Dis and dat dis and dat

The trip report is thankfully over and you all can go back to being bored about the mundaneness of my life instead of being bored reading about my vacation.

So…where to start?

My parents are NC homeowners. I did the closing for them last week and we now shuttle back and forth to the “Raleigh Property” as we’re calling it. The house is huge. 3 floors of huge. We had to go and learn from the previous owner how to work the fish pond out back. We had to take pictures. We were there to meet the landscapers. We have an appointment with the floors lady. Really, it’s a lot of fun. On the bright side, they don’t think they’ll be moving for a while. That should give me enough time to become entrenched at RedCompany and be able to look for a transfer.

Speaking of which. So, yea…new job. Before we left, I was on a call with some people from RedVendor discussing how they plan to start managing the print and mail work that I control. They were babbling away and saying how they needed to hire 2 people to do it. I casually asked “Why can’t the person work from Raleigh?” It was like I’d dropped my pants and crapped on the table. After a beat or 2 of dead silence, they all started chattering about what we needed to do in order to get me hired and on the payroll. Sweet. So, I went away knowing that RedVendor and HealthCareRelatedCompany would be working out the details of my trade. When we got back, it took 2 days, but I’ve been hired. I have to go to NJ on Sunday night so I can start training first thing on Monday morning. It’s a good gig. I’ll be doing the same job that I am now, just be getting paid a lot more money to do it. Plus, it gives me a chance to get established in the company. I’m sure they’re doing similar work down here in the Triangle and want to get into one of those locations. But, until then, I’m still working from home. But, home is changing because…

Shmuppie started preschool last week. She goes 4 days a week from 9-12. It’s not a very vigorous academic curriculum. I mean, they play with blocks. Give me a break. I wanted to enroll her in a foreign language immersion school so she’d have the best chances at getting into a good college, but then I realized that she walks into walls and that getting her out of the house was god enough. The house is quiet in the morning. Shmuppie is out of the house and JewelrySlut usually goes to the Y, so I’m all alone. It’s quiet…but not for long…

Because we’re having work done at the house. We’re getting new floors on the main floor. We currently have disgusting carpet that needs to go. The main floor has the dining room, living room, kitchen and assorted hallways. All the rooms but the kitchen has an awful looking carpet on them. Out it goes, in comes the laminate flooring. We signed the deal last night and it comes in 2 weeks from today. It also looks like we’re getting new carpet upstairs. My mother announced that she wanted to pull out all the carpeting on the 2nd floor of the Raleigh Property to make room for hard woods. I announced that the carpeting was going to be installed at our house. We got a rough quote from the floor lady and, assuming we can make it all fit into our house; we’re getting the whole upstairs carpeted for just over $1000. It’s brand new carpet…put in when the previous owners listed the house. It smells new! By the time we’re done, we’ll have redone all the floors in the house, minus the kitchen (that’s another project) for not a whole lot of money. This is a good thing because we’re doing something foolish next month.

Yup, we’re actually going to Disney. Shmuppie has been very excited lately about our Disney books, and we can’t resist. Plus, we’ll be driving past it on the way to Gramps’ house. We’re driving down and spending one night on the grounds. We’ll go to the Magic Kingdom for the day before we head out across the state. Are we crazy? Yes. We are. This little junket is setting us back over $300. Now, that just gets us a room and 3 tickets. We still have to eat. The way we see it, this goes one of 2 ways. There’s no gray area in this. Either Shmuppie loves it and has the greatest time EVER or she wigs the fuck out and goes crazy. JewelrySlut is cautiously excited. She’s worried about me. As we know, I tend to be a bit twitchy. In the past, we’ve done Disney at one speed; full speed ahead. It’s going to take some doing to have me ratchet things down a few levels and learn how to move at a slower pace. Because, a 4-year old sees the world differently. For example…

Last weekend was a busy one for us. When I found out for sure that I’d be heading north this weekend, we decided to go to the NC zoo last weekend. It’s about 1 1/2 hours from us, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. Well, that’s only partially true. It’s smack between Raleigh and Charlotte. Unfortunately, that’s in the middle of nowhere. We had a good time though. But, the zoo is huge. It’s not laid out well and you have to do a lot of waling for a relatively sparse zoo population. But, ask Shmuppie what she liked best. She’s likely to talk about a bug that was peeing or that the shuttle buses were painted like zebras. Did we like the animals? Beats me…did you know the bug peed? So, Disney could be fun. The trip there also affords us the opportunity to drive through more of the South. And, I use a Capitol S when I say South. Because, once you get outside of the Triangle and head to the Zoo, you enter the South again. In fact, you see signs like this:

Did no one else in Donkey Fuck, NC (or whatever the hell town that was) tell them that 1: The name is dirty and 2: they had a typo?

Shit…sometimes, I love the South.

Then, for fun, we rearranged the living room on Sunday. We’d been talking about doing it for a while and finally decided to do it then before the flooring came in. This way, if we hated it, we could switch it back at that time. The room is rectangular. It’s fed in from the kitchen on one side ant the hallway on the other. The TV side of the room was on the hallway side and we had a big hutch of dishes and shit on the kitchen side. A few months ago, JewelrySlut thought it would be better the other way; TV side on the kitchen side. It would be brighter and allow us to listen to music or the TV while we cooked. So, we flipped the room. I had to drill a hole for the cable line, and the furniture is heavy as hell. But, we managed to do it in less than 3 hours and I never swore. It was quite an accomplishment. We like how the room looks now. We’re still tired form moving all the crap, but the room looks good.

Lastly, when Shmuppie started school, she needed a family picture to put up in the classroom. Well, we didn’t have one. We’re never all together for pictures. I have plenty of the assorted twosomes that a family of 3 can create, but none of the 3 of us. So, on Sunday evening, I set up the digital camera’s timer and took this:

Ain’t we cute?

Travelogue Links

Here are some links to many of the places and things mentioned in my overly long travelogue:

Our rental agency: VIVA! Vacations

The house we rented was Peace O’Heaven

JJ’s Texas Coast, home of the conch fritter and Carib Beer, has no website. Boohoo.

We rented our Jeep from St John Car Rental

Starfish Market (The supermarket) has no website. But who’d want to see a web site for a grocery store anyway?

We owe a debt of gratitude to Laurence Rockefeller for deeding all his land to the National Park Service in order to create the Virgin Islands National Park

Of course, he also built Caneel Bay which I will never be able to afford to stay at.

Here are sites for some of the beaches we visited:
Cinnamon Bay
Trunk Bay

Pam Gaffin Wrote the book Feet, Fins and 4-Wheel Drive.

Here’s the charter company who took us on our adventure: Limnos

I made mention of Pusser’s while discussing my 30th birthday trip.

Here’s Norman Island where we did our awesome snorkeling.

The Willie T is that floating pirate ship bar I mentioned off the coast of Norman Island.

And, since we’re on the topic of the British Virgin Islands:

Foxy’s Bar

The Soggy Dollar Bar

And lastly, but not at all leastly, Jost Van Dyke

For shopping on St John, you can never go wrong at:

St John Spice. When there, say hi to Ruth and look at her Webcam

Freebird is where we bought my Caribbean Hook Bracelet and JewelrySlut’s Petroglyph bracelet.

Patton Gold is where the cool gecko earrings came from. It’s located within Mongoose Junction.

Morgan’s Mango is near there and still has lousy service.

For better grub, try Skinny Legs out in Coral Bay for their burgers. In town, The Beach Bar is a fun place to grab a beer and maybe spot a celeb or 2.

For information and trip planning, please visit my pals at Travel Talk Online’s Virgin Islands Board.

I also stalk VI Now’s boards.

The board at Virgin-Islands-On-Line is also pretty good.

Lastly, no trip to the Virgin Islands is complete until you’ve consumed your weight in Cruzan Rum

Travelogue Parts 7&8

We’re almost there folks. Bear with me.

Friday August 25:

Our last full day on the island had arrived. I’ll be honest; I was ready to go home. I really hadn’t slept well all week and it was still too hot. The house had lost some of its charm and had become a humid death trap.

We didn’t have much planned other than one last snorkel trip and a trip to town to do some shopping. We’d picked up a few things during the week, but needed to do some more shopping. The morning was still hazy and evil and we didn’t do a whole lot of anything.

Then, a miracle happened. A breeze picked up. The haze blew away. St Thomas was visible again. We all had a spring in our step. As a result, we did absolutely nothing about it. We stayed at the house and did the old “Read, Flip and Dip”. I must have made something for lunch because I seem to recall eating. But, it was mostly quiet. Some time after lunch, I was standing up on the benches on the deck watching cars go up and down a distant hill. I grabbed my Mr. Gay-ass fanny pack and announced that I was going for a ride. JewelrySlut agreed to go along. We went back to town and drove up Contant Hill. It’s a more residential neighborhood on the eastern side of the town and afforded a different view of town and of our house. We puttered about a bit and looked at some new sights in town.

When we got back to the house, it was about 3:30, so I mustered the crew for one last drive over to the North Shore. ChurchBomber had voted that we go back to Trunk Bay. We weren’t really in the mood for any hiking, and Trunk, when empty, is a cool snorkel spot.

We hit the beach as all the day-trippers were leaving and there were maybe 30 people there. We geared up and headed to the right side of Trunk Cay. It’s the less-popular side, but I’d read about Charlie the barracuda who is often seen there. We had the side of the island to ourselves and I did manage to spot Charlie. The reef isn’t as colorful on the right side and the water was oddly cool, so we swam around to the more popular left side. The underwater trail that I had mentioned is on this side and the reef is very good. The 4 of us were all in one general area, but were off in our own worlds. Since JewelrySlut and I didn’t have flippers, I actually found maneuvering to be a lot easier. I was able to float in through some real shallow sections to get to more secluded pools and caves. It really was a lot of fun. Every now and then, one of us would pop to the surface and beckon the others over to see something of interest. As we were starting back to the beach, we hit pay dirt again. There was a lone sea turtle having dinner next to one of the reefs. We just hung there for a while watching it eat. At one point, it surfaced to breathe and was about 2 feet from me. I’ve got to say that the sea turtles were the snorkeling highlight of the trip. The fish are very cool and the coral growths are unbelievably bright, but the turtles were just awesome. And we’d seen 3!

As the clouds rolled in, we packed up and went back. By the time we were about half way back to town, it was pouring. We decided to pass on JJ’s and just head to the house. We arrived right in time for an all-out deluge. It poured for about an hour. So, we all got cleaned up and dressed and then went back to town. We had shopping to do and needed something for dinner. I’d finally run out of food. We hit Freebird Jewelers and picked up some loot. I got another pukka-type necklace and some pirate treasure for Shmuppie. The kid had managed to score 2 pirate shirts, a treasure map and now some “authentic treasure”. JewelrySlut had wanted a petroglyphs bracelet and I’d been arguing with myself all week whether or not to get a St John Hook bracelet. Part of me thought it was cool; the other thought it was gay. I decided it was cool and grabbed one.

The bracelets are famous on St John and most of the Caribbean. The story is that fisherman stopped wearing wedding rings out of fear of losing a finger if lines or hooks or fisherman things got snagged on a ring. They took to wearing the bracelets. They have a hook clasp, and in the beginning, while at sea, you pointed the U-hook’s open side off your wrist to send your love home. When in port, you switched it because your love went back towards you and your home. Now, they’re dating symbols. Hook towards you = you’re attached. Hook out = “Buy me a drink and I’ll blow you”. So, I have a hook bracelet. I like it.

We hit St John Spice yet again and loaded the car up and drove across town to Mongoose Junction again. JewelrySlut had seen some earrings in a store there and wanted to pick them up. I also figured the chances of finding a place to eat for under $35 per person was higher there. Well, the store was closed. Then, we decided to go to Morgan’s Mango. I’m still not sure why we did that. We’d gone there in 2004 and really liked the food. But, the service was just appalling.

They failed to disappoint this time out. Our waiter didn’t know the specials or how to pronounce tough words like “scallops”. MerlotMan ordered a glass of red wine and they brought white. When we sent it back, they never came back with another glass. I finally grabbed the waiter and asked for the wine. He brought the white again. MerlotMan was ready to burst into flames at this point. Finally, we got the wine and our food. As usual, the food was very good. JewelrySlut and I split half a chicken and a grilled shrimp salad. It was simple and very good.

Sated and still wondering why we’d eaten there, we went back to the house, did a little packing, drank some rum and all went to bed. Saturday would be a hectic day and my stomach was already churning in anticipation.

In fact, because that was short and sweet, let’s talk about Saturday now.

Saturday August 26.

I woke up nauseated. What a surprise. The heat and haze was back and I was all a twitter over the upcoming festivities.

Now, I had written a week ago that you have to want to get to St John. The effort is rewarded. Only thing is…you have to go through all the same effort just to leave. And leaving is not fun.

I’d decided that we needed at least an hour from the dock in Cruz Bay until we’d be at the airport. Our flight was at 2:45. I also knew that if you get to the airport the recommended 2 1/2 hours early, you’re in for a lot of pain. All the jets arrive at the same time, and leave an hour later. So the airport has everyone checking in at once. And, the airport is a little rustic and is definitely on Island Time.

I had spotted an 11:00 ferry to town. That would get us there by 11:50 or so. We’d have time to go into town, find a bar, get a drink and some lunch and wait the crowds out at the airport. I thought we could have pushed it and left at noon, but MerlotMan was a little antsy to not be late and we took the 11:00.

We packed up the house and started to town at about 10:00. I say started because this took 2 trips. I had to drop all the people and then go back for the bags. I drove to the rental agency and checked in and told them about the busted blinker. I filled out an accident report and told them I’d be back in an hour.

We walked back to Mongoose Junction to get JewelrySlut her earrings. They’re silver geckos that hang off of her ears. The tails are the post-things and they’re quite fun. ChurchBomber got some other crap and we went back towards the center of town. We did some other last minute shopping and then went to the dock. I got the Jeep, drove to the dock, got hollered at by the cabbies, dropped the bags and went back to the rental agency to get my beating. Bobby, the guy who had patched the tire, was there. The woman behind the counter gave me the speech that they could not close the Amex account until they’d found the extent of the damage. Bobby yelled at her and told her to charge $20. $20! I could have kissed him. It would have cost me more to do it myself. They could have ripped me off, but didn’t. I thanked them profusely and told them I’d be back.

Since I was hot and ready to puke, I treated myself to another smoothie. Mmmmm…smoothie. The crew was at the dock, sweating and waiting. Then the rain started again. Then the 11:00 “ferry” arrived. If you look at the flickr shots of me on the webcam, you’ll see the main ferry. That’s what we’d taken to get to St John. Well, to get to town, there was this tiny orange boat, no larger than a large speedboat. This was going to be fun. I ran through the rain to a store next to JJ’s, grabbed a bottle of rum and s fun shirt for myself and went back to the dock. We only were taking 2 bottles home with us. We were assured that they could box the liquor and it would be fine on the plane. Honestly, I didn’t need the hassle of worrying if it would break. I wrapped the bottle in a suitcase and we got on the SS Minnow. Well, we were expecting a 50-minutue ride. We were pleasantly surprised to realize that a NASCAR reject was driving. We got to town in just over 25 minutes. We hauled ass.

We got to St Thomas and again remembered why we don’t like it. Cabbies and merchandise hawkers descended upon us like flies no a steaming turd. We fought through the crowds and found a bar along one of the many crowded alleys. We pulled in with all of our crap and collapsed. Of course, ChurchBomber had picked a place that had just opened and seemed to be run by retards. I was still quite ill-feeling but knew I needed to eat. We all got some beers and had lunch. The owner/waitress just kept talking. All I wanted was to take a nap, but she would not shut up.

Finally, at 1:00, I decided it was time to head out. We got back to the taxi stand, hailed a cab, and were on our way. We arrived at the airport to find it mostly deserted. I’d planned well. Everyone was inside. We checked in, got our boarding passes and got on line to go through security and customs. I had nothing to declare (other than War on Canada), so we breezed through and got on the suitcase line. There, a large woman was yelling at everyone. I think you’re supposed to tell her what flight you’re on and then she decides just how far she throws your bag. ChurchBomber was not confident she’d ever see her bags again. I didn’t care. The food had done its thing and I finally felt well again. Plus, the airport was air conditioned. We got through security and entered the gate room. Holy shit. It was packed. The food counter had a line that was way too long. In 2004, I’d waited for 40 minutes on that line to watch 3 people get served food by a one-handed, one-eyed cook. There had to be 50 people on line. We were VERY happy we’d gone to the Retards’R'Us bar and eaten. It was almost 2:00 at this point, so we settled in and watched the chaos unfold. Finally, we boarded and got on the plane. Since this is a ghetto airport, you have to walk across the tarmac to board. Well, I guess JewelrySlut was not following the rules because as we walked over, a woman with a badge got in her face.

“Walk in the yellow lines! Is there a reason why you’re ignoring me?! I told you to walk in the lines!”

Mind you, there are 5 fully-loaded 757′s within abut 50 feet of us. To say t hat it’s loud is an understatement. JewelrySlut looked dumbfounded and muttered an apology.

“Why are you ignoring me?!?!” screamed the lovely woman.

I had to make a decision. So I yell back something like “Because you’re black.”? Maybe: “Because you seem to be a cunt.”? JewelrySlut continued to look on dumbfounded and said something about it being really loud and that she wasn’t ignoring her. We were scolded again and walked, within the lines I’ll add, to the plane.

On board, we settled in and got underway. They showed a dreadful movie and served the same horrid snacks. But, the flight was smooth and the plane was air conditioned. For the first time in a week, we were not sweating. It was nice.

We got to Atlanta and had to hustle. JewelrySlut and I had only 40 minutes to connect. And, of course, we were at the last gate on our concourse, and had to go clear across the whole airport to get to our new gate. We scurried to the monorail, got on, said quick goodbyes to ChurchBomber and MerlotMan and got to our gate. We had time enough to pee and change our seat assignment and then it was boarding time.

The flight to Raleigh was very easy and we were back in NC on time. We got our bags, got in the car, hit a supermarket on the way home and went home. We had a drink and a snack and went to bed. It had been a fun week, but it was time to be home.

Well, that’s it. I’ll send a list of links next week for all the places I mentioned. I’ll also get back to telling tales form the neighborhood. There’s been a lot going on.

Thanks for listening.

Travelogue Part 6

Wow…all I had to do was bitch and I’d get comments? If I knew then what I know now?

And, yes, this is long-winded, but that’s my point. I’m trying to write a lot here. Thanks again for listening. I have a lot of mayhem happening herein my Kingdom, but barely have the energy to write about it. Living it is hard enough.

And…I have Power of Attorney for the CLOSING of my parent’s new house this morning. Shit.

And…got a new job. Not the consulting thing either. RedVendor is about to become RedCompany in these pages. They finally made me an offer. I could not refuse it.

But, on with the opera.

Thursday August 24:

Well, if we thought Wednesday had been hot, Thursday wanted to make sure it could show its teeth to us. The haze was officially at NJ-levels. St Thomas was invisible. We knew it was there, but it was shrouded in a thick haze. In fact, all week, it seemed to have been cloudy on St Thomas. St John was bathed in sun all week, but clouds kept forming up on the hills across the sound. The weather over there, from our view, looked dreadful. But, that’s what you get if you vacation on St Thomas. As a guy on Tuesday’s boat said to me when I asked if they were staying there or on St John, “You couldn’t pay me to stay there. They do have a nice enough airport though.” He summed it up well for us. It’s a nice enough place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay there. Do I sell St Thomas short? I’m sure I do. All I’ve seen of it is the shopping mayhem of Charlotte Amalie and the dreadful cab ride to Red Hook. Know what? I’ll stick to St John. I like it better there.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, I had asked MerlotMan what we were doing the following day. ChurchBomber looked on in horror at the thought of another one of my crazed adventures. He announced that we were going to the far eastern end of the island to see what was there. 2 years prior, we’d gotten as far as Coral Bay (the only other place that passes for a town on the island), but headed south at that point to a few of the southeastern beaches. He then announced to ChurchBomber “You two are getting rubbed tomorrow.” She was confused (I could see why considering her background as a religious terrorist, she could have construed that to mean “getting rubbed out”). I added that I had booked the two ladies massages.

“We’re getting massages?” (Eyes lighting up like…really bright things)
“Yup. I booked it all and 2 women are coming to the house tomorrow to give you two massages”

ChurchBomber no longer cares whatever the hell the two boys had planned; she was getting a massage. JewelrySlut was also excited (but she’d been in on the planning and was not surprised).

Back in 2004, I’d coined a term for our group. I described my experience booking the trip as using “word of keyboard” to find things. It’s like word of mouth, but different. I haunt 3 USVI-related message boards on a regular basis. They’re teeming with info on restaurants, on-island services, local news, etc. I’d used the boards to book the house, find the rental car agency, find restaurants, and learn about the island. The businesses on island must rely on the boards, because one slip and a place gets immediately black listed. It was a lot of fun to book it that way. I made a few pals in the process. I have an internet buddy from Boston who referred us to the house, 2 here in NC (one who convinced me to use Limnos), and 2 who live on the island. It’s a lot of fun. So, when I decided to look into massages, I did my research and then hit the boards to solicit opinions. That’s how I found Massage St John.

A little after 10:00, MerlotMan and I took off from the house. He was driving this time. Last time, I did all the driving (except for the outgoing leg of our boys-only adventure). I’d heard grumbling that I was a wheel hog and was going to offer up the driving whenever I could. Well, I made the offers this time but MerlotMan didn’t seem very interested. The 4 bald tires and the Jeep’s proclivity towards skidding out had a lot to do with it I think. As we bounced down our hill, we saw the masseuses coming up the hill.

We set out across the interior of St John on Centerline Road. It’s an ugly road. The first half of the trip to Coral Bay is outside the park boundaries, so it’s where the island has crammed in a lot of what passes for its industry. So, instead of looking to the left and seeing the North Shore beaches, you look around and see trucks, lumber yards, quarries, sewer plants, and other essential things. Plus, the road is crazy-hilly. I don’t much care for it. A lot of the locals live out on the eastern side of the island so this is the main traffic road. So, it’s unfamiliar for us and very hilly, and we have to share it with local trucks and “commuters”. I don’t like Centerline Road. But, we made our way up into the island. We had to stop at the designated spot to dodge Mr. Moses’ herd of cattle. His cows know that they own the road and you basically stop and let them do their thing. In 2004, we’d come across them from the other side. I vividly remember rounding a blind curve (what other kind is there?) and seeing a large cow fill the view out the windshield. This time, we were ready.

Leaving the cows in our wake, we headed down the other side of the mountain and into Coral Bay. This is the side of the island where you go if Cruz Bay is too busy for you. I firmly believe that if you took a person from this part of the island and put them on the NJ Turnpike, they’d explode. To say life is more laid back is a major understatement. We blew through town and continued on the same road (now known as the East End road). I was spouting facts all along the way about this or that bay and what had happened here 200 years ago. MerlotMan was driving at what I considered t be white-knuckle speeds (he was going 30) and had one hand on the “Oh Shit Handle” at all times. We drove past some nice looking beaches and passed Vie’s Snack Shack (unfortunately closed). Finally we got to the end of the road. We knew it was the end because a large concrete wall was in the middle of the road and a sign said “Route 10 END”. 3 guys were standing there. I think their job is to tell idiots like us that this is indeed the end and that it’s time to heads back. This part of the East End is also outside of the park so there’s a lot of building going on. The houses that are going up are enormous. I know all building there is expensive, but these have got to be houses that are topping $10 million easily. And, they’re built on the face of cliffs. Imagine it; a 12,000 square foot mansion that is literally screwed into the side of a hill. That’s what you’d see. It’s amazing enough to consider that houses are built there. Then, when you see an earthmover up there working, you just shake your head. Here’s how it works; you buy the land. You clear the road/driveway. You clear the house’s lot. You build. It’s astounding.

We bounced back the other way and stopped in at Hansen Bay. I grabbed my snorkel and took a quick dip. The snorkeling was nice but there were a lot of urchins. MerlotMan stayed on the beach but was happy to see me return. Apparently, the bugs that normally haunted him at the house had cousins. He was being devoured. I dried off and we went into town. I’d wanted to get to Skinny Legs for one of their famous burgers. The bar was everything I’d hoped it to be; an assemblage of 2×4′s holding up a tin roof. There were some tables, a big bar and a lot of odd-looking people. This is where the ex-pats hang out. Skinny Legs is a real version of the Coconut Telegraph. It’s where people come to check back in once they get back to the island. I imagine that I could drop off a box addressed to any one of you and if you showed up next summer, they’d have the box there at the bar and would happily hand it over to you. It’s that kind of place. I’d made a big breakfast at the house, so we ended up splitting a burger. Damn. That was a tasty burger. I did the obligatory souvenir shopping and took the wheel for the ride home.

We decided to go back along the North Shore. I got us lost trying to find Francis Bay and ended up on a 1-way, unpaved trail. Reversing course, we made our way out. We stopped briefly at Leinster Bay to see the scene of 2004′s crime against humanity. MerlotMan was in no mood to hike it again. We bounced back to the house and arrived in time for ChurchBomber to yell at me “Light the grill. I want lunch”. Welcome back to Earth. The ladies had thoroughly enjoyed their massages. ChurchBomber apparently carries a lot of stress in her ass. The masseuse had spent a lot of time working on it. JewelrySlut and I think it was more because she liked it. We settled in for an afternoon of nothing.

After a while, ChurchBomber announced that she wanted to snorkel. OK…out came my maps. We hadn’t been anywhere new yet so I wanted to hit a new beach. Maho Bay looked intriguing. It offers good shallow-water snorkeling in a grassy environment. All the books I’d read promised turtles. We loaded up and took out to the beach. Since Maho has no facilities, you basically park off to the side of the road in some hollows that people have either cut out or used their Jeeps to make “parking spaces”. We dismounted and hit the beach. I was immediately in trouble. The place where we parked looked nice enough, but offered no wildlife at all. The group was not happy. Noticing some rocks off on the far left of the bay, I swam over. I found the fish and swam back to the group. If they were willing to come out of the water and walk the length of the beach, they’d be rewarded. We tromped over and swam to the rocks. It was very cool. There was no coral and the fish were less vibrant in color, but there was a lot to see. We saw a flock (?) of squids. That was very cool. I’d never seen a squid in the wild. Finally, after a while, we hit pay dirt and saw a turtle. Very cool. We’d seen one at Norman Island, but this one was really in the wild. We stayed in the water for a while and had a real good time. As we left, I warned the group of the trip to the car. As I mentioned, you park in the trees. At dusk, the bugs apparently come out. We no sooner hit the beach than our legs were on fire. Like a bazillion bugs descended upon us. ChurchBomber began swearing at me. We barely dried off, threw on some clothes, tossed all the shit in the jeep and took off…in the wrong direction. Remember, it was me driving. I finally got turned around and we headed back to town. For fun, it was getting dark and starting to rain. Need I say that the Jeep’s windshield wipers only worked a little bit?

We made it back to town and had our obligatory drinks and snacks in town. But, we were still salty and smelly and just wanted to get back up the hill. We got to the house, poured a few more drinks and sat by the pool as the sun set. We all showered, had some leftovers for dinner and just chilled. We’d all had a very good day. The ladies had been pampered, I got to add 2 new beaches to my snorkeling list, the boys had gone on an adventure, and nobody had been killed by the bugs.

The week was winding down, but I was getting antsy to get back home. It was just too fucking hot.

Travelogue Part 5

Something is upsetting me. It could be the dearth of comments lately. However, I attribute that to the fact that everyone hates me now because I’m going into painful detail about my trip. I don’t know what the other thing was. Anyway.

Wednesday August 23

I was right. 12 1/2 hours of sleep can defeat any potential hangover. I woke up clear-headed. My preemptive strike of going to bed early worked. I was awake and ready to have fun. Needless to say, the rest of the crew did not necessarily share in my enthusiasm. This was the case mainly because it was hot. Now I know we were in the Caribbean and hot is expected, but hot was being redefined. Haze had settled in over the island. We could barely make out St Thomas from the deck. This was haze that would have made New Jersey jealous. Couple that with tropics-strength sun and oppressive humidity and you had the makings of an ugly day. Did I mention how hot it was?

We settled into our seats for a vigorous morning of nothing. MerlotMan drank his coffee and sat under the overhang, serving as the breakfast buffet for the island’s supply of mosquitoes and no-see-ums. I picked up a book and headed for the sun deck. ChurchBomber and JewelrySlut followed me to the sunny side of the pool. The 3 of us lined up and started to complain about the heat.

A little before 10:00, I announced that it was Adventure Time. I wanted to hit a trail and do some low-grade, low-effort hiking. I wanted to do it simply to say I’d done it. St John, as you can imagine, has a lot of trails. The Park Service maintains some of them, and people with machetes maintain some of the others. They range in size from pretty much here to there to several torturous miles. One large trail, the Reef Bay Trail starts pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It roams down through the middle of the island and lands at, you guessed it, Reef Bay. Reef Bay is home to St John’s infamous petroglyphs. I’d like to someday hike that particular trail. I get the feeling I’ll be soloing it that day. You have to sign up at the Park office and go on an escorted trip. The end of the trail is at the water’s edge, so a boat comes to get you to take you to town. All in all, the hike takes like 6 hours. Like I said, when the time comes, I’ll be soloing it.

In 2004, I’d led JewelrySlut and MerlotMan on what we now call the St John Death March. I dragged us along Leinster Bay. It’s at the water’s edge and offers no shade. I think it was 400 degrees out on the day that we went. The views are nice, and if you walk a little farther, you get to Waterlemon (not a typo) Cay. Waterlemon apparently offers some of the best snorkeling on the island. But, you either need a boat to get to it or the desire to hike an hour each way to reach it.

MerlotMan made is clear that he was not up for any hiking and stayed at the house. So, I grabbed, JewelrySlut, the gear bag and some water and headed out. I had picked a simple trail, the Lind Point Trail. It goes from the Park offices around the southwestern tip of the island and ends at Solomon Bay. From there, you hike to Honeymoon Bay and then on to the Caneel Bay Resort. It’s not long; a little over a mile, and from what I’d read, all in the forest.

We drove to town, parked the car, and walked right past the Park office and to the North Shore Road. We started up it and saw a trail head. Unfortunately, it was for the Caneel Bay Trail, a 2.4 mile trek up a mountain. Already I’d led us in the wrong direction. Backing up, we went to the Park offices and found the right trail head behind a dumpster. The book, Feet Fins and 4-Wheel Drive told me that we’d start by scrambling up a hill. Right. By scramble, do you mean “climb a small cliff?” Because that’s what we did. I was already in trouble. Having scaled the hill, we were on our way. Have I mentioned how hot it was? The trail, thankfully, was in the forest. This was good because it offered shade. It was bad because it failed to offer a breeze or a view of anything but more trail and scrubby trees. It also offered bugs. Oh yea, this was fun. At one point, we heard something come bounding down the side of the hill to our right. Thinking the island’s version of Michael Myers was coming, we stopped. No, it was not a serial killer, it was a deer. It looked us over and walked down the path. Well, at least we’d seen some nature. After what seemed like hours of walking, we saw a sign for Solomon Bay. We made a left, wend down the hill, and found a beach. It was very nice. Solomon’s the first beach out of town, but the only way to get there is to take a boat or the Bug Trail. We had the place to ourselves. We dropped the bag and waded into the water. Oh baby, that felt good. Our peace was broken like 3 minutes later by another couple. How dare they? We’d reserved the beach for ourselves! They went to the far side of the bay and set up camp. We swam around a bit, but the side we were on offered no snorkeling. After a while, we packed up and started back to the trail.

We got back to the main trail. I knew we had to round a corner and then go back down the hill to Honeymoon Beach. We walked on a bit and saw another turn-off on the left. Assuming it was right, we took it. We walked down the hill, dodging trees and rocks. We popped out of the canopy and saw the couple from a few minutes ago. I’d successfully led us on a 20-minute trek that we could have accomplished by simply walking the length of the beach. Good going, Magellan. We went back to the main trail and walked on. Finally, we saw another turn-off and headed down. Thankfully, this led us to Honeymoon. We popped out of the trees and saw that it was “swarming” with people. In 2004, JewelrySlut and I had come here early one morning for a snorkel and some extra curricular activities and had been alone on the beach. Now, there were maybe 20 people. This was unacceptable. There were also a few charter boats moored out in the bay. But, we’d come all this way, so we parked and got the gear out. Honeymoon offers decent snorkeling and we planned to take advantage. We paddled out to a rocky/grassy area and had a good time. The sun wasn’t out too much so we avoided getting sunburned.

We headed out of the water, got dressed and took the path to the Caneel. Immediately, we were out of place. I mean, people who go there on vacation wear shoes! We looked like 2 wet rats. Trying to remain inconspicuous, lest we offend the local gentry, we made our way to the taxi stand. We hailed a cab and rode back to town. We were not walking back.

Arriving in town, we were hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. We staggered over to a nameless barbecue stand that’s near the old commercial docks. It looks like hell, but always smells good. Plus, many of the taxi drivers seem to get lunch from there. How bad could it be? We placed our order and I ran across the street to Cap’s, one of the local dive bars, to procure beer. 2 minutes later, I was back across the street procuring more beer. I was also offered the chance to buy weed form a dude with a very impressive pile of hair on his head. Politely refusing, I went back to lunch. Naturally, our order was messed up. But, it hardly mattered. We had ribs and chicken and it was unbelievably good. We chatted with the 2 women who work there and had a nice time. I should have taken a picture of this place because it looked like a dump. But, as is always the case, if the locals eat somewhere, it’s bound to be good. The ribs and chicken were cooked to perfection and the sauce was delicious. Since we were about to become one with our chairs, we headed out. We ran into St John Spice again for some seasonings and sauces and headed up the hill to the house.

Upon arrival, I think we both flopped into the pool with our clothes on. It was too hot to do anything else. The rest of the day was spent lazing at the pool. I was in no rush to go back out to a beach and ChurchBomber and MerlotMan didn’t seem to mind. At some point, we went back to town for the obligatory Caribs and Conch Fritters at JJ’s. We wandered town for a little while and went back to the house. I grilled up some pork chops and we ate in the stifling heat of the house.

After dinner, it was still hot, so we just sat around playing cards. I busted out the headache helmet again and was sternly mocked. You may have seen pictures of the headache helmet. I’m not wearing a turban or a diaper on my head. It’s a bandanna with an ice pack wrapped into it. Mock it if you must, but it kept me somewhat cool. We all turned in at about 9:00. It was just too damn hot to stay out in the living room. We were praying for rain or a breeze to lift some of the oppressiveness out of the air.