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.
An update for our award-winning Quixotic Key West & the Lower Keys Travel Guide is now available for download. It includes changes to attractions, hotels and businesses as a result of Irma. If you are planning on visiting the Keys, this is a great time to do it as lodging rates are at an all-time low, plus all visitors help immensely in the economic recovery here. Download the update at: http://www.quixotictravelguides.com/update—irma.html
If you have not yet purchased our guide, we think now would be an especially good time to do so. Any sales will help us put our home back together. Available on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/West-Lower-Keys-Travel-Guide/dp/0998858900/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1505761777&sr=8-9&keywords=key+west+travel+guide
Photo: the Jamaican dogwood and shefflera trees are greening up again after Hurricane Irma — as are the rest of the Keys.
Photo: Radar of Hurricane Irma making landfall over the Florida Keys. The red pin is our house on Cudjoe Key. Phone screenshot was taken from our evacuation site in Sebring.
The trip odometer read 6,965 miles when we pulled into our driveway on Cudjoe Key. It was Sunday. We had just returned from an epic road trip that included traveling to Wyoming to witness the solar eclipse. Three days later, we pulled out of our driveway as evacuees. We never imagined that our tiny Key would soon be infamous as the epicenter of one of the most powerful storms on record.
The eye made landfall over our house, and 12 hours later hurricane Irma centered her eye over our evacuation site in Sebring, Florida. The aftermath is an experience to behold: the largest evacuation in our country’s history, millions without power, a swath of destruction, and a coming together of kindness and resilience.
We were fortunate to be able to return just a few days after the hurricane had passed, reporting for local media. Over the coming days, we will post some of these experiences, and the tales of those we meet along the way, as well as recovery resources for those living in the Keys. If you’re interested, please follow the blog and feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Oct. 1, 2016: The Sand Key Lighthouse 7 miles off of Key West is often full of seabirds, including pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, cormorants and terns. The structure itself has been part of several amazing history tales, including an 1846 tragedy, when a hurricane obliterated it along with the keeper and his family. Today the snorkeling here is among the best in the Keys, thanks to its super-shallow structure and vibrant marine life. Often seen here is everything from sea turtles to parrotfish, barracuda to anglefish. Read about both in our Key West & the Lower Keys Travel Guide, available on amazon.com.
Sept. 24, 2016: We had spent a good part of the afternoon outrunning building thunderheads and dark walls of rain. The little skiff went about 80 miles that day, keeping us safe yet in suspense through building waves, miles offshore. When we made the final turn for home, an ominous rainstorm blocked our path. We’re going to just have to go through this one and finally take our punishment, we thought, as we prepared our gear for a deluge. But as we drew closer, the storm rapidly broke up, welcoming us home with a rainbow to nowhere. Any weather bugs out there know anything about this phenomenon?