Thursay august 24, 2006

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 cared 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 CRAP 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 butt. 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 crap 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 damning hot.

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