Thursday, January 7, 2010

One fewer mammal to keep me warm

I am parked at the Wal-Mart on Dale Mabry in Tampa (map), where we parked back in November to dine at our club here. It turns out to also be just five or ten minutes from the airport, where I dropped Louise off yesterday around 2pm. I had a nice dinner sitting at the bar at Romano's Macaroni Grill across the street.

I suspect this parking option will not be available much longer. The only place the store lets overnighters park is an otherwise unused lot next to the old Tia's Tex Mex restaurant, now just an empty slab fenced off along with some of the parking lot. (There were four other rigs here last night, and I noticed a couple of them had tried to park elsewhere, only to be booted over here by security.) When last we were here, the empty lot had a large "available" sign on it with real estate details -- that sign is now conspicuously absent, and there are several aerial survey targets placed around the property. This suggests the lot has been leased and will soon be redeveloped, and that will be the end of overnight parking here.

Speaking of dropping off at the airport, this is always a challenge in the bus. After carefully researching everything I could on the airport's web site to no avail, I used Google's "street view" to take a virtual "drive" around the airport road, looking for low clearance and/or weight limits. That revealed that the arrivals level had a 13'0" height limit; we're right at that, with the emergency ability to drop 3" or so, but our strong preference is never to cut it that close. The departure level, on an elevated roadway, appeared to have a 15-ton weight limit (we weigh 23-24 tons depending on tank levels). So I called the airport police to inquire what to do, knowing that somewhere in the terminal complex there must be a place for large tour-type buses to pick up and drop off.

The police transferred me to the parking division, a private contractor, and when I explained the details of the bus, they told me unequivocally that the departure level was the right place to go and that the weight was not a problem. Of course, as I pulled up to the drop-off area, an airport police parking officer came running at us to tell me we could not be there yada yada yada, and then tried to make me turn down a 13'0" alley, which I refused to do. By the time she was done arguing with me, Louise was already out the door with her suit case, and we were done; the parking dweeb seemed mystified. I suppose she thought I needed to unload 48 passengers and their luggage. So, clearly, there is a breakdown in communications even within the airport police department; just remember, these are the same folks keeping our airports safe from terrorism.

To be fair, when I did this same thing in Palm Beach a few years ago, the police were very knowledgeable and helpful; they knew exactly what the limitations were everywhere in the complex when I called, and directed me to use the ramps and loading zones signed and designated for "buses only." Perhaps Tampa can learn something from them. BTW, we've now done this at perhaps a half dozen airports around the country, and it's never the same process twice. We know someone who had to have the airport police block traffic while he backed his Prevost out of a low-clearance ramp, so we are religious about doing the research ahead of time.

It was well below freezing again last night; you can expect your orange juice to cost more shortly, as the Florida citrus crop is in big trouble. Once my passive solar heating from the giant windows went away, I had to run the diesel boiler a couple hours last night, and again this morning. It's nice and toasty in here again with the sun streaming through the windows, but this cycle will repeat for the next several days, as temperatures continue to fall. Saturday's low is supposed to be near 20°, and the high will only be around 49° (I know, I know, the rest of the country is in a deep freeze and I have no right to complain). The cats were miffed that there was only a single human in the bed, and only one side of the electric blanket was on. In any case, my priority today is to get diesel fuel, as the tank level is perilously close to where the dip tube for the boiler stops (I'm sure it's already too low to run the generator).

After fueling, I'm still not sure where I will end up for the night, although I will be keeping my eyes peeled on the way to the station. I already checked out the casino, which has no oversize parking at all, let alone overnight, and the state fairgrounds, which only has camping for event participants. There are a pair of Elks lodges a little ways out of town that are my backup if I need them; I'm also going to drill down on the weather charts and see if anyplace in the greater Tampa/St. Pete area might be a degree or two warmer.

The cold weather knocks out over half my project list -- I really don't want to be outside futzing with the fresh water pump, for example, or doing bodywork. Even some of the inside projects, like troubleshooting a problem with a couple of our dash gauges, are really best done in more comfortable temperatures. I'm going to stick to catching up on my backlog of reading, paperwork, and computer issues, along with shopping for a Blu-Ray player.

This last item bubbled to the top of the priority list last night. I went in to Wal-Mart to stock up on supplies, mostly pet food, and pharmaceuticals which I blew through with my cold. As is my custom when stag, I also stopped at the Red Box dispenser to perhaps rent a DVD; I generally try to go through all those films that Louise has absolutely no interest in watching with me. I narrowed the selection down to two before I remembered that we no longer have a DVD player -- we sold our disc changer around Thanksgiving to make room for a Blu Ray player while the darn thing still had some residual resale value.

I could have watched a DVD on one of our multimedia Gateway laptops, but part of the appeal for me of watching these films alone in the coach is to get to see them in full surround sound from our Bose speakers. I seldom get to do this; when I am watching something Louise doesn't want to see, I end up turning the audio system off and just using headphones. So I am in the market for a Blu-Ray player; I think I want the LG BD390, but, as luck would have it, the Best Buy store just a hundred yards from the bus does not stock it.

In a few minutes I will walk across the street to Home Depot to pick up some set screws that have gone missing from the roof deck railings. Then I will be packing up and heading off in search of fuel.


  1. Phew, I had thought from the post title that you had lost a beloved pet! Relieved I was when I saw you were having a quiet stag night sans Louise.
    Stay Warm!

  2. I'd invite you to stay over here in St. Pete, but I don't know that there is anywhere to park something that big, and I don't think it's any warmer. Good thing I bought a couple pairs of long pants a few weeks back to go to Seattle or I'd be a bit chilly.

  3. Sean,
    While I am also still shopping for a Blu-Ray I have read from a good source that the Play Station3 is a fine Blu-Ray player and it affords the option to play some games between discs.
    Cold here in TN too, got up to 32 today, but high the next couple days about 20.

  4. Sean - thought it was understood if you needed a place, to give me a call - 813 two six seven five four eight six - Niles

  5. Sean, I bought a PS3 for the Blu-ray player for our RV, as Sony puts one of their highest quality readers in it and then takes a loss on the hardware cost, figuring they'll make it up in game sales and licensing. It's a great BR player... it'll play just about anything, including the "Tru-HD" and 7.1 Pro stuff. It also nicely interpolates for whatever your sound and video system can handle, as long as you're using HDMI cables. Oh... and there are some excellent games too. ;)

  6. Wow, lots to answer here.

    @shmode: Thanks for the concern and the sentiment, and, FWIW, I think you should keep the blog (I know -- easy for me to say from over here).

    @NomadRip: Also thanks for the sentiment.

    @Russ and @Jonathan: I did, briefly, consider a PS3. However, the controller is a clunky way to run a disc player, which is what it would get used for 99% of the time, and a "real" video remote is an extra-cost option. It can't be integrated with any universal remotes because it is not infrared. The DVD player does not upconvert, and Sony is behind the curve in available network content. Lastly, straight players have now edged the PS3 out on price; the LG is top of the line and comes out to less than a PS3 by the time you add the remote; perfectly good units without WiFi can be had for less than $150, and non-networked players for around $100. We're not gamers, so I suspect we'd never even buy a game title for the thing, either.

    @Niles: Sure, I understood that the last time you mentioned it. My problem is that I can never remember where anybody lives. Seriously, I forgot completely you were in the Tampa area. I'll give you a buzz once I figure out my plan here.

  7. I'd say come down to Sarasota, but it's not any better here! Luckily we have two electric heaters plus a gas heater if it decides to snow! ;D

  8. Sean,
    As usual I guessed you've been doing your homework. Can you share with me what other players get high marks besides LG. I have had a couple of their products and wouldn't give a plug nickel for anything with their name on. Just my opinion not Consumer Reports.
    I haven’t made a Blu-Ray purchase yet, and while I was told the PS3 has a good picture, the controller was never mentioned – thanks.



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