Saturday August 19 2006

Saturday, August 19 2006:

We woke up early (4:00) because we didn’t know what to expect at RDU. This was either going to be very easy or a major pain in the butt. As unhappy as we were about being up early, it was tempered knowing that ChurchBomber and MerlotMan were already at the airport in Newark. Delta had done a fine job in rearranging our flights. They had a 6:00 flight to Atlanta. I knew I’d be hearing about this in a few hours. ChurchBomber is not big on being awake anytime before about 10:00 while on vacation and this was a major exception to the rule. We got to RDU and had 3 bags to check. The cooler, by far, was the heaviest bag. It weighed in at 47 lbs. I like to be a thorough packer.

We arrived at 5:00 for our 7:00 flight and were checked in and through security by 5:06. So much for the lines being long. I took JewelrySlut on the grand tour of Terminal A. She’d only been to the Southwest part and was delighted to see where I spend my weekend evenings. Really she wasn’t, but it was early and we were bored. Finally, time came to board. The plane, thankfully, was mostly empty. We moved our seats to an empty row and I started in with making lewd comments about what we could do once airborne and under a blanket. I was told, ever so politely, to go scratch. We got to ATL a little after 8:00 and made our way across the terminals in the little monorail. We got to the new gate and saw ChurchBomber and MerlotMan waiting for us. They’d gotten in a few minutes earlier. All was well. We were all in the same place and ready to head down island.

We placed a quick call to NJ, talked to Shmuppie and then boarded the next flight. Amazingly, it was also quite empty. We split up, boys in one row, girls in the other and took off on time for St Thomas.

Delta kept us wildly entertained by showing the dreadful movie, RV. Boy that was bad. But, it kept me from fidgeting. I studied up for my upcoming fantasy football drafts and before I knew it, we were on approach to St Thomas. I observed that we were awful high up in the air considering where the island and airport were located. Moments later, we nosedived towards the water. In a few minutes, we were bouncing along the runway and were on dry land. We’d made it. We were back in paradise.

We deplaned and walked across the tarmac. Spirit Airlines was already in and American and US Air were landing. The baggage area was going to be crowded. In St Thomas, all the bigger jets land roughly at the same time. They land them, refuel them, and send them out all within a 2 hour span. And, they currently have one working baggage carousel. It was time to start waiting and sweating. We grabbed some free rum punches from an angry lady who kept yelling “I want a tip”? and entered chaos-land. I should have taken pictures of the baggage area because it’s a site to behold. Imagine if you will one very tired-looking baggage carousel and 5 planes worth of people standing next to it (a Continental flight had landed in the time that it took us to get there). The people are hot and have been up all day. Most of them do not understand that they are now living on Island Time and the bags will get there when they get there and not a moment before then. I hitched up the straps on my backpack and waited. And waited. It was about 1:20 at this point. The ladies dared a trip to the bathroom and MerlotMan and I split up.

Well, I think Delta pays off the baggage dudes the worst because our bags were the last ones to show up despite being plane #2 in landing order. Other people off the Delta flight were going bonkers over this. I mean, slip them some beer or a few $20′s Delta. Get a move on. I called over to St John and left a message for our greeter (and the owner of the house) Ruth Ellen.

Finally, all the bags were there. MerlotMan’s last bag took a while and I could see that he was getting nervous. It was not 2:15. I quickly mustered the group and told them to haul booty to the taxi stand. I had an idea. I figured that if we were lucky and I used my Stern Voice, I could get us over to Red Hook in time for the 3:00 ferry. This would put us on STJ by 3:30 instead of 4:00. This was a good thing.

St John, for all its wonder, is not a place you just happen to go to. You need to want to go to St John in order to get there. You have to fly to St Thomas, endure the baggage follies and then get on a boat. The ferries run from the main town on St Thomas, Charlotte Amalie (10 minutes from the airport) or from the other side of the island in Red Hook. Red Hook is a 45 minute taxi grand prix away from the airport. From a money standpoint, it’s about the same. Do you want a long cab ride and short ferry or the other way around? The choice is yours.

We detest the cab ride to Red Hook but I saw a chance to get there a little earlier and to start pumping rum into my veins earlier than expected. I corralled a cabbie and asked if he could get us there in time.

“Sure ting”

“No, I insisted. Make sure you can do it or I want you to take me to town”? (I used my Stern Voice again.

We loaded into the van with some other saps who had no idea why I was using Stern Voice and off we went. I hate the ride to Red Hook. It’s a mess. It takes forever and a day. And, unless the whole island looks like this, you go through some of the uglier parts of St Thomas. Finally, we pulled into Red Hook at 2:55. We paid out $58 (why $58? Beats the hell out of me) and got our ferry tickets. We deftly avoided the baggage Rastas. They want to put your bag on a cart, wheel it 7 feet and then charge you money. We learned the hard way last time. No thanks, we were carrying our bags this time. Tickets bought, we loaded the bags on the boat and got on board. We went upstairs and began soaking it all in. We could see St John across the sound and even the cloudy skies overhead could not dampen the mood (holy clich‚, Batman).

The ride over was uneventful and we all spilled off the boat in Cruz Bay. Ruth Ellen was right there and we headed her way. We quickly enacted the plan. JewelrySlut was to go buy rum and ChurchBomber was to secure a seat at JJ’s Texas Coast. That would be our in-town base for the week. MerlotMan and I loaded the bags in to Ruth Ellen’s car and drove to St John Rent a Car. She left us there and went to the house. We got our little Jeep and followed. I took my first right turn like an American and found myself on the wrong side of the road. Oh right…time to get back into St John driving mode. Up the hill we went and we got to Peace O’Heaven, our home for the week. Ruth Ellen greeted us and we went to work unloading the bags. The cooler had sustained some damage but all the food was rock solid. While she talked about this and that, MerlotMan and I shuttled around the house, turning on the AC units in the bedrooms, unpacking, and itching to get down the hill and to JJ’s.

Ruth Ellen owns the house with her partner, Captain Magic. The Capt. Had suffered a major stroke a year ago and they’d been off island for most of the past year. He was improving but had decided that all he wanted was to be back on STJ. The hospital in the States was helping him, but he wanted to be back in the island. I can’t say I blamed him. But, we’d miss his corny magic shows that he had put on for us. Now, scurry along, Ruth Ellen. We need to get to town.

Down the hill we went and we found the ladies on round 2. They had also already devoured an order of conch fritters. They were making up for the past 2 years. MerlotMan and I joined in, and got our hands on the first Caribs of the week. Man, it was good to be back. We ate and drank and then summoned the strength to leave. A quick stop on the way up the hill for staples (like beer, more rum, juice and milk) and we were back to the house. I was in the pool within 1 minute of arriving at the house. I just floated there and took in the view. All the planning, all the craziness had been worth it. We were back on St John for a week. Let the good times roll.

From there, we, as a group, proceeded to drink too much. I kept up a steady stream of cheese, crackers and cold cuts to try to slow down the impending drunkenness but I fell behind. There’s not enough cheese on Earth. By 8:00, ChurchBomber turned in. MerlotMan followed her and JewelrySlut went to our room. I busied myself cleaning up and taking inventory of stuff in the house. It was funny to see the same damn appliances and utensils from the last visit. I washed up and collapsed in bed at 9:00.

We’d made it.

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