It was with some nostalgia that we waved farewell to Steve’s 2004 WRX wagon this afternoon. Even before the hurricane, we knew she was a goner. Her name was Trinity, and her frame was nearly rotted through. Since being partially submerged in the storm surge, she was now even worse for wear. It took a good deal of hammering and a small bit of cursing to get her onto the tow dolly, then break the e-brake free so the back wheel would spin, but she finally agreed to disembark on her final voyage up to the scrap yard on the mainland. It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old friend. After all, the first time I saw Steve was when he pulled up to our date driving Trin. And, well, since we both drove Subarus in a land where they are scarce, we had a feeling we might just get along pretty well. She went to a good cause, though, a hardworking local who can use some spare cash. Her parting also made room for a new set of friends, who showed up just an hour later.
Enter Calvin, Erica and Booty the cat, a trinity from Utah who happened to be visiting the Keys in their ’86 Dolphin. Calvin is an intrepid Toyota mechanic, among many other talents, and Erica an inspiring writer, filmmaker and photographer. They arrived with impeccable timing, and will be camping out for a bit to help us get everything under our Toyota’s the hood working well. Steve and Calvin didn’t waste any time opening the new parts, like kids at Christmas. I’ll let Steve detail the plethora of fixes and upgrades that are being made under the hood. And check out our new friends’ blog www.chasingbootyadventures.com. They’ve been living on the road for almost a year; happy and lucky souls.
Happy New Year! We are very excited to dig into our project and to get closer to our motor home adventures!
Prior to our holiday break we had started to lay out our first side wall design. Perhaps we were hastily quenching our desire to get started on the project; as we pretty much changed directions upon our return. We rethought our height requirements and interior space which brought us back a little closer to the “mini” motor home mentality. We are completing our first side wall this weekend, including the proper layout for the entry door and windows. We are very happy with our shape and size that we are moving forward with. The interior head room is 6′ 6″ where the cab over meets the main motor home camping body, and the roof slopes down toward the front and the rear. The 6′ 6″ point is the peak and the sloping design is to provide adequate runoff of water from the roof; both fore and aft. We also improved the aerodynamic shape of the cab over nose with hopes of maintaining the current mileage, at the very least. The photo below shows the frame of the passenger side wall. We are using 1″ x 2″ rectangular aluminum tubing for the frame work in heavy wall, (approximately 1/8″ thick), and light wall, (approximately 1/16″ thick). The heavier gauge tubing is used on the structural members that will provide support in the cab over section, next to the entry door, and along the rear that will support bike racks, a ladder, and possibly other storage options. We are weighing the frame as we construct the vehicle and will keep track of our gross weight.
We will post more photo’s as we progress, as well as a timeline photo record as we get much farther along.
Nearly 200 years ago, the Spanish slave ship Guerrero ran aground in the Florida Keys. Today, archaeologists are searching for this historic shipwreck in order to illuminate the stories of the 561 prisoners aboard the pirate vessel, and to bring understanding to a dark period of human history.
The story is one filled with intrigue, adventure, and most of all hope. It is one that we have had the privilege of sharing in various outlets for the last 15 years. I’m proud to announce that National Parks magazine recently published a bit of it, along with Keys Style magazine. The award-winning documentary is available on amazon prime.
Thank you to everyone whose research and wisdom made it possible, including historian Gail Swanson, Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, Biscayne National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the tireless enthusiasm of the volunteers at Diving with a Purpose. Diving Photo courtesy Matt Lawrence, FKNMS. Guerrero pirate Captain Gomez illustration by Sam Turner. Historical ship’s log of the warship HMS Nimble (which was chasing the Guerrero) courtesy theguerreroproject.org.
Aluminum is here and the layout has begun. We started getting our first wall frame planned out and we worked through setting our door location and rough opening. We are building our wall frames so that they sit on our floor, (1″ of the 2″ new wall thickness), to aid in the process of installing the new walls and the roof to the existing rv platform. We are increasing our height by a little more than a foot in the front, sloping down a few inches in the back. This decision was made as I am 6′ 1″, and our existing ceiling was only 5′ 11″. We also extended the cab over portion, (our sleeping quarters), forward by almost a foot to provide a very spacious sleeping and lounging area. This extension will not impair our vision and since we are building the frame work, we have made it strong enough to easily support the extended area. We will post more pics as the process continues, but we are now focusing on work to wrap up our clients projects prior to our soon upcoming break. We can’t wait to get back into the rebuild as soon as we return!
The big flatbed came to a halt in front of our house amidst some chaos. Steve’s son had been visiting and we were saying our goodbyes as the landlord wandered over to discuss a few things. He had been out of town, so had not yet been informed about our new project, and looked at it with a hint of confusion. To top it off, the road is clogged with hurricane debris and construction trucks. Right at that moment the garbage truck was also trying to squeeze by.
It was all hands on deck to move the long pieces off of the truck so it could clear the road. Our roommate Fritz jumped in to help. It took a bit for the driver to turn around by backing into the empty lot next door, especially because we had placed the guts of the Toyota in the precise location that was easiest for him to occupy. But he is a skilled driver, and the truck had very tough tires that were able to roll over the old cabinetry, ripped up carpet, and part of the refrigerator without fear of puncture. Luckily, our landlord also did not puncture. He seems tentatively supportive, or at least not terribly irritated. He lives in Ohio most of the time, so he’s pretty easy going about what happens here as long as we pay the bills.
Now Steve and I are staring at the shiny lengths that will soon become our new frame, and counting the hours until the day-job quitting-time whistle blows and we can start phase two of the build and see what we’ve really gotten ourselves into.
After stuffing ourselves with a delicious meal enjoyed with Fritz and Jayson, (our roommate and his son), we were pretty docile until yesterday and today. Our goal prior to the end of the holiday weekend was to get the remaining obstacles gutted out of the RV to facilitate our removal of the walls and roof. These items mostly consisted of some remaining carpet near the cab over area, and a few windows and vents. The largest obstacle was the rotted out floor over the cab area, and discovering how the fiberglass molded piece that attaches the motor home to the cab was fastened. It was not terribly complicated; it was just screwed into the 1″ x 1″ wood pieces bordering the wall connection. We did not know it was fiberglass until today when we removed the rotted wood concealing it. This is great news, as fiberglass is very strong and flexible, especially compared to plastic. Karuna and I made quick work of the remaining parts of the gut project and now we anxiously await our aluminum for the framework.
We will begin welding our aluminum frames together as soon as we have the materials. We would like to get the sides and roof frame complete and installed prior to our upcoming holiday road trip. Our goal may be a little aggressive, but we will see. We only have a couple of weeks until we take off, but we will be eager to get back into the project upon our return. The pictures below are of the cab over section, and will show you how it is put together, where the rot typically occurs, and how everything is attached. Enjoy!
Karuna has laid out the details on our acquisition… (not named as of yet, but we will come up with the name when it comes to us 😉 )
Our initial feeling was to get rid of the old and smelly carpet and to brighten it up inside. We assumed that there would need to be some serious upgrades and cleaning and repairing; but this very rapidly became a tear out and remodel. We were very surprised to find that the wall and roof framework is similar, if not the same, to a travel trailer. All wood wall studs and roof rafters that are so small that I could not bear to drive this down the highway with this knowledge. We only learned this much because as we cleaned and went deeper; we found that several of these measly structural components were rotted beyond recognition. This initial major change has again escalated to the necessity to actually build new walls and a roof for our beloved adventure machine. Basically, we will weld new wall panel frames together, and then skin them with aluminum sheeting. This will be pretty thick and strong; we are currently thinking of going with 1/8″ thickness. Since we are going this far into this project, we also decided to “modify” the original dimensions to make it a little more comfortable and practical for long term road trips. We are increasing the interior height from the current 5′-11″ to 7’5″ in the front cab over section, sloping down 6″ to 6’11” in the back. We are installing a full shower with 6′ 3″ head clearance and a tile floor. We are also extending the cab over 1′ forward which will give us a sleeping area of 5′ 4″ x 6′ 9″ with a comfortable 3′ 6″ head clearance on top of our 6″ thick mattress. We are going to push the tail out 6″ to accommodate a nice “L” kitchen area. We will post anything out of the ordinary that we run into and we will post lots of photos of this process. If you have suggestions, ideas, or criticisms, please feel free to share. Thank you and have a great holiday dinner! Until our next chapter……
We were pushing a shopping cart full of Thanksgiving ingredients through the Winn-Dixie shopping center on Big Pine Key last night when we noticed something had changed. The ’84 Toyota Dolphin motor home that had been parked there for a month was suddenly sporting a brand new “for sale” sign. Its owner agreed to meet us at the uncomfortable hour of 8:30 this morning. This is a time of day most people do not enjoy in the Keys.
He and his wife had been living in the Dolphin since they lost their house to hurricane Irma. They had bought it up in the bizarre failed-development community of Lehigh Acres on the mainland. A few days ago FEMA finally came through with a brand new trailer for them. They decided to ditch the Dolphin to pay for a new roof. Despite a number of people eyeing it from afar while we examined it, he gave us a few days to decide. We only needed an hour.
It has just 81,000 miles and measures about 18 feet. It mostly fits in a standard parking space, and set us back $3,600. The frame is solid. It needs a little TLC under the hood, but it runs well. We had considered a bigger model, but the simplicity of the Toyota and the much smaller price tag won. Steve will surely want to add more on the technical side of the blog. Signing off to go begin the renovation. Woohoo!
We have decided that this summer is the time for an amazing road trip adventure! An adventure that we plan on documenting, from the beginning of the journey; motor home search and purchase, until the end; our arrival and time in Homer. We are not certain of the exact parameters of this project yet; maybe a travel book, maybe some sort of destination guide, or perhaps just a project that we enjoy while in Homer or on the way. I guess we will see, and we invite you to join us if you like.
Motor home search and purchase:
When we started to discuss our adventure, we were back and forth between our mode of primary travel and lodging. After having several lengthy discussions, debates, and agreements; we think that for us and our destination it will be best to drive a motor home. A motor home will afford us the comfort and stability of our own space, (won’t have to pack and unpack again and again as we would if we were car camping/ hotel staying), and we can centralize all of our asset’s and be mobile or static in a moment if necessary. (Unlike a travel trailer that we would have to “dock” and mobilize). Our mobility while staying at destinations will be an off road/ on road enduro motorcycle that will probably be in the 250-400cc range. Easy to carry on a hitch platform, very fast and easy deployment, and decent accessibility. This of course is in addition to our bicycles and long boards. Now that we have established that we want to acquire a motor home; we have been back and forth between a mini motor home, and a larger class c. We were looking at the Toyota models from the late 80’s into the early 90’s, but then we found out that my parent’s friend is selling a pretty sweet class c with two slide outs. As we mulled over the pro’s and con’s, it seems that the fuel economy is not a large difference so it really comes down to comfort and usefulness. The toyota models, although very attractive with their nostalgic and mini allure; are older vehicles with marginally powered engines that are most certainly going to need love to get them in top shape for a 6000 mile each way journey. Unfortunately; our day job work is extremely busy after the hurricane and I am a bit short on extra time to take on a project like this. (We have a “WRX wagon bugeye project happening as well as a “camper Boat” project so we need to slim down the roster. 😉 All of this taken into account, we are looking for a sweet class c that we can set up in for the long haul, comfortably, and carry our local transportation easily. We are looking for a class c with slides and we really need to find one for 15k or less. We will keep you posted on the friend of my parents, as it is a beautiful 30′ class c with two slides that is worth an easy 25k. The owner is selling it for 19k; still a little out of our range but we will see what happens….. (we emailed him asking for his best deal – we’ll let you know as soon as we know)
Every fall these fierce little flyers come back to the Keys, where they spend the winter, or just stop off for a meal before heading to locations further south. This one’s been hanging around for a week or so now, often pausing for a lookout on the Jamaican dogwood tree (the leaves are sparse, but returning nicely after hurricane Irma). Merlins eat the cute little songbirds mostly, and sometimes dragonflies. A reality check, but such is the cycle of life. When they are not here, they’re generally up in Canada for mating season.