Friday, October 29, 2010

Back in the warmth

We are back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where we seemed to have spent a great deal of time about a year ago. And again I must apologize for not keeping up with the blog -- I'm not sure why, but I just have not found the time to post.

We are here because we are leaving tomorrow on another Caribbean cruise, where we will do some scuba diving in the Caymans, Cozumel, and perhaps Honduras. We will return next Saturday. Odyssey is well-parked at the home of some friends here; ironically, they are away at a bus rally this weekend, but the neighbors are not only watching the bus, but also taking care of our pets.

We had a great time at the wedding celebration of our good friends Robert and Linda in California. In the couple of days before the wedding we managed to squeeze in visits with a very few friends who were convenient to our lodgings, and we are grateful to our friends Martin and Steph for putting us up the night before the wedding, and schlepping us to and from Oakland as well as to our final hotel at San Francisco Airport. We all stayed in Oakland at the lovely Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square with the bride and groom the night of the party, so that we could all enjoy as many libations as we desired. I'm pretty sure we were all hung over at brunch the next morning. We have perhaps two dozen friends in common with the happy couple, and we got to catch up with many of them during the course of the party.

4am came all too early Monday morning, but we made it to the airport in plenty of time, and our flight into Charlotte was early, affording us time for a meal in the airport on an otherwise tight connection to Tampa. We made it to Tampa in plenty of time to make it to the kennel before closing, so we had all the pets back aboard by the time we crashed into bed exhausted. Again many thanks to our friend Niles for not only providing us a place to park, but also hauling our pets to and from the kennel and our own selves to and from the airport.

We wanted to arrive here in Fort Lauderdale not only in plenty of time to get parked, packed, and squared away for our cruise, but also with enough time to take a quick refresher dive with Doug, an instructor we like. He happened to have an Open Water class scheduled into the pool at the Pompano Aquatic Center on Wednesday evening, and so that meant just two days to get here. We left Tampa Tuesday morning for Punta Gorda, where we had a pleasant afternoon and lovely dinner with our friends Pam and Di, who graciously allowed us to park overnight in their driveway.

The most direct route from there to here goes through Immokalee, where the Seminole tribe operates a casino, and we stopped there for lunch Wednesday to check it out. Security told us that overnight parking is available so long as the casino is not overly busy, so it is best to call ahead for permission. They want RV's at the far edge of the lot east of the casino, where the charter buses park. Lunch in the grill was passable, if a bit smoky as it is open to the casino floor. We also parlayed $25 in free slot play into $20 in cash when we signed up for the players' club. On top of the $5 apiece in discounts just for joining, lunch ended up being free.

We arrived here in just enough time to get set up, get our wet suits out, and pull the scooters out to ride the 15 miles to Pompano, a 40-minute ride. We were requested to be there at 5:30 for a 6pm class, which ran all the way to 10pm. We spent at least two hours under water, and it was an excellent refresher. We even learned some new skills that our original instructor had omitted from our initial certification class, and we now feel well-prepared for our first dive in the Caymans on Monday.

By the time we finished rinsing the gear and doing logs and paperwork, it was past 11, and we struggled to find someplace open for a light bite that would serve as dinner. As long as we were already nearby, we also swung by the Isle Casino and Racing at Pompano Park to check out the parking status there. My friend in the PR department at Isle Casinos HQ had alerted me several months ago that the casino no longer allowed overnight parking, and we had called on our way into town, too, since parking there would have been very convenient for our refresher class.

Security told us that there was no longer any truck or RV parking allowed, confirming what we had already been told, but we wanted to see for ourselves, as often the actual enforcement is different than stated policy. Sure enough, though, the large gravel lot formerly used for the purpose was now empty, and the painted sign for "RV Parking" near the lot has been painted over -- Isle Pompano is no longer a parking option. It's a shame, really, because it was a great spot, and the casino has several good restaurants. We had a nice holiday meal there last year, and would have done so again if not for the no parking policy. Now none of the three casinos in Fort Lauderdale allows RV parking. Neither HQ nor security could tell me the reason for the new policy, although it is clear it has nothing to do with available space -- the gravel lot is not being used, and the huge paved lot is never full.

A late night Wednesday meant a late morning yesterday. Plus, we are still jet-lagged from our jaunt to the west coast. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, the weight of deferred errands was upon us, and Louise scootered off to the laundromat so we'd have clothes for the cruise. I, in turn, put my grubbies on and crawled under the bus to install the replacement tag axle air hose.

Reader Phil requested photos of the repair, and so here they are. For starters, getting to the hose in question involves squeezing my upper body in between the drive and tag axles, which in turn involves rolling the interceding mud flap up and out of the way:

Here are the hoses in question. The one on the top is, of course, the new hose, which is actually hydraulic hose. Below it is the old hose, with the "T" attached at the far right end (not in the correct orientation, though -- it was just to keep it from getting lost). The dark spot about a third of the way from the left is the blowout:

Here is the left side axle lock cylinder, shown from the front. The loose hose is the supply line for both lock cylinders; while the damaged hose and tee were out, I simply connected this line to the left cylinder, so at least we would not dump all our air when I put it in reverse:

And here is the new hose installed. You can see the tee in place connecting the supply hose, the left cylinder, and the new hose, which runs across the A-frame, through a clamp, and on to the right side lock cylinder. While the hose was out, I had a piece of vinyl kitchen wrap over the input to the right cylinder and secured with twist-tie to keep the dirt out of the fitting.

You can see in this photo that the hose is actually resting on the A-frame. The hose needs enough slack to allow the A-frame to pivot through its full range of motion without binding or putting a strain on the fittings at the cylinders, so in some positions of the suspension travel there will be contact like this. I think the hose ruptured at such a contact point, not from suspension travel but rather just vibration. After 25 years the cloth-reinforced rubber was brittle, and 150,000 miles of vibration wore it through to the point where 120psi ruptured it. I expect this hydraulic hose to last the remaining life of the bus.

I also spent some time on the ladder inspecting and re-sealing some left side marker lamps at the upper rear of the coach. We've been getting some water in that area when it rains, and the lights stopped working a couple weeks ago. I did find a missing screw and some corrosion up there, so I am hoping the liberal dose of lap sealant I put on after removing the lights and cleaning everything will cure the leak. One or both of the LED lamps also now needs to be replaced, but they are a special order item.

Today's chore, in addition to catching up here on the blog, is to pack for our departure tomorrow. The ship does not leave until 5pm, but we try to be among the first to board. We'll probably just call a cab to take us to the pier. I had thought that we might spend half a day today at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, which just happens to be going on this weekend, but after reviewing the exhibitor list, I could not find even a single boat in the show that we are interested in seeing.

I do not expect to have Internet access beyond tomorrow morning, so this will probably be my last post until we return next weekend.


  1. Welcome back to Florida guys! I hope you have an *awesome* cruise and diving! We're looking forward to getting back underwater ourselves this winter.

    Looks like we have just barely missed each other this time around. Hope our paths cross again soon!

  2. Internet access on board cruise ships is readily available, but at a ridiculous price. The industry seems to think it is OK to gouge their customers for what is now commonly free in cheap motels. For that reason, I no longer cruise. Let them know why many such as myself are not coming!

  3. How dare you be having so much fun as to not make time to keep us up to date! :D I'm glad your flights went well and hope your cruise does, too.

  4. Thanks for the bus project photos. Your write-up makes the job sound more straightforward than I suspect it really was. It looks the the job did a great job creating just the right hose for you.


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