Tag Archives: WFR-M

2014/12/26-31 (F-W) Wrapping Up 2014

Note: This post covers the last six days of 2014. It is long and there are no pictures.  Sorry.  🙁

2014/12/26 (F) Cool Letters

When we woke up at 7 AM the temperature was 41 degrees F but by 8:30 it had dropped to 35.  According to the Weather Channel app on our iPads we have a freeze warning posted for the overnight hours tonight (Saturday 0000-0800).  The 12-day forecast is for an extended period of cooler temperatures with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s, including a few nights near freezing, but that is normal for Q at this time of year.  Desert regions are not always hot and actually experience an extreme range of temperatures.  The forecast back home has lows dropping into the teens with one night forecast at 13 degrees F.  Burrrrr.

Connie was apparently tracking the weather in Q as well, even though she and Joe are back in Nevada for most of the winter, as she called to ask me to turn the water off at the street if the temps got down to freezing.  The city water system here has supply pipes that come straight up out of the ground near the street, turn horizontal, go through a valve, then through a pressure regulator or small meter (not sure which or both), go through another valve, and then turn 90 degrees and go back down into the ground.  Joe and Connie keep all of this covered under a wooden box and we have noticed other properties doing the same thing, but not all.  Although the temperatures here can/do drop below freezing in December and January it is never for more than a few hours just before sunrise.

Presumably the city water lines are deep enough to avoid ever having freezing problems, but I do not know how deeply the pipes are buried on Joe and Connie’s property.  The main thing at risk are the stand pipes that come up out of the ground at each RV site and any hoses that are attached to them. I discussed all of this with Butch as it seemed to me that it would have to get below freezing and stay there for quite some time before we would have any problems.  It also seemed to me that if we were going to turn the main water supply off we should open a faucet on each of the supply risers so the water would have somewhere to go as it expanded.  (Water expands as it cools, reaching a maximum volume at around 34 degrees F.  As it changes state from liquid to solid it actually contracts slightly in volume.)  To be really safe we would need to drain all of the flexible hoses.  That struck both of us as unnecessary.

The aisle lights did not work again last night.  It’s always something with a RV and you have to be psychologically prepared for that or the lifestyle will drive you crazy.  This problem has occurred before and the usual reason is that the (3-way?) switch by the dinette gets toggled and renders the push switch in the bedroom inoperative but that was not the case this time.  One of the three wires that go to that switch was only attached by a few strands and broke when I checked it.  None of the connectors are in good shape so repairing those connections moved to the top of my bus project list today.  I did not get to this today, I only moved it to the top of my list.

While I made our morning coffee Linda put together an Amazon order.  Amazon Prime has worked well for us and Butch has already successfully received a UPS shipment here, so it was easier to order a bag of Science Diet cat food for delivery to our bus than to deal with the limited hours and selection of the local veterinarian or drive to one of the larger surrounding cities in the hope that a pet supply store that might stock the specific formulation we feed our cats.  She also ordered two bottles of Hach SofChek water hardness test strips and some additional silicon utensils.

Linda had our holiday letters stuffed and addressed on Christmas Eve, but not in time to get to the post office before it closed at noon, so she went today, bought stamps, and sent them on their way.  Hopefully they will arrive by New Year’s Eve while folks are still in the holiday spirit.

Sometime during the morning we got a visit from missionaries of the (local) Jehovah’s Witnesses cult.  Our conversation did not last long.  After they left I was pondering this day after Christmas visit and it occurred to me that perhaps they do an inventory of Quartzsite and the surrounding BLM camping areas so they know when someone knew has pulled into town.  I guess saving souls can be a lot of work.

Linda was doing the dishes and the Black & Decker SpaceMaker coffee carafe broke.  She checked online and was going to order a generic replacement but decided she should check the model of our unit.  When we lifted it up to look for the model number we discovered water on the shelf underneath it.  Ugh.  Suddenly we were no longer looking for a carafe but a new coffee maker.  We removed the cabinet door, latch, and lower front retaining bar and pulled the unit out.  I then removed the shelf, wiped it off, and took it outside to dry in the sun.  There are definite advantages to being someplace with bright sunshine and low humidity.

We spent a long time researching a replacement.  The particular model/style of SpaceMaker we have has not been made for years (of course), was only available used (naturally), and only for exorbitant prices (can you believe $300?) on Ebay.  To add insult to injury all of the reviews were negative, noting in particular that the unit tends to develop leaks.  Ya think?  We looked instead for something we could install, or at least store, in the same cabinet cubby as the old one.  Most of the countertop models were too tall and most of the built-ins and under cabinet models were too big, and very expensive.  We ended up ordering a simple Proctor-Silex non-programmable countertop unit without a clock for under $20 on Amazon Prime so the price included the shipping.  The reviews were good and it will store in the corner cabinet with room to spare for coffee canisters, freeing up space in the pantry for other things.  We will have to take it out and set it on the counter to use it, but that’s OK.

As noted in a previous post, there are quite a few houses and RVs around town with Over-The-Air (OTA) TV antennas on top of 20-30 foot poles and pointed approximately NNE.  There is one antenna in particular that we have seen a lot, a high-gain (directional) rotatable unit, and there are several vendors selling it as part of a kit.  The unit has an integrated amplifier and rotor and includes the rotor controller and power supply, plus 50 feet of coax and control cables.  All of the vendors are selling this kit for $70.  That’s a lot of stuff for that price, which suggests something about its quality (not good).  Another vendor is selling the poles and fittings that all of the other vendors use to build their “booths” (tents).  They have a huge assortment of connectors and will cut the sections to length if asked.  Getting the antenna 20-30 feet in the air would cost about $35.  We have been pondering whether it is worth it to us to spend this money as our bus-mounted antennas have always worked in the past and this is the first place we have been where they will not pick up even a trace of a signal.  We do not have an OTA TV antenna set up at home and it occurred to me that buying one here made more sense if it could be used back at the house.  I spent quite some time online researching long-range DTV antennas but did not come to any conclusions.

I needed a break from working at my computer and drove over to K & B Tools to see if they had shorter poles.  In the 1″ diameter they had 10′ and 8′.  The 8′ length would work well for us.  Three sections with two connectors would get an antenna 20-25 feet up depending on the mounting and we can store 8′ lengths in the front bay of the bus or in the car for transport.  We would use a base section with a flange by the driver side mirror, put a couple of long spikes through the base to keep it from moving sideways, slip the bottom pole section in it, and bungee cord the next section to the mirror support arm after wrapping it with something to keep it from scratching the paint.  Before making a purchase, however, I decided to do some more online research.

The unit being sold by several vendors is the Vortex HD from SewellDirect.com so I checked their website.  The unit is discontinued and they are selling the same kit online for $25.  That means the unit is of even cheaper construction than I originally thought and the $70 asking price suddenly seemed very excessive.  Many of the online reviews confirmed that this was not a serious antenna.  Another vendor had the Vortex and two competing units all for the same $70 price and I have concluded that they are all equally junk.

One of the websites I spent some time at was AntennasDirect.com. They appeared to have some serious antennas, with prices to match.  One of the challenges in this situation is that it appears we need to pull in OTA TV signals from a very long way away here in Q (70+ miles), whereas at home the distances are more like 40 miles.  Here in Q all of the signals appear to be coming from the same direction (although no one can explain why) so a high-gain, highly directional antenna is ideal and does not need to be rotated once it is aimed.  At home the TV signals potentially come from 270 degrees and the correct solution is an antenna with a broader reception pattern combined with an accurate and repeatable rotor.  If we do not need the rotor in Q we can forego that expense and technical complication until we get home.

One of the websites directed me to www.antennaweb.org.  This site is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).  You enter your ZIP code, and optionally your address, and it tells you what TV stations you might be able to receive and what direction the towers are from your location.  I put in the ZIP code for Quartzsite and it indicated five stations (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and Independent), all 11 miles away at 234.8 degrees.  There are towers on top of a mountain in direction but they do not look like TV towers.  The direction was also surprising as it is almost 180 degrees opposite to where everyone has their antennas pointed.

As we know from our ham radio hobby RF waves can do strange things.  At the frequencies used for OTA Digital TV (DTV), however, things are “line-of-sight.”  The local speculation is that there are “repeaters” to the NNE but if that was the case I would expect the website to indicate that as the signal direction.  Another possible explanation is that the signals are coming over the mountains to the SW and bouncing off of the more distant mountains to the NE.  I would expect some multi-path distortion in this case, as the signals scatter off the mountains and arrive at the antenna from different directions, but if the antenna is sufficiently directional it might eliminate this problem.

My plan for today had been to work on my Exterior Makeover article for Bus Conversion Magazine and I finally got started on that late in the afternoon.  I finalized my selection of photos (I think) and split them up into those that will go in line with the article, print and digital, and those that will appear in the extra section of the digital edition.  I had just begun post-processing them when Linda started preparing dinner.  I have been wanting some pasta and tonight I finally got my wish.  She made a whole wheat linguine with mushrooms, onions, garlic, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus.  What a treat.

I stopped over at Butch and Fonda’s bus to let them know about the www.antennaweb.org website.  Butch was watching an archived webcast that Technomadia did a few months ago with Nina Fusing, of the WheelingIt blog, on health care options for full-time RVers.  He had also installed Echolink software on his laptop but it was failing the Internet Connection test for UDP (User Datagram Protocol) ports.  The error messages indicated that it was probably a firewall- and/or router-related problem.  He had both so I tried opening UDP ports for forwarding in both places but it did not fix the problem.  I have never played with Echolink or UDP ports, so I was trying to figure out what to do in real time.  More research will obviously be needed.

I continued working after dinner processing photos for my article.  I received my draft of the Zena Power Generating System article back from Gary with corrections made by Stacy, his new administrative assistant.  I accepted them, made an additional correction, and returned it.  They are trying very hard to get the December 2014 issue out on December 31st and my Zena article will be one of the four in that issue.

2014/12/27 (S) Cool Temps

By 6:30 this morning our various weather apps were reporting that the temperature in Q was 31 degrees F.  At 7:00 I turned the thermostats up and climbed back in bed (electric heating pad).  I had not shut the main water supply off at the street last night so at 7:30 I got up, put on my “sweats,” grabbed a jacket, and went outside to tend to the water.  I cracked opened a faucet at each standpipe, ran water through hoses, and ran water through the hot and cold lines for both sinks in the apartment.  I shut everything off and went back inside where it was comfortably warm.

By the time I came back in Linda was up and making coffee.  How was that possible?  We have a single serving coffee funnel that sits on top of a mug.  It’s designed for cone filters but she simply folded one of our flat bottom filters and made it fit.  She ground up some beans, boiled some water in the microwave oven, poured it over the grounds, and let it drip.  I did not think we would have morning coffee in the coach again until the new coffee maker arrived next week so it was a nice treat.

I finished yesterday’s blog post while I enjoyed my brew.  I was busy enough yesterday that by the time I went to bed and tried to finish it there was too much to write and I was too tired to write it.  Linda developed a headache overnight and spent much of the day medicated and resting.  She does not get these very often anymore but when she does they put her out of commission for a day or so.  I then spent most of the day processing the photos for my next BCM article.

I took a break after lunch and worked with Butch setting up his laptop to work with Echolink ham radio software.  The software use TCP and UDP ports and requires firewalls and routers to be configured to provide port forwarding.  His laptop OS is Windows Vista, which has the Windows Firewall.  I was not familiar with UDP ports, had never set up port forwarding, and had never worked with Vista, so I was feeling my way as I went.  Their computers are connected to the Internet one of two ways, MiFi or WiFi, although the WiFi is sometimes connected through the MiFi.  Their MiFi is a Verizon Jetpack (Novatel 5510L), just like ours, so I (sort of) knew my way around that device.  Their WiFi setup consists of two WiFi repeater/routers; the WiFiRanger Mobile and the WiFiRanger Go2.  We also have a WiFiRanger Mobile, so I also knew my way around that device (sort of) but I had never worked with the WFR Go2.  We got the Echolink software to test successfully through the WFR gear using the WiFi signal at our campsite but we could not get it to test successfully through the MiFi.

In the early evening Butch called and said he was having Internet connection issues.  I went to their bus and worked four a couple of hours trying to sort out what was going on.  I was able to get him back online but saw some strange behaviors that we could not explain and were not able to resolve.  He has Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal Blog set as his Firefox home page and it kept redirecting to the website’s home page.  I tried opening it in Internet Explorer 9 and it opened without difficulty.  Website’s do not always react the same way with different browsers, but he had been on Nick’s blog earlier in the day using Firefox.  I will have to look at it again tomorrow.

When I got back to our coach Linda was starting to prepare dinner.  It felt very cold outside even though the weather apps said it was 41 degrees F.  I decided to turn off the water supply at the street and opened some of the faucets to relieve the pressure in the pipes and let some of the water out.  Dinner was leftovers from our Christmas Day meal and everything was very good the second time around.

I finished up my photo editing a little before 10 PM and backed up my files to the NAS.  We turned the three thermostats on and set them for ~15 degrees C (~59 degrees F).  We put the extra blanket on the bed and I turned my electric heater pad up to 4. The forecast low for tonight was in the low 30’s and it was already 36 when we turned in for the night.

2014/12/28 (N) Cooler Yet

Our cats snuggled in with us more than usual last night.  They like the extra blanket and the heater pads as much as I do.  At sunup the air temperature was reported as 28 degrees F, a few degrees lower than the last forecast we saw before we turned in last night.  If it seems that we are preoccupied with the weather it is because we are in closer contact with it when RVing than we are when we are at our house.  In the motorcoach we have to more actively manage our utilities to ensure they work properly and to maintain our comfort.

We had tea instead of coffee this morning.  Until about 15 years I did not drink coffee and enjoyed morning, afternoon, and evening tea.  Hot, of course; I have never been a big fan of iced tea and I have never developed a taste for iced coffee, unless it was a Starbucks Frappuccino (in my pre-vegan days).

Linda was finally feeling better and went for a long walk this morning.  Before she left I noticed that there wasn’t any water coming out of the bird fountain so she unplugged it and helped me partially disassemble it so I could clean it.  I ended up taking it completely apart, which was fun given that it was made of large slabs of granite, in order to get to the pump so I could clean it.  I was surprised to find a small gecko-like lizard inside the pedestal base.  Butch helped me reassemble and level the unit, allowing the reservoir to hold more water, and we got the outlet tube (fountain) tightened up so the water once again squirts about four inches above the tube.  It needs to be filled every day or two.  I have not determined if the water is being consumed by birds (there are a lot of doves and Gambrels Quail here) or evaporating (low humidity and sunshine).  It is probably a bit of both.

I worked on my article most of the day, inserting photos into the Word doc and writing captions.  I took a break mid-afternoon and rode into town with Butch.  We found the LED vendor where the hams (amateur radio operators) hang out but the booth was closed.  We wandered around looking at flea market junk and I found a set of four ratcheting tie down straps, 25mm wide by 15 feet long, for $5.  I had seen similar straps at another vendor for $14, so I bought the $5 set.  We stopped at Dorothy and Toto’s Ice Cream Parlor on west Main Street and bought some excellent kettle corn.

Back at the coach I continued working on my article but was having trouble keeping my eyes open so I took a nap.  Linda had started making dinner about the time I got up when a white SUV pulled in that we had not seen before.  A reddish-chocolate-brown dog appeared and took off after some of the rabbits followed by a man with a leash.  We figured Jim and Barbara, the owners of the third motorhome at our camp, had arrived so we put our shoes on and went out to meet them.  Jim got Roho on leash and Barbara appeared shortly thereafter, followed by Butch and then Fonda.  It was dusk and cooling off quickly, so the conversation was short before everyone returned to their motorhomes.  Before going in I turned the water off at the street and opened one of the faucets on our standpipe to relieve the pressure and let some of the water out.

For dinner Linda made skillet black beans with potatoes and tortillas.  Besides the title ingredients it had onions, garlic, poblano pepper, and salsa.  I added a little Tabasco Chipotle sauce to mine.  We each had a glass of sangria, which was refreshing with this hearty dish.  After dinner I finished working on my article and I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox.  I sent an e-mail to the publisher, editor, and new administrative assistant.  I then started uploading the photo files and went to bed.

2014/12/29 (M) Cool Cruiser Redux

We had English Breakfast Tea to start our day, followed by store bought (bulk) granola for breakfast.  We have run out of Linda’s homemade granola and I really miss it.  The stuff we buy at the store just doesn’t taste like much of anything by comparison.  After breakfast I started working on my next article for BCM.  Actually, it was an article I wrote back in February of this year but had not quite finished.  Besides the text I had already selected the photos but, as often happens, I had not finished the process of putting them in order, sorting them into print edition and digital edition extra section, post-processing them, and inserting thumbnail versions into the Word document.  So that’s what I started working on this morning.

Late morning I took a break from the photo work and pulled the cover off of the dashboard to check the turbo boost gauge.  It was, indeed, a mechanical gauge with a very small nylon tube coming out the back of it.  I opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer and looked up the part, thinking I might order one today.  The specified part was a VDO gauge, 1/8-27 NPT, but did not give the mounting hole size, the, range, or the sweep degrees.  Both 24V and 12V bulbs were listed.  I think we need 24V.  What I found interesting was that the gauge for the VIP (conversion shell) was shown as “dummy,” which meant the unit was originally shipped with a filler plate rather than an actual gauge.  The turbo boost gauge in our coach is functional but is the wrong gauge for our engine. It’s a Sentry vacuum/boost gauge.  The vacuum side is useless on our turbocharged engine and the boost side only goes to 15 PSI, which is not high enough.

VDO makes two turbo boost gauges that should work as replacements.  Both are 2-1/16 (52mm) size, 0 – 30 PSI, 270 degree sweep, mechanical units.  They come with 12V bulbs but those are easily changed.  The differences are in the faceplate markings and the mounting systems.  The Cockpit Series gauge is marked in 1 PSI increments, which I prefer, but uses the traditional rear U-bracket to hold the instrument in the dashboard.  The Vision Series gauge, which is what our new speedometer is, has 2 PSI increments but mounts using a collar that threads onto the body of the instrument from the back side of the dashboard.  I was going to call Prevost and order a gauge but both gauges are available from PartDeal.com, which is run by ISSPRO.  ISSPRO sells their own line of gauges in addition to VDO and other brands.  I was chatting with Butch and he mentioned that they were closed for the holidays and would reopen on January 2nd, so I did not order a gauge today.

We left around noon and drove to the vendor area at Central Avenue and Kuehn Street.  We parked the car and wandered around checking out vendors who were not set up or open the last couple of times we were here.  While we were strolling I got a call from Frank Morrison.  Frank was at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida and wanted to know if we were there.  I photographed Frank’s bus, the Cool Cruiser, at last year’s rally and the article was the cover story in the June 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Frank said that in the welcome bag each attendee received there was a second bag from BCM and in that bag was the June 2014 issue.  Cool.  I wrote two other articles for BCM as a result of that rally.  The February 2014 issue was on the rally itself and the April 2014 issue featured the Iron Horse, an Eagle bus conversion.  Both articles ran in the cover/centerfold position.

For lunch we had chickpea salad on sourdough bread with dark greens and were surprised to see a Trek motorhome backing in to the property.  Jim and Barb obviously knew the people and helped them get parked.  Once they were in their site we went out and introduced ourselves, as did Butch and Fonda.  Jack and Maria were only here for the night.  They had been camped at the BLM Pyramid Lake LTVA, about 60 miles south of Quartzsite, but developed issues with their solar charger and a squealing/screeching noise when they start their engine.  They had appointments first thing in the morning to have these problems addressed and were planning on heading back to the desert tomorrow.  Barb mentioned that she had talked to Joe and Connie and Joe said we did not have to turn the water off at night.  One less chore is good by me.

Linda went for another power walk while I worked on my article.  I want to get my “almost finished” articles done and off to the magazine so I can work on some new pieces.  It’s easier on me and them if I can keep the pipeline flowing and stay ahead of them.

For dinner we had soy riblets with barbecue sauce, macaroni and cheese (gluten and dairy free), and fresh sautéed green beans.  The riblets were tasty, as always, and the green beans were excellent, but the mac & cheese was not good eats.  It was the second of two boxes we bought somewhere and Linda even added some things to try to improve them but it didn’t help.  We won’t be buying this product again.

Having spent a portion of the day processing photos I did not feel like doing more of that after dinner.  I played a few puzzles on my iPad while Linda played word games on hers with Karen and Ron.  We were in bed by a little after 9 PM and I went right to sleep.

2014/12/30 (T) Trash Day

Tuesday is trash day.  The collection truck comes at noon so the trash can has to be to the curb by 11AM.  I happened to glance outside as we were sitting down to enjoy our mourning tea and it was already at the curb.  Jim or Barb are responsible for this when they are here, along with maintaining the apartment and laundry room, and one of them had obviously taken it out.

Jack and Maria pulled out around 8:30 AM with Maria driving their Trek and Jack following in their SUV.  We figured we had seen the last if them and did not even get to say ‘goodbye’ so we were surprised when they returned an hour later and backed their motorhome back into their spot and leveled it.  They left in their car fairly soon thereafter and did not return until later in the day.

Linda went for her usual morning walk and I continued working on my Habitat For Humanity article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  Around 11:15 AM my Bluetooth mouse signaled that its battery was critically low and needed to be recharged.  I plugged it in and figured that was a good time to take a break and do something else.  Butch was outside with his tool bay open and Jim was out there with Roho so I went out and chatted for a while.  I needed to repair the connections on the front switch that controls the aisle lights so I borrowed Butch’s VOM, wire stripper, and terminal crimper and got three 1/4″ female crimp connectors from him.  I have all of these tools and supplies, but his were more convenient.

Being a 3-way circuit the switch has three wires.  It’s a double-pole double-throw switch so it had a second set of unused contacts.  I used the VOM to determine if the unused set of contacts worked as expected.  They did, so I removed the old connectors, one at a time, cut the wire loose from the connector, cut about an inch off of the end, crimped the new connector onto the wire, and pushed the connector onto the corresponding unused terminal.  I tested the circuit and I was able to turn it on and off from both switches.  (The other switch is in the control panel in the bedroom by my side of the bed).

My recollection is that the 3-way circuit feature did not work prior to this.  That could have been because the wire that broke off the other day was only attached by a few strands, or because of a failure in the switch on that set of contacts, or both.  The plastic insulated housings on the old connectors were very brittle and showed signs of heat damage, which could have occurred as the result of a very marginal connection.  When I tried to pull them off of the switch terminals they shattered.  I was also unable to pull the metal connectors off of the lugs and had to pry them open and then pry them off.  The first 1/2 inch of each wire was also discolored and brittle, indicating heat damage.  I did not bother to check the other set of switch contacts for correct function as the lugs also showed signs of heat damage and I do not plan to use them again.  In fact, I plan to replace the switch if/when I happen to find one or get around to ordering one.  The whole repair, including borrowing and returning tools, took less time to do than it took me to describe the work in this post.

Linda confirmed that our Fedex delivery was scheduled for today.  We have been rationing the cats’ food the last 48 hours and they are confused as to why.  They do not usually finish the dry kibble in their bowls but insist on having fresh kibble added each morning and evening.  To accommodate this expectation we have been adding very small quantities of fresh kibble to their bowls.  I don’t think cats can count, but they can definitely tell the difference between serving sizes of kibble and are not pleased at our puny offerings.

Jack and Maria returned sometime during the afternoon.  I saw them pull in but did not note the time.  We had sandwiches for lunch and then went for a walk.  We headed southwest from our campsite and worked our way over to Moon Mountain Avenue.  Our destination was the Salvation Army Store but we stopped to look at things along the way.  We checked out the Mountain Quail Cafe, but the only thing on their menu we could eat was the side salad.  Too bad, it looked like a cozy, comfortable place and the sign said they featured ‘home cooking.’  Well, not our home, of course.  ‘Home cooking’ is usually code for “everything is cooked in butter, we make liberal use of eggs and dairy, and treat bacon as a condiment.”

Moon Mountain Avenue between Main Street and Quail Trail seems to mostly be developments rather than individual lots.  We stopped at one place that had a lot for sale at the corner of Moon Mountain and the entrance road.  All of the lots were separated on three sides by the exact same low brick wall construction that we have seen all over town.  Some of the lots had the brick wall with a gate across the front.  As we were studying this lot the man across the street pulled out and drove over to see if we had any questions.  We really didn’t, but he answered them anyway.

It turned out that most of the developments on Moon Mountain Avenue were co-ops.  The price on this particular lot ($49,900) did not buy you a deed but rather a fractional ownership of the co-op with a lease for the perpetual use of that particular lot.  The price also included compensation to the current leaseholder for improvements to the lot, and whatever appreciation in value the market would bear.  You were free to sell your ownership share along with the leasehold for your lot, or will it to your children.  (This co-op, like many of the RV Parks in town, was a 55+ community, so it would be a long time before our “kids” could use it if they were interested, which I doubt.)  The annual maintenance fees for this co-op were $56/month ($672/year) and included water, sewer, property taxes, and association dues; everything except electricity.  Each site had its own billable electric meter.  The only added expense would be property taxes for improvements, such as a park model trailer or RV port.

We were glad we stopped and that this fellow was willing to share this information with us.  We suspect that many of the similar looking areas around town are probably also co-ops or even developments with deeded lots.  Every little thing we learn like this helps us develop a better understanding of Quartzsite.  BTW:  the Salvation Army store was closed.  We have walked or driven by at various times on different days and have yet to find it open for business.

When we got back to camp Linda needed a few things for dinner and thought the Road Runner Market might have them.  She grabbed Fonda and they took off in our car.  Butch was working on his HF mobile ham radio antenna on the roof of their bus and Barb was scurrying around the property taking care of things.  I was going to help Butch but got a phone call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint to discuss the spots on our roof and what to do about them.  Once we were done talking I was able to lend Butch some assistance with the antenna project which involved the installation of bonding (grounding) straps between the antenna and the roof of the bus.

The FedEx truck showed up before Linda and Fonda got back so I opened the box and unpacked the contents.  The kitties recognize Science Diet cat food bags and were very happy to see it.  I was opening the new coffee maker when Linda returned.  We got it unpacked and stored in the cubby where the old one was installed.  She had started cleaning and rearranging drawers before our walk so she finished putting everything away or set aside things she had decided she did not need to have on board.

I’ve been needing a haircut for a while and prevailed on Linda to take care of it while we still had sunlight.  After she was done I used the clippers to trim my beard and then put everything away.  Linda checked our log book and according to our records the last time we dumped our holding tanks was on the 20th.  We like them to be as full as possible before dumping, as they evacuate better but cannot let them overfill so we decided to dump them while it was still daylight.  Better safe than sorry.

I got another Hach SofChek water hardness test strip from Butch and checked the output of our water softener.  It measured 7 on a scale of 0 (soft) to 25 (very hard).  A reading of 7 is considered ‘hard’ water but the softener was still working somewhat as the water coming straight out of the tap measured 25.  We still had 1/3 tank of fresh water and I decided to add 1/6th of a tank, about 20 gallons, and bring it up to the 1/2 level.  I will have to recharge the water softener tomorrow before adding any more water to our tank.

I was able to finish editing photos while Linda prepared dinner.  She cut a large poblano pepper in half lengthwise and stuffed it with leftovers from two nights ago.  She also made Mexican rice from scratch using Texmati rice, onions, garlic, tomato sauce, cumin, and vegetable broth.  The peppers and rice were very good and went well with a glass of sangria.

Early this morning I thought I might finish my HFH article for BCM and be able to upload it this evening, but that did not happen.  I still needed to insert the thumbnails into the Word document and write the captions.  I was too tired to start that work, knowing how long that would take, so I played a few puzzle games and went to bed.

2014/12/31(W) Adios 2014

The polar outbreak that is gripping most of Canada and the U. S. A. has also made its presence felt here in Quartzsite.  The overnight low was 35 and we had light rain.  The high today won’t break 50, and the lows for the next two days are forecast to be in the upper 20s.  Not that far from us (~180 miles) Joshua Tree NP had a rare dusting of snow and the forecast for Flagstaff is for as much as 16 inches of holiday whiteness.  The temperature back home is in the teens, so we have no complaints about the weather in Q.

Linda went for a long morning walk and found the Salvation Army store open.  Apparently their hours are 8 AM to 1 PM Monday through Friday and we had managed to always walk past outside that time frame.  She picked up a few things from the Road Runner Market while she was out.  By the time she got back at 1 PM I had just finished inserting photos into my Habitat For Humanity article and captioning them so I had her proofread it.

With the proofreading done we had a bite of lunch and then drove to Blythe, California to pick up some grocery items that are not available here in Q.  We stopped first at the AutoZone store, in the northwest corner of the Albertson’s parking lot, and bought supplies for cleaning the bus.  Now all we need is a nice warm day so we can get out early and work at it until we are done.  We need to do the car, too.

We got a TXT message from our son while driving back to Q.  It was a short video of grand-daughter Madeline climbing into her car seat all by herself.  That led to an exchange of messages leading to the question from our daughter as to whether she could climb out by herself.  That question will apparently be answered tomorrow.  The growth from age one to age two is quite amazing.

When we got back to our coach I carried in the groceries.  While Linda put them away I added 30 gallons of water to our fresh water tank.  I really wanted to recharge the water softener first, and bought a 40 pound bag of solar salt at Albertson’s for that purpose, but it was too late in the afternoon and too cold to start that process.  I still need to fabricate the special perforated tube for the water filter housing, so it will take longer than a normal recharge.

We had some hot tea and cookies and relaxed for a while.  Linda finished proofreading my HFH article and I then went through it one more time to make sure it was ready to upload.  She also e-mailed Mara, one of the women who participated in the HFH build, to wish her a happy holiday and see what part of the country she was in at the moment.

Dinner was a simple, easy affair; a nice salad of fresh greens with other goodies mixed in and a couple of Asian noodle soup bowls.  Sometimes Linda does not feel like cooking and we keep a certain amount of packaged convenience food on board for such occasions.

It has been our tradition since we started dating in high school to stay up and celebrate the coming of the New Year.  We rang in three calendar changes while dating and have observed 42 more since getting married.  Tonight was number 43.  For all of that time we have rarely gone out on New Year’s Eve, preferring to stay close to home and off the streets.  Besides, large, loud parties have never been our style, especially since I do not dance.

When we were dating, and in the early years of our marriage, we would spend the holidays in the St. Louis, Missouri area visiting family.  My parents hosted a New Year’s Eve party that, in retrospect, was quite a large and well-attended event, and that is where we hung out, often joined by a few friends from our high school days.  As we attained legal age a champagne toast became part of the tradition (although in the privacy and safety of my parents’ home we probably started this tradition a bit sooner).

As our children came into the picture we still traveled to St. Louis but when they got a bit older we started spending our holidays at home.  Linda’s sister, Marilyn, started visiting us between Christmas and New Year’s and the tradition of assembling a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve began.  Linda usually did not cook a New Year’s Eve meal.  Instead we had California Dip (made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix) and chips, jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, smoked salmon, and other munchies that we nibbled on throughout the day.  This was, of course, all pre-vegan.  Starting around 11 PM we would turn the TV to one of the networks doing the countdown from Times Square in New York City.  I think it was ABC as we usually watched Dick Clark.  At 11:55 PM we would open a bottle of champagne and fill our glasses.  When the ball dropped and the clock struck 12 we would toast the New Year.

Since our children became adults they have spent New Year’s Eve with their friends and families.  Besides Marilyn we have had occasional guests at our house but more often it has been a quiet evening at home with just the two or three of us and we often went to bed shortly after the arrival of the New Year.  The last two years have been unusual in that we moved to a different house in 2013 but have never celebrated New Year’s there.  Given that we plan to do most of our extended RVing from mid-fall to mid-spring it may be quite (if ever) before we celebrate New Year’s at the new house.

For the 2013-to-2014 change we were at the Arcadia Bus Rally in Arcadia, Florida where we attended a party with 200 other people and a live band.  We spent much of the evening outside where the volume was about right and the temperatures were pleasant.  This year we are camped on private property in Quartzsite with three other couples, none of whom seemed interested in staying up until midnight, so we toasted the New Year in the privacy of our coach three times before going to bed.  We are unable to receive OTA TV signals here, so we watched (listened to) the ball drop in Times Square on Linda’s iPad (at 10 PM MST) and shared a champagne toast.  She then sent TXT messages to both of our children.  At 11 PM MST we shared another champagne toast.  I sent a TXT message to my sister and niece while Linda sent one to her sister, all of whom live near St. Louis, Missouri in the Central Time Zone.  At our local midnight we shared our final toast and welcomed the New Year in the Mountain Time Zone.  If we had been so inclined we could have driven to Blythe, California, returning temporarily to 2014, and celebrated the coming of the New Year in the Pacific Time Zone.  But we didn’t.  That kind of thing is more fun to “brag” about than it actually is to do.

Before turning in for the night I updated my article status spreadsheet and then uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox along with the HFH article and associated photos.  I then e-mailed the team at BCM to let them know it was there and wished them a Happy New Year.  I also e-mailed a link to a PDF version of the article to Steven Gullette, our team leader on the HFH build that was the main focus of the article, and wished him a Happy New Year as well.  So endith another year.  Adios 2014.


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.


2013_07_27 (Sat) Where We Go From Here

We have had an intense but wonderful week in northwest Wyoming and the Green Creek Inn and RV Park has been just the right spot for us to base camp.  The RV park is away from the hustle and bustle of Cody, yet close enough to be convenient for shopping and entertainment, and is close enough to Yellowstone N. P. and Grand Teton N. P. to make them accessible as day trips.  And although it’s a small RV park with only nine sites, we had excellent full hookups, laundry facilities, a WiFi connection to the Internet, and free popcorn.  Our 50 Amp site allowed us to run all three house air-conditioners all day while we were away to keep our cats safe and comfortable.  We needed to do this because of daytime highs in the mid-80’s with bright sunshine and constant wind that prevented us from using our awnings to shade the passenger side of the coach.

Although $45 per night is more than we generally pay to stay in an RV park, it was a fair price given the location and facilities.  The WiFi/Internet bandwidth was limited, but we were glad to have what we had as there was no useable Verizon 4G/LTE signal here, and even 3G EVDO was marginal for making phone calls.  The WiFi connection was generally very strong thanks in part to or WiFi Ranger Mobile Titanium, which has been working very well for us since we bought it at the FMCA rally in Gillette, WY last month.  Interestingly, the only OTA television signal we could pick up was Wyoming PBS from the general direction of Cody.  (Smile)

This was a quieter day for us, but by no means an idle one, as we needed to prepare for our departure tomorrow morning.  We noticed this morning that it was overcast, the first time since we arrived here a week ago.  We did have clouds today, and a few drops of rain, but Jeff informed us that the haze we were seeing was from the various forest fires burning in the west.

Linda drove to Cody in the morning to do our shopping.  The main attraction was the local Farmers Market, located, conveniently enough, in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Trading Company.  She came back with quite a few bags of stuff!

While she was gone I drained the waste tanks, stowed the hose, and added our Pine Sol / water / Calgon solution to the tanks.  I also drained the little bit of fresh water that was still in the tank, flushed it with a bit more, and then refilled it.  I left the fresh water shore line connected so we could use if until we depart, conserving our onboard water for use on down the road.  I also worked on getting our blog postings up-to-date.

When Linda got back she did the laundry.  At our house in Michigan this is usually my chore, but for some reason she seems to take care of it on the road.  Although we are trying to learn not to over-plan, we are not full-timers, and we have a house and family to which we have to return from time-to-time.  We knew the route we wanted to take back to S. E. Michigan, but the timing and overnight waypoints were still undecided.  We want to see the Theodore Roosevelt N. P. in western North Dakota, but the campgrounds there do not have any hookups and do not appear to be big rig friendly.  Medora, ND is the closest town, but it is 410 miles driving distance from Wapiti.  That is more than we care to do in one day, especially given our planned stop at Interstate Power Systems in Billings, MT to visit with Cherie and Chris of Technomadia.  (http://www.technomadia.com).

Using the online Good Sam campground finder we located the Meadows RV Park in Miles City, MT, 280 miles away, and made a reservation for tomorrow night.  That should give us a 5.5 -6.0 hour drive, leaving plenty of time to stop and visit in Billings.

I continued to work on our blog while Linda paid our bills and continued to research overnight stops.  We decided we would try to stay two nights at an RV park in Medora if we could find an opening.  And we did!  We made a reservation at the Red Trail RV Park just off I-94.  It is walking distance to downtown Medora and convenient to the Theodore Roosevelt N. P., which we will now have a day-and-a-half to explore.

Linda took time out to make wheat berry risotto with mushroom /garlic/onion /asparagus.  She used some of the Argentinean Malbec wine we had on board, and served the rest with the meal.  This was a fragrant, earthy dish with great “chew” that somehow fit the wildness of this past week.  When she has the time to cook we eat very well indeed.

While the risotto was cooking we pulled the tray on the passenger side of the bus that houses the chassis battery disconnect switches and the Vanner equalizers (we have two as it turns out).  We located the circuit breakers, and pushed them in to (possibly) reset them.  (This refers back to the BAL light that came on while traveling from Sheridan to Wapiti on the 21st of this month.)

Beyond Medora we hope to stay at a winery in Buffalo, ND about 30 miles west of Fargo.  It was personally recommended to us by Harvest Host founders Don and Kim Greene.  If they can accommodate us on the 31st, it will be our first use of our Harvest Hosts membership.

Along the same lines, we hope to stay the next night at the Forest Edge Winery in Laporte, Minnesota.  Forest Edge is owned/operated by members of the FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  Being a kind of “virtual” chapter in FMCA’s International Area (INTO) our members are spread out all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  Rallies are difficult to organize and most of our interactions are by e-mail.  We even hold our annul business meeting electronically.  Thus any opportunity to meet in person is a treat.  The fact that Forest Edge is also a Harvest Host business makes it easier and that much more special.

From Laporte we plan to head to Hibbing, MN to visit the Greyhound Bus Museum.  Beyond that, we will make our way across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to St. Ignace.  From there we cross the Straits of Mackinaw (Mackinac) on the Mackinaw Bridge and head straight south on I-75 where we vector off on US-23 southbound to M-59, and home.  Depending on when we get there we will have been gone almost exactly two months.


2013_06_24 (Mon) The Time Between The Rallies

Today was laundry day, so after breakfast we gathered up clothes and linens.  During the morning Peter & Sybil pulled out of the spot on our passenger side and shortly thereafter Ed & Rosemary pulled in (50A, full hookup).  Linda left to do laundry, post office, and grocery store errands while I stayed with the coach and cats.  Charles & Connie Martin, another couple from our FMCA GLCC chapter, pulled in across from us with their MCI 102C3 bus conversion.  They were apparently given a hard time about parking at Windmill RV Park and were told they had to be on the west side of the paved road, which is only 30A & water (no sewer hookup).  When we made arrangements with the CAM-PLEX to stay between the rallies they clearly told us we could move to Windmill anytime after 10 AM on Sunday and that 50A full-hookup sites where first come, first served.  They even gave us a parking sign to put on our dash.  It became apparent that there was some confusion as to who was supposed to park where.

I got on my computer (not literally, of course), went into the WiFi Ranger control panel, and reduced the power from “high” (the default) to “medium.”  According to the manual (available online), the connection can sometimes be improved by using less power.  I still had full/excellent signal strength in the bedroom, so I was not sure which radio this setting controls, or if it controls both, or if there are even two radios.  I will probably try low power to see how that works, and talk to the WiFi Ranger folks about it when next we meet.

I worked on finishing my draft blog post for the previous day, and then went to work on hooking up the rear OTA TV antenna/rotator and TV set.  My technological luck of the previous day ran out when the antenna failed its internal calibration process, and would not rotate.  I went ahead and set up the TV, another 22″ Westinghouse LD-2240 (LCD/LED flat panel monitor) requiring an ATSC channel scan activation code.  (Really, what’s up with that?)   I was able to find and view most of the same channels we had up font, but the reception was not as good on some, probably because the antenna was not pointed in the right/best direction.  A double check of the inside wiring confirmed that the RF & control cables were connected correctly, so the problem was either the roof unit wiring or the roof unit itself.

It was also possible that the problem was the rotator controller.  I tested that possibility using the known-good front unit, but the rear antenna still wouldn’t calibrate.  Soooo, back up on the roof to check the wiring to the antenna.  The connections are on the rear underside of the housing, which is mounted on top of two brackets that place the underside about 8″ above the lower rear roof tray and just above the main roof.  If you are short (I am) and flexible (not as much) there is just enough room to lie down, reach under, and use a short screwdriver.  All of the wires were connected to the correct terminals, but I loosened and re-tightened them anyway, including the coax.  I climbed down and retested the system, and this time it not only failed to calibrate, it displayed “Er” on the LCD.  That’s what I call “negative progress!”

The installation and operation instructions indicated that the problem could be: 1) that the black wire was not connected (it was, on both ends), or 2) that something was blocking the rotor.  In the later case that “something” would have to be inside the sealed antenna enclosure.  However, warnings elsewhere in the instructions tell you, emphatically and in no uncertain terms, that the insides of the system are dangerous (high voltage) and that it should not be opened as there are no user serviceable parts inside.  Huh?  So how do I unblock the rotor?

(BTW:  these are HD View 360 antennas from AntennaCrafters.  There was an older model of this antenna on the coach when we bought it.  It was designed primarily for the old VHF/analog TV signals and not optimized for the new UHF/digital ones.  The rotation feature also no longer worked, but we liked the sealed, “flying saucer” design in which the rotating antenna parts are in a flat, weather-sealed enclosure that is fairly aerodynamic going down the road.  I believe the antenna is an “active” design and provides some amplification of the signal it receives, but I am not absolutely sure of that.  The new model has a controller with an RF remote and is designed to pick up the newer digital signals as well as the legacy analog stations that are still operating in some areas.  Even though I was putting these two antennas in service for the first time, they were way out of warranty (90 days) as I had purchased them back in 2012 when we were having the roof redone and the coach repainted.  Based on my sample of two, it appears that AntennaCrafters has a 50% failure rate on this model.  I also have the problem that I bought these antennas from two different sources at two different times, and I don’t which one is which.)

At this point I will probably open up the rear antenna case.  After all, with electrical engineering degrees and amateur radio licenses, I figure I’m qualified to do this without endangering my life.  But with a storm approaching, that wasn’t going to happen right away.  We closed up the coach and turned on the two front air-conditioners to try to keep the interior comfortable as the forecast high was 91 degrees F.  The temperature outside was only 82 degrees F, but the sun was intense and the inside temperature was headed for 90.

We sat outside for awhile as it was cooler than inside, and watched a large thunderstorm develop northwest of Gillette.  It was drifting to the northeast, but also expanding in size.  As the southeast edge neared our location, and the winds picked up, we decided to put all of the awnings up and put the fold-up camp chairs away, not wanting to risk getting caught with them out should the storm change course and get cranked up.  We stood outside and talked to Ed and Rosemary while we watched the storm develop all around us.  It eventually started to sprinkle where we were so we went inside and soon had a heavy downpour that lasted for 15 -20 minutes.  The winds were not overly strong, and our skylight leak (slow drip) did not reappear.  The storm eventually moved on to the east.  Besides the drama and beauty, the upside of the storm was that it blocked the sun and brought cooler air, both of which helped keep the outside temperature down and the coach more comfortable.

I have loved western thunderstorms since I first encountered them as a boy traveling with my parents.  The combination of isolated development and unobstructed views to expansive horizons allows you to watch them develop for a long time as they move across a considerable distance.  This is rarely the case back in Michigan where storms develop along frontal boundaries and are often embedded and obscured from view.  Also, except in some flatter/cleared agricultural areas, views are not as expansive as in the west due to the extensive tree cover.

After dinner, and with the storm moved off to the east, I went back up on the roof to work on the rear antenna.  The enclosure is held together by 8 screws inserted from underneath, but it is high enough above the roof to allow for a 4″ long screwdriver to be used.  I had disassembled our old one when it was removed from the coach, so I had some idea of what to expect inside.  The physical design hasn’t changed much, but the rotor was definitely binding.  With nothing to lose, I moved it by hand and got it freed up, although I have no idea what, if anything, I may have broken in the process.  I had Linda apply power to the controller, being careful not to come in contact with any of the deadly voltages I had been warned about in the instructions.  It completed the calibration process this time and gave a direction number on the LCD.  Success!  (Maybe?)  I had her cycle it several times, and it calibrated successfully each time, but the rotor was not consistent as to its position.  I then had her slowly step through the 16 positions, up and down, several times.  Based on what I saw, it appeared that position 1 is just to the driver side of the front of the bus.  As the numbers increase the rotor turns counterclockwise, with position 16 just to the passenger side of the front of the bus.  So positions 1 -4 appear to be port side bow quadrant, 5 – 8 port side stern quadrant, 9 – 12 starboard side stern quadrant, and 13 – 16 starboard side bow quadrant.  This is, of course, with the double-headed arrow on the enclosure pointing towards the front (bow) of the coach.  Both antennas are mounted this way, but since I moved the rear rotor by hand, its position may not be correct.  It was also not as repeatable in its positioning as it should be, especially around positions 7 – 10, so the front one may not orient the same way.  Since the instructions are absolutely silent regarding how the pointing direction corresponds to the number on the controller display, I will ultimately have to take the front enclosure apart and visually determine how it works.  That would be easier, of course, if it wasn’t 8 inches above the roof and 13 feet off the ground at the time.

While I was on the roof, Bob Pinner stopped by.  Bob and Molly are the Escapade Directors for The Escapees RV Club.  He confirmed rumors we had heard earlier in the day relative to parking issues.  It turned out that the Escapade had lost the use of three RV parks at the CAM-PLEX due to the damage done by the motorhomes departing the FMCA rally.  The SKP’s had not planned on using Windmill RV Park, but now needed it for their staff and volunteers as well 30 A electric (only) registrants.  It was obvious that Bob was trying to re-plan a lot of things at the last minute so we agreed to move our coach the next day.  The decision was to move us back to the Boxelder RV Park, where we would have full hookups, and a good chance of 50 A power.  We figured the sooner we moved the better site selection we would have, so we agreed to move first thing the next morning (8 AMish).

In spite of the issue with the rear TV antenna, we were able to use the rear TV and simultaneously watched different TV programs for the first time in quite a while as we do not currently have OTA, cable, or satellite TV at home and we do not have satellite TV in the coach.  Gillette has PBS and Create, so this was the first time it felt a little bit more like living in the coach and a little bit less like being on vacation.  The fact that we are between rallies with no pressing need to be anyplace specific, or do anything in particular, also contributed to this feeling.

2013_06_23 (Sun) FMCA Comes To A Close

As usual, the exodus from the FMCA 50th Anniversary rally started early, with some motorhomes pulling out as early as 6:00 AM.  It is always an interesting experience to watch the departure process from a major RV rally.  Unlike the arrival process, which is highly organized and managed by the organization running the rally, the departure process is completely asynchronous and self-managed.  It is not, however, chaotic; to the contrary, it is quite orderly.  People leave when they need to and are ready to go, and that just seems to work out well.  They are attentive and considerate, and there’s never any congestion; just a random but steady flow of RVs.

We had considerable rain the past few days, and some of the parking areas developed minor flooding and very muddy soil.  Inevitably, some motorhomes were stuck and had to be pulled out.  We have been in that situation on two previous occasions, but our site this past week was high with good drainage and well-graveled roads.  Except for a few soft spots, notably where people cut corners too tight at intersections, there were no serious problems in Boxelder RV Park.

We had already arranged with the CAM-PLEX office to move to the Windmill RV Park this morning, so after breakfast we drove the car over to scout out a level, 50A full-hookup site.  We left the car there to “hold” a spot, which were first-come, first-served, and walked back to the coach.  We did our usual departure thing of unhooking the utilities, putting up the awnings, and otherwise preparing for the short, slow move.  We had no problems pulling out, and took paved roads over to our new site.  Once we were parked we did our arrival thing and leveled, hooked up, and settled in for the next few days.

We are staying at the CAM-PLEX while we wait for our early entry date on the 27th for The Escapees RV Club Escapade rally, which will also be at the CAM-PLEX June 30 – July 5.  We will extend our stay here until July 7 and then move to Sheridan, Wyoming for two weeks to work on a Habitat For Humanity build.  It appears that we will have to move again on the 27th to a different RV Park here at the CAM-PLEX as the Escapade is not using this one.  But for now we have 50A power, which will allow us to run our air-conditioners.  With some hot days forecast, that’s a good thing.

We decided to deploy our new Zip Dee Awnings, both to shade the coach and to let them dry out.  Much to or surprise, we discovered that we could fully deploy the large patio awning following the directions we had.  (We left our directions at home.  The ones we had came from the Zip Dee booth and did not match our hardware exactly.)  With the upper rafter arms hooked onto the roller tube shaft we could not get the latch pins on the rafter arms to engage.  Our analysis of the problem was that that the fabric was either 2″ too short or the upper rafter support arms were 2″ too long.  I wrote an e-mail to Zip Dee, but fortunately it never got sent.  Further study of the rafter arm revealed that the hook on the free end was attached to a spring-loaded inner tube that was free to slide inside the outer tube.  The available travel was just enough that the hook could be placed over the roller tube shaft AND the latch pin could be engaged.

Perhaps it is part of still being new to extended-time RVing, but the awning episode was yet another example of the emotional roller-coaster that sometimes comes with this lifestyle.  First comes the surprise and then the disappointment of discovering (yet another) problem.  This is followed by the frustration and annoyance of not being able to figure out what’s wrong and/or fix it.  Then a certain sense of helplessness arises at not being able to get assistance or parts (things always seem to break on Sunday, so it’s rarely a “day of rest”).  Next is the dread brought on by considering the possible dire consequences of continuing the journey with the problem unresolved.  A sense of resignation settles over you as you accept that the problem will remain unfixed for the time being and will probably require a change of plans and added expense somewhere down the road.  Then the “ah-ha” that comes from food, release from anxiety, and time for further thought.  And finally, the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from having figured it out and fixed it, even if only temporarily.

Along the same line, we were discussing our broken searchlight over lunch and decided that it would be better to seal it up with Rescue Tape and not use it than try to repair it.  The wires inside the base go through a hole in the roof that is not sealed.  Removing the base opens up the possibility of water getting in through that hole if I am not able to get it resealed.  As we rarely need/use the searchlight, that was too big a risk for too little benefit.

As we were finishing up our encampment routine, we had motorhomes pull in on either side of us; Peter & Sybil on the passenger side and Rick on the driver side.  Peter & Sybil had purchased a Progressive Industries portable 50A EMS from Lawrence RV Accessories during the FMCA rally.  It had been working fine, even through the big storm, but quit working when they moved to Windmill RV Park and hooked up.  I looked at the unit and noticed moisture in the LCD display (where it should not be).

I shook the unit and thought heard a sloshing sound, indicating that water had probably gotten in to the unit and shorted something out.  I checked the outlet with my multi-meter to make sure the power supply was properly wired and providing the correct voltages so they could at least plug in and have power.  Sybil called Daryl Lawrence and he answered the phone even though it was Sunday!  They were still at the CAM-PLEX and came right over.  Daryl examined the unit, came to the same conclusion I had, and swapped it out for a new one.  The PI EMS units are generally very reliable, and the company stands behind them and the vendors who sell them.  Peter & Sybil were leaving the next day for North Dakota, so this was truly great service for a great product from a great RV vendor.  (We got our Progressive Industries EMS-50 from Daryl a year or so ago and rely on it to protect our coach’s electrical systems from problems arising outside the coach.)

As long as I am on the subject of PI EMS units, when we changed campsites and plugged in I followed the maintenance recommendation I received a few days earlier from the owner regarding the buzzing coming from the unit.  Immediately after applying power, during the 2′ 16″ time delay before power switches through, I quickly cycled the contactor by moving the override switch back and forth.  Sure enough, the buzz disappeared.  (Technical note:  Although the unit is sealed, it is designed to have the cover removed so wiring connections can be made.  Dust can and will build up on the contactor contacts which results in a degraded electrical connection and the resultant buzzing.  The contacts arc slightly when they close and open, and cycling them quickly and repeatedly cleans them.)

Fixing the "ET" searchlight

Fixing the “ET” searchlight in Windmill RV Park

In the afternoon we got the Little Giant ladder out and configured it as a 14′ extension ladder.  I climbed up and attached the searchlight head to the base using some of the rescue tape we bought from a vendor at FMCA.  The light can still be turned on and tilted up/down, but cannot be turned side-to-side.  This is a temporary fix until we can get the bus inside at Phoenix Paint and do a proper repair with Michele Henry’s help.  This will probably be in conjunction with the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen, IN September 18 -22.  What is unknown at this point is how well it will hold up to travel at highway speeds.  That test comes in a couple of weeks.

While I was on the roof I inspected the skylights and vent fan domes for damage from the recent hail storm, but they all appeared to be fine.  I then made a temporary installation of the WiFi Ranger Mobile Titanium (WFR-MT) by zip-tying it to the weatherhead cable entrance on the front roof.  I fed the cable through the weatherhead while Linda pulled it into the former ceiling mounted TV cabinet directly below.  (This cabinet originally housed a 19″ CRT TV.  That TV was removed and a door made by Jaral Beatty of Logansport, Indiana to cover the opening.  The door is walnut veneered plywood with solid walnut edging and Jaral managed to match the existing wood finish very well.  Because this was a former TV cabinet, AC power was already available inside.

With power to the WFR-MT, we were able to connect to the local/secure network and reconfigure it.  We were then able to select one of the public/open WiFi signals that were still available at the CAM-PLEX and connect through to the Internet.  The signals were very strong and the connection steady and reasonably fast.

After dinner we went for a walk and watched another beautiful sunset.  As dusk turned to night we witnessed the rising of a “super moon”, which appeared 14% larger than normal due to a slightly closer lunar orbit.  (The 14% is something Linda read online, we did not measure it.)

When we got back to the coach, Linda decided to watch Inspector Lewis on her iPad via our free WiFi connection.  We were able to stream the entire episode without hesitations due to frame-buffering.  That’s a pretty good WiFi connection!  A lot of RVs had left the CAM-PLEX by this time, so competition for the bandwidth was obviously less than during the FMCA rally, but it was still impressive.

Since we appeared to be on a technological roll, I decided to (finally) hookup the front over-the-air (OTA) TV Antenna, rotor controller, and TV set (monitor).  What’s this about going online to get an Access Code to enable ATSC scanning on the TV set???  Yup, our Westinghouse 22″ LCD/LED TVs require an activation code that can be obtained online, by text message, or by phone.  Fortunately, we had all three methods available to us so we got the code, entered it into the set, and away it went.  Ta-da; we have PBS and Create!  Now it feels like home.  🙂


2013_06_21 (Fri) FMCA Day 3

We went to bed last night with a 20% chance of rain in the overnight weather forecast.  We are not sure when the rain started, but around 5:00 AM the skies opened up and it rained hard for an hour.  We are camped on somewhat higher ground with good grass sites and red rock roads, so the water drained away and we did not have flooding or muddy site/road issues.  This was not the case in other CAM-PLEX RV parks, as I discovered while walking to the 9:45 AM International Area (INTO) meeting.  My timing was bad, and I walked the 3/4 mile to the Wyoming Center in a downpour that included pea-size hail.  My raincoat and small umbrella were no match for the rain, and there was not a golf cart or shuttle (school) bus to be found anywhere.  In the end it was just water, and clothes eventually dry out.  Always looking for the learning experience in any situation, I resolved that we would purchase serious wet weather gear when we had the chance.

Linda remained in the coach to make sandwiches for lunch as we planned to meet up with Louise Stuart and Craig Davis after the 11:30 seminars.  We went to the Nostalgic Look Back at the Early Coaches of FMCA, moderated by Mike Middaugh, F3456.  Mike is yet another member of the Great Lakes Converted Coaches chapter that we also belong to.  Mike was joined by several other vintage converted coach owners who shared photographs of buses from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, some of them buses they had owned.

We then walked over to Louise and Craig’s motorhome, a very nice 38′ Monaco Dynasty.  We had our respective lunches and a great chat as we got to know fellow members of our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  The service tech from HWH showed up around 2 PM to fix their slideout, so we took that as our cue to return to the vendor area in search of more knowledge and solutions to problems.

After some further discussion with the folks from A-1 Water Treatment we decided to purchase one of their water softeners with attached pre-filter.  It was both heavy enough and bulky enough that we arranged to have them deliver it to our coach after the vendor area closed today.

We then stopped at the WiFiRanger booth and purchased a WiFi Ranger Mobile Titanium (WFR-MT) and optional AC power supply.  (The Titanium version is identical in functionality to the standard version except for a metal case in place of a plastic one, and a 5-year warranty instead of a 1-year warranty.)  The WFR-M/MT device mounts outside the coach and combines a WiFi “booster” (transceiver) and a WiFi router.  The booster communicates with available Wi-Fi signals that can serve as on-ramps to the Internet.  These signals originate somewhere beyond our coach and are paid for, and controlled by, someone other than us. These can be public/open (unsecured) or private/closed (secured).  Use of a secured signal requires the correct authorization (password).  Public/open networks are, by definition, free to use as you do not need a password to connect to them.  Secured networks may be free, such as at some businesses, or there may be a charge, as in airports, and some hotels and campgrounds.  There is an extensive system of public/open WiFi access points available at the CAM-PLEX, sponsored by WiFiRanger.  It has been very good around the Wyoming Center, but varies out in the Boxelder RV Park.  The booster allows us to receive this weak signal, use it, and send a suitably strong signal back.  It does not, however, guarantee on-demand, robust access, as this is also a function of how many other stations are trying to access the system at the same time.

The router section of the WFR-MT generates a secure, local network that we control.  Although it is generated on the outside of the bus, it should be strong enough inside and around the coach to allow us to use our devices wherever we want around our campsite (within reason).  We won’t know this for sure until we hook it up, of course, but the device has been used and well reviewed by other travelers, including Technomadia.  Being a full-fledged router, it not only allows multiple WiFi devices to securely connect to the Internet (via the external WiFi source), but should allow them to securely communicate with each other.  (BTW:  Technomadia has the definitive book on mobile connectivity.  http://www.technomadia.comor Amazon.com)

I plan to mount the WFR to the cable entrance weatherhead with zip ties if it will work.  The device has an Ethernet cable that plugs into a POE (Power Over Ethernet) power supply.  The front cable entrance weatherhead opens into the cabinet behind/above the drivers head where a 19″ CRT TV was once housed.  It comes with a DC power adapter, but we purchased the AC power adapter as there is already AC power in this cabinet that is supplied from the inverter subpanel.

Our Verizon 4G/LTE MiFi 5510L Jetpack device does essentially the same thing as the WiFi-M, except it communicates with Verizon cell phone towers instead of external WiFi sources.  We will be using the Wi-Fi Ranger when possible, and the Verizon 5510L otherwise (assuming it has a usable signal).  This means we could have two different WiFi networks running simultaneously.  The upside to this is that we could have multiple devices accessing the Internet through different pipelines, resulting in faster data transfer.  The downside to this is that devices on one network can’t communicate with devices on the other one.  (We could solve that problem with a WiFi Ranger GO.)  Although interference between the networks is possible, it is unlikely.

We needed an additional length of hose to hook up the new water softener when it arrived, so Linda picked up a 10′ long food grade hose from the Camco booth.  She then returned to the coach to straighten it up for a visit later from Louise & Craig while I went off to the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) gathering at 3:15 PM.

I attended the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (area) meeting in the late afternoon.  The main items of interest at the GLAMA meeting were the upcoming GLAMARAMA in mid-September 2013 and the 2014 GLAMARAMA planned for next June.  Both rallies will be at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN.  After that the intention is to move it around through Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario (Canada), perhaps doing two consecutive years in each state/province.

On the walk back to the coach I had a long, technical conversation with Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint in Edwardsburg, Michigan regarding how to remove and reinstall the broken searchlight on the front roof while minimizing damage to the paint.  Michele’s shop did the roof repair and repaint on our coach, and she always has a good sense about how to approach something like this.  She talked me through the best way to approach it, and after considering the process carefully, I decided to defer an actual repair until we can get the coach back to her shop.

Louise & Craig came by around 5:30 PM and we continued our conversation over snacks and some Red Ass Wine from the Prairie Berry Winery in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The new water softener got delivered just as they showed up, so hookup was deferred until later.  We put out the Blue Diamond Wasabi Soy almonds, and I think they caught Louise by surprise.  (Sorry Louise.  We really should warn folks about these.  If you like almonds, and you like spicy, you will find these addictive.)


2013_06_20 (Thu) FMCA Day 2

Again today there were no early morning seminars that caught our eyes.  The indoor vendors opened at 9:00 AM, so we headed over to scope them out and buy a few small things we knew we needed.  Jirah LEDs appeared to have a bulb with an elongated neck that might work in our aircraft style swivel downlights, so I bought one to try for $15.  I also picked up some nylon straps from Coil-N-Wrap that are used to separate the shore power cord from an adapter or extension cord.  Linda picked up an onion keeper, tomato keeper, and a set of stacking measuring spoons held together with magnets from RV SpaceSavers.  Where would we be in this world without magnets?

We stopped at Lawrence RV Accessories and talked to Tom, the owner/president of Progressive Industries (PI).  We have a PI EMS-50 that I installed last year.  It works very well but has developed a buzz.  Tom suggested using the bypass switch to clean the contactor contacts by switching it on and off quickly several times before the 2-minute time delay expires.  If that doesn’t clear it up, he said they would replace it.  PI is well known for their excellent products and warranty policy; they basically stand behind their products for as long as you own them.  Our unit has a remote display that is installed in the bay near the unit.  I purchased a kit with a second remote and switch.  The switch will go in the bay and the 2nd remote will go in the house panel.

We stopped by the Zip Dee Awnings booth and had a good chat with the owner/president.  We got some personal instruction on how to deploy our patio awning in full and caravan (partial) positions and he also gave us printed instructions to take with us.  A stop at the nearby Magnum booth allowed me to clarify a few things about our inverter and they suggested dialing the charge rate back to 80% if it is currently set higher.

We also had a good chat with the guy from the Aqua-Hot factory.  He confirmed what Lloyd Degerald told us yesterday; fuel is the issue and annual maintenance is the key, especially the fuel filter, which needs to be 10 micron, and the nozzle replacement.  I described our Parker Fuel Polishing Module (FPM) installation, which caused him some concern; specifically that it not apply pressure to the pump or restrict the return flow.  I assured him that the FPM, as installed, doesn’t do either of those things.  He confirmed that our older model 100-S unit can use regular coolant and requires ~ 16 gallons, plus whatever is needed to fill all the lines and heat exchangers.  He also confirmed that on this unit there will be bleeder valves at the heat exchangers as these are usually high points, and that bleeding the loops is best done there if they are accessible.  (They often are not very accessible, and our coach is no exception).  The system can be bled by applying air pressure to the tank (through the radiator cap), but that is not the preferred method.  We learned in the seminar the day before that the unit has a mixing valve that should regulate the outlet temperature at ~110 degrees F.  The mixing valve is adjustable, but is under the unit and very difficult to access.  Finally, the expansion tank for our unit should be 5 quarts.  I do not know the exact size of ours, but I am sure it is much smaller than 5 quarts.  Making space for a larger one will require the water pump to be relocated, but that is something I am considering doing anyway.  We also found out that all of the manuals are available online at their website for no charge.

We stopped briefly at the WiFiRanger booth, but decided to come back as the owner (Kelly Hogan, Mr. WiFiRanger) was doing a seminar at 11:00 AM on RV Internet Connectivity.  We went to the seminar and it was excellent.  It was not specifically about WiFiRanger products, although they obviously sell products designed to address the topic.  We returned to the booth and chatted with one of the employees (Evan), but ended up going to Kelly’s trailer (man cave) later for a more personal consultation and demonstration.  He also had a variety of free beer.

At this point, we may just buy the WiFiRanger Mobile (WFR-M) and forego the WiFiRanger Go (WFR-GO).  The WFR-M mounts outside the coach with a cable going inside the rig for power (and data in some configurations).  It communicates with an external Wi-Fi station and regenerates a local/private WiFi network while providing router functionality.  The WFR-GO is also a wireless router but it also has wired ports, a special port for the WFR-M, and a USB port for tethering a cellular device, such as our Verizon 4G/LTE MiFi Jetpack 5510L.  The WRF-GO allows you to seamlessly integrate these devices, but effectively replaces the router functionality of both the WFR-M and the MiFi device.  This means you have paid for three routers but are only using one of them.  The penalty for not have the WFR-GO is that you have to switch your devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.) to whichever WiFi network you are using.  We can probably live with that.

While wandering the CAM-PLEX grounds we found Jr. Showman’s bus conversion and had a nice, long chat with him.  We gave him a copy of the February 2013 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine, which features our coach.  We then walked over to check out the Windmill RV Park, where we will be staying between the rallies.

After dinner we headed over to the Morningside Park grandstand for the opening ceremonies and concert by The Birminghams.  I swore I had never heard of this group, but many of their songs were quite familiar to me from my youth, and they gave a very nice concert.  Three of the five musicians were original group members.  We finally made contact with Louise &Craig from our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  They sat with us, and we had a nice long chat afterwards.  We agreed to meet for lunch the next day.

On the walk back to our coach we watched a thunderstorm develop off in the distance.  The storm to the southeast was particularly impressive; one of those iconic western thunderstorms that is isolated in an otherwise clear sky and thus completely visible.  The light really is different in the West, and the views are expansive.  The prevailing winds at our site suggested that it was moving southeast, away from us, and the overnight forecast was for a 20% chance of rain.