I haven’t been active for the last few years, but in my absence my travel bug has been doing very well. All the way to Diego Garcia and back thanks to a merchant marine and a ride in a B1 bomber to get off the island. It still hasn’t made it to Hawaii, but I made that trip in 2015.

Diego Garcia


Lawn Mower Repair

Two years on and it is still working, I think that second bolt was for a toilet bowl flange.

Last time I used the mower it was running rough. So in the spirit of good preventative maintenance I put it away until I had some time to look at it. It would appear that the bolts that hold the carburetor had evaporated. After some looking I found one bolt laying on top of the mower deck and the other had gone to the land of lost bolts.

I searched around in an old canning jar and found that little bolt on the right side that was missing. Looks pretty factory I think. The other one I just screwed it into the nearest empty spot.

I think Dad would be proud but Uncle Harold might shake his head at that one bolt but it’s all I had.


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Door Locks


March 2019

I ended up with two Yale YRL220 locks. I linked them with the Ring Alarm app and can control them through that to lock and unlock.  I re keyed the locks to use one key  from Assa Abloy online.

I’m trying to settle on a set of locks that can be opened with a code, key, or RFID cards. I want something that my seventyish year old mother can use and will have enough unlocked time for her to unlock and get the door open.

My first run at this was a Schlage FE595VCAM716ACC Camelot Keypad Accent Lever Door Lock, Aged Bronze. This worked okay but is limited to a four digit code and a key. This allowed nineteen separate user codes. It isn’t recommended for outdoor installations where it is exposed to the elements. My second lock is outside and will face west so I decided to try something else. Changing the battery for this lock is not as easy as it should be. Most of the locks I looked at have a compartment on the inside of the door that can be opened with one or two screws for easy changes. Not so with this lock.

I went with an Adel 3398 Keyless Biometric Fingerprint Door Lock Trinity Fingerprint + Password+ Key. This is a very nice solid feeling lock. I ran into problems with this when my mother was unable to get the lock to recognize here fingers and when she did she wasn’t quick enough to operate the handle in the five second unlocked window. I decided to try another. Documentation for this lock was hard to follow with a number of mistakes in the instructions, nothing to terrible but it would make you go back and reread things a couple of times to understand what they are saying.

Easy to change batteries with a warning beep when the batteries are low and an area on the outside of the lock where you can touch a nine volt battery and temporarily power the lock up to get inside. Using the key requires the removal of the handle and isn’t very practical.

I went with METechs – Keyless Electronic RFID Card Reader Door Lock MID300 Right Hand next. I got a right and left hand lock since these are not reversible. This is the worst lock I have tried. One unit, right out of the box fell apart when I went to install it. It did not include any cards or tokens to operate the lock and I didn’t care for the hidden key slot. The seller also seemed hesitant to disclose what type of RFID fob worked with these and just directed people to buy fobs from them. I ended up sending both of these back and never got them fully installed on the door. I’m still waiting on the refund. the refund eventually came, thank you Amazon Prime.

Not one to be easily discouraged I went to another lock set I found on Amazon. The Rano Electronic Door Lock. W/ Code, Mifare Keyfob & Mechanical Key. (Version 2). This uses a key, a four to eight digit pass code, and RFID stickers or fobs. I can use any one of these methods to unlock the door. Its not as solid feeling as the Adel lock and it doesn’t have a fingerprint reader but it works well. It will store up to two hundred user codes, this includes fobs, stickers, and key codes. Individual codes can be deleted or deactivated for a period of time

  • Package includes 2 keys and 2 key chain fobs. Contact us via Amazon for Mifare Stickers if Needed 
  • Keypad, Keyfob, or Metal Key. Mifare Sticker Needed to Use Phone as Key.

I haven’t been able to figure out how to get my Nexus 5x to work with this yet as the instructions are a little unclear as to how I need to use a sticker and the phone. Using NFC Tester the phone seems to pass all tests for use with this lock. I think I just need to spend a little more time with the lock to get it working correctly. The line above seems a little confusing where it states you need a sticker to make it work with your phone.

I used the two RFID stickers that came with the lock on my wife’s MotoG (no NFC) and my sisters IPhone. Just place the sticker on the outside of the phone case and it works fine when held up to the lock.

I’m using a couple of eight digit codes and these work well you just need to hit # after entering the code. The door stays unlocked for about ten to fifteen seconds after a correct code is entered or a fob is used. I think this will be enough time for mom to get in and not freeze to death in the hallway come winter.

For the lock on the exterior door I added a cover to keep the moisture off it and so far that seems to be working well. I’ll have to see how this works once the snow starts to fall and maybe blow in through the bottom of the cover.


The exterior door lock was kaput when I got home today. To much ice and snow on it so it gave up and I had to use a key to get in. I replaced it with Yale Real Living  Touchscreen Lever Lock with Z-Wave in Oil Rubbed Bronze (YRL220-ZW-0BP). WIth this connected to my Samsung Smartthings hub I can unlock the door from my phone. So far so good this has a touch screen rather than buttons so it should be a little more water tight.


At first I used the Z-wave in these with SmartThings and then moved them to Hubitat and eventually connected both of the locks with my Ring Alarm. Moving between different Z-Wave systems was a small hassle but not terrible, just time consuming.

Batteries need to be replaced about every six to eight months so far. The key works and they can be unlocked with the button from inside or the keypad from outside. Using the keypad and the code setup through Ring Alarm has the added benefit of disarming the alarm system when I unlock the door.

The Cell Phone and I

I have three phones currently an IPhone 4s 8GB on Verizon for work. Cellular coverage is better than Project fi or RW and since work pays for that one the price is right. This is a pretty good phone but expensive if I had bought it and most likely I would be locked into the Verizon service contract since it seemed cheaper than their pay as you go with data. I have some dead spots near where I live but nothing like Sprint or T-Mobile in this area.

My wife has a Moto G third generation sixteen GB with a thirty two GB sim card on RW. The Sprint coverage is poor where we live but we have WiFi at the house and can get a cellular signal within a few miles of the house. Our last bill with RW (Republic Wireless) was $15.25 hard to beat that and we are pretty happy with the service when I have contacted RW support they have been great.

We also had a Moto X first generation on RW which was used at home and in Brazil to text with no problems on WiFi but we didn’t try any calls in Brazil. This was my wife’s phone and she was happy with it. While in Brazil it was lost. When she returned here she took the Moto G and I needed to get a new phone.

I started at RW with a Moto E first gen and a sim card. This just didn’t have enough built in memory and I replaced it with the Moto G that eventually became my wife’s. I left the phone in a drawer and the battery died and I then learned about the problems of letting a cell phone battery run to low and was unable to recover it without opening the phone and going through some extra steps to get it back up and running. Eventually this phone was thrown out.

When my wife took the Moto G I decided to try Project fi. It hasn’t been a full month yet but my first charge was $35.32 ($27.81 with discount), I have used less than .20 GB for the month so I should get a refund at the end of the month. I am about twenty days into the billing cycle right now.  I got a Nexus 5x 16GB and I am very happy with this phone running Waze and Audible on my daily commute it keeps up just fine. Cellular coverage is about the same as RW and call quality is as good but the speakers on this phone aren’t as good as the Moto X, Moto G or the IPhone. The thing I like most about the phone is I can switch to another carrier if I decide to and I get updates from Google not from RW or another carrier. I am happy with this so far but I would use this phone on RW as well if it were an option.

I like the service I get from RW and fi but the phones being locked to their service really puts a kink in it for me. Most places I am in during the day have WiFi and I use that for almost all my data and calling.

First full month on fi.


$27.37 for the month of May through June.

Bob and Rose Estes

My Aunt and Uncle.

Thursday night early Friday morning my Aunt Rose died. Leaving her son my cousin Tom behind. Allen Tom’s brother died a few years ago and Uncle Bob a few years before my Dad.


There is a house in Randall, NY that was bought by my Aunt and Uncle for $400 dollars (I talked with Tom today and he said this was actually $300). The house was full of Sears catalogs and old papers. A dumbwaiter that went from the basement to the second floor. An outhouse in the backyard. My Grandfather and my Uncle worked to make this a house to live in and Aunt Rose and Uncle Bob raised Allen and Tom there and made it into a home.

I saw my first remote controlled TV. Only two stations on an antennae but a remote control the size of a brick. I heard stories of bed springs in the concrete for the driveway, a cat called Fluffy and the NY Yankees. Celery that grew and then turned around and went back into the ground. A quilt made by the Amish for my Aunt. A GE Electrak mower that went to the end of the yard and then had to be towed back in when the batteries died. A basement that flooded when it rained hard. Clothing being washed and ironed, even the diapers. Vanity plates for the car ESTES1.


After my Dad died Aunt Rose came over and painted the shed with my Mom. She mowed the lawn and helped anyway she could.

When I stopped by Aunt Rose  would always ask if I was hungry and she would get something to eat out in the kitchen. A glass of water or anything I wanted. I felt comfortable there. I will miss my Aunt Rose.

Cousin Barbara and Aunt Rose summer 2015.


The Estes’s. Uncle Bob is second from the right back row and Aunt Rose is front row right.


Cider or apple juice

finished product

We collected some apples today and made my first attempt at cider. It’s not exactly right since I don’t have a press but we used a juicer to get it done. We collected two five gallon buckets of apples but only did about three quarters of one pail to make three quart jars of cider. Rinse the apples off and just go to town.

Five gallon pails of apples

We diced the apples up and removed any bugs or rotten spots. I’m not sure this is really needed as when I have been to a cider mill it doesn’t look like they do any of this they just crush the apples.

Working the apples
Working the apples

We took turns cutting and juicing.


Very frothy before I pour it off into the jars and put it in the fridge.

Anybody up for a trip to Alaska?


Seventy two hours of driving using eight hour days and that’s nine days to get to Fairbanks and another nine days to get back. Roughly four thousand miles and over four hundred and fifty miles a day. Denali NP would probably be the real destination. Thats a heck of a trip.

If I could get the wife to drive maybe we could do twelve hour days and make it seven days covering about six hundred miles a day. Three hours on and three hours off for each driver. This is starting to sound like a real marathon. We’d need to be real comfortable in whatever we drive.

Here is a link to some people that actually did the trip showing their Alaska route.

Anybody else out there crazy enough to try this trip? What sort of an RV would you use large or small and keeping in mind some of the roads are not paved. Can’t take animals across the Canadian border without making special arrangements and you might not get permission for that at all. This sounds like a three week trip with two weeks dedicated to travel and little else.

I see one couple did this in a nineteen foot RoadTrek and two couples in a Minnie Winnie.

Maybe I should shoot for Key West first?

Farm Daze

On vacation this week and doing a few things around the house as well as watching all the activity going on in the nearby fields. I can hear hay being cut about a mile away and I see people up at the Tillapaugh farm feeding heifers. This always reminds me of when I worked on farms from the time I was twelve or so.
I worked on the Case farm up in Gilboa and this was my favorite, I just liked the land and the creek there. The old house had a second floor porch all the way across the front. A very stately place in decline for years. The work was mostly easy stuff painting and cleaning up. Glenn Case took me up there to work and the farm belonged to his father who had to be in his seventies. Rolling green fields with rocks sticking up everyplace and only a dozen or so cows. They had a small tractor, maybe a Farmall with a front end loader on it and narrow row crop front end. I could be wrong about the make and model but it always reminded me of this H.
That tractor always looked evil and didn’t have shiny paint like the one in the picture. These were good times spent working there.
For about two summers I worked on Glennis and Terry Blanchard’s farm over near Ephratah. This was another small farm, maybe twenty cows or less milking. Glennis was a mechanic for a bus garage and this was his second job. You can never have to much work you know. They had a couple of cute daughters Becky and Roxanne. The barn had a vacuum line for milking and the milk went into a five gallon stainless steel pail and then you would walk it over and dump it in the bulk tank. This farm had a John Deere with a narrow front end and a hand clutch. This tractor kept you busy all the time hand throttle, hand clutch, and a shifter. It had some gearing in it that would go about twenty miles an hour on the road and with that narrow front end it was twitchy at road speeds.
I enjoyed this place as well and have some good memories from this farm. I still see Terry every now and then and I have seen Glennis’s name in the paper mentioning the garage where he is the manager now.
The farm I worked on the longest was Howard Crosby’s place. I live on the back of that farm now in a small plot that my parents bought from Howard about twenty years ago.
Howard had Allis Chalmers tractors and I usually drove one of the older smaller tractors for him. Hauling things like hay wagons around and raking hay in the fields. These were very good summers. Howard was always patient with me and I think I broke a few things that never should have broken I was just trying to go faster.
I broke a manure spreader one day when I got to the field and the gate wouldn’t lift and I tried to put the gate back down with something stuck under it. Howard welded that one back together and fixed it up.
Another time I broke one of the old hay wagons coming down a hill and I didn’t slow down for an old broken culvert. I think I nearly killed Timmy that day as he and Tom were riding on the wagon when it bounced up in the air as we crossed the culvert.
Another time I had a full manure spreader hooked up and we were over by Herman Rd came down the hill there and a tie rod popped off the old tractor and the front wheels went in different directions. I came to a stop all in one piece and not crushed by a load of manure at the base of the hill. But it was touch and go there for a while.
I think I was about twelve when my father hooked up two hay wagons and a rake to the back of the tractor and had me drive all of that from the main farm down to Howard’s mothers place where there was another field we were going to bale that day. This had to be about fifty feet long with all this in tow. Nothing bad happened and I survived but I was nervous that day.
One summer I raked all summer long with a wheel rake and didn’t have any tines break. Then Howard took it out one day and broke about three tines in the first hour. Things must have been just ready to break at any second and I was happy that wasn’t me when things did break.
I remember picking stones in the fields here and discing fields for hours as well as cutting firewood back in amongst the trees on a crisp fall day. I worked on this farm for several years.

Best Vacation Ever

As a kid there were five kids in our family and Mom and Dad, we went on vacation once. Mom said we were going to Florida and Dad said Louisville, Kentucky. We ended up in Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

We spent a couple of days at the battlefield and visited all sorts of neat historical locations. We learned about Little Roundtop and Devils Den as well as Pickett’s Charge. We listened to readings of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and visited a panoramic painting of the battle

We visited the Hershey plant and stayed in a town with a huge Musselman smoke stack and a five and dime that we visited several times.

We watched Buck Rogers on TV, the old black and white version and ate in the hotel room. The hotel room had a small kitchen and two rooms one for mom and Dad and the other for the four kids that came on this trip. My older sister Sandy was in College and she claims this was the best trip she ever missed.

On the way home we stopped someplace in the Catskill’s and rode the zoom flume.

Worst vacation ever.

These posts are a tribute to vacation stories written by my nephews.