Tag Archives: The Gypsy Journal

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/08/26 (T) Dinner With Kate

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

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

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

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


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

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


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




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

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



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




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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally "bling."

Rally “bling.”

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

2013_08_16 (Fri) BTTB Rally – Day 2

We had another cool night overnight that was great for sleeping.  7:30 AM found the coffee brewed and the bagels, fruit, muffins, and Danish pastries awaiting the rally participants.  This isn’t a “fancy” rally in a fancy place, but it sure is a nice one.

Mike Mullen’s Flxible (on right), the only one at this rally.

Mike Mullen’s Flxible (on right), the only one at this rally.

Two more buses showed up today; Mike (GLCC vice-president) & Mary Ann Muller and Mark (CCO president) & Diane Reid.  Linda took off with a group of the women to search out garage sales, but came back empty-handed.  (She is not a garage sale person.)  Over the course of the morning bay doors were opened on various buses and small groups of (mostly) men could be found peering deep inside.  These sessions are sometimes for the purpose of seeing/admiring someone’s latest handiwork, and sometimes for the purpose of trying to help diagnose a problem and fix it if possible.  There was some of both today.  On Wednesday, for instance, someone blew a transmission hose just as they were pulling into their parking space.  With the help of some of the other participants, a new hose had been custom made by a local supplier and installed, tested, and verified as operational in less than 24 hours.  Today several guys worked on diagnosing a severe vibration problem someone in the rear of a GM 4104.

Bill Gerry’s Harley Davidson with Leyman trike conversion.  Bill is in the center of the photo, directly behind the bike (dressed in black, of course).

Bill Gerry’s Harley Davidson with Leyman trike conversion. Bill is in the center of the photo, directly behind the bike (dressed in black, of course).

Mid-late morning Bill Gerry showed up on his Harley Davidson Leyman trike conversion.  He left the Toronto, Ontario area around 6:00 AM for the 4.5 hour trip plus several fuel stops.  As you can see in the picture, it’s a gorgeous machine.  Bill is the de facto “ring leader” of the Canadian contingent that usually attends this rally, but he and Karen could not come this year because of a 50th wedding anniversary party being held tomorrow for some of their best friends back home.  (Karen stayed home to help with the preparations.)  Still, I think it says a lot that Bill thought it was worth driving 9 hours round trip to hang out with all of us for a few hours.  Such is the attraction of the bus conversion community, and the camaraderie of those who choose to be part of it.  As mentioned yesterday, Dennis and Bernadette did make it to the rally in their Class B, so our Canadian friends were represented.

Late morning conversations in the pavilion.

Late morning conversations in the pavilion.

Everyone was on their own for lunch today, so Linda and I had some sun-dried tomato hummus wraps with onions, lots of onions.  Because we knew we would only have a 20A connection, Linda planned the meals we would have to provide for ourselves around not having to cook things.  With the way we eat, however, “no heat don’t mean no eat.”  It was a bit warmer by lunchtime than the last few days, and the cold dishes were particularly satisfying under such weather conditions.

Since most of the rally participants were now on site, I decided to bring out the copies of the February 2013 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and the May-June issue of The Gypsy Journal to distribute to those who don’t already subscribe to them.  We left home in early June with about 60 copies of the BCM issue and picked up about 100 copies of TGJ in Gillette, Wyoming.  We have been carrying them with us every since and passing them out at campgrounds and rallies.  After today’s distribution we have less than 10 of each left.

Almost everyone was present for the roundtable discussion, which lasted two hours.

Almost everyone was present for the roundtable discussion, which lasted two hours.

At 1:00 PM (Ed time) we circled up the chairs for our roundtable discussion.  This has been a regular Friday feature of the rally since it began.  We had 20+ people in the circle, 30 total in the pavilion, and almost everyone participated.  Someone was having a problem with a 2-year old leather chair that was peeling, and the group helped problem-solve how to deal with the vendor, who was being very reluctant to make good on the situation.  We ended up on speaker phone with them, and made it clear that 30 of us were listening to the conversation.  By the end there seemed to be a greater willingness on the part of the vendor to try to make the situation right.

Other topics of discussion included electrical shorepower and how to build/use a combiner box to plug a “50A” connector into two smaller capacity outlets (30A, 20/15A).  Some of us indicated that we also carry long, larger gauge extension cords with 50A RV/marine twist lock connectors that have the L1 and L2 pins internally jumpered.  There’s no magic to this—20A is 20A—but it does allow power to be applied to both legs of the coach’s electrical system so that everything onboard is able to receive electrical power (except for any 240VAC devices).  That doesn’t mean you can run everything; 20A is still just 20A after all.

We had an extended discussion about supplemental braking systems.  While everyone present indicated that they use one, there were several different types represented, and questions about each of their methods of operation, and opinions about their relative merits.  Like any other vehicle, buses have brake systems designed to safely stop their GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating).  This is the maximum amount of weight the bus is designed to move and stop, including anything it is towing.  Most states and provinces require supplemental braking for anything being towed that weighs over a certain amount, with 1,500 pounds being a common specification.  A major consideration is break away situations, in which the toad breaks loose from the bus.  Many supplemental braking systems are designed to apply the car brakes hard and keep them applied in this situation.

Several discussants had issues with their pneumatic systems so those were put forward and discussed.  At lot of things on buses operate on air, including suspensions, brakes, accessories, and even engine throttles.  The universal reality about air systems seems to be that they leak, so the issue is never IF, but HOW BAD?  Many air leaks are small enough that you can live with them, but not always.

The subject of Coach-Net came up.  Many FMCA motorhome owners have Coach-Net emergency roadside service policies.  What the policies cover is actually fairly limited, but does include towing (a huge benefit for a bus or large motorhome owner), fuel (if you run out), and telephone technical support.  If you need a roadside repair they will try to get the right person to your location to do it, but the cost of the repair is not covered.  Several of our GLCC members had recently had their service canceled, in spite of not having made any claims.  The reason they were given was that Coach-Net had changed their policy and would no longer cover buses (specifically?) that were more than 40 years old.  Pat indicated that he had talked to Jon Walker, a member of GLCC and the recently elected FMCA National Vice President, and that the contract between FMCA and Coach-Net had ended as of July 1 and not been renewed.  The rally participants who were affected by this had no problem signing up for Good Sam Emergency Road Service.

There was a question about solar panels (photovoltaic).  The question generated a lot of comment, but no definitive recommendations.  It was a systems sizing question that was simple to ask, but not simple to answer without specific analysis and calculations.  Finally, several rally goers reported on recent, successful service experiences and gave positive recommendations for the service providers.

After the roundtable ended around 3 PM Bill said his farewells and left for Toronto.  Folks returned to their coaches, resumed their conversation groups, and returned to their “bay watch” patrols and repair work.

L-to-R Gordy, Marty, and Glenn cooking up the burgers and hotdogs for dinner.

L-to-R Gordy, Marty, and Glenn cooking up the burgers and hotdogs for dinner.

Dinner this evening was classic summer fare; grilled hotdogs and hamburgers with the fixins’, potato salad, baked beans, and potato chips.  Some raw veggies were left over from the other night as well.  We supplied our own tofu hotdogs, which Glenn grilled up for us very nicely.  We garnished them with fresh raw onions and mustard.  Potato chips and raw veggies rounded out our meals, which, while not exactly whole-food, plant-based, were definitely vegan.

Prepping the buffet line.  There were a few young folks at the rally, although not as many as in past years.

Prepping the buffet line. There were a few young folks at the rally, although not as many as in past years.

Not long after dinner Bill Foley stopped by.  Bill is a CCO guy who lives nearby but was not able to attend the rally with his bus.  Bill has a bus barn that Don has been trying to arrange for some of us to go see.  I ended up at Ed’s coach and had a long chat with Ed, Bill, and Don.  We discussed bus barns, but we also talked about the situation with our driveway at some length.

I eventually returned to our coach to sound of the nearby race track.  We have heard these vehicles at various times most days, presumably making practice runs, but we assumed tonight were actual races.  Some of the rally participants started playing bingo in the pavilion around 9 PM.  They were done by 10:15 PM, after which conversation continued along with the racing.  RVers, or at least the ones we hang out with, tend to be up early and turn in early.  This particularly rally, however, tends to keep folks up a bit later, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings.  We are gathered out in the country, not in a commercial campground or state park, so we have only our fellow rally participants to answer to, and no one objects to conversations extending into the evening.  Eventually the rally site quieted down and the only thing that disturbed the nighttime silence was an occasional train.  (For those who don’t know, it is a requirement that wherever two or more RVs are gathered, there must be an active rail line nearby.  If there isn’t, I think there are special crews that get dispatched in the middle of the night to quickly build one.)


2013_07_06 (Sat) Our Last Full Day In Gillette

We went on a snipe hunt this morning.  Nick Russell had mentioned a Gillette Farmers Market in his blog post, so Linda looked it up and got the address.  Because of the way we eat, Farmers Markets are a real bonus for us when we can get to them.  We skipped breakfast and drove to the location, and found … nothing.  Nada. Not a farmer (or market) in sight.  Surely Nick wouldn’t lead us astray?  He and Terry said they were headed there themselves.  Out came the smartphones (both of them) and we started Googling away.  Ahhh, the market starts on July 20th.  This was Just another example of the emotional roller coaster of extended/full-time RVing.  But roller coasters are exciting, and the unexpectedness keeps you on your toes, presenting opportunities for problem-solving and unplanned discoveries.

One of our favorite statues in downtown Gillette, WY

One of our favorite statues in downtown Gillette, WY

We decided to drive to downtown Gillette and walk around.  It was still early, and a holiday weekend, so the shops were not open yet and Main Street was deserted. Downtown Gillette has a nice collection of bronze statues that we enjoyed viewing as we strolled main street. We discovered the 311 Restaurant and studied the menu in the window.  If we were going to dine out, this looked the place to go.  We passed a bakery/coffee shop that was closed, although their signs suggested that they should be open.  Someone else must have had the same impression, and more than once.  A 3″ square sticky note was pasted on the window over the “hours of operation” sign that said “Is this place ever open when it says it will be?”  Honest, I could not make that up.

When we got back to the bus we had a late breakfast.  I continued working at my computer while Linda went for a walk.  The sun was bright on the passenger side of the coach, so when Linda got back we deployed the awnings on that side.  At some point John and Cheryl came over and we sat in the shade and had a nice long chat.  I say “at some point” because I rarely know what time it is unless I look at clock or the shadow of our coach.

Being as it was our last night in Gillette, we decided to go to the 311 Restaurant for dinner.  Thunderstorms were forecast for later, but the weather outside our window looked fine, so we left the awnings out and the windows and roof vents open.  We started to back our car out of our site around 4:30 PM when Linda saw a large flash of cloud-to-ground lightning directly north of the RV Park.  I opened The Weather Channel app on my smartphone and pulled up the current radar.  There was a large cell to the north that appeared to be moving east and an even larger cell to the southwest that appeared to be moving northeast towards Gillette with strong winds and hail indicted.  Rather than close everything up, we decided to cancel our dinner out plans and eat at home.  This sort of flexibility is a necessary part of this lifestyle.

It was still early, so I resumed my photo organizing, and started selecting images to include with each blog post.  Linda made the pasta salad that she is contributing to the HFH pot-luck welcome social tomorrow at the HFH affiliate ReStore in Sheridan.  With that done, she started preparing African yam and kale soup, only to discover that the (organic) yam she bought was rotten to the core.

Plan B.  Although not a whole-food, we keep a few prepared things on hand for just such situations, or when Linda doesn’t feel like cooking (it happens, but not often).  The Amy’s brand has a particularly good selection of canned and frozen items, including soups, chili, and the best vegan pizza we have ever had.  (The roasted vegetable, which has caramelized onions, but doesn’t even have vegan “cheese”.  Vegan or not, this is a fabulous pizza.)  They also have “fake” substitutes for traditional dishes.  Other companies, such as Morningstar, Dr. Praeger’s, etc. produce similar products, and one of our favorites is “riblets” in Bar-B-Que sauce.  The sauce is one of the best I’ve had (it’s sweet, naturally).  The riblet has the texture of pork, and a reasonable facsimile of the taste, which I retain in memory to some degree.  Riblets and Bush’s vegetarian baked beans; quick, easy, and tasty, with plenty of protein (for those of you who are concerned about the nutritional balance of our meals).

As we finished dinner the storms thickened and intensified all around us.  We were treated to quite a lightning show for some time before the rain started.  The rain began gently so we left the windows open to enjoy the sound and the cool air.  (We have awning style windows that open out from the bottom, so they tolerate a certain amount of rain.)  The rain gradually, but steadily, increased to the point we had to close up and turn on the air-conditioners.

Every time we have had a 30% chance of a storm in Gillette, we have gotten a storm.  It appears that the 30% forecast means the storm will only be 30% as strong as the worst storm you can imagine.

We had fresh strawberries and sweet red wine and then turned in for the night.


2013_06_30 (Sun) Happy Birthday

Sunrise over Boxelder RV Park, CAM-PLEX, Gillette, WY

Sunrise over Boxelder RV Park, Gillette WY CAM-PLEX

Linda was up early this morning and went for a sunrise walk.  Perhaps she was too excited to sleep because it was her birthday, but this is the 53rd Escapade and the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Escapees RV Club, so it could have been that.  When she got back I brewed up some Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee (from Irene’s Beans in Milford, MI) and she opened her birthday present.  Linda now has her first “cowgirl” shirt!  She liked it so much that she made blueberry pancakes for breakfast with real, fresh blueberries and real Michigan maple syrup.  (If you are thinking that I should have prepared breakfast for her, let me state that in the past I would have, and could have, done this but she is the resident WFPB culinary expert, and I have basically stayed out of the kitchen, and out of her way, since we started down this path two years ago.)

We got a call from our son who was checking on our house.  Linda had asked him the day before to check our answering machine because it wouldn’t pick up when we called.  It turned out that we didn’t have a dial tone, but our Internet connection appeared to be OK.  He said there had been a lot of rain this past week, so that may be the reason.  Our phone and data service come over the same wire, so I’m not sure that is the problem.  We decided to wait a few days and see if it clears up.  If not we will have to contact AT&T.

We had more coffee at 9 AM at the WiFi Cafe and more conversation with Charles Martin.  We returned the defective Camco hose and got a replacement.  Their analysis was that the metal sleeve had not been swaged properly which is why the barbed fitting did not stay in.  While we were there we looked at the Camco Genturi genset exhaust stack.  This is an auxiliary exhaust stack that fits on the end of the generator tailpipe and carries the generator exhaust up past the roof line of the RV.  It’s made of 3” PVC in 4 foot sections, so it can be taken apart and stored.  A tailpipe extension curves up into the base of the 3” pipe with room to draw in cooler air around it and creating a Venturi effect, thus the name of the product.  This is a fairly easily duplicated design; the main reason to buy it is that you don’t have to source all the materials and make it yourself.  The vertical pipe has to be supported somehow, and suction cups are one of the options.  The vendor suggested getting large ones from Harbor Freight that are normally used for handling windshields and other large pieces of glass.  If/when I build one of these, I would like to be able to hook it onto the gutter rail where the roof starts, but the large suction cups are an interesting idea, although I am not too keen on that idea with the new paint on the coach.  Our Aqua-Hot exhaust exits out under the driver side of the coach right next to the generator exhaust, and I have considered building a double stack that hooks to both of these.  In both cases, however, I have to be careful not to restrict the exhaust flow and create back pressure.

We walked through the vendor area again and talked to Sean at WiFi Ranger about the factory default reset we got when we turned the power off and back on.  I also bought a roof mounting bracket for our WiFi Ranger Mobile.  Linda bought a silicone cooking sheet for use in the microwave from RV SpaceSavers.  We stopped and talked briefly to Nick & Terry Russell of The Gypsy Journal and gave Nick a copy of the February 2013 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Until a few years ago, Nick and Terry lived in an MCI bus that Terry had converted.  (Nick is famous for not knowing how to use tools.)  We talked to a vendor who provides mobile black/grey tank cleaning service, but deferred signing up.  We also chatted with a satellite TV vendor who felt strongly that Direct TV was a far superior choice to Dish Network, especially if we were also going to use it at home.  She confirmed that Moto-Sat had gone out of business and that RF Mogul was started by former Moto-Sat employees.  We discussed the possibility of using a fully-automatic open style multiple-satellite dish on a tripod or other mount rather than having it attached to the roof.  She seemed skeptical, but did not see any fundamental reason that it wouldn’t work.  (In fact we have seen a lot of open style satellite TV dishes mounted on tripods or sitting on the ground, although most of them are manual dishes, not automatic.)

After our jaunt through the vendor area, we visited “The Row” to get our “bingo” sheet filled in but ended up talking to many of the chapter and C-BOF representatives.  We finally met Steven Gullette from the HFH BOF, with whom we had exchanged many e-mails in the last few months.  He will be one of the co-leaders on the build in Sheridan in a couple of weeks.  We chatted with Lou Petkus, K9LU, and signed up for the newly formed SKP Photographers BOF (no charge).  We also talked to the Elks BOF and found out that we can join the Gillette lodge while attending Escapade, so we took some information and an application form.  The initiation is Friday evening.

We got back to the coach around 12:45 PM and grabbed a quick lunch before running some errands.  We went back to the Boot Barn to exchange Linda’s new shirt for a different size, and had to join their “loyalty program” in order to do the exchange.  The manager had to approve the exchange and was a bit surly.  We will not be shopping there ever again.  We also mailed an anniversary card to our son & daughter-in-law.  Linda received a birthday call from her sister and a video birthday greeting from our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter.  In many respects, RV life is just like regular life.

We attended the opening / welcome ceremony at 3 PM and were delighted to see and hear from Kay Peterson, SKP #1.  Dinner was leftover risotto with the rest of the Lawrence Elk black currant wine from Prairie Berry Winery, and both were excellent.  I was sorry that they were both gone, but there’s more where they came from.

We went over to the Wyoming Center at 7 PM for the Door prize drawings followed by the Rivoli Review for the evening entertainment.  They do a good show, with lots of energy and humor, although the patriotism was laid on fairly thick, and there were moments that were just plain jingoistic and inappropriate.  Although many of the attendees were enthusiastic about their show, there were plenty of folks sitting on their hands who were clearly not so pleased.


2013_06_26 (Wed) Devil’s Tower N. M.

We had decided last night that we would switch to tourist mode today and drive over to Devil’s Tower National Monument.  I had been there twice before; first with my parents when I was about 10 years old, and then with our son when he was the same age (25 years ago).  It was Linda’s first visit, however, and we were both excited to be going there.

Devil's Tower N. M.

Devil’s Tower N. M.

It is only 61 miles from Gillette to the monument, and we had a nice morning for a drive.  We headed out around 9:00 AM and were there by 10:30 AM.  We stamped our NPS “passport” and then hiked the 1.3 mile trail around the tower at the base of the boulder field.  This is a paved trail with some up and down.  It is mostly shaded by the pine forest that surrounds the tower, but there are sunny stretches as well.  The base of the tower is actually higher in elevation than the surrounding Belle Fourche river valley, and the trail afforded a number of nice vistas.  There are resting spots with benches and a couple of spotting tubes as well.  The weather was nice for hiking and photography, with blue skies and wonderful clouds.  We finished our hike around noon, and left the monument headed for Hewlett to the north.

A view of Devil's Tower from the trail around the base.

A view of Devil’s Tower from the trail around the base.

Hewlett is a very picturesque little town with an “old west” look to it.  We were there because we had a tourist map that showed a number of different loop drives in the area.  One of them appeared to use a road from Hewlett south to Sundance, but the map must have printed incorrectly as the road did not exist as near as we could tell.  Instead continuing on to Aladdin, whose main (only) attraction is the general store, we decided to back track past the monument to Sundance.  It’s always interesting driving a road in the opposite direction as the views are different, and we had some very good ones of the tower.

The Crook Co. Museum is in the basement of the county courthouse in Sundance.  A fellow RVer had been there early last week and recommended it.  It’s free, which is always a bonus.  Some of the exhibits have to do with Harry Longabough, AKA “The Sundance Kid”, who was tried and sentenced to 18 months in jail in the Crook County court.  This was the kind of small/local museum that Nick & Terry Russell often visit and write about in The Gypsy Journal, their RV travel newspaper.  The old high school building is being refurbished to serve as the new home of the museum.  It should be very nice when finished, and worth a return visit if/when we are back in the area.

We headed back to Gillette and decided to take a quick auto tour of the main downtown area.  In so doing, we came acres the Rockpile Museum, so named because of the large, natural rock formation at its entrance which served as a landmark for a nearby lake in earlier cattle-drive days.  This museum told the story of the settling of Campbell County, of which Gillette is the county seat.  It was yet another instance of a nice small/local museum with free admission.

On the drive back to Gillette I studied the official Wyoming state highway map (Linda is doing the tourist driving) and pondered how we would get from Sheridan to Wapiti (Waa pity) on July 21st.  The most direct route is US-14, but our neighbor John said they had been told to avoid US-14 and take US-16 out of Buffalo instead.  Both routes cross the Bighorn Mountains, and US-16 has the slightly higher pass (9,665 ft vs. 9,033 ft), but when it comes to mountain roads altitude isn’t everything.  We got online and searched for information and found the RVCruiser website, which had a detailed discussion of the various routes around and through the Bighorn Mountains.  The information there confirmed what John had been told; the grades on US-16 are long/gradual, the turns moderate, and there are areas to pull off and admire the scenery while the engine or brakes cool off.  Not so on US-14, which has hairpin turns, steeper grades, and few if any pull outs.  After US-16, the alternatives were end-arounds (very long detours) to the north or south.

While researching this route we also saw a reference to “three tunnels” as you head west on US-20 from Cody towards the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  Tunnels?  Yikes!  Again we went online looking for information on width and height restrictions but had trouble finding anything official.  I checked the website for the Green Creek Inn & RV Park where we will be staying, and it mentioned the tunnels as well.  A quick call to them confirmed that we would be able to clear the tunnels without difficulty.  With our minds put at ease, we turned in for the night.