Westward Bound

We're heading back out on the road again tomorrow morning! We were supposed to leave today, but we got delayed by my bike order by a day. Apparently the shippers in Denver were not ready for a half foot of snow at the end of April for some reason, and the shipment got delayed by a day. In any case, we're all packed up now, with a new bike rack and two shiny new (well, new to us anyways) bikes ready to roll. You can see a map of our epic route below. If we're not back in Kansas by Memorial Day, call search and rescue.

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Moldy Cheese and Brewing Without Failures

It's been a while since I've updated you all on my DIY food and beverage pursuits. Mostly because I haven't really done much. It's hard to make cheese out of the back of your car in the Everglades. Nonetheless, there is still news!

First, I would like to all inform you of the untimely demise of my colby cheese wheel. Since I wasn't able to coddle it while we were gone for a month to the tropics (i.e., turn the wheel over every couple days to keep airflow over all parts of it), it decided that it wasn't getting enough attention from me and turned to it's second love: mold. However, the best part about hard cheese, is that since it is non-porous (unlike bread), the mold can't actually penetrate the cheese very far. So you can just cut the mold off and eat the rest. I actually managed to salvage about half of the block after some diligent whittling. I then gave it a little brine bath in case any of that mold had an idea to start regrowing. I can report that the cheese actually tastes rather delicious. It has the best texture of any of my cheeses to date as well. 

How long has this been goin' on? 
Ah. Much better. 

In other news, I discovered that I did not, in fact, overcarbonate all of the homebrews I brought out here. Many of you who have come out to visit have no doubt noticed the ridiculous carbonation of my homebrews. Now I just assumed that I had failed to properly calculate my priming sugar, or I hadn't allowed the yeast enough time to fully attenuate, or I had committed some other mistake and that my lack of brewing skills were no doubt at work. Regardless of this, I took a case of my brews with us on our road trip so we could save some money on liquor store purchases. As I discovered, the difference between 9000 feet elevation and 0 feet elevation at the seashore on the carbonation of a beer is pretty monumental. The beers that sometimes nearly exploded and spewed out foam upon opening at 9000'--they poured perfectly at sea level.

Also in brewing news, my Mom (thanks Mom!) sent me some old brewing books in the mail, which she, her sister, and mom had given my Grandpa for Father's Day in 1972. Never fear, this book was written in Britain. (As we all know, homebrewing was still illegal in the US until 1978 (thanks Jimmy!).) I'm hoping that it will live up to it's name, and allow me to brew beer "Without Failures." What I've read of it so far seems pretty advanced for it's day, considering it actually contains recipes with malt and hops--ingredients which were hard to impossible for a non-commercial brewery to get a hold of in 1972. I believe most home "beer" brewers of that day were making the equivalent of prison-brew: lots of sugar, some baker's yeast, and maybe some hops if you could convince some local brewery or farmer to give you some.

However, I don't know that I will necessarily be reproducing any of the recipes. Unless some of the ingredients specified have drastically changed in nature (which is actually pretty likely), then I have a feeling many of these brews might taste downright terrible. But hey, for 1972, they were probably about the best thing going. It just makes me more thankful than ever for Charlie Papazian.

I wonder if WITHOUT FAILURES is a guaranteed or money back kind of a statement. 
Holy Black Patent, Batman! The most black patent malt I have ever put in a recipe was probably about 6 oz. for a 5 gallon batch. Pretty sure 2 lb. would just destroy your mouth with it's bitterness. Super Stout, it is. 


Spring at 9000 Feet

Spring at 9000 feet: frost covered trees, snow, waking up to 15° F outside and 59° F temperature inside. Should have turned up the heat last night. Had to go with a morning fire today. Hopefully we won't be seeing this weather on our upcoming camping trip... Punxsutawney Phil, you have failed me.


Right on Track

Now that we're finally back in front of a normal computer, we can actually start uploading all of our stuff from the last month! As much as people would have you believe that you can do everything on a smartphone--you can't. At least not without a lot of frustration and half-baked posts. I guess in 2 or 3 more years you might be able to do it all with a tablet or smartphone, but right now this 5 year old computer with Windows XP is easier to use than a brand new tablet. Anyway, now that my rant is done, on to the actual post.

We wanted to upload the better GPS tracks that we got on the trip. I tried to get lots of our hikes and boating excursions, but it is still kind of a pain to carry around the GPS tracker (former smartphone), especially when on the beach and in the water. But at least I got a few tracks down. So here they are. Just a tip, you can see the tracks a lot better if you click the link in yellow with the track name just above each map. It will take you to the Breadcrumbs website, which is easier to navigate around each track. Clicking the Satellite button on the map also gives you a much better idea of where we were, especially in Exuma.

Cruising the Cays

These are by far the coolest tracks, taken on the boat cruising around the harbor between Exuma and Stocking Island and to all the various beaches, bars, and reefs we stopped off at.

View Track 2013-03-29 06:20 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

View Track 2013-03-28 11:54 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

Wandering South Beach

Just a couple of tracks of us walking around South Beach. Its a pretty great place to wander.

View Track 2013-03-19 09:13 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

View Track 2013-03-20 08:25 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

Long Walks on the Beach

I wonder if those people who say they like "long walks on the beach" ever really went on one? Its a lot of damned work to walk in sand. Well, we did it anyway in Panama City Beach, and it was pretty awesome regardless.

View Track 2013-03-16 10:28 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

View Track 2013-03-14 10:29 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs

Never Ending Everglades

We only really got to travel around the Everglades for one day, but we walked most of the easily accessible trails that were off of the main road.

View Track 2013-03-05 18:16 by kartoffeln on Breadcrumbs


Everglades Excitement

Finally back in Kansas! We've got all of our laundry done and the car cleaned out and repacked, so now its time to try to sort through all these pictures and try to remember what we've been doing the last couple of weeks. The Everglades was our first stop off after Exuma as we were killing time before our cruise. (I have to preface this story with the fact t
hat there is a federal penitentiary a few miles from the entrance to the National Park. This detail will be important later on.) We arrived in the sweltering heat in the afternoon sun and picked a spot in the shade. It wasn't hard since the campground was nearly empty. We were to find out why shortly. Our first afternoon consisted mainly of repacking and repacking again, trying to manage the transition from hotel to camping to cruise ship. I'm actually pretty impressed that we fit all the crap in our car to facilitate all these different modes of travel.

We went to sleep covered in bug spray and sweaty. The next morning we woke up to 80° F and super humidity. Quite a shock from the cool and breezy Exuma. We did the whole park tour that day and were amazed to see dozens of alligators and hundreds of storks, cranes, songbirds, and vultures. We also cruised around most of the shorter nature trails that winds through most of the different kinds of landscapes.

The place is truly unique and worthy of the protections afforded it by the national parks designation. I've never experienced such a diverse mix of flora and fauna before. The area is an amazing mix of seemingly endless grasslands and wetlands dotted with hardwood hammocks, neighboring pine and subtropical forests. Grasslands transition into hardwood hammocks or wetlands over just a few feet due to just inches of elevation change. As a result, the diversity of animals is also amazing for an area in the US. I really never imagined there was a place like this in America. This country never ceases to amaze me with its natural wonders.

It was our second night that was the real exciting part of our trip, despite how exciting it was to see the gators. The campsite had pretty well cleared out, most likely due to the tornado and severe thunderstorm watches in effect. Since we had nowhere to clear out to, we didn't have much of a choice but to ride it out. So we went to sleep expecting some serious storms for the night. What we didn't expect to wake up to was a helicopter circling our campsite a hundred feet off the ground with its spotlight shining down on us.

Now, I have seen enough episodes of Cops to know what is going down when a chopper is circling with its spotlight on. So we made a half naked dash to the car so that we could beat a quick get away when the escaped convict from the penitentiary came running through our camp to hijack our car.

From our car, we watched in amazement as the helicopter circled three or four times, and then landed about 100 yards from our tent. We drove over to see if we could figure out what was going on, and a man came running at our car with a flashlight on us. Turns out, it wasn't a Federal Marshal, but instead an EMT with LifeFlight. Apparently one of the other couple of campers had called 911. We never found out what happened, but their campsite was eerily abandoned the next morning as we drove out.

We finally got to sleep by the time the storm of the century rolled through our camp. I would guess that it was some of the heaviest rainfall that I have camped through, and lasted for several hours. Most of the lightning was a mile or so away from our camp, but several strikes were within a few hundred yards. Our new REI tent handled it all like a champ though, and we only got slightly damp on the ends of our sleeping bags. We rolled all of our wet gear up the next morning to truck it off to our hotel for the night to dry.

I don't think the Residence Inn ever imagined someone would use their room to dry off tents and tarps, air out sleeping bags, and do laundry in their sink. It worked out fantastically though, and we didn't have to let any wet gear sit in our car in the south Florida sun for a week. Overall, everything worked out better than I could have imagined and was glad we got this little bonus trip waiting for our cruise.



How do you sum up something so amazing in a couple paragraphs in an internet ready description? I think I really need to learn sonething about poetry or songwriting to make my explanations more succinct and memorable with less Jay-typical rambling. Well, we'll give it a shot anyway. Exuma is a magical place. The colors of the island are more vibrant and subtly varied than you can imagine. I finally started to understamd those classic island pastel colors looking on the blues and greens of the waters, the light golden and white sand, pink shells and orange sunsets. Looking out on the ocean, you can see a half dozen different hues of blue and green, and an hour later they've all changed. It is all nuanced and subtle, but like many things in nature all you have to do is give it a moment of attention.

The most amazing thing of the islands for me are the expansive sand flats. Literally miles of 6" deep crystal waters that emege as perfect solitary white beaches surrounded by water at low tide. The marine environment was also like nothing else I have seen before. Something you have to know about me before we begin is that snorkeling and free diving is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I'm sure if I actually had money, scuba would be my #1 hobby. But as it stands, I roll with my $20 mask and fins. The snorkelling was the best I have done. Dozens of species of fish, giant starfish, sting rays, great coral reefs. Walking the flats, we had sharks and bonefish swimming at our feet, and cruising in our boats we saw dolphins and sea turtles.

Everything else about the island is close to perfect as well. The people are genuinely nice, friendly, and cheerful. And as usual, the people are the best part of the trip. Our Camino parents and Camino Sister were there for the reunion in addition to 2 others caminoers that we hadn't met on the Camino, but obviously bonded with immediately. Also in attendance were some of Dean and Tracy's other friends--some of the most humble, well traveled, thoughtful and interesting people I've ever met. Like the Camino, our ragtag group ranged 46 years in age but only made our experience richer. Ken was celebrating his recent retirement from being the oldest person in America doing rappelling lifeflight helicopter rescues. We learned this on day 5 of our week--let me tell you about humble and interesting.

We started as 11 and finished as 12. In some sort of Camino-karma, we met a Frenchman named Frederic who walked the Camino in 1979. Of course, he was immediately assimilated into our group. Many amazing stories ensued, most memorably about being chased by men with shotguns through Basque country. He fit right into the group as if he had come with us. It just continues to amaze me how people who have walked the Camino, and people who travel a lot are just so easy to get along with. I have a sneeking feeling that it is the act of traveling that tends to make people more introspective and open minded, which in turn makes them so much more interesting to talk to. Especially after a couple of beers and rum drinks.

Just a side note about beer (weren't you just wondering about Bahamian beer?), I just have to give a mention to the Guiness Foreign Export Stout that they brew in the Bahamas. It is an amazing beer and has created a special kind of situation there. Pretty much everyone from laborers to bankers drink either Kalik (standard tropical weather super light lager) or Guiness, seemingly in equal proportions. Understand that this Guiness is 7.5% alcohol, and super dark. At the same time though, it is crisp, clean, and refreshing. When I first heard about this beer, I couldn't understand how someone could crave that in the hot, humid air with the tropical sun burning down on you. But after trying it, I was kind of blown away by how appropriate it was. Someone at Guiness is doing it right there. And while we're on the topic of alcohol, Ole Nassau Rum is awesome and $10 for a liter. I really don't want to speculate on how many dozens of bottles our gang of 12 knocked back in a week.

I want to leave you with a description of our trip from the true poet of our group, Chris Orrock:
Turquoise waters lapping countless white talcum sand atolls, flats and pristine islands; graceful manta rays, curious lemon sharks and diaphanous silvery bonefish slicing the clear shallows at the end of a flyline; a full moon that, night by night, rose rounder, fatter and yellower until it looked like Jupiter rising; twelve new friends for life who watched out for one another, danced themselves silly under the stars, floated bathwater currents, sans bathing suits, cocktails aloft, past coral grottoes to the open sea; conchs pulled from the shallows and, with tomato, green pepper, onion, jalapeno and hand-squeezed lime juice, were chopped by a smiling, ebony skinned young man with a giant gold chain and crucifix around his neck into a salad you will crave forever; navigating two rented Boston Whalers all week across expanses of multi-hued blues, along impossibly clear shallows, and up to hidden island shacks where fresh fruit juices were being squeezed and mixed with dark and light runs into sweet reasons for being alive; swimming and dancing naked on an isolated island, only to be told later that it was James Taylor's island, that we might not have been alone as we supposed, but that "He don't mind."; listening to '30's French jazz, Beatles and Led Zeppelin each evening while Deano grilled ribs or chicken under the bright Big Dipper and the heavenly smoke mingled with the flowery fumes of night blossoms; unending laughter, stories of successes, losses, epiphanies, monasteries, regret and redemption, things held tight and things let go; today is our last day in Exuma, Bahamas. I will pack my bag and wander back to an alternate reality. I will return home, for home is where the heart is. But if I'm leaving a piece of my heart here with this place and with my friends, then I suppose, I may call this a home, too.
P.S. As usual, uploading pictures on the go is a pain in the ass. Never fear, there are pictures a plenty, and we will upload a few of the more worthwhile ones when we're back to a more permanent dwelling.



Who has 4 thumbs and is going on a 7 night western Caribbean cruise? These guys! Thanks to the occasional inept crew and/or maintenance engineers, Carnival Cruise Line seems quite desperate to fill up their cruises at this point. Couldn't imagine that, could you? So after some scrutinizing of our budget up to this point and helped by the fact that were probably going to be paying about 85% less than we would with a normal booking, we're all in. We literally booked at the last minute, as you must book 72 hours in advance and we sail 78 hours from now.

So now we just have to figure out the next couple of days around Miami. We're in an awesome Marriott right now (naturally paid for by credit card reward points), but we have to figure out the next nights on a budget. We're thinking camping in the Everglades at this point, but we still have to see if all the campsites are reserved.

I have a feeling the cruise is going to be awesome as an Exuma detox. Since we're rolling this on a tight budget, and alcohol is not included in the so-called all-inclusive booking, we won't be doing much drinking. I'm definitely planning on eating my moneys worth of lobster and seafood though, and working it off in the gym. The cruise has ports-of-call in Belize, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Isla Roatan.

Hopefully in the next couple of days we will be able to write a bit about Exuma and find wifi to post it. In the meantime, know that it was completely awesome, and every bit as good as we expected it to be. Cerulean waters, golden rum, and crimson skin all around.


South Beach

I write this as we sit in the Nassau airport domestic departure terminal waiting for our next flight on to Exuma. We're definitely on Island Time now--things already seem to be moving slower for better or worse. South Beach has a bit of the same feel as long as you're not driving. Traffic in South Beach and Miami is manic and fast paced. I like to be in a place without a car sometimes. The car has its obvious benefits of flexibility and packing space, but it makes your trip much more stressful. As long as you're in the right mindset, waiting for the next bus, train, or ferry to come can provide a nice moment of relaxation.

South Beach was an amazing place to visit. I've heard that the saying goes that one of the nicest things about Miami Beach is that it is so close to the US. It really seems true to me--it isn't like any place I've ever been in the US. We heard more people speaking Spanish, Russian, French and German than we did English on the street.

I think that the design of the space has a lot to do with the city's vibe as well. The streets are all very walkable and much safer than they used to be. People walk everywhere all hours of the day and night, and there are shops and restaurants within a mile of any place you could live. Urban planners take note. The city is beautiful as well. Large portions of the town are on the National Historic Registry so that developers cannot come in to raze the charming art deco buildings in favor of ill concieved condo highrises. Every green space is covered in tropical plants and every building painted with a mix of bright island colors and muted pastels.

I was reading in a travel guide from 1999 about how the charm of South Beach was coming to an end because it had been "discovered." The proof was in the shopping--Gap had opened up next to all the independent clothing stores on Lincoln Rd. There is certainly a good number of chain box stores and hokey trinket shops that have wriggled their way into the area, but the city has certainly done something right to maintain its integrity--at least to a much greater extent than most tourist destinations do.

And this is all not even to mention that they have the best Spanish food that I have tasted outside of Spain. We had calamari and shrimp made in the spanish way that tasted better than those that we had in Spain. Also, we ate the biggest shrimp I have ever seen in my life. I would guess they would have been 8" long stetched out from tip to tail. And as a bonus, they were fantastic tasting. It was really a bizzare experience--sitting outside on a lively street corner, eating Spanish food, drinking sangria, and hearing people speak Spanish all around us. I could have swore we were back on the Camino.

We completely skipped out on the other big part of South Beach--the legendary party scene. This time we opted instead to save our money and relax on the beach. We earned a couple of days of camping on the beach after Exuma with our money saved. After all, I have a feeling that we will be back next year for the Ultra Music Festival...

We don't have any wifi here in the airport (at least none that works--there is a wifi network called "Nassau Airport Free Wifi" that doesn't seem to work at all), so we will probably already be on Exuma or back in the US before I post this. Either way, this place seems to make me a little less concerned about getting things done in a timely manner.