Trip 1 Map
Trip 2 Map
The drive to Palm Beach:
The adventure began with a 4000++ mile drive from Calgary to Palm Beach. Keith and I took turns driving. I spent a lot of time listening to how my 26 year old truck sounded and Keith got to hear how I was unhappy about breaking up with my fiance. Our first day took us to Saskatchewan, it seemed very bleak, though I am not sure how much of that feeling came from the area, and how much from my own emotions.
As we got further away from Calgary, I could not imagine how the truck would ever make it back. Keith and I were on a tight budget, and we looked hard for good deals on gas and hotel rooms. I had NO luck with the cost of gas. We would see the prices go down exit after exit, but as luck would have it, every exit we picked, had the highest prices. It became a costly joke all the way down. The truck needed to be gassed up every couple of hours, we made less than 10 miles to the gallon all the way down.
On our second night out we were in North Dakota. We could not find a reasonably priced hotel, but we did find a camp site in the middle of the town we had stopped in. Being April, the site was closed, but we decided to stay anyway. The power was on, so we cranked up the electric heater. It helped, but that was a cold night. That was our last night camping.
We kept heading south on the most level roads to Florida. We went through South Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. We averaged about 400 miles a day, doing about 50 miles per hour. Some of the big cites were hard to navigate through with the long truck and trailer. We missed many sight seeing opportunities along the way, like Mount Rushmore and Graceland because of my single minded goal of making it to Palm Beach.
Often we were looking for internet access. Keith was trying to keep in touch using E-mail. One night we stopped in a town that had internet access at the local high school. We found our way there despite the best efforts of two girls who were working in the gas station, and attended the school. It felt strangely "natural" to be back in a school. That was one of the more relaxed feelings I had on the trip down.
One strange thing that happened was around the Ozarks. We stopped in a small town and stayed in a motel with a boat outside every room. These were Bass fishing boats. Keith decided to phone a friend in the area, but he did not know the number, only the last name. After calling a few numbers, he got a call from the front desk of the motel. An irate man was at the desk demanding to know who has phone his house from this motel. Keith went down and explained, that did not calm the man, and he made various threats including bringing the police (too weird).
One Man's dream is a Valley Girl's...
After missing Mount Rushmore and Graceland, we stopped in Metropolis, yes, the home of Superman. After a couple of pictures with the 30 foot statue, and a few souvenirs purchased from a "Valley Girl," who's dad had moved their family from California to Metropolis, because of his love of Superman, we were back on the road, following my dream. Though for a second I did wonder who's dream was the strangest.
It had been a week of constant driving, and it was time for a break. We ducked off the Interstate, drove the back roads for a few hours, and decided to stop in Savanna, Georgia. Keith made a good deal with the motel owner, as he often did, we parked the boat, and headed down town. We parked by River street, and had a great day exploring the water front. It is just the way I imagined the South: Shade trees, beautiful mansions, paddle wheelers and slow relaxed pace to life. It was the perfect spot to regain your senses after 7 days of Interstate.
The Right Stuff
We were now only a couple of days away from Palm Beach, so we took another day off at NASA. The Kennedy Space Center is very impressive. The U.S. of A. is rightly proud of its achievements in this area. One of the things that caught my fancy was a reenactment of the first landing on the moon. On the final orbit before landing their, computer shut down a couple of times, but they decided to continue with the landing. Because of the shutdowns, they missed their landing sight, and at the last minute, had to take over and steer the spacecraft manually.
The decisions they made, showed they had the "right stuff" to be explorers. With no chance of rescue, I knew I would have made much more conservative decision, and I wondered if I had the right stuff to sail Madgic Spell over to the Bahamas. This was the first clear view I had that I am more of a computer teacher than I am a pirate captain. Next stop, Riviera Beach.
It was a short drive from NASA to the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina. We arrived about 2 PM, and Keith was all for getting the boat in the water right away. I felt a bit over whelmed by the huge docks and ocean going ships next to our marina, and suggested it would be cheaper to wait for good weather, to cross the Gulf Stream, with Madgic Spell on land, rather than in the water. So we decided to spend a few days in the parking lot, getting ready.
My first order of business was to get the boat cleaned, so we went to a local car wash and cleaned the boat, and later waxed the bottom. We called Jim, member of the U.S.P.S., and my contact in this area. I had met Jim via the internet, while I was looking for a place to launch Madgic Spell, for her trip across to the Bahamas.
In the evening, we went to a Pizza Hut we had seen while we were at the car wash. We had a nice enough meal but something seemed a bit strange. After the meal, Keith wanted to pick up a few things from a large grocery store by Pizza Hut, the Winn Dixie. I said I would wait in the truck, and look at my new books and GPS, that I had just purchased. Keith took a long time to come back, but I did not really notice, because I was engrossed in the new toys.
Keith surprised me by banging on the window of the truck, and saying that we should leave as quickly as possible, somewhat reminded me of Monaco, but that is another story. Keith told me, his glasses had been held hostage while he was forced to buy food for a thug in the store. The man had approached Keith asking for money. When Keith told him he would give him some food, but not money, the thug took his glasses, and went on a shopping spree, with Keith doing the buying.
Keith was reluctant to say anything to any of the other patrons, because he had had strange reactions from them when he entered. They were saying things, like you should not be here, and other things that made him feel uncomfortable, as the only white person in the store. There was even a police officer (black) in the checkout lineup, but Keith was not sure if he should try to make him aware of the situation or not. Later we found out from Jim, that Riveara Beach is not a good area, and that he and his friends would not even go to that part of town. The Marina's parking lot was right in that area, and although they had security patrols, I did not sleep well that night.
I have had very little experience with poor race relations. I spent a few years in the North West Territories, where I was in the racial minority. I have always had a bit of an accent, but on all my trips around the world, I have found people to be basically very much alike. The Winn Dixie incident, and a later conversation I had with a white person who told me how untrustworthy the "ggers" were, really soured my view of Florida, the United States, and maybe people in general, for a while.
Keith and I stayed in the parking lot of the Palm Beach Municipal Marina while I listened to the weather forecast. We were waiting for the wind to change from the north. The gulf streams flows northward, and if the wind is coming from the north the waves can be very short, and high. While we waited, I got storage for the truck and trailer arranged. The truck had developed a miss, and I decided to change the sparkplugs, and do an oil change. It also looked like we would have to rotate the tires, as the front right was wearing unevenly.
Keith and I worked on all that, did some sight seeing, and got ready to leave. When it looked like the weather was about to change in our favour, we got the boat ready to launch. Then drove the one mile to Phil Foster park, which has a launch ramp. I felt very uneasy, and did not know why. I seemed to have lost my confidence. It took several tries to get the boat rigged the right way, I could not remember which bit went where. It took about twice as long as it should, but in the end it was done. Keith went to the dock to help with putting the boat in the water, and I went to drive the truck and trailer to the ramp.
Broken mast, broken dream
There were lots of oneway arrows on the ground, and I was having trouble getting to the ramp. I ended up going to the far end of the parking lot. I start to heading back to the ramp when I hit the top of a tree with the top of the mast. The mast snapped in half. I got out, looked at what had happened, and saw my whole adventure coming to an end right there and then. An onlooker came over, said it was a shame, and asked for some money, I said "No!" I put the dragging rigging back on the boat, and continued back around the parking lot to find Keith.
After we packed the mast back in the down (rather than half down) position, we headed back to the Riviera Municipal Marina parking lot. As we drove over a bridge, a sailing boat was nicely healed over, and heading up the inter coastal, I really wanted to be doing that. That night I felt better and slept better than I had since the trip started. I am not sure why, I guess that now that I had a problem to solve, I could get to work on it.
Jim Tedesco was a great help here. He let us use his internet connection, and gave us some advice on whom to phone. I also used his phone to follow up on some leads I found on the internet, to get us a new mast. This California boat was a long way from home, and there were no new masts around, and new one would take a few months to arrive.
On the opposite side of Florida at Cape Coral there was a damaged mast that we
could buy and have repaired. I decided to go get it, and good news, it looked
like the insurance would pay for the replacement. So the next day we left early
to drive the 250 mile round trip. The people were very nice at the dealership.
They let us use their tools to install the mast. It was a hot day, and hard
work, and as Keith and I drove home that night, we were both beat. I think it
was our hardest day. Next day, I arranged to have the repairs done to this mast,
we had a couple of small holes welded and we were ready to go again.