I am typing in the terminal at Charlotte International Airport, in an attempt to be productive during a four hour layover here (story below). And I will be spending money here, notwithstanding exhortations from many friends, LGBT and allies alike, to do otherwise. Lest anyone forget, Charlotte passed the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance that ultimately sent state legislators into a tizzy, leading to state law literally overruling Charlotte's city ordinance. I see no sense in making Charlotte pay the price for Raleigh's bigotry.
A pianist in the Charlotte airport atrium. He was pretty good.
We had a very nice cruise Sunday to Fort Walton Beach, where we tied up at the free city dock at Landing Park (map), a familiar spot for us. It being a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, we passed what must have been a pack of over a hundred boats anchored or rafted off Crab Island just inside the Destin Inlet. Some believe this submerged sandbar is the inspiration for the song Redneck Yacht Club and it sure fits the bill. The water looked so inviting, and it was so early in the afternoon, that we angled over to see if we could even get close, but alas, our six foot draft kept us too far from the action to be worthwhile.
Shortly after passing the inlet we came upon our old haunt, the Fort Walton Elks Lodge. We could see one rig in the small RV parking area. The lodge does have a dock, and it reaches out to a water depth that can probably accommodate us (we'd check before attempting it), but there's not a lot within walking distance of the lodge; we rode almost everywhere on our scooters when we stayed there. With no power on the dock, it made little sense to ask to tie up there, but we will keep it in mind for cooler weather when walking to the beach or the Boardwalk complex would make sense. Even if the dock is too shallow for us, there is a nice anchorage right in front of it.
Fort Walton Elks Lodge. We had quite a few beers at the tiki bar.
We continued on to the free city dock, calling the police department after we tied up to get the requisite permission for an overnight stay (during working hours, you call the city manager's office instead). There's no power on this dock, either, so shortly after tying up, we shut down Mr. Roboto and started the generator to get all the AC units running. Later we walked just a block to an old standby, Ali's Bistro, for a nice dinner, and then hoofed it across the street to Publix to pick up a few provisions. This dock is a great ICW stop, with easy access to groceries, restaurants, and other services.
Monday we got a relatively early start for the six hour cruise to Pensacola. Our marina reservations were for Tuesday, but we decided it would be best all around to be in quarters a full day ahead of my departure. Cruising through Santa Rosa Sound gave us a good view of the sparse facilities on Eglin Air Foce Base's Santa Rosa Island station, including their whizzy new 300'-tall observation and test tower, which would not look out of place at a World's Fair or amusement park.
USAF observation tower on Santa Rosa Island.
We arrived at Pensacola with a bit of crosswind, which made it a bit of a challenge to back into the slip, but we made it after only a single realignment. We then had a bit of a scramble to track down our mail and packages we had sent here; three different businesses share this same street address, including the marina, a waterfront restaurant, and a medical imaging company. We found our mail at the latter of these; the other packages got trapped in the UPS system when the relief driver could not get past the coded gates to the marina or the office. I'm glad we came in a day ahead of time, as our mail contained a new credit card I needed for my trip. We had a casual dinner at the aforementioned waterfront restaurant, Jaco's.
We had everything teed up for Louise to run me over to the airport Tuesday afternoon on the scooter, which we landed in the morning. However, the heavens opened up just at the wrong time, and rather than arrive at the airport soaked, I took Uber for $13. Then commenced one of those travel experiences that make you wonder why anyone ever thought it was glamorous.
It all started innocently enough, with an early push-back from the gate and an uneventful flight. We landed in decreasing visibility and some rough air, and as soon as our wheels were on the ground in Charlotte, and enormous thunder cell rolled in. We stopped on the tarmac as the airport shut the whole ramp down for worker safety; in all, we spent a full hour and a half on the tarmac before pulling up to the gate. I stared at my watch as my plans for a nice sit-down dinner with a draft beer morphed first into fast food and then a grab-and-go snack before ending at having to to be that famous alleged murderer to even make it across two full terminal arms and the entire main concourse in time to make my departing flight to Richmond, the last of the day.
Of course, lots of things were delayed by the storm, but constant checks of departure status were telling me that my connecting flight had equipment that was already in place and serviced and would be leaving on time. I did, in fact, nearly sprint across the airport, narrowly avoiding collisions with other sprinters also trying to make impossibly tight connections, until learning that somewhere between putting my phone in my pocket to disembark and reaching the main concourse, they pushed departure back by a half hour. I had time for a grab-and-go sandwich after all, but not my cherished beer. I resolved to just buy one on the plane for seven bucks, but the Richmond flight was so short there was no beverage service. I made it to my hotel by 1am and crashed.
Yesterday morning the would-be buyer of the bus picked me up at the hotel in his rental car, and we drove right back to the airport terminal to add me on his contract as a driver, so I could return the car as he drove off into the sunset in Odyssey. Sadly, after spending all morning going through the bus, mulling it over through lunch, and then another hour or so in the afternoon, he decided against moving forward with the purchase, notwithstanding a bit of back-and-forth over the price.
I am, of course, disappointed. We spent a lot of time two weeks ago and then again this week getting everything squared away across two trips to meet up with him. But not only did he not dispute the nonrefundable deposit that he'd already paid, he also graciously paid part of my expenses for the return visit due to the death in his family. We're only out a few hundred bucks and a little time, and we'll put the bus back on the market shortly; we need to adjust the timing so that I can get back there for another sale.
After waving off the purchase, the buyer also had to wait while I suited up in my grubbies and disconnected all three battery banks. With a revisit within just a couple of weeks we were willing to leave them connected and the bus plugged in to power, but with a less definitive schedule we can't take the chance that the shore power might go out long enough to knock the charger off-line completely. It took me a half hour to disconnect everything, unplug, and button it all up. The water system is still filled, so we need to either sell the bus or winterize it by November.
I was back at my hotel in time to have a relaxing evening and even make it to the daily Manager's Reception which is code-speak for free dinner. Unfortunately, local ordinance forbids them to serve alcohol so the free beer and wine normally provided by this chain was not forthcoming. I walked to the 7/11 next door to get my fix.
I was up in time for a 5:30am shuttle to the airport this morning, and was midway through cramming down a cold breakfast (they don't put the hot food out until 6) at 5:25 when my phone rang with a robo-call from American Airlines. The crew for my 7am flight was five hours late coming in last night and the flight was delayed to 9am by mandatory crew rest rules; American's unreasonably chipper robot informed me that I would miss my connection in Charlotte and I was rebooked on the next flight, which is how I ended up with a four hour layover here.
We should be boarding shortly and I will be on my way back to Vector at the Palafox Pier (map). We'vd extended our stay there through tonight and will probably shove off in the morning for Alabama. I have not even looked at the route long enough yet to know where our next stop will be.