Monday, June 29, 2009

Its good to be back in Mara

We arrived here about 5:30 on Saturday after an incredibly frustrating drive from Airdrie. Fortunately it was a good day for driving but the traffic was horrendous, there was construction around every second bend in the road and to top it all off there was an accident by the Lake Louise turnoff. That accident jammed up traffic so badly that we spent 1-1/2 hours travelling less than 6 km. It wasn't hot enough to need the air conditioner which was a good thing because Marilyn didn't have one in the cube van. When I tried running the genset in the bus (which would have let me run the AC) it shut down in about 15 miles for reasons as yet undetermined. I started it up again and then it seemed to be interfering with the tachometer so I eventually shut it down again. All in all not a great trip out here.

Sharon was surprised to see us on Saturday - apparently we hadn't reserved until Sunday but it didn't really matter because the place is almost empty. Its always that way until the Stampede starts. By the time Stampede week is over this place will be jammed but right now it is pleasantly quiet.

Yesterday Darrel & Tammy Ozmun from Nipawin arrived on their way to Vancouver Island. We spent the day on the water with them today and they will be on their way again tomorrow. Marlan is arriving tomorrow with one of his friends so we will have a busy week here. Gil and Larry are here with their kids again - we taught all of them to ski or wakeboard last year so they are anxious to get back on the water. Darlene & Don are supposed to be arriving on Thursday so Marilyn will have a berry picking partner.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lots of little projects behind us

We arrived at Al & Camiel's exactly a week ago and what a week it has been. I installed Jim Shepherd's temperature monitor system last weekend. On Monday I tried to install a 3 pole automatic transfer switch that I bought in Saskatoon. I got it installed but it was a crude affair and then once I had it in place it turned out that it didn't work. Not only that but it somehow affected our inverter to the point where I ended up taking the inverter out and taking it into Calgary for service. John determined that there was nothing wrong with the inverter but the transfer switch was definitely no good so off I went to Bucar RV for a new transfer switch.

On Tuesday I had a meeting in Red Deer. When I got back we tackled a messy job that neither of us wanted to tear into but both of us knew had to be done. For quite a while now we've known that the bathroom floor had "issues". We had tightened the toilet down a couple of times but each time it took less time before it started to flop around when we sat on it. Not a good feature in a toilet but what was more alarming was the odours that emanated from the toilet. It was becoming increasingly clear that we had a leak somewhere around the base where the toilet connected to the plumbing or the tank - we weren't 100% sure what the situation was. The stinky head came to a head a couple of weeks ago when we waited too long to dump the black tank and ended up backing the sewer up into the toilet bowl. That shouldn't have been a problem if the system was sealed but let's just say that it became apparent that the system was no longer completely sealed.

So Tuesday night we pulled the crapper out of the bathroom and then commenced ripping up the ceramic floor tiles. A couple of them around the toilet were already cracked and another one had cracked in front of the toilet which was just further confirmation that the floor beneath our feet was giving way. The tiles were pretty easy to lift where the floor was rotten immediately around the toilet but they were a serious challenge further out where the floor was still sound. We were pleasantly surprised once we got all the tiles lifted because while the floor was clearly in bad shape it wasn't so bad that we would need to completely replace it.

We ended up putting a layer of fibreglass cloth over the entire floor with double layers around the base of the toilet. I saturated the whole works in epoxy resin and let the resin flow to the low spots to fill up some of the areas that had rotted the worst. Once that had cured we poured about 3/8" of levelling compound over the whole floor which brought us back to roughly the level of the top of the tiles. On top of that we painted a rubber membrane. Then we layed vinyl flooring over the whole issue. Today Marilyn finished caulking the edges and I put the toilet back in it's place. Not bad for 4 days work.

I ended up making a rush trip back to Bucar RV today to get the gasket for where the toilet base connects to the floor. When I bought the transfer switch last Monday there was a girl at the parts counter who looked to be about 18. I wasn't wild about dealing with her but I couldn't find what I wanted so I asked her. She promptly trotted off to the back and returned with a 50 amp 3 pole transfer switch - just what I needed. So I wasn't nearly as nervous about asking her help today and she was just as efficient. We both looked directly at the gasket hanging on the wall but neither of us knew exactly what we were looking for so we didn't recognize it. She eventually found the part number online and matched it to the package on her wall. I have never had anything but excellent service from Bucar's and the two trips there this week were no exception.

Marilyn leaves for a return trip to McLean Lake tomorrow so I enlisted her help to pull the wire for the Trimetric monitor tonight. It looks to be a pretty straight forward install so I should have that done tomorrow night. I've been told that you shouldn't try to install solar panels without some kind of a battery monitoring system and that the Trimetric is the gold standard for those systems. We bought the parts while we were in Florida and had them shipped to Albuquerque. We've been tripping over them ever since so it will be good to have them off the floor and on the wall.

I got the oil changed in the cube van today - the genset is on the agenda for tomorrow. Then I have to crawl underneath the bus with a squirt bottle of soapy water looking for air leaks. And that should be the end of the list of little projects.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You think I could make this stuff up?

So we've got this woman in Nipawin who forwards our mail to wherever we may be. She picks it up once a week, sends us an email and if we think something might be important she will open it, scan it and email it to us. Otherwise I suppose it accumulates in a box in her kitchen and then after a month or so we send her an address and sometime later our mail arrives.

We knew we were heading to Airdrie and I had actually bought Jim Shepherd's temperature monitor and had him ship it here. So it was logical that we would also have our mail sent here. I gave our address as Bob Evans, c/o Growsafe Systems, etc. Alison had been very concerned that the shipment from RV Systems might not arrive unless it had both my name and Growsafe on the package so I was very explicit in my instructions to that effect.

When we arrived here Alison told us that we would have to go into town to the post office because they refused to leave our package here. Apparently Canada Post or the local carrier or some other busybody inside the post office took it upon themself to decide that I wasn't a "normal" recipient of mail at Growsafe and therefore they wouldn't leave the envelope. So we had this little claim form that we were supposed to take in, with ID, in order to pick up our mail. Bad enough so far but wait - it gets much worse.

Marilyn went in to pick up the mail. Of course she isn't an Evans so she knew that was going to complicate matters but she is so good to me and she knew I would likely stroke out on the spot if they did something stupid, which they immediately did. They wanted me to come in with ID that showed my name and Growsafe's address. Huh? WTF? I would have come unglued at that point but Marilyn stayed focused on the prize and asked them what other alternatives they had in mind.

We ended up with some official looking form that I had to sign that authorized Growsafe to pick up my mail. Then Marilyn and Lorry from Growsafe went in to the post office together, armed with the special form signed by me. That time they finally returned home with our mail. I really didn't think they would succeed and had already decided that I was going to go to the cops and tell them that someone had stolen our mail. And then make it up on the fly depending on where the conversation went. I was almost looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A very dangerous fool

The world is awash in fools but fortunately most of them are nobodies. You see them every day, you walk by most of them, occasionally you have a meaningless conversation with one. Sometimes you even have to do business with one.

Once in a while though a really stupid person attains a position of power and that is what has happened to the US right now. If you actually listen to what Obama is saying the man either has a malicious anti-western agenda or he is just too stupid to understand the implications of his actions. I have always believed that stupidity explains more than malice so I am giving the idiot the benefit of the doubt but that doesn't make his pronouncements any less dangerous.

Westward bound

On Thursday I had a meeting west of Moose Jaw and then drove up to Saskatoon to meet Marilyn. She arrived that night on the plane from McLean Lake and we spent the night on the Husky parking lot. We left Saskatoon Friday morning with all our worldly possessions on wheels. The famous cubevan appears to be running well. It sucks a bit going uphill but it is pushing a lot of wind and dragging a relatively heavy boat so that is not too surprising. Not to mention that its engine is getting pretty tired.

On Friday we met Marlan in Medicine Hat for supper and delivered father's dresser. Marlan has a good selection of mom & dad's furniture now. I was glad to get the dresser unloaded off the truck. I had it well wrapped and protected but I was worried about it getting wet if we drove in rain and it looked weird on the truck. I had it double wrapped - blue tarp and then a white bedsheet. For some reason it ended up reminding people of a coffin loaded on the truck. I thought it was maybe just me but a couple of other people commented on it too.

Yesterday we came the rest of the way to Airdrie and camped in Alison and Camiel's front yard. They are trying to sell the 2nd house on the acreage so I'm a little concerned that we aren't exactly enhancing the value of the property but they claim it doesn't matter. I think they are just being nice so we won't stay too long. I've got a bunch of work that needs to be done on the bus and Marilyn has to make a trip back to McLean Lake before we can leave for Mara.

My battle with the generator has continued. Last week in Regina it was shutting itself down as if it had no oil pressure. It would run for about 15 seconds after it started and then kill itself. It has done that before but I thought I had solved it by cleaning the various wire connectors inside its guts. Now I'm not so sure that it is a connector problem and I am leaning toward blaming a bad pressure sender. It seems that it only is a problem if the generator hasn't been used for several days. Once it has been started a few times and then allowed to sit for a while it appears to cure itself. I hate electrical gremlins like that because they are so incredibly difficult to troubleshoot. After it decided to stay running it developed another problem. The previous owner of the bus installed an auxiliary fuel filter on the line to the genset. On the surface that is a good idea but like a lot of things that Clarence did the idea is sound but the implementation was flawed. He put the filter on the suction side of the auxiliary fuel pump that he also installed. Then he mounted the whole works about 10 feet away from the fuel tank. That means that the vane fuel pump has to pull a vacuum through the filter and then through 10 feet of hose back to the fuel tank. Right now I have the auxiliary fuel filter disconnected but as soon as I can find a replacement cartridge for it I will hook it up again except this time it will be on the output side of the pump. There is a filter on the genset which Kubota obviously thought was sufficient so I'm not too worried about running it without the auxiliary filter.

I had one of Jim Shepherd's temperature monitors shipped to us here at Airdrie. My new plywood generator enclosure is very close to the exhaust manifold on the engine. I've got it heat shielded but I still worry about it. The generator compartment is a concern too now that I have it well enclosed the temperatures inside there could get pretty high. The big risk with an RV is that you get a fire while you are going down the road. With high airflow feeding the fire by the time we were aware that we were on fire it could be too late. Typically that is what happens - by the time the owners are aware that they are on fire all they can do is stop the rig, bail out and watch it burn to the ground. Now I need to run some wire the length of the bus and get the monitor installed. We have basement air (like a home airconditioning system) so we need to run the generator while we are travelling in order to have AC. It looks like it might finally warm up enough to need AC when we head west from here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Madly off in all directions

Yesterday Marilyn went north and I went south. We didn't have a big fight or anything, its just the way it worked out.

Right now she is living in some kind of a camp shack at McLean Lake. Father says she's in the arctic but its not quite that far away, although it might as well be. She can't get out until the plane comes for her and I can't get in under any circumstances. Meanwhile I'm in Regina at King's Acres on the west side of the city. My first real job was right next door but the business I worked for is long gone. This campground was called Holiday Wheels at that time and we used to get occasional customers wandering over from the campground. I think the guy I worked for actually owned the campground but the business that I worked in was a trailer sales agency. I started out as a goof in the shop and stuck around long enough to be the only goof left in the shop. Not that I actually worked for Bernie for that long - he just had high turnover in his shop. He likely didn't pay us enough to keep anybody that was any good interested for any length of time. But like I said - I stuck around.

I'm down here to clean up some of the mess that was created when Vic Park decided they couldn't handle father's care any longer. Now he's stuck in the morass that is Saskatchewan's "healthcare system." I was talking to Brad Farquar this afternoon and commented on how frustrating it is to deal with the socialist healthcare system. He said "you get what you pay for" and that's true in the sense that it doesn't immediately cost us anything to access the system. I'm convinced however that we pay dearly for our broken system both in taxes and in frustrated access.

Meanwhile father is stuck in limbo between the hospital and the long term care facilities. They have the audacity to charge him for the exact same bed he would be in if he tipped over and bashed his head. They don't do one iota more for him but they expect him to pay as if he was fully into the so-called care system and nobody - I mean NOBODY - will even hazard a guess as to how long he may stay in this twilight zone. One thing's for damn sure - in Tommy Douglas's healthcare nirvana nobody gives a damn and everyone goes home at 4:30. Makes me proud to be a taxpayer.