Tag Archives: R-M RVND7710 GPS

2016/04/11–15 (M–F) Water Pumps on the Road Again

2016/04/11 (M) Parts Run

I was up at 7:30 AM, so I slept over seven hours last night, and felt like I had slept well enough to take on the day I had ahead of me.  I fed the cars, put fresh water in their bowl, and cleaned their litter tray.  I also cleaned part of the shower as one of them has developed loose stools in the last couple of days and has not always made it to the tray in time.  I moved the SunPass transponder, Garmin GPS, and my sunglasses to the car in preparation for my trip today.  By the time I had done all those chores Linda was up and both used our iPads for a while.  I was not going to make coffee this morning since I had a long drive ahead of me sometime today, but Linda wanted some so I made it and had some myself.  We eventually had bagels for breakfast.

I called Action Mobile around 9 AM and talked to Service Manager John Provo.  He expected my three brake calipers to be delivered between 10 AM and noon but that was just a guess on his part.  Rather than make an issue of getting a more accurate ETA I decided I would leave at 10 AM for the two hour drive from Williston to Orlando.  I went out after breakfast and unloaded most of the stuff in the back of the car and stored it on the picnic table.  I then walked to the resort office to let them know we were expecting a package from Amazon today.

Just before 10 AM I wrote out a short grocery list as I planned to stop on my way back from Orlando at The Publix supermarket on US-27 by the Ocala exit (#354) of I-75.  I took my iPad in case I needed to kill some time at Action Mobile, and actually left a little after 10 AM.

The trip down was smooth, with no traffic issues, and it was uneventful except for a text message from my sister asking me to call our broker and transfer funds for our dad.  Based on when I received it the best I could do was pull into one the Florida Turnpike Service Areas closest to Orlando’s northwest corner and call the brokerage.  The person I needed to speak to (Maggie) was on another call and I did not want to deal with a return call while driving so I left a message that I would call again when I got to my destination, which was still 20 minutes away barring any unforeseen traffic problems.

Traffic was thicker and a little slower as I neared Orlando but it moved along well enough and I reached Action Mobile just after noon.  I called Maggie again and got her this time as she is in the Central Time Zone.  Maggie is our broker’s office manager and is also a registered agent.  We have an extremely good relationship with her and our broker, John, so we chatted briefly before I gave her the transaction details.  I then texted my sister back to let her know I had taken care of her request.

I went inside and found John P. (the Service Manager).  The parts were not there yet so he called Rex at Rush Trucking to check on them.  Rex said they should have been there and made a call.  Not too long after that a white can showed up and the driver unloaded three Meritor boxes of the right size, shape, and apparent weight, and took off.

It occurred to me that I should check the parts before paying the balance and taking off myself so I opened all three boxes.  I was expecting one of the castings to have an “L” in the casting number and the other two to have an “R” in the casting number, but all three had “L”s and that caused me some concern.  I also noticed that one of the calipers had both grease fittings broken.  John P. called Rex back and Rex explained the Left and Right calipers used the same (“L”) casting.  The difference was in the helical drive shaft and gear inside, and difference was reflected in the part number on the box label.  The left side caliper part number began with “A 1” while the right side caliper began with “A 2.”   (The shaft for the calipers on the left side of the bus rotate clockwise, as viewed from the end where the slack adjuster attaches, while the calipers for the right side rotate counterclockwise.)

Rather than have Action Mobile remove and replace the damaged grease fittings Rex had a different left caliper sent over as he did not want to risk a small piece of debris falling inside the mechanism.  When the driver dropped it off I checked the label and the grease fittings.  There were OK, so he put the damaged one in his van and left.

While I was waiting I called Butch and gave him the information on how the left and right calipers were labeled.  He is working with someone at ABC Bus in Muncie, Indiana, who is working with someone at Rockwell-Meritor, who says we can still get these parts with a 45 to 60 day lead time.  I’m guessing that these are also rebuilt/remanufactured calipers, not new ones, but at this point in time we don’t really know.  He was quoted a price that was $200 less per caliper than I paid, but I have mine now, not two months from now; if in fact I could get them.

Bill, the mechanic who fixed our left tag axle brake last week, was taking his lunch break so we got to chat a bit.  John D. (the owner) was also around so we also got to chat for a little while.  I was running behind the schedule I had hoped to keep, so I loaded the three boxes into my car and went inside to pay the balance of the bill.  A quick chat with the billing clerk, Lisa, and I was on my way back to Williston.  It was 1:30 PM and I figured I would be back by 4 PM, including my stop at Publix.

I stopped at the Florida’s Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Area for some lunch but just ended up getting a frozen coffee thing at Dunkin Donuts.  Traffic moved along nicely all the way onto northbound I-75.  I had just passed exit 341 and was just 13 miles short of exit 354, when traffic came to a complete standstill.  The backup stretched as far as I could see in front of me and the flurry of emergency response vehicles driving up both shoulders meant there had been a serious accident somewhere up ahead.

It took at least an hour to reach the accident scene, where police had closed all three lanes of the highway.  All of that of traffic, which included two lanes of nose-to-tail tractor-trailers, had to funnel onto the right shoulder to get around the blockage.  The accident looked really bad and appeared to have involved at least a motorcycle, a large Suburban-like vehicle, and a utility trailer.  There may have been other vehicles involved that I did not see as I drove past or that had already been moved, although I doubted that.  There was no sign of the people involved and I presume they had already been transported from the scene by ambulances or helicopters.

Once I was past the accident I had clear sailing the rest of the way, but from the accident scene north the southbound lanes of I-75 were also completely stopped.  There were also emergency vehicles on the southbound side of the highway, but it did not appear that any of the accident was over there.  I exited I-75 at exit 354 (Ocala, Williston), made a left onto US-27, and pulled into the strip mall on the right where the Publix supermarket is located.

I took my short list of grocery items and went in.  In an unusual move for me I found everything on my list except for one item and did not buy anything that wasn’t on my list.  The only thing I could not get was fresh blueberries, which is odd because just today I had seen billboards advertising the Florida Blueberry Festival as running from April 11 – 16 in a town nearby.  Maybe all of the available blueberries were being routed to the festival?

I was back at our rig around 5:10 PM.  After getting the groceries inside, I turned my attention to reloading the car.  My first task was to transfer the new (to me) A1/Left caliper to the box the DS tag axle caliper came in last week as the box the new caliper came in was in very bad condition.  Linda found our roll of bubble wrap under the bed and I used pieces to protect the grease fittings on the top of each of the three new (to me) calipers.  (I say “new (to me)” because I believe the four calipers I have purchased are all rebuilt, and possibly even remanufactured.)

With that taken care of, I moved a couple of low boxes from the picnic table to the car and put them on the floor behind the two calipers that were behind the driver’s seat.  I then moved the tire covers from the front passenger seat and put them on top of the boxes.  The covers are a soft nylon mesh material which I figured would provide additional protection for the grease fittings.

We disassembled the damaged box to get flat cardboard pieces to use as a cushioning layer on top of the two caliper boxes that I had put inside the wooden storage structure.  The reason for all of this was that I had to store other boxes on top of the caliper boxes and, having received one that had damaged grease fittings, wanted to make sure I was not responsible for causing similar damage.  I had already taken the precaution yesterday of moving heavier items to the front bay of the bus, leaving lighter items for the car.

With the car repacked I opened the box from Amazon, which Linda said arrived around 10:30 AM, to verify that it was the correct Shur-Flo 4048 fresh water pump.  It was the correct box so I left it at that and we went for a long, slow walk around the resort.  When we concluded our walk we sat outside for a while and doodled on our iPads.  John and Ali returned around 6:30 PM.  As we suspected, they had gone out to dinner.  We presumed they had gone to The Blue Highway, but they had gone to The Olive Garden in Gainesville instead.

For dinner Linda made sandwiches with vegan deli slices and lots of greens, kind of like a salad on a bun, and sliced up a Honey Crisp apple.  It was a simple, easy meal, but it was all good.  As the hour approached 8 PM and the light faded we went next door to visit with John and Ali.  Earlier in the day John had taken one of his propane tanks over to be refilled but the person responsible for that task had not taken care of it.  When he tried to light the propane firepit it would not ignite.  We could smell the gas, and hear the spark, but if the tank was near empty it probably did not have enough pressure to make it work.  No problem; the conversation, if not the “mood,” was just as good without the fire.

It was a warm, still evening and there were more bugs out than the last few nights.  Everyone was tired by 10 PM and we all retired to our own rigs.  We watched the end of NCIS-LA and the beginning of the news and then went to bed.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickel, and then went to sleep.  Although I had not really done very much it had been another long, and somewhat stressful, day.

2016/04/12 (T) Water Pump Up

I got up at 7:30 AM and quietly took care of the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  I measured out the beans for our morning coffee but waited to grind them until Linda was up.  I updated my spreadsheet for GLCC parking at the upcoming FMCA GLAMARAMA16 rally in June and then continued working on my blog post for yesterday.  When Linda got up at 8 AM I finished making the coffee.  We then spent a couple of hours engaged in our usual morning routine of using our iPads while enjoying our coffee and having granola with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

By 10 AM we were dressed and I got to work replacing the fresh water pump.  The pump is a Shur-Flo 4048-153-E75.  It is a 4 GPM (max), 55 PSI (max), self-priming, 12 VDC pump with thermal overload protection and the ability to run dry without damage (although our friends, Butch and Fonda, discovered that it cannot do this for an extended period of time).  Shurflo also makes this pump in 24 VDC and 120 VAC versions.  I am seriously considering adding a 120 VAC pump to the water system when I redo the utility bay, but I would like something a bit more robust.  I seem to recall that Chuck has a Paragon AC powered pump in their Liberty conversion and it impressed me as a very serious piece of equipment.

Since the new water pump was an exact replacement for the failed one installation was very straightforward.  I shut off the incoming fresh water line as a precaution and had Linda make sure the pump power was switched off.  I then disconnected the two power leads which I had wired using mating insulated spade connectors.  There are two fresh water supply lines, each of which gas a 1/4 turn shutoff valve, so I closed those.  (The conversion had two domestic water pumps plumbed in parallel when we first bought it.  I replaced them with a single 4048 and removed the surge tank at that time as Shur-Flo recommended not using one with the 4048 pump.)  The threaded water line connections to the pump are plastic and only hand tightened, so were dealt with easily.  Before removing them I got a towel to absorb the water that was inevitably going to drain out of the lines.  Once the lines were off I removed the four screws that secured the unit to the floor through the rubber shock mounts.  The unit was now completely disconnected and I was able to remove it.

The new and old water pumps along with tool boxes and other stuff needed to make the repair.

Installing the new unit was basically a matter of reversing the steps just described, more or less.  I  needed to attach the proper insulated spade connectors to the power wires on the new pump.  I found my spade lug kit and even though I had a variety of connectors I did not have the ones I needed.  Fortunately there is a NAPA Auto Parts Store very close to Williston Crossings RV Resort and auto parts stores are an excellent place to find a large variety of spade connectors.  It’s walking distance to the store, but I drove there to save time.  I bought several different packs to make sure I had what I needed.

Back at the bus I prepared the power leads and set the new unit in place.  I connected the water lines first as it was easier with the unit loose.  I connected the power leads and then screwed the unit to the floor.  The new pump came with a strainer and adapter fittings.  I used the new strainer bowl to replace the old one, in which I found little curly queues of plastic.  I opened the two shutoff valves and then had Linda turn on the power to the pump and open the kitchen faucet so that both the hot and cold lines were open.  The unit came to life and water flowed, albeit with a sputter until all of the air was out of the lines.  With that, the water pump problem was fixed and I cleaned up the work area and put my tools away.

Next on my task list was checking tire pressures.  I really did not want to check all 12 tires with the digital gauge so I turned on the TireTraker TT-400 TPMS and waited 20 minutes for the readings to update.  Although the sensors are not “dead on” accurate they are close enough to let me know if a tire has lost enough air to require topping up.  They all appeared to be OK so I did not have to get out the air-compressor and air hose.

Barring any further unforeseen circumstances this was our last planned night in Florida for the 2015-16 winter season.  We wanted to go to Satchel’s in Gainesville for pizza one last time.  We decided to have an early dinner and take care of a couple of errands so we left at 2 PM.  Our first stop was at the Kangaroo filling station for gasoline.  Our next stop was Pet Supplies Plus in the Archer Road mega strip mall shopping complex.  We also stopped at the CVS pharmacy in the same complex and then drove to Satchel’s on the east side of town.

Although it was a lovely afternoon, weather wise, we chose to sit inside.  At Satchel’s we had our usual meal; an excellent salad and a pizza with mushroom, onion, sun-dried tomato, and Daiya non-dairy cheese.  It is, quite simply, one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, and it is vegan!  We got their largest pie and brought most of it home.

When we got back to Williston Crossings John and Ali were not around and we figured they had gone out to dinner again.  Happy hour usually takes place at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel so we walked down there to visit for a while.  John and Ali eventually returned and as evening fell over the resort we went next door to sit around their propane campfire and visit.  Smitty made a large bowl of popcorn popped in peanut oil and lightly salted with Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum. Note for T 20160412 blog post.  Jim and Janet Rawley came over to John and Ali’s site to visit and John played his guitar and sang for a while.  Jim’s professional name is “Sonny Fox” and he was a big time rock ‘n roll D. J. during the ear when radio stations started playing “album rock.”  Jim quizzed me about my musical background and the first record (45 or LP) that I bought but I had no recollection of that.

We returned to our rig just before 10 PM and were in bed, with the lights out, by 10:30 as we planned to pull out of our site around 7 AM in the morning.  Tomorrow we head north and leave Florida.

2016/04/13 (W) Unbalanced Travel

I set an alarm for 6:20 AM and we got up at 6:30 and got dressed.  Today was a travel day so we did not have coffee or breakfast.  While we prepared the interior of the coach for travel I encountered a problem with the 12 VDC charging plug for the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS unit.  A small threaded plastic insert, which holds the spring-loaded +12V center contact, had broken and could not be repaired on short notice (if at all).  The two lower 12 VDC “cigarette lighter” outlets were dead again and it occurred to me that the failed plug might have been responsible for shorting the outlet and blowing the supply fuse last Wednesday.  Not realizing this at the time, and desperate to get the GPS back into service, I vaguely recall having plugged it into one of the upper outlets and probably shorted it out too.  I replaced all of the blown fuses last Wednesday but did not realize at that time what the root cause was and was rather perplexed by the failure, which reoccurred on the lower pair of outlets.

I removed the R-M GPS from its usual mounting position (on the driver side lower windshield next to the center pillar and resting on the top of the dashboard cover) and set it aside and I installed the Garmin 465T GPS unit in its place.  I took care of the remaining outside tasks of disconnecting/storing the shorepower cord, connecting the chassis batteries, and opening the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  Linda moved the car to another site so it was out of the way as I started the bus motor and aired up the chassis (brakes and suspension).  She then spotted for clearance from obstructions as I slowly and carefully pulled out of our site.

We wanted to be on the road at 7 AM but it was about 10 minutes past the hour when I finally pulled out of the site.  Our friend and neighbor, John (Smitty) Smith, was up and outside to wave goodbye, which was nice.  I proceeded north through the resort on Covered Bridge Road and Linda followed in the car.  We drove through the covered bridge, for which the road is named, and stopped just short of the north bath/laundry building to hook up the car for towing.  There are no park model trailers or RV sites close to this location, so we knew we could hookup here without bothering anyone.  With the car attached we double checked the settings and then did our light check.  Everything was OK so Linda got into the coach and we set our destination in the Garmin GPS unit.

We finished our slow roll through the RV resort, out the back/northwest gate, and pulled out onto FL-121 headed northeast towards Gainesville.  About two miles from I-75 we encountered stop-n-go traffic.  The morning rush hour in Gainesville was underway and was something we had not previously experienced.

Linda kept a close eye on our tire pressures and temperatures, especially the driver side tag axle, as we rolled along.  We stopped at the Pilot station at Exit 460 and took on 60 gallons of diesel fuel.  That was our last stop until we got to the end of our trip for the day.  I would have liked to note here that the trip was uneventful but, alas, that was not the case.

The drive up I-75 through northern Florida and southern Georgia is generally an easy one, without any serious grades to climb or descend, attractive enough scenery, and reasonable traffic volumes except during the April 1st northward snowboard migration.  As we got to the Macon, Georgia area and then on up to Atlanta, traffic was heavier but moved along.  Somewhere along the way the Battery Balance (BAL) light came on, flickering at first but then staying on.  Not good.

The Battery Balance light is controlled by a Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is supposed to indicate that the “12V” center tap on the battery bank is not within +/- 0.75 VDC of 1/2 of the voltage between the “24V” terminal and ground.  The relationship of these voltages is supposed to be regulated by a pair of Vanner Voltmaster Battery Equalizers.  It is normal for this light to come on occasionally, especially when starting the motor, but it is not normal for it to come on and stay on.  Assuming the monitor module is not defective, it means the 12V center tap is out of tolerance with respect to the 24V terminal and implies that the Vanner equalizers are not doing their job.  Ugh.

Having the yellow Battery Balance (caution) light come on immediately added stress to the trip but when the red Hi/Low Battery (warning) light came on the stress level went way up.  This light is also controlled by the Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is (supposed to be) activated if the voltage at the “24V” terminal (relative to ground) is less than 24V or more than 30V.  Voltages outside the 24 – 30 VDC range could indicate a malfunction of the voltage regulator and/or engine-mounted alternator.  Either one would be a problem that could put the bus on the side of the road as the engine is controlled by a computer that is powered by the chassis battery 12 V center tap.

The normal full-charge resting voltage of a “24V” lead-acid battery is 25.2 VDC (12 cells in series at 2.1 volts per cell) and the normal voltage at the 24V terminal with the motor running is around 28 VDC, so the 24 – 30 VDC range is a reasonable one. I also have 24V and 12V analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard that are connected to the batteries independent of the Vanner Battery Voltage Monitor Module.  While they would also show high or low voltage conditions, and, by comparison, a battery imbalance condition, it is appropriate to have warning lights to get your immediate attention as you might not notice the gauges for a while.  What was odd about this situation was that the 24V gauge was sitting at about the 29V position and the 12V gauge was sitting at about the 14V position.  I knew these gauges worked because they do not always show these readings, but I did not know if the readings were accurate.  They are, however, close to what I normally see, and they do not usually result in caution or warning lights.

We left I-75 (GA) at exit 296, Cassville-White Road, drove 0.2 miles east to the Pilot truck stop, and got in a long to wait for a pump.  When it was finally our turn I added 92 gallons of diesel fuel.  From the truck stop we drove west back towards I-75 and continued 0.5 miles on the other side of the highway before turning left into the Cartersville Castle-White KOA.  Linda was hearing and speaking well enough by now to be able to register us, which is normally her job.  We were escorted to a water/electric pull-through site in the center of the park with less than ideal access but I was able to get in and park the bus.  We leveled as best we could, shut off the engine, batteries, and air and then plugged in the shorepower and turned it on.

Linda made a really good salad for dinner and we each had a piece of leftover pizza, slightly warmed.  Yum.  After dinner I made calls to Joe Cannarozzi, Ed Roelle, and Butch Williams and sent a text to Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Joe was working on a coach in Williamston, Michigan and was looking for a local facility that could service the over-the-road air-conditioning system.  Ed has been around converted buses in Michigan for a long time so I contacted him to see if he had any suggestions for Joe.  We went for a long walk around the campground during which I had a long chat with my sister.  When we got back to our coach I exchanged text messages with Smitty back at Willison Crossings RV Resort.

Our TV options were limited but we were able to get PBS, so we watched whatever was on.  We planned to pullout out of our site at 7 AM, which meant we had to be up around 6:15.  Not that we have that much to do, but we do not like to rush through our morning routine.  We were in bed with the lights out by 11 PM.

2016/04/14 (R) A Relatively Smooth Run

There was a possibility of rain last night so we closed all of the roof vents and narrowed the window openings before we went to bed.  I set the alarm on my phone last night for 6:15 AM this morning, but I was aware of the rain, and woke up around 4 AM when I heard one of the cats making a strange noise.  I wanted to turn on the electric engine block heater anyway so I got up and did that, checked on the cats (they were fine), and went back to bed.  I tried to go back to sleep without complete success.

We finally got up to stay at 6:30 AM and got dressed.  I had an e-mail from Gary at BCM that needed a reply and cc:d Dave Aungier.  I also texted Dave as he was who Gary needed to contact.  I shut down all of the technology and packed up my computer while Linda cleaned off counters and secured windows.  The car was already connected for towing so we just had to go through the towing procedure and double check it.  I disconnected and stowed the shorepower cable, connected the chassis batteries, and opened the air valves in the engine bay.  I started the engine and we did the light check while the chassis aired up.  Since it was 7 AM we tried to avoid idling any longer than necessary before pulling out.

We were in an angled water/electric site in the middle of the campground with fairly tight ingress and egress.  I raised the tag axle so shorten the turning radius and pulled out while Linda kept an eye on the driver side front corner.  I had to get the driver side nose of our coach fairly close the passenger side rear corner of the 5th wheel trailer directly in front of our site in order to get our passenger side rear end and toad to clear a tree on our site and a post near the road on the next site to our passenger side.  I also had to avoid the rear end of the next 5th wheel trailer and the picnic table in-between them.  Fun.

Without being over-confident, I think I have gotten a lot better at maneuvering the bus in tight situations.  That skill has come with some good teaching, some practice, and at the expense of two mistakes that caused some damage, but it certainly paid off this morning.  Once I was cleanly out of our site and into the road I stopped and put the tag axle down.  Linda got on board and we rolled slowly out of the center of the campground and headed for the exit.  We stopped before exiting so Linda could find Juniper.  We knew she was onboard, but we wanted visual confirmation before pulling out.  Linda found her under one of the living room captain’s chairs, and we were on our way.

We recharged the Rand-McNally GPS last night using a 12 V car outlet splitter with USB ports and a compatible USB cable that I borrowed from the Sony a99v DSLT camera.  Linda turned it on and entered the address of today’s destination to verify that the unit was working.  It was, so I set it up on the dashboard by the windshield center pillar so it was ready to go this morning.

Our route took us north on the final 70 miles of I-75 in Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee where we headed northwest on I-24.  I-24 was mostly in Tennessee, but dipped back into Georgia briefly as it swung around the southern side of a mountain.  Unless you head far to the west on I-10 before turning north, there isn’t a practical way to get back to Michigan from Florida without crossing mountains.

As you head north from Florida on I-75 the ground rises steadily.  As you approach Atlanta it starts to get hilly, and that continues north of town all the way to Tennessee.  As soon as you head west on I-24 you are perpendicular to mountain ridges running SW to NE.  The highway winds around these ranges, sticking to valleys as much as possible, but inevitably there comes a point where it simply has to go over the top.  And so it did.  I think the grade was at least five miles long, perhaps seven, with lots of turns but nothing I would call a switchback.  The road surface was excellent with wide lanes and truck lanes.  The grade was just steep enough that I had to climb it in 4th gear doing around 50 MPH at 2000 RPM with 14 to 15 PSI of turbo boost.  With cool outside air the engine coolant temperature never rose above 195 degrees F, which is its normal operating temperature (on the gauge) and I was very pleased with the way the bus ran.  Replacing the turbo boost sensor tube last year was no doubt partly responsible for this performance.

The temperature was in the low 50’s when we left the Cartersville Castle-White KOA around 7:15 AM and we ran through cool temperatures under overcast skies, with intermittent drizzle and fog, all the way over the mountains in southwest Tennessee.  Once we were on the northwest side of the mountains the cloud cover started to break up and reveal patches of blue sky.  Somewhere southeast of Nashville we encountered our last raindrops and by the time we merged onto northbound I-65 we had clear, blue skies.  Traveling “north” from late morning to early afternoon we had the sun at our backs, making for a comfortable cockpit without using the air-conditioning.

I was concerned about the issue we had yesterday with the Battery Balance (BAL) telltale caution light and the Hi/Low Battery (Voltage) telltale warning light and presumed it would reoccur today.  In order to reduce the chance of that happening again today I tried to minimize the power draw from the +12 VDC center tap of the chassis batteries and perhaps cause an imbalance between the upper and lower halves of the battery bank.   To that end I did not use the cockpit HVAC fan and kept the headlights off as much as possible.

We had a pretty smooth run all the way to and through Nashville.  Pat and Vickie had alerted us to “construction on I-65” but were not more specific.  North of Nashville we encountered a major construction project that lasted for at least 20 miles.  Traffic flow, however, was very smooth if a bit slower than normal posted speeds.  As we approached Louisville we saw signs announcing major construction ahead and advising I-283W as an alternate route.  We were less than 15 miles from our destination and needed to take the second exit just after the bridge so we rejected the alternate route suggestion and stayed on I-65.  The construction was, indeed, major—the reconstruction of a bridge over the Ohio River—but we made it through without having to stop.  The campground website had very specific and detailed directions on how to exit I-65 and we followed them instead of the GPS.  We were momentarily confused after exiting, never a good thing when driving a bus in an urban area, but we were in the right place and made the last couple of turns to get to the Clarksville KOA campground without difficulty.

Linda checked in at the office and the woman at the desk lead us to a pull-through site that was very easy to get into but might be challenging to exit in the morning.  We were sitting level without having to adjust anything so I shut off the engine and we went through our usual arrival routines.  Linda then walked over to the office and finished registering us.

We walked the park, which was not large, and scoped out our departure route and any possible problems.  The sites here are closely spaced, the roads are a little narrow, and some campers are parked with their vehicles sticking part way out into the road.  Some of the people camped here appeared to be younger men who were itinerant workers.  As such, we suspected they might be gone in their cars before we pulled out in the morning.  If so, we will probably get out OK without having to unhook the car, but I doubt that we will ever return here.  While the location is convenient to I-65 and Louisville, the park itself is not worth the $50 a night they charge.  If not for the location, it wouldn’t be worth half of that.

We did not plan to unhook the car to explore the area and there did not appear to be anywhere to walk although Vickie had texted us that we were only a half mile from the river and there was, in fact, a nice walk down to there.  Even so, we were tired and perfectly content to retire to our coach, have dinner, and watch our favorite Thursday evening CBS comedy shows.  We went to bed at 11 PM as we planned to be on the road at 7 AM so we could be at Butch and Fonda’s home in Twelve Mile, Indiana before noon.

2016/04/15 (F) Back In Twelve Mile Again

I set the alarm on my smartphone last night for 6:30 AM this morning.  Like last night, I woke up around 4 AM, turned on the engine block heater (electrical), and tried to go back to sleep.  I was awake again before 6:30 and the alarm was just my signal to actually get out of bed and get dressed.  Linda woke up with the alarm and was also up and dressed fairly quickly.

As usual for a travel day, we did not make coffee or have breakfast and instead set about preparing the coach for travel.  I had turned off my computer last night so all I had to do was pack it up.   We also left the car and bus connected together, so all we had do was check the connections and go through the towing procedure.  I turned the block heater and Aqua-Hot electric heating element off, disconnected the shorepower cord and stowed it, opened the auxiliary air supply valves, and started the main engine.  We did a light check while the chassis aired up and then Linda climbed aboard.

I was concerned about getting our rig out of the small, tight site and through the narrow interior gravel roads of the campground, but our neighbor’s to the left moved their truck before they went to bed last night and the guy directly in front of us on the other side of the street left in his car just before 7 AM, presumably to go to work.  That meant I had plenty of space to pull forward and to turn to the left, which is the direction the site was angled.  By 7:25 AM we were exiting the park and on our way to Twelve Mile, Indiana.

Although we had less than 200 miles to travel today, I-65 continued to be one long construction zone with lots of very rough surfaces which made for more difficult and tiring driving.  In-between Clarksville and Twelve Mile was Indianapolis, so that meant major urban traffic.  “Indy” is a major shipping hub with a good, but extensive highway system.  I-465 circles the metro area while I-65, I-69, I-70, and I-74 all tie into it, along with several U.S. highways.  The speed limit is 55 MPH and most drivers seemed to obey it, which made for easier urban driving, but there was still a LOT of traffic.

As we got on the north side of town headed west we were looking to exit onto US-31 north.  The GPS told me to exit at Keystone Avenue and turn right onto the relatively new Keystone Parkway, which bypasses the initial stretch of US-31 before joining it some miles farther north.  Fortunately I spotted a sign before exiting the highway that said vehicles over 19,000 pounds GVW were not allowed on the Parkway.  Also fortunate was that I knew the exit for US-31 was only a couple of more miles ahead and was a perfectly acceptable place for us to get off of I-465.  I had not been this way in a while and discovered, to our pleasant surprise, that it is a completely new, limited-access highway heading northbound.  Sweet.

We handled the situation smoothly and without too much consternation, but it was concerning that our GPS tried to direct us onto a road for which we were too heavy by more than double.  That had us wondering if the RV characteristics parameters were not set correctly, and perhaps got reset when I updated the unit while we were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort, but now was not the time to check all of that.  This is a relatively recently rebuilt roadway, and it was been my experience with both GPS units that the map updates do not include these newer roads.

Another possibility was that the Indiana Highway Department has not updated the state road database as that is where Rand-McNally (and other mapping companies) get the information for their road maps.  I encountered this a while back when traveling US-24 from Peru, Indiana to Defiance, Ohio.  Even though my GPS database was up to date, it had no knowledge of the new construction between Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Defiance.  The same us still true of the new stretch of US-31 running south from US-20 for many miles even though it has been open for quite a while.  The State highway departments are responsible for updating the database that the GPS/mapping companies use.  If they do not update the database there isn’t much the GPS/mapping companies can do.

Indiana has made major improvements to US-31 over the last 3 to 4 years, building whole new limited access sections.  Besides the section coming south from US-20 and the section going north out of Indianapolis, there is one that now bypasses Kokomo.  The older sections are four lane divided but have grade crossings and occasional traffic signals.  They are posted at 60 MPH and traffic is usually light and moves along well.

All-in-all we had an easy final leg from Indy up to State Road 16 and west into Twelve Mile.  At 11 AM, just 3-1/2 hours after we pulled out of the Clarksville KOA we were back in Twelve Mile again.  We pulled into the gravel driveway for the grain elevator, which is not in use this time of year, to unhook the car.  The driveway is exactly opposite where I park the bus when it is here and positions me to basically back across SR-16 into our spot next to Butch and Fonda’s bus.  Linda spotted for me as I backed across SR-16 and into our spot.  I leveled the coach, shut off the engine, and took care of the exterior arrival tasks while Linda took care of the interior ones.

Butch and Fonda did not come out of the house and we were not sure they were home.  We usually have a very poor Verizon signal when the bus is parked in this spot, and today was no exception, but I was able to get our Verizon Mi-Fi online.  About that time Butch and Fonda came out to check on us and we visited for a while.  We had not knocked on the door because we knew there was a possibility they might not be home when we arrived.

Butch needed to be at a local county fairgrounds at 5 PM to help set up a large room for a hamfest tomorrow.  Fonda was reviewing for the General Class license exam, so Linda studied her Amateur Extra Class flash cards with Fonda while Butch and I went to the do the set up.  The hamfest was an annual joint event put on by four county amateur radio clubs.  After the tables were all set I helped Butch carry in all of the stuff from his truck and arrange it on three adjacent tables.  When we were done, and there was nothing else to do, we returned to Twelve Mile.

It was 6:30 PM by the time we got back and we decided to go out for dinner even though the options for us are very limited.  We drove to Rochester hoping to eat at a Mexican restaurant but it was closed (permanently).  We ended up at Tweedle Dee’s instead, mostly because they have a salad bar.  We were the last diners to leave and only then because they needed to run the vacuum cleaner which cut off any chance of Linda hearing any further conversation.  We stopped at Butch and Fonda’s new (to them) house on IN-25 in Metea but Butch did not have the key with him so we did not get to go inside.

By the time we got back to Twelve Mile we were all tired.  Butch and Fonda had to be up very early to go to the hamfest so they signed their tax returns, got them ready to mail, and brought them to our bus for Linda to mail in the morning.  I planned to go to the hamfest too, but not first thing in the morning.  I also wanted to take our car so I could come back to Twelve Mile before the hamfest ended at 1 PM.

Our series of equipment failures seems to be continuing as I was unable to get the Amped|Wireless SR20000G router/network-extender to recognize any hard wired devices.  I tried plugging in both my computer and our NAS to all five of the ports but none of them responded to either device.  It’s unlikely that the wired networking had failed on both the computer and the NAS so the failure of the SR20000G is the more likely cause.  The SR20000G’s wireless networks are still working but the loss of the wired ports means I cannot access the NAS.  Fortunately we will be home in a few days and I can try to sort this out in the comfort of my office.

Being tired, and with no TV reception, we were in bed by 10:30 PM and I was asleep by 11 with no alarm set for the morning.


2016/03/21-23 (M-W) Webster Cape-Canaveral Jetty-Park Recovery

2016/03/21 (M) Webster to Cape Canaveral

I was up sometime before 8 AM after a less than completely restful night’s sleep.  Yesterday was our last full day at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) in Webster, Florida and today was departure day.  I am always a bit anxious when the time comes to move the bus after sitting for a while, and even though we have only been here for two weeks it has been a lovely, comfortable place to base camp.  Although we only had about 100 miles to travel today, I was more anxious than usual because of a combination of factors.

At the top of the list was the tag axle brake issue.  While I was hopeful that Joe had taken care of it, at least for now, we would not know for sure until we moved the bus.  Another big factor was that Linda has been very ill for the last few days and was still not well this morning.  That meant I would have to do more of the work of preparing the bus for travel.  I didn’t mind, of course, I just did not want to overlook something that was normally part of her portion of the departure routine.  The third, forth, and fifth factors were:  3) using our new SunPass transponder for the first time; 4) taking the bus on the Florida Turnpike and Toll Road system for the first time, and; 5) traveling a route that came into the Orlando area from the northwest and swung around the southern edge before heading straight east towards the Atlantic ocean.  The sixth and last factor was our destination, which was not a motorcoach resort with wide, straight roads and big sites, but rather a county park with narrow, twisty roads, closer sites, and lots of trees.  Charming, but not necessarily “big rig” friendly.  I knew, because I had visited Pat and Vickie Lintner here two years ago.

We had a reservation at Jetty Park Campground on Cape Canaveral where our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, have been since mid-February.  We had reservations starting today and running through the 28th, with departure on the 29th unless we decide to extend our stay and there was a site available.  Check-in time was 2 PM and our mapping app indicated 104 miles and a little over two hours for our preferred route.  Based on that we wanted to pull out of FGMCR sometime between 11 AM and noon.  That gave us most of the morning to prepare the bus for travel, and that was comfortable even with Linda being ill and not able to do as much as usual.

I did not have coffee this morning—I never do on travel days—and we just had a couple of pieces of toast early for breakfast.  In spite of not feeling well Linda got most of the inside of the bus ready to travel and even swept the floor.  I packed up our computers and iPads and then prepared the outside stuff.

The biggest, most time consuming job, and my least favorite, is checking and adjusting tire pressures.  I had plugged in the TireTrakker TPMS repeater last night and I turned on the receiver/monitor this morning after letting it recharge overnight.  It eventually acquired temperatures and pressures from all 13 tires.  The temperatures were all in the 60’s so I knew the pressure readings were current rather than left over from our previous trip.  The sensors are not accurate enough, however (in my opinion), so I checked all of the tires with my tire gauge except the mini-spare in the car.  The passenger side steer tire on the bus needed an extra 2 PSI, but all four tires on the car were low and needed to be increased.  So did the car spare, but I was not about to empty out the back of the car to get to it.  I should have taken care of this sometime during the last two weeks as the pressure was low enough to keep triggering an alarm on the monitor, and was not at the correct pressure for use should we need it.

By 10:30 AM we were ready to go except for disconnecting the shorepower and hooking up the car.  I was going to reposition the coach so we could hookup the car at the site and then exit to the left but a landscaping crew showed up, parked along the other side of the road to our left, and unhooked their trailer.  I was not going to ask them to move, and I doubt that they would have even if I did.  It was easier to just exit to the right anyway and hook up the car at the staging area by the clubhouse where we unhooked when we came in, so that’s what we decided to do.

At 11:20 AM I disconnected the shorepower and stowed the cord.  Chassis batteries ON; engine accessory air supply ON; inverter operating; main engine start; no problem.  I let the suspension and brakes air up on low idle as Joe had suggested and then pulled up the tag axle.  Linda moved the car to the empty pad across the street to the right and watched as I pulled out.  Once I cleared the turn I put the tag axle back down and Linda followed me counterclockwise around the front “pond” to the staging area where I shut off the engine and she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Many (most) RV parks have “no engine idle” rules.  There isn’t one posted here, and the staging area is far enough from the clubhouse and the closest sites that our engine would not have bothered anyone, but since we would be hooking up the car directly behind the engine we did not want to listen to it while working.

No less than three people stopped to chat with us while we were hooking up the car for towing.  That actually violates good RVing manners (unwritten rules) but they were just curious, being friendly, and/or wishing us safe travels.  The problem is that you are engaged in a critical process and anything that distracts you can result in overlooking something with potentially serious, even disastrous, consequences.  We are experienced enough at this point, however, to double check everything before we drive away, especially if we have been interrupted.  This time we backed the car up until the tow bar arms locked in place and then secured the air line and electrical cables so they would not pull loose.  Linda remained outside to do the light check while I started the bus engine and operated the controls.  Everything checked out and once Linda was back on board we were ready to go.  She had entered our destination into the GPS unit before we pulled out of our site.

Pat & Vickie Lintner’s site at the Jetty Park Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL.

As I pulled around to the exit gate the gatehouse attendants saw or heard us and opened it.  We got big smiles, waves, and “safe travels” from them as we left.  It was 11:50 AM.

The GPS routed us the same way we had determined using our iPad mapping apps.  We turned left out of the resort onto CR-478 headed east.  The road curved around to the north about four miles later and ran up to the town of Center Hill where we picked up CR-48 eastbound.  A half mile later the road turned northeast and a couple miles up the road the GPS told us to turn onto CR-704 (FL-?).  I had just started the turn when I saw the weight restriction sign; nothing over 28,000 pounds GVWR permitted! What the?!!!

I stopped soon enough that I was able to turn back onto CR-48 without having to back up, after traffic cleared, so we caught a break there but were both a bit unnerved by the failure of our Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS to route us correctly.  It then occurred to me that the very small update I Installed last night might have reset the vehicle configuration as I vaguely recalled this happening once before.  Why R-M would design their GPS unit so it loses configuration data as a result of an update is beyond me, but there are several things about this unit that defy common sense.

Linda used her cell phone to try to figure out where we were now headed and determined that we could still get to where we needed to be.  She then opened the preferences screen on the GPS unit and found the configuration screens.  Sure enough, it thought we only weighed 20,000 pounds (we are closer to 42,000) and were only 12’6″ tall (we are probably 13’1″).  I really fault R-M for this as it creates a potentially dangerous situation.  Anytime the settings are changed, certainly if they are reset as part of an update, the unit should display a message to that effect and not allow the unit to be used until it is acknowledged.  Better yet, I don’t understand why the configuration should be changed as part of the update process.

At some point we turned left onto US-33, which seemed wrong, but Linda verified it was correct.  We ended going south on US-27 all the way back to Clermont and then getting on the Florida Turnpike (FL-91) headed south towards Miami.  We made it through the first Toll Plaza with an “OK to Proceed” sign, so we knew that the new transponder was working, which was a big relief.  The lane guidance feature of the GPS unit worked well and we did not have any difficulty negotiating the interchanges.  Linda kept an eye on the tire sensors throughout the trip.  All of the tires indicated temperatures in the 60’s except the driver side tag, which was 90 to 102.  It was definitely elevated, but not enough to be an immediate problem.  This was not unexpected as I knew that the new pads were dragging more than on the passenger side.  Interestingly, the pressure in that tire had not risen disproportionately higher than any of the other tires, indicating to me that it was probably the valve stem that was warmer due to its direct contact with the wheel, rather than the rubber of the tire, which was getting plenty of cool air blowing around it.

We arrived at Jetty Park at 2:15 PM, only 10 minutes later than our original ETA before we had to detour around the weight-restricted road.  Our name was not on the list (sigh) at the entrance gate but we were given the gate code and directed to the campground.  I found a place to pull up and shut off the engine while I went in to register us, as Linda had effectively lost her voice.  We were not on the list (double sigh) there either (same list, I suspect) but they found us in the computer.  I had confirmation e-mails, if needed, but had not brought them in with me.  We unhooked the car and parked it at the office.  We drove the bus around through the narrow, curvy gravel roads but I was able to make all the turns, even with cars parked near the edges, so the road system here is laid out better than it appears.

Jetty Park is a county-owned and operated public park and beach with a campground that has been turned over to the Cape Canaveral Port Authority to manage.  It is in a premium location in Cape Canaveral, Florida just north of Cocoa Beach and just south of the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  It is on the south side of the shipping channel that connects Port Canaveral to the Atlantic Ocean.  Cargo ships use this port/channel, but the main attractions are the Disney and other cruise ships and the U.S. Navy Trident submarines.  In addition to all of its other charms, it is one of the best places from which to watch rocket launches, and there is one scheduled for tomorrow night!  I think this is the first time we have stayed in a county park with the motorcoach.  It is more like a state park than the private RV parks and resorts where we usually stay.  It’s probably closest in appearance and feeling to a nice KOA.

Pat and Vickie saw us drive by and walked down to watch while Linda helped me back into site #343, a full hookup, 50 Amp site with nice trees around it.  I could not back far enough into the site to get the front tires onto the concrete pad due to low branches at the rear of the site.  As a result we were slightly low in front.  That would not normally be a problem but the Level Low system would not adjust the front end.  I have a spare air leveling solenoid and might have to work on this while we are here.  Ugh.  I took a picture on my phone and e-mailed it to our son and daughter.

Site #343, our first (of many) sites at JPCG (on right, beyond the trailer. Cape Canaveral, FL.]

I did not plug in the shorepower cord as I wanted to let the house batteries discharge to 24 VDC (50% SOC).  Linda and Vickie searched online for medical clinics.  Linda selected one about three miles away in Cocoa Beach and I drove her there.  It took about two hours from the time we arrived until she had her prescriptions.  We went to the CVS Pharmacy across the street to have them filled.  They would not be ready for 2 to 2.5 hours so we went back to the campground so Linda could rest as comfortably as possible.

Back at our rig I got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to the park’s public Wi-Fi system and got our iPads and my computer online.  I did not set up Linda’s computer as it will likely be a few days before she is in the humor to use it.  I checked e-mail and the throughput appeared to be usable, if somewhat slow.  I suspect it will be better between midnight and 8 AM, but that is not when I tend to be up.  If we have updates, however, or I need to upload or download are files to/from BCM, I might adjust my schedule.  The RV life requires agility.

I left at 6:30 PM and drove back to Cocoa Beach to pick up Linda’s prescription medications.  I stopped at a Publix supermarket first and bought various groceries before going to the CVS Pharmacy.  On the way back I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a coffee for me and finally got back to our coach at 7:45 PM.  Linda helped get the groceries inside and then took her first dose of meds.

I turned the front TV antenna towards Orlando and rescanned for channels.  The TV found at least 60, including CBS and two different PBS affiliates.  I pointed the rear antenna in the same direction and rescanned the rear/bedroom TV but the scan would not compete successfully.  I tried it a couple of times with the same result each time.  Arrrgh.  When in doubt, do a power-off power-on reset, right?  I unplugged the power from the antenna controller and the TV set, waited long enough for any power capacitors to bleed down, and plugged them back in.  I pointed the antenna again and then scanned for channels.  Eureka, this time they were all there!  I should have tried that while we were at FGMCR.  Doh!

We watched our usual Monday night TV shows on CBS plus a few minutes of news and weather and then went to bed.  Given how Linda felt and was still coughing I figured neither of us was going to get a good night’s sleep, but we were both tired and there wasn’t anything else to do except try.  An overnight low of about 50 degrees F was expected so I had closed the roof vents and left the windows open just a crack.  We were still operating off the house batteries and inverter so I did not turn on the usual night lights.

2016/03/22 (T) Jetty Park Atlas

Linda had a really bad night last night, maybe the worst yet since she took ill, with persistent extended episodes of painful coughing.  She was obviously uncomfortable, and no doubt also frustrated, as she was finally able to start taking medication last night at 8 PM.  She was already wrung out and very tired, and I was a bit spent myself after the day we had yesterday, but neither of us got a good night’s sleep.  Today will need to be an easy day, of necessity, and we will need to rest so we can be up and alert late this evening for the rocket launch.  An Atlas V (5) launch is scheduled from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:05 PM this evening.  It is a resupply mission for the International Space Station.

I got out of bed at 7:15 AM and fed the cats.  I was not well-rested, and would like to have gotten back under the nice warm covers, but I was also uncomfortable and had spent as much time supine as I cared to for one night.  The outside air temperature overnight got down to 51 degrees F but we closed the roof vents, and only left the windows open a crack, before going to bed last night so the inside temperature only dropped to 65.  I did not plug in the shorepower cord when we got here yesterday so I could not use the electric heater pad on the bed, but we had plenty of covers (and cats) to keep us warm and I did not need the extra heat.  I put on my sweats this morning, and was very comfortable.

Linda got up around 7:45 AM to take her medications.  She needed to heat a cup of water to make a salt water gargle mixture but the house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC.  That is roughly a 50% SOC (State Of Charge).  Lead acid batteries, including AGMs, can be discharged a bit more than that but it shortens the number of times they can be cycled so I do not like to let them go much below that level.  I took a few minutes to plug in the shorepower cord and soon enough we had 240/120 VAC power to the coach.  After Linda prepared her gargle mixture I rearranged the kitchen counter and then made coffee and got our vitamins and juice ready.

Linda tried to play a few games on her iPad while I worked on the drafts of my blog posts for the last two days and started the one for today.  Pat and Vickie were out walking and stopped by to see how Linda was doing.  I walked over to the office at 11 to register/pay for the next 7 nights of camping and walked past site #352 on the way.  It was still occupied, but the current occupants were clearly in the final stages of vacating the site.  I walked past the site again on my way back from the office and the current occupants were just pulling out.  When I got back to our coach I let Linda know it was time to move.

We walked over to the new site to scope out where to put the car and how to approach getting the coach backed in and then walked back to our current site.  Linda closed the front windows and secured a few loose items, but mostly left everything sitting right where it was as we were only going for a short, easy ride.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot electric heating element and then took care of the outside stuff.  I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the cord, and stowed it away, once again wishing that I had a cord reel.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply, and started the engine.  While the engine idled and the chassis aired up Linda drove the car to the new site, parked it, and awaited my arrival.

Moving the coach from site #343 to site #352 was a simple matter of driving counterclockwise almost all the way around Red Knot Circle, the easternmost loop of the campground, and pulling into Siskin Drive headed east.  The location of trees and a light pole made for a tricky spot to get into.  The guy in the site to our east (driver’s side) offered to move his truck but I determined that it was not really in the way.

I lifted the tag axle to shorten the turning radius of the bus while maneuvering through the campground.  The drive was easy but it took a little bit of back and forth for Linda to get me backed in and centered on the concrete pad.  The trees at the back of the site were trimmed up high enough that I could back the coach in far enough to just get the steer tires onto the pad.  That was important as the pad was level enough that I did not need to adjust the leveling of the coach, which was a good thing because yesterday the front end portion of the Level Low system would not work.  I got out of the coach a couple of times to check the location of the tires and tree limbs and was pleased to see that the tag axle tires were actually off the ground.

I shut the engine down and we went through a modified arrival routine.  As usual, I shut off the chassis batteries, closed the air supply valve for the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and put power to the coach.  The Magnum 4024 inverter/charger worked fine yesterday and it worked fine again today.  I do not know what caused the fault on the drive up from Arcadia to Webster, but resetting the unit seems to have restored it to proper operation.

The beach at Jetty Park & Campground looking south at Cocoa Beach, FL.

Linda got out the door mat, patio mat, our two bag chairs, and our plastic side table.  She also got the tire covers out of the car and put them on the bus.  I got out the windshield covers and the Little Giant step/extension ladder and set it up.  I retrieved the rivets to hold the lower windshield wipers off the glass and then Linda handed me the windshield wiper covers.  I wanted to put these on first to protect the windshield cover from getting snagged on the metal edges of the arms and wiper blade inserts.

This was the first time we have put the new windshield covers on since we got them two weeks ago so we had to figure out the easiest way to do it, or at least a way that worked. We positioned the large one-piece windshield cover behind the lower wipers and above their drive shafts.  That supported the fabric while I pulled it up under the upper wipers and attached the upper center snap and the lower driver side corner snap.  I repositioned the ladder to the driver side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, and attached the driver side upper corner snap.  I moved the ladder to the passenger side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, attached the upper corner snap, and then the lower corner snap.  I had to stretch to reach the upper snaps, so next time I will make the step ladder a little taller.

There are three covers for the passenger side: one for the door, one for the window above the door, and one for the window behind the door.  These are all small enough that there was no particular difficulty attaching them.  The trick was to start at the top and attach as many snaps as possible before climbing down and repositioning the ladder.  For the one large driver side cover I started with the upper center snap, then attached the upper rear snap.  I moved the ladder forward and attached the upper front snap and then did the three bottom snaps. When we were done with that we were finally free to relax.  Vickie and Linda discussed walking the park and Linda suggested starting between 3 and 3:30 PM.  I gathered she was finally feeling a little better, or was just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

At 2 PM Linda asked me get her some more tissues and sore throat spray.  I headed for the CVS pharmacy but ended up at the Publix supermarket, which is closer by a mile or so.  Besides liking Publix, that meant less traffic to deal with.  Somewhat like the Florida Keys, but not as extreme, we are on a long, skinny island with one main road running along its spine.  Unlike the Keys, there are more side roads and an occasional causeway that goes over to Merritt Island and on to the mainland.  I found what I needed at Publix and was back at the park in due course.

At 3:30 PM we went for a stroll around the campground and park with Vickie as tour guide.  After our stroll Linda was hungry and heated up some Amy’s Tomato Bisque Soup (vegan).  I was really tired and laid down in bed to take a nap that lasted over two hours.  When I got up I had the rest of the soup and a large green salad.  We then watched out usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs but did not get to see the last 15 minutes of Limitless as Vickie texted to jet me know they were on their way over to fetch us and walk to the shipping channel to watch the rocket launch.

The Atlas V resupply mission for the International Space Station lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station right on schedule at 11:05 PM.  The launch pad was much farther away from our position than the one used for the military satellite launch two years ago, but was illuminated by multiple light sources producing beams and shadows projecting up and highlighted by the clouds.  For all the launches Pat and Vickie have seen from this park, this was the first time they recalled seeing these lights.

Even though the Atlas V was a much larger rocket than one I saw two years ago, it was not as loud or as visually impressive as the other one.  There were scattered clouds at liftoff, which made for interesting viewing, but the rocket was fairly quickly above them and then disappeared from sight.  I tried to take a few photos, but I did not bother bringing the tripod or spend any time ahead of time figuring out appropriate camera settings.  I did, however, spend a few minutes playing with manual adjustment of the ISO setting.

A man sitting next to me was monitoring mission control on a radio so we knew what was going on before, during, and after the launch.  Only minutes after liftoff the rocket had burned enough fuel to reduce its weight by 75%, was 120 miles above the surface of the earth, was 338 miles downrange, and was traveling just under 10,000 miles per hour!  It’s time to orbit was projected to be 21 minutes and I believe the orbital velocity would be approximately 18,000 MPH.  (The actual orbital velocity would obviously be a very exact number.)

When it was all over we carried our chairs back to our rig and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s coach so she could drop her’s off.  Pat went in for the evening but the three of us went for a leisurely midnight stroll around the entire campground.  In spite of the event that had just occurred the campground was quiet.  There is some general purpose street lighting here, but not too much.  It’s a nice campground and I could see why Pat and Vickie like to come here.

Back at our coach Linda decided to sleep in the living room.  More specifically, she decided to sleep in the two captain’s chairs by locking them in position facing one another, reclining the backs, and putting the hassock between them.  She thought she might sleep better in a partially upright position.  I finished a few e-mails and retired to the bedroom where I was joined by the cats.  I was too tired to write but too awake to go right to sleep so I turned on the TV.  After flipping through the channels I settled on an old movie, The Battle of Britain.  By 2 AM it was still on, owing to too much time for commercials and not enough time for the movie, so I turned it off and went to sleep.

The “Jetty” and pier at Jetty Park. Cape Canaveral, FL.

2016/03/23 (W) On The Road To Recovery

Linda slept seven hours last night with very little coughing, at least that I heard.  She slept in the living room (her choice) and left the bedroom to me.  I had a long early evening nap and did not fall asleep until 2 AM.  Even then I did not sleep that well and got up at 8 AM.  Linda was still asleep but woke up not long after.  She wanted coffee so rather than grind up beans and deal with the whole do-it-yourself process we walked up to the campground office with our two Tervis mugs/caps and filled them there.  Free coffee all day, every day, is a nice campground amenity and not one we have found anywhere else.

Pat and Vickie decided to go to Epcot Center at Disney World today for the annual flower and garden show.  Vickie texted me to see how Linda was doing and if we wanted to go.  Linda was definitely not well enough yet to go anywhere or do anything, so we stayed behind and had an easy day at our home on wheels, starting with toast and jam for our breakfast.  Linda read a little and checked our banking.  I talked to my sister about our dad for a bit, but spent most of the morning completing draft blog posts for the last three days.  We both got showers, which brought our fresh water level down to ~1/6th tank (20 gallons).

I copied the photos I’ve taken during the last week, including the rocket launch last night, to my computer.  I selected one of the rocket launch for this week’s post card, processed it, and e-mailed it to Linda’s iPad.  While she created a post card for grand-daughter Madeline, I connected the fresh water hose and water softener, tested the harness of the water supply, (7 to 10 gpg), filled the fresh water tank (100 gallons), and connected the waste water drain hose.

With my outside chores done I selected two photos from my article on replacing the bearings in a Webasto diesel burner and e-mailed the image numbers to Gary and Jorge at BCM.  They will be used on the “Coming in June” page of the May issue, one for my articles and one for Lloyd DeGerald’s multi-step maintenance list.

The nighttime launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as seen from Jetty Park. Note: This was a long-exposure handheld shot. I was braced against a sign to take it.

I heated a can of Amy’s Golden Lentil “Indian Dal” soup and washed some black grapes for our lunch.  There was a cool breeze outside but a bit of heat gain in the coach so we sat outside, doodled on our iPads, and dozed in our folding bag chairs.  A little before 5 PM Linda decided she wanted to go for a walk on the beach.  The wind was strong out of the east with 3 to 4 foot waves breaking just off shore, but the late afternoon sun was warm enough to make for a pleasant stroll south towards Cocoa Beach.  As the sun dropped lower in the sky and was filtered by thin clouds it turned slightly chilly so we turned around and headed back to Jetty Park.  We continued our walk through the picnic and playground area and walked along the channel to the boat ramps and then to the campground office.  We got a couple of cups of coffee and sat down to watch the news but the TV was tuned to FOX News, so we left and walked back to our site, noting that Pat and Vickie’s car was back at their site.

We discussed what to do for dinner and decided on cooking the vegan Italian sausage and using it to top a salad.  I texted Vickie to ask how the garden and flower show was, and let her know that Linda was feeling slightly better.  We gave the cats their monthly dose of Cheristin flea medication, which they were due for yesterday.

Vickie came over at 7:15 PM with her iPad and we looked at all of the pictures she took at the Epcot Center Flower and Garden show.  It was clearly a spectacular exhibition and since we could not attend we were glad to see it through Vickie’s photographs.  By the time Vickie returned to her coach it was almost 9 PM so Linda suggested that we just have granola for dinner.  That sounded quick and easy to me, besides which I love her granola, so I did not need any convincing.

On Wednesday evenings we like to watch nature, science, and technology programs on PBS.  We have two PBS stations potentially available to us here at Jetty Park Campground but neither of them have 100% reliable signals.  I experimented with a range of antenna directions and selected the one that seemed to offer the most reliable signal for the 24.n channels.  NOVA was on the recreation of Noah’s Ark and Secrets of the Dead was on the discovery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Ninevah, 250 miles north of Babylon and built by King Sennacherib.

Linda once again set up the captain’s chairs as a bed so she could sleep sitting up.  I could not tune in channel 24 in the bedroom so I finished watching the show in the living room.  At 11 PM I tuned off the lights in the front of the coach and left Linda to sleep while I retired to the bedroom to write, play a few games, and watch a little more TV before going to sleep.


2015/05/28 (R) Ice Cold Internet

I was up until after 1 AM last night fussing with my computer but the OS was updated and was running better (I think) when I finally went to bed.  I need my beauty rest so I did not get up until 9 AM this morning.  Linda had already made coffee so I checked the temperature of the refrigerator (41.4 degrees F) and then got out the soy creamer.  41 is better than 45 but given where the thermostat was set the temperature in the fresh food compartment should have been 35 degrees or lower.  We had a very late breakfast of homemade granola and small glasses of orange juice to wash down our vitamins.

Because I did not get to upload any blog posts last night I switched up my routine and spent the morning working at my desk.  The weather was very nice so Linda went for a long walk.  My computer was back to normal and I managed to upload nine posts to my blog (May 10 through 18) by 1 PM.

I had an e-mail back from Ken Schramm yesterday letting me know that his “last day at Wayne RESA” gathering would get underway around 3:30 PM at Ashley’s Beer & a Grill at Westland Mall.  Brendan and Shawna’s celebration is from 5 to 8 PM in Ann Arbor so we will be able to attend both events although we might not make it to Ann Arbor until 6 PM.

Today was our friends’ 44th wedding anniversary.  Butch and Fonda were married the same year we were one day before us.  We did not know each other then but are now friends through our mutual passion for converted highway buses.

Brendan called and talked to Linda.  It turns out that tomorrow is grandparents/special friends Shabbat at Madeline’s daycare center and Brendan thought we might want to attend.  It starts at 10:30 AM and includes lunch.  The food at the daycare center is vegetarian but not vegan so we will see how that works out.  Brendan is going to take care of Linda’s plants so we will take these with us and go to his house when we are done at the daycare center.  I will pick up our electric pressure washer while we are there so I can wash the bus on Saturday.  We were going to buy cards today for Ken, Brendan, and Shawna but decided we would do that tomorrow on our way to Ken’s gathering.

Linda made large green salads with chickpeas for lunch.  We both put on a few pounds over the winter and really want/need to take them off.  After lunch I worked in the bus.  I removed the wood trim along the top of the beveled strip mirrors on the wall in hallway.  The strips were glued directly to the wall so I put the trim back on.  If we do not want to see these mirrors we will have to figure out some way to cover them.

There was a triangular horizontal panel between the upper edges of the J-lounge and the dinette with four switches mounted in it.  Two of those switches no longer control anything but the other two still do.  I secured the panel above the passenger side HVAC chase and blocked it in so it could not move.  I dressed all of the loose wires with cable ties and cable clamps and secured them to the floor.  I cut two grates from a piece of expanded metal and secured them over the two holes in the driver side HVAC chase where the sleeper-sofa was installed.  That sealed up the last of the holes that the cats might get into.  If one of them got into the HVAC system we would have disassemble half the bus to get them out.

I removed all of my tools and miscellaneous parts from the bus and set them on steps leading to the house.  I had put one of our folding chairs inside the bus to sit on and moved it to the location of the passenger chair as a safety barrier after I moved the trash can out yesterday.  I folded it up and put it back in the bay where it is stored.  While Linda vacuumed the inside of the coach with our Shop-Vac I put tools and parts in the garage or back into the appropriate tool boxes.  When she was done we got the Shop-Vac out of the bus and put it in the garage.

There is a maple grab handle on the right side of the entrance stairs (as you enter the bus) attached to a piece of maple trim from the back side.  The finish is worn and the handle is loose.  I wanted to tighten it, which required access to the back of the trim board.  Linda recalled that we had Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) tighten this handle when we first got the coach so we figured there had to be a way to get to the back of the trim board.

We removed the cockpit HVAC access panel just below the trim board but it did not appear to provide access to the back of the trim board.  I removed the only two screws I could see (at the right end of the trim) but it still would not come loose.  I figured the trim board had to be screwed on somewhere else and the only possible place was under a piece of inset brass finish trim.  This brass trim is used throughout the bus, including around the edges of the Corian counters, and has an adhesive backing.  I have found screws under it in other places so I pried the end up and peeled it out, revealing three screws.

I thought I was on the verge of success until I removed the three screws but still could not get the trim board loose.  I tried prying it at various points with a screwdriver but it would not budge and we finally came to the unhappy conclusion that it was glued on.  Perhaps it is secured from underneath in some manner that we did not see but I will have to return to this when I have more time.  Linda suggested that we cut the handle off and install a new one that can be screwed on from the front.  She’s a clever girl.  As long as the access panel was off we vacuumed out the cockpit HVAC system and then replaced the panel.

About this time a UPS truck went by headed deeper into our neighborhood.  Since we live on a dead end street I knew the truck would be coming back so I waited for it and flagged down the driver.  I explained to the young man that we had two packages delivered to the wrong house in the same week about a month ago and that I had called the 800 number and talked to customer service but I would appreciate it if he would mention it to his colleagues as we will be ordering a lot of stuff starting in the second week of June.  He was very nice and said he would.

Our last bus task for today was the hard one.  We moved the passenger chair from the garage back to the bus using a hand truck so we did not have to carry it.  It is very heavy but with Linda guiding the top and me supporting the base we got it inside and set in position.  We tilted it fore and aft so I could slide the mounting studs into position and line them up with the holes in the base.  I then bolted it down to the support rails by tightening the four nuts.

This was all trickier than it sounds.  The bolts have square flanges that have to engage in the open slot of the channel to keep them from turning while being tightened or loosened.  But that required me to pull up on the studs as the nuts were not going on that easily.  As when I took the nuts off, I had to wedge one of them up with a screwdriver while I got the nut tight enough that the bolt would not spin.  I reconnected the power to the chair and we checked that all of the adjustments still worked, especially the footrest.

With the installation of the passenger seat we were done working on the bus until after GLAMARAMA and have two seats with seatbelts so we can tow the car rather than drive it separately.  This will be much nicer for us and the cats, although I expect the modified interior will freak them out initially.  We will be gone most of Friday but have Saturday to prepare food, reload the coach for the week, and wash the exterior.  Oh the joys of owning a converted coach.

For dinner Linda served the last of the whole wheat capellini with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus and steamed some broccoli.  A piece of whole wheat bread and a small glass of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine completed the meal.  We had watermelon for dessert later.

I returned to my office after dinner and updated our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS.  I then continued uploading blog posts.  By the time I quit working around 10 PM I had uploaded nine more posts and was caught up!  I think 18 posts in one day may be my all time record.  I did not get to work on articles for BCM, or copy files between our NAS units, but I was satisfied with what we had accomplished today.


2015/03/24-25 (T-W) RVillage WHQ Redux

2015/03/24 (T) Return to Arizona City, AZ

[Note:  There are no photographs for this post.]

We targeted a late morning departure from Hickiwan Trails RV Park.  The normal checkout time is 11:00 AM but that had nothing to do with our target as we were paid through Tuesday evening and the park was empty enough that the manager did not care when we left.  The timing mostly had to do with the necessity of having some agreed target time when traveling with other RVers, not wanting to feel like we had to get up at the crack of dawn and get on the road, and not wanting to drive into the morning sun but wanting arrive at our destination by mid-afternoon.  There is a lot that goes into something as simple as answering the question “what time are we going to leave?” which was preceded by answering the apparently equally simple question “what day are going to leave?”

We only had 120 miles to travel so an 11 AM departure met all of our requirements.  We pulled out of our site about 10:45 AM and hooked up our car.  I tried to adjust the driver’s side rearview mirror and could not position it where I wanted it.  The mirror had loosened and moved on the support arm and needed to be repositioned.  Lou got out his small step ladder and I found a star bit for my screwdriver.  It took a bit of back and forth but I got the mirror repositioned and tightened so that the correct view was near the center of the motorized travel that I can control from the driver’s seat.  By the time we put everything away and were ready to pull out it was 11:20 AM.  11 AM was a target, not a hard and fast requirement.

It was a warm day and Lou decided that he wanted to keep his speed at 50 MPH because he was unsure of the spare tire he had installed on their trailer on Thursday.  That is slower than optimal for our bus, especially when the speed limit is higher than that.  He suggested that we travel at whatever speed was comfortable for us and they would meet up with us sometime later at our destination.  Once we cleaned Ajo we had a good run up AZ-85 at 55 MPH.  The road is posted 65 MPH but it is a 2-lane highway with very little shoulder, so 55 felt just fine.  Once we got on I-8 headed east the speed limit was 75 MPH.  I set the cruise control at 63 MPH and let it roll.  The bus likes that speed which has the engine turning ~1,800 RPM in the top gear of the transmission.

We did not need to stop for fuel or to rest so we rolled slowly through Arizona City to our destination and got ourselves parked at the RVillage headquarters.  Lou and Val stopped to eat lunch and take on fuel and finally arrived an hour or so behind us.  We circled our camp chairs, slumped into them, and said a collective “ahhhh.”  It was beautiful and peaceful here, as always, with warm sun and a cool breeze.  Linda captured a gorgeous sunset over the lake and mountains to the west on her cell phone.  It cooled off quickly after the sun set and soon enough we retreated to our rigs for the evening.

Curtis is a very gracious host and even though we are boondocking he lets us use his wireless Internet connection.  I wasted almost 4 GB of our 10 GB Verizon data plan last billing cycle trying to download a map update for our Rand McNally RVND 7710 GPS that failed after most of it had been downloaded.  The GPS is an excellent device but the download/update protocol is one of the most stupid I have ever encountered.  Why do I say that?  Read on.

Almost 1,000 files are involved in the update and even at that a few of them are gigantic.  The entire download of 4.4 GB has to succeed or everything is lost and you have to start over.  Even on a good Internet connection it takes one-to-two hours for the download so the chances of having it fail are definitely non-zero.  By 11 PM no one else was using the Internet and I was able to get everything downloaded in a little over an hour.  It took another 30 minutes to install the updates into the GPS, after which it indicated there were more updates available.  Thankfully those only took a few minutes to download and install and I managed to get to bed by 12:30 AM.

2015/03/25 (W) Chill’n at the Lake

In a switch from our normal routine Linda got up before me and made coffee while I slept in until 8 AM.  We have our customary ways of doing things, but they are not hard and fast rules.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with fresh grapefruit and coffee.  We opened up the windows and turned on the exhaust fans to keep the inside of the bus comfortable for the cats and then moved to the shaded table on the porch by the lake. I took my iPad and worked on drafts of posts for the last two weeks.

Linda made up a nice lunch platter for each of us and brought it to the table where Lou and Val eventually joined us with their mid-day meals.  Mid-afternoon Lou wanted to go find some tire stores and get prices for two new truck tires and two new trailer tires.  I was ready for a break so I went along.  That proved useful as I was able to use Google voice on my smartphone to research places and request navigation.  Linda uses this feature all the time, but I rarely do.  It’s pretty cool and I should probably use it more than I do.

Our first stop was the local SpeedCo truck tire and lube facility in Arizona City but they only sold 22″ and 24″ truck tires.  We stopped at the Love’s truck stop across the street where I found the 12 VDC cigarette lighter style plug I needed to wire up the TireTraker repeater we got from Darryl Lawrence at Escapade to try out.  We stopped at Discount Tire in Casa Grande next and that turned out to be the best quote Lou got.  We stopped at the Arizona City Post Office at 4:30 PM on our way back to camp so Lou could mail something.

The rest of the day and early evening was spent by the lake quietly using our technology.  Once the light faded and the temperature started to drop we returned to our rigs to have dinner.


2014/12/09-12 (T-F) On to Q

2014/12/09 (T) Elvis Is Not Dead

No, indeed, Elvis is alive and well and living in Alvarado, Texas with his owner, Donn and fellow dog Lucy.  Sweet animals both, we enjoyed their presence while visiting with Donn.

We heard Donn pull out a few minutes before 5 AM, in an attempt to beat the worst of the morning rush hour traffic headed into Dallas, but we were not ready to get up.  I think we finally piled out of bed around 7:30 AM to find that the fog was so thick we could not see the road at the end of Donn’s driveway.  We had targeted 9 AM as a departure time that would have us miss most of the morning traffic, and actually pulled out of our parking spot at 9:11 AM.  The fog was still thick but it was bright enough that we could usually see at least a quarter of a mile in our direction of travel.

We worked our way back onto northbound I-35W towards Fort Worth and kept to the right in spite of entering traffic.  We chose not to stop at the QT (Quick Trip) even though Diesel fuel was $3.08 per gallon, the least expensive we have seen in years.  The transition to I-20 westbound was via one of the very high ramps that are used to connect intersecting freeways around the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolis, but it was not a problem.  We continued to drive through fog for at least 90 minutes, so we could not tell you what Texas west of Fort Worth looks like if had to.  We stayed on I-20 all the way to Midland, Texas only stopping to fuel up at the Flying J Truck Stop on the far side of Abilene, Texas by which point the fog had lifted and it was partly sunny with temperatures in the upper 60s.  Eventually, however, the clouds closed back in, which made the last 90 minutes of the drive a bit less bright and easier on the eyes.

The bus ran well all day and I did better at getting on the accelerator in advance of climbing grades, spinning up the turbocharger and keeping the engine RPMs in the 1900-2000 range.  The bus took 98.135 gallons of fuel at the truck stop and we had traveled 553.8 miles since the last fill-up for an average of 5.64 MPG.  That included running our generator at the Wal-Mart in Texarkana, Texas on Friday. Our previous fill-up computed out at 5.45 MPG.  In our previous use of the coach I figured we were getting 6.0 MPG, but we had not done as much dry-camping as we did on this trip.  We have used the generator and the Aqua-Hot on this trip, both of which draw fuel from the main tank.

The only issue I had today was with the dual pyrometers, specifically the right one.  Historically the right pyro has read 50 – 100 degrees F higher than the left one, which would often stick on “0” and then swing up if I tapped on the gauge.  Both gauges have been tracking within 50 degrees since I rechecked the DDEC II connectors, but today the right gauge started lagging behind the left one, sometimes by a couple of hundred degrees.  If that difference was real it would be a real problem, but everything else looked, felt, and sounded OK, so I think this is a continuing problem with the instrument, and/or sensors, and/or wiring and connectors, but I will have to keep an eye on it.

A half hour before the GPS said we would arrive Linda tried calling the Wal-Mart in Midland several times but never got an answer.  We exited at Midland just before 3 PM and did not have any problem getting into the Wal-Mart parking lot which was very convenient to the freeway but relatively busy for that time of day on a Tuesday.  Not surprising, though, as Midland is the epicenter of the current oil and wind boom in west Texas.  The stretch of I-20 from Fort Worth to Midland is not desolate.  Sweetwater is the wind power capital of the USA, and all along I-20 there are “RV Parks” on both sides of the freeway.  Some of them were genuine, nice looking, RV Parks but most were makeshift looking places that appeared to have been created quickly to service (take advantage of?) a sudden need for places to park almost anything that might serve as shelter for energy workers.

As always, we checked with Customer Service to make sure it was OK to stay overnight.  They said it was but twice told us to “be careful.”  The warning had to do with leaving our vehicle for an extended period of time and risk having it towed.  Apparently “extended” meant weeks, not hours, and I assured them we would be gone first thing in the morning.  While we were in the store we picked up several bottles of PineSol and a couple of boxes of Calgon bath beads.  We prefer the larger, cylindrical plastic containers of Calgon but rarely find them in retail stores and pharmacies.  After we carried everything back to the coach I went for a walk to confirm our exit options for tomorrow morning.  We looked at satellite images on Google Maps last night so I had a good understanding of the parking lot and access roads, but I wanted to verify that information while it was still daylight.

For dinner we had a nice salad, a fresh apple, and Tofurkey brand turkey and vegan cheese sandwiches.  We were going to have the leftover chili from last night’s dinner, but the microwave and the Magnum charger are on the same leg, and the microwave acts like it is going to self-destruct if we try to use it while the charger is also drawing a large amount of current.  I may try moving the circuit breaker for the microwave to a position in the sub-panel that puts it on Leg 2 and see if that helps, but I have to maintain a reasonable load balance between the two legs.  It may be, however, that the microwave is more sensitive to a reduced voltage level than the other high power devices or things like lights or entertainment equipment, which just converts the AC to DC internally anyway.

I called Butch before dinner and they were still on the road in New Mexico.  He called me back after our dinner to let me know they were in a rest stop on I-25 and had the place to themselves.  By comparison, the Midland Wal-Mart was a busy place and most of the vehicles (drivers) seemed to find driving up and down the aisles to be a great inconvenience.  Instead, they took straight line paths across the parking lot, driving between closely spaced parked vehicles (including buses) at surprisingly high speed and didn’t always stop to see if another vehicle might be driving in the lane (where it belongs).  There was a Murphy USA filling station on the property, as well as a McDonalds, which contributed to the constant flow of traffic.

Butch had talked to Luke at U. S. Coach earlier today and got prices for the parts he presumes he needs to repair the main engine air-compressor (Bendix Tu-Flo 700 series) on their bus or replace it with a factory rebuilt one.  Either way the work will wait until we get to Quartzsite, Arizona.

We had a good a Verizon 4G/LTE cellular signal so I sent TXT messages to Donn and Chuck letting them know where we were and ended up having brief TXT message exchanges with both of them.  When we first arrived Linda sent TXT messages to both of our children updating them on our location.  We received messages while we were driving that our older grand-daughter, Katie, had been accepted to Michigan State University.  She applied to three state schools and Michigan Technological University was the first to accept her.  She is waiting to hear about a scholarship from them but knows for sure that she will be going to college somewhere in the fall of 2015 and will have to make a choice as to where.

2014/12/10 (W) Dream Catcher

We went to bed early last night knowing we planned to drive over 400 miles today and wanted to get an early start.  I was awake by 4 AM and finally got up at 5 AM.  The parking lot had thinned out and quieted down overnight but even at that hour tractor-trailer rigs were coming and going.  The house batteries were at 95% SOC when I turned the generator off at 8:45 PM last night and were at 70% SOC when I turned it back on when I got up.

Although I do not like to eat a big breakfast and drink coffee on days that I have to drive, I also do not like to travel too long on an empty stomach.  I have also noticed that lack of liquids can lead to a headache or general feeling of unwellness.  I was up early enough that I had a piece of raisin bread, a banana, and a small glass of grapefruit juice with time to digest it before we hit the road.

Linda got up at 5:30 AM and we started preparing the bus for travel at 5:45 AM.  We pulled out at 6 AM, using the route I had scoped out last night to work our way around behind the Wal-Mart and onto the service drive for I-20 and get position for the freeway entrance.  Once we were on the Interstate it was dark, of course, but it was also foggy.  In spite of those conditions traffic was heavy until we were well past Odessa.  Midland and Odessa are at the center of the current Texas energy (oil and wind) boom and between them are spread out along 30 miles of I-20.  I was definitely not the most scenic part of our trip to date.

The fog stayed with us almost to where I-20 ends and merges with I-10.  We drove through it for hours.  The rest of the day was a mix of sun and clouds.  The bus generally ran well but the turbocharger did not seem to be as responsive as it should be.  I continued to do better at anticipating grades and getting the engine RPMs and turbo boost up ahead of time but noticed that the turbo boost was not peaking off the scale the way it used to.

The speed limit on I-20 yesterday between Fort Worth and Midland was 75 MPH.  That continued through Midland and Odessa but once we were past Odessa it went up to 80 MPH.  I usually travel 60 to 62 MPH when the speed limit allows it but for stretches of today’s trip I set the cruise control at 65 MPH and sometimes traveled at 70 MPH.  Texas is a big place and west Texas is vast.  The speed limits are this high because it is safe to drive that speed out here, and you just have to go faster if you want to get across west Texas in any reasonable amount of time.

Towards the end of I-20 and once we were on I-10 the terrain became rolling and then slightly mountainous and was very pretty in a southwestern desert kind of way.  At some point we notice very large mountains off to the southwest.  Just before reaching El Paso we were very close to the Rio Grande River and realized that the mountains were now very close on the Mexican side of the river and were very large and very rugged.  I-10 through El Paso, Texas was an experience unto itself as there was road construction along its entire length for what seemed like endless miles.  On the other side of El Paso we had to stop at a Homeland Security check point where we went in with the trucks by mistake but got waived through.  Whenever I am unsure about overhead clearances I stick with the big rigs.

We continued on I-10W into New Mexico where it was joined by I-25 in Las Cruces and completed our run to Deming.  We pulled into the Escapees Dream Catcher RV Park at 11:50 MST, just shy of 7 hours after we pulled out of the Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas.  We had traveled 407 miles at an average speed of 58 MPH which was faster than our usual 50 MPH average.

Butch and Fonda were already checked-in to the RV Park and we took one of the sites next to theirs’.  They had developed an apparent chassis battery problem and Butch was trying to sort it out.  I got the shorepower hooked up while Linda prepared lunch.  She made open faced chili cheese dogs with some tofu hotdogs and the leftover chili from Monday night.

Butch needed a new battery for their Suburban so I rode with him to the local Wal-Mart.  He had them install it (no extra charge) but had to teach the “technician” how to do it.  He was also scoping out batteries for the bus but Wal-Mart did not have the Group 31’s he was looking for.  We stopped at both O’Reilly’s and NAPA auto parts stores and got prices then went back to do some additional diagnosis.  Butch suspects a shorted cell but has not confirmed that.

Linda suggested that I connect the sewer hose and fresh water line while it was still daylight with comfortable temperatures so that is what I did.  I decided to check out the two pyrometer sensors.  In the process I “discovered” a metal plate with an electrical harness plugged into it and a fitting for a hose but with only a small piece of hose attached to the fitting.  Butch identified the plate as the turbocharger boost sensor.  I found the loose end of the hose and followed it back to turbocharger outlet manifold.  That explained why I was not able to get the turbo boost and engine power I expected from the engine.  The hose was incredibly brittle and had to be replaced; not good.  We discussed options and appeared to have two: 1) Attach a new hose to the sensor tube and then try to splice it into the old hose, or 2) get a new barbed fitting for the manifold and run a new hose from there to the sensor.  We drove back to the NAPA store and got the parts we might need.

Butch removed the old fitting from the intake manifold and decided we could re-use it.  It took some doing but he got it installed.  We routed the new hose (fuel injector rated) to the sensor plate and connected it.  I could not figure out how to mount the plate so I left it sitting behind the computer on top of the engine where I found it.  I do not know if the old hose has been broken for a while or if it finally failed this afternoon when I grabbed it, but either way it was certainly leaking and was another potential disaster averted.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-grilled tofu slices with Bar-B-Que sauce and caramelized onions.  After dinner we took advantage of our full hookups to take showers and get additional water in our waste tanks.  We watched an episode of Nova on the local PBS station and then went to bed.  Both sides of the air mattress were very hard.  When we checked the settings, my side was at 50 and Linda’s was at 85, both much higher than we usually set them.

The thought crossed my mind that the cats might have stepped on the controls, but that seemed unlikely as the buttons are slightly recessed and have to be pushed in to activate the system.  Besides, the odds of them stepping on the controls for both sides of the bed were very small.  Linda made an off-hand comment about altitude and I realized immediately that this was the effect of having climbed from 765 feet above sea level (ASL) in Alvarado, Texas to 2,862 ft. ASL in Midland, Texas, to 4,300 ft. ASL in Deming, New Mexico.  I also realized in that moment why the tire pressures were higher than I expected when I checked the PressurePro TPMS this morning before we pulled out of Midland.  Sometimes that which should be obvious is not.  We reset the air mattress pressures and drifted comfortably off to sleep.

2014/12/11 (R) RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP

I was up at 6 AM after a good night’s sleep and Linda got up around 7 AM.  The overnight low was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and we did not have any of the heaters turned on, so the front of the coach got a bit chilly.  We were parked facing east so the rising sun lit up the front of our coach and helped warm it up.  I checked on the house battery SOC and then settled in to write for a while.  We had a light breakfast of oatmeal and juice around 7:30 AM.  At 7:45 AM I turned on the engine block heater and Aqua-Hot pre-heat pump.  Linda gathered up the trash shortly thereafter and went for a walk.

I failed to mention in yesterday’s blog post that our grand-daughter Katie called Linda yesterday to let us know that she had received a full academic scholarship to Michigan Technological University in Marquette, Michigan.  We were, of course, very excited to receive this news.  Katie has been an excellent student throughout high school and we are confident she will do well at MTU if she decides to go there.

Fonda was out with their two dogs, Rascal and Daffy, around 7:30 AM but there was no sign of activity beyond that until 8 AM when Linda returned from her walk and said Butch was outside looking at their chassis battery situation.  I put on the hooded sweatshirt I use when I have to work outdoors in cool weather and joined them.

Butch had left the 24 VDC battery charger on the chassis batteries overnight.  Both batteries seemed to be holding an adequate voltage so he decided to swap them rather than replace the one that seemed to be a problem yesterday (lower 12 volts).  After disconnecting the cables we pulled both batteries out.  These are 8D lead acid (wet cell) batteries and weight ~160 pounds each.  Butch topped off the fluid level in all of the cells.  He then put the batteries back in place, reversing their position, and reconnected the cables.  We re-checked voltages and everything looked OK so Butch decided they were ready to travel today rather than spend another night in Deming.

Yesterday we had discussed driving to the Escapees Saguaro Co-op RV Park in Benson, Arizona.  Called them just before 5 PM and they said they had plenty of spaces available.  Linda was checking the details of the park online and discovered that they have a 40,000 pound weight limit, but no one at the park could explain why.  Further research revealed that the last 0.3 miles into the park might be a weight restricted road.

Benson would have been a short drive of just over 180 miles, leaving us a longer drive for Friday if we wanted to get all the way to Quartzsite.  Looking at the map it appeared that Casa Grande, Arizona, 280 miles from Deming, might be a better stopping point.  As it turned out, the Escapees (SKP) RoVer’s Roost CO-OP RV Park is located near Casa Grande and did not have weight restrictions.  Linda called to make sure they had space for us, and after consulting with Butch and Fonda decided that was where we would head.

Linda checked online for fuel stops and prices.  The best price was $3.15 at a Pilot/Flying J just 10 miles shy of Casa Grande, but I wasn’t sure we could comfortably make it that far with adequate reserves as we were already at 1/2 tank mark on the fuel gauge.  I dumped our waste tanks, stowed the hoses, turned on the chassis batteries, opened the various air valves, disconnected the shorepower cord, and stored it.  We secured all of the bays and then hooked up the car for towing.  When Butch and Fonda were close to being ready we fired up the bus engine and checked the exterior lights.

We pulled out of the SKP Dream Catchers RV Park at 10 AM with our first stop planned for a Flying J Truck Stop about 60 miles west of Deming.  We had a good run on I-10 across the rest of New Mexico and into Arizona, exiting onto I-8 about 13 miles from the RoVer’s Roost RV Park.  The bus ran like it had a new engine.  The turbocharger was very responsive to the accelerator, producing more boost than I saw yesterday.  The engine had noticeably more power climbing grades, with the pyrometers reaching 850 – 900 degrees F and the engine coolant temperature reaching 195 – 200 degrees F.  Repairing the turbo boost sensor hose yesterday was clearly the right thing to do.

The scenery was beautiful and the largest city on our route was Tucson, which appeared to have a very nice downtown area.  The city was spread out for 30 miles from east to west and was not nearly as hectic as the drive through El Paso, Texas yesterday.  We arrived at RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP AT 3:15 PM MST with 3/4’s of a tank of fuel.

RoVer’s Roost is a very dense RV Park with closely spaced lots that are permanently assigned to co-op members and most of which were occupied.  The lots were all perpendicular to the long, straight, narrow roads.  All sites, including the boondocking area, were back-in which required us to unhook our cars.  The sites were also limited to a 40 foot long RV maximum, but many of them were “developed” in such a way that they would not accommodate a rig that long.  Registration took longer than it should have but eventually we were escorted to our site by a man in a golf cart who guided me as I backed into the site.  He had obviously done this many times and knew how to get a 40 foot motorhome into a tight space with limited room to turn so we were glad to have his assistance.

Once we were in our spot he escorted Butch and Fonda to their site and helped back them in.  Their bus developed an air problem after they pulled into the park, producing a squealing sound when Butch applied the parking breaks.  Butch had to bleed the pressure down to 30 PSI to get the noise to stop.  He re-pressurized the system and the noise did not reappear, so he put the Quadra Big Foot leveling jacks down.

I updated our recent locations in RVillage.  The four of us then went for a walk around the park to check it out and scope out our exit path.  We met a very nice lady resident who has painted a number of murals on storage sheds around the park and the ones we saw were very well done.  We returned to our coach and had dinner.  I had a TXT message from Chuck and called him after dinner to tell him about the turbo boost problem and solution.  We turned in early and watched a football game for a while before turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2014/12/12 (F) RR to Q

Today was our 13th day on the road since leaving home on November 30th.  We could easily have taken a month to do this repositioning, stopping along the way at more places for more nights and exploring each area, but we chose not to.  In part this was because we were caravanning with friends, and in part because we both had bus issues along the way and we were all anxious to just “get there.”

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Pulling in to 715 Lollipop Ln in Quartzsite, Arizona.

RoVer’s Roost has WiFi but we were not offered the use of it when we registered.  We had an excellent Verizon 4G/LTE signal, however, so I checked RVillage last night and realized that I had not updated our location since Alvarado, Texas.  In the span of just a few minutes I checked into Midland, Texas, the SKP Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, and finally the RoVer’s Roost SKP CO-OP in Casa Grande, Arizona.  I posted a comment about this and drew a comment about “…living in the fast lane” and several “likes.”  RVillage is not only useful, it’s fun.

The park home page showed 11 check-ins, so I perused the list and discovered that Forrest and Mary Clark were apparently here.  I say “apparently” because, like our situation, the information is only accurate if the person has kept it up to date.  I sent Forrest a message and he replied that they were, indeed, at the park and provided their site number.  I did not see the reply until this morning, however, so I messaged him back and said we would stop by before we pulled out.  Like us, they are also headed to “Q” for the first time this winter.

I was up by 6:30 AM and made a half pot of coffee.  We have not been making coffee in the morning and really miss it.  We enjoyed our Teeko’s Cafe Europe Blend while watching a gorgeous sunrise, the first of many we expect to see.  The temperature had dropped to 50 degrees F overnight from the high of 76 yesterday afternoon; warmer than normal for this time of year.  RoVer’s Roost has recycling bins, so Linda gathered up the various packaging materials she has been saving and walked them over to the bins along with the trash.  She likes to go for morning walks and has missed doing so while working on the software conversion project for the bakery since mid-September.

At 8 AM the house batteries were at 93% SOC.  The last time they were at 100% was at the end of our stay in Alvarado, Texas where we sat for three night plugged-in to “50 Amp” shorepower.  The Magnum ME-ARC remote was showing 116-120 VAC in, which more closely matched the main panel gauges than I have seen recently.  I obviously have some investigating to do (voltage measurements) and need to revisit the manuals for the 4024 inverter/charger and its add-on modules.  As with everything on this coach, there is no magic involved, just basic engineering principles.  The problem comes when there is inadequate documentation on the construction of the systems, including their principles of operation and their specific interconnections.  That’s when the detective work begins and I have to be particularly cautious about coming to premature conclusions regarding all of this.  It is better to admit that I do not understand how something works than to assume that I do and turn out to be wrong (not that that has ever happened).

In my chat with Chuck last night he suggested that I might want to eventually replace the turbo boost (manifold) sensor hose with a silicon one.  The two hottest places on the engine are the exhaust manifolds and the turbocharger and this hose connects to the latter.  He planned to check the hose on his coach, which is the same type and age as ours, first thing this morning.  His coach has more miles on it than ours (we think) so this hose is likely to be in bad shape on his coach too.  At some point I would like to have the radiator re-cored and that would be the time to replace ALL of the coolant hoses, and anything else on the engine that is made of rubber, with new silicon parts if possible, or at least with new rubber.

Along those same lines we were discussing air-powered accessories last night.  We do not use the bedroom pocket door and I will probably disconnect it or add a shutoff valve.  The waste tank dump valves are also air-powered and I may do the same thing to them.  That would leave the toilet and the shutters for the two front air-conditioner condensers as the only devices that needs air to work while we are parked.  We like the air flush toilet—it is fairly water efficient—and we would keep it if we could eliminate air leaks to the point that the auxiliary air-compressor only runs a few times a day.  The other downside to the toilet, however, are the difficulty and expense of getting spare parts.  We are considering replacing it with a standard gravity flush “RV style” toilet when we redo the water tanks, hopefully next year.  That would greatly reduce the need to run the auxiliary air-compressor while we are parked.  It does, however, also help maintain the air pressure in the suspension system.

We walked down to Forrest and Mary’s site at 8:30 AM and they came out to greet us.  Precision RV pulled up just as we got there.  They are affiliated with AM Solar in Oregon and are installing a solar electric system on Forrest and Mary’s Foretravel motorhome.  They wanted to see our bus so we all walked back to our site.  Butch walked up and joined us and we had a long chat.  Several folks walked by and were very friendly which help mitigate our first impressions of the place.

While we were standing there the man who parked us yesterday drove by in his golf cart and also stopped to chat.  He and his wife have been coming to RoVer’s Roost since 2004 and help manage the park.  With the co-op you obtain a leasehold on a specific lot which is then yours to use until you move to a different lot or sell your leasehold.  The lots are not deeded; your leasehold buys you a fractional ownership of the co-op.  Leaseholds are currently $8,500 with a $500 annual maintenance fee, and many leaseholders are full-timers; their RV is the only home they have.  Under $10K for a place to live plus $500 in association fees and metered electric is not bad.  In the last few years many of the original residents, who built the park, have given up their RV’s for assisted living or passed away.  At the present time there are a few lots available and, for the first time in the park’s history, there is no waiting list.  The hope is that a new generation of retirees will discover the Escapees RV Club and the Rainbow Parks and SKP co-ops.

RoVer’s Roost is an odd place when you first see it, a kind of “RV oasis” in the dessert.  It’s a compact, low-walled, compound surrounded by endless miles of nothing; no housing, no industry, not even agriculture.  It turns out that such places are not uncommon in the southwest but it got me wondering why it was built here and why it was built this way.  I presume the reason for the location had to do with climate, land costs, and the willingness of local, county, and state agencies to allow it.

We learned that some of the reasons RoVer’s Roost is built the way it is had to do with it being the first SKP CO-OP and when it was built.  Construction began in 1981 and Escapees RV Club Founders Joe and Kay Peterson helped build it with their own hands and had a lot there for a while.  RV’s over 35 feet long were rare in those days.  Although 40 foot highway buses existed, such as the Eagle, and some were already being converted into motorhomes, many conversions were based on the 35 foot Flxible and GMC buses.  Pull-behinds (trailers and 5th wheels) were rarely longer than 30 feet, although there were exceptions.  The size of the lots, the width of the roads, and the tightness of the turns all reflect the RV realities of the time and provide a living example of how difficult it is to see into the future.

Another reason, I presume, had to do with the costs associated with building RoVer’s Roost.  Even if the cost of the land was negligible, doubling the size of each lot would have at least doubled the cost of the infrastructure.  Roads, electrical wire, fresh water pipes, sewer lines, and the perimeter wall would all have involved at least double the material and the associated cost.  The visit to RoVer’s Roost reminded me that I need to carefully consider the historical context of something before I can hope to understand it.

We targeted 10 AM as our departure time, but there was no urgency to our leaving as we had less than 180 miles to get to our winter home in Quartzsite.  Butch discovered the digital dashboard on the Rand-McNally RVND 7710 last night and called to let me know how to access it.  I vaguely recalled that it was there, having been to several seminars on the unit, but I had not developed the habit of using it.  I decided I would try it out on this last leg of our journey to “Q.”  One of its features is the display of elevation.  On the downside, it does not display the current posted speed limit, which is shown on the map view.

We prepared the coach for travel and I fired up the engine at 10 AM.  Linda watched to make sure I did not hit anything as I pulled out.  Once I was out of our site (#77) I drove to the end of the street and around the corner to a spot where we could hookup the car, which Linda drove down and positioned behind the bus.  I shut off the engine while we hooked up as the park is posted as a “No Idle Zone.”  Several residents stopped to chat and all of them were very nice, wished us a safe journey, and invited us back.  After a less than 100% positive experience yesterday when we arrived and registered we were feeling very good about the park by the time we left.  That, however, did not change the fact that the park design is only marginally usable by a 40 foot highway bus, and not really a good choice for an overnight stay as they do not have any pull-through sites.

Butch and Fonda pulled out of their spot about 15 minutes after us and by 10:30 AM had their car hooked up and were ready to roll.  We pulled out in the lead and 1.5 miles later pulled back onto westbound I-8.  We exited I-8 34 miles later near Gila Bend and got on a connecting road leading to AZ-85.  We came to a split and were not sure where the GPS intended to take us as it told us to turn left which would have put us on AZ-85 southbound whereas the signs clearly showed that AZ-85 N to I-10 was a turn to the right.  Linda was double checking on her phone what we needed to do.  We went to the right and that turned out to be correct.

The 39 mile run up AZ-85 to I-10 was a 4-lane divided highway, although the road surface was a bit rough initially.  When we left I-10 for I-8 at Casa Grande yesterday the signage indicated that I-8/AZ-85 was the designated bypass route to get around Phoenix.  Once we rejoined I-10 westbound there was noticeably more traffic even though we were already 70 miles west of Phoenix.  The traffic eventually spaced out and we finished the 180 mile trip easily while enjoying the other-worldly scenery of the deep Southwest U. S.

We climbed over several small mountain ranges and stopped briefly at a rest area.  We climbed over one last mountain range, reaching an elevation of ~1,600 feet ASL (on the RVND 7710 dashboard display), and finally saw the valley where Quartzsite sits at the bottom nestled against the next mountain range to the west.  We then dropped 700 plus feet over the next 12 miles on a gradual but constant grade.  As we descended and neared Quartzsite we saw the first RV’s parked on the BLM land south of the highway, which was very exciting.

In spite of studying satellite images I did not have a good picture in my mind of what I was now seeing.  I did not expect the mountains to the east and west of town and I did not expect vegetation.  I thought this area would be a vast expanse of flat, barren, sun baked desert.  What lay before us was much nicer than that and we could see immediately why RVers have come here for years and returned year after year.

There are two exits for Q, one at either end of Main Street (B-10) which parallels I-10 on the north side.  We took the second (west most) exit as that is where the Pilot Truck Stop is located.  We both topped up our tanks and then pulled out of the way to disconnect our cars.  We had 5/8ths of a tank but I wanted to add biocide and top it off to eliminate as much air as possible.  With changes in temperature moisture in the air (in the fuel tank) can condense out.  Water in the fuel then contributes to the growth of algae.  I wanted to prevent that since we will be sitting for almost three months.  I will run our fuel polishing pump as well, but the biocide and full tank will really help prevent fuel problems.

Butch had already called Jim (Joe’s brother) and he drove over to escort us back to Joe and Connie’s property.  We made a little caravan with two buses and two cars following him there.  I really did not know what Quartzsite would be like.  My first impression was that it was a combination of the world’s largest RV rally with the world’s largest flea market.  There are RV’s everywhere, and stuff for sale everywhere else.  It is not an “upscale” place, but it is not trashy and rundown either.  It’s a little funky and a bit alternative, a kind of 1960s meets the old west vibe, and I think it will be a great home base for the winter.

Joe and Connie’s property is on a small side street in the NNW part of the city.  Butch pulled in first and I waited in the street while Jim got him backed into their spot facing due south.  Jim then directed me into a spot parallel to the fence on the north property line facing east, which is how I had hoped we would be parked.  It was much easier to get into than Butch and Fonda’s spot.  Fonda and Linda pulled the cars in and parked them after I was out of the way.  The property was smaller than I thought it would be from the satellite images, but large enough, and nicer looking than I expected as well.  There was one motorhome here already, an older Country Coach, and it turns out that they will be the only other rig here.  The owners had gone home for Christmas unexpectedly and will be back around January 1st.

We were pointing slightly up hill so I initially raised the rear end rather than drop the front.  To get level, however, I still needed to drop the front and the Level Low system once again failed to respond.  I checked the pneumatic solenoid valves in the bay under the driver’s seat but nothing seemed to be amiss.  I switched the selector valve in the cockpit between its various positions and the front finally responded.  I have replacement parts for one pneumatic solenoid valve but I am now wondering if the problem might be the selector switch?  I have not checked the maintenance manual but I presume this is a strictly electrical switch that determines which pneumatic solenoid valve the “up/down” rocker switch controls.  I presume the rocker switch is working correctly as it controls the left rear and right rear leveling valves and puts the suspension in driving mode without difficulty.

The easiest/cheapest fix is the pneumatic solenoid valve, unless that turns out not to be the problem.  The next easiest fix is probably replacing one or both Norgren valves in the bay because they are somewhat accessible.  I know the cost of those valves, so it is both a more expensive and more involved repair, especially if it turns out to be unnecessary.  I have no idea what the selector switch costs and it appears to be in a difficult location to service, but if that is the problem then that is what has to be repaired.  There are several possibilities besides the pneumatic solenoid valve.  It’s possible that the selector switch connections for controlling the front height control valve have become marginal and intermittent.  It’s also possible that the switch itself is failing and needs to be replaced.  Another possibility is the electrical connections at the solenoid.  Whatever it turns out to be it won’t be the first marginal/intermittent thing we have found on the bus.

I eventually got it leveled, and having the rear end raised and the front end lowered is not a bad thing as it makes it easier to get in/out of the front door and provides more clearance under the utility bay for the dump hose.  We will be in this spot for the next 12 months, except possibly for a few days in February to attend an informal gathering of a few members of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter at the Peg Leg Monument near Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California.  We will leave Quartzsite in early March for the Escapade rally in Tucson, Arizona.

Once I had the coach leveled I shut off the engine and went through my arrival routine.  When I went to connect the shorepower cord I discovered that we only had a “30 Amp” RV service.  A “30 Amp” service is just that; a single 120 VAC connection (line, neutral, ground) protected by a single pole 30 Amp circuit breaker (on the line).  A “50 Amp” RV service, by comparison, is two 120 VAC lines (180 degrees out of phase) with a shared neutral and a ground.  The two lines are protected by a 50 Amp double pole circuit breaker and are actually a 240 VAC, 50 Amp service.  However, in most RV’s each line (leg) is used as a 120 VAC, 50 Amp service in conjunction with the neutral, so a “50 Amp” RV connection is actually used as a 120 VAC, 100 Amp service.  That’s over three times the power of a “30 Amp” RV service.

We can manage on a 30 Amp service—we have before—especially if we do not have to run the air-conditioners.  Our air conditioners are not working at present anyway, but we do not expect to need them while we are here, so that will help.  We cannot use the Gaggenau cooktop, as it is a 240 VAC device, but that’s OK too.  Linda prefers to use the portable induction cooker anyway; it is more efficient and doesn’t heat up the coach.  Still, operating our coach on a 30 Amp service requires much more conscious management of our electrical usage and is thus a tad inconvenient.  On the other hand, our electricity is metered so we pay for what we use.  Having a 30 Amp service inherently limits how much electricity we can use.

Many (most) circuit breakers will only carry 80% of their rating on a continuous basis so we effectively have 24 Amps available to run things.  That’s not a lot of power for a large, “all electric” coach.  I adjusted the “AC Input” setting on the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger to 25 Amps before turning the power on.  The unit limits the amount of current it uses to charge the house batteries to a percentage of that setting.  Setting it to 25 Amps instead of 30 Amps gave us a bit more cushion to run other devices while the batteries were charging.  Once they are fully charged I will dial this back up to 30 Amps.

I joined Linda, Butch, Fonda, and Jim and introduced myself to Connie.  Joe and Connie own this place but Joe was not here today.  He ended up in the hospital being treated for a scorpion sting and is now recovering in a care facility for a week.  By his own admission he was careless; he took a pair of shoes out of a closet he had not worn in a year and put them on without checking to see if something had taken up residence therein.  Not being from the desert southwest this would not even have occurred to us.  We know there are snakes, scorpions, and other “things” here, but this scorpion was in their park model trailer living in a shoe in their closet just 60 feet from our bus.  That certainly served as a heads up for us.

After chatting for a while I finished hooking up the water softener to the water supply and the coach.  We had about 1/2 tank when we arrived and I brought the level up to 2/3rds.  Butch had some test strips so we used one to check the hardness of the water.  It showed 25 grains per gallon (gpg), the highest mineral content it could indicate.  Our portable water softener has a capacity in grains which determines how much water it can soften before it needs to be recharged.  A “1,000 grain” water softener will only treat 40 gallons of 25 grain hardness water (1,000 / 25 = 40) whereas it will treat 100 gallons of 10 grain hardness water (1,000 / 10 = 100).

Butch and Fonda have a 10,000 grain portable water softener but the information we got with ours did not include the grain capacity.  Our softener is similar in size to theirs so I can probably safely assume that it has at least a 7,500 grain capacity.  Given the hardness of the water here that means it can treat about 300 to 400 gallons before needing to be recharged.  Our fresh water tank holds approximately 125 gallons.  If we use most of the water before refilling it we will need to recharge the water softener after every third filling.

Recharging (regenerating) the water softener is simple and inexpensive but takes a little time.  The filter is removed from the housing and the housing filled with crushed salt.  Water is allowed to flow very slowly through the salt and then through the softener and onto the ground.  When the salt is gone the unit is recharged.  If this seems wasteful of water it is, in fact, how almost all water softeners work.  The advantages of softened water are worth the little bit of added water use, especially since we have an Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system that specifies the use of softened water for optimum performance and reduced maintenance.

Rain had been in the forecast all day and we finally started to get an occasional drop so I closed up the bay doors and went inside.  Once we were settled in Linda sent a TXT message to our children letting them know we had arrived.  She attached a photo she took on her camera of our coach in situ.  I took a few photos on mine and TXT’d one to Chuck to let him know we were finally here.  I then laid down on the sofa and took a nap.  I eventually woke up to the sounds and smells of dinner being prepared.  Linda made a very yummy crushed lentil curry and opened a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir.  It was a bit dry for my taste but she enjoyed it.  It’s a good life.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our "camp."  Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

The view to west (towards Lollipop Ln) from the east end of our “camp.” Our coach is to the right with the awning out.

Storm clouds gathered and shrouded the mountains to the west but all we got was light rain; nothing like the weather that swept through the Pacific coast from Los Angeles up into Oregon.  Not that far north of us Las Vegas, Nevada, got rain, ice, and snow.

After dinner Linda signed-in to RVillage and updated our location.  She indicated that we were not in an RV park as we are on private, non-commercial property that is not, and should not, be in the RVillage (AllStays) database.  I will check tomorrow to see if the website shows us other Villagers in and around the Q.

I checked the house batteries at 9:45 PM.  They were at 25.6 VDC drawing 0 Amps and showed “Full Charge” even though the BMK showed the SOC at 95%.  Like our stay in Alvarado I suspect the SOC will be back up to 100% in a couple of days.  I made note of the readings and headed to bed.  It was good to finally be here and we are looking forward to an interesting, pleasant, productive, and enjoyable winter.


2014/10/16-22 More Bus Work

2014/10/16 (R) More Wiring

Butch had to go to Logansport this morning for parts and groceries.  I stayed behind to continue working on the AC wiring for their bus conversion; after breakfast, of course.

I mounted two 6-position AC main lug panels, one above the other, to the right of the 20-position panel we installed yesterday for the inverter circuits.  The panels I installed today were for AC circuits that only run on shore power or the generator, not the inverter.  The reason for two panels was: A) Butch already had them, and B) they were narrower than the larger panels and would fit in the available space on the right rear wall of the closet.

I had tied the main shore/generator power line to the inverter AC input line last night so the refrigerator, which is wired through the inverter panel, would have power overnight.  I left those tied together for most of the day so the lights would work.  I pulled all of the existing circuits that we disconnected yesterday into the boxes, dressed the wires, and connected/mounted the circuit breakers.  By the time I finished Butch had returned from his morning errands.  He connected the shoreline and I checked to see that we had 240 VAC between L1 and L2 and 120 VAC from each line to the neutral conductor.  He then disconnected the shoreline and made sure the generator was off.  Using the inverter to power a work light, I pulled the main power cable into the lower box and secured it.  I then pulled the cable that feeds AC power to the inverter into the lower box and connected it to a 30 Amp breaker.

MC-9 house wiring.  Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right.  DC upper left, solar upper right.

MC-9 house wiring. Inverter panel on the left, shore/genset panels on the right. DC upper left, solar upper right.

I plugged the shoreline back in but got a low voltage with no current on L2 and an Error Code 6 on the Progressive Industries EMS remote monitor display.  Butch checked the plug and I just did not have it fully inserted into the outlet.  Once he fixed that we got the correct voltages and no errors.  We checked each circuit and everything checked out perfectly.

(Note: The shoreline is wired for “50 A” RV service, which is 240 VAC service from L1 to L2 but with an active neutral that provides two 50 A, 120 VAC power feeds with L1 and L2 180 degrees out of phase.  As a result the currents in the neutral wire from L1 and L2 cancel rather than add.  Butch has his generator wired for 120 VAC output and has L1 and L2 tied together on the generator side of the transfer switch.  This makes the full 100 A output of the generator available to be shared between L1 and L2 in any proportion.  Although this system can supply a full 50 A of current on both L1 and L2 at the same time, it could also supply 70 A or one and 30 A on the other unless this is prevented by circuit breakers.  Also, regardless of the distribution of current between L1 and L2 the currents will add in the neutral as much as 100 A of current.  Although sensible load management would prevent this from ever happening it is entirely possible to draw 30 or 35 A on each leg and end up with 60 – 70 A in the neutral.  Thus, when designing your house AC electrical system this way, provision should be made for a neutral conductor that is sufficient to carry this amount of current.  The advantage to doing your system this way is that the voltage regulation will be better under load than with a 240 VAC generator powering imbalanced 120 VAC loads on both legs as the 240 VAC configuration regulates the voltage between L1 and L2 but the voltage from L1 to N and L2 to N can be off substantially.)

Butch needed another non-inverter circuit for the front of the bus so we pulled a 10-2+g Romex cable from the electrical closet along the driver’s side wall/ceiling area and down into the cabinet at the front end of the kitchen counter. He and Fonda spent a bit of time cutting openings in the end of the cabinet for a two-gang outlet box and a single-gang outlet box.  The two-gang box was for a pair of duplex outlets fed from the inverter panel and the wires were already run.  The single-gang was for the new circuit we just pulled.  When they were done I disconnected the shoreline so I could safely tie the new circuit into the lower panel.  I then installed the cover plates on all three boxes and plugged the shoreline back in.  We had the breaker turned off for the new circuit while I wired the outlet.  I then energized it and it tested OK.

I repositioned a 12 VDC fused distribution box above the inverter panel and mounted it.  I then moved a terminal strip for their solar panel wiring to a slightly different location to open up a space for Butch to drill a hole.  At that point we were done working for the day.  I changed into my non-work blue jeans and relaxed for an hour before dinner.  During that time Butch called Jaral Beatty, a cabinet maker in Logansport and personal friend of Butch’s, and put me on the phone with him to see if he could come to Twelve Mile and finalize plans for a custom desk and printer cabinet for the bus.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is for mild, mainly sunny, conditions and Jaral said he could come out mid-afternoon.

Butch and Fonda’s younger daughter, Brittani, and her husband, Sterling (Rock), were expected for dinner at 7:00 PM so I fixed a salad and heated some Amy’s chili for my dinner.  Dinner was jovial and the first time I have eaten with Butch and Fonda at home on this latest round of working visits.  Butch called Joe Leibherr and put me on the phone with him.  Joe and Connie own the lot in Quartzite where we plan to spend part of the winter and I had a few questions for him.  (Dale and Sherry Leibherr bought most of Butch and Fonda’s business assets.  Dale is Joe and Connie’s son.)  I had a nice long chat with Joe and was satisfied that it will be an OK place to spend part of the winter.  Besides the full hookup 50A sites there is a laundry on site and Wi-Fi.  Verizon cellular service is also apparently very good.  Joe filled me in on some of things to do in town and suggested we bring our passports and visit Los Algodones, Mexico while we are in the area.  Brittiny and Rock stayed until 11:30 PM so it was a nice, long visit.  We were all really tired by the time they left and immediately turned in for the night.

2014/10/17 (F) VDO Air Power

After Brittani and Sterling (Rock) left last night I retired to the guest bedroom immediately but was up for a couple of hours responding to e-mails and writing my daily blog entry.  I do not shut my computer down every night but I do shut it down occasionally, especially if there are updates available.  Last night there were 28 updates.  I was not up at the crack of dawn today, which was a shame as it was the nicest weather day we’ve had for the week just past and looks to be the nicest of the week ahead.  Butch was up late last night as well, so we were both dragging a bit this morning.

Following breakfast I readied the coach for travel, securing loose objects inside and checking that all of the bays were shut tight and locked.  I switched on the chassis batteries and air valves, unplugged the shorepower cord, and went for a short test drive to calibrate our new VDO electronic speedometer.  Butch mentioned that there was a funeral home on the northwest corner of SR-16 and US-31 where he had easily turned their bus around in the past.  That turned out to be just what I needed for my test run as it kept me from having to go south on US-31 in order to make a U-turn to get headed back to Twelve Mile.

I had driven the coach last Sunday from Elkhart to Twelve Mile with the new speedometer set to its default pulses per mile and it indicated less than 1/8th of the actual speed as shown on our Rand-McNally 7710 RVND GPS.  When I got to Twelve Mile I calculated the pulses per mile I thought would be close to correct and programmed that number into the instrument.  On the first leg of my test drive this morning the indicated speed was still about 1/8th of actual.  Either my programming did not “stick” or I based my calculation on a grossly inaccurate assumption.

I pulled into the far entrance to the funeral home parking lot and made a broad turn to get lined up with the other entrance.  I switched off the ignition, held down the button on the face of the VDO, turned the ignition back on, and started the engine.  The speedometer cycled through its three calibration modes and I stopped it on ADJUST and then selected UP as the direction the needle needed to move.  The adjustment was a little tricky, especially while driving, but I figured out how to switch it between up and down.  I got it adjusted to my satisfaction before getting back to Twelve Mile and after not adjusting it for a minute or so it reset and reverted to its standard speedometer/odometer display, only this time showing the correct speed and recording the correct mileage.

When I got back to Butch and Fonda’s house I pulled the bus around, blocking the street temporarily, and backed it in next to theirs.  Fonda helped spot me for the final few feet.  Instead of shutting the engine off I let it idle while I got my four chassis stands out of the warehouse and positioned them at the four corners of the bus.  I put the engine in high idle and raised the body as high above the axles as it would go.  I slid the stands into place under four frame members, dropped the idle to low, and gently lowered the bus until it was resting firmly on the stands.  With the bus sitting on the stands it will now be safe to work underneath it when we get around to those projects.

The next project was to replace the air filter / water separator for our auxiliary air system.  Butch did most of the work on this project.  He disconnected two air lines from the existing filter assembly, which includes a pressure regulator and a Schrader valve, and then unscrewed the mounting bracket from the rear wall of the bay under the driver’s seat where a lot of the auxiliary air system is housed.

With the old unit out of the bus he was able to work in his shop to remove the inlet and outlet fittings and clean them up on a wire wheel before reusing them.  He installed the old fittings in the new housing using pipe thread compound and matched the alignment of the old unit so the air lines would fit back on to them.  The two machine screws that were used to mount the old unit’s mounting bracket to the wall were too big for the slots in the new unit’s mounting bracket so Butch used his Bridgeport vertical mill to slightly enlarge the upper slots.

With the shop work done I took everything back out to the bus and installed it, which consisted of attaching the two air lines (with compression fittings), attaching the mounting bracket to the housing, attaching the mounting bracket to the rear wall of the compartment, and then tightening the two air line nuts.  Butch checked my work and snugged the air line nuts another partial turn.

I turned on the auxiliary air compressor but it seemed to take a long time to start to build air pressure and Butch heard and felt a leak at the unloader valve coming out of the auxiliary air compressor.  I shut of the aux compressor and he hooked up his portable air compressor to the air hose fitting in the passenger side engine bay which brought the pressure up in the auxiliary system very nicely.  We turned his compressor off, turned the aux compressor back on, and bled enough air off to cause the aux compressor to run.  It finished bringing the pressure up to the cutout value without difficulty.  I sprayed all of the fittings with Simple Green and did not detect any leaks.  We had noticed earlier that the lower half of the filter housing, which locks and unlocks in only 1/8th of a turn, had a loose fit.  Once the system was pressurized, however, it tightened up.

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

Norgren auxiliary air filter / water separator (lower right).

The old unit had to be replaced because it was no longer made and the replaceable filters were no longer available.  Once we had it out of the coach and disassembled I was surprised by how badly deteriorated it was internally.  Aluminum, by definition, does not “rust” but it certainly can and does corrode (oxidize).

Butch and Fonda spent part of the day building and installing a slide out tray for one of the passenger side bays.  It will hold his tool box on top and have room for miscellaneous storage underneath.

I got the Zena power generating module wiring diagrams for Butch to study while I ate lunch.  We were just getting ready to start working on this when Jaral showed up.  He and Butch and Fonda talked for quite a while about personal stuff while I started probing around in the driver side rear electrical bay for a place to tap into an ignition switched source of 24VDC power.  I located a relay that looked like it would do the trick (R53).  I broke off working on this to spend time with Jaral, who rode his scooter from Logansport to discuss some cabinetry project.

Jaral looked at Butch’s projects first as they are immediate.  He then looked at what we want to do with the front part of our coach.  We need to have a desk and a printer cabinet built out of walnut to match the woodwork that is already in the bus and Jaral is our cabinetmaker of choice.  It sounds simple enough, but the reality is more complex.  After talking it through with him (again) and taking some measurements we agreed that I need to make very careful dimensioned drawings of exactly what we need.  I may try to do that over the winter but worst case is that it will have to wait until next spring and probably after we have removed the current furniture.

Butch and I worked on the Zena wiring for a little while after Jaral left.  We determined that the two blue wires in the electrical bay ran to the Zena control modules in the engine bay and to the fan terminals on the Zena rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay.  He had a tandem spade lug adapter that we used to tap into the power to the coil of relay 53.  With the coach batteries on but the ignition off we did not have power to the fans on the rectifier assembly or the control modules in the engine bay but with the ignition on we did.  That was a small but important success.

The weather had turned cloudy, windy, and chilly as the afternoon progressed.  We spent a little while studying my house electrical bay and discussing how I might get the large battery charging cables from the ceiling-mounted rectifier to a Class T fuse and then to the batteries.  I decided that was a problem I was not going to solve in the remaining hour of daylight and called it a day.  By then it was 6 PM so I went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of a salad, tofu hot dog, apple, and a glass of Franzia Moscato.  I retired to the guest bedroom around 9 PM, worked on my computer and iPad until about 10:30, and then turned off the lights.

2014/10/18 (S) Cold Wet & Windy

Even though I went to sleep at 10:30 last night I did not get out of bed until 8 AM this morning.  Today’s weather forecast was for a 50% chance of rain with winds out of the WNW shifting to N at 15+ MPH and a high temperature of 50 degrees F.  The 50% chance of precipitation turned out to be an all-day drizzle; not an ideal day for working outside.  Nonetheless, I spent the late morning (post breakfast) working in our house electrical bay on the wiring for the Zena 24 VDC power generating system.

The only thing I actually accomplished was mounting a Class T fuse holder (with a fuse) to the ceiling of the compartment.  That was a bigger accomplishment than it seems, however, as its location determined the lengths of the cables needed to finish the project.  With a nicer day on tap for tomorrow I expect to get those cables made and installed.  A final check of the wiring and installation of the drive belts on the alternator will complete the project, which I stated almost exactly two years ago.


Zena rectifier (upper left) and Class T fuse (upper center).


Butch and I went to Logansport in the early afternoon.  He needed plumbing parts for his fresh water tank and ITR Oasis Combi project.  I needed 2/0 lugs for my battery cables, some 3/8 compression nuts and sleeves, and some duplex outlet expanders.  I found the lugs at Rural King (where we also got some free popcorn) and everything else at Home Depot.  These stores happen to be conveniently located across the street from one another.  The nuts and sleeves will be used to rig up a hose or tube so we can test the water flow coming out of the pipes that feed the kitchen faucet.  The flow is much lower than it should be and we want to determine if it is due to the faucet or upstream in the piping.  I found a small duplex to 6-out expander that would fit under the thermostat on the end of the kitchen counter based cabinet.  I also found a duplex to 6-outlet expander with integrated surge protection and two USB charging ports.  I bought two, one for the outlet on my side of the bed and one for the outlet on the outside wall just behind the passenger seat.  This model is not illuminated like the one I installed on Linda’s side of the bed, but that’s OK.

We stopped at Butch’s parents’ house to investigate the source of a mechanical noise. It turned out to be a dehumidifier in which the fan motor bearings were squealing.  Butch loaded it in his truck to take back to his house where he could more conveniently try to oil the bearings.  We chatted for a while and then headed to Martin’s Supermarket so I could pick up a few grocery items.

When we got back to Twelve Mile I unloaded and stored my groceries and then installed two of the three outlet expanders.  I could not install the one by the passenger seat as the outlet was too close to a wooden structure.  There is an outlet box with a solid cover plate next to the duplex outlet and I will see if the outlet can be moved over.  If not, I will install this unit behind Linda’s night stand at our sticks ‘n’ bricks house.

Butch’s brother, Tom, showed up and the two of them worked on installing the Blue Ox base plates on Butch’s Suburban.  I spent the afternoon making a scale drawing of the passenger side of the front half of the coach showing the two Lambright Comfort Chairs, custom printer cabinet/table, and custom desk with pantry.  I checked in with Butch and Tom and helped them a little bit with the base plate project.  When they reached a stopping point, or at least a point where my assistance was no longer needed, I returned to my coach and fixed dinner.

I had a salad of power greens with cranberries and peanuts, some apple sauce, and the leftover Mjadra from La Marsa, the last of my frozen leftovers from our dinner at the Brighton location with Bruce and Linda Whitney.  A glass of Franzia Moscato was quite agreeable.  Butch and Fonda had not eaten their dinner yet, so I worked in the guest bedroom at my computer while they ate.

Linda called around 8:45 PM and chatted with Butch about an accounting issue related to their business and then chatted with me about our grand-daughter, Madeline, who is finally pronouncing words clearly enough to be understood and quickly developing a spoken vocabulary.  Brendan and Shawna brought her to our house around 11:15 AM this morning and stuck around through lunch to get her down for her nap and then took off.  Grandma Linda had her all to herself the rest of the day and will have her tomorrow until they pick her up.  I chatted with Butch and Fonda for a while after that and then retired for the evening, checking and responding to a couple of e-mails, doing a little web-surfing, and working on this post.

2014/10/19 (N) Of Mice And Men

Although I really enjoy Linda’s homemade granola I decided to make toast with some of the Brownberry Country White bread I bought.  I was surprised to discover that someone, or something, had chewed a hole through the plastic bag and eaten some of my bread.  A mouse, no doubt, but I only bought this bread on Tuesday, so it was a recent visitor.  The surprise was that the bread was in a cabinet that I assumed was inaccessible to mice.

I emptied the cubby and discovered a hole in the back wall big enough to stick my finger through for some distance, which meant it was plenty big enough for a mouse to get through.  The walls are covered with the same thin carpet that is used to line all of the other cabinets in the coach.  In this case it was applied to fairly thin wood with space behind it.  Butch looked at it with me and we found that the glue used to install the carpet had lost much of its hold.  We lifted it up and found a 2″x2″ cutout in the wood with the hole in the carpet roughly centered on it.  There was a Romex electrical cable coiled up behind the wall with the ends taped.  We presumed the wire had once passed through the hole into the cubby but was now a way for the mouse to travel vertically through the cavity and get to the back entrance.

I threw the bread out, of course and cleaned the counter surface, which forms the floor of the cubby, with Lysol.  Mouse proofing the bread cubby will have to wait until tomorrow but my plan is to feed the wire through the hole in the carpet and then lift the carpet at the bottom and run a bead of caulk (or hot glue) along the joint between the counter and the wood walls.  I will then install a surface mounted outlet over the hole.  At a minimum it will seal the hole and it might prove useful someday for plugging in an appliance, assuming the wires are still energized.

Although it was in the low 30s when we got up this morning, it was finally a decent day for outside work.  The high temperature only made it to the mid-50s but it was sunny most of the day with a light breeze.  Appropriate layers of clothing made for comfort while working.

My main focus today was completing the installation of the Zena 24VDC power generating system in the bus.  I started this project two years ago this month and today was the day to finish it.  I had also written a complete draft of an article about this project for Bus Conversion Magazine but held off finishing and submitting it pending completion of the project.  Now that the work is completed and the system functions correctly I hope to finish the article in the next few weeks.

The purpose of the system is to charge/maintain the 24VDC house battery bank while we are driving the bus, during which time the refrigerator, and other minor loads, are being powered by the inverter.  The system consists of a high-output, continuous-duty, 24VAC, 3-phase alternator driven by the main bus engine (Detroit Diesel 8V92TA).  The alternator feeds a large rectifier assembly in the house electrical bay and is controlled by three interconnected modules mounted in the engine bay near the alternator.  Redundant voltage sense wires run from the rectifier back to two of the three control modules.  The system is activated by ignition switched 24VDC power which we wired up a couple of days ago.

The unfinished part of the project involved the connections between the DC output of the rectifier and the 24VDC house battery bank.  I mounted a Class T fuse on the ceiling of the electrical bay yesterday which then allowed me to determine several cable lengths.  On the +24VDC side I made three cables from 2/0 welding cable as follows:  1) Rectifier DC positive to ceiling fuse terminal A; 2) Inverter/charger fuse terminal B to ceiling fuse terminal B, and; 3) Ceiling fuse terminal B to +24VDC battery disconnect switch.  With this configuration both the rectifier and inverter outputs go through separate fuses to a common point (ceiling fuse terminal B) and that point is connected to the battery disconnect switch.  I also made a cable to go from the rectifier DC negative (ground) to the house DC electrical system ground lug; again using 2/0 welding cable.

I used a metal blade hacksaw to cut the welding cable to length and cut through the heavy rubber sheath 1/2 inch from the end to expose the copper conductors.  I attached crimp style through-hole terminals to the ends of the cables and held them in position to get the alignment correct.  I made reference marks to ensure the alignment and then crimped the lugs onto the wire using a very large hand-operated press in Butch’s shop.  Projects like this are a lot more fun with access to the correct tools.

I attached as many cable ends as I could without touching any live voltages.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot, the UPS, and the inverter/charger before disconnecting the main AC shore power.  I then turned the +24VDC disconnect switch to the off position, isolating the coach/inverter from the 24VDC battery bank.  (Note, however, that I did not disconnect the 12VDC center tap.)  With power off I completed all of the needed connections, including the small ground wire for the 24VDC fan on the rectifier, turned the 24VDC batter disconnect switch to ‘on’, and turned the inverter back on.  It immediately started supplying power so I knew my wiring was correct.

Back in the engine bay I checked all of the wiring against my diagram and everything was good to go.  I taped off two wires with bullet connectors on the ends to prevent accidental shorting.  One of the wires is used to reset the system by grounding it and the other wire is tied to chassis ground.  With all of the electrical connections verified I got Butch to help install the two drive belts from the DD8V92TA pulley to the alternator (power generating module).  That was when we discovered that the lower side of the belts were in contact with a pressurized oil hose for the Spinner II centrifugal by-pass oil cleaner.

The hose was secured with zip ties in several places so I clipped and removed those.  I disconnected the hose from the Spinner II and re-routed it to avoid the drive belts and other rotating parts on the front of the engine (which faces the rear of the bus).  I reattached the oil hose to the Spinner II and secured it with zip ties.

Butch used a pry bar to move the alternator and put tension on the drive belts while Tom and I tightened the alternator mounting bolts.  The inverter had been supplying AC power to the coach for a while and a check of the house battery voltage showed +24.5VDC.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessories air valve, started the DD8V92TA, and put it in high idle.  I re-checked the voltage at the rectifier output and it was 24.8, higher than before and rising, but not too high; an excellent set point at least for now.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

DD8V92TA with Zena 3-phase alternator lower right.

We observed that some of the belts on the engine seemed loose and floppy.  Butch also noticed what appeared to be a stone embedded in the outside surface of the Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92 triple V drive belt that runs from the DD8V92TA crankshaft pulley to the drive pulley for the engine cooling fan.  Butch called O’Reilly’s in Logansport but they were unable to locate the 2.125″ wide triple-V belt in their system.

The oil dipstick tube was also too close to the new drive belts but when I tied to move it (bend it slightly) I noticed that it was very loose.  The fitting at the block was not tight and it was obvious that some oil had leaked out from there.  I slid under the engine from the rear of the bus and tightened it at the block.  (It is nice having the bus supported on stands so I can work under it without concern.)

While I was working on the Zena system Butch installed an outlet fitting on their fresh water tank.  He and Fonda, and eventually Tom (Butch’s brother), re-installed the tank in their bus and then mounted the ITR Oasis Combi next to it, securing it to the floor of the bay.  To accomplish that they had to drill holes, align holes, and determine a location for the water pump, which required more information regarding allowable pump orientation.  Sometime during the day Butch shifted his focus towards an antenna project on the roof of their bus.  He had previously purchased a Tarheel motorized fold-over mount for his large Tarheel screwdriver antenna and wanted to at least get the fold-over mount attached to the roof before they left for the southwest.

The key lock on our passenger side engine bay door was getting difficult to turn so I removed an access panel on the inside of the bay door to investigate the mechanism.  As I loosened the access panel water ran out the bottom.  We determined that the gasket surrounding the handle/lock assembly was dried out and cracked, allowing water in at the top.  I removed the handle/lock assembly by pulling it out of the door from the outside, dried it out, and lubricated it.  I reassembled it for now, but I need to apply some kind of sealant behind the gaskets or get new ones from Prevost (if they are still available).

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Prevost H3-40 keyed, non-electric, door lock mechanism.

Butch shifted his attention yet again, this time to their Suburban where he and Tom re-attached the front bumper.  It was removed a few days ago so he and Tom could install the Blue Ox base plate kit which will allow them to tow it with the bus.

As the sun dropped low in the western sky the temperature dropped along with it.  I buttoned up my coach and helped Butch get his tools and supplies moved inside.  I then went to my coach to have dinner which consisted of an Annie’s Spicy Mongolian noodle bowl with added peanuts and a tofu hotdog with mustard, onion, and relish.  A glass of Moscato with the meal and a cup of Oriental Treasure green tea afterwards provided a soothing and warming end to the meal.  I returned to the house and we chatted for a short while before I retired to my room to check e-mail and write.

2014/10/20 (M) Bad Timing

I have settled into something of routine on this extended visit to Twelve Mile, Indiana; up late, sleep late, eat breakfast, get to work.  Usually.  Butch spends the early morning on his computer and is usually ready to work about the same time I am.  Usually, but not always.  Sometimes he gets to work earlier than me, and sometimes much later.  Although we had a beautiful weather day (except for the brief thunderstorm around 10 AM) we were not able to take full advantage of it for various reasons.  I had left the Aqua-Hot turned off over night to see if it would start reliably when cold.  The burner fired after a short 10 second purge.  It was smokey at first, but ran its full cycle and eventually cleared up.  I turned it off and will test its cold start capabilities again tomorrow morning.

We discovered yesterday that the triple V fan belt on my bus engine was worn and had something embedded in it.  The belt was a Gates Hi-Power II PowerBand A92.  We spent some time looking for one online but were not sure we had found exactly the right one so I decided to see if Prevost had it in stock.  They did, and it was only a few dollars more, included free shipping (as always), and would be at my house before I got home.  I ordered two.  This belt drives the engine cooling fan and if it breaks the bus isn’t going anywhere until it is replaced.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Bread cubby with AC outlet base plate.

Butch and Fonda worked on re-conditioning a pair of fan-coil heat exchangers that will get tied-in to their new ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system on the bus.  Butch and I had both been assembling shopping lists and I was at the point where I needed to get some small parts in order to move forward with some small projects.  We left around 11:30 AM and drove to Logansport where we visited NAPA, O’Reilly’s, Rural King, Aldi’s, Home Depot, and Walmart.  All of these stores are located close to one another on the east end of town except for the O’Reilly’s and NAPA which are just a bit farther down the main road towards downtown.  When it comes down to it, Logansport is just not that big.

By the time we got back it was after 3 PM and we were suddenly very busy as we tried to take advantage of the few remaining hours of daylight.  Butch and Fonda worked on installing the Tarheel fold-over mount and I worked on sealing the bread cubby, installing a Wiremold surface mount outlet over the hole in the back wall, and installing a small battery powered LED puck light in the back closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.  I cut a small triangle of thin aluminum for the hole in the corner floor of the bread cabinet and then sealed the joint between the floor (counter) and three walls with a silicone-based paintable tub and tile caulk in a convenient squeeze tube.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

LED puck light in rear bedroom closet to illuminate the inverter sub-panel.

When I finished those tasks I checked in with Butch and Fonda and found out that they had run into problems with the Toggler(R) bolts Butch was using and had to undo what they had already done and seal up the holes in the roof for the night.  There wasn’t anything I could do to help at that point, so I started working on the wiring that will allow me to relocate the Magnum ME-ARC remote control/display module from the electrical bay to the house panel next to the refrigerator.  Rather than try to route the 4-wire telephone cable between the inverter/charger and the house panel, John Palmer had suggested two years ago that I re-purpose one of the existing cables that had previously connected the Heart Interface inverter/chargers to their remote displays.  All that was required was to attach RJ-11 plugs on each end to four off the nine available wires.  As long as I used the same four wires on each end, and got the colors in the same order, it should work fine.  Butch already had the necessary crimper and I bought a small bag of the plugs today at Home Depot.

Sunset is just before 7 PM these days.  It not only comes earlier, it comes quickly.  We were done working by 6:30 PM and I withdrew to my coach to have dinner.  I had a nice salad of power greens with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, artichoke hearts, dried cranberries, and peanuts with peanut butter and crackers on the side and a small glass of Franzia Moscato.  I cleaned up from dinner, closed up the coach, set the two small electric cube heaters for around 60 degrees F, gathered up a few things and went back to the house for the evening.  Butch and Fonda were just getting ready to eat their dinner so I retired to my room to work on my computer.

2014/10/21 (T) Fair Weather Ahead

One of the first things I do each morning, even before I have breakfast, is to check the current and forecasted weather.  The guest bedroom at Butch and Fonda’s place is an interior room with no windows and is well insulated, including the ceiling, so I have no visual or auditory reference to what is happening outside.  If not for the clock on the headboard of the bed (or my various communications and computing technologies) I would have no idea what time it was, or even if it was day or night.

There was widely scattered light rain across northern Indiana at 7:30 AM with single digit precipitation probabilities through the day dropping to zero chance of rain for Wednesday and Thursday with high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s.  That is about as good as it gets for the fourth week in October.  Hopefully it bodes well for our project work and will be a very productive few days.

Butch plans to attend a gun show on Saturday morning and needs to spend most of Friday getting ready.  Butch and Fonda’s family members (parents, siblings, children, etc.) are gathering at their house on Sunday to celebrate the holidays early since Butch and Fonda plan to be in the southwest with us this winter.  Given the weather forecast I will probably work the whole day on Thursday, spend the night, and then head for home early Friday morning, or at least as early as I can manage.

Butch’s main focus today was re-mounting his Tarheel antenna lift to the roof of their bus.  He figured out last night what parts he needed to make the installation work after his Togglers(R) broke yesterday.

My main focus was diagnosing and repairing the very low water flow from the kitchen faucet but before I got too deep into that project I called Prevost’s U. S. parts office in Elgin, Illinois to check on a couple of things.  They had the CX-96 cogged fan belts in stock in the U. S. but wanted $90 for a pair (they only sell them in pairs).  I found them last night online for $21 each, so that was a big difference.   They also had the bay door handle/lockset gaskets I needed but they were only stocked in Canada.  They were only $4 each, so I ordered the 12 I need to redo every door.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

The disassembled kitchen faucet flow restrictor.

I found the installation and instruction manual for the Kohler kitchen faucet in our conversion binder.  It said that the handle and cover should slide straight off of the body once the handle set screw was removed.  Butch and I both tried this but we could not get it off.  While studying the diagram and parts list I noticed a “restrictor” that also served as an adapter from the 8mm outlet pipe on the faucet to the 1/2″ NPT fitting on the retractable hose assembly.  At Butch’s suggestion I shut off the bus fresh water pump, shut the valves on both the hot and cold supply lines that feed the kitchen sink faucet, and disconnected the supply lines from the inlet tubes that are part of the Kohler faucet.  I inserted the barbed end of the 1/2″ NPT adapter into a piece of rubber hose that I got from Butch and threaded the pipe thread into the cold supply line.  I placed the end of the hose in a bucket, turned on the pump, and then opened the cold supply valve.  I had lots of flow.  I closed the valve, shut off the pump, and repeated this for the hot supply which also had good flow.  That meant the problem was either in the restrictor, in the valve cartridge, or somewhere in the faucet body.  The good news was that the restriction was not in the upstream plumbing.

By mid-morning Butch was ready to make a parts run so I grabbed my short shopping list and rode into Logansport with him.  When we got back I disconnected the kitchen faucet hose from the restrictor/adapter and then disconnected the restrictor/adapter from the 8mm outlet tube.   The garbage disposal was in my way so I disconnected and removed it temporarily.  Initial inspection revealed that the restrictor was clogged so I started taking it apart and Butch finished the disassembly.  I reinstalled the adapter without the restrictor parts and tested the flow.  It was now very strong, which meant that the valve cartridge and valve body were OK and did not need to be serviced or replaced.  That was a good thing as we had not been able to remove the cartridge earlier when we tried.  With the water shut off I removed the flow restrictor/adapter cleaned out the entire assembly, and removed one small rubber O-ring.  I reassembled all of the pieces, turned the water on, and checked for leaks.  I did not see any so I turned off the water and cleaned up the area.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

The Tarheel roof mount antenna lifter.

It was early afternoon by the time I finished the faucet project—too early to stop working on such a perfect weather day—so I started working on the wiring for the Magnum ME-ARC remote, which I want to relocate from the electrical bay to the house panel in the kitchen.  Because of the difficulty of running wires between these two locations I decided to follow John Palmer’s advice and re-purpose one of the two nine-conductor serial cables that connected the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 inverter/chargers to their remote panels in the house panel.

I decided to use the cable labeled #2.  I removed the snap-together Amphenol DB-9 connector from the house panel end and cut the molded DB-9 connector off of the inverter end.  I tried using Butch’s RJ-11 strip/crimp tool and discovered that the wire in the cable was one size too large to fit in the stripper so I stripped and trimmed them by hand.  The wires were stranded so I twisted them tightly but found that I could not get them inserted and lined up properly in the RJ-11 connectors I bought at Home Depot the other day.  Ugh.  Time for Plan B.

While we were working today plans got made for dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet in Kokomo, Indiana at 6:30 PM.  I decided to drive myself and leave early enough to go to Discount Tire in Kokomo and have them balance all four of my tires.  They closed at 6 PM so I stopped working around 3:30 PM, changed into cleaner clothes and headed for Kokomo at 4:15 PM.  Kokomo is about 30 miles south of Twelve Mile and takes about 45 minutes with speed limits and stop lights.  It used to be on US-31 but Indiana has made significant changes (improvements) to US-31 so that it is now a four lane divided limited access highway in many places and bypasses a lot of towns, including Kokomo.  What was US-31 is now SR-931.  Why they named it that instead of “Old US-31” as they have done in other spots is a mystery to me.

Before I got to Discount Tire I passed a Gordon Food Service (GFS) and a Menard’s located next to one another.  I needed things from both but wanted to get the car taken care of first.  Discount tire said it might be 90 to 105 minutes before they could get to me.  I could not wait that long but had them write it up anyway.  They took my car in about 25 minutes later and had it done in another 15 minutes, so I had time to do some quick shopping.

I got a package of 25 16 oz. hot cups at GFS to go with the lids we already had.  At Menard’s I got two surface mount 4-wire phone jacks and a double-ended phone cord for my Magnum inverter/remote project.  Butch and Fonda also stopped at Menard’s looking for dryer vents to use with their bathroom and shower ventilation fans.

Dinner at the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet was a family gathering.  Beside Butch and Fonda (and me) we had Butch’s mom and dad, his sister Robin and her mother-in-law Betty, Butch’s brother Tom and his wife Tracey, their son Brock and his wife, and another young couple and their kids.  I think the wife was Tom and Tracey’s daughter.  There were four or five kids whose names I did not get.  We all ate too much.  The food was OK, but Butch’s family and the conversation were more interesting.  It was 9 PM by the time we got back to Twelve Mile and I headed off to bed to take care of correspondence and writing.

2014/10/22 (W) Plan B

You always need to have a “Plan B,” or be prepared to come up with one on short notice.  Backup plans are not a sign of indecision or a lack of commitment to a primary plan.  Rather, they are an acknowledgement of the reality that things do not always work the way you thought they would no matter how brilliantly conceived, carefully planned, and skillfully executed.  So it was with my inverter/remote re-wiring project.

I spent most of the day working on the wiring that would allow me to move the Magnum ME-ARC remote from the electrical bay, where it was plugged directly into the Magnum MS4024 inverter/charger, to the house systems monitoring and control panel next to the refrigerator.  It was simple enough in concept, but I had to make sure it was correct as I did not want to damage the inverter or the remote unit.

I used four of the nine wires in one of the old serial cables (#2) that runs from the electrical bay to the house panel.  Since the phone line cables with the RJ-11 plugs on the ends used Black, Red, Green, and Yellow I decided to stick with those colors all the way through.  However, because of the way the RJ-11 connectors are assembled onto the cable the signals move back and forth between pins.  I ended up wiring the cable end in the electrical bay to the same color wires in the baseboard outlet and mounted it to the ceiling of the bay.  I cross-wired the other end of the cable to another baseboard outlet and mounted it to the side of the cavity behind the house system panel.  Fortunately the back side of the panel is accessible via a removable panel in the back of the closet that is on the other side of that wall.

With all of the wiring done I used a jumper with alligator clips on each end to bridge two of the wires in the electrical bay outlet and do a continuity check at the house panel outlet to verify the wiring.  Everything looked good so I unplugged the remote, brought it inside, and plugged it in.  It worked!  Now all I had to do was mount it.

There were already two cutouts at the bottom of the house systems panel from the old Heart Interface EMS-2800 remotes (the coach had two of these inverter/chargers when we bought it and each one had its own remote).  The cutouts measured 4.625″ W by 2.875″ H.  The housing on the ME-ARC was slightly wider than the opening but not as high.  Depth was not an issue.  I borrowed a small roto-tool from Butch with a small router bit and carefully opened up the left hand edge of the right hand cutout.  Using the remote as a template I marked the locations for the four corner screws, moved the remote out of the way, drilled out the holes, moved the remote back into position and attached it to the house panel using four #6 machine screws and Nylok nuts that I got from Butch.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

The house systems panel with Magnum ME-ARC remote installed at lower right.

While I was working on my project, I periodically asked Butch if he needed any assistance, but Fonda was providing the needed help.  They managed to mount an 18″ H by 24″ long piece of 3/4″ plywood to the back wall of the Oasis/water bay with a 1/4” heavy rubber separator between the wood and the metal.  Butch then mounted their Shur-Flo 4048 water pump to the plywood.  This should cut down considerably the noise and vibration transmitted from the pump to the structure of the bus and into the living quarters, but only experience will prove if that is the case.  Butch moved their fresh water tank slightly to make room for their portable water softener.  They also installed the two dryer vents, one on each side of their bus, which they picked up at Menard’s last night.  Their final project for the day was to cut a hole in the roof and install a right angle cable junction box that will be used to route coaxial cable and other lines from the roof into the passenger-side cabinet in the bedroom at the rear of their bus.

I looked at installing the remote readout for our Progressive Industries EMS-50 and decided it was more work than I wanted to start late in the day.  Butch suggested that I do it the same way I did the Magnum remote, re-purposing some of the wires in the old serial data cables.  That was going to require additional parts, so I started a list for my next trip to town.

My final project for the day was to try and fix the lighted entrance handle and the non-functioning patio light.  The lighted entrance handle had a badly deteriorated gasket behind the top securement so I fashioned a replacement from a piece of heavy vinyl shower pan liner that Butch and Fonda had.  The bulb was an LED I installed some time back.  It was still working but the socket was loose so I tried to squeeze it down a bit.  Butch pushed the spring loaded center section out, stretched the spring, and put it back in.  The bulb is now nice and tight.

The patio light proved to be more difficult.  The lens was cracked and difficult to get out but I finally did.  It’s a florescent fixture with two F8T5 bulbs.  I tried turning them in their lampholders but that did not help.  I pulled the wires far enough out of the wall to find two butt connectors.  I was able to get my multimeter probes far enough into one end of each connector to verify the presence of 13 VDC that was controlled by the same switch as the lighted door handle.  I removed the two bulbs and tested them in the fixture over the kitchen sink.  They both worked fine, so the problem appeared to be the ballast.

The way the fixture is designed there was no way to get to the ballast to replace it so I put the bulbs back in and got them to glow faintly.  I tried to replace the lens, which was already cracked, and the top inch split off all the way across.  Fonda though she could fix the cover and epoxied the two pieces back together.  While the epoxy was setting up I noticed that both lamps had come on full bright.  By the time Butch reinstalled the lens they had both gone out.  Definitely a bad ballast.

As it turned out, Butch had an almost identical brand new fixture that he did not intend to use.  The only difference was that his fixture had an on/off button on the underside whereas the one on our coach has a plastic plug in that hole.  His fixture has black end caps, which is fine, and is not painted to match the color of our coach, which is also fine.  Removing our current light fixture will be a bit of project and will have to wait until next week.

I ended up going to Logansport at 7:15 PM for a few parts that I would need tomorrow.  I got back around 8:30 PM and it took me 20 minutes to get my dinner ready and take it into the house.  I was straightening up the bus after dinner and looking for a new roll of paper towels for the kitchen when I discovered a mouse nest in the small cabinet between the sleeper/sofa and the kitchen base cabinets.  I put on nitrile gloves and cleaned it up and then inspected the compartment.  It was open at the back to the area above the HVAC chase that is part of the bus.  The more I have peaked in and under cabinets the more I have come to realize that our coach is a lot like Disney World; there is a network of passageways that are hidden from view but interconnect the bays with the areas behind and under cabinets and furniture, providing an subterranean road system for small critters.  It’s always something when it comes to bus conversions.  The long term challenge will be to figure how where the critters are getting in and see if we can plug those ports of entry.


2014/04/21 (M) Cave Country (KY)

We only had 191 miles to travel today, so we were in no particular hurry to leave this morning.  We were up early enough to have a couple of cups of coffee and a banana and take showers.  RV parks, like motels, usually have posted times for departure (latest) and arrival (earliest).  If the park is not crowded, or not expecting to be, you can usually hang around a little beyond check-out time or arrive a little before check-in time; but if you push the limits on this you may be asked to pay for an extra day or wait in a holding area until check-in time.  I walked up to the office of Northgate RV Travel Park to let the owner, Wes, know that we planned to leave around 10 AM and he seemed fine with that.  I also checked the park egress to US-31 to make sure we could leave the way we planned.  Wes’ dog, Dottie, followed me around for a bit.  Dottie looked to be at least part Border collie, and was very sweet.

We chatted with our neighbor for a while.  He and his wife were Royal Canadian Air Force mechanics who had been full-timing for the last three years since they retired from military service.  We had also chatted some with Eric yesterday.  The only long-term resident of the RV park, Eric is a young EMT for whom Wes has provided a small trailer to live in.  We also met and chatted with some other RVers on our strolls through the park, all of them passing through like us.  One younger couple was from Wyandotte, Michigan, an old community south of Detroit where one of our best friends grew up.  His “Big M” (University of Michigan) hat was the conversation starter.  They were headed to Pensacola, Florida to visit the Naval Air Station and see the Blue Angels.  Their kids were on (presumably) on spring break.  They were familiar with Wayne RESA, from which I retired in June 2012, which surprised me.  We always seem to meet interesting people in RV parks.

We pulled out of Northgate RV Travel Park at 10:30 AM, turned onto northbound US-31, stayed to our left and almost immediately were on the entrance ramp to northbound I-65.  Fifteen miles later we were in Tennessee.  I-65 in Alabama, at least the part we traveled, was an excellent road through attractive countryside and that continued to be the case in Tennessee.  In fact the road got even better as entrance ramps were usually longer, forming an entrance lane that eventually merged in to the right hand lane of the Interstate.  At larger interchanges, and near cities, there were often double entry lanes that merged down into a single lane and then into the traffic flow.  The total distance for these merge lanes was often 1/2 mile, plenty of distance and time to get up to speed and merge.

Getting through Nashville was the only tricky part of the drive, and it wasn’t that bad (hey, we made it).  Traffic was congested, made a bit worse by some construction, but it moved along.  To stay on I-65 we had to negotiate at least five places where the road split, alternating “keep left, keep right, etc.” but our Rand McNally RVND 7710 GPS provided lane information in navigation mode, and Linda was watching the route on a map and her smartphone, so we knew where we had to be.  Actually, what we did was get in the center lane with all of the long-haul trucks, slow down, and follow them.  The center lane generally allowed us to go either left or right as required and had the added advantage of keeping us out of the right hand lane with all of the exiting and entering traffic.

We stopped at a Pilot truck stop at Exit 6 in Kentucky and put 86 gallons of #2 diesel in the tank bringing the tank level up to 3/4.  That was enough fuel to get us home where we can put in additives and top off the tank with fuel blended for the cooler Michigan climate this time of year.  The fuel stop added 20 minutes to our trip and we finally pulled off I-65 at exit 354 at 2 PM CDT.  It was less than 1/2 mile to Cave Country RV Park from the exit.  Linda got us checked in and the woman in the office escorted us around to our site in a golf cart.  The normal route in was blocked by a disabled motorhome being hooked up to a wrecker for towing.  We heard it was an electrical problem, but it doesn’t really matter; RVers always feel for their fellow travelers when equipment problems develop.  As an interesting side note, the woman in the office was a seasonal worker who had been at Williston Crossings RV Resort for the big Carriage 5th wheel rally that took place the last week or so that we were there.  IN some ways RVing is a small world and people who have been on the road for quite a while tell us that this sort of thing happens more than you would expect.

We had a mixed greens salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza for dinner and then went for a walk around the RV park before taking a quick drive through town to locate the grocery store.  In spite of its location near the entrance to Mammoth Cave NP, Cave City did not appear to be a prosperous place.  Many business were closed, the buildings vacant and for sale.  Most of the newer/nicer businesses (motels, restaurants, filing stations) were right at Exit 354, including Cave Country RV Park.

Cave Country RV Park is a well kept basic park (good gravel interior roads, no swimming pool) conveniently located to I-65 and the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park.  It has a laundry, restrooms, and a lounge with a pool table, a big comfy couch, and a TV.  The office has a small store with the usual essentials, such as electrical and sewer adapters.  It is located next to a major CSX rail line, but we like the sound of trains, so that was OK with us.  (It is not unusual for RV parks convenient to highways to be adjacent to railroad tracks.)   Given that it is the Monday of Easter week it seemed odd that the park wasn’t even half full, although rigs continued to arrive after sunset.    Rain was in the forecast for the overnight and it rained briefly for the first time just before 9 PM.  We were able to pick up CBS over the air, presumably from Bowling Green, Kentucky to the southwest, and watched a little TV before turning in at 10 PM.


2014/04/13 (N) To The Panhandle

I was up early today anticipating getting on the road again.  We had a little juice and took our vitamins, but did not have coffee or breakfast.  I generally do not eat or drink much in the morning on travel days.  The bus was mostly ready to go except for last minute details and around 8 AM we shifted into departure mode.  I opened the passenger-side engine bay door, opened the air supply valve to the engine accessories, unlatched the rear engine cover and raised it, and connected the coach chassis batteries.  Since the engine ran a bit warm on the drive from Williston to Hudson I wanted to visually verify that that radiator fan was spinning.

While I waited for the Pressure Pro TPMS to pick up the pressure readings from all of the tires I closed all of the ceiling vents and the side windows. The driver-side front/steer tire pressure was a little lower than I like, the drive and tag tire pressures were OK.  The passenger-side front/steer tire pressure was a little higher than I normally run, put not excessive and within the maximum cold pressure limits of the tire and wheel.  I wrote down the tire pressures for reference later.

L-to-R Nancy, Bill, and Linda at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, FL.

L-to-R Nancy, Bill, and Linda at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, FL.

While Linda secured the inside I shut off the AC power, disconnected the power cord, stowed it for travel, and closed up the utility bay.  Just before 8:30 AM I fired up the main engine, let the oil pressure build, and put it in high idle.  The radiator fan was spinning as it should and I closed the rear hatch and side door on the engine compartment.  Bill and Nancy were up and Bill guided me out of our parking spot while Linda kept an eye on the rear end of the bus.  I only had to back up once, and only a little bit, to complete the turn.  With the tag axle raised the turning radius of the coach is shortened enough to make a difference in slow, tight turns.

We need to find a large vacant parking lot, set up some cones, and practice maneuvering the bus in and out of tight spaces.  I have driven the coach enough that I generally have a good feel for how it handles but our visit to Suncoast Designers revealed that our individual and team skill sets were incomplete.  We do not have a good understanding of how to back it around into a narrow space starting from a perpendicular position.  In particular we do not have a good feel yet for where the front tires are as the nose swings.

The centerline through the front tires is behind the driver, five feet from the front bumper.  Bill had me pull much farther forward out of our site before turning the wheels hard left than seemed visually reasonable from the driver’s seat.  As the front end came around I completely lost sight of the curb that ran along the far side of the road as it disappeared under the front of the coach.  But Bill could see my tires and knew I was positioned correctly.  He said I could probably have pulled out of the site without backing up, but the passenger-side front tire would have barely missed the curb.  He had me turn the tires hard right and back up slightly, creating the additional space needed to complete the tight left turn out of the site and onto the road.


Nancy gave us a couple of business cards with their contact information and we said our farewells.  I pulled out of Suncoast Designers at 8:45 AM with Linda following in the car.  We got to the Tires Plus store just before 9 AM and got parked parallel to the end of the building.  We checked all of the tire pressures again using the TPMS and recorded them.  The pressure in all of the tires rose about 5 PSI in the eight mile drive.  The technician was ready to go and was very patient as I removed each pressure sensor, checked the tire pressure with my gauge  (that I have previously checked against a known good pressure standard), compared it to the two TPMS readings, determined how much additional pressure to have him add, checked it again, and put the pressure sensor back on.  We thanked him for the service (no charge) and gave him a tip.

The sensors will have to be removed once we get to our destination and the tires have a chance to cool off.  The baseline pressure is determined by the pressure in the tire when the sensor is installed and the warnings are triggered by deviations from the baseline.  The overnight low from Tuesday into Wednesday is forecast to be 38 degrees F, so that will be the time to check and reset.  The Pressure Pro was one of the early TPMS systems and this how it was designed.  Newer systems permit the baseline pressure to be programmed into the receiver by tire position.  Our sensors do not have user replaceable batteries and when they finally need to be replaced we will put that money towards a newer system.

Linda guided me as I backed the bus around behind the service bays.  We hooked the car up for towing and did our light check.  Our left turn signal on the car was not working, but everything else was OK.  One of the sockets in the wiring connector on the car was slightly corroded so I cleaned it using the awl in my Leatherman multi-tool.  That fixed the problem when we left Williston, but not this time.  I examined the connector on the bus, and found that part of one of the pins was missing.  This was almost certainly the left turn signal and there was nothing to be done about it at that moment.  This is a standard 6-pin round RV/trailer connector.  It was a cheap piece of junk the day it was made and did not improve with age.  I will be replacing both connectors and the cable with products from EZ Connector.  Weather sealed, gasketed, and magnetically retained with integrated self-closing covers; primo.

We pulled out onto US-19 northbound.  The road construction workers had the day off and traffic was light so we had an easy run up to Crystal River, picking up the US-98 designation near Homosassa.  Even with light traffic it took a while to get through Crystal River where the speed limit is often 30 – 35 MPH and there are frequent stop lights.  Once we cleared Crystal River we were able to travel 60 MPH, plus or minus, for most of the rest of the trip except through Chiefland.

The Check Engine Light came on soon after we left Suncoast Designers and stayed on for quite a while.  It eventually went off and only occasionally came back on, especially under acceleration or climbing hills.  The engine coolant temperature gauge initially read below 195 degrees F, but morning temperatures were moderate.  The sun was behind us and the coach stayed comfortable without the OTR air-conditioner.  I don’t know how precise the engine temperature gauge is, but it does seem to be accurate.  (Precision is the extent to which it shows the true/correct temperature; accuracy is the degree to which it is consistent or repeatable in terms of its readings.)  The engine oil temperature came up to 186 degrees F on the gauge fairly quickly like it normally does.  The transmission temperature gauge eventually came up to the same temperature but took a lot longer, as it normally does, even with the use of the transmission retarder going through Crystal River and Chiefland.

The GPS wanted us to take I-75 and was very persistent in trying to get us to leave our chosen route.  It became humorous after awhile and we should have counted the number of times it said “recalculating.”  We obviously had the preferences set to “maximize freeways” or something like that.  It finally figured out what we were doing when we got to the US-19 US-98 split at Perry, Florida.  US-98 turns west to WSW and follows the Gulf coast where it becomes a designated scenic drive.  While probably beautiful, it would have been a longer route with lots of shore communities making it a long, slow drive.  US-19 turned NNW and ran up to I-10 east of Tallahassee, Florida, the state Capitol.

The terrain had been essentially flat up to Perry, but part way to I-10 we encountered a hill; up one side and down the other.  It just appeared out of nowhere as if someone had built it there just to get our attention.  But then there was another hill, and another one and …  we were north of “the bend” and officially entering the panhandle which, unbeknownst to us, was not flat like the parts of Florida where we had spent time this winter.

By the time we got to Perry the outside air temperature was in the low 80’s and the engine coolant temperature was indicating 195 or a hair under.  The engine and transmission temperature were staying in the 186 to 190 range.  The pyrometers came up to 700 – 900 degrees F on hills depending the grade and length.  The cruise control ran perfectly all day, as it always has, but the speedometer sat on zero and never budged (accurate, but not precise).

Once on I-10 west we made good time traveling due west across the panhandle.  The road was straight but had lots of ups and downs.  The highest point in Florida is in the northwestern panhandle near the Alabama border.  Just west of Tallahassee we stopped at a Flying J truck stop and travel center to top off our fuel tank.  We continued west on I-10 and crossed into the Central Time Zone before exiting at US-331 and heading south towards the Gulf of Mexico and the towns of Freeport and South Walton.  Fifteen miles from the Interstate we made our last few turns and arrived at Live Oak Landing RV park.  We had traveled 350 miles in 7.5 hours including the fuel stop, but still a little below our usual 50 MPH average.  We were tired when we arrived and Linda fixed a salad and pan grilled our last two tofu hot dogs.


2013_10_02 (W) Decks, Maps, & TV

Linda and I both worked around the house today and by dinner time we finally felt confident that the house would be presentable for the open house / house warming on Sunday.  Another half day and my office will be ready for visitors.  While Linda vacuumed, I installed new flappers in the two upstairs toilets and a new handle mechanism in one of them.  They now flush and shut off correctly without having to do anything special with the handles or take the top off the tanks to seat the flappers by hand.  Although we figured company would appreciate that, the real motivation was to make sure they did not draw water continuously through our water softening and purification system.

Jim Pipoly was back to finish the deck and had Adam to help him.  A much younger guy by comparison to us, it was nice to watch the two of them work.  Experience and attitude count for a lot, and quality paint work requires a careful yet efficient approach; you have to keep moving without ever rushing or letting your attention drift.  They started around 9:30 AM in order to let the dew evaporate and worked until about 7 PM, but they got all of the painting done, and it looks very nice.

By late morning it was sunny but not hot.  We opened all of the awnings on the motorcoach to let them dry.  A couple of weeks ago at the RV rally in Goshen we had to roll them up wet and had not had a chance to unroll them since then.  Not good, but not much we could do about it until today.

Linda needed some things from the grocery store, so I decided to try updating the maps in our Rand-McNally GPS again.  The last time I tried this it said it was going to take 14+ hours to download the updates.  It did, in fact, take that long and it hung up before it finished.  Today, however, things went much better.  The map and device update combined took about 2 hours and completed successfully.  Yea!  She brought home two Sam Adams seasonal variety 12-packs and I put them in the bus fridge to chill them down and add some mass to the refrigerator compartment.  Refrigerators and freezers work much better when they are full, as long as they are overstuffed to the point where air cannot circulate.

While I was working with the GPS, Linda decided to play with the TV sets in our bus.  We had never tried tuning in any local, over-the-air (OTA) stations.  When Ed and Betty Burns were here in their RV in late August, they were only able to tune in one station, and that was FOX, so we figured we were out of luck.  To our surprise, the front TV set found 27 digital channels, including sub-channels of the main channels.  She even picked up PBS from two different sources!  Yippee.  And this was without aiming the antenna.  Once we have a better idea of which direction to point it for each station, or cluster of stations, we may be able to pick up even more signals.

I decided to try the rear TV, which is the one with the defective rotor mechanism.  It did not find as many channels on the first try, so I rotated it to the right (I think) about five positions (maybe) and tried again.  This time we got 25 channels.  Not bad.  So much for needing satellite TV at our house!  I am sufficiently impressed with the performance of these antennas that I may get two more for the house.  Ideally I will mount them on the tower (existing or new).  The problem will be running the co-ax and control cables (it always is).

So why the sudden interest in TV?  Well…the open house is Sunday, and Sunday is professional sports day, and some of our guests are making a huge sacrifice coming to visit instead of watching their favorite sports, so….we thought making some sports broadcasts available would be a nice gesture.  Of course, that means we will have to make popcorn too.

After dinner we loaded some leftover wood from the ham shack/office remodeling project into the back of the Element and got it off the lower walkout deck.  We also moved the leftover suspended ceiling tiles and the shop vac back to the garage.  The only projects I have left in the basement are hanging a wine glass rack over the bar and reassembling the corner of the room where I removed the knotty pine wall boards to facilitate the installation of the 240V, 100A cable to the subpanel that powers the RV outlet, ham shack, and office computer outlets.  But those are tasks for another day.

Having had a reasonably productive day, I made the classic mistake of thinking I could get one more thing accomplished starting at 9 PM.  I wanted to update our Garmin nuvi 465T GPS unit that we use in the Honda Element.  The last time I tried to do this the Garmin Express client couldn’t connect to the Garmin servers.  And so it was again tonight.  Fiddle with USB cables and ports, but no success.  I finally Googled Garmin Express server problems and got a lot of hits.  After reading through a few knowledge base Q&As and trying to update some drivers (I had the Gamin website instead of the Garmin website and they wanted $$) I decided to just reinstall Garmin Express.  I downloaded it, saved, ran the installation .exe file, and voila! it finally worked again.  And my maps and other date were still there and it even recognized our specific device.  It updated the device software successfully and 10:30 told me it was “Safe to Walk Away”.  Really; that’s the message it gave me.  Apparently the map update was going to take approximately 3 hours.  The software must have known what time it was and figured I wanted to go to bed.  And so I did; right after I uploaded and edited this post.  Night, night.


2013_09_22 (Sun) Until We Meet Again

Yesterday was actually the last day of the rally, but with entertainment, door prizes, etc. not concluding until 10 PM no one left until today.  There are no activities on departure day, and everyone is expected to vacate the venue by noon.  The fairgrounds had another rally scheduled for the coming week, and that groups’ advance crew was due in starting at noon today.

I have described the rally departure experience before, and it was no different this time.  The biggest variable is the weather.  Sunday morning dawned cool but partly cloudy and the forecast indicated we would have a nice morning for exiting and traveling.  Departure morning is often a strange time for us, and our friends have indicated the same.  This was no exception.  Logistically it was consistent with our previous experience at area and national rallies.  Unlike the arrival process, which was highly organized and controlled, the departure process was completely asynchronous, but incredibly smooth and low-key.  One-by-one people just broke camp, hooked up their toads, said their farewells, started up their rigs, and drove away; yet there was never a traffic jam or safety issue.  We did not even have to wait for a dump station on the way out.

While the arrival at a rally is always filled with anticipation and a certain intensity of compact activity that is a bit exciting, the departure is, well, I’m not sure what it is.  It’s not exactly sad or depressing—those emotions would be too strong for the occasion—but it is a time of saying “goodbye for now” to friends that you don’t necessarily see very often and with whom you have just shared an experience.  There is a sense of having been there long enough yet not wanting it to be over quite yet.  And depending on where you are headed next, especially if it is back to a fixed house and a job or business, perhaps a small bit of dread at all of the work and responsibilities awaiting you upon your return.  But that is nature of RVing.

We stood around for quite a while in the morning visiting with our fellow GLCC members, all of whom were avoiding the inevitable departure and getting in one last visit, at least for now.  We finally rolled out around 11:15 AM and headed over to the dump stations.  The Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds has nine dump stations arranged in parallel and configured so RVs can pull in from either direction and dump from either side.  There was only one other motorhome there when we arrived and we pulled right in.  Another rig pulled in while we were taking care of business and we decided to go ahead and hook up the toad rather than pull out, stop on the exit road, and do it there.

Using our Rand-McNally GPS we followed a series of county roads and Indiana state highways, eventually getting back to US-20 and then to I-69, I-96, and home.  It was a pleasant and uneventful drive; the best kind.


2013_09_17 (Tue) To Goshen We Go

We awoke this morning to temperatures in the mid 40’s.  As we had no reason to rush we stayed under the covers a bit longer than usual.  Lazy mornings are always a source of consternation for our cats who, in spite of the obvious presence of food in their bowls, expect us to get up at the first sign we are awake and attend to their perceived need for fresh(er) food.

I turned on the electric toe-kick heater in the bathroom to take the chill out of the air, but then decided to fire up the Aqua-Hot instead to warm up the entire coach and preheat the main engine.  At a seminar in Gillette, Wyoming this past summer we learned that the Aqua-Hot needs to run with some regularity in order to run well, so this was an opportunity to do that and to check my work from yesterday for leaks.  The Aqua-Hot ran quite well, but as I feared there was a small leak at the gasket between the two halves of the check valve.  I will try one more time to get a couple of wrenches on this part and tighten it, but if that is not successful I will have to install the new check valve, which would take another entire day.  Ugh.  I like doing projects, but I don’t care so much for doing them more than once.

We had oatmeal for breakfast, which is always nice on a chilly morning and has a certain staying power for days when lunch is uncertain.  After breakfast we got our coach ready for travel while Butch and Fonda did the same with theirs’.  We departed Twelve Mile, Indiana a little before noon with Butch and Fonda in the lead and headed for Goshen, Indiana to attend the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) 2013 area rally (GLAMARAMA13).

Our route was IN-16 (Co Rd 700 N) westbound to N Co Rd 600 E northbound to IN-25 northbound to US-31 northbound to US-6 eastbound to IN-15 where we stopped for a stretch break.  We moved into the lead and continued northbound on IN-15 to Goshen with Linda navigating based on directions provided by the rally organizers.  We had been advised by FMCA to follow the directions they provided in order to avoid a bridge that was out on the main road to the fairgrounds from the west.

We tend to travel on Intestate and US highways, but have also found State highways to generally be good for travel.  Even county roads are OK if we know in advance we will not encounter weight, height, or width restrictions.  This is where it is helpful to have local information from folks familiar with the roads.  It also helps that our Rand-McNally RVND7710 GPS is configured to know the parameters of our rig, so we are able to travel with some confidence that we will not encounter unexpected obstructions.  As an added feature it also provides real-time traffic information, especially near larger metropolitan areas.

The trip up IN-15 brought us quickly into the outskirts of Goshen with heavy, slow traffic.  This presented a challenge for us as the buses do not accelerate that quickly and the lights do not stay green for that long.  It was important that I not lose Butch at a light as Linda had the detailed directions for getting to the fairgrounds.  As we came to downtown Goshen there was construction with lanes closed and traffic rerouted through barrel lined jiggy-jogs.  We pressed ahead none-the-less as we needed to go east on IN-4, just three short blocks beyond the construction.  We made it through but it was the kind of situation that adds a bit of stress to the usual pleasure of driving the coach.

We continued east on IN-4 looking for Co Rd 29 southbound.  Along the way we spotted an official looking sign that said “RV Rally and Fairgrounds” with an arrow pointing down a nicely paved road to the south.  I slowed down and considered taking this road—even though the turn looked a bit tight—until I noticed the “NO TRUCKS” sign on the adjacent pole.  We are never sure whether or not we are a “truck” so we generally decide one way of the other depending on what is to our advantage.  In this case I took a “pass” and continued on down IN-4 to CR-29.  We headed south on CR-29 until it ended at CR-34 where we turned westbound back towards the fairgrounds.  Our directions said to enter at Gate 3, but as we approached the northeast corner of the fairgrounds an orange-vested parking crew member motioned us to turn in.  I hesitated again, but decided to follow his directions.  The parking procedures are usually well thought out and the crews usually know what they are doing.  The whole arrival/parking experience generally goes much more smoothly if you simply follow their directions.

(It is worth noting, however, that as with a boat or airplane the driver of an RV bears the ultimate responsibility for it’s operation and is the ultimate decision authority with respect to that operation.  If the driver is unclear or uncomfortable with what parking crew are asking them to do, the correct response is to STOP, ask for clarification, and not move until they are certain they understand where they supposed to go and are comfortable (willing and able) going there.  Arguing with parking crew, however, is counterproductive, and ignoring them and moving the RV is potentially dangerous.  Parking crew are there to move large numbers of RVs efficiently and safely to planned parking areas and drivers should always give them their full cooperation but never surrender their ultimate decision authority.)

We arrived at the rally venue a little before 2 PM.  The usual procedure is to unhook a towed vehicle and drive it, separate from the motorhome, to the site or a designated parking area.  And so it was today.  They had changed the entrance gate to channel us into an area where there was more room to unhook our towed vehicles.  With the cars unhooked, we proceeded to the holding area where we queued up and waited to be escorted to our site.  For this rally parking areas had been reserved for chapters so they could park together without having to arrive together (caravaan style).  We were part of the reservation for the Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter (GLCC).  The parking crew was friendly and efficient and we “wheels down” (an aviation term) in our site by 2:30 PM with the coach set up and ready to use by 3:00 PM.

The reserved parking was an unusual feature of this rally, and an attempt by GLAMA to be as accommodating as possible in spite of the added complexity of this arrangement.  If you have not been to an RV rally, you won’t fully appreciate how nice it was to be able to park with “our group” without having to coordinate our arrival with everyone else.  Generally if RVs want to park together at a rally they have to arrive together in a caravaan.  The only aspect of their parking that is usually pre-arranged is the area of the facility they will be in based on the hookups (electricity, water, sewer, generator use) they have paid for as part of their pre-registration.  Even with a small number of RVs caravaning can be a challenge.  Wile some rallies provide an arrival area where RVers can meet up and form their caravan, many rallies do not have the space for this.  In that case, the RVers first have to find a place to rendezvous.  (Walmart is a popular choice, especially if folks are staying overnight there anyway.)  They then have to make their way to the rally site while trying to keep the group together at stop lights (which isn’t possible with more than two rigs).  GLAMA is to be applauded for trying this new approach.

Goshen is the county seat for Elkhart County, Indiana and the home of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.  We had been to this facility once before for The Escapees RV Club Escapade in September 2010 and it is a nice facility for an RV rally.  Access to the fairgrounds is good, and the interior roads are more than adequate for large motorhomes (and converted buses).  The campgrounds can provide 30 Amp power and water for a large number of rigs (800+), and there are also some full hookup, 50 A sites.  There are many buildings and covered outdoor areas available for entertainment, vendors, seminars, and meetings.  And yet all of this is neatly contained in a surprisingly compact space that makes the venue very walkable while the paved roads make for good driving of toads and courtesy transportation golf carts.

This is the first Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) rally being organized by the officers and volunteers of GLAMA.  For many, many years the Great Lakes Area Spring Spree (GLASS) rally had served this purpose.  Held at the Berrien Springs, Michigan youth fairgrounds, GLASS was a nice rally at a nice venue held over Memorial Day weekend and consistently drew 800+ motorhomes until the last few years.  Unlike most FMCA area rallies, however, the GLASS rally was organized by the Michigan Knights of the Highway, the 4th FMCA chapter ever formed, and the oldest FMCA chapter still in existence.  MKH handled the registration process, and any financial benefit (or loss) went to them, not GLAMA.

GLAMA takes in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario Canada, so obviously it does not include all of the states that border on the Great Lakes.  Even so, it covers a large geographic area with lots of FMCA members.  GLAMARAMA 2014 is also slated for the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, but the intent is to then rotate it to each state and Ontario for two years each.  That will entail more work for GLAMA organizers, but will open up the chance for more people to attend and build a stronger sense of ownership across the association.

Today was early entry day, so there were no official activities beyond arrival and registration/check-in.  Pat and Vicky Lintner were already parked at the GLCC area as Pat is the GLAMA VP for Indiana and part of the rally organizing committee responsible for all of the rally specific signage.  We pulled in next to Pat and Vicky, followed by Butch and Fonda.  Mike and Laurie Minnick pulled in shortly thereafter in their 1968 MCI MC-7 bus conversion.  Don and Sandy Moyer then arrived in their 1948 Spartan bus conversion.

[Note: The Spartan bus was built for three years, post World War II, in Sturgis, Michigan.  The owner/president of the company was the chief test pilot for the B-25 bomber.  All of the engineers and craftsmen came from the aircraft industry and the bus was designed/built much more like an airplane than a motor vehicle.  Only 57 Spartan buses were built and most of them ended up being used outside the U. S., including some used to make a 12 hour daily run from Damascus, Syria to Baghdad, Iraq and a 12 hour run back, making it the fastest bus line in the world at the time.  The Moyer’s bus was the last one built, a 28 foot model.  It was destined for a bus company in Wisconsin but they never took delivery.  It left the factory as a seated coach, was driven out of the factory, and the front tires came off the ground because it was too heavy in the rear end.  Within two years someone had purchased it, taken out the seats, and had it converted to a motorhome.  Many of the details suggest that it was “professionally” done, but the Moyer’s have not been able to track down who did the conversion.  It was eventually parked and left to rot for 35 years until Don and Sandy rescued it.  Based on their research there are no more than 12 of the original 57 buses still in existence and theirs’ is almost certainly the only motorhome.  Don worked 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 18 months to put it back in usable condition.  It is a truly unique RV.]

GLCC reserved space for eight motorhomes and the other three planned to arrive tomorrow. The chapter will have more members/rigs in attendance than that, but they will be parked elsewhere.  George and Sue Myers are parked within close sight of our group, but are located for their convenience in running the golf cart courtesy transportation service.  Don and Kathy Crawford from Ontario are in the VIP row as Don is a past president of GLAMA, which also entailed being the national vice-president representing the Great Lakes Area.  Ditto for Jon and Sondra Walker, who was the GLASS National Director until he moved on to become GLAMA President.  Jon was elected the FMCA Senior National Vice-President this past summer at the FMCA national convention in Gillette, Wyoming, so the number two national FMCA officer is a GLCC guy.  Ron and Meredith Walker, who just joined our chapter, are also here but are parked with the Frustrated Maestros.  Ron is a retired K-12 music teacher and is the conductor of the FMs.

Linda made something new for dinner: firm tofu slices pan fried with onions and Bar-B-Que sauce.  She served it on a sesame seed bun with a side of sweet corn on the cob and some Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer to wash it down.  Sometimes simple is best.


2013_09_14 (Sat) Ready, Set, No Go

We were up early Saturday morning to attend the standing breakfast gathering of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club at the Senate Coney Island in South Lyon.  I was discussing our cell phone signal situation with Scott, AC8IL, and he suggested I try a passive booster system before putting money into an active repeater.  The idea behind the passive booster system is to connect two antennas (of the same characteristic impedance) together with a co-axial cable (of the same characteristic impedance).  One antenna goes outside and the other goes inside.  The inside antenna will generally be omnidirectional, since you could be anywhere in the house/building with your phone, but the outside antenna will likely be directional since it can be pointed at the most favorable cell tower.  Highly directional antennas have “gain” compared to omnidirectional antennas, which is to say, they provide a strong signal at their co-ax connector than an omnidirectional antenna placed in the same location.  This signal will be transmitted down the matched co-ax cable to the other antenna where it will tend to radiate back into space.  It works in the other direction as well.  The nice thing about this potential solution is that if I purchase antennas and coax cables that will also work with an active booster (repeater) then I only have to buy the active booster if the antennas alone are not adequate.

When we got home we continued working on preparations for our trip and the open house by hanging the last piece of wall art, at least for now.  When going to rallies Linda often prepares dinner meals ahead of time and freezes them.  This simplifies our evening meals and leaves open the possibility of going out to dinner, which RVers do a lot (at least at rallies).  Between food, clothes, toiletries, and miscellaneous other things there was a lot of “stuff” to put on board even for a short outing.  I helped pull stuff together and get it on board while attending to the updating of our Rand McNally RVND7710 GPS unit.  The map update said it would take 14+ hours to download.  It ran for about 8 hours and was indicating that it had 1 hour and 29 minutes left to go when it hung up and quit downloading.  🙁

Our AT&T High Speed Internet / Digital Subscriber Line (HSI/DSL) service is a bad joke when it comes to speed and may be at the point where I need to file a service request/complaint.  It’s only real benefit is the 150 Gb monthly data allowance.  But the service seems to be so slow that I’m not sure I could transfer 150 Gb of data in a month if uploaded and downloaded 24/7.

[A note about RV “stuff”:  The truth is that full-time RVers also have “stuff”, but it is limited by their available space and does get loaded and unloaded before and after each “trip”.  (Full-timers don’t go on trips; they just move they home around the country.)  They also have “spring cleaning”, although it can occur at any time of the year.  For many this is an annual ritual of completely emptying the RV, examining all of the “stuff”, deciding what not to put back, and re-configuring the storage of the rest.]


2013_08_09-12 (F, S, N, M) Odds And Ends

There is a certain routine to being back at the house, and when we are here it feels like we should get back into that routine.  Otherwise, it becomes too easy to sleep in, start slow, and not get around to even thinking about doing things until the afternoon, by which time it is too late to start anything.

Friday we were still unloading a few things from the bus, finishing up laundry (me), weeding the flower beds (Linda), catching up on accounting tasks (Linda), catching up on operating system updates (me), and other such necessities of daily living.  I placed calls to various service providers and filled out an online trouble report to try and get our AT&T phone line back in service.  Based on the missed calls on our answering machine, it appears that the phone line quite working around June 25th.  What I found interesting was that our High Speed Internet (HSI/DSL) worked fine and never went out.

With necessary chores attended to I turned my attention to writing first drafts of articles for Bus Conversions Magazine (BCM).  I had started an article a while back on the exterior makeover so finished a first draft of that and sent it off to Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint for review.  I had six other projects I had worked on the last 11 months that I also thought would make good articles.  Over the course of the weekend I completed first drafts of all six and sent all seven article drafts off to the Publisher (Gary Hall) and Editor (Wendy Crosby) of BCM, sans pictures.

Until today (Monday) the weather has been delightful since we returned, with blue skies, a few puffy white clouds, highs in the low-to-mid 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s.  Friday evening we decided to get out of the house for a while so we drove to downtown Brighton and went for a walk along the Mill Pond.  This is a large pond formed by a small dam in the heart of downtown, and it has a boardwalk that runs along the east side for about 1/2 mile.  Besides people there were ducks and geese, including babies, and a swan.  We also saw bluebirds and two muskrats.  Downtown Brighton is a happening place on a Friday night.  There were lots of people at the many restaurants, but equally many out walking.

Part of our routine is Saturday morning ham radio breakfast, usually with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) of which we are members, but occasionally with the Novi Radio Club.  Having been gone for a while we went to the SLAARC breakfast.  It was good to see our ham radio friends and catch up on what everyone has been doing.  Folks were interested in our travels, of course, and we enjoyed sharing a little bit about that.

Back home I decided to run a computer network cable from our AT&T Gateway to my office in the basement so I could connect the computers down there to a hub and and connect it back to the Gateway.  I’ve been trying to accomplish this connectivity with WiFi, but have had limited success.  I ran a small experiment first to make sure it would work, plugging my laptop into the hub and the hub into the Gateway with all of the components in close physical proximity to the Gateway.  It worked, so I proceeded with the larger project.

I had to enlarge a hole from the basement up into the wall cavity behind Linda’s desk, and managed to nick the Cat5 cable that carries the DSL/phone signal to the Gateway.  Naturally the AT&T repair truck showed up a short time later.  That did not turn out to be problem, however, as the technician very quickly determined that the problem was somewhere upstream in their system.  He had our signals restored at the outside junction box long before I was ready to reconnect to them.

I managed to get the Cat6 network cable run through the suspended ceiling in the basement and into the office.  I put the hub in the center of the room and ran the longest cables I had from various devices across the floor and over things.  I would include a picture, but it isn’t a pretty sight.  😉  The hardwired connection isn’t necessarily faster than the wireless one, but it stays connected, which is more important than speed.

While I was at it I decided to run a new, higher quality Cat6 cable from the AT&T junction box (outside) to the AT&T Gateway (inside).  After poking around in the attics above the garage and the house, I decided that this was not a project that had to be done at this time.  As I have worked on projects in the basement I have been removing old telephone wires as we use a cordless phone system and the wiring is obsolete.  I was going to to continue that work, but decided for now to just fix the cable I had damaged and get our phone/DSL connections back on line.

Another part of our routine is the Sunday morning Howell Farmers Market.  The nice weather continued and we enjoyed strolling through the market and talking to the vendors.  We bought some corn and peppers and herbs.  We bought some more coffee beans from Irene’s Beans of Milford, and also from Teeko’s of Howell.  Teeko’s is not far from our house and they keep their beans green until you buy them.  They then roast them to your taste while you wait.  They have a very wide selection of beans, including 100% Kona and Jamaica Blue Mountain.  These are premium coffee beans and are not generally available even at upscale food markets.

On Sunday Linda split her time between weeding, her computer, and just relaxing, which usually involves reading.  Of course she also took time to make meals, which were good, as usual.  I continued working on articles drafts and started updating our GPS units.  I had the docking/update software for both units installed on an older laptop that is not very fast, even with a hardwired network connection.  I replaced the hard disk drive in that laptop some time ago with a solid state drive as I plan to use that computer to run the Silverleaf VMSpc software for monitoring the bus engine while I drive.  I figured the SSD would be more tolerant of bumps and vibrations.  It probably is, but I did not figure on how incredibly slow it would be.

It took quite a while, but I got the Garmin nüvi 465T updated.  This is a nice little GPS unit designed for truckers (the T model) with a 4″ diagonal screen.  Because it is designed for truckers, we can create profiles for different vehicles/combinations, including length, width, height, and weight.  That is very handy when driving a large vehicle.  We use it in the toad, and as a backup for the bus.  I need to move the docking software to my newer laptop if I can figure out how to do it.  Part of the problem is that I also have map subscriptions installed on the old laptop and have to move those as well.

Sunday night was our monthly SLAARC meeting in South Lyon.  Linda opted not to go, but as the Vice-President of the club for this year, I really needed to make an appearance.  Besides, the program was on how to use an oscilloscope.  The presenter was (Dr.) Steve Smith, N8AR, a member of our club and retired electrical/communications engineer who worked on the space program at one point in his career.  Steve has done a number of presentations for our club.  They are always good, and they always draw a crowd, and this was no exception.

This morning (Monday the 12th) we woke to find it very overcast with a high probability of showers for most of the day.  That meant we would not be doing much outside work today.  Our Honda Element (towed vehicle) was overdue for it’s 75,000 mile service, so we took it to Brighton Honda right after breakfast.  While I was getting it written up Linda picked up my favorite Amy’s frozen pizza for dinner as she had plans for dinner and movie with Diane; their belated annual birthday night out.

I planned to continue working on my articles for BCM, selecting, adding, and annotating photos to illustrate them.  But first I decided to install the docking software for our Rand-McNally RVND7710 GPS.  That was easy; the software resides in the non-volatile memory of the unit, which connects to the computer via a USB cable.  I checked for updates; there were some, so I installed them.

I then decided to purchase the Lifetime Map updates, which I had not done previously.  I accomplished that easily enough but had a little trouble getting the docking software to accept the Activation Key.  Closing the software, powering the GPS down, turning it back on, and re-launching the docking software got it to work, but that wasn’t part of the instructions.  Great; time to download and install updated maps, which I did.  It took eight (8) hours!  I know our Internet connection is not very fast, and  I have no idea how much data got downloaded, but 8 hours?!  Unfortunately that tied up my laptop for most of the day, so whatever else I had hoped to accomplish got delayed.  But that was OK; it rained all day, and a slower pace with a subdued tone somehow seemed appropriate.