Tag Archives: SLAARC

2016/4/16-20 (S–W) From Ham to Home (Again)

2016/04/16 (S) A Local Hamfest

I heard Butch and Fonda get in their car a little before 6 AM this morning and leave for the quad-county hamfest at the fairgrounds between Peru and Mexico (in North Central Indiana, not Central America).  I got up quietly at 7:30 AM, got dressed, put my camera in the car, and walked over to Small Town Brew to say “good morning” to proprietor Lisa Paul and fill my coffee thermos before driving to the hamfest.  As I approached the coffee shop I sensed that something was amiss.  The lights were off and something about the appearance looked different.  A closer view revealed that the interior had been redone and the name Small Town Brew was nowhere to be seen.  “The Branded Bean” was written on the window instead, but regardless of the name it clearly was not open for business.  I walked back to my car and drove to the hamfest about 10 miles away, slightly disappointed at not starting my morning with a nice cup of coffee and a cheery chat with Lisa.

There were quite a few cars parked around the venue when I arrived.  I’m not sure why, but hamfests and swap meets always seem to begin at sunrise and end by early afternoon.  Perhaps it’s a certain residual military influence or because it just leaves the rest of the day open to go home and play with new found treasurers.  Whatever the reason, I paid my $5 admission, got my door prize ticket, found Butch to say “good morning,” and then got some coffee.  Fonda was already taking her Amateur Radio Operator General Class license examination and Butch was busy with potential buyers so I walked the aisles in search of ham radio or other treasurers I could not live without, but did not find any.

Hamfests and swap meets are mostly cash only affairs unless there are larger commercial vendors there, in which case they might take credit cards.  I do not carry much cash, which is a good way to make sure I don’t spend much money buying junk I don’t need.  I did find a placemat size laminated grid square map of the United States for $5 and a laminated letter size sheet with the U.S. Amateur Radio frequency allocations for $1 and bought those.  Butch liked them so I went back and got a set for him too.  I also found some relays mounted to substantial heat sinks.  The seller had four of them for $1 each so I bought one without any specific purpose in mind.  The heat sink alone was worth more than $1 and Butch bought two of them later.

I eventually sat down at Butch’s tables and chatted with him (when he wasn’t busy) while we waited for Fonda to emerge from the testing room.  When she did she had a big grin on her face and we knew she had passed the test.  She only missed one question out of 35, which was an excellent performance.  Butch immediately got their W5YI / Gordon West General Class Study Guide and CDs out of a storage tub and put them out for sale.

Although Fonda had not studied for the Amateur Extra Class license exam she decided to take it since there was no additional testing fee beyond the $15 she had already paid to take the General Class test.  I decided to stick around and keep Butch company (not that he needed me to do that) until Fonda finished the Extra exam.  She got 19 items correct out of 50, not enough to pass but not bad for not having prepared, and it gave her a sense of what the test is like.  She wants to get her Amateur Extra license before the end of June as a new question pool goes into effect on July 1, 2016, and is very different from the current item pool.

I spent a few minutes talking to a soldier from the Indiana Army National Guard about the Hum-V they brought to the event and then returned to our rig in Twelve Mile.  I told Linda that Fonda had earned her General Class license (which Linda already has) and that Fonda was determined to get her Amateur Extra Class license by the end of June.  Not that Linda typically responds to a challenge, but this seems to have rekindled her interest in doing the same.

I had not eaten breakfast so we had vegan hot dogs and fresh fruit for lunch around noon.  I worked on blog posts until 1:30 PM when Butch and Fonda returned from the hamfest and I helped them unload their truck.  We all sat around chatting for a while but we were all very tired and Butch/Fonda needed to eat, so we returned to our motorhome to take naps.

Butch and Fonda had not reappeared by 5 PM so Linda checked to see if they were up as we wanted to go see the progress on their “new” house in Metea.  They were up so that is what we did.  We were at the house for over an hour looking at the interior reconstruction and discussing the plans for what was still to be done.  The house will not be ready to occupy this year and their hope/plan is to have it ready in 2017 before they leave again for the winter.

The property was seriously distressed but they got it for a good price.  Besides the house, which they are gutting and rebuilding inside, there is a 40′ W x 48′ L building with a concrete floor and two 12′ W x 16′ H overhead doors.  They could not build a new building like that for what they paid for the entire property.   We know, because we have been trying to figure out how to put up a similar building on our property.  Still, they bought themselves a big project and it is going to take some time and money to make it habitable and useable, or saleable if that is what they choose to do.

Fortunately they are now “retired” and still have the place in Twelve Mile to live as well as the converted bus.  Indeed, they still have an enormous amount of work to do to get the Twelve Mile property ready to sell.  It is an unusual property, having started life as a GM dealership in the 1930’s and only closing in 1981.  It then housed an electrical harness manufacturing operation before Butch and Fonda acquired it more than 20 years ago.  They turned the old showroom area into living quarters, retained the two bay auto service area for that use, as it has a functioning in-ground lift, and repurposed the rest of the space as a parts room, machine shop, wood shop, and warehouse for their business.

All told they have about 12,000 square feet under roof on two acres in the center of town on a state highway within very short walking distance of a bank and Post Office.  All-in-all, it has served their business and personal needs quite well over the last two decades but is now much more building than they need having sold off much of their business inventory in 2014 and closed Service Motors as an active supplier of parts for Crosley automobiles.  It will make an excellent building for someone, but it is going to have to be a buyer with specific and appropriate needs.

By the time we left it was 7:30 PM so we drove to the Mi Camino Real Mexican restaurant in Logansport for dinner.  Linda and I split a taco salad (no meat or dairy) and an order of vegetarian fajitas (no dairy).  We sat a long time after we were done eating just chatting before returning to Twelve Mile.  It was 9:45 PM by the time we got back so we called it a night and went our separate ways.

Back in our rig I checked my e-mail.  I had several from Gary at BCM, one of which had the first draft of the June 2016 issue.  My article on servicing the Webasto DBW2010.75 Diesel Burner is in that issue and needed to be proofread and corrections noted.  I made a first pass at that, replied to a couple of e-mails, and went to bed.  It had been a long but satisfying day and tomorrow was the first morning since this past Tuesday that we did not have to set an alarm and/or get up early.

2016/04/17 (N) Parts Shuffle

Fonda goes to church on Sundays.  She typically leaves around 9 AM and gets home between noon and 1 PM.  Butch is often up very early but not necessarily ready to interact with the world except through his computer so I tend to not bother him first thing in the morning.  We had a leisurely morning sitting around in our sweats (pants and shirts), enjoying our coffee, and eventually having breakfast.

When I finally got dressed and was in the humor to work, I unloaded the old tag axle caliper, old-old brake pads (not the ones I burned up), and the old torque plate, along with the new left-hand caliper rebuild kit, and moved them into Butch’s machine shop.  I also moved the old/broken Shur-Flo 4048 12 VDC water pump to his shop as he wants to see if he can figure out what failed and why.  With all of that stuff out of the car I repacked it to try and evenly distribute the weight of the remaining cargo.

Late morning I texted Jarel Beatty in Logansport to let him know we were here and invite him to come out and see the cabinetry he built for us last year as it was finally installed in the bus.  He had a shooting competition at 1 PM at the gun club/range near Twelve Mile and said he would try to stop by afterwards.

I had finally located the 24VDC regulator yesterday and showed Butch where it was located on our bus at the outside rear corner of the storage bay over the DS drive axle.  It was a very convenient location except that Royale Coach installed the slide out storage tray tight against the cover, making it impossible to remove without first removing the tray, which did not look easy to do.  Butch suggested that I unplug the chassis battery maintenance chargers, connect the batteries, and leave some of the bay lights on to draw off the surface charge so we could get a more accurate reading of the battery voltage later.  He also wanted to draw down the battery voltage a bit so that the alternator would have some work to do after starting the engine.

We were discussing how to deal with the failure of the regulator or alternator on the road and Butch suggested that I could always maintain the chassis battery voltage with a battery charger powered from the onboard genset.  I mentioned that besides the sophisticated, but low current, maintenance chargers that I have installed the coach came with a 24V emergency charger hardwired to the chassis batteries and powered from a 120 VAC outlet in the electrical bay.  The instructions for that charger, however, clearly indicate that it is for short time emergency charging to get the engine started and not for continuous use.  It given its age it is clearly not an “intelligent” multi-stage charger and would boil the electrolyte if left connected for too long.  Butch suggested that I remove the emergency charger and replace it with a modern, high amperage one that could be used to run the batteries and not just top them up for starting.  That seemed like a good idea to me so I added it to my (mental) project list.

Butch has been redoing the solar battery charging system on their bus and had one solar panel still to install.  Since it was loose he had me photograph the mounting rails he devised and attached to the long edges of the panel flanges.  The photos were for a future BCM article.

Jarel showed up sometime after 3 PM.  We showed him how we had installed all of the cabinetry and woodworking he had done for us based on my design drawings.  He had been in the bus several times before to discuss the project, so he had a good idea of what we were trying to accomplish, but visualizing it was one thing and seeing it quite another.  He really enjoyed seeing how the project turned out and took some photos with his phone to show his wife.

Linda started preparing dinner around 4:30 PM.  Jarel stayed and chatted until 5 PM and then went into Butch and Fonda’s house to visit with them and their dogs, Rascal (a Jack Russell Terrier), and Daffy (some kind of wire-haired Terrier mix thing).

While Jarel was visiting I borrowed a set of jumper cables from Butch and some sandpaper.  I used the sandpaper to clean the two terminals in the passenger side engine bay that are used to jump start the engine.  I then attached the jumper cables in such a way that the free ends could not touch, or the positive lead short to the chassis, by clamping the ground lead to a rail in the bay and setting the positive lead on a piece of cardboard on the ground.  I then clamped my VOM leads in the two jumper cable clamps so we would not have to hold them.

After Jarel left we checked the voltage on the battery bank.  It was 24.95 VDC.  A fully charged lead-acid battery bank at rest would be 25.2 VDC, so the voltage was reasonable given that I had the maintenance chargers off and there were some small loads on the system.  Butch had me start the bus motor, let the oil pressure come up, and then shut it off.  He had me start it a second time and then shut it off, and then start it a third time and leave it running, switching it to high idle.  While I was doing all of that he was monitoring the voltage on the VOM.

The voltage was showing just over 28 VDC, which is what we expected from a properly adjusted, correctly operating voltage regulator.  The voltage rose slightly when I switched the engine to low idle, but the batteries were probably fully charged by then and the current draw was probably minimal.  In any event it did not rise above 28.5 VDC, nowhere near the 30 VDC that would trigger a “high battery voltage” warning light on the dashboard.  There was also no indication of the alternator/regulator not producing adequate voltage as the “low battery voltage” warning light (the same light, actually) is triggered by a voltage below +24 VDC.

While the engine was running I made a mental note of the position of the needles on the two analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard.  The “24V” gauge was higher than the 28V mark by a full needle width, i.e., there was a needle width gap between the 28V position and the left edge of the needle.  The gauge is only marked every 4 volts so it looked to me like it was reading around +29V.  The “12V” gauge was sitting right on the 14V mark.  The “24V” gauge should read 28 VDC and the “12V” gauge should read exactly 1/2 of that if the Vanner equalizers are working correctly.

Our simple test did not preclude intermittent problems with the alternator and/or voltage regulator that might occur after they were warmed up, and/or vibrating with the engine rotation at full RPM, and/or bouncing down the road.  It also did not rule out problems with the Vanner battery monitoring system, which is what controls the warning lights on the dashboard.  We also did not check the voltage at the battery bank center tap to see how closely it matched the gauge on the dashboard or how closely it was tracking 1/2 of the overall voltage as a check on the operation of the two Vanner Battery Equalizers.  Still, it appeared that the alternator and regulator were functioning correctly.

Linda made black beans and rice for our dinner and Fonda made baked squash and pork chops for their meal.  We also had carrots, grapes, strawberries, and pickled vegetables, including okra, to share around the table.  After dinner we got out our lawn chairs and sat outside for a while, pretending we were “camping.”  The air temperature dropped as the sun set and we finally put the chairs away and went inside the house to continue visiting as we had no way to make a campfire in their driveway.

By 10 PM we were all tired.  I asked Butch if I could use his big auto shop air-compressor in the morning to adjust our tires and he said he would turn it on and put the hose out first thing.  We returned to our coach and were fairly quickly off to bed.

2016/04/18 (M) Twelve Mile To Turkeyville

I was awake at 6 AM and finally got up at 6:30.  I put on my sweats, fed the cats, and prepared our morning coffee.  I noticed that Butch had already put the air hose out where I could use it so I checked/adjusted all of the tire pressures while the coffee brewed.  I also turned on the TireTraker TT-400 receiver/monitor and plugged in the repeater in the PS rear closet of the bus.  The outside air temperature was in the low 50’s F and all of the tire pressures were slightly below the cold pressures I like to run so I adjusted them.

After all of the tires were adjusted, and the air hose and tools were put away, I went inside the bus and used the monitor to check all of the tire pressures/temperatures and make a chart showing the actual and indicated values for each tire.  All of the sensors indicated pressures higher than the ones I had just set, using a known good digital tire gauge, by 1.0 to 4.5 PSI.  While this was within the specified “precision” of +/- 4% for the sensors, it was not as accurate as I think it should be.

Linda was up by this time but waited for me to have coffee and cereal (homemade granola) for breakfast at 9 AM.  Today is a travel day for us, and we would not normally have coffee or breakfast on a travel day, but we were not planning on leaving until around noon for the 3-1/2 hour drive to the Camp Turkeyville RV Resort near Marshall, Michigan.  We will also pass the Michigan Welcome Center / Rest Area and stop for fuel at the M-60 exit, so we will have opportunities to use facilities if needed.

After thinking about it overnight I decided that it did not make any sense for us to take the three new/rebuilt brake calipers home to Michigan only to have to haul them back to Indiana in a few weeks to have our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, install them.  I borrowed one of Butch and Fonda’s hand trucks and move them from the car to the machine shop one at a time.  I then repacked the back of the car, which was now 300 to 350 pounds lighter than when we arrived in Twelve Mile.

Sometime between 9 and 10 AM I called Camp Turkeyville to make a reservation for today.  Angela was not in the office but a woman took our name and request.  The park was far from full and the reservation not really necessary, but we wanted to make sure we got a full-hookup pull-through site.  We visited for a while with Butch and Fonda before making our final departure preparations.  By 11:30 AM we were ready for the final steps in the departure process.  Linda moved the car from in front of the bus and battened down the inside of the bus while I got the shorepower disconnected.  I started the motor, let the chassis air up, and pulled it straight across the street into the grain elevator driveway where Linda pulled the car up behind it.  With the car connected and prepared for towing I restarted the bus engine and we did our light check.  Butch and Fonda walked over for one last, quick conversation and then it was time to go.  They never chat with us while we are hooking up as they know it can create a dangerous distraction.

We knew the exact route we planned to follow but entered the destination into the Rand-McNally GPS anyway.  Ever since I did the update at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort the unit has been very sluggish in its response to screen taps but appears to still work.

I looped around through the grain elevator driveway back to IN-16 and headed east out of town.  At US-31 we headed north.  The GPS unit kept trying to get me to head east on county roads but I stayed on US-31 all the way to US-20.  At US-20 we headed east and stayed with that route all the way to I-69 in spite of the GPS unit’s repeated attempts to get me to turn north and head up into Michigan, presumably to pick up US-12.  At I-69 we headed north and soon enough we were back in our home state, the first time since November 27th last year.

About 12 miles into Michigan we stopped at the Welcome Center / Rest Area briefly and then continued or trip.  We exited again at Tekonsha / M-60 (exit 36?) and stopped at the Travel America for fuel.  The pump would not accept our Chase VISA card and we assumed that Chase Bank, ever vigilant with regards to its use as we cross state borders, had rejected it.  It turned out that the truck pumps were only set up to accept corporate/fleet cards so Linda had to go inside anyway and used one of our other cards to pay for the fuel.  All of this caused a bit of a delay but I eventually put 50 gallons in the tank.  I did not fill it because I did not want to put in the additives at this fuel stop.  I wanted to do that at the Mobil Truck Stop near our house and top it up just before getting home.

On our way once again we exited I-69 at N Drive North and a half mile to the west pulled into the entrance to Camp Turkeyville.  It was just before 4 PM and Angela was in the office and expecting us.  The site she planned to put us on had a car parked in it, without the owner around, so she moved us to a different one a few sites down.  It was a difference without a distinction and was an easy in, easy out, relatively level pull-through full-hookup site, which was all we cared about.  I adjusted the level and then shut off the motor.  The only hookup we needed for the rest of the day and evening was electricity so I took care of that and shut off the chassis batteries and air supply for the engine accessories.

Since we would only be here for one night we did not set up the interior the way we would if we were sticking around for even a few days.  We were parked facing south and the afternoon sun was bright and warm so I put out the awnings on the passenger side of the coach.  Gary, a fellow camper from a few sites down, stopped to chat and compliment us on our motorcoach.  After we wrapped up our chat we went inside and had an easy dinner.

One of our routines (traditions, rituals?) is to walk an RV park when we arrive unless the weather is very disagreeable.  The weather was near perfect this afternoon, and it was still plenty light at 7 PM, so we walked over to the Cornwall’s Turkeyville building to see if it was still open.  The building houses a restaurant, ice cream parlor, and general store.  They were open until 8 PM so we meandered through the store but did not buy anything as neither of us brought our wallets.  We strolled back to the campground and walked the outer loop before returning to our coach.

We had access to quite a few OTA TV signals and tuned in one of the CBS affiliates with a strong signal.  We watched our usual Monday evening TV programs and turned in for the night without setting an alarm.

2016/04/19 (T) Home Again

With the overnight low outside air temperature forecast to be in the upper 40’s we left the bathroom roof vent and bedroom windows open as we knew the outside conditions would make for wonderful sleeping conditions inside the coach.  We were tired, and did not have to be up at any particular time, all of which made for good sleeping snuggled under a thin blanket.  I got up at 8 AM, tended to the cats’ needs, and made 7 cups of coffee.  A little after 9 AM we had toast and preserves for breakfast.  We don’t usually have breakfast and coffee on a travel day, but today was the final leg of our winter 2015-16 snowbird season, and the trip from Camp Turkeyville to our home was only 80 miles, with rest stop opportunities along the way if needed.

Checkout time at Camp Turkeyville RV Resort is noon and our target was to pull out between 11:30 AM and noon.  Part of the reason for stopping here for one night before going home was to empty our waste tanks.  Another reason was to give us a short, easy drive at a time of day that avoided the rush hour traffic at the beginning and end of the work day.  This was the third year in a row that we have done this and it works very well.

We started tending to our departure tasks around 10 AM and would have been ready to go by 11 AM except for a very nice, but very talkative, neighbor.  Still, we were on schedule and not in any particular hurry.  We pulled out of our site at 11:30 AM and made the long, slow trip around the outer road of the campground to get back to the exit.  Once we were on I-69 N I set the cruise control at 63 MPH and let the bus roll.  I-69 between I-94 and I-96 is a concrete road made of small, discrete slabs, and you feel every joint between them.  But hey, it’s Michigan; we expect the roads to be in bad shape and we like it that way (not).  Well, apparently the majority of our fellow citizens like it that way, OR at least prefer it to paying taxes and enforcing weight limits and speeds.  If that wasn’t the case, our elected officials would do something about it.

There was rain headed our way but it was not expected until tomorrow or later.  Still, the sky was overcast and we had not traveled very far up I-69 when we started getting a light, intermittent drizzle.  It stayed with us all the way to Lansing where we picked up I-96 E.  By the time we got to exit 122 (M-52), where we stopped at the Mobil Truck Stop for fuel, we had driven out from under the rain.

Since the bus would be sitting for at least a couple of weeks I added Stanadyne Performance and Lubricity Formulas, and Racor Biocide before filling the tank.  It’s always better to have fresh diesel fuel but it is also good to store the bus with a full tank to prevent condensation from moist air in the tank.  My solution has been to use the Biocide and store the bus with a full tank.  If it is going to sit for any length of time I run the Parker Fuel Polishing Module to slowly filter it and remove residual moisture.

From the Mobil Truck Stop it was only 11 miles to exit 133 (M-59), another 10 miles to Hacker Road, and about 2-1/2 miles (on dirt roads) to our house.  This stretch of Hacker is scheduled for paving this year and we knew from the Livingston County Road Commission that work had already begun.  Indeed, the surveyors were working in the fall before we left for Florida.

The initial work this spring was the removal of trees along both sides of the road and as soon as we turned off of M-59 onto Hacker it was immediately obvious that this had occurred.  It was also obvious that the road had been very recently graded and that there had not been any rain since then.  We still took our time, keeping our speed to about 25 MPH, but it was one of the smoothest trips we have ever had in the bus along this stretch of Hacker.  To our delight, the grader had also obviously done our street recently and we noticed that a few of our neighbor’s had apparently trimmed or removed a lot of trees and bushes near the road.  Yeah!

As we got to the first of our three driveway entrances I stopped the coach and lifted the tag axle while Linda got out.  She always spots for clearance to obstructions and guides me into the final parking position.  There were a few larger tree limbs in the driveway so she picked those up before I pulled in.  Once I was positioned on the level parking pad area of the driveway I put the tag axle down.  The coach was close enough to level that I did not bother adjusting the suspension.  After letting it idle for a couple of minutes I shut off the motor and we started our arrival routine with one notable difference; Linda’s first task was to get the cats in their carriers, unlock the house, take them inside, and let them out of their carriers.  Coming home us a big deal for them, too.

I turned off the engine accessories air supply and the chassis batteries and connected the shorepower cord.  The circuit breaker for this electrical service is in the sub-panel in my office.  I turned on the wrong breaker the first time so it took a second trip to the basement of the house to get power to the coach.  We had no intention of unloading everything today but there were a few things we wanted to get into the house right away, such as wallets and keys.  At the top of my list was all of our computer, networking, and photography technology while Linda’s focus was on clothing and food.

Once we had our highest priority items moved into the house I texted the small circle of friends who we have been keeping in touch with about Linda’s illness and our bus problems to let them know we were home safe and sound with no further problems.  I then went to the garage, found our good battery charger, and connected it to the 12V starting battery in the Honda Civic Hybrid.  Brendan had told us a week or so ago that the battery was dead and when I connected the charger it would only accept about 2.5 Amps of current and quickly tapered off to less than one Amp.  That wasn’t much current for a depleted battery but I left it and went back into the house.

I checked a little while later and the charger had given up and displayed an “F01” error code.  I did not even bother looking it up as the car is a 2007 model and this was probably the original battery.  I decided to go ahead and get a new battery from O’Reilly’s in Howell, but first we had to unhook the Honda Element from the bus.  The car was filthy, having been towed at least 1,500 miles since it was last washed, but I stopped and got the new battery first and then went to the car wash just down the street on the same side of Grand River Avenue.  I then went to the Meijer’s supermarket at Grand River Avenue and Latson Road and picked up a few things.

Linda started preparing dinner at 5:30 PM and was just about to put the pizza in the oven when Butch called.  We chatted for about 15 minutes and he updated me on the removal of the radiator blowers and T-drive from their MCI MC-9 NJT bus.  This assembly is above the engine and almost the width of the bus but they were able to get it out using their forklift.  (It really is nice to have the right tools for the job.)  Butch noticed last weekend that a lot of the oil had leaked out of the T-drive and figured it needed new shaft seals, at a minimum, and might need new bearings.  With the assembly out of the bus Butch can conveniently do all of the needed work on a bench and repair/rebuild some other things while he is at it.

Our first dinner course was a nice salad with arugula and Italian kale.  The pizza was one of our favorites, an Amy’s Roasted Vegetables with Caramelized Onions.  By the time we were done eating it was almost time for our Tuesday evening CBS TV shows and I decided to replace the car battery tomorrow morning.  I did, however, move the NAS and my computer to my office and connect them to power and the Netgear switch.  To my great relief, the network interfaces on both devices still worked just fine.  Clearly, the Amped|Wireles SR20000G wired network ports had failed although I still do not know why and probably never will.

The 2015-16 TV season is coming to an end so the season finales are now airing and they are all cliffhangers, of course.  We went to bed at 11 PM, watched a rerun of Two and a Half Men, and a few minutes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before going to sleep.

2016/04/20 (W) Core Return

We love our bus, love being in the bus, and love the lifestyle the bus affords us.  But we are not true gypsies at heart, and we also love our house and property.  We like the anticipation of travel and the promise of new experiences, but we also like the comfort and stability of finally landing at home after a long voyage.

We slept in this morning and finally got up at 8 AM.  Some things are the same regardless of whether we are at home or in the bus, and morning coffee is one of them.  We were enjoying our morning brew when our son texted Linda to see if we were available to FaceTime.  Of course we were!  A short time later we were “face-to-face” with grand-daughter Madeline (and her parents).

Another constant is Linda’s homemade granola.  She managed to make enough of it, and/or we managed to limit our consumption of it sufficiently over the winter, that we still had some left for breakfast this morning.  We might have one or two more servings beyond today, but she will be shopping for ingredients and making a new batch very soon.  She will also be making sure we have the necessary ingredients on hand to make vegan pancakes and vegan cupcakes as we anticipate an overnight visit with Madeline in the very near future.

After breakfast we got dressed and got to work.  Linda called Alchin’s to restart our weekly trash pickup while I made a service appointment for the Honda Element.  We checked our home phone messages.  Only a handful of the 42 messages contained any actionable information.  I made note of those details and then deleted all of them.  I called Catamaran Home Delivery and ordered refills for two prescriptions.  I then called Keith at Kish Lawn Care to see when he was planning on starting our mowing this season.  Keith’s wife just had major surgery, and the grass has not grown much yet this spring, so the first cutting is probably still a couple of weeks away.

With our calls taken care of we turned our attention to replacing the 12V battery in Linda’s Honda Civic Hybrid.  The nuts on the two threaded hold down rods were badly rusted and did not want to come loose so I sprayed them with WD-40 and let them sit for a while.  I eventually got the nuts broken loose and backed off enough to remove the rods, but bent the retaining brackets in the process.  I put the rods in my bench vise, and finished removing the nuts.  We removed the old battery, transferred the anti-corrosion pads to the new battery, set it in place, and reinstalled the protective plastic 2-piece cover.  We connected the vehicle cables and then connected the good battery charger to it to bring it to full charge before trying to start the car.

Back in the house Linda unloaded containers of water from the house refrigerator and then wiped it out.  She then unloaded a few more things from the bus, including clothes and food.  I texted Jim and Kristine Gullen to let them know we were back and then started researching small tractors and mobile Wi-Fi devices.  Linda was getting ready to order an Instant Pot and a couple of 12VDC power adapters for our Rand-McNally GPS unit through Amazon and I suggested she look for the Burton portable induction cooker that we saw at Butch and Fonda’s place.  The Suntunpen unit we have now works fine but the Burton unit has two advantages over it; a completely flat/smooth top and higher maximum power setting.  She found it, added it to the cart, and placed the order.

Linda heated a can of Amy’s vegetable soup and we split it for lunch.  I checked the battery charger and it said the battery was full so I put the old battery on the back seat floor and had Linda start the car.  It started on the second try and she backed it out of the garage so I could get in.  The hybrid battery was depleted and there was a red battery symbol illuminated on the instrument panel that we had never seen before so we got the Owner’s Manual out and looked it up.  It either meant that the 12V battery was not charging or that the hybrid battery was drained below some threshold, or possibly both.  We could see the charge level coming up on the hybrid battery so we waited and the battery warning light eventually turned off.  Linda also noticed that the in-dash navigation system, having completely lost power, was requesting a security code to reactivity it.  I found the code on a sticker inside the glove box and after Linda entered it the system returned to normal operation.  When the hybrid battery charge indicator was above 50% she backed out of the driveway and we went on our errand run.

I was on Golf Club Road last night when I went to O’Reilly’s to get the new battery so I knew it was in rougher shape than usual.  We took Hacker Road south instead which kept us on pavement.  We headed back west on Grand River Avenue to O’Reilly’s to return the old battery and get the core charge refund.  We then drove back east a short way to the drive-through car wash.  Linda had not used it before and was unclear about its location.  With the car all cleaned off we headed west again to Teeko’s Coffee and Tea to order some fresh roasted coffee beans.  Jeff was there and roasted the beans while waited and enjoyed a cup of Sumatra Manhelding coffee.  We got our usual Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe blend and decided to try a Costa Rican Terrazzu half-caffe blend.

We took the long way home, going back east on Grand River Avenue and then north on Hacker.  The extra driving around gave the hybrid battery plenty of time to recharge and cycle up and down and kept our just-cleaned car mostly on paved roads.

Back at the house I backed my car up to the large garage door and unloaded everything inside in preparation for my 10 AM service appointment tomorrow at Brighton Honda.  While I did that Linda unloaded a few more things from the bus.  We had quite a few rocks on the concrete driveway, as a result of Kerry Fear plowing snow this past winter, so I swept them off with a push broom.  We also had 6″ high ‘curbs’ at our three driveway entrances as a result of recent road grading, so I graded them out using a metal toothed rake.

By the time we finished those tasks we were ready to be done with physical work for the day.  Linda decided to spend an hour or so studying the item pool for the ham radio Amateur Extra class license exam.  I gathered up the laundry, took it to the laundry room, sorted it, and started a load.  I then joined her on the back deck to work on blog posts for a while.  By 4:30 PM it was a little chilly and we went inside.  I took up my usual spot on one of the living room sofas and almost immediately Juniper (our female cat) was in my lap.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad with arugula, Italian kale, strawberries, and slivered almonds.  The main course was pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions and barbecue sauce, served with a side of corn kernels.  Yum.  After dinner Linda wanted to go for a walk so we patrolled our street from one end to the other, which took about an hour.

Wednesday night is usually PBS night for TV but neither of us were in a TV watching mood.  I went to my office for a while, checked in to RVillage, and changed our location.  I then went to the WiFi Ranger website, downloaded some manuals, and opened a support ticket.  Back upstairs I texted Joe Cannarozzi, our mobile mechanic, to arrange a time to call him and discuss brake work.  I then called Mike (W8XH) to catch up on ham radio and SLAARC stuff and check on borrowing his trailer to transport our non-functional Cub Cadet Lawn tractor to Sloan’s for repair.  By the time I wrapped up my conversation with Mike, Linda had gone to bed and was watching a program on PBS about a previous live broadcast from the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary called The Best of Big Blue Live.  Linda fell asleep but I stayed up long enough to watch a rerun of Two and a Half Men and the first half hour of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert while working on this post.  With the stroke of midnight came sleep.


2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.


2015/12/20 (N) Brooksville Hams

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda was up shortly thereafter.  I left all three thermostats on last night but had them dialed back so I turned them up to approximately 70 degrees F.  I say approximately because the dials are marked in Celsius every five degrees.  I fed the cats, washed a few dishes, and made our morning coffee.  We lingered with our iPads longer than normal and delayed breakfast as we would be leaving before noon, skipping lunch, and having an early dinner.  Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice.

After breakfast we both took showers and got dressed.  Linda went for a long walk with her iPod (she listens to audiobooks).  I worked at my computer, taking a break to empty the catch bowl in the utility bay and spread some more Spectracide Fire Ant Killer on mounds around our coach.  Linda got back from her walk at 11:15 and we got ready to leave.

We left at 11:30 AM for Bruce and Linda Whitney’s new place southeast of Brooksville, Florida.  We drove down US-41 through Dunnellon, Hernando, and Inverness, stopping at a Publix in Inverness for house warming flowers and the adjacent Panera for a bagel and coffee.  We continued on US-41 to Brooksville at which point we let the GPS take over and route us through a series of back roads to their place.  We got there a little after 1:30 PM.

Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) are fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) from our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) back home.  Linda retired around the same time I did and although Bruce is still working they have, like many of us, grown weary of winter in the north.  They found a 24 acre place southeast of Brooksville with five good size towers already in place—a dream location for a serious ham—and decided to buy it.  (Three of the towers are 200 feet tall.)  Bruce successfully got his employer to agree to let him change his work location to Florida and work from home.  That’s a good deal if your employer considers you valuable enough to let you do it.  Bruce has deep knowledge of power transmission technology along with his equally deep knowledge of RF phenomena.  He also has a deep understanding of the power utility industry, and his employer (ITC) clearly recognizes that unique combination of knowledge sets.

We got a tour of the house and property and I got a thorough tour of the antenna farm and ham shack.  Bruce has plans to add on to the ham shack at the southeast corner of the house and to add a covered pool to the east side of the house.  He also plans to build a barn and put in an RV pad next to it with a 50 Amp electrical service.

The house was very nice and located in the center of the property, which is rectangular but close to being a square.  Except for the house, which is surrounded with plants, there are no trees or other plants, just a grass that can be harvested for hay.  Bruce has arranged with a neighbor to harvest the grass.  The neighbor will maintain the field in exchange for the harvested material.  It will be a good deal for both of them; Bruce won’t have to mow it and neighbor will clear at least $7K from each harvest, typically getting at least two per year.

We sat in the living room and chatted for a while.  Linda (K8LMF) wanted to see the various plants around the house so the ladies went outside to look at them.  Bruce (W8RA) and I went to the ham shack, which is a far cry from the setup he has back in Michigan, to operate.  Using his spotting software he noticed a station operating from Swaziland and decided to try contacting them.  He turned the stacked 40 M beam to 104 degrees and tuned in the station.  There was a huge pileup trying to work this guy and we noticed in his QRZ.com listing that he was one of only four licensed amateur radio operators in Swaziland.  That does not automatically mean that Swaziland is a rare contact—it depends on how active these four hams are—but it does mean that opportunities are more limited than with most countries where thousands of hams are active and dozens to hundreds might be on the air at any one time.

We wrapped up what we were doing at 4 PM and drove to Papa Joe’s for dinner.  Papa Joe’s was six miles NNE of their house, closer to I-75 and Williston, so we drove separately.  That worked out well as we left from there after dinner and headed back via Cortez Blvd to I-75 and they had to drive to the grocery store at Cortez and I-75.

We took our time with dinner and left the restaurant at 6:30 PM.  We arrived back at our rig about 7:45 PM, completing the 76 mile trip in 75 minutes.  We did not turn on the TV and spent the rest of the evening reading.  I did not feel like working on this post so I read the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal.  Linda headed off to bed around 11 PM and I turned in at 11:15.  I went right to sleep while she continued to read, a reversal of our normal pattern, but she was deeply engaged in a book.


2015/08/17 (M) Wallpaper Search



We awoke this morning to find wild turkeys in the yard behind our bedroom.  The deer feed block and natural mineral rock initially attracted a doe and her faun but has been a much stronger attraction for the wild turkeys and crows.  Both the turkeys and crows also like to clean up the bird seed that falls to the ground under the seed block that Linda hung from a branch on one of our White Pine trees.  The turkeys eventually moved on and we sat down to a breakfast of fresh mixed berries, juice, and coffee, which we took to the living room while we used our iPads to read, write, or play a few games, as is our morning habit.

I had a text message exchange with Chuck regarding the moving of our old bus refrigerator out of his shop.  He and Barbara are headed off to Oscoda on Friday with their race car so I e-mailed Harvey (AC8NO) from our SLAARC ham radio club to see if he could help us move the refrigerator on Friday.

We had quite a few downed branches, and a couple of downed trees, scattered about the property as a result of winter snows, spring/summer storms, poor drainage, and age.  With Keith coming this morning to mow the grass I decided I should pick up as many of them as I could.  When I started at 9:30 AM it was already warm and muggy.  Keith showed up at 10 AM and got right to work but I managed to stay ahead of him and got everything of any size picked up except for one tree.  It was at least 8″ in diameter at the base and at least 30′ long so I will have to de-limb it, cut up the trunk with a chain saw, and haul the pieces away using the lawn tractor and utility dump trailer.  That, however, won’t happen anytime soon.

We skipped last week’s mowing because it had been dry and the grass had not grown noticeably, but we got rain during the past week and the grass responded accordingly.  The yard looked good when Keith was done and the timing of his visit was fortuitous as there is rain in the forecast for the next few days with slightly cooler temperatures.

We had a light lunch and then Linda settled in to work at her desk while I worked in the bus.  I spent a couple of hours using the belt sander to grind down the residual thinset and mastic on the floor.  I wear a dust mask, hearing protector, and safety glasses when sanding, which is even less comfortable than normal when the temperature and humidity are elevated.  But I needed to have the floor prep finished by the end of this week, and the new floor installed by the end of next week, or I risked not being ready for the installation of the new seating on September 14 and 15.

I suggested to Linda that we go to Ann Arbor to look at wallpaper, visit Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline and then pick up some things at the Whole Foods Market that we cannot get locally.  Linda researched wallpaper stores and made arrangements with our son while I took a shower and got dressed for visiting.

We left around 3:30 PM and drove down US-23 to the Washtenaw Road exit.  If we had put the address in the GPS sooner we would have taken M-14 west instead of staying on US-23 as the Delux Drapery and Shade Co. is on West Stadium Boulevard.  Still, we got there in a reasonable amount of time.  We told the sales associate that we were looking for something that would stand up to use in a motorhome, preferably something that could be wiped, washed, or scrubbed.  We wanted something light and neutral (off white) without a pattern that had to be matched, but with some texture.  She pulled out several sample books and we looked through them.  We ended up signing out three books each of which had one or two papers that we liked and thought might work well with our woodwork, floor tiles, and upholstery.

We drove back across town to our son and daughter-in-law’s house.  Our daughter’s car was also there but no one was around so Linda called Brendan.  As we suspected they were at Burns Park so we walked over there and found them.  Madeline was very excited to see her Grandma Linda and ran over to give her a hug.  As we were heading towards the park exit that most directly leads back to their house we spotted Madeline’s friend Maya and her dad Jason.  That unplanned encounter resulted in 20 minutes of child play and adult socializing before we finally resumed our homeward trek.

Back at the house we continued to visit until dinner time.  Meghan left to go fix dinner for herself and Chris.  Madeline had her dinner and then let her dad read a Curious George story.  Brendan and Shawna had packing to do for their flight tomorrow so we took our leave.  The three of them are flying to Denver to visit Shawna’s mom (Carol) and her husband (Cliff), who live nearby in Golden, Colorado.  Madeline is well-traveled for a 30 month old child.

We stopped at the Whole Foods Market on Washtenaw Avenue, which is close to their house and conveniently located on our route out of town.  The main item on our list was plain soy creamer.  We used to be able to get this at both the Meijer’s and Kroger stores near our house but they are only carrying the vanilla flavored version which I do not like.  We picked up a bag of sauerkraut to go with the vegan beer brats, six bottles of wine, because you get a 10% discount on six or more bottles (mix and match), two pieces of vegan cake, and some other stuff.  It’s probably a good thing that we do not have a Whole Foods closer to our house.

By the time we got home it was 7:45 PM.  Linda heated the sauerkraut and the vegan beer brats and served them open-faced on hot dog buns with mustard, of course.  Black grapes provided a sweet contrast to the savory main dish.  We sat for a while in the living room, playing iPad games and writing blog posts while we had some of the vegan cakes, before turning in.  I continued to write while we watched a TV program and then went to sleep.


2015/07/14 (T) Red Chili Wine

Storms moved through the area overnight with more lightning and thunder than rain, or at so it seemed.  The storms were triggered by a cold front, behind which we had a cloudy day with periods of rain.  Linda was up at 7 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8.  I made a full pot of coffee (Cafe Europe half-caff blend from Teeko’s) and then joined her in the living room.

Linda was checking Dr. Michael Gregor’s speaking schedule and saw that he will be at Wayne State University in December and will be one of the keynote speakers for the 2016 Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise.  We have not heard him speak in person, and will not be here in December, so that would be another reason to go on the cruise again.  By 9:45 AM Mara had not emerged from her rig so we went ahead and had breakfast.  Linda then went for a walk and I went to my office and worked on the design of the custom desk for the bus.

Mara finally emerged at 10:30 AM and we chatted for a while until Linda got back.  Our chat was briefly interrupted by a call from Mike (W8XH) on the Novi repeater so Mara got to see ham radio in operation.  My reception was weak and noisy and according to Mike my transmitted signal wasn’t any better.  The only thing that has changed since we tested this late last week is that I got the repaired M-302N VHF/UHF lightning arrestor back from Morgan Manufacturing yesterday and re-installed it.  Mike is going to help me do some more testing, but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that these units are defective by design and I will have to replace them with something else.  I am disappointed to say the least.

It was another cool, cloudy, rainy day, just the kind of day for staying inside and getting stuff done.  Linda and Mara both had things to do and settled in at the dining room table to work.  Mara has been focused on planning her upcoming travels and spent much of the day making reservations.  Linda worked on the bookkeeping for our GLCC chapter and SLAARC ham radio club (she is treasurer of both).  She also renewed our Coach-Net emergency road service and our Harvest Host membership, which had expired, and probably took care of a lot of other things that I don’t even know about.  Except for an occasional break I worked on the custom desk design until 6:30 PM.  On one of those breaks I needed to measure something in the bus so we gave Mara the inside tour.

When I came upstairs Mara was taking advantage of the unlimited hot water available in our guest bathroom to have a nice long shower.  We know from personal experience what a luxury it is to take such a shower when living in an RV.  Linda had started preparing our dinner so I opened the bottle of Hatch Red Chili wine.  This wine, from St. Claire Winery in Deming, New Mexico is one of the more unusual wines we have ever had but we really like it.  It is a slightly sweet red wine with no tannin, a hint of chili flavor, and heat in the back of the throat on the finish.  We had vegan mock Italian sausages with sautéed onions and red peppers and the wine went well with it.  I had mine on a hotdog bun with mustard.  Mara had another serving of her beef stew, which she is trying to use up, and Linda put out a plate of whole, fresh strawberries.

One of the nice things about having visitors is that meals take longer to eat as we linger at the table in conversation.  Mara returned to her rig around 9 PM to have some quiet time with her cats before going to bed.  Linda decided to watch a couple of TV programs and I went back to work on the desk design.  I called it quits around 10:45 PM and went to bed to work on this post.  The overnight low is forecast to drop into the upper 40’s which should make for excellent sleeping.


2015/07/04 (S) Another Fourth

Linda was up at 7 AM and grabbed a shower as Madeline is usually awake by 7:15 and up between 7:30 and 7:45.  Madeline tends to wake up hungry so Linda likes to have breakfast ready to go.  I was up by 7:20 and also grabbed a quick shower.  When Madeline was finally ready to get up she let Grandma Linda carry her into the living room and hold her in her arms for a while.  When she was ready to sit up Linda brushed her hair and then Madeline returned the brush to the master bathroom.  Linda got her changed into her day clothes and then we all had breakfast.  Linda and I had our usual coffee, orange juice, and granola with fresh berries plus some vegan sausage links.  Madeline also had the sausage links and berries but her main course was toaster waffles with a little bit of real maple syrup.  Yum.

One of the swans at the Brighton Mill Pond.

One of the swans at the Brighton Mill Pond.

After breakfast Madeline wanted to go look for chickens so she and Grandma Linda went for a walk.  When they got back I learned that they saw three chickens, a duck, some bunnies, and a chipmunk (ground squirrel).  We then read a couple of stories and built a fort in the living room.  We talked about going to the Mill Pond in Brighton to see/feed the ducks but there was some sort of running event this morning, a parade at 10 AM, and then a rubber ducky race at the Mill Pond following the parade.  It is the 4th of July, after all, and most communities have celebratory events going on all day and into the evening, ending with fireworks displays.  That sounded like a crowd to me, with the attendant parking hassle, but we figured the crowd might have thinned sufficiently by 10:30 AM to make the experience a good one and decided to chance a visit.  Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed some grapes and cookies.

Madeline sitting at a picnic table at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

Madeline sitting at a picnic table at the Brighton Mill Pond playscape.

We parked in the lot behind the La Marsa restaurant, which is far away from the Main Street part of the Mill Pond, and walked down the boardwalk to the playscape.  There were a lot of people gathered around the Pond for the rubber ducky race and quite a few children at the playscape with their adult chaperones.  Madeline explored the entire playscape with great enthusiasm.  By the time she was done it was 11:30 AM and she was hungry so we had lunch at one of the picnic tables under the shade of a big tree.

After lunch Grandma Linda stood in line with Madeline to use the bathroom.  We then walked around the Mill Pond and paused to cover our ears while the emergency sirens were tested, this bring the first Saturday of the month.  We had a leisurely stroll back to the car and I had a nice chat with a fellow photographer along the way.  He is a local artist/writer with a deep interest in the Mill Pond and the wildlife that calls it home.  He wrote down his website URL for me: http://Words4It.com.  I checked it out when we got home and it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the flora and fauna of the Brighton Mill Pond.

The various shades of green with a few orange flowers caught my eye while strolling the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

The various shades of green with a few orange flowers caught my eye while strolling the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

Back at the house Madeline had some soy yogurt and fresh berries before taking her nap.  I don’t know if she fell asleep and woke up or never completely fell asleep but around 2 PM I heard her fussing.  When I checked on her she said she needed to go to the bathroom.  Linda had fallen asleep but that is a duty she takes care of so I woke her up.  Madeline took care of her business, laid back down, and fell asleep.  Linda stayed awake.

With Madeline asleep I took the opportunity to go to my office and check e-mail.  There was one from Scott at QTH.com indicating that the SLAARC website had been copied to the QTH web servers and was ready for testing.  I think that meant the GoDaddy DNS had been changed to point to the QTH installation but I don’t think the domain name registration had been moved yet.  I will need to clarify that with Scott on Monday.  I also had an e-mail from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine with the draft of the June 2015 issue attached.  This issue has part 3 of my 4-part article on the 2011-12 exterior renovation of our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach.  I replied that I would proofread it and submit corrections before I go to bed tomorrow night.

Madeline takes the high road and Linda takes the low road on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline takes the high road and Linda takes the low road on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Although Linda is much more physically active with Madeline than I am I was feeling the need for a nap and laid down at 3 PM.  I heard Madeline get up around 4 PM and I finally got up at 4:15.  Linda enlisted Madeline’s help preparing dinner while I took pictures.  The first task was shucking the whole ears of corn.  Next, Linda let her put them in a large pot of water, add a little bit of sugar, and stir.  While the pot started to heat up on the stove Madeline helped prepare the strawberries by washing them.  Linda then got the vegan burgers ready to grill (inside on our stove top griddle) and prepared the garnishes.  Madeline does not get to help with things that are sharp or hot.  Soon enough it was time for dinner and we all enjoyed our corn-on-the-cob and vegan cheeseburgers. For dessert we had some more of the chocolate cake that we made yesterday with fresh strawberries.

We spotted this young bunny along the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

We spotted this young bunny along the boardwalk at the Brighton Mill Pond.

After dinner I cleaned up the dishes and we went out on the deck to sit in the chairs and enjoy a near perfect Michigan summer evening while we watched the bunnies eating grass.  Around 7:15 PM we watched another Sesame Workshop DVD.  This one was on Shapes and Colors.  It was over by 8 PM and Madeline started getting ready for bed which was a very jovial affair.  First the potty, then jammies, then tooth brushing followed by finding blankies, “bebes” (pacifiers), and stuffed animals, all the while laughing and giggling.  Linda finally got her to sit quietly and read her a story which calmed her down enough to go to bed.  If her thoughts drift to her mommy and daddy she will get weepy—it’s part of being two and a half—but we have been successful on this visit keeping her engaged enough to avoid anything more than some occasional brief tears.

Madeline washes the strawberries.

Madeline washes the strawberries.

We split the remainder of a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Winter White wine we had opened some time ago but had vacuum sealed and it was still fine.  Linda finished the dishes and loaded the dishwasher while I filled in the day’s details on this blog post.  Both cats came out of hiding and sought our attention.

We have been hearing fireworks, and/or gunfire, for many weeks now and today was no exception.  Two nights ago someone in the neighborhood was firing off, or shooting, something until well after midnight.  There were more fireworks tonight, as expected, and the activity intensified after 9 PM as dusk gave way to night.  The cats were not completely relaxed about the noise but seemed to tolerate it.  As far as we know Madeline slept through all of it as she is a very sound sleeper.


2015/07/03 (F) 4th Anniversary

Several SLAARC members were gathering at 10:30 AM this morning to unload the Field Day equipment from Steve’s trailer and store it in the South Lyon water tower.  I was going to join them but decided last night to stay home and work on the design for the desk and HVAC chase covers for our motorcoach.  Having played ham radio for much of the last week and a half I needed to refocus my time and attention on the interior remodeling of our bus.  Besides, Brendan was bringing Madeline to our house sometime mid-to-late morning and I wanted to be home when they arrived.  Today was Brendan and Shawna’s 4th wedding anniversary and they asked Linda if we would take care of Madeline for a couple of nights so they could have some time together without the constant demands of child care.  Of course Linda said ‘yes.’

I had a call last night from XPO Delivery Services letting me know the new refrigerator for the bus would be delivered to Chuck Spera’s shop in Novi today between 6 and 8 PM.  That meant I would have to be at the shop by 5 PM just in case they arrived early and could be there past 8 PM if they arrived late.  At 7:45 AM this morning I got a call from the Lowe’s in Howell asking if XPO could deliver the refrigerator in about an hour.  Sure, why not; I was still in bed but about to get up anyway and having the refrigerator delivered early would actually open up my entire day.  I hurried the process along, had Linda get the receipt, grabbed my iPad, and headed for Chuck’s shop in Novi.  Linda was getting ready to go for a walk as I left.

One never knows what the traffic will be like on I-96 headed into the Detroit metro area from the northwest but on this Friday, at the start of a major holiday weekend, the traffic was very light and I was able to get to Novi in the minimum legal time.  Traffic headed westbound actually appeared to be heavier than the inbound traffic.  I stopped at the Tim Horton’s on Beck Road just north of Grand River Avenue and got coffee which I had not taken the time to make at home before I left.

I texted Chuck to let him know that the refrigerator was being delivered this morning.  He called me back to clarify where to have them set it.  This would be a great weekend to do the swap as all of the other businesses around his shop building will be closed for the holiday, making it easy to get our bus in and out.  But his daughter arrived last night from New York and will be visiting for a week so the refrigerator replacement will have to wait, probably until at least next weekend.

By 9:30 AM XPO had not arrived so I called Lowe’s in Howell and talked to Erica in scheduling.  She said she would call the driver and see what was going on.  I texted a status update to Linda and continued to wait.  By 10 AM there was still no truck and no call back from Erica.  At 10:20 I was dialing Lowe’s again when an Enterprise rental truck drove past the building headed east and a few minutes later went by headed west and pulled into a parking lot.  Moments later my phone rang.  It was the XPO truck driver.  I explained where the driveway was and flagged them in.  When I ordered the fridge I gave detailed special instructions on how to find the building but the driver did not bother reading them and did not bother calling me until he had failed to find the delivery location for the second time.

They backed the truck into the area in front of Chuck’s garage door, lowered the refrigerator down on their lift gate, slid a pair of lift straps under it, picked it up, and carried it into the shop.  I looked it over as best I could and then signed for it.  Only later did I notice a small dent towards the bottom of the door.  I had an automated call later asking if I was satisfied with the delivery and indicated ‘no’, noting the arrival delay and the small ding.  The message said I would hear back from someone within an hour but no one ever called.  We do not plan to make an issue of the ding as we will be lucky to get it into the bus and into its alcove with no further damage.  Still, it should have arrived in perfect condition and did not.

I called Linda to let her know the refrigerator had arrived and that I was getting ready to head home.  She said Brendan had just arrived with Madeline.  As I started to back out of my parking spot Chuck arrived so I spent about 30 minutes talking with him about the timing and approach of the refrigerator swap.  I will almost certainly take our bus to his garage on a weekend.  Only later did I find out that Brendan will not be available to help for the next two or three weekends.  Ugh.  Chuck called a friend (golf buddy) who has narrow pallets (24″) to see if he could get a 5’ long section.  With the long forks set close together on his forklift we can slide the pallet over the forks and have a much more secure platform form for raising and lowering refrigerators, probably laying on their backs.

Linda called back and asked me to stop on the way home for some toddler toothpaste and a toddler toothbrush.  I did not know they made such things but I found them at the CVS in Brighton.  Not long after I got home Linda had lunch on the table.  She heated some veggie nuggets and set them out along with baby carrots, grapes, pretzels, hummus, vegan deli slices, bread, lettuce, and onion.  We all had a good lunch with lots of variety.  Brendan got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM and hung around long enough to make sure she was asleep.  I took a few minutes to show him the new Yaesu radio before he headed back to Ann Arbor.

I was very tired and took a nap on the living room sofa which is especially comfortable for this purpose, better actually than for sitting on.  Madeline slept until almost 4 PM.  When she woke up she wanted her mommy and daddy and was a little weepy but Grandma Linda got her quickly engaged in doing things.  Linda took her for a walk to see the chickens while I went downstairs to check e-mails.  I responded to ones having to do with the transfer of the SLAARC website and domain name registration from GoDaddy.com to QTH.com and made mental note of others.  When they got back from their walk Linda brought Madeline downstairs to see Grandpa Bruce at work in his office and ham radio shack.  We told her we would help her become an amateur radio operator when she was older.

Linda decided that baking a vegan chocolate cake would be an excellent activity to do with Madeline and give us a nice treat for later.  Madeline helped pour and stir ingredients.  She ended up with chocolate cake batter on her face and clothes but it was worth it as she got to lick one of the spoons.  (Without any animal products, especially raw eggs, vegan cake batter is perfectly safe to eat.)  Linda had previously found a small baking set for Madeline that included a small bunt cake pan.  Some of the batter went in there to make a little cake just for Madeline and the rest was used to make 11 cupcakes.

After the cupcakes were cooked and taken out of the oven to cool Linda made dinner.  We had mock chicken strips (vegan), fresh sautéed green beans, vegan refried beans, and fresh berries leftover from earlier.  When the cakes were cool enough Linda got out the powdered sugar and sifter and we dusted them.  Madeline enjoyed the decorating but somehow ended up with powdered sugar in her hair, on her dress, and all over her face.  I took pictures and then Linda cleaned her up while I cleaned the floor.

After dinner and dessert we played and read a bit.  Linda had gotten three Sesame Street Workshop DVDs from the Howell Public Library so we all climbed up into the bed in our bedroom and watched one of them.  We played along with the various activities and games and encouraged Madeline to do the same.  The program ended at 8 PM which is Madeline’s bedtime.  Linda helped her in the bathroom, got her into her pajamas, and helped her brush her teeth.  She laid down without a fuss and drifted off to sleep. We stayed up until the last chime of the grandfather clock at 9:45 PM and then turned in for the night.  We are always satisfyingly tired after a full day of Madeline.


2015/07/02 (R) 100,000 Radios

We were tired and did not get up until almost 8 AM.  Linda prepared a tofu scramble for breakfast, as we were almost out of her homemade granola, and served it with some cinnamon raisin toast and fresh grapefruit.  It’s the closest thing we eat to scrambled eggs and she serves it as an occasional change of pace from our standard granola breakfast.

I had my annual appointment with my dermatologist this morning at 11 AM.  I needed to pick up a cable from Scott (AC8IL) at Adams Electronics, which was on my way to the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) clinic, so I left the house a little after 9:30 AM.  The drive was fine initially and I had a nice QSO (chat) with Steve (N8AR) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  As I was approaching Wixom Road, however, all lanes of eastbound I-96 were stopped.  I was able to exit at Wixom Road and headed north a short distance to West Road which I took east over to Beck Road where Scotty’s business is located a little north of West Road.  I had a brief chat with Scott about the antennas on my tower before I left.

Two miles north of Scott’s shop I turned east on Maple Road (15 Mile Road).  The HFHS has many clinics around the greater Metro Detroit area and my dermatologist is located at the intersection of Maple and Farmington Roads in West Bloomfield.  That should have been an easy trip but there was construction on Maple Road that had the road down to one lane with flaggers.  There were signs advising motorists to seek other routes but I did not heed the warning.  I patiently worked my way through and arrived for my appointment about seven minutes ahead of time.  Good thing I left as early as I did.

My exam was fairly routine and Dr. Nydorf wrote out a prescription for Doxycycline.  I will try taking it (again) three times a week and see if it helps.  I headed straight for home after my appointment but took a different route.  Once I was back at the house Linda went for a walk.  While she was walking I removed the license plate from her car, took the protective (anti-theft) cover off, and cleaned everything.  When it was dry I put the new registration sticker in the corner, reassembled the cover, and installed the plate back onto the car.  I then started working with the various pieces of the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE mobile radio.  When she got back from her walk she heated up a couple of tofu hotdogs for lunch.  These are such simple fare but so tasty (with mustard, onions, and relish) and so appropriate for a summertime lunch.  They are also a really easy lunch to get on the table.

After lunch Linda took her car to the Howell library to get some books and children’s DVDs and then stop at the Meijer’s supermarket to pick up a few grocery items for Madeline’s visit this weekend.  While she was running errands I assembled our new Diamond X-300NA antenna.  Once it was assembled it was over 10 feet long so I stored it by mounting it to the side of the tower.  I put it up as high as I could reach from the ground to get the three counterpoise (elevated ground plane) rods above eye level.  Moving it to the top of the tower as a replacement for the Diamond X-50NA will have to wait until next week or later.  The exact timing will depend on the weather, Mike’s (W8XH) availability, and whether I have acquired appropriate standoffs by then for the X-300 antenna and/or the cellular booster omnidirectional antenna.

With the antenna taken care of (for now) I disconnected the coaxial cable for the X-50 from the radio side of the lightning arrestor and positioned it so I could pull it back into the sump pump room.  From there I fed it into the ham shack, disconnected it from the radio, and coiled it up.  I uncoiled the new 20′ LMR-400 cable with the N-male connector end positioned so I could feed it through the corner of the ceiling in the ham shack (by the ground wire) and into the sump pump room.  From there I fed it through one of the 2″ conduits into the cable entry box.  Back outside I shaped the cable (LMR-400 cable is double shielded and stiff) and connected it to the radio side of the Morgan VHF/UHF lightning arrestor and closed the lid on the box.

Back in the ham shack I attached the PL-259 connector to the SO-239 socket on the back of the Icom IC-7000 GoBox.  I could have gotten away with a 16′ cable but the 20′ length gives me more flexibility with respect to equipment placement.  I turned on the IC-7000 but did not hear anyone on either the South Lyon 2m or the Novi 70cm repeaters so I turned it off.

I disconnected Mike’s Icom IC-2820H and set it aside to make space for the new Yaesu FTM-400DR/DE dual band mobile transceiver.  I moved the new coax to the new radio, powered it up, spent a few minutes configuring some basic things, and then listened to the South Lyon and Novi repeaters.  I tried calling them but was not triggering them so I knew the PL Tone was not set correctly.  I called Mike for assistance and left him a voice message.

Linda was back by this time so she came down to see the new radio.  We then went out to the bus to make our final decisions about upholstery fabric and window shade materials.  In the end we chose the Lambright Notion Linen fabric for all four chairs and the MCD B50 material for the dark out shades.  We brought all the samples back in the house and I e-mailed our choices to Josh at Coach Supply Direct.

I had an e-mail from Scott Neader (KA9FOX) at QTH.com requesting an admin login for the SLAARC WordPress website so I set that up and e-mailed him back.  I had the new radio on and was listening to a conversation on the Novi repeater.  It had just concluded when Mike returned my call.  He walked me through how to set up the PL Tone and Squelch Tone for both of the repeaters on the FTM-400.  We were then able to verify that the radio was working on both bands.

For dinner Linda made a salad and pan-grilled tofu with caramelized onions and barbecue sauce which she served open-faced on hamburger buns.  We had watermelon for dessert, which we have been doing a lot this summer.  I did not care for watermelon as a child but it has become a favorite summertime treat.  I had dropped a small lock washer while mounting the new antenna to the tower earlier so I went to Lowe’s to get a replacement and some spares.  On the drive there I got a call from XPO Delivery Service letting me know that the new refrigerator for the bus would be delivered to Chuck’s shop in Novi tomorrow between 6 and 8 PM.

At Lowe’s I picked up some 6mm x 1.0 Nylok nuts in addition to the lock washers.  I also got some grass seed patching mix, a few more bags of decorative broken brick pieces, and a hummingbird feeder with a red reservoir so Linda can use sugar water without red food coloring.  When I got home the odometer on my car read 100000 so I took a picture of it with my phone.  I then spread the patching mix over the bare dirt I had used to fill a hole and troughs left by the installation of the natural gas line to our house last September.  The rest of the evening Linda read and I worked on completing drafts of blog posts.



SLAARC Field Day 2015

Here are 45 photos from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club’s participation in the 2015 American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day 24-hour operating event.

2015/06/28 (N) Field Day Teardown

I was up at 7:15 AM and showered.  The rain finally cleared out leaving blue skies but with scattered white clouds still blowing across the region on brisk winds out of the NNE.  Linda was up by 8 and got the fresh fruit ready for our breakfast cereal while I made the coffee, which we enjoyed in the living room to warmth of the natural gas fireplace.  I did not expect to be using the fireplace this time of year but we have the furnace turned off, and are still getting overnight lows in the 50’s, so the fireplace is an effective and charming way to alleviate the slight morning chill in the front of the house.

In spite of the weather the food tent stayed up and open for business.

In spite of the weather the food tent stayed up and open for business.

I finished up the draft of my blog post for yesterday and started on this one while I drank my coffee.  By 9:45 AM I was ready to install the #6 green coated ground wire I bought last night.  I also decided to switch out the coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the ham shack.  Linda had made a grocery list and left to do the shopping.

Outside I opened the CEB and disconnected the current VHF/UHF coax and let it slide back into the sump pump room (SPR).  Inside I removed the suspended ceiling tile in the northeast corner of the ham shack and routed the ground wire over the wall into the SPR.  I fed it through an existing cable tie on the bottom of one of the floor joists and through the outer wall into the CEB.  I had an unused copper ground lug and used it to connect the ground wire to the lower right mounting stud for the CEB copper backplane.

Back inside I uncoiled a length of 50 ohm coax that I borrowed from Mike (W8XH) and followed the same path as the ground wire.  Outside at the CEB I installed an N-male/SO-239(F) adapter onto the PL-259 connector on the end of the coax and attached it to the N-female socket on the lightning arrestor.  I was finished working in the CEB, closed the cover, and went back to the basement.

I decided to install the 36″ copper ground bar on the wall behind the ham shack desks just below the 120 VAC outlet strip, which required me to move the desks away from the wall.  I attached the end of the ground wire to one of the studs by spreading the strands and placing them under a washer and wing nut.  I need to get another copper lug to do this right.

Steve (N8AR) operating the 6m opening from the radio in his car.

Steve (N8AR) operating the 6m opening from the radio in his car.

I had a five foot length of braided tinned copper strap and used it to connect the ground terminal on the Go Box to the ground bar.  I spread the braid apart to make a small hole near each end, slipped the holes over the studs, and clamped them under washers.  This was a temporary arrangement for testing purposes.  I need to configure a length of #10 copper wire with a ring terminal on one end and a make spade connector on the other but did want to take the time to do that today.

With everything hooked up I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he was available for a quick radio test.  He was still at home and about to leave for the SLAARC Field Day site but gladly delayed his departure long enough to help me test the new configuration.  The result was a better send and receive signal on 2m, both direct and through the South Lyon K8VJ repeater, with an S3 received signal strength with the pre-amplifier turned on.  The direct signal was also a little better on the 440 MHz band but my received signal from the Novi repeater was still weak and noisy and my transmit signal was still not strong enough carry the repeater.

I had planned to leave around 11AM for the SLAARC Field Day site but wanted some lunch before I left.  I had just made a sandwich and was gathering up my equipment when Linda got back from her grocery shopping.  By the time I left it was past noon.

I was interested in our ham radio club’s participation in this year’s ARRL Field Day event but neither Linda nor I had had any need or desire to operate radios.  I worked all day Friday on the setup of the towers and antennas and helped a bit last night with the emergency teardown of the VHF/GOTA canopy.  The 24-hour Field Day operating window closed at 2 PM today but some of the teardown began before that time and I wanted to be there to help.

SLAARC members enjoying lunch outdoors at the Field Day site.

SLAARC members enjoying lunch outdoors at the Field Day site.

Some teardown was already underway when I arrived at the SLAARC Field Day site and lunch was also just being served, so everyone took a break to get something to eat except Steve (N8AR).  He was sitting in his car making contracts on the six meter (6m) band using the mobile radio in his car.  He had connected it to the 6m beam antenna on top of the big tower.  The 6m band is known as “the magic band” because it will suddenly “open” and allow very clear communication over great distances and then just as suddenly close.  It had apparently opened up this morning from the Mississippi River to the East Coast and south into the Caribbean.  One of our members made a contact with someone in the Dominican Republic.  While I was watching and listening I heard calls coming in from South Dakota and New Mexico.

This is the fourth year that Marianne Roney, the wife of one of club member Ed Roney (KD8OSM), has taken care of the Field Day meals, which include lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday.  The meals are $5 per person per meal, which is a bargain for the variety and quantity of things she prepares and provides, except that there is typically very little we can eat.  She would make special provisions for us if we asked (she did the first year) but it is extra work for her and we are still left with not being able to eat most of what is available, so we do not purchase meals.

Operating stations are often staffed by two people, one operating the radio (left) and the other logging the contacts (right).

Operating stations are often staffed by two people, one operating the radio (left) and the other logging the contacts (right).

As the operating event was drawing to a close the computer in the 40m tent shut down.  The computers are not used to operate the radios, but are connected to them and are used to log the contacts using the N1MM Logger+ program.  The program reads key information about frequency and mode from the radio so all the logger has to capture are call sign, operating category, and section.  (Club member Larry, K8UT, is a member of the N1MM Logger development team.)  Every radio was paired with a laptop computer running this program, and the computers were all linked together via Wi-Fi.  As a result, the operators/loggers at each station could see all of the contacts that were being made regardless of which station made the contact and each computer contained a complete list of contacts.  The program also flags “dupes” (duplicate contacts).  In a contest situation this allows the operator to see that they have already worked that station on a particular band and mode and not spend time working it again on the same band and mode as duplicate contacts do not contribute to the contest score.

Just as it had started 24 hours earlier, at 2 PM it was all over without any fanfare.  The radios and computers were shut down and then the AC power generator was shut down.  Cords were unplugged, coiled, and staged near the vehicles they would eventually be loaded into.  Radios and computers were carefully disconnected, boxed (in some cases) and carried to the vehicles of their respective owners.  Tarps were pulled from the tents and folded and then the tents were collapsed and folded.  Four of use took down the 40m crossed dipole (inverted V) antenna and then took down the small support tower and disassembled it.  A larger crew eventually lowered the bigger tower, which required a winch, until it was resting in a step ladder.  This was necessary because of the two beam antennas at the top of the tower.  They removed the 6m and then the 20m beam antennas and then lowered the tower to the ground.  Part of the crew disassembled and packed the two beam antennas while the rest of them took the tower apart

A path map from Eric's (K8ERS) cell phone of the early morning 6m band opening.

A path map from Eric’s (K8ERS) cell phone of the early morning 6m band opening.

We were essentially done with the teardown by 4 PM.  The teardown is always much faster than the setup and yet it was very relaxed and went very smoothly.  In spite of weather challenges all day Saturday and overnight into Sunday, and the disappointment of not having all of our stations on the air due to losing tents to the wind, we had a beautiful last day for the event and teardown.  Blue skies, white puffy clouds, cool temperatures, lighter breezes, and low humidity combined with a sufficient number of competent, helping hands, made for easier work for everyone.  The group stood around reflecting on the event and everyone was in a good mode, a sure sign that the 2015 ARRL Field Day had been a success for the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.

I was the last one to pull out, right behind Steve who was towing a fully loaded enclosed trailer with a lot of the club’s equipment in it and on it.  We chatted via the South Lyon repeater on the drive home, our last radio work for the day.  I was home by 5 PM and just relaxed until dinnertime, tired from the sun, fresh air, and work.  For dinner Linda made a potato and spinach curry dish that she found in her Indian cookbook.  She also steamed some asparagus that she bought at the Howell Farmers Market this morning.  We had a quiet evening of reading, writing, and games before turning in at 10 PM.



2015/06/26 (F) Field Day Setup

I was up at 7 AM and ready to leave for breakfast with the other SLAARC members who would be setting up our temporary field site for the ARRL Field Day event.  I called the SLAARC repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back and wanted to know if I had the site use permit from the township?  No, I did not.  Paul, N8BHT, got on the air and said he gave it to Linda so I went back home.  Linda was up but had no recollection of receiving it.  We looked through the materials she got from Paul but could not find it.  I left again for breakfast but after more radio QSO went back a second time to retrieve all of the records and bring them with me to the field day site.  (Our best guess is that he gave the permits to the other Linda (NF8C) who is the club secretary.

SLAARC's Field Day setup begins in earnest when Steve's equipment trailer arrives.

SLAARC’s Field Day setup begins in earnest when Steve’s equipment trailer arrives.

By this time it was too late to make it to breakfast so I stopped for coffee and fueled my car.  Mike (W8XH) also did not go to breakfast with the group in South Lyon so we were the first to arrive at the site.  Another 10 guys showed up shortly thereafter.  John’s Sanitation then arrived and dropped off our rented porta-potty.

We had 12 people for most of the day and 14 total who were there for at least part of the day.  It was a good group and just the right size for the task.  We worked steadily from 9 AM until almost 5 PM except for an early afternoon lunch break.  By the end of the day we had erected two towers and set up six antennas (20m beam and 6m beam co-located on the taller tower, two off-center fed dipoles from the taller tower, a 40m crossed dipole from the shorter tower, and a 40m 1/4 wave vertical with four elevated counterpoise wires).  We also put up three radio tents, a screen room, and the big food tent.

Larry (K8UT) holds the 6m beam while Steve (N8AR) and others attach the 20m beam to the mast of the taller tower.

Larry (K8UT) holds the 6m beam while Steve (N8AR) and others attach the 20m beam to the mast of the taller tower.

The weather was cloudy and dull and not the best for taking photographs but I took pictures anyway.  I had to be deliberate in my shot selections, however, as both of my memory cards were almost full.  All of the work that needed to be done today was finished by 4:30 PM and most of us took off.  Our Field Day chairman, Paul (KD8SNZ), and a new member, Ron, setup their tents as they would be spending the night and keeping an eye on the site.  Steve (N8AR) and Eric (K8ERS) stayed a bit longer to test the antennas using the mobile radio in Steve’s SUV.

Back home I took a nap for an hour before dinner.  Linda grilled Portobello mushrooms and corn on the cob and cut up some fresh strawberries and cantaloupe.  After dinner I went to my office and transferred all of our recent photographs from the Sony alpha 100 DSLR to my computer and then to our older NAS device which we had with us this past winter.  I then started backing up all of the photographs we had taken since December 2014 from the old NAS unit to the new one.  This involved a significant number of images, a lot of gigabytes of data, and took a bit of time.

Rather than sit around waiting for file transfers to finish I decided to turn on the Icom IC-7000 ham radio and see if I could figure out why I could not hear the Novi 440 repeater on Wednesday when we tested the antenna and coax installation.  I checked the Nifty guide for the Icom IC-7000 and, as Mike had suspected, I did not have the Tone Squelch frequency set correctly for the Novi repeater.  I changed the mode on the 440 MHz band from ‘Tone’ to ‘TSQL’ and then caIled Mike (W8XH) on the phone to see if he could help me do a radio check.  We spent about an hour going back and forth between the Novi and South Lyon repeaters.

With the correct settings I was able to work both repeaters although I had a lot of background noise (static).  I played with the noise reduction (NR) and pre-amplifier functions and both seemed to help.  Mike tried various combinations of power and simplex operation and we determined that the basic problem seemed to be a weak signal in both directions.  I am still suspicious of the fact that I do not have the Go Box grounded as I vaguely recall from three years ago having noise problems with this setup until I grounded the box, which is tied to the radio ground.

Field Day is an "all hands on deck (antenna)" event for our SLAARC group.

Field Day is an “all hands on deck (antenna)” event for our SLAARC group.

Mike was suspicious of the coax I used to go from the lightning arrestor to the radio but looked up the specifications on my Diamond X-50N antenna and suggested that an antenna with more gain might be in order.  We also discussed the location where I placed the antenna on the tower.  Although most of the antenna is above the tower it is on the northwest leg.  The two repeaters lie to the southeast so the tower may be ‘blocking’ some of the signal although that does not seem likely to me.  Of more concern to me is that I mounted the base of the antenna so that two of the three counterpoise (ground plane) rods are even with, and parallel to, two of the three topmost crossbars.  If anything is being blocked it is likely those as the crossbars are between the rods and the repeater locations.

Ed (KD8OSM) jumped in briefly to let us know that I also had a ‘hum’ that sounded like the 60 Hz power line frequency only higher pitched.  I have a small fan installed in the back of the Go Box so I hummed the same pitch as it was producing into the microphone and both Ed and Mike confirmed that this was the tone they were hearing.  The fan is audible, but not that loud, and was two feet behind the microphone so I would be surprised if it was picking up the fan noise.  It is possible that the fan is inducing the hum electrically, but I believe it is a DC fan, so that seems unlikely.  I do not have an AC line filter installed on the fan, or anywhere in the box, so that may be a next step.

The larger of the two towers is up and secured.  It has a 6m beam antenna on top of 20m beam antenna on a common mast with a rotator.  We also attached one end of an off-center-fed dipole to this tower.

At the SLAARC Field Day site atop the Lyon Township Atchison Memorial Park the larger of the two towers is up and secured. It has a 6m beam antenna on top of 20m beam antenna on a common mast with a rotator. We also attached one end of an off-center-fed dipole to this tower.  Tents are being erected to house the various operating stations.  The weather was overcast and forecast to get much worse before Field Day as over on Sunday.

Mike and I wrapped up our QSO and I shut the radio off.  I checked my e-mail and saw that the May 2015 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine was available.  I logged in to the website and downloaded both the standard and high definition versions of the April and May digital editions.  By the time I got to bed it was well after 11PM.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft and outlined as much of today’s post as I could before I lost the sequence and details of the day’s events.


2015/06/25 (R) The Mouse

Brighton Honda called yesterday in the afternoon to get permission to do additional work on my car.  Since we plan to keep the car for a while, and then perhaps give it to our son, it was the kind of work that needed to be done regardless of the costs.  They called back later to indicate that they would not have it aligned before closing time.  That was fine with us as it would have been inconvenient to impossible for us to get there by 6 PM to pick it up.  Linda told them to call in the morning when it was ready.

The top of the 40-foot tower from the WNW showing all of the antennas and the pulley with the haul rope.  The weather had definitely deteriorated from the day before.

The top of the 40-foot tower from the WNW showing all of the antennas and the pulley with the haul rope. The weather had definitely deteriorated from the day before.

It is amazing how attuned we become to routine sounds and how sensitive we are to non-routine ones, even (especially?) while sleeping.  So it was last night that I was suddenly aware that one of our cats was making a repetitive sound that was unusual.  I turned on my flashlight, hoping to not disturb Linda, and got out of bed.  Both cats were hunched down on the floor on Linda’s side of the bed with Jasper in front.  He was the one responsible for the sound and the reason was next to his head and about 3 inches away; a little dark gray mouse.

My first thought when I see one or both of the cats with a mouse next to them rather than in their mouth is that it is dead but that was not the case.  This mouse was alive and apparently not injured.  I have seen this behavior before in which the mouse basically “plays dead” and the cats leave it alone but watch it carefully.  Mice seem to know that cats are triggered by movement and that if they sit very still the cats just sit there and guard them.  It was 4:30 AM and I was not fully awake so I do not recall the exact sequence of events, but the mouse somehow ended up in our master bathroom.   I do not recall what I did with the cats but I think I went and got a box with high sides and tried to get the mouse to go in it and it made a run for it towards the bathroom.  Linda was awake by this point so she got a towel for me.  I went in the bathroom and used the towel to block the gap under the door and prevent the little critter from getting back into the bedroom while I tried to get it into the box.  I was unsuccessful and it managed to find a place to hide in the hot water baseboard radiator.

Linda got one of the live traps we recently purchased and baited it with the recommended saltine and peanut butter.  We set the trap near the radiator, turned out the bathroom light, shut the door, and tried to plug the gap with the towel from the outside, figuring we would deal with the mouse in the morning.  Juniper kept pawing at the towel and pulling it back from the door so we put both cats out of the bedroom and shut the door.  They found that confusing as they sleep with us and generally have the run of the house.  One or both of them pawed at the door meowing to get back in for quite a while.  It wasn’t the best night’s sleep we have had and the timing was unfortunate given the hard day of tower work.

Brighton Honda called at 8:01 AM to let us know the car was ready.  Hello, I’m awake now!  I checked on the mouse and it was now safely tucked away on top of the radiator fins inside the housing where neither the cats nor I could get to it.  We decided to leave the live trap in place, sealed the gap under the door, and kept the bedroom door shut to keep the cats out.

I had planned to drive to Isringhausen’s U.S. headquarters in Galesburg, Michigan today but first we had to get my car.  As long as we were headed that way we decided to go to the Brighton Panera for coffee, but had toast and juice for breakfast at home before we left.

The 100,000 mile service is extensive and includes changing the spark plugs.  Beyond the routine service items the Element needed a new ball joint and tie rod and had a stuck brake caliper pin that had to be repaired.  Given the front end work I also had them align it.  Butch and I rebuilt the front brakes last year so I was surprised that there was an issue with them, but the car has been towed and driven in some harsh environments since then so that may have been a factor.

The Panera at Grand River Avenue and I-96 is not one of our favorites.  More often than not we end up with coffee grounds in our cups and the bathrooms are not maintained as they should be.  Today was not the first time we have been to this location that the men’s restroom was out of toilet paper.  It is also often freezing cold inside the restaurant and today was no exception.  The weather was overcast and a bit gloomy but the outside temperature, while not warm, was much more comfortable than inside.  We were also unable to connect to their Wi-Fi signal, which is generally useable.  That’s pretty basic stuff to not be able to get right and falls squarely on local management in my opinion.

While we drank our coffee I called Rick Short at ISRI to make sure he would be in but I got his voice mail again.  I asked for a call back but never got one so I did not make the trip to Galesburg.  Apparently they have better things to do than be of assistance to me.  I only want to buy one chair, not a fleet of chairs, so I understand my relative unimportance, but I don’t like it just the same.  We decided to spend the day at home completing the work from yesterday, which had made a mess throughout the house.

One of the things we needed to do was register our cellular booster system.  Given that it is a five band device I was not clear on whether we had to register it only with Verizon or with all of the carriers.  I called the company we bought it from, Cellular Solutions, and talked to Judy who said we only had to register it with the carriers we personally use.  For us that is Verizon Wireless.  Registration was via the Verizon Website and was simple enough.  It did, however, require me to log in to our My Verizon account and navigate through a couple of screens to a page where we could enter the information from the label on the box.  The serial number was on two peel off tags, so one of those went on the booster and the other one went in the manual.

With the unit registered I turned the power switch on and watched the ‘Alert’ lights all go solid yellow.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post solid yellow lights are not described anywhere in the manual.  I called Cellular Solutions back and said I had a technical support question.  The woman on the phone took my name and number and said someone would call me back.

Since I was apparently taking care of phone chores I decided to call Universal Towers and inquire about their B-30 base.  The woman who answered the phone never gave her name but was able to answer some questions.  She indicated that their base might or might not be compatible with older Heights Tower products, depending on exactly which product I had, and that I would have to talk to the owner, Bill, who wasn’t there at the moment.  She did know that the outside-to-outside measurement of the legs on a B-30 base was 30 inches and the base cost $290.  She also told me that the larger bases, like the B-30, consisted only of the three rods with the mounting yokes on top; the three rods were not otherwise connected together in any way.  She also confirmed that the ‘U’ shaped yokes at the top of the base rods were welded on and not adjustable.  The normal installation procedure involved connecting them to the bottom of the legs of the first section of the tower, setting them in the hole as the concrete is poured, and adjusting them by moving them around until the legs of the tower were plumb.  That sounded to me like a process where a lot could go wrong and not be repairable.

I pulled a 75 ohm coax out of the ceiling of the basement yesterday.  We laid it out in the basement to see how long it was and it looked to be at least 60 feet.  Linda suggested we test it before running it through the basement ceiling which was a very sensible idea.  I unplugged the power adapter for the TV amplifier power inserter, detached the coax that feeds the TV in the bedroom, attached the downstairs cable, and connected the other end to the basement TV set.  Linda set up the TV for Antenna input, did an All Channels scan, and got the same stations we got yesterday, minus a couple.

In spite of what appeared to be acceptable performance I decided I wanted a new coax cable and Linda wanted to return three of the ropes I bought at Lowe’s but never used.  She found the receipt and we went to Lowe’s.  They had a good quality RG-6 quad-shield coax (75 ohm) in various lengths including 50 feet, which is what I needed.  At the register I decided to buy two more 40 pound bags of solar salt.  I am not an impulse shopper as a rule but their supply of Morton Solar Salt was very low and stocking up seemed like a good idea.

We stopped at Teeko’s to order coffee.  Mary took our order and rang it up; one pound each of the three different half-caff blends that have become our standard.  We took note of the fact that the Bennigan’s restaurant building on the northwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Latson Road was gone and a sign said a Panera would be coming soon to that location.  We didn’t say anything to Mary, but that cannot be good news for Teeko’s.  We will continue to buy our custom roasted beans at Teeko’s as long as they are open but it is going to be difficult for them to compete with a $2.25 cup of bottomless coffee, free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a bakery, drive through service, and ample parking with great access to I-96.

When we got home I checked the live trap in our master bathroom and we had captured the mouse.  We took the trap to the northeast corner of the property, towards our neighbor’s pond, and set it free.  It did not want to leave the trap and I had to encourage it to go.  Once it hit the ground, however, it scampered away looking for a place to hide.

We then worked on running the new coax from the basement TV to the sump pump room above the suspended ceiling.  I disconnected the power inserter for the amplifier and disconnected the old coax we had tested earlier.  I notched a ceiling panel at the corner of a boxed support column behind the basement TV to allow the ceiling tile to go back into place around the coax.  We then installed one of the wire channels to contain and hide the coax from the ceiling down to the TV set and connected it to the back of the set.

In the sump pump room I attached the coax from the cable entry box (CEB) to the input of the new 1-to-2 signal splitter.  I attached the coax for the bedroom TV to one output from the splitter and the coax we just ran to the other output.  I mounted the splitter on the wall of the sump pump room and secured the cable coming from the CEB to the ceiling.  I then plugged the power supply for the power inserter back in to an AC outlet.  Linda scanned for channels and verified that everything was working correctly.  We then installed the other wire channel alongside the trim on the bedroom doorwall to route and hide the cable coming up from the basement.

I continued to fuss with the cell phone booster gain settings.  We had not gotten the promised return phone call from Cellular Solutions Technical Support so I called them.  I got Judy again and explained what I was seeing with the solid yellow lights.  She checked with her tech support people and they said the manufacturer (SureCall) told them the solid yellow was the same as the blinking yellow; that the booster was adjusting the gain and it was “normal.”  The manual says that normal is when the light is off, so I’m not sure I buy this explanation, but based on that I left the booster turned on.

With all of that done we started cleaning up the tools and materials we had scattered over two floors of the house.  I decided that was also a good time to start a load of laundry, although it was actually rather late in day for that.  I did three loads by the time I was done and it was sometime after 10:30 PM before the last load was dry.  I needed to be up at 7 AM to be at breakfast in South Lyon at 8 AM as our SLAARC group would start setting up for the ARRL Field Day event at 9 AM.


2015/06/24 (W) Up The Tower

Today was the day to finally climb the tower to remove an old TV antenna, reposition an amateur radio antenna, and install two new antennas, one for OTA TV and the other for a cellular booster system.  But there were other things to do before I was ready to climb.

I was up at 7 AM and on my way to Lowe’s in Howell by 7:20 AM in search of a solution to the problem of how to mount the outdoor cellular booster antenna.  I ended up buying two 2-1/2 inch U-bolts.  Although the tower legs are 1-5/8″ in diameter the angle bracket attached to the bottom of the antenna is 2-1/4 inches wide.  Thus I needed the 2-1/2 inch spacing for the threaded ends of the U-bolt to clear the bracket.

Back at the house Linda was up and had the coffee made.  We had a quick breakfast of homemade granola.  I removed the tire pressure sensors and GPS from my car and headed to Brighton Honda to drop it off for its 100,000 mile service appointment.  Linda arrived at the dealership about 10 minutes later.  We then headed to Adams Electronics in Wixom.  While Adams Electronics primarily serves the public and business communications markets owner Scott Adams, AC8IL, is a long-time ham and a member of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club and Novi Amateur Radio Club.  Well known in the local amateur radio community, Scotty is the local go-to guy for certain kinds of equipment.  I ordered two coaxial cables from him the other day and we were here to pick them up.

We left to return home at 10 AM so I called Mike (W8XH) to let him know we were running a little behind.  So was he, but thought he could be at our house by 11 AM.  That gave me time to drill a hole in each of the two U-bolt retaining plates and cut a short piece of 1″ square aluminum tube to use as a spacer.  That was the last fabricating I needed to do and we got busy staging all of the materials we were going to need to get the tower work done efficiently.

Setting up the tools and parts outside the "drop zone" of the 40-foot tower on the east end of the house.

Mike (W8XH) setting up the tools and parts outside the “drop zone” of the 40-foot tower on the east end of the house.  (Photo by Linda)

Linda set out a sheet near the tower but not in the “drop zone.”  We spread out materials and tools on the sheet and used it to make sure we could find things quickly and keep them from getting lost in the grass.  I also brought all of my tool boxes to the tower area.  With everything assembled it was time to climb.  I set up our 7 foot step ladder on the east end of our rear deck to provide access to the roof near the tower.  Mike helped me into his climbing harness and got it adjusted.  Once on the roof I took the harness off temporarily as my first task was to remove the 2m/70cm base station antenna.  After clipping the plastic cable ties I lowered it down to Mike while Linda took photographs.  (She helped with many aspects of the work today but was the only photographer.)

Starting up the tower from the roof of the house.  (Photo by Linda)

Starting up the tower from the roof of the house. (Photo by Linda)

I put the harness back on and Mike tossed me one of the 100 foot ropes which would eventually be used to haul materials and tools up and down the tower.  I secured the haul rope to one of the unused seat clip rings and Mike instructed me on how to secure the harness while climbing.  I put the waist strap around the tower and clipped it in.  I then put one of the two fall cables, attached to the ring at my upper back, around one of the legs above one of the cross bars above my head and clipped it into the ring at my chest.  The tower is adjacent to the east end of the house and is attached to it by two pipe assemblies just below the soffit (the house has hip roofs) so it was easy to step onto it.  After that things got tougher.

The horizontal trussing on the tower is two feet apart vertically.  That spacing was right at the limit of how high I could lift my right foot and required me to pull myself up part way until I could push with my right leg.  Once up on the next rung I attached the other fall cable, moved the first one higher, and slide the waist strap up to position myself for the next step.  I repeated this pattern with the two fall cables and the waist strap as I worked my way slowly up the tower, clipping old plastic cable (zip) ties as I went.  The tower definitely had some give but I was quickly acclimated to the amount of sway and found it to be acceptable so we decided not to guy the tower with the other three ropes, which would have slowed my ascent even more.

When I finally reached the top of the tower I untied the haul rope, looped it over one of the southeast facing horizontal bars and hauled it up allowing the free end to lower down to the ground.  Mike then tied the rope to the standoff pulley I had fabricated and hauled it up to me.  I already had cable ties, a diagonal cutter, and a pair of slip pliers with me.  I set the threaded rod on the northeast and southeast cross bars, inside and against the two legs that were parallel to the side of the house, and secured it with cable ties.  This was a three-handed job that I had to do with two hands but I got it done while only dropping one cable tie.  With the pulley rod secured I undid the rope and then undid the knot tying the two loose ends together.  I fed one end through the pulley and retied it to the other end.  We now had a way to haul materials and tools (in a bucket) up to me at any needed height while keeping it 18 inches away from the tower.

Three-quarters of the way up ad working with the haul rope.  (Photo by Linda)

Three-quarters of the way up ad working with the haul rope. (Photo by Linda)

The next task at the top of the tower was to remove the old TV antenna, mast, and rotor.  When I finally had a close up view of these old components it became apparent that my best course of action was to try and unclamp the base of the mast from the rotator, lift it off of the rotator, and toss it to the ground.

The mast clamp parts were all very rusty so Linda got the WD-40 and Mike sent it up in the bucket.  I sprayed the nuts on the mast mounts and also the rotator leg clamps.  I tried undoing the mast clamps with a slip pliers but it was no good, so Mike sent up three open/closed end wrenches.  One of them was the right size and to my surprise the rusted nuts broke loose and started backing off.  One of them did not want to come off but unscrewed the entire bolt instead.  Fine.  The bolt had a screwdriver slot in the top and was threaded into the rotor housing and I did not care how it came out as long as it did.  I got the mast clamps loose enough that I could work the bottom of the mast free from the top of the rotor.  There was a lot of rust there too.  After clipping some coax cables, rotor control wires, and plastic cable clamps I repositioned myself up one rung on the tower so I could get enough leverage to the lift the mast clear of the rotator collar and control it well enough to make sure the antenna fell to the ENE away from the house and my helpers down below.  And that is exactly what happened.

The first antenna to get mounted was the outdoor antenna for the cellular booster system.  Mike sent the antenna up in the bucket along with the various pieces I needed to secure it to the short top/center mast support tube so the entire antenna, which is omnidirectional, was above all parts of the tower.  What would have been an awkward assembly on the ground took on added difficulty 40 feet in the air but I got it secured with good access to the N-female connector on the bottom.

At the top with the pulley in place and using it to haul up a bucket with tools and parts.  Mike is controlling the haul rope on the ground.  (Photo by Linda)

At the top with the pulley in place and using it to haul up a bucket with tools and parts. Mike is controlling the haul rope on the ground. (Photo by Linda)

We decided to run the coax on the outside of one of the tower legs rather than down the inside of the tower.  Mike tied the LMR-400 coax to the rope and hauled it up to me.  In addition to the haul rope Mike tied a second control line to the bucket to keep it from swinging all over the place.  I connected the coax to the antenna feed point and then wrapped the connection with coax seal tape.  I then routed the coax down the east leg of the tower and zip tied it to take the weight off of the antenna connection.

Next up was the 2m/70cm amateur radio base station antenna, often referred to as a 2m/440 dual band antenna.  (In this nomenclature the “2m” refers to a range of wavelengths for one of the VHF ham bands and the “440” refers to a range of frequencies for one of the UHF ham radio bands, so it is a mixed units designation.). The antenna is about five feet long with three short counterpoise (ground plane) rods near the base.  It had an LMR-400 style cable connected to it but with PL-259 male connectors on each end.  The antenna feed point is an N-female connector so I had an adapter installed to make everything compatible.  Mike removed the coax and the adapter, zip tied the antenna to the haul cable at three points, put the 10mm wrench in the bucket, and hauled it up to me.

The ham radio antenna was also tricky to get mounted.  I installed it at the top of the northwest leg so that most of the antenna was above the tower and two of the three short counterpoise were parallel to the west (N-S) and northeast (NW-SE) crossbars.  The antenna by itself is light in weight but it is five feet long and mounts at the bottom nine inches, so most if it was above me with a tendency to wave around in mid-air.  With the coax connected, however, it weighed quite a bit more.  I temporarily zip tied the coax to take the weight.  I then had to hold the antenna with its base against the northwest post at my head level, push a U-bolt through the mounting bracket and past the tower leg, slip the mating clamp over the two ends of the U-bolt, and then get a small lock washer and nut on each threaded bolt end.  I then had to repeat this for the second U-bolt.  Again, a three-handed job that I had to do with only two hands.

The old OTA TV antenna and mast on the ground.  It came down by the gravity method.  (Photo by Linda)

The old OTA TV antenna and mast on the ground. It came down by the gravity method. (Photo by Linda)

The bonus to this work at the top of the tower was a commanding view of the surrounding countryside, which was mostly trees in every direction.  I even saw two towers far to the north and was kept company by a soaring vulture just to the NNE.  I was also able to determine that the tops of the large white pine trees behind the east end of our house are about 10 feet higher than the top of our tower, putting their overall height at about 55 feet as their bases are lower than the base of the tower.  We plan to put the 70 foot tower at a spot that is surrounded by these trees on three sides (W, S, and E) so the top of the tower, and any antennas mounted there, will be well above the tree tops.  That is especially important as we plan to eventually put an HF beam antenna up there on a mast attached to a rotator and it will need to be able to rotate freely for 360 degrees.

The final antenna was the hardest.  The Antennas Direct DB8e OTA UHF/digital TV antenna was very large and heavy by comparison to the other two.  In this case ‘heavy’ meant a few pounds.  It is actually two UHF antennas mounted at the end of a dual support arm structure.  The support arm mounts to a vertical pole, such as a tower leg, at its midpoint and there is a combiner box located there as part of the mount.  A short length of RG-59 (75 ohm) coax connects each antenna to the combiner box and the main coax connects there as well.

How tall the tower appears (and feels) depends on where you are standing.  (Photo by Linda)

How tall the tower appears (and feels) depends on where you are standing.  Pulley and haul rope in the upper right.  Lots of coaxial cables to be dressed (secured) on the way down.  (Photo by Linda)

RG-59 is a different kind of coaxial cable from the LMR-400 used for the first two antennas.  LMR-400 has a 50 ohm characteristic impedance and is used for receiving and transmitting RF energy with considerable power if needed.  RG-59 is much smaller in diameter, more flexible, has a 75 ohm characteristic impedance, and uses F-connectors that are the standard for OTA TV, video, and satellite cables.  But I have gotten ahead of myself.  I had to come down a few feet on the tower to install the TV antenna but before doing that I had to start securing the transmission lines to the tower legs with cable ties.

Mike rigged up the haul rope in a ‘Y’ to lift the antenna from its center of gravity while actually attaching the rope to its ends.  That allowed the haul rope to both support the weight of the antenna and keep it oriented correctly while I positioned and clamped it to the southwest tower leg with the dual support arms pointing in an east-west direction.  Because of where I had the pulley mounted, and the length of the ‘Y’ in the support rope, I had to mount the antenna a few feet lower on the tower.  Fortunately the slightly lower height was not going to affect its performance.

Like the ham radio antenna, the OTA TV antenna mounted to the tower leg at two points.  The upper assembly was a U-bolt with a retaining bracket on the back side.  The lower assembly was a pair of straight bolts that went through the combiner box past the tower leg and had a retaining bracket on the back side.  The antenna came with wing nuts instead of washers and regular nuts, which helped a little, but I really needed three hands to get the antenna into position and tighten the mounting brackets.

Mike ties off the DB8e OTA TV antenna with an inverted "Y" so it will haul up in the proper orientation.  (Photo by Linda)

Mike ties off the DB8e OTA TV antenna with an inverted “Y” so it will haul up in the proper orientation. (Photo by Linda)

Once I had the antenna sufficiently attached to the tower I was able to position the support arm close to the southeast facing side of the tower.  I then pointed the antenna on the east end of the arm ESE towards the Detroit area TV towers and tightened the two nuts on the mounting studs.  (The horizontal dual support arms are about 3 feet long so I was able to reach through the tower to get to the mounting studs and nuts.) I left the antenna on the west end of the support beam loose and turned it out of my way so I could complete other tasks.

Mike attached the end of the main RG-59 coax to the haul rope, put the amplifier and a 2-foot length of RG-59 coax in the bucket along with lots of zip ties, and pulled them up to me.  The amplifier is about 3″ wide by 2″ high and 1.5″ thick including the concave plastic backplate.  The backplate accepts two zip ties for mounting to a pole.  I positioned the amplifier about 8 inches below the antenna combiner box and cinched up the two zip ties.  I then connected the short coax to the combiner box output and put the combiner back it its protective, weather-gasketed plastic box.  I connected the other end of the short coax to the amplifier input and wrapped the connection with coax seal weatherproofing tape.

Installing the DB8e OTA TV antenna required three hands.  Note that I am installing it at the highest point possible when suspended from the pulley with the haul rope in an inverted "Y" attachment.  (Photo by Linda)

Installing the DB8e OTA TV antenna required three hands. Note that I am installing it at the highest point possible when it is suspended from the pulley with the haul rope in an inverted “Y” attachment. The yellow waist strap allowed me to lean back and work while the two red security straps would catch me if something broke. (Photo by Linda)

I attached the main RG-59 coax to the output of the amplifier, which is also the DC power input, and wrapped the connection in coax weather seal tape.  I then dressed the cable and secured it to the tower leg.  I aimed the antenna on the west end of the support arm WNW towards the East Lansing TV towers and tightened the nuts to lock it in position.

At this point I was finally done working on the antennas but had three coaxial transmission line running down the outside of the tower, one by each leg.  As I descended the tower, reversing the protocol I used going up, I secured all three cables every few feet.  I finally had my feet back on the roof at 2:20 PM, almost exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes from when I started climbing.  Projects usually take me twice as long as I think they will but this was about half as long as I thought it would take, so we were all pleased that the work had gone smoothly and relatively quickly.  My main objective was to get the old TV antenna down and the three antennas up but my secondary objective was to only climb and descend the tower once.  Mission accomplished, at least for now.

By now we were all hungry and thirsty so Linda made chickpea salad sandwiches and set out fresh sweet peppers, sliced apples, baby carrots, and cold water.  After a suitable lunch break we returned to the next phase of the work which was routing the coax cables into the cable entry box (CEB) and making the connections.

We started with the RG-59 coax from the OTA TV antenna.  I coiled the extra cable and hung it on the tower (with zip ties, of course), routed it into the CEB and connected it to the power inserter / lightning arrestor.  We purchased this cable from a Radio Shack store in Florida two winters ago to hook up our bus to the RV resort cable TV system.  Besides the coax it had a separate ground wire.  The amplifier and the power inserter both had connections for a separate ground wire so I connected it on both ends.

Routing coaxial cable into the cable entry box from the tower and the basement and making the connections.  (Photo by Linda)

Routing coaxial cable into the cable entry box from the tower and the basement and making the connections. (Photo by Linda)

We had already routed a 75 ohm video cable from our bedroom TV to the sump pump room in the basement.  I selected a suitable length of this same type of cable from our existing inventory, connected it to the other side of the power inserter, and routed it through the back of the CEB into the sump pump room where Linda guided it.  Conveniently, I had a double-ended F-female barrel connector designed to connect together two cables with F-male connectors.  I plugged in the AC power adapter for the power inserter, which was already in the sump pump room, and we went upstairs to see if we were receiving any TV stations.

We set the ‘Source’ on the TV to ‘Antenna’ and did an ‘Auto Scan’ for digital channels only.  There are very few analog TV signals still in use and the ones that are reside in the old VHF TV spectrum which our new antenna cannot even receive.  The scan found 58 signals, which obviously included the sub-channels.  Besides the main Detroit stations and the East Lansing PBS station we got other Lansing area stations and even a station from Flint.  The nice thing about digital TV is that if you get a picture at all it is very good.

There is a large TV tower at I-96 and US-127 on the southeast corner of Lansing so we were probably picking it up.  There are several TV towers SSW of Lansing about 35 miles that serve Battle Creek and may serve Lansing and Kalamazoo.  They are 50+ miles from us and I did not have the west antenna pointed in exactly that direction but it may have been close enough to pick them up.  Flint is at least 35 miles away straight north off the sides of both antennas so theoretically we should not have received any stations from that direction.  We will have to check the AntennaPoint.com website and confirm by station identifier what stations we are actually receiving.

Feeling good about our success so far we routed the coax for the cellular booster across one of the support arms that brace the tower to the house just under the east soffit.  We dropped it down next to the wall and brought it into the bottom of the CEB, replacing the hole plug with a rubber grommet.  Routing it this way kept it out of the way of future foot traffic, or lawn and garden work, in the space around/between the tower and the CEB.  I connected the cable to the lightning arrestor and coaxed it unto position inside the CEB.  LMR-400 is stiff and bending it sharply will damage it.

I connected one end of the 15-foot LMR-400 cable to the other side of the antenna arrestor and routed it into the sump pump room where Linda guided it into position.  I secured it to the ceiling, brought it down the opposite wall, put a large 180 degree bend in it, and attached it to the connector on the bottom of the cellular booster.  I turned it on and watched the lights blink for a while.  All three of us then started checking signal strength throughout both floors of the house.  All five of the ‘Alert’ lights went from blinking yellow, which means the unit is adjusting the gain on that band, to solid yellow, which is not described in the manual.  Since we had not yet registered the device with Verizon Wireless I turned off the booster.

Back out at the CEB I removed one of the hole plugs directly below the input of the Morgan VHF lightning arrestor.  We routed the coax for the 2m/440 ham antenna across the tower brace, down the wall, and around through the bottom of the box where I attached it to the lightning arrestor input.  I had an old piece of 50 ohm coax with an N-male connector on one end and a PL-259 (male) connector on the other end.  I attached the N-connector to the output of the VHF lightning arrestor and fed the other end through one of the 2″ conduits into the sump pump room where Linda routed it out into the ham shack.

We set our “Go Box” on the desk, plugged the PL-259 into the SO-239 socket on the back of the case, plugged it in to AC power, turned on the power supply, and turned on the radio.  The radio, an Icom IC-7000, came up tuned to the South Lyon (K8VJ) repeater.  I transmitted and successfully triggered the repeater, which is currently at a secondary site about 20 miles from our tower.  Mike went out to his car and used his mobile radio to verify that we could transmit to and receive from the repeater.  I had a lot of background static (white noise) so Mike switched modes and transmitted directly to our antenna.  The signal was full scale and full quieting.  I have a ground lug in the Go Box but did not have it connected.  I vaguely recalled that I had to ground the box at the previous house to eliminate a noise issue.  (The radio and power supply are grounded to the box.)

I switched the radio to UHF and it was set for the Novi repeater.  I listened but did not hear anyone transmitting so I transmitted, giving my call sign and a brief message, and then listened.  I did not get a reply even though Mike was also monitoring the Novi repeater so I switched back to the South Lyon repeater.  Mike indicated that I had, indeed, triggered the repeater and that a couple of other hams acknowledged hearing me in addition to him.  It thus appeared that I did not have something set up correctly on the receive side of the radio for the Novi repeater but the system (radio, cables, arrestor, antenna) was clearly working.

That was enough work for one day so we gathered up all of the tools and unused materials and put them away.  We offered to take Mike to dinner as a ‘Thank You’ for his assistance.  It was more than helpful to have someone on the ground who was familiar with tower operations.  We considered several dining options but opted for Olga’s in Brighton.  Linda and I had small salads, sans the Feta cheese, veggie Olga’s that were excellent, and curly fries without Tabasco sauce for the ketchup.  Warning:  As inconceivable as it may sound, Olga’s does not have any kind of hot sauce in its restaurants.  Mike had a dish with chicken in that he said was very good.

Mike headed home from the restaurant as did we.  We were tired but very pleased with what we had accomplished in the course of the day.  We celebrated our accomplishments by watching several programs on Detroit PBS, something we have not been able to do for more than two years.


2015/06/16 (T) More Stupid

Linda was scheduled to go to the bakery this morning but rescheduled to tomorrow due to last night’s weather forecast and the possibility of flooded highways in Detroit.  The morning rush hour traffic is bad under the best of conditions and flooded roadways can make it near impossible.  She also did not sleep well and woke up tired.

The Apex roofing crew started showing up just before 8 AM and the Wimsatt truck showed up with the shingles a little after 8 AM.  They brought a conveyor truck this time and were able to get the shingles off the truck and onto the roof without difficulty.  The Apex crew did not waste any time getting to work.  It turned out to be a great day for roofing; clear skies, no rain, moderate temperatures, lower humidity, and some breeze.  Even so, it is work that is done without the benefit of shade and roofs are hot places to work even on the nicest of days.

Wimsatt unloads shingles onto the garage roof.

Wimsatt unloads shingles onto the garage roof.

Linda continued working on the financials for our amateur radio club while I checked my e-mail.  I had a reply from RV Critter Guard telling me what to order and how much it would cost.  I placed the order through their website and used PayPal to complete the transaction.  I tried calling the concrete contractor that Phil recommended (Bid Rite Concrete LLC in Whitmore Lake) but the phone would disconnect after the first ring and revert to a dial tone.  Perhaps the recent storms caused a problem but I e-mailed Phil to see if he had a different number for them.  I called the Henry Ford Medical Center in West Bloomfield and made dermatology appointments for myself and Linda.

With all of that taken care of I turned my attention to the bus.  The toilet is a Microphor LF-210.  It uses pressurized air to operate the waste valve and the water valve and to help push the waste through the drain pipe and into the black tank.  To remove the toilet I had to undo three connections—air, water, and waste—and take out the four screws securing it to the floor.  If only it was as easy as that makes it sound.

The plumbing at the back of the Microphor toilet in our bus.

The plumbing at the back of the Microphor toilet in our bus.

Undoing the air line was easy and undoing the water connection only a little less so.  The waste connection was another matter.  The 1.5″ black plastic drain pipe was routed from the water bay through the floor and into the HVAC chase that runs along the driver’s side of the coach.  The converter, Royale Coach, brought it out through a hole in the wood that covers the chase, making it impossible to take the wood cover off.  The pipe then made two right angle bends, the first one towards the floor and the second one towards the back of the toilet.  The waste pipe was connected to the toilet discharge pipe with a length of rubber hose and a compression sleeve.

The toilet has a large hole in the back for all of these lines to pass through to the inside where they get hooked up.  It should have been a simple matter to slide the toilet away from the wall/chase but the last bend in the drain line was below the top edge of the bottom of the hole, preventing it from coming out.  After wiggling the toilet enough to get the rubber hose loose from the drain pipe I was able to lift the drain pipe just enough to slide the toilet out.  I took pictures for a possible BCM article on our interior remodeling project and then Linda helped me move the toilet out of the bathroom to the front of the coach.

The more I disassemble this coach the more stupid I think the design and construction of its systems are.  I don’t know that coaches from Marathon, Liberty, Vantare, Featherlight, Parliament, Millennium, Custom Coach, or any of a dozen other companies that have come and gone, is any better as I have never tried to disassemble one of them.  These are one-of-kind vehicles that are custom built specifically for the original purchaser and the over-riding factor in every case is the interior design.  Stuff, like toilets, go where the customer wants it, and systems, which are generally buried and hidden from view, get built wherever and however they can be made to fit.  The converter does not expect to have to repair or replace anything during the very short 12 month, 12,000 miles, warranty period and if stuff breaks after that, or someone wants to do a remodel or upgrade sometime later, it will all be time and material.  How difficult it is to do, and how many hours it takes, is someone else’s problem at that point.

The Apex crew hard at work on the back side of the main roof.

The Apex crew hard at work on the back side of the main roof.

We had a call from Butch updating us on a possible property purchase.  They are waiting for a clear title search before making an offer.  The property includes a house and a sizable barn.  The barn needs a new roof and the house will have to be gutted and the inside rebuilt, but for the right price it will still be a good deal.  They already have a good estimate to replace the barn roof and since they are now retired they have more time to work on the house than they would have a year ago.  They also have family and friends who can help.  Besides, they still have their home/business building in Twelve Mile, Indiana and their bus, which they lived in all this past winter, so they will not be under any pressure to get the inside rebuilt quickly.

Linda started downloading updates from Adobe Creative Cloud, which take a very long time, and then left at 3:30 PM for Ann Arbor.  She agreed to take care of grand-daughter Madeline while Brendan and Shawna attended a reception at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor for newly tenured and promoted faculty.  I was on my own for dinner and Linda bought an Amy’s pizza so I would have something easy to prepare.

The roofers finished up for the day around 5 PM.  By the time they left most of the trash was in their dumpster trailer and the roof was tarped as a precaution against rain even though the forecast for tonight and tomorrow is for dry weather.  Rain returns to the forecast tomorrow night into Thursday but turns dry again on Friday, so we are optimistic that they will get the job finished this week.  It’s a big job but Apex has a big crew working on it and they got a lot of work done today.  We are very pleased with the look of the Certainteed Landmark Pro Max Def Resawn Shake shingle that we chose.  I took pictures of the work throughout the day as I always try to do with major projects.

After the roofers left I worked for a while in the bus.  I took the mattress into the house along with the electric heating pad controls.  I disconnected the two gas struts that support the plywood bed platform so I could open it far enough to reinstall one of the drawers.  I left them disconnected as I plan to remove the platform to provide better access to the sides of the box and floor.  I also plan to reposition them when I reinstall the platform to provide better access to the storage area underneath.  I then took measurements and made a sketch of the file drawer box for the desk.

Installing soffit baffles and replacing roof decking on the front of the main roof.

Installing soffit baffles and replacing roof decking on the front of the main roof.

I cooked the Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza on the outdoor gas grill, both to avoid heating up the house and to see how it responded to that cooking method.  I used the grilling mat and the result was quite acceptable.  A glass of Franzia Moscato was a nice accompaniment.

After dinner I worked at the drafting board in my office turning my sketch and measurements into a scale drawing.  The two boxes for the desk will be trickier than a standard desk box because of the HVAC chase and because I have to put an Aqua-Hot heat exchanger in the bottom of each one.  I worked until about 9 PM and then came back upstairs.

The air-conditioner worked fine yesterday but was once again unable to bring the temperature in the house below 74 degrees F even though the outside air temperature never rose above 80.  There is clearly something wrong and I am wondering if one of the cold air ducts is open into the attic and/or one of the return air ducts us drawing hot air from the attic.  Either of these conditions would reduce the air flow to the house and overtax the evaporator in the air handling unit.  The more likely cause, however, is lack of refrigerant.  Whatever the case I shut the system off and opened up the house.

I was relaxing in the living room when Linda called at 9:30 PM to let me know she had left her babysitting gig and was stopping at the Whole Foods Market before heading home.  The reception started at 5 PM and lasted until 9 PM.  She was home by 10:15 PM and straight away to bed as she has to go into the bakery tomorrow and wants to leave early enough to be ahead of the morning rush hour traffic.


2015/06/15 (M) Cover Up

Linda was originally scheduled to go into the bakery today but it got rescheduled to tomorrow so we did not have to be up by any certain time other than to be ready for the delivery of our new roof shingles.  Apex Roofing is scheduled to put a new roof on our house this week, weather permitting, and assuming they can finish up jobs they had scheduled for last week when it rained so much.

The truck from Wimsatt Materials in Waterford showed up at 8 AM with our shingles but they were unable to deliver them.  They brought them on a boom truck that was too tall to fit under the phone lines across our driveway and there was nowhere else they could position the truck that would allow them to operate the boon.  They were on the phone with their dispatcher and I called Pat Davidson at Apex roofing to let him know what was going on.  The decision was that they would be back this afternoon with a conveyor truck which would fit under the wires and be able to get the bundles up to the roof.  Pat called back to let me know they would be starting in the morning around 7:30 AM.

Later in the day someone showed up in an Apex van with a large enclosed trailer.  We moved our cars and he backed it up in front of our single garage door.  Wimsatt did not return with shingles so they will presumably deliver them first thing tomorrow morning.  They will need to back into the driveway and position the truck in front of our double garage door but that is also where Apex plans to put their debris trailer.  The guy in the van also made it sound like there would be at least six cars/trucks here needing someplace to park.  It should be an interesting morning, especially given the overnight weather forecast which includes drenching rains and possible severe weather and flooding.  The forecast for the daylight hours, however, looks OK.

After the Wimsatt truck left we finished the last batch of granola for breakfast and then got busy with our chores and projects.  Linda spent part of the day at her desk working on the financials for our local ham radio club (SLAARC).  She also tried to contact PayPal to opt out of their upcoming RoboCall campaign but was not able to get through to a real person.

I settled into my office for the morning, dealing with e-mail but focusing on editing blog posts for the last seven days.  Kate got in touch with me to see if we wanted to see The Bikinis musical production at the Meadow Brooke Theatre this week.  Wednesday through Sunday is the final run.  She also forwarded an invitation to a former colleague’s retirement gathering in a couple of weeks.

We have an RV Critter Guard that seals around our 50 A electrical cord and water hose to keep “critters” from entering the coach via that access hole.  We lost our original foam insert when I forgot to remove it from the cable entrance hole in the floor of the bus utility bay and it fell (blew) out while we were driving.  I checked the RV Critter Guard website and my exact products were not listed.  I measured our existing tongue and groove plate and then contacted the company via their contact form and explained what I needed.  I got an e-mail back indicating that my product was custom made and asking me for one additional dimension from the plastic plate.  I got that measurement and e-mailed it to them and indicated that I wanted another plastic plate and two spilt foam inserts.  I expect to receive an e-mail tomorrow with the price.  Once I have that I will call them to place the order.

I have tried several times in the last two years to order products from EZ Connector but they have always had another question for me that required me to go check something and I have never managed to close the loop with them.  I’ve been on a roll the last couple of weeks and decided that today was the day to get this done.  The company is in California, so I called them during the afternoon (my time).  The woman I spoke to on the phone gave me some good information but suggested I e-mail Joe with my requirements.  Joe e-mailed me back and answered several questions but had another one for me.  I responded to that question and went on to something else while I await the prices.  Once I have the pricing I will have to call them and finalize the order.

I exchanged e-mails with Josh from Coach Supply Direct and got a series of revised quotes from him for our new RV furniture and window shades.  What I really need are the drawings that show the exact dimensions of each piece including the size of the base and the location of the pivot (swivel) point.  Apparently he is having difficulty getting these from Flexsteel.  I would also like to have these for the Lambright Comfort Chairs but we took our own measurements at Bradd and Hall.  The whole process of getting furniture is getting very frustrating.  I need to contact Mike at Suburban Seating regarding the ISRI 6860 and pick a day to drive to ISRI USA in Galesburg to look at fabrics.  While I am at it I should probably get a price from Prevost.

I finally got back to work in the bus this afternoon.  I shut off the auxiliary air compressor, closed the valve on the air manifold that supplies air to the toilet and other house accessories, and drained the water separator.  I then investigated what will be required to remove the toilet.

There is a shut off valve on the water line behind the toilet so I closed that.  The water line is attached to the toilet mechanism with a plastic connector with two wings and looked like I could undo it by hand.  The air line looked equally easy to disconnect but the drain looked a bit trickier.  It goes out the back of the toilet rather than through the floor.  There is a metal sleeve with band clamps at each end that connects the discharge pipe to the drain line.  Fortunately the band clamp screws are accessible.

The toilet is screwed to the floor with four Philips head screws.  The centers of the screw heads are threaded and there are plastic caps with posts that screw down into the mounting screws to conceal them.  With the water, air, and waste lines disconnected once I unscrew the base the toilet should slide forward and then we may have to lift it to get clear of the water line.  The trick to getting it back in will be to get the four mounting screws back in the exact same holes.

The humidity outside was near 100% and I did not feel like running the bus air conditioners so I did not remove the toilet today.  I need to get it out, however, to remove the last few pieces of ceramic tile from the bathroom floor.  Once it is out it will have to stay out until the new floor is installed.

I tried pulling on one of the window latch knobs on the fixed window across from the kitchen counter and was surprised by easily it moved the latch.  I did not pull it far enough to unlatch it but it appears that getting the window unlatched will be relatively easy.  Getting the frame open without damaging the frame seal, and getting it closed again so it is weather tight, may be slightly more challenging.

I used a chisel to try removing the thinset and mastic that was adhered to the plywood subfloor.  It came off better than I thought it would but it was a slow process.  In addition to being humid in the coach it was very warm as I have had to leave the roof vents closed with the fans off due to the rainy weather.  I removed enough thinset, however, to convince me that it is worth renting the power floor scraper from the Home Depot in Howell for a day and see how it works.

Late afternoon Linda worked in the kitchen making another batch of her fabulous granola and a black beans and rice dish for dinner.  She soaked two Hatch chilies, two Ancho chilies, and four Pequin chilies and used them in the bean dish.  I had a call from Pat Lintner before dinner to let me know that they took their Prevost to McMillers in Nappanee and were very pleased with work and the price.

I thought about driving to the Lowe’s in Howell after dinner to order the new Frigidaire refrigerator for the bus but it got too late to go.  We have decided to have it delivered to Chuck Spera’s shop in Novi.  We can pull it inside and he has a forklift, so hopefully that works out OK.

We were both tired and headed off to bed at 10 PM.  The weather radar showed a band of more intense rain setting up to our southwest and taking aim at us.  Linda fell asleep quickly but I was still up writing when the rains started around 11:15 PM.  We had the house closed up with the air conditioner running and a small fan for air movement so the sounds of the weather are not as noticeable as when we have the windows and doorwalls open.  I checked the radar again on Wundermap and it looked like we might be in for a long stretch of persistent rain unless the line drifted south just enough to miss us.  The strongest weather in the region stretched from Ft. Wayne, Indiana WSW to just south of Logansport, Indiana but there were lots of pockets of yellow with some orange on the screen over all of the southern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula and the northern half of Indiana.  It looked like it might be another restless night.


2015/05/29 (F) Many Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015/05/15 (F) Hamvention

Today was devoted to the Dayton Hamvention which, as the name suggests, is a ham radio “event” that takes place in Dayton, Ohio.  I suppose it could be a gathering of Honey Baked Ham franchisees in some other state, or a convention of people who like to show off, but it’s just dozens of speakers, hundreds of vendors, thousands of flea market sellers, and ~20,000 attendees gathered to buy, sell, learn about, and talk about all things amateur radio.  It is quite an event and it always rains.  This year was no exception.

The Dayton Hamvention is the largest single annual gathering of ham radio operators in the world, and is probably also the largest gathering of ham radio related vendors.  Organized by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the Hamvention currently takes place on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the third weekend in May each year and 2015 was the 60th time the event has been held.  The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) shows up in force and the biggest manufacturers in the industry—Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu—have extensive booths in the vendor area, along with many other manufacturers, distributors, and specialty product vendors.

Dayton’s Hara Arena is ~227 miles from our house, close enough that we can drive down and back the same day, but it makes for a long day.  We left at 5:35 AM and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels before getting on the Interstate 96 headed east.  A few miles later we headed south on US-23 which took us into Ohio and onto I-475.  We joined up with I-75 south of Toledo, Ohio and stayed on that until we exited in Dayton to head west to the Hamvention venue.  With a bathroom break about half way down we arrived at the arena around 9:15 AM.  There is no general admission parking at the Hara Arena complex but we were able to park at an automotive dealership across the street and over to the left for $10.  (The dealership directly across the street was charging $40/day to park.  Unfortunately some people were actually willing to pay that much.)

The flea market opened at 8 AM and the indoor vendor area opened at 9 AM.  Hams who are looking for bargains in used parts and equipment are always in line when the gates open at 8 AM on the first day.  Although many hams are involved with designing and building new equipment, and/or repairing and restoring vintage radios, we are not.  We had only been to the Hamvention once before and our interest today was to reacquaint ourselves with the inside vendors.  It cost us $25 each for the privilege.

We knew that a dozen of our fellow SLAARC members were here at the event but we only ran into one of them (Bill / W8NN).  We walked past every vendor booth at least once and paid return visits to several.  We did not have a shopping list and ultimately did not buy anything except lunch.  As we were getting ready to leave a thunderstorm opened up and it rained very hard for a while so we lingered and revisited a couple more vendors until it quit and then headed for our car.

We pulled out around 3 PM and headed for home, reversing the route we took to get to the Hamvention.  We stopped for gas and each got something to drink.  I was tired and sleepy from having had too many carbohydrates for lunch so we switched drivers.  We stopped at a rest area somewhere on I-75 in Ohio for a bathroom break but I’m not sure where it was as I was dozing until just before we pulled in.  We got home about 6:45PM.  The event ended at 6 PM today and we expected to be home closer to 10 PM, so getting home sooner was nice.

The cats were glad to see us; at least they both wanted our attention.  Linda cut up some fresh strawberries and pineapple and heated up some canned soup which made for a light, easy dinner.  We relaxed for a while but Linda decided she was too tired to watch an episode of Sherlock and headed off to bed.

I checked out the website of one of the vendors that interested me.  KF7P (KF7P.com) builds custom cable entry boxes with copper ground planes and lightning arresters.  I have been looking for something like that to get transmission lines into our basement ham shack while protecting all of the equipment connected to them.  I will give him a chance to get back to Utah and then give him a call and order one.  The box is going to mount on the east side of the house near the northeast corner.  It will have at least one 3” PVC pipe coming out the back and running through the wall into the basement.  Since I do not know what our long term needs are, and I do not want to have to redo this later, I will have him build something that is larger than we will probably ever need.  That will be cheaper and easier in the end than having to redo something later.


2015/05/11 (M) Bus Barns Reconsidered

I took a nap late yesterday afternoon, a rare but sometimes necessary thing.  I went to bed later as a result but still did not sleep well.  We have too many things going on simultaneously with significant dollars attached to them and that has a tendency to disturb our sleep.  I also planned to visit three County agencies today and the anticipation of that no doubt contributed to a less restful night.

I was up at 5 AM and awoke to heavy fog; literally, the air temperature had dropped and it was very foggy outside.  I decided to concentrate on uploading my blog posts for the first 10 days of May but ended up also working on the materials estimate for the new bus floor, checking and responding to e-mails, and making adjustments to the SLAARC website and e-mail forwarding addresses.  Once Linda got up and we had some coffee she spent the first part of the day working on the banking and roster for SLAARC, so it turned out to be a somewhat “slaarcy” day for us.  The fog changed over to rain as the day progressed and intermittent heavy rains moved through the area after lunch accompanied by a tornado watch that continued until dinnertime.  I did, however, get the blog entries for May 1 through 9 edited, tagged, and posted.  I really need to get back to posting each day as it occurs.

Our male cat, Jasper, was having tummy troubles today.  He tends to follow me around the house anyway, but today he stayed very close most of the day.  He climbed up in my lap while I was working at my desk no less than six times and went to sleep for as long as an hour at a stretch.  If not there he was curled up on my desk, on the carpet near my chair, on my lap or next to me on the couch, or alongside me in bed.  He has a loud, resonant purr and I heard (and felt) it a lot today.  It is one of my favorite things.

Linda finally persuaded me over the weekend that, as much as I was trying to contain the cost, the current approach to the bus barn project was just going to be too expensive.  I have not given up on the idea of building a bus barn but I am now rethinking my approach yet again.  Ironically, I am back to the idea of a true pole barn, which eliminates the concrete foundation.  Instead of wood trusses, however, I am looking at an arched steel roof.  That would eliminate the bottom chords of a wood truss which determine the ceiling height.  Downsizing the building would further reduce the cost and not pouring a concrete pad, or perhaps only a partial one, would reduce the cost even more. A 24′ x 48′ building with a 16′ center ceiling may only require 12′ side walls, which would keep the posts and other lumber costs reasonable. The site prep and finish grading cost is there no matter what we do.  The main things we give up with this approach are the 19′ ceiling in the center, which would have allowed me to walk on the roof and work standing up, and an overhead door which would be expensive anyway.  Working on the roof would require moving it outside and the door would have to be a two-piece exterior slider or “barn style” pull open.

Chuck and I have been talking seriously the last couple weeks about trying to agree on a metal arch building design so we can order two buildings and get a quantity and shipping discount.  I called Chuck before dinner to let him know what we had decided we were not going to do that, at least not this year, and explain the reasoning behind the decision.  He is faced with the exact same issues and we had a long bus barn chat, to be continued in the days ahead.

While I was on the phone with Chuck my sister called my cell phone so Linda took the call.  My grand-niece, Lilly, had experienced several more seizures since she returned home from the hospital on Wednesday.  She was at a different hospital where they were going to hook her up to an EEG for 24 hours as none of the one-time EEGs have shown anything abnormal.  Lilly is only 27 months old and this has to be a bit scary for her; it certainly is for the adults around her.

Linda prepared a simple meal of fresh asparagus, white rice with soy sauce, and mock chicken with orange sauce.  We had another piece of the vegan cake for dessert later.  We have also decided that now is the time to replace the refrigerator in the bus so we spent time after dinner continuing to look at units online.

The current fridge, which is a side-by-side Jenn-Air, is a 22.6 cubic foot model.  Newer refrigerators with similar case dimensions tend to be smaller in usable volume but even 17 cubic foot models do not appear to fit in our refrigerator cubby.  The newer ones tend to be more energy efficient, so they may have thicker insulation thus reducing the interior volume.  The problem is that they also tend to be taller as a way to maintain the width and depth dimensions.  The unit that has our attention at the moment is a Fisher & Paykel 13.5 cubic foot model.  That is a lot less refrigerator storage than we have now, and would have to adjust how we shop, but we would be able to take it in and out through the main entrance door of the bus and recover about 11 inches of width for a pantry that would be 67″ tall and 29″ deep.  That is a lot of storage and may be a good trade-off.

We finished the evening watching Season 2, Episode 1 of Sherlock.  I do not generally enjoy watching TV programs a second time, but the BBC Sherlock series holds up very well on repeated viewing.


2015/04/26-30 (N-R) Routine Returns

2015/04/26 (N) Bentley

Turning the lights out at 11 PM last night meant I would be awake around 6 AM this morning and ready to get up, and that was the case.  Linda was awake by 6:30 AM and we were up shortly thereafter.  I was able to light the natural gas fireplace without difficulty.  The only thing I can figure is that perhaps I did not have the Off/Pilot/On gas valve in the right position last night.

With the gas valve in the Off position gas cannot flow beyond the valve.  In the Pilot position gas can only flow to the pilot flame assembly, and only while the knob is pushed in, until the flame has been lit long enough to cause the heat sensitive pilot valve to remain open at which point the knob can be released.  I do not think gas can flow to the main burner tubes, however, until the knob is turned to the On position.  There is also a Remote/Off/On switch that has to be in the Off position when lighting the pilot flame (with the built in spark igniter) and moved to the On position to allow the main burner tubes to receive gas.  All I can figure is that I did not have the Off/Pilot/On valve turned to the On position. The Remote position is intended to be used with a wall mounted thermostat which we do not have.  For us the firelogs are primarily decorative but are useful for taking the chill off of the early morning or late evening.  We never have them on, however, unless we are in the living room or dining room where we can see them.

Linda fed the cats while I made coffee which we enjoyed in the living room by the firelogs.  It was 33 degrees F outside this morning but in another week the morning temperatures should be such that we can sit on the rear deck and enjoy our morning brew out there.  We finally both got dressed and Linda heated an Amy’s Breakfast Scramble and split it between us.  We lingered a while longer in the living room and finally got to work on our various chores.

Linda’s focus was to continue cleaning the kitchen, off-loading food and kitchen supplies from the bus, and getting her domestic and professional domains back in order.  She made a grocery list as the day went along.  We would normally go to the Howell Farmers Market on Sunday morning, but the outdoor market does not start until next week.

I cleaned the cats’ litter tray, which seems to be my job at home but Linda’s job on the bus, and then got to work on revising the draft survey for the FMCA national education committee.  While I was doing that I also started up a couple of our workstation computers, installed updates, and kept an eye on my e-mail and RVillage messages.  I worked on the survey until dinner time, with a break for lunch, and had Linda proofread it before I uploaded it to my Dropbox and e-mailed the link to the committee.  We have a telephone meeting at 3:30 PM EDT tomorrow and I wanted everyone to have a chance to look it over in advance of the meeting.

Linda made Farro with garlic, dried cranberries, almonds, and kale and cooked some fresh asparagus.  A green salad and a glass of wine completed a very nice meal.  Linda had a text message from her sister letting us know that her housemate, Linda, decided to have Bentley put down.  He was the oldest of her three dogs, deaf and arthritic, and on medications that he would not take, and he had lost interest in food.  We had both received a text message from Linda regarding our recent visit so I responded to that.  We were sad that Bentley was gone, but glad that we got to see him one last time.

I turned my attention to editing photos for my April 10 blog post about out visit to Bandolier National Monument and Santa Fe, New Mexico but the batteries in my wireless mouse needed to be recharged so I plugged it in and called it quits for the night.  Linda was watching the first episode of Wolf Hall (PBS) on her iPad so I finished reading the May-June 2015 issue of the Gypsy Journal and played a few rounds of my favorite games.  Linda prepared some fresh berries for dessert and we enjoyed them to the glow of the firelogs before going to bed.

2015/04/27 (M) Caller #9

After coffee and cereal this morning I continued selecting and processing photos from our April 10 visit to Bandolier National Monument and Old Town Santa Fe.  I ended up with 16 photos so I uploaded the post and put them in an image gallery at the end.  After lunch I got all of my documents in order for my 3:30 PM (EDT) telephone meeting of the FMCA Education Committee.  I chatted briefly with the committee chair to see if there were any surprises in store.  I then worked on consolidating my draft blog posts for April 11 through 15 which included the time we spent in Norman, Oklahoma visiting with my uncle Bob and Aunt Helen, and four additional generations of relatives.

I exchanged e-mails with BCM Publisher Gary Hatt and Editor Dave Rush regarding my article on the redoing of the exterior of our coach.  The article is 5,800 words with 71 photos and they would like to split it up and run it in installments over three or four issues.  That will require me to go back through the article and identify the places where it can be split, making sure the photos track with the text, and write some additional bridge paragraphs to wrap up each installment and introduce the next one.

I dialed in to my FMCA meeting just before 3:30 PM.  I was caller number nine (9) but I did not win anything.  The meeting lasted almost 90 minutes.  We discussed the survey we have been developing and approved a motion to pass it along to the Executive Board with the recommendation that it be sent to a random sample of the members both electronically and via USPS.  I expect to receive minor corrections in the next 36 hours and get a final draft to the FMCA Executive Director on Wednesday so he can have it reviewed by an outside expert (Barry) at Membership Corporation of America (MCA).  The FMCA executive board meets in a week so we will see what happens.

After the meeting I finished working on the April 11-16 consolidated post and uploaded it to our personal blog just in time for dinner which featured taco bowl salads.  She started with refrigerated tortillas, draped them over ramekins, and baked them to create the shell.  She reconstituted an ancho, red Hatch, and pequin chile and used them to season the pinto beans, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and olives that made up the filling.  Franzia Fruity Red Sangria went nicely with the tacos.  Later we had a fresh mixed fruit salad of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.  We relaxed for a while, reading and playing games, but were surprisingly tired and went to bed before 10 PM.  Change happens, transition takes time.

2015/04/28 (T) And now … the rest of the summer

As sometimes happens when we go to bed early, we slept in this morning and did not get out of bed until after 8 AM.  It is nice to be able to do that if we want to.  Coffee and toast got the day started followed by reading, writing, and cat admiring.  It was a beautiful, sunny morning albeit still on the chilly side.  In other words, another day in the idyllic paradise we call retirement in the country.

We have both been busy since we got home last Friday, unloading the bus and putting things in their place in the house, visiting family, cleaning and stocking the kitchen, going through mail, and working on bills and accounting, both personal and organizational.  And that was mostly Linda!  I helped with some of that but was mostly focused on finishing a draft survey for the FMCA education committee, sending it out, and participating in a committee meeting by teleconference yesterday afternoon.  I will have some minor additional work to do on the survey by the end of the day tomorrow, but with the meeting behind me I can now concentrate on all of the other things that need to be done.  To paraphrase Paul Harvey “And now … the rest of the summer.”

One of the chores that is always there is laundry.  Linda seems to take over this task when we are living in the bus, but it is definitely my job when we are at home.  Ditto for cleaning the cat litter tray.  To be fair, both the laundry room and liter tray are in the basement where my office and the ham radio shack are located, so I am down there a lot more than her.  When we first return home after being away for an extended time there is a lot of laundry to do.  Not that we don’t do it while we are away, we do, but I like to clean everything that we had with us.  This is not a one day task, in part because we like to limit the number of loads of laundry we do on any given day so as not to overload the septic tanks, and in part because I just do not want to spend an entire day doing laundry.

My main focus this morning, however, was to revisit my article for Bus Conversion Magazine on the renovation of the exterior of our bus back in 2011/2012.  It needs to be split into 3 or 4 installments and I would rather do that myself, making sure the photos track with the text.  I started a load of laundry and then got to work, keeping an eye on e-mail and RVillage.  I finished restructuring the article just before lunch, uploaded it to my BCM Dropbox folder, and e-mailed the editor and publisher.  Linda reheated the Farro-cranberries-almonds dish for lunch and served it with black grapes.

I moved the first load of laundry to the dryer, put a second load of laundry in the washing machine, and started compiling my posts for April 16 through 20.  I got an e-mail from Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF website.  Lou started, and leads, the BOF and administers the website while I take care of the RVillage group and someone else takes care of the member database/roster.  He found and installed a free system for displaying photo albums.  He was setting it up so each BOF member had their own login and could upload their own photos and wanted me (and Linda) to try it out.  I did, and found a number of issues which I documented for him.  I like the idea, so I hope he can resolve the issues.

I folded and hung up the dried laundry and returned to my blog post which I uploaded, tagged, and published before going upstairs.  It was a beautiful day and while Linda was outside on the rear deck reading four deer walked up the eastern boundary of our property.  We were chatting back there when the doorbell rang, which is unusual for us.  It was Aaron, one of the kids (teenager?) from the house to our immediate east.  UPS had delivered our Amazon order to their house instead of ours even though it had my name and our address on the label.

Linda sautéed onions until they were partly caramelized, pan-fried tofu slices, and then added bar-b-que sauce.  She served these in tortillas rather than on buns.  She also sautéed fresh green beans.  I opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and we each had a small glass with dinner.

After dinner I called Joe Cannarozzi, the mobile mechanic who has done the majority of the service work on our bus since we got it back to Michigan in 2010.  As planned, he is now in upstate New York where he will be working well into the fall.  He plans to be back this way the first week in November and we made plans to have him do the routine chassis maintenance at that time.  I also discussed our interior renovation plans for the bus and got some tips from him about how to approach that work, especially the floor, as he has done several.

I noticed that I had a voice message from Gary at BCM.  He had called earlier in the day after I had uploaded the new 4-part version of the Exterior Makeover article so I called him back and left him a message.  Tag; you’re it.

2015/04/29 (W) Bus Lunch

We had a typical start to our day; coffee, breakfast, and iPads (news, weather, games, reading, and writing).  Actually, that’s how most of our days in the bus also start, so the only real difference is where we are sitting and what we can see from that vantage point.  I needed to order a refill on a prescription medication so I tried doing that on my iPad.  No problem iPad-wise, but the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) had switched the mail order prescription drug service from Medco/Express-Scripts to Catamaran Home Delivery effective January 1, 2015.  Catamaran was already the third part administrator (TPA) but was now operating their own pharmacy.  Even though I already had a Catamaran account I had to register for Home Delivery service.  Once I did that I was supposed to be able to see any prescriptions that had transferred over.  There weren’t any 🙁  That meant I needed a new prescription.  I had a mid-morning appointment and did not want to spend time “holding for the next available representative” so I decided to take care of this task tomorrow.

Linda called last Friday and arranged to have our curbside trash pickup resume this week.  Wednesday is trash pickup day, so the trashcan had to go out by the street this morning.  (We don’t have curbs here, so I can’t say we took the can to the curb.)  The last two years Alchin’s has come past our house around noon.  While we figured that would probably be the case again this year we did not want to risk missing the truck, so Linda took it out early.

Linda is the treasurer of SLAARC, our local ham radio club based in South Lyon, Michigan.  The club’s bank (First Merit) is there and she needed to make a deposit.  I was headed that general direction so I took it with me.  The deposit made, I headed on to Chuck Spera’s bus garage in Novi, MI.  Chuck and Barbara have the same model Prevost bus that we do only one year newer and converted by Liberty, so fancier than ours.  Like us, they spend a lot of time in it, and, like us, there are always projects to be done.  Some of those, in turn, require some discussion.

I met Chuck at his shop at 10:15 AM and had a look at his turbo boost sensor intake manifold pressure hose.  It appeared to be intact but old a frayed like mine was.  The one on our bus failed on the drive out to Quartzsite, AZ in December 2014.  Changing his hose would be more difficult than our as is chassis batteries are in the passenger-side engine bay and make access to that side of the engine much more difficult than in our bus.  We have been using the same mobile mechanic for the last few years but he has found longer term employment and cut back on the mobile servicing of Prevost chassis.  I indicated to Chuck that we really needed to find someone locally who is in business at an accessible location and plans to continue as such into the foreseeable future.  He suggested that we take a drive to Johnie’s in Walled Lake, so that is what we did.

Denny was not there (Johnie was his dad) but I got to see the place and now know where it is.  We drove back to the Panera in Novi for lunch and then back to Chuck’s shop which is nearby.  By 2 PM we had not only solved all of the world’s problems we had made good progress on unraveling the mysteries of the universe.  Wanting to leave something for the next conversation I headed for home leaving Chuck to ponder the mysteries of the bus, which are far more baffling than the mysteries of the universe.

I drove home on Grand River Avenue (GRA) to avoid WB I-96 and the I-96/US-23 interchange construction.  I bought gas at the Wixom Meijer’s and found out 20 minutes later that I had paid way too much for it ($2.59/gal).  The BP station in Brighton had regular for $2.29 and the Shell station closest to our house had it for $2.44.  Bummer.  I passed a First Merit Bank on the south side of GRA just west of Old US-23 in Brighton.  Not right around the corner from our house, but a lot closer than South Lyon.  There is also a Jeep dealership there.  We are interested in getting a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, we just don’t like the prices we are seeing.

Our Amazon shipment arrived with the two filter cartridges for the under sink housing in the bus and other things.  Hopefully the delivery to the wrong address on Monday was a one-time thing.  I had been trading phone messages with Gary at BCM and finally got through to him this time.  I then curled up with the new B&H catalog which made it feel like Christmas in April.

Linda made a potato lentil ginger curry for dinner and it was very good.  I had planned on revising the FMCA Education Survey and sending it out this evening but I was simply not in the humor to go back downstairs.  I think my retirement motto is going to be “there is always tomorrow, and if not, it didn’t matter anyway.”  Linda had to get up early tomorrow morning to beat the traffic headed into Detroit so we went to bed earlier than usual.

2015/04/30 (R) Steel

Linda set her alarm for 5:45 AM.  The purpose of her alarm is to wake me up so I can wake her up.  It worked as planned and she got up and got ready to go to the bakery while I went back to sleep.

I finally got up at 8:30 AM.  I’ve been busy since we got home but also a bit tired and feeling the need to just unwind from our exciting winter out west.  After breakfast I called the Internal Medicine clinic at the Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi to see if I could get my doctor’s nurse to get my doctor to write me a new prescription for my nasal spray.  Naturally I never got to talk to the doctor or a nurse, but the youngish sounding lady who handled the phone call was very helpful, up to a point.  She really wanted to schedule me for an appointment and was not quite piecing together that my prescription, which is for a maintenance drug, is only good for one year but my doctor only needs/wants to see me every other year.  I don’t expect the new script to be a problem, but that fact that my MPSERS health care plan changed mail-order prescription providers as of January 1st may add a wrinkle.  I’m not due for a physical until the fall but I will go sooner if needed to get my script.  Which reminds me, I need to schedule my annual appointment with the dermatology PA.

I focused on making some last minute corrections to the FMCA education survey and shipped it off.  I got an e-mail back from Diane Wolfe with some questions.  She is not a member of the FMCA education committee but she and husband Brett did review and comment on it.  The questions were interesting and answering them gave me a chance to explain some technicalities and cc: the FMCA Executive Director as they were as much for his benefit as hers.

I had several e-mails back and forth with Kate regarding productions at Meadowbrook Theater and an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), all of which sounded interesting.  Our social life is less active at home than on the road so we welcome such opportunities.

I had a phone call from Mike at Rocket Steel Buildings following up on an inquiry I made.  He sent me a brochure and a price.  It was something but not exactly the quote I was looking for.  I still need to follow up with SteelMaster Building Systems and get to work on drawings for the wood-framed basilica design.

I compiled my blog posts for April 21-25, 2015 after finding the one for the 24th.  I had e-mailed it from my iPad but it never arrived.  I e-mailed it again and it bounced back.  The spam blocker even said it was from a white listed sender (me!) but rejected it anyway.  Huh ???  I sent it a third time to two addresses, one of which was not attached to our domain, and it came through to both accounts, naturally.  I guess this was one of the mysteries of the universe that Chuck and I left unsolved yesterday.  Anyway, I finally got it, finished compiling my posts, and uploaded, tagged, and published it.

I also had several e-mails back and forth with Lou Petkus regarding the SKP Photographers BOF and website.  Gary sent me a link to a document in his Dropbox with photos and audio files from an interview he did for a featured bus article that never got written.  I agreed to take a look at it and see what I can do.

I managed to get more things off of the bus, including bedding, and did two more loads of laundry.  I do not like to do more than two loads a day as it over taxes the septic system.  Someone rang the front doorbell, the second time this week.  This time it was Kaylie, Aaron’s sister, from next door.  For the second time this week UPS delivered a package, correctly addressed to me, to the wrong address.  I was concerned this would happen and Linda said I was a pessimist.  Apparently we were both right.

I called the local UPS store but the only thing they could do was give me the national 800 customer service number.  I am a pessimist (just ask Linda), so I was not looking forward to that experience, but I called and fought my through their voice menu system.  It did not include an option for my situation (of course) and I finally just kept saying “agent” until the system gave up and connected me to a real person.

“Chelsea” was apologetic, even though she had not personally done anything wrong, because that’s what customer service people are trained to do.  I think someone, somewhere, once upon a time figured out that apologizing diffuses customers who are upset.  Well, it doesn’t.  And assuring me that it “won’t happen again” is equally meaningless when it comes from a person who is not in a position within the organization to make such a statement.  But Chelsea verified my name and address and the incorrect delivery address and said she took careful notes and would make sure they got to the right person.  I hope so.

What is perhaps most frustrating is that UPS has a local distribution center in Howell, and I have the address, but it is not open to the public except for limited package pickup hours.  In other words, the mistake is being made by a driver who is most likely operating out of that location, or by someone scheduling the routing, but there is no customer support person or facility manager that I can talk to, face-to-face, and resolve this at the point of origin of the problem.  We buy a lot stuff now through Amazon Prime, and it all gets shipped via UPS, so having it delivered anywhere other than to our house is a problem.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery at 5 PM and heading to Kathi’s.  They were going to have dinner at La Marsa in Farmington Hills and give the I-96 traffic a chance to subside before she finished the drive home.  I had some of the leftover potato barley ginger curry for dinner and then called Phil Jarrel to remind him that we are still trying to figure out how to put up a bus barn and still want him to do the site prep and driveway.  I then called Butch to see if he was able to locate the front brake drums for their MCI MC-9 NJT bus.  He was, and already had the driver side front reassembled.  I responded to a couple of e-mails and filled out an online RFQ for SteelMaster Building Systems and went to bed.


20141030-1102 Fixing Buses in Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2024/11/01 (S) Words

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

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

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

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

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

2014/11/02 (N) An Extra Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/10/23-29 The Bus Work Continues

2014/10/23 (R) Close Encounter of the 1st Kind

My two main bus projects today were the lighted handle by the entrance door and the Progressive Industries remote display installation.  The lighted handle needed new machine screws and some additional gasketing on the upper securement.  It turned out that all five of the screws that I removed were stripped to a greater or lesser extent.  After trying several different screws I concluded that the threaded holes must be messed up.  Butch loaned me a 10-24 tap and I used it to re-tap all five of the mounting holes.  I cut two additional pieces of the vinyl shower pan liner and trimmed them to fit just inside the upper securement.  That allowed the piece to be reattached to the body using the 10-24 stainless steel screws I bought last night without causing interference with the LED bulb.

Some time ago I bought a remote display kit for our Progressive Industries Energy Management System (EMS).  The kit consists of a second display unit and a selector switch unit.  I mounted the selector switch in the utility bay in place of the display unit, moved the display unit to the left, and connected it to the switch with the short cable provided in the kit.  I routed the long cable from the switch through the bay to the other side by the Aqua-Hot and fed it through a small hole into the electrical bay, which is the next bay going towards the front of the coach.  I temporarily mounted the remote display in the house panel.  I then repeated the work I had done yesterday to relocate the Magnum inverter/charger remote.  This time I used serial cable #1, removed the DB-9 connectors from each end, and connected the wires on each end.  The difference from yesterday is that Progressive Industries wires their cables so that pin 1 of the RJ-11 on one end is wired to pin 1 of the RJ-11 on the other end.  That meant I had to keep the wire colors the same between the two surface-mount phone jacks, i.e., black-to-black, red-to-red, green-to-green, and yellow-to-yellow, rather than cross wiring them like I did yesterday.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

ITR Oasis Combi in Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.

Butch’s major focus today was the ITR Oasis Combi.  He and Fonda worked for much of the day running new diesel fuel lines.  By late afternoon I was done with my projects and went to work on the fresh water plumbing for the Oasis.  Prior to the last couple of weeks I had not worked with PEX tubing and fittings.  Butch has a crimper that he showed me how to use.  By the time we quit working to have dinner we had the fresh water tank connected to the inlet of the Shur-Flo 4048 pump, the outlet of the pump connected to T-fitting that supplies cold water to the house and to the Oasis Combi inlet, and the outlet of the Combi connected to the line that supplies hot water to the house.

For dinner I fixed a salad, a Thai Kitchen mushroom noodle soup bowl, and a bowl of fresh strawberries for dessert.  I took everything in the house and dined with Butch and Fonda.  After dinner I went back to the coach to try and straighten things up a bit.  I must have opened the cabinet door under the kitchen sink a dozen times to throw away food scraps, product packaging, and paper towels.  I had bundled up the various recyclables and opened the cabinet to remove the trash bag when the mouse jumped out and ran under the passenger side couch.

I say THE mouse because I presume it is the mouse that has obviously been in the coach recently based first on getting into my loaf of bread and then finding a nest where none had been previously.  It was a cute little dark gray field mouse, not more than two inches long (without its tail), but I am going to have to find a way to catch it and remove it.  I will set a live (no kill) trap next week and see if I can find it a nice field to live in somewhere far away from Butch and Fonda’s house and both of our buses.

It was still in the upper 40s and rather pleasant outside so I straightened up the back of my car rather than wait until morning.  After retiring to the guest bedroom I organized most of my clothes.  I should be packed and on the road about an hour after I get out of bed in the morning.

2014/10/24 (F) Around the World in 80 Days

As much as I have been traveling back and forth between Michigan and Indiana I feel as if I could circumnavigate the world in 80 days but today my “journey of a thousand miles” began with a 260 mile trip home.  I was up a little before 8 AM and finished packing all of my stuff in the guest bedroom and loading it into the car.  I gathered up some last minute laundry, foodstuffs, and recyclables and put those in the car as well.  I sat and chatted with Butch and Fonda until 9:10 AM and then said farewell until Sunday evening.  I pulled my car out its normal parking spot at 9:15 AM and headed east on SR-16.  I followed my usual route home from there: US-31 north to US-20 east to CR-17 north to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) east to I-69 north to I-96 east to M-59 east to Hacker Road south and then home.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Hand cut gaskets for upper piece of lighted entrance handle on our coach.

Our friend Kate had contacted us yesterday to see if we were available to go to the Meadow Brook Theater to see a live theatrical performance of an adaption of Jules Vern’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  Her cousin is working as an intern at the theater this season and was able to get courtesy tickets.  Linda was feeling well enough to go so we left early and stopped at a Panera on the way over to the theater where we met up with Kate.  The performance was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We wanted to have coffee together afterwards, but by the time we met her cousin and chatted for a while it was late and everything was closed.  Besides, we had an hour’s drive to get home and Kate probably had at least 90 minutes.

2014/10/25 (S) Here And There

Linda slept in to rest and try to recover from her cold so I went to the SLAARC Ham Radio Club Breakfast by myself.  She was awake by the time I got back and feeling well enough to run errands with me.  We stopped at Recycle Livingston and then picked up our new natural gas fireplace logs from Country Squire in Howell.  We got the business card of the independent technician who does installations for them and gave them a call to set up an appointment.  I left a message and they called us back later.  We stopped at our Bank of America branch enroute to Staples in Brighton in search of a larger size of graph paper, but they did not have the size I wanted.  I need larger paper to draw accurate designs for the custom desk/pantry and printer stand/table that we want to have made for our converted bus.  We fueled up at the Brighton Meijer’s and then bought groceries.  We needed a new coffee maker but decided not to purchase one until we had checked online.

Back home we searched for coffee makers in a white finish rather than black/stainless.  There were only a few choices and one of them was a Mr. Coffee programmable model that was available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  As long as we were looking for things online we found a pad of 50 sheets of 17″x22″ graph paper with a 1/4″ grid pattern and added that to our Amazon Prime shopping cart.  We also added a Camco RhinoFLEX RV sewer hose kit and various accessories.

Back side of house systems panel.  Bus conversions are complex.

Back side of house systems panel. Bus conversions are complex.

Linda had arranged for us to meet John and Diane at Camellia’s in Farmington Hills for dinner at 6 PM.  We left the house around 4 PM and stopped at the Brighton Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get the Mr. Coffee coffee maker.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Wixom and picked up the filters and then stopped at J. C. Penney’s at Twelve Oaks Mall for some necessary clothing items.  We headed into Farmington Hills but were still early for dinner so we drove through our old neighborhood, which is very close to the restaurant.  Our former across-the-street neighbor, Dan, was working on a car in his driveway so we stopped to chat.  While we were there the young man who bought our house arrived home on his motorcycle.  He never removed his helmet before putting the bike in the garage and shutting the door, so we never actually saw him.  Our daughter handled the closing in July 2013 since we were in Wyoming at the time, so we never meet the buyer or his parents.  He has apparently been a very quiet neighbor who keeps to himself.

We got to the restaurant shortly after 6 PM and John and Diane were already seated so we did not have to wait for a table.  We had the veggie fajitas, our standard choice at this particular Mexican restaurant.  While we were dining our friends, Jim and Kristine Gullen, came in and sat in a booth near us.  When we were done with dinner John and Diane headed to their house (nearby) and we lingered for a few minutes to chat with Jim and Kristine before joining them.  Diane had bought some Coconut Bliss Chocolate with Salted Caramel non-dairy “ice cream.”  It was the best vegan ice cream we have had.  By 10 PM we were all having trouble staying awake so we said farewell and headed for home and went quickly to bed.

2014/10/26 (N) Pack and Go

We both slept in this morning, the combined effect of being tired (both of us), sick (Linda), and having taken Tylenol PM last night (both of us, again).  In spite of her cold, Linda wanted to cook something for me before I took off again for Indiana, so she made her wonderful vegan blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  We used the new coffee maker and, as expected, the coffee tasted the same as with the old one.

After breakfast we sorted and folded laundry (we have such exciting lives) and I selected and packed the items I needed for the week ahead.  I had not copied photos from my laptop to the network drives since October 10th so I took care of that.  I also made more careful measurements of the dimensions of our color laser printer to use in refining the design of the printer cabinet for the bus.  Likewise, I took measurements of our Dewalt air compressor as I plan to build a wooden divider for the back of the Honda Element that will secure it on the floor and create space next to it and above it for storing other things.  Obviously the two rear seats will be removed when this insert is in use.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

Junction boxes for the ME-ARC remote (bottom) and the PI-EMS-50 (top)in the house systems panel.

By 2 PM I was ready to load the car so Linda helped me with that task.  I pulled out of the driveway at 2:16 PM and followed my usual route to Indiana: Hacker Road north to M-59 west to I-96 west to Lansing Road south to I-69 south to I-80/90 (Indiana Tollroad) to CR-17 south to US-20 west to US-31 south.  I exited US-31 at IN-25 (Rochester), topped off my fuel tank and then picked up fresh greens and fruit at the Kroger.  I headed south on IN-25 to Fulton where I took Aitken Road east to Meridian then headed south to SR-16 and finally headed east to Twelve Mile.

Butch and Fonda had their family holiday gathering today.  They had 27 family members in attendance during the day and for dinner but by the time I arrived (7:45 PM) everyone had left except Brittiny and Rock, and they departed while I was unpacking food and storing it in the coach.  I moved all of my clothes and technology into the guest bedroom, like I always do, and then visited with Butch and Fonda for a while before retiring to my room for the evening.  If the weather forecast holds true we have two unseasonably nice days in store on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week doesn’t look too bad either. We have a lot to do and could use some favorable weather.

2014/10/27 (M) Heat and Light

We had an unseasonably nice day for working outside.  It was already in the upper 40s when we got up and made it in to the 70s under partly cloudy skies with breezes from the southwest.  I was up before 8 AM and had my usual granola, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast and then got to work.

Butch worked most of the day on assembling the two fan-coil heat exchanger units that will get plumbed into their ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic furnace to provide heat to the house portion of their converted bus.  While he worked on that I worked on replacing our patio light.  The ballast on the old one was no longer working and the way the unit was designed it could not be replaced.  Butch happened to have an identical unit, so I used it as the replacement.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach.  Not pretty.

Old patio light fixture after being removed from the side of the coach. Not pretty.

The old unit was not removed from the coach when it was painted.  This was a nice idea at the time as it provided a paint seal on the top and both sides where the unit met the side wall of the bus.  Unfortunately, removing the unit required me to cut the paint seal with a very sharp knife.  The unit was secured with two screws, but it was stuck to the side of the coach with a generous amount of automotive putty.  Most of it came off with the fixture, but not all, so after I cut the two wires and removed the fixture I had to carefully scrape the rest of it off using the thin end of a wood shim.

I checked the voltage at the two wires coming out of the wall and I definitely had 13 VDC controlled by the same switch that turns the lighted entrance handle on and off.  I prepared the back of the new fixture using new automotive putty to create a seal all the way around the back at the outside edges.  I also placed a ring of putty around each of the screw holes in the back and the access hole for the wires.  I attached shielded spade lug disconnects to all four wires, held the fixture in place, and connected them.  I pressed the fixture into position, lined up the screw holes, and secured it.  I put the two F8T5 florescent tubes back in, snapped the cover back in place, and made sure the on/off pushbutton switch on the bottom was in the on position.  I then applied a bead of NAPA RTV Black Silicon Rubber sealant along the top seam and the two sides.  (Sorry Michele, but I had to make sure it was not going to leak.)

The switch that controls this light is one of three in a 3-gang box next to the passenger seat and is the one closest to the entrance door.  I had removed the cover plates last week so today I took another look and it appeared that the other two switches did not have any wires connected to them.  I removed them and that was indeed the case.  I think tomorrow I will re-wire this so the first switch controls only the lighted entrance handle and the second switch controls only the patio light.  If I cannot figure out something to control with the third switch I will probably leave it out and get a new cover plate that has two switch openings and a blank, assuming I can find one.

With the patio light project done Fonda helped me remove the fan belt and the two A-C compressor drive belts from the engine in our bus.  We put the two compressor drive belts (NAPA CG-96) back on but reversed their position.  The inside one seemed loose compared to the outside one last week and we wanted to see if switching them would fix that problem.  We then installed the new fan belt that I ordered/received last week.

I started the main engine and let it run for a while on high idle with the air-conditioning turned on to put some load on it.  The CG-96 that was now on the outside of the pulley still appeared to be looser than the other one, so I think I will order a replacement set.  The new fan belt ran very smoothly.  I turned the A-C off, dropped the idle down, and shut off the engine.  I started to close the rear access hatch but found that it was stiff and made a sound like an elephant trumpeting.  I sprayed some WD-40 on all the hinges and on the piston rods for the air springs.  I then put a small amount of NAPA Syl-Glide on the piston rods, worked them up and down a few times, and wiped off any excess.  The hatch now opens and closes smoothly and quietly with less effort.

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers.  MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

Butch pressure washing the radiators for his fan coil heat exchangers. MC-9 (L) and H3-40 (R).

While I was lubricating the hatch Butch was using a pressure washer to clean the radiators (heat exchangers) for their fan-coil units.  As long as he had it out, he sprayed around all of our front windshield seals while I looked for leaks inside.  We found three for sure.  One was in the upper inside corner of the lower driver-side windshield between the center pillar and the seal.  The second one was in the lower outside corner of the upper driver-side windshield between the seal and the glass.  We were not able to identify the point(s) of entry for the third one but it appeared to be somewhere above the upper windshields near the center pillar, a least that was where the water was coming in on the inside.  I cannot see the underside of the front cowling in that area and there are lots of places water could come in: five front marker lights, two upper windshield mounts, and perhaps a dozen screws on top of the front roof holding various things down.

Leaks are annoying and potentially destructive so I am still pondering what I want to do.  We have new windshield seals but have had trouble finding someone locally to install them.  For one thing, the bus really needs to be inside for that work and most glass shops, including ones that work on “semi tractors,” do not have overhead doors high enough for the bus.  I may make judicious use of the NAPA RTV Silicone Rubber sealant or I may just use black tape as a temporary fix.

When we were done checking the windshields I used the pressure washer to clean off the coach as best I could.  The last time it was cleaned was right before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort in early April and it had accumulated a few miles, bugs, and dirt in that time.

Because the weather was so nice Butch decided to replace a short section of badly deteriorated coolant hose on their engine rather than risk having it fail on the road.  He shut some valves to isolate the engine from the coolant lines that provide heat to the coach and drained quite a few gallons out of the engine (almost three 5-gallon buckets).  The old hose turned out to be extraordinarily difficult to remove. The new piece was no easier to get in and required modification of two parts.  This was definitely not a job you want to do on the side of the road in any kind of weather.

While Butch and Fonda worked on the coolant hose I tinkered in the dashboard area of my bus.  First I replaced a couple more bulbs in illuminated switches.  I then pulled the CB radio out of the dash to see how the coaxial cable (transmission line) was marked.  That allowed me to identify the other end in the old ceiling-mounted TV cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I also looked around in that cabinet for the other end of the coaxial cable that was once connected to the antenna for in-dash AM/FM radio/cassette/CD player.  I did not see anything that looked right, so I pulled the radio out of the dash (actually the whole panel along with four switches) to get the identifying marks off of it. Even with that information I was not able to locate the other end of the cable.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

Working on the bus and living in the bus are often not compatible.

By that point it was 6 PM and we had weather approaching from the southwest.  Clouds had moved in, greatly reducing our natural light, and gave the first indications of the rain that was forecast for the evening hours.  I will look again for the radio antenna cable tomorrow as I have a TuneTrapper antenna that I want to install on the underside of the front roof via the old TV cabinet and I need to plug it into the cable that goes to the radio.

I had a small glass of Moscato while I prepared my dinner.  I fixed a salad of power greens with peanuts, dried cranberries, and fresh diced onions and finished a bottle of Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.  I grabbed a can of Amy’s “No Chicken Noodle” soup, some crackers, my jar of peanut butter, and some ICE brand water and went inside to eat with Butch and Fonda.  I returned to the coach after dinner, cleaned up my dishes from the day, and bagged up my recyclables.  We bought a small container on Saturday that is intended for storing pet food but it has a gasketed lid with a snap latch that I thought would make a nice mouse-proof kitchen trash can.  (I figure the mouse will leave if it cannot get any food.)  Alas, the container does not fit in the base cabinet under the kitchen sink so it will likely end up being used for its intended purpose after all.

2014/10/28 (T) Under the Bus

In corporate life “getting thrown under the bus” is not a good thing, but if you are the owner/builder/maintainer of a converted highway coach, getting under the bus will eventually be a necessity.  Today was finally my day, but not until mid-afternoon.

The forecast for today was for rain in the morning tapering off to zero by noon and then turning sunny; and that is exactly the day we had.  Knowing that the morning would be wet, I took a couple of Tylenol PM last night and slept in a bit later than normal.  After my usual breakfast of granola, orange juice, and coffee, with some spicy V8 thrown in for good measure, I set to work on the interior of the old TV cabinet located above and behind the driver’s seat.

Yesterday I pulled the CB radio and the AM/FM radio out of the dashboard and identified how the coaxial antenna cable for each one was marked.  I located the cable for the CB in the TV cabinet but was not able to find the one for the AM/FM radio.  I got my twin tube florescent worklight and rigged up a couple of zip ties with mounting tabs to hang it from.  I looked again this morning but still could not locate the AM/FM radio antenna cable.  Rather than waste time not finding it I decided to organize the inside of the cabinet which has had an outlet strip, an OTA TV antenna controller, the Wi-Fi Ranger POE adapter, DC power supplies, and a mess of cable that has been lying around in it for a couple of years now.

Using the tab mount zip ties I coiled each cable and secured it to one of the two side walls.  The OTA TV antenna cable (signal and control) was very long, so I wound it around a 5-gallon plastic bucket to make a nice round, large coil.  The outlet strip had mounting slots on the back, so I mounted it to the wall on the lower half of the back of the cabinet.  The upper half of the back is open to the area above the driver and entrance stairs and under the front cap of the roof.

Late in the morning I took a break from the TV cabinet work and helped Butch cut access panels out of a 1/8″ aluminum sheet that will cover the inside of their entrance door.  We tried using a sabre saw but the only blade we had was not sharp enough or was the wrong type.  We used his Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade and it made much quicker, and surprisingly clean, cuts.  I then used Butch’s angle grinder to round the corners of the sheet and remove burrs from all of the cut edges.

I stopped for lunch around 2 PM and enjoyed a hummus and onion sandwich.  By the time I was done the day was as warm and sunny as it was going to get so I decided to scoot under the bus and measure the ride height linkages.  This was the first time I have been under the bus.  Please note that the bus was supported on four stands that Butch made for me out of 1/2″ steel plate and 4″ square steel tube with 1/2″ thick walls.  In other words, the bus was not supported by the tires and air springs so the bus would not move if there was a failure in one of those components.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

H3-40 front axle ride height valve and linkage.

The linkage in the front was easy as I could slide under the bus just in front of the driver side steer tire and then sit up between the front tires with lots of room to work.  The linkage is directly above the center of the front axle and connects the axle to a lever arm on an air valve that determines the amount of air that goes into the front airbags (when in drive mode), and thus sets the suspension at “ride height.”  Butch wanted me to remove the linkage but I chose not to.  As it turned out I should have and will probably slide back under the front tomorrow and remove it.

The rear linkages were much more difficult.  First of all, there are two on them, one for each end of the drive axle.  They are located just inside the body panel directly in front of the outside dual drive tire and are covered by a protective shield.  The shields are bolted on at four points, none of which are easy to reach and one of which ultimately required me to get under the rear end of the bus.  Access is much tighter here because of:  1) The dual drive tires on each end of the drive axle; 2) The drive axle carrier, and; 3) The exhaust pipe for the Aqua-Hot which runs under the bus from the passenger side to the driver side where it ends up next to the exhaust pipe from the generator.  I was able to scoot under the bus from the passenger side just in front of the drive tires, but just barely, and once I was under far enough to sit up there was much less room to work compared to the front.  Because of the difficulty of getting to the linkages to make an accurate measurement of the center-to-center distance between the mounting bolts I went ahead and unbolted them and removed them.

The linkages consist of a length of metal rod approximately 1/4” in diameter with a rubber bushing on each end that looks a bit like and eye-bolt.  The rubber bushings slip over the ends of the metal rods and are secured with band clamps.  They appear surprisingly fragile given the critical nature of their function, and Butch has already had one that was only a couple of year’s old break on their coach.  He ordered metal versions in both left-hand and right-hand threads and is going to assemble replacements using threaded rod and stop nuts.  With a left-hand threaded bushing on one end and a right-hand threaded bushing on the other end we will be able to turn the threaded rod one way to increase the distance between the two mounting bolts and the other way to shorten it, affecting both ends equally in the process.  The stop nuts will lock the bushings relative to the threaded rod so they do not move in operation.  All-in-all this will be a neat little project.

In spite of the lovely weather Butch needed to get to the NAPA store in Logansport before they closed at 5:30 PM.  At 4:30 PM I wrapped up my work with the linkages, put all of my tools away, washed up, and grabbed my wallet, cell phone, and shopping list.  We got to the NAPA store a little after 5 PM and took care of our business there.  We then headed to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store for a few other things.  I called Linda and chatted briefly with her and was relieved to hear that she sounded, and was feeling, considerably better.  Butch called Jaral Beatty to see if he had finished cutting the oak valences for the front of their bus.  He had, so we swung by Jaral’s shop to pick them up.

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed.  Look ma, no wires!

Front flat-panel TV/monitor with cabinet door closed. Look ma, no wires!

While we were at Jaral’s he ripped a nice piece of 3/4″ thick oak for me to just under 3″ wide.  The piece was about 4′ long and he did not charge me for it.  I plan to attach this piece of wood to the center windshield pillar and use it as a mounting plate for a compass, flat panel monitor, PressurePro TPMS receiver, and the mirror that is currently mounted at the intersection of the four windshields.  I have to do this, of course, in such a way that it does not obscure my vision while driving.  From Jaral’s shop we went to Home Depot where I bought a thin (1″ thick), 13″ long, under-cabinet, single-tube florescent, AC powered light fixture.  I also got a blade for my Porter-Cable oscillating saw.

When we got back to Twelve Mile a little after 7 PM Fonda started preparing their dinner and I did the same.  I had a nice salad of power greens with onions, dried cranberries, and roasted peanuts topped with a sweet and sour dressing.  I also had a bowl of Thai Kitchen spring onion soup, some canned pears, and half a piece of pita pocket bread.  After dinner I washed my recyclable containers and went back to the coach for a while where I cleaned and dried a few utensils.  I then mounted the new light fixture in the TV cabinet.  As I expected, it provides very nice illumination for the entire inside of the cabinet.

Depending how the day goes tomorrow I plan to continue working in the front TV cabinet.  I would like to mount the TuneTrapper AM/FM antenna and get it connected to the AM/FM radio.  Butch’s brother, Tom, is coming over sometime during the day to winterize his motorhome.  Butch called and asked him to bring the faceplate from an old Kenwood radio that he had that was very similar to the one in our dashboard.  The backlight illumination bulb is burned out on ours.  I also need to create an access slot in the door for cables to pass between the back of the flat panel TV (which is mounted to the outside of the door) and the inside of the cabinet.  To create this access slot I will have to drill holes centered along a line and then use Butch’s root-zip tool to connect the holes into a slot.  The bushings for the ride height linkages are supposed to be in tomorrow, so we will be making a morning trip towards Kokomo to pick them up.  Butch is also trying to tap into the engine coolant loop that provides OTR heat for their bus as part of the Oasis Combi installation, so it is likely to be a very full day.

2014/10/29 (W) Outside In

My main project today was once again the front TV cabinet only this time the focus was on cutting a horizontal opening in the door behind the flat panel TV that is mounted on the outside of the door.  The approach I used was to drill two 1″ holes, one at either end of a horizontal line, and then use a roto-zip tool as a mini-router to connect the tops of the holes together and the bottoms of the holes together, creating a horizontal slot with rounded ends.  The slot is below the horizontal center line of the TV set and offset to the left (as viewed from the front of the TV) to line up with the area on the back of the set where the power, video, and data cables exit downward.  The position of the slot allows them to gently bend and pass from the outside of the cabinet to the inside of the cabinet where they get connected.  This also allows the cabinet door to be closed and latched with none of the cables visible.  It sounds simple but it took me a good part of the day to get it done.  We have a second flat panel TV in the bedroom mounted on a similar door that covers another old TV cabinet.  Cutting a similar slot in that door is on my task list for tomorrow.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10" CRT was mounted.

Front TV cabinet; making use of the space where the 10″ CRT was mounted.

When I wasn’t working on the TV cabinet I spent a few minutes learning how to use an air-powered cutoff tool and giving Butch a break by using it to help cut off a piece of the center tunnel sidewall in their passenger side front bay.  Butch is removing this panel in order to gain access to the engine coolant lines that provide heat for the bus when it is underway.  He needs to tie a stacked-plate heat exchanger into these lines as part of the ITR Oasis Combi hydronic heating system installation.

Butch spent most of his day working on their Suburban installing a Ready-Brake auxiliary braking system and extra rear lights for towing.  I checked in with him from time to time, but he was either in the middle of one-person tasks or had Fonda helping him.  Late in the afternoon we rolled his Ryobi belt sander out of the warehouse and used it to sand his two valence boards and my piece of oak that we picked up yesterday from Jarel.  We had to change the sanding belt and it took us a few tries to get it right, but it did a nice job on the boards once we had a good piece of sandpaper on it.

By the time we finished it was twilight and very cool.  Tom and Tracy showed up about then to winterize their motorhome.  There was a locked cover over the fresh water fill connector and none of Tom’s keys would open it.  I got a long flat-blade screwdriver and was able to slip it up under the cover and pop the lock.  I left the winterizing to Butch and Tom and retreated to my coach to putter and contemplate (and eat) at a lovely 67 degrees F.  The Aqua-Hot has been working very reliably, cycling on and off automatically in response to the space and water heating demands of the coach.

Tom brought an old Kenwood car stereo that he got from Butch a while back.  Although similar in appearance to our Kenwood dashboard radio, it was not similar enough.  The electrical connector on the back of the removable faceplate was in a different location than ours.  I had a Singapore Noodles dish in the coach and then made a salad to take into the house and dine with Butch and Fonda.  It was after 9 PM by the time we were done eating and I turned in for the night shortly thereafter.


2014/10/01-07 Bus Work Plus

This post covers October 1 – 7, 2014

2014/10/01 (W) Aqua-Hot (Plus)

I woke up this morning sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 AM and worked for a while in the bedroom.  By 8:30 AM I heard voices, which meant Butch and Fonda were up and dressed, so I emerged from the guest bedroom to see what the plans were for the day.  I knew they would involve trying to fix our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system, but I was not sure exactly how that work would proceed.

The first task, however, was to have breakfast.  Granola with fresh blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries, plus orange/grapefruit juice and coffee.  Ahhh, coffee.  I did not get any yesterday, so I enjoyed having some this morning.

Butch & Fonda's Aqua-Hot in a bay of their MC-9.

Butch & Fonda’s Aqua-Hot in a bay of their MC-9.

Sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 AM Butch and I got to work on the Aqua-Hot situation.  We tried firing up my unit multiple times but it would not ignite and we had no evidence of fuel getting to the nozzle.  Butch added water to his unit and fired it up just to verify that it worked.  We unplugged the controllers from both units and connected my controller to his unit to see if the controller was the problem.  It wasn’t; his unit ran fine with either controller.  We put his controller on my unit, just to check, but the unit still would not ignite.

We decided that the most expedient course of action was to simply install his burner in my unit.  That was the point at which we realized that our units are not identical.  Ours is an AHU-103-000, originally made in the late 1980’s and early 990’s while theirs is an AHE-100-02s (?? check this).  The differences are minor but important, namely:

  • the fuel connections into and out of the burner are not the same so our fuel lines would not connect directly to their burner.
  • their burner had two fuel lines that ran down to bulkhead connectors while our unit did not use bulkhead connectors.

I had agreed to buy their entire Aqua-Hot to use for spare parts, so we started by removing the burner from our unit and setting it aside.  My plan is to repair it eventually or disassemble it for parts.  The problem is that I suspect the fuel pump and/or fuel valve and/or fuel valve solenoid are defective so I would have to determine whether that is the case.

Removing our burner was a bit more complicated that we thought it would be.  Besides the fuel lines, which had to disconnected and plugged, we had to disconnect a wiring harness that had four wires running into the main boiler box for the temperature control thermostat and over-temperature safety thermostat.  These wires were terminated in female spade connectors pushed on to the male spade lugs on the thermostats.  Rather than try to feed them through the small hole in the case I made a diagram of which color wire went where and then cut the connectors off allowing the wires to pull out easily.  We had to repeat this procedure on Butch’s burner.  Quite a bit of diesel fuel leaked out of various fuel lines and I kept soaking it up with paper towels.  With our burner out of the way we evaluated the situation and decided to take care of two other issues before proceeding with the Aqua-Hot.  That’s how it goes with bus projects.

The first issue was the check valve on the Parker FPM-50 Fuel Polishing Module installation, which had been leaking at the gasket between the two halves of the body since I had redone the fittings and reinstalled it.  I had a new (unused) check valve that I should have installed when I redid the fittings, but I didn’t.  The fuel line on the inflow side of the check valve was already loose so we disconnected the other end.  That allowed us to work in the shop with a vice to help hold parts.  We removed the fittings from the old check valve, cleaned them up, and assembled them to the new check valve using pipe thread compound rather than Teflon tape.  We then reassembled the new check valve assembly back into the FPM-50 system.  We turned the FPM-50 on and did not have any leaks; finally.

The second issue was related to the fresh (potable) water plumbing.  When we purchased the coach five years ago the fresh water system had two 12VDC water pumps plumbed in parallel with independent shutoff valves for the input and output sides of the pumps.  The system also had a surge tank.  Last spring (or fall?) I had replaced these two pumps with a single Shur-Flo 4048 model, removed the surge tank (which was not needed or recommended for the 4048), and used flexible hoses and various adapters to get the new pump connected in to the existing plumbing, including plugs to seal unused fittings.  That left a lot of plumbing in this part of the bay (just off the end of the Aqua-Hot) that did not perform any useful function and was in the way of other things, like the FPM-50.

All of the original plumbing in the coach is Quest, which is no longer made.  After studying the system for a while Butch realized that that Quest tubing at the valve on the end of the outlet hose had to be connected by being slipped over a barbed fitting and tightened with a swaged band.  If we could cut the band and get the fitting out of the tubing we could cut a different section of tubing, allowing us to remove all of the unnecessary plumbing, reinsert the barbed fitting into the cut line, and put a clamp on it to seal it.  Butch had a special tool for clamping bands on PEX tubing and it appeared that the bands were a compatible size for the Quest tubing.  He also had his tubing cutter handy, so we removed the band (which was copper and easily cut), and proceeded as just described.  The PEX band swaged down nicely and passed the “Go /No-Go” test (a special tool that gages the clamped band to ensure it is tight enough without being too tight).

We turned the water pump on and had a leak at the plastic double-ended male nipple between the end of the hose and the Quest fitting.  With the pump off Butch removed the hose and then the nipple.  It was cross-threaded but the threads were OK.  Both the hose and the fitting are sealed by rubber gaskets anyway, not by the threads, so I reassembled the three pieces snug but not over tight.  I turned the water pump on (up in the house portion of the coach) with Butch watching for leaks and we did not have any.  It was shaping up to be a very good day.

With those two issues resolved, and lots more room to work on my Aqua-Hot, we removed the bulkhead fittings from Butch’s unit and cleaned them up with a wire brush wheel in his shop.  Butch reassembled some of the parts in the shop with pipe thread compound and I installed them in two unused bulkhead holes in our unit.  I then threaded in the two final fittings on the outside of the unit and had Butch do the final tightening.  He is stronger than I am, and very experienced at working with this sort of technology, so he has a good feel for how tight things need to be and can make them to correct tightness.

It was finally time to install their burner in our unit.  I stripped the ends of the wires that go into the burner box, set the burner roughly in place, taped the wires to a piece of plastic banding, and fished the wire harness up into the boiler box.  Butch installed the new female spade connectors onto the wires while I was doing something else, but I do not recall what it was.  I installed the connectors onto the mating pieces on the temperature limit switches.  (Because of the way my Aqua-Hot is installed I have to work bent over at the waist.  This is very hard on Butch’s back, and by the end of the day my back was a bit sore and stiff as well.)

The burner assembly is held against the combustion chamber by two captive bolts that swing into position.  The bolts have flanged nuts on them that tighten down and hold the burner snug to the boiler.  Because our unit is installed “sideways” it is very difficult to see and reach the nut on the lower back side of the burner.  The nuts are 10mm (Webasto is a German company) and a ratchet with a 10″ extension is needed to reach them.  I found the best way to attach the burner was to hold it in position with my left hand, get the upper/outside bolt in position with my right hand, and then run the nut down with my right hand, but not too tight.  I continued to support the burner with my left hand while I reached over the top to find the other bolt by feel, flip it into position, and tighten the nut enough to keep it from slipping off.

I knew I had to be very careful with these bolts as over tightening them can crack the mounting flange on the combustion chamber; a big mistake.  I held the burner with my left hand and made sure it was fully and properly aligned with the combustion chamber flange and then alternately snugged the two nuts down.  The specifications on these nuts is for “20 to 40 inch-pounds.”  That is not a lot of torque.  Butch had a really good digital readout torque wrench, but it only went down to 60 in-lbs, so I had to guess.

With burner re-installed, Butch attached the two burner fuel lines to the appropriate bulkhead fittings.  These are flare connectors so they did not use pipe thread compound.  I then attached the supply and return fuel lines to the appropriate fittings on the outside of the bulkhead connectors.  These were barbed fittings that the rubber fuel lines slipped over and were secured with band clamps.

We turned the unit on (in the coach) but it did not fire.  One concern, which I will remedy tomorrow, was that the level of fuel in the tank might be close to the lower end of the pickup tube for the Aqua-Hot.  These tubes are usually installed so that accessory devices, like heaters and generators, cannot use the last 1/4 tank of fuel, ensuring that there is fuel available to start the main engine and travel a reasonable distance (to get more fuel).  It took three tries to get it to ignite and when it did it produced a lot of white smoke, which is unburned fuel.

While the unit was running Butch checked the exhaust leak and said it appeared to be under the coach, not up at the Aqua-Hot itself.  That was a lucky break and big relief.  The beginning of the exhaust pipe slips over a pipe thread nipple that is threaded into an elbow and is secured with an exhaust pipe clamp.  Butch saw telltale streaks of black soot indicating that exhaust gases were leaking out at this point.  We shut the unit off and let it cool down enough that I could remove the pipe clamp securing the exhaust pipe to the nipple.  Both bolts were very rusty, and did not come off easily, but I got them off.  Butch had one clamp of the correct size on-hand so I installed it.  I will get a second clamp tomorrow when we go to town, plus a replacement if a Butch wants one.

We turned the unit back on and again it did not want to ignite.  Butch though it was a fuel delivery problem, such as a loss of prime, or perhaps air was getting into the line.  After a couple of attempts I turned the Parker FPM-50 on and let it run for a while, thinking that it might re-prime the line.  I turned it off after 10 minutes and turned the Aqua-Hot on.  It went through a long pre-combustion purge stage and then finally ignited.  It produced copious amounts of white smoke initially, but after 10 minutes there were no visible exhaust fumes.  Butch is suspicious of the FPM-50, either the unit itself or the installation, but I have run the Aqua-Hot successfully many times subsequent to its installation until it failed to fire this summer.  Clearly the situation requires further investigation which will happen tomorrow or Friday, depending on the weather.

The unit heated up fully and shut off automatically after which I turned it off.  I then mounted my burner onto Butch’s combustion chamber, both to protect it and to make sure some small animal did not take up residence in the combustion chamber.  The only thing left to do on our Aqua-Hot was to mount the new Oasis expansion reservoir.  We determined that we could mount it to the side of the unit with short sheet metal screws.  I held it in place and marked the hole locations, center-punched them, and drilled the out using a bit that Butch gave me.  The housing is stainless steel and was difficult to drill even though it was thin.  I had 1/2″ screws and Butch found some washers.  It took some fiddling, but I finally got it attached through all eight holes.  We will switch the overflow tube from the undersized reservoir that came with the coach to the much larger Oasis reservoir tomorrow after the unit has cooled down overnight and drawn most (all) of the coolant back into the boiler.  I put the cover back on the burner end, we put our tools away, and called it a day.  And a good day it was.

Butch’s brother, Tom, and his wife, Tracey, came over during the late afternoon.  It was 7 PM by the time we were done working, so we got cleaned up (sort of) and drove down to the Old Mill Restaurant just west of town on SR-16.  I had a small pizza, no cheese, with onions and mushrooms.  They made the crust thinner than their usual and it baked up very nicely.  Once we got back to the house I worked on this post while Butch dealt with e-mail and Fonda worked on the wedding dress she is making for their daughter Jean, who is getting married just before Thanksgiving.  After we turned in for the night I off-loaded all of the photos I took of our day’s work and then went to sleep.

Our Aqua-Hot in a bay of our Prevost H3-40.

Our Aqua-Hot in a bay of our Prevost H3-40.

2014/10/02 (R) Aqua-Hot (Or Not)

I was up at 7:30 AM and fixed breakfast in the coach at 8; granola with fresh blueberries, red raspberries, blackberries, and almond milk.  A glass of orange/grapefruit juice, but no coffee.

Butch and I left at 9 AM to run errands in Logansport.  He stopped at a filling station that sold kerosene and bought four gallons.  I will explain why later.  I got a big cup of coffee there and it was a decent brew.  Our next stop was NAPA Auto Parts where I bought a 1.75 inch exhaust pipe (muffler) clamp and Butch picked up some things he had ordered.  Next stop; Rural King.  We do not have this chain anywhere near where we live.  It’s a kind of hardware, sporting, and home goods store that carries an interesting assortment of items that might be of use to farmers.  It’s not a fancy store, but it carries a lot of stuff and is well organized.  Butch needed some carpet tacks and I bought a fruit fly trap and an insect fogger.  Rural King also has free popcorn.  (Now you know the real reason we stop there.)  I got some on the way in and on the way out.  🙂  Our last stop was at Aldi’s where Butch picked up some things they needed for their dinner tonight.

When we got back to Twelve Mile I changed clothes and got to work.  The weather forecast was for rain and warm temperatures.  Rain had already wet the pavement around the buses so Butch gave me a large sheet of corrugated plastic to lie on while I installed the muffler clamp on the Aqua-Hot exhaust pipe.  I installed it next to the one I put on yesterday but pointing in the opposite direction.  These clamps are just “U” bolts with a matching saddle that completes the other half of a circle when slipped over the U-bolt and tightened with the nuts.

The Aqua-Hot had cooled off overnight and suctioned all of the coolant in the expansion reservoir back into the boiler.  That allowed me to disconnect the overflow tube from the bottom of the reservoir with a minimum of mess and attach it to the main fitting on the new Oasis tank.  I added a 50/50 mix of water and ethylene glycol antifreeze to the tank until the level was halfway between “minimum cold” and “maximum cold.”  This should have been the final Aqua-Hot task, but it would not ignite when turned on even though it worked yesterday after the burner swap.

I removed the service cover and Butch and I started to puzzle out what the problem might be.  When I turned the switch on at the dashboard the blower came on immediately but the fuel valve apparently did not open.  We don’t know if the spark igniter was working, but the burner never lit and eventually the blower shut off.  When that happens, the controller “locks out” the unit from even attempting to turn on again and I have to turn the switch off to clear the lockout and then turn it back on.

Butch had me disconnect the supply and return fuel lines on the outside of the bulkhead and replace them with clear fuel lines about 5 feet long so they would reach into the bottom of the kerosene container.  (Remember the kerosene Butch bought earlier?  Now you know what it was for.  He will eventually use it to fuel a heater.)  He thought we might have an air leak in the fuel lines/connections and the clear fuel lines would allow us to see the air bubbles.  By drawing kerosene out of the container, pumping it through the unit, and returning it to the container we could recirculate it indefinitely as long as none of it was being burned.  Even with combustion taking place most of the fuel gets returned as the unit only burns fuel at the rate of 1/4 gallon per hour.

With the kerosene setup we had taken the coach’s diesel fuel lines, including the Parker Fuel Polishing Module, completely out of the system.  Butch suspected the FPM-50 might be the culprit and thus did not except to see air bubbles, but we did; a lot of them.  And the unit still wasn’t firing.  We were perplexed and a bit frustrated.  On the other hand, it appeared that the FPM-50 was no the culprit, or at least not the only culprit.

Since his burner had always worked well in his unit we figured the problem had to be something in my unit.  Butch got the service manual for his unit, which is almost identical to mine, and we started looking at wiring diagrams.  The units have four thermostats; two for the diesel burner and two for the 120VAC electric heating element.   We thought those might be the problem and checked the two for the burner but they were OK and appeared to be functioning correctly.  There are also six fuses.  I pulled and checked each one and they were also OK.  When Butch works on his unit he often starts it by connecting a jumper wire across the two terminals for the switch wires to save himself the trip to the bus (where the switch is located) and back to the bay (where the unit is located).  He connected a jumper wire across the switch terminals on my unit and it fired up after the normal 25 second purge cycle.  It was good that it started, but not good that we did not know why.

We were still seeing a lot of air in the kerosene and Butch decided to remove the secondary fuel filter from its holder and change its orientation so the output was lower than the input, ensuring the outlet was covered by fuel.  The air bubbles lessened considerably when he did this but did not clear up completely and the unit was producing a lot of white smoke (unburned fuel).  It always produces some on startup until the combustion chamber heats up, so we decided to let it run.  The exhaust fumes eventually cleared up and the coolant eventually expanded to within 1.5 inches of the top of the (new) overflow reservoir when the unit reached maximum operating temperature, automatically shut off the burner, and completed the purge cycle.

We wanted to cool it down so we could test it again so I removed the jumper wire to keep it from restarting.  I then opened all of the coach windows, opened all three ceiling vents, turned the ceiling exhaust fans on high, turned the three Aqua-Hot house thermostats on, and turned them up to their highest temperature settings.  I also turned on the engine pre-heat coolant circulating pump.  As the unit cooled down it started drawing the coolant from the reservoir back into the unit.  We turned the unit on using the switch at the dashboard and it fired up.  At this point we had not found anything wrong and had not fixed anything, but it seemed to once again be working correctly.  While the unit was heating up and cooling down Butch repaired a flat tire on a semi-trailer that they used to store parts for their business.

I still had the fan coil heat exchangers and the engine pre-heat running to cool the unit down.  The power for these units, and for the coolant circulation pumps, is independent of the diesel burner as the Aqua-Hot can also be heated by an electric element and by the main engine.  When the unit had cooled sufficiently I removed the temporary fuel supply line and reattached the supply line from the diesel fuel system.  I left the clear fuel return line connected at the bulkhead.  I removed the heavy rubber fuel line from the bottom of the FPM-50 check valve, cut the clear line to a workable length, and attached it to the bottom of the check valve.  By leaving the section of clear line in place we would still be able to monitor for air bubbles.

After cleaning up diesel fuel that had leaked out of hoses and fittings I turned the burner on using the front switch.  The unit immediately came to life and the burner ignited the way it is supposed to.  We still had some air bubbles in the return line, but no worse than before until I moved the secondary fuel filter back into its normal horizontal position.  That created a lot of air bubbles so I moved it back so the outlet was lower than the inlet.  I am suspicious of this filter and/or the lines attached to it.  The unit was working and there was no point in bringing it up to full temperature so I shut it off and installed the service cowling.  It will be interesting to see if it ignites tomorrow morning when it is cold.

Butch and Fonda worked on uninstalling their Aqua-Hot while I unloaded most of the parts, supplies, and tools from my car and put them on a cart in their now mostly empty warehouse.  As I was finishing it started to rain lightly.  We quickly gathered up our tools, stowed our tool boxes, closed up our bus bays, and moved everything else into the garage.  I shut off the ceiling exhaust fans, closed the vents, and then closed all of the coach windows.  I shut off the three house thermostats and the engine pre-heat pump and then moved my car back to its usual parking spot.  By that point it was raining harder.

Today was Fonda’s birthday but they did not have any special meal plans.  Around 4:15 PM I decided to go fill the fuel tank on the coach.  Gallahan’s Truck Stop is only 10 miles from their house and an easy run there and back on SR-16 and US-31.  I arrived on Tuesday with only 3/8ths of a tank and I wanted to eliminate the main tank fuel level as a potential source of the no-fire problem.  I was going to need fuel anyway for the trip to Elkhart and back next week and any subsequent movement of the bus.  I texted Linda from the truck stop to let her know it was Fonda’s birthday and suggested that she call their house later.

Butch and Fonda had leftovers while I was out so I dined alone in the coach.  I had a large green salad, some pretzels with hummus, and a tofu hot dog.  Apple cider and reheated apple/pear crisp topped off the meal.  Yum.  I brought my dishes and cutlery in the house and washed them.

Linda called while I was eating so I did not get to talk to her.  Butch was very tired and turned in early so I chatted with Fonda for a while about their various family members, many of whom I have met over the years, and what they were up to before retiring to my room to check e-mail and work on this post.  Although not as productive as yesterday it was still a long and tiring one.  Actually the days when you don’t feel like you have accomplished anything definitive are the hardest.

2014/10/03 (F) The Other Bus

I got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed to work, and then spent a half hour doing some preliminary packing.  I had breakfast in the coach (granola with fresh berries) and was enjoying my first cup of coffee while cleaning up a few dishes when Butch knocked on the door.  He was curious if I had tried starting my Aqua-Hot.  I had not, so I turned on the switch for the diesel burner.  The blower came on right away and then the burner ignited after a short purge cycle of perhaps 15 seconds.  The combustion was clean on startup with no visible exhaust smoke.  I checked the expansion reservoir and the coolant level had dropped overnight to the “minimum cold” reference mark.  The unit was running well and I left it on to complete a full heating cycle.

When I arrived in Twelve Mile on Tuesday I noticed some small flies in the kitchen as I was setting up the interior.  We had not used the coach since mid-June and had left a couple of windows slightly open to keep it aired out and prevent it from getting too hot.  We did not turn the refrigerator off, which adds heat to the interior.  The windows have screens, but the little bugs could have gained access through any number of places.  I set up the fruit fly trap I bought yesterday to try and rid the coach of the little bugs.

I also bought a fogger yesterday that I had planned to use today just before leaving for home, but the directions said to only leave the fog for two hours and then ventilate the space.  There were also cautions about removing/protecting food and cooking/eating utensils and eliminating ignition sources, including the refrigerator.  The refrigerator (and freezer) are full of food so that was more trouble than I was prepared for today.  I put dryer sheets in the cabinets under both sinks (kitchen and bathroom) and in the bay by the Aqua-Hot.  We found several acorns inside the Aqua-Hot when I removed the service cowling on Wednesday and I have read that animals do not like these dryer sheets.  The sheets cannot do any harm so there was no down side to trying this.

Our major focus today was two interior projects in Butch and Fonda’s bus, a 1987 MCI MC-9 Crusader II NJT (New Jersey Transit).  Like most owner-converted buses, it started life as a seated coach in revenue service and got a lot of use over the years before being sold for a small fraction of its original cost.  In the case of their coach the New Jersey Transit Authority ordered a large number of these MC-9 model coaches with special modifications for use as commuter buses, as opposed to a city bus or a tour bus.  The MC-9 proved to be a reliable coach and used ones make an excellent but economical platform for a DIY conversion project.

They needed help installing a piece of “FRP” (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) on a section of wall.  They have used this material, in white and almond, for wall paneling and as a ceiling headliner.  The material comes in 4’x8′ panels and is flexible but durable.  It brightens the interior, as it reflects light, and is very easy to clean.  The piece had to be fitted, marked, and trimmed several times.  This project occupied Fonda for much of the day, Butch for some of the day, and me for a small part of the day.

Butch & Fonda's MC-9 conversion in the process of being wired.

Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 conversion in the process of being wired.

The other project was electrical wiring for switched kitchen outlets and the ceiling lights in the kitchen and living room.  I spent most of the day working on this.  Butch had finally decided that I know enough about electrical work that I can be entrusted with these tasks.  He is using Wiremold surface mount boxes and wire channels, which makes a lot of sense in a bus conversion where you cannot necessarily run wires through the walls of the bus.

Butch had previously installed Wiremold 2-gang base plates for electrical boxes to hold switches and outlets.  We routed electrical cable (10, 12, and 14 AWG wire, both NM cable and separate conductors) between base plates and the AC power distribution boxes.  I wired up outlets and switches and tied in lines and loads.

Larry “the scrap metal guy” showed up about noon so Butch had to use the forklift to load a pallet of old Crosley radiator cores into Larry’s truck.  After Larry left Butch used the forklift to remove their Aqua-Hot from their bus.  Fonda and I helped get it off the forklift into the back of my Honda Element after which we returned to our electrical and paneling work.

I quit working around 2:15 PM, changed out of my work clothes into something cleaner and more comfortable for driving, and washed up.  I finished packing and then loaded the car for the trip home.  I had planned to leave at 3:00 PM and pulled out of their parking area at 2:59 PM.  I did not have lunch and would not be having dinner until 8 PM, so 30 miles up the road I stopped at a BP/McDonald’s, topped off the fuel tank, and had some French fries.  The stop added 30 minutes to my ETA but it took the edge off of my hunger which made for a more comfortable drive.

On the drive home I suddenly had the vague feeling that I had not turned off the 12VDC fresh water pump in the bus.  I called Butch and had him check it.  As I suspected, it was on so he switched it off.  The only reason this was a concern was that a leak downstream of the pump would result in the (full) fresh water tank eventually being pumped dry (lots of water flowing somewhere) and the pump then continuing to run until it burned out or burned up (fire?).

A little farther down the road it occurred to me that leaving the Aqua-Hot turned on tomorrow, while Butch and Fonda were gone for most of the day, was probably also not the best idea I’ve had recently.  I stopped at the Travel America on M-60 at I-69 and called Butch again to ask him to turn the Aqua-Hot off in the morning right before they left.

On the drive home fall was definitely in the air and perhaps even an early touch of winter.  I drove through heavy, blinding rain with strong cross winds just northeast of Elkhart, Indiana and was in and out of rainy/windy conditions for most of the drive in Michigan.  I called Linda as I passed Charlotte, Michigan which was less than an hour from the house.  I got home at 8:10 PM and she had dinner waiting which was nice.  We had a green salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable pizza.  After dinner I unloaded everything from the car except the few tools I had brought back with me, and the defective Aqua-Hot.  We were both tired after long days and turned in early.

2014/10/04 (S) Chores

It continued to rain overnight and into this morning and we awoke to temperatures in the upper 30’s (F).  We went to our ham radio club breakfast and lingered until 10:15; longer than usual.  When we left we headed to Country Squire in downtown Howell to pick up the hose and cover for the Broil King outdoor grill.  We stopped at the bank and then at Teeko’s for three pounds of fresh roasted coffee beans.  Our last stop was Meijer’s, just across the street from Teeko’s, to stock up on non-perishable food for me for the next week.  While we were there I got a phone call from Chuck and agreed to meet him at his bus garage at 1 PM.  By this time it was already 11:30 AM.  We unloaded groceries at home and had a quick lunch of hummus, chips, and grapes. I left at 12:30 PM and Linda settled in for the afternoon to work on her bakery project.

Chuck had re-installed his repaired tachometer and installed his new VDO speedometer and I wanted to see how the speedometer/odometer was wired and get the model number.  It was a VDO-437-152 85mm 85/130 (MPH/KPH).  Chuck had also purchased a dual multistage battery maintenance charger and we had a long chat about where to install it and how to wire it in.  While I was there Linda sent a text message asking me to pick up rolled oats so she could make another batch of granola.

I stopped at the Meijer’s in Wixom, topped off my fuel tank, and bought three bags of Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats and two bottles of wine.  Back home I started doing the laundry and working on my computer off-loading photos from my camera.  Linda wrapped up her work and took a break to read before starting dinner.  I backed the car up to the garage and we unloaded the spare Aqua-Hot onto a wheeled platform.  The unit was very heavy, but we got it out and down safely.

For dinner, Linda made a nice green salad, cooked up a really yummy squash we had not tried before, and made seitan stroganoff served over basmati rice.  After dinner she read and played online word games with her friends and relatives while I edited blog posts at my computer.  I brought the laundry up and Linda helped get my clothes packed for tomorrow.  Butch called to let me know that they were back from their family reunion and the Aqua-hot started right up when he turned it on.  Cool (hot).

2014/10/05 (N) Indiana Bound

Linda helped me get partially packed yesterday and I stayed up later last night than I should have, so I slept in a little bit this morning, but the smell of coffee brewing and breakfast cooking got me out of bed.  Linda made a tofu scramble with onions, mushrooms, and green peppers and served it with toast and coffee.  That was a nice way to start the day.

After breakfast I checked e-mail and then started gathering up the remaining items I needed to take with me to Indiana.  I had more clothes than the last trip since I would be gone seven nights rather than three and I would be involved in working on buses initially and then attending a rally.  This time of year the clothing needed to work outdoors can also vary considerably from day to day and even during the course of a day.

By 11:30 AM I was ready to load everything into the car.  Bags of food went on the floor in front of the passenger seat, my computer and carry bag went on the passenger seat, and the suitcases and bag of shoes and coats went behind the front seats.  I then backed the car up to the garage and loaded the items we hoped to get rid of at the FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) Surplus and Salvage Rally later in the week.

With the car packed, Linda reheated the seitan stroganoff from last night for lunch.  Even left over it was delicious.  By the time we finished eating and cleaning up it was 1:15 PM.  There wasn’t anything left to do at home, and Linda was waiting for me to leave before she got to work on the bakery software conversion project, so a farewell-until-later kiss sent me on my way.  I pulled out of the driveway at 1:24 PM.

The weather looked and felt more like early winter than early fall with moderately strong coldish winds moving an endless layer of mottled gray clouds from west to east.  It was neither gloomy nor foreboding but had that wintery edge to it.  I thought about alternate routes out of town but decided to take Hacker Road to M-59 the same way I do in the bus.  Most of my route was the usual; M-59 west to I-96 west to I-69 south to M-60 where I stopped at a McDonalds to rest and get a cup of coffee.  I then took M-60 west through Three Rivers to M-40 where I made a rest stop and topped off the gas tank at the Shell station.  Regular was $3.19, a price I have not seen in quite some time.  I took M-40 south seven miles to US-12 and headed west to M-217 (the Michiana Parkway) which runs south into Indiana where it becomes CR-17.  Instead of continuing on to US-20, however, I took CR-4 west to Elkhart Campground.

I stopped at the campground to make a reservation for Wednesday through Sunday (for the rally) but found out that I did not need one.  I confirmed the availability of 50A electrical service while I was there, took the opportunity for a pit stop, texted a trip update to Linda, and then continued my trip to Twelve Mile, Indiana.  Since I was in Elkhart and had a good phone signal I called Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint to remind her that I would be in Elkhart later in the week and that we had talked about getting together to review and finalize an article I had written some time ago on the process of renovating the exterior of our coach.

I took SR-19 south through Elkhart to US-20 west to US-31 south. The conversation with Michele lasted about three quarters of the way to Twelve Mile where I finally reached an area with no Verizon cell phone service.  (I find it odd that there is any stretch of US-31 without Verizon service as it is the major connection between Indianapolis and South Bend.)  I exited at Rochester onto SR-25 south and took that as far as Fulton where I took a couple of small county (farm) roads down to SR-16 at a point slightly west of Twelve Mile and drove east into town.  The trip took almost five hours, including the two stops, and covered 245.7 miles.

I had a marginal cell phone signal so I sent a text message to Linda letting her know I had arrived and asked her to call my hosts’ phone around 7:30 PM.  I said “Hi” to Butch and Fonda and then excused myself while I unloaded the car.  I unpacked the suitcase and stored most of the clothing in the bus, taking enough items into the house for the next couple of days.  I also unpacked and stored all of the food in the bus pantry.  I put my technology, toiletries, shoes, and work jackets in the house and then went back to the coach to have a quick bite of dinner.

I made my final trip for the night from the coach to the house just before 7:30 PM but managed to be in the house when Linda called.  She chatted briefly with Butch about some business related forms and then chatted briefly with me.  She will be working at the bakery most of the week, but plans to drive to Elkhart on Friday morning to visit with GLCC chapter members, have dinner, and participate in the business meeting.  She’s the chapter Treasurer.  She will stay the night, and through breakfast and lunch on Saturday and then head back to the house.  We can only leave the cats alone for so long.

Butch was working at his computer but cleared a chair off for me.  He had his 2m ham rig dialed in to the Miami County Amateur Radio Club repeater and they started their weekly net at 8 PM.  We had a long chat before I retired for the evening around 9:45 PM.

The plan for tomorrow is to continue working on the kitchen and ceiling light wiring in their bus.  I also have a few more places to look for the diagrams and installation notes for the Zena 24 VDC engine-driven power generating system.  Butch has an appointment on Tuesday morning and will pick up some things while he is in town.  I need a fuel line coupler (double barbed male) so I can remove the fuel lines from the final/secondary fuel filter on my Aqua-Hot, connect them together, and see if that eliminates the air bubbles.  He also needs parts for the rigid links he is making for the leveling valves for the bus chassis air-suspension system.  He is going to get extra material and make a set for me too.  It should be an interesting and varied week.

2014/10/06 (M) No Fuel Flow

Getting our Aqua-Hot to work is proving to be quite a challenge.  When Butch and Fonda got home early Saturday evening Butch turned on the burner and it fired up perfectly within the normal startup cycle time limits.  He left it on and I assumed it was working correctly when I arrived yesterday.  It wasn’t until this morning that I realized I did not have hot water.  The switch was on but when I checked the expansion reservoir it was below the minimum cold level.  The unit had obviously cycled off and then failed to restart sometime later.  Once that happened the control circuitry locked out the fuel and ignition spark as a safety measure.  I tried cycling it four times but it would not ignite.

Butch found a small inline (secondary) fuel filter and I replaced the one in the unit.  It still would not start.  I disconnected the fuel line from the outlet of the Racor fuel filter (which feeds to Parker FPM-50), disconnected the fuel line from the outlet of the FPM-50 (which supplies the burner), and connected the supply line directly to the Racor filter.  It still would not start.  Based on what we could see in the transparent secondary fuel filter the unit was not getting fuel.  There are a limited number of things that could be wrong: no fuel; bad fuel; clogged/restricted fuel line(s); clogged/restricted fuel filters; weak/broken fuel pump; stuck fuel valve or defective fuel valve solenoid; clogged nozzle.  We started the generator, which may use the same main tank pickup tube as the Aqua-Hot, and it ran beautifully.  I turned the electric toe-kick heaters on to put some load on the genset and let it run for a while.

Our next step was to change the Racor fuel filter / water separator and/or by-pass it, but it started to rain.  The forecast was for rain throughout the morning turning to thunderstorms in the afternoon with temperatures in the upper 50’s.  I did not want to work in those conditions so I put away my tools, closed up the coach, and spent the rest of the day (except for a quick lunch break) working on the 120 VAC wiring in Butch and Fonda’s coach.  I hope we have power to their new switched kitchen outlets and ceiling mounted fluorescent lights by the end of the day tomorrow.

I had leftover Ghallaba for dinner.  It was delicious.

Butch ordered a VDO-437-152 electronic speedometer/odometer for me from PartDeal.com which is part of ISS Pro (Instrument Sales and Service) with overnight shipping.  He then called Joe and got the address of the place in Quartzite, Arizona where we are thinking about spending part of the winter.  He and I spent some time checking it out on Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Street View before turning in for the night.  I spent some more time checking out Quartzite and distances to the nearest towns with decent shopping.  I dealt with several e-mails, worked on yesterday’s blog post, and finally turned out the lights.

2014/10/07 (T) Loose Connectors

I was up much too late last night and stayed in bed this morning until just after 8 AM to make sure I got my 7 hours of beauty rest.  I was up and dressed by 8:40 AM, just in time to converse briefly with Butch before he took off for a shopping run and an appointment in Logansport.  Our plan was to attack the Aqua-Hot fuel flow problem when he got back, weather permitting.

After Butch left for town I had my usual bowl of yummy homemade granola for breakfast.  Rather than make coffee, however, I went across the street to the Small Town Brew coffee & bake shop that Lisa Paul opened a little over two years ago.  Lisa wasn’t there, but her friend Ashley was covering for her.  Coffee is on a donation basis and the only small bill I had was a $1, so I got a large mug of coffee, with a refill, for a buck.  Ashley was engaged in a conversation with a local farmer when I arrived.  She was very friendly, and included me as much as she could, but they were discussing local issues (of course) which involved family relationships and property sales, none of which meant anything to me.

I found out that Ashley’s boyfriend, Jeff, is slowly trying to buy up the whole town of Twelve Mile and turn it into a rental community.  Ashley helps Jeff renovate each property to make it rentable.  What they are doing probably makes some economic sense but long-term will destroy any sense of community that may exist in this place.  Renters simply do not have the same stake in a community as owners.  The town is very small with very little employment but is only 12 miles from three much larger towns (Logansport, Peru, and Rochester) and only 30 miles from Plymouth (north) and Kokomo (south), so it is possible to live here and drive to employment elsewhere.

Although Twelve Mile has a bank and a post office it seems like the sort of place younger and middle aged folks might rent for a while rather than someplace to settle for the long term.  I am, of course, looking at this through the eyes of a lifelong urbanite.  Butch and Fonda have lived here for a very long time and it has certainly met their needs for a place to live and run their business, as well as build/store their bus conversions.

I finished my coffee and returned to our bus to see if I could remove the defective speedometer.  The dashboard cover just lifts off, providing access to everything on the back side.  Not good access, as the dashboard is fairly close to the windshield, but access nonetheless.  I can also see the back side of the dashboard clearly through the windshield, so a second person can help direct tools into position if needed.

The old speedometer is held in with a U-shaped bracket secured with two Nylok nuts on machine screws that are part of the case.  The machine screws protruded far enough beyond the nuts to require a deep socket or a socket with a large enough through hole to allow the screws to pass through.  In order to get the socket onto the nuts I had to hold wiring cables out of the way.  I traced the wires coming out the back of the speedometer and discovered that the instrument connector was disconnected from the mating piece in the wiring harness.  The connector for the instrument lights was also unplugged.  Whatever the condition of the instrument it was guaranteed not to work in this configuration.

I do not recall how this situation came to be.  I was working on the dashboard wiring this past March while we were in Williston and presumably cleaned these contacts as the intermittent speedometer was the primary thing we were trying to fix.  Presumably I either failed to plug these connectors back together or did not plug them together fully and they eventually worked loose.  Having the connectors touching loosely could certainly have caused the intermittent and erratic readings I was seeing.  I decided to leave the speedometer in the dash, reconnect it, and see what it did on the drive to Elkhart.  I will have to decide whether to install the new speedometer when it arrives or keep it as a spare.  Either way I will need to test drive the bus.  Whatever I decide I do not plan to return the new one since it is the correct replacement part (per Prevost) for a speedometer that may eventually fail if it hasn’t already.

While Butch was away I worked at my computer selecting and editing photos for a few of the late September blog entries that I have not yet posted.  I should have some free time at the upcoming FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally to get the blog and website caught up and also get some writing/editing done on articles for Bus Conversion Magazine.

With regards to my Aqua-Hot, Butch’s plan was to install short fuel lines on the inlet and outlet sides of my Racor fuel filter / water separator, insert T-fittings, reconnect the normal fuel lines to the T-fittings, and attach vacuum gauges to the T-fittings.  This configuration would allow us to monitor the relative pressure in the fuel lines on either side of the Racor to see if there was a restriction.  I have a replacement filter cartridge for the Racor but we did not want to install it unnecessarily.  It would have been easier but provided us with less information.

Although there are several components inside the Aqua-Hot that could restrict or prevent fuel flow, all of those came from Butch’s unit and were known good components before we swapped them over.  We also had the unit in our coach operating as recently as this past Saturday.  At this point all indications are that the no-start problem is fuel supply related and external to the unit, i.e., in our coach.  Ugh.

My new VDO speedometer arrived while Butch was gone.  I could not find Fonda so I signed for it.  I was eating lunch when Butch got back.  He bought barbed brass couplings for 1/4″ fuel line and 11′ of fuel line.  He did not buy T-fittings because he had a quantity on hand.  Unfortunately we could not find them so I made a quick run to Logansport to get the missing pieces.

Pressure gauges and T-fittings for testing the Aqua-Hot fuel delivery.

Pressure gauges and T-fittings for testing the Aqua-Hot fuel delivery.

When I got back I hookup up the two vacuum gauges as previously described and initiated a start cycle on the Aqua-Hot.  We did not see an indication of a restriction but the unit still would not fire. On two prior occasions we had gotten it to ignite by using a jumper wire across the two terminals where the cockpit switch wires connect.  We tried that again and it lit up. It was producing a lot of black exhaust so I let it run long enough to clear up.

The jumper wire may be a coincidence but I developed a hypothesis that we could test.  If the initial switch closure provided a sufficient voltage and current to start the operating cycle but then dropped below some lower threshold the controller would never open the fuel valve or apply power to the ignition coil for spark and the blower would complete the shutdown purge stage of the operating cycle.  I recall a quote from Thomas Huxley:  “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”  With the cockpit switch closed (on) Butch measured 12.7 VDC across the terminals without any noticeable drop.  Even so, we investigated the switch and it’s wiring to see if the contacts might be intermittent.  They were not.  We did discover that the small “grain of wheat” light bulb in the switch was not coming on even though the filament appeared to be intact and there was voltage on the wire pair from the Aqua-Hot that powers it.

One of the house systems switch panels.  The Aqua-Hot burner switch is one of these.

One of the house systems switch panels. The Aqua-Hot burner switch is one of these.

We cycled the unit on and off several times and it ignited every time.  I removed the vacuum gauges and T-fittings, spliced the supply hose back together on the inlet of the Racor fuel filter /water separator, reconnected the outlet to the inlet of the Parker FPM-50, and installed a new piece of 1/4″ fuel line from the outlet of the FPM-50 to the inlet of the secondary fuel filter.  I checked all of the band clamps, turned the unit on, and it started right up.

I did a little more interior electrical work on Butch and Fonda’s coach, helped them install an FRP panel, and called it a day.  Since I was leaving tomorrow I did some preliminary packing of stuff in the bedroom.  I made and ate my dinner in the coach and then did some straightening up before returning to the house and turning in for the night.


2014/09/27 (S) Eat Cut Eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/09/22 (M) Hot Water

Linda was up early to beat the morning traffic heading into Detroit from our part of S. E. Michigan.  On days when she has to go to the bakery she likes to get up and go and does not have breakfast at home.  Not that she doesn’t get something to eat; she’s spending the day working at a bakery after all.

I tend to stay up later at night than she does, so I also tend not to spring out of bed at oh-dark-thirty unless I have someplace I have to be at daybreak.  My job is to hear the alarms (we set several) and make sure Linda wakes up.  I am then free to pursue the rest of my day on my own timeline.  Today, however, I wanted to make sure I was up and dressed not later than 8 AM as there was a possibility that TOMTEK would be here to convert the hot-water base-board heating system boiler from propane to natural gas and/or that D. R. Electric Appliance would deliver and install our new natural gas kitchen range.  I did not, however, know if/when either of those things would happen so I was “stuck” at the house all day either waiting for phone calls.

I was dealing with e-mail when Tom called at 9:15 AM to let me know they had the part for our boiler and that he could be at our house around 10 AM if that was OK.   “Absolutely!”  I decided to bleed out whatever propane might be left in the 1/2″ line that feeds the kitchen and outdoor grill connector.  The pipe into the house was open to the outside for a while so I did not know how much propane, if any, even remained in the line.  I opened the shutoff valve in the laundry room for that line and then opened the outside valve for the gas grill.  Nothing.

It turns out that the quick-disconnect is a self-sealing device.  When the mating part is not plugged in, no gas can get out.  I should have known that, and it’s obvious that it should work that way, but I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment.  I closed the outside valve and then closed the shutoff valve in the basement and figured I (or the installer) would deal with that branch of the piping when the new range shows up.  I did not concern myself with the pipe to the furnace, which has its own shutoff valve, as I figured Tom would bleed the line before he started the unit.

Tom arrived about 10:20 AM.  He had the right part and he knew how to replace it.  The part (an orifice plate) was just a thin piece of metal, probably aluminum, with a hole about the size of a quarter in the center of it (the orifice) and several other holes for screws to pass through or other purposes.  I’m always trying to understand our technology and he let me observe and ask questions while he worked.  Tom disconnected a small vacuum hose, removed three or four screws, lowered the blower housing, slid the old propane orifice plate out, slid the new natural gas orifice plate in, reattached the blower housing, and our boiler was converted to natural gas.  Just like that.

Once he had the new natural gas orifice plate installed and everything reassembled he put gas to the furnace and turned on the electrical power.  It took a few seconds to purge the air and residual propane from the gas pipe but the burner lit and stayed lit on the first try.  He checked for gas leaks as it warmed up.  (He used an electronic sniffer rather than soapy water.)  He did not find any gas leaks but I noticed some condensation dripping from the flue pipe onto the top of the unit.  He shut the furnace off and let it cool down enough to handle the flue pipe and found that a joint between two sections was leaking.  He pulled it apart, applied a sealant, and put it back together nice and tight.  He turned the furnace on again and the leak did not reappear.  We did notice, however, that there was a similar leak at the next joint downstream.  I moved a spare macerator pump from under that joint and put a bucket there to catch any drips, although stains on the underside of the flue pipe indicated that this leak had existed for a while and that condensation leaking at that point had run back downhill towards the boiler along the underside of the pipe.  We may need to eventually have all of the joints resealed all the way to the outside.

I turned all of the thermostats on and set the temperatures a few degrees above ambient so they would call for heat and Tom monitored the temperature and pressure of the coolant as the unit heated up.  At 140 degrees F the pressure was between 35 and 40 PSI.  Tom said it should be closer to 20 PSI at that temperature, so he drained some of the coolant out of the system into a bucket.  As water trickled into the bucket the pressure dropped accordingly. The system eventually heated up to just under 180 degrees F, which is where it normally operates, and the pressure stayed below 25 PSI.  He put the covers back on the unit and gathered up his tools while I wrote a check and paid him for the service call. After he left I took a nice hot shower, the first one since last Wednesday morning.  ;-0

While I was doing chores around the house I got a call from Marilyn in the AT&T billing department.  She called to let me know that they were crediting our bill to compensate for the lack of usable service in August.  I got a call later from Shelley from the Office of the President (of AT&T) following up on our MPSC complaint.  I told her that the POTS and DSL had been working just fine since Bill was here to repair our service.  She had requested the billing credit and said she would report back to the commission that everything was repaired to our satisfaction.  I told her I would confirm that if contacted by the MPSC.

Today was shaping up to be a very good day.  It was sunny outside with light winds, puffy clouds, and afternoon high temperatures in the low 60’s; a little brisk, perhaps, but cheerful and very refreshing.  Earlier in the day I noticed the road grader going up and down our street smoothing out the bumps and filling in the holes.  With a forecast of no rain and high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70’s for the next week the road should be decent to drive on for a while.

Some of the difficulty we have had this summer getting contractors to show up reminded me of a joke that Steven Wright told years ago on an HBO comedy show.  It went something like this:  “I walked up to the deli entrance and the sign said ‘Open 24 Hours’ so I tried the door but it was locked.  While I was standing there the owner walked up and unlocked the door.  I said to him ‘Your sign says ‘Open 24 Hours’.’  He just looked at me and said ‘We are, but not in a row’.”

I’m starting to wonder if the kitchen range is going to turn out to be another example of “tell the customer whatever you think they need to hear to get them to make the purchase.”  The difference in this case is that we have not given D. R. Electric Appliance a deposit or a credit card number, so if delivery is delayed much longer we can walk away from the deal with nothing to lose except time.  We probably won’t, as that would just further delay getting a new NG range, but it’s nice to know that we at least have that option if this drags on any longer.  We were told “three days” and based our decision to order from them in part on that information.

With respect to the conversion or our generator from propane to natural gas, our new NG fireplace logs, and our new NG outdoor grill, our hands are basically tied.  We either have parts on order, for which we have already paid, don’t have a choice of contractor, or have made the choice not to look for another contractor as that would simply involve more delay and the uncertainty of working with someone we have not worked with before.  Still, it’s a little frustrating that we can’t get this stuff taken care of.  The real issue for me is that I need to take our bus to Butch and Fonda’s place to work on it, and I cannot do that until all of the natural gas related work is done.  The other issue is that we do not want to contact Consumer’s Energy (natural gas) and AmeriGas (propane) until all of our gas appliances are switched over.  Consumer’s Energy “requires” us to accomplish this within 30 days of hanging the meter, which occurred one week ago today, so we do not have an unlimited amount of time to get this stuff taken care of.

Interestingly, I learned at breakfast on Saturday that two of our ham radio club members had contacted Bratcher Electric based on my recommendation.  Mike had already been to one of their houses, quoted them a whole house generator installation, gotten a signed contract and a deposit, and given them an installation date.  The other guy had a scheduled appointment for Mike to come out and give him a quote.  Mike looked at our job five weeks ago and I don’t have a price or a service date scheduled yet.  What’s up with that?!  I did not want to spoil today’s winning streak, however, so I chose not to make follow up phone calls today.  Tomorrow morning, however…

We were both tired and turned in early to watch episode 2 of Ken Burns “The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait.”  I was putting the finishing touches on this post afterwards and noted the occurrence of the autumnal equinox at 10:39 PM EDT.


2014/09/07 (N) Findlay Hamfest

I set alarms on my phone and iPad last night to make sure I got up at 5:00 AM.  My natural tendency is to stay up a little later each night, something I am now able to do as I do not usually have to get up by any certain time in the morning.  Usually.  Today, however, was the annual Hamfest put on by the Findlay, Ohio Amateur Radio Club and I needed to be at Mike’s (W8XH) QTH in time for a 6 AM departure.  We picked up Steve (N8AR) at the Park-n-Ride lot at Lee Road and US-23 around 6:15 AM and drove non-stop to Findlay, Ohio, arriving at the county fairground at 8:15 AM.  We had a good chat on the way down, which is as much of a reason for going as the bargain hunting once we got there.  I have included a couple of photos in this post.  For more photos, visit:


We each paid our $7 admission fee and got our ticket with a tear-off stub for the hourly and grand prize drawings.  We got parked and set our Kenwood TH-F6 handheld radios to 146.475 MHz (simplex).  We filled out our raffle ticket stubs, dropped them off, and started working our way up and down the rows of outside tables.  The outside sales area was essentially a flea market, sometimes referred to as “trunk sales” because people back their cars up to the road and sell stuff from their trunks.  The spots are cheaper to rent for the day, but you take a chance that the weather will be nice.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

Outside vendors (trunk sales) at the Findaly ARC Hamfest in Findlay, OH.

We worked the flea market first while the temperatures were cool and the sun wasn’t overhead but also because almost everything offered for sale was used equipment at negotiable prices.  These are often one-of-kind items and the bargains tend to disappear quickly.  By mid-morning I had purchased a good sized NEMA enclosure (steel box with weather tight gasketed door) and a Harris 22.2 telephone butt handset (tester).  I plan to use the NEMA box to create a cable entrance box with lightning protection for RF transmission lines, AC power lines, and control lines.  I got the telephone test set because it will allow me to hook up to the phone line the same way the AT&T technicians do, and because it is not the sort of thing most folks have in their home.

Bruce (W8RA) gave a short shopping list to Steve (N8AR) yesterday at breakfast.  Mike (W8XH) spotted a matched three-piece set of vintage Heathkit gear, one piece of which was on Bruce’s list.  Steve looked at it and they got Bruce on the phone.  Apparently it was close enough to what Bruce wanted that Steve bought the whole set for him as the seller was not willing to sell them separately.

We then moved to the inside vendors, most of whom were selling new merchandise at fixed prices.  There was some used equipment, however, and I bought an Icom CI-V interface set.  This device will allow me to interface our Icom IC-7000 and/or IC-706 to, and control them from, a computer using something like Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) software.

I also got to meet and talk to Norm, from Norm’s Fabrication in Adrian, and his wife, who is president of the Adrian Amateur Radio Club.  Norm is a welder, and his side business is fabricating tower parts out of steel and aluminum for fellow hams.  If I cannot get what I need from Heights Tower Systems, Norm may hold the key to getting our used tower erected.

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A very classy portable ham radio station (go box).

A number of other hams from the South Lyon, Novi, Livingston, and SEMDXA radio clubs were there.  I brought my camera and tried to get photos of our club members for the club website.  None of us won anything from the hourly drawings (must be present to win) and we left shortly after noon to meet up at the local Steak-n-Shake for lunch.  I had not eaten breakfast so I enjoyed my garden salad and French fries.  I had a good chat with Dave (K8ESQ), the current president of SEMDXA, and Don (N8CAK) from SLAARC.

We had a good chat on the drive back, stopping briefly at the Michigan Welcome Center on US-23 northbound shortly after entering Michigan from Ohio.  We dropped Steve off at the Lee Road Park-n-Ride and helped him unload the Heathkit equipment.  When we got back to Mike’s I moved my purchases and personal gear to my car and then spent some time examining his Heights tower, especially the fold-over mount.  After studying the parts and the geometry of the design I had a much better understanding of how it works and what we need to get our tower erected and fully operational.

On the way back to my house I got a call from Darryll letting me know he would be out in the morning as long as someone would be home.  Back home I unloaded everything and moved Linda’s car to the side parking pad to make space for Darryll’s truck in the morning.  It was nice to have a day away from our house and property projects.

I spent a little time checking e-mail and websites and off-loading digital photos until Linda called me to dinner.  We had leftover kale salad, quinoa with pineapple and nuts, fresh steamed broccoli, and corn-on-the-cob.  After dinner I recorded the events of the last few days in rough drafts of separate blog posts.  By 10:15 PM the early start and long day finally caught up with me and I turned the lights out and drifted off to sleep.


2014/09/06 (S) Deliveries

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

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

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

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

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

Madeline and Grandma Linda read a favorite story.

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

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

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

2014/09/01 (M) A Day To Labor

One of the odd things about being “retired” is that holidays, like weekends, do not have the same significance they had when we were employed full time.  We no longer have “3-day weekends.”  We also do not have a tradition in our family of gathering on the summer holidays, so those days tend to blend into the days around them.  If not for our Saturday morning ham radio breakfast and the Sunday morning Howell Farmers Market we probably would not know what day of the week it was.

Knowing that today was Labor Day, Linda prepared vegan cinnamon rolls yesterday and baked them first thing this morning.  This was the first time she has made these and they were a real treat. Vegan, yes; whole plant-based food, not exactly.  These will be a rare treat for us.

As has been my pattern for the last few weeks, I sanded and touched up drywall first thing after breakfast.  Most of the drywall compound was finally smooth enough that I felt it was ready to prime.  I discovered that I was out of primer, so I went to Lowe’s to get some and picked up a few other things while I was there.  It was very humid today, which tends to slow the drying of paint, but primer is thinner than paint and gets absorbed into the paper drywall covering   I was hopeful that I might get a first coat of paint applied this evening.

Mike (W8XH) sent an e-mail Saturday evening to the members of the SLAARC announcing the availability of the new WordPress website and indicating that they would each be receiving a unique username and password from me in the next few days.  I wanted to wait at least 24 hours before I started creating users.  That waiting period had passed, so today I parked myself in front of my computer and registered users.

Part of the registration process required me to create a username.  That was easy for a ham radio club as (almost) everyone has an FCC call sign.  It also required a valid/unique e-mail address.  When I created an account an e-mail, with their username and a randomly generated password, got sent to the e-mail address I entered.  The e-mail also contained instructions on how to get to the website, how to login, and how to change their password.  I finished creating the last user account around 9 PM, but I did not work on this between 5 PM and 8 PM.

The vegan cinnamon rolls made for a filing and somewhat higher calorie breakfast, so we skipped lunch today and had an early dinner.  I had requested a picnic type of meal to celebrate the end of the summer tourist season, and Linda fixed a nice one.  We had vegan potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, and pan-grilled tofu slices with BBQ sauce and caramelized onions served open-faced on some of the Italian bread she made for dinner on Saturday.  Dessert was watermelon balls.  And the wonderful thing is that I am maintaining a good weight.  Eating well and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive.  However, like low-fat and fat-free foods, and then gluten-free foods, the processed food industry has discovered a “market” for foods that are free of animal products.  That, however, does not mean they are free of unpronounceable chemicals or excessive amounts of sugar and salt.  There is a growing amount of vegan junk food available in the marketplace.

We spent a little time after dinner on the back deck watching wildlife as a storm front approached from the west.  As the wind kicked up we lost our AT&T DSL connection and then our phone went out, exhibiting the same behavior we have had throughout most of August.  I shut down my computer and changed back into my work clothes to do some painting.  I put a coat of paint on the east wall of the garage and both the inside and outside of the utility closet.  It started raining really hard so I had to close the garage door, which cut down on my light, but eventually the rain let up and I was able to open the garage doors again.  The inside of the utility closet may need another coat, but I think that most of the outside of the closet, and the east wall of the garage, may be done.  That means I can finally mount the thermostat for the garage furnace and put cover plates back on switches and outlets.

I am still working on the outside of the south wall of the utility closet (with the door).  I am using drywall compound to create a smooth transition at the hinge edge of the door to correct for a carpentry error I made when installing the door much earlier in the project.  The transition will make it possible for me to install trim around the door, but I have to build up the transition in thin, tapered layers, allow it to dry, sand it smooth, and repeat the process over, and over, and over.  Ditto for the west wall of the library, which is the other side of the east wall of the garage, where I am building up a slightly recessed area where the opening was for the old window A-C unit so it will blend in with the surrounding wall surface.

2014/08/30 (S) By All Accounts

We went to the weekly SLAARC breakfast this morning.  We stopped on the way back to the house to get a food processor.  I shut down my ASUS laptop PC, packed it for travel, and headed for Mike’s (W8XH) QTH; the first time it has been out of the house since I bought it at the end of April.

I worked with Mike on the new SLAARC WordPress website, walking him back through the process of creating photo galleries.  He then uploaded pictures from the 2014 Field Day event, added captions to some of them, and created photo galleries.

I was going to create user accounts, but that turned out to still be a bit premature.  In showing Mike around the site we discovered that the home page login widget for the WP-Members plug-in was not working correctly.  It was last night, but that was before I installed the Global Hide Admin Toolbar plug-in.  Suspecting a minor incompatibility (although the site did not crash, thank goodness) I had to engineer a work-around.  The problem and solution turned out to be multifaceted.

One aspect of the problem was that we needed to remove the WP-Members widget from the Home screen, but it was the only place where a logged in user could log out.  Another aspect of the problem was the realization that users would have to click on one of the pages in the Member Only Area to get a login screen that would actually log them into the site and allow them to navigate wherever they wanted.

One facet of the solution was to create a new page that would appear at the right hand end of the main menu bar and place the WP-Members widget on that page.  It was not immediately obvious to me how to do this, or if we even could, but I eventually figured it out.  That provided something on the main menu bar, which remains visible at all times, where users can go to logout.  (They should also be able to log in there, but it’s the same widget that didn’t work correctly on the Home page.)

The other facets of the solution involved editing the e-mail that gets sent to a new user when their account is created and editing the User’s Guide, both of which describe the login and logout procedure.  As long as I had to create and upload a new version of the User’s a Guide, I decided to put the link on its own page so it would show up in the menu structure and be easier for members to find.  I did the same thing with the links to the official club roster documents.  Adding those two page then required me to edit two pages to remove the old links.  As the saying goes “it’s a process.”

Mike was still creating photo galleries so I drafted a notification e-mail for him to send to the members and sent it to him.  He had to leave to run an errand right after I left and planned to deal with sending the e-mail later that evening.  I will wait at least 24 hours after he sends it before I start creating user accounts.

I was back home in time to relax and work on this post before John and Diane arrived around 5 PM to visit and have dinner.  They brought a salad that Diane made and two bottles of wine; a sweet Shiraz that was unusual but delightful, and a more traditional Cabernet Sauvignon.  Linda made a penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms, and made Italian bread from scratch.  She also made the chilled no-bake double chocolate torte for dessert.  It was so good everyone had a second piece.

Diane now has an iPad Mini and Linda spent time with her after dinner helping her configure some things.  They also managed to get connected through the iMessage feature.  Storms rolled in around 9 PM and we had brief periods of heavy rain and diffuse lightning all around.  There was a lull in the weather just before 11 PM so they gathered up their things and hit the road.  I cleared the table and Linda loaded the dishwasher.  She started it and then we were off to bed, tired from a long but very satisfying day.


2014/08/23 (S) Square Waves

We have so much to do at home and on the bus that we might have skipped the SLAARC (ham radio club) breakfast in South Lyon this morning, but I had agreed to meet Chuck at his shop (bus garage) at 10 AM in Novi and to bring Mike (W8XH) along with his oscilloscope to look at the tachometer signal, or lack thereof.  We had a nice chat with our ham radio friends, discussed having dinner in a week or so with Bruce and Linda, and then headed to Chuck’s shop.

We had two different opinions as to what signal we might find, if any, at the end of the wires that connect to Chuck’s tachometer.  Matt, from Bob’s Speedometer, told me that the signal to both the VDO tachometer and speedometer were variable frequency square waves at 3 to 5 volts peak and that the electronics in the gauge moved the needle in proportion to the frequency.  Mike (W8XH) had talked to Jim (N8KUE), who works in the research lab at Ford Motor Company, and Jim was of the opinion that the input to these gauges was a pulse width modulated signal.  With pulse-width modulation the frequency and amplitude of the waveform are constant but the width of the “pulse” (the “on time” of non-zero voltage) varies from zero to some maximum percentage of the half cycle, up to 100%.  If it is on for the entire half cycle it becomes a square wave.  The longer the pulse (on time percentage) the more energy is transmitted.  The gauge electronics can convert that to a needle position or run a motor faster or slower, such as might drive an odometer.

So which was it?  Well…neither.  What we saw was an alternating current signal that appeared to simply be an impulse (sudden spike in the voltage), one positive and one negative per cycle, with the frequency responding in direct proportion to the engine RPM.  The impulse had a rapid but noticeable decay time that appeared to me to exponential, but we did not have the wires connected to a load and that may have affected the signal. The voltage we were seeing appeared to be in 300 mV range, a far cry from the 3 – 5 volts we expected.

We loaded the cardboard in my car before going to breakfast, so when we were done at Chuck’s we headed directly to Recycle Livingston.  From there we went to pet Supplies Plus for some cat litter and then to Lowe’s for four more sheets of drywall (Sheetrock) and a large tub of better drywall compound.  After fighting with the back wall of the garage recently and having trouble with using the patching and repair compound yesterday, I wanted a drywall compound that would go on easier and smoother.  It could just be my technique, of course; I wasn’t that good at dry-walling 32 years ago, and feel like I have lost what little technique I once had.

Back home we unloaded everything, changed into our work clothes, and had lunch; grilled “cheese” sandwiches with tomatoes and dark leafy greens and fresh peaches, ripened to perfection.

While Linda sanded the drywall compound I applied yesterday I removed the panel from the library side of the opening for the old window A-C unit.  I insulated the cavity, cut and installed a new piece of drywall, and re-taped the seams.  I helped Linda finish the sanding, wiped off the dust with a wrung out sponge, and then applied another coat of drywall compound.  I then applied a first cost of “mud,” as drywall compound is commonly called, to the filler panel in the library.

In preparation for dry-walling the new utility closet we had to do some carpentry to box around the flue and gas pipe where they pass through the west wall.  We also had to box around the supply air duct where it passes above the utility closet door.  Finally, we added some backer boards along the edge of the platform by the west wall.  The purpose of all of this carpentry was to provide backing along all drywall edges so it will be supported and can be secured.  Our final task for the day was to trim a piece of 2×4 to block off the top of the wall cavity where the return air duct is connected next to the door between the library and the garage.

For dinner we had leftovers from Thursday:  Koshary and pita bread with vegan garlic “butter.”  Linda read somewhere recently that drier white wines are generally considered (by someone) to go better with Middle Eastern food, but we thought our 2009 Egri Merlot went quite well with dinner.  Of course, Koshary is an Egyptian dish, and so perhaps more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern.  All of that reminded me that there really are no rules about these things; drink what you like and enjoy life.


2014/08/16 (S) Bus People

We enjoy the company of our fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) and so our first destination this morning was the Senate Coney Island in South Lyon for the weekly SLAARC breakfast.  It was a much smaller turnout than last week, but that often leads to better conversation for the lower noise level if no other reason.

Converted bus people are also our kind of people, so our second destination today was the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan where the joint CCO/GLCC “Back-to-the-Bricks” rally was taking place.  There were 22 rigs in attendance, 19 of which were converted buses.  We got there around 11AM and spent the afternoon visiting with whomever was around, starting with Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Light rain moved in during the early afternoon and we had a nice visit with our friends from Ontario, Bill and Karen, in their bus.

With a few exceptions we knew all of the attendees and they all knew us, so this was a comfortable reunion with old and new friends.  We had a chance to talk to Glen Williams, who runs a clock repair business named Tenor Clocks, about our broken grandfather clock and made an appointment for him to come work on it on Wednesday at noon.  (Glen is also part of a four man singing group named “Three Men and a Tenor”.  Glen is the Tenor.)  We were most cordially invited to stay for dinner but we had not paid to attend the rally and there was very little food we could (would) eat so we left around 6 PM as the group was assembling for the evening meal.

We stopped at the Panera in Fenton on the way home and enjoyed their black bean soup and Mediterranean veggie sandwich, hold the feta cheese.  Once home we enjoyed a small glass of Late Harvest Vignoles wine from Acres of Land winery in Kentucky while we worked on our iPads a bit before bed.