Just Published: Cuban Refugee Chugs

One of our stories just came out in the Summer issue of National Parks Magazine. Hats off to the publishers, the folks at the National Parks Conservation Association who work tirelessly to preserve our open spaces  — as well as to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants who have risked and are currently risking their lives to try to fill basic human needs and find a safe place to live with their loved ones. Read on to find out secrets about Dry Tortugas National Park as well.

https://www.npca.org/articles/1861-the-meaning-of-the-chug

A Bit of Bhutan at the Tipping Point

In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, they decorate their cargo trucks with bright colors, and often paint wild faces on the differentials. I am not sure all of the symbolism behind that, but certainly warding off ill-meaning spirits and keeping the driver safe are part of it. Yesterday I got the fun job of painting the gas tank, axle and differential with a protective bright orange paint Steve had picked out. We won’t be able to see much of it once it’s back together, which is good, since my painting skills are lacking, but I do hope the festive color will serve a similar purpose. I may just need to sneak back in there and add a couple of eyes.

Yesterday we also passed a milestone on the motorhome — instead of taking it apart, we finally put the first few pieces back together. The amazing Calvin nestled the engine back where it goes under the hood. It has a lot of shiny new parts on it, and no longer are there mystery hoses and wires flapping in the breeze.  Meanwhile, the intrepid Steve welded a new bracket to hold the gray water tank, which we moved from the very back to a bit farther forward for better weight distribution. He also welded much needed aluminum bracing to reinforce the floor.

Below Biscayne & Sunken Pirate Ships

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!

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.

Smaller, Sweeter, Cheaper

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!

Destination Homer, Alaska…. (the other end of the road!)

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)

 

 

 

 

 

Merlin Migration

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.

Irma Update to the Travel Guide

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 DSC_1673.jpg

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.

Hurricane Irma, Tales from the Lower 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: karuna@quixotictravelguides.com and steve@quixotictravelguides.com.

 

Sand Key Lighthouse

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.