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9/22/2010: We'll make the last leg of the return to CA journey today, currently in Elko, NV. We took a lay day in the middle of the trip to rest and play, in Boulder Colorado. We visited the Boulder Amphitheater where we got married. Here's a photo below. Wedding photos here.


9/18/2010: The last job George helped us with was installing a septic sewer pump out drain. This is an important enhancement because it will allow us to hook up a Sewer Solution to Taylor to drain, and flush the tanks. Our 3rd bedroom, and 2nd bathroom are now official. Here are the final photos.

9/16/2010: Marsha's brother Bob and his wife Barb were up for a couple of days, Sunday and Monday. Sunny fall weather, lots of good food and fun. We hit the road back to California tomorrow morning. The following is a quick tour of the new bathroom in a mostly finished state: George Weber inspired the design and helped us implement it. THANK YOU AGAIN George!!!

9/9/2010: The weather turned early this year, on Wednesday the 1st. Down from 80s and 90s to 60s and 70s with wind and intermittent rain. It's quite likely there will be an Indian summer yet, but not likely before we start our trek back in a week or so. Hillary and Jeremy visited over the labor day weekend. Instead of visiting North Higgins Lake State park, we played games. What's wrong with this picture?

8/31/2010: Wow, August just blew by. The bathroom is nearly finished, remaining: the medicine cabinet is scheduled to be here and installed on Sept. 13th. Meanwhile, Amber and Josh were here for a visit last weekend. We took the 10' inflatable Zodiac dingy out for a float on the Au Sable River on Sunday. Glass bottles are a no no. We put in at Mead's Landing, that has parking for several cars, an outhouse, and steps down to a loading dock on the river. We left the truck on Chase Street Bridge Rd. where it crosses the river. We were a bit slower that the canoes, total float time was a bit over 3 hours. Here was our course:

8/19/2010: Just as I was starting to make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch yesterday, the power went out. It was out for a couple of hours. We hadn't experienced this at Breezy before. The first thing I did was to turn on Taylor the Trailer's propane and take the frying pan out to her stove and finish cooking lunch. It got us thinking about how to be prepared for the event. Water, since we have an electric pump that pumps from a well, we would have the water in the accumulator tank, which is a few gallons. We would only be able to flush the toilet a few times. We thought about getting a 5 gallon jug for just in case, then remembered Taylor has a 40 gallon water tank, and 2 - 30 gallon holding tanks. It made us think about Spirit, and how little a power outage effects us there because of all of the 12 volt systems and holding tanks. We should think about a generator, Taylor only has one house battery - it would be good to be able to keep the battery charged if we had to use the lights and furnace blower. Anyway, once we sorted that out and finished lunch, we decided it was a good opportunity to finish the front deck stain project while the computers were down. Here's a picture, plus a picture Sal took from the camp site last Sunday (I'm growing my beard to see how it looks these days, still in the ugly phase).

8/16/2010: The shower had been functioning for a day, and the washer and dryer had been functioning in their new location in the garage for half an hour before my sister Sally and her husband Ron showed up for the weekend. Time to take a break. They camped in their RV in our driveway for 2 nights, then got a campsite right on the water in South Higgins Lake State Park. We met up with them Sunday afternoon for a dip in the lake and hot dogs grilled on the campfire. The water was clear and the beach was sandy. Here's a photo of the like from near there site:

8/13/2010: I took 3 showers today:-) Lots of little stuff to do but the plumbing in the bathroom is in place now:

8/12/2010: Happy Birthday Shelley:-) After 2 days of assembling and hooking up the shower, we got stalled (no play on words) by a wrong part. The drain had one too many drain holes. The shower is not in it's final position. The patch cord laying on the counter (granite and cabinet handles next week, medicine cabinet and light fixture - later), is the iPod hook up.

8/10/2010: Progress on day 2, the cabinets arrived and the electrical fittings were installed, we have light, and a bathroom door. The granite counter is running late, will arrive next week. The cabinetry work is so good, we're having Ervin build a matching medicine cabinet with mirror, and a lazy Susan for the pantry. We finalized the kitchen details and got the quote for that work, which we can plan for next year. Here are some pics of the new cabinetry.

8/9/2010: The answer was yes, but not until later in the day. Thankfully, Taylor was standing by. Below are a picture of when we arrived, then later that day. Jean shot some photos of the work in progress, that album is here. Also, the gutters were installed while we were away. They look good, and rain from yesterday morning didn't leak into the garage.

8/7/2010: Some pics on the progress from yesterday. Will we be able to go to the bathroom tomorrow???

8/5/2010: Update from Ervin on the cabinets, the granite vanity counter isn't done yet because of a backlog at the granite place, will be done asap. In the meantime, the vanity and linen closet will arrive Monday afternoon between 1:00 and 1:30 to be installed with a piece of plywood under the sink so we will be able to use it. The handles are out of stock, back ordered, and will be drop shipped directly to the house.

Also, from George, the medicine cabinet and light are the wrong type. We will have to return them, and redesign that part. We can do that when we get there, and see everything else pretty much in place. They can be installed after everything else is done.

8/5/2010: We're getting updates on the progress from George. He had to rent a dumpster for all of the waste coming out, which should be gone by the time we get there. The tile has been laid, holes are starting to appear in it for the plumbing, and coordination with Ervin (sinking up?) regarding the cabinetry is starting to happen. George anticipates he'll be painting on Sunday after we arrive, and that the head and shower will be functioning. The cabinetry, including the sink will start to get installed on Monday. I need to add some paint codes here for the record. Before we left we replaced the extremely ugly, and horribly bad fluorescent light in the kitchen with a track of halogen lights. Knowingly, the new lighting could end up being replaced once again when we have the counters and cabinets redone. This required spackling old mount holes and touching up the ceiling paint. The paint for the ceiling had been replaced by a newer type (it goes on pink and dries white). Plus, we had to decide on a paint color for the bathroom walls. The paint codes are (followed by a picture of the kitchen with the track lighting):

  • Kitchen ceiling paint: Home Depot, Glidden Interior Latex Flat Ceiling Paint With EZ Track™ Technology, GCN 3070 61
  • Bathroom wall paint, Home Depot, Behr Premium Plus Ultra Satin Interior Enamel, Weathered Sandstone 290E-1 Paint and Primer in One

7/26/2010: We're back in CA for 2 weeks for work. We flew back on Saturday, Hillary and Jeremy joined us for lunch at the Bay city airport, now that he has wheels. Our flight out of MBS got delayed by longer than our layover in Chicago, but we got lucky as standby passengers #6 and #7 (out of 40) on the next plane that had 12 available seats. While we're in CA, George will be working on remodeling the bathroom which includes moving the laundry to the new laundry room in the Garage. All of the parts are in the garage except for the steam shower, which is scheduled to arrive at the house between 1 and 6 pm tomorrow. Here are a couple of before shots of the bathroom, which if the schedule stays on track, we'll never see again:

7/25/2010: We drove to Claire, MI to make the last decisions for the bathroom cabinetry, wood, fixtures, and granite. Ervin is the Amish carpenter George is having us work with. As it turned out, we were also able to get a quote for, and make the decisions for the kitchen project that will likely start when the current projects are completed. We didn't get a picture of the horse drawn carriage in town, but here are some of the place and materials we selected. We took a floor tile, some wall tiles, and the sink so we could match things. The upper granite sample will be for the kitchen counter tops, the lower granite sample is for the bathroom vanity. The wood sample is stained cherry. It looks close to natural cherry, but over time natural changes color in uneven ways. It will be used for the cabinets in both the bathroom and kitchen. It's likely there will be enough wall tiles left over from the bathroom to use for behind the stove in the kitchen when we do that project.

7/19/2010: And finally, on the decision front, we needed a new toilet for the bathroom remodel. Because we have well water, which comes out of the ground pretty cool, the existing toilet forms condensation in warm weather, which led to a rotting sub floor. There were 2 insulated or dripless toilets at the Home Depot in Houghton Lake to choose from:

For the record, here is information regarding the tile:

1) Floor: LAUSA690-24PO, Pearl 24x24 Pol Salerno TB Polished Porcelain, Serial #770, 77.50 sq. ft. @ $1.75

2) Walls: LAUBE331-6 Azure Gray 6x6 Bethstone GL Ceramic, Serial #750, 176.00 sq. ft. @ $.32

3) Bullnose for WAlls: LAUBE331-S4669 Azure Grey 6x6 BN Bethstone Bullnose GL Ceramic, Serial #750, 75 pieces @ $.40

Since the store is now out of business, here is info on their other locations:

  • Main Office & Warehouse, 2465 S. M-139 Benton Harbor, MI 49022, 269-925-0629
  • 8701 Portage Industrial Dr. Portage, MI 49024, 269-323-0999
  • 2373 Cedar Park Blvd. Holt, MI 48842, 517-694-4200
  • 165 Veteran's Dr. Holland, MI 49424, 616-396-8453
  • 3708 Commercial Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46222, 317-329-0400
  • Carpets Unlimited, 2467 S. M-139 Benton Harbor, MI 49022, 269-927-0070

7/18/2010: More decisions, we needed to nail down the tile, so to speak. Home Depot has a 6-8 week delivery time - we needed inventory. This was an excuse to go to Traverse City. George calls Traverse City the place with the pretty people. Seems to be true, hard to explain, but it's a really cool place and we like it. We noticed a state park overlooking the beach just outside of town with hookups - looked inviting. The mission was tile, so when we arrived at Tile Mart, 2 hours after leaving Breezy, we see that the store is closing today - something about the economy. A forklift was hauling pallets out back to be trucked off, so it was hard to communicate with the sales manager because of the noise of its exhaust, but Marsha yelled, "We're not leaving until we buy something". Think 24" polished porcelain floor tiles, with 6" multicolored wall tiles. 1010.24 pounds later, I don't know how we ever lived without a truck:-) Here's some pics:

7/16/2010: Decisions, decisions, here's some we made today:

Ameristeam P-218 Steam Shower Enclosure
Dimensions: 40 x 40 x 85 (LxWxH)

Installation manual here. Exploded parts diagram here. Steam Cleaning Instructions here.

Kraus Amber Rectangular Glass Vessel Sink and Waterfall Faucet Combo

Amba Heated Towel Curved Rails Hardwire Towel Warmer

Kohler K-CB-CLC3526FS 35" Double Door Mirrored Medicine Cabinet with Adjustable Glass Shelves

Kichler Lighting 45088PN 4 Light Freeport Wall Sconce, Polished Nickel

7/13/2010: The humidity has dropped, very comfortable tank top weather. We got the initial shopping, cleaning, and organizing for the season done over the weekend.The counter stools arrived safely.

7/8/2010: It's been a rainy season here. Back when we lived in MI full time that was often the case. The 2nd and 3rd week of July was perfect for taking vacation and being on a boat, in a bathing suit. But so much rain has slowed progress on getting the decks stained. There's much more done that when we left in May, but still a couple of gallons to go to finish the trim on the back, and walking surface on the front. Progress is being made on the laundry room in the garage, the sheet rock, dryer vent, plumbing, and heater are in place. When it is finished, we'll move the washer and dryer into it, then begin the task of remodeling the bathroom. Here are some pics.

7/7/2010: We arrived 3PM yesterday afternoon. The following pics are Taylor's new home, and Breezy's new casita.

6/22/2010: Here comes the dot:-) Updates until we reach Breezy will be under the dot map...


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7/4/2010: Happy Independence Day!. We're sipping coffee in our hotel room in Des Moines, IA - about to go hook up with Taylor the Trailer - the one we bought on ebay last week. Praying, faith and all that...

A couple of 600+ mile days can get long in the tooth, mid morning yesterday Marsha invented a road game, count the different types of rigs cruising down the road in the opposite direction. So we did that for a few hours, counting Class As, Class Cs, Travel Trailers, 5th Wheels, Class Bs, Pop-Ups, Diesel Pusher Full Timers, and for grins - Horse Trailers. Here's the results:

- Travel Trailers: 60

- 5th Wheels: 48

- Class As: 46

- Horse Trailers: 35

- Class Cs: 34

- Pop-Up Campers: 23

- Class Bs: 4

- Diesel Pusher Full Timers: 1

We didn't see any F150s towing much, it was mostly 250s and Dodge 2500s. I think we're about to learn the meaning of Fudge Factor and GVWR, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating that's on the driver's side door frame of our Ford.

7/1/2010: Happy Anniversary Steve and Marsha, we've been so wound up in making this road trip happen we forgot it was our 27th anniversary until well past Reno, NV. A good day of travel got us to Elko, NV. The most challenging leg of the journey is from home past the NV boarder, glad to have that behind us. We checked in at the Red Lion Inn, making a reservation mid day saved us $30, from what I learned from watching the person in front of me check in without a reservation. The room is a great deal for $81 plus tax. They are remodeling so the better restaurant wasn't open, and the cafe reeked of trapped in a casino. So, we remembered a great meal we had 2 years ago at a Basque restaurant next to the Days Inn we stayed in then, Toki Ona. It was still there, and it absolutely blew us away again this time. We split a lamb dinner, and oh my god, soo good. Not pictured below, soup with frog eye pasta, an iceberg lettuce salad with a creamy vinaigrette dressing, and scrumptious bread and butter. On to Cheyenne tomorrow.

6/22/2010: Introducing, Taylor the Trailer. Won at auction on eBay last night (Steve's Birthday), the rig is located in Strawberry Point, Iowa. We'll be driving through there, and picking it up around July 4 on our way to Breezy. This will be Breezy's 3rd bedroom, 2nd bathroom, and 2nd galley - which may come in handy as we begin remodeling Breezy's bathroom and kitchen.

6/2/2010: A YouTube video fly over Higgins Lake on Memorial Day:

5/10/2010: We made it back to CA last night, it was a successful trip. Here are some photos from it.

5/8/2010: Woke up to snow this morning...

5/7/2010: It's getting close to time to head back to CA, in a couple of days, the rain never gave us a window to stain more of the deck. Fortunately George will be able to finish where we left off when it gets sunny for a few days. While I was working remotely, Marsha spent time firming up the bathroom design. We've been going back and forth with thoughts from simple to elaborate, and believe we now have it. George will first be moving the laundry to the garage, soon after we leave. We'll start ordering the materials for the bathroom makeover while we back here in July. Then if we're still on track, the bathroom will get done while we're back in CA in August. We're still going to go with a steam shower, but smaller. Here's the final layout:

5/2/2010: Getting the things you need. Reminiscent of the first year we lived in Mexico on Spirit, you have this ongoing list of items you need but can't seem to find in the stores where you are, we developed a list here, and for the time being, I be live we're solved the list issues. On two fronts. Regarding groceries, things we were working around, in various ways - mostly driving down to Troy (2-1/2 hours) - sake, ginger root, snow peas, and lamb. Our diet these days is a mix of cultures, you need your curries - Indian, you need your beans - Mexican, and I'm not sure what Asian cuisine contributes - but it sure is a lot of fun. I'd left a successful lamb curie recipe printed out, in my in basket here last year, and missed it. It was a pleasure seeing it there when we got back. Regarding spices, this year we're rebuilding fresh, organically. For every meal plan, we're listing the necessary spices on the grocery list, and building the collection that way. I'll post a list of what were the essential spices at the end of the season. We had lamb, curry, and turmeric on the list on our way to Glen's in Roscommon. It's just under 5 miles away on a pleasant up north country drive, and feels similar to Lucky's where I shop 1/3 mile walk from where Spirit is berthed back in Alameda. We couldn't find any lamb in the meat counter. I decided to check with the butcher, and walked back through the white swinging doors with the sign "employees only", and ask him what's up. He stated not here, not enough demand - we'd have to go to Grayling. I asked, "What about Houghton Lake"? He said. "I can check for you" - and proceed to call their store there. Yes, and by the way, this is such a friendly place. Stepping back in a broader view, Marsha calls this place "God's country". So we gave up on lamb for the day, and settled for chicken and rice with garlic, and carrots for dinner. However, I gotta do that lamb thing, so, finally, after 2 years, I get the garage cleaned up and organized, then we pile in the car with a new grocery list with lamb on it and head north. I-75 access is a couple of miles away, then follow the sign to Mackinaw. It was a warm sunny afternoon, Lady Antebellum singing American Honey was playing on the radio. The next green sign informed us Grayling was 10 miles away, and, Gaylord was 38 miles away. "Hey, you want to go to Gaylord", he said. "Sure", she said. The scenery was beautiful, and we were getting a kick out of the display in the center of the Prius' dashboard. On cruise control, with a headwind, we were seeing 99.9 miles a gallon. SWEET. 72 miles an hour, with cars whizzing past us, we were there in no time. We drive through the town from the southern I-75 exit. It was an unusually warm day, 79 degrees, and windy. The street lights were swaying almost 30 degrees back and forth. We find the Glen's grocery store close to the north 75 exit, not far from the Lowe's and Walmart's, and proceed to the meat counter looking for lamb. It was a big store, feeling more like VG's down in Fenton - still, not like Papa Joe's down in Rochester Hills. We decided to take the time to walk all of the isles, and one by one we started spotting the list items we thought we had to drive 2 hours, either south, or west for. Ginger root, snow peas, then Sake in the wine section. And they had lamb - Yeah!!

On the second front, beverages. A couple of years ago, California passed an increase on the tax on beverage containers up to a nickel. Almost, but it wasn't quite enough to get reasonable return facilities, and because of that coupled with the "not quite painful enough" return value, we just said "to hell with it", the salvers that rummage through the trash in the marina was plenty enough to resolve our recycling guilt... However, in Michigan, they have a 10 cent return value, and automatic machines in the grocery stores that you just feed the cans and bottles onto a conveyer belt that results in a receipt redeemable in cash off the price of the groceries you buy when you check out. Pretty slick!. However, if you feed the machine a bottle or can you purchased someplace else, you may get an error. If it doesn't like it, you'll see a "Non participating bla bla bla" message, and it will either spit your can or bottle back out at you, or not...

I really like the carbonated, citrus flavored waters we get from Costco. It used to be under the brand name of Calistoga water, then it became something else less memorable. Two years ago, I couldn't find anything like it in the stores here, then last year we loaded up the truck at Costco in Auburn Hills (twice). When I tried to feed the empty's into the machine, I first learned about it's not happy features. By the end of the summer, I had two huge trash bags full of empty plastic bottles that were worth 10 cents each to the store where I bought them, 2-1/2 hours south of here. Sometimes we like tonic in our 5 o'clock somewhere beverages, and it costs twice as much here as it does in California. ???

Facebook has swept a demographic of our culture, and I'm not sure geographically, if it is not worldwide. Well, you have to be somewhat computer literate, but even language isn't a barrier then... I hooked up with a bunch of people I went through grade school with, that were still living... One day, Bill Coale posted a note about enjoying a carbonated beverage from his new SodaStream. I love it when you find a solution that solves more than one problem - here, convenience, and price. We have great tasting well water here because of the deep sand filtering. Now we just carbonate and flavor it, fuss free.

For most other things, UPS ships, so we're pretty much set...

5/1/2010: We had enough of a weather window to get started on the deck staining project, but the rain came back. We entertained George and his new girlfriend Jean with linguini with clam sauce for dinner - fun. George is going to take over finishing laying the stain if we don't get it finished in the next week. We're *really* sorry we weren't here long enough to have time to drop in on Davis and Sam's housewarming party. Here are a couple of pics, prep and the front railing with the Sikkens SRD Transparent - Teak stain applied.

4/24/2010: Wow, it's been 224 days since we covered the furniture with tarps, locked up, and drove back to California for the winter. I just woke up from the first night sleeping on the couch in the living room. We didn't get around to putting the sheets on the air bed before crashing. The new furnace is awesome, we set the temperature to 65, and within minutes the room thermometer read 65, and we were comfortable everywhere we went. The furnace is located in the crawl space, pretty much under the center of the house, just under the opening to the crawl space in the pantry. I suppose this makes less crawling around to service it if ever needed. The only problem is the lights and electrical outlet in the bathroom aren't working, I plan to explore the crawl space for the first time to see if I can spot a disconnected wire.

We're figuring out you need to have cold air returns here and there, so heat doesn't come out of every vent. And there are no close this vent option on the cold air returns. This could possibly have been the most comfortable night anyone has ever spent in this house. It's wonderful. I no longer have any fear of being uncomfortable if we ever do stay here when the weather gets cold. The cable guy isn't scheduled to be here for another 24 hours which will expel my remaining fear, lack of internet.

The jet lag from taking a red eye through 3 time zones is likely part of the fault, but 224 days away left me with a slightly distorted mental image of our little dream cottage. When we first drove up, color seemed off - but that turned out to be our starboard neighbors had painted their house and new deck after we left, which looks *MUCH* better. At least the new owners had the work done, there is still nobody living on either side of us, and still no sign of Don and Dolly across the street. I expect the economy here still isn't that good. The leaves aren't here yet, we haven't seen that before around Breezy. You can see things in the distant that previously weren't part of the picture - a new dimension. When we first walked in, the house seemed much smaller than memory was recalling, but soon after diving into removing the tarps and dusting, it all came back to me. We're home - and happy about it. We're seeing robins in the yard, they're back from their southerly winter migration.

Everything appears to be where we left it, and perfectly intact. It reminds me of taking a steak frozen solid out of the freezer to thaw, and discovering it still tastes great when you grill it:-) Once again the contents of the fluids tub appears to be unharmed by being frozen. A couple of the LED lights in the microwave display don't work. But you could say "almost immediately", we're in a functioning house, on land.

Regarding staining the deck, I'm planning on using Sikkens transparent SRD, teak. It's available from the Roscommon lumber yard, whom I've had several conversations with over the phone, but haven't been to yet. Hopefully we'll have a weather window to get the job done this trip, or at least line up the work if we can find help.

Regarding the bathroom, we've pretty much backed off from the steam shower insert concept described in earlier posts. George has some interesting ideas about tile, and we intend to explore those in more detail before making any decisions. Step one is to get the laundry moved to the garage, which means pluming, electrical, and venting work - and possibly ducting for heat.

Marsha and I were discussing we haven't made new friends here yet, but we know from cruising you make new friends when you go to new places, so it will be interesting to see how that works. But I have to say, going to town to shop is certainly different here in that buying something from a store also involves a social interaction with people, and it feels like a very friendly experience in Roscommon, which I'm starting to think of as a jewel in the north country. We're looking forward to meeting George's new girlfriend. We haven't touched base with Bob and Cindy, but if life is normal they will likely show up in a week or so. We're looking forward to catching up with our families. It was light out while I was grilling the steak last night, at 8:30 pm.

Oh yeah, here's the location of the new hole in the wall upstairs...

2/8/2010: This photo depicts the location of the new hatch upstairs.

1/25/2010: We received the receipt for the furnace installation from Paul Morford, and are still anxiously awaiting to see photographs of the installation and new storage compartment upstairs. Meanwhile, we're starting to make plans for remodeling the bathroom. The following are a couple of pictures of the bathroom in it's current state, except the wall paper has been removed, and the walls painted.

You can see the laundry in the bathroom as you first walk in, and that it is a fairly tight configuration. Our initial thoughts were to replace the bath tub with a walk in shower, then have the floor tiled. George mentioned it wouldn't be that hard to move the washer and dryer to the garage, remove everything in the bathroom, then start over with more space to work with. That plan will cost more money, but we're working with the idea to see what we come up with. Here is the initial layout sketch, I'll list some assumptions and considerations below the sketch.

The first assumption is that we really can move the laundry to the garage and have the plumbing done successfully. If so, then the second assumption is we can't have plumbing on an outside wall because of freezing. In the sketch above, the top and left sides are outside walls. If you look on the left wall inside the shower enclosure, you'll see the window that is in the first picture above. We could have the walls tiled, and the window sills redone in some kind of water/shower proof/resistant design... or... we could just say we don't need a window there and insert a shell. Well, we don't need a window there, and we wanted to have ventilation installed as part of the new bathroom anyway. So we found this fun looking insert:

Bath Authority DreamLine Neptune Jetted and Steam Shower

Other thoughts, when the bathroom door is open, we'd like cabinetry to be visible, not a shower or toilet. It would be nice to have a couple of heat lamps in the ceiling. It would be nice to have a heated towel rack. I've always thought it was smart to have a toilet paper holder that holds 2 rolls so no one has to go looking for where you keep it. We plan to use as much of the existing bathroom cabinetry in the garage.

We're wondering if any building permits are required for the bathroom and laundry in the garage work, and how long it takes to remodel a bathroom like this???

1/6/2010: We have confirmation from George the furnace installation was completed and successful. Yeah! There is one thing - the hot air opening and cold air return in the upstairs office had to come in from the wall behind the desk, which means the wall had to be opened up. George says there is now a compartment that will serve as some permanent storage. He just has to fit a proper hatch door on it. I forgot to ask how big. He will be sending pictures soon. The photo below illustrates the wall in mention. New hatches are good....