We are in the oversize vehicle parking at the Outdoor World store in Dania Beach, Florida (map), a familiar stop for us. We had hoped to be heading north yesterday after leaving Trawler Fest just before the show ended, but the Saturday night scene along the beach, and along Las Olas through downtown made the five mile drive from the hotel to the freeway a 40-minute affair. As it was then past dark, we abandoned our original plan to make it to the Elks lodge in Delray Beach, just 20 minutes north, especially since we'd ,be fighting our way through the Saturday night crowds in that trendy town, too.
Even though the Outdoor World was really the wrong direction, it's the only convenient alternative in the Fort Lauderdale area on short notice, ever since the Isle Pompano Casino stopped allowing RV parking. We had a nice dinner in their attached Islamorada Fish Company restaurant, and spent a half hour browsing the marine accessories section of the store. There is also a Diver's Direct store in this same complex, which is a fun place to browse if you scuba dive.
Our arrival in Fort Lauderdale got off to something of an inauspicious start. We lingered in Cocoa Beach just long enough to enjoy the morning and take a quick swim, opting to enjoy our time there and take the freeway south, rather than get an early start to take the slower route. We were on schedule to arrive at the Bahia Mar a bit before 5pm, so we could meet our friends for cocktails, maybe say hello to a few other folks, and then go to dinner together down the street. As we approached the area on I-95, our fuel supply was getting to the quarter-tank mark, which is close to where the generator pickup tube stops, and we opted to stop for fuel before we arrived at the hotel. Gas Buddy found us a Hess station with a decent price, and we put in enough to run the generator during our stay. It was an automotive station, and so I needed to back away from the pumps to get back out when we were done.
Halfway into my backing turn, we heard a loud bang and what sounded like a scrape. I slammed on the brakes, thinking I had backed right into a car, or maybe a gas pump, but a check of all the mirrors and the rear camera showed there was nothing around us at all. That's when I noticed the tire monitor was screaming -- we had blown the left tag tire, quite spectacularly. I think we nearly gave the guy fueling next to us a heart attack.
With the tire in shreds and only a thin strip of rubber between our expensive aluminum rim and the concrete, it was all I could do to roll forward back to the pump so we were not blocking the driveway. We would be stuck right there until we could get a tire and someone to mount it.
This was really my own fault. The tire was done hundreds of miles ago, but, given that we are just about to lay the bus up for years, I was trying to nurse it along until we move onto the boat, just a few days from now. It might well have made it, too, if not for the backing turn. That tends to push the swiveling tag axle in exactly the opposite direction, and, like a grocery cart with a stuck caster, drags the tires sideways along the ground.
That dragging is why we never put good rubber on the tag, and, in this case, it is what ripped the tire open by the already frayed belts. Of course, I also did not want to put a shiny new tire on it now, but, after talking to our roadside assistance and calling a half dozen places, ther was nary a used tire to be found in our size.
The best we could do was $375 for a Roadmaster, and by the time I paid for after hours mounting and disposal it was half a bill.
Fortunately it was all done in less than two hours, and we pulled into Bahia Mar by 7pm, in plenty of time for dinner at Coconuts a block away. The bottom line is that I gambled and I lost; if I had dealt with this sooner, I probably could have picked up a pair of used tires for the tag axle and replaced both sides at once for the same amount of money. As it stands now, I still need to change the other side.
One reason we had hoped to arrive at Bahia Mar before 5, in addition to the reasons already mentioned, plus driving in the daylight, is that the hotel now flies the Hilton Doubletree flag, and we were concerned that the parking contractor or policies might have changed since our last visit. So we approached the gate with some trepidation, especially since finding a backup plan in the dark might be a problem. Also, we'd miss dinner with friends.
We were relieved, then, when the parking attendant at the gate simply opened it and waved us through. We proceeded directly to the empty corner of the lot where we usually stay (map), an easy walk to the entire show, but out of everyone's way. We were relieved, when we pulled out yesterday, to learn that the rate had not changed, and we paid $150 for our three nights. High for parking, but cheap to be at the Bahia Mar. That said, the hotel is a bit long in the tooth, and not really up to Doubletree standards, so they have some work ahead of them.
Trawler Fest itself was great, and we enjoyed catching up with many dear friends. It was interesting being there for the first time as actual boat owners, and we started the conversation with several yards that can help with the work we need done. We got lots of ideas for deck furniture and other items by looking at boats, and we learned a few things in the seminar program.
This morning we'll have brunch with local friends Steve and Harriet before heading north. We'd like to be back in Savannah tomorrow night. Our training captain arrives Friday, and we need to be mostly moved aboard by then.