Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Catching up in Stuart

We are parked at the Elks Lodge in Stuart, Florida (map), just a few blocks (and across the river) from the empty lot where we parked during the boat show.

We squeaked one final night out of that location; the show ended Sunday, but they were still packing it up well into Monday and the street also remained blocked off. I'm guessing we could have stayed even longer -- no one so much as gave us a second glance, least of all the local constabulary -- but we did not want to push our luck, especially with this Elks lodge so close. In fact, this spot was our "backup" plan had we been unable to park right at the show; it would have meant leaving our scooters at the south entrance each day and hoofing it to the Expo, though.

We rolled down here about mid-day on Monday; since the show still had the route to the Roosevelt Bridge on the Old Dixie Highway closed off, we had to backtrack a few blocks and take the new US-1 bridge instead. The lodge here just has a parking lot, but it's free. We pulled the scooters out and rode to dinner at Luna restaurant right downtown, now easily accessible since we are on the correct side of the river.

We decided to stay right here in Stuart and get some downtime to catch up on a few things. The weather has been pleasant and there are plenty of services and restaurants here. Yesterday Louise rode across to the nearby laundromat and caught up on laundry as well as some essential shopping, and we rode down to the Honda/Suzuki dealer where were were able to find a mirror with a usable right-threaded stem for her scooter, so she can now use the nifty quick-release our new friend in Largo made for us.

They're working great, by the way, and we're ecstatic about how easy it now is to set up and tear down the scooters. On our way back, we stopped at Carrabba's for dinner, and it was packed to the gills at 5:30 -- early crowd here in Stuart.

The big news is that we finally have the makings of a plan for the next few weeks. The Red Cross finally nailed down the meeting we are scheduled to attend, which will be starting February 25th in Tucson, Arizona. You may recall we hinted earlier that this meeting might be somewhere in Florida, which was possibly an earlier plan, and we've been casually hanging around here waiting on official word -- no sense expending diesel to drive someplace else only to have to come right back here. Now that it has been confirmed to be in Tucson on a specific date, we are free to leave Florida and start heading west.

In the meantime, however, we've put the next space shuttle launch on our calendar, which is scheduled for February 7th. This is one of those things where I've been saying for years "one of these days, when it's convenient, we'll watch a shuttle launch." Well, of course, the shuttle program is in its final months, so we may not get a more "convenient" chance than right now, where we are already in Florida just two and a half weeks from launch. That still gives us plenty of time to make it to Tucson for the meeting, albeit on a faster schedule that we would otherwise choose, and so we have decided to remain here through the launch. As a bonus, it is scheduled to be a night launch, which will be particularly spectacular.

Shuttle launches, of course, get scrubbed on a regular basis, sometimes for weeks or even months depending on launch windows. Fortunately, there is also an Atlas V launch scheduled just two days later, on February 9th, so once we are in position for the shuttle, if it gets postponed, we will still have a good chance of catching a rocket launch within a couple days. Now all we need to do is figure out a good place to park Odyssey for the duration, starting the afternoon of the 6th, or possibly even the 5th to beat the weekend crowd. That week is also the lead-up to the Daytona 500, which might bring additional crowds. Which reminds me, perhaps that week will be our big chance to take in a race from our race-ready roof deck -- maybe I should look into infield tickets for one of the warm-up events.

As long as we're going to be here at least through the 7th, we'll head back down to Fort Lauderdale for Trawler Fest, the last three days of January. While we enjoyed Cruiser Expo, and especially meeting the DeFever Cruisers group, who represented the lion's share of attendees as it coincided with their rally at the Harborage Marina, there was not a good representation of trawlers in the boat show. We got more out of cruising the docks (pardon the pun) at Harborage when the DeFever folks had their boats open for an informal trawler-crawl Saturday afternoon. That said, we did spend a fair bit of time on a pair of new American Tugs, the 34 and 41, at the show, and both those boats appealed to us a great deal.

I had really hoped to see more power cats (one of the DeFever folks actually had an Endeavour 38, and we enjoyed seeing that), as well as some other trawlers that are notably absent on the west coast, where most of our show attendance has happened thus far. The lineup for this Trawler Fest seems to be more comprehensive, and so we'd like to at least register for the boat show portion (the seminars are getting to be old hat for us now). That gives us a good ten days to travel only 75 miles -- one of the reasons staying a few extra days in Stuart made sense.

We've been using the time to catch up on projects that have languished around the house. In my case that's included quite a bit of writing, between submissions to Bus Conversions magazine (I am now writing a monthly column answering electrical questions), writing recommendations for former employees (the job market is brutal right now), and helping a good friend with a business proposal. Whenever I get caught up, I then have some items to list on eBay.

I'm also going to try to line up someplace to change our engine oil as well as someplace to have the alignment checked in the next ten days, preferably somewhere along the direct route from here to Fort Lauderdale. If I can get all that taken care of, we might even try to squeeze in some more scuba diving before we have to leave the warm-water part of the state.

The Red Cross meeting and our travels thereto will mean we will once again miss our friend Linda's birthday bash, held each year on Presidents Day weekend, usually in Death Valley. In fact, we already have reservations at Furnace Creek this year, which we will have to cancel. I am especially bummed because she has just announced her engagement (via Facebook -- welcome to the 21st century) and we'd like to pass along our congratulations in person, but it will have to wait. We missed her party last year as well, which was in one of our favorite spots, Baja, while we flew off to Hawaii for yet another wedding -- the last of our single friends are dropping like flies, but we enjoy any excuse for a party.

I expect we will leave Stuart tomorrow or Friday, heading for another Elks lodge in either Palm Beach or Del Ray before heading, most likely, to the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach. A lot will depend, though, on what arrangements I can make for the oil change and alignment.


  1. Thanks from an armchair traveler.
    There are over 55 retirement communities
    with plenty space, gym and own machine shop/wood workshop. Importantly, some retireees still have
    technical skills/contacts.
    There is the Super RV show at the state fairgrounds. I'd be interested in your writing an article about how to choose the BEST shows and CONFERENCES. Another example of a trade show is the TOY FAIR in New York City. You would need to have a business or be a 'partner' of a toy business. Yes, software accounting does qualify.

    Thanks from Tampa, FL, USA, Sun City Center and Kings Point. 33573

    Question: does a 'barking dog' on recording help to
    secure the vehicle in 'dangerous areas'?

    Even Walmart 24 hour parking lot may not be
    completely safe. For example. Sun City Center is very safe,
    with own community patrol. The Walmart is
    located in Wimauma, Florida - high Mexican Farmworker area.
    Lastly there are all year round 'boaters'
    at Apollo Beach, Florida. NOT much of mix between the two segments. Why?

  2. Sean, Do you have to be a member of Elks to stay in lot? This seems to be a good location in many communities across US. Thanks for the latest update. We enjoy your travels.


  3. I have access to boat sales at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. Would you like me to investigate tug for sale etc.? This would be a fun adventure for wife and I and we camp in the Canal Campground many times each year.


  4. Sean, For us motorhome owners the alignment of choice and which we consider the premier place is Josams in Orlando ( You can overnight at their business also.

  5. Brings back more memories Stuart!
    Might be time for us next year (well, this year!) to do a bit of Florida... this winter has been brutal, and why is it 29 right now??? I had declared winter over...
    Will try for warmer temps when you pull in here... soon... right???
    Be well... Ara & Spirit

  6. I'm a little behind on answering comments; lots to answer here.

    @Anonymous in Tampa: Not sure what your point is about the over-55 places, but I can tell you we can't get into them (yet!) so I can't say much about them here.

    Regarding an article on conferences, I'm afraid we don't deliberately seek them out; the ones I write about here are ones that intersect specifically with our interests. So, in that sense, I've already written everything I intend about these.

    In regards to the "barking dog," we have always felt that having a real dog on board has afforded us an extra measure of security, and privacy (people who rudely press their noses right up against the windshield to see inside are often greeted by a snarling flurry of white fur). I have heard from boaters who are very happy with a motion-sensing digitally generated dog bark, called "Rex." And sometimes we put out our "beware of dog" sign. All that said, we have never in five years felt "unsafe" anywhere we've parked, and we've only ever passed up a parking opportunity on security concerns perhaps four or five times.

    The reason why boaters and RVers are separate crowds is exactly what you'd expect: Boats can't move on land, and RVs can't move through the water. I can probably count on one hand the number of facilities around the country that can accommodate both, so the opportunities to interact are just not there.

    @Barry: Yes, one needs to be an Elk to stay at most Elk lodges, to keep the lodges from needing a hoteliers or campground license. There are a small handful of exceptions; I think we've seen two lodges in all our travels with parking open to the public. That said, becoming an Elk is trivially easy, and if you pick your lodge well, you can find annual dues as low as $100. We consider that cheap for what it gets us; think of it as a camping membership.

    When last we were at Lake Barkley we actually wandered over to a "boat show" (really an on-site sales event) at Turtle Bay Marina. We saw some good values there. That said, they're all listed on YachtWorld, so no need for anyone to be checking there in person. Thanks for the offer, though.

    @Rod and Jean: Thanks for the reference. At this moment, it does not look like we will be through Orlando before we leave the state, although that could change. Looks like we found a place in Pompano Beach.

    @Ara: Not sure what our schedule will look like as we wing our way to Tucson, but I've put a stop down there on the map in hopes we'll have time to make the diversion. Of course, as long as you are guaranteeing nice weather...


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