Friday, December 3, 2010

Everyone loves a parade


We are parked at Central Florida Bus Repair, in Lakeland, Florida (map). It has been a while since I posted, so lots to update.

We had a very enjoyable, if a bit strange, Thanksgiving dinner. The "restaurant" was actually a coffee bar (think Starbucks, only independent and local) in what was clearly a former fast-food franchise, perhaps Wendy's. The drive-up window was still intact and used by the baristas to serve coffee to commuters, and the place really did not have a kitchen. I got the impression the food for the big holiday meal was catered. At the last minute I called the place to see if they had wine; good thing, because it was strictly BYOB. We brought a couple of bottles with us.

The company, of course, made the evening, and it was very nice of Karen and Ben to invite us along. The food was also tasty and included all the traditional Thanksgiving flavors, with the addition of Tofurkey (I passed). Each of us had at least two helpings before piling back into the Mini and heading back to Sanford and the hot tub.

We ended up staying at Millennium all the way to Tuesday morning. We had previously decided not to overstay our welcome, and certainly not to look like we had moved in, and so Sunday night after we all got out of it I drained the hot tub. I also stowed the scooters, and put away all the patio furniture including the LP fireplace, in preparation for a Monday departure. On Monday we toured another Millennium coach, a four-slide, $1.8M affair, and then dropped all of $15 in the parts department. We were all set to leave when we decided to stay for one last meal with our friends, and we all ended up back at Efe's Turkish Restaurant on the waterfront for another excellent dinner.

We really, really enjoyed the time we spent with Ben and Karen, who are kindred spirits. We are looking forward to connecting with them at least once more before we leave Florida, at the Bussin' 2011 Rally in Arcadia over New Year's. They have even allowed for the possibility of catching Trawler Fest in Fort Lauderdale, our last scheduled Florida stop before heading west.

On Monday I had called Central Florida Bus to see when they might get us in, and head honcho John Silver allowed that he could definitely get us in by Monday and possibly as early as Wednesday or Thursday. He already had two buses scheduled over the two pits, and it turned out we knew both of them. One was Steve Siem's Neoplan Spaceliner, into which Central Florida had installed a new engine a few months back, and the other was the Eagle belonging to Jack Campbell. Having no place else we needed to be, we decided on Tuesday to just head here to Lakeland to wait it out, where we knew there was an Elks lodge with RV parking.

We decided to drop by the shop here first, to see what the situation was and whether they could order any parts ahead of time, and we ended up just parking in the back lot with a 15-amp outlet. That gave us the chance to go out to dinner two nights in a row with Steve and Harriet Siems before they headed back down to Fort Lauderdale in their tow car late Wednesday evening. Steve's bus is still here, and we are parked tail-to-tail looking very much like a Spaceliner convention. The shop finally had a spare tech today and they started on servicing our air dryer; on Monday they will try to wrap up the other work including an oil change. Looks like we are living in a bus garage for the weekend.

Yesterday Louise went into town for a haircut, wherein she discovered from the stylist that 7pm last night was the annual Lakeland holiday parade. We thought it a bit unusual for such an event to be on a Thursday night, but hey, when in Rome... After looking up the parade route on line, we called the Texas Cattle Company restaurant right on the route, and across from the fireworks over the lake. They had no problem reserving us a table with a view of the parade, but were very concerned that we could not reach them because all the streets around the route would be closed starting at 5:30.

Notwithstanding one run-in with the local constabulary, who seemed put out about the whole parade and in less than holiday spirits, we were able to stash the scooters just three blocks from the restaurant after a brief hunt, and were seated just as the fireworks started. The parade arrived in front of our window just as we finished our entree, and we had a nice, warm view of the ~120+ floats and perhaps half dozen marching bands. It took an hour and a quarter for the whole parade to pass.

2008 Dec 4 parade #32

Last night temperatures here dropped below freezing, and by parade time I would say it was in the 40s, so we were happy to be inside. The streets and sidewalks were jammed with people in lawn chairs, shivering. The very last float carried Santa, who was indeed a jolly old soul. We had already seen several floats with what looked at first like Santa but turned out, as they came closer, to be The Grinch. I counted no fewer than six Grinches, so either Lakeland is a very grumpy town, or parade organizers mandated that there could be only one real Santa float, and The Grinch makes a convenient substitute.

Since we have a power outlet, Louise fixed something in the crock pot for tonight, and we are settled in for the weekend. I am hoping they will finish us up on Monday and we can still make Tuesday morning's COTS-1 rocket launch, especially since the next shuttle has been pushed back to February. However, I don't want to leave here until all the work is done, so we are prepared to stay all the way to Thursday if necessary, and be in Stuart by Friday for the Nordhavn open house.

Both photos by lakelandlocal, used under a Creative Commons license.

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