Tag Archives: Nick Russell (Gypsy Journal)

2015/12/19 (S) A Gypsy Journal Milestone

We were up a bit later than usual last night and did not get out of bed until 8:15 AM this morning.  The temperature outside had dropped to 36 degrees F overnight and it was cool in the coach which was one of the reasons we slept well and lingered under the covers (where I had my heater pad turned on).  I put my sweatpants and sweatshirt under the covers to warm them up before getting up and putting them on.  Linda just braved the chill and put on her sweats without warming them first.  She’s tougher than I am.

We like to keep track of the weather back home and in other places where we have friends, like Quartzsite, AZ, and the weather apps on our iPads and smartphones make that very easy to do.  At 10 AM EST it was 25 at home going up to 28 with an overnight low of 23.  Here in Williston it was 48 going up to 62 with an overnight low of 39.  Arcadia, where we will be in January and February, was presently 58 going up to 73 and dropping to 55 overnight.  Four hours farther south actually matters in Florida, which has four somewhat distinct climate zones.  Quartzsite, 2,000 miles west of us, was 38 (at 8 AM local time) going up to 67 and dropping back to 39 overnight.  All things considered Williston was a pretty nice place to be this time of year.

Once I was up I fed the cats, who always insist that their needs are met first, and then turned on the three thermostats for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, set the temperature controls, and turned on the diesel burner.  I made a pot of coffee and Linda started cooking oatmeal for our breakfast.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

We were done with breakfast by 9:30 and Linda had the dishes cleaned shortly thereafter.  We doodled on our iPads while we enjoyed the rest of our coffee.  Nick Russell sent out the link for the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal yesterday.  I forwarded it on to our iPads last night and we downloaded it to our devices this morning.  It is the 100th issue that Nick has published and the last one he will produce on newsprint.  Starting with the March-April 2016 issue the Journal will only be available in digital form.  That will not be a problem for us as we switched to the digital version only several years ago, but it is sad that smaller specialty publications cannot survive in printed form.  I think it is inevitable that Bus Conversion Magazine will also go digital only, if it survives long enough to make that switch and then survives the transition.

Nick has had a small army of friends take bundles of newspapers and leave them in RV park offices on their travels and has picked up new subscribers that way, but the newspaper is well enough positioned at this point, with a large enough subscriber base, that he should continue to do very well.  Even if the number of subscribers levels off, or even shrinks slightly, his profitability should increase nicely now that he is rid of the printing and mailing costs.

Nick and Terry will also have what we called “found time” at the education agency when some task, meeting, or other commitment on our time evaporated and we suddenly, and unexpectedly, “found” time to work on other things.  As highly mobile full-timers Nick and Terry were always arranging for printers in different parts of the country, picking up the newspapers, folding and stuffing them in envelopes, printing address labels and putting them on the envelopes, and taking them to a post office, as well as carting around the extras and leaving them in campground offices or giving them to friends to distribute.  All of that took a lot of time; time they can now use for other things.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Yesterday Linda was looking at the website for Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida where we will be in January, February, and early March.  She ended up looking at the AllStays Camp and RV listing for the resort and discovered a photo of OUR bus that I took two years ago in our site here at Williston Crossings RV Resort!  The information attached to the image pointed back to our website as the source and said “…the image may be copyrighted.”  I have looked at ways to add a copyright notice to all of the images on our website/blog but never implemented one.  I guess I really should.

After breakfast we opened the packet of felt chair leg caps and put four of them on the folding card table chair we use at the desk.  It looked like they would do just what we needed them to do so we removed the towel we had been using to protect the floor.  My focus today was working on our blog but first I spent a little time updating my spreadsheet for our spring/summer 2016 water bay project.  I uploaded seven blog posts a few days ago but have been concentrating on selecting and processing photos since then.  This morning I decided to resume working on posts.  My goal was to finish editing the posts for the remainder of August (2015), select the spots to insert the selected photos, clean up the writing, and start uploading them to the server.

We took a lunch break at 12:45 PM and had mock deli slice sandwiches on flatbread and split a fresh apple.  Linda started to work on her counted cross-stitch project for grand-daughter Katie but realized the larger grid base material she bought was too small.  She found something on Amazon that would work and ordered it for delivery on Tuesday.  She then searched online for someplace in the area to buy a Tofurkey vegan mock turkey roll.  It looked like Earth Origins in Gainesville sold them so she decided to drive into town and get one rather than wait until next week and risk not having any available.  I stayed behind and continued working on my blog posts.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular.  Ahhh, December in north central Florida.  This is why people come here in the winter.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular. Ahhh, December in north central Florida. This is why people come here in the winter.

With the outside temperature only rising into the low 60’s we kept the motorcoach closed up today.  By 2 PM the temperature in the front half of the coach was a very pleasant 76 degrees F.  It was cooler in the back as most of the window area is in the front half of the bus, including the large southwest facing windshields.

Linda returned from her trip to Gainesville with more than just a vegan mock turkey roll.  Besides the Tofurkey brand products Earth Origins also had Gardeine brand products.  We have had other Gardeine products that were very good so she decided to try their mock stuffed turkey roll.  As long as she was there she picked up a half dozen other frozen entrees to try.

I had just finished editing the posts for August when Linda suggested we go for a walk.  It was 4 PM and the late afternoon light was nice so I took the camera.  We only made it a couple of sites up the road and stopped to talk to the new arrivals from Alaska.  We had no sooner resumed our walk when Linda got a call from Diane.  John had surgery recently, and will be off work until after the holidays, but is recovering nicely.  We strolled along slowly while they talked and I took a few pictures.  I wore my sweater but the sun was already behind the trees and I was pretty quickly uncomfortably cool in the shade.

We crossed paths with John and Ali and stopped to chat for a while.  We learned last night at the campfire that Jeff and Kathy’s dog Teddy had succumbed to his lymphoma this past Sunday.  Teddy was very sweet and we know how difficult it is when a pet dies.  We also learned that Jeff had been taken to the hospital in Ocala and was scheduled to have a colonoscopy earlier today.  The report back from Kathy was that he might have colitis.

When we got back to our rig Linda made hot hibiscus tea.  I had planned to upload some blog posts today but I had spent enough time in front of my computer for one day and sat on the couch with my iPad for a while instead.  I rarely take naps but I am not opposed to the idea.  I laid down at 5:15 PM and dozed until Linda got me up at 6 for dinner.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort.  That’s one happy girl.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort. That’s one happy girl.

After dinner we both changed into warmer clothes and Linda packed our wine to take to the fire circle.  We got there a little before 7 PM, later than usual, but the only people there were John, Big Mike, Jim (Sonny Fox), and Tom (from Hilton Head, SC).  Another couple, who have the site just east of John and Ali, showed up just after us but that was it for the evening and John did not get his guitar and perform.  Besides the much cooler weather there was a dinner/dance at the clubhouse this evening, so John had anticipated a smaller than usual crowd.  That was nice in a way, both for him and us, as we got to talk more than usual.

The temperature had already dropped into the lower 50’s at 7 PM.  In spite of our best efforts we were not able to get the fire really hot, and did want to build it too large, so by 9 PM it had dropped into the mid-40’s and everyone had left except for me and John.  I spread out the fire and put the implements in the shed and John locked it.  He joined Ali at Jeff at Kathy’s fifth wheel trailer, where Ali was visiting with Kathy, and I walked back to our rig.

Linda was in her sweats with her blanket over her legs reading her latest e-book with a cat on her lap.  I changed into my sweats but did not feel like doing much of anything.  I flipped through TV channels but did not find anything that caught my interest.  PBS was running a Peter, Paul, and Mary 50th anniversary special, which would normally have been very interesting to me, but it was a fund raiser made up of old clips, interviews, and pleas for money and I just was not in the humor.

The temperature in the coach had dropped to 68 but we both felt a little chilled so I turned on the front thermostat and Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  I made a cup of hot decaf chai tea, played a few games on my iPad, and worked on this post before finally going to bed at 11:30 PM and going to sleep.


2015/11/29 (N) Cartersville to Mayo

I got up at 6 AM, fed the cats, turned on the engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back until 7:20 when I got dressed.  Linda was awake at 6 but fell back asleep and did not get up until after 7:30 AM.  We had toast and bananas for breakfast but no coffee or tea.

We had 342 miles to travel today to get to John Palmer’s place northeast of Mayo, Florida.  He operates Palmer Energy Systems (http://palmerenergysystems.com).  We had already driven almost 700 miles, not all of it due south, of course, so we estimated that we were at least 600 miles farther south than our house.  It may not seem like that much on a planet with a 24,000 mile circumference but it’s enough to make a big difference in the climate and weather.  I was going to check/adjust all of the tires before we left this morning but the temperature was only slightly warmer than when we left home.  The TireTraker TPMS seemed to indicate that the tires were OK (although I do not trust the readings I am getting) so I just inspected them visually.

Once again we targeted an 8:30 AM departure time and actually pulled out of our site at 8:35.  As soon as we pulled onto I-75 southbound we were in heavier traffic than I expected and it only got worse the farther south we went.  It was reasonably smooth sailing all things considered, those things being:  construction zones, dense traffic, sunshine (we were driving south, more or less), and drivers who didn’t know how to use an entrance ramp to merge onto a freeway.  The last one is one of the banes of my bus driving experience.

We only stopped twice.  The first stop was around 11 AM at the rest area near MM179 (south of Atlanta) to use the bathroom and give the cats a chance to do the same.  The second stop was at the rest area near MM59 around 12:30 PM.  We stopped long enough to have a snack of sliced apples, have something to drink, and use the bathroom.  It also gave the cats a chance to eat, drink, and use the litter tray.  I called John to get final instructions on how to get into his place.  That turned out to be a useful call; he confirmed that we would not have any problem with US-129/FL-51 traffic circle in Live Oak, Florida.  He also gave a specific tip to “pull off the road into the ditch (on the right) to swing wide enough to make the turn (to the left) onto his street from the county road.”

Because we were stopping for more than a few minutes I shut off the engine.  The Battery Balance light came on as I was pulling into the rest stop.  This light does not come on very often and usually only stays on for a few seconds and then goes off and stays off.  When I first turned the ignition switch on in Berea it came on and stayed on for several minutes but then turned off and stayed off.  It did not come on this morning when I first turned the ignition switch on in Cartersville, so I thought we might be OK (although I did not really believe that).  With the engine off (alternator not running), but the ignition switch on, the 24V and 12V gauges indicated less than full charge voltages.  I did not recall having ever seen that condition before.

We were back on the road by 1 PM with the OTR A-C turned on.  As always the A-C Low Pressure warning light came on occasionally but it always went off after a relatively short time.  Of more concern was the Battery Balance light, which went on and off for the next 40 miles.  Sometimes it would flicker but other times it would stay on for a long time.  Not good.

Caution and warning lights always add an element of stress to driving the bus, but Linda experiences it too from the co-pilot/navigator seat.  She knows that it stresses me and she can see the lights from her seat, so she knows what is going on at the same time I do.  In spite of the warning light the rest of the trip was smooth and uneventful.  We had much less traffic as soon as we exited I-75 onto US-129 in Florida.  We encountered a bit more traffic and had a slow roll through Live Oak, Florida.  Once we were on FL-51 headed south towards Mayo, Florida we had almost no traffic.  We crossed the Suwannee River twice, the second time just north of Mayo, and shortly thereafter made our turn onto CR-354 and headed east parallel to the river.

We found John’s street and followed his advice on how to get the bus in.  The problem was that the County Road was not that wide and John’s street was even narrower.  It also had signs on posts on each side right at the shoulder of the County Road.  That geometry meant that a long vehicle could not cut the corners and had to pass fairly straight between the sign posts.  The grassy shoulder was wide enough, before dropping off slightly into a drainage ditch, that I was able to get the passenger side tires well off the road and the driver side tires to the edge of the pavement.  It was also firm enough that I was not concerned about the passenger side tires getting stuck in soft soil.  I stopped and lifted the tag axles, to shorten the turning radius, and then pulled forward until I was looking down the road out my side window.  I then turned the front wheels to the left all the way to the stops and slowly made the turn.  I judged it just right, something I have gotten better at doing with experience, and we made it in without difficulty.  That was good because we had the car in tow behind the bus and could not back up.  If I had not made the turn we would have blocked the County Road for at least 10 minutes while we unhooked the car.  We slowly worked our way up to the buildings at the end of the road and I left the bus running while I went to find John.

John was in his trailer but heard me calling and came out.  He drove me through the parking approach in his Kubota utility cart and dropped me back at the coach.  I got it parked in a spot that had afternoon shade, leveled it, and shut the engine off while Linda opened a couple of windows and a roof vent.  John wanted to give us a tour of the property so I did not turn off the chassis batteries or close the air valves the way I normally would on arrival, but took care of that when we got back from our tour.

John is the caretaker for 400 acres of plantation pine woodland with a 25 year lease on 70 of the acres.  The owners still live on the property but are in their 80’s and one of their three children has a house on some of the acres.  John’s son, Pat, also has a trailer here and works with his dad.  There is a third guy here named Terry who works with John and also has a trailer.

Besides taking care of the property John has a solar energy business and a canopy business, all operated out of trailers that can be moved if/when needed.  He has been here for six years.  In that time he has created over six miles of trails through the woods and along the high south bank of the Suwannee River and cleared small areas for tents and a couple larger areas for RVs.  He does not run a campground or charge fees; the space is for friends and customers to use while they are here.  It’s a pretty neat place, kind of like a private state park, with access to the Suwannee River.

Back at the coach we talked about a solar installation for the bus and then John gave me a tour of his workshop and inventory trailers.  We probably won’t do anything relative to solar while we are here but I wanted to get John’s opinion on some things, which I did.  John knows what he knows and doesn’t pull any punches.  He has lived an off-grid, solar lifestyle for over a quarter century and he thinks solar systems on bus conversions are a waste of money as buses require substantial AC electrical power from a shoreline or Genset to really function fully and properly.  I concede that he is basically correct (unless you spend a lot of time in the southwest) but his utilitarian logic does not place any value on the “I want it because it’s cool” factor.

When I was done talking to John about solar stuff I opened the tray with the battery disconnect switches and the Vanner Equalizers (the coach has two of them operating in parallel) and checked to make sure the circuit breakers had not popped.  I had no way of knowing if they were operating correctly but I ruled out their shutting off as the cause of the chassis battery balance situation.  There was some corrosion on the terminals but not enough to cause a problem.  When I finally started the generator at 4:30 PM the maintenance charger for the upper 12V strand of the 24V chassis battery bank showed 25% SOC.  That was definitely not good and suggested that one or both of the upper 12V batteries had failed.  They are 5-to-6 years old so that would not come as a surprise.

I texted Chuck, described what I had found, and indicated that I planned to go buy four batteries tomorrow.  He asked if I still had my American Independent Trucker Association (AITA) NAPA Discount Card that we got through Prevost Community.  I did, and it did not expire until the end of the month, so tomorrow I will see if there is a NAPA store nearby with batteries I need in stock.

I set up the Amped Wireless router, the NAS, and my computer AC power adapter and connected the NAS and computer to the router with network cables.  I powered all of them up, turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi, and got the WiFiRanger connected to the Mi-Fi.  The Amped Wireless router connected to the WiFiRanger and everything worked as intended.  We were online so I checked e-mail.

Linda heated up a can of Amy’s chili for dinner, which we had with Saltine crackers and a little vegan “butter.”  I sliced up an apple later for dessert.

I tried calling Butch but did not reach him so I tuned in a TV station and worked on this post.  I tried Butch again later and finally got through to him.  We had not talked in several weeks so we had a nice chat.  Butch thought our batteries should have lasted seven years, given the way I use and maintain them, but conceded that five years is a typical lifespan.  He also mentioned that Nick Russell had used the picture I sent of our bus covered in snow in his blog.  I have not had a chance to check Nick’s blog in a while so I found the post when I was done talking to Butch.

By now it was 10:30 PM and I needed to get to bed.  John was leaving for breakfast at 7:15 AM and I had indicated that I would go with him so I did not want to be up too late and risk oversleeping.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/04/23 (R) Return to Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/04/24 (F) Touchdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015/04/25 (S) Return to Regular

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/03/06-12 Escapade Images

Here is a gallery of additional images from the 2015 Escapees RV Club Escapade.  Most of them are of our friends, old and new.

2014/06/14 (S) Day 4 Rally Conclusion

Each rally has a slightly different approach to food.  On the last full day of the GLAMARAMA they switch the breakfast carbohydrate delivery mechanism from donuts to pancakes and serve them with sausage links.  The coffee and tea are still there, of course, so we had coffee.  Other rallies, like the Escapades, have a “hitch up” breakfast on the day of departure, with coffee and donuts.  When Nick and Terry Russell were running their Gypsy Journal Gathering rallies they also had coffee and donuts on departure day as I recall.

In order to serve a lot of pancakes to a lot of people in a relatively short period of time GLAMARAMA hires a specialized food service.  The one they hired this year had long griddles with an overhead depositor that moved the length of the griddle like a gantry crane.  It would precisely deposit the batter to make a row of 5″ pancakes.  The operator would then move it by hand and deposit the next row, repeating this as they moved along the griddle.  Another worker followed behind the depositor with a pancake turner (flapjack flipper) and turned the pancakes when they were done on the first side.  Although hand labor was still involved it was an efficient, high volume, production process that did not require an army of volunteers.

When we were done drinking coffee and chatting Linda headed back to our motorcoach to prepare food for our family gathering on Sunday afternoon.  I headed over to the seminar building for a presentation by Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone with the Wynn’s.  They were joined by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia and did a panel discussion on earning income on the road.  They also covered work-camping and volunteering in exchange for a camp site.  They did an excellent job, relaxed and low key, and streamed the event live to the web.  The logins indicated that 68 people viewed the presentation online, which was probably more people than were in the room.

Geeks on Tour got their flash drives in (Nick and Terry Russell brought them down from Elkhart).  I wanted to restart our subscription, but wanted the flash drive instead of the CD as Linda needed it to store some files.  I ended up with both.  Their Tutorial Video series ( http://geeksontour.tv ) is an amazing resource for learning how to use a wide range of technologies for Planning, Preserving, and Sharing you RV adventures.

At 10:45 AM I met with Jerry Yates, Executive Director of FMCA, in my role as a member of the national education committee, to talk about RVillage.  It also gave me a chance to further explore making online education available to FMCA members, such as that provided by the Geeks On Tour, either directly from the FMCA website or through discounted subscriptions to provider websites.

Linda helped Alma Baker get situated for the Fleetwood hot dog lunch and had a tomato and onion sandwich while she was there.  I had a couple of tofu hot dogs in our coach and eventually headed over to a 1:30 PM seminar on 120 VAC by Gary Bunzer.  It was very good, as usual, but by Saturday afternoon seminar attendance had thinned.  This was a repeat of a session he had done on Wednesday, so many attendees who wanted to see probably already had.

Linda hung around the coach waiting for Butch and Fonda, who drove over from Twelve Mile, Indiana to work with her on some aspects of their pending business sale.  I came back to the rig to say hello and around 4:45 PM we gathered up some hummus, chips, and beverages and headed over to the 5:00 PM RVillage get-together.  The volunteer dinner started at 4:30 PM, but we decided not to go as we knew there would be little-to-nothing we would be able to eat.

Nikki Wynn had scheduled the RVillage get-together in the Dog and Cat Pavilion and we ended up with a nice turnout of 17 people.  It was not a pot luck, but enough folks brought munchies and extra beverages that everyone had something.  We milled around conversing in shifting groups and eventually formed chairs into a (sort of) circle.  Chris Guld suggested we go around and introduce ourselves and say where we were when we were 15 years old and whether we had any notion that we would find ourselves where we are now.  It turned out to be a fun, low key, way to get to know each other by filing in a few personal details.

We disbanded by 6:30 PM, went back to our coach for a few minutes, and then headed over to the final evening’s entertainment.  The Walker Family hails from Nashville and we saw them a few years ago at the G.L.A.S.S. rally in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  Dad, mom, and seven kids; four girls and three boys.  The “girls” are now young women; two are married and one just had her first child.  They perform as “The Redhead Express.”  The boys are now 15, 13, and 11.  The older two play drums for their sisters and perform as a trio with guitar backup from one of their sisters.  Mom and dad joined the sisters for a couple of numbers, but the entire family never performed together.  My recollection was that they had the last time we saw them, but that’s been at least four years, maybe five, and Linda disagrees with my memory.  Regardless, they are very talented and put on a spirited show of country songs with a bit of gospel and patriotic stuff mixed in; just what you would expect from a Nashville-based group.  They did not, however, use any pre-recorded sound tracks.

Following the concert there were drawings for prizes and the 50/50 raffle.  The Grand Prize was a gift certificate for an 11-day Adventure Tours Mega-Rally worth $3,000 (one motorhome with two people).  One of our GLCC members won $200 in the raffle.  Those of us “camped” in the GLCC area gathered by our rigs after the drawings and stood around talking until it cooled of to the point that everyone was ready to retreat into their rigs for the evening.


2014/06/08 (N) Positioning

We were up around 7:00 AM, showered, dressed, and gathered up toiletries and other last minute items for our outing.  I did a last minute check of e-mail and RVillage and then shut down the computers, printers, and NAS units and packed up my laptop.  We started our final loading process at 9:00 AM and had everything on board by 9:20 AM.  While Linda configured the car for towing, I turned the chassis batteries on, disconnected the shorepower line, stowed the cord, checked that the inverter was operating, and opened the air valves for the engine accessories and the air line to the car auxiliary braking system.  While Linda closed up the utility bay I fired up the main engine and drained the moisture out of the auxiliary air tank.  We checked the lights and finally checked that all of the bays were closed and locked.  GPS and TPMS on with all tires reporting in, all gauges reading normal, and side mirrors adjusted.  Tag axle up for the tight 180 degree turn exiting the driveway and all ahead slow while Linda verified the car wheels were turning.  She was on board and buckled in at 9:30 AM and we were on our way.  We have gotten reasonably efficient at this departure routine, but when driving a bus with a car in tow you do not simply turn the key and drive away.

We had light rain overnight and it was still drizzling as we pulled out.  No problem; cloudy skies often make for easier travel.  We drove up to M-59 and headed west, picking up I-96 westbound on the west edge of Howell.  By the time we turned onto I-69 southbound at the southwest corner of Lansing, Michigan we had run out from under the rain and the overcast gave way to partly cloudy skies with patches of blue making for very pleasant driving conditions.  At Coldwater, Michigan we headed west on US-12, a route we have driven many times and always enjoy.  Just north of Elkhart, Indiana we exited US-12 onto M-205 which swings south and becomes SR-19 as it crosses into Indiana.  About two miles into Indiana we turned east on County Road 4 and 0.7 miles later turned into the entrance to Elkhart Campground.  It was a little before 1:00 PM and we had made the 160 mile trip without rest or fuel stops.  I set the cruise control at 60 MPH on the Interstates and 55 MPH on M-59 and US-12, but had to slow down for interchanges and lower posted speed limits going through small towns.  We usually base our expected travel time on an average speed of 50 MPH which seems to account surprisingly well for all of these variations.

We got checked in to the Elkhart Campground using our Escapees membership to save 15% off of their overpriced 50A FHU grass sites.  They put us in a new part of the campground we have not used before.  The spot was level so I but the tranny in neutral, set the parking brake, and shut the engine off.  I shut off the air and chassis batteries and hookup up the shorepower line while Linda got the inside ready to use, our standard arrival routine.  In all fairness, Elkhart Campground is not a fancy RV resort but is nice enough, and one of only two RV parks in Elkhart, Indiana, so part of what you pay for here is location.  We have been here at least 9 times, usually for Great Lakes Converted Coaches rallies.  It is centrally located for much of our membership and has a building with meeting rooms and kitchen facilities that they let us use for no additional charge.  Our reason for being here now is to add a couple of days of RV use to the GLAMARAMA rally and position ourselves for an easy, early morning entry into the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds on Tuesday.

For lunch Linda served some of the cold three bean salad she made yesterday along with tofu hotdogs (with mustard, relish, and onions, of course).  After lunch we got our WiFi Ranger connected to the campground WiFi network and checked in to the campground on RVillage.  The website indicated that there were 11 other people checked in here, but we knew that some of them had been here after the recent SKP Escapade and subsequently left.  We went for a walk around the campground and found the FMCA Frustrated Maestros (Great Lakes Chapter) camped by the activities building.  It was obvious that they were having a pre-rally and using it to rehearse before heading to the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen on Tuesday.  We recognized Ron and Meredith Walker’s Prevost XL bus conversion but did not see them outside.

As we were finishing our walk we ran into Nick Russell of The Gypsy Journal and he invited us in to their motorhome for a brief chat.  Terry was busy removing their old combo washer/dryer to make room for the new one they are supposed to get tomorrow, but she put her work aside to visit.  We finally got to see her loom which we have read about on Nick’s blog.  Considering what a sophisticated device it is, it fits surprisingly well in their Winnebago Ultimate Advantage (which has slides).  Terry was obviously very excited to have it and enjoyed describing its operation to us.  She is mostly self-taught and already producing some very intricate designs.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad to go along side a bowl of the vegetable chili she made yesterday, served with crackers and a glass of Franzia Sweet Red wine.  We went for a walk after dinner and ended up having a conversation with several of the Frustrated Maestros, including Ted (K0DDB) who took up the banjo at age 56.  As we walked past Nick and Terry’s motorhome Terry was outside talking to Greg and Jan White.  Greg was “parting out” the combo washer/dryer that Terry had just removed from their rig to salvage as many usable spare parts as possible since they have the same model in their American Eagle coach.

We got back to our motorcoach just before 8:00 PM and tried to connect to the Technomadia live UStream videocast they were doing for the Mobile Internet Aficionados private membership Facebook group, but the WiFi at Elkhart Campground was not up to the task and I did not feel like turning on our Verizon MiFi device.  Linda turned the TV on instead and checked out the stations available to us.  We had all of the major networks and decided to watch the final episode of Cosmos and then turned in for the night.


2014/05/15 (R) Base Leg

As a private pilot of a small airplane there is a standard way to approach an airport that does not have air traffic controllers directing the flow of aircraft to/from the runway(s) and surrounding air space.  That standard way is called “the pattern” and when landing one must enter and follow the pattern correctly.  The pattern will be clockwise (right hand turns) or counterclockwise (left hand turns) and involves segment called “legs.”  Standard radio frequencies may let you know which runway and pattern are currently in use.

The pattern is usually entered on the “downwind leg” which is parallel to the runway with the wind coming from behind (tailwind) as much as possible.  You generally enter this leg at a specified altitude above the runway elevation and then start to descend.  How far you need to be from the runway is partially determined by your airspeed, but when I flew I would typically be a quarter to a half mile away.  As you pass the end of the runway you continue descending on the downwind leg for another 1/4 to 1/2 mile and then turn 90 degrees towards the runway.

This was our way out of the Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds horse track infield.  Not gonna happen.

This was our way out of the Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds horse track infield. Not gonna happen.

As you complete the turn you are now traveling perpendicular to the centerline of the runway on what is known as the “base leg” where you continue to descend.  On the base leg you often have a crosswind trying to blow you sideways off of your intended path and have to correct for that.  As you approach the centerline of the runway you again turn 90 degrees towards the runway, timing your turn so that you are lined up with the centerline as you complete your turn.

You are now on “final approach” and descending at a rate that puts you very close to the ground as you cross the end of the runway.  On final approach you are flying into the wind as much as possible, causing your ground speed (motion with respect to the earth) to be slower than your airspeed (motion with respect to the air mass you are flying through).  This slower ground speed makes it easier to land, particularly on a short runway.  Once you are over the runway you cut the engine power, bleed off more airspeed, and put the wheels on the ground.

Lou Petkus, head Escapade photographer, at the SKP Photographers BOF "row" table with Linda.  My friend Kate designed the logo.

Lou Petkus, head Escapade photographer, at the SKP Photographers BOF “row” table with Linda. My friend Kate designed the logo.

Landing an airplane is a complex task but all of the things you need to do become second nature with enough practice.  You develop a “feel” for your aircraft and the ability to visually judge altitude, distance, and speed, or use instruments to know these things.

So what does that have to do with the Escapees RV Club Escapade?  Not much, except that I have always liked analogies and today was the “base leg” of the event.  Tomorrow we “turn on final” and land.  Saturday is when we taxi from the runway back to our hangar.  For other attendees it will be a “touch-and-go” in which the landing is immediately followed by the application of full power and the airplane is taken back into the air.  Perhaps it will go around in the pattern and land again or it may vector off in some direction on a cross country trip.  I could extend this analogy in other ways, but I’m not going to.

Linda at the SKP Ham BOF "row" table pretending to use the HF rig.  We had a special event call sign (W9E) but not a good location for antennas.

Linda at the SKP Ham BOF “row” table pretending to use the HF rig. We had a special event call sign (W9E) but not a good location for antennas.

It was cold and overcast with light rain this morning and the Escapade decided to stop running the golf carts into the infield where we are parked because they were getting stuck in the mud.  (Golf carts are not off road vehicles.)  That meant we had to walk through the mud and puddles (small lakes, really), drive our car, or stay put in our coach.  I checked-in to the 7:30 AM ham radio 2 meter net and then put on a pot of coffee.

We wanted to hear Nick Russell’s seminar at 10 AM so we drove over around 9:45.  We gave a lift to one of our fellow infield campers who was struggling through the bad conditions using a cane.  After Nick’s talk we were heading to the hospitality area when I got a call from Curtis Coleman, founder/CEO of RVillage, inviting us to his rig for a chat.  We spent an hour with him and Patty (village tart) and his dog, Augie, who was very cute and friendly.  The central focus of our conversation was FMCA and how to get the leadership to understand what RVillage is, and how an FMCA/RVillage relationship is a win-win situation.  I have been appointed to the FMCA National Education Committee, which is charged with examining this issue and making recommendations to the national executive committee and that is why Curtis and I have been trying to arrange a conversation for awhile.

Curtis had an online business meeting to attend so we made our exit and headed over to the Geeks On Tour seminar on The Cloud.  In many respects the “cloud” is just another name for the Internet, with a subtle but important distinction.  In the past our interaction with the Internet (World Wide Web) was conscious, intentional, explicit, and initiated/controlled by us.  We typed in web addresses and navigated websites.  With the Cloud, much of the interaction with the Internet has been moved into “apps” that automatically move our data around and make it accessible from multiple devices from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.  Take a picture on your smartphone and it shows up on your laptop and tablet.  Click, click and it’s in your latest blog post which shows up in a subscriber’s aggregator/reader.  It’s not magic, but it seems like it at times.

L-2-R Cherie and Chris of Technomadia and Curtis, founder/CEO of RVillage.

L-2-R Cherie and Chris of Technomadia and Curtis, founder/CEO of RVillage.

We went back to our rig and Linda prepared fresh grapes to take to the RVillage social at 4:30 PM.  We had a good turn out with about 90 people in attendance.  Many of them were already RVillage members, but some were not.  Just prior to the social there were 39 RVillage “members” “checked-in” to the 54th Escapade, although some of them, like us, were couples.  Everyone brought a snack, hors d’oeuvres, or beverage to share.  We mingled for a while and then Curtis connected his computer to the projector and grabbed the microphone.  He spoke at length and his vision, enthusiasm, and passion for this project was obvious.  Even those of us who are active on RVillage learned something.

After the social we moved the car over by Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel, which is parked near the Assembly Hall.  We watched the slide show and were pleased to see that quite a few of our images had been used.  We did not win a door prize, and left before the Ham-O-Rama talent show began.  Lou was there so I did not need to stay and take pictures.  Since he was taking photos I gave Val the Compact Flash card from my camera so Lou could transfer the photos to his computer after the talent show.  We then returned to our rig.

As the sun sank low in the western sky I photographed the infield of the horse track where we are parked.  The fairground is placing large quantities of gravel to try and repair the rutted, muddy mess that has developed as a result of the rains this past week and vehicle traffic going in and out of the infield.  The fairgrounds and Escapade management worked out a deal whereby we have been asked not to move our rigs until Sunday in exchange for a free night’s stay Saturday night.  We have been towed out of two other fairgrounds in the past, and would rather not repeat that experience if it can be avoided, so we will be staying until Sunday.  We would like to get out then as we have company coming for dinner Sunday night, but if not we will stay until we can.

I worked with Butch via telephone to get them set up on RVillage.  Even though they are parked next to us, we were both comfortably situated in our own buses for the evening and did not want to go back outside.  The high temperature today was around 50 degrees F and dropped quickly as the sun set.  With a strong wind from the north the wind chill was even lower.

2014/05/14 (W) The Mid-Point

The Escapees RV Club Escapade started on Monday afternoon and ends on Friday afternoon, so the middle of the event is sometime Wednesday afternoon.  Many attendees arrived on Sunday and many others, including us, on Saturday.  Most of the event staff, and many of the volunteers, arrived before that so today probably did not feel like the mid-point of the event to them, even though it was.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Linda still wasn’t feeling 100% so we skipped breakfast and went to the hospitality building for some coffee.  We like our own coffee better, but this coffee was included in the price of admission.  We took a stroll through the Marketplace (vendor area), which is in the two buildings adjacent to the hospitality area, and picked up a new regen tube and end caps for our portable water softener from RV-Water-Treatment.  We stopped to visit with Nick and a Terry Russell and renewed our Gypsy Journal subscription for two years.  As much as I love to read TGJ on newsprint, we switched our subscription to digital.  Printed materials are just more difficult to deal with in a mobile lifestyle.  Along with other informational and transactional activities we are trying to make our lives as paperless and mobile friendly as possible.

Our photo work continued even as the rains returned and intensified.  We tried to drop in on every seminar and the crafters to get photos.  Today was the Ladies Tea & Social, and some of the Ladies wore their Red Hats.  We attended the Ham Radio seminar, put on by Tom Abernathy (W3TOM), and Nick Russell’s seminar on Boondocking and off-the-grid RVing.  I got a few photos of the Ham-O-Rama (talent show) dress rehearsal while Linda went back to our coach to get some things.  As busy as we are, we always take time to smell the flowers and admire their beauty.

Some of the plants at Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds.

Some of the plants at Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds.

We met back at the seminar building for the Chapter 6 (Great Lakes) social.  We’ve been members of Chapter 6 for four years, having joined at the 2010 Escapade in Goshen, but to-date we have not managed to attend a Chapter 6 rally.  We may have met with other Chapter 6 members at a small social at the 53rd Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming last summer but today’s social was the first time we recalled meeting a larger group of members.  The Chapter will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September and we are planning to attend the rally if at all possible.  At the conclusion of our social I took a few pictures of the SKP Geocache BOF leaders in front of their BOF banner.  They asked if I would be willing to share the photos and gave me their contact information.

No entertainment was scheduled for this evening, leaving Escapade attendees free to socialize, go to dinner, or play cards or bingo in one of the two rooms designated for those purposes.  I photographed the bingo and then went to Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel so Lou could transfer my camera photos, and Linda’s cell phone photos, to his computer.  A few of the images will be used in an upcoming Escapade slide show and subsequently by the Escapees RV Club for other purposes.

Rally "bling."

Rally “bling.”

I had planned to work with Butch on some things this evening but by the time I got back to our coach it was an hour later than I had expected.  I chatted with him and Fonda for a half hour and then retired to our rig for the evening.  Nick Russell had asked if I would send him some of my photos (of him).  I went through all of the photos I had taken thus far and found the ones that included him and/or Terry.  I resized them to a maximum dimension of 1936 pixels (from 3872 for the hi-res JPEGs that come out if the camera), reducing each file to 25% of its original size, put them in a Dropbox folder, and e-mailed him the link.  I did the same thing for the SKP Geocache BOF photos.  By the time I checked and replied to e-mails and logged in to RVillage it was way past bedtime.

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

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

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

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


2014/04/01 (T) No April Fool

Today marked the one year anniversary of Linda’s retirement from Metropolitan Baking Company where she was the controller/treasurer and HR person for 10+ years and the outside CPA for many years before that.  She is still working for the bakery as a consultant, which was part of the reason for her return to Michigan in late February, but she has also been learning how to be retired over the course of the past twelve months.

Carriage Travel Club members.  How to tow a 5th wheel RV in style!

Carriage Travel Club members. How to tow a 5th wheel RV in style!

This is now the 5th month in which I have been continuously away from “home” even though the number of days is less than 120 and will only be 126 to 129 days by the time we return to our house.  That may be the longest I have ever been away from a fixed/permanent residence in my life.  The only time that would come close to that was my first year in college when I lived in a dormitory for the school year.  Even then, it was two semesters with a break in-between, and the semesters were only about 14 weeks in duration as best I recall.

Carriage Travel Club banners.  They have ~70 rigs at WCRVR all week for a rally.

Carriage Travel Club banners. They have ~70 rigs at WCRVR all week for a rally.

I was reading a post in Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal blog the other day where he provided answers to FAQ’s he often gets from readers.  One of them had to do with the definitions of “full-timer” and “extended-timer.”  As Nick pointed out, there are no official definitions, but common sense (and usage) suggests that full-timers do not have a fixed dwelling to which they can return while extended-timers do, even if they are rarely or ever there.  How much time do you have to spend in your RV (land- or water-based) to be an extended-timer?  Again, there is no definition, but common sense (and usage) suggests that it is more than 3 – 6 weeks’ vacation usage and less than full time.

Since Linda retired one year ago today we have spent the following time traveling and living in our converted motorcoach:

  • 59 days – (early Jun to early Aug). MI, IN, IL, IA, SD, WY, MT, ND, MN, WI, MI.  Two rallies in Gillette, WY (FMCA and SKP) and a 2-week SKP HFH build in Sheridan, WY plus visits to national parks;
  • 6 days – (mid Aug). Clio, MI GLCC/CCO Back to the Bricks rally;
  • 10 days – (mid Sep) MI, IN, MI Twelve Mile, IN and GLAMARAMA13 rally in Goshen, IN;
  • 12 days – (mid Oct). MI, OH, KY, TN, VA, WV, OH, MI. SKP Photographers BOF photo workshop/rally in Townsend, TN.  GSMNP and camping with family in VA;
  • 103 days – (Dec 19 – Mar 31).  MI, OH, KY, TN, GA, FL.  Mostly in north central Florida; our first season as snowbirds.

That’s 190 days; more than half of the last twelve months.  We don’t have a numerical target, but our sense of how we want to blend RVing with living in a fixed house is to be in the RV for 6 –  8 months out of any given 12 month window but probably not gone for much longer than four months at a time.  It won’t always happen that way, of course, but on average that seems like a comfortable balance to us at this time based on our limited experience and current circumstances.

While going back and forth to the laundry building I stopped and chatted with Jeff for a while.  It appears they have developed a problem with the 12VDC house system in their motorhome.  They noticed it the previous evening as a diming of their lights and then realized the refrigerator did not want to work, even on propane.  I mentioned that we had just had a refrigerator problem and had stored our food in the refrigerator in the Activity Building kitchen while we got it sorted out.  I suggested how he might go about isolating the problem but did not jump in to try to solve it as there was another guy there also giving advice.  Too many cooks creates more problems than it solves.

We went to Satchel’s for an early dinner; our final opportunity to enjoy their excellent vegan pizza.  In addition to John and Ali we were joined by Kevin, Sharon, Ian, and Pat.  We had essentially the same pizza as before; hand-tossed thin crust with pesto base topped with mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Instead of the Daiya non-dairy cheese, however, we had the cashew cheese.  Instead of being shredded and evenly spread around the pizza it was in quarter-sized chunks like small mozzarella balls.  It resulted in a different pizza, but it was just as good as the other pizzas we have had there.  I also had the ginger pop.  They make it in house from real, fresh ginger.  The last time it was a bit weak, but today it was the best yet.  The ginger was so strong that burned slightly.  Exquisite.

Work continues at WCRVR on refurbishing the Pullman train cars.

Work continues at WCRVR on refurbishing the Pullman train cars.

The weather had been perfect all day so after we got back we sat around chatting with John and Ali and were joined by Jack and Silvia who were just finishing their evening walk.  We had a small glass of Trader Joe’s Pinot Grigio.  This is one of the wines Trader Joe’s sells for $2.99 a bottle. Our assessment was that you get about what you pay for, but in all fairness Pinot Grigio is a wine we normally drink with a meal, not as a before or after dinner drink.  We were also having grapes for “dessert” and their sweetness probably made the wine seem dry by comparison.  I do not care for dry wines, especially as a before or after dinner drink.  We will try the rest of the bottle with a meal and see if our first impression was off base.  We would love to find a $3 wine that we really like.