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|Wednesday, June 29th, 2016|
|Oregon Scenic Byways
Today we took a route I've never traveled north of Alturas. Instead of taking CA-299 west to CA-139 toward Klamath Falls, we continued north on US-395 to Lakeview. Lisa did nearly all of the driving, and therefore I took lots of photos. Click through any of these photos to see more on Flickr.
As we were leaving Alturas, I saw a deer by the side of the paralleling railroad; however, I did not get a picture of it. It wasn't the last deer I'd see today, either.( Oregon End of the NCOCollapse )
I took a fair number of snaps of the view from the minivan, as the scenery changed from twisting canyons to mountain meadows.( Mountains and ValleysCollapse )
We stopped in Bend to check out the military surplus store there from which Lisa has obtained numerous useful things in the past. (Unfortunately, it appears that most of what they now sell is Made in China.) We continued on to Redmond and had at late lunch/early dinner at the Black Bear Diner, picking up another stamp in my Black Bear "passport." (You get one stamp for each new Black Bear you visit. After the 4th and 6th visits you get a prize, and then every 10th visit thereafter. Redmond was my 16th BBD as I work my way toward completing Level 3 in their program.)( To the Crooked RiverCollapse )
Because we left Alturas three hours earlier than our originally generous schedule called for, we had lots of time to stop and look at things. Consequently, we arrived at our hotel in Madras (the EconoLodge; we could probably have done better, but it's relatively cheap) at almost the exact time of our original schedule.
Tomorrow looks to be a pretty easy drive to Portland. Current Mood: cheerful
|Tuesday, June 28th, 2016|
|Westercon Trip Day 1: Surprise Train in Alturas
Having been pretty well organized, including going through the written checklist we have for securing Fernley House for when we leave for a road trip like this, we got away at 2 PM, an hour earlier than I expected. We grabbed lunch at the In-N-Out drive-through in Sparks (where they seemed to have great difficulty understanding "I want a #3 combo, plain burger, plus an extra plain hamburger"), then turned north on US-395. Despite getting stuck behind slow-moving traffic a few times, our progress was good. Lisa drove while I read from recent issues of RAIL
We stopped only once after leaving Reno/Sparks, that being at the Honey Lake rest area, and we had to take the stop in turns, because due to the annoying heat-related issue with the Astro, if we turn off the engine when it's hot, we need to wait at least 30 minutes to let it cool down sufficiently to restart. My mechanic is at a loss to understand it. It's definitely heat-related, as we didn't have any such problems during our winter road trip to Texas.( Train Spotting in AlturasCollapse )
After our bout of surprise rail enthusiasm, we went to the hotel and walked across the street to the Rite-Aid where we bought some microwave meals and milk. We thought of going out to dinner tonight, but decided we'd be happier if we just laid up in our comfortable (and cool) hotel room than going back out in the high-30°C heat. Current Mood: cheerful
|Almost Ready to Roll
We packed most of the Match Game
gear and much of our traveling kit into the Astro last night when it wasn't so hot. Lisa is very good at packing the vehicles. Things that are heat-sensitive or very obviously valuable we'll put in just before we go. We're mostly ready to go except for our "hand baggage" and the fact that I'm still at work for a while. When I'm released (I hope no later than 2 PM), we'll finish packing and hit the road for Alturas, the first leg of our trip up to Portland and Westercon.
At least two banker's boxes are MGSF prizes, some of which are now sufficiently old that every
contestant is going to get one, win or lose, until they're gone. This will (we hope) make the return trip lighter.
This time we remembered the MGSF banners. We've forgotten them in the past, which is annoying. And now we have nice permanent vinyl banners, thanks to Sasquan who made them for us last year.
Looking at how difficult it was to fit everything into the minivan, Lisa said she's relieved we decided to not try and carry the show to Kansas City in August. Current Mood: optimistic
|Monday, June 27th, 2016|
This morning when I got up and went into the kitchen to start a cup of coffee, I heard a slight metallic clinking sound coming from the floor. Brief investigation narrowed it down to the non-lethal mouse trap. A mouse had found its way into the trap, could not get out, and was noisily trying to find a way out.( Mouse in the House no MoreCollapse )
I don't care what the mouse does as long as it does it away from the house. And given the number of feral cats around here, I wouldn't give the house mouse good odds for a long and happy life. Current Mood: accomplished
|Saturday, June 25th, 2016|
The seats in the Astro look and feel like seats in a van that has been on the road for 450,000 miles and 27 years.( Well Worn SeatsCollapse )
Having the seats completely reupholstered was not in our budget, but we went to a place called Motor Sheep
in Reno today, having ordered sheepskin seat covers from them a few weeks ago. We left the Astro with them this morning, went to the Peppermill for breakfast, and when we came back, we had much more comfortable seats, albeit that the original seats, warts and all, are still under these seat covers.( Kuma Bear Says, "This is comfies!"Collapse )
Yes, of course it would have been better overall to spend a lot more money to have the seats completely redone, but for $400 we now have significantly more comfortable seats, and with two long road trips ahead of us this summer, that's important. I wish we'd done this years ago. Current Mood: accomplished
|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
|Once More Home
With more than 50 hours logged this week by 11 AM today, I felt no shame in heading out the door and toward home. Because my mechanic didn't have time to fix the fuel-transfer switch and lines, I only have the 15-gallon forward fuel tank available, which doesn't last long when you only get 9 miles to the gallon. So I refueled in Fremont, then at Lodi Junction, then at Colfax, and finally in Fernley when I got home. Along the way, I stopped and looked in on my sister, but she was sound asleep and I did not want to awaken her. Around that time, Day Jobbe caught up with me (they do pay for my smartphone partially so they can do that), and due to heavy traffic east of Roseville, I made a virtue of necessity and stopped at Loomis, found a Starbucks, and did some work for an hour or so before working my way around the road-construction-caused slowdowns (I took old US-40) and resuming my homeward journey.
I'm really happy to be home, as usual. But there's a quick turnaround, because we leave for Portland on Tuesday afternoon after work, and there is much to do between now and then. Current Mood: tired
|Thursday, June 23rd, 2016|
|With a Little Help...
Thanks to Mark Evanier, I've been introduced to Sonny and his remarkable music videos where he sings multi-part songs with himself and others. This one appears to be the most elaborate such collaboration yet.( Getting By With...Collapse )
Among the many other videos to which the one above will lead you, he has an arrangement of "Seventy-Six Trombones" that is excellent (and apparently was really difficult to pull off, needing perfect coordination, according to Sonny's comments on the video). Current Mood: happy
|Monday, June 20th, 2016|
I decided to get ambitious on Sunday and walked roughly 10 km through the various trails of Shoreline Park in Mountain View.( Father"s Day in the ParkCollapse )
I'm sure the walking was good for me, but my legs are complaining about it today. Current Mood: cheerful
|Sunday, June 19th, 2016|
|A Walk in the Park
I tried to take it easy on Saturday, sleeping in (relatively speaking) and not rushing around. After lunch, I went over to Shoreline Park in Mountain View and walked about 5 km of their interpretive trails. Alas, it wasn't enough walking (or rather, I had too much lunch), as my blood sugar was up around 250 even with all of that walking. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the walk along the shoreline, and I will probably go do it again sometime. Current Mood: cheerful
|Saturday, June 18th, 2016|
Yesterday afternoon, I drove over to Fremont and paid for the repairs on the Rolling Stone
. Including rebuilding the rear brakes and replacing the rear leaf springs, the total cost came to more than $1800. But I feel confident that the work was done well and will last, and at an optimistic $100/night (net of taxes) for hotels, it's still nearly a break-even proposition for just the current two weeks I'm in the Bay Area.
A month from now, we'll get the RV back to Cory for him to try and fix the fuel-transfer valve. Current Mood: optimistic
|Thursday, June 16th, 2016|
The Rolling Stone
handles much better now that the rear springs have been replaced, and more importantly, the rear brakes have been completely rebuilt. (They were close to completely failing.) However, my mechanic did not have enough time to address the fuel transfer switch problem, so I'm still stuck with the smaller (15 gallon) fuel tank, which isn't a huge amount of range when you only get 9 miles to the gallon.
The original plan was to have Lisa come down next Friday to collect me again, as we did three weeks ago. However, working on various logistics leading up to Westercon (for which we leave a week from Tuesday), we concluded that this simply won't work. So I'll drive the RV home a week from Friday and back down after Westercon. This means extra fuel stops, but it can't be helped. Lisa will then come and collect me on a Friday so I can leave the RV with my mechanic for a week while he fixed the fuel issue, and I'll take the train down as I did last Sunday. I should then be able to drive the RV home with a full fuel load (meaning only one refueling necessary, and that at one of the most economical locations).
What this also means is that we won't be able to get the Astro in to Cory for him to do some other work the minivan needs any time soon. The driver's door needs some work, and my mechanic has the parts, but we don't have the right combination of weeks to make this work out. We should have started sooner. The issue isn't affecting the minivan being able to run. And nobody has been able to figure out how to fix the actual engine issue, which is that the van does not like to start when it it warm. During summer driving like the Kansas City trip, if we ever stop when the vehicle has warmed up, we need to allow at least half an hour for it to cool down sufficiently to restart. This imposes certain operational constraints, such as trying to always refuel at the start of the day. Current Mood: optimistic
|Tuesday, June 14th, 2016|
|Keep the Camera Handy
When possible, Lisa and I try to go see what's passing when we hear a train. Now most of the time it's something like a passing container train or one of the local freights, but one of the reasons we go looking when we can do so is that you never know what oddities you'll get. A few nights ago, I was late on the draw and was disappointed to miss the UP Business Train coming through. (And that's why there's no photo.)( But I did catch this locomotiveCollapse )
Yes, I know, webcam. Figuring out how to set it up has not been high on my list of priorities. Current Mood: sleepy
|Monday, June 13th, 2016|
|Red Sky Over Fernley
I forgot to post this one a few nights ago when Lisa and I headed out for a walk after dinner.( Dramatic Sunset SkyCollapse )
Hardly a day goes by that Lisa doesn't thank me for finding us a home here that doesn't make her feel so hemmed in by the narrow valley and gloom in Mehama. Current Mood: pleased
|Sunday, June 12th, 2016|
|Training My Way Back to the Bay
Lisa has been sleeping days and up nights this past week (in part as a reaction to the hot weather), so at the end of her day and the beginning of mine, she took me in to Reno to catch the train to the Bay Area, where I'll be working for the next two weeks.( Train TravelogueCollapse )
Because of the recovery time build into the schedule, the train was only about 30 minutes late into Emeryville. I was able to reclaim my checked bag, make my way over to the Emeryville Public Market (which is under a total renovation and thus only a few food stands were open), grab a meal to go, and get back over to the station with ten minutes to spare before the 5:35 Capitol
to Fremont arrived. That was a relief, because the train on which I was actually ticketed was almost two hours later, and I really didn't want to hang around Emeryville that long.
I ate my dinner on the Capitol
and in good time (early, actually; the train had to wait on its schedule time before departing) they deposited me in Fremont, at the Centerville station where I used to walk many evenings when I lived a couple of blocks away. In this case, I walked the other direction to my mechanic's shop, where by previous arrangement I collected the Rolling Stone
using Lisa's set of keys. The brakes have been completely rebuilt and the rear springs (which were sagging) replaced. He didn't have time to get to the fuel tank switch issue, so I'll have to leave it with him again when we go to Westercon and repeat the process of vehicle swapping with Lisa.
It was a good trip, and I enjoyed it. I'm sort of glad I'll have to do it again in a few weeks. Although I'm tired, it's not the same kind of tired as when I make the drive, and I do enjoy the train trip much more than driving the 300 miles. If it were a bit more convenient to do so, I'd be tempted to leave the RV in the Bay Area all the time and use the train to get back and forth between home and work stints. Current Mood: sleepy
|Saturday, June 11th, 2016|
|Power Up, The Extended Edition
We replaced the 100A master circuit breaker on Fernley House yesterday.( Lisa"s Experience With Old Electrical CircuitsCollapse )( The Replacement Breaker ArrivesCollapse )
With the replacement breaker in hand and several hours of daylight available, Lisa decided that we could try to replace the breaker on Friday evening. We shut down the computers, lights, and every other thing in the house except the refrigerator (which could take care of itself), and Lisa went out to the service box to face the challenge of working on a live electrical circuit.( Breaking the BreakerCollapse )
Removing the old breaker should have been as easy as pulling the old circuit breaker off the main service bus. But the old breaker was stuck, and getting a grip on it was very difficult. Remember that the main bus is live. You can't just reach in there and grab the circuit breaker any old way you want, not if you want to avoid accidentally touching that 120A power bus. When the old breaker refused to budge, you couldn't just reach in there with a metal pry-bar, not if you valued your life. And even if you didn't get fried, the box would possibly blow up if you short-circuited it, and that would have still left us in the soup.
I stood well back in case Lisa needed to jump clear, and I was wearing heavy gloves and a long-sleeve shirt in case I needed to try and pull her clear, which fortunately I did not. She used various wooden sticks to try and make the old breaker loosen its grip on the main service bar. Eventually she got it out, but at the expense of the breaker itself.( Breaker BrokeCollapse )
You would think that installing the replacement would be relatively easy compared to the hassle of getting the old breaker out of the box, but it was not the case.( Installing the Replacement BreakerCollapse )
After a long struggle with persuading the replacement to fit where it was needed, it was time to button things up and turn the power back on.( Re-Energizing the HouseCollapse )
So there we are. We now have 125A service (the maximum feed possible on our line from NV Energy), which is 25A more than we did have. We still have more than 125A worth of circuits on the box, and if we were to turn everything on all at once, we'd blow the main breaker; however, we don't expect to do that. Besides the fact that we were running several circuits simultaneously that we rarely run at once when we started popping the 100A breaker, Lisa still thinks that we were experiencing voltage sags from NV Energy, which caused the amperage to spike over 100A, popping the old breaker. Now we have 25% reserve against that happening again. Also, this replacement breaker, while used, appears to be in better condition than the one it replaced, so we have some hope that it will last until such time in the future as we save up sufficient money to undertake the expensive (~$10K) and time-consuming (possibly multiple days) work of replacing the main service box and getting a more modern power drop from our utility. Current Mood: happy
|Friday, June 10th, 2016|
The replacement 125A circuit breaker arrived yesterday and after much fussing, Lisa was able to install it. More details tomorrow. We had to run into Reno for errands (some more successful than others), and I'm coming off a 60-hour work week. Tomorrow I should have time to post all of the photos and write the full story. Current Mood: asleep
|Wednesday, June 8th, 2016|
|Attention to Detail
Today, I actually got to eat lunch, and then I rolled (on a hand cart) one of our propane bottles down to Hanneman Service to refill it. (Yes, we still use propane in warm weather, for cooking and now for operating the hot water heater in the travel trailer, in order to reduce our electric load.) While doing so, I actually paid attention to a sign in the window of a local Heating/AC business. ( Spot the MistakeCollapse )
Maybe I'm being picky, but it seems to me that if you make a spelling mistake like this on your signage, it suggests that you don't pay attention to details. When I hire someone to work on my plumbing, heating, or air conditioning, I want someone who wants to get the details right, because that means the work is likely to last. Maybe that's why we've been so happy with Marraccini Plumbing Heating & Cooling
and Steve-the-plumber who has worked so much on our house. Current Mood: amused
|Tuesday, June 7th, 2016|
|Pop Goes the Breaker
The main circuit breaker popped again this afternoon. It's not clear exactly what caused it to overdraw, although Lisa speculates that part of the problem is that the load of the various circuits is not evenly balanced across both "legs" of the 100A service. Also, with the warm weather this week, we've had the air conditioning in the trailer and many fans running in the main house including the large swamp cooler. We could be close to 90% of the total available on the breaker, and if NV Energy had any voltage sags due to too many people using too much equipment, it would cause the amps to spike and pop the breaker. In addition, the breaker itself may be wearing out.
As with last time, we let the main breaker cool off for a while, then reset it, and things came back to life. We're going to have to be even more careful budgeting our power draw. And while it's a $250 expense, we did order a replacement 125A master breaker (the maximum service we can have). Our plan is to install it but to not put in any more circuits, in the hope that this will give us more reserve. Someday we may actually put together the ~$8-10K it will take to replace our service with a more modern 200A service (most of the cost of which is what NVEnergy will charge us to drop a new line). Current Mood: annoyed
|Monday, June 6th, 2016|
|Not Enough Days
I've been sketching out our drive from Fernley to Kansas City. It's personally inconvenient to me that Worldcon runs Wednesday-Sunday this year. It means having to really stretch and drive hard by our standards on the eastbound run, as we'll only have four nights to travel the roughly 1600 miles in order to arrive in KC on Tuesday night, when our hotel reservation starts. Now I know some folks don't consider 400 miles/day much of a stretch, but we'd like to be able to stop and look at things along the way. We have considerably more leeway going back home, inasmuch as I have the entire two weeks off and thus six nights to drive home. If Worldcon were on the increasingly-less-traditional dates, we'd have five days each direction.
An additional constraint is trying to schedule around where there are Holiday Inn Express hotels, inasmuch as I intend on using a lot of hotel points and staying on them as often as possible, and using the amenities. For example, I would expect that we would do laundry on the final road night before heading in to KC and on the first or second night out of KC on the way home. Also, we need to consider how early I can get off work on the Friday at the start of the trip and how far we can make it across Nevada. I-80 is a long, fast (legally so), relatively boring highway with relatively little to stop and see that we haven't already done on previous trips. Ideally we'd get all the way to Wendover if possible, but we'll settle for Elko if we must. What we won't do is stop in Wells again, thanks to a bad experience on a previous trip.
In any event, I have a draft outbound plan in place, and Lisa will need to review it and give me feedback. She has more experience of these long cross-country trips than I do. Current Mood: optimistic
|Sunday, June 5th, 2016|
|Wrestling With Camera Drivers
We spent several hours today working to get the Dell laptop we plan to use for uploading this year's WSFS Business Meeting videos after they come off of Lisa's Panasonic AG-HPX300P camera. I have unkind things to say about the driver software and documentation, and in fact, we didn't get everything we wanted.( Getting the Dell to Read PC CardsCollapse )
Getting the P2 card driver installed turned out to be the easy part. The camera and my computer both have FireWire (1394) ports. It seems like we should be able to use that to either transfer files quickly, or even better, stream the recording straight from the camera to my computer.( No Joy With the FireWire ConnectionsCollapse )
Unfortunately, even after getting the driver installed, none of the software from Panasonic can see video on the camera. It's possible that some expert at using Panasonic P2 series cameras knows how to make this actually happen (in which case please contact me), but after about five hours of fuss, we gave up. Swapping P2 cards back and forth works, and is relatively easy to do. I'd love to be able to record what was coming off the camera directly onto my computer, but we can make this work. One bad part is that because we'll probably only have two usable P2 cards that we'll have to keep re-using, it's critical that I make multiple backups of the video files, not just on my computer, but on an outboard hard drive. After all, there's no way to go back and re-shoot anything. Current Mood: tired