Friday, October 31, 2008

My New Home

I bought my boat last week.

She is a C&C 27 built in 1971 and has hull number 13 (meaning this was the 13th boat this builder made). The "27" indicates she has a total length of 27 feet.

C&C is a Canadian manufacturer with a good reputation. While the boat's age is pretty old this is not really a bad thing. Boats built before mid to late 70's had a lot thicker hulls than their more modern cousins. She feels very solid.

I have placed a few pictures on my Picasa page. They should be viewable at this address:

Right now her name is the "Interceptor" which is the name the previous owner gave her. She had another name before that but I'm not sure what it was. I have yet to decide if I am going to change her name. While I've motored her for several days (more on that in another blog) I haven't had the opportunity to sail her. If a new name presents itself then, I'll change it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Passage from Arkansas to Southwest Florida

I arrived at my mother's on Friday afternoon after leaving Phoenix just Wednesday night. Despite being on the road so much I actually felt pretty good. There's something romantic about the traveling the American highways, and whatever that magic is hadn't left just because I'd stopped for a few days on my journey.

My mother's boyfriend Larry has built a 3 hole golf course on his property that sprawls across almost 4 acres of land. He hasn't done anything special with the grass on the land, so its fairly rugged and the greens are, if anything, more rugged than the fairways. We had to adopt special rules and scoring since its almost impossible to actually putt on the greens. We played where each hole would score 2 points: 1 point to the person with the closest to pin on the drive, and 1 point to the person closest to pin after 3 shots. Its quite a bit of fun... We must have played 8 matches or so in the few days I was there.

On Monday my mother and I opened a bank account in the nearby town which was one of the main reasons for my dropping by there on the way to Florida. Since I won't really be able to deal with things like paying bills and depositing checks while I'm sailing in some distant ocean my mother will act as my agent. While I'm sure we could have used my Phoenix based accounts via the web, its just simpler for her to deal with a local bank. Once we finished with that business, I got the itch to get back on the road. So I did.

My route from my mothers to Florida was not as simple as the route from Arizona to Arkansas. I needed to go through Memphis, but from there my options grew. I decided to take what appeared to be the straightest course which leads from Memphis to Birmingham to Atlanta, then south past Tampa to Fort Myers. I started the trip by taking small rural highways from Melbourne, AR to Memphis, TN.

I had been warned a couple of times about Memphis. Nobody in Arkansas seems to think very highly of the place. When I got there I had to agree. I found the freeways to be more than a little confusing. Google maps showed an easy connection from I-40 to highway 78 I needed to get to Birmingham, but I never saw a sign for it and ended up going the wrong direction for a while. It really didn't take me more than a couple of minutes to know I was past my connection, but the highways there don't lend themselves well to people who want to turn around.

Instead, Google maps showed me what appeared to be a main road that ran from the 40 to the 78 which ran through town. Let me tell you something if you don't already know... just because Google maps highlights a road doesn't mean its a main thoroughfare. The roads it led me on were tiny, sometimes scarcely wide enough for one car to go through. The navigational hazzards in the area, combined with constantly having to look at my iPhone screen to see if I should be passing certain streets soon, left me feeling rather irritated.

My frustrations didn't end there. When I finally got on "highway" 78 my poor car begain to take a real beating. The road there is absolutely terrible. Potholes every few feet, narrow lanes, huge semis, untimed lights every quarter mile or so... its a nightmare. It stayed a decrepit road until I hit the Mississippi state line where it miraculously polymorphed into something decent people could drive in peace on.

My next waypoint was Tupelo. I'd been told of a good restaurant there so decided to try it out. I took an exit and followed to the signs (I don't remember the name of it off the top of my head, but it has an Italian name and there are signs for it on the highway).

Tupelo is a really nice town. It has a good vibe to it. The people I talked to in the restaurant were really nice (food was pretty good, too). I wanted to stay in town a little longer, so I found out where the theaters were and bought a ticket to see Chuck and Norah's Infinite Playlist. While waiting for the movie to start I chatted with more folks at the Applebee's bar across the parking lot. Everyone was really friendly.

I liked the movie.

Time to get back on the road. It was getting a little late by this time but I decided I wanted to get past Birmingham so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic in the morning. In Birmingham I had to switch from 78 to I20 which wasn't really a challenge, but I did encounter more awful roads. I guess these older American cities just don't care about their highways like the west coast cities do.

The next day I made Atlanta and got on I-75 south, the last highway change I would need to make. About 5 miles south of Atlanta I ran into a massive traffic jam. I can only assume there must have been an earth shattering accident cause we, my fellow travelers and I, were immobile for almost 90 minutes. We finally had some police direct cars off the highway for a detour, which consumed another 45 minutes, before I could get back on I-75 and moving again. I've since heard that this is normal for Atlanta.

The only other semi-noteworthy item was the number of highway patrolmen I saw on I-75. In my entire trip thus far (about 2,300 miles at this point) I could have counted the number of cop cars I'd seen on 1 hand. From the Georgia/Florida border to the first Tampa exit I saw I counted 24 highway patrol cars... and I'm sure there were many I missed camping out in rest stops on the other side of the highway.

Anyhow, I made it safe and sound to my cousin Jimi's house. I've had a few interesting new developments arise in my quest to get on a boat and start voyaging which I'll relate next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Passage from Arizona to Arkansas

I've been in Florida a week now and am starting to get settled in (not really a good thing since the whole idea was to get on a boat). I've finally got a spare minute so I'll update everyone on the trip from Phoenix to Port Charlotte.

I left my house around 6:30PM on Oct 1. My car was completely packed as I had several items, including Stella, that I needed to deliver to my sister Jamie on the other side of town. Its a little weird how *little* I was able to fit into the Caddilac... I think I might have been able to squeeze more into the Jetta. Oh well. Bygones.

Anyhow, after dropping off Stella, a TV, and a couple of other smaller things at Jamie's as was at least able to see out the windows again. I decided to hop on I-10 East and start rolling.

A curious thing happened on the way to Tucson. The more I drove, the more I found myself haveing to scrunch my neck to see out the rearview mirror. I didn't really notice it at first. Later I thought I must be on a slight hill as I could barely see the cars behind. It wasn't until I was almost in Tucson city limits that I knew for sure the backend of the car was sinking.

On a lark, I decided to see if I could get a hold of a friend I hadn't seen in 4 or 5 years that, last I had heard, lived in Tucson. I couldn't believe that I actually had Linette's numbers in my phone and that they worked. I got a hold of her and we decided to meet for some coffee (which neither of us had, but that wasn't the point) and catch up. It was nice to see her again.

I decided to see what I could do about my car's rear-end while in the parking lot. I assumed it was a weight issue and figured I needed to change the what items were stored where. I moved the heaviest boxes to the floor of the front seat, the medium weight boxes to the back seat, and kept the lightest items in the trunk. Once I got back on the road the car seemed good. I could see just fine out the rear window again. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

After heading down I-10 for another 45 minutes or so I noticed myself having to duck my head to see out the mirror again. Argh! There really wasn't any more weight I could shift around and the car didn't seem to be driving any differently. I guess there was nothing I could do. I made it to Wilcox, AZ and found a Motel 6 to crash for the night.

The next day I hit the brief stretch of New Mexico on I-10 which made somewhat nostalgic. Seeing the names of familiar towns on road signs made me flash back to my early teen years which I spent in a tiny town on I-40. While I hated growing up in New Mexico while I lived there I now look back and am thankful I did... the environment and schools there are better than the city, IMO.

I hit El Paso shortly after that. Its a much larger city than I thought. The highways there are extremely confusing which I'm guessing has to do with Mexico being on one side of the highway and Texas on the other. I had planned on stopping there for breakfast, but my attention was 100% on the traffic and the roads, so I decided to just get out of there as fast as possible. There is little, if any, El Paso of the old western songs left.

I can't remember the tiny town I stopped to eat and refuel. The restauraunt boasted "world famous" chicken-fried steak. I found it to be mediocre. The salsa they served with the chips as an appetizer was top-notch though. Almost burned a hole in a me. I wanted more but the 5 alarm fire in my mouth stopped me.

The drooping back-end issue continued. Every time I stopped the car for gas and food the back-end seemed to right itself. After 45 minutes or it was droopy again.

West Texas is a big, empty space. Accordingly, they set the speed limit to 80 mph so it doesn't seem as long between places. While I did get from point to point faster, it still seemed a long way between places.

Another thing I noticed was a freakish number of FedEx trucks driving westward. I must have seen over two hundred trucks between El Paso and Odessa.

I stopped just before Odessa for fuel and saw my first live buffalo. There was a small zoo/park next to the gas station and a couple of buffalo stood close to fence. Seeing them in person is sort of odd. They are much smaller than one would think. I guess I always envisioned them like cows with a large hump on their back. In reality they are more like those miniature ponies with a hump on the back. The hump came up to my eye level, so its head was close to the middle of my torso.

Also at Odessa I checked my tires. My rear tires were almost bald on the outter edges, but seemed very good on the rest of the tire. The "almost bald" part worried me something fierce. How long had they been this way? Would they last the rest of the trip? As I left Odessa I worried about this more and more and finally decided it would be prudent to have them checked out. My iPhone was able to tell me that there are Discount Tire Companies in Texas, so my new plan was to stop before Dallas and look for a DTC in the morning.

Dallas is pretty big, so I stopped in a suburb before it, checked into a Motel 6 again, and went to find some food. While eating at a Chili's, I discovered that there was a Discount Tire Company literally across the street from where I was. Talk about good fortune!

In the same conversation I learned about the tire store I also had a revelation about the quality of the education system in Texas. Both the waiters Chili's that served in my area were young. Young enough, in fact, that the bartender had to bring me my drink because they were too young to serve it. After finding out about tire company I asked if my server if he had any advice about traveling through Dallas... that I was on my way to Little Rock (only about 3 hours drive from Dallas) and wanted to know the most direct route.

He looked at me and said he'd never heard of Little Rock then went to ask his co-server. Apparently he also had never heard of Little Rock so they asked what part of Texas it was in. I explained that Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas and that its NE of Dallas. They latched on to the "NE of Dallas" part and were able to give me good directions from there.

If any of you readers ever find yourself in Texas and needing directions I hope you find this information useful.

The next morning I went to Discount Tire Company as soon as they opened. The fella that helped me decided that my tires would *probably* be fine, but if I wanted he had some used tires he sell me for half-price which were in better shape. I agreed and they went to town. Apparently early morning is a good time to go there. There were 5 people working on my car. It took about 5 minutes for them to make the change and have the car ready to go.

The rest of the journey to my mother's house in Arkansas was pretty uneventful. I'll write about the second leg of the trip next blog.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In Arkansas

I'm at my mother's house in Arkansas. I have very limited internet accessibility so this isn't a very large update. Also, I can't really get any work done here, Steve. I'll get to it when I get to Florida.

I actually got here Friday afternoon. It was a pretty smooth drive. I'll fill in details later.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Heading Out

Quick post here. I've decided to leave a little earlier than planned. I've already said my goodbyes to most folks, my stuff is packed, and there's just no reason to stay.

N 33 34.897 W 112 08.293

I should be out of town by 9:00PM or so and on the road. I'll write again when I got to a good spot--assuming something interesting pops up.