Tag Archives: MEF3

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.


2016/02/05–09 (F–T) Super Windows Roadtrip

2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade

We had a long day yesterday and even though we were in bed before 11 PM we still slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as we were picking up Mara at 8:50.  We shut down our computers and iPads and packed them for travel.  We set the windows in the bus so the cats would be comfortable.  At 8:45 AM we loaded the car and drove over to get Mara.  We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then headed west on FL-70 for Ed and Betty Burns’ place in Bradenton.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

The main purpose of our visit today was to upgrade Linda’s Samsung laptop computer and my ASUS notebook computer to Windows 10 using Ed and Betty’s unlimited broadband data.  A secondary objective was for Linda to purchase/download the latest version of Turbo Tax.  Our tertiary goal was to update iPad and smartphone apps.

We got to Ed and Betty’s a little after 10 AM, introduced them to Mara, and got busy setting up our computers.  We had a bit of a false start but finally had the Windows 10 installation process launched by 11 AM.  After quite a bit of conversation, Linda and Betty busied themselves making lunch and Mara settled in to go through her mail.  Once the files for Windows 10 appeared to be downloaded I initiated the update process for eight apps on my iPad2.  Betty washed off a bag of red grapes and set them out for all of us to enjoy.

At 12:30 PM we moved our technology to a coffee table in the living room to clear the dining room table for lunch.  Betty made a large pot of vegan chili mac and we had sliced avocado, tortillas, and potato chips to go with it, along with grapes and slices of Meyer lemons for our water.  Florida really is a good place to be if you want to “eat fresh.”

The ladies left around 1:45 PM to go for a walk while Ed and I stayed behind.  I connected my phone to their Wi-Fi and updated a dozen apps.  My computer was finally ready to configure Windows 10 at 2 PM and I went through the customized personalization rather than accepting the Express Setup defaults.  My iPad was up-to-date so I started working on this post while I waited for the Windows 10 process to finally finish.

It took until 2:30 PM for my computer to be fully booted up and usable.  About that same time Linda’s computer was finally ready to configure.  I wanted Linda here for the configuration choices so I waited for her return.  The ladies got back at 2:45 PM and Linda resumed configuring her machine.  We had originally planned to go see the 3 PM practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions in Myakka City, but we would have had to leave at 2 PM to get there.  We will definitely go seem them, but for now this was, once again, deferred to a future day.

Linda purchased, downloaded, and installed the latest version of TurboTax and was done installing updates by 4:20 PM.  Her update process went smoothly, if slowly, and without any apparent hitches.  When the initial Windows 10 upgrade finished on my machine I did not have any of the quick start or system tray icons which concerned me greatly.  After rebooting my computer, more than once, the icons eventually returned.  I installed an undated driver for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).  I also had a problem with the sound but was able to resolve it using the audio troubleshooter.

I rebooted my machine for what I hoped was the last time at 4:45 PM.  It took 15 minutes to fully boot up and I made one more check for updates.  It appeared that the operating system updates were all done but there were still updates to install for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are large and tend to take a long time to download.

By this point Betty had opened a couple of bottles of wine and convinced all of us that the collect best option for dinner was to order pizza and eat at their house.  Linda coordinated the pizzas and ordered them from Vertoris’ where we ate last night and which was only seven miles away.  While she and Ed were in transit to get the pizza and salad I updated Photoshop and Lightroom.  I started each program and Photoshop indicated that it had a problem with the video card driver and had disabled some of its enhancement features.  That was not an immediate problem as I do not presently make any use of Photoshop, but the incompatibility was distressing nonetheless.

I had done what I could in the way of updates for today so I shut down my computer and packed it away to clear the table for dinner.  Betty set the table and Linda and Ed returned a short time later with the food.  We sat down to a wonderful meal with friends that finally concluded around 7:30 PM.  It had been a wonderful day with friends and we had gotten a lot accomplished thanks to the use of their technology, but by 7:45 PM we were all tired and the three of us were on our way back to Arcadia.  We dropped Mara back at her motorhome at 8:45 PM and were back at our coach by 8:50 PM.  We watched the end of an episode of Endeavor and then watched another complete episode.  By then we were sleepy tired and went to bed.

2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads

We slept in this morning until after 8 AM and so did the cats.  We lounged around in our sweats drinking coffee and eventually had granola for breakfast.  It was cloudy with rain coming and we considered spending the day in the bus in our sweats when we remembered that it was the first Saturday of the month.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp.  Swamps involve stagnant water.  The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river.  Everglades NP, FL.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp. Swamps involve stagnant water. The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river. Everglades NP, FL.

The Arcadia Farmers Market takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month so Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go.  She did, so we got dressed, picked her up in the car, and drove downtown.  To our disappointment there were only four vendors there and only two of them were selling food.  One was a local farm that had freshly picked Napa cabbage and locally produced honey.  Linda bought a head of the cabbage and Mara bought a cabbage and a jar of honey.  We took a short walk around downtown and then drove to Joshua Citrus Co.

At Joshua Citrus we bought a few Ruby Red grapefruit and a few Honeybelle tangelos.  Mara also bought a variety of citrus including Meyer lemons.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for cat litter and a few sundry items while Mara picked up some groceries.  We dropped her at her motorhome and took a minute to meet another couple from Howell, Michigan who were just getting ready to pull out.  We then returned to our rig around 1 PM.

Linda made rollup sandwiches with soft tortillas, Napa cabbage, dark greens, and hummus.  At 1:30 PM she phoned Mara to see if she wanted to go for a walk and headed over to rendezvous with her.  I had a call earlier from Dave Aungier and called him back.  He had downloaded his BCM article from my Dropbox and reviewed it.  We went over a few minor changes, which I made to the Word doc, and discussed the process of submitting it to the magazine and working it through to publication.

Dave and I were done talking by 2 PM and it had started to rain lightly.  Linda had worn her raincoat but returned around 2:30.  By that time I had turned my attention to the three articles that Stacy had finished proofreading and returned to me.  I went through each one and accepted most of the changes.  I then went through each one and made sure I had all of the image files properly identified and organized.  I backed up all of the files, moved them to the READY folder, and then uploaded them to my Dropbox.  Once everything had transferred I e-mailed Gary (BCM publisher) and Jorge (layout) and let them know the files were there.  I had a few more e-mails back and forth with Gary and had to redo a panoramic photo that had discontinuities in it that I had not noticed.

Mara came to our rig to discuss some logistics related to the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that she and her friend, Michael, are going on at the end of the month.  As it turns out we will take them to Miami and pick them up when they return and take care of Mara’s two cats while they are away.  Mara waited for a lull in the rain and returned to her rig a little before 6 PM.  For dinner Linda prepared a salad with diced Napa cabbage and honey roasted peanuts and a homemade dressing made with rice wine vinegar, sesame and vegetable oils, Dijon mustard, fresh grated ginger, salt, and pepper.  It was very good.  She then reheated the leftover pizza from the last two nights.  The pizza was exceptional when it was fresh and, although it lost its crisp crust on reheating, it was still tasty as leftovers.

While Mara was visiting the leak around the bedroom ceiling vent/fan reappeared.  The lower outside corner of the lower passenger side windshield also leaked, but we expect that to happen every time until we do something to fix it.

After dinner we watched a couple episodes of Endeavor and then a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By.  After that we watched a PBS documentary on Jason Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter.  We caught a few minutes of news and weather and went to bed.

2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday

Today was just one of those days.  It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s another story.  As we do most days we started our morning with coffee.”  As she often does on Sunday mornings, Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  We split a ruby red grapefruit as well.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout.  This one had a “face.”  Everglades NP, FL.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout. This one had a “face.” Everglades NP, FL.

Linda walked to Winn-Dixie with Mara while I settled in to work at my computer.  My plan was to edit and upload blog posts but in the end I only got two more posts ready to go and did not get them uploaded.  Not that I was goofing off; I was busy all day but ended up taking care of other things.

For starters, I downloaded an updated version of the Logitech SetPoint software for my Logitech UltraThin Touch Mouse and then reconfigured the settings.  The mouse is capable of a variety of things with just subtle movements but seemed to be less stable than before the Windows 10 upgrade.  I was also having problems with my cursor jumping around while typing.  I initially noticed it while typing e-mails but noticed it later while working in Word.  Linda had the presence of mind to suggest that it might be the touchpad.  Sure enough, the touchpad was active.  That had not occurred to me because it wasn’t active under Windows 8.1.  Apparently the upgrade to Windows 10 activated it.  So much for maintaining my existing settings.

I had additional e-mails back and forth with Gary and Jorge at BCM, as result of which I updated the BCM page on our website.  I also e-mailed Brenda Phelan to check on the status of our tire covers.  When I finally got to work on blog posts I selected and processed several photos from our visit on Thursday to the Ringling Estate.  I then edited the two posts mentioned previously.

When Linda got back from Winn-Dixie she made rollup sandwiches for lunch with dark leafy greens and garlic hummus in soft tortillas.  We had red grapes to go with the sandwiches.  After lunch she walked up to the mail room.  I got a happy birthday card from our daughter and son-in-law, which was nice.  The eight pounds of coffee we ordered from Teeko’s back home had also arrived.  I checked the order to make sure it was correct.  It was, so I stored the box as we won’t need it for another couple of weeks.  I exchanged a couple of text messages with my daughter and decided it would be easier to just call her.  We had a nice chat.

Mara walked down to our coach mid-late afternoon and the three of us went for a vigorous walk through the entire RV resort.  We all returned to our bus and visited long enough for me to demonstrate the mapped location history feature in RVillage.  Mara headed back to her rig around 5:30 PM and Linda started fixing our dinner.  She made vegan Sloppy Joe’s with TVP and baked sweet potato fries.  Yum.

Eventually it was time for Super Bowl L (50).  I had intended to continue working at my computer all evening but my enthusiasm had waned and I found the game distracting.  We kept the volume down and played games until 9 PM and then switched the TV to PBS and watched Downton Abbey.  When it was over we switched back to the game.  It looked like the Denver Broncos were going to beat the Carolina Panthers so we watched a documentary on PBS/World about a family in Japan.  Linda went to bed when it was over but I switched to PBS/Create and watched a tribute concert to American film composer John Williams.  Jasper curled up with me for a while and then indicated it was time to go to bed.

2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep

It got down to 40 degrees F outside last night and dropped into the upper 50’s in the coach.  Juniper stayed close to us for most of the night and snuggled up next to my head around 4:30 AM.  The cats must have eaten most of their food during the night as by 7 AM Juniper was most insistent that I get up.  I finally did at 7:15 AM, fed them, turned on the furnace, and made our morning coffee.  Linda was up by 7:30, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and was playing word games by the time the coffee was ready.  That girl really likes her word games

An Anhinga pruning its feathers.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga pruning its feathers. Everglades NP, FL.

Linda checked our Verizon account via her iPad and we had used 7.03 of our 10 GB of monthly data plus the 2 GB of extra allocation we got for downloading and installing the Verizon go90 app on our phones.  The data usage function on the Mi-Fi device (Novatel 5510L) showed 9.03 out of 12 GB as it combines all available data, so they were in agreement.  It’s a good thing we have the extra 2 GB each month for the next few billing cycles.  This current cycle (January 20 through February 19) has included iOS and app updates for both of our iPads, app updates for our Android phones, uploading of four BCM articles to our Dropbox (with lots of photos), numerous e-mails with large attachments, and upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 on both of our computers.  Even though we made some use of the resort Wi-Fi while at the laundry room, and did the Windows OS and some iPad/smartphone upgrades at Ed and Betty Burns’ place using their unlimited broadband connection, it has been a heavy period of data usage for our Verizon account.  Twelve gigabytes is not enough data to get us through a typical month while we are away from home.

We had granola for breakfast with fresh fruit and juice and then settled in to finish our coffee and doodle on our iPads.  I e-mailed my blog posts for the last five days to myself and then download/installed the Gmail app on my iPad2.  We took showers, got dressed, straightened up the bathroom, and got on with our chores.  I turned on the electric block heater for the engine to warm it up for a maintenance start later today.

We are headed to Homestead and the Florida Keys tomorrow for four days so today was, in part, a travel preparation day.  Linda’s first task was a trip to the post office to mail the book she bought at The Ringling estate for Madeline’s Valentine’s Day present.

We are taking the car and leaving the cats behind in Mara’s care so Linda wanted to clean up the bus a bit.  We also both needed haircuts.  Linda made a 1 PM appointment at a place near the Winn-Dixie.  One of my tasks was doing laundry which I took care of at 11 AM.  Linda finally got hold of a real, live person at the Florida Toll Road Sunpass system but the account is in my name and they would not talk to her.  She found me in the laundry room and worked her way through the phone menu until she got back to an actual person and then put me on the phone.  The woman was very nice and very efficient and it only took about 10 minutes to get our account reconfigured so we could access it.  We logged in and confirmed that we still have a credit balance and updated our credit card information.

When I was done with the laundry I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  When Linda got back from her appointment she cut my hair.  Another task was giving Mara a key to our coach and going over the care and feeding of our feline friends.  Linda took care of that.

A few days ago our Progressive Industries EMS threw another PE2 error code, which indicates an open ground.  The current error code is 0 (zero), indicating that everything is OK, so it is/was obviously a momentary problem.  Presumably the problem is in the resort wiring as that is what the PI EMS is designed to monitor and protect against.  I wanted to do done things with the bus chassis today so I took care of this at the same time.  Unlike last time, I shut off the circuit breaker at the power pole, unplugged the shorepower cable, cycled the breaker a couple of times to wipe the contacts, cleaned the contacts on the plug, inserted and removed it several times to clean the contacts in the outlet, plugged it back in, and turned the breaker back on.  All of that was designed to clean electrical contacts and remove a possible marginal connection.

Another thing I did today was start the bus engine, let it warm up, moved the bus aft and for slightly to make sure the brakes were not frozen, and re-leveled the coach before shutting the engine down.  I shut of the block heater and Aqua-Hot burner before starting the engine.  We are a little over half way through our stay here at Big Tree RV Resort and given the often humid, rainy conditions I wanted to make sure the brakes were not rusted closed.  I also wanted to check the fuel gauge as we have been running the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system on cold mornings and it uses about 1/4 gallon of diesel fuel per hour when operating.  When I was done with this process I turned on the fuel polishing pump so it could run while we were away.

We still had enough gallons of fresh water on board that I decided not to dump and fill the tanks today.  With the engine/chassis stuff taken care of my main focus today, when not preparing for our trip, doing laundry, eating meals, going for walks, and dealing with e-mails, was working on my blog.  It may be the thing I want to do, but it is often not the thing I need to do, or in some cases, the thing I have to do.

I failed to record what we had for dinner but I’m sure it was tasty.  We watched TV for a while and then went to bed.

2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip

My night was interrupted around 1:30 AM by very strong wind gusts.  All of the awnings were out except the large patio awning and were perfectly capable of being damaged by the gusts.  I put on my sweats, slipped into my Crocs, and went outside to stow the awnings.  The two bedroom window awnings and the driver side living room awning are held open by straps with a loop on the end that slips over a hook mounted on the side of the coach.  The roller tubes are spring loaded and self-retract when the straps are released.  While retracting they have to be controlled, using a long metal rod with a right angle bend on one end and a semi-circle handle on the other, but are otherwise easy to deploy and stow.  Besides the possibility of the fabric tearing where it mounts to the body or the roller tube, we had the front end of the driver side front awning flipped up by a strong wind gust in Sheridan, Wyoming.  I would not have believed that was possible unless I had seen it happen, but we were not about to risk having it happen again.

An Egret stalks its prey.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Egret stalks its prey. Everglades NP, FL.

I spite of my sleep being interrupted I was up at 7 AM.  As we do every morning, we fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  We finished packing, adjusted the windows, loaded the car, pulled out as of our site a little before 8 AM, and stopped at the dumpster to drop off a bag of kitchen trash.  We drove to the local Shell station to fill the fuel tank and stopped next door at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  We then headed east on FL-70.

Our destination was Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.  Our route was FL-70 east to US-27 south to FL-821 south (which is part of the Florida Toll Road system) to its terminus at US-1 in Florida City just south of Homestead.  From there we headed west through Florida City and on to Everglades National Park.  This part of Florida is very flat but it was still an interesting drive.  It was cloudy and cool for the whole drive down.

We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and stamp our National Parks “Passport.”  We entered the park using Linda’s Senior Access Pass and a few miles in stopped at the Anhinga and Limbo Gumbo trails area.  We walked both trails, each about 1/2 mile in length, and I took quite a few photos.  By the time we got back to our car it was 1:30 PM.  We were hungry and wanted to get more information about boat tours so we drove the 34 miles to Flamingo.  We had lunch at the Buttonwood Cafe and went over to the Marina to check on buying fuel.  They wanted over $5 per gallon so I passed.

We also checked on the pontoon boat tours.  Two different tours were available, one into Florida Bay and the other into the Mangroves.  Both tours left on the hour starting at 9 AM with the last one departing at 4 PM.  The tours lasted just under two hours, and cost $35.  They did not take reservations and tickets could only be purchased the same day.  We decided to return to the park tomorrow and deferred any decision about the boats until then.

By this time, it was late enough in the day that we decided to start back towards the entrance 34 miles away.  We stopped at Pa-Hay-Okee and hiked the boardwalk before leaving the park for the day.  On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a Shell station in Florida City and filled the fuel tank for a more reasonable price per gallon.  We found the hotel, a Hampton Inn just off exit #2 of the Florida Toll Road between Florida City and Homestead, and checked in.  We had lunch rather later and were undecided about what to do for dinner, or when.  We drove across the street to the Publix supermarket, bought snacks for tomorrow, and bought red grapes, hummus, and sourdough pretzel nibblers to have for dinner in our room.

We had Direct TV in our room but eventually found PBS and CBS and watched our usual Tuesday night programs.  We also found The Weather Channel and Weather Nation and checked the current weather and forecast for the next few days with great interest.  Some of the coldest weather of the year was dropping down through the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, affecting the Northeast, mid-South, mid-Atlantic, and Deep South past our location and all the way to Key West. We had brought a variety of clothing, so we were prepared.


2014/12/26-31 (F-W) Wrapping Up 2014

Note: This post covers the last six days of 2014. It is long and there are no pictures.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/12/26 (F) Cool Letters

When we woke up at 7 AM the temperature was 41 degrees F but by 8:30 it had dropped to 35.  According to the Weather Channel app on our iPads we have a freeze warning posted for the overnight hours tonight (Saturday 0000-0800).  The 12-day forecast is for an extended period of cooler temperatures with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s, including a few nights near freezing, but that is normal for Q at this time of year.  Desert regions are not always hot and actually experience an extreme range of temperatures.  The forecast back home has lows dropping into the teens with one night forecast at 13 degrees F.  Burrrrr.

Connie was apparently tracking the weather in Q as well, even though she and Joe are back in Nevada for most of the winter, as she called to ask me to turn the water off at the street if the temps got down to freezing.  The city water system here has supply pipes that come straight up out of the ground near the street, turn horizontal, go through a valve, then through a pressure regulator or small meter (not sure which or both), go through another valve, and then turn 90 degrees and go back down into the ground.  Joe and Connie keep all of this covered under a wooden box and we have noticed other properties doing the same thing, but not all.  Although the temperatures here can/do drop below freezing in December and January it is never for more than a few hours just before sunrise.

Presumably the city water lines are deep enough to avoid ever having freezing problems, but I do not know how deeply the pipes are buried on Joe and Connie’s property.  The main thing at risk are the stand pipes that come up out of the ground at each RV site and any hoses that are attached to them. I discussed all of this with Butch as it seemed to me that it would have to get below freezing and stay there for quite some time before we would have any problems.  It also seemed to me that if we were going to turn the main water supply off we should open a faucet on each of the supply risers so the water would have somewhere to go as it expanded.  (Water expands as it cools, reaching a maximum volume at around 34 degrees F.  As it changes state from liquid to solid it actually contracts slightly in volume.)  To be really safe we would need to drain all of the flexible hoses.  That struck both of us as unnecessary.

The aisle lights did not work again last night.  It’s always something with a RV and you have to be psychologically prepared for that or the lifestyle will drive you crazy.  This problem has occurred before and the usual reason is that the (3-way?) switch by the dinette gets toggled and renders the push switch in the bedroom inoperative but that was not the case this time.  One of the three wires that go to that switch was only attached by a few strands and broke when I checked it.  None of the connectors are in good shape so repairing those connections moved to the top of my bus project list today.  I did not get to this today, I only moved it to the top of my list.

While I made our morning coffee Linda put together an Amazon order.  Amazon Prime has worked well for us and Butch has already successfully received a UPS shipment here, so it was easier to order a bag of Science Diet cat food for delivery to our bus than to deal with the limited hours and selection of the local veterinarian or drive to one of the larger surrounding cities in the hope that a pet supply store that might stock the specific formulation we feed our cats.  She also ordered two bottles of Hach SofChek water hardness test strips and some additional silicon utensils.

Linda had our holiday letters stuffed and addressed on Christmas Eve, but not in time to get to the post office before it closed at noon, so she went today, bought stamps, and sent them on their way.  Hopefully they will arrive by New Year’s Eve while folks are still in the holiday spirit.

Sometime during the morning we got a visit from missionaries of the (local) Jehovah’s Witnesses cult.  Our conversation did not last long.  After they left I was pondering this day after Christmas visit and it occurred to me that perhaps they do an inventory of Quartzsite and the surrounding BLM camping areas so they know when someone knew has pulled into town.  I guess saving souls can be a lot of work.

Linda was doing the dishes and the Black & Decker SpaceMaker coffee carafe broke.  She checked online and was going to order a generic replacement but decided she should check the model of our unit.  When we lifted it up to look for the model number we discovered water on the shelf underneath it.  Ugh.  Suddenly we were no longer looking for a carafe but a new coffee maker.  We removed the cabinet door, latch, and lower front retaining bar and pulled the unit out.  I then removed the shelf, wiped it off, and took it outside to dry in the sun.  There are definite advantages to being someplace with bright sunshine and low humidity.

We spent a long time researching a replacement.  The particular model/style of SpaceMaker we have has not been made for years (of course), was only available used (naturally), and only for exorbitant prices (can you believe $300?) on Ebay.  To add insult to injury all of the reviews were negative, noting in particular that the unit tends to develop leaks.  Ya think?  We looked instead for something we could install, or at least store, in the same cabinet cubby as the old one.  Most of the countertop models were too tall and most of the built-ins and under cabinet models were too big, and very expensive.  We ended up ordering a simple Proctor-Silex non-programmable countertop unit without a clock for under $20 on Amazon Prime so the price included the shipping.  The reviews were good and it will store in the corner cabinet with room to spare for coffee canisters, freeing up space in the pantry for other things.  We will have to take it out and set it on the counter to use it, but that’s OK.

As noted in a previous post, there are quite a few houses and RVs around town with Over-The-Air (OTA) TV antennas on top of 20-30 foot poles and pointed approximately NNE.  There is one antenna in particular that we have seen a lot, a high-gain (directional) rotatable unit, and there are several vendors selling it as part of a kit.  The unit has an integrated amplifier and rotor and includes the rotor controller and power supply, plus 50 feet of coax and control cables.  All of the vendors are selling this kit for $70.  That’s a lot of stuff for that price, which suggests something about its quality (not good).  Another vendor is selling the poles and fittings that all of the other vendors use to build their “booths” (tents).  They have a huge assortment of connectors and will cut the sections to length if asked.  Getting the antenna 20-30 feet in the air would cost about $35.  We have been pondering whether it is worth it to us to spend this money as our bus-mounted antennas have always worked in the past and this is the first place we have been where they will not pick up even a trace of a signal.  We do not have an OTA TV antenna set up at home and it occurred to me that buying one here made more sense if it could be used back at the house.  I spent quite some time online researching long-range DTV antennas but did not come to any conclusions.

I needed a break from working at my computer and drove over to K & B Tools to see if they had shorter poles.  In the 1″ diameter they had 10′ and 8′.  The 8′ length would work well for us.  Three sections with two connectors would get an antenna 20-25 feet up depending on the mounting and we can store 8′ lengths in the front bay of the bus or in the car for transport.  We would use a base section with a flange by the driver side mirror, put a couple of long spikes through the base to keep it from moving sideways, slip the bottom pole section in it, and bungee cord the next section to the mirror support arm after wrapping it with something to keep it from scratching the paint.  Before making a purchase, however, I decided to do some more online research.

The unit being sold by several vendors is the Vortex HD from SewellDirect.com so I checked their website.  The unit is discontinued and they are selling the same kit online for $25.  That means the unit is of even cheaper construction than I originally thought and the $70 asking price suddenly seemed very excessive.  Many of the online reviews confirmed that this was not a serious antenna.  Another vendor had the Vortex and two competing units all for the same $70 price and I have concluded that they are all equally junk.

One of the websites I spent some time at was AntennasDirect.com. They appeared to have some serious antennas, with prices to match.  One of the challenges in this situation is that it appears we need to pull in OTA TV signals from a very long way away here in Q (70+ miles), whereas at home the distances are more like 40 miles.  Here in Q all of the signals appear to be coming from the same direction (although no one can explain why) so a high-gain, highly directional antenna is ideal and does not need to be rotated once it is aimed.  At home the TV signals potentially come from 270 degrees and the correct solution is an antenna with a broader reception pattern combined with an accurate and repeatable rotor.  If we do not need the rotor in Q we can forego that expense and technical complication until we get home.

One of the websites directed me to www.antennaweb.org.  This site is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).  You enter your ZIP code, and optionally your address, and it tells you what TV stations you might be able to receive and what direction the towers are from your location.  I put in the ZIP code for Quartzsite and it indicated five stations (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and Independent), all 11 miles away at 234.8 degrees.  There are towers on top of a mountain in direction but they do not look like TV towers.  The direction was also surprising as it is almost 180 degrees opposite to where everyone has their antennas pointed.

As we know from our ham radio hobby RF waves can do strange things.  At the frequencies used for OTA Digital TV (DTV), however, things are “line-of-sight.”  The local speculation is that there are “repeaters” to the NNE but if that was the case I would expect the website to indicate that as the signal direction.  Another possible explanation is that the signals are coming over the mountains to the SW and bouncing off of the more distant mountains to the NE.  I would expect some multi-path distortion in this case, as the signals scatter off the mountains and arrive at the antenna from different directions, but if the antenna is sufficiently directional it might eliminate this problem.

My plan for today had been to work on my Exterior Makeover article for Bus Conversion Magazine and I finally got started on that late in the afternoon.  I finalized my selection of photos (I think) and split them up into those that will go in line with the article, print and digital, and those that will appear in the extra section of the digital edition.  I had just begun post-processing them when Linda started preparing dinner.  I have been wanting some pasta and tonight I finally got my wish.  She made a whole wheat linguine with mushrooms, onions, garlic, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus.  What a treat.

I stopped over at Butch and Fonda’s bus to let them know about the www.antennaweb.org website.  Butch was watching an archived webcast that Technomadia did a few months ago with Nina Fusing, of the WheelingIt blog, on health care options for full-time RVers.  He had also installed Echolink software on his laptop but it was failing the Internet Connection test for UDP (User Datagram Protocol) ports.  The error messages indicated that it was probably a firewall- and/or router-related problem.  He had both so I tried opening UDP ports for forwarding in both places but it did not fix the problem.  I have never played with Echolink or UDP ports, so I was trying to figure out what to do in real time.  More research will obviously be needed.

I continued working after dinner processing photos for my article.  I received my draft of the Zena Power Generating System article back from Gary with corrections made by Stacy, his new administrative assistant.  I accepted them, made an additional correction, and returned it.  They are trying very hard to get the December 2014 issue out on December 31st and my Zena article will be one of the four in that issue.

2014/12/27 (S) Cool Temps

By 6:30 this morning our various weather apps were reporting that the temperature in Q was 31 degrees F.  At 7:00 I turned the thermostats up and climbed back in bed (electric heating pad).  I had not shut the main water supply off at the street last night so at 7:30 I got up, put on my “sweats,” grabbed a jacket, and went outside to tend to the water.  I cracked opened a faucet at each standpipe, ran water through hoses, and ran water through the hot and cold lines for both sinks in the apartment.  I shut everything off and went back inside where it was comfortably warm.

By the time I came back in Linda was up and making coffee.  How was that possible?  We have a single serving coffee funnel that sits on top of a mug.  It’s designed for cone filters but she simply folded one of our flat bottom filters and made it fit.  She ground up some beans, boiled some water in the microwave oven, poured it over the grounds, and let it drip.  I did not think we would have morning coffee in the coach again until the new coffee maker arrived next week so it was a nice treat.

I finished yesterday’s blog post while I enjoyed my brew.  I was busy enough yesterday that by the time I went to bed and tried to finish it there was too much to write and I was too tired to write it.  Linda developed a headache overnight and spent much of the day medicated and resting.  She does not get these very often anymore but when she does they put her out of commission for a day or so.  I then spent most of the day processing the photos for my next BCM article.

I took a break after lunch and worked with Butch setting up his laptop to work with Echolink ham radio software.  The software use TCP and UDP ports and requires firewalls and routers to be configured to provide port forwarding.  His laptop OS is Windows Vista, which has the Windows Firewall.  I was not familiar with UDP ports, had never set up port forwarding, and had never worked with Vista, so I was feeling my way as I went.  Their computers are connected to the Internet one of two ways, MiFi or WiFi, although the WiFi is sometimes connected through the MiFi.  Their MiFi is a Verizon Jetpack (Novatel 5510L), just like ours, so I (sort of) knew my way around that device.  Their WiFi setup consists of two WiFi repeater/routers; the WiFiRanger Mobile and the WiFiRanger Go2.  We also have a WiFiRanger Mobile, so I also knew my way around that device (sort of) but I had never worked with the WFR Go2.  We got the Echolink software to test successfully through the WFR gear using the WiFi signal at our campsite but we could not get it to test successfully through the MiFi.

In the early evening Butch called and said he was having Internet connection issues.  I went to their bus and worked four a couple of hours trying to sort out what was going on.  I was able to get him back online but saw some strange behaviors that we could not explain and were not able to resolve.  He has Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal Blog set as his Firefox home page and it kept redirecting to the website’s home page.  I tried opening it in Internet Explorer 9 and it opened without difficulty.  Website’s do not always react the same way with different browsers, but he had been on Nick’s blog earlier in the day using Firefox.  I will have to look at it again tomorrow.

When I got back to our coach Linda was starting to prepare dinner.  It felt very cold outside even though the weather apps said it was 41 degrees F.  I decided to turn off the water supply at the street and opened some of the faucets to relieve the pressure in the pipes and let some of the water out.  Dinner was leftovers from our Christmas Day meal and everything was very good the second time around.

I finished up my photo editing a little before 10 PM and backed up my files to the NAS.  We turned the three thermostats on and set them for ~15 degrees C (~59 degrees F).  We put the extra blanket on the bed and I turned my electric heater pad up to 4. The forecast low for tonight was in the low 30’s and it was already 36 when we turned in for the night.

2014/12/28 (N) Cooler Yet

Our cats snuggled in with us more than usual last night.  They like the extra blanket and the heater pads as much as I do.  At sunup the air temperature was reported as 28 degrees F, a few degrees lower than the last forecast we saw before we turned in last night.  If it seems that we are preoccupied with the weather it is because we are in closer contact with it when RVing than we are when we are at our house.  In the motorcoach we have to more actively manage our utilities to ensure they work properly and to maintain our comfort.

We had tea instead of coffee this morning.  Until about 15 years I did not drink coffee and enjoyed morning, afternoon, and evening tea.  Hot, of course; I have never been a big fan of iced tea and I have never developed a taste for iced coffee, unless it was a Starbucks Frappuccino (in my pre-vegan days).

Linda was finally feeling better and went for a long walk this morning.  Before she left I noticed that there wasn’t any water coming out of the bird fountain so she unplugged it and helped me partially disassemble it so I could clean it.  I ended up taking it completely apart, which was fun given that it was made of large slabs of granite, in order to get to the pump so I could clean it.  I was surprised to find a small gecko-like lizard inside the pedestal base.  Butch helped me reassemble and level the unit, allowing the reservoir to hold more water, and we got the outlet tube (fountain) tightened up so the water once again squirts about four inches above the tube.  It needs to be filled every day or two.  I have not determined if the water is being consumed by birds (there are a lot of doves and Gambrels Quail here) or evaporating (low humidity and sunshine).  It is probably a bit of both.

I worked on my article most of the day, inserting photos into the Word doc and writing captions.  I took a break mid-afternoon and rode into town with Butch.  We found the LED vendor where the hams (amateur radio operators) hang out but the booth was closed.  We wandered around looking at flea market junk and I found a set of four ratcheting tie down straps, 25mm wide by 15 feet long, for $5.  I had seen similar straps at another vendor for $14, so I bought the $5 set.  We stopped at Dorothy and Toto’s Ice Cream Parlor on west Main Street and bought some excellent kettle corn.

Back at the coach I continued working on my article but was having trouble keeping my eyes open so I took a nap.  Linda had started making dinner about the time I got up when a white SUV pulled in that we had not seen before.  A reddish-chocolate-brown dog appeared and took off after some of the rabbits followed by a man with a leash.  We figured Jim and Barbara, the owners of the third motorhome at our camp, had arrived so we put our shoes on and went out to meet them.  Jim got Roho on leash and Barbara appeared shortly thereafter, followed by Butch and then Fonda.  It was dusk and cooling off quickly, so the conversation was short before everyone returned to their motorhomes.  Before going in I turned the water off at the street and opened one of the faucets on our standpipe to relieve the pressure and let some of the water out.

For dinner Linda made skillet black beans with potatoes and tortillas.  Besides the title ingredients it had onions, garlic, poblano pepper, and salsa.  I added a little Tabasco Chipotle sauce to mine.  We each had a glass of sangria, which was refreshing with this hearty dish.  After dinner I finished working on my article and I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox.  I sent an e-mail to the publisher, editor, and new administrative assistant.  I then started uploading the photo files and went to bed.

2014/12/29 (M) Cool Cruiser Redux

We had English Breakfast Tea to start our day, followed by store bought (bulk) granola for breakfast.  We have run out of Linda’s homemade granola and I really miss it.  The stuff we buy at the store just doesn’t taste like much of anything by comparison.  After breakfast I started working on my next article for BCM.  Actually, it was an article I wrote back in February of this year but had not quite finished.  Besides the text I had already selected the photos but, as often happens, I had not finished the process of putting them in order, sorting them into print edition and digital edition extra section, post-processing them, and inserting thumbnail versions into the Word document.  So that’s what I started working on this morning.

Late morning I took a break from the photo work and pulled the cover off of the dashboard to check the turbo boost gauge.  It was, indeed, a mechanical gauge with a very small nylon tube coming out the back of it.  I opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer and looked up the part, thinking I might order one today.  The specified part was a VDO gauge, 1/8-27 NPT, but did not give the mounting hole size, the, range, or the sweep degrees.  Both 24V and 12V bulbs were listed.  I think we need 24V.  What I found interesting was that the gauge for the VIP (conversion shell) was shown as “dummy,” which meant the unit was originally shipped with a filler plate rather than an actual gauge.  The turbo boost gauge in our coach is functional but is the wrong gauge for our engine. It’s a Sentry vacuum/boost gauge.  The vacuum side is useless on our turbocharged engine and the boost side only goes to 15 PSI, which is not high enough.

VDO makes two turbo boost gauges that should work as replacements.  Both are 2-1/16 (52mm) size, 0 – 30 PSI, 270 degree sweep, mechanical units.  They come with 12V bulbs but those are easily changed.  The differences are in the faceplate markings and the mounting systems.  The Cockpit Series gauge is marked in 1 PSI increments, which I prefer, but uses the traditional rear U-bracket to hold the instrument in the dashboard.  The Vision Series gauge, which is what our new speedometer is, has 2 PSI increments but mounts using a collar that threads onto the body of the instrument from the back side of the dashboard.  I was going to call Prevost and order a gauge but both gauges are available from PartDeal.com, which is run by ISSPRO.  ISSPRO sells their own line of gauges in addition to VDO and other brands.  I was chatting with Butch and he mentioned that they were closed for the holidays and would reopen on January 2nd, so I did not order a gauge today.

We left around noon and drove to the vendor area at Central Avenue and Kuehn Street.  We parked the car and wandered around checking out vendors who were not set up or open the last couple of times we were here.  While we were strolling I got a call from Frank Morrison.  Frank was at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida and wanted to know if we were there.  I photographed Frank’s bus, the Cool Cruiser, at last year’s rally and the article was the cover story in the June 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Frank said that in the welcome bag each attendee received there was a second bag from BCM and in that bag was the June 2014 issue.  Cool.  I wrote two other articles for BCM as a result of that rally.  The February 2014 issue was on the rally itself and the April 2014 issue featured the Iron Horse, an Eagle bus conversion.  Both articles ran in the cover/centerfold position.

For lunch we had chickpea salad on sourdough bread with dark greens and were surprised to see a Trek motorhome backing in to the property.  Jim and Barb obviously knew the people and helped them get parked.  Once they were in their site we went out and introduced ourselves, as did Butch and Fonda.  Jack and Maria were only here for the night.  They had been camped at the BLM Pyramid Lake LTVA, about 60 miles south of Quartzsite, but developed issues with their solar charger and a squealing/screeching noise when they start their engine.  They had appointments first thing in the morning to have these problems addressed and were planning on heading back to the desert tomorrow.  Barb mentioned that she had talked to Joe and Connie and Joe said we did not have to turn the water off at night.  One less chore is good by me.

Linda went for another power walk while I worked on my article.  I want to get my “almost finished” articles done and off to the magazine so I can work on some new pieces.  It’s easier on me and them if I can keep the pipeline flowing and stay ahead of them.

For dinner we had soy riblets with barbecue sauce, macaroni and cheese (gluten and dairy free), and fresh sautéed green beans.  The riblets were tasty, as always, and the green beans were excellent, but the mac & cheese was not good eats.  It was the second of two boxes we bought somewhere and Linda even added some things to try to improve them but it didn’t help.  We won’t be buying this product again.

Having spent a portion of the day processing photos I did not feel like doing more of that after dinner.  I played a few puzzles on my iPad while Linda played word games on hers with Karen and Ron.  We were in bed by a little after 9 PM and I went right to sleep.

2014/12/30 (T) Trash Day

Tuesday is trash day.  The collection truck comes at noon so the trash can has to be to the curb by 11AM.  I happened to glance outside as we were sitting down to enjoy our mourning tea and it was already at the curb.  Jim or Barb are responsible for this when they are here, along with maintaining the apartment and laundry room, and one of them had obviously taken it out.

Jack and Maria pulled out around 8:30 AM with Maria driving their Trek and Jack following in their SUV.  We figured we had seen the last if them and did not even get to say ‘goodbye’ so we were surprised when they returned an hour later and backed their motorhome back into their spot and leveled it.  They left in their car fairly soon thereafter and did not return until later in the day.

Linda went for her usual morning walk and I continued working on my Habitat For Humanity article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  Around 11:15 AM my Bluetooth mouse signaled that its battery was critically low and needed to be recharged.  I plugged it in and figured that was a good time to take a break and do something else.  Butch was outside with his tool bay open and Jim was out there with Roho so I went out and chatted for a while.  I needed to repair the connections on the front switch that controls the aisle lights so I borrowed Butch’s VOM, wire stripper, and terminal crimper and got three 1/4″ female crimp connectors from him.  I have all of these tools and supplies, but his were more convenient.

Being a 3-way circuit the switch has three wires.  It’s a double-pole double-throw switch so it had a second set of unused contacts.  I used the VOM to determine if the unused set of contacts worked as expected.  They did, so I removed the old connectors, one at a time, cut the wire loose from the connector, cut about an inch off of the end, crimped the new connector onto the wire, and pushed the connector onto the corresponding unused terminal.  I tested the circuit and I was able to turn it on and off from both switches.  (The other switch is in the control panel in the bedroom by my side of the bed).

My recollection is that the 3-way circuit feature did not work prior to this.  That could have been because the wire that broke off the other day was only attached by a few strands, or because of a failure in the switch on that set of contacts, or both.  The plastic insulated housings on the old connectors were very brittle and showed signs of heat damage, which could have occurred as the result of a very marginal connection.  When I tried to pull them off of the switch terminals they shattered.  I was also unable to pull the metal connectors off of the lugs and had to pry them open and then pry them off.  The first 1/2 inch of each wire was also discolored and brittle, indicating heat damage.  I did not bother to check the other set of switch contacts for correct function as the lugs also showed signs of heat damage and I do not plan to use them again.  In fact, I plan to replace the switch if/when I happen to find one or get around to ordering one.  The whole repair, including borrowing and returning tools, took less time to do than it took me to describe the work in this post.

Linda confirmed that our Fedex delivery was scheduled for today.  We have been rationing the cats’ food the last 48 hours and they are confused as to why.  They do not usually finish the dry kibble in their bowls but insist on having fresh kibble added each morning and evening.  To accommodate this expectation we have been adding very small quantities of fresh kibble to their bowls.  I don’t think cats can count, but they can definitely tell the difference between serving sizes of kibble and are not pleased at our puny offerings.

Jack and Maria returned sometime during the afternoon.  I saw them pull in but did not note the time.  We had sandwiches for lunch and then went for a walk.  We headed southwest from our campsite and worked our way over to Moon Mountain Avenue.  Our destination was the Salvation Army Store but we stopped to look at things along the way.  We checked out the Mountain Quail Cafe, but the only thing on their menu we could eat was the side salad.  Too bad, it looked like a cozy, comfortable place and the sign said they featured ‘home cooking.’  Well, not our home, of course.  ‘Home cooking’ is usually code for “everything is cooked in butter, we make liberal use of eggs and dairy, and treat bacon as a condiment.”

Moon Mountain Avenue between Main Street and Quail Trail seems to mostly be developments rather than individual lots.  We stopped at one place that had a lot for sale at the corner of Moon Mountain and the entrance road.  All of the lots were separated on three sides by the exact same low brick wall construction that we have seen all over town.  Some of the lots had the brick wall with a gate across the front.  As we were studying this lot the man across the street pulled out and drove over to see if we had any questions.  We really didn’t, but he answered them anyway.

It turned out that most of the developments on Moon Mountain Avenue were co-ops.  The price on this particular lot ($49,900) did not buy you a deed but rather a fractional ownership of the co-op with a lease for the perpetual use of that particular lot.  The price also included compensation to the current leaseholder for improvements to the lot, and whatever appreciation in value the market would bear.  You were free to sell your ownership share along with the leasehold for your lot, or will it to your children.  (This co-op, like many of the RV Parks in town, was a 55+ community, so it would be a long time before our “kids” could use it if they were interested, which I doubt.)  The annual maintenance fees for this co-op were $56/month ($672/year) and included water, sewer, property taxes, and association dues; everything except electricity.  Each site had its own billable electric meter.  The only added expense would be property taxes for improvements, such as a park model trailer or RV port.

We were glad we stopped and that this fellow was willing to share this information with us.  We suspect that many of the similar looking areas around town are probably also co-ops or even developments with deeded lots.  Every little thing we learn like this helps us develop a better understanding of Quartzsite.  BTW:  the Salvation Army store was closed.  We have walked or driven by at various times on different days and have yet to find it open for business.

When we got back to camp Linda needed a few things for dinner and thought the Road Runner Market might have them.  She grabbed Fonda and they took off in our car.  Butch was working on his HF mobile ham radio antenna on the roof of their bus and Barb was scurrying around the property taking care of things.  I was going to help Butch but got a phone call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint to discuss the spots on our roof and what to do about them.  Once we were done talking I was able to lend Butch some assistance with the antenna project which involved the installation of bonding (grounding) straps between the antenna and the roof of the bus.

The FedEx truck showed up before Linda and Fonda got back so I opened the box and unpacked the contents.  The kitties recognize Science Diet cat food bags and were very happy to see it.  I was opening the new coffee maker when Linda returned.  We got it unpacked and stored in the cubby where the old one was installed.  She had started cleaning and rearranging drawers before our walk so she finished putting everything away or set aside things she had decided she did not need to have on board.

I’ve been needing a haircut for a while and prevailed on Linda to take care of it while we still had sunlight.  After she was done I used the clippers to trim my beard and then put everything away.  Linda checked our log book and according to our records the last time we dumped our holding tanks was on the 20th.  We like them to be as full as possible before dumping, as they evacuate better but cannot let them overfill so we decided to dump them while it was still daylight.  Better safe than sorry.

I got another Hach SofChek water hardness test strip from Butch and checked the output of our water softener.  It measured 7 on a scale of 0 (soft) to 25 (very hard).  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ water but the softener was still working somewhat as the water coming straight out of the tap measured 25.  We still had 1/3 tank of fresh water and I decided to add 1/6th of a tank, about 20 gallons, and bring it up to the 1/2 level.  I will have to recharge the water softener tomorrow before adding any more water to our tank.

I was able to finish editing photos while Linda prepared dinner.  She cut a large poblano pepper in half lengthwise and stuffed it with leftovers from two nights ago.  She also made Mexican rice from scratch using Texmati rice, onions, garlic, tomato sauce, cumin, and vegetable broth.  The peppers and rice were very good and went well with a glass of sangria.

Early this morning I thought I might finish my HFH article for BCM and be able to upload it this evening, but that did not happen.  I still needed to insert the thumbnails into the Word document and write the captions.  I was too tired to start that work, knowing how long that would take, so I played a few puzzle games and went to bed.

2014/12/31(W) Adios 2014

The polar outbreak that is gripping most of Canada and the U. S. A. has also made its presence felt here in Quartzsite.  The overnight low was 35 and we had light rain.  The high today won’t break 50, and the lows for the next two days are forecast to be in the upper 20s.  Not that far from us (~180 miles) Joshua Tree NP had a rare dusting of snow and the forecast for Flagstaff is for as much as 16 inches of holiday whiteness.  The temperature back home is in the teens, so we have no complaints about the weather in Q.

Linda went for a long morning walk and found the Salvation Army store open.  Apparently their hours are 8 AM to 1 PM Monday through Friday and we had managed to always walk past outside that time frame.  She picked up a few things from the Road Runner Market while she was out.  By the time she got back at 1 PM I had just finished inserting photos into my Habitat For Humanity article and captioning them so I had her proofread it.

With the proofreading done we had a bite of lunch and then drove to Blythe, California to pick up some grocery items that are not available here in Q.  We stopped first at the AutoZone store, in the northwest corner of the Albertson’s parking lot, and bought supplies for cleaning the bus.  Now all we need is a nice warm day so we can get out early and work at it until we are done.  We need to do the car, too.

We got a TXT message from our son while driving back to Q.  It was a short video of grand-daughter Madeline climbing into her car seat all by herself.  That led to an exchange of messages leading to the question from our daughter as to whether she could climb out by herself.  That question will apparently be answered tomorrow.  The growth from age one to age two is quite amazing.

When we got back to our coach I carried in the groceries.  While Linda put them away I added 30 gallons of water to our fresh water tank.  I really wanted to recharge the water softener first, and bought a 40 pound bag of solar salt at Albertson’s for that purpose, but it was too late in the afternoon and too cold to start that process.  I still need to fabricate the special perforated tube for the water filter housing, so it will take longer than a normal recharge.

We had some hot tea and cookies and relaxed for a while.  Linda finished proofreading my HFH article and I then went through it one more time to make sure it was ready to upload.  She also e-mailed Mara, one of the women who participated in the HFH build, to wish her a happy holiday and see what part of the country she was in at the moment.

Dinner was a simple, easy affair; a nice salad of fresh greens with other goodies mixed in and a couple of Asian noodle soup bowls.  Sometimes Linda does not feel like cooking and we keep a certain amount of packaged convenience food on board for such occasions.

It has been our tradition since we started dating in high school to stay up and celebrate the coming of the New Year.  We rang in three calendar changes while dating and have observed 42 more since getting married.  Tonight was number 43.  For all of that time we have rarely gone out on New Year’s Eve, preferring to stay close to home and off the streets.  Besides, large, loud parties have never been our style, especially since I do not dance.

When we were dating, and in the early years of our marriage, we would spend the holidays in the St. Louis, Missouri area visiting family.  My parents hosted a New Year’s Eve party that, in retrospect, was quite a large and well-attended event, and that is where we hung out, often joined by a few friends from our high school days.  As we attained legal age a champagne toast became part of the tradition (although in the privacy and safety of my parents’ home we probably started this tradition a bit sooner).

As our children came into the picture we still traveled to St. Louis but when they got a bit older we started spending our holidays at home.  Linda’s sister, Marilyn, started visiting us between Christmas and New Year’s and the tradition of assembling a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve began.  Linda usually did not cook a New Year’s Eve meal.  Instead we had California Dip (made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix) and chips, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, smoked salmon, and other munchies that we nibbled on throughout the day.  This was, of course, all pre-vegan.  Starting around 11 PM we would turn the TV to one of the networks doing the countdown from Times Square in New York City.  I think it was ABC as we usually watched Dick Clark.  At 11:55 PM we would open a bottle of champagne and fill our glasses.  When the ball dropped and the clock struck 12 we would toast the New Year.

Since our children became adults they have spent New Year’s Eve with their friends and families.  Besides Marilyn we have had occasional guests at our house but more often it has been a quiet evening at home with just the two or three of us and we often went to bed shortly after the arrival of the New Year.  The last two years have been unusual in that we moved to a different house in 2013 but have never celebrated New Year’s there.  Given that we plan to do most of our extended RVing from mid-fall to mid-spring it may be quite (if ever) before we celebrate New Year’s at the new house.

For the 2013-to-2014 change we were at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida where we attended a party with 200 other people and a live band.  We spent much of the evening outside where the volume was about right and the temperatures were pleasant.  This year we are camped on private property in Quartzsite with three other couples, none of whom seemed interested in staying up until midnight, so we toasted the New Year in the privacy of our coach three times before going to bed.  We are unable to receive OTA TV signals here, so we watched (listened to) the ball drop in Times Square on Linda’s iPad (at 10 PM MST) and shared a champagne toast.  She then sent TXT messages to both of our children.  At 11 PM MST we shared another champagne toast.  I sent a TXT message to my sister and niece while Linda sent one to her sister, all of whom live near St. Louis, Missouri in the Central Time Zone.  At our local midnight we shared our final toast and welcomed the New Year in the Mountain Time Zone.  If we had been so inclined we could have driven to Blythe, California, returning temporarily to 2014, and celebrated the coming of the New Year in the Pacific Time Zone.  But we didn’t.  That kind of thing is more fun to “brag” about than it actually is to do.

Before turning in for the night I updated my article status spreadsheet and then uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox along with the HFH article and associated photos.  I then e-mailed the team at BCM to let them know it was there and wished them a Happy New Year.  I also e-mailed a link to a PDF version of the article to Steven Gullette, our team leader on the HFH build that was the main focus of the article, and wished him a Happy New Year as well.  So endith another year.  Adios 2014.


2014/12/13-16 (S-T) In Q

2014/12/13 (S) Ahhhh

Linda was very tired last night and was asleep by 10 PM.  Although I was up until almost midnight we were both wide awake by 5:30 AM, so I got up and made a full pot of coffee.  We enjoyed our brew while watching the slow but inevitable progression of night to day.  It was very quiet last night; the only sounds I was aware of were the noises the coach makes (refrigerator and auxiliary air-compressor).  The rain last night was gentle and a somewhat rare event for this area at this time of year, so Linda got online with her iPad to check historical weather data and forecasts.

The average rainfall for Quartzsite in December is 0.07 inches, the maximum is 0.7 inches (10 times as much) and the minimum is zero.  The average high is in the mid-60s and the average low is in the low-40s.  On any given day the forecast is sunny with gentle winds and no fog or rain.  January is slightly cooler on average and February warms back up a tad.  You can see why people spend the winter months here.  Sunrise was at 7:32 AM.  We are ~20 miles from the California border, as far west as we can go without moving into the Pacific Time Zone, so sunrise and sunset are later here relative to the local time.

Linda made fresh blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast with real maple syrup and they were excellent.  After breakfast we got out the vacuum cleaner hose and attachments and vacuumed the coach.  This terrified the cats, who have limited places to hide, but it had to be done.  Linda then mopped the tile floor.  She wanted to dust but I suggested the all the cleaning did not have to be done the first morning we were here.  She bundled up the trash and took it to the large garbage can and stopped to chat with Fonda and Connie (our landlady) on the way.

Our motorcoach set up in its winter home in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Our motorcoach set up in its winter home in Quartzsite, Arizona.

By 8:30 the sun was climbing in the southeastern sky and the coach was warming up a bit.  We are parked facing east so we decided to deploy the passenger side awnings (patio and bedroom) which shaded approximately 65% of the upper half of the south-facing side of the coach.  Linda then decided we should wash the front of the coach.

I got the step stool and Little Giant ladder out of the front bay while Linda got the collapsible water bucket.  We started with the front of the bus using water directly from the tap but it dried too quickly in the sun and left spots.  We switched to softened water from our fresh water tank and took a team approach with me scrubbing using a Microfiber sponge and Linda following right behind drying with Microfiber cloths.  That seemed to work better.

After we finished the front we moved to the rear.  The sun had not yet pulled around to west of south so we did not have direct sunlight on the rear cap.  We hooked up our longest hose to the other water softener outlet and then wet the surface, scrubbed the cap with our soft brush, and rinsed it off without using the Microfiber drying clothes.  We will clean the two sides of the coach over the coming week, doing a little bit each day.  We also deployed the awnings on the driver (north) side of bus just to unwind them and let them air out and dry.  We then set out our patio mat and welcome mat and our two bag chairs, completing our cleaning work for the day.

Butch spent some time emptying out their Suburban so we could explore Quartzsite in one vehicle.  We all had lunch and then headed off to explore our winter home town.  Fonda wanted to locate a church where she could attend services on Sunday mornings so we found one that looked like it might suit her.  We drove down Main Street and Kuehn Street checking out the vendors and ended up at Big Market on west Main Street where we bought some grocery items and postcards.

Back at the ranch we settled in for a while before dinner.  I worked at my computer and started checking up on e-mail, which I had not done in several days.  I had a few from Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, and replied to those.  I also spent a little time in RVillage and updated our profile.  Jim Liebherr (Joe’s brother) came around to collect the first month’s rent and clarified access to the laundry room.

View of our motorcoach looking NE from Lollipop Ln.  There are mountains in the distance to right of the rig.

View of our motorcoach looking NE from Lollipop Ln. There are mountains in the distance to right of the rig.

For dinner Linda made a green salad using spinach, Mandarin oranges, and walnuts with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing.  She then prepared a zoodle dish using a tool called a “SpiraLife” that spiral slices vegetables with or without cross-cutting them.  The cross-cut mode turns carrots, zucchini, etc. into long slender strips like flat pasta.  She spiral sliced a zucchini and used it instead of wheat pasta in an olive oil sauté with mushrooms, onions, garlic, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Some vegan “Parmesan” cheese on top, bread on the side, and a glass of Pinot Noir to wash it down made for a wonderful, healthy meal.

Linda found information online that suggested we should have anywhere from 11 to 21 over-the-air (OTA) TV channels.  The Huffington Post even had the complete programming schedule for Quartzsite by channel and time-of-day.  Our TV sets normally scan for standard OTA channels, both analog (very few left) and digital.  We used both the front and rear TV to repeatedly scan for signals, pointing our amplified directional antennas around an entire 360 degrees, but did not find a single station.

The TV sets can also scan for QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) signals.  We had to obtain an Access Code from the Westinghouse support website and enter it into the front TV to get it to scan for QAM signals, but it did not find any of those either.  I called Butch to see if they had tried tuning in any stations.  They had tried and got the same results as us.  It’s not a big deal, the only TV we watch at home is streamed over the Internet, but it was puzzling as we saw lots of TV antennas around town.  Most of them, however, where on top of tall poles.

The overnight low was forecast to be 41 degrees F and by 9 PM it had cooled off in the coach quite a bit.  I decided to shut my computer for the evening and head to bed where we have a dual control electric heating pad to keep each of us in our own comfort zone.  As sometimes happens, Microsoft decided that my computer needed to be updated.  This often turns out be a recursive experience and tonight was no exception.  Five updates were initially downloaded and installed, requiring a restart of the computer.  After it rebooted and finished starting up I tried to shut it off again and there were six more updates, requiring another restart.  I checked again after it rebooted and finished starting up and it appeared to be done, but I decided to leave it on overnight in case additional updates wanted to make their presence known.

I turned up the temperature on my side of the electric heating pad, got cozy under lots of covers, wrote for a while, and turned off the lights.  It was a good first full day in Q.

2014/12/14 (N) Parker, AZ

The temperature in our motorcoach dropped below 60 early in the morning and the Aqua-Hot bedroom zone pump and heat exchanger fans came on even though we did not have a heat source turned on.  That was because I had failed to turn the thermostat off before going to bed last night.  With a 50 Amp shorepower connection I would have turned the three electric toe-kick heaters on, but with our 30 Amp connection I turned on the diesel burner and the electric heating element.  Twenty minutes later the coach was warming up and I turned the electric element off so Linda could start cooking breakfast.

Linda made a tofu scramble using a different recipe that did not call for nutritional yeast as she forgot to pack any.  We had sourdough toast with strawberry jam to go with the scramble, grapefruit juice, and coffee.  Always coffee.  After breakfast Linda went for a walk while I stayed at the bus.  When she got back from her walk and Fonda got back from Church we discussed driving to the Wal-Mart in Parker, Arizona for groceries and sundry items.  Butch left seating for four people in their Suburban so after lunch, he drove all of us to Parker.

See the mountains?  Quartzsite is surrounded by mountains!

See the mountains? Quartzsite is surrounded by mountains!

What we saw of Parker looked like a nice little town.  The Wal-Mart had a reasonable variety and quantity of fresh produce and we got most of the items on our shopping list.  We noticed when pulling out that there was a Safeway supermarket across the street with a CVS Pharmacy next door.  Parker is located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River and is the county seat for La Paz County which includes Quartzsite.  It is also the location of the tribal headquarters for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a consortium of tribes with reservations along both sides of the Colorado River for many miles north and south of Parker.  The Bluewater Resort and Casino is one of the attractions in town.

Back at our winter home base we unloaded our groceries and then sat outside to read, write, and surf the web.  It was cool in the shade and warm in sun.  We chatted with Connie for a while and then retreated to our coach as the outside air temperature dropped.  Linda had picked up a guide to the Lower Colorado River region while walking this morning so I settled in to read it.  As it got dark Linda assembled our dinner.  We had another nice salad, a bowl of the left-over curry, some bread, and finished the bottle of Pinot Noir.  We read for a while after dinner and then went to bed.

2014/12/15 (M) Hard Water

The outside temperature dropped to 38 degrees F overnight, colder than at our house back in Michigan, but the high there won’t make it past 50, which is above average for this time of year, while the high here will be in the low 60s, which is normal.  Add in the warmth of direct sunshine here and you typically have shirtsleeve weather.

I turned on the Aqua-Hot at 6:30 AM and went back to bed for half an hour while the coach warmed up.  When I got up I put on the new sweatshirt and sweatpants that we bought yesterday and made a pot of coffee.  We got the sweat clothing yesterday to wear in the coach while lounging around in the morning.  I only brought a lightweight robe from home, and Linda only brought a lightweight nightshirt, both of which proved to be inadequate against the morning chill.

After breakfast we took showers and then called the Escapees RV Club to register for the Escapade rally and clarify the process for ordering clothing.  I got transferred to Kim’s voice-mail and left my information.  Rather than hang around the coach waiting for a return phone call we walked to “downtown” Quartzsite.  Main Street is only 8/10ths of a mile straight south of our location and is only two miles long from Exit 19 to exit 17 of I-10.  The city is basically four square miles (2×2)—with most of it north of I-10—and is flat terrain, so it’s a compact, easy place to get around on foot or bicycle.

Our first stop was the post office so Linda could mail a few postcards.  There was quite a crowd there picking up and dropping off mail.  From what we understand mail does not get delivered to street addresses here so everyone has a P. O. Box.  UPS, however, does deliver to street addresses.  We went next door to the Chamber of Commerce trailer and picked up a couple more maps and some flyers and booklets on area attractions.  We also bought a pair of Quartzsite 2014-2015 Snowbird commemorative pins.  We then walked to the west end of Main Street and wandered through the Main Event warehouse building.  They sell all manner of inexpensive (cheap) Chinese tools but we did not buy anything on this visit.

Joe & Connie's park model trailer as viewed through the cactus garden by our coach.

Joe & Connie’s park model trailer as viewed through the cactus garden by our coach.

We crossed Main Street to the McDonalds, had some French fries, and used the restrooms.  We did not see any signs for “public” restrooms on our walk today, so the fast food places and truck stops were important pedestrian waypoints.  We headed back east on Main Street and stopped at Big Market to check out the hardware portion of the store.  Butch went through it the other day and said it was surprisingly good given its size.  Having now seen it for myself I have to agree with his assessment.

Most north-south roads in Q are Avenues while larger E-W roads are Streets.  Studying the map we got from the Chamber of Commerce it appears that Avenues and Streets connect to other roads at each end and/or at intermediate points.  Dead end roads are usually named Lanes, but a few are Roads, Drives, or Trails.   There are only four Avenues that run all the way from Main Street to the north end of town.  From east to west they are Plymouth Ave., Central Ave. (AZ-95), Moon Mtn. Ave., and Kofa Ave.  Tyson’s Wash runs north-south between Central Ave. and Moon Mtn. Ave.  Perhaps because of the wash, or perhaps for other reasons, there are only three streets that run all the way through from east to west.  Tyson St. is essentially the north edge of town while Main St. and Kuehn St. parallel I-10 on the north and south side respectively.

We got back to our coach a little after 1 PM.  Cool air temperatures and cloudy skies made it a less comfortable day to sit outside so we gathered up our soiled clothes and Linda took them over to the laundry room.  Because this is private property, not a large commercial RV park, the laundry room is just that, a room with a standard residential washer and dryer.  They are not coin operated so usage is on the honor system; $2 per load (washed and dried).  We are keeping a log of the loads we do and will add the corresponding cost to our rent or electrical bill next month.

Linda sliced an apple, got out the hummus, and put out some baby carrots, pieces of cauliflower, and broccoli along with pita chips.  As we finished our late lunch/snack I noticed that Butch was working in his engine bay.  That meant he was probably doing something with the air-compressor so I went over to find out exactly what he was up to and see if I could be of any assistance.  He was unbolting the compressor from the engine block so he could pull it away from the back of the engine and check the drive gears and spline.  It turned out that I had several socket wrench related tools with me that he needed, so that was my contribution to the process.

Once he had the compressor unbolted and pulled away from the block he was able to determine that there wasn’t anything wrong with the drive gear on the end of the camshaft or with the free-floating spline.  The Bakelite gear was also still intact and the compressor was not seized.  Based on a conversation he had with Bill at U. S. Coach the only thing that appeared to be amiss was a missing spring.  The purpose of the spring is to keep the Bakelite gear engaged with the spline.  Lots of grease packed behind the Bakelite gear can have the same effect as the spring, at least for a while.  Since Butch had already done some of the hardest work required to remove the compressor he was still leaning towards buying a rebuilt unit and installing it.  The “engine” in their bus was newly rebuilt when they bought it, but all of the accessories that attach to it, including the air-compressor, were not.

We did not fill our fresh water tank when we dumped our waste water at the Dream Catcher SKP RV Park on Thursday morning.  After five days of heavier use, including showers, it was nearing empty and needed to be refilled.  We try to fill it with softened water whenever possible and then use the water from the tank.  On the road it is via our portable water softener.  This approach keeps the water in the tank from going stale and also allows us to track how many times we have run a tank’s worth of water (100 – 125 gallons) through the softener.  The number of gallons we can soften depends on the hardness of the water.  We tested the city water in Q when we got here and it is very hard.  It probably comes from very deep wells.

I borrowed a test strip from Butch to check the hardness of the water coming out of our softener.  To my dismay, it was the same as the water going in.  In other words, the softener wasn’t doing anything.  That meant I had to recharge (regenerate) it before I could use it to fill the fresh water tank.  It was near sunset, which meant most this work was done the dark.  Bad planning on my part, but there it is.

I like our little portable softener but have never been satisfied with the recharge procedure.  I followed the directions but without much success and with what I thought was way too much wasted water.  After unscrewing the filter housing on the softener inlet and removing the filter I filled the housing ~3/4s full with non-iodized table salt.  I inserted the special plastic tube onto the outflow port inside the head and then worked the housing up and screwed it into place.  I tried using a trickle flow and also full inlet water pressure with a constricted outlet flow.  I checked every half hour for two hours, but most of the salt was still there.

The view to the SW from our patio.

The view to the SW from our patio.  Just over those mountains is California!

The problem was obvious to me.  When a filter is installed in the housing it is sealed at the top and bottom by a post (bottom) and the outlet port (top).  Water flows into the housing around the outside of the filter, through the filter media, and up the hollow center of the filter and out the port.  What I needed was a tube that was exactly the same inside diameter and length as a standard filter, so it would seal on both ends, but with holes near the bottom.  This would force water, under pressure, to flow down through the salt, through the holes, and up through the tube and into the softener where it could restore the ion exchange capability of the resin media.  I jury-rigged just such a solution by taking the old filter and drilling 1/4″ holes around the bottom.  Not my best piece of work, but it finally got the job done.  I plan to make a better, more permanent, version of this solution sometime soon.

When all of the salt had finally been dissolved and run through the softener I removed the modified filter from the housing, rinsed it out, and installed a new 5 micron filter cartridge.  The housing was leaking and I thought it was the plastic NPT nipple so I released any residual pressures and unscrewed the filter head from the threaded pipe.  I cleaned the old Teflon tape out of the threads, wrapped new tape around them, and screwed the filter housing head back on the nipple.  Fonda had wandered over by this time and was holding the flashlight which was a great help.  It turned out that the problem was a missing O-ring; it fell out of the housing when I dumped it out.  By chance I was walking around the back of the bus (with a flashlight), where I had dumped out the housing, and spotted it on the ground.  I cleaned it off, put it back in, re-installed the new 5 micron filter element into the housing, and screwed it back onto the head.  Valves open; pressure good; no leaks; good to go.

I opened the valve to fill the fresh water tank and went inside for a while.  It took about 30 minutes to fill the main tank because the 5 micron filter does not pass water as quickly as the 20 micron that was in there.  There is also a “whole house” filter housing installed in the water bay.  As best I can tell, all of the water entering the coach goes through that filter, whether directly to the plumbing or into the fresh water tank (which is filled by opening a valve plumbed into the main supply line to the house).  What I need to do now is replace that filter cartridge with a carbon element that removes chlorine and other such things.  We also have a 1 micron drinking/cooking water filter under the kitchen sink that removes five or six different things.  By the time I turned off the water, closed all of the supply valves, and went inside it was 9:45 PM so I grabbed my iPad and headed to bed.

2014/12/16 (T) Shopping In Q

Connie asked me last night if we would help her load her car today and of course we agreed.  Our “landlady” for the winter is a truly delightful person.  She has limited mobility but gets around without complaint.  She’s picking Joe up from the care facility on Wednesday afternoon and bringing him here so we will finally get to meet him in person.  Their sons are driving down from their homes in Nevada on Friday after work and taking the whole family back on Saturday.

Linda went for her morning power walk and I started working on cleaning up my e-mail inboxes.  While Linda was gone Connie indicated that she was ready to start loading her car so I took care of that task.  It was not a big or heavy job, but was more than Connie could do.  I was close to being done when Linda returned and Butch/Fonda emerged from their bus.  We all stood around chatting for a while and Connie invited us in to see the park model trailer she and Joe live in when they are here.  It was not large but was more spacious than either of our buses.

Butch and I headed into town while Fonda and Linda stayed in camp.  Linda wanted to work on her cross-stitch project and Fonda had things to do.  We stopped at the Tool Mart at the Main Event on the west end of Main Street and each picked up some odds and ends tools.  We then drove across to the south side of I-10 and headed west in search of the home where Fonda wants to attend a women’s bible study group on Wednesdays.  The house we were looking for was in a development on the other side of the first ridge of mountains that lie SW of Quartzite.  We found the development and the house without difficulty.  Both were nice but the location was a bit surreal; I mean this development was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by low mountains.  Butch captured the location in his GPS so that Fonda could find her way here and back tomorrow.

We drove back into Q, staying on the south side of I-10, and checked out the various vendors.  We spotted the M & T Enterprises RV water filter store and pulled in to park.  We spent some time there talking to the owner.  They were one of the vendors selling an OTA TV antenna and had one set up on top of a 20 foot pole.  The unit had a built-in rotator, and they claimed they were able to get 21 channels, but they said all of the signals were coming from the NNE to NE.  Other folks have told us that the only signals in town are from Yuma, 85 miles away in a S to SSW direction.  That seems unlikely given the terrain.

We walked down a few booths to the east to K & B Tool.  Among many other things they sell the aluminum tent poles that are being used to get the aforementioned TV antennas up in the air.  Our final stop was at Discount Solar at the NE corner of Main Street and Plymouth Ave.  Butch bought all of their solar equipment from Discount Solar some years ago and thinks highly of the owners and staff.  We were treated most cordially and they took time to talk to both of us.  Butch is considering buying some Full River AGM batteries from them and I was just curious about what they had.

We have two humingbird feeders in the cactus garden by our coach.  Look carefully to the right of the feeder.

We have two humingbird feeders in the cactus garden by our coach. Look carefully to the right of the feeder.

When we got back to camp I had some of the leftover curry for lunch with some hot tea to help me warm up.  Heavy clouds set in over the course of the afternoon and the air temperature was cool enough that I got slightly chilled.  In spite of the chill, Linda went outside to continue working on her cross-stitch project.  Butch set up their two-burner propane stove and made candy as he wanted to give some to Joe and Connie as a gift before they left on Saturday.  With all that work going on around me I decided to take a nap.

Linda made a black beans and rice dish for dinner along with a green salad, both of which were very tasty.  We bought a box of Franzia Sangria at Big Market the other day and finally tried it this evening.  As with most of the Franzia wines it was not outstanding but also not offensive.  Among inexpensive wines the Red Guitar Sangria is much fruitier and I like it better.  While I would prefer a better wine, the Franzia boxed wines are around $13 for 5 liters, fit nicely in the refrigerator, can be consumed over a long time (at least eight weeks), and minimize garbage and recycling.  All of those are positive attributes when living in the motorhome.  We had fresh strawberries later for dessert, which are always a treat.

Our son (Brendan) sent a TXT message with a picture of our grand-daughter (Madeline) and the ornaments she had hung on their Christmas tree.  She put five of them in a group at her eye level.  She will be two years old in two more days and is fully aware that special things are happening and that she is a full participant in them, if not the center of attention.  After dinner I resumed the task of cleaning up e-mails.  I always promise myself that I will do better at managing my e-mails, but I never do.


2014/11/10-16 Even More Bus Work

2014/11/10 (M) New Heights

We rarely set wake up alarms anymore, one of the major perks of retirement, but ‘rarely’ does not mean never so this morning my alarm went off at 5:05 AM.  I grabbed a quick shower, got dressed, and got busy pulling everything together for the trip to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  I had hoped to be on the road by 6 AM but did not quite make it.  Linda left at 6:15 AM for a 7:30 AM medical appointment and I had the car packed by 6:30 AM and pulled out shortly after that.

The drive always takes me about five hours including stops.  Butch called me around 10 AM to let me know they were in Logansport and would not make it back to the house until mid-afternoon.  I was going to stop in Rochester anyway to buy groceries so I had lunch first and then took my time shopping.  From Rochester I took IN-25 south and stopped in Fulton to buy fuel.  The street I normally turn on is Aitken and the filling station was at the intersection with IN-25 so I headed east to Meridian Street and then south to IN-16 and finally east to Twelve Mile.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends.  Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

New ride height linkage (L) with ball ends. Old linkage (R) with rubber ends.

I pulled up in front of the bus at 12:30 PM and unloaded all of the groceries and bus parts from the car and put them in the bus.  I changed into my work clothes and started working on inside projects.  First up was resetting the clocks since the switch from EDT to EST occurred while I was away.  I then emptied the cabinet above the refrigerator, which is currently used to store cleaning supplies, in preparation for installing an under cabinet florescent light fixture against the ceiling.  I was investigating the details of that little project when Butch and Fonda got home.  With the house now unlocked I finished unloading my car and moved my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, which is where I stay when I am here working on buses.

Butch had fabricated one of my ride height linkages while I was away.  He made a second one and then I gathered up tools and my camera to install them while he finished the last one.  Fonda found a large sheet of corrugated plastic that made it much easier to slide under the bus to work.  The front one was easy to install, just as it had been easier to remove.  The rear ones were even more difficult to install than they were to remove.  I got the rear protection shields back on with Fonda’s help.  Some jobs just require more than two hands.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt.  Old linkage end visible upper right.

New ride height linkage ball end and mounting bolt. Old linkage end visible upper right.

Bill Tharpe showed up to help Butch work on Brittiny’s car.  Butch and Bill had retrieved it a couple of days ago with a car hauler trailer when it quit running.  It was leaking coolant and apparently needed a new intake manifold gasket.  Bill spent most of his time disassembling the top of the engine so he can eventually remove the manifold.

Although I bought fresh salad greens on the drive down it ended up being a long day so I prepared a Simply Asia Mushroom Noodle Soup Bowl for dinner along with a few grapes.  Linda called at 8:30 PM and we chatted about her audiology and ENT appointments this morning.  The audiologist said her hearing in her ‘good’ ear was essentially unchanged from four years ago, which was good news, and she had a great visit with Dr. Siedman.  I chatted briefly with Butch about the fair weather ‘to do’ list for tomorrow and then we all turned in for the evening.

2014/11/11 (T) Code 23

I was up at 7 AM and in my coach by 7:30 having a simple, but yummy, breakfast of orange juice and homemade granola with unsweetened soy milk.  With all of the projects I have going on I have very little space at the moment to prepare food or sit and eat so I decided to forego making coffee and walked across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  Lisa (the shop owner) was there so we had a nice chat.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

New ride height linkage installed on front axle and leveling valve.

The weather forecast indicated that the best part of the day was going to be the morning with the high temperature of 54 degrees F at noon and then falling steadily with a rapidly increasing chance of rain.  I had two outside tasks to accomplish on my bus today so I wanted to get them done in the morning if possible.  My first task, however, was to attach the stinger (or whip, the long slender flexible piece at the top of an amateur radio antenna) to the base screwdriver portion of Butch’s mobile HF ham antenna.  I was able to do this from his ladder and did not have to get up on the roof.

While I worked on the antenna Butch prepped their new motion-sensing patio light.  He installed it over the entrance door to their bus with Fonda’s help.  With his assistance I removed the new fan belt from my engine, removed the two old air-conditioning compressor belts, and installed the two new a-c belts.  It was obvious from the extra slack in the inside belt that the a-c compressor was out of alignment with the pulley on the engine.  Butch suggested that we take the new belts off rather than ruin them and put the old ones back on until we can align the compressor.  That made sense to me, so that’s what we did, finally putting the new fan belt back on.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

The drive side rear ride height linkage was not easy to get to with the dual drive tires on the axle.

In the process of changing the belts I tried to us the valve that either tightens the belts when the engine is running or retracts the belt tensioners when they need to be changed.  The retract position did not appear to work and after looking at how the valve was plumbed Butch and I were of the opinion that it may not be connected correctly.  The run/tighten position works as intended, extending the air-driven belt tensioners, but it would sure be nice to be able to turn the valve and have the belt tensioners retract as intended.  I’m going to have to find out more about this valve and re-plumb it if necessary.

Butch and Fonda had to take some time to move things out of their warehouse for someone who is coming by to purchase them.  While they did that I started working on the DDEC II code 23 (Fuel Temp Sensor Voltage High) problem.  I got the diagnostic procedure from Chuck over the weekend.  The first step was to remove the harness from the sensor, short out the two pins, turn on the ignition (but do not start the engine), and see what Active Codes the ECM (DDEC II) generates.  That sounded simple enough but unfortunately the Fuel Temperature Sensor is located on the right side of the fuel pump under the ECM and behind a coolant pipe.  The only way to get to it is to unbolt the ECM mounting plate from the block and lift it up, which it turn requires all of the harnesses to be unplugged from the ECM.  Again, simple enough in concept but more difficult in practice.  Once I could get to the sensor and disconnect the harness I had to figure out a way to jumper across the two sockets.  I ended up using two pieces of small solid wire inserted into the connector and then bent to give me something to connect the alligator clips to.  Fonda helped with all of this.  Again, it was more than a two-handed job.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

Access to the passenger side rear ride height linkage was a little better, but not great.

I turned on the ignition and read the Active Codes on my ProLink and also had them flash on the Check Engine Light.  I was looking for a code 25 (everything is OK) or either a code 23 or a code 24.  What I got was both a code 23 (sensor signal and/or return wire open) and a code 24 (signal wire shorted to +5 VDC wire).  The diagnostic procedure has you check resistance between pins in either case, just different pins, so I checked both.  The readings I got did not make a lot of sense and I did not have time to pursue it further as the temperature had started dropping and it had started misting.  (I figured out later that the code 23 test requires the jumper to remain in place but I had done the code 24 test first, which required it to be removed, and not reinstalled it, so I did not do the Code 23 test correctly.)

By the time I got the ECM bolted back in place and all of the harnesses reconnected it was raining lightly and my tools were getting wet.  I got all of them put away and closed up all of the bays and decided to start the engine to make sure it would still run.  It started right up and I let it run on high idle for 25 minutes while I had a bite of lunch.  The test procedure called for clearing all codes before starting the engine and monitoring the CEL for 8 minutes, stopping the engine, and checking the historical codes.  I was clearly done working outside for the day so I did not get to do this at this time.

It was only mid-afternoon when I shut the engine off so I set to work installing the florescent light fixture in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  As with most projects this one seemed simple enough but took quite a while to do.  I was able to use an existing hole with wires running through it to snake two more wires through from the cabinet (where the fixture was going) to the adjacent cabinet to the right over the left corner of the kitchen counter.  That cabinet already had two 12 VDC light fixtures and I had previously identified the positive and negative supply wires.  What complicated matters was that the glue holding the carpet on the ceiling of the refrigerator cabinet had failed and the carpet was falling down.  The loose carpet also led to the discovery of other 12 VDC wiring hidden underneath it.  That, in turn, led to two things:  1) I had to make sure that when I mounted the new florescent fixture I did not screw through any of these wires, and 2) I had to figure out a way to keep the ceiling carpet up.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

The sunset was amazing on November 10th.

I taped the existing wires to the plywood ceiling so they would be in known locations.  I then used wood screws and fender washers to hold the carpet to the ceiling.  I added insulated spade lug connectors to the fixture wires and the supply wires and connected the other ends of the supply wires to the existing supply wires using special connectors designed for tapping into an existing wire without cutting it.  I would not use these for higher current applications but for a small florescent light fixture they are fine.  I attached the fixture to the ceiling with four short wood screws, installed the F13T5 bulb, turned the switch ON, and there was light!  I love it when that happens.

As long as I was working in this area I decided to reattach the incandescent fixture in the cabinet above the kitchen sink.  It was designed to be mounted with two screws but only one was in place.  Again, this turned out to be more work than it at first appeared.  The fixture is mounted to the inside of the upper cabinet face frame, not the ceiling, so there was no way to directly see what I was doing.  That meant mirrors and flashlights, and a blown fuse when my screwdriver shorted +12vdc to DC ground.  It turned out that the wiring was interfering with the mounting.  I eventually got it tucked up under the ceiling carpet and got the fixture mounted using two screws.  My documentation indicated that the upper kitchen cabinet lights were powered by wire #51.  I located that wire in the front DC distribution panel and pulled the 10 Amp fuse that protects it.  It was indeed open, which was good as it meant my documentation was correct and allowed me to find it on the first try.

The florescent light in the hallway ceiling cove quit working the last time I was here.  I removed the bulb, with some difficulty, to see what it was.  It was an F72T12 55 Watt (72″ length) with a single pin on each end.  I needed a 10 A blade fuse to replace the one I blew so I made a shopping list and headed off to Logansport to visit Walmart, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, and Home Depot.  Since I was in town I called Linda as my cell phone does not work in Twelve Mile.  She wanted to know if I had shut off the outside water at home.  I had not, so she took photos of the valves/pipes in the utility room and e-mailed them to me.  I got a call from Butch while I was in town.  He needed a few machine screws so I picked those up.  When I got back to the house I checked the photos Linda had sent and then sent her a couple of replies which resulted in her calling the house to go through what had to be done.  She e-smiled me later that she had taken care of it.

I Replaced the F72T12 (with considerable difficulty) but it still did not work.  It was late, and dark, and I was tired, so finding and fixing the problem would have to wait until tomorrow.  Somewhere in there I had a tofu Italian sausage on a whole wheat hotdog bun with mustard and onions.  By the time I came in to the house Butch and Fonda had gone to bed.  I checked e-mail and logged in to RVillage ad saw that our “Vegan RVers (WFPB)” group was up to 100 members.  I worked on this post and then went nighty night.

2014/11/12 (W) Burrrr

The leading edge (cold front) of the polar vortex had passed through north central Indiana by the time we got up this morning.  There was a definite bite to the air, and it will get worse before it gets better, but I brought a selection of winter clothing that I can layer in various was to suit the conditions and the work that needs to be done.  All of my projects today were inside the bus or the house so I did not have to bundle up excessively.  Butch and Fonda spent a little time working on the privacy curtain system for the front of their coach but much of their time today was taken up with someone who bought a lot of metal shelving and storage racks from them.  He showed up sometime between 9 and 10 AM and brought a crew to disassemble the shelving and load everything into a trailer.  Butch had to use his forklift to help load some it.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

The DDEC II ECM on our DD8V92TA with all of the harnesses unplugged.

I had cleared some space in the kitchen (of the bus) so I made coffee to go with breakfast.  That emptied out the last of three storage canisters, so I opened the three bags of custom roasted beans from Teeko’s and transferred them to the three containers.  After considering my project choices I decided to install the knob on the front TV cabinet door.  I spent a few minutes checking the installation details and dimensions of the Gaggenau halogen cooktop, which we would eventually like to replace with a built-in two-position induction cooktop if we can find one that fits the existing opening in the kitchen counter.  I had a note to get the GenSet model number for Martin Diesel so I looked that up in my documentation and found both the model and serial numbers.  I then turned my attention to the fluorescent light fixture in the hallway cove.

After studying the construction of the cove I realized that the front piece could be detached by removing seven (7) screws from underneath.  With the fascia removed I had great access to the F72T12 bulb.  I also discovered that there wasn’t an actual fixture there, just two ends to hold the bulb.  One was spring loaded and the other one was not.  The ballast was obviously somewhere else.  But where?

I vaguely recalled having seen a small metal box with wires coming out of it in the space under the bottom shelf of the pantry so I looked there and, sure enough, there it was.  It still had a label on it that was in good condition and indicated that it was a 13.2 VDC ballast for a single F72T12 fluorescent bulb.  Things were slowly starting to make sense.  There is an identical box in the back TV cabinet, with the same wires and connector but no label or markings, so I reasoned that it must power the fluorescent cove light in the bedroom.  That meant there were probably two more boxes somewhere for the two front fluorescent cove lights, although there might only be one as they are on the same switch.  Again, I vaguely recalled having seen these boxes in the bottom rear of the A-V cabinet behind the driver’s seat, so that’s where I looked first, and there they were.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

Wire taps for joining a new wire to an existing wire.

It appeared that we had a bad ballast and that this would be an easy fix.  The label said the ballast was a Triad made by Magnetek in Huntington, Indiana and had the model number.  Cool.  I could drive over there and get one if I had to.  I went inside to use my iPad to search for sources of supply and found that Magnetek had divested itself of most of their product lines, including this one.  Their website gave the URLs of the various companies that acquired their product lines.  Universal Lighting picked up the DC ballast products so I tried their website but did not find one for an F72T12 bulb.  Ugh.  I searched some more and eventually found a Bodine (Philips) ballast electronic/inverter ballast that appeared to be exactly what I needed…for $98 plus tax and S$H.  Double ugh.

I would eventually like to convert most of the lighting in the coach to LEDs, so perhaps this was the time.  I found a kit with 52.5 feet of LED rope light (~10 LEDs/in) and power cords, end caps, and mounting clips to make up to 10 segments.  The description said the light pattern was 360 degrees and the illumination was 48-60 lumens per foot.  An FTC website indicated that a typical 40 W incandescent bulb puts out about 450 lumens and a 60 W bulb about 800 lumens.  Figuring conservatively at 50 lumens per foot a 10 foot length, folded back mid-point to make a five foot long light source, should give us at least 500 lumens which is plenty of light for this application.  The kit has enough materials to make four such lights and still have 12 feet to use somewhere else, such as around the inside of the face frame of the wardrobe closet in the bathroom.  I ordered it with 3-day shipping.  While I was at it I ordered an Everpure (SHURflo) ADC Full-timer bacteriostatic water filter cartridge with 2-day delivery through Amazon Prime.  I thought about ordering several, but figured I might find them cheaper in Quartzsite this winter.

There wasn’t anything else I could do on the fluorescent fixture so I decided to shorten the cable for the front OTA TV antenna and put an F-connector on the RF coax portion.  I borrowed Butches crimper with the hex jaws and opened the coax cable stripper I bought at Home Depot.  I then discovered that the RG-6 connectors I had did not fit the cable, which was smaller in diameter.  Without different connectors this would be another stalled project with my front TV unusable.  Butch told me there was a Radio Shack store inside McCord’s Hardware and Lumber so I made a shopping list and headed to Logansport.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

New florescent light in cabinet above the refrigerator.

Based on the connectors available at Radio Shack I determined that my cable was probably RG-59 so I got four crimp style F-connectors.  While I was in town I stopped at Home Depot for a GFCI outlet to replace the one in the bathroom, which keeps tripping.  I also spotted some packages of cover plate screws so I got one each of white, almond, and brown.  A quick stop at Walmart for some personal items and I was headed back to Twelve Mile.

When I got back Fonda was just starting to make their dinner so I went to my coach to fix a salad.  I had a large salad of power greens, fresh mushrooms, fresh strawberries, onion, peanuts, and dried cranberries with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing and a small glass of Moscato wine.  I then worked on the F-connector.

It took a while, and a couple of test fits, but I eventually figured out how to strip the coax, folding back the braided shield while leaving the foil shield in place, and get the prepped cable fully inserted into the connector and crimped it.  I stripped the three control wires, secured the little bit of extra cable inside the cabinet, and then connected the coax and control wires to the back of the controller.  Twelve Mile is a long way from everywhere but I figured I would I would test my cable construction by trying to tune in a channel.  The TV was having trouble receiving channel, 16-1 HD until I moved the antenna from position 8 to position 6.  Position 8 is just to the driver side of the nose, so given how I was parked it was facing slightly east of south.  Position 6 was more ESE, and the signal was good except when a truck went by.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

Tarheel HF screwdriver ham radio antenna on motorized lift mount.

I checked with Butch and WNDU 16-1 HD turned out to be a South Bend station.  South bend is north and slightly west of Twelve Mile.  Hummm?  I swung the antenna around to position 14, 180 degrees from position 6 and roughly NW, and had an excellent signal there too (I don’t recall it being interrupted by passing vehicles).  Clearly the F-connector was on well enough to transmit a clean signal.  The only thing I can figure is that my antenna had an unobstructed view of a large house in direction 6 that provided a very usable signal that was blocked by large trucks passing by.  Either way, South Bend is over 60 miles away, so propagation must have been very good this evening.

That was enough for one day.  I gathered up my dirty dishes and camera and returned to the house.  Fonda was just loading the dishwasher so I added mine.  I chatted a while with Butch about the DDEC II code 23 diagnostic procedure and the game plan for tomorrow and then turned in to check e-mail and work on this post.

2014/11/13 (R) Thermal Underwear

I slept in this morning so I skipped making coffee and after my usual breakfast went across the street to Small Town Brew to get some.  I then got to work on one of Butch’s projects.  We kept busy today including, in spite of the cold, some outside work.  Thermal underwear helped keep me comfortable.  I went back to STB and got a second cup of coffee around 10:30 AM.

I spent the morning helping Butch and Fonda with the wire chases for the bedroom in their bus.  Each chase is a pair of boards joined at a right angle to make a horizontal bottom and a vertical side.  They will each be mounted using a pair of aluminum angles, one on the wall for the bottom and one on the ceiling for the brackets for side.  My first task was to drill holes in the aluminum angles approximately every 12 inches.  I then helped position them, drill the holes for the mounting screws, and attach them to the bus.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Testing the DD8V92 fuel temperature sensor.

Fonda and I moved three large wooden tables from the warehouse to the now mostly empty ‘parts room.’  All three of us moved a couple of loaded metal shelving units and then Fonda and I put the wooden tables in place.  I plan to move my all of the stuff I have in the (unheated) warehouse to the (heated) parts room tomorrow.

I worked on some minor projects in my bus and had a tofu turkey sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, lettuce, and onions.  I disconnected/removed the ballast for the bedroom fluorescent cove light and used it to test the hallway fixture.  The light worked just fine which verified that it was a ballast problem and not a wiring problem.  I needed to know that before I went to the trouble of converting this fixture to LED rope lighting early next week.  I put the good ballast back in rear TV cabinet and kept working in there, starting with the installation of the knob for the TV cabinet door.

I shortened the control/coax cable for the TV and installed the crimp-style F-connector.  Unlike the front TV (which was on and receiving WNDU Ch-16 from South Bend over 60 miles away) the rear TV was not able to detect any signals at any antenna direction.  The OTA antenna for the rear TV is in the rear roof tray and the bus is backed into its parking spot, so it is more shielded from radio frequency waves than the front antenna.  The only direction that might be good is straight ahead, which is due south.  Unfortunately there are no TV towers in the direction for a long way.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Magnatek 13.2 VDC ballast for F72T12.

Butch decided to install the plate heat exchanger in the bay just forward of where the Oasis Combi is installed and needed my assistance.  The plate heat exchanger will be used to tie the Combi to the OTR bus heating system (engine coolant loop).  We also discussed possible locations for the coolant circulating pump that he plans to plumb into the OTR heating lines once he determines which line is the supply and which one is the return.

I returned to my rear TV closet projects while Butch started compiling a shopping list.  After stabilizing the back piece of plywood inside the cabinet with a couple of screws I mounted the Pressure Pro Repeater to it using a couple of self-adhesive Velcro pads that came with it.  I then mounted the dual 12 VDC outlet directly below the ballast and installed a small cube relay just behind it using its built in mounting tab.  Tomorrow I plan to connect the outlets to the relay and supply it with 12 VDC to power the repeater.  I also plan to figure out a way to drive the relay from a 12 VDC source that comes on when the 12 VDC chassis battery switch is ‘ON.”  For now, though, I will connect the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contacts so that power will flow to the outlets when the relay coil is not energized.

I was pondering my next project when Fonda let me know that Butch would be ready to head to town shortly.  I was considering how I was going to enlarge the two small openings that allow air to flow from the grate in the rear TV cabinet through the upper parts of the center cabinet and into the driver side corner cabinet where the rear air-conditioner evaporator and blower are located.  At Butch’s suggestion I looked up the specifications on the Carrier air-conditioning units; 14,000 BTUs and 465 CFM air flow.  Requirements for supply and return grates?  At least equal to the square area of the evaporator coils.  The coils are roughly 9″ x 12″, as are most of the grates.  The two small openings in the side walls of the upper closet, however, are 3″ x 10″, not nearly big enough.  This is what happens when buses are converted to “look nice” instead of to “work correctly.”

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

Passenger side rear corner TV cabinet with ballast, dual 12V outlet, relay, AC outlets, and PressurePro TPMS repeater.

I rode into Logansport with Butch where we stopped at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Aldi’s market, and Home Depot.  We ran into Bill Tharpe at O’Reilly’s and saw his car again at Home Depot.  When we got back Fonda was putting the finishing touches on their dinner so I made a salad and selected a can of Amy’s split pea soup and a can of Mandarin oranges.  I returned to my coach, cleaned up the kitchen area, and locked up for the night.  I spent a few minutes studying Butch’s MC-9 manual and finally found the diagram that identified the engine coolant supply and return lines.  That was a nice way to end the day so I retired to my room to work on this post and transfer photos from the last few days to my computer.

2014/11/14 (F) Arctic Oasis Grandma

I bought a dried fruit stolen last night at Aldi’s and had a few slices for breakfast this morning.  No animal products, of course, but a few less-than-desirable ingredients like HFCS.  Still, it was very tasty and not something Linda would be likely to buy at home.  I brewed a pot of coffee with a mix of the Cafe Europe Blend and Columbian Decaf beans from Teeko’s.  I had some with the stolen and drank the rest over the course of the morning.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Stacked plate heat exchanger to left of Magnum 4024 inverter/charger.

Most of our work today was focused on trying to finish the installation of the ITR Oasis Combi in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9 bus conversion, and much of that work was outdoors.  The temperature was around 20 degrees F when we got up this morning and never broke the freezing mark.  It was sunny most of the day, however, without any wind and I was dressed for the conditions so I was generally comfortable in spite of the Arctic air mass sitting on top of us.

My first task was to mount the Zone Controller to the face of the ceiling tunnel above the Combi.  I then completed the cable connections and dressed the cables.  We then pulled the #10 2+g cable from the old Aqua-Hot bay to the Combi and I completed the connections for the 120 VAC electric heating element.  We pulled two lengths of two-conductor low voltage cable from the bedroom closet to the fresh water pump, which is mounted on a vertical plywood plate on the rear wall of the bay next to the Combi.  One cable brought +/– 12 VDC down from the 12 VDC distribution panel in the closet where the negative (DC ground) was connected to the pump.  The other cable was used to route the +12 VDC back to a switch in the closet and then return it to the bay where I connected it to the pump.  With this arrangement Butch has DC + and – in the bay and can add a switch later (or use a jumper) to turn the pump on from there.  Although a bit unusual there is nothing fundamentally wrong with wiring switches in parallel; it just means that ALL switches must be off for the device to be off.

While I was working on the wiring in the Combi bay, Butch and Fonda pulled a pair of #4 welding cables from the battery compartment to the bedroom closet to provide + and – 12 VDC to the low voltage distribution panel.  He and I then pulled the remote panel cable for the Combi from the bay up into the bedroom closet.  He took care of the connections at the remote panel while I took care of the ones in the bay.

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

Oasis Combi Zone Controller (top).

With the Combi wiring done I took a few minutes to move all of the parts and supplies I had stored in their (unheated) warehouse into their (heated) parts room where Fonda had cleared some shelves for me.  By the time I was done Butch was ready to move to the next part of the Combi installation; running the coolant lines.  He discovered that his insulated heater hose would not fit over the fittings on the ends of the fan-coil heat exchangers but might fit if he cut off the enlarged swaged ends.  It turned out that the insulated hose still would not fit so he made a quick run to town for regular heater hose. Sometimes bus projects are just like that and you have to figure out how to make things fit and work.

While Butch was gone I spent some time working in the back TV cabinet of my coach.  I tapped into the +/– 12 VDC wires that supply power to the fluorescent light fixture to provide power to the dual 12 VDC outlets and relay I installed yesterday.  The DC negative went directly to the outlets and the DC positive went to the common terminal on the relay.  I connected the positive lead from the outlets to the NC (normally closed) contact on the relay.  All of the relay connections were made with insulated spade connectors.

When I can get a +/– 12 VDC chassis battery cable to the cabinet I will use it to control the relay and move the outlet positive connection to the NO (normally open) terminal.  With this arrangement, the power for the PressurePro Repeater will come from the house batteries (which are rarely switched off) but the unit will only be on when the chassis batteries are on.  For now, however, we will simply have to remember to plug the repeater in when we are going to drive the bus.

That's our bus!

That’s our bus!

As soon as Butch returned all three of us got busy working on the coolant lines.  First Fonda and I pulled the insulated lines out.  Butch then fed a standard line from the front heat exchanger through the floor to the front driver side bay.  Fonda and I then fed it through the access holes to the rear driver side bay and through the floor to Butch by the rear heat exchanger.  Butch connected the hose to rear heat exchanger.  He then pulled the line back up by the front heat exchanger as we removed most of the slack in the bays and connected it to the front exchanger.  Fonda and I fed a piece of hose along the back wall of Combi bay and up into the bedroom closet where Butch connected it to the rear heat exchanger.  I then routed the hose and Butch connected it to the Combi.  Butch fed a second hose from the front exchanger through the floor and we routed that one to the stacked plate heat exchanger one bay forward of the Oasis Combi.  He connected the hose to the front exchanger and I then climbed into the bay, routed the hose with Fonda’s help, and connected it to the heat exchanger.  Butch fed another piece of hose from the Combi bay to the bay where I was working.  I attached that hose to the heat exchanger and then Butch pulled out the slack and connected it to the Combi.  At that point we had a complete, closed loop with the three heat exchangers in series.  I think that was about when the UPS truck arrived with my SHURflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge for under the kitchen sink.

It was time to make it work; sort of.  Butch had not tied the diesel fuel lines in yet, and the fresh water connections were also not done, but that did not matter.  The next step was to fill the coolant loop with coolant (anti-freeze) and purge it of air.  We thought we had to have at least one of the thermostat circuits active, and thought they worked by grounding the wire coming out of the Zone Controller, but figured out later that we had it backwards.  No harm done, just no good either.  Butch put the 3-way “Summer/Winter” valve in what he thought was the Summer position, which just connects the output (supply) port to the input (return) port, and turned the Bypass switch on the Zone Controller ON, activating the built-in coolant circulation pump.  The Combi was already full of coolant and in this configuration should have just circulated it internally.  Butch was watching the radiator cap and had additional coolant ready to add if any air got purged.  We could hear the pump running, but he could not see any fluid motion in the radiator fill tube.  Hmmm, yet another bus conversion mystery.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Close up of the dual 12VDC outlet and control relay in the passenger side rear corner cabinet.

Butch turned the valve to the Winter position which is supposed to allow coolant to flow through the external loop.  This should have caused a drop in the reservoir level, requiring additional coolant, as the coolant was transferred to the coolant lines, but again, there was no flow.  The two heat exchangers in the house (living room / kitchen and bedroom / bathroom) have bleeder valves to help rid the system of air.  I opened the valve on the rear (bedroom) heat exchanger but that did not help.  Butch decided to call ITR for technical support.  He talked through the details of the installation but they did not have any definitive advice.

All indications were pointing towards some sort of blockage internal to the Combi and Butch thought it might be ice.  Kevin, in Washington passed Butch to Marcello at the factory in Canada, but still no luck.  We decided to turn on the electric heating element and set up a small electric space heater to warm up the bay and the unit while we went to dinner.  We drove to The Old Mill west of town on SR-16 where I ordered a mushroom, onion, jalapeño pizza, light sauce, no cheese, and extra thin crust.  It turned out quite well.  When we got back to the house we gave the Combi another try and it looked like it was going to work, but then didn’t.  At that point we called it quits for the night.  Linda called around 9 PM and we chatted briefly, catching up on the events of the day.  Grand-daughter Madeline finally called her “grandma” for the first time, so she was very excited about that, and it was good note on which to end another long, productive day.

2014/11/15 (S) Houston, We Have Ignition

I was up a little before 8 AM, had some more of the stolen I bought at Aldi’s for breakfast, and made about five cups of Teeko’s Seattle Blend coffee.  Butch and I then got back to work on the Oasis Combi hydronic heating system.

Butch was up earlier than me and drove into Logansport before I got up.  When he got back his first task was to remove the supply and return lines (heater hoses) so he could install shutoff valves.  It turned out that he had the wrong parts and had to go back to Logansport so I rode in with him.  When we got back we finally got to work.  It was chilly but we had another mostly sunny day on tap with light-to-no wind, so working outside was not unpleasant.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Fresh water pump on isolated plywood panel behind Oasis Combi.

Butch got the valves installed and the lines reattached.  He then plumbed in the two fuel lines (supply and return).  Before he turned the unit on I pointed out what I had discovered in the manual last night; that the position of the “summer/winter” loop 3-way valve was the opposite of what we thought it was.  With the valve in the “winter” position, which would allow coolant to flow through the loop with the heat exchangers, he turned on the bypass switch on the Zone Control Board.  The circulation pump came on and the coolant level immediately started to drop in the filler neck, which meant the coolant was being moved into the loop and whatever had blocked this from happening yesterday had cleared up.  He turned the pump off so we could stage one gallon jugs of antifreeze/water mixture to finish filling the system.

Butch suspects there was an ice plug in the domestic hot water heat exchanger which is internal to the Combi box and the first place hot coolant goes before it leaves the unit and travels through the coach.  We also suspect that the use of the 1500 Watt electric heating element last night melted the ice plug.  At least that’s our best guess as to what the problem was.  The reason we thought this was the cause is that the factory apparently tests the units with water and it is probably impossible to get it all out using compressed air.  That is certainly the case with an Aqua-Hot.

Butch prepared six gallons of antifreeze/water mixture and staged them by the Combi.  With a funnel in the filler neck he turned the bypass switch on again and started adding the coolant mixture as the pump pushed it through the system.  Once the system seemed to be full I went into the house portion of the bus and barely opened the bleeder valve on the bedroom heat exchanger.  I got a three second puff of air and then coolant started to appear so I closed the valve.  I repeated this with the bleeder valve on the front heat exchanger with the same result.  These two valves are the highest points in the loop, so air tends to collect there.  The system essentially had no air in it at this point.

fan-coil heat exchanger

fan-coil heat exchanger

Butch hooked up the two fuel lines (supply and return), turned the power on to the unit, and then turned the burner on using the switch by the bedroom utility closet.  We could hear the pump trying to prime but the burner would not ignite.  The unit “flamed out” and Butch reset it several times to no avail so he turned the burner switch off.  We studied the situation and Butch realized that he had reversed the fuel lines.  He switched them and turned the unit back on.  It fully primed on the second try and ignited!  Finally, we had ignition.

Butch rigged up temporary power to the fans on the two heat exchangers and let them run.  The coach eventually got too warm to work and we had to turn the fans off.  We spent the rest of the day, with help from Fonda, completing other aspects of the system installation.  I removed an old mechanical thermostat from the warehouse and Fonda cleaned up an identical one.  We had a third one (different make) that did not need any work.

We pulled three two-conductor thermostat cables from the Combi across the bay and up through a hole in the floor of the bedroom utility closet and then to the three thermostat locations.  We used colored electrical tape to tag the ends of each cable as we pulled it so we could keep them straight later; yellow for the living area, blue for the bathroom, and red for the bedroom.  I mounted one of the thermostats in the kitchen by the front living area, the second one by the bedroom, and the third one in the bathroom.  I completed the connections in a somewhat unusual way.  The cable had a red wire and a white wire.  The white wire was left intact and provided a path from the thermostat to the Combi for DC negative (ground).  The red wire was cut in the utility closet and used to provide +12VDC to the thermostat.  The red wire in the cable from the closet to the Combi was not used.

The Combi came with pigtail harnesses that plug into keyed sockets on the Zone Control Board (box) and have butt splice connectors already installed on the loose ends of the wires.  I completed the thermostat wiring by connecting the wire for the front thermostat to Zone 1, the bathroom thermostat to Zone 2, and the bedroom thermostat to Zone 3.  Butch had connected a wire to the Zone 4 connector yesterday and planned to leave it and connect it to a switch in the bay for test purposes.

With the thermostats wired in Butch worked on the fan control relays while Fonda and I pulled a four-conductor thermostat cable from the Combi across the bay, up through the floor into the utility closet, and all the way up the center isle of the bus to the dashboard.  When then took the cable back into the bedroom and pulled it from the utility closet through the driver-side chase to the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter and then down through the cabinet to the very bottom and out the front facing grill to the front heat exchanger.  We left plenty of cable for hooking up the fan control relay that Butch had mounted on the fan-coil heat exchanger and left an extra coil of cable in the utility closet so I would have enough wire to make connections to the relays for the fans on the rear heat exchanger.

As with the thermostat wiring, I left the green and white wires intact all the way from the front heat exchanger to the Combi.  In the utility closet I removed the jacket from a six inch section and cut the red and blue wires.  The red wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bedroom fan and the blue wire coming up from the Combi was connected to the relay for the bathroom fan, both of which draw air through a common radiator.  These colors matched the colors of electrical tape used to identify the corresponding thermostat cables.  I connected a separate white wire from the DC negative terminal on each relay to the DC negative (ground) bar on the 12 VDC distribution panel at the top of the utility closet.  The red and blue wires from the closet to the front heat exchanger were not used.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

Adding coolant to the ITR Oasis Combi.

I mounted the relays to the outside wall of the closet; bedroom relay to the rear, bathroom relay to the front.  I do things like that when I work on projects like this.  By this time it was dark and Butch had gone inside not feeling completely well.  He was really stressed out yesterday when we were unable to fill the coolant loop and purge it of air and he did not get a good night’s sleep.  Been there, done that, didn’t even get the T-shirt.

It was going on 6 PM and I was done working for the day, the first day since I have been working here that I had finished up that early and the first day that I had not worked on any of my own bus projects.  But that was OK;  Butch and Fonda’s ability to use their bus conversion during the winter with comfort and convenience was directly related to the successful completion of the Oasis Combi installation and it felt good to have it so close to bring done.  I will finish up the little bit that remains to do tomorrow and then install another 120 VAC circuit from the inverter circuit breaker panel to outlets for the bedroom.

I need to mention that Butch has been very pleased with the treatment and communication from International Thermal Research, the manufacturer of the Oasis product line.  He was on the phone with their U.S. sales office yesterday when we ran into difficulty and they transferred him to someone at the factory in British Columbia.  The factory contact sent Butch an e-mail, which gave him an address to reply to, and his personal cell phone number.

Sometime in the late afternoon Bill Tharpe showed up to continue working on Brittiny’s car.  It needs a new intake manifold gasket, which requires the disassembly of the top half of the engine.  Bill really knows his way around cars having worked with Indy and Formula (One?) race car teams over the years.  Around 7 PM we headed into Logansport to have dinner at Pizza Hut.  I had the salad bar and some decent (smooth, mild) decaffeinated coffee.  When we got back to their house Bill got back to work on the engine and I retired to my room for the evening.  Butch and I talked earlier about possibly driving over to the Ft. Wayne Hamvention tomorrow but decided to stay here and continue working on bus projects.

2014/11/16 (N) Death of a Mouse

I was up around 8 AM and had my usual breakfast of homemade granola, some orange juice, and coffee (Teeko’s Seattle Blend).  I still had some of the stolen left, but having had that the last two mornings I felt the need to return to my normal routine.  Right after breakfast I replaced the GFCI outlet in the bathroom.  The old one had tripped a couple of times for no apparent reason and that was just one more thing I did not want to live with.  The old one was feeding two load circuits and had short pigtail wires wire-nutted to the hot and neutral conducts.  GFCI outlets are much bulkier than normal ones so that made for a very crowded box.  The new one had back connectors that allowed two wires to be inserted straight in under one screw and tightened.  That allowed me to do away with the two pigtails and the two wire nuts and make it a bit easier to get the outlet into the box.

By the time I finished installing the GFCI outlet Butch was ready for my assistance.  He finished connecting the fan relays on the front heat exchanger and I finished connecting the fan relays on the rear heat exchanger.   I then tied in the fan relay lines to the appropriate fan control lines coming out of the Oasis Combi Zone Control Board.  With the burner switch turned on I tested each zone by turning its thermostat up until it clicked, causing the burner to ignite, the circulation pump to start, and the fan(s) to come on.  All three zones worked.  Although not as dramatic or emotional as yesterday when got the unit to fill, purge, and ignite, this meant we were done with the Oasis Combi installation (except for some purely cosmetic things that Butch and Fonda may not get to for a while) and that it was fully functional.

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

Top of the Combi showing summer/winter valve lower right (blue handle).

While I was working on the Oasis Combi fan control wires Butch started working on installing a fuel gauge.  The New Jersey Transit MCI MC-9B coaches did not have fuel gauges as they made regular runs of known distances and returned to the same NJT garage every day.  For cross-country RV use, however, a fuel gauge is a very good thing to have.

To install the fuel gauge Butch had to pull the instrument cluster out of the dashboard.  These things are rarely designed/built for easy servicing, and this was no exception, but he got it out.  He had installed the sending unit in the fuel tank a long time ago but never hooked it up.  He managed to run a fishtape up from the driver-side front bay into the area behind the dashboard.  He attached a wire to it and fed the wire in as I pulled the fishtape out.  We then used the fishtape to feed the wire from the driver’s side of the generator bay to the passenger side.  From there the wire had to go through the chassis battery bay to get to the sending unit on the fuel tank.  After drilling a hole in one panel and drilling out two rivets holding an unused fuse holder to another panel we finally had a route for the wire.

There was a blank spot on the instrument cluster where the fuel gauge would have been so that is where Butch installed it.  It took us a while to decode the 24 VDC dashboard wiring diagram but we eventually figured out that there was an unused screw terminal on the load side of the Master Switch just below the fuel gauge that would very conveniently provide the +24 VDC for the gauge.  I made that connection and then Butch connected the instrument, remembering to pass the wires through the dashboard hole first.  In addition to the +24VDC, signal, and ground for the gauge he had to tap into the 24 VDC instrument lighting circuit to power the instrument light and provide a ground connection for that as well.  With everything hooked up Butch turned on the Master Switch and the fuel gauge indicated just below a full tank, which is what he expected.  These kinds of “little” projects sound relatively simply, but they always seem to take a half a day to a full day to do, even with two people working on them.

At this point it was about 2 PM so I took a quick lunch break and had a tofu hotdog with mustard, relish, and onions.  We had hints of snow flurries during the morning that became more persistent after noon.  I was thinking about installing the new Shurflo Everpure ADC water filter cartridge under the kitchen sink and opened the cabinet door to have a look at what was involved.  (Actually, I knew what was involved having done this before.)  This filter cartridge should be the easiest thing in the world to remove and install but that has not been my experience.  The location of the filter head doesn’t make it any easier.  Anyway, I turned on the light and noticed a waded up paper towel in the trash can.  I had not been using this trash can since I realized that the resident mouse had easy access to the area under the sink and regarded the waste basket as a buffet.  I figured I had thrown this used paper towel in there by mistake out of force of habit as I catch myself several times a day starting to do that.  I moved the can and reached in to get the paper towel and that’s when I noticed the dead field mouse in the corner of the trash can.

The mouse was a tiny creature, gray on top and white on the bottom.  I surmised that it had returned to this cabinet looking for the food it had found there on previous occasions, climbed up a carpeted wall or electrical cable, perhaps walked across a drain pipe and, seeing the paper towel moved to the rim of the trash can (the only place I ever actually saw it alive) and either jumped or fell in.  Unfortunately (for the mouse) the trash can did not have a plastic liner bag and so it had no way to escape.  I presume it died of thirst and/or lack of food.  It was not my intention to use the trash can as a trap.  In fact, I had purchased a live trap a few days ago but not yet set it.  My plan was to trap it, unharmed, and release it a couple of miles away near a creek so it had access to water.  Instead, I added it to my real trash bag, tied up the bag, and put it in the dumpster.  Although I was glad to no longer have it roaming around inside the coach, I was saddened to find it dead and to think that it had died this way.  I have no way of knowing, of course, if this was the only mouse in the coach so I will continue to be on the lookout for telltale signs of the presence of mice.

I returned to working on Butch and Fonda’s bus.  While they dressed up some coolant lines and tightened up some fittings on the Oasis I installed four surface mount duplex electrical outlets in the bedroom, two on the back wall above a narrow shelf at the head of the bed, one in the driver side chase at the midpoint, and one at the front end of the chase inside the utility closet.  I turned off the power to the inverter panel, removed the cover, and routed the cable down into the box.  Butch discovered that he did not have any more 20A circuit breakers so I connected the ground and neutral and left the load wire until we had an appropriate breaker.  We were done working in/on their bus for the night, so I left the cover off of the inverter panel and turned the power back on so they would have lights in the front part of the bus

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Fused DC distribution house panel in MC-9 bedroom utility closet.

Throughout the day Butch had been adding to a list of things he needed and at this point the list was long enough, or the items critical enough, that we made a run to town.  By this time it had been snowing for a few hours and it was accumulating on grassy areas and making the roads slick.  Unfortunately the Logansport Home Depot closed at 7 PM on Sunday evenings and we got there at 7:05 PM, having stopped first to fuel up the Suburban.  No problem, we just drove down the street to Rural King which was open until 9 PM and has free popcorn.  Bonus!  Butch found most of what he needed there.  My shopping list was short and easily filled at Walmart where Butch picked up a few other things on his list.

When we got back I made a tofu “turkey” sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, sliced onions, and power greens and got out some of the seedless black grapes.  As I was finishing the preparations Fonda came to the bus to let me know that Linda was on the phone.  I brought everything into the house and chatted with her for a little while.  We then sat down and ate dinner.  After dinner I used Butch’s chop saw to cut my oak center pillar mounting board to length and then set it up on a table in the parts room so I could stain it.  Fonda got the stain, a shallow wide mouth can, a disposable foam brush, a rag, and a pair of disposable gloves for me to use.  I was not very happy with the results, but I will see how it looks in the morning.  I suspect I will end up painting it flat black.  I would really like to get it mounted to the center windshield pillar before I wrap up working on my bus this Wednesday but, given the other things I need to do, it’s going to be close. 


20141030-1102 Fixing Buses in Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2024/11/01 (S) Words

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

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

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

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

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

2014/11/02 (N) An Extra Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/09/27 (S) Eat Cut Eat

Today was VE testing day for our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club so some of the members, who conduct the volunteer examinations, got to breakfast even earlier than usual.  We had a good crowd and many simultaneous conversations.  After breakfast we drove to Ann Arbor to return the charger for the baby monitor.  It got left at our house yesterday when Linda took Madeline home.  Madeline was dressed in her Michigan colors with a blue T-shirt and maize skirt.  She gave me a tour of her backyard and toys and then we all went inside to visit for a while.  Linda and I each got to read a book to her which is always a treat for us.  We all had things to do, and we wanted to get out of town before the football game traffic clogged the streets, so we headed home before lunchtime.

Back at the house Linda straightened up and vacuumed, put together a grocery list, and then went to Meijer’s (grocery store) while I finished cutting the grass around the house.  It took me a couple of more hours, but between yesterday and today I managed to cut all of the newly planted grass and some of the more mature grass close to the house.

It was another pleasantly warm late September day and I used that as an opportunity to start the main engine on the bus.  I let it run for a while with the over-the-road air-conditioning turned on to put a load on it and bring it up to operating temperature, which helps drive off moisture.  Linda got home with groceries while the bus was running and I helped her get those into the house.

I let the bus run on high idle for about 30 minutes with the over-the-road air-conditioning on, which brought the coolant temperature up to its normal operating level.  The oil also warmed up, but not fully.  Before shutting the engine off I backed the bus up about 5 feet to rotate the tires to a different spot.  I turned the a-c off, dropped the idle to low, and let it run another 5 minutes, during which time I drained the auxiliary air tank.  I then switched the suspension system from ride mode to Level Low mode and turned off the engine.  As usual, I turned off the chassis batteries, shut off the auxiliary air to the air-powered engine accessories, and closed the shutoff valves for all of the air accessory circuits in the bay under the driver’s seat, except the circuit for the toilet.  (Yes, the bus has an air-powered toilet.)

I put a load of laundry in the washer and then spent some time at my desk checking e-mail and websites.  I had an e-mail from Gary regarding an article in the upcoming September 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  They decided to run my article on the Parker FPM-50 Fuel Polishing Module project and wanted me to proofread it and respond to a few suggested markups.  I worked long enough for the washer to finish, moved the laundry to the dryer, and then shaved and took a shower.  By the time Linda finished her shower my hair was dry enough to cut, which it really needed.  We then got dressed to go out to dinner.  I checked the dryer but it was taking longer than I expected and clearly would not be done before we had to leave for the restaurant.

We had arranged at breakfast to meet Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (NF8C) Whitney for dinner at LaMarsa in Brighton at 6:30 PM.  Bruce and I both had mango smoothies (dairy free) and we got a veggie tray with hummus to share as an appetizer.  Although two dishes would have been plenty of food for the four of us, Linda (NF8C) wanted to sample their offerings.  There are basically four dishes on the menu we can eat so we ordered one of each.  Each came with soup so we all had the crushed lentil soup.  We had Koshary, Majadra, Ghallaba (garlic almond) and Mousaka (baked eggplant).  (We did not get the spicy version of any of these.)  It took the waitress a while to catch on to the fact that we were not going to order the whole meal at one time, but by ordering our courses one at a time we managed to spend a long time at dinner and had a great chat.

Back home I the set dryer on “Touch Up” and restarted it.  I proof read my BCM article and e-mailed clarifications to the editor and publisher.  I spent enough time on e-mail and websites for the dryer to finish, hung up the clothes, and played with my iPad for a little while.  I was tired enough that I just turned in for the night and did not even work of the blog or play games.  That’s pretty tired.


2014/09/26 (F) Hope Is Not A Strategy

Linda was up at 7:00 AM, I was up at 7:15 AM, and Madeline was up at 7:45 AM.  Marilyn got up later.  Given a choice she’s not a morning/breakfast person.  Linda got up first to prepare the batter for her fabulous vegan blueberry pancakes which she planned to serve with fresh fruit and real maple syrup.

I powered up my iPad2 and discovered that Apple had released iOS 8.0.2.  Apparently I was not the only person having some issues with the release, like sluggish response and a Bluetooth keyboard that quit working properly and then quit working altogether.  I tested the keyboard with my laptop computer last night and it worked fine, so I knew there wasn’t anything wrong with it.  I downloaded the iOS update and everything was back to normal (once I figured out how to re-pair the keyboard).  With any luck perhaps WordPress will also issue a maintenance release today and fix the completely broken drag-n-drop feature of the media gallery.  As Deb Wahlstrom said once in a workshop, “hope is not a strategy,” but when things are completely beyond your control hope is sometimes all you have.

Linda tried to use the griddle that fits over the oblong center burner of the new G. E. kitchen range to cook the pancakes but forgot to turn it down from the preheat setting, which produces a LOT of heat.  It burned the first pancakes firmly to the griddle.  Madeline was already in her high chair waiting for her breakfast, so Linda grabbed a non-stick frying pan and cooked the pancakes in that.  The fact that the griddle and the preheat feature are both new and that there was a certain pressure to get Madeline her breakfast was not an ideal combination for a first attempt at using the griddle.  I doubt that she will make that mistake again, and the frying-pan-cakes were still very good.  The fresh fruit turned out to be bananas, but that was OK; we all like bananas.

After breakfast I played with Madeline while Linda cleaned up from breakfast.  Karen called from Bratcher Electric to let us know that Brandon had called in sick and she needed to reschedule our generator conversion and service for Monday between 1 and 3 PM if that would work for us.  It was not ideal from my perspective as I was thinking about taking the bus to Butch and Fonda’s on Monday, but that could obviously wait until Tuesday or later.  If necessary I could delay taking it until after the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally.

I waited until Marilyn got up at 9:15 AM to make the coffee; we all like our morning coffee.  Linda was busy with Madeline by that point so Marilyn cooked her own breakfast.  There was enough batter left for two pancakes.  She’s always very helpful that way when she comes to visit.  We often have to insist that she just sit, relax, be our guest, and let us take care of things.  It’s really not a bother; we like having company and we do not expect them to work while they are here.  Of course, if they insist on helping with the dishes, who are we to deny them the joy of being of service?

Marilyn started packing at 10:45 AM while Linda gathered up Madeline’s things.  When it was time to load the car for the trip to Ann Arbor my job was to hold Madeline’s hand (actually, she held my finger) and get her out the front door, down the new steps/sidewalk, and over to the car.  (Hey, grandpa-ing is serious work.)  Although she understood that she was returning to her house where daddy and mommy would feed and play with her, she wasn’t quite ready to leave.  She and I “marched” up and down the driveway several times before she was ready/willing to let Grandma Linda put her in her car seat.  She is now big enough that the seat gets installed facing forward, which is a very big deal as she can now see where she’s going in life instead of where she has been.  Marilyn rode in the back to keep her entertained on the drive down.

The weather this week has been spectacular; a classic late September in Michigan with lows around 50, highs around 75, clear blue skies and light breezes.  I shut off the various thermostats and opened up the house.  I spent the early afternoon editing blog posts from the last couple of weeks and then off-loaded photos from our Sony alpha 100 SLR, organized them, and backed them up.  I stopped for a bite of lunch and then decided to have another go at the lawnmower.  If I cannot get it started I will have to take it somewhere and have it repaired.  🙁

I had already installed the new spark plug last night and that did not fix the problem.  I dumped the gas tank out into an open tub and put some of the fresh gas I bought last night into the tank.  I took the tub to some of our woods a good distance from our drinking water well and spread it around on some leaves.  Most of it will evaporate rather than soak in.  Not the most environmentally sound thing to do, but a lot safer than an open tub of gasoline.

Before I tried to start the engine I checked the back discharge chute, out of habit, to make sure the mulching insert was in place.  It was but there was a lot of dried grass as well and it had obviously not been cleaned out the last time it was used.  There was also a lot of fuzzy material mixed in with the grass, a sure sign that a mouse had taken up residence there at one time.  I removed the insert and shook it off into the tub and discovered that it still had a mouse in it.  The mouse was quite dead and very stiff but did not have any obvious injuries and did not emit any odor.  It was in surprisingly good conditions, so perhaps being encased in the dried grass and fuzz helped preserve it.  It was not trapped so it is a mystery why it stayed in there and died.  The mower was in our garage all winter, and although it got very cold (-20 F) the mouse would not have been trapped in the garage either; there are gaps around the doors that would easily allow a field mouse to come and go.  (Now that we have the garage furnace, sealing the doors is on my project list.)

With the discharge chute cleaned up the mower started on the first pull !!!  (This is something Honda has bragged about in the advertising in the past.)  I let it run for a while on high throttle to warm it up and make sure it had fresh gas all the way through the fuel system.  I then brought the throttle back to idle to let it cool off and stabilize and then shut it off.  I did not think it was going to start so I was not wearing my safety goggles or gloves.  I usually wear hearing protectors as well, but I could not find them.  (I realized later they were probably in the construction equipment tub we took with us last summer.  I will look there tomorrow.)  I topped off the tank with fresh fuel and it started on the first pull again.  The new spark plug is a more aggressive design that is supposed to spark more easily and that may have helped.  Whatever the reason, I like how easily it now starts.

I spent an hour cutting the grass in the immediate vicinity of the house.  I focused in particular on the areas that Keith does not get with his riding mower and areas that were disturbed (destroyed) and re-seeded as part of the landscaping work and re-seeded again by me (twice).  The new grass is coming in fairly well at this point although there are still a few thin spots.  And even though Keith mowed most of this new grass on his last visit it was getting tall again.  I was surprised how moist much of the grass was, especially in areas that are now mostly shaded throughout the day, as we have not had any rain in the last week.  Keith had mentioned the last time he was here that the grass was very moist; “…more like April/spring grass than September/fall grass.”  I did not get everything mowed.  I still have to do the two slopes by the retaining walls in the back, which are steep and physically demanding even with a self-propelled mower, and most of the west end of the house.  It will take me at least another hour to finish but I had done enough for today and wanted to relax for a little while before Linda got home.  Besides, it will be there tomorrow, and it should be a nice day to work outside.

Linda called around 4:35 PM and left messages letting me know that she had dropped Marilyn at the airport and was starting for home.  That drive would take close to an hour in light traffic, so I figured I would not see her before 6 PM.  She pulled in the driveway at 6:10 PM.

We had three left over salads for dinner: chickpea; Farro with cranberries, and; wild rice with apples and raisins.  Easy and delightful.  Marilyn texted Linda several times to let us know her travel status.  Her flight was delayed almost an hour but eventually took off and got her safely back to St. Louis, Missouri.  We were both tired and turned in early, but I got my second wind after I located a service manual online for a model of Aqua-Hot that is very similar to the one in our bus and started reading about how to diagnose what might be wrong with our unit.  Based on the symptoms my current best guess is a stuck fuel valve or defective fuel valve solenoid.


2014/09/25 (R) Two M’s

Linda made zucchini bread and muffins a week or so ago.  We ate all of the muffins within a couple of days but she froze some of the bread.  She took the bread out of the freezer last night to let it thaw so we could have it for breakfast this morning.  She warmed it up and made a fruit salad to go with it, along with our usual fruit juice and coffee.  Marilyn took advantage of her visitor status and slept in so we had breakfast without her and she ate when she finally got up.

Madeline in her sofa-bed with her Winnie-the-Poor sleep sack.

Madeline in her sofa-bed with her Winnie-the-Poor sleep sack.

I was working on the electrical outlets in the garage when Brendan arrived at 9:45 AM with Madeline in tow.  Meghan arrived around 10 AM, so Madeline had all the “buddies” here to admire her.  I finished my electrical work, touched up some drywall compound, and then got cleaned up.  I was once again the designated reader and got to read three books to Madeline.  She had lunch at noon and her dad got her down for a nap around 12:30 PM.  Meghan is still experimenting with foods, so she left to do her grocery shopping on the way home.

The "buddies" (L-2-R): Brendan, Marilyn, Meghan, and Linda.  (Not shown: Bruce, taking the photo.)

The “buddies” (L-2-R): Brendan, Marilyn, Meghan, and Linda. (Not shown: Bruce, taking the photo.)

Brendan stayed for lunch and a long chat.  He was thinking about leaving when he decided to check out my old Toyo view camera.  He figured the students in his history of photography class at the University of Michigan had probably never seen one and wanted to take it in for them to see.  He also wanted to have it at his house to play with.  We found it and checked that all the parts were there and he loaded it into his car along with the tripod and dolly (studio roller base).  Madeline started to wake up so he made his exit.  She doesn’t seem the least bit concerned if he’s not here when she wakes up, but is momentarily distressed if she sees him leave.

Flowers along the Mill Pond boardwalk (Brighton, MI).

Flowers along the Mill Pond boardwalk (Brighton, MI).

Madeline is spending the night tonight so we will two M’s here the rest of the day and tomorrow morning.  Linda and Marilyn will take Madeline back to Ann Arbor tomorrow in time for lunch and her 1 PM nap.  Madeline has swimming on Fridays at 4 PM so Linda and Marilyn will leave before that and stop at Whole Foods Market before taking Marilyn to Detroit Metropolitan Airport for her evening flight back to St. Louis.

I took a few minutes to check e-mail while Madeline was napping.  This morning I had tightened up the Wordfence parameters on the FMCA-GLCC site and switched the caching from the faster Falcon Engine to the Basic setting in order to fully activate country blocking.  I only had a few failed login attempt e-mails so I think it made a difference, but only time will tell.  I also white listed our own IP address to make sure we did not get locked out if we mis-typed our login credentials.

Madeline with Grandma Linda on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline with Grandma Linda on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

I had an e-mail from my niece, Amanda, with a couple of pictures of her daughter, Lilly, a very pretty and sweet-tempered child about six weeks younger than Madeline.  We saw them in late June and will like try to visit again en route to the southwest this winter, weather permitting.  If not, we will certainly try to stop in the area on the way back in the spring.

When Madeline awoke from her nap we let he play long enough to fully wake up and then we all went to downtown Brighton.  We walked the boardwalk along the east edge of the Mill Pond and saw a Painted Turtle, an egret, some fish, and lots of ducks and geese.  We then took the pedestrian bridge to the west side of the pond where the playscape is located.  The playscape is a wonderful place with structures built to suggest animals and Madeline explored it thoroughly with Grandma Linda’s help while I took pictures.  It also has an area with chalk boards and a mailbox full of sidewalk chalk that the kids can use to draw.  Madeline spent quite a while trying all the different colors.

Madeline with Grandma Linda at the playscape by the Brighton Mill Pond.

Madeline with Grandma Linda at the playscape by the Brighton Mill Pond.

We stopped by Lowe’s on the way home to return the spark plug I bought last night and get the correct one.  By the time we got back to the house Madeline was hungry so Linda got her dinner ready right away.  For our meal Linda prepared a green salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries topped with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing (one of our favorites) and a one pot meal of quinoa with black beans, corn, and onions.  Linda and I finished the Red Guitar Sangria with dinner (Marilyn does not drink alcoholic beverages).

Madline working with chalk at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madline working with chalk at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madeline played quietly with Linda for a while as I chatted with Marilyn. Before we knew it, it was time for Madeline to go to bed.  The time between dinner and bed always seem short compared to other intervals during the day.  She is always very good about bedtime and went without a fuss.  Linda spent about 30 minutes getting something ready to e-mail to the bakery software vendor while Marilyn played Words With Friends and I researched where we could buy more Red Guitar Sangria.  It is available at the Meijer’s stores in our area and is very reasonably priced so we will probably get some more.  We had apple crisp for dessert after which Linda and Marilyn played three-way online Scrabble with each other and their brother Ron in Pennsylvania.



"I think this color goes right here."

“I think this color goes right here.”

Madeline is a very good-natured and relatively calm child but when she is awake she is full engaged with the world around her.  We were all tired after a long but very satisfying day of visiting and turned in without watching any TV.


2014/09/16 (T) Boiled Over

Our son (Brendan) texted Linda early this morning to see if we would like to have grand-daughter Madeline spend the night while Marilyn is here next week.  It turns out that next week Thursday and Friday are Jewish holidays, and Madeline attends a Jewish run day care facility.  Of course we said “yes.”

Linda worked at her desk on our personal finances in the morning, worked on her counted cross-stitch project for a while in the afternoon, went on a couple of long walks, and managed to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table.  But as days go, it was fairly low key even for her.

I called Country Squire Fireplace and Lighting in Howell and asked for Bob as I had been instructed to do.  It was Bob’s day off but I got to talk to Mark.  Mark told me that they can get a 12′ hose with a 3/8″ flare fitting on one end and quick disconnect on the other end.  The QD includes the male fitting attached to the hose and the female fitting that gets threaded onto the supply pipe.  We already have a female QD fitting (Marshall Brass BC0102-0600) but it may not be compatible.  I had measured before I called and knew that we needed at least an 8′ hose, so 12′ will work just fine, especially since two feet of it has to go up through the base from the back and then out the top of the base and attach to the grill.  Mark asked me to call back tomorrow and talk to Bob to order it, so that is what I will do.

I double checked online that the range we had ordered was indeed a natural gas model.  It was, so there was no need to call the appliance store to confirm that.  I had a call back from Darryll at DCM Heating & Cooling.  He thought he would be able to come back on Friday or Saturday to hook up the gas from the meter to the house and the new black iron pipe and start up the two new furnaces.  All of the other gas conversion work we need done is dependent on Darryll getting his piece done first and I asked him if it would be possible to come on Wednesday.  He said he would check his schedule and see what he could do.  Darryll has been great to work with, and I try not to be demanding, but I cannot schedule other contractors until there is gas to the house.

I checked the label on our Weil-McLain “boiler” that provides heat for our hot-water baseboard heating system and domestic hot water.  It’s a GV-5, Series 1.  That allowed me to hone in on the right manuals on the W-M website from which I was able to identify the part number for the LP –> NG conversion kit.  It’s a 510-811-630 and consists of an orifice plate and an adhesive label that has to go on the unit.  The unit is a discontinued model, but service parts appear to still be available.  I found the conversion kit at the first online supplier I checked for under $31 (plus S&H) but delivery looked to be 2 – 3 weeks.  Ugh.  I placed a call to TOMTEK HVAC in Howell to see if Tom had checked on this yet.  He hadn’t so I gave him the model and serial number of our unit and mentioned that I had found the orifice plate online.

I worked at my desk for a while uploading blog posts from the last third of August, but it was such a beautiful day that I decided to work upstairs on my iPad2.  I called Bratcher Electric around 4 PM just to give them a “heads up” that we had a meter with natural gas.  Karen gave me Mike’s cell phone number and a time window during which I would likely be able to reach him.  He has been very busy doing estimates for storm damage repairs and has not been in the shop much the last month.  I got hold of him to let him know that we might be ready for them as early as next Monday, but anytime in the next couple of weeks after that would be OK.  Again, I try not to be unreasonably demanding, and I try to be truthful with folks.  Sometimes, however, that just results in us being put at the back of a long line of people who are unreasonably demanding.

Linda made maple baked lentils with sweet potato and apple for dinner.  It really hit the spot on a cool evening.  After dinner I continued working on selecting and editing photos for a gallery post on the natural gas pipeline work.  My cell phone cannot receive calls in the basement but it can receive txt messages and notifications.  Tom had called back from TOMTEK regarding the boiler conversion.  He can get the parts locally in about four days and wants $250 to do the conversion plus $59 for the service call.  A total bill of $310 to install a $30 part (retail) sounded excessive to me, so I may make a few inquiries first thing in the morning before I call him back.

We watched Season 5 Episode 5 of Doc Martin.  It was nice to see it on the TV rather than the iPad with a large screen, better sound, a DVD quality image, and no buffering.


2014/09/06 (S) Deliveries

We were up early and off to our SLAARC ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon.  There was a good turnout and good conversation, some of which had to do with our future tower project.  Mike (W8XH) was driving to the Findlay (Ohio) Hamfest tomorrow morning and had room for one more in his car so I decided to go.

Back home we broke down cardboard, loaded it into my car with the rest of our recyclables, and headed over to Recycle Livingston.  Afterwards we stopped at the Howell Bank of America branch so I could get some cash for the Findlay OH Amateur Radio Club Hamfest tomorrow.  A little farther up the road we stopped at Lowe’s for grass seed and bought three plastic tubs to replace the cardboard boxes we have been using on the floor of the kitchen pantry for recyclables.  Lowe’s is at Latson Road and Grand River Road so we hopped on I-96 East over to US-23 and headed south towards Ann Arbor to drop off the window air-conditioner and visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.

When we exited US-23 at Washtenaw Avenue the traffic was worse than usual, and it is usually pretty bad.  Ann Arbor got hit a lot harder by the storms last night than we did and two of the three traffic signals between the highway and Stadium Boulevard were not working.  Drivers were being courteous, and everyone was taking turns, but the traffic volume through this stretch of road exceeds its capacity even when the signals are working.

We got the window air-conditioner unloaded and moved to the second floor of the garage.  We had a nice visit that included reading stories to Madeline.

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

We were going to stop at the Whole Foods Market on our way home but decided to avoid the traffic jam and worked our way through a subdivision up to Geddes Road and back to US-23.  Back home we had a light/late lunch of leftover rice seitan and mashed cauliflower and then worked for a couple of hours getting things out of the storage pod and organized in the garage.  We moved the shelves away from the northeast wall so Darryll could work on the gas pipe when he returns.  We knew when we put the shelves there that we were taking a small gamble that we might have to move them.  Fortunately they slid easily without being unloaded.  We must have the storage container empty by the time we go to bed on Thursday evening as it is scheduled for pickup on Friday.

For dinner we had a nice salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, and sautéed potatoes with onions, garlic, and bell peppers. We finished the no-bake (frozen) double-chocolate torte for dessert. After dinner Linda played Scrabble and Words With Friends while I researched Acme screws, nuts, and related components that we need to get the ham radio tower fold-over mount operational.

I turned in earlier than usual as I needed to be up at 5 AM in order to be at Mike’s (W8XH) QTH by 6 AM to leave for the Findlay Hamfest.

2014/08/26 (T) Dinner With Kate

Darryll planned to be back on Wednesday morning.  He figures two more days to finish everything except the hookups to the gas meter.  I figured I needed to have at least one coat of paint on the east garage wall today to stay ahead of him, so my first task after breakfast was to paint the wall.

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.


Madeline goes for a ride on her new Radio Flyer tricycle.

Madeline goes for a ride on her new Radio Flyer tricycle.

When I was done with the morning painting I did a light sanding of the drywall compound on the outside of the utility closet walls.  After a cursory inspection, I decided it was good enough and went ahead and painted it and then cleaned up the paint tools.  I took care of a couple of minor electrical tasks and then sanded the library side of the former window A-C opening and applied some more drywall compound.  I cleaned up my drywall tools and by 11:30 AM was done with construction projects for the day.

I got cleaned up just in time for lunch.  We had left over Koshary, after which we sat outside and read.  Linda is reading an e-book titled “Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat.”  The book is about the intertwined evolution of cooking technique, cookware, and utensils.  I started reading the September-October 2014 issue of The Gypsy Journal, which I had downloaded on Sunday and e-mailed to our iPads yesterday.


MEF3 steers the Radio Flyer with a little help from her dad.

MEF3 steers the Radio Flyer with a little help from her dad.

We left around 2 PM for our son’s house in Ann Arbor, making a stop at the Whole Foods Market for some dry ingredients.  The reason for our visit was to deliver Madeline’s new Radio Flyer convertible tricycle and visit until time to meet Kate for dinner.  Madeline started day care yesterday, which is a really big deal.  We were curious how the first two days went, and just wanted to see everyone; I think it’s only been a couple of weeks, but it feels much longer.  Today was my lucky day as Madeline decided I was the designated book reader.  She has let me read to her occasionally in the past, but usually goes to her mom, dad, aunt, or Grandma Linda, all of whom she has spent more time with than she has with me.  It made for a very special afternoon for Grandpa Bruce.



The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

We left Brenda and Shawna’s house around 5:45 PM and found ourselves in the middle of the evening traffic jam on eastbound Washtenaw Avenue.  We slowly worked our way east towards US-23 and then turned into a strip mall to pick up some disposable paint tray liners at an ACE Hardware store.  We got back into the traffic flow using a street at the end of the strip mall that had a traffic signal.  Once we were back on Washtenaw Avenue we had more reasonable traffic flow the rest of the way in to Ypsilanti.

After weighing several options, Kate chose the Wurst Bar in Ypsilanti for dinner.  Linda had been their once before with Kate but it was my first visit.  It was well rated on Yelp and the menu had several vegan options.  They also had one of my favorite beers, the Lindeman Framboise, a raspberry lambic ale brewed in Vlezenbeek, Belgium.  They were out of the Lindeman but had another lambic from a different producer.  It came in something that looked like a large sparkling wine bottle and cost $15, so Linda and I split it.  Long before hops were used in beers they were seasoned with fruits and vegetables.  I’m not a big fan of hops, but I like fruit.  The substitute was OK, but not what I recalled from the last time I had this at a restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan.


Grandma Linda's turn to "drive" the Radio Flyer.

Grandma Linda’s turn to “drive” the Radio Flyer.


Kate had recently been to Paris, France and to both Venice and Padua in Italy with one of her nieces and nephews.  She had printed about 40 photos (8×10) for us to see.  While these are inherently beautiful places her photography was, as usual, superb.  The Wurst Bar serves “tots” instead of French fries.  Linda and I had some as an appetizer with vegan sausage crumbles, vegan cheese, and sliced jalapeños. Not health food, to be sure, but at least no animal products.  For dinner Linda had the vegan wurst and I had the Asian tofu burger.  Kate had a regular wurst and a dark beer on tap that she had not had before.  She really liked it, but I did not catch the name.




It's finally Grandpa Bruce's turn to drive the tricycle.

It’s finally Grandpa Bruce’s turn to drive the tricycle.



By the time we were done eating the lights had been turned down and the music volume had been turned up, so we moved to Sweetwater Coffee and Tea a couple doors down the street.  We all had coffee and to our delight they had a piece of vegan apple pie, which Linda took, and a piece of vegan mixed berry pie, which I took.  I really like fruit pies but they have always been a rare treat; all the more so now that we eschew animal products.  So tonight I had fruit beer and fruit pie.




I had planned to put a second coat of paint on the garage walls when we got home but the lateness of the hour disabused me of that idea and I went to bed instead.

Madeline shows her new tricycle to he mommy.  It's not a Subaru, but it's pretty cool.

Madeline shows her new tricycle to he mommy. It’s not a Subaru, but it’s pretty cool.


2014/08/03 (N) Birthdays

Madeline slept well again last night.  She was awake before 7 AM this morning but still a little tired.  Linda warmed her bottle and gave it to her.  She stretched out in Linda’s lap to drink her bottle.  She’s a busy girl and a good eater and is usually up and active as soon as the bottle is done, but this morning she stayed quietly in Linda’s arms for almost 45 minutes playing with her (own) hair and carrying on a conversation.  I think Madeline really likes her Grandma Linda.  I know Linda enjoyed being able to hold her for that long.

Madeline likes her hat and her chair!

Madeline likes her hat and her chair!

The Howell Farmer’s Market opened at 9 AM and we decided to go there and stroll around.  We stayed about an hour and bought a couple of onions and several different dried fruits.  Madeline was curious about everything she saw including a woman playing the guitar and singing.  The Howell Farmer’s Market always has musical entertainment.

Back at the house Linda played with Madeline while I raked out the part of the pull-through driveway the landscapers tore up (as best I could) and then compacted it using the Honda Element (as best I could).  Madeline positioned her little plastic Adirondack chair by the front door and watched me work.  I then started the main engine on the bus, let it air up, and moved it forward about eight feet, but stopped short of the disturbed area.  I reset the parking brake, put it in high idle, turned on the over-the-road air-conditioning, and let it run for 30 minutes to get the engine up to operating temperature.  I then turned off the A-C, let it high idle for a couple of minutes, dropped the idle down for another minute, and shut everything down.  It is not good for big diesel engines to be started up and then shut down before coming up to operating temperature and is not good to shut them down with giving them a few minutes to cool down and let the head temperatures fully equalize and the turbo to spin down.

That's some sunflower.

That’s some sunflower.

Brendan, Shawna, Chris, and Meghan were due to arrive around 3 PM, so there was no way for us to work in the garage while Madeline napped and still have time to get cleaned up.  Madeline laid down for her nap a little ahead of schedule.  While she was napping Linda cut my hair and then prepped the ingredients for a porcini mushroom quinoa risotto while I got cleaned up in preparation for company.  Linda was done prepping dinner by 2 PM and then got ready for company.

At the Howell Farmers Market.

At the Howell Farmers Market.

Madeline awoke just before 3 PM and Linda had her up and dressed in her new Winnie-the-Pooh jumper before everyone arrived a short time later.  Within the span of 15 minutes she suddenly had a house full of admirer’s and had a very engaged and energetic afternoon.


Linda, Meghan, Madeline, Shawna, and Brendan (new steps and sidewalk).

Dinner consisted of a salad, the quinoa risotto, and roasted Brussels sprouts.  The salad was good and everyone liked the risotto; most of us had seconds.  Meghan pronounced the Brussels sprouts roasted to perfection.  The outer layers were crisp like kale chips and the insides were soft without being mushy.  We had fresh strawberries and coconut milk ice cream for dessert.  Chris’ daughter, Katie, was unable to attend because she was “up north” with her mom/family, but it was nice to have the rest of our immediate family gathered for dinner.

Linda, Shawna, and Chris on the front porch (new steps and sidewalk).

Linda, Shawna, and Chris on the front porch (new steps and sidewalk).

There was more vigorous playing after dinner but eventually everyone had to leave.  Once they were gone I picked up toys while Linda loaded the dishwasher and then we relaxed on the deck for a while.  Sometime during the day a “Check Tel Line” message appeared on our phone and we did not have a dial tone.  I decided we should do something about it before we settled in to watch an episode of Doc Martin.  The procedure required us to open the Network Interface Box, unplug the house from the AT&T line, wait 60 seconds for a reset, and then plug in a known good telephone to check for a dial tone.  We have a couple of old phones (not cordless) but could not find them, so we took our cordless base station out and used it.  The problem was definitely somewhere in the AT&T system, not our house.  We filed an online trouble report and were told the problem would be fixed between now and Friday at 6 PM.  We turned in and watched Doc Martin, which we streamed via our AT&T DSL connection without difficulty.


2014/08/02 (S) All Schmoo All Day

Schmoo is one of Madeline’s nicknames.  I don’t know how much her parents still use it, but I thought it was delightfully cute the first time I heard it and I still think of her as Schmoo even though I usually call her Madeline to her face.

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, we have her all day today, overnight, and tomorrow through dinner.  Having Madeline here obviously alters our daily living patterns, which is actually nice for us.  Since she spent last night here we did not go to our usual ham radio club breakfast this morning.  It also meant that we would not get much, if any, work done on our garage project.  Linda is a very good grandmother, and has cared for Madeline by herself for up to five days/nights, so I could get some work done while she is here but I like to interact with her and do not have as many opportunities for that as Linda does.  I managed to do a load a laundry this morning, sneak in a little time to check e-mail, and download photos from Ron & Mary’s Dropbox to our Dropbox, but I did not get to start the Introduction to Linux course.  🙁

Brighton is holding its annual Art and Acoustic Music event this weekend so we decided to check it out after a delicious breakfast of oatmeal with fresh blueberries and red raspberries.  Hacker is closed at Grand River which is down to one lane in each direction for re paving, so we had to negotiate the detour for Hacker Road to Grand River Road via Bendix Road.  We were patient and we eventually got to the heart of downtown Brighton where Main Street was closed from Grand River west for a couple of blocks.  We found a public parking lot south of Main Street that we had not previously been aware of, waited for someone to pull out, and parked.  It was convenient to Hyne Street, which was about the middle of the vendor booths along Main Street.

Madeline takes a stroll at the Brighton at the AAMF.

Madeline takes a stroll at the Brighton at the AAMF.

Madeline was in and out of the stroller for over an hour and got to go for a walk along the Mill Pond where we saw Canadian Geese, Mallard ducks, white ducks, a Great Blue Heron, and Painted Turtles sunning on logs.  We found a very cute sleeveless jumper for Madeline decorated with 3-dimensional Winnie-the-Pooh characters.  It will be her “party dress” for tomorrow.

Madeline on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

We were back at the house by 12:15 PM, had lunch and got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM.  She normally naps for 2 – 2.5 hours so we used that time to work in garage.

First we finished insulating the back/north wall of the garage.  We then cut two pieces of 4′ x 8′ drywall to a length of 70″ and installed them horizontally.  We put the lower piece on first using a 2″ x 4″ stud and shims to get the bottom edge the required distance off of the floor and secured it with 1.25″ drywall screws.  We set the bottom edge of the second piece on top of the first piece and Linda held it in while I got a few drywall screws into it.  I was then able to screw it to the studs.  It was getting close to the end of Madeline’s nap so Linda got her up and dressed while I continued to work.  I taped the seams, and then applied drywall compound to the seams, screw dimples, and other blemishes on the new drywall and the section of old drywall from there to the utility closet.

I need to sand down all of the drywall compound, apply a second/finish cost, let that dry, sand it down, and then apply primer to all of the new drywall, the plywood platform, and the exposed 2×12 on the front of the base in the utility closet.  But with Schmoo here and family coming that will have to wait until Monday.

We played with Madeline until dinner time and then had a fun meal.  She’s a good eater and really enjoys mealtime.  We played some more after dinner and read books before finally getting her down for the night.  She is a persistently active and inquisitive child but is often calm in her approach to the world around her.  She is delightful and it is a joy to spend time with her.

2014/07/27 (N) Attic Access

We had a long day of work today.  We were up just after 7 AM, had a light breakfast of toast, fruit juice, and coffee, read a few blog posts, and got to work.  My first task was to apply a second, light coat of drywall compound to all of the divots in the wall.

Our main morning task was the installation of the fold-down ladder for the garage attic.  It was definitely a two-person job.  Per the instructions, we installed temporary installation boards to support the assembly while we secured it in place.  The installation required one of us to be in the attic and that job fell to me.  We put the assembly on top of a plastic shelving unit to get it close to the ceiling.  Once I was in the attic with all of the tools I would need, including a headlamp, Linda slid the shelving unit so the assembly was directly under the rough opening.  It was still too far from the ceiling for me to reach from above so she placed two footstools under it.  I was then able to reach one end from above and pull it up into the opening while she lifted the other end into position from below.

We read and followed the directions carefully so we already had the pull string and T-handle installed.  That allowed Linda to move the plastic shelves out of the way, carefully open the door from below, and position the step ladder.  I dropped her the cord for the worklight and then had enough light to work comfortably.  We temporarily secured the unit with deck screws.  They were cheap screws and the heads tended to strip easily, but we got them in far enough to hold the unit in place while I installed the lag screws.

The 10 lag screws got installed through pre-drilled holes, six of which went through metal hinge plates.  The instructions said to drill through these holes into the trusses and headers, but the folding ladder hardware made that difficult, and my drill buts were all a bit short to do much.  By cutting the zip ties and partially unfolding the ladder I was able to get all 10 lag screws most of the way in with my drill.  They all had to be shimmed.  The final tightening was done with a socket and ratchet.

We took a break for lunch around 1 PM and had leftover miso soup, tofu hot dogs, and fresh apples.  I made a quick run to Lowe’s to get some additional electrical parts I needed to install lights and a light switch in the garage attic.  While I was there I also bought a baby gate for our basement stairs.  Up until now we have blocked the landing for the basement stairs with a couple of chairs when grand-daughter Madeline has come to visit.  Now that she has successfully spent the night at our house we anticipate many more such visits and wanted a more permanent solution.

The device I bought had a gate with a latch.  It was designed to be installed under tension, but the directions said it had to be anchored to the walls if used at the top of a flight of stairs.  We were not thrilled about mounting it to the walls, but we did.  The installation took about an hour to complete.

Back in the garage I found an old, unopened drywall sanding/finishing sponge.  It had a 1/4″ thick coarse pad on one side for sanding.  The regular sponge side was used to wipe off the drywall and slightly wet the areas to be sanded.  I let the sanded areas dry, wiped everything down, and applied a coat of white exterior semi-gloss to the area of the two existing walls and the ceiling that will be inside the utility closet.

The probability of rain rose steadily though the day and finally resulted in thunderstorms around 4:30 PM.  Steve said yesterday he would be here today and I tried to get him to understand that based on the forecast he needed to be here early.  He wasn’t.  He showed up with the excavator about an hour after the rains, by which point the retaining wall work site had turned to mud.

He took the excavator back there anyway and we watched him work while we had dinner, which consisted of a very nice green salad with strawberries and the rest of the Pad Thai from last night.  (Even left over it was still exceptional.)  He was moving boulders and a lot of dirt trying to get rid of the small mountain range that blocked the flow of water away from our lower deck and was spreading the dirt around in an effort to create some of the final grading.  He brought a helper with him and they had long lengths of drain pipe that I think the intended to install.  But the skies darkened, the rain started, the wind came up, and the warning sirens came on.  He shut off the machine and the two of them made a run for their truck and left.  More rain is forecast for tonight with a chance of thunderstorms, possibly severe.  The probability for rain on Tuesday is currently 60%, and stays at 40% through Wednesday.  At this juncture it appears that they won’t get much work done here this week, and their machine may be stuck here until it dries out.

After dinner Linda and I finally built the base for the platform where the library HVAC unit will be installed.  It’s a 40″ deep x 46″ wide box with center cross bracing.  It’s made of pieces of 2 x 12 on edge.  We set it in the northeast corner of the garage, leveled it with shims, and secured it to the studs in the walls with 3.5″ nails.  I had to make all of the cuts with my Rockwell 8″ circular saw as the chop saw won’t cut something that wide.  I did not cut the plywood platform as I need to install it after the new (west) wall of the utility closet is in place so I can nail through the base into the wall studs.  I will, however, cut the plywood tomorrow before the wall is built as I will be able to set it on the base and trace around it on the underside to get a perfect fit.

My goal for tomorrow is to cut the platform, build the west wall, set it in place and anchor it, and install the platform.  Linda has a 12:30 PM dentist appointment, so I will have to do most of this work by myself.  By that point I will need to get cleaned up, shift gears, and get ready for a 4 PM FMCA Education Committee work session.


2014/07/21 (M) Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Ron and Mary are leaving tomorrow morning so we did our Ann Arbor trip today.  Before leaving we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning, the first time we have used it this year, as the forecast was for a warm, humid day and we wanted it to be comfortable when we got back.  It was also a good excuse to run the system and make sure it really works.

Mattheai Botanical Gardens (Univ. of Mich), Ann Arbor, MI

Matthaei Botanical Gardens (Univ. of Mich), Ann Arbor, MI

We chose the Mattheai Botanical Gardens over the Arboretum primarily based on ease of parking.  The “Arb” is located near the University of Michigan campus in the center of Ann Arbor where parking can be very difficult.  The Gardens are on the east edge of town, somewhat in the country with very little traffic on the access roads, and has parking lots with plenty of spaces.  We still had to pay to park—there’s no such thing as free parking for any facility connected to U of M—but the rates are reasonable and admission to the Gardens is free.


Gardens and Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI

Gardens and Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI

The botanical gardens were very nice with an emphasis on native Michigan plants which we appreciated.  After walking the gardens and conservatory we hiked one of the shorter trails along the stream.  I took quite a few pictures but it was a sunny, cloudless day, so I don’t know if any of them will be any good.  The plants were brilliant to see, but this was certainly not ideal light conditions for plant photography.  We were there for two hours, long enough for a first visit on a warm day, and left in time to have lunch before visiting our son and his family in town.


Mattaei Botanical Gardens

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

We went to Elevation Burger on Washtenaw Avenue west of US-23 for lunch.  EB is an organic burger joint with a couple of veggie burger options, one of which was vegan, and an interesting choice of toppings.  They also have fries and ice cream offerings.  Our vegan burgers and fries were very good.

We arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s around 3 PM to find Madeline already awake from her afternoon nap and visiting with Jake and China.  (Shawna’s mom, Carol, is married to Cliff.  Jake and China are Cliff’s sister’s grand-children.)  Our daughter, Meghan, drove in from Dexter to join the family gathering.  Shawna took Jake and China to see downtown Ann Arbor while the rest of us walked to Burns Park.  Madeline played for about an hour, with lots of help from Mary and Meghan, before we all headed back to the house.  Shawna returned and we visited some more until Madeline indicated she was hungry.  We left around 5:30 PM as Madeline was beginning her dinner.


Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Matthaei Botanical Gardens


Madeline shows her dad where the airplane is (Burns Park, Ann Arbor)

Madeline shows her dad where the airplane is (Burns Park, Ann Arbor)

We were going to take Ron and Mary to downtown Brighton for a stroll on the boardwalk that surrounds the Mill Pond, but we were all tired so went directly home instead.  We had a lovely dinner at home of chickpea salad, wild rice salad, sliced nectarines, and whole grain bread with vegan “butter” spread.  It was an easy meal, as Linda had prepared the salads ahead of time, and the lighter, cooler dishes hit the spot on one of the warmest days we have had this summer (upper 80’s with humidity).  After dinner we played a card game called “Up the River and down the River.”  I’m not much for games, but the other three really like them so I was a good sport and played.   I lost, but I did not care.



L-2-R: Ron, Mary, Meghan, Linda (behind), Brendan, and Madeline (in stroller).

L-2-R: Ron, Mary, Meghan, Linda (behind), Brendan, and Madeline (in stroller).

2014/07/19 (S) A Busy Day

At 7:30 AM we were about to leave for our usual Ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon when we realized some of the landscaping crew was already in the back yard.  I talked briefly with Steve to see if he had any questions for us and to let him know we would be gone for the morning.  We arrived at the Senate Coney Island a little later than usual to find a big group, some of whom were not regular attendees.  We would normally have lingered and enjoyed conversation over coffee, but we needed to get to Ann Arbor for a quick visit and to pick up my socket wrench toolbox from our son.

When we arrived at Brendan and Shawna’s house Madeline was outside pushing her push toy around the front yard.  As soon as she saw us she took off down the sidewalk towards the park.  Shawna retrieved her and got her stroller ready while Brendan and I transferred things out of and in to my car.  We then walked to Burn’s Park where Madeline played for about 45 minutes before we headed back to their house.  We had hugs all around and left.  We stopped at the Whole Foods Market in our way back to US-23 and then headed for home.

Back at the house, four landscapers were working, including Steve, and lots was getting done.  Hurray!  I got busy working on the electrical sub-panel in the garage while Linda made a run to the recycling center.  When she got back she did a load of laundry, which is normally my job, while she cleaned the lower level of the house.

I had to make a trip to Lowe’s for electrical parts and Linda had to make one in the evening to buy some 15 Amp single-pole circuit breakers, but I managed to get the old sub-panel removed, the wires labeled, the new panel hung, and all but one wire reconnected.  That wire needs to be replaced and I will do that first thing in the morning.  We turned the breaker on in the basement that feeds power to the sub-panel in the garage, turned on the main breaker in the sub-panel, and then turned each branch circuit breaker and checked to see that it was working correctly.

The reason Linda had to go get 15 Amp circuit breakers is that I discovered the old sub-panel had 14 gauge (AWG) wires “protected” by 20 Amp circuit breakers.  14 AWG wires are only rated to carry 15 Amps.  If allowed to carry more than that for any length of time they will overheat which could melt the wire insulation and lead to a short or worse, arcing, which can start a fire.  I will be placing those circuits on 15 Amp breakers in the morning.


2014/07/05 (S) Re-Search

Contractors who do outside work, such as excavators, builders, and landscapers are at the mercy of the weather, so they work when they can, and when they can work, they often put in long hours.  For those of us who made our living doing “white collar” work for companies with paid holidays, the 4th of July often meant a 3- or 4-day weekend.  For other kinds of workers, the 4th of July is a day off; one day, and for yet others (think retail) it is just another workday.  It doesn’t matter that it fell on a Friday this year.  The landscapers couldn’t work on Thursday because of the overnight rain.  No work means no pay.  Saturday July 5th, however, was forecast to be great weather for working outside, and with sunny skies and no rain since Thursday, our job site had dried out sufficiently to allow people and machines to work.  Alas, the holiday spirit was with them and they did not show up first thing this morning like I thought they might.

Since grand-daughter Madeline spent her second night in a row with us last night she was still here this morning.  Consequently we did not go to our ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon like we usually do on Saturday morning.  Madeline woke up hungry and Grandma Linda had her bottle warmed up and ready to go.  She had also prepped all of the ingredients for her yummy vegan blueberry pancakes.  Madeline had a little banana and some fresh blueberries while grandma cooked the pancakes and I made the coffee.  We all enjoyed our breakfast.

Madeline Eloise sitting on our fake rock in our front yard (it's the cover for our well).

Madeline Eloise sitting on our fake rock in our front yard (it’s the cover for our well).

After breakfast we played and read and went outside to walk around in the driveway.  Our son called and we figured out who was going to travel where and when to get Madeline back home.  He was working on a project to rebuild their front porch/steps and was involved in painting wood pieces prior to assembling them, so we agreed to drive Madeline to their house in Ann Arbor in time for a light lunch before her usual nap time.  That also allowed us to stop at the Whole Foods market near their house on our way out of town.  A Whole Foods market is the only thing we do not have in the Brighton/Howell/Hartland area that we truly miss.  We would shop there several times a week if we had one nearby.

I managed to sneak away to the basement occasionally to do a load of laundry and install 126 updates on our Linux computer.  The updates involved file downloads totaling just over of 310+ MB so I started the process and let it run.  We get an effective download speed from our AT&T High Speed Internet (HSI) DSL connection of just over 1 Mb/sec or 64 Mb/min.  That is roughly 8 MB/min.  At that speed, 320 MB takes about 40 minutes to transfer, assuming AT&T doesn’t detect the amount of data being transferred and “throttle” (slow down) the speed.  Cell phone companies are known to do this but it is less clear whether AT&T does that sort of thing with their landline services.

We got back to the house at 2:15 PM.  Linda developed a headache while we were out, so she took some meds, put the groceries away, and laid down to rest.  There was no sign of the landscapers and no phone call, so there was no chance at that point that they would show up today.  That was OK with us; it is a holiday weekend and it was their idea to come work today, not ours; I just said it was OK if that’s what they wanted to do.  Apparently they didn’t.  The one thing I was looking forward to was having Steve show me how to operate the Kobelco sk35sr-3 excavator and then practicing operating it by removing concrete blocks, bricks, downed trees, and other detritus from the woods by the road southwest of our house.  Just behind these woods is where they are piling all of the construction debris anyway, so I would be able to position the excavator to allow me to grab most of the trash out of the woods and then swing it over and deposit it on the pile.  Maybe Monday?

Yesterday I posted a question to the WordPress.org support forum for the Jetpack plug-in and I got a reply a couple of hours later that directly answered my question.  I wanted to install/activate the Jetpack on more than one self-hosted website and needed to know if I could use a single WordPress.com account or if I needed a separate account for each site?  I was glad to find out that I only needed the one account that I already have.  The Jetpack plug-in is massive overkill for what I need to accomplish immediately, but some of the reviews suggested that it is so comprehensive it may be the last plug-in I ever have to install.  That is unlikely for a number of reasons, and a bit contrary to the open source nature of WordPress and the international community of developers that support it, but the plug-in does have 33 different “components.”  For most of those features there are other plug-ins available–in some cases lots of them—but this provides everything in a neat package with its own special place on the admin panel menu.

Linda was feeling better after a long, much-needed nap but did not feel like cooking.  She picked up ingredients at Whole Foods today to make mock beef stroganoff but decided to make it tomorrow.  Our go-to for no-prep meals are the various frozen products from Amy’s.  We try to always have a few in the freezer for occasions when Linda does not have the time or interest to prepare a meal from scratch.  Tonight we had the lasagna.  Linda wanted some fresh greens with dinner but did not feel like making a salad so she used a bed of mixed greens as a base for the lasagna.  If that sounds a bit strange, all I can say is that it was very nice for both taste and texture.

I spent more time this evening investigating the WordPress Jetpack plug-in, the result of which was that I deferred installing and activating it.  The attraction of this plug-in is that the Carousel feature works with the existing WP Gallery shortcode(s).  That means it works retroactively with every page and post containing a WP Gallery and that I would continue to create galleries they way I always have using the native WP Gallery functionality.  That sounds like exactly what I need, except that on further investigation I started seeing comments about banner ads, and a feature that allows website/blog visitors to comment on individual images with no easy way to disable it.  The workaround involves custom CSS code.  Ugh.

I kept looking and found a plug-in where the “author” had simply “forked” (extracted) the code for the Carousel function from the Jetpack plug-in and offered it as a separate plug-in.  Ignoring whether that was even ethical, some of the reviews suggested that it did not work correctly and that support issues were not being resolved.  I need something more reliable and better supported so I kept looking and found a very extensive plug-in that was free and had been downloaded over 1,000,000 times!  Now that has to be a great plug-in, right?  Maybe; maybe not.  The reviews were very mixed and many seemed to complain about the constant “tinkering” the author does with the plug-in, issuing updates every 3 – 4 days.

If I was willing to spend money for a plug-in my options would be greatly expanded, but I have looked at those as well and they all have mixed reviews.  The leading contender is the NextGEN Gallery plug-in, but the biggest downside with all of these gallery plug-ins is that they do not work with the native WP Gallery shortcodes which, in turn, would require me to rebuild existing galleries from within the plug-in. The ones that I find the most annoying are the ones with a free version that turns out to just be a teaser; the features I need are always in the “pro” or “premium” version.  An episode of Doc Martin gave me a needed and entertaining break from my research, which is appropriate in this situation as I have searched for a good image display plug-in before and now I am searching for one again.



This is a gallery of images from today’s visit to the Howell Conference and Nature Center in Howell, Michigan with our grand-daughter Madeline, along with a few photos from around the house.  The largest dimension for most of these images is 640 pixels.  Click any image to open the carousel viewer and use the left and right arrows to move through the images.

2014/07/04 (F) Independence Day

Pictures from today are in a separate gallery post with today’s date.

In spite of a ridiculous series of very brief power failures late last night, Madeline’s first overnight stay at our house was a complete success.  She was busy and cheerful all day yesterday, took a nice nap, went for a walk around our yard, and enjoyed a hearty and substantial dinner.  After all that she was ready for her evening bottle and then went to bed without a fuss at 7:45 PM.

She slept for almost 12 hours, which meant we could get up before her at our usual time and get ready for her awakening.  It took her a few minutes to fully wake up, during which time she was a little groggy but not fussy.  By the time Linda got her dressed she was ready for breakfast.  Linda made oatmeal with raisins and cranberries and all three of us had some.  Madeline also had fresh strawberries and blueberries.  Blueberries are one of her current favorite foods, along with peas.

We played with toys, read books, and played (with) the organ until 9:30 AM and then got ready to go on a field trip.  At 9:45 AM we left for the Howell Conference and Nature Center (HCNC).  The HCNC is the largest wildlife rehabilitation and permanent care center in the State of Michigan, and is located about eight miles south and slightly west of the heart of downtown Howell.

We were there for just over two hours and spent most of that time looking at a lot of animals including the following:  Coyotes; a Sandhill Crane; Whitetail Deer; owls (Screech, Saw-whet, Barn, Barred, Snowy, and Great Horned); a Wild Turkey; Bobcats; a Porcupine; Opossums; Turkey Vultures; an American Kestrel; hawks (Broad-winged and Harrier); a Peregrine Falcon; and American Bald Eagles.  Although HCNC rehabilitates wildlife for release back into the wild whenever possible, all of the animals we saw today were permanent residents due to injuries and/or habituation to humans that have made it impossible for them to survive without human care and protection.

After we were done with the Nature Walk and Raptor Center we explored Alexandria’s Playscape for 20 minutes, by which time we needed to start for home in order to have time for some lunch and still get Madeline down for her nap on schedule.  Linda rode home in the back seat to keep Madeline engaged so she wouldn’t fall asleep and this proved to be a very successful strategy.  We all had lunch and Linda got Madeline ready for her nap without a fuss.  Once Madeline was asleep Linda also laid down to rest for a bit while I started a load of laundry, booted up all of my computers, and installed updates.

Madeline had a good, long nap and was ready to tackle the last third of the day when she finally woke up.  We played with her new set of Lego Duplo blocks for a long time.  She enjoys taking them apart but this afternoon she figured out how to assemble the square ones.  She has a very good attention span for an 18 month old, but her attention naturally shifts in response to a stimulating environment.  She is always busy, and often in motion, but takes a break occasionally to enjoy one of her books.  She is also very independent and usually knows what she wants at any given moment.  She is, however, also open to suggestions and interacts very well with us.  She verbalizes quite a bit and is developing vocabulary.  We know this because she has a few words that we are able to understand and she uses them correctly and consistently.  She has a lot of other sounds that are clearly an attempt to communicate using speech, but she can’t quite form the words well enough yet for us to really understand what she is trying to say.  Sometimes, however, we can figure it out from the context of what is going on and what she is looking and/or pointing at.  We also discovered that she knows the names of colors as she consistently picked out the correct color Lego block when we asked for it by color.

For dinner Linda made a dish with baked beans, rice, carrots, onions, and celery.  I doubt that she will make it again as none of us seemed to like it that much.  My opinion was that it simply contained too much cinnamon.  After dinner we went for a walk around our property and saw a deer in the neighbor’s yard across the street.  When we got back to the front of the house we let Madeline explore the inside of the bus for a few minutes.  By 7 PM she was ready for a clean diaper, pajamas, and her evening bottle.  She fussed for about 10 seconds and then let grandma carry her to her bedroom where she looked at the paintings before yielding to her porta-crib for the second night in a row.

We have been hearing fireworks occasionally for the last few days, but starting around 8 PM things got cranked up and between 9 and 11 PM I thought we had inadvertently attended a major fireworks display.  I have written before about how much we like living in the country, but I have also written that the country is not always a quiet place; it just has a different kind of noise.  Usually that noise is the sound of nature, and we love it.  But occasionally it is an all too human sound, such as a gun being fired, or a dog barking.  But tonight we had fireworks, and a lot of them.  At our previous house the police would have showed up, and maybe the fire department too, if someone tried to fire the size and quantity of explosives we heard tonight.  Not out here in the country; big bonfires (burn piles) and big fireworks are apparently perfectly OK.  So is shooting a gun whenever you feel like it.

The house is not overly insulated, but Madeline was sleeping in the middle bedroom with the door and windows closed and the windows covered to keep out light while she naps during the day, so the fireworks did not wake her.  I felt bad for the cats, who spent most of the day in the basement or hiding in our bedroom to avoid contact with Madeline.  She gets very excited when she sees them and runs after them because she wants to pet them, which just reinforces their desire to be somewhere else.  When they finally came upstairs after she went to bed they had to endure several hours of explosions, which they were not used to and did not like.  The celebrations were mostly concluded by 11 PM and finally settled down completely by midnight.


2014/07/03 (R) First Overnight Visit

I awoke this morning to the sound of light rain which had started sometime during the overnight.  The landscapers were supposed to be back first thing this morning to continue working on the retaining walls in the back, but the rain had made the work site muddy enough that I figured they would not be here today, which turned out to be the case.  The clouds cleared off by mid-morning and by early afternoon the site had dried out enough that they could have continued with the hand work.  With tomorrow being a holiday, however, I did not expect them to begin their workday at 1 PM.

After we had breakfast I left around 10 AM to drive to Adams Distributing in Novi to return a pair of battery chargers.  I visited with Scotty (AC8IL) for a while discussing his ham radio setup.  Since getting back into the hobby after many years he has done very well making DX (long distance) contacts all over the world.

I got back around 11:30 AM and our son and grand-daughter showed up shortly thereafter.  Today was Brendan and Shawna’s third wedding anniversary and we all agreed it was an opportune time for Madeline to have her first sleepover at our house, allowing her parents some much needed adult only time.  Brendan brought the porta-crib and portable stroller, and transferred the car seat to Linda’s car.  Brendan visited until it was time for Madeline’s nap and left once she was asleep.

Madeline had a good long nap and woke up refreshed and ready to go.  And go she did; we played with toys, read books, explored the main floor of the house, and went for an explore in the yard.  We have a five acre parcel, so it was an extended exploration.

For dinner, Linda cooked some Dr. Praeger’s vegan burgers and served them with sliced parsnips with sautéed in a small amount of water and quinoa with dried cranberries.  Madeline enjoyed all of it, along with some peas and strawberries.  I have not had parsnips very many times in my life.  When sautéed they taste like slightly peppery cooked carrots, which tend to be sweet.

We had more play time after dinner until 7:30 PM when Linda got her ready for bed and she had her evening bottle.  She was tucked in her porta-crib at 7:45 PM and quickly drifted gently off to sleep.  Brendan also brought their baby monitor and set it up, so we were able to keep an eye on her without opening the door to the bedroom and possibly disturbing her.

We stayed up a little while longer and then turned in around 9:30 PM to watch another episode of Doc Martin.  At 10:12 PM we lost power for a few seconds and a minute later it happened again.  We received a couple of e-mail notifications from our standby generator regarding the loss of utility power but never got one indicating that the generator had started.  Apparently the outages were too short to trigger the start sequence.

Even though most of the critical electronics in the house are connected to uninterruptible power supplies, I got up and shut down all of the computers, NAS units, and the laser printer.  The power flickered a couple more times but we never lost our Internet and were able to watch the last 10 minutes of Doc Martin.  Our last message from the generator indicated that it would stop notifying us of the situation until the fault had cleared for 24 hours.  The generator ran a successful self test at noon today, as it does every Thursday, so I was confident that it would start if needed.  We had a power outage while we were away this past winter during which the generator started and the automatic transfer switch transferred the house to the generator, so I was also confident that all if this would work if needed.

The worst part of this kind of momentary power outage is that the UPS units all start beeping (an alarm) as soon as they lose AC power.  It’s kind of like a smoke detector or other alarm going off; it tends to jolt you awake and once up it is hard to go back to sleep as you lie there anticipating the next alarm.


2014/06/30 (M) Happy Birthday L

Today was Linda’s “Medicare minus one” birthday and she started it off by Facetiming on her iPad with our son and grand-daughter.  I put the coffee on to brew and joined the Facetime session.  Madeline was initially engaged in consuming a great quantity of blueberries and getting most of them in her mouth.  She was obviously feeling much better than the last time we saw her.  Breakfast was followed by a good face washing and then active exploration of the house and the wearing of adult size flip flops, which is one of the most fun things to do at the moment.  Their plans for the day included her first visit to the local water park, which has hours reserved for very small children.

Linda called the dentist’s office and got a call back just after 9 AM.  They said they could see her at 1:30 PM and she accepted the appointment.  A little while later I went outside to get the mail and discovered a fawn curled up on the door mat in front of our front library doorwall.  Its eyes were open and it was clearly alive as it watched me carefully but did not otherwise move.  I searched online and found a list of wildlife rehabilitators on the Michigan DNR website.  It was arranged by county which made it easy to locate Diane Solecki in Pinckney.  She was listed as specializing in fawns so I called her and she talked me through what to do and what to look for and directed me to her website where she had all of that information, and a lot more, for our reference.

Linda and I went out to examine the fawn according to the directions Diane gave us.  To our surprise, as soon as we started to handle it, it got to its feet, ran away to the east, and disappeared into thick cover.  That was probably unfortunate for its survival, but its odds were not very good where it was, lying exposed and very visible in the hot sun all day.  Per Diane’s instructions Linda mashed some strawberries with bread and put it over by the woods along with a bowl of water in the hope it would find it and eat and drink.  There was plenty of evidence of deer in that area so there was also some small hope that the mother might wander through there on her regular circuit and find her baby.  I checked the bowl and paper plate several times but there was no sign of it having been visited by any animals.

I got a call from Steve at Village Landscape Development letting me know they had to attend to another job first thing this morning and would be at our house around noon.  He called back around 3 PM to let me know it would be tomorrow morning between 8:00 and 8:30 AM.  It was hot and humid today, and by 3 PM the workers were drained.

Since today was Linda’s birthday, and she was still sore and tired from not sleeping well, we went out for dinner.  There is a salad shop in Brighton named Toma’s.  I had been there once and based on Trip Advisor reviews she wanted to try it.  As we were pulling out of the driveway we noticed an adult deer go into the woods to the west of our neighbor’s yard across the street.  There is a lot of evidence of deer in and around our yard and neighborhood but we only see them occasionally.  We wondered if it might be the fawn’s mother but there was no way to tell.

At Toma’s we each had a “create your own” salad with a piece of grilled pita bread.  The cook reversed our greens, but we didn’t realize it until we had each eaten half our salads. Our waitress was delightful but a bit math challenged.  I gave her $16.50 to cover a $16.29 bill and had to help her make the change.

We stopped at Staples on the way home to get a pad of large graph paper.  I am drawing plans for an alternative design for the bus barn that might make it easier for me to build myself.  Back at the house I spotted an adult deer lying down by the marsh at the NE corner of our yard near NW corner of the pond to our east.  I spent the rest of the evening editing photos from Saturday to post on our blog.  We had vegan ice cream to celebrate Linda’s birthday.


2914/06/20 (F) Couch Potatoes

Over the last few months I managed to connect our friends and fellow Prevost H3 owners, Chuck and Barbara Spera, with our friends and fellow Prevost XL owners, Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Chuck was looking for a sofa to replace the one in their motorcoach and Pat and Vickie had one they were looking to sell.  Today was the day for consummating the deal, which necessitated a road trip from the Detroit, Michigan area to the Elkhart, Indiana area to pick up the couch, pay for it, and bring it back to Chuck’s shop.

Chuck and I drove down in his Ford Excursion.  I went along to keep him company, for the opportunity to catch up on a lot of conversation, and to help load and unload the couch.  We arrived in Elkhart just after noon and grabbed a quick bite to eat at Burger King.  I had French Fries, thus today was about couches and potatoes.

While I was away on the road trip, Linda went to Ann Arbor to visit our 18 month old grand-daughter and her parents (our son and daughter-in-law).  By dinner time we were both tired so we had Amy’s Pad Thai and turned in to watch two episodes of Doc Martin.  We did not get to watch any episodes while we were at the rally in Goshen, Indiana so we are catching up.


2014/06/01 (N) Farmer’s Market

As of today I have been “retired” for two years.  It has been a very busy, and very satisfying, couple of years and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon.

Madeline in her Junior Park Ranger outfit.

Madeline in her Junior Park Ranger outfit.

Starting around this time of year the Howell Farmer’s Market sets up outdoors every Sunday morning around the old courthouse in the heart of downtown and operates from 9:00 AM to ~1:00 PM.  During the colder months the market moves indoors and only operates every other week, featuring crafts and prepared foods, such as baked goods, jams, and pickles rather than locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.  When we were both still working we used to spend Sunday mornings at Panera.  We still go there on occasion, but if we are around, and the weather is nice, we prefer to spend an hour walking through the market and buying locally grown fresh organic produce.

Our son, Brendan, called last night to check on our health and we suggested that he and Shawna, and Madeline drive up in the morning and we could all go to the Howell Farmer’s Market and then visit at the house.  Shawna is deep into her professional life as a professor and researcher at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and is currently putting her tenure package together, so Sunday is not really a day off for her.  Brendan drove up with grand-daughter Madeline and met us at the market around 9:45 AM.  She was finally big enough to wear the “Park Ranger” outfit we bought for her at Yellowstone National Park last summer.  Too cute.

Madeline in her new Adirondack chair with matching table.

Madeline in her new Adirondack chair with matching table.

June 1st is still early for the fresh produce that will eventually be available in abundance at the Farmers Market, but it’s a great time of year for locally grown organic asparagus.  Linda bought some to use for dinner along with onions, potatoes, and eggplant.  One of the things we like about the Howell market is that several local area farms set up stalls and sell produce they harvested the day or two before.  Other vendors sell fresh baked goods that they made or preserved foods that they personally prepared.

On our way to the market we stopped at Meijer’s to get a blow up beach ball for Madeline to play with in the yard.  While we were there we found a small plastic “Adirondack” chair with a matching table that she was just big enough to use.  Back at our house she picked up quickly that this was her special chair and seemed to enjoy using it.  Brendan and Madeline stayed until about 12:30 PM.  She is usually down for her only nap by 1:00 PM, so Brendan changed her outfit, got her buckled into her car seat, and headed back to Ann Arbor.

Madeline and her dad.

Madeline and her dad.

We had a light lunch after which I decided to work on our fire pit project.  I am not sure why I felt I had to do this in the afternoon sun on an 84 degree day, but I did.  I believe my thinking was that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and thought the physical activity and deep breathing would be good for me, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment at getting some blocks set in the ground nice and level.  The base course is where all the work is; it requires digging a trench in the dirt and then filling  it in with gravel and sand and compacting it to create a proper base that allows the first course of block to be firmly planted, fully supported, level side-to-side (block-to-block), and sloping back slightly towards the inside of the curve; all while making the curvature of blocks as circular as possible.  I worked all afternoon, with help from Linda, and by 4:30 PM had seven first course blocks set with six second course blocks on top.  We are building the fire pit into the side of a slight hill, so the second course of blocks will be the first one that forms a complete circle and should take about 28 blocks for the diameter of fire pit we are creating.

Madeline knows about cameras.

Madeline knows about cameras.

We are using the blocks for the fire pit from the old retaining walls by the basement walkout as these walls are being replaced with low boulder walls with proper drainage and grading.  We will have many more of these blocks than we can use in the fire pit project and most of them will be used to edge planting beds around the house.

We have been thinking about getting an umbrella for our patio table so Linda looked for one online.  Lowe’s had a selection, so we headed to our local store to see what they had in stock.  We found one we liked, got a base to go with it, and picked up four bags of paver base and two bags of paver sand.  There is a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the forecast, but if we get a break on the weather we will have the materials on hand to continue working on the fire pit tomorrow.  We would also like to get a small street-legal utility trailer that we can tow behind the Honda Element and the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  Lowe’s did not have anything like that so we stopped at Tractor Supply Company.  They had what I was looking for, sort of, but they were not street legal (no lights) and used a pin rather than a ball coupler.  We will keep looking.

Looking to the north.  There is a lot yard in that direction.

Looking to the north. There is a lot yard in that direction.


Linda made roasted vegetables for dinner (asparagus, onions, potatoes, and eggplant with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper) and served it with a simple green salad and a side of “power grains” consisting of red and white quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.  We finished off the evening with Season 1, Episode 3 of Doc Martin on Amazon Video, which we get as part of our Amazon Prime account.  Our AT&T High Speed Internet is not very fast, but it seems to be able to keep up with streaming video to an iPad, at least most of the time.




Lots of yard to play in at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Lots of yard to play in at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

2014/05/21 (W) A Twilight Zone

Linda has been ill since last Thursday with a cold and/or allergies.  Until yesterday I had managed to avoid her symptoms, but in the morning I started sneezing and in afternoon I developed a cough.  It wasn’t a response to a tickle in my throat from post-nasal drip, it was the deep raspy cough that comes from the lungs and makes them hurt.  By evening the cough had become productive.  I have not been sick in a very long time and the one thing I try to avoid getting is pneumonia, which I have had three times in the same spot of the same lung.  The scar tissue there makes me more susceptible to re-infection, and I take my nasal spray and allergy pill every day to avoid sinus problems which can settle into my lungs.  Until Tuesday this had been very successful.

We both had a very poor night’s sleep last night and got out of bed feeling like we were in a twilight zone.  Instead of coffee I had a big cup of Tazo Ginger Spice tea.  The warmth and ginger taste were soothing and I figured it could not hurt to stay hydrated.  I put a load of laundry in the washer (I only have two loads to go) and then had a large glass of orange/grapefruit juice.  Linda also had some tea and then gathered up clothes for the next five days.  She will be watching grand-daughter Madeline around the clock until Sunday when her parents return from San Francisco, California.

I checked on my new laptop and the Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop (ACCD) app showed that Photoshop had been successfully installed; at least it showed that in one place, but in another place it said I had no apps installed.  Hummm?  I did not see the icons at the bottom of the screen but the one thing I have learned about Windows 8/8.1 is that I can go to the Start (Metro) screen and start typing and I usually get directed to what I am looking for.  I noticed a little arrow in the lower left corner of the screen that said “4 new apps.”  I clicked on that and it took me to the screen where all if the installed programs are listed and there they were!  I opened Lightroom and registered it and then opened Photoshop; twice.  It appears that I have a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version.  I’m not sure why, as my new laptop has a 64-bit processor, but they are both listed.

I got out my iPad2 but did not have the energy or interest to even play a game and lay down on the couch to take a nap.  Linda had a couple of hours before she had to leave for Ann Arbor, and made a batch of her super special granola.  I got a call from Kimber at GM Construction letting me know that Gary would not be able to stop by the house today to look at our pole barn project.  He had to go up north for family reasons.  Given how I felt it was for the better.  He will stop by on Friday or sometime next week.

I didn’t feel like sitting up but I was tired of lying down, so I had some granola, sans soy milk, and worked at my iPad2.  I have been keeping up with writing my blog posts, but not with posting them.  I want to select a few photos from the Escapade to include in the posts but have not felt like going through them.  I shot over 2,000 images during the event.  Linda keeps suggesting that I only write weekly posts when we are home.  It seems like that would be easier, but I have tried that and it’s not.  For one I lose track of details, and sometimes even the day/date something happened.  I also found that the weekly posts just ended up being very long.  What I really need to do is focus on writing shorter posts.  But as a weblog, the blog is first and foremost an online diary, so the details I include are there because they are important to me at the time.

Although I did not feel like doing it, I forced myself to select a dozen photos from the 15th and 16th and post process them.  I have everything I need to upload my posts for the last week except the energy and desire.  UPS showed up around 5 PM with the mirror from Prevost.  I spent most of the day lying down on the couch and finally went to bed around 9 PM.


2014/04/30 (W) MEF3 At The Park

Here are 12 photos of our youngest grand-daughter at the park with her dad and grandma Linda.  Click thumbnail to view entire image.  Maximum dimension is 448 pixels.  Enjoy!

2014/04/29 (W) Normality?

When we got home on Monday, the bus and I had been away from the house for 128 days (130 days including the day we left and the day we returned) spanning portions of five months.  We moved into our new (to us) house on April 12th, 2013.  From May 1st of last year through the end of April 2014 we were in our motorcoach 214 of those 365 days ( +/- a couple of days).  Not bad for our first year as extended-time RVers and our first snowbird season.

Although we are still relative newbies at extended-time RVing this past year allowed us to develop a reasonable understanding of how to make it work for us.  But now we are home and that entails a different pace and rhythm to which we have had to quickly adjust.  First and foremost was letting folks know we were back and arranging visits with family and friends.  After that we have to deal with dentist appointments, veterinary appointments, doctor appointments, car appointments, computer upgrades, WordPress websites, photo editing software, ham radio club breakfasts and meetings, a communications tower, ham radio antennas, an OTA TV antenna, a cell phone repeater system, landscaping projects, fruit trees (pruning), a pole barn, conversion of the house to natural gas, and a list of bus projects (of course).  All by December 1st.  Right.

Gus the cat.  Look closely; he has the longest whiskers I have ever seen on a cat.

Gus the cat. He has the longest whiskers I have ever seen on a cat.

Today was dental appointments followed by a detour to Ann Arbor to visit with our younger grand-daughter and her parents.  I’ve put some photos from that visit in a separate gallery post.  We stopped at the Whole Foods market and picked up something for lunch as well as ingredients Linda needed for making granola.  Madeline was napping when we arrived, so we got to visit with Brendan for a little while, but once she woke up she was ready to go.  It was 70 degrees F outside so we put her in the stroller and took her to the park that is the centerpiece of their neighborhood.  She spent a lot of time walking and running in the grass, up and down concrete ramps, but especially climbing the stairs for the slides and then sliding down.  Not long after we got back to the house Shawna got home from work and Madeline got a lot of mommy interaction.  By that point it was rush hour and we decided to stay for dinner.

No one was prepared to cook and rather than get carryout or delivery we decided to go to The Lunch Room, a relatively new vegan restaurant in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district.  Linda had a vegan mac & cheese and I had a mock Rueben made with Tempeh and a cup of vegan tomato bisque soup.  Everything was very good, including the vegan desserts: a grasshopper brownie for Linda and a no-flour chocolate cupcake with a Bourbon / Caramel / Pastry Cream frosting for me.  All of the food was very good and reasonably priced, which is not always the case in Ann Arbor.  By the time we got home and I took a phone call, there wasn’t much of the evening left.

So the new normal for us is not one or the other, it’s both/and; figuring out how to balance two very different ways of living and, in particular, how to flow back and forth between them as easily, smoothly, and quickly as possible.  But that may be just the sort of challenge our brains need to remain agile as we begin our forth score of years.


2014/04/29 (T) A Family Visit

Our son decided to bring his daughter to visit with us this morning.  They arrived around 10 AM and left around 1:30 PM.  This was the first time I have seen her since December 16th.  Linda got to see her when she was back in Michigan in late February and early March.  Madeline was one year old when I last saw her and was crawling.  She is now 16 & 1/2 months and walking like she invented it.  She seems to take great pleasure in her independent mobility for its own sake; pure joy.  She also loves to go up and down stairs (with adult supervision, of course).  She is curious about everything and took great delight in exploring the main floor of our house.  It was an excellent visit.

I made a run to the post office and used my 2m mobile ham radio while in transit.  Mike, W8XH, came back to my call and we had a nice QSO.  It was good to finally be back on the air.  I stopped at Teeko’s and ordered 2 lbs each of our two custom blend coffees for pickup on Thursday.  These are half regular, half decaffeinated blends that Jeff roasts right in the store from his amazing assortment of green beans.  Sweet Seattle Dreams is 1/2 Seattle Blend (reg) and 1/2 Sweet Dreams (decaf), and we were the first customers for whom Jeff ever made thus blend.  It’s a blend of two blends, so it has at least four different coffee beans, maybe five or six.  He told me once, but I have forgotten.  The other blend is all Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.  Both are excellent.

I did some research on laptop computers while Linda pulled together something for dinner.  She got a Samsung ATIV Book 8 a year ago.  It is a fabulous machine: 64-bit Intel Core i7 (Gen 3) microprocessor, Windows 8.1 (64-bit), a 15.6″ diagonal touch screen (16:9 aspect ratio), backlit keyboard, and lots of ports including USB3.0 and HDMI, but no internal optical media drive, so we bought an external one.  She especially likes the touch screen as it makes the computer work more like her iPad2.  I decided to get the Samsung ATIV Book 6 which had very similar specifications to the Book 8.  After dinner we went to the Best Buy store in Brighton to see if they had either of these machines.  When I went to the Samsung website and looked for a store near my location the only thing that came up in SE Michigan was the Best Buy chain.

Best Buy in Brighton has some people in their computer department who seem fairly knowledgeable.  I asked about the differences between Win 8 and Win 8 Pro and got a fairly technical answer.  The Best Buy chain also has small Samsung stores-within-a-store staffed by Samsung employees.  The bottom line was this:  Best Buy did not have, and could not order, the Book 6 and had one Book 8 in the store.  It had the Gen 3 processor but the Gen 4 has been available for a while.  It became clear from the discussion that Samsung has not released an updated laptop in a while and may be getting out of the laptop business.  We also found out that Sony has sold off their computer line to someone, and that Dell has not released or announced new products in many months following a private equity buyout and their continued presence in the laptop market is highly questionable.  I had Allen, the computer sales associate, show me what they had and it came down to a choice between a Lenovo (formerly IBM) and an ASUS.  ASUS actually makes the own computers as well as the excellent Nexus tablets.  I opted for the top-of-the-line model G750JM notebook computer.  At least it was top-of-the-line in terms of what Best Buy carries in their stores.

The G750JM has a 17″ diagonal HD (1900 x 1080) matte finish screen.  It is not a touch screen, which was fine with me.  The size is big enough that I can work with spreadsheets and edit photographs.  The matte finish screen means it will work well in the bus where there is a lot of light during the day and reflections can be a problem.  While the newer 4K (retina type) displays are stunning, they are only available in the smaller 13″ screen size and are often packaged with smaller capacity, but much more expensive, solid state drives (SSD).  The G750JM has a 1 TB HDD.  The HDD includes a 16 GB SSD that is primarily used to buffer the OS.  It has 8 GB of very fast RAM that is upgradable to 32 GB should I ever feel the need (and the price of 16 GB RAM modules comes way down).  It was the only laptop in the store that could be upgraded to that much RAM.  A maximum of 16 GB was the norm.  The video/graphics is powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M with 2 GB of VRAM.  The computer has built in WiFi, of course, four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a LAN port, a bunch of other ports, and a built-in CD/DVD player/writer.  Basically, this machine is aimed at high end gamers, but that also made it well-suited to the things I need to do with it, and it was only $50 more than the Samsung Book 8.

We unboxed the machine as soon as we got home and plugged in the battery and AC power adapter/charger to bring the battery up to full charge.  Unlike older laptop computers the new ones do not require the battery to be installed in order to operate.  I would never run it without the battery, however, as the battery provides a built in UPS in the event of a power glitch.  We powered it up and it found our various home WiFi networks.  We selected one and proceeded with the initial configuration, personalization, and registration steps.  Part way into this process a fast moving storm front brought intense lightning, thunder, and high winds so we wrapped up what we were doing, shut down, and unplugged.  Ditto for all of our sensitive (read data storage) devices.

Based on my limited exposure to the computer thus far I am very satisfied with the purchase.  It will take me some time to get it fully configured and switch over to using it as my primary computer, but with the end of support for Windows XP I need to get it done sooner rather than later.  Truthfully, setting up a new computer, especially one with a (radically) new operating system, is not at the top of my list of really fun things to do.  It is inevitable, however, and always yields significant rewards once I get over the initial hump in the learning curve.  It is also an opportunity to start clean and exercise moderation with the objective of having a more streamlined and efficient operating environment that allows me to focus on the things I really need to do.


2014/02/08 (S) Uptime

We had heavy rain off and on overnight and woke this morning to steady showers so I decided to delay doing the laundry until later in the day.  After making the morning coffee, which serves as Linda’s alarm clock, I finished my blog post for yesterday and updated the BCM page of our website while Linda concentrated on her counted cross-stitch project.  The amount of time that goes into a handcraft project like this is considerable, but she enjoys it and actually finds it relaxing.  The recipient of this effort will be our 14 month old grand-daughter (and her parents) who took her first unassisted steps yesterday.  Her parents captured it on a cell phone camera and sent it to us.  Although Linda is not looking forward to returning to S. E. Michigan weather, she is eager to see Madeline and wants to have her cross-stitch project finished, or close enough to done that she can finish it while she is home.

Our BCM website page has a reverse chronological listing of all the issues of Bus Conversions Magazine that contain articles I have written.  Today I added the listings for the January and February 2014 issues, including the Special Edition of the January issue that BCM produced for distribution via the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) newsletter.  The January issue cover story was my article on the GLAMARAMA 2013 rally back in September 2013 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana.  The February issue cover story was my article on the Arcadia Bus Rally 2014 that was held at the Turner Agri-Civic Center in Arcadia, Florida December 29 – 31, 2013.  I posted extensively about these two rallies and those posts are still available in the blog archive.

Bus Conversions Magazine is continuing to evolve under the ownership of publisher Gary Hall and editor Mike Sullivan.  Starting with the January 2014 issue the digital edition now contains additional content and features not found in the print edition.  Although Gary hopes/plans to expand the print edition, he needs more subscribers and advertisers to justify the added printing and mailing costs.  The digital edition, however, now features additional photographs and clickable advertisements with plans to add links to videos and other content as it becomes available.  Starting with the February issue, the digital edition is now available in Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) versions as PDF files.  The difference between the SD and HD versions is the resolution of the photographs, which the reader can click to enlarge.  Both versions are available to online subscribers for download but only the SD version is available as an e-mail attachment; the HD version must be downloaded from the BCM website.

In the afternoon I updated the accounting records and roster for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter and did a small load of laundry.  I heard some additional complaints about the park Wi-Fi.  We can connect and log in with our individual devices and we can connect our WiFiRanger, but not log in.  The technician told me a few weeks ago he had not done anything to specifically block a device like a WiFiRanger (booster/repeater) but I suspect he has.  An e-mail to WiFiRanger is in order to see if they are aware of any way a Wi-Fi system could detect that their device is something other than just another Wi-Fi client.

We had an Asian soba noodle dish with tofu and scallions dish for dinner that we bought at the Earth Origins market in Gainesville earlier in the week.  We finished dinner at 6:30 PM, poured a couple glasses of moscato, and headed over to the fire pit.  As seems to be the pattern there were more people than last night, maybe 30 at any given time with a little bit of turnover.  Kevin had a good fire going and John brought his guitar.  John is recovering from something respiratory and still doesn’t have his singing voice back, so tonight became a sing-along.  We met another first-timer WCRVR couple from South Bend, Indiana who owned the KOA there until 2005 and I had a nice chat with the husband about the business of running a campground.  A couple from London, Ontario sat down next to Linda and she had a nice chat with the wife.  By 9:00 PM the declining heat of the fire wasn’t keeping up with advancing cool of the evening and we retired to our coach for the evening.


2013_12_25 (W) Season’s Greetings From Florida

Publix grocery store in SW Gainesville, FL.

Publix grocery store in SW Gainesville, FL.

What do extended-time RVers do on Christmas day?  Pretty much what they would do at home, except for visiting/hosting family.  It got down to 33 degrees F overnight, so we had the spirit of winter if not the actual thing.  That was still above freezing and much better than the 9 degrees F in Howell, Michigan.  Linda put her knit cap on and went for a walk before breakfast.  With the way people are bundled up here she didn’t want to show off by walking without her hat.  We may not be overly concerned with fitting in, but there’s no reason to make people feel bad on Christmas day.  We both went for a couple of walks later in the day.  There are pictures of the RV resort throughout this post that do not necessarily relate the text.

Looking north from site #439.  This will be our front window view.

Looking north from site #439. This will be our front window view.

This was our 7th day on the road and as we are leaving Williston Crossings RV Resort tomorrow for a week we needed to do a load of laundry.  One of the Laundromat buildings is fairly close to our current site and even closer to our long-term site when we get back.  Like everything else here it was clean and well lit with commercial washers and dryers in good condition and all functioning properly.  I took care of the laundry after breakfast, as I would have done at home, while Linda started working on our holiday meal, as she would have done at home.  At some level life on the road is just life, and there’s a certain comfort in that, but with more variety of new experiences which is why people do it.  We have been determined from the beginning that our extended-time RVing would not be an extended vacation.  Although we plan to do plenty of sight-seeing while we are in Florida, so far we have been quite comfortable with just sitting in one place and relaxing.

Looking south at site #439 in the south section.    The trees will provide shade.

Looking south at site #439 in the south section. The trees will provide shade.

Linda’s first culinary task was to make her vegan chocolate cake.  She had not packed vegetable oil, so she used avocado oil instead.  The batter (I got to clean the bowl) did not have any unusual taste, so we expected the cake to be very good when we finally had some for dessert.






The fire pit in the south section, not far from site #439.

The fire pit in the south section, not far from site #439.


We turned on the dash radio and were able to tune in the Gainesville NPR station with a good strong signal even though the antenna is 20 miles away.  Not bad considering that our radio does not have an antenna at the moment!  It was removed as part of redoing the roof in 2011/12 and has not yet been replaced.  So at this point we have fast Wi-Fi, a good selection of over-the-air TV stations (including the PBS trio), and good radio signals (including NPR).  This place just gets better and better.

Walkway from the fire pit to the south section laundry room.

Walkway from the fire pit to the south section laundry room.

With our outstanding Wi-Fi we decided to try contacting our children using Facetime on our iPads.  We connected with our son and daughter-in-law first.  Our grand-daughter was having a late morning snack of teething pretzels and “freezy peasies” (frozen peas).  She seemed to recognize us and smiled and waved in-between gumming pretzels and peas.  She got very excited when our male cat, Jasper, wandered into the frame, so it was pretty clear that she recognized the images she was seeing.  Facetime is going to allow us to stay in touch with her development while we are here, which is very nice.  We then connected with our daughter and had a nice chat with her.  She was baking rolls for later today when she and her husband were getting together with her brother, his family, and a friend.

[R 693 The south section bath and laundry room.]

[R 693 The south section bath and laundry room.]

We bought a Tofurkey yesterday to have for our main dish today.  Linda had not tried to cook one in a convection/microwave oven before, and the cooking directions advised against microwaving it, so this was a bit of an experiment.  She made cranberry-orange relish yesterday from our remaining fresh cranberries.  Today she made a green salad which we ate an hour before our main mean.  She convection roasted the Tofurkey and it came out great.  While it was relaxing she microwaved a couple of yams and sautéed some asparagus spears to complete the side dishes.  We had a bottle of Early Season White Cranberry Wine from Forestedge Winery in Laporte, Minnesota to round out the meal.  Of the many non-grape wines available from Forestedge Winery, this is one of our favorites.

Yes, there is a shuffle board court.  Isn't it lovely?

Yes, there is a shuffle board court. Isn’t it lovely?


It may be Christmas day, but chores have to be done when they have to be done.  Even though we have a full-hookup site at the rally in Arcadia we wanted to leave Williston tomorrow with empty holding tanks and a full fresh water tank.  You never know if the facilities you’ve been promised will actually be functional when you arrive.  I attended to these tasks after dinner.

Clubhouse on the left, pool house on the right, golf carts in the middle.

Clubhouse on the left, pool house on the right, golf carts in the middle.

After an early evening stroll through the RV resort we had vegan chocolate cake with fresh strawberries for dessert.  As expected, the cake was excellent.


2013_10_23 (W) Williamston MI Bus Garage

Today started out complicated but settled in as it progressed.  Linda had to babysit today as we were still out of town on Monday and our daughter took Monday instead.  Normally Linda would just get up and drive to Ann Arbor, but our son borrowed her car just before we left for Tennessee and still had it.  She could have taken my car had I not needed it.  But I did, so I got up early and drove her to Ann Arbor.  But first I started a load of laundry.  (Even retired people sometimes have to multitask in order to get everything done that needs doing.)

An early morning trip is always an excuse to stop at Panera, especially as we so rarely do this anymore.  Bagels and coffee in hand we were back on the road.  I’m not driving all the way to Ann Arbor and not see my grand-daughter, so stayed for a while and watched her play.  She is a very active 10-month old and was either looking at her book collection or crawling around the living/dining rooms the whole time.

I eventually headed back to the house, put the laundry in the dryer, cleaned the cats’ litter tray (but forgot to feed them), gathered up the various things I needed to take with me, loaded them in the car, and reconnected it go the bus.  The laundry wasn’t dry yet, so I spent some time repositioning the stakes that we placed last evening to mark the outline of the bus barn and driveway.  It took longer than I expected, but that’s almost always the case, so I am used to it, and OK with it.  I hung up the dried clothes and prepared to drive the bus some 40+ miles WNW to Williamston, Michigan.

The reason for the trip to Williamston was that our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, was already there working on another customer’s coach.  The customer had a 2-bay bus garage with heat; no small thing given that overnight lows were forecast to hit freezing or below.  Joe had all of his tools unpacked there, and was staying in the customer’s coach, so it was a much better place for him (and me) to work than our driveway.

Joe was wrapping up a conversation with John, one of the seven (7) partners in the partnership that owns the coach, so I unhooked the car while they talked.  I got to meet John and see the coach, a Prevost XL-45 LeMIrage “entertainer” conversion.  It was a nice conversion and they have had Joe do a fair amount of work on it.  John had never seen a motorhome bus conversion, so I gave him a brief tour of ours.  I also showed him the generator bay as they are also facing a soundproofing redo.  As a token of appreciation for letting Joe work on our bus in their garage, I gave John copies of the February and May 2013 issues of Bus Conversions Magazine and the summer issue of The Gypsy Journal.

Joe and John concluded their business and I 3-point turned the bus and pulled it into the left bay of the garage.  I then pulled my car into the other bay.  We unloaded tools and parts, raised the bus high enough to get the stands under it, and set it down on them.  Joe needed food so we went to get lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant.  Joe had a full meal while I had a salad of dark greens (mostly spinach) with sun-dried tomatoes and olives and a homemade Italian dressing.  It was quite good.

Linda called to let me know that two boxes had arrived from Prevost as promised.  I asked her to drive them out to where we were, which she did.  Joe then put me to work removing the “beauty rings” and lug nut bling from the wheels, after which he started removing the outside dual tires/wheels and the tag axle tires/wheels so he could install the Centramatic dynamic wheel balances.

While Joe muscled the tires around I dug out my metric hex wrench set and tightened the outside rear view mirrors.  (Prevost Car, Inc. is located in Saint Claire, Quebec, Canada and their coaches are an interesting mix of U.S. and metric parts.)  The passenger-side mirror, in particular, had been just loose enough for a long time that it vibrated while driving (slightly irritating) and wouldn’t hold its position (very irritating), dropping down beyond the limits of its remote adjustability to the point where I couldn’t use it to see down that side of the coach (dangerous).  Like many “little things”, however, I kept forgetting to fix it once we got home as we are very busy immediately after returning from a trip.

I opened the garage door to call Linda and check on her progress only to discover that it was raining lightly and watched the rain turn to snow right before my eyes.  When I arrived there was a little bit of graupel falling.  Welcome to Michigan in October.

Linda arrived with the parts, visited for a few minutes, and headed back to work on thank you cards for our open house guests.  Joe removed the driver-side outside drive tire, examined the oil leak evidence, and said he thought I only had a gasket leak.  He pulled the axle flange and we discovered that it didn’t have an axle flange gasket.  The last time someone worked on it (before we owned it) they used “form-a-seal”, a thick liquid that you squirt out of a tube like caulk or toothpaste, and it was obvious that there were areas where no effective seal existed.  Joe said that this is a “common” practice, but his preference was to use the appropriate gasket, several of which I now have in stock.

We cleaned off the remnants of the old form-a-seal and then Joe reassembled the hub, installed the wheel balancer, and reinstalled the outer dual tire.  I cleaned the oil from the inside of the beauty ring, as we did not want the old oil residue making us think we still had a leak, and then Joe reinstalled that as well.  We were short one washer, it was late, and Joe was tired, so we called it a day.  I packed up and left, taking one of the washers with me so I could buy more of the correct size.

I stopped at the Home Depot in Brighton, found the split-ring lock washers I needed, and finally got home around 8:30 PM.  Linda had picked up an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza.  It is absolutely the best vegan pizza I have ever had.  It was real treat and a good end to a good day.