Monday, January 25, 2010

Add Stuart to the list

Of places, that is, where we could settle down for a while, if and when our wanderlust subsides and we are looking for such a place. It is a finding that, for us, was somewhat unexpected.

As you know, we are in Stuart because of the boat show that was held here a week ago. Situated, as it is, at the confluence of the St. Lucie River, the Okeechobee Waterway, the St. Lucie Canal, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and a break in the barrier island chain leading directly to the ocean, it is no surprise that Stuart is a hotbed of marine activity. What surprised us was the sheer number of nice restaurants and interesting shops in a community of less than 20,000, and the wonderful, pedestrian-friendly downtown area with shops, parks, docks, community services, and even plentiful parking.

We've already been in town for 11 nights, and we've had dinner at a different restaurant every night (save the two where we ate in). We found a massage place nearby -- one of perhaps a half dozen -- and enjoyed a pair of reasonably priced Swedish massages. There is even a UU fellowship in town, and we enjoyed attending services yesterday. All the usual chains are also available a short distance away; I've already been to Lowe's for parts, and Home Depot, Ace, Wal-Mart, Penneys, Sears, and many more are also here, and, of course, West Marine and a host of other chandleries.

What seals the deal for us, though, is the fact that there is a good mix of residential right downtown. We'd like to think we're done with cars; we haven't owned one in nearly six years. Wherever we land, one of our top priorities is to be able to walk to dining, shopping, and other services most of the time. Here in Stuart, one can live in a place within walking distance to downtown dining and shopping, and at the same time have a boat dock out back and a garage for the motorcycles (hey, I said done with cars, not bikes) out front, if so desired.

All of that added up to us spending several more days here than we had originally planned. Downtown is a good walk from our digs at the Elks, and everything else is an easy scooter ride from right here. We have no hookups, but the temperate weather has required neither heat nor A/C, and we've gotten along with an hour or so of generator time per day. All in all, it has been a great stay.

I've made an appointment for tomorrow afternoon to have the alignment checked down in Pompano Beach, so we'll be leaving here either this afternoon or first thing in the morning. We just had the alignment done 15,000 miles ago, but I am feeling a little play in the steering, and the front tires, also new 15,000 miles ago, are showing the barest hint of abnormal wear. I want to check it just to be safe.

We also need to have the engine oil changed; I've asked around for local shop recommendations to no effect. There is a Freightliner dealer, Atlantic Truck Center, not far from the alignment shop, and absent any further recommendations we'll probably just go there for the oil change. We need to wrap all this up by Thursday. Between now and Friday morning I expect to be staying at the Isle Pompano Casino, who have been very welcoming every time we've been there. (Isle's director of marketing, at their headquarters in Saint Louis, is apparently tracking our blog, and I get a big "welcome back" message from her on Twitter whenever I mention we'll be there.)

Friday and Saturday we will be at Trawler Fest Fort Lauderdale. This is our third Trawler Fest, and we decided to skip the seminars, which are mostly repeats of ones we've already done. In addition to halving the cost of the event, it means we don't need to arrive until 10am on Friday, at which time we can just drive right in to the parking lot at the Bahia Mar resort. Trawler Fest published a discount "overnight" parking rate at the resort, and I am hoping we can get away with just leaving the bus right there at least through dinner on Saturday.

The show runs through Sunday afternoon. I've purchased passes, lunches, and dinners for Friday and Saturday, but if we still feel the need to look at boats or shmooze over lunch on Sunday we can buy those on site. One way or the other, though, we will be out of Bahia Mar on Sunday, giving us a full week before our next event.

That would be the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour, currently scheduled for 4:39 in the morning on Sunday, February 7th. We'd like to be in position somewhere in the Titusville area sometime in the morning of the 6th to get a good spot; I am trying to confirm right now that we'll be able to park overnight at one of the many roadsides in the area, which are normally posted "no overnight camping" but are rumored to be permissible the night of a launch. We're already aced out of tickets for either the Nasa Causeway or the Kennedy Visitor Center.

As anyone who's tried to see one knows, shuttle launches are a dicey proposition. They are often scrubbed at the last minute, sometimes for just a day but oftentimes longer. This particular launch window is mere minutes, but there will be a second chance the following morning about 23 minutes earlier. If we miss the shuttle altogether, an Atlas V is scheduled to launch from Canaveral the morning of the 9th, so I think we'll have a good chance of seeing something go up before we have to leave Florida.

Photo of downtown Stuart by Rrrodrigo, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Why not find a plot of land to park the bus on? You should be able to find lots that have all the power, water, etc. already available and if you're lucky, one with a dock - when you get your boat. That way you have your home and when you get the itch to roam again ... fill up the air bags and head out!

  2. If that Atlantic Truck Center is related to the one in Ft Lauderdale, be wary. I think you were ripped off there before and we certainly were.


  3. @BaritoneJP: Our philosophy is that live-aboard type RVs (and boats) are assets that are best used full time or nearly full time. We see little or no value in owning either one unless we use it constantly.

    I would not be averse to "settling" someplace where, instead of a more traditional dwelling, we would live in either an RV or a boat. However, realistically, that's not going to happen anyplace we'd really like to be, mostly because municipal codes generally prohibit it. (Oddly, live-aboard boats in a city center are tolerated in more places than live-aboard RVs, however.)

    Of the perhaps half dozen places already on our "short list," none allows full-time RV living within city limits. Few allow full-time live-aboard boats, and the ones that do confine them to fairly pricey marinas.

    @Pete: Thanks for the warning. We've been to Atlantic in Ft. Lauderdale, and, you're right, I complained about their high prices. Perhaps we'll rethink the oil change there. Any suggestions?


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