Thursday, December 17, 2009

Computer Woes!!!!

Computer Woes!!!!

Tuesday 12/15/09 was a **HORRENDOUS** computer day

First, we encountered problems with our internet connection. We use Hughes Net via satellite at both the house and in the bus. It is generally pretty reliable unless we get a ton of snow on the dish. While we now have DSL and Cable internet available at the house, we have chosen not to have double internet services. We use the satellite connection in the bus and simply move the modem into the house and connect it to a fixed dish when we are home. It turned out the Hughes had a problem on our satellite and we were without internet service for 24 hours. To some of you, that is not a big deal. But for us it a huge issue because of our business and personal needs.

Then, our personal network got all funky. I got that squared away without too much problem.

The devastating blow came when my HP laptop crapped out. I need to vent here a bit. My HP is a TX2000 series tablet notebook that is very convenient for traveling. We bought it in August of last year just before we left for Europe. My other laptop is a great Toshiba with a wide screen and lots of features. However, it is large and heavy and would have been a real pain to carry all over Europe.

It turns out that this series (along with the TX1000 and TX2500) have a major problem with the motherboard. They fail with regularity at about 2-4 months past the 12 month warranty period. The internet has some very active forums on the issue. If you are interested, do a Google search on “TX2000 boot problem”. There appears to be a significant movement towards a class action suit. I will quickly join in, as HP has tried to sweep the problem under the carpet.

The HP failure triggered a hectic couple of days to try to get my Toshiba synchronized with the HP. I had told myself to focus all of my work on one computer, but I had a huge number of files on each computer that were not synchronized with the other.

Based on my research, I found out that the HP motherboard failure did not damage the hard drive. Several folks had purchased USB hard drive adapters that allow you to remove the hard drive and install it in a housing that can then be used as an external hard drive. That allowed me to have access to my data. A business associate put me on to an excellent synchronization program ( I spent several hours synchronizing my main directories.

The real challenge came when I tried to get my iTunes and Outlook Express files transferred. I have an extensive Outlook contact/calendar/notes database that I use daily. Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, places the data files in locations that are almost impossible to find. In addition, they block access to these files for “security” reasons. I finally got all of that done after about 4 hours of research on the internet and finding a way to search all of the hidden directories.

Changing subjects, I wanted to write a few words about what has become a family tradition: Cookie Day. Our three daughters and many of the grandkids come to the house a few weeks before Christmas and make cookies. Each girl (and Pat) furnish at least two recipes and all of the ingredients for those recipes. In total they made over 1000 cookies that was the basis for 65 plates that could be given to family and friends. Our daughter Judy writes an excellent blog and she talks about the cookie day festivities including pictures and a couple of the recipes (here).

Concerning the bus engine project, progress has been very slow. There have been all kinds of personal and business activities that have diverted my resources. I have been trying to take my time to make sure that all of the hardware/wires/hoses/etc. are properly mounted and secured. I have been spending quite a bit of time inspecting all of the fabricated parts from the initial installation to make sure there were no design/fabrication problems (none found so far). I am about a half day of work from being able to move the engine into the engine compartment. From there, I have about two days of work to hook everything up.

I am way behind schedule, but that seems to be the norm for this bus conversion project.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Continued Cold!!!

Continued Cold!!!

This morning (12/9/09) they were reporting 16 degrees *BELOW* zero at the airport (official site for Denver) with a wild chill of – 36 degrees. Our thermometer read -10 degrees. Looking at the weather map, lots of areas are having terrible area. However, you always tend to focus on your own situation.

As I mentioned in the last post, I don't have any permanent heat system in the shop. Indeed, it is not insulated. However, my natural gas torpedo heater has been able to take the edge off the cold in the shop. I went out and the shop was 13 degrees (the bus heat takes helps a little bit, but it uses quite a bit of diesel fuel to keep the bus water systems from freezing).

I just could not face the extreme cold today. I have a huge project involving getting my files and office area organized. I figure that this terrible project is probably bearable given this kind of weather.

Concerning the bus engine project: it continues to be a challenge. It turns out that almost every bolt-on part has several versions. I have had to get almost every bolt-on part from my old engine so that the replacement engine will be compatible with the bus. That includes wiring harness, front engine mount, alternator mount and drive system, etc. The latest is the exhaust manifold. The Series 60 has a three piece manifold and the center section on the replacement engine was significantly different from the original engine. I had to make a trip back to the Detroit dealer and get the parts from my engine. Getting the correct three parts assembled was a real challenge.

When it warms us to a reasonable level, I will get back to work on the project. I am becoming very concerned that we will not be able to leave Evergreen in time to get Pat to her convention in Phoenix. All in all, a very frustrating project.

We are approaching the holidays and that always increases family commitments. That is fun, but it sure conflicts with getting the bus running.

Folks talk about prolonged periods of wind adversely affecting one's mental attitude. I can assure you that this cold streak has had a huge impact on mine.

That is all for now.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Global Warming?

Global Warming?

OK folks, I don't mean this to be a political rant. However, I will make a couple of statements and then drop it. First, I REALLY don't like Al Gore and his approach to a lot of things including global warming. Secondly, I hope that everyone recognizes that there are two, very divided, schools of thought/research on the subject. When I suffer from the extreme cold, my frustration always gets out of hand.

So, why in the heck did I bring up the subject. Well, the temperatures dropped below zero here last night and we have a forecast of extended very cold weather including several days where the lows will be below zero. We live in Colorado, so I guess we should expect that.

However, I have to keep working on the bus to get the engine back in and get ready to get the heck out of this cold weather. I have a great shop, and even installed in-floor heating. Problem is, I have never been able to afford the solar panels for the system.

I have a natural gas “torpedo” type heater and that takes the edge off the cold in the shop. Our bus has an indoor/outdoor thermometer in it. When I went out to start working a bit after noon yesterday the interior of the bus was 50 degrees (I keep the thermostat set on 50 since it is virtually impossible to “winterize” all of the complicated water system). The outside thermometer was reading 27 degrees (shop temperature). After running the heater for several hours, the shop temperature got into the low 40s. I wear my Carhartts and it is not too bad. My feet get cold from the cold concrete, but I can work for 3-4 hours before I have to give up.

Enough of the complaining. I am making slow progress on the bus. I am taking my time switching components between the engines to make sure I have the best parts of the two. It will take a couple more days to finish getting everything installed and getting it ready to stuff back in the bus. I switched air compressors (large air compressor for the air brakes) and turbo on the engine since they were new from when I first installed the other Series 60 engine in the bus. They are heavy and cumbersome, but I just try to take my time.

Perhaps the worst job was getting the transmission installed. It weighs about 650 pounds and everything has to be perfectly aligned. The picture shows the engine and transmssion on the dolly I use to roll it into the bus. The combination weighs about 3500 pounds.

Once the engine/transmission is in place, it will take a few more days to get the rest of the components (plumbing/electrical/etc) in place.

I sure hope it warms up a bit

That is all for now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's catch up on a few things

Let's catch up on a few things.

First of all, it is difficult to write this blog when we are not on the road – after all, it was intended to be a travelogue! Secondly, things have been quite hectic and writing this post always seems to be a bit low on the priority list. So the following are a few things that have been going on.

Family. We have been catching up on spending time with our girls and their families. We have had some quality time with the two youngest granddaughters. Two of the grandsons called to ask if I would take them to the junkyard (is the Pope Catholic?). We had a great time at a wrecking yard that specializes in cars out of the '40s and '50s. We made a great day of it. We have had to stay in touch with one family via phone, because of schedules and various bouts with colds/flue/etc. We did have a really fun lunch with our daughters to celebrate their birthdays. It was just like the old days – just the five of us. We still love to get together with all the family, but this was a very special day.

Work. I have been very upset with our web hosting company (Earthlink). I finally decided that we had to migrate all of our personal and business web sites to another service. We chose Go Daddy. They seem to be a good service with domestic support. We have been able to reduce our monthly cost by about $50. The project was huge. I have had to set up a new credit card processing company and rebuild the e-store for Rebuilding the e-store will take a lot of time and will take place over the next few months.

Earthlink support for web hosting was not bad at first (several years ago) but is now staffed by offshore folks who barely speak English and don't have a clue. Worse yet they don't care. For the past several years, they have occasionally lost some of our email. Fortunately we have it backed up with a different service.

Bus. Those of you following our engine problems will recall that we had a problem with the engine that got progressively worse. In July, the problem became bad enough that we had to park the bus. I removed the engine and took it to the local Detroit Diesel dealer. What should have been an $8K rebuild ended up being quoted at $15K. That was way more than we could scrape together. I bought a recently rebuilt engine and then attempted to get my engine back from the dealer. The wanted $2K for about 4 hours labor to tear the engine down. The following was a post I made on one of the bus bulletin boards – it details the most recent events.

The Shepherd engine saga continues.

Stewart Stevenson is no longer holding my engine for ransom!!!

Those of you following the horror story about my Series 60 engine problem, will recall that I bought another used engine in Ogden UT. This engine has 200k on a documented DDC dealer rebuild. However, I needed to get my engine back from SS. I had taken it down there expecting to pay for “Step 1” or “Step 2” rebuild. The damage turned out to be worse and the final estimate was over 15K.

I then tried to get the engine back, but they wanted almost $2K for the tear down and inspection. In truth they had started work on the engine and were trying to recoup some of their costs. I have been negotiating with them for the past couple of months.

Finally, I made a proposal that they keep the block and head as a core (thus they could benefit from their work) and I would get almost all of the other equipment (ECM, turbo, air compressor, shallow pan, clutch/flywheel, etc) plus all of my special fabricated parts. They agreed and said that they would call it even. I was amazed at their offer. Maybe the branch manager got tired of my emails and phone calls.

So, I ended up with $2-3K in parts and no bill to pay! The turbo, ECM and air compressor were new when I installed the engine, so I really wanted to keep them.

Now, I have all of my parts and the FUN??? begins. Getting all the wiring and accessory parts assembled will be a bit of a challenge. The accessory configuration of the two engines was quite different as was the ECM “cab” wiring. Plus it has been so long that I have forgotten where some of the bus electrical and plumbing connections go.

Nobody said this hobby was for the faint of heart.

Since I made that post, I have been able to work with the dealer to obtain all of the sensors from the engine (as backup). I am installing the parts and getting ready to stuff the engine back in. Hopefully it will be back in the bus later this week.

That catches us up on the big events since my last post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Snow, Snow, and More Snow!

Snow, Snow, and More Snow!

During this period while we are not traveling, I will be writing a few miscellaneous blogs. You probably noticed that I uploaded my travelogue from my 2006 China trip. I did that partly as a response to a blog that my daughter Judy writes. We are very proud of the job she does with that blog, and you may want to take a look (here).

A couple of days ago I wrote about the fun times we had in our VW bus. I had hoped to post of picture of our bus, but they seem to be buried somewhere.

Today I am going to post about our big October snowstorm. We have snow storms most months of the year somewhere in Colorado. In the Denver area it is not unusual to get snow in October. What is unusual is to get over 40 inches!! That is the number recorded in the Evergreen/Conifer area where we live. The photo to the right is our deck. Parts of Denver got over two feet! Unfortunately, it was an upslope storm and the Denver Airport (located quite a ways east of Denver) only got 7 inches and that becomes the “official” snowfall recorded.

We had left Monday to spend a couple of days with one of our daughters and her family. The live about 30 miles from us, but we decided that staying with them would give us extra time with the granddaughters (Madison 6 and Molly 4). We were scheduled to be “parent helpers” in both of the girl's classes. On Tuesday we went to Madison's piano class before she went to school In the afternoon we went to her class and had a great time.

That night it started to snow. By the time we got up Wednesday, it had snowed about a foot and most schools were closed. Molly was devastated that her class had been canceled and Grandma/PaPa would not be helpers that day. However, Madison and Molly got to build the snowman as shown in the photo. That was the first day of the snow -- it snowed another foot after the photo was taken.

It continued to snow very hard Wednesday and we decided to stay another day so that the roads to our house would be better. Thursday it was still snowing, but we decided we would try to make it home. We live at 7500 feet and it is a pretty steep climb up from Denver. We had our two wheel drive PT Cruiser, but it does not do too bad since it is front wheel drive. We made it all the way home and buried the poor little car in the entrance to our driveway (see photo).

Last week I had thought about replacing the mower on the tractor with the scraper blade (not a fun/easy task). Well, you guessed it – that did not get done. So, yesterday I “plowed “the driveway with the mower. Actually it did OK. It got the snow down to just a few inches and I was able to move the car up to the front of the garage.

The photo to the right is our '56 Chevy buried under the snow.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eagle Rally Epilog

Eagle Rally Epilog

I wanted to mention a fun activity at the Eagle Rally. One of the Eagle bus owners has a VW bus that is re-powered by a small Ford V-6 (I think Capri). I had seen it at one of the other Eagle rallies and it really brought back fond memories.

In 1979 I bought a VW bus (camper) with no engine and rebuilt it so that we could travel as a family.

When our three girls were small, we planned three long distance trips so that they could see the country and experience traveling in this wonderful country. The first two trips were made in the VW camper bus. The first trip was to California in 1980. We saw many of the typical tourist locations in the LA area as well as other great locations in California (Hearst Castle, Big Sur, etc.). We made that trip with a somewhat stock engine in the bus. It was a slow trip when we encountered any sort of hill. Never-the-less, we had a ball.

One of the fun stories on the California trip was that our youngest daughter Judy (9 at the time) bought a huge Micky Mouse doll which was bigger than she was. On the way home our three girls had to share their space with this fourth “person” and Judy's two sisters were not happy!

Our next trip was to the East coast so that we could experience quite a bit of our country's early history. In preparation for that trip I converted the VW bus to a Ford Pinto engine. Not just any Pinto engine, but one that had been warmed over a bit. On that trip, the bus just flew! Unfortunately it was 1981 and the national speed limit was 55 MPH. Fortunately, some of the eastern states turned a blind eye to the new speed limit {grin}.

I sold the VW bus after that trip and I kind of regret it yet today. It was one fun vehicle!

Back to the VW bus at the rally. The owner knew my story and offered to let me drive the bus (with 5 passengers) when we went to tour the Boeing surplus store and other locations in Wichita. It took a bit of getting used to, since the throttle tended to stick and the shift linkage was a bit sloppy. However, it really brought back fond memories.

I drove the first leg of the trip and the owner drove the rest of the way. He could make that thing fly! The passengers (I was sitting on the porta-potty) were bouncing around as we drove through Wichita. I wanted to take a picture of the VW at the rally, but he left before I could get to it. The hosts of the rally sent a CD and it had a picture where part of the bus was visible. I have attached that photo (cropped).

Until we are back on the road, I will continue to post a few stories that might be of interest to our readers.

VW Bus with Ford Engine

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hello from Shanghai. (second travelogue from my 2006 China trip)

As noted in the previous post, I am posting two travelogues from my 2006 trip to China. It would be best to read the post below this one so that they will be in the proper order.

Hello from Shanghai.

Friday evening; September 8, 2006 (Second travelogue of this trip)

In my first travelogue I forgot to mention that the weather is very warm (over 90 degrees) and quite humid. When we took our evening walk the other night, we came back ringing wet. It does not cool down much in the evening (perhaps 80 degrees). It did get a bit cooler later in the week. The temperature should not be a surprise. Ningbo is about the same latitude as New Orleans.

We spent four very intensive days in the plant. The production area was not quite as bad as we had thought, but they really have a long ways to go to get up to USA standards of perhaps 10 years ago.

The plant was very hot and they had almost no lighting in the plant (actually, they had the lights installed, but no bulbs in them). A rubber plant is very dark because of all the carbon black that goes into the product and with not much light, it is seems even more dark.

The plant used many solvents that have been outlawed in the US. I suspect that some were very toxic. The built their “cement house” (where the solvents are used to disolve the rubber and make an adhesive compound) on the roof of the building so that the fumes would not travel through the plant. The fumes were vented to the atmosphere.

For Tom’s benefit, they are ISO 9000 certified, but there is no way that they should be!! I did not see one ISO required document or any signs of ISO compliance in the factory. It just makes my blood boil to think of all the money companies all over the world spend to get certified and it really does not assure the customer of a quality product. I guess I had better get off my soap box, but Tom will relate to what I am saying.

Working with the Fengmao folks was very challenging. In spite of the fact that we had three folks serving as interpreters, it was very difficult to get our concepts understood. The interpreters were OK at conversational translation (marginal would be a better description), but had almost no ability to translate technical information. We had to really compromise our descriptions and we have no way of knowing if our compromised thoughts translated well. When we write our report, we can use precise terms and they can take their time doing proper translation.

With the exception of lunch and dinner today, every meal has been Chinese. While I sort of like Chinese food, a little goes a long way. We returned to Shanghai today to prepare for our flight home. The hotel restaurant had hamburgers and they sure tasted good. Tonight I had spaghetti.

Roy is quite an adventuresome eater. This time it caught up with him. They warn you not to drink the water, eat un-peeled fruit, raw fish, etc. - kind of like Mexico. In any case, he has been a bit under the weather for the last two days. He said he knew better, but just wanted to try everything.

Speaking of meals, we had a special dinner with the Fengmao folks last night. It was quite an event. The table was about 8 feet in diameter (gorgeous inlaid wood) and had a large “lazy Susan” wheel in the center. They kept bringing dishes of Chinese food that is typical Ningbo dining and placed the dishes on the lazy Susan so that all could eat a bit of each dish. Most of it was pretty good. Anything that was not cooked we avoided. Two things that I remember that were different were bamboo shoots, and duck tongue. In general it was fun and the owner of Fengmao is quite a character. He seems to have taken a liking to Roy and me. His wife was there and she seemed very nice. They all invited our wives for the next trip. I doubt that that will happen since the plane tickets are over $10,000 (not a typo)!

Dress in China is very casual. I saw almost no suits or sport coats even in the financial district of Shanghai. The first night and tonight we are staying at the Marriott and it is about $165 per night. It is very fancy and still casual dress. Our hotel in Ningbo was just as nice and it was about $70 per night.

On the plane to San Francisco, I talked to a lady who was moving to China.
She told me about a computer to computer voice system. The software is Skype and it lets you “dial” another computer and have a conversation just like you were on the phone. It uses the microphone and speaker in the computers and even makes a dialing noise. You connect via a system that is a lot like instant messaging. You can see if anyone on you contact list (Pat in my case) is hooked up to the internet. You can even use a web cam and see the person you are talking to. Pat and I downloaded the software and have had several lengthy conversions at no cost. There is a delay in the transmission, so you need to use the old two way radio method and complete each communication with the word “over”, but it works pretty good. We had a couple of conversations that were garbled, but we also had at least one hour of good conversation. I told Pat that I probably talked to her more on this trip that many previous trips .

Today we traveled from Ningbo to Shanghai and will fly home tomorrow, departing at 12:45 PM and arriving in SF at approximately 9:00 AM. We checked in to the hotel and then went over to the SAE office. As soon as we left the hotel a lady approached us selling fake watches. Roy looked at them and that was a mistake. The lady offered Roy a fake Rolex for about $30. He said no and she followed us for at least a block loudly telling us she was dropping her price. She ended up at about a dollar. There were several folks selling these watches.

Now for some general observations and information:

The average factory worker makes about $115 per month. The skilled worker makes about $160 per month (or slightly less than $1.00 per hour).

As I mentioned in the last travelogue, there are about 30 cars per thousand people. However, the death count from accidents is over 100,000 per year. If you ride around much in a car you will quickly understand why. People on bikes and scooters go the wrong way on the street and cars dodge them by going into the other lanes. There is no way to describe the chaos in the streets that we were on.

Fuel is not expensive here. Diesel is about $2.35 per gallon and mid-range gas is $2.50.

The Chinese are huge users of cell phones – especially the business folks. In the Fengmao plant, the higher level folks were on their phones at least 10-20% of the time. The Chinese talk very loud (apparently part of the culture), so it is very disconcerting to try to have a discussion in a meeting room with a couple of folks on the phone.

The Shanghai population is about 17 million. There is at least one city that has over 30 million in population. Everywhere you look there are high rise apartments.

Well, I guess that will have to do for this trip. My brain is fried. I have not slept well at all, and the mental impact of the drastically different culture and language has taken its toll. I will sure be glad to get back to the good ole USA!!!

Trucks at a fueling station

A mixture of modern and primitive transpertation

Hello from Ningbo China (a travelogue from my trip to China in 2006)

A word of explanation: I am posting a couple of travelogues from a trip I took to China in 2006. At that time I was writing travelogues and sending them out to an email list (mostly family and close friends) . I wanted to post this trip, as it was quite an experience. I had hoped to be able to change the posting date to reflect the 2006 date, but it does not look like that is an option. I will be posting a second China travelogue in a few minutes.

Hello from Ningbo China

Sunday evening, September 3, 2006 (first travelogue of this trip)

As most of you know, I have traveled to China on a consulting trip. A good friend who retired from Goodyear is also on this trip with me. Roy Semin and our wives have traveled to many countries together for ISO standards meetings. I am copying Roy’s wife ViAnne in on the travelogues for this trip.

Roy and I met up in Denver and flew to San Francisco, leaving Denver a bit after 11:00. Our flight was supposed to leave SF at 2:51 PM, but because of mechanical problems they had to switch planes and we left 4 hours late. The plane was a 747-400 which is a great plane. We traveled first class from Denver to SF and business class to Shanghai (ticket cost over $10,000). This level of travel is a part of our contract with SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The flight from SF to Shanghai was just under 12 hours.

Business class is wonderful. You can’t touch the seat in front of you and there are a huge number of adjustments on the seats to make them very comfortable. I slept quite a bit on this flight. This is unusual for me, but I had stayed up till 2:00AM getting Pat’s computer running again after a disk crash. I then got up a bit after 5:00 to get to the airport in plenty of time.

Denver is 10 hours ahead of our time and Lincoln is 11 hours ahead. For example, I am writing this at 7:30 Sunday evening and it is 5:30 AM Monday in Denver.

We arrived in Shanghai around 11:00 PM and a person from SAE met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel (Courtyard by Marriott). This was a great hotel.

Today we drove from Shanghai to Ningbo. Ningbo is a four hour drive and is located south of Shanghai.

Driving in China seems to be very “disorganized”. Lane markings are, at best, a suggestion, and changing lanes seems to be almost a sport. When you want to change lanes, you simply make the change and the person behind you honks their horn and barely makes room for you. A pedestrian is simply a target. Tonight we took a walk and I almost got run over. It really seems that the drivers speed up (even if you are in the cross walk) and honk their horn letting you know that you are about to die.

We are staying at another great hotel in Ningbo (Ningbo Grand Pacific). It is an older hotel, but very well decorated and probably the nicest hotel in the region.

We met for about an hour tonight with the Chief Engineer of the rubber company we are contracted to help resolve some manufacturing and testing problems. While we were assured that the translators would be capable of technical translation, it appears that communication will be a real challenge.

China is just slightly smaller than the US, as measured in square miles (3.717 million for the US and 3.705 for China). However, the population is over 4 times that of the US (1.306 billion vs. 296 million). Our translators estimated that there are 30 cars for each 1000 people). Shanghai is directly west of Japan, perhaps 5-600 miles and south west of Korea by about the same distance. It is directly south of Russia (with Mongolia sandwiched in between). Grandson Josh asked how close I was to the Great Wall. It is about 800 miles north of Shanghai, close to Beijing (which is the capitol of China). A good website for maps and information is:

The internet over here is rather restricted. My home page is on Earthlink and contains various stock market and news items. Only part of the page will load (no financial or news). Many of my favorite sites will not load. My connection is via a “CAT5” cable which should be very high speed. However, the speed is about that of a dial-up connection.

I guess that is about all my jet lag brain will permit me to write tonight.

China traffic. Note the fact that cars and scooters don't pay any attention to direction of traffic

More China traffic. Take a look at the modified motorcycle carrying a huge stack of boxes

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Tuesday morning October 6, 2009 (Third travelogue of this trip)

Sunday we drove a bit over 400 miles and ended up in Springfield, CO. Our day did not start well. When we travel on these trips, we carry quite a bit of luggage that contains Pat's Stampin' Up! Supplies for her classes and I have to take a lot of files. Saturday night I loaded several bags in the truck so that I would have an easier time on Sunday. Well, it rained during the night and it was pouring rain when I got up. I thought I had re-sealed the topper so that it would not leak, but I checked as soon as I got up and found quite a bit of water leaking in. I made a quick trip to Wal Mart and got a box of trash bags to put each piece in.

Then I started to load the last of the luggage and the cart decided to take off. It overturned and dumped my backpack in a large puddle. That bag had not one, but both of my computers in it! The backpack was pretty soaked, so I did not fire up either computer until they had at least 24 hours to dry out (I don't think they got all that wet, but we did not want to take a chance).

We tried to make it to a town that had a Holiday Inn so that we could have a good room. We needed to be settled in in time to watch the NHRA races. We finally had to settle for Springfield which only had three motels and all of them were straight out of the '50s! I was very discouraged about the room which had two standard size beds and two straight chairs. It turned out to be an acceptable room that seemed clean. The worst part was the races were rained out and the telecast was mostly clips from previous races.

Yesterday our trip was not too bad. We started out in fog, but it cleared up and the rest was nice weather. We arrived home mid-afternoon.

The service truck did pretty darn good on the last three trips. It is not a great highway truck, but it performed fine (except for the 10 MPG). I had added cruise control and that really helped with the longer drives. We put right at 4,000 miles on the truck in the last three trips. From now on, it will make the trips being pulled behind the bus.

We stayed in Shawnee for several extra days so that I could make a presentation to the Prevost Owners Group. They had a rally with about 60 beautiful and expensive coaches based on Prevost bus chassis. Many were probably sold new for close to $1 million dollars. I had a good group and can only hope that will translate to sales in the future. I felt kind of honored, as they only have vendor presentations by invitation.

Now, let's go back and pick up a few items from our stay in Oklahoma.

When we first drove around Shawnee, we saw several horse sculptures that were painted in very artistic patterns. I have attached a picture of one that was at the Sonic Drive-Inn. It turns out that the city established a program as an art project that helped to build civic pride, and benefited local charities. It was a part of their centennial celebration ( Pat had heard that there were thirty horses in the project.

BTW, I heard from a good friend who noted that I must have found some sort of time machine, as I had us departing Goddard KS on 10/21 which has not occurred yet {grin}. I have corrected a couple of those dates. That is just proof that you should not write these blogs when you are wiped out.

In the last post I talked about our tour of the Oklahoma City Memorial. I only wish that I could find words to describe how moving the memorial and museum are. I have posted some pictures of the memorial.

This finishes up this travelogue. We do not plan to travel until we have the bus on the road. I plan to devote the next several weeks to getting it running again. Assuming that everything goes well, we are looking at two options. The first is to head to Florida for a large Bus Rally and a racing components trade show that I thoroughly enjoy. We would depart Evergreen in late November. The bus rally is ends on New Year's day. However, we need to be on the west coast in early January. That is a ton of miles and probably does not make economic sense. If we just head to the west coast, we will leave right after Christmas.

I will try to make at least one post in the interim to let folks know how the bus project is going.

That is all for now.

One of the decorated horses in Shawnee.

A map of the area around the bombing

The same area showing the memorial

The Memorial Reflecting Pool

The Reflective Pool in the foreground
and the Field of Empty Chairs in the background

Close up of the Field of Chairs
(the bases are illuminated at night)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hello from Shawnee, OK

Hello from Shawnee, OK

Saturday evening October 3, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

I simply can't believe it has been so long since I posted the first travelogue of this trip. Lots has happened since then.

We left Goddard, KS on Monday 9/21. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express (map). If you look closely at the map (zoom in) you will see a big building just to the west and that is a huge Wal Mart. That makes it very handy to do quick shopping (just like when we are in the bus).

Tuesday we started setting up for a regional FMCA rally at the fairgrounds. The actual show was Thursday through Saturday. We did just OK in sales, but had lots of good leads. If any of those come to fruition, our sales will increase significantly. Part of the issue is that the sales tax here is 8.5% and that really gets folks attention on large dollar sales. Several folks said that they would order on the Internet and pay shipping. I did two seminars that were reasonably well attended and Pat did two craft classes. Her first one was full, but the second one was at 8:00 in the morning and that was too early for some of the ladies. It was about half full.

Monday (9/28) we drove to Tinker Air Force Base ( It is a huge (9 square miles) aircraft maintenance facility and has over 26,000 military and civilian employees. There we met up with some good friends who were staying in the “Fam Camp” (map) Many military bases have campgrounds that are available to active or retired military. This campground was very well laid out and would look like a good commercial campground. The campers are charged a nominal fee (about $12 at this location for full hookups). That fee is about 30-50% what you would pay for a commercial campground. In addition, they have full use of the facilities including the base exchange which is like a fully stocked Wal Mart. The prices are lower than public stores and they do not have to pay taxes. Our friends barbecued steak and we had a great time.

Getting onto the base was a real challenge. We had to travel around the outside of the base to a check station where we had to show our identification, truck registration, and proof of insurance. We then had to drive back to the gate close to the Fam Camp and undergo a full vehicle search (hood open, all utility doors open, etc). At least we felt secure.

Tuesday I worked in the room and took Pat to a close-by casino. This whole area is basically Indian reservation.

Wednesday we went back to Tinker and toured the base with our friends. From there, we went to nearby Oklahoma City and toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial and museum ( This is located at the site of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. This was the terrible bombing that killed 168 innocent people including 11 children in a day care center in the building. The remains of the building have been cleared and a beautiful reflection pool and “Field of Empty Chairs” that honor those killed. There are 168 chairs arranged by the location and floor where the people were at the time of the blast. The children who were killed are marked with smaller chairs. I will post some pictures on the next blog (too tired tonight).

The museum was very well done and extremely emotional. It included a recording made at a Water Board meeting in a building adjacent to the bombed building. By the time we left the museum we were emotionally drained.

We returned to Tinker and had another cookout.

I will continue our Oklahoma stay in our next blog.

Tomorrow we will head home. It is about 700 miles. We will probably take two days to get home, but we are wiped out and may take three days.

That is all for now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hello from Goddard, KS

Hello from Goddard, KS

Sunday evening September 20, 2009 (First travelogue of this trip)

We are at the Express Inn in Goddard, KS (map). For the past couple of days we attended the Eagle International bus rally at Afton Lake.

We left Evergreen Wednesday (9/16) in the late afternoon. We had debated about even attending this rally, since our bus is still not running. It is not nearly as much fun at these rallies when you have to commute from a motel to the rally. The bus is a place to relax and makes it convenient at the rally. Not so when you are staying several miles from the rally site.

We stayed Wednesday evening in La Junta at a Holiday Inn Express (not one of the better ones). Thursday we drove about 350 miles to Goddard. We took US 50 most of the way. It is an interesting drive, since you drive through several small towns. Most are small farming communities. Many look like they are not doing well economically.

Once we got into Kansas, it seemed like every small town had huge grain silos and giant feedlots. We normally travel on the interstates, since we are usually on a tight schedule. However, we found the drive on the two lane highway to be interesting and enjoyable.

We arrived in Goddard late in the afternoon. We quickly checked in and unloaded the luggage and then drove to the rally for the group dinner.

Friday, the guys went to the Boeing Surplus Center and then to “The Yard” ( Both are “candy stores” for “overage kids”. At the Boeing store, I stalked up on a large number of very high quality drill bits at $2.50 per pound!! The Yard has to be seen to be believed! They have a tremendous amount of surplus aluminum and nuts and bolts, plus all sorts of specialized tools.

Saturday we went with most of the group to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, KS ( This is a tour of an active salt mine and the tour takes place 650 feet below ground level. It was very interesting. That night we had another group dinner.

Today we went back out the to rally site and said our goodbyes as the folks pulled out in their great Eagle buses.

Tomorrow we head to Shawnee, OK where we will be vendors at the regional FMCA rally.

That is all for now.

Eagle Bus Conversion Rally at Afton Lake

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Tuesday morning September 8, 2009 (fourth travelogue of this trip)

Well, obviously we are home. I left out a couple of things in earlier posts for this trip. On the way out to Salt Lake we started seeing smoke in the Dillon, CO area. That is really scary, as that area has been devastated by pine bark beetle and well over half the lodge pole pines have been killed and are very dry. It turns out that it was from the huge fires in California and to a lesser degree ,some fires in Utah. When we stopped in Green River, UT the smoke was pretty thick. After that we did not notice it as much, even though the fires were still going strong. Perhaps it was the fact that we were further north coupled with the wind direction.

I had mentioned that I would show a picture of the SilverLeaf Glass Dash. It is the ultimate upgrade for those who want to know what is happening with their engine and related components.

I finished the installation a bit after noon on Saturday. I made a quick trip up to visit another bus nut in Ogden and then got back to the hotel in the late afternoon. As mentioned in the last post, we went to the Cheesecake Factory for our anniversary celebration dinner. We have learned to split an entree and then each order a piece of cheesecake. Even then, we took about half of each piece of cheesecake home with us.

I have to talk about our hotel in Salt Lake (the Airport Inn). As I noted last time, we stayed there a few weeks ago. While it was definitely not fancy, it seemed like we could live with it for a few days. Our room was very strange. It actually surrounded the elevator on three sides! It was quite large. The carpet needed to be replaced, but the rest was just fine. It seemed clean enough and that is really what we want. It was located right across from several FBOs (locations that service and store small planes). We took walks most every night and had fun watching planes take off and looking at the small planes.

Sunday we headed towards home. We took I 80 up the hill out of Salt Lake and then took US 40. I wanted to take the two lane home, as it can be more picturesque. That night we stayed at a great Best Western in Craig, CO. Monday we left US 40 at Kremmling and headed towards Dillon, CO. There we stayed with our daughter and here family in their townhouse. This morning we left Dillon early and drove home.

We will be home for a bit less than two weeks and then head out again. Unfortunately not with the bus. We are still very undecided what we will do for an engine. After the next trip, we will stay home until we get the bus back on the road.

Thats all for this trip.

SilverLeaf Glass Dash

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello from Salt Lake, UT

Saturday morning September 5, 2009 (third travelogue of this trip)

I am writing this on our 45th wedding anniversary. Boy how time flies!!!

We are at the Airport Inn right at the Salt Lake airport (map). We stayed here when we were in Salt Lake a few weeks ago. It is a moderate hotel that is sufficient for this trip. We have a fridge and micro wave and a large room – all for less than $60. That includes a cooked breakfast!

We arrived here Tuesday (9/1). I have been working on an installation of my system for the past three days. I did not quite get finished yesterday, so I will have to spend a couple of hours this morning. The installation has gone well, but it is more complicated than most because of some options that we installed. The folks that own the coach are quite handy and have been helping out doing some of the work. That has really worked well. They are great folks who are full timers (live in their coach full time) and take great pride in their “home”. It is a 1997 Newmar Mountain Air that they have kept in immaculate condition.

Later today I hope to visit a friend in Ogden and then Pat and I will be going the the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate our anniversary.

Have to keep it short so that I can get to work {grin}

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hello from Green River, UT

Tuesday morning September 1, 2009 (second travelogue of this trip)

I am combining two trips. As noted in our last blog, we were in Douglas WY last week for a double install (my system and a SilverLeaf glass dash install). This week we are headed to Salt Lake for an install of my system in a motorhome.

The two installs last week went well. The SilverLeaf install was pretty straight forward. A SilverLeaf technician flew in and did most of the installation. I helped were I could but it was primarily a training session for me. I will try to post a picture of the dash in the next blog. My installation involves a great deal of work under the coach to run tubing and wires. It was a real challenge for this installation, as we could not get the coach very high due to soft soil. Worse, the soft soil was covered with very sharp gravel and that really made crawling around an issue and I ended up with a lot of scrapes on my back.

We did not get to do any sight seeing in Douglas. It is a very small town. The folks that we did the install for took us out to dinner several times and that was a lot of fun. The wife spent a lot of time with Pat doing stamping and just generally having fun. It ended up that she signed up as a demonstrator.

We left Douglas on Saturday 8/29. On the way home we stopped at two of our daughters to have quick visits. On Sunday we went to the third daughter's home and visited with her family. Pat did a stamping party on Sunday and I did a bunch of work to get ready for this trip. Kind of hectic!

We left Evergreen yesterday morning and stopped here in Green River. We are staying at the same Best Western hotel that we stayed at on our trip to Salt Lake last month. We are again driving the service truck. As has been the case for the past month, we are sure missing our bus!

That's all for now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hello from Douglas, WY

Sunday evening August 23, 2009 (First travelogue of this trip)

We are here in Douglas to do an installation of one of my systems plus an installation of a SilverLeaf “Glass Dash”. The Glass Dash is a full dash replacement that costs $10, 000. It basically works like a modern aircraft display with very vivid digital/analog gages, several camera channels, and lots of coach information. I will be assisting and training with a SilverLeaf engineer who is flying in later this week.

During the week, we will be staying at the Holiday Inn Express (map). Obviously we do not have the bus running and will probably not have it running for at least another month.

We left Evergreen Saturday morning and arrived here about 3:00 PM We made a stop at the Cheyenne Cemetery (map) where my mother's relatives are buried. If you zoom in on the map, the point of the arrow is at the graves of my grandparents and four of my aunts/uncles. We visited that cometary in early July with my cousin and his wife. That was quite an experience, since I had not seen my cousin since the early '60s. It was a ton of fun catching up on old times and getting some information for Pat's genealogy efforts. When we visited the cemetery in July, I had forgotten to bring the battery for the camera, so we wanted to take the pictures on this trip.

When we were in Cheyenne in July, we stopped by the beautiful new city library. They have a great genealogy department. We had also wanted to take a picture of my grandmother's home, but it turned out it was torn down for the library construction and the location was almost exactly where the genealogy department was located!

Now, back to this trip. We drove the service truck (see attached picture). We had not intended for this truck to be a “touring” vehicle. Indeed, it is not the best highway vehicle. It has a very thirsty V10 engine (10 MPG). The engine makes the truck very peppy, considering the weight. It has four wheel drive and a five speed manual transmission. It is a fairly basic truck (did not want anything fancy). Because it was basic, it did not have cruise control and I have leg pain issues if I can't move around. I did a quick install of an after-market unit and it works like a champ. Made the drive almost pain free. I really like the Dodge suspension on this truck. We have oversize tires with rather high tire pressure, yet the ride is not all that bad.

Today I started the installation. This part is not fun as it involves working under the coach running the wires and tubing for the system. In this case, it was really difficult, as we could not get the coach very high and the surface was loose dirt and lots of sharp gravel rocks. The underside of these coaches are constructed such that it is very difficult to run the conduit in which the tubing and wires are run. At least the worst part is done.

It usually takes three days to do an install and I am probably going to have to hustle to get it done in the time alloted. The SilverLeaf install is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. We hope to head home on Friday.

That is all for now.

Our service truck at the Holiday Inn Express in Douglas, WY

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Wednesday evening August 12, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

Well, we are home after a relatively short trip (for us). Saturday was the last day of Pat's Convention. I drove to Bonneville (a bit over 100 miles) for the first day of “Speed Week”. It has been about 5 years since I have been able to go and I have really missed it. This, to me, is “old time” racing where huge budgets and high dollar sponsors are almost non-existent. Don't get me wrong, the racers put a lot of money in their cars, but most do the majority of their own work. There is a huge variety of classes/cars/motorcycles and fascinating “backyard” engineering. When I say backyard I say it with a huge amount of respect.

I forgot to mention that after I went to the salvage yard, I spent the afternoon with a good friend. Kent is the one who found the engine for me and has been extremely helpful on many of my projects. We went to dinner with his wife and just had a great time.

Sunday we moved from the Marriott to the Airport Inn. That location was about 40% of the cost of the Marriott. It was not as fancy but still acceptable.

After we left the Marriott, we drove to Wendover where Pat could spend some time in the casino while I returned to the salt. We then had a great buffet dinner at the Rainbow Casino and then returned to Salt Lake City.

We later learned that a racer was killed in a crash Sunday after I left the track ( I am very disturbed by the fact we lost a race car driver, but even more so, because it appears that that racing community sort of buries the fact that there was a racing related death. I posted on one of the Bonneville boards after not seeing any report and was basically told that the salt racers choose not to publicly discuss the issue. Really sad!

Monday I returned to the salt and Pat relaxed in the room. As with the previous days on the salt, I enjoyed every minute. It was interesting to note that nothing was mentioned on the public radio broadcast at the track about the accident.

Tuesday we started our trip home. We stopped again at Green River, UT and then today we drove the rest of the way home.

We continue to realized how much we miss our bus. It looks like we might have two more trips before we get the bus back on the road. Both are to do system installations, and we will be driving the service truck. It is not really a good highway “cruiser”, so the trips will be arduous.

That is all for this trip.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hello from Salt Lake City, UT

Hello from Salt Lake City, UT

Friday morning August 7, 2009 (First travelogue of this trip)

We are staying at the Marriott Downtown (map). We are here for Pat's Stampin' Up! convention. There are often 7000 demonstrators at the convention, but this year we think it is down considerably.

We left Evergreen on Monday and stopped in Green River, UT. We chose that as a stop, since my folks used to stop there when we traveled west and Pat and I have stopped there several times. We stayed in the Best Wester, which overlooks the Green River and ate at the adjoining Tamarisk restaurant. We have enjoyed that restaurant many times because of the view and the reasonably good food. The name of the restaurant is interesting. In Colorado (and many other places) it is considered a terrible invasive plant that uses huge amount of precious water.

We have a corner room at the Marriott and one window looks east onto a huge (and I do mean HUGE) construction project. The project is describe at: I can see 6 huge cranes directly to the east and on the north side, there are several more. The project spans several city blocks. And this is just the first stage. The project that we can see is City Creek Center: I talked to a friend and he made the observation that the project was the vision of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). This is their founding location and is the center of all church activity. Apparently the area was “decaying” and they wanted to make sure that the project resulted in a highly desirable location to live/work/worship/visit.

If you have been following our blog, you know that the engine in our bus needs to be rebuilt or replaced. A good friend told me about an engine at a truck salvage yard in Ogden (just north of here). I did some research on the engine and it looks like a good value, since it has been rebuilt recently. Wednesday I went up and put my computer on the engine ECM and read out all of the pertinent data. The engine appears to be what the salvage yard claimed. I ran the engine, but it is almost impossible to tell much since you can't put a load on it. Long story short, I bought the engine and will have it shipped to Denver.

Wednesday was a big day for Pat (lots of activities). I tried to do some catching up on various business (and some fun) activities. Of course, I had to spend some time being a “sidewalk superintendent”. I am having a ball watching all the construction activities from our 11th floor window and from the street level as well.

That is all for this post.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Just a quick note on a couple of items:

1) I updated the previous post with a picture on my grandmother's (and her parent's) house in Greenville, OH. It was very hard to imagine walking in the house my grandmother grew up in!

2) I have added an option to become an email subscriber to our blog. My posting frequency is quite variable, and if you sign up for the email version, you will know when we post. You will get the post in an email a day or two after I post it.

We will start our next travelogue in a few days.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Friday evening July 31, 2009 (fifth travelogue of this trip)

Well, as you can tell from the subject line, we are home. We made good time and got home Wednesday in the early afternoon.

Now let's finish our catching up on this trip. We mentioned that we did some fun things on our trip home. When I was doing a lot of traveling for Gates in a company van, we found a great little restaurant called the Blue Springs Cafe ( about 35 miles west of St. Louis on I 70. As you can tell from the link, they are famous for their “foot high pies”. Years ago, they used to have a billboard on the interstate that made it sound like their chicken was 100 years old. We remember hearing truckers on the CB talking about the “old chicken”. It is a fun restaurant with great pies. We also stopped in Topeka at Pat's Pig for lunch. This is a restaurant we used to eat at when we went to the races in Topeka. It has great barbecue and has quite a racing theme to it. Both brought back fun memories.

Our stop in Russell was also planned based on fond memories. They have a neat oil field museum that I really enjoy touring. It is pretty run down and basic, but it brings back memories of working on experimental belt drives in the “oil patch”.

When I talked about bus vs “normal” travel, one of the main issue for me is the coffee. I am a coffee “snob” and I really don't like the brown water that they call coffee in most of the hotels. I would stop at McDonalds and get coffee that at least has some taste to it {grin}

Let finish this travelogue with discussion about our genealogy research in Greenville, OH. Pat has been doing a lot of work on our family tree, but was not able to learn much about my father's family. I am an only child of an only child and that seems to make it difficult to get much information on that line of the family. We knew that my dad was born in Greenville, so we went to the Garst Museum which has a great genealogy section. We were able to trace quite a few relatives and get some leads for additional research.

The two biggest finds were my grandfather Orion Shepherd's grave (map) . Even more exciting was that we found out quite a bit about my grandmothers family. We were able to learn that her mother lived in a house at 420 Elm street (map) for most of her 96 years. We are sure that my grandmother was born in the house. We were able to contact the folks who own the house (Becky and Terry). Becky showed us the part of the house that she thinks was the original house. In addition to our documentation, they have some documentation that it was the Culbertson house (my grandmothers maiden name). They are the third owners and were excited to find out more history about the house. It turns out that Becky's grandfather built the house adjacent to their house, so they have a lot of family history in that area as well.

I have posted a photo of the house below. We suspect that the front part of the house is the original house (obviously remodeled).

The Original Culbertson house at 420 Elm Street

As a note to our newer readers, I post a link to Google Maps that shows the satellite view. You can zoom in several times to get significant detail. For example, we can see my grandfather's grave stone when we zoom in on that map.

Pat has been able to do some more research on the Internet based on the information we found and now we will have see if our travels will permit us to return to Greenville.

That is all for this trip. We will leave for Salt Lake (Pat: convention; and Jim: Bonneville) next Monday. I will start that travelogue sometime next week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello from Russell, KS

Hello from Russell, KS

Tuesday evening July 28, 2009 (fourth travelogue of this trip)

Our main purpose for this trip was to be vendors at the FMCA International Convention in Bowling Green, OH. The facilities were great, albeit spread out over a large area. The vendor building (map) was a great building. The official coach count at 2,725. That is up a bit from the past few rallies but far short of the “good old days” of over 7,000 coaches. The attendees seemed quite upbeat and were buying at a reasonable pace. Our expectations for the rally were not good. We are SilverLeaf dealers, but the company had a booth and did the seminar. In addition, our major fire suppression competitor was there. The main reason we attended was “defensive”, so that folks did not think we were out of business.

We were pleasantly surprised in that we sold out of an admittedly limited inventory of most items. The profit did not pay for the trip, but it sure helped.

When we finally made the decision to make this trip, we said that we were going to be tourists as well as vendors. In this post and at least one additional post, we will detail some of the fun things that we have done.

One of the thing we wondered about was what it would be like to travel without our bus. Most bus conversion folks call themselves “Bus Nuts”. Indeed, there are various organizations with that phrase as a part of their title. What would it be like to travel like “normal folks”?

Well, we can tell you that we really miss the old girl!!! Bus folks often say that traveling in a bus is the most economical way to travel. Tonight we went over some preliminary numbers and it looks like this trip cost about twice as much as it would in the bus. Certainly the fuel is much less, but motels and meals really add up!

Speaking of motels, we have had some experiences! We decided to try “lower cost” motels when possible. We have stayed in several Super 8 motels with mixed results. The difference in cost between the Super 8s and Holiday Inn Express (our favorite) is $30-40 per night. Some of the Super 8 motels were just plain bad. The so called “Super Start” breakfasts were a joke. In many cases we had to stop and get something with a bit of protein and that offset our “savings”. A couple seem to be less than sparking clean. Another hotel we stopped at in Greenville, OH had a nice enough room, but the Internet connection was terrible. The night clerk told us it was something with our computers. However, we found the room where the router was and had them let us work in that room – no further problems. Tonight we are at the Russell's Inn, a hotel that has seen better days. The room is OK, but we have seen several bugs that we hope are not cockroaches.

Speaking of Greenville, OH, that is where my dad was born. We decided to spend quite a bit of time doing genealogy research and we hit the jackpot. More in the next blog.

On Sunday 7/26, we toured the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH ( This should be on everyone's must do list. I had on my pedometer and it said I walked 4.7 miles. I am not sure how calibrated the unit is, but I suspect it is close. There are four huge hanger type buildings with at least 100 planes, many of which are one of a kind experimental planes. A separate hanger has 9 presidential planes including 4 that you can tour. One is the retired Air Force One (a Boeing 707) that carried Kennedy's body home and where Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. The facility also has a great IMAX theater and we took in two great movies.

That evening we were completely worn out and only drove a short distance to Richmond IN.

While we will be home tomorrow, I will try to finish catching up with another post (hopefully in the next few days).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hello from Boonville, MO

Monday evening July 27, 2009 (third travelogue of this trip)

We are at a Super 8 hotel in this fun little town. We have stayed here a few times, but we were always in the bus and stayed in the parking lot of the Isle of Capri Casino.

I feel like a race horse trying to catch up on all that has happened since we started this interrupted trip. So let's start with the days leading up to this leg of the trip. As I noted in the last blog, we had to return to Evergreen to work on the bus. I got the engine out and delivered it to the local Detroit Diesel Dealer on Tuesday (7/7). I discussed the terrible findings in our last post to this blog. For the next several days, we went through just about every emotion you can think of. We were dealing with what to do on the bus and trying to make a decision about the major FMCA rally in Bowling Green, OH.

We finally decided to drive to Bowling Green in one of our cars. We had paid for the booth and it would look bad to have an empty booth with our name on it.

We departed Evergreen Friday (7/17) at 7:00 AM with almost 1300 miles to cover in 3 days. Everything went well for the first 100 miles. We stopped at a rest stop and during the stop I got a call from a potential customer that was quite intriguing. I decided to start driving while still on the phone with the customer. After we got on the road, I hit the cruise control and the Durango seemed to struggle getting up to speed. I did not pay attention and kept talking to the customer. As it turns out, I had the transmission selector in probably second gear and when I looked down the engine was quite a ways into the red region on the tach. I knew that was not good. We made it another 20 miles and the engine started knocking. We called AAA and had them pick us up on a wrecker. We got the Durango back to the house about 2:00 PM and quickly packed the PT Cruiser with a downsized load and left at 2:45. By this time we were completely numb, but determined to not let a silly thing like blowing up an engine stop us.

That night we make it to North Platte, NE and stayed in a Super 8 motel. Plain ,but it did not matter. This seemed a bit strange to us, since we often stop in North Platte and stay at the Wal Mart in the bus (great parking).

The next day we drove to Davenport, IA and again stayed in a Super 8. We had a great time, as there was a huge car show at the local mall. We even had a great dinner at a local restaurant.

We made it to Bowling Green in the late afternoon on Sunday (7/19 my birthday). We had reservations at what turned out to be the “hotel from hell”. The two rooms they tried to put us in did not have the fridge and microwave we asked for and were very dirty. I don't think many of the “guests” spoke English. We quickly got on the phone with the Holiday Inn folks and found a great Holiday Inn Express in Perrysburg, OH (map), about 15 miles from Bowling Green. Pat negotiated a pretty good rate and we crashed for the night.

I will stop here and we will continue to try to catch up in the next few posts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello From Greenville, OH

Hello from Greenville, OH

Saturday evening July 25, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

I am calling this the second travelogue in spite of the fact that we had to detour home and deal with the engine problems in the bus.

This travelogue will be rather short and is intended to let you know that we have survived some rather traumatic issues with our vehicles (yes plural) in the last month. It will take me several blogs to catch up on all that has happened this month. I have not had the time or inclination to do any posting in the past few weeks. As you read this blog and the ones that will follow, you will begin to see why our heads are spinning like tops.

The Fleetwood rally turned out to be a very good rally for us in terms of sales. By most standards it was a small to medium rally (415 coaches) and a small number of vendors (34). I think many of the vendors did reasonably well, which is a hopeful sign that the economy has bottomed out. This was a Fleetwood sponsored rally which almost did not happen. Fleetwood filed chapter 11 and the courts had to approve the expense of the rally. They now are in the final stages of being purchased by a holding company that seems to have their best interest at heart (an all to often false statement). In any case, the Fleetwood folks seemed upbeat as did most of the attendees.

In our last blog I mentioned our engine problems in the bus. We got the bus home without a problem, arriving there on Friday (7/3). Over the next 3 ½ days I removed the engine and took it to the Detroit Diesel Dealer. The results of the engine tear down can be seen at: The quote was over $15K. We do not have that kind of money, so we have been scrambling to find acceptable alternatives. More in another blog.

We drove our car to Ohio for a major FMCA rally. In the process we destroyed the engine in our Durango. We then went back home and loaded the PT Cruiser and headed out again. The rally turned out to be a good one for us. More in another blog (detect a theme here?)

We are currently at the Greenville Inn (map). We stopped here to do some genealogy research. We hit the jackpot with some great information (more later).

Well, that is all that I have energy for right now. I will try to fill in all the holes in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hello from Gillette, WY

Hello from Gillette, WY

Wednesday afternoon July 1, 2009 (First travelogue of this trip)

We are at the Fleetwood Factory Rally at the Cam-Plex facility (map). Actually the rally ended yesterday.

For the past several days we have felt like a yo-yo with some pretty significant ups and downs. As you read this belated blog, you will see why we are mentally drained and “wiped out”.

First, let's catch up on our travels. When we last posted it was May 22nd and we were on our way home from a couple of rallies in Goshen, IN. Since then we had a family vacation in Dillon, CO from 6/12 to 6/20. We had a ball! During the week, all three of the girls and their families were with us in a couple of condos plus one daughter's family town house. Very relaxing and lots of quality time with the eight grandkids. We usually have the family week in our various campers at a campground, but this was a fun alternative.

For this trip we left on Wednesday 6/24. It is less than 400 miles to Gillette, but we planned to do the trip in two days. We stopped in Douglas, WY. We had planned to stay in a campground since it was pretty warm, but the one we could find was full. We pulled off onto a circle road for an area that was not yet developed. We were not sure if we would be asked to move, but we had a peaceful night. The next morning, a sheriff stopped by and asked if we were OK and then drove off.

We got to Gillette on Thursday and got settled in. Friday afternoon we set up for the show. We had a very good show. I did two seminars and Pat did two craft classes. I was busy the whole show and really did not get to “relax”. Booth traffic always comes in waves and this time the waves were almost overwhelming at times. That is a good problem, but it still causes moments of anxiety when I have to leave the booth to make a customer call at the coach or fill extinguishers when customers are waiting in the booth.

Our plans for this trip were to travel to Ennis, MT for an Eagle bus rally and then on to Bowling Green, OH for the big FMCA rally and a converted coach pre-rally. Unfortunately most of that will not happen. That is the down part of the “yoyo”. Ever since I got the bus on the road, I have had to add some coolant every 1-3K miles. I figured that I had a very small leak somewhere. I recently installed a temporary catch bottle on the pressure relief valve outlet and discovered that the coolant was being forced out of the system. Worse yet, I discovered that the coolant was being turned gray in color. On this trip the problem has gotten worse. I am pretty sure that I have a head gasket issue. I went to the local Detroit Diesel repair shop and they concur. They were kind enough to give me an outrageous quote of $6K-8K!

I have had a few moments during our stay here to think about our problem, post my problem on the various bus bulletin boards and make several calls. I have gotten some good input and this has helped me form a couple of optional plans.

For sure we have canceled the Eagle and Converted Coach rallies. They would have been great fun, but we were not going as vendors, so we would not be loosing sales. The FMCA rally is troublesome. We will probably not be able to get our vendor fees back. We are looking at alternatives to get to that rally.

Today we are staying over at the Cam-Plex grounds and relaxing and catching up. Tomorrow we will head towards home. We will stop at a well known diesel repair shop to see how they might approach the job. In Gillette we had worked out a scheme to take out the rear window and pull the head with the engine in the bus. By removing the bed platform (easy) there is full access to the engine. Worse case, I can remove the engine and take it to a repair shop or do the work myself. I had the engine in and out several times during the conversion, so I know I could pull it in about 8 hours. I still have all the equipment necessary for the job.

I will probably make another post to this travelogue to let the readers know how we will approach the repair of the bus.

That is all for now.