Wednesday, February 17, 2016

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It

Sunday morning, I woke up in the Super 8 motel and hung around lazily until almost check out time at 11:00.  It was all part of a plan. The Dinner Key Mooring Field was full on Saturday. They told me that check out time was 3:00 pm, so I was planning to make the trek to the boat to arrive just before check out time and see if any moorings became available. They also told me they didn’t expect any open until Tuesday!  

I had a couple stops on the way. I might end up in the anchorage rather than the mooring field. If that becomes the case, I’d need to use the dinghy. In the mad rush toward buying the boat, I had no idea whether any oars came with the dinghy or if it was even set up for rowing. Hence, I was going to stop and buy some oars on the way.  Yes, I forgot to grab the pair of oars that I have in the garage in Michigan.  In addition, if I was going to dinghy back and forth to the boat, I was going to need to lock up the dinghy somewhere on shore, so a lock and some chain was on my list.

I stopped at Tractor Supply on my way out of Fort Pierce and got the lock and chain. Coconut Grove is a couple hours south of me here but the trip stretched out a bit because I stopped at the world famous Sailorman in Fort Lauderdale.  I found a pair of used oars in their veritable sailor’s candy store.  

I-95 ends and turns into US1 just before Coconut Grove. The transition space was packed with cars and it was bumper to bumper all the way in. People in Miami just might be worse drivers than those in Detroit. I’ll get back to you on that.

Consulting the map the day before, my gut reaction had been to just park at the Metro Rail station and hike in. Contrary to this good judgement, I decided to drive into the Grove and check out a couple parking areas listed on the southside of town. Forty five minutes later, I was convinced this was a really bad idea and I hadn’t seen the parking yet.  Well, I had seen people charging $25 to park on their lawn. Already, there was no lawn space for my gigantic Town Car. When I finally got to the first parking area listed on the Art Fest website it was full, of course.  And the lot consisted of about twenty spaces in a little municipal lot by the post office. A ridiculously small lot to put on the festival website!  It was time for me to get out.  

A half hour later I had gotten back to US1. There I had to battle my way into traffic on a right turn and then, in two blocks, squeeze my way over to the left hand turn lane.  Another 20 or 30 minutes and I was a half a block from the Metro Rail station. A couple cops were moving the barricade up another half a block out of the Grove, and drivers were so confused they all just stopped; we all just stopped.  

Finally, I got to the parking lot which was wide open. A sign described the procedure to pay for parking by the numbered spaces. I had to walk four spaces in each direction before I could decipher enough faded paint to decide which slot I had parked in. For about $9, I got a parking space and a day pass for either the rail or a bus. The super nice security guys showed me which bus was headed into the art fest.  

As I approached the bus with a bag of supplies and two oars over my shoulder, the bus driver stepped out and asked “Where’s the boat?” I had a nice chat with the bus driver about boats, airplanes and commercial drivers. He has a flats boat and fishes in the Bahamas with friends who have bigger boats. Several people had come by and boarded the bus, so I thought I should get a seat.

“My supervisor is talking to the cops,” the bus driver said, “They just blocked the road we need to use to get into the Grove.”  

Great ...

I sat on the bus, next to a nice kid who just started college at FIU. After exchanging all the basics, we sat there watching two bus drivers chit chat. Both were driving the same route, both now waiting at the station. The supervisor was nowhere to be seen. I decided I could have been to the sailing club already if I had walked, so I stood up and told the kid I was leaving. Twenty yards out of the bus, while I waved at Ric, the bus driver, the kid caught up with me and we hiked in together.   

The art fest was wall to wall people even outside the paid admission boundaries. Everyone who thought they were anyone was in Coconut Grove to see and be seen. I got many strange looks hiking through the crowd with a pair of oars over my shoulder; even a couple ‘aye, aye Captains.’ All the while being extra careful not to pull some Laurel and Hardy gag and swat someone with an oar.  I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew it was south and east of where I started.  I walked along the fenced off border of the fest until I finally reached a dead end.  

There was a jazz quartet playing at a hotel outside the fence and a nice volunteer standing guard at the gate. I asked if I could get into the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. She asked if I had my member I.D. I told her I had just bought a boat and that I hadn’t ever seen her yet. She smiled, looked me over and down the length of the oars on my shoulder. Figuring I wasn’t there for the fest, she let me sneak in and was nice enough to refrain from pointing out that I really didn’t fit in with the swanky South Florida crowd.  

I wandered through a kids play area and past a concert venue and finally saw the club over a hedge. The border of the kids area looped around and lead me straight to the club’s gate. A gal sat on the other side and asked for my I.D. The boat story and a name she recognized got me through that gate too.  

I was inside! I had to go up and over, through the building to get to the bayshore. This included walking through the bar carrying a pair of oars. Damn, I'm cool. I found the dock and the launch but no skipper. I put my bag down and leaned the oars against the wall. After wandering around for a few minutes, a nice member told me who to look for and to hang out right where I was. When the launch guy finally showed up he was taking a break with his girlfriend and having some art fest food.  I told him I could wait.

A bit later, we took off in the CGSC launch and I got to see my boat! She is a majestic little ship. The launch guy knew the young sailor who had owned her before the lawyer bought her and I got some inside information. She’s been to Panama and back and over to the Bahamas several times. The launch guy had been on a trip or two. He told me I had a great boat. I climbed aboard and the launch was going to check on me from time to time.
I crawled around inside the boat for a couple hours. There is a little more work than I had expected through my rose colored glasses but no heartaches. She will do nicely. When I crawled back on
Ugly green paint and weird plumbing
deck, I saw the launch buzzing back and forth; ferrying club members to and fro, their boat to the bar and back again. The bar had been full when I came through and I think the members enjoy all the hubbub of the art fest right outside their gate.  I waved at the launch a couple times, but couldn’t decide if he was really busy or just hadn’t seen me. Regardless, I hadn’t been checked on in a couple hours. [Note: a more complete boat report is coming.]

Dark clouds were rolling in off the Gulf Stream and rain spit on me for a little while.  I stood proudly on my beautiful boat, but I was pretty sure that I’d been forgotten.  I wondered if I would need to swim to shore.  The sun was going down, the sunset was beautiful, but I still had to drive more than three hours to get to Arcadia, FL where I had orientation for my new job the next day.  I called the bar a couple times, but no one answered.  I whistled loudly toward the shore, though a nearby party boat surely drowned me out. I called the harbormaster’s office and got no answer.  I was really starting to worry.  
Getting late, Still aboard

When I tried the harbormaster one more time, the launch guy finally answered.  I asked for a ride back to shore. He acted just like he’d been waiting for my call the whole time. No problem.   

Back ashore, I had to hike a mile back out to the Metro Rail station to retrieve my car. Luckily, I had already made a reservation at a motel in Arcadia. I called them to say I was running behind schedule. To get to Arcadia from Coconut Grove, I crossed Miami up to the airport and then took US27 all the way out to Lake Okeechobee. The drive is all swamp and nothing to keep a tired mind occupied, but I pressed on.

On Monday, orientation went fine. The farm in Arcadia does sod as well as citrus and cattle. The people all seem nice and orientation included a couple of the bigwigs which is a good sign. I met some of the current drivers as the early part of our meeting was a general safety meeting for the whole fleet.

The most interesting fun was learning how to drop, operate and rehang the forklift on the back of a flatbed trailer. They use two kinds; so twice I had to play it cool on a machine I had never run, each with its own unique steering system. I’ll be delivering sod daily, like fresh milk, to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s around the state of Florida. We also deliver to landscape
companies, nurseries and job sites. It should be fun. I’ve never strapped, tarped and pulled a flatbed trailer either.

At the end Monday, I needed to get back to Fort Pierce. I was thinking I should have my rain gear or at least a jacket with me now that I’m living in Florida. It was all in storage. As I drove across Hwy 70 toward home, of course, it started to rain. Occasionally, the rain was pretty heavy. Welcome to Florida, I haven’t been in a Florida thunderstorm in a long time. It was a welcome sight, actually.

Welcome, until I got into the edge of town and my wipers quit working. I had been having some trouble even before I left Michigan, but now they were dead. No clicks, no action, do not pass ‘Go’, you’re done. I pulled into a gas station as the rain intensified again. My defroster doesn’t work well because I don’t have the A/C charged. So I sat in a gas station with no wipers and gradually fogged up all the windows. I haven’t done that in a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever done it by myself.  

One of the cheap motels in town, Motel 6, was about a half mile away. The rain and the dead wipers outvoted me on where to sleep that night. When the rain slowed down, I snuck over there without seeing much through the windshield. This morning, I took the car over to a shop that had good Google reviews. They discovered that it was not the switch but the wiper motor that had failed. I’ll get the car back tomorrow. I need to stop living in motels and spending boat money on the car.

If I get the car back early enough, I’ll probably try to go back down to the boat. I couldn’t move her on Sunday, but I should be able to now. Both the art fest and the boat show are done. Hopefully, a mooring ball has opened up.
Patiently, she waits for me

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"If you're really from Jersey, you'd never eat Dominos."

Super 8, Fort Pierce
My original plan was to get to Miami and my boat on Saturday afternoon.  The trip had gone well, except for losing a couple hours in Georgia to construction traffic, but when I left Lake City, FL, I was already dragging my feet a little.  

I kept getting these bits of information. First, I was told the Miami International Boat Show was going on the weekend I planned to show up. However, it was on the other side of the bay. The waterways might be busy but I didn’t worry too much about the show.  More recently though, I learned the Coconut Grove Arts Festival was on the weekend as well. It was then that I knew I was in trouble. Looking into the Art Fest, the whole bayshore in the Grove was shut down.  Parking was going to be a problem, getting to the boat was going to be a problem. From 300 miles away, I knew that I would not be able to get close enough to unload anything.  

A few more phone calls and I found out the Dinner Key Marina mooring field was sold out due to the art fest and everything else. Dinner Key Marina is where I’ll be keeping the boat temporarily. There is a free anchorage nearby and I have a contact living there, but I think I want the security and the services of the mooring field. I'll sort that out when I actually get there.

By the time I turned onto the Florida Turnpike I had decided that I wasn’t going to go all the way to Miami on Saturday. It was going to be nigh on impossible to get to the boat and my preferred option to move her to was unavailable.

I ended up stopping in Fort Pierce, where I’ll be living, and starting the process of moving into town.  I poked around for a weekly rental as I already have a job in Fort Pierce, but won’t have my boat here for a month or so. Nearly all my worldly possessions were travelling around with me in the car, so I rented a storage unit to unload some the stuff I won’t be using for a while. And I wandered around town taking stock of my new neighborhood.

After taking care of some set-up-for-living tasks, I decided to find a place to sleep. Imagine trying to find a motel room on the Saturday evening before Valentine’s Day.  Ha! Damn romantics.  When I finally found a motel with a room, guess what?!??  I spent more than I had planned just to be able to sleep.  

Worse yet for my once healthy body, I discovered that Dominos now has sandwiches and other stuff. Road weary and famished, I ordered a veggie sandwich and a chicken thing, both ended up with way more cheese than I anticipated. Just as I heard a knock on the door, my neighbors offered to buy my ‘pizza’ from the delivery guy.  

“I heard that,” I said.

“Hey, I came all the way from Jersey, I’m hungry!” said the disembodied voice from the open door down the balcony; with an accent that proved his pedigree beyond a doubt.

Right in front of the poor delivery guy from Dominos, I said, “If you’re really from Jersey you would never eat Dominos!”

All I heard was a mumbled “that’s a fact” but the next morning we exchanged pleasantries with an extra width of smile.

A Report from the Front Lines of Living the Life

Sloppy Driving in Kentucky
Last Thursday afternoon, I left Michigan in the snow. Perhaps the last snow that I will ever see in person. I had some sloppy driving down the coast of Michigan and then jumped on US31 at Benton Harbor to pass through South Bend and then on to Indianapolis and points south.  Away from the lake, the snow tapered off and I had decent driving down through Indiana.  

I made it to the other side of Louisville that first day. After such a long day, the last ⅔ on the road, I was tired enough that I just stayed at the first motel I found that wasn’t astronomical.  That means, of course, I still spent more than I had planned.  

I was up and going the next morning and promptly ran into some more snow south of Louisville.  It was still in the twenties, but the car was toasty warm and I sallied forth. I had in mind to make it into Florida by the evening.  

In Chattanooga, Sugar’s Ribs sits up on a hill over I-24. I’ve been driving by the place for nine years in a semi. The ramshackle building, tin roof and all, screamed southern barbecue! My mouth watered every time I drove by. Coming so close by car, I had to stop. With a hair pin turn leading to their tiny parking lot, I was glad I had never attempted to go there in a semi.

I ordered a half slab of ribs with fire roasted onions and okra on the side. The waitress, oozing southern flirty charm, recommended mixing their “Sweet and Goopy” BBQ sauce with the “Hot Lips” hot sauce. She had sized me up just right. The hot sauce was a flaming combination of jalapeno, habanero, onion and garlic. The ribs were fantastic. I couldn’t lift much to my mouth by grabbing a bone, because the meat just fell off, and stayed on the plate. The sauce combination was perfect and I bought a bottle of Hot Lips for the boat.

Now I had to get back on the road and make it to Florida without needing a nap!  Judiciously, I had only eaten half of the half slab. The rest was boxed up and waited for me in the back seat. The leftovers would come in handy when I was stuck in traffic south of Atlanta.  

The traffic through Atlanta was as congested as expected, but just outside the loop, around Jonesboro and Stockbridge, 20 miles of construction had turned I-75 into a parking lot.  Of course, just north of Atlanta, I had thought that I would wait to make a pit stop and get some gas AFTER Atlanta.  Sitting on the highway for a good while, even my trucker’s bladder was starting to complain.  Shortly, I made it off the road to a gas station; gas was my SECOND priority at that point.

I decided to take the backroads to get around the construction. According to my atlas, I could jump over to US41 and take it down to Perry, GA to get back on the highway. Once into the little town of Jonesboro, however, at 5:10 pm, in addition to the locals going home from work, MANY Georgians thought to get off the highway and take 41 as well.  Groan!  More sitting still in the car.   

Eventually, however, I got through the traffic and had a pleasant back highway trip down to Perry. I saw some deer and lots of little farmettes and homesteads.  In the meantime, I had eaten my leftover ribs. It was a trick dipping that awesome wood smoked meat in sauce while driving through backwoods Georgia, but it made me feel like a native.  

Just before I got back on I-75, near Perry, I made a reservation for a motel in Lake City, Fl.  I really didn’t feel like driving another two and half hours, but it made me stretch and get a little closer to Miami.  One highlights of that second day on the road was standing in line at a truckstop, wearing a Buddhist Peace Fellowship t shirt, surrounded by a busload of Army recruits in full fatigues.

But the real highlight was, on that second day, I had made it into the State of Florida!

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...