Working for the summer
Pictures can be found here
We had retuned to my brother's house on July 2nd. We had been trying to seal a deal on a work contract for several months, and nothing was happening. So of course, after a week at my brother's we got the call. Our contract will have us working in Madison, WI for the University Health system. Of course we got the call on a Friday and they wanted us there Monday. Since we had no arrangements made where to stay in the bus, we said we could only be there Monday if the deal included a hotel. We got that approval and took off Saturday morning in the car. We cleaned out our fridge and freezer on the bus and parked it for awhile.
Driving to Madison in two days in the car wasn't a big deal, and we arrived ready to work Monday. This project is a Windows 7 from XP upgrade of about 12,000 computers. When we got there, about 2,000 remained to be done, but they were more complicated ones than those that had already been done. For the first week we worked in their lab preparing machines to be deployed while our paperwork and medical tests were done before we could actually work in the hospital. Our original commitment was only for two weeks. I think they wanted to be sure we would work out. After the two weeks, they wanted to commit to the longer term, but we had plans the next week. We told them we could be back in the bus and save the hotel costs if we were gone for 10 days. They didn't want us gone that long, so instead of driving back to NY and bringing the bus back, they paid for us to fly, and kept paying for our hotel.
Our previous plans were to attend the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Falcon Ridge is a four day festival that is held on a farm east of Albany, NY near the MA border. The majority of the attendees camp there all weekend. My brother and several friends have been attending for ten years or more. We went last year and camped in a tent, now we are going in style. We flew to NY and got the bus ready to go. We caravanned with my brother and friends Linda & Denny to the festival. We were there the first day camping was going to open. They stage campers in a field as they arrive and don't open the gates to the actually camping areas until mid-afternoon. So, we were all parked with our chairs out waiting for the rush to claim your spot began. Last year when we did this, we were just beginning to think about buying an ALFA. There was an ALFA in the queue waiting to get in, so I had gone over and introduced myself. This year, we were already in the queue, and I noticed a nice looking rig coming down the lane next to us. It wasn't until it passed us that I realized it was that same ALFA, but it had been repainted. I went over and said hi again and found that they had been partially re-skinned and painted by Precision Paint, who is the other choice of companies in Indiana who deal with the ALFA blistering problem. We had a long conversation about the process, and he came over and looked at our rig. Eventually, the gates opened and we all took off to claim our spots. We got the area where we always do and started setting up our compound. The five days we were there blew by, with lots of good music, good food, and fun. Since we had to be back to work, we left on Sunday to get the bus back to my brother's and buttoned up before returning to WI.
We flew back to WI, and by now were cleared to work in the hospital and get about the main task of our project. The team we were with was Barb and I, another contractor, and one employee. We got in a grove of working 12 - 16 hours a day, 6 day a week, and were getting it done. Our hours were roughly 11 AM to midnight or later most days. As I mentioned before, we have been considering getting our rig re-skinned and painted to get rid of the blisters. We originally thought we would wait a year or so, but I got an e-mail from McMiller's Customs that they were offering a special deal as incentive to get a couple rigs in this fall. After some thinking about it and some phone calls, we made a plan to get the bus to McMiller's on Aug 18, and they could have it done by Oct 23. The finish date is important to us because we already have a plan to go to Key West for Meeting Of The Minds, the national Parrothead convention. Getting the bus to McMiller's is going to take some driving. We arranged to take off a Friday and Monday, and as luck would have it, we couldn't work Thursday night, so we got on the road about 2:00 Thursday afternoon. We got to western OH Thursday night, then on to NY Friday. We visited and spent the night at my brother's then took off in the bus Saturday morning. We drove to western OH Saturday, spending the night in a service area of the Ohio Turnpike, where they have nice facilities for RV's to overnight. Sunday we made it to Nappanee, IN. McMiller's is right next to Newmar's factory (Newmar is a large RV builder). They have a deal with Newmar that their customers may use Newmar's overflow parking area where you can be plugged in. First thing Monday morning, we were at McMiller's door and we started going over the plan. McMiller's is basically a husband/wife team. We spent about an hour with Megan going over what we wanted done. The final list was total re-skin, replace rubber roof with one-piece fiberglass roof, replace all cargo doors, replace headlights with new projection headlights, add high LED taillights, repair minor body damage on all corners, remove kitchen window, and remove all carpet and tile and replace with Allure vinyl flooring. Once we were done with that, we drove a few miles to Mike's Custom Paint where the actual painting will be done. At Mike's we looked through books of designs. We had two things in mind - we don't care for the dark brown/gold color schemes of new coaches, and we don't care for the modern designs that are lots and lots of swirls. We found a design that was not too much swirl, and explained how we would like to alter it a little to make it look like two waves coming up the sides. Then we started to pick colors. The standard price includes four colors. We picked white, silver, and two shades of blue for the waves. We left there thinking we had everything set and went back to make sure there were no more questions at McMiller's. They were all set, so we hit the road.
Our old sailing buddies Mike & Lynn from s/v Seabbatical were in the area on their summer mid-west tour, and they had plans to meet other sailors we know, Ig & Ali who own Clasen's Tavern in Union, IL that afternoon. Union just happens to be right on the way to Madison, and the timing was perfect. We found the bar before they were there, and we got a bite to eat while we waited. Mike & Lynn, and Ig & Ali showed up a bit later and we had a nice visit. After a couple hours though, we had to get back on the road and we got back to Madison that evening.
We went back to work, but Barb still had ideas about the bus design going on in her head. She was looking at stuff on the Internet, and after a week or so, she found a cool picture that includes waves, palm trees, and a sunset. We sent the picture to Mike's and asked if that could be incorporated into the paint job on the rear cap. We also decided that the silver, white, and blue colors were going to look too much like a Dallas Cowboys tribute, so we asked if we could change the silver to gold, thinking the gold would represent the sand in our boat life. Within a week, Mike's sent us back a computer generated picture of our design on an ALFA, so we could really see what it would be like. We approved it and now it was just wait for October.
We were working so much, that there wasn't much time for play. We didn't work Sunday's, but there was laundry to do, and sports to watch on TV, and just relaxing in general. We did get out one Sunday while the leaves were changing and took a nice ride. We also stocked up on cheese and good beer. We left with a couple cases of Spotted Cow from the New Glarus Brewery aboard.
When we took the contract, we had expected to work for about two months. In early October it looked like there was still another couple months to go possibly. Back in July, we had facetiously said we would work until it got cold. Well, it was getting cold, and we had our Key West plans made and paid for. So, we had a discussion with management and decided that Oct 22 would be our last day working. On Oct 23rd we left Madison and headed for Nappanee. We got a little later start than I expected to, and I misjudged how long it would take for some reason, and we didn't figure in that McMiller's is literally one county into the Eastern Time Zone while we were in Central. So, it ended up being about 6 PM when we got there, but Megan and PJ were waiting for us to deliver our bus. To say we were thrilled with the outcome would be an understatement. We could not have been happier. Conventional wisdom is to stick around the area for a few days to look everything over and make sure there are no problems, but our plans wouldn't allow that. We spent the night around the corner at Newmar's lot again, planning to leave the next day. We found two small flaws in the paint, and a slide seal that wasn't attached right, so first thing in the morning we were back at the shop. PJ got to fixing the slide seal, and also fixed our water heater and propane furnace, things that had nothing to do with the work they had done, but that's just the kind of folks they are. A quick call was made to Mike's and they said come right over and they would look at the paint. We drove the bus there and within two hours they had repaired both places and we were on our way. We went back to McMiller's to pick up the car and headed for FL.