Sunday, April 30, 2017

Land Between the Oceans

Starting with the Pacific ocean near Laguna, we would be going straight across the USA on highway 40. I started taking little snippets of video every so often, just so I could put together these videos (using Google Photos of course!)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Radiator Springs

Have you seen the animated movie "Cars?" We had not. We had no clue that we were in the town that inspired Radiator City. Yes - Seligman Arizona IS Radiator Springs.

We discovered this in the most obvious of ways ... NOT.

So, here we are parked in the lot of the Diesel Repair shop for several days. We had a great Verizon signal so we made it a point to join our online Toastmasters meeting on Monday evening. This is a new club, we are charter members. Since it is online, people can participate from anywhere. There are several members from Australia, a few from Florida, Michigan, UK, Bonaire, and even Singapore. When we joined the conversation and told them that we were in Seligman, AZ, Graham - an Australian - spoke up and said he spent some time there! He vacationed on route 66, loves the movie Cars, and told us the whole story about how Seligman was the inspiration for the movie's location of Radiator Springs!

We had no idea! But, based on that conversation we found the movie on Amazon and downloaded it to watch while we were there! What fun. I now understand why he liked it so much.

And, guess what the main work we had done while there?  We had our radiator replaced.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Grand Canyon and Photos

We had planned to be somewhere in New Mexico, settled in an RV park with good Internet connections so we could live-stream our “What Does This Button Do?” show on Sunday (4/16) but the RV had other plans. The fan broke in the engine compartment with a loud BANG, then proceeded to punch holes in the radiator, shroud, and hoses. Coolant drained out and the engine shut down, leaving us on the side of I-40 waiting for a tow. Luckily a repair facility was not far away. Unluckily, parts would need to come from far away, and it was a holiday (Easter) weekend, nothing could be done for 3 days.

With all these lemons thrown at us, we had the opportunity to make some pretty delicious lemonade. You see, the repair facility is in a town called Seligman, Arizona, just about 40 miles from Williams where the train leaves to take you to the Grand Canyon. We have been to the Grand Canyon before, but it’s been on our bucket list to take that train and stay overnight in the Canyon at the El Tovar hotel. Most people make reservations for the El Tovar up to a year in advance. We called on Friday and they had a room for us on Saturday! Our towed vehicle was just fine, so getting to Williams was not a problem.

There was actually enough Verizon signal at the rim (barely), that we were able to do a few minutes of live streaming from Youtube.

Photo and Video Opportunities

Having SO many beautiful sights gave us opportunities to exercise everything we know about taking photos and videos! Four things stand out:
  1. Dawn and Dusk are the Best!
  2. HDR almost makes the picture as awesome as reality
  3. Smartphones have some amazing settings and modes
  4. Taking pictures is one thing, Making pictures is even better

Dawn and Dusk are the best!

We would not want to visit the canyon without being there at dawn and dusk. We even got up at 5:30 am to get our shots! That’s ok, the restaurant had no line for breakfast at 6:30 – any other time there was at least a 30 minute wait.
Photo taken mid-day Same scene at dawn
image image

HDR almost makes the picture as awesome as reality.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s been in the professional photographer’s toolbox for a long time. But they had to take several pictures of the same scene then put them together with post-processing tools in order to create a composite photo that combines all the individual photos and exposures. With smartphones today, all that processing can be done right in camera app on your phone!

The 3 photos above were taken with my Canon T3i digital SLR camera using the Auto Exposure bracketing feature. I hold down on the shutter and it takes 1. over exposed, 2. normal exposure and 3. underexposed. I don’t like any of those three photos, they’re so bland. After uploading to Google photos, it notices these 3 shots in a row and automatically combines them into an HDR like that below. If you are a Geeks on Tour member, here is a tutorial video on making HDRs using 3 separate exposures.

Here is an HDR photo just as it was snapped from my phone, using the Pro HDR app.

Play with all the different options on your phone’s camera app.

Example, if you have a mode called “Virtual Tour” or “Photosphere” give it a shot. For Geeks on Tour members, here is a tutorial video on making photospheres. Try clicking on this picture and moving it around – there’s a lot more to it!

“Taking” pictures and “Making” pictures

Of course, you want to take the best pictures you can, but with today’s editing tools, you will be amazed at the pictures you can “Make” afterwards. We now consider our original photo as a starting point! Using Google Photos, and the companion Snapseed app, you can have so much fun just improving the photos with a couple taps on your phone.
Take this photo to Make this photo
image Google Photos: crop, auto, pop
image Snapseed: HDR Scape
image Snapseed: crop, HDR Scape, Text


Smartphones are great video cameras! Just take 20 seconds of video occasionally and you’ll be glad you did. Then you can put together cool little movies with just a couple clicks using Google Photos.
  1. Select the photos and video clips you want included in your movie
  2. Click the + in the upper right and choose Movie
  3. Google Photos will automatically add music

If you are a Geeks on Tour member, here is a tutorial video about options for  making movies with Google Photos on Android.

Grand Canyon Photo Album.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Laguna Woods computer club

There's just nothing like being there for real. John Huber of the laguna woods computer club is a regular viewer of our"Button Show" He also Aryans for us to do a remote seminar with his group last year. So when we knew we were going to be within a day's drive (Yuma) we agreed to do a seminar in person. 

We found an elks Lodge nearby at Mission Viejo. No hookups, but a nice quiet parking lot and a very friendly bar!

John and his wife took us out to dinner before the meeting and showed us around laguna woods village. It's quite the active senior community. Along the lines of the villages in Florida..

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The need for green

As I write this, it is actually may 19 (I pre-dated the post) and we're sitting in the airport in Dusseldorf Germany. I am so far behind on the blog that I have to do a quick recap now so I can pick up with our current travels.

After the FMA rally in Yuma, we traveled to Laguna woods California where we were booked to drop a Google photos seminar for the computer club. 

Crossing the California state line and we were still in the desert. Major sand dunes in this area. Then we started climbing, and soon we saw green. What a welcome sight! After many years of drought, California has had record rainfall. We're we're so glad to be out of the desert.

Ron and Ruth
First stop was to visit Ron and Ruth who live in Carlsbad. That's in between San Diego and  Los Angeles. We stayed at the same elks Lodge where we've been before in Oceanside. We left early to give us time to set the ocean before meeting them for dinner. 

Took a nice walk on the pier and met a character. She insisted on trailing our picture so we also took hers. Conversation revealed that she belongs to a writer's group with a blog called summerlin writers workshop. Cool.

We met up with Ron and Ruth at a local restaurant and had a great time catching up. Ron is still surfing! And Ruth is painting her beautiful artwork. We saw them last in LBI for a high school reunion of Jim's.

The next day we drove in the other direction to meet up with Andy and Diane who moved to California from Colorado about a year ago. We met up with them and their daughter, Elizabeth in San Juan Capistrano. It was an afternoon date. We went to a playground so Elizabeth could practice her ninja warrior moves, then we walked around the town.

On the drive back, we found a funky, wonderful, place to stop for dinner-nomads canteen in San Clemente. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Yuma and the Fleetwood Rally

This was the last of our Arizona rallies, and it was great. Smaller than the other ones, about 120 RVs were registered. We really like this size, it's big enough to have lots of energy in the seminars, but small enough to allow time for one-on-ones during the rally.

This is what I (Chris) really like to do. Sit down with someone who has questions about their smartphone and work with them and their phone, one on one. We print up a sign-up sheet for 30 minute time slots for free. Sometimes two people get together, but we're still talking personal attention and their phones in their hands. Hands-on. That's the way you really learn.

And, we learn too! We had a couple of people who had forgotten the passwords to their main account - the one that is necessary in order to get new Apps, or make major changes to your settings. One was on an iPhone and the other an Android. Neither Jim nor I have ever had to go thru this on our own phones, so helping others taught us a lot. We ended up thinking it was such an important thing to know that we made our next "What Does This Button Do" show about it:

They also had some great fun at this rally. Jim got out the drone to capture the golf cart rodeo. Sweet!

Monday, April 03, 2017

We’re Selling our Motorhome

We now have a townhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We might stay there for just one or two months in a year, or we might stay there for 9 –10 months. In any case, we don’t need a motorhome as big as the one we have now. We aren’t Full Time any more. We don’t carry everything we own with us.

We’ve always liked the Roadtrek style of camper van, and that’s what we plan to buy. With that, we could park it in a car space at the townhouse and use it as a second car. We might even go for short weekend jaunts around Florida. We would still travel to the big rallies wherever they may be. I’m sure we will find the space for our necessary laptops, phones and tablets. Another perk of technology getting smaller and smaller. Spending a few days with my friend, Melinda with her Roadtrek 210 Popular convinced us that it can be done. We felt very comfortable in her rig.

We have loved our Gulfstream Endura. I have never seen a floorplan more conducive to fulltime RV living. The minute we stepped foot in this rig in we wanted to live in it. It is unique in that there is a bulkhead right in the middle. This is not a ‘bowling alley’ like most motorhomes. There are 3 distinct living areas: Living room, kitchen/dining (aka Chris’ office) and bedroom. Here is the floorplan as diagramed in the original brochure. Here is a photo album from the dealer when we bought it.
We didn’t care for the free standing table/chairs in the dining area or the two chairs in the living room. We knew about a place in Napanee, IN where they made custom furniture for RVs. They were highly recommended by our friend Nick Russell and his RVing blog. We planned to get a custom dining room and desk for Jim, we didn’t know about the window sill for the window by the couch. We liked that the best! A place to put your cup of coffee or glass of wine while sitting on the couch. We say that we spent $3,000 on that very special window sill and the dining room table/cabinetry and Jim’s desk were thrown in!
Here are lots of pictures from when that custom furniture was installed.

It’s a Super C

A class C motorhome is characterized by the cab over space. Our first motorhome had that and we loved it. It’s flexible space. It can be a bedroom for taking the grandkids on a trip. Or it can be a reading room, or it can be storage. Isn’t that what most guest bedrooms turn into? A store room. This one is a bit different however, because it’s big. And it’s a diesel engine. The chassis is a Chevrolet Kodiak chassis. It’s well known for dump trucks, and other medium duty truck applications. We really like how easy it is to service with the front engine.
We bought it and moved in April 2011.The engine has performed flawlessly for the 6 years we’ve had it. Once, it went into “limp” mode and we thought something was drastically wrong, but we made it to a Chevy dealer and they discovered it was just a loose wire that was sending the wrong signal to the diagnostic system and put it into limp mode. One other time we had a weird problem with the fuel filter which made it unable to start after we stopped at a highway rest area. We had to get towed to the nearest truck repair facility and they put in a new fuel filter and sent us on our way.
We put 6 new tires on it in March 2015.

One problem that we have not been able to fix is the bedroom side slide. We’ve tried at 3 different repair facilities. Our conclusion is that it is a bad design. It sits on two rails with two motors for moving it in and out. Those two rails get out of sync and the slide has problems. It no longer works by pressing the button inside. Jim found a way to purchase a device called a training pendant. The trainer is wired into the slide machinery from the outside and it has 2 buttons, one for each rail. One person needs to be outside operating the trainer, while the other is inside pushing to get it past the problem spot. Bringing it in is no problem – still using the trainer standing outside – but one person can do it. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s not much of a problem for us anymore, not sure how it will be for someone new.
motorhome value

Given a starting point of $70,000 – we add some value with our custom furniture, then we take away some value for the problem slide and the fact that we’ve been living in it and working it pretty hard for 6 years. There are several dings and cracks. We ripped out the carpet and have not replaced it with anything leaving raw wood in part of the bedroom and a portion of the living room. I think throw rugs cover it quite nicely!
We will ask $65,000 or best offer.
It has 75,000 miles on it. It gets 9-10 mpg.
Here are all the specs:

Here's a photo album where I will put photos of the rig inside and out, collected over the last 6 years.

We are currently in Arizona. We have one more stop west, between San Diego and L.A. then we head east. We’ll take I40 to our next destination, the SKP ACRE rally in Sevierville, TN. Then home. We expect to drive this rig back to Florida in May - then put it for sale on a lot, but just in case there’s the perfect buyer somewhere along our route, we figured we’d put the information out there now.

How about a Roadtrek owner who wants to upsize? We could do a trade. :-)