Hello from Sumner, WA

Hello from Sumner, WA

Tuesday– March 23, 2021   (Second post of this travelogue)

On Saturday we traveled from Pendleton, OR to Sumner, WA where we will spend the next 3 weeks while I teach at Boeing. Because we did not have to use our “wiggle room day” for any weather issues, we arrived a day early.

Sunday we spent a good part of the day in the town of Federal Way where Pat got a hair cut, spent some time at Barnes and Noble (long delayed visit due to Covid) and did our meal shopping at Trader Joe’s

When I am at these assignments I often stop at Trader Joe’s and get meals that I can eat in the room.  With Pat being here it makes even more sense to get our meals there.  The food is great and very cost effective.

This weeks assignments at Boeing are interesting.  Washington has been at a 25% capacity mandate for the COVID situation and Boeing has responded by reducing the class size from 12 to 4.  That is great for me, as I have less cats to herd {grin}.  It is really great for the first class I teach this week – Mechanical Drives.  Because we only have one trainer per chapter, I usually have to do the class work the first two days and then do the labs the third day (with teams rotating between each trainer).  With just 4 students (actually 3 since one person did not show up), it is an ideal situation where I can teach a chapter and then do the lab.

The assignments for this week are on the second shift (2:30-11:00).  I really like that shift.  It gives me the whole morning to work on stuff and relax a bit.

More to come in later posts.

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Hello from Pendleton, OR

Hello from Pendleton, OR

Friday evening  – March 19, 2021   (First post of this travelogue)

Wow, this will be an actual travelogue with Pat and I on the road (but not in the bus).  Our last joint travelogue was our camping trip in Dillon in June 2020.

We are travelling to the Seattle Area via rental car.  I will be teaching two different weeks at Boeing with one week in between.  More about that in a future posts.

We left Evergreen on Wednesday just after the big snowstorm.  We felt it would be safest to travel I 25 north to I 80 and then head west.  I had planned for each day of travel to be in the 350-380 mile range with some wiggle room in case the weather caused an issue.

Our first day of travel was quite interesting.  They had just opened I 25 to Cheyenne the day before and it was obvious that the snow had really wreaked havoc with travel.  Indeed, as we approached Cheyenne, there were all kinds of warning signs about the truck stops being full and fuel islands being blocked by parked semis.  It was amazing that all along the highway from about 5 miles south of the I 80 interchange, trucks were parked everywhere including on the side of the interstate.  It turns out they had just opened I 80 and I 25 north of Cheyenne was still closed.

Our first stop was Rock Springs, WY.  While there was lots of snow on the sides of the interstate, we did not have any problems with this leg of the trip.  As usual, we stayed in a Holiday Inn property.

Our next stop was Twin Falls, ID.  The driving seemed much easier for this leg.  That was probably a combination of less snow on the side of the road and getting used to “long distance driving”.  Because we were ahead of schedule, we decided to have a sit-down lunch – the first in a year.  We exited the interstate and drove to a great little town – Rupert, ID.  The town was straight out of a great novel.  It had a town square and a neat water tower (see both in the photo below).  We ate at a friendly little local restaurant and had a great meal.

 

We had noted several signs showing what appeared to be a very scenic falls in the Twin Falls area – Shoshone Falls.  The advertising suggested it was taller than Niagara Falls.  Unfortunately the flow of the Snake River is very low this time of year and there were only small waterfalls.

Today our drive to Pendleton was great.  We traversed very flat magnificent farm land and some huge rolling hills.  We saw lots of dairies which supplied large cheese factories and a huge Chobani Yogurt plant.  The farms fields in the area are huge.   This time of year, it is hard to tell what the crops are, but it would appear that there is a lot of irrigated hay and wheat.  We saw a lot of huge silage piles, but not much sign of corn fields.

When we got to our hotel our window looked to the east and rolling hills of what appeared to be winter wheat (see photo).  In that photo you can see some snow capped mountains in the distance.

 

That is all for this post – many more to come.

 

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Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Friday afternoon  – March 5, 2021   (First post of this travelogue)

Well, I am back at NTT for three days this week.  I am producing a live on line (LOL) three day class on electrical code changes.  These “code” classes are pretty boring.  Once I get all the software and hardware working, my job is pretty easy.  While I have to keep an eye on the class activity and help the instructor when needed, I have a lot of time on my hands to work on other things.

Most of our classes are conducted using two software platforms:  Canvas and Zoom.  Some companies refuse to use Zoom for security reasons and the alternatives are difficult to deal with.  Fortunately this class used Zoom.

During this class I spent quite a bit of time working on our website conversion process.  We are currently on what is called the GoDaddy “legacy” system/servers.  They are phasing that out for what is called cPanel servers/platform.  The migration from one the old system/servers to the new system/servers is hugely complex.  I purchased some software to make the process “easier”.  Unfortunately, I am really struggling with the whole process.  Fortunately I can devote the time to the project and still get paid {big grin}.  I am getting closer and once I get the main website (beltguy.com) migrated, the others should be easier (famous last words).  Thankfully the software technicians are working with me and seem quite helpful and responsive.

As has been the case in the past, NTT puts me up at the Staybridge Suites which is close to the office.  It is a IHG member hotel, so I get my Holiday Inn points.  It is an OK hotel that, pre-COVID, had great breakfasts and good “snacks” in the evening.  Probably the best amenity is the great coffee!

That is all for this trip.

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Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Tuesday afternoon  – December 8, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

Well, I am back at NTT for two days this week.  I am producing a live on line (LOL) two day class on electrical code changes.  Unlike the last class (OSHA) this one is pretty boring.  Once I get all the software and hardware working, my job is pretty easy.  While I have to keep an eye on the class activity and help the instructor when needed, I have a lot of time on my hands to work on other things.

Most of our LOL classes are conducted using two software platforms:  Canvas and Zoom.  Unfortunately some companies are not comfortable using Zoom (probably some perceived security issue).  When this happens we use Canvas and MS Teams.  Teams is much less powerful than Zoom and is a pain to manage from a producer standpoint.

This class is being conducted in Teams.  Complicating the challenge is the fact that none of the students have access to their camera (supposedly a requirement of NTT) and that makes it hard to monitor student reaction and also monitor attendance.

The students are all in Alaska and I think at least one student is having pretty significant internet access problems.

I guess that is what makes being a producer a challenge.  It will be interesting to see how many assignments I get.  Kind of a double edged sword.  I want a few assignments but I also want my shop time {grin}.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Hello Again from Centennial, CO

Thursday evening  – November 5, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

Well, I am back at NTT for four days this week.  I am producing a live on line (LOL) four day OSHA class.  This is a really interesting class for a lot of reasons.  First of all, all of the students are NTT personnel.  It is called an OSHA 30 hour class.  It is strictly regulated by OSHA and the attendees receive an OSHA certification card at the end of the class.  Because it is strictly regulated, that adds yet another level of complexity to the producer activities

In addition to being an interesting class for the reasons listed above, it is also interesting from a content standpoint.  Lots of good information to digest.  It is also good from the standpoint of learning LOL presentation techniques for my benefit (assuming we ever sell a LOL class that I can teach).  Lastly, it is great to experience other instructor techniques.

As I mentioned in the last post, there are a lot of hardware and software details that almost boggle the mind.  The most demanding part of the assignment is getting three monitors set up with several software platforms, then set up proper window views of all the software on those monitors depending on what the instructor needs.   After that, the remote students must be logged in and any communication problems resolved.  That whole process takes about two hours.  For the rest of the class time, the producer monitors the software to make sure the students are using all the tools we use to teach the class.

Again, from the last post:  the producer position pays less than half the instructor rate, but it is still decent income and will fund my “toy” budget, hopefully at level that will keep me active in the shop .  In addition, it will not involve air travel and is less demanding than teaching.  Also, as I mentioned in the last post, our sales for the classes I teach is really in the toilet right now.  I think the producer assignments will be a good alternative income generator.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Centennial, CO

Hello from Centennial, CO

Tuesday evening  – October 20, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

Well, I am back at NTT for three days this week.  However, I am the student this time.  After three days of training I will be certified as a Live On Line (LOL) training producer.  The producer is the hardware/software/student/instructor support person to assure that the online training session goes smoothly.

There are a lot of hardware and software details that almost boggle the mind.  The most demanding part of the assignment is getting three monitors set up with several software platforms, then set up proper window views of all the software on those monitors depending on what the instructor needs.   After that, the remote students must be logged in and any communication problems resolved.  That whole process takes about two hours.  For the rest of the class time, the producer monitors the software to make sure the students are using all the tools we use to teach the class.

The producer position pays less than half the instructor rate, but it is still decent income and will fund my “toy” budget, hopefully at level that will keep me active in the shop .  In addition, it will not involve air travel and is less demanding than teaching.  Also, as I mentioned in the last post, our sales for the classes I teach is really in the toilet right now.  I think the producer assignments will be more frequent.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Centennial, CO

Hello from Centennial, CO

Thursday evening  – October 1, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

I am teaching a class this week at the NTT office.  The class is shaft alignment and it is a two day class (Thursday and Friday).  This is the first time I have taught a class since late October of last year!  Before COVID, several of the classes I was scheduled to do cancelled due to lack of sales.  When COVID hit, it really dried up.

I had mentioned in a previous post that NTT was working very hard to establish a market for Live Online Training (LOT) via zoom and other software.  I am certified to teach LOT courses.  I had a fairly large project to convert/develop one of our classes for the LOT platform.  My work on that project was completed several months ago, but NTT has not finished the work they need to do to sell it to the customer.

The course I am teaching this week is live in the office with two students.  It is a rather intensive lab oriented course and could not be taught via LOT.

As is generally the case, NTT is putting me up at the Staybridge Suites.  It is a part of the Holiday Inn/IHG group, so I get my points and it is a fairly nice place.   Before COVID they had the best hotel breakfast and evening snack/meal of any hotel that I stay at (with the exception of some of Pat’s resort trips that she earns).  Of course now, that benefit is mostly not present.  I stayed here in April and half the hotel was shut down and no meals/snacks of any kind.  Now both sides are open and they have a bit of a breakfast.

Unfortunately I do not have any classes scheduled for the rest of the year.  It is possible that something will develop, but I will not hold my breath.  Sales in the Mechanical group have not been very good for the past couple of years and I don’t see that changing in the near future.  Guess that means more shop time {grin}.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Bonneville

Hello from Bonneville

Tuesday evening  – August 11, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

I am starting this post while sitting on the salt at Bonneville (Google Map)

Bonneville is right on the Utah/Nevada border at exit 4 on I80 close to Wendover, UT/NV.  For those that know me, you know that this is a very special event for me.  I first came here in 1990 and have made several events since then (see picture of hat with the buttons attached).

I had hoped that Pat and I could drive the bus with my 59 IHC truck on my trailer, but just ran out of time to get everything ready for the trip.  The truck would have fit in so well with all the crazy vehicles that show up at Speed Week.

Instead I rented a car (Audi A5!!!) and have been camping out of it.  This is what I did last year and I have it down to a science.  I sleep in the car (reclined passenger seat) and fix freeze dried meals for breakfast and dinner.  Sleeping in the car is not all that bad.  Both rental cars have seats that recline almost flat.  While it gets hot on the salt, it cools off significantly in the night and I have to put a blanket over me.  Surprisingly I sleep pretty well.

I left Evergreen Friday and drove to Price UT where I stayed at the Holiday Inn.  I arrived on the salt around 11:00 AM Saturday about the time the racing started. 

The salt this year is pretty good.  Over the years, a mining company has been pumping the brine off the flats and the salt thickness has gone from maybe 5 inches 30 years ago to less than one inch now.  Supposedly they are now taking the components they want out of the brine and pumping the salt back.  The condition of what is left of the salt is mostly a function of the rain.  Last year the salt was very wet and the course conditions were not good at all.  This year it has been dry and I have not heard any complaints.  Indeed, one car just went 460 MPH and lots of records are being set.

Bonneville is a mix of exciting sights AND sounds of the race cars as well as an amazing car show that all the spectators bring.  The car show is unlike any that you will find anywhere.  Many of the cars are very old primitive “hot rods” and early customs.  Almost all of them are pretty basic (almost read crude) construction and that fits me just fine {grin}.

As a part of the tradition of car camping the past two years, I drive to the salt just before sunrise and then fix my favorite coffee (Peets) using a special K cup device and boiling water from my camp stove.  Watching the sun rise and drinking great coffee on the salt  — it does not get any better that that. 

Sunrise on the salt


Morning coffee on the salt

Today I left the salt about 11:00 am and drove to Rock Springs, WY.  I had thought about returning via I80 for a change of scenery.  The fact that I70 is closed due to a fire made my decision easy.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Heaton Bay Campground in Dillon, CO

Hello from Heaton Bay Campground in Dillon, CO

Monday afternoon  – June 29, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

We are in the Heaton Bay Campground in Dillon in our trusty old bus.  Our location on Google Maps is here

We arrived Sunday 6/21.  We are in site 40 in loop “C”.  Of all the spaces we have stayed in, this one is probably our least favored.  That said it is still a great site.  Many years ago the campground was devastated by Pine Beetle.  All the gorgeous pines had to be cut down.  We noted that the new pines have really filled in and the vegetation is close to what it was when we first started coming here.

For many years we have come to this beautiful campground – usually for a period that includes the Fourth of July.  This year our reservation ends tomorrow (6/30) since we thought we would be flying to Hawaii for Pat’s earned trip.  It turns out that trip has been postponed till next spring.  Reservations are hard to get here, so we will not try to extend. 

As has been the case for several years we make our reservations so that we can camp with daughter Kelly and her family.  Actually I should clarify that Kelly makes the reservations since it is very cutthroat process and you need to be online at exactly 6 months prior to you arrival date and then it is not always guaranteed that you will get a spot in the area that has water and power.

We have had a very large range of weather here.  It has been close to 90 degrees at times but it is very cool in the night.  Indeed, I saw one reading of 37 degrees when I got up.  We had to put on our sleeping bag as an extra cover to keep us warm at night.   We have also had quite a few rainstorms – almost every afternoon.  It has cleared up most of the evenings so that we could have a campfire.

This has been a pretty laid back stay.   Many of the things we tend to do (shopping, movies, etc.) are closed or we have chosen to avoid, given the COVID 19 situation.  On Wednesday (granddaughter Madison’s birthday) we did take a pontoon boat out on the lake and had a ton of fun.

I did have one terrible moment.  As we were pulling into our camp spot (tight spot to get the bus into) my power steering quit.  Of course, I suspected the worse (bad pump) but decided that I should replace the hydraulic fluid filter to see if that would solve the problem.  That in itself is a challenge since I have three major hydraulic circuits and three filters.  For some reason I decided to pull one of the filters to look at it – like I could tell anything by looking at the filter.  The next day I decided to do some testing on the pump and to do that I needed to start the engine.  I then went back and crawled under the bus to check the hydraulic fan and looked over to see a HUGE amount of hydraulic fluid raining on the ground.  I quickly shut off the engine but by that time I had pumped well over a gallon of hydraulic fluid on the ground.  Turns out I did not get the filter properly seated.  I did get the three filters ordered and went to Walmart to get a bag of kitty litter to finish cleaning up the oil (I had sopped up quite a bit with paper towels but there was still a bunch left on the asphalt parking pad).  I ended up using almost two bags of kitty litter and lots of scrubbing with my shoes to get most of it cleaned up.  What a mess.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Chatfield State Park

Hello from Chatfield State Park

Wednesday evening  – June 10, 2020   (First post of this travelogue)

We are in the Chatfield State Park campground site 168 –  in the bus no less!!!  Our location on Google Maps is here

This is a quick shake down trip that will let us sort out any issues from the bus sitting so long.  We are relatively close to home and chose this campground since it had full hookup (more about that later). 

We had planned to drive to the Sterling rest area which had a full dump system, but that would have been 150 miles each way and we did not want to spend the time or fuel dollars.  We decided to stay here for a couple of nights.  We are dog sitting Benny, but he is used to the bus and has done fine.

While I have encountered a few small problems, I have resolved most of them.  The big issue was the black/gray/fresh water systems.  I am not good about recording when I dump and I had lost track of how full the black tank was.  Turns out we must have emptied it on our last trip (not counting the traumatic trip to Guffey where Pat was badly injured and we did not spend a night in the bus).  The gray water tank has a manual site gauge on it, so I knew where we were there and it was not big deal.  The most problematic tank was the fresh water tank.  The water in that tank had been sitting for a couple of years.  While I keep a fair amount of chlorine in the tank, it quite obviously needed to be drained and flushed.  Having full hookups here allowed me to get all the tanks squared away.

This is a great camping spot.  The other campers are several yards away and we have a full view to the south.  The fun part of this spot is that it it very close to the RC Plane field and we got to watch lots of aerobatic flying including some model jets.

In a bit over a week we will head to Dillon to spend a few days with the Bergmans.

That is all for this trip.

 

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