Tag Archives: WCRVR (FL)

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

2016/04/11 (M) Parts Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/04/12 (T) Water Pump Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/04/13 (W) Unbalanced Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016/04/06-10 (W-N) Close Call All’s Well

2016/04/06 (W) Near Disaster

We were up by 7 AM, anticipating our departure from Jetty Park and the Cape Canaveral / Cocoa Beach area of Florida.  Around 9:30 AM we started straightening up the interior of our motorcoach.  At 10:15 I moved the car over by the office and walked back to our site.  Around 10:30 I disconnected the shorepower cord and stored it for travel.  With the chassis batteries connected, and the engine compartment accessory air supply open, the engine started right up.  After the chassis aired up I raised the tag axle and Linda served as spotter while I eased out of site #357.  I thought I might need to back up to get clear of vehicles and trees but I was able to exit the site in one smooth forward motion.  Linda got onboard and we drove clockwise around Red Knot Circle and over to the dump station by the office.  There is a large paved area around the dump station with room to temporarily park the bus, without blocking any of the vehicles parked there, while we connected the car for towing.  We checked the lights, which were OK, and Linda got onboard.  We pulled out of the campground just after 11 AM and once I cleared the turn out of the campground exit I lowered the tag axle.  I felt a sudden jerk but thought the transmission had shifted.

We headed west on George J. King Blvd. and merged onto FL-A1A westbound.  FL-A1A quickly crossed the Banana River, leaving Cape Canaveral for Merritt Island.  We eventually crossed the Indian River and were back on the mainland.  Somewhere along the way FL-A1A became FL-528 which eventually became FL-528 Toll Road.  Linda was keeping tabs on the temperatures and pressures of all the wheels/tires.  The driver side tag seemed to be running consistent with the others and we settled in for our trip.

FL-528 traverses a large swath of undeveloped land with lots of water and birds.  Traffic was light and the driving was easy so it came as quite a jolt when we got a high temperature alarm on the driver side tag axle tire sensor.  The temperature was in the 160’s and climbing and I started looking for a safe place to pull off the road.  Before I could do that I checked the driver side rear view mirror, and saw smoke coming from the tag axle wheel well.  NOT GOOD!  I pulled off at an entrance ramp to get farther away from the traffic lanes.  I told Linda to get our cats into their carriers and grab our computers from the bed in case we had to abandon ship. While she did that I grabbed the fire extinguisher from behind the driver’s seat and ran back to the smoking tag axle.  I discharged the extinguisher through the small holes in the wheel in an attempt to cool off the disc brake caliper and rotor.  I got the wheel to quit smoking and went back inside to get the other fire extinguisher, just in case.

I left the engine running and started trying to figure out what to do.  My first call was to the Prevost Service Center in Jacksonville, Florida.  They could not help me directly, and their mobile service guy was off today, but the service manager gave me the name of someone to call in the Orlando area.  Long-story-short, I ended up getting passed off to a whole string of people, none of whom could help me but each of whom tried to connect me to someone who could.  No one could provide assistance in-situ and most places would not be able to help us for 1 to 2 weeks, if at all.

I talked to a guy in Cocoa, about 20 miles back the wrong way, who sounded like he could help in a week if we could get the bus there.  I eventually talked to our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, who was in Michigan working on a coach near Lansing about 30 miles from our house.  I also called the Prevost Action Service System (PASS).  The Jacksonville service manager was not willing to tell me it was OK to lift the tag axle and drive on six tires but the P.A.S.S. technician thought it would OK as long as I did not drive too far and kept my speed down.  I eventually talked to Barry at JOSAM in Orlando, who could not help us directly but seemed genuinely concerned about our situation.  Barry ultimately put me in touch with John at Action Mobile Service on the south side of Orlando.  Both business were located near the intersection of the FL-528 Toll Road and FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike).  That intersection was about 15 miles from where we were sitting on the side of the road.  The consensus opinion was that I should be able to complete the relatively short trip of 15 miles by lifting the tag axle and limiting my speed.  By the time I pulled back into the flow of traffic we had been on the side of the road for two hours and were more than a little bit rattled and frustrated.

Limiting my speed on a limited access highway posted at 70 MPH was not without its own risks, but it was (apparently) our only alternative unless we wanted to be put on a “low boy” and towed.  The sooner we got off FL-528 and into someone’s service yard the better.  Traffic was now thicker as it was 1:30 PM but I finally had an opening that was long enough to allow me to get up to 45 MPH without cutting someone off and give other vehicles plenty of time and distance to move over and go around me.  I kept my speed at 45 to 50 MPH, except where posted lower in a construction zone, of course, and kept my emergency flashers on the whole way.

We exited FL-528 at Exit 4.  When I started driving I was headed for JOSAM and Barry had given me a ‘heads up’ about how to navigate Exit 4 as this exit serves a dual purpose.  Staying to the right it immediately becomes an entrance ramp to FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike) whereas staying left and going straight to the stop sign gets you to a side street that leads to FL-441 / Orange Blossom Trail to the right or to JOSAM to the left.  We were nearing Exit 4 when Barry called back and told us to go to Action Mobile Service.  Exit 4 was also the correct exit for Action Mobile but in the opposite direction from JOSAM.  It was at this point that we had a bit of confusion.

We were both already pretty frazzled by the events of the last few hours and the last minute change in directions did not make things better, especially with Linda handling the phone call and unable to hear well.  We had JOSAM’s address programmed into the Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS, but that was no longer our destination.  Linda tried to enter the address of Action Mobile Service into the unit but it had become non-responsive.  I checked the power adapter and saw that the light was out so I knew the unit was not getting 12 VDC power and the battery had probably run down.  The adapter often works loose so I plugged it back in but it did not restore the power.  The two bottom outlets share a circuit and the two upper outlets share a different circuit so I plugged the adapter into one of the upper outlets.  I quickly determined that all four of the 12 VDC accessory outlets appeared to be dead and told Linda to stop trying to use the GPS.  She put the address in her phone instead but was having trouble with that as well and was slightly disoriented by this point.

I knew we had turn right at the stop sign because Action Mobile was “in the opposite direction from JOSAM.”  I also knew I needed to get onto Orange Blossom Trail, but was unclear as to just where that was or which way we needed to turn when I found it.  As it turned out I could see a street sign that indicated OBT was the cross street at the traffic signal immediately after we turned right at the stop sign.  We were where we needed to be, but now which way to go?  On a hunch, when the light turned green, I turned right and headed south.  Linda got oriented relative to the GPS/mapping information on her phone and eventually confirmed that we were closing the distance between our current location and destination and thus going in the correct direction on the correct road.  I turned left onto the Central Florida Parkway and then a short distance later turned right onto Satellite Blvd.  Action Mobile was the second business on the right but I pulled up along the curb, making sure I did block any driveways, and walked in to confirm that we were in the right place and find out where they wanted me to put the bus.

We were met by the Service Manager, John Provo, who pointed me to an open area where I could back the bus in and be out of the way.  We unhooked the car and Linda drove it into the yard and parked it near where the bus would end up.  I then swung the bus out into the oncoming traffic lane and made a hard right turn through the gate and into the yard.  (The tag axle was already up, of course.)  I pulled forward and then backed in towards the passenger side with Linda spotting for me.  I put the tag axle down so the drive axle would not have to support the entire weight of the rear end and checked for level.  We were level enough for comfort so I did not bother with leveling.  Once we were parked I went in to talk to John (the service manager, the owner’s name is also John).  He and I looked at the driver side tag wheel/tire and I described what had happened.  Other than the yellow powder from the fire extinguisher there was no visible evidence of what had transpired.

Owner John Douglass was outside talking to someone and Linda ended up talking to him.  In the course of their conversation she found out that his parents owned a house on Runnymeade in the same subdivision where we lived for 35 years.  Not only that, they were there when we were, and John lived with them for a while after trade school (diesel mechanics).  He eventually bought the house from them, again, all while we were there but we did not recall ever meeting.  It really is a small world, after all!

John D. (the owner) introduced us to Bill (the mechanic) who would be handling our repair first thing tomorrow morning.  There wasn’t much else to do at that point except to get comfortable, have a late lunch snack, and check in with “Smitty” (John Smith) at Williston Crossings, Pat/Vickie, Butch, and Chuck while Linda updated our children on the status of our situation.

The last employees left around 5 PM and closed/chained the gate.  We had the code for the lock but the lock was on the outside of the fence.  An employee returned around 6 PM so when he left I went out and put the lock on the inside.  It did not occur to me at the time that employees might have to get in at all hours for emergency road service calls, but I was willing to get up and unlock at whatever hour if needed.

It would be a while until our evening TV programs came on, and we still had plenty of daylight, so I got out my multi-meter to try and diagnose what had happened with the power supply to the four 12 VDC accessory outlets I wired up for powering portable accessories in the cockpit.  The 12 VDC distribution/fuse panel seemed like the obvious place to start.

The 12 VDC distribution/fuse panel is above the entry stairs from the cockpit landing up to the main floor.  It’s an enclosure that is installed against the ceiling and is about 10″ high.  It is in-between the TV box (DS) and the front A-C box (PS) and is about 28″ wide.  It has a door that is 7″ tall by 24″ wide and hinged at the top, opening out from the bottom.  When the door is open the actual opening is, of course, a bit smaller.  The hinges on the door do not hold the door open against the ceiling, so one of the challenges working in this space is keeping the door up and out of the way.  When working alone I usually prop it open but with Linda helping me she was able to hold it open with one hand and hold the multi-meter with the other hand while I handled the probes.  The other challenge is that it is above the stairs and just high enough that I cannot reach it easily without standing on a stool, which is what I did while Linda stood with her right foot on the navigator seat and her left foot on the main floor.  It was probably a strange sight if anyone noticed.

Each circuit has have a number tag on the wire where it connects to the fuse block terminal.  We are fortunate that one of the pieces of documentation we got with the coach lists all of these circuits in numerical order with a description of what it feeds.  I recalled (vaguely?) that I had disabled and/removed some devices a while ago and repurposed the circuits to supply power to the auxiliary outlets.  I found the circuit numbers and checked those and they did not have power.  I traced the problem back to a relay that did not seem to be operating correctly.

I carry spare relays and was going to replace it but discovered, after great difficulty removing the relay from its socket, that my spare relays were slightly different (4-pin instead of 5-pin).  I spent some time considering whether I could use a 4-pin relay, or perhaps just install a jumper wire to bypass it, when I realized that there were a few duplicate wire numbers, and that those duplicates were the very numbers with which I was working.  I checked for 12 VDC on those duplicate circuits and guess what?  No voltage there either.  I pulled one of the automotive style blade fuses and it was open.

I got the parts box with the spare fuses from the car and found a correct replacement.    I checked the other two fuses and they were also open.  They were very small, 2 and 3 A respectively, and I replaced them with 5 A fuses.  After reconnecting a wire (that I had already forgotten I disconnected at the beginning of this process) we finally had power restored to all four outlets, which, as I mentioned earlier, get their power from two different circuits, one for the upper pair and a different one for the lower pair.

We spent the night in Action Mobile’s yard.  Located in a light industrial area just off a major commercial thoroughfare, it was certainly not an RV park, but it was fenced, with barbed wire on top, had a locked gate (for which we had the code), and lots of security cameras.  Satellite Blvd. was surprisingly busy for a side street, with lots of trucks of all sizes and some hot rodders with booming car audio systems.  There was a large food processing plant directly across the street that was brightly illuminated and obviously in production 24 hours a day as there were lots of cars/trucks that left around 7 PM and a larger number that showed up at the same time and parked all along the building.

We had been running on inverters all day and I wanted to make sure the batteries were close to fully charged before we went to bed so I turned on the genset around 7 PM while we watched TV and tried to relax.  I used TVFool.com to locate OTA TV transmitter antennas.  Given that we were on the south edge of Orlando the towers were, not surprisingly, in all directions.  Most of the strongest stations, however, were lined up to our northeast so I pointed the front TV antenna in that direction.  We were able to pick up one of the PBS affiliates and watched a fascinating program of the Vikings; their journeys and reach, and the use of satellite imaging technology to identify possible archeological sites in what is now the Canadian Maritimes.

We had to be up at 5 AM so we were dressed and ready to go at 6 AM which is the time I was told Bill would be arriving.  I set two alarms and we went to bed around 11 PM.

2016/04/07 (R) Crisis Averted

It rained overnight and continued, off and on, this morning.  We were up around 5:15 AM, got dressed, and had bagels and orange juice for breakfast but I did not make any coffee.  Bill (our mechanic) was the first to show up at 6:45 AM.  Since the lock was on the inside of the gate I walked over to make sure he could get it open.  Just before 7 AM an ALSCO truck pulled in.  There were two other ALSCO trucks in service bays and the driver walked over there, came back a short time later, and then drove away.  Bill unlocked the office and then settled in at the outside picnic table.  I realized pretty quickly that nothing was going to happen with our bus until John P. (Service Manager) showed up, but that was OK.  It was a great comfort to be off the road in a safe place where we could sit for quite a while if needed and to know that there was a guy who had the skills and resources to fix our bus sitting were I could see him.  We also had a good feeling about John D. (the owner).

At 7:45 AM I received clearance to move the bus to the last service bay (farthest from the street) and by 8 AM had the engine running and the tag axle up.  Action Mobile Service has seven service bays, only one of which (#1) is inside.  The other six are under a large roof with open sides.  (It’s a Florida thing; you won’t see that in Michigan.)  They wanted me to back into the bay so I had to reposition the bus toward the passenger side, swing the nose to the left and into the entrance gate, straighten out, back down to the bay, and then swing the back end in on the passenger side.  Linda spotted for me, as she always does, and Bill signaled the final positioning.

Our coach at Action Mobile Service in Orlando, FL. awaiting the start of the driver side tag axle brake repair.

We were told yesterday that we would not be able to stay in the coach while Bill worked on it, but Bill said we could.  The difference was that because the tag axle can be lifted they did not need to jack up the bus.  That made for a more comfortable day, both for us and for the cats, and allowed us to be more productive than if we had been confined to the customer lounge.  I spent part of the morning in the customer lounge anyway as I was on the phone with Prevost Parts US in Elgin, Illinois.  I spent most of the rest of the day interacting with Bill and the two Johns.  Linda, however, was able to use her computer in the bus and work on tax returns.

The brake was locked up to where Bill could not turn it by hand but he got the caliper off somehow and then removed the hub and rotor.  I am always interested in how these things are done but figured that Bill, who did not know me, did not need me staring over his shoulder while he worked.  When he finally got everything apart he determined that the brake pads and rotor needed to be replaced, as did the wheel bearings, races, and seals.  The major problem, however, was going to be the disc brake caliper.

This is what a Prevost H3-40 tag axle looks like when it is completely disassembled.

Action Mobile called in Rex from Rush Trucking, a huge national trucking company.  Rex had a heavy duty truck parts business at one time but sold it and went to work for Rush.  He had been in the heavy truck industry for over 30 years and had a lot of expertise and contacts.  He looked at the situation and determined the part numbers for all of the parts Bill needed.  A couple of hours later he showed up with everything, including a rebuilt/remanufactured caliper.  The only thing he could not get was a new torque plate (spider).

We could not determine if a new torque plate was needed but it was a possible cause of brake misalignment.  If we were going to replace it, now was the time as it was completely accessible with the brake and axle hub removed.  Gary at Prevost Parts had spent a lot of time with me during the morning and been especially helpful but I ended up talking to Wes to order the spider.  It’s a phone bank and you usually have to take who you get as you cannot dial a specific person.  You can leave a message and request a callback, but that can take a lot longer than waiting on hold for “…the next available representative.”  They had a left hand spider in New Jersey and I ordered it for overnight delivery to Action Mobile.  It is supposed to be here by 10:30 AM tomorrow morning.

Without the spider Bill could not wrap up the job but he was able to spend the afternoon putting new seals and bearings into the axle hub and mounting the rotor to the hub.  Once the spider arrives, and assuming it is the correct part, he figured it would take 90 minutes to put everything back together.

The new rotor mounted on the hub (just behind the red stool, and the new caliper (upper right behind the cardboard box).

John D. (the owner) said we could leave the bus in the bay overnight.  We got to chatting and I gave him a tour of the inside.  He noticed that we were not running a generator and asked if we were on an inverter.  I confirmed that we were and he offered us the use of a 50 Amp RV outlet that was located by the passenger side rear of the service bay.  It turned out that there was also potable water available if we needed it.

I waited until Bill was done working at 3:30 PM, so as not to interfere with his work, and then got out the shorepower cord and plugged it in.  We do OK on the inverter, and can use everything with the genset running, but the coach is definitely most comfortable and useful when plugged in to shorepower, especially “50 Amp” (240/120 VAC) service.  Although it was warm today, the coach was partly shaded by the bay and we decided not to run the air-conditioners.  With the windows and roof vents open, and the exhaust fans on, our small Duracraft portable fan was sufficient to keep Linda comfortable.

By 5 PM everyone was done for the day and left, locking the gates on the way out.  We had the lock code in case we needed to get out, or let emergency services in, but decided when we first arrived that we would not come and go unless absolutely necessary.

I had a lengthy conversation with Chuck about the status of our brake repair and what I was finding out about Prevost and parts availability in the process.  I also texted some part numbers to Butch so he could pursue possible sources in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.  While I took care of those communications, Linda made salads and a potato lentil curry for dinner.  After dinner I talked to Pat and Vickie for a while and then called Butch and had a long chat with him.  Linda was watching (reading, CC)  our Thursday evening CBS TV programs and when I concluded my call with Butch I settled in to watch TV with her and work on my blog posts for the last several days.

2016/04/08 (F) Brake Away to WCRVR

I set alarms last night for 6:45 AM since Bill starts work at 7 AM and I told him yesterday we would be up and dressed by then and to not hesitate to work in/around our coach.  I made a small pot of coffee and we had orange juice and bagels for breakfast which was made easier by the 50A RV electrical service that John D. had offered us late yesterday.  There wasn’t much of anything Bill could do on our coach until the torque plate (disc brake caliper mounting spider) showed up.  Linda worked at her computer while I worked on blog posts on my iPad.

I eventually put aside my blog work and gathered up some of the boxes the new caliper and other parts were in.  I texted Butch with various part numbers I had been given by Prevost, gotten off of used parts, or copied from labels on boxes.  He called me just before 10 AM to let me know the number on the box label appeared to be the one we needed.  He was in contact with someone at ABC Bus Parts in Muncie, Indiana who was in contact with someone at Meritor.  The information he was getting was that the caliper was not available in stock but I could get it for $1,200 with a 45 – 60 day lead time.  While I was glad to hear that might be the case, it certainly contradicted everything I had been told by Prevost, which I found a bit disturbing.

The UPS truck showed up at 10 AM so I walked up to the office, retrieved the box, and took it back and set it by the driver side tag axle.  I had just talked to Bill at little earlier but he wasn’t around at the moment.  He still wasn’t around at 11 AM so I went to the office to see what was going on.  As I suspected, Bill had to go out on a mobile service call.  John D. (the owner) called Bill and then let me know that he would be back in about 10 minutes.  I made sure everyone knew that I wasn’t trying to create an unnecessary since of urgency or priority for our coach, I just wanted to know what the status was.

The new torque plate (spider) installed on the driver side tag axle. The new caliper is visible lower right. Action Mobile Service, Orlando, FL.

When Bill returned he got right to work and in short order had the new spider mounted.  He then installed the hub, the outer bearing, and axle seal.  The hub gasket and cap were last, after which he added hub oil through the hole in the sight glass portion of the hub.  It takes time for the oil to penetrate the bearings and settle so some patience is required to get the correct oil level.

With the hub installed Bill now had to get the caliper in place.  It’s both heavy and awkward to handle.  It has to be lifted into place, lowered around the rotor, and secured with a pair of large steel slide pins.  The problem is how to hold the caliper in place while getting the upper pin in place.  In order to accomplish that he had another mechanic help him.  He then adjusted the automatic slack adjuster and finally reconnected the air line to the brake “can” (actuator).

I left him alone until he was done and it was a relief to finally see that everything appeared to fit together.  The hub spun with the minimum required drag, but we still had to test the installation.   (The brake pads are always in contact with the rotor.)   To do that I needed to apply and release the brakes but the tag axle was up (lifted) which cuts off the air supply to the brake chambers.

Lowering the tag axle releases the air from the brake chamber that powers the lifting mechanism and at the same time allows air into the air springs that support the weight of the coach on the axle.  It also changes one of the air valves so that application of the brake pedal allows air into the tag axle brake chambers.  I could lower the tag axle, and probably apply the brakes once or twice, with the air stored in the system, but raising the axle back up, and/or additional application of the brakes, would require me to start the engine.  That required a few minutes of my time so Bill decided to take his lunch break.

The hub and rotor reinstalled along with the new caliper, ready for testing. Action Mobile Service, Orland, FL.

While Bill was eating lunch I checked with the two Johns to see if Rex could supply me with another left (DS) caliper and two right (PS) calipers.  They checked with him and he said he could have two of them this afternoon but could not get the third one until Monday.

When Bill was done with lunch I started the engine and lowered the tag axle which caused the driver side rear to drop as the tag wheel/tire was not yet on the hub.  When I applied the brakes Bill was not able to turn the hub and when I released the brake pedal he was able to turn the hub once again.  That was the best test we could do with the bus sitting still and Bill was satisfied that the problem was properly repaired.  Before Bill put the wheel/tire back on he climbed under the bus and greased the passenger side tag axle disc brake caliper.  When he went to put the wheel back on the hub was too low.  With the engine running I tried to raise the driver side rear using the Level Low system but it would not come up high enough.  I tried lowering the front to pivot the tag higher but that did not work either.

Bill found a length of 4″x4″ timber, put it in front of the outside driver side drive tire and had me move the bus forward just enough to roll the tire up onto it.  That raised the tag axle hub enough that he could get the wheel onto the studs and secure it.  As soon as it was on I moved the bus forward a little more until the drive tire was off of the 4×4.  The tag axle brake problem was fixed.  Bill greased the two front/steer disc brake calipers and then checked the oil level in both of those hubs and the passenger side tag axle hub.

Now that I knew the disc brake caliper and spider fit and worked properly I let John D. know that I wanted the three additional calipers.  He let Rex (Rush Trucking) know.  We did not want to hang around Action Mobile in the bus until Monday and given that I would have to come back Monday in the car anyway I indicated that I would pick all three of them up then.

I settled the bill for the repair work.  The amount was substantial but I knew what it was going to be so it wasn’t a surprise.  I also considered it fair and had no problem paying it.  A little over 48 hours before we come dangerously close to having our bus catch on fire and if it had it would have been completely consumed.  In the hours that followed we were faced with the very real prospect that we might not be able to get our bus repaired, effectively rendering it useless as a motorhome.  We even half joked about buying a lot in an RV resort, moving the bus there (towing it if necessary), and becoming Florida residents.  It was a real low point from which Action Mobile restored our plans and dream for a long, adventurous retirement using our motorcoach.

As a separate transaction I paid a 50% deposit on the three brake calipers.  At that point there was nothing left to do except say ‘thank you,’ hook up the car for towing, and leave, but not before calling Williston Crossings and making a reservation.

Linda usually handles the reservation/registration process but with her hearing and voice issues that has become my job, at least temporarily, but hopefully not long-term.  Sometimes we have to Ieave a message and get a callback, but Joann answered the phone this time.  We had decided that we wanted to stay through Tuesday evening and depart on Wednesday morning April 13.  To our surprise there was no pull-through site available for that set of dates.  Site #439 was available, however, and was actually our 1st choice anyway as it is next door to our friends, John (Smiity) and Ali, and is the same site we were on for our entire winter here in 2014.  I made the reservation, which was very easy as the resort still had our information on file.

With our camping arrangements made Linda texted Smitty to let him know we were getting ready to head his way.  I started the bus and pulled it out of the bay and around to the passenger side while Linda spotted for clearance to obstructions.  I pulled up by the office, lined up with the gate, and shut off the engine.  Meanwhile Linda brought the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing.  We checked that all the lights were working and were ready to go.  We worked our way back the short distance to US-441 / Orange Blossom Trail via Satellite Blvd and the Central Florida Parkway.  From there it was only a little over a mile north to get back to the entrance to FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike).  We had already studied the route on our iPad Maps app so we knew it was an easy interchange, with all turns to the right.  As long as we stayed to the right we would end up northbound on the Turnpike towards I-75 and Ocala.

Because I wanted to make sure I stayed to the right I ended up going through a manned tollbooth rather than the usual SunPass Only lanes.  The staffed lane was also marked for wide vehicles and was also a SunPass Lane, so it was not a problem.  It only caused a brief moment of confusion as the attendant started counting axles.  I pointed to our transponder but he did not see me and I pulled on through as soon as the electronic sign said “SunPass Accepted.”

Traffic on the Turnpike was not too bad but we did see an electronic information sign shortly after getting on advising of traffic congestion between the FL-301 exit and the I-75 merge.  No surprise there, especially on a Friday afternoon.  I rolled along initially at 62 MPH while Linda kept a close eye on the temperatures of the four wheels/tires that have disc brakes (steer and tag axles).  The DS tag was running hotter than the other wheels by at least 10 degrees F, including the PS tag; not enough to indicate a problem, but given our recent experience and with no meaningful miles on the repair work, we were understandably nervous.  I decided to error on the side of caution and travel at 55 MPH.

Linda checked the temperatures every few minutes for the entire trip.  The steer tires/wheels and the drive tires/wheels eventually settled in to temperatures in the mid-90 degree F range, plus or minus, while the tag tires settled in around 105 degrees F while free-wheeling and got as high as 120 after braking.  The temperatures came back down, however, which was important, and the passenger side was sometimes higher than the driver side, which either meant the driver side was working or the passenger side was starting to fail.  I preferred the former possibility to the later but it wasn’t like I had a choice.

As we were warned, the traffic on the Turnpike slowed to stop-n-go conditions starting at the exit for FL-301.  It remained congested, very slow, and often completely stopped all the way to the merge with I-75 northbound, where it got even worse (if that was possible).  The volume of traffic trying to move north was as astounding as its lack of movement and remained heavy all the way to exit 354 at Ocala where we finally left I-75 and headed northwest on US-27 towards Williston.

Linda had texted several status updates to Smitty and at 5:05 PM texted him again as we turned off of US-27 / Main Street onto NE 5th Street.  I stopped at the turn into the resort and lifted the tag axle before proceeding around the corner.  As I came around and pulled up to the gate Smitty was coming the other way in his golf cart.  We said a quick ‘hello’ and he opened the gate.  I pulled up by the office, which had closed just minutes before, so our bus/car combination was not blocking the incoming traffic lane and shut off the engine.  We unhooked the car and Linda moved it to a temporary parking spot.  John and I discussed how best to get me into the site.  I expressed my preferred approach and he agreed to try it.  I then followed him to the site where Linda was waiting for us.

I learned a lot about how to maneuver this bus two years ago from ‘Big Bill’ Cowick when we were parked next to him and Nancy  at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida.  Smitty got me positioned correctly to start backing up and watched the front end while Linda watched the rear end.  I was able to back it up around the corner of an intersection and angle it towards the site, coming very close to a recently added street sign on the passenger side without hitting it.  Once the right front corner was able to clear the sign I turned the steer tires to the left, tightening the turn as I went, while watching John, Linda, and the concrete pad in my mirrors and rearview camera.  I backed the bus around smoothly onto the pad and then pulled forward once to make sure I was straight and the distance I wanted to be from the driver side edge of the pad.  I then backed up to where the tag axle tires were still fully on the concrete pad with only a foot or so to spare.  That positioned the bus conveniently for utility hookups while leaving plenty of space to open bay doors and lots of room on the passenger side where the patio area is located.  It also created plenty of space in front of the bus for the car, getting it well clear of the road.

Ali and John were already at Jeff and Kathy’s when John drove up to let us in.  With the engine still running and the tag axles still up I checked that both tag axle tires spun freely.  They did, which was very good news, so I lowered the tag axle, leveled the coach, and shut off the engine.  I disconnected the chassis batteries, turned off the auxiliary air to the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and made sure the auxiliary air-compressor was turned on.  While I was taking care of all that Linda prepared a few things on the interior, opened windows and ceiling vents, and got a Yuengling lager out of the refrigerator and put it in an insulated cozy for me.  It was time to relax and go be sociable at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel.

Everyone wanted to hear about our recent “adventure,” of course, and the telling of the tale fell to me.  At some point my beer was gone so I walked back to our coach and opened our bottle of Nutura Carmenere, a red wine I picked up at Publix in Cocoa Beach along with a Nutura Merlot.  It was not a brand we had tried before, and I had never heard of a Carmenere, but they were $11.99 per bottle wines on sale 2 for 1.  We are always on the lookout for red wines that I like (not dry, no tannins) and are willing to risk $5 to $8 to try one.  Not surprisingly, the Carmenere was drier than I like, but I was able to drink it and I got to show everyone one of our polycarbonate wine glasses.

We stayed and chatted until 7 PM when everyone was finally hungry and we all returned to our coaches to have dinner.  After dinner I sent a brief text message to four people just to let them know that we made it to Williston without any difficulties and that I would fill them in on details tomorrow.  We were planning to go next door to John and Ali’s 5th wheel after dinner and sit around a campfire but we did not see them outside and we were very tired.  I aimed the front TV antenna towards Gainesville and we found something to watch.  Linda was off to bed before 10 PM and I was in bed by 11.   It had been a long day and we were glad to have it behind us and be back at WCRVR.

2016/04/09 (S) Water Pump Down

In spite of being very tired I stayed up late last night watching back-to-back episodes of Ken Burns’ JAZZ.  Linda went to bed around 10 PM and I turned in at 12:45 AM.  She was up at 7 AM and walked to the bath/laundry building to take a shower while I slept in until 8:30 AM.  I was going to walk over and get a shower as well but Linda informed me that the water never got more than lukewarm.  No thanks.  I decided to hang out in my sweats for a while, made a pot of coffee, and worked on my blog posts for the past week.  With all that has happened I have had quite a bit to write about.

I plugged our WiFiRanger in last night and it did not have any difficulty connecting to the resort Wi-Fi system.  The problem we seemed to be having this morning was that our devices will not stay connected to the WiFiRanger.  Nuts.

Linda needed to continue working on taxes and set her computer up on the desk.  I have not taken my computer out of its case since I packed it up on Wednesday morning but I will have to get it out sometime soon.  Our fresh water level finally dropped below 1/3 tank so I will need to hook up the water softener fairly soon but decided I would do the laundry and get a shower first.  I gathered up all of the soiled clothes, towels, and some of the bedding, along with the tote bag of laundry supplies and the tote bag of shower supplies.  I loaded everything into the car and drove to the north laundry/shower building, which is better equipped than the one near our site.  It was noon.

No one else was using the laundry so I used three of the washing machines closest to the dryers.  These washing machines take about 25 minutes to run through their cycle so it was just over half an hour before all three loads were done.  The dryers run for about 45 minutes, so once I had the laundry transferred to the dryers I took a shower.  I then drove back to our coach, dropped off the shower supply bag, and we stripped the bed.  I returned to the laundry building, washed the sheets, and transferred them to a dryer.  As each dryer load finished I moved it to a large table and folded or hung it up.  By 3 PM I had everything neatly packed back into the nylon mesh laundry bags and returned to our bus.

Linda helped me get the laundry inside and put away.  I then turned my attention to refilling our fresh water tank.  That is a bit of a process as I have to get out the pre-filter, with hoses and pressure regulator attached, and the water softener, again with hoses attached.  Heavy, bulky, awkward, etc.; it’s my second least favorite RV chore, right behind checking tire pressures. I got everything connected and turned on the water supply.  The connection at the supply faucet and the connection at the coach inlet both leaked badly.  I snugged up the coach inlet connection so it didn’t spray water.  It was still dripping quite a bit but it was good enough for filling the tank.  I opened the fill valve, heard the water flowing into the tank, and opened the door to have a look.

The remote gauge had dropped below the 1/3 tank level a day or so ago so all we could tell from the house systems panel was that we had less than 40 gallons in the tank.  I had noticed this morning that we were not getting the usual flow of water to the toilet and Linda tried to use the kitchen faucet late this morning and got no water.  Although I did not think we had used that much water we both made the (naïve) presumption that we had run the tank dry.  To my surprise (not really), the tank was at the 1/4 level, which meant it still glad about 30 gallons of water in it.  That seemed to suggest rather strongly that the problem was something connected to the water pump.  Not good.

I shut off the water and started grousing, because I find that it makes me feel better and is part of my problem-solving process.  So does swearing a bit, so I did some of that too.  Not like a sailor, of course; I was a USAF ROTC cadet years ago, after all.  There were a few obvious things to check, after which I figured I would call Butch if they didn’t pan out.

I got out my multi-meter and then looked up the circuit numbers for the water pump and switch circuits.  I checked those circuits in the 12 VDC distribution panel and they all had +12.7 VDC which meant the fuses were OK.  The power to the pump is switched through a relay so that the pump can be turned on/off from multiple locations using momentary contact switches.  The easiest way to check the proper operation of the relay and confirm/deny the presence of power at the pump, was to disconnect the + 12 VDC and return wires from the pump and check for voltage on the supply wires.  With the relay “off” there was no voltage present (a very small mV reading).  With the relay “on” I had 12.7 VDC.  Relay off, no voltage.  That pretty much meant the water pump was down.

While not a crisis situation, this failure, at this time, and on the heels of all of our other recent problems, was certainly unwelcome news (not that any failure at any time is ever welcomed).  The only upside was that we were at a nice RV resort with full hookups, in a familiar location with relatively convenient access to resources, and in the company of friends.  We had city water available, so we could use all of the systems on the coach that required fresh water, and we were scheduled to be here for four more nights, which meant I had time to deal with the problem, including getting parts shipped here if needed.

My first instinct, however, was to try to get this fixed RIGHT NOW!  I called Smitty to see if there was any place in town that sold RV parts.  As I expected, he directed me to the local ACE Hardware store.  I knew from previous visits that they carried some RV parts but were unlikely to have 12 VDC water pumps, and even less likely to have the exact model I wanted/needed.

Linda did a Google search and located a Camping World store in Summerfield, Florida south of Ocala.  Not that I was eager to go to Camping World, the home is “list price plus,” but if they had the right pump (or any pump) in stock I was feeling like it would be worth paying the premium to get it and have the problem resolved quickly.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), it was already 4 PM and the store closed at 5 PM.  There was no way I would make it in time, so I returned my attention to making the coach usable from the city water supply.

In order to operate off of the city water supply we would need to leave the water turned on, and in order to do that I needed to get the connections to not leak.  While I probably had replacement washers in one of my parts boxes, I decided to go to ACE Hardware for washers just on the chance that they might have an appropriate water pump.

The only pump at ACE that would have worked was a 120 VAC unit and I was tempted to buy it.  In fact, when I redo the water bay I will install redundant water pumps and I am seriously considering keeping the 12 VDC pump and making the second one a 120 VAC model.  For now though, replacing the DC pump with an AC pump would involve more work than I wanted to get involved in.  I did find what I was really looking for, however; garden hose washers.  I bought two different kinds of flat washers, vinyl and rubber, and a pack of vinyl strainer washers.  I should have also bought a roll of Teflon tape, but I did not think of it at the time.  Back at our rig I realized that I was probably going to need Teflon tape.  I was sure that I had some but it was not in any of my four tool boxes.  Linda helped me empty out the car until we finally found the correct parts box.

I replaced the strainer washer in the pressure regulator fitting that attaches to the water supply as the existing one was damaged and badly deformed.  I also wrapped the supply faucet threads with Teflon tape before attaching the regulator to the faucet.  With the output of the regulator valved off I turned on the water supply.  Voilà; no leaks!

The strainer is the first line of defense against particulate matter getting into the regulator and clogging it.  When I redo the water bay, plan to set up the plumbing so that the supply water goes through a particle filter before going through a backflow preventer (check valve), an adjustable regulator, a water softener, and additional filters, all of which will be installed in the bay but easily accessed and serviced.  I might even install an inline UV sanitizer.  The only thing I will need to do to connect the coach to a water supply will be to connect a hose at both ends.  Priceless.

The other leak was at the fitting in the bay where the hose gets connected.  These garden hose fittings are cheap, easily deformed, and prone to leak, and I think they are one of the other “weak links” in the materials and systems used to make RVs.  (Sewer hoses and connectors are probably the worst, but that problem has been solved by Lippert Systems and I will be using their technology when I redo the utility bay.)  Replacing the flat washer periodically is necessary routine maintenance but easily overlooked until a problem develops.

I replaced the existing flat washer with one of the vinyl ones and then taped the threads on the (male) end of the hose with Teflon tape.  I carefully threaded the two pieces together finger tight and then just a little tighter with a pair of slip pliers.  (Over tightening actually deforms the washer and causes it to eventually leak.)  I opened all of the intermediate shutoff valves and Voilà; again, no leaks!  Our coach was now usable and we could leave the water on unless we were both going to be away from the coach for an extended time, when even a small leak could quickly become a big disaster.

Time to relax.  John and Ali were already down at Jeff and Kathy’s and Linda already had a Yuengling lager in an insulated cozy ready for me.  We took some peanuts along and walked the short distance to their site to sit a spell and visit.  Earlier in the day Jeff and Kathy had gotten a new dog and Kathy was out walking it.  They lost their Yorkie, Teddy, to cancer back in December and were not really planning on getting another dog so soon but an elderly gentleman, who lives alone in the resort, had a 3-year old dog that he was no longer able to car for and needed to find a home for it.  The dog’s name is “Mandy” and she is an 8 pound Dachshund / Miniature Poodle mix.  She has a Dachshund body size/shape and face but a silver gray, slightly wiry coat unlike any Dachshund I have ever seen.  She was friendly and sweet tempered and from all appearances she will settle in with Jeff and Kathy very easily.  While dogs get strongly attached to their owners, they also respond quickly to the kindness of strangers.

I think we were there for at least 90 minutes, perhaps two hours, before everyone got hungry and returned to their rigs for dinner.  By that time it was already 7 PM and we were headed to John and Ali’s 5th wheel once we ate, so Linda made a quick, easy dinner consisting of a nice greens salad and Amy’s Asian Noodle frozen/microwaved entrées.

After dinner I called Butch and brought him up to speed on our disc brake situation and told him about the water pump.  He and I shared the opinion that it seemed like something might have happened with the +12 VDC power supply to the coach.  Most of the house DC power circuits and systems, however, appeared to still be OK.  He reminded me that we have an Amazon Prime account and could probably get a new pump delivered to the resort by Tuesday for a much better price than at Camping World.  Roger that.  I let him know that our current plan was to leave WCRVR Wednesday morning and arrive at their place in Twelve Mile, Indiana on Friday.  He said we should go ahead and park and plug into the electrical power if they were not there as they would be setting up for a local hamfest that evening over at the county fairgrounds across the road from Bill Tharpe’s place in Mexico, Indiana.  Been there, know how to find it.

We walked next door to John and Ali’s around 8 PM and I took another Yuengling with me.  It’s been that kind of week, I guess.  They have an elevated propane firepit, conveniently located under their patio awning, and had chairs arranged around it in a conversational grouping.  We sat and talked until 10 PM, when John had to make the rounds to close up certain buildings and check the gates.  We continued to chat with Ali while John took care of his chores and he was back within 30 minutes.  By 11 PM Linda was finally too tired to be sociable, went back to our coach, and went to bed.  I stayed until almost midnight and finally left when I was yawning more than talking.  I went to bed fairly directly and went right to sleep.

2016/04/10 (N) Water Pump Prime

We got up this morning when we were ready and not a minute sooner.  I made coffee using the two new bags we bought at the Sunseed Co-op in Cocoa Beach.  I requested pancakes for breakfast and Linda obliged by making some very good ones.

Last night I was thinking about driving to Camping World in Summerfield, south of Ocala, today to buy a new water pump.  The store opened at 11 AM and I figured I would find a pet supply store and buy some cat food while I was out.  After Butch suggested last night that I could probably find the exact pump I needed through Amazon, I searched for it and he was right.  I ordered it with four hours to spare to qualify for next day delivery with an $8 upcharge so I would have it on Monday.  Standard Amazon Prime 2-day free delivery would have had it here on Tuesday, but I did not want to risk having it show up late in the day or worse, having the delivery truck get here after the office closed or not get here at all.

I had hoped to spend some time at my computer working on the blog but the best I was able to do was get it turned on, connect it to the Internet, and download my e-mail, which I had not done since Wednesday morning.  I was more than a bit surprised that I had over 80 MB of attachments!  The bulk of that was several very large photo files from our daughter having to do with some recent projects our grand-daughter Katie was involved in.

I called Chuck around 1 PM and caught him standing in line at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  We chatted briefly while he and Barb waited to be seated and I filled him in on the latest developments in the Prevost air disc brake saga.

We had an early dinner after which we emptied out the car and the passenger side of the front bus bay to rearrange where things were stored and make room for the three new air disc brake calipers and the old one.  Linda brought the bathroom scale out and we weighed the old one as best we could.  I would have sworn it was 100 pounds but the scale said it was only 63 pounds.  That was good as four of them would only put 250 pounds in the car instead of 300 to 400 pounds.

We were able to repack the bus bay better and more quickly than I expected.  We put smaller, lighter boxes back in the car, got our beverages, and walked down to Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel for happy hour.  Jeff’s brother, Mark, was there and we learned that he lives in an apartment over by the Williston airport.  Jeff made hamburgers for everyone (except us, of course) and we stuck around while they ate dinner.  Jean showed up not long after everyone was done eating and joined the conversation.

Smitty had to lock all of the gates at 5 PM so I rode along while he made his rounds.  Linda and I left around 7:30 PM, as the light was just starting to fade, and went back to our coach.  We had a light dinner/snack of pretzels and hummus and shared a very delicious orange.  I called Butch and chatted briefly with him about the water pump and brakes and our revised travel plans.  As things now stand we plan to leave here Wednesday morning and get to their place in Twelve Mile, Indiana sometime on Friday.

At 8:15 PM we walked next door to John and Ali’s 5th wheel and sat around their propane firepit.  Smitty had made popcorn with peanut oil and Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum.  John had to lock up the resort buildings at 10 PM.  Linda and Ali were both tired and ready to go in for the night so I rode along with John.  Once we were back we retired to our respective rigs for the evening.  Linda was watching Elementary on TV so I picked up the story line in progress.  When it was over at 11 PM we went to bed and went right to sleep.


2016/04/01-05 (F-T) J-P-Shuffle CCAFS Farewell Celebration

2016/04/01 (F) The J. P. Shuffle

Linda was up before me and got to see one of the cruise ships come in at 6:20 AM.  She said it was all lit up and quite a sight.  I got out of bed at 8:20 AM and made coffee.  Linda prepared toast and jam for breakfast and gave each of us half of an orange.

I finished up my post for yesterday, worked on this one, and then noticed that an iOS 9.3.1 update was available for the Apple iOS 9.3 update that I installed Wednesday evening and Linda installed last night.  It was only 18 MB but still took a long time to download and install.

Today was April Fool’s Day and time for us to once again do “the Jetty Park shuffle.”  I have checked at least once, and often twice, each day to see if an appropriate full hookup site had become available through cancellation for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but it had not.  Around 10 AM I walked to the office to check one last time.  Scott Ward was the JP staff person on duty and was very helpful but a site was just not available.  He was able, however, to put us on site #357 for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night’s.  I shortened our stay on site #3 to two nights and paid the balance for the one night.

Site #3 is a water only site, no electricity and no sewer connection, and the rules say that NO pets are allowed in that section, which is right along the channel and outside the regular fenced campground.  The staff was aware, however, that we have two cats onboard and let us have the site anyway.  We do not ever want them to escape, but especially here.

Our generator can produce more power than we can get from a “50 Amp” RV electrical connection, so not having electricity is not really a problem.  The only real downsides, other than having to move, are that we can feel, hear, and sometimes smell the generator.  We also had a problem with a circuit breaker for its cooling fan last winter.  I made a temporary fix to it but have never fixed it permanently.  We also do not like to leave the genset running when we are away from the coach, such as will be the case on Saturday morning.

I selected/processed three photos of the manatees we saw on Tuesday at Merritt Island National Wildlife a Refuge and e-mailed them to Pat and Vickie.  I then replied to a couple of e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine.  By this time it was 11 AM so we prepared the bus, inside and out, to be moved.  With all of the Windows and roof vents closed it warmed up quickly inside even with a lot of the coach in the shade.  When I turned the ignition key the engine turned over but would not catch and my heart just sank.

I really like this bus, but I have grown weary of the uncertainty of whether things will work when needed.  I turned the ignition key off and rechecked the transmission selector and parking brake settings.  I also switched the suspension out of Level Low to drive mode although that should not have mattered.  With the ignition key turned to the ‘ON’ position the 12 V chassis battery seemed a little low and a red light flashed a few times on the transmission selector, so I turned the key off, went to the outside battery disconnect switches, and turned both the 12V and 24V disconnects off and then back on.

Back in the driver’s seat I tried again.  Normally the engine only turns over a few times before it fires.  This time I let it turn for four or five seconds and it finally started.  If I had any sense I would have driven it to the W. W. Williams Detroit Diesel service center in Orlando, but I moved it to site #3 at J. P. instead.

Our coach in Site #3 at Jetty Park & Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL. This is the “water only” camping by the shipping channel. All of these rigs are parked facing north towards the channel. It’s a great spot to watch the ships come and go.

To get from site #358 to site #3 I had to exit the fenced campground and drive around the east end of the park past the beach parking, concession building, and playground and then west along the edge of the shipping channel and around to the back row of the water only sites, all of which face the shipping channel.  As such it was a long drive to get to a site we could see from the one we just vacated.

We left the car at site #358 temporarily and Linda rode along in the bus.  I made the whole trip in 1st gear, to keep the RPMs up, and turned on the OTR A-C, both to cool the interior of the coach and to put more load on the engine and help get it up temperature.  I did not pull the tag axle up as we had walked the park/campground enough to know that I did not need to make any really tight turns.  When I was mostly into position on site #3 Linda got out and spotted the final position of the rear end.  These channel-side sites slope down towards the channel (facing north) and the back row sites get steeper the farther off the back off the site you go.  I wanted to pull forward just enough to get our tow bar clear of the access road behind the site and Linda accomplished that with an inch or two to spare.

I left the engine running and switched it to high idle to run the OTR air-conditioning.  While Linda went back to get our car I got out the step stool and awning pole and deployed all four awnings.  I then started the Genset to make sure it was going to run and produce electricity.  I also thought we might run the residential air-conditioners.  When Linda returned with our car she wanted to open up the coach so I shut off the OTR bus A-C, dropped the engine idle to low, and let it idle for a couple of minutes before shutting off the engine.  I left the genset on for the time being.

Both of our systems had been reacting to what we had eaten the last few days so we passed on lunch and just hung around our new site which was, in fact, very pleasant with a view of the water in the channel and the high ground of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the opposite bank.

Our driver side neighbors stopped to chat on their way to the beach and let us know that they had just spotted dolphins in the channel.  I walked over and caught a glimpse of several arching repeatedly out of the water but by the time Linda got there they had submerged and not resurfaced.  Given where we are parked we should have a good chance to see dolphins and view cruise ships coming and going from the Port.

Linda made a cold garbanzo bean salad for dinner last night.  After dinner I was trying to get us connected to the park Wi-Fi system but could not maintain the connection or get us logged in.  I tried using our Verizon Mi-Fi but could not get the WiFi Ranger to work with it.  I tried to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with the Mi-Fi but there were problems with that as well.  At one point my ASUS notebook computer decided that it could not detect any Wi-Fi networks even thought it had two of them sitting within a couple feet of it.  I got disgusted with the whole situation, shut everything off, and we went for a walk.

Linda waves to the Disney “Magic” cruise ship as it heads out to sea from Port Canaveral, FL. There is always a crowd along the channel to wave the cruise ships in and out.

We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach and Vickie joined us.  We headed to the beach where we enjoyed a very brisk breeze until lightning to the southwest signaled that it was time to return to the safety of our rigs or one of the park buildings.  We headed back past the playground area towards our coach and Vickie split off for the gate in the campground fence that provided the most direct access to her site.

Back at our site we closed up the coach against the humidity and coming storm.  I then started the auxiliary powerplant (genset) and turned on the air conditioners.  Not long after that it started to rain, lightly at first, but it eventually became very heavy for a while before finally moving offshore.

With the A-C’s running I was reminded that I need to change some of the AC circuits in the main panel.  The front and middle air-conditioners are on different legs of the AC power system, front on L1 and middle on L2.  That makes sense as we would normally want to run both of them at the same time to cool the front half of the bus (living, cooking, office space) when we are awake and using the bus.  The 3rd/bedroom A-C has to go on one of the two legs and either one could create load balancing issues.  Unfortunately, the middle A-C unit is not currently producing any cooling.

To make matters worse, the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger also draws its power from L1.  Again, it had to go somewhere, but the current configuration tends to put too much load on L1 and not enough on L2.  Even though the genset is oversized for our electrical needs an imbalance between L1 and L2 is still a problem because it is set up as a 240 VAC unit with a 240 VAC voltage regulator.  Although it has an active neutral, allowing it to supply 120 VAC to both L1 and L2 (180 degrees out of phase) the regulator is only concerned with maintaining the 240 VAC between the two legs, not the 120 VAC between each leg to neutral.

If the loads on the two legs are not reasonably balanced, the 240 VAC will “drift” off center from neutral with the voltage on the high load leg dropping and the voltage on the low load leg rising.  That, in turn, can/does cause havoc with some of the devices onboard, especially the microwave oven, APC uninterruptible power supply that powers the Amped|Wireless router, and the APC line voltage stabilizer that powers the laser printer.

We were, however, able to watch TV and found Ken Burns’ JAZZ documentary on channel 24.1.  By 11 PM we needed to get to bed as we had to be up and ready to go by 7:45 AM tomorrow morning.  I turned the genset off around 11:30 PM and let the house electrical system switch to the inverter.  I tried to watch the end of JAZZ on the TV in the bedroom but the TV and antenna controller kept losing power.  That, in turn, caused the TV to shut off and the controller to reset to position 8.  My phone and iPad chargers, both of which were plugged into AC outlets, also kept cutting in and out.

I encountered this same issue when we were boondocking at John Palmer’s place in Mayo, Florida at the end of November 2015.  At that time I turned off the SEARCH WATTS feature thinking that it was causing the problem.  Apparently that was not the problem.  My best guess is that under very low load conditions the inverter is either:  a) not inverting at all, or b) producing a voltage and/or current that is not well regulated.  In either case, it would play havoc with our entertainment and communications electronics.

Rather than screw around with this anymore tonight I gave up , turned off the TV, unplugged the antenna controller, resolved to ignore the device chargers, figuring they would work when the refrigerator or air compressor ran, and tried to fall asleep.  I could have turned on the AC lights in the living room, or our small portable fan, to draw enough AC current to keep the inverter working, but that’s really contrary to the whole notion of minimizing your energy usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary when running on batteries.

2016/04/02 (S) Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour

I was awake at 6 AM and we were both up and dressed by 7 AM.  I did not make coffee or have breakfast and Linda just had a piece of bread as making toast would have required me to start the genset.  The batteries were at roughly 24.6 VDC (and showing 72% SOC) with no load being drawn by the inverter so there was no need to recharge them this morning.  We were due at Pat and Vickie’s coach at 8 AM so I gathered up my camera, holster, and extra batteries.  We left at 7:40 and took our time walking over to their site.

Pat and Vickie have seating for four in their Jeep Grand Cherokee and have been providing transportation for our group outings.  We left just after 8 AM for the short drive to the Exploration Tower at the west end of Port Canaveral.  We signed up for a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse that departed from the Tower at 8:30 AM and included admission to the Tower when we returned.

There were only twelve of us on the small tour bus plus a driver (Mike) and two tour guides.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  One of the tour guides (Jim) had worked at the Station and was our main guide for information about the Station and the various launch sites we visited; and we visited a number of them.  One of the things we learned was that CCAFS is a Station rather than a Base because no one lives there.  All of the Air Force personnel working at CCAFS are from Patrick Air Force Base, which is located south of Cocoa Beach.  The U. S. Navy also has a presence here with facilities that service ICBM and attack submarines.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Lighthouse had its own cadre of docents, and was very interesting to see and learn about, but only accounted for a little less than an hour of a 3-1/2 hour tour.  The other tour guide was Ron and he provided most of the information about Port Canaveral.  Just after exiting CCAFS we visited a small museum devoted to the history of the Station.  It was located next to the building that now houses the launch control facility for SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight venture of Elon Musk of PayPal.  There are other private/commercial companies operating at CCAFS besides SpaceX .  One of the largest is United Launch Alliance (ULA), an independent company that was formed by merging the space operations of Boeing (which absorbed McDonnell-Douglass years ago) and Lockheed-Martin.

All that remains of one of the launch pads at CCAFS, FL.

We did not really understand ahead of time what we were going to see and we were surprised by the dilapidated condition of the old launch sites.  All that remains at most of them are concrete and brick works.  Metal superstructures that were subject to rusting were long ago removed and control centers that were once stuffed full of equipment are now “abandoned in place” or used for storage.  It was like visiting an ancient historic site, which in fact it is; the first rocket launched from this site was a German V-2 in 1950 and the Mercury missions occurred in the early 1960’s over 50 years ago.

A continuation of the previous image, this is the command bunker and tunnel. CCAFS, FL.

Back at the Exploration Tower, which is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority (CPA), we got wrist bands good for admission through closing time today.  The weather had been overcast all day and a check of the radar on our smartphones showed heavy rain moving our way.  Even though we were hungry we decided to experience the Tower before the rain moved in.

This is all that is left of what was once a heavily reinforced HVAC building at the launch pad. The superstructure in the distance is in active use by SpaceX and ULA. CCAFS, FL.

The Exploration Tower has seven floors plus additional structure at the top.  We took the elevator to the top floor which features an outdoor observation platform oriented to give a commanding view of Port Canaveral, CCAFS, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center to the north, as well as the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  There are also views to the south of the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.  We took the stairs down to each floor in turn.  Each floor has a theme with related exhibits and we stopped at each one.  The 3rd floor is a small theater that shows a 20 minute film about Port Canaveral and the surrounding area; past, present, and future.  The film starts on the hour and half hour so we caught the 1 PM show.  The second floor is a balcony that affords a view of art hanging above the 1st floor lobby and gift shop.

The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL. The top floor includes an outdoor observation deck.

Back on the 1st floor I bought two coffees while Linda and Vickie shopped for gifts.  Linda found a stuffed toy of a manatee for our grand-daughter Madeline.  When we finally got back to Jetty Park at 2 PM Linda made sandwiches for lunch and I washed off some grapes.  I checked the house battery bank voltage and it was still OK.  The temperature had cooled off under cloudy skies with a strong southerly breeze, so I did not need to run the air-conditioners.

I took a nap for an hour.  Not long after I got up we noticed activity in the shipping channel so I took the camera and we went out to see what was going on.  We set up two chairs in front of the bus to watch the action.  The blue tug boat was hanging around the entrance to the Trident Turning Basin, which we had not seen it do before.  The Brevard County Sheriff boat came out along with one of the harbor pilot boats.  A U. S. Coast Guard boat, with a large caliper machine gun on the bow that was manned, headed out the channel towards the ocean at high speed.  We thought perhaps we were going to get to see a submarine arrival, which are always unannounced, but the reason for all this activity turned out to be the Carnival Cruise Ship “Valor” coming into port.  It was delayed from its scheduled arrival by almost 12 hours but that worked to my advantage as the cloud cover had thinned and provided nice lighting on the bow of the ship as it traveled west into the channel.

A 180 degree panorama, from west through north to east, from the observation deck of the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL.

A little while later the Norwegian Cruise Line “Spirit” left its dock and headed for the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by the police, Coast Guard, and harbor pilot boats.  About 20 minutes behind the NCL Spirit, the Disney “Fantasy” left its dock and started its slow trip down the channel.  Vickie showed up before it got to our position and had her iPad with her.  As the boat came abreast of our position, Vickie spotted dolphins swimming just in front of the bow.

I got out another chair and we sat in front of the bus and chatted for a while.  Vickie eventually returned to her coach to fix dinner and we went inside.  I transferred today’s photos to my computer and selected two to process and send to Vickie.

A dolphin swims in front of one of the Disney cruise ships as it heads down the channel from Port Canaveral, FL. towards the sea.

For dinner Linda improvised a potato and broccoli dish with onion, garlic, and couscous.  It was light and very tasty.  After we were done eating I texted Vickie.  They were also done with dinner so we met her at the office and went for a walk.  Back at our coach Linda checked online and found a news story about the Carnival Valor.  The Valor was delayed due to a medical situation that required them to return to the Turks and Cacos.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, passengers were being advised to embark starting at 9 PM and to be onboard by 11 PM, with departure shortly thereafter.

Back at our coach we watched some TV and waited up for the Carnival Valor to leave as the nighttime departures are rather something to see with the ships all lit up.  Linda waited until midnight and then turned in for the night.  I stayed up until 1:30 AM but it was still docked at the west end of the port so I gave up and went to bed.

2016/04/03 (N) Bon Voyage

I was waiting for the Carnival Valor to leave Port Canaveral last night but by 1:30 AM it was still at its terminal.  It was all lit up but going nowhere, so I finally went to bed.    By midnight the skies had begun to clear and the wind, which had been steady all day, became stronger and started shifting around to the northwest and becoming noticeably cooler.

The cruise ships are particularly magical at night and I had hoped to capture some images of them, having set my camera to SCeNe selection mode (SCN) and selected “Night.”  In spite of being up late I did not sleep soundly and was aware of headlights around 5 AM.  Someone had apparently driven over from the campground to watch ships, or perhaps driven into the park, which opens at 5 AM, for this purpose.  I then noticed a ship in the shipping lane heading for the mouth of the channel.  Around 5:30 AM another cruise ship came in.  I got up, put on my robe, and tried to photograph it from the cockpit of the bus.

The nighttime arrival of the Carnival “Victory” cruise ship at Port Canaveral, FL.

I got up to stay a little after 8 AM and started the genset so I could make coffee and heat water.  Linda got up shortly thereafter and prepared our breakfast cereal.  We could see cruise ships docked at the west end of Port Canaveral so Linda checked the CruiseTimeTables.com website, and found that there were four cruise ships scheduled to depart today; three at 4 PM (the Carnival Sunshine and Victory, and the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas) and one at 4:30 PM (the Disney Magic).

The Magnum ME-ARC indicated the house battery bank was at 24.6 VDC and 69% SOC.  I turned on the genset and the charger started in Bulk Charging mode drawing 110A at 24VDC, or just over 2,600 Watts, on L1.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, which is on L2, to balance the load on the genset a bit.  When the battery charger had backed off a bit and switched to Absorption mode I turned on the block heater for the main engine, which is currently on the same leg (L1) as the charger.  Balanced loads lead to balanced voltages, but it is also better for the genset mechanically to run under a somewhat heavier load than a light one.

Around 10 AM I walked over to check site #357.  It was already vacant so I went to the office to confirm that we still had it reserved for tonight through Tuesday night.  We did, so I told the office clerk that I was going to go ahead and move, if I could get the engine started, and would then come in and register.  If I couldn’t get it started I would extend our stay on site #3 until we could get the problem resolved or get it towed.  The clerk was not particularly sympathetic, but then he was the one who would have to deal with an irate customer who could not have their reserved site, and the people who camp here have very particular preferences about their sites.  Fortunately, site #3 was open so we could have stayed there until we needed to dump our holding tanks.  We could minimize water usage by using the campground bathrooms, so we could have stretched our dry camping if needed.

Back at our rig we started preparing to move it.  I moved the car over near the pedestrian gate that is very close to site #357 and walked back to the coach.  Linda had secured the inside enough for the short, slow trip.  I checked the maintenance chargers for the chassis batteries and they indicated 100% charge levels.  I opened the air supply valve for the engine accessories, engaged the 12 and 24 volt chassis battery disconnect switches, pulled the wheel chocks, and put the entry step stool away.  I put the Level Low system in Drive mode, just in case that mattered, and turned the ignition key.  The bus motor cranked quickly and fired right up!  That was a relief.

The Centurion Battalion of the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps had arrived at the picnic area sometime before 8 AM with a large contingent of cadets and their adult leaders/chaperones.  And they had arrived in a large number of cars that filled the available parking spaces just on the other side of the road that ran behind the back row of RV sites where we were parked.  There was still plenty of room to back out, but Linda positioned herself outside to keep an eye on the back end of the rig.

The motorhome on our passenger side was also ready to leave and backed out before I did.  I don’t think he would have presented an obstacle, but having him gone was one less thing to have to keep an eye on.  I pulled up the tag axle and then pulled forward to the right to position the coach at an angle to the road behind it.  I then backed up and cut the steer tires hard left to swing the nose around to the passenger side and guide the rear end cleanly into the road well clear of any other vehicles.  Linda climbed on board and I turned on the OTR A-C, partly for comfort and partly to put more load on the engine.

We made the 5 MPH trip around the east end of the park and campground back to the campground entrance on the south side where Linda got out to open the gate.  Once I was clear of the gate she got back onboard.  We wound our way through the campground, familiar now with the road system.  When I got to the 2nd to last turn I saw that the last turn was blocked by a pickup truck pulling a 5th wheel trailer out of its site so I continued straight ahead and went clockwise around Red Knot Circle.  By the time I got back to the same intersection the pickup truck and 5th wheel were out of the way and I was able to proceed to site #357.

Linda hopped out to act as spotter.  Using what I learned two years ago from Big Bill while getting parked at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida I moved to the right edge of the road as the back-in site was on that side.  As I pulled past the site and the rear wheels were by the front of the site I cut the steer tires to the left, positioning the coach at an angle to the site, all the while avoiding trees, RVs, cars, and other obstacles.  I backed straight, keeping an eye on Linda in the driver side rear view mirror, and started swinging the nose to the driver side while keeping an eye on the car parked on the other side of the road.

As soon as I was clear of that car I swung the nose hard to the driver side.  We were well clear of the Sea Grape trees on the passenger side so I straightened the steer tires and pulled forward until I had a good view of the concrete pad on one side.  I backed in following Linda’s hand signals until I could see the pad on both sides, got the rig straight and centered, and backed up until Linda gave me the stop signal (arms crossed at the wrist above her head).  We ended up parking with the front tires just off the front edge of the concrete pad as the coach was close to level and we wanted to avoid lower branches at the rear of the site.  As it was, I still had to lower the front slightly, but at least the Level Low system worked this time.  I also had to adjust the rear on one side, which worked a lot better after I lowered the tag axle.

With the coach neatly tucked in to its site and sitting level Linda walked the short distance back to where the car was parked and drove it around to our site.  Once the car was parked I walked to the office and took care of the registration.  When I got back I tried to get our network up and running but encountered all sorts of problems.  I wasted most of the rest of the afternoon trying to resolve them, to no avail.

While we were camped on site #3 I had to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router/range-extender to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  That configuration worked OK out there, but was not working here.  The Wi-Fi ranger was seeing a number of campground Wi-Fi signals with adequate to very good signal strength, but was having a very difficult time connecting to them.  When it did, the connection would drop after a very short time.  The Amped|Wireless router/range-extender was having an equally difficult time connecting to the Wi-Fi Ranger and staying connected when it did.  I tried connecting the Wi-Ranger to our Verizon Mi-Fi but that did seem to work either.  I also noticed that the cellular signal was not as strong as usual.  Linda commented that her phone was having trouble connecting.  I finally got disgusted with the whole thing and set it aside.  Sometimes the best solution is to “just walk away.”

There were four cruise ships starting down the shipping channel roughly on time and in the order specified and Vickie joined us for the ship parade.  We were out there waiting for them, camera at the ready, and by the time the last ship was headed out to sea I had shot about 200 images.  Vickie had already eaten, and we were not ready for dinner yet, so we walked the campground and park, including the pier.

It was chilly all day yesterday with a high temperature in the low 70’s and a steady breeze from the north that resulted in a hazardous conditions warning for the beach.  As the light faded it got colder and we returned to our motorhomes.

Dinner was a nice salad and Amy’s enchiladas.  Simple, easy, tasty.  It turned colder after sunset under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, initially, but eventually the coach was a bit too cool so I closed the roof vents and Linda narrowed the window openings to just an inch.  We were a little tired, not particularly captivated by what was on TV, and had to be up earlier than usual in the morning, so we were in bed before 11 PM.

2016/04/04 (M) Farewell For Now

It turned chilly after sunset last night under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, actually, but eventually the coach felt chilly and we closed it up, mostly, and were in bed a bit earlier than usual.

We were up at 7 AM this morning and got dressed right away.  I made coffee, which used up our supply of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans, and we headed over to site #303 at 7:30 to see Pat and Vickie off.  They have been here since mid-February and today was departure day.  The bus motor was already running when we got there and we just watched while they got ready to pull out.  We learned long ago not to “chat” with RVers during their final departure preparations.  They drove around by the office to hook up their car and we walked over to watch.  I took a couple of pictures with my phone and used the “dawn” setting for the first time.  Soon enough they were ready to go, so we said our final “farewells for now,” and, just like that, they drove off and were gone.  Assuming no mechanical or weather issues they will be home in northern Indiana Wednesday evening.

A group of five brown pelicans coming up the channel just above the water. Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, FL.

We always find that leaving an encampment after we have been there for an extended period of time has a strange feeling and we experienced that vicariously as Pat and Vickie drove away.  The strangeness, as best I can describe it, is a combination of a sense of loss—the giving up of a familiar place and the people there—and anticipation of the journey ahead, both positive and negative.  The anticipation is positive in the sense of the possibilities of new experiences that come with the adventure of the road while the negative anticipation stems from the potential for mechanical, weather, traffic, or health problems.

With Pat and Vickie out of sight we returned to our coach and had a light breakfast of toast and jam and finished our coffee.  Linda then worked on a grocery list while I tackled out networking problems.  I gave up in disgust around 10 AM and we drove to Cocoa Beach to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Publix supermarket first and found most of what we needed there.  A quick stop at Sunseed Food CO-OP filled in our list with blueberries, coffee, and vegan mayonnaise.  I stopped at one of the Shell stations on the way back to J. P. and topped off the fuel in the car so we would not have to deal with that tomorrow morning.

Back at our coach we got the groceries unloaded and put away.  Linda then heated some leftovers for lunch and washed some grapes.  After lunch I put in a call to Chris Yust, our National General Insurance Agent, to ask her about the letter/form we received regarding Coordination of Medical benefits.  She called back a short time later and we discussed it.  She logged into her agent support system but there was no indication of the letter/form.  Normally she can see anything the insurance company has sent to her customers.  She confirmed that we really did need to send the form in with the requested documentation.

Linda had already photographed the fronts and backs of our MPSERS/BCBS cards.  When she tried to print them the printer was “offline”.  We had this same problem at the beginning of our winter travels and it turned out to be NETWORK related.  The fix back then was to use the Advanced IP Scanner to determine what IP address was assigned to the printer and then manually reconfigure the printer to that address.  That was under Windows 8.1.  Under Windows 10 the IP Scanner didn’t work the same way and the manual reconfiguration didn’t work either.  What is particularly puzzling and annoying is that the printer does not appear to be responding correctly when set as a DHCP client.  If it was, we would not be having a problem communicating with it.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this past week dealing with network and wireless communications malfunctions, so I did what I often do and we went for a walk at 2:30 PM.  We went out on the pier and were just starting back when someone spotted a manatee between the pier and the jetty swimming towards the ocean.  The water was clear and we got a good look at it for quite a while.  It was large and presumably a full-size adult.  They really are gentle giants and it was a thrill to see it.

We walked back to the office for coffee before returning to our rig.  As soon as we went in Scott Ward handed Linda a card.  She has not been in the office that much but I have, and have often interacted with Scott while checking on, or registering for, sites.  Still, I was impressed that he remembered my last name and made the connection to the card.  The card was from our younger grand-daughter, Madeline.  It was a ‘thank you’ card for Linda for all of the custom photo postcards she has created using the PhotoPostCard app and had printed and mailed to Madeline by the PhotoPostCard service out of San Diego, California.  Linda took a picture of the card, texted it to our son, and asked him to tell Madeline “thanks” in return.  He texted back a photo of Madeline looking at the most recent postcard, which was a photo of Linda by the channel with one of the Disney cruise ships heading out to sea.

The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas was due to sail at 3:45 PM followed closely by      the Disney Dream at 4 PM.  We walked over to the shipping channel at 3:40 PM and by the time we got there the Enchantment was starting to move away from its dock.  Something did not look right and then I realized we were looking at the stern of the ship.  The cruise ships usually dock facing the ocean, so it needed to turn around to get out of Port Canaveral.

One of the amazing things about these amazing machines is their ability to maneuver in close quarters.  When in port, they can independently push the bow and stern to either side, which means they can move sideways or turn the ship around its center (or any other point).  In this case they pushed the stern out from the dock on the south side of the channel and into the opening of the middle turning basin on the north side of the channel opposite the dock.  They then backed it up slightly into the turning basin, brought the bow around into the channel, pushed the stern out into the channel, and then started moving forward down the channel towards the ocean.  It was quite a skillful maneuver and the first time we have seen this in the two weeks we have been here.

Not long after the Enchantment cleared the Jetty and turned southeast to stay in the channel, the Disney Dream started moving slowly forward and away from its dock.  The Disney terminal/dock is in an alcove (basin) on the north side of the west end of the Port so it has to turn into the straight portion of the channel.  Of all the cruise ships we have seen come and go the Disney ships appear to be in the best condition, not that any of them look bad.

We returned to our coach and I transferred photos to my computer from the camera and from my cell phone while Linda started preparing dinner.  Dinner consisted of a kale salad followed by a brown rice and kale dish with sautéed carrots, onions, and garlic.  Linda has not had any wine in a couple of weeks because of the medications she’s been taking, but I had a glass of the Arbor Mist Raspberry.  I find “flavored” wines a questionable choice, although I like Sangria and hot mulled or spiced wine.

We went for a walk after dinner that included some time on the beach.  The park and beach were a beehive of activity yesterday but things were quiet all day today and there were only a handful of people on the beach this evening.  Both conditions are nice, in their own way.  There was, however, some activity in the Trident submarine turning basin today.  The big crane was moving and a Coast Guard cutter was in and out of the basin.  An attack helicopter from Patrick AFB also made repeated passes over the area and up/down the beach.  Our friends told us that when things start getting active around the basin it usually means a submarine is coming in but that did not happen while we were watching.

Back at our coach we turned on the TV but all of the CBS programs were repeats because the NCAA Basketball final game was on cable.  I reconfigured the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi and was able to get my computer connected to the Internet and to our NAS, which is critical for backing up photos and documents.  I did not, however, mess around further with the printer.  My plan is to move it back into my office at home and leave it there.  I will find a newer one, with better networking functionality, to put in the bus.

We planned to be on the road in the morning between 8 and 8:30 AM so we went to bed before 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep before NCIS-LA ended but I watched the channel 6 news/weather before turning out the lights.  The Cleveland Indians baseball home opener was postponed because of snow on the field and the TV weatherman reported that the average last date for snow in Cleveland is April 18, and for Detroit, April 22.  In spite of a mild winter and early spring, I knew there was a reason we were not in a hurry to return home.  The low at our house was forecast to be 18 degrees F overnight.

2016/04/05 (M) Celebration

We were up at 7 AM, showered, and got dressed.  We tended to our cats and prepared the motorcoach for them to be comfortable while we were away for part of the day.  We each had a banana, and a little orange juice to wash down our vitamins, but did not have a full breakfast or our usual morning coffee.  We gathered up all of the things Linda needed for her doctor’s appointment and were in the car and on our way at 8:10 AM.

Our destination was the office of Dr. Michael Seidman in Celebration, Florida, a trip of 60 to 65 miles from Jetty Park that would take about as many minutes.  Most of the route was Toll Road (FL-528 and FL-417) and we did not have to slow down for the toll booths because we have a Florida SunPass transponder that we can move between the bus and the car.  We put the address of the clinic, which is attached to Florida Hospital, into the GPS.  It accepted Celebration as the city, but the routing showed the destination as Kissimmee.  I didn’t care what it called the place as long as it got us to the correct location.

We left earlier than needed in order to arrive earlier than required and allow for traffic and navigational contingencies.  Less than a mile from the medical center we spotted a Panera Bread Company store and stopped to have bagels and coffee.  While we were there we made use of the free Wi-Fi to update apps on our iPads and smartphones.  We left at 10:15 and finished the short trip to the Florida Hospital complex.  We found a parking spot, found the clinic building, and found the suite for the Head & Neck Surgery Center of Florida (H&NSCF).  Linda had already completed much of the required new patient paperwork so we were there with time to spare.

Sheila, one of the office assistants, got Linda checked in and wanted to know if we had brought copies of her records from Henry Ford Health System, where Dr. Seidman worked for 30 years and treated Linda for the last 20 of those.  I had e-mailed Sheila the day after she asked me to get those records to let her know that HFHS would not send them to another hospital or clinic at Linda’s request and that the H&NSCF would have to request them.  Sheila said she did not receive that e-mail, even though I replied to one she sent Linda.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done at that point.

It was a great relief to Linda to be able to get in to see Dr. Seidman.  Dr. S and his PA, Katherine, carefully went over the history of Linda’s illness and treatment of the last three weeks.  He indicated that the treatment was what he would have prescribed, which was comforting to know.  His routine ENT examination did not reveal any indication of infection or fluid in her “good” (right) ear, which was also good to know.  He really wanted to compare the recent audiological results with her last tests from HFHS so he made a call to someone at the HFHS ENT clinic and was able to get them to fax the test results.  He chaired the ENT department for much of his time at Henry Ford, and that was apparently still worth something with former colleagues.

Dr. S also inserted a scope through Linda’s right nostril and into her throat to exam the areas that cannot be seen any other way.  The scope is a thin, flexible cable with a camera and LED light source at the tip.  The image is fed to a monitor, where I got to see it in real time, but was also recorded so Linda got to see it afterwards.  Her vocal cords did not close completely and were slightly bowed, which Dr. S thought probably accounted for her weak, slightly horse, voice but there was no sign of infection or other pathology, such as tumors.  He noticed that the Eustachian tube opening was “bubbling” which he thought was a good sign.  He also examined the left nostril and did not see anything unusual there either.

All of that was good news, of course, but we were both a bit let down that there wasn’t any additional treatment he could provide at this time.  Direct injection of steroids into the middle ear was still a possibility but he wanted Linda to wait at least four weeks to see if she improved on her own before going down that path.  Equally frustrating was that her hearing, while marginal, was too good for a cochlear implant.  Not that she is eager to have one of those, of course, what she wants is the hearing in her right ear restored to what it was before she got sick a month ago.

Our friend, Mara, was moving her motorhome today from Clermont to Winter Haven and her friend, Michael, was driving to Orlando International Airport to drop off a rental car and fly back to Phoenix, Arizona.  They had hoped to do all of that by way of Celebration and have lunch, with or without us, at Ari, a Japanese sushi restaurant.  We had indicated that it was very doubtful we would make it to lunch, given the timing of Linda’s appointment, but called Mara when we got back to our car to update her.  It turned out that when she got ready to leave her motorhome slideout would not slide in.  (I think that’s why they are called slide “outs.”)  Michael returned home as planned while Mara arranged for a technician to fix her non-sliding slideout.

We needed to fax a few documents to National General Insurance Company, so we went in search of a Staples with a copy center.  Having taken care of that we wanted to have lunch before heading back to Cape Canaveral so as not to be eating dinner too late in the day.  We found another Panera near FL-417 and Orange Blossom Trail and ate there.  The kale-romaine-couscous-almond salad was excellent and the black bean soup was as good as usual.  Well fed, we got on the FL-417 Toll Road and headed back towards the FL-528 Toll Road, which we took back to Cape Canaveral.

We were back at Jetty Park before 2:30 PM and just relaxed for a while.  Around 4 PM we went outside to take care of a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  I got out the waste drain hoses and connected two of them together to reach from the utility bay connection to the sewer connection, which was inconveniently located directly behind the RV pad.  We drained the waste tanks, rinsed out the hoses, and returned everything to their storage tub.  Using the 3-step stool, I retracted the two awnings on the driver side, which I had previously deployed to shade the Windows from the mid-afternoon sun.

We then emptied out the back of the car so I could add air to the temporary spare, which gave us a low pressure alarm on the drive from Webster to Cape Canaveral.  I had turned on the TireTraker TPMS earlier and most of the readings looked OK, but as long as I had the portable air compressor, hose, air chuck, and pressure gauge out I checked the front right (curb, PS) tire as a check on the TPMS. The tire gauge pressure was several pounds lower than the TPMS indicated pressure and was fairly close to where I wanted it so I left it alone.

Our destination tomorrow was Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida, a trip of about 140 miles.  We had about a half tank of fresh water so I did not get out the softener and add any.  Somewhere in the middle of all this work we chatted with several neighbors, but eventually we got the car and bus repacked, including the patio mat and the two bag chairs.  At that point we only had the entry mat, entry stool, and power cord to deal with and the outside would be ready for travel.

Before dinner we went for a walk out by the shipping channel, the pier, and the beach.  There were people out and about but the park did not feel crowded and was quiet and calm, unlike the festive energy of the weekend with its day visitors, picnickers, and family campers with younger children.  It’s as if J. P. has moods, and one has to spend enough time here and experience them to begin to get a sense of the place.  We could understand why Pat and Vickie like to come here every year, even if that is not what we would choose to do.

I could not recall what Linda made for dinner because I am trying to finish this post a week later.  What I do recall is that the Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to set sail at 9 PM, well after sunset.  It had been a pleasantly cool day with clear skies but turned chilly with the setting of the sun and a noticeable breeze, especially outside the campground by the water.  Linda was tired and a little chilled and chose not to walk out and watch the ship leave.  At 8:45 PM I got my camera, walked over to the channel, and positioned myself by the “Minimum Wake” sign.  I had a good view of the Port to the west and could lean on one of the posts for support if needed.  I put my camera in SCN (scene selection) mode, selected the “Night” setting, and waited.

I had not noticed that the ship was docked with its stern facing the ocean until it started to move.  Its position at the dock meant it would have to do a 180 degree turn before moving down the channel and into the ocean.  And that meant it was going to take longer to exit the port and give me more opportunity to photograph it.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines “Breakaway” doing a 180 degree maneuver in the turning basin. Port Canaveral, FL.

The cruise ships are always brightly illuminated when coming and going in the dark and are quite pretty to see as they glide almost silently by.  They are also challenging to photograph as they are often very high contrast (high dynamic range) subjects, especially at night.  Ideally I would shoot multiple bracket exposures and combine them using HDR software, but I would have to get the camera on a tripod and even then the exposures would be just long enough that the ship would change position slightly between frames.  I did the best I could with single frame, hand-held exposures braced against the sign post.  By the time the Breakaway was in open water I was getting chilled and headed back to the warmth of our bus.  I transferred the images to my computer and took a quick look at them before settling in to watch a few minutes of TV and then go to bed.


2015/12/28 (M) On to Arcadia

Even though we were pulling out this morning we did not set an alarm to get up at some particular time.  We were up by 7:30 AM anyway. I did not make coffee or have breakfast and started preparing for departure.  We packed up our computers and put them on the bed, put away remote controls, and turned off the laser printer and NAS.  While Linda cleared off counters and secured drawers I took care of some outside things.

I pulled the tow bar parts bags out, set them aside, got out the tow bar adapters for the car, and inserted them.  I folded up the two bag chairs and put them in the car and folded up the plastic table and stowed it in the front bay.  I checked the pressure in the two front/steer tires on the bus and they were fine so I did not have to get the air compressor and hose out.  I put up all of the awnings and opened the air valve for the engine accessories and toad braking system.

When everything else was ready Linda pulled the car out while I turned on the bus chassis batteries and started the bus engine.  I let the chassis air up, pulled up the tag axle, pulled out of our site, and then backed up until I was parallel with, and close to, the edge of the road on the passenger side and not blocking anyone’s driveway.  Linda pulled the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing.  The breakaway cable finally broke so I got the spare cable out of the glove box but I could not get the key out of the disconnect.  Rather than risk breaking it and thereby disabling the car, we decided to travel without it.

We had a final, quick chat with our neighbor’s, Danny and Dorothy, and with Ken on the other side, and pulled away around 9:10 AM.  We were out of the resort and headed southeast on US-27 at 9:26.  At Ocala we headed south on I-75 as far as exit 301 (Cortez Blvd) at Brooksville, and headed east on FL-700 as far as US-98 and headed south.  Most of this segment was also co-terminus with US-35.  The drive was mostly rural and very pretty.  It was warm outside but patchy clouds kept the temperature inside the coach from getting too warm, at least for a while.  Eventually I turned on the OTR HVAC system and it worked well.

We passed through several smaller towns but eventually got to Lakeland which was much larger, with lots of stop lights and traffic, so it took longer to get through.  Still, it was an attractive community and something to see besides an Interstate highway.  The Detroit Tigers spring training camp is in Lakeland and we will likely drive up for some games while we are in this part of Florida.

US-17 joined up with US-98 as we were leaving Lakeland.  Somewhere south of Lakeland (Fort Meade?) US-98 turned east towards Sebring and we continued south on US-17 to Arcadia.  A few miles before reaching US-70 west of Arcadia we turned onto NE Turner Road which ran due south towards the Turner Agri-Civic Center and bypassed downtown Arcadia.  We pulled into the Civic Center, which was the rally venue, at 1:15 PM.

Linda checked in with rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan.  Linda stayed with the coach while Bill drove me over to check out sites.  I selected site #9 which would have us facing west with our passenger side facing north.  Although this orientation put the afternoon sun on our windshields, it also provided shade in conjunction with the patio awning.  Dan (?) led us over to the site and then left us to unhook the car and back the bus in.  We leveled the coach (we thought) and I shut it down and went through our arrival preparations.

The inside of the coach was cool from the OTR HVAC and I wanted to keep it that way, so we left the windows and roof vents closed and put the insulated foil panels in the three large skylights.  We also found the snap covers for the side windows next to the driver seat and installed those.  We were able to position the coach which generous space to our passenger side and far enough back that the 25 foot shorepower cord just reached the outlet box.  After plugging in we turned on all three of the residential air-conditioners.  We deployed all of the awnings, including the patio awning, to shade the windows and provide a shady place to sit outdoors.  We also have a fresh water and sewer connection but may not use them while we are here.  We are only here until Friday or Saturday and came in with a mostly full fresh water tank and mostly empty waste tanks.

Although it was very warm (86 degrees F) and humid the clouds had thickened and filled in during the second half of our drive and there was a good, steady breeze.  The bus ran well today including the OTR HVAC.  The low pressure light only came on briefly one time while I was idling at a stop light.  Apparently it works a lot better when it is relatively warm outside.

Once we were set up we had a light lunch of roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers with fresh apple slices and orange segments.  We then drove to Walmart to pick up some anti-itch cream and bought a few grocery items while we were there.  We checked out the filling station on the property and decided it was not a good choice for our bus.  We also found the entrance to Big Tree RV Resort which was, literally, across the street from the Walmart.  We drove back towards downtown and stopped at the Winn-Dixie to see if they had a better selection of boxed wines than the Walmart.  They did, and we bought a Franzia Crisp White.  We drove the rest of the way into downtown in search of a filling station with diesel fuel, and access for large vehicles, before returning to the rally site.

Linda wanted to go for a walk so we strolled past the buses and other RVs that were already here.  We ran into Scott Crosby working on Dan’s windshield.  We met Dan, Kathy, and their son James at the FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  Apparently the windshield on their GM PD4106 started coming out of its gasket along the top and caving into the cockpit on their trip to Arcadia.  Scott was up on a ladder getting the gasket reseated around the frame and glass.

We continued our walk and discovered that Paul and Claudine Elbisser, also from our FMCA GLCC chapter, were here.  We visited with them for quite a while before finishing our stroll around the rally and returning to our rig for dinner.  Linda microwaved a sweet potato and served the last of the Gardein stuffed mock turkey roll and broccoli that we had for dinner on Christmas day.

After dinner I tried tuning in OTA TV stations, orienting the antenna both WNW towards Tampa St. Petersburg, and due south towards Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Ft. Meyers.  When I scanned for stations I found about 60 in each direction although many of them were the same stations.  So much for digital TV signals bring highly directional.  We watched reruns of our Monday evening TV shows on CBS.  We also turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi so we could get online long enough to check TV tower locations and network affiliations, check our e-mail, and change our location in RVillage.

I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM with the draft of the February 2016 issue and a request that I proofread Part 1 of my 2-part article on our Habitat For Humanity RV Care-A-Vanner build in July 2013.  I was a little tired from our day’s activities and was not in the humor to review articles, edit old blog posts, or write new ones so I just watched TV and fiddled with the thermostats and fan speeds on our air-conditioners.  I was puzzled by the fact that it felt humid in the rig in spite of the air-conditioners having been on all day.  The front and rear ones seem to be cooling better than the middle one, but the front one was the only one that we seaw water dripping from the drain line outside the bus.  I admit to having some level of concern about where the condensed water from the evaporators is going, assuming they are condensing any moisture.

The overnight low was forecast to be about 70 with morning fog, i.e., 100% relative humidity so in spite of the fan noise we left the bus closed up and the A-Cs running.  I adjusted the thermostats down to make sure the condensers would run, and lowered the fan speed in the bedroom to reduce the noise level.  I plugged the power in for the rear OTA TV antenna, but it was not functioning correctly and was clearly not going to fix itself.  It needs to be replaced but I am reluctant to buy another one of the same model as the failure rate so far has been 50%.  Linda read, and I played a few games, on our iPads and then went to sleep.


2015/12/27 (N) An Easy Last Day

I was up before 7:30 AM, got dressed, and gathered up the clothes that I forgot to launder yesterday.  Linda got up too so I prepared a pot of coffee and while it brewed I took the laundry to the laundry room and put it in a washing machine.  I returned to the coach and enjoyed my first cup of coffee before returning to the laundry room to transfer it to a dryer.  The dryers run for 45 minutes so I returned to our coach and had breakfast.

This was our last full day at Williston Crossings RV Resort, at least for now, but you would not have guessed it by observing us unless you saw one of the park volunteers reading our electric meter.  Other than checking and adjusting some tire pressures right after breakfast our day was spent doing the same things we have been doing since we arrived on December 1st; Linda read and walked while I edited and uploaded blog posts.

Linda made hummus sandwiches with onions and greens for lunch and washed off some sweet cherries.  It was another warm/humid day and we finally closed up the coach and turned on the air-conditioners during the afternoon.  Dinner was left over potato curry.

Linda watched Downton Abbey reruns after dinner and I edited/uploaded a few more blog posts.  It had cooled off outside so we turned the air-conditioning off and opened up the coach.  By the time I quit working at 10 PM I had uploaded 12 posts covering September 14 through 25.  Since Linda was still watching TV I took my phone outside and called Butch.  We chatted for over an hour before calling it a night.


2015/12/25 (F) Christmas Day 2015

We were tired of listening to the air-conditioning last night but it was warm in the bedroom so I turned on the third A-C to cool it down before we went to bed.  Before turning in for the night I turned the fan to a slower speed and tried adjusting the thermostat, as it had gotten rather chilly, but must have set it too high.  It was a little warmer than we wanted and the unit does not remove moisture unless the compressor is running.  When combined with the noise of the fan it just did not make for a good night’s sleep.

Jasper (our male cat) was aware that I was awake at 4:30 AM and came up between our pillows to look out the window and get stroked.  I tried to fall back asleep without success and finally got up at 5 AM.  I turned on some dim lights and sat in the living room working on yesterday’s blog post for an hour until Linda also got up.  She rearranged the kitchen so she could make vegan cinnamon rolls and I brewed a pot of coffee.

The cinnamon rolls took quite a while to make as the dough had to rise, get punched down and rolled out, “buttered” and spread with cinnamon and sugar, rolled up, cut, and allowed to rise a second time, topped with raisins and walnuts, and then baked.  After baking they had to cool and then got drizzled with a glaze made from confectioner’s sugar and unsweetened vanilla flavored almond milk.  A lot of work, but worth it.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and used Linda’s iPad to initiate a FaceTime session with our family members who were gathered at Meghan and Chris’ house.  Katie was not there yet so this was just a “good morning” call.  I brewed a second pot of coffee and we finally had our cinnamon rolls around 10 AM.  Brendan initiated a Facetime session with us around 11 AM and we got to see Madeline open some of her presents.  She just turned three years old and it was all very exciting for her.  The armoire her aunt Meghan built was full of dress up clothes, some new (from us) and some hand-me-down from when Meghan was a little girl.  She wanted to try on every costume, of course, so we watched for a while and then wished everyone “Merry Christmas” and signed off.

We had not opened our gifts yet so we did that next.  Santa brought us chocolate covered pistachios (vegan, of course) and dark chocolate bars and left them in our stockings, which Linda had hung from the two light fixtures on each end of the sofa after we got to WCRVR.  We had a box from Meghan and Chris that contained a pair of nice hiking socks and an insect repellent neck warmer for each of us.  The REI box that was left on our entry step-stool Christmas Eve was from Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline.  We each got a pair of hiking socks and a Columbia zip front polar fleece vest.  Our children have done very well getting us gifts that we can wear, eat, or drink.

I had not planned on working today but the motorcoach had other ideas.  I needed to investigate the drip that had developed yesterday from the air intake of the middle air-conditioner.  Since I had to get tools out to do that I decided to also fix a couple of other things.

The gasket on the aft vertical edge of the awning style window in the entry door had come out again at the top and was preventing the window from closing properly.  It was a simple enough matter to work the channels on either edge back around the metal edges of the window frame with a small flat blade screwdriver but I had to get the three-step folding stool out of the front bay and use it to position myself where I could do the work.

One of the end pieces that retains the spring-loaded toilet paper holder has been loose for a while.  I thought I needed a small Allen wrench to tighten it but a small flat blade screwdriver turned out to be the correct tool.

With those two tasks taken care of I got my small drill and a #2 square bit and removed the air intake filter for the middle A-C from the underside of the upper cabinet.  I also removed the louvered air discharge cover from the front of the cabinet.  Not being sure what I was dealing with I emptied the right and middle cabinets so I could remove the floor from the middle section and slide the floor from the right section to the left and remove the right end wall, allowing me access to the evaporator from the side.

My working hypothesis was that the drain from the drip pan was plugged and the pan had overflowed.  To test my hypothesis I located the drain line at the front outside corner of the house electrical bay where it goes through the bay floor, and had Linda watch it while I poured water into the drip pan at the front edge by the cooling coils.  The water flowed right out of the drain onto the ground so either that was not the problem or pouring the water into the drip pan had cleared the obstruction.  I was not able to see into the drip pan so I could not confirm visually what was happening.

I put the louvered air discharge cover back on the cabinet, reassembled the inside of the cabinet, and put the food items back.  I left the air intake filter off, however, so that I might see where the drip was coming from if it reoccurred.  I arranged paper towels on the desk top under the unit and turned it on.  I put the tools away, except for the drill and square bit, and then settled in to work at my computer with all three A-Cs running while Linda went for a walk.

It did not get quite as hot today as originally forecast, reaching 83 degrees instead of 86.  The humidity was in the low 60% range, so the conditions were tolerable when the sun was obscured by clouds.  Direct sunlight heats the coach up beyond the outside ambient air temperature, however, especially if we get the afternoon sun on the front of the bus.  Linda was hot and sweaty by the time she finished her walk.

I worked all afternoon on blog posts.  I edited the ones for September 9 through 18 and uploaded the 9th through the 14th before dinner.

For our holiday dinner meal Linda prepared a baked Gardein stuffed mock turkey roll, vegan gravy, baked sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, Mama Stanberg’s Cranberry Relish, and bread with non-dairy “butter.”  We do not feel left out at the holidays, foodwise.  With the heat from the convection oven we decided to turn off the A-Cs, open the windows and roof vents, and turn all three exhaust fans on high.  We ate at 5 PM.  The Friday night campfire did not officially start until 7 PM so I had time to finish uploading the blog posts for September 15 to 18.

A little before 6:30 PM Linda filled our flip top insulated coffee cups with red and white wine and we took them in our carry bag, along with our plastic wine glasses, to the fire pit.  John was there and had a nice, small fire going.  Jim and Carol showed up and then Tom and Cindy.  Tom and Cindy did not stay long and after they left one of John’s neighbors came over.  He and his wife lived on a 44 foot fishing trawler that was converted into a full-time residence and plied the waters of the Atlantic, Bahamas, and Caribbean for 10 years.  Ali was not feeling well and stayed home.  Jim and Carol were from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they still have a house, and were both retired educators.  Jim taught high school biology and Carol was an elementary teacher.

At 10 PM John took his golf cart to make his rounds and lock up.  We had a nice small fire going and stuck around to chat with Jim and Carol.  John eventually returned and rejoined the conversation.  It was almost 11 PM when I spread out the remnants of the fire and we walked back to our rig.  We had apple strudel with Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream for dessert, watched a couple of travel programs on the Create channel, and finally went to bed at midnight after a long but satisfying Christmas day.


2015/12/24 (R) Christmas Eve 2015

Neither of us slept as well as we would have liked last night.  The outside temperature only dropped into the upper 60’s with high humidity and the interior of the coach stayed a bit warmer than that.  Linda woke up and read from 2:30 to 3:30 AM; at least that’s what she told me this morning as I was unaware of it at the time.  We both got up at 8 AM and enjoyed our first cup of coffee while iPadding and listening to Christmas music CDs.  We bought an apple strudel at Publix last night that appeared to be vegan and had some of it for breakfast with our second cup of coffee.  It wasn’t great strudel, but it was still a treat.  All-in-all it was not a bad way to start Christmas Eve day.

Williston Crossings RV Resort, and many of its residents and temporary guests, have been in the holiday spirit since we arrived here on the 1st of the month.  Red and green laser “starlight” projectors are in widespread use at night and many sites have decorated their street light and/or RV with lights while some have put up more substantial decorations.  Most notable, however, are the golf carts, many of which are decorated for the season.  Most folks here wave as they pass whether driving their car or golf cart, riding a bike, or just walking, but based on our prior experience this is normal so I cannot say that folks are in a friendlier spirit than usual for the holiday.  There is, however, a fair amount of “Merry Christmas” being passed around and I think it reflects the fact that most folks are glad to be here even with the record heat.

I had an unfinished chore list from yesterday but wasn’t really in the humor to work on those items on Christmas Eve and do not intend to work on them tomorrow either.  One of the side gaskets I our entry door window came out again yesterday, however, so I will have to fix that again and do so soon, certainly before we leave for Arcadia.

Linda went for her solo morning walk at 10:15 AM and I settled in to work at my computer.  I was determined to make headway with uploading blog posts but first I wanted to dispatch the article for Bus Conversion Magazine on the installation of the ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fueled hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Williams’ MCI MC-9 NJT.

Butch had made a number of good edits that filled in missing details so I incorporated all of them and rewrote a few sentences in my own voice.  I then moved all of the photos for the print version of the article “in line” with the text and changed the format to 2-column.  I even figured out how to get the text to wrap around the vertical photos to get a better idea of how many pages the article will take.  I completed this work around 12:30 PM and uploaded it to the BCM proofreading folder in my Dropbox.  I also updated my article status tracking spreadsheet and uploaded that to the Dropbox.  I moved the files on my computer from the Out-For-Review folder to the Proofreading folder and mirrored that on the NAS.  I then e-mailed BCM publisher Gary Hatt to let him know the article was there and ready for review.

Linda got back from her walk and made sandwiches for lunch with mock deli slices (vegan), Daiya non-dairy cheese slices, and lots of greens.  We ate outside as the temperature in the coach was 89.something degrees F.  She stayed outside in the shade and read but I went back inside to work on blog posts.  I was not really uncomfortable, as I was not exerting myself physically, but knew we would have an uncomfortable night if we did not cool off the coach.  When Linda came back inside we closed up the coach and turned on two of the three air-conditioners.  I worked the rest of the afternoon on my blog, editing and then uploading seven posts covering September 1 through 7.

For dinner we had the leftover pizza from last night’s visit to Satchel’s.  We managed to get six dinner meals out of our three visits which is 25% of our dinners for the first 24 days of December.  At dinner last night we suggested to John that it might be nice to have a special campfire on Christmas Eve.  He liked the idea and said he would check with Bob (the resort manager) and take care of it if he got the green light.  Linda packed some wine and we walked down to the firepit at 6:30 PM.

Long before we got to the firepit we could see there was no fire.  In fact, there wasn’t anyone there.  We noticed golf carts at Jeff and Kathy’s site nearby, including John and Ali’s, so we walked over there.  We found Ali, along with three other folks, but not John.  It turned out that John was ill with some sort of gastrointestinal ailment and there was not going to be a special Christmas Eve fire.  There were enough empty chairs for us to have a seat so we stuck around for a while to chat and enjoy a small glass of wine.

Kathy got a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite for her grandson Spencer and asked me if I would get it set up for him.  I did this two years ago and agreed to try again.  Spencer is arriving tomorrow afternoon with his family and Kathy was hoping to have the tablet set up so he can use it right away.

I got a pair of text messages from my long-time friend, J. C. Armbruster, wishing me a happy Christmas Eve and inquiring as to our whereabouts.  I did not have my glasses or stylus with me so I deferred replying until we got back to our rig.

When we returned we found a large box sitting on our entry stepstool.  Linda checked the label and it was definitely addressed to us.  The office closed at 1 PM today and there wasn’t anything there for us when Linda checked around noon, so it must have arrived later.  Someone in the office must have figured it was Christmas gifts and brought it to our site, which they do not normally do.  Linda opened it enough to confirm that it was, indeed, gifts from Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline and then set it aside for tomorrow.

I replied to the text message from J. C. (which sounds a little bizarre on Christmas Eve).  I then spent an hour trying to configure the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 without success.  I thought the problem was Wi-Fi related as the tablet did not have any difficulty connecting to the resort Wi-Fi system and obtaining an IP address but it never opened a browser window where I could enter the username and password to get through the resort’s filter and out to the Internet.

I turned on the guest network on our WiFi Ranger without a password and tried connecting to that as the WFR was already logged in, but it still did not work.  I tried creating a Samsung account but the screen just said “…processing” and the little icon just kept spinning.  I also tried entering Spencer’s Gmail address and password(s) that Kathy gave me but the device could not connect to Google.  It’s possible that the problem was simply an incorrect e-mail address and/or password but the error message I kept getting said the tablet could not establish a connection to the remote server.  That sounded like an Internet access issue to me.

I also tried resetting the device to factory defaults but the instructions for doing that apparently assumed (required?) that the device had already been set up correctly and activated.  I cleaned the screen and packed everything back into the box.  I will return it to Kathy in the morning.  Perhaps John will be feeling better and can get it to work.

When I picked up the screen cleaner it was wet.  It was sitting on the desk under the air intake for the middle air-conditioner which is on the bottom of the cabinet.  I shut that A-C off, moved the electronics and paper that were sitting there, and wiped up the small amount of water.  Apparently the drain line for the drip pan is clogged so I will have to add that to my list of bus chores.

We were tired of listening to the air-conditioning but it was warm in the bedroom so I turned on the third A-C to cool it down.  Before turning in for the night I turned the fan to a slower speed and tried adjusting the thermostat, as it had gotten rather chilly.


2015/12/21 (M) John and Marian

Linda was up at 7 AM this morning and I got up at 7:30.  It was 66 degrees F in the coach so I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and turned up the thermostats.  I made our morning coffee and got to work finishing yesterday’s blog post.

John and Marian Hagan would be visiting this afternoon and staying for dinner.  Given the large meal we had for dinner last night we wanted to take it easy today so a little after 9 AM we had a light breakfast of grapefruit and English muffin with apricot preserves.  So good.

After breakfast Linda did some light cleaning.  I was going to do a load of laundry and recharge the water softener but Linda reminded me that I had decided to do all of those chores tomorrow.  Deal.  I started working on this post but eventually got dressed and settled in at my computer.  I spent the rest of the morning updating my BCM article status tracking Excel spreadsheet and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  I also cleaned up the organization of the files to match the status sheet and backed them up to the NAS.

As planned, we skipped lunch.  John had indicated they would arrive around 2 PM.  I asked him to call when they got to the office and he did.  I was going to drive up and escort him in but getting to our site is very straight forward so I just gave him the directions.  A few minutes later they pulled up and I got them parked next to our car, which Linda moved to one edge of the pad when she returned from Winn-Dixie this morning.

After giving John and Marian and tour of the interior remodeling project we spent most of the afternoon sitting outside.  Linda thought about using the induction cooker to make dinner outside and remain in the conversation but realized she needed two burners.  When it was time to prepare dinner Linda went inside and Marian went with her to help.

For dinner Linda made a salad and risotto with olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and dark greens.  She bought a frozen vegan cheesecake at Earth Origins the other day and served that for dessert.  John and Marian brought a bottle of Barefoot Riesling wine and between Marian, Linda, and me we finished it.  That’s only 250 mL per person, so not really that much.

We eventually moved inside and continued our conversation over coffee.  John and Marian were members of our FMCA Freethinkers associate chapter until they bought a house in Dunnellon and sold their motorhome.  Since we saw them two years ago they have gotten more involved in the humanist group that meets at The Top of the World (an adult planned community) and joined the Unitarian Universalist church just south of Dunnellon, both of which have given them the opportunity to make new friends in the area.  They had a half hour drive to get home and left at 6:30 PM.

After cleaning up the dishes we watched TV and doodled on our iPads.  I probably should have worked at my computer but did not feel like it.  I did check my e-mail and had a reply from Butch with his edits for the BCM article on the ITR Oasis Combi Installation he did last fall (2014) in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach.  I also looked at, and commented on, several posts/comments on RVillage.  Linda was off to bed at 11 PM and I was tucked in with the lights off by 11:30.


2015/12/07 (M) Not on Vacation

I set my iPad alarm clock last night for 5:30 AM.  As soon as the alarm went off Jasper got up next to me on the outside edge of my side of the bed, snuggled in by chest, and wanted to be petted at great length.  I obliged him for as long as I could and was rewarded with his loud, resonant purring, which I could feel as much as hear.  I still managed to get out of bed by 5:45, feed the cats, get dressed, and be on my way by 6:08.

It’s only 75 miles from Williston to Suncoast Designers in Hudson, but the first few miles were a slow roll through the RV resort to the front gate followed by the short trip through downtown with a 35 MPH speed limit and several stop lights.  After a short distance on US-41 south I picked up FL-115 heading west.  A few miles past the airport it made a large sweeping turn to the south and continued on that heading for about 17 miles at 60 MPH until it joined up with to US-19.  I continued south on US-19 at 65 MPH for another 20 miles.  At that point it felt like I was making good time but I knew what was ahead as I had driven this route several times when we were here in 2014.

US-19 gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico the farther south you go, and with that closeness comes an increasing presence of people.  The first population center I came to was the charming little “Suncoast” town of Crystal River, followed by Ingless, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachi, and then finally Hudson.  These towns all have much lower speed limits and stop lights, and they get larger and closer together the farther south you go.  The side of the road changes from forest and farm to intermittent small businesses, then continuous shall businesses, and then suburban commerce that extends back from the main road until you reach Hudson which is a far northern suburb in the greater Tampa / St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  From Weeki Wachi on south US-19 is six lanes with a median, is lined with commercial properties, and has lots of traffic.

I arrived at Suncoast Designers a little before 8 AM so the trip took about an hour and 45 minutes.  I checked in at the office and they had someone meet me at the factory door to take the window and label it with my name.  We had this thermopane window repaired in April 2014 but the new seal did not hold.  Getting it repaired was one of our reasons for returning to Florida this winter.  Not the main reason, of course, but a factor in our decision.  I was back in my car and on the way home by 8:20 AM.  I will have to come back tomorrow to pick it up.

On the drive down I spotted a Dunkin Donuts about 10 miles north of Hudson on the west side of US-19 so I stopped there on the way back for a large coffee.  I had also seen quite a few filling stations between Crystal River and Hudson, many of them Shell stations, so I picked one that had easy access and regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $2.03 per gallon, cash or credit.

I remembered seeing an Office Max and pulled in when I spotted it.  By now it was well after 9 AM and businesses were open.  They had several different weights of expensive color laser photo paper but nothing like that in 8.5×14 (legal) size.  I did not need to have the paper today so I did not buy any.  I really do not want to redo our Holiday Letter for 8.5×11 paper so I will check online and see what I can get.  There was a Rural King at the same mall complex as the Office Max so I bought two bags of Spectracide Fire Ant Killer.  I also got a bag of free popcorn, which is available at all Rural King stores.  More places should do that, I think.

It was going on 11 AM by the time I got back to the coach.  Linda had been up since 7 AM and was ready to set her cross-stitch project aside and go for a walk.  I had been sitting for the better part of five hours so that sounded good to me.  We went for a vigorous stroll through the resort and arrived back at our coach ready for lunch.  Linda heated up a couple of vegan hot dogs and served them on the large whole wheat buns with mustard and relish.

After lunch I installed updates on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter website, the FMCA GLCC chapter website, and our personal website.  I then took snapshots in Adobe Reader CC of the covers of the BCM issues for July through December 2015, post-processed the covers, and uploaded them to the BCM page on our website along with brief descriptions of my articles that appeared in each issue.  I finished inserting photos into the OASIS Combi article I’ve been working on for BCM and will upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Butch this evening.

It was a gorgeous day so we sat outside for a while and I worked on this post.  That is one of the things I really like about my iPad.  An earlier e-mail from Gary indicated that my package was out for delivery today.  I was about to get in my car and drive to the office when Joe and Teresa from Brighton, Michigan stopped in their golf cart to chat.  When they went on their way I dropped off the recyclables on my way to the office, picked up the box of magazines (which was heavy), and returned to the coach.

I worked some more on this post on my iPad but by 5:30 PM I had been up for 12 hours on too little sleep so I took a nap until 6:15 PM when Linda woke me up to have dinner.  For dinner Linda made a green salad with fresh blueberries and strawberries and made black bean smothered sweet potatoes.  Besides the black beans, the topping had tomatoes, scallions, cumin, and coriander and was finished off with a dollop of vegan sour cream.  Yum, yum, yum.

We watched the PBS NewsHour, another thing we typically never do, but then we do a lot of things differently when we are away from home.  We then watched our usual Monday night TV programs on CBS.  Even when we are away some things don’t change.  We are not “on vacation” after all.  We don’t go on vacation to get bus windows repaired.  In fact, we no longer go on vacation, we simply blend new experiences into our everyday lives.  Such is the nature of retirement as extended-time RVers in a converted bus.


2015/12/04 (F) The Chores of Life

The overnight low was forecast to be in the mid-50s so before going to bed I closed the roof vents and we only left the windows open about half an inch.  I was up at 7:12 AM this morning and put on my sweats.  I fed the cats (they insisted), took out my nighttime bite guard, washed it, and put it away.  I then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and Juniper on my lap while I worked on my iPad.

Linda stayed in bed until 9:15 AM.  She is having trouble shaking the congestion and cough but the nighttime medication seems to control it and allow her to get plenty of much needed sleep.  Once she was up I made a pot of coffee and she fixed bowls of granola for breakfast.

My main focus today was working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter but we had other things to do as well.  At the top of my list was mailing the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter certification paperwork to FMCA HQ.  I also needed to do a load of laundry, our first since we left home a week ago.  Linda planned to work on her counted cross-stitch project but also needed to make a run to the Publix grocery store on the southwest corner of Gainesville.

The word “chore” is often used pejoratively, and that is an appropriate use according to the definition, but the first meaning is “…everyday tasks of running a household or farm.”  The definition goes on to include “…. difficult or unpleasant tasks …” and some chores are certainly more (or less) pleasant than others.  Linda likes to cook and I don’t mind doing the laundry but neither of us particularly enjoy cleaning.  I don’t mind dumping our holding tanks, a chore that many RVers apparently find onerous, but I do not like adjusting the pressure in our tires.

I gathered up the soiled laundry and laundry supplies and loaded them in the car.  The north bathroom/laundry building is in plain sight of our coach, and not that far away, but I had more stuff than I could carry in one trip and it was heavier than I cared to schlep around.  If we had an appropriate wheeled cart I might have used that, but we don’t.  I got two loads started but held off on the third until I had taken a shower.  The bathhouses are in the same building as the laundry.  I added my towel to the third load and started it.

In the middle of doing the laundry I was back at the coach, got the FMCA chapter certification paperwork in an envelope, addressed it, and added stamps.  I was going to walk to the Post Office but in the interest of time I drove to the Resort office instead.  That little task had been nagging me for quite a while so I had a sense of relief, as much as accomplishment, when I put the envelope in the outgoing mailbox.  Linda walked down and used the shower facility.

As soon as I got back to the coach with the clean laundry/supplies and brought them inside I put the 2m/70cm ham radio antenna back on the roof of the car.  Linda then took the car and headed for the Publix supermarket at the southwest corner of Gainesville.  I did not want to unload the car, and had work to do at the coach, so Linda went to Publix by herself so there would be room for the groceries.  I put the laundry away and then settled in to work at my computer.

I realized this morning that I do not have SPSS installed on my ASUS laptop so I will not be able to analyze the data from the FMCA education surveys myself, at least not until I get home.  That is unfortunate as I do not know at this point if HQ has the ability or willingness to do the analysis we need done.  I sent an e-mail to the committee chair and executive director to let them know.  Mea culpa.  I replied to a few e-mails and then resumed working on our Holiday Letter.

I realized last night that some of the images which had already been post-processed had dates in the file names that were different from the dates when they were taken.  As I was trying to arrange them in chronological order I went back and found the originals and corrected the dates.  I then continued placing and captioning the photos.

When Linda returned with the groceries I helped get them into the coach while she put them away.  She finally found the Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers we like and we finished an open container of hummus and had some fruit for a light lunch.

For dinner Linda made a salad and sautéed mushrooms, onions, and broccoli as a topping for a baked potato, which we split.  I had a little vegan sour cream on my half.  After dinner we changed into warmer clothes and packed a bottle of wine and our two plastic wine glasses and walked to the firepit.

Friday and Saturday nights during the winter folks at the Resort gather at the firepit to enjoy the warmth of the fire, have a glass of wine, talk to one another, and listen to live music provided by volunteer residents.  Our friend, John Smith, is the main entertainer, doing mostly folk/rock/country-crossover.  He is also responsible for the fire since Kevin and Sharon sold their park model and moved to The Villages.  (We are still having a hard time comprehending that move.)  John performed solo in clubs and bars for a living many years ago before he and Ali got married.  Jeff sometimes brings his guitar and performs as well, his specialty being old time country music (such as Merle Haggard).  Other musicians occasionally show up, or at least they did two years ago.

We were the first to arrive (besides John) and chatted with him for quite a while before anyone else showed up.  Other folks drifted in and John eventually fetched his guitar and played.  Ali was visiting with Jeff and Kathy and was one of the last to show up.  Jeff and Kathy’s dog, Teddy, has lymphoma so they stayed at their 5th wheel with him.  We stayed to the end, said “good night” to John and Ali, and walked back to our rig.  We watched an hour of Create TV and went to bed.


2015/12/03 (R) 2015 Year in Review 

It cooled off overnight and was 60 degrees F outside when I got up at 8 AM.  We left the windows open a bit when we went to bed last night but it only dropped to 71 in the coach.  The forecast high for today was only 73 with partly to mostly cloudy skies, so the coach was going to be comfortable all day with just fresh air and perhaps the bathroom exhaust fan running.  I made a pot of coffee and then Linda got up and made oatmeal for our breakfast.

Linda’s goal for the next couple of weeks is to finish the counted cross-stitch needlepoint Christmas stocking she is making for grand-daughter Madeline.  She has to keep very careful count of her stitches, so I am not allowed to talk to her, or myself, while she is working.  It should be a very quiet two weeks.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

My first goal today was to finish the BCM article on servicing the Webasto WDB2010 burner in our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  This was work I did back in January while we were in Quartzsite, AZ.  I post-processed the last 10 photos, inserted them into the Word docx, added captions, and then rearranged them according to print edition and digital edition bonus content section.

I had an e-mail back from Chuck about the Prevost Community AITA NAPA discount card.  I followed his directions and completed the online application.  He called mid-morning and we talked about the chassis batteries.

I finished the Webasto article but did not upload it right away.  I had an e-mail from Gaye Young, FMCA National Secretary and chair of the Education Committee, with the preliminary results of the survey that went out this fall.  After looking through the data I wrote an e-mail to the committee with some observations.

Today was pretty much a stay-at-home day except for an early afternoon walk.  We had black bean soup and vegan grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and then walked up to the office to make copies of the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers group.  I will mail the forms to FMCA HA in Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow.

We talked briefly with Janet Rawley in the office and checked out the activities center across the street.  They have moved the library and game tables from the office to the AC and are going to redo at least part of the space as offices.  Given the number of additional park models and RV sites they should expand the mailboxes as well.  There was a basket of tomatoes at the AC, free for the taking, so Linda selected a few.  On our way back to our rig we stopped to chat with Jim Rawley (Sonny Fox on XM) at their 5th wheel.  Jim and Janet were part of our circle of friends two years ago and their rig is just a few sites down from John and Ali’s.  We dropped off the tomatoes and paperwork and continued on our walk around the newer section of the park.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

Back at our coach I started working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  I was working on my ASUS laptop when the file manager suddenly would not respond to mouse clicks or let me close it.  I tried clicking a few other things and windows popped open that I could not then close.  This was strange behavior indeed, and something I had not seen before.  I was able to click the shutdown icon in the tray and forced the machine to close programs and turn off.  I restarted my computer and ran a complete scan with the ESET Smart Security program.  Complete scans take quite a while so I used my iPad to play a few games and work on this post.  When the scan was finally done I reviewed the findings and got back to work.

I uploaded the Webasto service article to Gary at BCM and then got back to work on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  Linda can only count so many cross stitches per day before she gets cross-eyed.  She also needs very strong light, so when the sun gets low in the afternoon sky she quits for the day.

Dinner was salad and reheated red beans and rice, a dish that holds up well over multiple servings.  After dinner I got back to work on our holiday letter and worked on it until bedtime.  I selected about 50 photos and will try to do captioned pictures instead of extensive narrative.  The local CBS affiliate had the Lions–Packers game on instead of our usual Thursday evening programs so Linda flipped between the game and whatever was on PBS.  My computer worked fine for the rest of the evening.


2015/12/01 (T) Home Again

I got up at 7:45 AM, got dressed, and fed the cats.  The Magnum BMK was showing the house battery pack at 24.2 VDC and 47% SOC with the refrigerator and other significant loads not drawing any power.  I worked on my iPad for a while until I heard muffled voices from the compound around 8 AM and saw Pat (John’s son) working on the roof of one of the trailers.  Linda got up at 8:30 and we had granola for breakfast and had a leisurely morning.

Check-in time at Williston Crossings RV Resort WCRVR) was noon.  We only had 75 miles to travel to get there and did not need to be there right at noon.  Around 10:45 we started getting the inside of the coach ready to travel and by 11:15 we were taking care of the outside stuff.  Paul and Eugenia were already hooking up their car and obviously preparing to leave as well.  We walked around the coach and checked that the bay doors were closed and locked.  On the way around we got the tow bar off the ground and secured it.  I then switched on the chassis batteries, opened the engine accessories air valve, and returned to the cockpit.

The chassis battery gauges read lower than normal for a fully charged condition but had plenty of energy stored in them to crank the engine quickly.  With Linda spotting from outside I did a three point turn to get the bus pointed towards the exit.  John came over in his Kubota utility cart and chatted with Linda while I moved the car behind the bus and we continued to chat with John as we hooked up the car.  We thanked him for his hospitality and assured him that we would be back; both for a solar system and to just hang out for a longer time in the woods by the Suwannee River.  I started the engine and Linda checked the lights.  Everything was good and when she was back on board we started the slow roll back to the county road.

We pulled out of John Palmer’s place around 11:30 AM and slowly made our way back to CR-354.  I stopped there (to check for traffic, of course) and raised the tag axle to shorten the turning radius.  I did not have a sign post at the edge of the road on the left, as I did when turning in, but the ditch on the other side was deeper closer to the road so I did not to get the passenger side steer tire very far off the pavement.  I completed the left turn cleanly and put the tag back down before continuing.

It was closer to 11:45 by the time we passed the east boundary of the property and saw the sign for the River Rendezvous RV Park.  We took CR-354 to US-27 and headed east to US-129.  Just south of Trenton we vectored off onto SE CR-339 and then picked up NE US-27 Alternate which eventually became Main Street in Williston.  The trip took about an hour and 40 minutes and we arrived at the main entrance to Williston Crossings around 1:25 PM.

It’s usually nice to return to a place you have been to before and liked.  We enjoyed our time here during winter 2013/14 and it felt a little bit like being home again in that the place, and some of the people, were familiar to us and pleasant to be around.  One of the most familiar people was John, our next door neighbor of two years ago.  He was doing site escort duty and led us to our site after Linda got us registered.  We pulled up in front of site #233 and disconnected the car while John read the electric meter.  John then helped me back onto the concrete pad.  We were in place and level at 2 PM and visited briefly with John, giving him a quick tour of our interior remodel.  After John left we hooked up the shorepower cord and put power to the coach.

I checked the chassis battery voltage on the dashboard gauges with the engine off and they were 28+ and 14.  We went through our usual arrival routine with the addition of checking the reading on the electric meter.  We pay for our electricity here so checking the meter on arrival is prudent.  I checked the maintenance chargers and they showed the charge level on the upper and lower 12V portions of the chassis batteries as 75% each.  They should have been fully charged after almost two hours of engine operation so something was still not right.  The house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC and showing a 43% SOC.  The battery charger section of the Magnum 4024 went into Bulk charging mode, charging the house batteries at 107 Amps.

We are parked facing approximately WSW so the front of the coach gets the afternoon sun.  It was in the low 80’s, and a bit warmer in the coach, but we turned on the ceiling exhaust fans rather than run the air-conditioning, deployed the window awnings on the driver side, and lowered the day screens on the inside.  We used AntennaPoint.com to locate broadcast TV towers.  The two we cared about, CBS and PBS, were both north of us.  I rotated the front antenna to point in that direction and did a channel scan.  They both came in with solid signals so I repeated the set up with the rear antenna and bedroom TV.

Once we were set up we had vegan hot dogs for lunch and then walked to the CVS Pharmacy just outside the front entrance to the resort.  We crossed paths with John again and this time he had Ali with him so we had a quick reunion.  When we got back to the coach I was tired and with the warm conditions I dozed off.  When I woke up I set up the printer, NAS, and Amped Wireless router.

Meanwhile Linda had started preparing red beans and rice for dinner and discovered that she did not have diced tomatoes.  I drove to the Grocery Depot, which is also just outside the front entrance to the Resort, and bought a couple of cans that included green chilies.  It was 6:30 PM and the Resort gates were already closed so I had to use the code to get back in.  The dish was excellent and would not have been the same without the tomatoes.

After dinner I e-mailed Butch, Chuck, and Lou.  We are parked close to one of the Resort’s Wi-Fi towers with a strong N signal and reasonable speed, leading me to wonder if the Resort has upgraded their system and Internet connection.  Linda made a stovetop apple crisp and finished it just before our Tuesday evening TV programs began at 8 PM.  The crisp was different from an oven baked one but still very tasty.  We watched a few TV programs on PBS and CBS.  Linda has been fighting something and took some OTC Tussin nighttime medicine for her cough, congestion, and itchy throat.  She has coughed enough that it now hurts and is very tired from many nights of poor sleep.


2015/07/09 (R) Graduation Celebration

My main focus this morning was my dentist appointment at 10:30 AM.  I wanted to leave the house at 9 AM so I had plenty of time to get there and actually left at 9:15.  Once I was on I-96 eastbound and clear of the construction at US-23 I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Steve (N8AR) came back to my call.  I-96 was very slow as I approached Wixom Road so I exited at Beck Road and dropped down onto Grand River Avenue (GRA).  I got off GRA at M-5 in Farmington Hills and took that to where it ended and rejoined GRA.  I continued to Telegraph Road and headed south.  My QSO with Steve lasted until there by which point there was too much noise and not enough signal for a pleasant conversation.  In spite of the change from my intended route I was still at the dentist’s office by 10:10 AM and they were able to take me in early.

On the way home I called the South Lyon 2m repeater and Mike (W8XH) responded to the call.  As a result of differing weekend plans I decided to head to his QTH and pick up his climbing harness.  While I was there I took a few minutes to look at his reconfigured ham shack and his Canon EOS D7 Mark II DSLR.  To say that I am unhappy about Sony’s failure to release the alpha 99 II FF DSLT would be a gross understatement and I am not alone in the sentiment.

Back at the house we had a light lunch of sourdough pretzel nibblers and roasted red pepper hummus.  I then went to my office to continue working on the custom desk design for our bus.  But first I was taking care of e-mails when Williston Crossings RV Resort called back and said they had a spot for us for December.  We had not heard back from Suncoast Designers regarding an appointment to have a fogged window repaired so I called them.  They said they had replied to my e-mail letting us know that we were scheduled for December 7 but the e-mail had not come through, so I need to check the spam filter.

Linda called back and accepted the spot at Williston starting December 1st.  We will have to leave for one to three days to have the window taken care of and we will depart on the 26th for the Arcadia Bus Rally but the monthly rate will still be cheaper than paying for three weeks at the weekly rate.  Besides, they did not have a two or three week opening.

I did get a couple of hours of work done on the desk design and then had to quit.  A month ago our elder grand-daughter, Katie, missed her high school graduation due to a sudden illness.  Meghan and Chris (Katie’s dad) made reservations at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for 5:45 PM today and we gathered to celebrate this milestone in Katie’s life.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline also joined us and we all enjoyed quizzing (and teasing) Katie about her upcoming college experience at Northern Michigan University where she plans to major in Wildlife and Fisheries within the larger biology program.

Linda and I had the black bean burger with fresh, hand-cut fries.  Although it was tasty, and vegan, it did not have any binders and completely fell apart when I tried to assemble it as a sandwich.  We ordered them on sourdough bread as the buns had an egg wash.  Zingerman’s has excellent bread, but it is the rustic style with crusts that are so tough you cannot cut them with a knife (or a chainsaw).  Thus the “burger” was difficult to eat even as an open faced sandwich and was basically a messy pile of “stuff” on my plate.  Linda seemed to enjoy hers but I regretted ordering it even though I ate the whole thing.  I did, however, have a glass of Schramm’s Raspberry Mead made by my friend, and former colleague, Ken Schramm.  It was excellent.  The hand-cut fries were also good and the waitress was delightful, which is always a plus.

Back home I worked for a couple more hours in my office and then worked on this post.  I put my new N.T.I. dental appliance on my lower front teeth just before going to bed.  It obviously felt a little strange but did not keep me from falling asleep.


2014/12/21-25 (N-R) The Holidays Arrive

2014/12/21 (N) Winter Solstice

Linda was reading an interesting tidbit online this morning about the winter solstice, which occurs today in the northern hemisphere.  It usually occurs on the 21st, like today, but occasionally slips into the 22nd.  While it is the day of the year with the least hours of sunlight (between sun up to sun down) it is not the day with the latest sunrise (which occurred a couple of weeks ago) or the earliest sunset (which does not occur for a couple of more weeks).  Why is that?  Axial tilt, elliptical orbits, and a “day” that is not exactly 24 hours.  Science is fun.

Today was a stay-at-home / stay-in-town day for us.  Linda vacuumed the coach and mopped the floor tiles.  She says she likes to do this once a week to keep the cat hair under control.  By “likes” I think she means “needs.”  She also decided to do the laundry.  When we are at our house the laundry is usually my chore but for some reason, to which I am not privy, she takes over this chore when we are living in the RV, at least initially.  The same thing happened last year at Williston Crossings RV Resort, although we eventually both did laundry until I was able to win back my rightful chore.  So far again this year it has been her self-selected task here at Quartzsite and I have not gone out of my way to reclaim my rightful place as master of the laundry.

What I did instead of laundry was spend the morning finishing our 2014 Year-in-Review holiday letter.  Linda proof read it and then I converted it to PDF and did a final check of the layout to make sure the text and photos had not shifted or been clipped.  I copied it to a flash drive so we can take it someplace in Blythe tomorrow and have it printed.

The other day I noticed that the manifold pressure sensor (turbo boost) on Butch and Fonda’s 6v92 was mounted vertically on the front passenger side of the ECM.  I could not see exactly how it was mounted, however, so today I finally looked it up in the DD 92 Series manual.  I did not attempt to reattach our sensor module today but I was curious to see what would be involved.  I also continued to interact with other Prevost owners on the Prevost Community forum regarding the turbo boost issues and the dashboard gauge, which does not have the correct scale for our engine.  That thread has led to a dialogue about the SilverLeaf systems, including the VMSpc that we have, and an alternative system from RV Tech Tools that uses an iPad app named “RV Dash” and a wireless (WiFi) interface named “CANpod” from Cubix Labs.

With our various chores done we had a light lunch of chickpea salad on a bed of mixed greens and then went for a long walk.  The walk took us down Washington Ave. and then over to Kitsap Ave. to see a gorgeous Adobe house that Linda had discovered on a previous walk.  That led us to the backside of the west-central “vendor” (flea market) area on the north side of Main St.  We are not collectors, and we are not into antiques, guns, rocks, jewelry, or junk, so we saw very little that interested us.  We did see a few pieces of Pyrex, which our daughter and son-in-law were collecting at one time, and I am always on the lookout for a good deal on a tool I can’t live without, but mostly we saw endless quantities of stuff that we could not fathom anyone buying.

We crossed Main Street and visited the Tyson’s Well Stagecoach Stop Museum.  The grounds and building were open, admission was free, and it was unattended.  There were items for sale and if we had wanted something we would have put the money in the collection box.  That’s small town.

We headed east on Main Street and crossed back to the north side using the crosswalk at AZ-95 (Central Ave.).  We then continued east and stopped at the Road Runner Market.  We were pleased to find that they had a small but good selection of fresh produce.  On our way out the door the florist gave Linda a red and white carnation.  We will definitely be doing some of our local grocery shopping there.  We knew there was a restaurant/bakery on the far east end of Main Street so we kept on walking.  Sweet Darlene’s looked like a nice local place for a home-cooked style meal, but did not have anything on the menu we could eat.  The bakery turned out to be a small display case with pies and sweet rolls, but they did not make their own bread, so we won’t have any reason to come back.

By this time it was getting to be late afternoon, the cloud layer had thickened, and it was getting a bit chilly so we headed back towards Central Avenue.  We counted laundromats along the way, and passed at least four before getting back to our coach.  Not that we need a laundromat—we have a laundry where we are staying—but with all of the boondockers in and around Q it is a matter of some curiosity to us how/where they take care of things like this.  By the time we got back to our coach we had walked just over five miles.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

Sunset over the Dome Rock Mountains due west of our encampment.

By 5:15 PM the sun had slipped just below the mountains to our southwest and the sky started to glow pink for 360 degrees around us.  The sunset went on for over 30 minutes, the pinks deepening to reds.  And then, just like that, the color was gone and darkness enveloped the valley.

For dinner Linda made a simple green salad with raisins and peanuts.  She then heated up some vegan re-fried beans, pan-grilled a package of fajita vegetables she got from Connie before they left, and then heated two tortillas.  We each made a tasty roll up, adding some salsa and vegan sour cream.  She washed some black seedless grapes and set them out for desert.  They were very refreshing after the somewhat heavier and spicy main course.

2024/12/22 (M) Compressed

We had planned on driving to Blythe, California today but those plans changed fairly early in the morning.  Butch got an update that his air-compressor was on a UPS truck in Blythe and scheduled for delivery today.  I had promised to help him with the installation and provide a few tools he did not have with him so we decided to stick around camp.  We were also waiting for Connie’s realtor, Carolyn, to come by and pick up two yellow Post Office slips.

Linda took her morning walk after breakfast while I downloaded the October and November issues of Bus Conversion Magazine in both standard- and high-definition.  I was really glad to finally see these issues.  The October issue included my article on our T. F. Hudgins Spinner II Centrifugal By-pass Oil Cleaner project.  That was my one remaining article waiting to be published.  I have at least a half dozen in process, at least that many more for which I have taken photos (and written blog posts), and a very long list of future projects, so it’s time to get the next batch of articles ready to submit.

When Linda got back I drove to the print/copy/fax/pack/ship/etc. store on east Main Street to see if they could print our holiday letter.  They had plain 8.5×14 white paper, and the photos looked OK, but it was going to cost $4 per letter ($2/side) so I paid for the one copy and left.  They suggested that I try Weeks Printing in Blythe (20 miles west) or Staples in Lake Havasu City (70+ miles north).  Since we will likely head to Blythe tomorrow we will check out Weeks first.

As long as I was out I stopped at Barry’s Breads and bought a couple of fresh “rolls” which were really small loaves of bread.  Barry runs a little seasonal bakery out of a temporary vendor stand on the northeast corner of Central Avenue (US-95) and Kuehn Street.  Most of his products have butter or cream cheese as ingredients—his Danish pastries are as big around as a dinner plate—but he does make just plain bread and everything is made fresh daily.  Back in camp Linda called Weeks Printing and they quoted $1.25 for each 2-sided letter.  Much better.  We will check them out when we make it to Blythe; probably tomorrow.

For lunch Linda made a batch of her scrumptious chickpea salad/spread and served it on one of the rolls I bought at Barry’s.  After a week of cloudy skies, cool temperatures, and a little rain we finally had a day with clear, sunny skies and the high temperature up into the 70s.  Butch decided to remove his defective air-compressor and there wasn’t anything we could do to help (or stop him) so we decided to clean some more of our coach exterior.  I wanted to work from the top down, which meant starting with the roof.  That, in turn, meant getting out the Little Giant convertible extension/step ladder and setting it up as a 14 foot extension ladder.  In this configuration it extends beyond the top edge of the roof at the front, making it safer for me to get up on the lower roof area from the driver’s side.

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

Rinsing down the roof of the coach (photo by Linda).

The roof was very dirty and it appeared that we might have more than just embedded dirt to deal with.  The roof has a sprayed-on ceramic-infused white coating with a surface akin to medium grit sandpaper.  It reflects sunlight and provides a nice nap for walking on, but also traps dirt.  The last time the roof was cleaned was in early April, just before we left Williston Crossings RV Resort.  I had been on the roof subsequent to that, in our pull-through driveway at home, using it as a platform for trimming tree limbs.  I do not recall it being unusually dirty at that time, but I was focused on other things.  If it had been, I probably would have washed it, but maybe not; I was focused on other things.

I used a little bit of Dawn dish soap in several gallons of water and our soft, long handle, brush to try and scrub it clean and then rinsed it with softened water.  It was better by the time I was done but far from 100% clean.  I also scrubbed all of the metal awning covers and then hosed them off and rinsed the awning fabric.  When I was done on the roof I sprayed off all four sides of the bus, but even with the softened water it left spots and streaks.  Another unfortunate side effect of this work is that it frightened our male cat, Jasper, who ended up hiding behind the steering column in an attempt to escape the sights and sounds of a ‘monster’ on the roof.

We would like to get the body clean but there’s no point doing anything until I get the roof finished (Linda does not climb ladders and she does not get on the roof of the bus.)  At a minimum I am going to have to use a stiff scrub brush and a stronger solution of Dawn dish soap, or perhaps a commercial cleaner that can treat mold/mildew along with just plain dirt.  We will then have to do the vertical surfaces in small sections, scrubbing, rinsing, and drying as we go.  We have a sprayer for our hose that has a small bottle for additives and one of the reasons I bought it was to try using a dishwasher rinse aid, like Jet Dry, to see if it would eliminate spotting.  To-date, however, I have not tried that.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda's MC-9.

The old Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor out of Butch & Fonda’s MC-9.  The governor is the silver thing on the left.  The open port on top is the air discharge where the unloader valves are located.

Once Butch had the old air-compressor out of their bus he turned the input shaft and noted that the pistons were not pumping air.  This confirmed that something had failed internally and ordering a replacement was the right thing to do.  There wasn’t much else to do so we all sat around in the warm sun and waited for the UPS truck to show up, which it finally did around 3:45 PM.  We (me, Linda, and Fonda) suggested that Butch wait until tomorrow to start installing it, but we knew that was not going to happen.  The compressor was a significant road failure that had bugged him since it happened and he was anxious to get it fixed.


The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The new (re-built) Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressor with the old spline and new port plugs.

The Bendix Tu-Flo 700 he received is designed specifically for mounting on Detroit Diesel 92 series 2-stroke engines but has more ports on it than are typically used in this application.  Making sure to match the configuration of the old compressor, Butch installed new plugs in the unneeded ports.  He then removed the fittings from the old unit one at a time and installed them in the new one, being careful to line them up exactly the same way.  I helped by holding the compressor on a work table while Butch tightened the pipe threads.  This was the easy part of the project as we were standing at a tall bench with plenty of room to work and good light.


The new air-compressor with fittings.  Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.

The new air-compressor with fittings. Note the alignment marks for orienting the fittings correctly.  The spline is in the upper left of the photo.

The hard part was getting the air-compressor re-installed.  Butch eventually got it onto two of the four mounting studs, which then took the weight.  We discovered a clearance issue with one of the port plugs and he had to pull the compressor back out.  He removed a plug from the old compressor, which did not stick out as far, and reused it in the new compressor.  With the compressor back on the studs it now lined up better but the spline would not engage the drive gear on the end of the engine camshaft.  He put a wrench on the crankshaft pulley nut and turned the engine slightly by standing on the end of it while I jiggled the air-compressor.

The "governor" mounted on the new compressor.

The “governor” mounted on the new compressor.

The spline eventually engaged the engine gear and the air-compressor gear enough that Butch was able to fully seat the flange and insert/tighten the four mounting studs, lock washers, and nuts.  Per the instructions, he reconnected all of the lines except for the air discharge and called it a night.  The coolant goes back in tomorrow and Butch will then start the main engine to make sure the compressor works, check for leaks, and let any contaminants get blown out the discharge fitting.  If everything looks good he will attach the discharge line, which connects the outlet port of the air-compressor to the coach air system, and air up the bus.

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the engine block (towards the front of the bus).

The new air-compressor (blue) mounted on the rear of the DD6V92TA engine block (towards the front of the bus) in Butch and Fonda’s MCI MC-9B NJT.

At least we were successful in convincing Butch to wait until tomorrow to put the coolant back in the engine.  By the time we finished working, put our tools away, and got cleaned up it was 7:30 PM and had been dark for two hours.  Linda reheated the leftover fajita fixings and we had open-faced tortillas with Fritos corn chips, salsa, black grapes, and Sangria.  We were both tired so we relaxed for a while after dinner and then went to bed.

2024/12/23 (T) Blythe, CA

We got a call from Connie right after breakfast letting us know that the two packages Carolyn picked up yesterday were for us and Butch.  We needed to pick them up before 11AM as Carolyn had an appointment at that time.  Linda was headed out for her morning walk anyway so she walked to Rock Reality, near the post office and uptown drugs, to get the packages from Carolyn.  (Carolyn is Joe and Connie’s realtor.)  She dropped off the two P. O. Box – Mail Pickup Notice cards at the post office while she was there.

Our package was from Madeline (Brendan and Shawna), to be opened on Christmas Day.  Butch’s package was the unloader valve kits for our Bendix Tu-Flo 700 air-compressors.  He ordered them while we were in Forest City, Arkansas for delivery to Amarillo, Texas but they did not arrive in time so his friend forwarded them to our Quartzsite location.

Butch and Fonda used most of the morning to put the coolant back into the engine.  Our buses, which still have their over-the-road heating systems, hold a lot of coolant.  Ours requires 34 gallons.  The buses are not identical, but I suspect theirs requires at least 30 gallons.  And it is very important that the cooling system is filled to capacity and has had all of the air purged out of it.  It’s a big, messy job.

They got as much in as they could by standing on a ladder and pouring it through a funnel into the filler tube for the surge tank.  The radiators on the MCI MC-9 are located above the engine, one on each side wall at the rear of the bus, and the surge tank is located above them, so the filler tube is approximately 9 feet from the ground.  Butch started the engine to warm it up enough for the thermostat to open and to circulate the coolant and opened a couple of bleeder valves to let air out.  He also checked the outlet fitting on the new air-compressor to verify that it was pumping air.  It was (hurray!), so he shut the engine off, attached the air line to the outlet fitting, and started it back up.  The chassis air system (suspension and brakes) came up to pressure and the air-dryer “sneezed” (momentarily opened its purge valve) so the system was fully operational.

We planned to go to Blythe, California today and Butch and Fonda wanted to go too, so he shut off the engine and they cleaned up their campsite.  We were sitting in our coach when the winds came up rather strong.  Linda checked the weather and the winds were out of the north at 20 MPH and forecast at 22-25 MPH until 6 PM.  That was strong enough for us to retract our awnings, close our roof vents, collapse our folding chairs, and stow our patio mat.  Butch and Fonda also retracted their patio awning and stored all of their outdoor equipment and furniture.  We had the old patio awning on our Itasca Sunrise torn off by strong (thunderstorm) winds while we were away from the motorhome and have been extra careful about awnings and wind ever since.

With all of that done we headed to Blythe in their Chevy Suburban.  From 879 feet ASL in Q we climbed to about 1200 feet ASL over the low mountain range that separates the two valleys, and then descended to 240 feet ASL as we crossed the Colorado River and entered California.  A few miles later we took the 7th Street exit and we were there.  The 20 mile drive was only five more miles than the trip we made from Williston Crossings RV Resort to the Publix grocery store (at the southwest corner of Gainesville, Florida) last winter, so it did not feel like a long way to go for groceries.  At home we have supermarkets about five miles away in three different directions.  Butch and Fonda typically drive into Logansport for their groceries, a distance of 12 miles, so we are all used to traveling some distance to purchase our food.

The Smart & Final Extra and the Albertson’s were on the NW and SE corners of 7th and Hobsonway, just north of I-10, making them especially convenient for us, so this is where we will likely shop every other week or so.  But our first destination was a few blocks farther west on S. Main St. where we found Weeks Printing.  They were eventually able to access our flash drive and open the PDF of our holiday letter.  They had a high quality paper in 8.5”x14” size, and were able to print our letter 2-sided on a good quality color laser printer for a very reasonable price of $1.25 per letter ($0.625 per side).  They did not take credit cards so we paid cash, but it saved us a 73 mile trip (one way) to Staples in Lake Havasu City.

Self-portrait of the blogger.  I am merely a reflection of my former self.

Self-portrait of the blogger. I am merely a reflection of my former self.

At the Smart & Final Extra we bought fresh produce, soy milk, and some bulk, canned, and packaged items.  They did not carry the Silk brand soy coffee creamer that I like, and there were a few items Butch and Fonda needed that the store did not have, so we drove across the street to Albertson’s and got those items.  I stayed in the car with the groceries, but I already knew that the Albertson’s would be a nice store based on our experience with the chain in Sheridan, Wyoming during summer 2013.  With our shopping done we returned to Quartzsite.

I carried the groceries from the car to the bus and Linda stored them, discovering that she had an empty tub available in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  By the time she was done it was approaching 4 PM so she prepared chickpea salad sandwiches as a quick, light lunch and then announced that we should go for a walk before it got dark.  She let me chose the route so we crossed Central Avenue (AZ-95) and walked to the city park, which has a very nice baseball field with lights and the only grass we have seen in Quartzsite.  There was also a skateboard facility, a football field, and two F4 Phantom jets (minus the engines and other equipment).  The Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club (QMDC) has a practice field adjacent to the park.  The park is located near the following municipal facilities:  Community Center and Library, County Court, Police Station, and Post Office Annex (where most of the P. O. Boxes are located).  The Fire Department is a little farther north on Tyson Wells Street just east of Central Avenue.

The sun was getting near the tops of the mountains to our southwest so we headed pack to our coach and settled in for the evening.  For dinner Linda made a barley risotto with garlic, shallots, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetable both, and seasonings.  While she was cooking I got a call from my dad and got him caught up on our whereabouts and activities.  The risotto was excellent and we each enjoyed a glass of sangria with our meal.

I don’t know if we are just relaxed, or really tired after a hard summer and fall, but we have both been going to bed earlier and waking up later than usual.  Or perhaps it is just the effect of fresh air and sunshine.  Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be able to just sleep when that is what we feel like doing and get up when we are read.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q.  Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone.  If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

We have an excellent Verizon signal here in Q. Linda often likes to pace up and down Lollipop Lane while talking on the phone. If you lived on Lollipop Lane you would too.

2014/12/24 (W) Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and we woke to a temperature of 37 degrees, clear skies, light winds, and no snow.  The forecast high for today was 66, with no snow.  Do I miss snow at the holidays?  Not really.  At one time (high school) I considered myself something of a “romantic” in the sense that I liked the classical music of the romantic era, but I am not particularly nostalgia.  If I was, we would own a restored 1957 Chevy; red, of course.  No, we had snow at home before we left and as a harbinger of things to come we took it as a sign that our departure was overdue.  Christmas in the desert will be a new experience for us, but so far it looks very agreeable.  We will miss being with family, of course, but we are not alone here and technology keeps all of us much more connected than it once did.

Having been to Blythe yesterday we did not have any last minute shopping to do today.  The desert was there yesterday and will be there tomorrow (I presume) so we did not have to see it today.  With the holidays upon us I did not feel like working on bus projects.  Linda started addressing the envelopes for our Year-In-Review Holiday Letter and then worked on food preparations for tomorrow’s dinner with Butch and Fonda.  It seemed like a good day for me to finally start catching up on some things that I have not had time for in a while.  For instance, I need to work on articles for Bus Conversions Magazine, update our bus project list/status, update our website, upload some blog posts (OK, a LOT of blog posts), and catch up on the blogs I follow using the Feedly app on my iPad.  I am way behind on all of these tasks and starting to feel some pressure about it, albeit self-imposed.  I do not have to do any of these things if I don’t want to, of course, but they are activities that I enjoy and want to do.  Still, being way behind takes some of the fun out of it and makes it a bit more like work.  I won’t get caught up in one day or one week or even one month; it will take many weeks of persistent effort.

After checking e-mail, I settled in to work on my article about the exterior renovation of our motorcoach.  Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint helped me finish the article in early October but I still needed to select and caption all of the photos.  While I worked on that Linda walked to the Road Runner Market and managed to snag the last 3-pack of yeast.  When she got back she made her orange cranberry relish for tomorrow’s dinner.

We took a break for lunch and then Linda headed out for her daily power walk.  When she got back she continued addressing envelopes for our holiday letter.  Just as I was feeling like I needed a break, Butch knocked on the door to let me know he was working on a small project that might interest me.  He had already burped the coolant lines that supply heat to the living area of their bus when driving and gotten the last of the coolant into the system.  His new project was getting an alternator driven tachometer connected and calibrated.

It turned out that he needed positive DC power to the tachometer in addition to the ground and RPM signal.  He was able to temporarily pick up 24VDC from the positive terminal of the starter, found a convenient ground point, and picked up the rotational speed from the stator terminal on the back of the alternator.  With the engine running at low idle he measured the RPM of the main crankshaft pulley using an optical sensor instrument.  It was just over 600 RPMs so he adjusted the tach via a set screw on the rear to match the reading.  He kicked it into high idle and measured the rotational speed as 950 RPM.  That is what the tach displayed within the precision of the markings.  He already has a signal wire run from the engine compartment to the cockpit but needs to mount the tachometer in a separate bullet housing, connect the wire on both ends, and provide positive and negative (ground) DC to the instrument.  He decided not to take on that project today.

(Note:  RPM is universally understood to be an abbreviation for “Revolutions Per Minute” but that is not necessarily correct.  An object such as the pulley on the end of an engine crankshaft rotates about its own axis, just as the earth does, and has angular velocity which is properly measured in rotations per some unit of time or angular displacement per some unit of time.  The abbreviation is, of course, still RPM.  In the case of the pulley, however, Butch put a small piece of white tape on the face of the pulley at the outside edge to act as a target for his optical sensor.  If we consider the piece of tape as a separate object then it does, indeed, revolve around the center axis of the pulley, just as the earth revolves around the sun.  Viewed thus way, revolutions per minute is technically correct.  As with many things in physics, it depends on your frame of reference.  So much for today’s physics lesson.)

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop.

This building houses (L-2-R) the laundry room, the apartment, and a small workshop at our compound.

As long as I was outside I borrowed Butch’s metal detector and went in search of a couple of tie downs that Joe told us were buried somewhere near the outer edge of our patio awning.  I knew they were lined up with a reference mark on one of the concrete patio slabs and it did not take long to locate and uncover them.  We put a couple of medium-sized rocks on top of them so we could relocate them easily.

We got several multimedia messages from our son today with pictures of our grand-daughter at our daughter’s house helping make cookies.  Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline are spending the night and Katie is joining them tomorrow.  Butch and Fonda will spend most of the day at the local church Fonda selected, including a carry-in (pot luck) luncheon, but will have dinner with us around 6:30 PM.

I finally returned to our coach and worked on my article about the Zena power generating system I installed to charge our house batteries while driving.  Again, the article was mostly finished a long time ago, but I could not submit it until I completed the installation, got the system operational, and took a few more photos.  All of that happened in October and November but I was too busy with other projects and preparations to pull it all together at that time.  I had a couple of e-mails today from Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, indicating that the December 2014 issue might not be out until early January 2015, and wondering if I might have a finished article they could use.

For dinner Linda made a salad of dark mixed greens with raisins, nuts, and pear slices drizzled with raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing followed by pan-seared tofu slices with caramelized onions and bar-b-que sauce served open-faced on hamburger buns.  We split a Sam Adams Pumpkin Spice Ale.  I am not a big fan of ales or pumpkin but beer seemed like the right beverage for this dish.  It was OK, but I would have enjoyed a Yingling or Shiner Bock more.

I made good progress on both articles today.  I got an e-mail from Mike, the editor of BCM, wondering if I had a finished article.  The ZENA article was close enough that I decided to finish it and upload it to our Dropbox before going to bed.  I e-mailed Mike back to let him known it was there and offered to finish the other one by the end of the weekend.

Earlier in the day I updated our personal WordPress site to the just released version 4.1 and updated several plug-ins and themes.  My last task before turning in for the night was to replicate the update process on the other three sites I manage.  By the time I got to bed it was Christmas Day.

2014/12/25 (R) Christmas in Q

The wind came up strongly overnight and we were awakened by the rattling of the vent fan domes.  From our north facing bedroom window we could see flags and the tops of trees blowing briskly in the wind.  We could also hear and see the awnings on the south/passenger side of the coach flapping.  Linda checked the weather channel app on her iPad and it reported winds at 20 MPH.  We were not expecting winds that strong until the daytime and they were strong enough for us to be concerned about our awnings.  By that point we were wide awake so we put on our sweatpants and shirts, slipped on some shoes, found a set of keys, got the step-stool out of the front bay and the awning rod out of the folding chair bay, retracted the two awnings, returned the rod and step-stool to their respective storage compartments, and finally went back to bed.

Linda got up at 6:30 AM in order to start making cinnamon rolls from scratch.  I usually get up first and make a pot of coffee but I was up past midnight working, so I slept in for another hour.  The yeast she bought yesterday wasn’t cooperating so we turned on one of the Broan ceramic cube heaters to try and create a warmer and more consistent environment to get the dough to rise.

We borrowed Butch and Fonda’s Verizon MiFi (unlimited data plan) so we could Facetime with our children and their families, who were gathered at our daughter and son-in-law’s house.  We got to watch all of them open the presents we left for them when we were there on Thanksgiving and they got to watch us open the gifts they sent with us or shipped to us here in Quartzsite.

Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline (son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter) sent a 2015 Shutterfly Calendar with photographs of all the different family members placed on the dates for birthdays, anniversaries, and such.  We do not need much at this point in our lives, but a collection of photographs that also reminds us of the people and dates that are most important to us is something we appreciate and treasure.  Meghan and Chris (daughter and son-in-law) bought us each a genuine Tilley hat.  I have known about these hats for a while but never bought one.  Given our outdoor oriented RV lifestyle, these were excellent gifts.

After we were done with our Facetime session Linda took the cinnamon rolls over to the apartment to bake since it has a range with an oven.  She will finish cooking dinner there later and the four of us will eat there this evening as it has a table that will seat four people.

The apartment bedroom.

The apartment bedroom.

In spite of early indications to the contrary the cinnamon rolls rose and baked just fine. The dough used flour, salt, vegan butter, yeast, and flax meal with water (egg substitute) and a little sugar.  The filling was made with brown sugar, vegan butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup.  The topping was a glaze of sugar, water, and vanilla with raisins and chopped walnuts.  Linda took two of them over to Butch and Fonda and we had some for breakfast still warm from the oven.  It’s a good thing that these are as much work to make as they are or I might want them for breakfast every day.   🙂

Linda had a call and TXT message from her sister (Marilyn) and sent a reply.  She was on her way to her housemate’s family gathering and they agreed they would talk later today.  She also sent merry Christmas TXT messages to her sister-in-law, Mary, and good friend, Diane.  At noon our time (1 PM CST, UTC-6) I called my sister to wish her a happy holiday.  Her daughter, grand-daughter, and future son-in-law had already been there in the morning as Ryan had to work that afternoon.

I made a second pot of coffee, which is unusual for us, but we planned to spend the day lounging around the coach cooking (Linda) and working on the computer (me).  Linda cleaned up the breakfast cookware, poured another cup of coffee, and started working on the chocolate cake for tonight’s dessert.  With the cake prepared and in the apartment oven she turned her attention to making the candied yams.  Once those were done the only thing left to do was bake the Tofurkey, roast the asparagus, and heat the gravy.  It was a lot work for her but it was spread out over two days and she enjoyed, and did it, willingly.  We could have gone out for dinner if she wanted, even though we would not have found much we could eat, but I am glad she preferred to cook.

Once I wrapped up the conversation with my sister I got back to work on the Outside Makeover (Exterior Renovation) article.  Although I thought I was done writing I made a few more edits and selected additional photos.  By 5 PM I had 74 photos selected and placed in sequence to match the flow of the article.  I had also done as much of that work as I cared to for the day.

We were down to 1/4 tank of fresh water so I decided to refill it.  About that same time Linda decided it was chilly enough in the apartment that she wanted the propane space heater turned on so I shut off the water and took care of that.  The heater had a hose that went through the wall at floor level to the outside with a regulator and POL fitting on the end of it.  I found a couple of 20 lb. propane tanks in the workshop and connected one of them to the regulator.  It took a while but I eventually got the pilot flame to light and then got the heater to ignite.  I then went back and finished filling our water tank.

The little apartment is very cute with three rooms: a bathroom on the east end, a bedroom on the west end, and a kitchen/dining/living room in the middle.  It has a shower, a 4-burner electric range with an oven, a refrigerator/freezer, a small microwave oven, the aforementioned space heater, a small window air-conditioner, a small TV/monitor with a satellite receiver, two easy chairs, a small dining table with four chairs, and a queen sized bed.  Marilyn is seriously considering coming for a visit the last week of January and if she does she will stay in the apartment and get to experience Quartzsite.

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner.  No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

Linda starting to set the table in the apartment for Christmas dinner. No pictures of Butch & Fonda (they are camera shy).

We bought a bottle of Sternthaler Nurnberger Christkindles Gluhwein spiced red holiday wine at Central Market in Fort Worth, Texas to serve with our Christmas dinner.  It is a mulled wine that is supposed to be gently heated before serving, but we found it quite agreeable straight from the refrigerator.  About 20 minutes before dinner time we set it out on the counter to warm up slightly, the space heater doing a very effective job heating the small apartment even on its lowest setting.

Linda and Fonda both contributed dishes to the meal and Fonda made a couple of things that we could eat.  They brought chicken and traditional mashed potatoes for themselves but also tried some of the Tofurkey roast.  Linda made a vegan chocolate cake for dessert and whipped refrigerated coconut milk solids to use as a whipped cream substitute.  Our daughter did this for the Thanksgiving meal and we really liked it.

We sat in the apartment for a long time after dinner and just talked until we were all tired.  Linda and Fonda had already cleaned the dishes so we turned off the propane space heater and carried all of our stuff back to our coaches.  Linda put the leftovers away while I did a final check of my e-mail for the night.  I then shut my computer off and we headed to bed.  Like so many things in our retirement RV lifestyle, this Christmas holiday was a new and good experience.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/04/07 (M) Big Wheels Keep On Turning

The boots may have been made for walking, but the wheels were made for turning and it does not make much sense (to us) to own a motorhome and not use the motor to move the home around at least occasionally.  Checkout time at Williston Crossings RV Resort is nominally 11 AM.  We were planning to leave by then, but a call to Suncoast Designers at 9 AM caused us to push our departure time back.  They suggested we not arrive until about 4 PM to make sure we had a place to park with hookups.  That put our departure time target at 2 PM.  We walked up to the office to make sure this would be OK.  It was; we have been here a long time and been good residents, and no one was scheduled to go in to “our” site today.

Given some extra time we had not planned on, we went for one last, long walk around the RV resort.  How different it looked and felt.  The resort is turning over from long-term winter/seasonal use to short-term summer/vacation use and there were many empty sites.  Eighty-nine rigs left yesterday.  Many were Carriage 5th wheels that were part of the 70 rig Carriage Travel Club rally that was here all last week.  But some were winter seasonal residents who have been dribbling out since April 1st and will continue to do so into May.  We were not the only rig pulling out today.  Our other neighbor, Sharon, is leaving this coming Sunday.  A few rigs were pulling in, of course, but the departures currently exceed the arrivals on any given day.

When we returned from our walk I mixed up a batch of the concoction we use in the waste holding tanks (48 oz PineSol, 48 oz water, 1cup Calgon).  I dumped the black-water tank and back-flushed it, followed by dumping the grey-water waste tank.  I ran additional water through the drain hose and then disconnected the hoses and fittings and stowed them for travel.  I reconnected the water softener and filled the fresh-water tank.  Once that was done Linda helped me disconnect, clean, and stow the fresh water hoses and the water softener.

We tend to forego coffee and breakfast on travel days, but had a little of both this morning as we were not leaving right away.  Because of the delay in our departure we did not have lunch.  To pass the time I continued with travel preparations.  The last time I had the coach batteries connected I noticed that the Pressure Pro TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) was not reading one of the sensors (PS outside drive tire).  We have a repeater for this system that I plan to install in the rear of the coach someday, but for now it gets attached to the rear view mirror of the car.  I took care of that task and then decided to move the car up onto the patio next to passenger side of the coach.  I left the ignition on to power the repeater and connected the coach batteries to power the TPMS receiver.  After a few minutes all of the tire sensors were active and the tire pressures were OK for travel.  I disconnected the coach batteries and put the car back in front of the coach.

At 1:30 PM we started our final travel preparations, clearing off the counters and moving stuff from the cockpit to the sofa, the bed, and the bedroom floor.  At 1:45 PM I shut off the 240/120 VAC electrical power to the coach, disconnected the shoreline, and stowed it in the slide-out tray over the DS drive tires.  I installed the screw-in cover for the utility port hole in the bay floor, and closed/locked the bay.  I then checked the Magnum 4024 to make sure it had switched to inverter mode, which it had.

Once the shore power is cut we seem to develop an increased sense of urgency about leaving.  I think this is due, in part, to the fact that I do not have the ZENA power generator operational yet, so our house batteries do not get charged while we are driving.  That’s OK, up to a point; the battery bank was designed to be large enough to run the inverter and power reasonable loads for a reasonable length of time.  But the sooner we leave, the sooner we arrive, and the sooner we arrive, the sooner we can plug back in to shore power.  We have an auxiliary power plant, of course, so we always have the option of using that if needed.  The other reason we are probably anxious to leave is more psychological.  Once we are completely disconnected (physically) we are become disconnected mentally, although not necessarily emotionally.  We are no longer “tethered” to that spot, and that means it is time to go.

I connected the chassis batteries, fired up the engine, and set the level low system to the driving position.  While Linda moved the car to street I drained the auxiliary air tank using the nice dry air from the main engine air compressor.  With John’s assistance we got the coach out of the site and lined up on the street.  Linda pulled the car up behind the coach and we went through our procedure for hooking it up to the tow bar.  We did our standard light check and found that the turn signals on the car were not working.  A quick check of the connectors on both ends of the cable revealed a socket on the car end of the cable that was corroded.  I used the awl on John’s Swiss Army Knife to clean it up.  A recheck of the lights indicated that everything was working.  After a final “goodbye” with John and Ali we were on our way.

Our departure delay meant we would be traveling SSW into the sun at the hottest part of the day.  The air temperature was 85 degrees F when we left, and the engine ran slightly hotter than usual, indicating just above 195 degrees F on the coolant temperature gauge, so I decided not to run the coach air conditioning.  The drive to Hudson was warm, but not unbearable.  A cold front was approaching the gulf coast of Florida so we had increasing cloud cover as we progressed south and west towards the coast, which helped keep the cockpit from getting too warm.

We had a nice run from Williston to Hudson.  We headed south out of Williston on US-41/US-27/FL-121.  US-27/FL-121 split off to the west a mile south of town, made a sweeping turn to the left and then followed a nice straight line SW for 17 miles to its southern terminus at US-19.  This stretch of FL-121 is straight but hilly.  With the cruise control set the engine is very sensitive to hills.  I always know we are on a grade, however slight, by the reaction of the turbo boost gauge and the pyrometers.

Most of the rest of trip was on US-19 except for the last three miles.  Traffic was light until we got to Crystal River, which had slower speed limits, lots of stop lights, and lots of vehicles on the road.  It opened up a bit after Homosassa Springs, but got congested as we approached Weeki Wachee where FL-50 ends at US-19.  From Weeki Wachee to just north of Hudson traffic remained slow and congested with increasingly dense commercial use on both sides of the road and stop lights every mile.  Just north of Hudson we turned east onto Little Road, which immediately swung south, and followed it for about two miles to New York Avenue, where we turned west and went another mile to Labor Place, the location of Suncoast Designers.

The coach ran fine, although the Check Engine Light came on almost immediately and was on more than it was off for the whole trip.  That did not surprise me as we had not done any work over the last couple of months to fix the fuel temperature sensor voltage problem that is apparently setting a fault code in the DDEC II.  I had hoped that the repairs we made in the dashboard wiring harness would fix the speedometer/odometer problem, but they did not; the gauge sat on zero for the whole trip.  The left pyrometer (exhaust gas temperature) gauge, however, was much more responsive and tracked the right pyrometer gauge much more closely than it ever had before.  It appears that the wires we repaired were for this gauge rather than the speedo/odo.

Once we pulled in to Suncoast Designers we pulled to the side of the road, so as not to block traffic, and unhooked the car.  While Linda parked the car I found the office and checked on parking arrangements.  Suncoast Designers has at least a dozen RV sites with water and 50 A electric hookups.  The only one open was a somewhat tight spot between two other large Class A motorhomes that required me to back in.  The maneuver was made more difficult by the fact that the road in front of the sites had a curb on the far side and was not wide enough to allow me to swing the front end without scrubbing the front tires.  I repositioned the coach so that I was turning in from the driver’s side, but Linda and I could not figure out how to get the coach into the site.  The guy next to us on the driver’s side offered to help.  A former truck driver, he knew exactly what to have me do.  Unlike some RVers, our pride is not injured by not knowing how to do something, and we gladly accepted his help.

I pulled past the site close to the front of his rig and then turned out to the passenger side, putting the coach at an angle to the open site.  He had me back part way into the front of the site at that angle and then turn the steer tires full left to start to bring the coach around.  He had me stop and then turn the steer tires full right and pull forward.  Steer tires full left again and back up some more, then full right and pull forward. We repeated this one more time and finally had the coach lined up straight and centered between the coaches on either side without having hit either one!  Linda was keeping an eye on the back of the coach the whole time (to make sure I did not hit anything) and guided me into our final position.  We then leveled the coach and shut the engine down.

The outside air temperature was only in the upper 70’s, but it was 90 degrees F in the coach and the outside humidity was high.  In spite of having nine windows that open, the three ceiling vent fans are not very effective at cooling down the interior under such circumstances.  In theory we can run all three air conditioners on a “50 A” shore service, but we have tripped breakers before when doing that.  (The issue is that circuit breakers are commonly designed to only carry 80% of their rated current on a continuous basis, so two of our A/C units plus a little bit of miscellaneous load can exceed 40 A on one of the legs.)  Besides, as soon as I plugged in the Magnum 4024 was going to switch to charger mode and start recharging the house batteries.

I got the shore power connected and checked the Magnum 4024.  It went into bulk charging mode and started charging the house batteries at 86 Amps. Since it is a 24 VDC charger, it was drawing ~1/5 that much AC current, or ~17 A, the equivalent of one of our air conditioners.  The front (living room) and center (kitchen) A/C’s are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC power supply, so we can run them at the same time.  The bedroom A/C is on the same leg as the front A/C and the Magnum is on the other leg.  We ran the front and center A/C’s along with Magnum and let the bedroom stay warm for the time being.

Suncoast Designers provides free WiFi for customers camped at their facility, but the signal we thought was theirs indicated it was “filtered” and we had not obtained the login information from the office before it closed.  We used our Verizon MiFi instead and had a good, strong signal.  I had a chance to ask our neighbor (helpful truck driver guy) later, and he said the open signal was the one they were using.  Although it was a weak (one bar) “g” signal, our WiFi Ranger latched on to it without difficulty.

Linda needed a few grocery items and located a Publix grocery store on Little Road less than three miles from Suncoast Designer’s.  As evening settled in we switched off the front A/C and turned on the bedroom unit.  Linda reheated some of the leftover Sloppy Joe’s from the pot luck dinner the night before, and we had that on the skinny buns we have started using, along with a simple spinach salad and a few Fritos corn chips.

After dinner Linda sent e-mails to several of our new friends from WCRVR while I checked in to RVillage and took care of a few e-mails of my own.  The overnight temperature was forecast to only drop into the upper 60’s with high humidity, and with rain starting before sunrise, so we decided to leave the rig closed up and the kitchen and bedroom A/C’s on all night.  We rarely do this because of the noise and because we prefer fresh air, except when it is too warm and/or too humid.  Considering that we had traveled less than 100 miles and been on the road just under two hours today, we both felt like it had been a very long day.  As much as we enjoyed the social life at WCRVR, it was nice to not have anything to do but go to bed and get some rest.


2014/03/29 (S) Walking In The Rain

“Welcome to Lake Williston.”  We had a LOT of rain starting around 7:00 PM last evening.  It continued through the night and into today, with an occasional rumble of thunder and periods of heavy downpour.  We also had a tornado watch until 5 PM.

The drainage at Williston Crossings RV Resort is generally good, but there are always going to be low spots that collect water.  The road in front of our site becomes a shallow river during moderate rain and a lake when the rain is heavy, so we had waterfront property for a while today.  🙂  The rain was like a tropical monsoon at times.

We took care of shopping and outside chores yesterday and did not have to leave the rig today if we did not want to, so we spent the morning inside our small but cozy home away from home.  OK, it’s not that small, but it is a lot smaller than a house, and Linda gets cabin fever much more easily than I do.  By mid-late morning she needed to go for a walk.  There was a lull in the rain so she put on her raincoat and headed out.  The rain resumed before she could get back to the coach, but she enjoyed it just the same.

I was so pleased the other day with the Imsanity image resizing plug-in that I decided to test the Image Watermark plug-in today.  This plug-in is used to add a custom watermark to images uploaded to a WordPress site, and one of its key features is the ability to watermark images that have already been uploaded to the WP Media Library.  I configured the settings for the plug-in and tried to add a watermark image to one of my recently uploaded photos, but it didn’t work.

I went to the support forum at www.dfactory.eu looking for some documentation.  The documentation was very thin but it is a fairly simple plug-in to use, at least conceptually, so that was not a complete surprise.  I checked the “bugs” forum and found that I was not the first or only person to have this exact problem.  The plug-in author provided guidance on how to get this feature to work but following his advice to the letter did not work.  The plug-in was recommended to me by Technomadia, who use it successfully on all their website/blog images.  Based on the info in the support forum, it apparently works just fine when the watermark is applied as the image is uploaded into WordPress, but not after it is already in the WP Media Library.

By mid-afternoon the clouds broke up, revealing blue skies above and allowing sunshine to penetrate all the way to the ground, so we went for a walk around the RV resort.  I guess we were not the only ones who felt cooped up by the weather as there were a lot of people out walking.  There is a Carriage owners rally here starting on Monday and participants have been dribbling in since Thursday.  They will reportedly have 60 – 70 5th Wheel RVs attending.  More arrived today and the bulk of them will arrive tomorrow with last minute arrivals on Monday.

Approximately 35 seasonal residents left on March 1st.  A few others have left during the month and quite a few more are pulling out just ahead of the new arrivals.  As a result we are seeing new faces in noticeable numbers for the first time since we got here.  We are also seeing an increase in young children in the park.  During the winter season this is an “adult” park, although no one seems to object to grand-parents having their grand-children visit.  But from approximately April 1 to November 1 it functions more like a normal RV park, allowing families with children and hosting rally groups like most RV parks and campgrounds.  Business is business, after all.  The carriage rally goes all week and they will have the exclusive use of the clubhouse for their activities.  By the time we pull out of here on Monday, April 7, the resort will likely have a very different look and feel.

It wouldn’t be Saturday night at Williston Crossings RV Resort without the fire pit and “Smitty” on guitar and vocals.  Jeff brought his guitar too and they played and sang a lot of songs together as well as each ding solo numbers.  A much larger group gathered this evening, with over 40 people at one time, and 50 or more total.  The group included a number of children and young adults, the first time we have seen that many at the campfire.  Winter is definitely turning into spring here.


2014/03/28 (F) Singing In The Rain

Here’s a synopsis of our day in list form:

  • Fresh ground Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 1/2 -1/2 coffee from Teeko’s in Howell, MI Read blog posts on Feedly
  • Breakfast:  Homemade granola
  • Shopping:  Winn-Dixie, ACE Hardware, and CVS Counted cross-stitch Dump and flush black water tank Dump grey water tank Fill fresh water tank Mix tank treatment solution and add to waste tanks
  • Lunch:  Chickpea salad
  • RVillage website and e-mail (SKP BoF – Photographers and SKP BOF – HFH) Visit Lazydays RV display at WCRVR
  • Dinner:  Kale with cannellini beans, macaroni, onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes
  • A small group gathers at the WCRVR fire pit (Forecasted rain keeps the crowd small) John “Smitty” Smith plays guitar and sings (He does a lot of Peter, Paul, and Mary songs this evening, and we all sing along)
  • 7:00 PM tropical deluge begins; John sings anyway (The small group pulls the rocking chairs in to hear Smitty and avoid the rain)
  • We stay at the fire pit until almost 11PM.
  • The Fan-Tastic vent fan in the bedroom ceiling is NOT leaking.  Score!
  • Upload blog post for Mar 26 while Linda reads Sleep to the ever-present sound of rain on the roof of coach.

As the saying goes “just another day in paradise.”


2014/03/27 (R) Cover Up

With the return of high temperatures in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s Williston Crossings’ maintenance crews have been busy pruning trees and bushes, clearing undergrowth, cutting grass, and painting the white light poles at all of the sites in the older/south section of the resort.  Many long-term residents have also been busy tending to the landscaping improvements they have made to their sites, including shrubs, flowers, herbs, and grass.  With an overnight low of 34 degrees F two nights ago, many residents were also bringing plants inside or trying to cover them up.  Even in north central Florida this winter seems determined to extend its influence well into spring.

Paper towel holder installed above kitchen sink behind fluorescent light fixture.

Paper towel holder installed above kitchen sink behind fluorescent light fixture.

Single-end mounting of paper towel holder.

Single-end mounting of paper towel holder.

This morning dawned heavily overcast and the forecast was for rain.  No matter; we had our morning coffee, read, worked on e-mails and websites, and finally had breakfast.  We had a couple of projects to tend to so we did those next.  First we installed the new paper towel holder in the kitchen.  We mounted it to the underside of the cabinet over the sink, behind the small fluorescent light fixture.  It is convenient to reach, even with wet hands, and definitely off the counter and out if the way.





Very little of the paper towel holder is visible.

Very little of the paper towel holder is visible.

Next up was the cover for the Fan-Tastic Vent motor.  The manual operation knob slides over a splined shaft on the motor and is retained by a small machine screw.  The knob has to be removed to allow the old cover to come off and the new one to go on.  It did not come off easily, but I coaxed it off without breaking anything.  When the two mounting screws that hold the cover were removed the whole motor assembly just fell out and dangled from the two power wires.  The drive shaft is also a splined connection that slips over the lift mechanism shaft and the power wires are attached with insulated spade connectors.  This design makes it easy to replace the motor if it fails.

The new motor cover for the Fan-Tastic ven fan in the bedroom.  We left the knob off.

The new motor cover for the Fan-Tastic ven fan in the bedroom. We left the knob off.

The biggest challenge in this little project, besides standing on a dual chamber air mattress to do the work, was simultaneously getting the drive shafts re-engaged, the cover plate holes lined up, and the mounting screws re-installed.  All of this alignment is done ‘blind’ as the mating parts are inside the unit where they cannot be seen.  But we got it back together without too much swearing.  The other difficulty was the walnut trim that surrounds the opening.  The way it is constructed it actually interferes with the knob.  We decided not to re-install the knob so I put the retaining screw back in the shaft and we stored the knob in one of the small bedroom storage cubbies.

Workers enclosing the rusted iron on the Pullman cars with wood.

Workers enclosing the rusted iron on the Pullman cars with wood.

The Lazydays RV dealership in Seffner, Florida (just east of Tampa /St. Pete) has been staging units in the new/north section of Williston Crossings RV Resort for the last couple of days.  The rain never materialized today and the clouds thinned as the day progressed.  We walked over to see any new units they had brought in since we were there yesterday.  On the way over I grabbed a couple of photos of the work being done on the old train cars that will eventually be rental cabins.  As you can see in these photos, they are reinforcing (encasing) all of the old structural iron, which is heavily rusted, with wood.

A wider view of the restoration work on the Pullman cars.

A wider view of the restoration work on the Pullman cars.

Lazydays had their entrance structure erected, a tent to shade the sales associates, and tables with chairs where folks could sit and relax.  All of the motorhomes were Class A’s and most of them had hitch-mounted telescoping flag poles flying Lazydays flags.  There were at least six additional motorhomes and another 5th Wheel trailer.  We looked at all of them and I photographed a few “features” that I thought were interesting.

The LazyDays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

The LazyDays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Door latch for side-by-side residential refrigerator doors.

Door latch for side-by-side residential refrigerator doors.

One unit had a residential refrigerator with upper side-by-side doors and a bottom pull out freezer drawer.  There was nothing unusual about that; what caught my eye were the aftermarket latches Tiffin had installed to lock the upper doors together and lock the freezer drawer to the surrounding cabinet.  Very cool.  By evening we heard that both of the 2014 Tiffin Allegro Open Road motorhomes had been sold.  I suspect that made the whole “mini-show” worthwhile for Lazydays.






Same latch design used to lock freezer drawer.

Same latch design used to lock freezer drawer.

The other thing we finally did today was register for the 2014 Escapade, which is back at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds May 12 – 17.  Our first Escapade was there in September 2010 and we were back there for GLAMARAMA13 in September 2013.  As I have written in this blog previously, it is an excellent facility for rallies of 500 – 1,000 rigs.  We will be back there again in June for GLAMARAMA14.


2014/03/24 (M) Count Down

As of today we are down to our final two weeks here at Williston Crossings RV Resort.  We were very busy going places and doing things in January and February.  We have continued to be busy in March, but limited our travels away from the RV resort.  That is due to a combination of factors.  For one, we have used our Florida State Parks annual pass enough to have gotten our monies worth out of it, so we are not feeling as pressed to get out there and see things.  For another, we have gotten busy with the new RVillage social networking website and other projects that are most easily accomplished in or near our coach.  A third factor is that the weather has gotten just enough warmer and drier (most of the time) that people are finally out and about here at the RV Resort.  That means more opportunity to socialize with our neighbors, who have invited use to happy hour gatherings and pot luck meals.

Bitter sweet.  As I have described in blog posts and articles it is always hard to leave friends, even after a 5-day rally or a 2-week HFH build.  We have been here for almost three months.  Folks are asking if we are coming back next year and we have had to tell them “no.”  That deserves an explanation.  It’s our first snowbird season and there is a lot of North America that we still need to see.  We simply cannot decide to return to the first place we have spent the winter away from Michigan.

We finally met Allen, one of the RV Resort owners, the other day and arranged to demonstrate RVillage for him this morning.  I set up an account for him and walked him through the main functions to highlight the purpose behind the website.  He seemed excited about it, and tasked someone in the office to arrange a day/time/place for me to demonstrate it to anyone in the park who might be interested.  He wanted it publicized on the resort cable system.  So far that has not happened, and time is running out, so it may not.

John and Ali like to go to The Blue Highway Pizzeria in Micanopy on Mondays; half-price drinks and double-punch on their free pizza card.  Linda and I went with them, split a nice salad, and then split a medium pizza; vegan sauce, no cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Lots of sun-dried tomatoes.  It was good, although I prefer the pizza at Satchel’s in Gainesville.  The restaurant gave them our “punches” since we don’t have a card.


2014/03/17 (N) St. Patrick’s Day

By Sunday we were not so much tired as we were relaxed and enjoying low key days with wonderful weather at the RV resort.  The temperature made it into the low 80’s and, even with the windows open and the ceiling vent fans running, it got a bit warmer than that in the coach.  No matter; it was a relatively light day for RVillage website interactions and e-mail and we spent much of the day sitting outside reading.  We can only sit for so long at a time, however, so we went for a few walks and raked some leaves using a rake we borrowed from John next door.

Between 5:50 PM and 7:05 PM we got six e-mails from our whole house generator.  The first three let us know that the utility power had failed and the generator was running and supplying power to the house.  The last three let us know that utility power had been restored, that the generator was no longer supplying power to the house, and finally that the generator had shut down in an orderly fashion and was back in stand-by mode.  Sweet.  With sub-zero winter temperatures giving way to highs in the 40’s and above over the next five weeks we cannot afford to be without heat or a sump pump, both of which depend on electrical power.  Ditto for the AT&T Internet gateway that allows us to remotely monitor and control the whole-house generator and WiFi thermostat.  Technology really is cool when it works.

Williston Crossings RV Resort had a St. Patrick’s Day dinner (a day early) but we did not go, the menu having little-to-nothing we could eat.  The day was feeling a bit summery, so we had veggie burgers with cold green bean kale salad and fresh strawberries for dessert.  At dusk John and Ali decided to have a small campfire at their site next door and we joined them along with neighbors Doug and Paulette (from North Bay, ON) and Jim (“Sonny Fox”).  Glasses of white wine in hand we had our version of a “cocktail party” here at Williston Crossings.  Our bus conversion notwithstanding, we are still “campers” at heart and love to sit around a campfire in the evening.

Rain was forecast for overnight and through the next day, so we closed up the rig before turning in for the night.  The radar showed a heavy band of showers training slightly north of east off the Gulf and slowly drifting south over time towards our part of north central Florida.  We got the first raindrops sometime after midnight and by 4 AM had a full blown thunderstorm in progress.  Awake or asleep we are always aware of, and in close contact with, the weather when we are living in the bus and do not sleep as well as on calmer nights.

St. Patrick’s Day dawned wet and overcast with no discernible sunrise; just a gradual, slight lightening of the sky.  The clouds remained thick and dark all day and the rain was almost continuous until mid-afternoon, with torrential downpours at times, so we hunkered down and worked on computer-based tasks and did some reading.  By late afternoon the rain stopped but a heavy cloud layer continued to move over us from the southwest and the high temperature only reached 67 degrees F.

Soup (or stew) is always a welcome counterpoint to a cool, dreary day.  Linda found a recipe for kale, white bean, and potato stew.  The base was onions, carrots, and celery.  She used black beans instead of white, russet potatoes instead of Yukon Gold, and substituted balsamic vinegar for red wine vinegar.  She cut back on the quantity of water and ended up with a delicious, hearty soup.

We got a short walk in after dinner before the rain resumed around 8:00 PM.  PBS has been fund-raising for what seems like weeks now.  In recognition of St. Patrick’s Day they aired a concert by Celtic Women, followed by a concert by Judy Collins, all of which provided some entertainment for the evening.  Thunderstorms were again forecast for the early morning hours, but Tuesday promised clearer weather.


2014/03/15 (S) The Ides Of March

On Thursday I spent time on the RVillage website and doing e-mail related to the public launch that occurred on Wednesday.  I also did some last minute housekeeping chores in preparation for Linda’s return from the great white frozen north.

The back parking lot at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

The back parking lot at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

At 4 PM John, Ali, and I went to Satchel’s in Gainesville, Florida for dinner.  The word “funky” was probably invented to describe this place; it was unique, charming, and very bohemian.  The service was excellent and the pizza was the best I have had at a restaurant since we went vegan in 2011.  The crust was thin and cooked to a nice crisp.  They had a pesto sauce option, a first for me, and a choice of three vegan cheeses!  I selected the Daiya cheese because Linda has used it in her cooking and I knew it would melt well and taste good.  Mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes topped it off.  The vegan pizza only came in a “medium” size, and it would have been pricey at $20 if it had not been so large.  Two pieces made a meal and I took the other four slices back to the coach.

Satchel's twin-engine fuselage. Most restaurants do not have one of these.

Satchel’s twin-engine fuselage. Most restaurants do not have one of these.

Satchel’s also makes their soda beverages from scratch.  I had their ginger soda and it was outstanding.  Made with real ginger, it reminded me very much of a “ginger beer” I had many years ago at an Ethiopian restaurant in Detroit, Michigan.  I have wanted a repeat of that experience ever since but never found it until now.  They also had a choice of two vegan cookies.  I had the oatmeal raisin cookie.  It was huge and very tasty.  I saved half for Linda to have on the drive back from the airport.

The back entrance to the bar at Satchel's in Gainesville, FL.

The back entrance to the bar at Satchel’s in Gainesville, FL.

Linda sent a text message at 8:15 PM that they were shutting the doors on her plane and by 8:30 PM I was headed for the Orlando International Airport.  The drive took two hours and I had just pulled into the cell phone parking lot when she called to let me know that she had just de-planed (15 minutes ahead of schedule).  Ten minutes later she was in the car and we were headed back to Williston.  We arrived back at the RV resort just after 12:30 AM (Friday).

The main bar entrance at Satchel's in Gainesville FL.

The main bar entrance at Satchel’s in Gainesville FL.

We slept in Friday morning and when we finally arose decided to have an easy day and stick around the RV resort.  The weather was picture perfect but I did not make any pictures.  We went for a couple of walks, something we have both missed these last few weeks.  We went to the fire pit that evening, as we usually do if we are here on a Friday or Saturday night.  There was a big crowd initially, but it thinned out between 8 and 9 PM leaving us to chat with a core group of friends who tend to stick around.

Ali and John headed for the restraurant entrance at Satchel's.

Ali and John headed for the restraurant entrance at Satchel’s.

Saturday we stayed “local” as well.  We did some grocery shopping at the local fruit and veggie stand and then went to the Winn-Dixie.  W-D had several things on sale or BOGO, so we finally got our own W-D card.  Up until now we have used the card of whoever was in line in front of or behind us.  I spent much of the afternoon working on the roster and dues records for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter, of which I am the VP and Secretary.  The positions do not take a lot time over the course of a year, but when they need my attention they can take up all or part of a day or two.

Now that Linda is back we are both eating better.  She made a green bean quinoa salad and a lemony kale salad; both served cold and very refreshing on a lovely, slightly warm, late-winter evening.

John capturing some information about an upcoming live performance at Satchel's.

John capturing some information about an upcoming live performance at Satchel’s.

With the change to Daylight Savings Time and the advancing season it does not get dark here until closer to 8 PM.  The resort still has the fire pit scheduled from 6:30 – 10:00 PM, however, and there is a full group by 6:45 PM.  We prefer our campfires in the dark and delayed going over for a while.  We met a very charming couple from Quebec and another very nice couple with whom we shared mutual friends in Ed and Janet Roelle, the GLCC members who recommended Williston Crossings RV Resort to us in the first place.

By 8:00 PM the early arrivals start to leave the fire pit and a smaller group settled in for the duration of the evening.  One of the friends we have made here, Meg, is getting ready to leave on Monday and head to Flint, Michigan to visit her grand-daughter who will be home from school on break.  Meg stayed longer at the fire pit than usual and she and Ali spent time catching up with Linda.  Meg got involved in rescuing dogs from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and taking them back to Canada for veterinary care and adoption.  A whole network grew up around her and she was interviewed by CNN.  One of the things we like about RVing is that everyone has a story, and some of them are very different from our own, and truly fascinating.


2014/03/12 (W) Welcome To RVillage

Today was a big day.  The new RVillage social networking website was publicly unveiled and I am now free to talk about it online; encouraged to, actually.  We have been privately beta-testing the website for some weeks now and think it is going to be a “must have” tool for RVers looking to connect with old and new friends while on the road.  RVillage is not about making virtual “friends”; it is about creating real community with real people with whom you share real interests.

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia have been coordinating the private beta-testing and are playing a key role in the public launch.  They posted a very comprehensive description of RVillage today and I recommend it as the best starting point.  There is a link to the website at the end for their post, or you can go directly to the website at RVillage.

My whole day was not taken up with the RVillage launch.  The RV Resort held a golf cart rodeo starting at noon.  A 2-person team had to navigate a course around traffic cones, including backing between two cones.  Easy?  Not if the driver is blind-folded!  I photographed the event for a while and then returned to the coach, photographing some of the first blooms of the impending spring.

I took advantage of afternoon high temperatures in the mid-70s, partly sunny skies, and a nice breeze to clean the outside of all the bus windows, no small task.  There is a lot of glass on this bus and most of the windows are between 6 and 12 feet above the ground so this required many trips up and down our 7 foot Little Giant folding/telescoping step/extension ladder.  Although it takes up valuable space in our front cargo bay this ladder is an essential tool in our traveling RV toolkit, and the only way we can get on the roof.

Here are some pictures from today:

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Our bus on site 439, at WC RV Resort.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf Cart Rodeo spectators and waiting contestants.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Golf cart rodeo spectators at WC RV Resort.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Sharon (driving blind-folded) and Kevin navigating the course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Kevn & Sharon coming in to the finish line of the golf cart rodeo course.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Sharon being congratulated by Allen, one of the WCRVR owners.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Bob and Allen getting ready to try the course.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.

Some of the first blooms in the RV park.


2014/02/10 (M) A Day Of Firsts

It was a near perfect day weather-wise, and a pretty decent day in all other respects.   We woke to clear skies with temperatures in the upper 40’s but by late morning it was 70 and gained a few more degrees by late afternoon.  Winds were very light from no particular direction and there were very few flying bugs.  We had a leisurely morning with our usual coffee and granola.  We took showers.  Linda vacuumed.  I opened the awnings on the coach to let them air out and dry, with assistance from Linda for the patio awning.  This was only the second time we have deployed the awnings since we left home, and the first time we planned to leave them open as rain is predicted for only one day in the next 7 to 10 days.

Linda continued with her cross-stitch project and I dealt with e-mail, website, and technology issues.  Bill was unable to clear the error codes on Pat & Vickie’s DDEC I engine computer so I e-mailed Butch, who also has a DDEC I, and provided some additional guidance.  Bill indicated that they needed wiring diagrams, which Pat did not have.  Bill had them, but they were back home in Ontario.  Doh!  I have the diagrams with us on the Network Attached Storage device.  They are all PDFs I got from Bill on a CD.  I located the lists of drawing numbers, picked a half dozen that I thought might be what Pat needed, put them in a folder in our Dropbox, and e-mailed everyone back.  Dropbox has turned out to be one of the better little pieces of technology in our cyber arsenal.

Around noon we walked to the Grocery Depot to pick up a few ingredients for dinner; a one mile round trip and the closest place to the RV resort to buy groceries.  Linda prepared lunch and we ate outside; the first time the weather has been nice enough to do that since we got back to Williston Crossings on January 1st.  We then sat outside to work; again, one of the rare days we have been able to do that.  Mid-afternoon we went for a longer walk around the RV resort that included our first hike down into the quarry.

We noticed that WCRVR had installed a new sign just inside the new entrance to the resort off of FL-121.  This is where the new section of park is being developed with ownership sites that will be available for purchase.  The sign said “The Reserve at Williston Crossings” so apparently that is how they plan to market these sites.  The sign is framed on either side with a new wood rail fence and plants, all of which looks very nice.  The first two sites have had paver blocks added to the concrete pads to dress them up a bit; presumably as demo sites to show prospective owners what can be done if they so choose.  It will be interesting to see what else they do in this area before of the park before leave.

When we returned to our coach we continued to sit outside to work and just enjoy the day.  Although the park is quiet and peaceful, it is not silent during the day.  We rarely hear other residents (talk or music) but there are always folks walking or riding bikes, and maintenance work being done by resort staff and residents.  We are near the south/old entrance so when we are here we see all of the rigs coming and going that way.  We saw more people out tending their sites or cleaning their vehicles than on past walks.  And there are birds—lots of birds—and with the sunnier, warmer weather they have had a lot to say.

Eventually, inevitably, as afternoon faded into evening it cooled off and we lost our light.  We retreated inside, had dinner, and watched Antiques Road Show on Gainesville PBS while working on projects (cross-stitch and BCM) before retiring for the night.  Linda made a delicious acorn squash stuffed with white rice and mushrooms, and onions and we opened our bottle of Blueberry Rhubarb Wine from Forestedge Winery (LaPorte, MN).  We have been spending time at the resort on less than ideal weather days so we could use good weather days to go exploring.  We enjoyed finally spending a nice day at home.


2014/02/08 (S) Uptime

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

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

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

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

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


2014/01/23-24 (R,F) A Gathering

On Thursday morning we followed our usual home routine; breakfast, computer work (for me), cross-stitch (for Linda), a walk around the park, and a light lunch.  We walked by the clubhouse / pool / pond / pavilion area to check on the progress of the deck being built along the north edge of the pond.  The deck construction was finished and the landscaping was being installed. We continued on to the rear entrance to check on the new landscaping that was being installed the day before.

The new deck by the pool at WCRVresort.

The new deck by the pool at WCRVresort.

The new landscaping by the rear entrance.

The new landscaping by the rear entrance.

Mid-afternoon John and Marian Hagan drove up in their car from their home in Dunnellon for a visit.  It was the first time they had been to Williston Crossings RV Resort and the first time they had seen our converted bus.  Shortly after John and Marian’s arrival David and Marie Ross walked over from their motorhome, which was parked just around the corner from ours.  Linda had set up all six of our folding chairs and our one folding table, but it was just too chilly to sit outside and talk.  Our coach will accommodate six adults for seated conversation, but just barely.  We had met the Hagan’s last week for the first time and the Ross’s just yesterday for the first time and this was the first time the Hagan’s and Ross’s had met but we quickly settled into a long comfortable chat.  This has been our experience to date with every member of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter that we have had the pleasure of meeting.

Around 6 PM we took the conversation down the street to Angelina Mia, the only Italian restaurant in Williston.  Once again Linda and I had a pizza and side salads.  This time, however, we had a Manhattan Supreme “white” pizza with olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic), spinach, sweet basil, tomatoes, and mushrooms, hold the cheese.  It had a thin, crispy crust the way we like it, and was a very acceptable vegan pizza.  Everyone else had regular Italian dishes, and like the last time we were here, they all indicated that the food was pretty good.  We stayed at the restaurant two and a half hours eating and talking.  John and Marian headed home directly from there and we dropped David and Marie back at their rig.  A little more chat in the brisk evening air and we decided to call it a night, but not before agreeing to go out to breakfast the next morning.

L-to-R Me, John, Marian, Marie, David, and Linda at Angelina Mia’s in Williston.

L-to-R Me, John, Marian, Marie, David, and Linda at Angelina Mia’s in Williston.

Friday morning the Ross’s picked us up a 9 AM and went to Melanie’s.  The parking lot was so full we had to park across the street by a vacant building.  Linda had rye toast, dry, and I had a plain bagel, dry; a pretty typical breakfast out for us.  David and Marie had regular breakfast fair, and seemed pleased with their choices.  We lingered and drank coffee, but eventually had to go back to the resort as they were expected at Fort Wilderness in Orlando, Florida that afternoon.  We said our “until next time”s and left them to concentrate on t heir departure routine.  A final wave as they drove out and they were gone.

Living in an RV, even part-time as we are doing, can be an isolated, even lonely experience if that’s what you want it to be or if you fail to take some action to make it otherwise.  Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia and been full-timing for at least seven years now and have put a lot of thought and energy into the issue of “nomadic community.”  They have run into people all over the country, both randomly and intentionally, and then used their knowledge of communications and social networking technology to stay in touch and forge enduring relationships.  Cherie’s most recent post discusses the difference between what they call a “convergence”, which is what is occurring in Cedar Key, Florida at the moment, and an RV rally or other such organized event.

We have some busy days coming up, so I took the opportunity to do a load of laundry mid-afternoon while Linda went for a walk.  I think she planned to go for a long stroll, but cut it short because it was just too chilly to enjoy even with sunshine.  We planned to eat dinner early and go over to the Friday night bonfire at the fire pit but Linda did feel like going, so I went by myself for a while.  Part of living in a RV is that it has to be OK to not always do everything together.


2014/01/22 (W) Old & New

I spent most of the day catching up on our blog postings for the previous two days.  Our trip to Cedar Key on Monday was a full day of interesting sights and people and I took quite a few photographs.  The weather and light were very nice and most of the photos were usable but required the usual post-processing which would take several hours.  Our trip to Paynes Prairie State Preserve on Tuesday preempted image processing work and resulted in even more photos to review, select, and process.

David and Marie Ross from our FMCA Freethinkers chapter were scheduled to arrive at Williston Crossings RV Resort today so we did not plan any activities away from the resort.  That gave me the time to work on the blog posts and Linda to work on her cross stitch project.  We took a break around noon to go for a walk and bundled up against the chill, which seemed sharper than usual.  It was below freezing again last night and only made it up to about 50 by mid-afternoon.  We had some Amy’s Thai Coconut Soup when we got back which helped warm us up.  Amy’s products are all vegan and we try to keep some on hand for a quick, easy, delicious meal.  A selection of Amy’s products is often available at regular supermarkets including Publix here in Florida, the best selection is usually found at Whole Foods or specialty markets.

While we were walking I got a call from Pat Lintner letting me know that he and Vickie were back at Fort Wilderness and we arranged to drive over to visit them late next week.  We made plans yesterday to visit Al Hesselbart on Saturday at Breezy Oaks RV Park near Bushnell, Florida.  We will probably drive through “The Villages” enroute to Breezy Oaks and stop for a visit with Joe Cannarozzi (our bus mechanic) who is staying at The Villager RV Park in Wildwood just south of The Villages.  While we are down that way we will also check out the Escapees Park in Bushnell which is only a few miles from Breezy Oaks.

David and Marie came in the back entrance of Williston Crossings so we did not see them arrive.  A knock on our door around 4 PM announced that they were here.  We visited with David briefly and discussed dinner options.  They invited us over to their motorhome, a very nice 2000 Safari Sahara, for drinks and we enjoyed a glass of white wine and good conversation.  By 7:00 PM we were all hungry and headed over to the Driftwood.

The Driftwood is a small diner that is walking distance from the front entrance of the resort and the closest place to dine out.  David drove us over as it was dark and cold and would be darker and colder by the end of our meal.  The place looked like it was closed, but the illuminated “open” sign in the window suggested otherwise so we went there for dinner as planned.  This was our first trip to the Driftwood since we arrived in Williston.  Linda and I had salads and potatoes, hers baked and mine French fried (with lots of ketchup and Tabasco sauce).  The food was OK but our waitress was friendly and efficient.  We were all drinking coffee or tea and she was very attentive to keeping our cups refilled, which I appreciate and use as a marker of good waitservice.

By the time we finished dinner and returned to the resort clear skies revealed bright stars and radiational cooling had already lowered the temperature in to the upper 30’s.  With yet another sub-freezing night ahead we set the thermostats on the toe-kick heaters and settled in to watch the final episode of Shackleton on PBS, a documentary on the recreation of Ernest Shackleton’s epic journey in 1916 from Antarctica to South Georgia Island to reach the whaling station at Stromness and arrange the rescue of the 22 men left behind.  It was somehow fitting given the weather this January.


2014/01/19 (N) Things That Go Bump

We slept in this morning and had a light breakfast.  I called Cherie (of Technomadia) to see if she and Chris were up for a visit today.  They are camped at Sunset Isle RV Park just a mile north of Cedar Key, Florida.  It is 45 miles from Williston Crossings RV Resort to Sunset Isle and the drive is estimated to take about one hour.  Chris answered the phone and indicated that a front was just pushing in off of the Gulf and that it was raining, and was expected to continue for much for much of the day.  We agreed that it wasn’t the best day for a visit and decided to stay home and try again tomorrow or the next day.  A quick check of the sky showed heavy cloud cover and the weather radar confirmed that the storm front was also going to bring rain to our RV resort, so we decided to get a walk in before it started.  It was a short walk as it started raining lightly while we were out!

Living in an RV is obviously different in many ways from living in a fixed dwelling, but in equally many ways it is not different at all.  One of the ways they are different is that RVs get moved around and so the environment around them changes.  That, in turn, means the pattern of sights, sounds, and smells is always shifting.  Even if you stay in one place for a while, as we are currently doing, other RVs still come and go and the external pattern of daily activity changes.  I suspect most full- and extended-time RVers enjoying the change in their external environment, but it also means you are constantly exposed to “unexpected” stimuli that draw your attention.

One of the ways fixed and mobile living are the same is that our dwellings each have a unique “personality”, which is to say, they are structures full of systems that have characteristic sights, sounds, and even smells that occur in routine and predictable ways.  It’s almost as if they are alive, but we become so accustomed to the personality of our dwelling that we hardly notice it.  Indeed, this is essential to being able to live there.  If we paid close attention to every little detail of a dwelling we would not be able to do anything else.

As long as it is behaving the way it normally does, we are only dimly aware of our home’s personality or the environment surrounding it.  But when there are deviations from the norm we are acutely aware of them and none more so than things that go “bump” in the night.  This evening while watching TV we had such a noise.  It appeared to come from the cockpit area, possibly from the bay under the driver’s seat, and sounded more mechanical, like our A/C shutters, than like a motor or moving air.  That bay is where most of the auxiliary air system components and chassis leveling valves are located, but even when it happened while I was standing right there I could not identify what was causing the sound.  I went outside and checked the bay with a flashlight, but nothing looked out of place.

Mid afternoon I had been working in the front TV cabinet and the media cabinet behind the driver’s seat hooking up the cable TV from the resort.   The media cabinet has an electric toe-kick heater in the base and I thought perhaps a cable was coming in contact with the fan.  I turned the heater off while the noise was happening and it did not go away immediately.  It stopped a short time later, but the sound never lasts very long anyway.  When trying to figure out what is wrong, it often useful to know what is not wrong.

BTW:  I did get the cable hooked up and working and even used the old video switcher to select between OTA TV antenna and cable.  We get more channels on the cable but they are marginal quality analog signals and we only get the primary PBS station.  We get a much better digital signal over the air and get both of the PBS  sub-channels in addition to the main channel.  As it was Sunday evening Linda watched Downton Abbey and then we both watch the first episode of Sherlock Holmes.  It was a double-episode.

We are probably more sensitive to noises in our coach than we are to noises in our house.  For one thing, the coach is a smaller, more intimate space where no noise goes unheard.  For another, it’s capable of being stranded right where it sits if the wrong components fail.  This is part of RV life, and we are much more comfortable with it than when we started, but not completely at ease yet, especially when something goes bump in the night.


2014/01/17 (F) Campfire Music

Today was a day for chores and relaxation.  I did the laundry while Linda tidied up the inside of the coach.  Various RV authors have said that the best way to learn about the area where you are camping, or intend to go to next, is from the people in RV parks and campgrounds where you stay.  And the best place to meet those people is often in the laundry room.  Today I had a long conversation with a fellow Williston Crossings resident with Alaska license plates on his truck while we were both doing our laundry.  He had traveled extensively and was a wealth of knowledge.

For lunch we had the vegan version of one of my favorite sandwiches: crunchy peanut butter and “mayo” with lettuce and pickle slices.  I used to make this sandwich with Miracle Whip.  (I was raised with Miracle Whip and have never cared for the taste of real mayonnaise.)  The vegan version of the sandwich uses “vegan mayo”, of course, and it is an acceptable substitute although it lacks the characteristic tanginess of MW.

It dropped below freezing again last night under clear skies, but rebounded quickly with the sunrise and topped out in the mid 60’s.  Linda sat outside in the sun and worked on her needlepoint.  She needs the light to see what she’s doing, and she likes sitting in the sun.

We ate dinner around 6:00 PM–left over angel hair pasta– and then went to the fire pit for the Friday evening campfire.  Kevin already had the fire going but we were early enough to get two of the rocking chairs.  By 6:45 PM all the chairs and benches were occupied and there were a few folks standing.  There were four guitarists playing and singing in various combinations.  Their selections tended to be country and folk, but they all played and sang well, and the rest of us listened, talked quietly, or sang along as we sat in the glow of the campfire.  It was too dark to photograph and we did not record it on our smartphones so you will just have to take my word for it; it was a warm and thoroughly delightful experience.


2014/01/16 (R) Wi-Fi Woes

The Wi-Fi at Williston Crossings RV Resort has been very good since we got here.  There are professional grade access points with decent antennas positioned on towers all through the park.  The signals have been strong and steady, and the bandwidth generally very good.  Wi-Fi is always going to slow down when lots of people are using it, but the resort seems to have enough access points feeding into a robust enough router and gateway to handle the demands placed on the system by the residents.

A couple of weeks ago the resort announced that they were going to reconfigure the Wi-Fi system slightly and that starting on January 10 we would need a username and password.  We generally prefer “open” Wi-Fi signals since we connect to them with our roof-mounted Wi-Fi Ranger Mobile, which repeats the signal as a secure hot spot around out coach.  Our current configuration goes one step farther.  We have an Amped Wireless SR20000G Wi-Fi router/repeater configured as a bridge to the Wi-Fi Ranger.  The SR20000G creates a local area network to which we connect wirelessly along with a RAID 1 Network Attached Storage device connected via Ethernet.  The SR20000G then connects to the private/secure hotspot side of the Wi-Fi Ranger Mobile, which is connected to the wide area network on the public side and from there to the Internet.  It’s a great setup when everything works correctly.

In the past we have used our Wi-Fi Ranger Mobile successfully with both secure and filtered Wi-Fi networks, and both types are handled through the Wi-Fi Ranger web-browser interface.  Secure Wi-Fi systems require an encryption key, which is entered through the Wi-Fi Ranger control panel and stored for future use.  Filtered Wi-Fi networks are not secure.  After the radio and logical connection is established, you are taken to a web page where you enter a username and password and accept the terms and conditions of use.  Indeed, places like Panera don’t even bother with the username and password, they just want you to acknowledge the terms and conditions of use before allowing you access to the Internet through their system.  Fair enough, the Wi-Fi Ranger is designed to handle that as well right from the control panel.

We have had our system configured and working flawlessly right through yesterday morning.  When we returned from a day of hiking and visiting it was obvious that something had changed.  It still wasn’t working properly this morning so I inquired in the office and they confirmed that the guy who takes care of their Wi-Fi network had made changes yesterday and was working on the system today.  I reconfigured some of our equipment to use our Verizon Mi-Fi to get online and take care of e-mail and some BCM article tasks.  I called the Wi-Fi guy and chatted with him briefly, just to explain our setup and make sure there wasn’t any reason for it to now work.  I spent part of the rest of the day working with and reconfiguring our equipment and by late afternoon everything seemed to be back to normal.  I even found a better spot in the coach for the Verizon Mi-Fi device.

The day ended well, however, as Linda made whole-grain angel hair pasta with garlic, onion, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes, perfectly dressed in olive oil.  It’s one of my favorite dishes.


2014/01/12 (N) More Visitors

Steve and Karen were headed to Deltona to visit relatives of Karen’s and were expected there around noon.  With a two hour drive ahead of them they needed to be on the road by10 AM.  We were all up before 8 AM, had a leisurely breakfast and set up a tripod to get a few photographs of the four of us before the left.

Linda, Bruce, Karen, and Steve at site 439, Williston Crossing RV Resort (FL).

Linda, Bruce, Karen, and Steve at site 439, Williston Crossing RV Resort (FL).

The more time we spend living in the bus the more normal it seems, but we are still very much aware of the fact that for most of our friends it is an object of considerable curiosity.  I think many of them are also fascinated, perhaps even a bit perplexed, by the idea that we live in even part time, and seeing it in person helps them understand just what it is that we are doing.

Last March (2013), while on our second Holistic Holiday at a Sea cruise, we became friends with a retired special education teacher from New York City named Norma. We exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers and have stated in touch with her since then.  Norma has a daughter who lives in Winter Park, Florida north of Orlando and not that far from where we are staying.  Norma has been down visiting, and e-mailed us yesterday indicating that family was headed to a state park for the day and would be close enough to stop in Williston for a visit.  A quick phone call this morning confirmed the arrangements; they would come to the RV resort on the way home so everyone could see the motorhome.  🙂

Linda, Norma, Anna (Norma’s daughter) and Anna’s children in our coach.

Linda, Norma, Anna (Norma’s daughter) and Anna’s children in our coach.

As of this morning our Dropbox client software was still unable to connect to the Dropbox cloud servers.  I was able to log in to our Dropbox account through various web browsers and upload a file, so that was some sort of progress.  I was not, however, able to access my settings page, so the Dropbox servers/accounts were not yet fully restored and functional.

Linda made pan-fried firm tofu with grilled onions and Bar-B-Q sauce served on a whole wheat hamburger bun.  The tofu has something of the texture of a fried egg, and the sandwich, while simple, is simply delicious.  A side of Brussels sprouts and broccoli provided our greens.

I worked on getting the blog up-to-date while we watched Downton Abbey.  I then transferred all of the photos for the Arcadia Bus Rally BCM article to a flash drive.  I need to put it in the mail to the editor tomorrow.