sweet onions.  Sourdough bread with Tofurkey brand mock deli slices, Daiya cheddar “cheese” slices, veganaise, honey mustard, fresh onion, and salad greens made a tasty treat.

I finally finished my Quartzsite 2015 article for Bus Conversion Magazine, including the 95 photos and captions, and uploaded it to my Dropbox for proofreading.  I had an e-mail back from Gary indicating that they would probably use it for the February issue, so very late this evening I uploaded all of the photo files.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

A panorama created using MS-ICE from handheld images.

About the time I needed to take a break Fonda left for church and I saw Butch sitting outside with his camera.  Another beautiful Quartzsite sunset was taking form so I grabbed my camera and shirt jacket and went out to join him.  It had been cloudy and windy all day and was rather brisk.  We both worked the sunset until it was played out and got some nice photos considering that they were all handheld in low-light conditions.

For dinner I made a Thai Kitchen Noodle Bowl and added some honey roasted peanuts.  I closed all of the bus windows to a crack and made some hot tea.  Tea is still my beverage of choice with any type of Asian cuisine and was very satisfying on a chilly evening.

With the Quartzsite 2015 article done (except for corrections) I started pulling together the “featured bus” article on Byron Pigg’s 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion.  I went through the photos I took last month of his coach at the Eagles International Bus Rally and was pleased that I had a good variety with good technical quality to choose from.  I made my selections, post-processed all of them, and inserted the small versions into the Word doc.  The article narrative itself was less than one page in length as I do not know very much about Byron and his wife Betty or their bus.  The Word doc template I use for featured bus articles includes two “Specifications” pages, one for the bus and one for the conversion, so the article was three pages.  I e-mailed the Word doc (with embedded photos) to Byron and cc:d Gary at BCM.  In order to complete the article I need Byron to fill in a lot of the details about his bus and conversion.

2015/02/23 (M) Seizure

Toast with apricot preserves is as close as I get anymore to the Danish pastries that were once one of my favorite treats, but I am OK with that.  I am absolutely enjoying retirement more as a result of being much healthier and more active, both of which are a direct consequence of eating better, weighing less, and not having to take a cocktail of drugs every day.  Toast, coffee, and a little fruit juice makes a very agreeable breakfast.

I finished up yesterday’s blog post after breakfast and then got into my computer-based work.  I had planned to work on the photos of Larry and Carol Hall’s GM PD4106 bus conversion and write a brief narrative, similar to the one I did on Byron and Betty’s Eagle bus, but other things kept interfering with the work.  Except for lunch and dinner breaks, and brief chats with Barb, Butch, and Fonda, I sat on my butt most of the day working away at my computer on a template for featured bus articles but had very little to show for it at the end of the day.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.

I have learned over the years to stick with sunsets until it is dark.  Panorama stitched together with MS-ICE.

For lunch I had the last jumbo vegan hotdog in the open pack.  They microwave nicely, so they are quick and easy to fix, and are so yummy with honey mustard, pickle relish, and chopped sweet onion.

I had not yet seen the e-mail from Jeff at Teeko’s Coffee and Tea in Howell, Michigan with the USPS tracking number for my coffee order so I call them at noon (2 PM EST) and Mary gave the number to me over the phone.  It only occurred to me much later that the e-mail may have gotten trapped by our spam filter.  I direct all of the notifications from the spam filter to a special inbox and I have not made a habit of checking that inbox or going into the filter to release or delete the e-mails that are being held.

Butch and Fonda drove over to Bouse this morning to talk with the General Manager and park managers of an RV Park about working there next season.  They stopped at our shared P. O. Box on their way back and then went to the main office downtown.  When they got back to camp they had my coffee shipment and an envelope from Dan Fregin, the treasurer of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter.

At one point in the afternoon I looked out the picture window by the dinette, where I sit and work at my computer, and Roho was lying on the ground with Jim and Barb and Jim L. gathered around him.  He appeared to be twitching and Barb confirmed that he was having a seizure and typically has one once a month like clockwork.  We had a dog with Epilepsy (Scout) and it did not turn out well.  The standard treatment at the time (18 years ago?) was phenobarbital, the same drug used to control the condition in humans.  Scout did not respond to small doses and the amount we had to give him eventually destroyed his liver.  But we had no choice; he went into a grand mall seizure one night and would not come out of it.  We had to take him to an emergency veterinary clinic at 2 AM and they had to inject him with phenobarbital and something else to get the seizure to stop.

We had just started him on an experimental treatment using potassium bromide (KBr) dissolved in flavored pancake syrup when his liver failed and he died.  I told Barb about this but I did not know if the KBr treatment had become standard practice or not.  The apparent effect of the KBr was to mediate the uptake of the phenobarbital, allowing much smaller doses to be much more effective.  I searched online later and found that KBr has, indeed, become part of the standard treatment arsenal for canine and feline seizures.

For dinner I made a big green salad.  While pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator I found a bunch of asparagus that was spoiled so I threw it out.  That was too bad because I really like asparagus and this bunch probably came from the farmers market where we have bought very good produce.  I also had to throw away some blueberries and carrots this week but managed to salvage some of each.  I did, however, finish up the mushrooms in my salad.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography.  Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Atmospheric conditions make all the difference in sunrise and sunset photography. Panorama stitched with MS-ICE.

Linda called around 7 PM (my time) and we brought each other up to date on how our days went.  Around 8 PM I prepped the remaining strawberries for later and then heated an Amy’s vegan tamale with Mexican rice.

I finally put aside the featured bus article template I worked on much of the day and started selecting and processing the photos for the article on the Hall’s bus.  By that point, however, I was tired and frustrated and making mistakes so I went to bed.  The southerly winds that brought the rain had shifted to the northwest bringing cool, clear air with them.  It had cooled off enough in the bus that I turned on the electric heating pad for the first time in quite a while.


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.