I'm writing this to you from Camping World in Kissimmee, Florida (about a stone's throw away from Walt Disney World, where I'll be with patron Jon Timlin tomorrow) where Imua is currently being serviced. If it wasn't for your support, I'd be preparing to head out on tour next week with several issues that could cause trouble down the road. Nothing huge, but requiring attention nevertheless. Here's what's being fixed today:
• Power Converter - The coach batteries have stopped charging up while driving. Though I've kept water in them and am pretty sure they're still good, I want to be sure that the converter isn't on its last legs. Currently, I need to fire up the engine in order to get the relay to switch on, allowing me to start the generator. If it's just the batteries; awesome. If it's the converter, then it'll be great to have it replaced.
• Exterior Gray Water Pipe - This was busted last summer when a tow truck driver lifted Imua's nose too high and cracked it wide open (thank God it wasn't the black water tank!) My RV tech friend Neal, of Road Ready Repair in Nashville, did a quick patch on it, but it didn't last too long, resulting in all of my gray water constantly leaking through the seal. This isn't disastrous, but it's not terribly cool to leak wastewater all over the place and it could get me either cited or uninvited from places where I intend to camp.
• Coach Door Window - It's been a problem for a while; the glass in the door has slid out of position and I've been holding it together with duct tape. Still, despite my temporary fix, the window continues to shift and allow air and water into the coach. As you may know, water is the sworn enemy of RVs and too much of it can cause severe damage.
• Pantry And Closet Drawer Catches - I've "fixed" these a few times and apparently am not doing a great job. When I turn corners in both directions, these drawers slam open, which could result in damage to the drawers and another, more costly, fix.
• Outside Storage Bay Lock - I haven't talked much about this because it shouldn't be general knowledge, but the locks on my outside storage bays have been screwed up for a while and I haven't been able to lock them. Now, any enterprising thief could get into those bays with little to no effort, but being able to simply open them and steal all of my sound gear is making it too easy. I purchased some new locks from a company in California and have installed one on the bay with the most gear, but I can't get the rusted lock off of one of them, so I'm having them get it off of there so I can replace it later today. THAT much, I can handle.
Based on the estimates I was given, this should all run in the neighborhood of $600 to $700, which hasn't been available due to bills and such. But having just come off my first big vending opportunity in a while (Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat) and knowing that the Patreon funds would hit today, I made an appointment a week ago with the assurance that these things would be taken care of before I head to Wisconsin next week. Without your support, I'd have to rattle down the road and hope that nothing got worse. I can't tell you just how much it soothes my spirit to have that financial cushion.
As I ramp up for spring and summer tour, there's just one other issue that requires attention and that's the motor for the entry step to the coach. This is a retractable/extendable step that makes it easier to get in and out of such a high vehicle and the motor is on its last legs. I'm going to wait until next month to have that replaced and serviced. For now it just makes a horrendous buzzing noise when it moves, but I'll suffer the odd looks from nearby folks for another month. It's not a priority but it is an enventuality.
Other than that, Imua is in fine shape, which means that I'll be doing some preventative maintenance on her before summer tour. Here's something fun: I did my first oil change yesterday! Okay, so it wasn't on her engine, it was actually on the generator, which gets an awful lot of use when I'm boondocking (dry camping.) Having purchased all the required tools, and after watching some how-to videos, I slid under there and changed the oil like I'd been doing it all my life (God bless You Tube!) I'll eventually begin doing my own oil changes on the V-10 engine, once I feel comfortable with things like lubing bearings and doing a thorough job. It would save a great deal of money every 5000 miles and that's a very good thing.
The fuel pump, the last of 5 that we burned through last winter and spring, that was installed in April has performed tremendously and took us out to California and back, so I think that nightmare is definitely over. I'll be having a fuel filter installed here soon and also checking the spark plugs, wires, flushing the radiator and having everything inspected to be sure she's hot to trot. Imua is the single largest material responsibility that I've ever owned and I'm constantly eyeballing, listening and testing things to make sure she stays in top-flight shape. Having that extra cushion from you folks each month makes it easier to pick up tools, purchase parts and schedule service to keep her on the road. This is especially true during the winter months when my gig calendar thins out and I focus on creating new music for the upcoming season. As winter draws to a close, I have to say that if it wasn't for you, I'd be nowhere near ready to go on tour next week.
Last week in Homosassa was the first time that I offered the flash drives containing the "Patreon Starter Kit" to folks who signed up at the retreat. This was hugely successful, with seven new patrons signing up (and four signing up via Facebook!) WELCOME to all of my new patrons! Some of you even increased your pledges, thank you so much! We are very, very close to the $1500 per month milestone goal. When we hit that, I'll be shipping two full-color commemorative stickers to every patron at every reward level and also scheduling a 4-hour online concert for patrons only. I'm not sure that I'm going to use Concert Window because their quality of stream has suffered greatly and I want you to have the best possible experience. I'm looking at StageIt and YouTube Live as alternative venues. I'm very much looking forward to sharing some new live music with you!
So, what can you expect from me in the coming weeks?
• "Milagro Canyon Jam Trax Volume 2: Mountain Dulcimer Edition" - now that the retreat is over (and so many of you were there - it was great to visit with you and have a good time!) I'll be jumping back in the studio with an eye to complete this project. I hope you've been enjoying all of the tracks so far and have gotten a lot of use out of them!
• New Tablature - I'm going to be arranging a slew of new tunes that will be featured in my upcoming books for this year. As usual, when each one is completed, I'll upload it right here for you to enjoy.
• New "Dulcimerica" Episodes - I'll be producing a lot of these over the next few days so that they'll be scheduled and ready to hit every week. This makes it easy to keep them flowing while I'm touring. I'm going to be purchasing an 8 or 16 TB external drive to handle all of the video while on the road. "Dulcimerica" in-studio will continue to evolve and I hope you like the changes and upgrades that I've implemented. The show, on the road, will be returning to the format of the early days when I put a lot of effort into setting up locations with establishing shots and travelogs of the places and people along the way. I'm very excited to be incorporating aerial footage into these shows, courtesy of the 3DR Solo drone that Jae bought me for Christmas. Many of you have commented on how amazing those shots are and I can't wait to take "Dulcimerica" to the next level with this incredible video platform!
• I'm hoping to purchase an 8-channel audio interface to replace the 2-channel interface that I'm using now. This will allow me to record more than two tracks at once, meaning, I can grab some of the very talented folks that I encounter on the road and capture some amazing recordings! I'm planning a "Duets" album with some of my favorite performers and this will be recorded over the course of the year since it's very difficult to schedule our time together. This has been the issue with the long-delayed duet album with Jeff Hames, which is still in the works. Jeff's schedule is pretty packed and trying to get over to Jackson, MS has been difficult for me, but we're still aiming to make this project happen. My good friend and song-mate Wendy Songe has expressed a desire to record a follow-up to her album "Driven", which I produced a year ago this month, and we're looking to make that happen sometime this summer. This time, we're actually writing songs together, so we're looking forward to seeing what will come of that. So far, we've got some great tunes started.
There's more in the pipeline, but I"ll save that for another post. Right now, I'm moving my chair to avoid the constantly advancing sun and preparing to break out my instruments to do some practice, rehearsal and writing. I'm also going to cut together a video from last week's retreat, shot with you in mind, and get it uploaded here to the feed.
It's a busy and blessed life, getting to make music full time. It's been a long-held dream and, since September of 2014 when I started my Patreon campaign, it has become increasingly easier to relax a bit and focus on the creation of new material and the maintenance of my equipment and transportation. From everyone who contributes $5 per month to Jon, who contributes $100 a month, every single dollar helps to keep everything rolling along, even during the rough spells. You're helping me to not only live this dream, but also to help others realize their dreams of becoming more skilled musicians. You are an important part of my daily existence and not a moment goes by that I'm not thinking of, and thankful for, all of you. My deepest gratitude and respect goes out to my extended Patreon family.
Thanks again, with all my heart -