Clearly there were technological lessons learnt, as I’ve been writing in this series. There were also a whole bunch of other useful lessons: in no particular order.
In May I was planning for a short period before boarding Ra for the Solar Odyssey. Fly to Orlando on the Monday, do some Hoverfly training there and then meet up with Ra in Clearwater on the Thursday, for a Sunday departure (after fitting out the production gear). That isn’t what happened, and I ended up spending most of the time staying with my very good friend Dan Spiess and his wife Barbara in Gainesville, commuting each day to Old Town to shoot the latest progress of Ra’s construction – an hour each way.
Although I stayed with Dan and Barbara most of the May/June trip, I also had to provide accommodation Todd and then Beth (camera) during that time, and when we started on Solar Odyssey, it ended up that we stayed in motels that week as well: all unplanned and unbudgeted for. Without a doubt in my mind, Extended Stay America is the best value we found. The size of room, and suitability to a business customer, is excellent and the price is generally very reasonable. We had some good experiences at Candlewood, although overall that brand runs more expensive. One (minor, but significant) reason to go Candlewood over Extended Stay: Candlewood has free washers/driers, while Extended Stay charges. Not that the charge is important (it’s about $2 a wash and $2 a load to dry) the fact that you’ve got to come up with quarters to pay with! That’s seriously inconvenient on the road.
The downside is that Extended Stay tend to be in airport adjacent locations or near Universities, and they don’t have a great coverage outside larger cities.
Protein Bars. Beth Corwin introduced me to these while on the trip and they’re great for filling in a little food when you don’t have the time to get to a place for a decent meal. We now keep them at home and I often eat one just before a swim. They definitely smoothed off some of the low blood sugar issues that arise with highly erratic eating patterns.
Speaking of food. I have been trying very hard to eat healthier over the last year or more, but most restaurant meals are high calorie and high sodium. Subway is almost ubiquitous (even having an outlet in Old Town itself) and has a selection of healthy choices. Just choose from the menu carefully, as they’re not all healthy choices. The Oven baked chicken six inch is a good recommendation, just go easy with the sauces!
Don’t ask a waiter “what’s good” on the menu: everything will be good! But if you’re choosing between a couple of dishes, asking the waiter “I’m thinking of having this or this, which do you recommend” in my experience always delivers a strong preference for one dish over the other!
Bodyglove shoes. One of my friends suggested we seek a sponsorship deal from Bodyglove, but sometimes it’s just easier to buy the product! I’m so glad I did. The first time we went aground, I went into the water to find out how “bad” it was, on some very unappealing and sharp rocks. I figure the shoes paid for themselves many times over during that excursion when I felt a very sharp rock point into my foot: stopped completely by the mesh in the sole of the shoe, so I was uninjured. Otherwise I fear a nasty gash would have resulted. They’re also great for on deck and general on-board wearing. I felt I had better grip than in bare feet.
[Update Sep 9]
I totally forgot to mention Enterprise and Publix. Enterprise car rental were awesome in Tampa and Ft Myers airports on repeated occasions. At Ft Myers airport we did a vehicle swap with a car picked up from Tampa Intl and it was no hassle. Kudo so the guy who helped there, wish I could remember his name.
Publix is somewhat different to our various supermarket experiences in California and I have to say, I liked it. Food range is as good as I’d want, and the staff were amazing everywhere we went. I got to sample more than 20 different Publix along the way, and was never disappointed.