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Monday, August 9, 2021

What have we been up to?

 Since the last complete post was back in June of 2020, I guess that is a fair question.

Since we don't Facebook, Instagram, Tweet or any of those other things, I try and post here at least yearly now, so people will know what we have been up to.

For 2020 it was stay at home. The pandemic made the yearning for travel wain. So, we stayed home, got a new roof on the house, had a big tree in the backyard removed, and painted more of the inside of the house.

In November we made the pilgrimage to Yuma, AZ for the winter. Being careful not to go without a mask and wash our hands  every 20 minutes, we let our guard drop for a fraction of a minute and the end of November and first of December 2020, we both tested positive for Covid-19. It seemed like the usual sinus infection that we normally come down with, but a little worse. It lasted for about 7- 10 days. 

So, no eating out - except outdoor seating at In & Out Burgers. Everything else was delivery (Walmart, Amazon and the like) or take out (curbside pickup).

So, that is 2020 in a very small nutshell.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Home Office Project

When we arrived home from our winter stay in Yuma, the end of March 2020, we went into the Stay-At-Home order. No going out, no going to the ham radio club meetings, no going to the store. You remember what it was like.
Well, I kept busy. In November of 2019 we had new flooring installed in 80% of the house. That meant all the rooms got cleared out so the old floors could be removed and the new flooring put in.
New Vinyl plank flooring in Living Room
One of the things that we did during this process was to convert the family room into the craft/hobby room. The Home Office, which occupies the smallest of the three bedrooms also needed to have something done to it.
The Home Office contained three desks, a filing cabinet, and a movable printer stand. One of the desks was a large corner desk that contained a "library" type shelving unit. The room looked cramped. There never seemed to be enough room for everything. Including my ham radio equipment.
So, I took pen in hand (OK, a drawing program) and designed a large office workspace. The three desks would go away, the movable printer cart would go away, but we would gain a lot of additional workspace.
We would put nothing on the walls, with the exception of one cabinet to hold the modems, routers and the like to support the home network.
The first challenge was finding cabinets for the workspace support. Most cabinets are 33 to 36 inches tall as they have a "toe kick" area which raises them up. Plus, I wanted better quality then the "buy off the floor" cabinets at the big box stores.
Google came through. I found a place called The Cabinet Authority. They sell cabinets for a manufacturer called Conestoga Wood Specialties. Conestoga has a manufacturing facility on the east and west sides of the US. What made them even more appealing is that the cabinets would be custom "built" but not assembled. Each cabinet would come "flat packed" on pallets. The only thing assembled would be the drawer boxes and the sliding trays.
After several phone calls to The Cabinet Authority to get the cabinet order correct, including which cabinet ends would be exposed, the type of wood, the style of cabinet doors and drawer fronts, the order was placed.
The cabinets arrived on a FedEx Home delivery truck about three weeks after the order. Indeed they were in flat boxes on pallets.
Flat packed and tied to pallets. Four pallets in all.
I had rounded up some help to unload, but FedEx sent a lift gate truck and a pallet jack, so the unloading process was pretty quick.
Once the floor was complete, we moved as much as we could back into the house and then left to Yuma for the winter.
Upon return from Yuma, I moved more things into the house and rearranged things in the garage so I had a place to work. I opened one box at a time and was astonished at the quality of the craftsmanship and material. Each box came with an inventory list and directions specific for that particular cabinet. I have to admit that I did not find the specific directions until after they were all complete, instead relying on the generic assembly instructions that are on The Cabinet Authority web site.
On the whole the cabinets assembled easily. One of the things that I had ordered was full extension, soft close drawer glides. These are manufactured by Blum, and install easily and work fantastically. To use these type of drawer glides, you do need to add a notch on each side the the drawer box in the back. Since I ordered the drawers with this specific glide, the drawer boxes already had the required notch.
When we ordered the cabinets, we ordered them made with paint grade Maple. The idea was to paint the cabinets and the work surface white before we installed them. After looking at the quality of the wood, painting was discarded in lieu of a clear gloss finish. You can order the cabinets pre-finished with your choice of paint, varnish, oil or the like.
During the assembly, I found it much easier to install the drawer glide supports on the interior back of the cabinet before assembling the back to the rest of the cabinet.It made things a lot easier when it came time to install the drawers.
Drawer Glide support attached to the back panel of the cabinet before assembly. The back panel was pre-drilled, making alignment/placement much easier.
The cabinets came in the basic pieces of the front frame, the sides, two support pieces for the top, the cabinet bottom and the back. The sides slide into a dove tail grove in the frame, the top support pieces slide into dove tail grove in the top, (one to the cabinet front, one to the cabinet rear), the bottom and back slide into similar type groves. Wood glue (I used Gorilla brand) is placed into the groves prior to assembly. The bottom is pinned or nailed (I used 18ga x 1.25 long nails in an air nailer) to the sides, and the back is also nailed to each side. If the side is not exposed you nail through the side, if the side is exposed you carefully angle nail from the back into the side. No nailing into the front frame.
Once I had the cabinet boxes assembled, I finished them with a minimum of four coats of Varathane or MinWax Gloss water base Polyurethane. The inside surfaces of the cabinets and the drawers come pre-finished with a clear coat. 
Finish applied waiting for final assembly
The drawer glides were installed. They simply slide onto the rear support and attach to the front frame with screws. 
The cabinet with the slide out trays is a little different in regards to the mounting of the drawer glides. Instead of mounting the glides front and rear, the glides mount on a .75x1.25 inch rail. The cabinet has in each of the four corners a vertical with notches spaced one inch apart. 
Verticals in cabinet corners
This allows you to easily change the height of the tray or drawer, by simply moving the rail to a different location.
Two rails installed. Note in these two photos, the drawer glide is NOT attached to the rail.

Completed cabinet with slide trays installed
The cabinet doors come pre-drilled for the hinges, you turn the door vertically to decide which way you want it to swing.
The Drawer fronts must also be installed to each drawer box. I laid a cabinet on its back, placed the drawer fronts in place on the cabinet where I though they should be (lots of measuring) Then traced the drawer opening on the inside of the drawer front. I used at least one roll of blue painters tape. I would applied the tape to the inside of the drawer face, then trace on the tape.
Drawer faces aligned.
I then laid the drawer front down with the interior surface up and aligned the drawer box to the outline of the opening. The drawer box cannot go on the bottom of the opening, so a a little trial and error was needed to find the proper location to place the drawer box on the drawer front. The drawer fronts were attached with 1.25 inch wood/construction screws. Drawer pulls would later be mounted with bolts going through the inside of the drawer box and through the drawer front.
Finished - with drawer pulls installed
The drawers fit on top of the drawer slides, and attach to the slide with a pre-drilled hole in the back of the drawer box on each side that slides onto a pin of the drawer glide. The front of the drawer is attached with a release/latch mechanism on both sides.
The orange devices are the drawer box front latches. Notice the notches on each side on the rear of the drawer box.
So, having the cabinet boxes built, the drawer glides installed and the drawer fronts installed on the drawer boxes, it was time to start installing them in the Home Office.
Putting cabinets in position
Once the cabinets were in the Home Office it was time to position them and make sure they were all level. This is when you find out how square the rooms in your house are and how level the floor is. I started with the first cabinet on the far right in the above photo. I got it level. I then put in the next cabinet set to the left. I got it level. I then checked between the two cabinets, (photo above), and found that the far right cabinet was 3/8 inch lower than the one to the left, but, individually they were both level. Checking the floor, sure enough, the floor was "crowned" in the center and sloped to the right. I shimmed the right cabinet up so it was level with the one to the left. What is next?
I positioned the cabinets on the left, leveled them to the cabinets on the right, and though some shimming was required, it was less that 1/4 inch. The initial layout was based on my design and measurements taken with the old desks in place. We wheeled the office chairs in and quickly found the the cabinets needed to be adjusted up to six inches to make everything work.
Now came the top. We looked at pre-made counter top, we looked at solid surface counter top and both were out of the price range for this project. We settled on using Maple 3/4 inch plywood. Now the hunt for that began. The biggest thing was I wanted then to cut the plywood to width, as I did not have the area to do that. Home Depot was the only place I could find that would cut it for me. So, off to Home Depot. Now this was middle of April and only a certain number of patrons could be allowed in at a time. I got there about 10AM and waited in line for 30 minutes. Then I could not find the product, even though it was listed as in stock on the web site. Finally a couple store employees assisted me and we found it still in the shipping bundle on the top of a rack in the lumber section. Then the wait for a fork lift, clearing a spot to put it, lots of wait time. I finally go my two sheets and asked if they would cut it. They initially said no. Then they said it would not be an accurate cut, it might be off by up to 1/4 inch. Fine cut it, I can't get it home in a 4x8 foot sheet. So, they agreed to cut it. It turned out to be 1/8 inch off.
Now this work surface was 10 feet long in one direction and nine feet long the other direction. The width was 28 inches. The cabinets are 24 inches deep, plus I set them away from the wall three inches to have a wiring chase. Width was fine, but length, I was going to need a splice and going into a corner I needed to have a joint.
I started by putting a couple coats of Polyurethane on each piece of plywood. Being water based, it dried quickly, so I was able to put on a couple coats a day. I sanded between each coat so I would have a smooth surface. I started by laying the work surface piece on the right hand cabinets (photo above). I knew it would be short as that was the 10 foot length. I squared it up and found that I had gaps more than 3/8 along the walls. Between the sheet rock and the "orange peel" finishing there of created a very uneven wall. I got it as tight as I could against the two walls, then laid the left hand piece of work surface on the cabinets, overlapping the right hand piece.

Left hand piece overlapping the right hand piece
Better view
The left hand piece fit tighter to the walls. Not as many or as wide gaps. I then marked the right hand piece for cutting. Moving these pieces of plywood in and out of the Home Office was challenging as I could not watch both ends at the same time. Some minor wall damage may have occurred.
I cut the right hand piece, test fit it, took it out, trimmed some, test fit, trim, test fit. You know the cycle. Since I had a joint, I needed to put not only a splice in, but I needed a support. I did not want a joint that would sag if it had weight on it. I was going to put a leg under it when it was suggested that I just brace the joint to the wall.
Splice point with brace to wall (to be added)
I then installed the right hand piece of plywood work surface. I attached the brace and splice to the underside of the work surface with wood glue and 1.24 inch wood/construction screws.
I notched the right hand piece of work surface for a cable raceway coming from the bottom of the electronics cabinet and put a similar notch on the far end for the power and network cables for the TV and the printer. Because the right hand piece was a foot short, and I did not have any plywood 28"x12", I made that extension out of two pieces of plywood. I joined then in a similar fashion as the corner joint.
To finish things off, I found some 1/2 inch Maple quarter round and some 3/4"x1/4" Maple screen trim at a local lumber yard, along with Maple wood filler. Adding the 3/4"x1/4" screen trim to the front edge of the work surface and putting the 1/2 inch quarter round against the wall has given this a much more finished look.
Corner seam filled
Quarter round being installed
Almost complete
Waiting to move stuff in
Drawers installed
So, there you go. I have since drilled holes in the work surface for grommets to bring cables through and installed keyboard trays at each computer position. Might add a couple more photos showing that, but after I clean all the stuff piled up on the top off.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Alaska Travel Update #13 - The End

If you click on a photograph, it will enlarge and should place a row of thumbnails on the bottom of your screen that you can navigate.

Today the drive was from Hyder, AK to Hazelton, BC. After dumping the holding tanks, bringing in the slides and lifting the jacks we were on the way to BC. After a stop at the Canadian Port of Entry just outside Hyder, we stopped at the Toasterworks  in Stewart for breakfast. Toasterworks is a Restaurant and Toaster Museum. 

Service was slow and the meal was unremarkable. The Strawberry Jam was good. After breakfast it was off to Petro-Canada for fuel. Once fueled we were on the road to Hazelton. We followed Highway 37a from Stewart, BC to the Meziadin Junction. 37a passes the Bear Glacier and the glacier lake at the bottom. Old scenery for us at this point. 

The road then picks up Lake Meziadin and follows it to the junction with Highway 37.  Here we turned south on Highway 37. This section of Highway 37 is a nice wide lane, narrow shoulder section of road that follows along Meziadin Lake. Again we cross several rivers and creeks. We do notice more logging activity here than any other place in Canada or Alaska. We had noticed a log yard in Stewart, BC and it appears that is where the logs are headed for shipping by ship.

As soon as we crossed the Skeena River, we turned east on Highway 16 and followed the river toward Hazelton and Prince George.
Highway 16 is a very nice road, almost like a freeway compared to the other roads that we have been on. After about 15 miles we arrived in the outskirts of Hazelton. According to our mapping program, we missed our turn onto Brewster Road. So, we continued down the road and made a U-turn at the Hazelton Information Center. We got to Brewster road and as soon as we turned off the road surface changed to gravel. 

OK, no problem, after about a mile and a half, we end up in the yard of a shop, junkyard, something. 

Well, this is wrong. We got turned around and headed back out toward the main highway. I stopped and called the Campground and they provided me directions that included turning at the Visitor Information Center. Back on the highway we retraced our steps to the Visitor Center, made the turn and followed it for more than three miles into the village of KSAN, where we found the campground. 

Of course along the way we found a narrow bridge - that we had to cross.

Of course there were some great views of the river looking off the edge of the bridge - Did I mention it is a one way bridge. 

This is a nice campground, relatively new looking on the banks of the Skeena River. 

The roads are paved and the sites, 30A FHS, are dirt/gravel. There is lots of lawn and open spaces. No shade and when it is 85+ degrees out, then it is very hot in the Motor Home - especially with the main HVAC Unit not working properly.

Today, Thursday, August 8 - we left the Ksan RV Park headed to Prince George. From the RV Park it was simply going back to the Trans Canada Highway 16 and turning toward Prince George or east. 

This highway is wide, smoother pavement than in the past and a speed limit of 63MPH give or take. The road passes through such towns as Moricetown, Smithers, Telkwa, Burns Lake, Houston, Fort Fraser, and Vanderhoof before arriving in Prince George. Though the road was good and the scenery pleasant, it was still a long drive of 250+ miles. 

Along the way we came across an accident scene that was being worked by four RCMP (Mounties), and a car fire that had a RCMP on scene. 

Going through Prince George, we turned south on Canada 97, which follows the Fraser River for a ways, to the MaMa Yeh RV Park. This is a new, still in development RV Park owned by Ed Yeh. Currently he has about two dozen sites, an even mix of back in and pull through, all appearing to be FHS. Ed did warn me that the water had a high Iron content and though clear, did have an odor. He stated to run the water for a minute before connecting. I just put my dual filter system in place and that should take care of odor in the water. Though he advertises WiFi, he admits it needs improvement and said it probably would not reach inside our Motor Home. We did have satellite reception, good Cell service on Rogers Net (AT&T). Not a bad place to spend three nights. Upon getting setup it was off to do the laundry. Ed Yeh gave us directions to a Laundromat about 16 miles away. Once we found it, the attendant stated that there were at least three other Laundromats, some much closer to us.

A late start today, this 9th day of August. We went into Prince George, a distance of about 17 miles. The first stop was Grama's Restaurant. This is a small restaurant located at the Grama's Inn Hotel. The food was good, the service good and the waitresses were hilarious. It was clear that no one ever left the restaurant a stranger. Blueberry pancakes, eggs and ham for me, ham, eggs, home style potatoes and toast for Deb. Definitely a place to come back to.

The next stop was the local community Railroad Museum. Which seems to have a little of everything.

1929 Durant

One of the first "portable" radios that were in use in the 1970s.

When I started as a Dispatcher, I used a remote similar to this.

These sirens and emergency lights were still in use in the 1970s

There are a number of old railcars, an old rail station that had been relocated years ago from its original location to the museum property. Called the Penny Station, the building was moved across a frozen river. They had a wait for just the right time when the ice would be thick enough to support the weight of the building and the truck that it was loaded on. 

The interior was setup the way it was when it was in operation. The living area contained furniture and appliances from the same time period. Included were some old telegraph equipment. 

They had a few old automobiles on display also. There was also a telephone museum. It contained things like test equipment to check relays, old telephones and switch boards.

Telephone Switchboard
There were also displays of the different types of wire/cable used in the telephone industry. 

1,500 pair copper telephone cable

But, as we have seen in other community type museums, the place had a run down look and feel to it. I give them credit that they did have volunteers doing some painting and other projects while we were there.

Upon returning to the Motor Home, we decided to wash it. The last time it had a bath was during our first visit to Whitehorse. Since Ed Yeh allowed RV washing, we started by washing the side and end of the Motor Home that was in the shade. We will finish the rest in the morning.

Saturday, August 10, the first thing this morning, we finished washing the Motor Home. Once that was complete it was off to a dog park that we found in Prince George. On arrival we found a large area with dying grass fenced off. The area was next to a school and adjacent to a bicycle trail riding course. While we were there, one dog and owner came through. Annie got to explore some new area, but no interaction with other dogs.
From here we proceeded to a carwash to get the Jeep washed. Clean Motor Home deserves a clean Jeep. Once that was done we were off to find Tree Bark carvings.

The Cottonwood Island Park is a Cottonwood natural area. It is on the Nechako River. Cottonwood produce a very thick bark, and prior to 2005, City Employee Elmer Gunderson carved a couple of faces into the bark of the trees. Gunderson had helped construct the trails in the park in the 1980s. According to the legend, the carvings brought so much attention that in 2005 the City sponsored him to complete eight carvings in the bark of several trees. Additional carvings were added in 2016 and in 2017. 

Today there are about 18 carvings. Annie and I walked the trail and found four or five. The carvings are not all facing the trail. They are high on the tree and not really large. 

In fact I walked by three of them before I knew what to look for. I met a local resident who imparted the story of the carvings and explained that they were only on trees that had very prominently thick bark. Quite unique. We did not walk the entire trail.

In other things around the area, we found Mr. PG.

Mr. PG came about in the 1950s as a way to promote the forest industry and the City of Prince George. Mr. PG came to life in 1960, starting out as one and a half meters high.  He now stands more than eight meters tall.

Fraser River in Prince George

Travelled today, Sunday, August 11, was from Prince George to  Cache Creek on Highway 97. The road was two lane with sections of four lane around some of the larger settlements. It was a 200+ mile day going through towns like Redrock, Woodpecker, Hixon, Cinema, Williams Lake and Quesnel to name a few. The terrain is mostly rolling farmlands with small farms and ranches interspersed with wood products operations. 

In Cache Creek, we stayed at the Brookside RV Park. This is a small park nestled in a little valley, just off Highway 97. It is below the main road surface so it was relatively quiet. Wood with a mix of evergreen and cottonwood. 

There was a small stream that you crossed on a wood decked bridge, and the stream continued around one edge of the RV Park. 

A trail lead up to a large open meadow at the foot of some rolling hills. 

Debbie commented that it looked alot like the terrain around The Dallas, Or. No OTA television and trees blocked the satellite signal.

Annie's favorite position when we were stopped for the night. During our travels she really prefered her kennel (box).

Today, August 12, From Cache Creek we headed down the TransCanada Highway 1 toward Abbottsford and Sumas, WA where we would cross the border back into the US. The road started out fine, following and crossing the Thompson River, which originates in the Kamloops Lake,

and then we entered Fraser Canyon. At Spatsum you continue along the Thompson River and the road begins to have a few curves along the river. Once you cross the Thompson River at Spences Bridge, the curves increase and the road continues to twist and turn like a snake on the river bank. 

Look close and you will see a train on each side of the river.

We also had to pass through five tunnels along this path. A couple with curves. Most tunnels that I have been through are straight. Not here.

This continues down to Lytton where the Thompson River empties into the Fraser River. The road straightens out some, but not much as you go through settlements such as Conrad, Falls Creek, Keefers, Boothroyd, Boston Bar, China Bar and Hells Gate.  The road finally becomes four lane freeway, once you cross the Fraser River again in Hope, BC. The TransCanada 1 continues to follow along the Fraser River until Chilliwack, BC where the highway turns more south. In Abbotsford, we made the turn to Highway 11 to the Border. 

There was a line of vehicles waiting to cross, it fact it was about an hour before our turn at the crossing both. The usual questions were asked by the Customs Agent, where we had been, any firearms, any cannabis, any firewood or fruits. When asking about the fruits, she reminded us it was a $10K fine to lie about what we had on board. She then returned the Passports and told us to have a nice day and off we went.

Back in the US of A
To get from Sumas over to I-5 is very interesting and confusing. This included a little side trip through the downtown area of Lynden. We finally made it to I-5 and continued south to Washington Highway 2 where we turned east for a short trip into Monroe, WA. Things got a little cloudy as to where the RV section of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds was. Finally we stopped at the Fairgrounds Administration building and I asked for directions, Finding the we had not driven east far enough on Highway 2, we continued east another quarter of a mile and found the RV lot. This is a gravel lot with RV pedestals containing electric and water. we found our spot, connected utilities, disconnected the Jeep. 

Once the setup was complete, we loaded the dog in the Jeep and headed for Debbie's brothers house in Kenmore, WA about 15 miles away. There Annie was introduced to their dog Luna. It turned into a mutual acceptance agreement. We had dinner with her brother and his wife and then it was back home to Monroe.

Well folks, we decided not to bore you with the visiting of family and friends in Washington State, or the trip back across the country. We had a great time.
This blog is written so that we could add more photos, videos and other information than we could in the email updates that we sent out.. We estimate that more than four thousand photos were taken on this trip with five different devices. 

There will probably be two more posts. One on the Fountainhead Auto Museum in Fairbanks, AK, and another epilogue posts that will include some off the wall things that we saw along the way.

Thanks for riding with us - 

Happy Trails to you - Until we meet again.....
Michael, Debbie and Annie