Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bottoming out

I am parked next to Northern Tool and Equipment in the Horizon Park Shopping Center (map). It's just over 34° outside right now; the diesel boiler has been running all morning. It was just over 50° in the bus when I woke up. The good news is that today is supposed to be the nadir, with a high of just 41° (the low was 25°), and things will start to warm up tomorrow. The bad news is that it is also raining, which the forecast says can become "ice pellets."

The spot I am in is the same one that I chose from the satellite view as a good spot to park while I ran off to meet Steve with Louise's package. I had no idea from the overhead view what business was here; when I arrived to find Northern Tool, I figured I would do a little browsing when I returned.

The package retrieval trip took longer than expected. I had figured Steve to hit the meeting point along I-75 possibly as early as noon or shortly thereafter, and since I landed here after 11, I scrambled to get the scooter out and get on the road. As luck would have it, it started raining just as soon as I got the bays open, so I pulled out my rain pants and heavy riding boots -- the only thing worse than riding in the rain is riding in the rain when it's cold.

It took me a good half hour to ride the 13 miles or so to the meeting point. I had chosen a Crowne Plaza hotel for the meet, so I would have a comfortable place to wait. Good thing, because Steve's GPS apparently had some ideas of its own as to how he should travel, and it did not bring him up I-75. That made my verbal directions to the hotel obsolete. He called me sometime before 1pm when he was half an hour out for an address to put in the GPS, and again half an hour or so later to tell me the GPS couldn't find it. It was very nice of Steve to bring Louise's package up from Arcadia, and I felt a little bad that, not only did he need to divert from his route, but he had to drive around a while looking for me as well. When all was said and done, though, it was nearly 2pm by the time I rolled out of the hotel.

Google Maps on my Blackberry told me there was a Chase ATM nearby, across the road about half a mile, and I needed cash to replace what I blew at the Citgo on diesel. Of course, you can't believe everything you see on the internet: the ATM probably existed, but it was inside a secure corporate complex for JP Morgan Chase. The security guard gave me directions to a Chase bank ten miles in the wrong direction; I gave up and headed back towards the bus, but the excursion cost me another fifteen minutes or so.

When I got back to this neighborhood, I rode around several of the side streets and scoped out a number of locations that looked like empty lots from Google Earth, hoping to find a nearby place to park for the night; it was already late enough that I did not want to go far, and a small-print sign on the way into the Horizon Park lot said no overnight parking. This whole neighborhood, just east of runway 18L at Tampa International, was part of the old Drew Field WWII airbase that later became the airport, and some of the buildings remain from that era. Unfortunately, I did not find any good candidates for an overnight spot, and so I figured to do more research back at the bus.

It was well past 3 by the time I returned. While I was sitting here contemplating my next move, a tractor-trailer pulled up to the Northern Tool loading dock just a few feet away, and several store employees spent the next half hour or so unloading the truck. When I walked out to browse the store (thinking now would be a good time to look like a customer), one asked me some questions about the bus. That gave me a good excuse, when I ran into him inside the store later, merchandise in hand, to ask about staying the night, and he told me it was fine as long as I was out of the traffic lane. He expressed concern about the neighborhood (it seems fine to me), but allowed that the truck driver was also spending the night. Problem solved.

The aforementioned merchandise, BTW, was a couple packages of set screws -- Northern had the diameter I needed, in lengths that bracketed the old one, and I bought both sizes. I also looked seriously at several models of lube oil pumps, as it is getting harder and harder to find shops with 40-weight in a pump dispenser. I did resist the ever-present temptation to add anything to my tool collection. The truck which was supposedly spending the night actually booked out of the lot sometime around 6 or so, leaving me alone, which was fine with me, as he had been idling more or less full time since he arrived anyway.

Today I will be rolling down to Largo some 20 miles southwest of here, across the bridge. I will be meeting up with one of our readers, who has a business there. In addition to offering a place to park for a night or two, this gentleman fabricates custom parts for assistive mobility devices, and he has offered to make us some quick-release mounts for our scooter mirrors. The mirrors have to come off to stow the scooters in the bay, and we've just been threading them in and out of the factory mounts, which are worse now for the wear. The pot metal mounts were never meant for constant removal and insertion. I expect to spend at least tonight somewhere near his shop.


  1. Please post some pictures of the custom quick releases, when you have them in place. Also, I hope you will link to the fabricator's web site, if he has one. He might be a resource for others.

    Thanks again for publishing your adventures. Your adventures are a vicarious experience for many of us who cannot yet adventure in such a way ourselves.


  2. Hey Sean,
    Your a better man than I am if you can go in Northern Tool (or any other place that sells tools for that matter!), and not buy a single tool! (see Louise he can behave when your not around! LOL!)

    Tell Niles that I said hello!

    Have a great time and we'll see ya somewhere sometime! ;D
    ;D BK ;D

  3. @Michael: I've posted some photos of the releases, at least as well as I can with the bikes still in the bay (loading them to make sure the releases did not interfere was the last step in the process, and it's too darn cold to take them back out just for photos!).

    Understandably, my new friend wishes to remain anonymous. He's not in the business of doing this, it was just a one-time favor, and his real business does not deal directly with the public. Our blog tends to get highly indexed by Google, and I don't want this poor fellow getting calls and emails from people landing here.

    @Bryce: Hey, I did buy twice as many set screws as I needed, though -- I wasn't sure whether one size up or one size down would be better.

    Of course I can behave. I'm just not saying how!


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