Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A plan comes together

We are at the Walmart in Arcadia, Florida (map). We packed up at the Turner center yesterday afternoon, and after dumping the tanks and topping up the water we headed down here to await today's mail; Louise is expecting a package General Delivery (now overdue) and we are hoping the post office will have it later today.

This is a familiar stop for us, and, in fact, we had spent Tuesday night here in the same spot. When we left our friends in Vero Beach we headed west on a series of county roads and a short stretch of US98 to get to Lake Placid, where we had a very pleasant stay last year at the Elks lodge over Christmas. We knew there were several restaurants a short walk away, and a grocery store right next door where we could stock up. Unfortunately, after arriving at the lodge, we were informed that they no longer allow overnight RV parking, and so we continued here, where the dining option is a Chili's at the other end of the parking lot.

We eschewed Chili's in favor of cooking in last night, as we had ended up there Sunday night with Steve, Harriet, Pam, and Ken. We much prefer El Pirata, a nice Mexican place down the street where we ate with Chris and Cherie Wednesday, but they are closed Sundays. There seem to be fewer sit-down options in Arcadia each year; Cattlemen's Steak House a few blocks away appears to have closed after a series of failed health inspections.

(Steve and Harriet are the couple in the photo with us. For some reason, we took almost no pictures at the rally this year, and so didn't capture our nice camp setup with the hot tub between Odyssey and Zephyr, Chris and Cherie's bus. We did manage to capture this shot of two of the three Neoplans together, though, at the very last minute.)

I spent most of Sunday working on Chris and Cherie's Onan generator, which starts but will not stay running. Despite using a highly reliable Kubota engine and what appears to be a heavy duty and solidly built brushless generator head, Onan in their infinite wisdom equipped the thing with an overly complicated run/fault control system, and the trouble appears to be in the proprietary circuit board therein. As near as I can tell, the only reason for the extra complexity is to keep customers hooked on Onan service and parts.

By dinner time I had to admit defeat -- the Onan had won. I think the unit will work fine if they replace the control board, a $100+ part. However, I have recommended that they ditch the Onan control system and instead use the same system we have, which requires just two automotive relays and an SPDT switch. Ironically, their control box already includes the two relays and even the switch, and so the parts cost for rewiring the unit would just be some wire and a few crimp connectors.

After my last post, wherein I very briefly touched on some of our plans for the coming weeks, reader Barry asked if we would be at Trawler Fest in Fort Lauderdale this year. While we had, indeed, been contemplating exactly that up until last week, we now have solid plans all the way through March which will take us out of Florida before Trawler Fest this year, and so we will not make it. The next Trawler Fest we might be able to attend is the Anacortes, Washington event in May, but that's still too far off yet to know for sure.

Considering we were waffling about what to do and where to go all the way through Christmas, and we were even talking about remaining in Florida through the Miami boat show late in February, it is actually somewhat remarkable that we are now scheduled all the way through March. A message we got from the Red Cross while we were still in Vero Beach was the precipitating factor.

That message said that they had decided to downsize the Montgomery, Alabama hot site, removing most of the standby equipment and turning into, essentially, pre-wired office space that could still be used in event of a disaster. This will just require equipment to be sent in as normal and some extra setup time -- sort of a "tepid site." I can't help but wonder if this decision was, at least in part, motivated by the report I sent to the Disaster Operations Center (DOC) during our stop there in November. We never did get the keys, but what we could see through the windows was alarming and I recommended a complete overhaul. Too bad the decision could not be made while we were still on site, as it would have cost nothing for us to stay a few days to handle it.

In any case, when they asked for volunteers to help with the dismantling and cleanup, scheduled for January 17-19, it seemed natural for us to step up to the plate. For one thing, even though it will cost the Red Cross to reimburse us for our mileage to get us there, they will get two of us, and we won't need flights, hotel rooms or a rental car, expenses they'd also have with almost any other volunteers who could handle the job. For another, having helped set the site up initially and then checked up on it periodically, we are already thoroughly familiar with the site, its layout, and equipment complement. The DOC agreed and we were selected for the assignment immediately.

Montgomery, Alabama, is some 650 miles from Fort Lauderdale, and once we're that far away in late January it makes little sense to come all the way back for a boat show, especially when we'll be itching to be heading west shortly thereafter. So we decided instead to head west directly from Montgomery, which will allow us to be in Las Vegas in time to crash a wedding of some friends around Valentine's Day. Three weeks to get from Montgomery to Vegas is very comfortable, whereas just over a week to go from Fort Lauderdale to Vegas would be out of the question for anything but a disaster or family emergency.

Putting us in Las Vegas in mid-February makes it a slam-dunk to be in Death Valley mid-March for the annual gathering of our motorcycling friends there. And so, while we had been waffling up to now on whether we'd make it this year, we've now committed, and that will put us at Furnace Creek March 15-20. It turns out that our good friends Ben and Karen will also be in Las Vegas in early March, and we're hoping to spend some of the first half of the month with them.

Things get much more fuzzy after March 20. We'll already be in California, and so it would make sense to look at any boats fitting our criteria that might be for sale in the state at that time. That could take us to San Diego or LA before perhaps heading north along the coast. I expect that we will also put ourselves back on the Red Cross availability list starting in April (we're off it now, having let it lapse at the end of the year), which could easily then send us off in a completely different direction.

In the three weeks we have between Montgomery and Las Vegas, we'll try to swing by to see friends in Texas and maybe Arizona, depending on weather along the route. We'll need to move mostly every day to keep our normal pace. The actual route is not yet nailed down, but I should have it mostly laid out before we arrive in Montgomery.

The Montgomery project is still two weeks away, and in the meantime, Louise signed up for an all-day choral workshop in Tampa on January 11. Between now and then we'll try to look at a couple boats and mostly just relax for a week and catch up on projects around the house. I've also got a couple days of Red Cross curriculum development work I need to complete by the end of the week or so.


  1. The picture is great! Did a double take when it came to Louise, since in my "mind's eye" her hair is cropped quite short. That is Louise, innit?? Did I miss something? (OK, I'm kidding about that last part...)
    Safe travels. and...
    Happy New Year!

  2. So cool seeing two Neoplans in one spot!

  3. what is your m.p.g in that beautiful beast?

  4. @Bob&Ned: Thanks. Unfortunately, the camera had gotten itself into some sort of weird state (perhaps tungsten-correction or some such) wherein daylight photos came out very blue. We tried to color-correct it a bit with our limited photo software before uploading it, but it still looks very blue to me.

    @Thomas: We average about 6.5 with our very conservative driving style, wherein we very rarely exceed 60mph.

  5. What is it with y'all crashing Valentines Day Weddings?


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