Yesterday we stopped and met a friend that lives near Provo, Utah, so we only drove about 100 miles/160km before stopping.

We are just north of Salt Lake City and will be eventually going up into Idaho’s panhandle.  I forgot my passport so we won’t be able to travel into Canada with the usual ease (my driving license is not “enhanced” for use as proof of USA citizenship).

We will be stopping, at some point, at the historical site of the EBR-1 (the world’s first experimental breeder nuclear reactor).  My wife is a nuclear engineer, so this is of great interest to her.

My experimental solar power setup is working beautifully.  It’s experimental because it took me about 30 minutes, start to finish, to build the adjustable bracket for the panel and use a broken #12 gauge wire extension cord to wire the 85 watt panel and charge controller to the battery.  Zip-ties and electrical tape are currently being used to keep the strain off of the wire terminals so the system even looks experimental.

The electrical demands in the tent trailer are minimal–lights, phone charger, tablet charger water pump and (possibly) the ham radio, so the panel can fully recharge the 50 amp hour battery in a couple of hours time.

When I get home, I will work up a less experimental solution.



My wife and I are driving around the western USA with our tent trailer and camping along the way.

Today we are in the mountains in a US National Forest about 150 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah.  We are at about 8,500 feet (2,600 meters) elevation above sea level and it is quite pleasant outside.

I have my ham radio set up and am enjoying the clear reception in the “no electrical noise” environment.  The green energy and high efficiency electronics stuff generates a lot of “electronic smog” (noise that interferes with radio reception).  If you are noticing that you can no longer receive the more distant FM broadcast stations that used to be quite strong, or that the AM radio is useless, you, too, are experiencing this problem.

When something is designed, it only takes a little effort to make the stuff “electrically smog free” and in fact there are legally required standards for this, but the desire to keep prices down causes the standards to be ignored.

5 years

It’s amazing that it’s been five years since my first post.

There have been some changes since then.

  • I’m no longer 53.  I’m now 58 years old.
  • My mother died in 2016 at age 98.
  • I retired in November 2017 at age 56.
  • My wife retired in May 2018.  She was a teacher and had to finish out the school year.
  • Our daughter is 21 and is in her senior year at university.


Things that haven’t changed.

  • I’m still a disaster response worker for the US Dept of Health & Human Services.
  • I’m still a substitute school bus driver.
  • I still run about 5 miles (8k), or more, nearly every day..unless I’ve gone hiking.
  • We still have the cat and the two dogs.  The cat is 19 years old, one dog is nearly 12 and the other dog is 9 years old.



The Bell–Picture

bell-hiThe bell is all done.

Even though most everyone would call it a “ship’s bell”, this is most likely a bell that was on (or destined to be on) some small unnamed vessel.  All of the ships’ bells that I’ve seen have the name of the ship cast into the bell and, as far as I know, they are kept by the navy when the ship is decommissioned.

To get a picture that shows the “U.S.N.”, I had to get up on a ladder and this “distorts” how high above ground it appears the bell is mounted.  I am nearly 6 feet (180cm) tall and I can walk under the bell without hitting my head, so the bell is much higher up than it appears in this picture.

When I told our daughter about the bell being struck for my brother’s and my birth, she asked if that was done for her.  I showed her my mom’s diary entry

As soon as we got home, <dad’s name> jumped out of the car and almost ran to the bell to tell the neighborhood of the birth of our first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl.  Fortunately it was daylight.

She went over and tried the bell.  It startled her…and she had a huge smile on her face.

The Bell

The cast iron bell was “always there”.  I do not remember a time where it was not hanging from it’s bracket.

My dad said he struck it, in celebration, when my brother was born, and again when I was born.  That would have been over 6 decades ago.

My brother and I grew up in “the middle of nowhere” and when we were young, we were “restricted” to stay within hearing range of the bell.  The desert is quiet and the bell could be heard even a mile away, so the restriction wasn’t really that much of a restriction for a 8 or 9 year old.  In the days before cellphones, it worked quite well as a “communications device”.

My dad was a US Marine officer and my mom was a US Navy officer.  After each of them died, I went out and gently struck 8 bells–signifying “end of watch”.

When we were cleaning mom’s house in preparation for selling it, I took the bell home and stored it in the garage.  And there it sat until this past Monday.  On Monday I took the bell to a sand blasting company to remove the surface rust that had accumulated over the past 6 decades.

I told the sandblasting place that the bell was a family heirloom and asked if it could be done while I waited.  This wasn’t their normal practice, but we worked out a deal.  I would pay a non-refundable deposit to hold a place in line and when it was time, they would call me and I would bring the bell to be sandblasted while I waited.

Last night I put a coat of primer paint on it and, today, I put two finish coats, flat brass in color, on it.  The bracket that has always held it has been painted black, just like I remember it.

When the bell is mounted, I’ll post a picture.


Earlier this week, I attended a funeral Mass for an amazing lady.

A Catholic nun in a teaching order, she was a teacher for over 40 years at the school where I drive the school buses.  She would have taught even longer had it not been for multiple sclerosis forcing her into an unwanted retirement.

After she retired, she was confined to an electric wheelchair, but she was always “buzzing about” the campus and anytime she stopped, she would quickly be surrounded by kids.  Some kids wanted some help with school assignments, some wanted advice and some wanted to say “hi” to her.   The kids loved her and anytime I’d see her surrounded by kids, I couldn’t help but smile.

The other nuns will miss her.  The school will miss her.  The kids will miss her.  I will miss her.

Wow. In a Bad Way.

As I’ve been painting the house, I’ve been “but first” fixing things that aren’t correct or would result in the fix not lasting very long.

The porch ceiling is drywall board, which is OK for use in this situation.  However, the person who did the drywall work did not install it correctly…which means the drywall joints would always crack.

So, I had to fix that problem.

However, another “but first” had to be satisfied.   When I looked up through the holes I had cut into the drywall to fix the first problem, I noticed that the electrical wiring going to the ceiling lights was actually speaker wire.  I’m an electrical engineer (and, for a long time, held an electrician’s license) and this was not something I could ignore.

The electrical work is done (correctly) and the drywall work is nearly done.

Hopefully there will be no more surprises.