Sunday, January 23, 2011

Good friends, mediocre surroundings

We are at the Miccosukee Casino Resort,
on the Tamiami Trail west of Miami, Florida (map). We've stayed here twice before, as it is a good stopping point when heading to or from the Keys. This visit, however, was occasioned by the fact that it was one of the very few places within a 30-mile or so radius of Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, or anywhere in between where both legal bus parking and hotel rooms could be had on the same property. We wanted to spend a couple days with Martin and Steph within walking distance of one another.

Back when we were first hatching these plans I had proposed we spend those few days in Stuart, as there is a hotel there within a block of the Elks lodge, where we've parked before, and several nice restaurants in walking distance to boot. Those plans were shattered when we stopped in Stuart last month, only to learn that the Elks lodge there no longer allows overnight parking, due to Stuart code enforcement. That sent me scrambling back to the maps, guide books, and web sites to find an alternative venue for our couple days of R&R. The list I came up with was incredibly short, consisting of a $50-per-night RV park across the street from a La Quinta in Fort Pierce, this casino resort, and the Comfort Inn in Cocoa Beach which was, technically, a bit further off the route. After some back and forth with Martin and Steph we decided on the casino here.

The advantage of this location is that we were literally quartered on the same property, and it was an easy matter to meet up in Odyssey several times for cocktails and conversation. Also there are four different restaurants in the casino, so we did not need to drive anywhere for dinner each night. Topping it off there is a spa of sorts, and the four of us lined up for one-hour massages spanning the entirety of yesterday afternoon.

The downside is that one must transit the casino to get anywhere on the property, and it is a smoky affair. None of us can stand cigarette smoke, and we ended up hustling back and forth across the casino each time. The rooms are standard motel fare masquerading as "resort" accommodations, and the restaurants, while perfectly acceptable, are nothing special. But it was a fine place to meet up for a couple of nights, and Martin even took me out for an anticipatory birthday dinner at the fine-dining venue, which actually is not bad. We've been so busy socializing with them that I just now caught up on 300+ tweets, and have been neglecting the blog. They left this afternoon after one final buffet lunch together, and we'll catch back up to them Wednesday night in Fort Lauderdale for Trawler Fest.

Martin had arrived from Orlando Thursday afternoon, and after checking into his hotel, picked me up in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We left the bus there and headed down to the dock to meet Sandy Hook, arriving just as she was docking. Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell served us a wonderful meal aboard, and we chatted well into the evening. Much wine was poured, making me thankful that Martin was the designated driver, and we are looking forward to seeing the Caldwells again at Trawler Fest at the end of this week. They'll be there starting tomorrow as they are giving a pre-show workshop.

The Captains Caldwell wrote up Louise and Steph's trip with lots of great photos on their web site.

Friday morning the four of us left Fort Piece and headed down to the Nordhavn office in Stuart where we had a nice tour of the brand new Nordhavn 63 model, which is being commissioned. Martin and Steph are looking seriously at a 60, which is similar in size and accommodations, and they wanted to check out the features of this newest member of the Nordhavn family. We spent a couple hours on the docks, followed by lunch with salesman Ray at, of all places, an upscale hot dog joint down the block from the office (it was quite good).

We then parted company with an agreement to meet back up here, as we had to stop off at the Kubota dealer in Pompano Beach for a generator part. Back in Arcadia a couple weeks ago, when I was showing someone the generator compartment, I noticed coolant all over the enclosure floor. A brief search revealed it to be coming from a small angled bypass hose between the thermostat housing and the water pump, and this dealer in Pompano was the only one along our route who had the hose in stock. They were open till 5, and we had plenty of time to make the two hour drive from Stuart, as we left around 2 or so.

It had rained on us while we were on the docks in Stuart, and we had the wipers on periodically as we headed south on I-95. About an hour out from the Kubota dealer the heavens opened up and I had to put the wipers on high speed. A minute later a loud thunk followed by staccato clicking told us the wiper motor had bit the dust. We gingerly made our way over to the shoulder to contemplate our options.

Long-time readers may remember that the wiper motor suffered a similar fate last October while we were in New England. After efforts to locate an exact replacement in the U.S. came up empty, and a replacement shipped from Europe was quoted at around $350 plus shipping, I ended up cobbling together a jury-rig solution using a housing from a slightly different motor, generously supplied by our good friend Bryce, plus the original shaft and ring gear from our failed unit. This was to be a temporary solution, but it worked so well that we decided to just see how long it would last. Having gotten another 15 months from it, even with the original ring gear being in pretty bad shape, was pretty good, all things considered.

Of course, what I should have been doing in the interim 15 months was to be looking for a more permanent replacement in a leisurely, low-pressure way. But out of sight is out of mind, and thus we have no ready-to-go replacement today. So after waiting for the deluge to pass, we liberally applied Rain-X to the windshield, then made our way south on Military Trail, a ~45mph surface street that roughly parallels I-95. Once the rain had stopped entirely we got back on the freeway to make the Kubota dealer before closing.

As promised they had the tiny hose in stock, and five bucks later we were on our way. I was concerned about making Miccosukee in the daylight, especially with no wipers, and I wanted to leave as much time as possible in case of more rain, so we opted for the Turnpike instead of the free route. That proved to be a mistake, as the GPS was not up with the latest changes to the Turnpike system and steered us wrong not once, but twice. We ended up exiting and re-entering the Turnpike after one wrong turn, which cost us an extra couple bucks and several precious minutes, and then we ended up heading the wrong direction on Tamiami, necessitating a rush-hour U-turn. It did, indeed, start raining again, but the Rain-X did its magic, and we arrived shortly after sunset but with some twilight left for maneuvering.

I was able to get the generator hose changed yesterday morning before we needed to charge batteries, a job that uncharacteristically proved both easier and less messy than I had anticipated. And the massage in the afternoon was just the ticket after the stress of the wiper failure en route. This afternoon after our friends left I managed to get the wiper motor out and opened up, thanks to the access hole I made last year; unsurprisingly, the 26+ year old ring gear, made of some kind of composite material, was stripped by the much harder steel worm gear. The stress of moving two giant 28" wiper blades through 100° of arc all those years finally took its toll.

Having already done all the research on part numbers and cross-references last October, I was able to locate a replacement motor on eBay from a seller in Belgium and I am having it sent to friends in Texas so we can meet up with it on our way across the country in February. In the meantime we will have to rely on the Rain-X and picking our weather windows as we make our way there. Which, I suppose, is good practice for the boat.

Tomorrow we will leave the casino and head to Hialeah Gardens, where my resources report two dump stations at truck stops. We'll probably spend the night there at the Wal-Mart. I expect to be in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday night, and at the Bahia Mar resort starting Wednesday night, assuming they allow us to park as they did last year. We are hoping to again meet up with our friends Ben and Karen at the show. Trawler Fest runs Thursday through Saturday, and we expect to be on the road again Sunday morning, making our way out of the state after more than three months here.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you've both been having a wonderful time...saw the post and pics! Aside from the rain of course; been meaning to try Rain-X, I do believe I will now.


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!