Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wet in Fort Lauderdale

We are at the Bass Pro Shop in Dania, Florida (map), near Fort Lauderdale. Most Bass Pro shops allow a night of parking for their customers; this one has a gravel lot at the edge of the property for trucks and RVs. We are just a few miles from the marina where our trawler charter began back in January.

Monday afternoon we arrived in the area without much of a plan for where to go or where to stay. I had hoped to spend Monday evening and Tuesday morning working on Keys reservations, dive lessons, and bus shops. So we pulled into the first Wal-Mart on our route, in Sunrise. Even though it was not on our no-no list, we were unsurprised to find "no parking" signs, since it is adjacent to a major mall, and we are now in the serious no-parking part of the state.

We proceeded to a different Wal-Mart, also in Sunrise. This one had no signs (at least, not prohibiting overnight parking -- spitting, however, was out), was not on our list, and had a completely unused area of the parking lot. It was also right next to an Office Depot, which has a UPS counter that we needed, so we settled in.

I had to make two trips into the store for shipping supplies -- we sold our fancy five-disc DVD/CD changer on Amazon (in anticipation of replacing it with a single-disc Blu-Ray player sometime this holiday fire-sale season). I was able to grab a suitably-sized box for free, as this is the season for Wal-Mart to be busily stocking holiday tchotchkes in the garden department. A case of holiday tea-light holders turns out to be exactly the right size (and already marked as fragile) and they were happy to give us the carton when we asked. I did have to buy a roll of bubble-wrap, eating up most of Amazon's puny shipping credit. Later I had to run back in when my roll of packing tape ran out in the middle.

After we dropped the DVD player off at the UPS counter, we walked over to a Cuban/Mexican restaurant for dinner. After dinner, I set to work on plans for our stay in south Florida. Wal-Mart's security patrol passed us more than a dozen times (on two different shifts), and did nothing more than wave at us.

Nevertheless, at 11pm, while I had half a dozen ReserveAmerica windows open, the landlord's towing company came by and booted us out. Again, we were not all that surprised, given the nature of this whole area, and upon reflection, I should have recognized the hallmarks of a location where Wal-Mart was not the property owner. Oh well -- we still have a pretty good track record, since this is only the second or third time in five years we've been asked to move off private property.

Given the lateness of the hour, though, it was a mad scramble for the backup plan. We won't drive into most unfamiliar territory in the dark, which rules out a lot of Wal-Marts in this area, many of which have low trees in the parking lot. We remembered a pleasant night at the store in Hallandale, right on the intracoastal, back in 2006, but when I called them they told me it was no longer permitted there. For whatever reason, we had forgotten completely about this Bass Pro store, even though we've eaten at the restaurant here before, and so we turned our attention to our list of casinos.

The Casino Camper web site provided some confusing information about the two closest options, a pair of casinos operated by the Seminole tribe just a few miles from where were were parked in Sunrise. We remembered being turned down at one of them four years ago, though, and the other is a Hard Rock branded property, which are almost never RV-friendly, and so I called both. That confirmed what I suspected, which is that neither permits overnight stays (Casino Camper is updating the web site to reflect this), and so we called the next in line, the Isle of Capri casino at Pompano Park, home to a renowned horse track.

Security at the Isle confirmed what we had read on Casino Camper, that RV parking was free and unlimited in the gravel oversized vehicle lot at the southwest corner of the property, and that's where we headed (map). It was close to midnight when we arrived, but there was plenty of room and we had a nice quiet spot off by ourselves. Two other rigs and a host of trucks were also in the lot; we later learned that the paucity of truck stops in the area make the track one of the few places the truckers can get their mandatory rest periods. While we had to drive a dozen miles to get there, free parking in this area is hard to beat.

We might well have just stayed there last night, too, had it not been for two things. One is that it has been fairly hot and humid since we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, and a power outlet, while not mandatory, would be an attractive option. The second was that local friend and fellow Neoplan Spaceliner owner Steve had referred me to a local shop here that he thought might be able to match up parts and reline our brakes.

When I called the shop, Power Brake and Suspension, they told me they could take a look at it right away, whereas they were all booked up if we waited till today, so we packed up and headed south a dozen miles to the shop. Pulling the front brake drums off confirmed what, really, I already knew: (1) the brakes are done -- we desperately need to have them relined in the next thousand miles and (2) the linings are weird and will definitely have to come from Germany. Regular readers may be aware that we've been trying to do just that for nearly a month now; I called Neopart again yesterday to ask them to light a fire under their German counterparts.

The good news was that the drive axle brakes are in great shape, with plenty of meat left on the linings, and all the drums are reusable (although the fronts are close enough that they suggest just changing the linings, and not resurfacing the drums, for fear of taking off too much material). Also, the hour they charged me to take the drums off and inspect will be credited to our bill if they end up doing the brake work; if I can find parts in the next two weeks, I will have them drop-shipped directly here to Fort Lauderdale.

In the meantime, our research had turned up a nice county park just a few miles south, with full hookups and fairly easy scooter access to downtown for $40 per night (non-resident rate), a bargain in expensive south Florida. The full name is Topeekeege Yugnee, but it is known locally as simply the T.Y. park. That's where we were headed from the brake shop when we whizzed right past this Bass Pro on the freeway, and we decided to check out the parking situation. Permission secured, we settled in for the night, reasoning that the day was almost over anyway, we'd already had to run the generator an hour or so anyway, and this would defer our $40 per night expenditure for another night; we'd planned to just roll down to T.Y. this morning -- it's just a couple blocks away.

Once we settled in, Steve and his wife came by and we all went to dinner, followed by a quick tour of his Spaceliner, which he completed since our last visit. It really came out great, and we're just a bit envious of his bodywork and paint (at five years old, ours is somewhat battle-scarred now).

This morning we woke to pouring rain, as well as a half dozen alerts on the weather radio for thunderstorms, high winds, and small craft warnings. When I went to walk the dog, I was greeted with an enormous puddle so deep that only the very top of our free-standing entry step was visible, and it's nearly three inches tall on its lowest setting. I ended up taking her out the driver's side, which was not underwater.

The rain has had the effect of dropping the temperature here considerably -- it's a mere 70° right now, and the stifling humidity has, quite literally, dropped. It's supposed to rain all the way through to tomorrow afternoon, which also puts the kibosh on our plans to ride the scooters into town tonight. The combination suddenly makes T.Y. a lot less attractive, and so we are going to head right back up to the casino in Pompano this afternoon.

From there it is a single city bus to get downtown for our dinner reservations tonight, and I suspect we will have no trouble getting to either of the locations we've pre-booked for Thanksgiving tomorrow (we'll pick one and cancel the other when we figure out the transportation). It's free, and we can run the generator all we want and still not come close to the $40 it would cost us at T.Y.. Given that it will be raining most of the time anyway, and we're not really going to be able to enjoy any of T.Y.'s amenities, we'll save that option for another visit.

By tomorrow morning we'll be committed, since T.Y. is closed Thursday and Friday to anyone other than registered campers. It will just be for the two nights, anyway, since we've made plans to be in the Keys by Saturday night, and we'll likely spend Friday night someplace halfway there. I should note here that we have a standing offer from our friends of a parking space in their driveway, complete with a 50-amp receptacle, but really we don't want to impose on anyone over a holiday, and we'd rather save our good mojo with them for when we really need it, which is whenever we need to leave the bus here for a while while we gallivant elsewhere, such as on a cruise.

Speaking of the Keys, I was able to get reservations at Bahia Honda for one night (Sunday, the only availability they had), followed by three nights at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo. We'll spend Saturday night at the Elks lodge on Tavernier, which will let us maximize our time on Bahia Honda and possibly even run out to Key West if we feel like it.

I am also on the verge of booking diving lessons for three days at an undisclosed shop somewhere in the Keys. I say that because one of the shops I spoke to, when asked if we could park there for the course of our program, told us they could not allow it due to some Monroe County ordinance. Monroe does not put their code on line, so I could not confirm this definitively, but I found other references to it elsewhere, and it squares with the Keys being RV-unfriendly in general. So I will not name the dive shop that agreed to this until we're done there, but suffice it to say that it is a reputable shop. Depending on the dive schedule, we may cut our stay at the Pennekamp campground short by a day.

So our schedule has firmed up for the next week or so, after which we will end up right back here in Fort Lauderdale to visit with our friends Martin and Steph, who will just be returning from Curacao. The rest of December is something of a blank, but I have my fingers crossed that we can get brake parts in time to have that done here as well.


  1. I am glad our information on Casino Camper was able to help you out. When space is available, parking is usually free at Isle of Capri Casino properties although some do have RV parks and may charge a small fee.

    You can save yourself a bus trip and enjoy a great Thanksgiving meal right at the casino. Our buffet will offer turkey and all the trimmings (plus much more) for only $14.95 from 11am to 9pm; and Myron's Delicatessen will offer a Thanksgiving meal for $11.95 from 11am to 8pm.

    Enjoy your stay with us and have a Happy Thanksgiving. We also hope you have safe travels!

  2. Hi Sean, Louise, and "kids",
    If you don't find the brake linings, call Lynn @ Memphis Brake Services
    600 Hernando St.
    Memphis, TN
    I just happened to remember that the first time we needed to change brakes on my Euro Model Setra (I'm being polite to what I usually call that one! LOL!) we were desperate and didn't really have time to wiat for Setra to overnight them. I called Lynn, and he told me bring them down, I can guarantee you I can match them up and re-line them!
    Well when we got there he looked at them and admitted they were different than what he tought! (he had a Setra in the parking lot they had just done brakes on, and figured our Euro******* was the same......NOT!)
    But after some head scratching he said hang on, and went to look. He game back with a very dusty (about a 1/4") box and pulled out the lining and they matched up perfectly.
    He remembered "we had ordered them for a GERMAN bus, but never they were never picked up." When I questioned on the German bus some more he couldn't remember for sure but he thought it was a "NO A Plan or somethin like that"
    So not only can Lynn get them (or maybe have more in stock), but you might can get them from SETRA. Just remember to tell them they match my Euro model! (last 5 of VIN is 45019)
    Hope this helps!
    ;D BK ;D aka Bryce

  3. Hello Sean and Louis, you are right on the truck parking in south FL!
    You probably know I drive a truck and go to Miami twice a week.
    There are two sort of truck stops down there with one more getting ready to open.
    Pilot bought a huge track of land down there and could not get the permits to build!
    Next time down there holler at me, 828-310-8111, I usually know places in a lot of the towns.
    One is in Riviera Beach across the road from Becky's Garden Rd Cafe on Garden Rd.
    Take exit 76 off of I-95, go east toward the ocean, turn left at the first light, Garden Rd. It is one quarter mile on the left, open 7AM to 11AM for breakfast and 11AM to 2:30PM for lunch.
    You can park across the street on the sand beside a canal or in the large parking lot. Best 50's diner and cleanest I have found!


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!