An 'un-road trip' across America
This is the story of a guy with an unusual name and an even more unusual quest who landed in Southwest Florida, spent several days traversing it without setting foot in a car or bus, and then left us in his wake as he headed north to the Big Apple.
Here's hoping some salt spray is still on his skin and he fondly recalls his friends he made here. Especially when he steps onto "The Today Show" set around 10 a.m. Thursday, May 28.
"Clearly the boating was beautiful," said Boaz Frankel, the blogger who masterminded the Un-Road Trip, which you can read about at www.unroadtrip.com. But what was his favorite part of being in Southwest Florida? "The people."
From the time he got off a horse in Hendry County and moseyed into Alva to the day he sailed up the coast toward Boca Grande, Mr. Frankel did the proverbial meet-and-greet everywhere he went:
• Nancy Kilmartin of Estero Bay Buddies hoisted him aboard her powerboat one humid afternoon, scooted him away from thunderstorms lacing the river, and took him to the Pink Shell Resort at Fort Myers Beach. "The sky was looking a little menacing with dark clouds quickly approaching, so we headed out as quickly as we could. Nancy let me take the helm as we headed out of the Caloosahatchee River and into the bay."
• Wendy Rex of North Fort Myers and I kayaked with him for two days and 24 miles along the Calusa Blueway on the Caloosahatchee from Alva to the tip of Cape Coral, with the staff at Hotel Indigo kindly overnighting him in downtown Fort Myers. "Kayaking under a bridge with cars whizzing overhead one minute, and the next minute being where it's all quiet in the mangroves was amazing," he said.
• Then Doris Colgate of Offshore Sailing School had her staff at Pink Shell welcome him aboard the fleet for a learn-tosail while-you-un-road-trip. "We'd read over the sailing textbooks they had sent us, but seeing it in person was quite a bit different."
In this day and age of blogging and social-media journalism, it's easy to come across people who text and Tweet who appear, well, arrogant and egotistical.
Mr. Frankel is not like that.
When I read his blog before meeting him May 13, he appeared to be gracious enough. But I remained skeptical. That lasted about two seconds. His enthusiasm, it seems, is for learning about new places rather than telling you what he knows about places he's been.
He's just a guy who tired of fluctuating gasoline prices and got an idea to seek out alternative transportation methods while creating an interactive media postcard of the United States. He's a guy with supportive parents back in Portland, Ore., who told him to go for it. He's someone whose enthusiasm for whatever moment is unfolding at the time is contagious.
Hanging out with him is like Discovery Channel meets "Mad TV." It's serendipitous. He meticulously plans his modes of transportation — Tweeting people, accepting suggestions from blog-followers, researching with his iPhone and laptop.
Tune in Thursday to hear his highlights, knowing that some of those memories have been doused by Southwest Florida salt spray and rainstorms.