Thursday, November 19, 2009


We are at a Wal-Mart in Ocala, Florida, just west of Silver Springs (map).

We had a very pleasant and uncrowded drive down US-27 from Branford, after a short stint on US-129 from Live Oak. Ocala was a logical stopping place, and there are three Wal-Marts here. Unfortunately, the one closest to our "route" (such as it is) is a no-overnight location, so we had to come a few miles east to this one. We had a nice dinner at the Horse and Hounds pub just a few doors down.

On our way here, it dawned on me that our friends Tom and Kathleen had told us they'd be in Bushnell -- we had missed them earlier this month in Glen Burnie, MD by only a day. That's just an hour south of here, so I messaged them on the Blackberry when we knew we'd be here. As it turns out, they've moved to Lutz, which is closer to Tampa, and, had we known that, we could have bypassed Ocala and continued directly south on either US-19 or US-41. Still, it's not much of a diversion west, and we arranged to stop by this afternoon and have dinner with them. They are staying at an Encore park there, which I don't think is open to the public. My map shows a Wal-Mart across the street, which my list says is no-overnight, but Tom told us the place is closed as the store moved around the corner. I'm hoping we'll be able to park there for a night while we visit.

Our plan beyond dinner tonight is still very much a tabula rasa. However, there are three things on our to-do list for the remainder of the year, and we can probably use some help from our readers here in the form of some suggestions. The three things are not really related, but combining them into the same stop or two would be a bonus.

First, as I mentioned yesterday, we are looking to get our open-water scuba certification. We've both done two "resort dives," so we know we enjoy the sport, but neither of us has fancied the idea of doing the certification in anything other than warm water. Much to the disdain, I might add, of the many dive shops where we lived before we hit the road, who all did their open-water work in Monterey Bay, where the water is 50°-55° year-round. Brrr.

So a suggestion for a dive shop is in order, with the requirements that the open-water work be in relatively warm water, and that there is someplace close by where we can legally park the bus. Reasonable pricing for a total package would also be nice, but bus parking is paramount. For example, my research so far has suggested that the Keys are an ideal place to learn to dive, but parking options there are extremely limited. Which is an excellent segue to...

We'd like to re-visit the Keys. I know this may be a pipe dream, but I'm hoping we'll be able to find an opening or two at one or more of the state parks there. (On our first trip to the Keys, the state parks there did not allow pets in the campgrounds, a policy which changed the very next month.) The parks are booked months in advance, but cancellations do happen. That said, if we do make it that far, we'd enjoy another visit to Key West; however, we've vowed not to do that again from the extremely distant, overpriced, and overcrowded campgrounds on Stock Island. I know I have asked this here before, but we have many new readers since then: if you have access to a parking spot on Key West closer to Duval street, we're more than happy to fork over the money we'd be spending at, say, Boyd's to someone else.

Lastly, somewhere in all of this, we need to get the oil changed. While that sounds straightforward, like many things about Odyssey, it's never as simple as it sounds. Specifically, we need a shop that stocks straight 40-weight oil in a bulk system with a pump. Our ancient two-stroke Detroit requires the single-weight, and the location and arrangement of our oil fills make it nearly impossible to just pour the oil in from a jug (I have to add make-up oil this way, and it involves a three-foot hose, a giant funnel held high above my head, and three or four minutes per gallon). So a recommendation for a diesel shop with this amenity would be appreciated.

In the spirit of returning the favor, I will share with you a "secret" we discovered yesterday. We stopped by a post office to mail in our paperwork for our new PMB and to pick up a couple of "change of address kits." The post office has managed to outsource these, so that they cost the USPS nothing at all. Unsurprisingly, the contractor is paying for them with advertising, but it turns out they actually contain some nice coupons. For example, a 10% discount at Lowe's on any single visit, up to $5,000 (for a potential discount of $500). Nothing on these coupons requires you to have actually moved (although they are limited to one per household and are time-limited), so if you have a big purchase coming up, walk in to your local post office and see what's in the free change of address kit. Ours included discounts at Lowe's, Best Buy, and several other retailers.

Photo by hashmil, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Sorry I cannot help you with any of your three tasks! But thanks for reminding me about the discount coupons as I did myself a change of address... I'll stop again at the POffice as we are headed to near Houston on the Hack. Will have to get some little, real little things at Best Buy, Walmart and of course Petsmart for Mr Spirit... It was a nice dry 87 here today... no blue haired ladies... This beats the Keys anytime!!!

  2. S & L,

    Where's you're email link? I've got some info for you from a friend in the Keys.


  3. @Pat: You can find it on the Who We Are page linked near the top of the sidebar. Don't forget to remove the spam-foiling part!

  4. Did you get it? It was kicked back the first time.



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