Virgin Islands Blog Bits 8 -end of the journey

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My final sunrise in paradise

1. The 13th. Ahh the dreaded morning.Β  With a stunning sunrise (see the pics) and several hours before having to say good bye, I spent my time after packing up and getting the cabin stuff to the patio by just kicking it in the gazebo overlooking limestone beach and reading for awhile.
At the airport I said my goodbyes to Kevin and Sara, who seemed to have as mixed emotions about leaving as I did. They were heading home to Massachusetts.

2. The flights. A nice jet (757) with all the amenities to JFK in New York. The 2nd leg though…a 737-800 cattle-car filled with a bunch of morons. I’m not going to dignify this blog with some of the stupidity, smells and idiocy of that flight…suffice to say I and several of the flustered flight attendants were more than happy to hear the slap of the wheels on the tarmac when we arrived in Denver. That said, I really like flying Delta overall.

3. I couldn’t sleep for hours when I got home. I just wandered around the apartment feeling like I was missing something.

4. I woke up with that same “missing something” feeling today.Β  I realized that it was the sound and smell of the ocean and the wind blowing in from the east gently telling me the day was arriving.

5. I will go back. I miss it already. If I could figure out a way to make a living down there without cleaning toilets or selling cheap jewelry to the locals, I’d jet off and never come back. I left a piece of my soul down there, and I didn’t even realize it until wheels down in Denver last night.

Just a short clip taken at Limestone Beach. The wind made things not only tolerable temperature wise, it made it just about perfect.

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Last ride in the courtesy truck

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VI Campgrounds – Water Island, US Virgin Islands Nothing is perfect, but this was about the best place I could have picked for this trip.

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Last looks

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Last water taxi ride

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I already miss this.

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Seeing new friends off on their journey home.

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Second thoughts on leaving.

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St. Thomas

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Red Hook

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New York City. 70 degrees and a bit hazy.

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Last leg of the journey. Saying goodbye to the East Coast.

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On the bus ride home and away from DIA

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Return to Casa du Casey

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This bungalow has a few more amenities

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The view is a bit different, but hey at least that is salt water. πŸ™‚

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After the jokes and griping over the campground “facilities”, my vacation buddies will completely relate to how awesome this picture actually is. One of the first things I did when I got home was go in here and just flush the toilet. Not use it…Just flush it. πŸ˜€

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 7

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Floating Hotel

May 12thΒ  2015

1. The 12th was the day it started to sink in that this vacation adventure was coming to an end.
A deep melancholy really started to settle in my brain when I hitched a ride to the pier with Carrie and Matt who were on “last day” and heading back to fly home.

2. I, on the other hand, was not going home. I was headed for St. Thomas to get a few touristy items and see “Red Hook” where the cruise ships docked. They also dock on the Crown Bay side, but not at first as that side of Charlotte Amalie isn’t as nice or tourist friendly. During peak season 5-7 of them will be in at the same time, with up to 10-12. That is like nearly the entire native population of the island popping by for a day visit. Just ONE ship is a noticeable bulge in the traffic and people about (even out at Water Island). I cannot imagine 10 ships.

3. When the cruise ships are in, things get pretty busy on St. Thomas. 3-6 thousand gawking tourists all rushing about trying to cram in the sights in a short day before having to get right back on the water-hotels and boogie for the next stop is an interesting sight.

I will NEVER plan to step foot on one of those things (cruise ships). I felt like a native laughing up my sleeve as the “cruisers” scurried about. There is something about planting your flag somewhere and just “being” for a while. Time slows down, and the days are filled with a relaxing calm…you don’t HAVE to do things right now.Β  You don’t HAVE to hurry the hell up to BE SOMEWHERE!

4. On my checklist was a note to try eating Conch, which is a local seafood. Just picture a conch shell…what lives inside it is the food. heh. I accomplished the eating of ze conch.

I’m not a big fan of conch now. Perhaps it was cooked wrong (like calamari when overcooked), but it was like eating bits of rubber. The flavor wasn’t that great either…but at least now I know. πŸ™‚

5. Taxis in St. Thomas are interesting. I asked about it from some locals (I always check out things that pertain to my livelihood), and unfortunately by and large I am of the wrong skin color to get a job doing that down there. There ARE some taxi drivers who are of lighter skin persuasion, but you can tell from their patois that they are natives or at least have been local for a VERY long time. I bet if I were determined, I could do it, but ahh well. I could definitely see a need there for computer techs/wifi support and such, but that is a career I ran away from to focus on writing. (But in a pinch I could definitely support myself down there.)

6. On the last full evening, after an afternoon of REALLY polishing off my masterful sunburn by snorkeling all over the place, swimming with yet more turtles (they are in honeymoon bay as well) and tropical fish schools, I met up with Kevin and Sara (now friends and next door neighbors for the week at the campground, and we proceeded to munch out and then drink…and drink…and shoot the breeze with some other folks and locals. It was late with a gloriously star filled clear sky and I was hammered by the time we finally caved in and headed back up to our cabins.

The final night’s rest in the Caribbean was as pleasant as my first night, and I dreamed of swimming in clear blue-green water with thousands of school fish swirling about me. It was almost as good as the real thing. πŸ™‚

Matt and Carrie. Campground neighbors and awesome people.

Matt and Carrie. Campground neighbors and awesome people.

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When I go back…this will get rented…I guarantee it. πŸ˜€

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View toward St. Thomas from the top of Water Island

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Dingy dock at the Water Island pier

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Crown Bay from Water Island dock

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Yep.

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Judith, a teacher here on the island helped me out with the taxi situation. The local lingo definitely takes some getting used to, but what a nice lady. πŸ™‚

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Shops near Red Hook

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The Bazaar at Red Hook. Surprisingly (thanks Judith!) this is actually a reasonably priced tourist trap. Judith laughed when I told her that I wanted touristy STUFF for some friends)…and then she pointed here. She was right. πŸ˜€

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Look closely at the flag. Yarrrrrr!

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Red Hook bay

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Veteran’s Highway…and yep, that is one hell of a traffic jam. Now imagine more than three Cruise ships in port. yikes.

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Cruise people carrier

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Merica! πŸ˜€

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Last “real” meal I had was here in Frenchtown. Very good. It’d better be, it sits right next to a fish monger place on a fishing harbor.

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Fish Monger place and fishing dock

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Conch fritters. (think crabcakes except with Conch). Not impressed. The beer was damned tasty though. πŸ™‚

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Me, Kevin and Sara, plus locals. πŸ™‚ We stayed here until it was late, drinking, laughing and not wanting to leave.

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 6

Island girl. She had an almost hypnotic way with the wildlife around here. Because of her I got to pet an iguana. :-)

Island girl. She had an almost hypnotic way with the wildlife around here. Because of her I got to pet an iguana. πŸ™‚

May 11th, 2015

1. I’ve settled firmly into island time, and I now know in my gut why people come down here and stay.

2. This was going to be (today/tomorrow) excursion/exploration time, but I’ve changed it up. Right here on the little island I’m on…has EVERYTHING I would be hunting for on St. John’s. So My last two days here, the only thing I’m going to do is a bit of gift shopping tomorrow on St. Thomas, and the rest of this trip will be right here on the beach or in the water. Awesome beach, good food, good people and just relaxing was the goal, and I’ve found that exactly, right here. πŸ™‚

3. Side benefits, meeting some really excellent folks and making new friends. Here in the USVI in person, and after on the ol’ social media side, but what is life without sharing and making friends? Sarah, Kevin, Carrie, Matt, you have made my life richer. πŸ™‚

4. So I’ll just get out of the way, post up the day’s shots, and we’ll cya’ all tomorrow for the 1/2 day finale before heading home.

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Another day!

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Here there be wildlife. (That girl in the first shot was carrying these dudettes around as well.)

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About 10am the sail folks start piling in.

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That dinghy had a bent motor. Guy got it fixed. He’s the dad of the girls in the other pics (including iguana girl) and they have a big sailboat which they live on and travel around the islands. His Mother is holding the umbrella to keep the tools from turning into molten lead…she’s from Vail, and owns a strip mall and two dispensaries in Boulder…and she spends most of her time down here. πŸ™‚

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Busy agenda for this day, boy-howdy. πŸ˜€

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Your host salutes you with a most awesome Bloody Maria (tequila vs. vodka). πŸ˜€

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Sandy, the local sea-glass jewelry peddler. She was a New Yawka’ (accent still firmly in place), and has been down here for five years. She says the only thing she misses is her old BMW. πŸ™‚

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The Fishing dog. That dog loves the water more than people.

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Generations. The kids live on that yacht I mentioned. (Their Dad being the dinghy repair guy.)

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There goes the neighborhood for a bit. Tourist water taxi for the “Cruisers”. I’ve been down here a week and I’m already thinking of the Cruise ship folks like sub-humans. lol.

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And away go the Cruiser-people. Barely a day in, hurry hurry, and off they go. heh.

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This Mahi-mahi fish dinner was courtesy of my friends Sarah and Kevin. I supplied some side stuff and away we went. Nothing in the world like fresh fish caught a couple hours before.

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Good folks, good food, good beer, let’s EAT! πŸ™‚ Sarah and Kevin after their fishing trip. 29 miles out to the trench, and back with some good stuff. Plus a “one that got away” story as well. πŸ˜€

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 5

May 10th 2015

1. So today’s agenda was to hit the beach. Which I did. And the two bars on the beach, and the water in front of the beach, and my chair in front of the water.

2. A lot of people I’ve noticed get to these places and then decide to hurry and SEE STUFF and run about. To me this pretty much defeats the purpose of a relaxing vacation. I don’t WANT to hurry, and if the place I’m at is beautiful and contains all the “scenic” of the area, then I’m ahead of the game.

3. In a nutshell, today was Beach, Sun, Sand, Sunburn, Suntan lotion, BOOZE, Fish tacos (at Heidi’s Grill and beach bar), booze, putzing about in the shallows, people watching, booze, more sunburn, more aloe vera and suntan lotion, Booze, home, bed.Β  And it was a perfect PERFECT day.

So here are the highlights:

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Getting to the beach is all downhill.

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Gorzirra! Guardians of the trail.

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Trail’s end…beach and booze ahead!

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Honeymoon Beach. Pretty much the most complete (bars, beach,swimming, food) hidden cove beach I’ve been to.

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Panorama test of my camera.

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The “Painkiller”. Rum, coconut milk, cream, pineapple juice, nutmeg. Pretty much “awesome” in a cup.

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Your Host, clowning. At this point I wasn’t that far in the bag, but by the end of the day….yeah. πŸ˜€

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Heidi’s Honeymoon Beach Bar and Grill. Home of the best fish tacos I’ve ever stuffed in my face…and that is saying something, as I’ve had more than “some” of that food. I ate here twice during the day, and I almost NEVER eat the same thing twice in a go. πŸ™‚

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Locals and Boaters kickin’ it.

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The aforementioned Fish Tacos from tropical heaven.

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Jetski invasion.

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Local Cat. Pretty beat up, but I wouldn’t sneeze at one. πŸ™‚

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From sand to rocky areas.

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Boats, a drink and a vape on a beach.

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A pleasant view all around. πŸ™‚

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Afternoons get busier here, but still plenty of room to relax.

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The entertainment in the afternoon/evening. Zydico band…with an accordian that didn’t suck. The lady played a flute, and she was excellent.

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Wild…er…tame…er…chickens were everywhere…with chicks as well. Moochers. πŸ˜€

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Late afternoon, many drinks later, the area actually got some rain…for about five minutes. Then the disaster passed on by for more sunshine.

Tomorrow I’ve decided will be more of the same, adding some snorkel gear to the agenda to putz about. Other folks have mentioned the snorkeling here at Honeymoon Beach is pretty excellent.Β  We shall see.Β  πŸ™‚

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 4

Evening dinner on Honeymoon Beach

Evening dinner on Honeymoon Beach

May 9th 2015

Saturday. A day for wandering about exploring the “wilder” side of Water Island, and then an evening on Honeymoon Beach eating excellent food and drinking beers and rum drinks with Kara, Matt, Kevin and Sara, some of my fellow “glampers”.

I will admit to some sunburn on the tops of my feet, my upper shoulders, and sore calves from the steep inclines of this place. I’m NOT complaining, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the steep angles. The Virgin Islands campground is at the top of the island which is extremely hilly. Good exercise, but a little like skiing for the first time…even if you ARE in good shape (which I do not claim any part of….heheh), you will use muscles in ways that you aren’t used to. I’m getting better, but I DEFINITELY wasn’t used to the inclines.Β  πŸ™‚

This is a pictures tells the tale post, so let’s get roling with theΒ  day in order:

The Sargassum infestation. A spiny weed that grows in the ocean, usually found further south. It has been a problem for the locals this year.

The Sargassum infestation. A spiny weed that grows in the ocean, usually found further south. It has been a problem for the locals this year.

Limestone Bay

Limestone Bay

Somebody's a movie buffπŸ˜€

Somebody’s a movie buffπŸ˜€

Interesting flora

Interesting flora

A little Arizona to go with the Caribeean!

A little Arizona to go with the Caribeean!

Entrance to the Campgrounds. No false advertising...the lizards rock! :-)

Entrance to the Campgrounds. No false advertising…the lizards rock! πŸ™‚

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

Limestone bay views

More Sargassum

More Sargassum

Villas on the hillside

Villas on the hillside

You Host, clowning for the "selfie".

You Host, clowning for the “selfie”.

The Tree of Lost Soles

The Tree of Lost Soles

Limestone bay- surfs up!

Limestone bay- surfs up!

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Bee and wasp heaven.

Bee and wasp heaven.

Although the area here is called Limestone Bay, it is actually a coral beach. The "rock" I'm holding once upon a time was alive. :-)

Although the area here is called Limestone Bay, it is actually a coral beach. The “rock” I’m holding once upon a time was alive. πŸ™‚

Yep, a little "Pacific" with our Caribbean...Palm trees are not native to this side o' the world.

Yep, a little “Pacific” with our Caribbean…Palm trees are not native to this side o’ the world.

Bacon wrapped pesto Pork tenderloin, spiced mashed sweet potatos, and a local lager. (Carib is actually pretty tasty.)

Bacon wrapped pesto Pork tenderloin, spiced mashed sweet potatos, and a local lager. (Carib is actually pretty tasty.)

The required sunset shots!

The required sunset shots!

The required sunset shots!

The required sunset shots!

Heading over to Dingy's for a nightcap...or three. :-D

Heading over to Dingy’s for a nightcap…or three. πŸ˜€

Evening dinner on Honeymoon Beach

Evening dinner on Honeymoon Beach

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 3

GreenTurtleMaho-3

Stock picture. EXACTLY as it looked when I was there. I swam with these guys AND some stingrays as well. Magnicificent Creatures!

May 8th 2015

Day o’ the Turtles…and Stingrays

1. One of the strangest things down here is that my body clock flipped. I’m getting up with the sun and going to bed pretty much shortly after the ball of fire goes down. I thought it would be more difficult, as I am a vamp’ by nature, but this has been almost painless.

2. After a morning of vegging, reading, writing and coffee drinking, it was time to go on a planned snorkeling trip out to the Buck Island wildlife reserve on a catamaran. The pictures below better tell my day than me blabbing about it, so I’ll just sum up here and get out of the way:

a. The group of people here at the campground are awesome. Mostly east coasters down for vacations or honeymoons, and a couple of us “solo” types taking a break.Β  All of us researched quite a bit to find this campground and so it is nice to be around a bunch of like minded folks.

b. The Captain of the “Happy Hour”, Spencer is from Detroit originally. Did some cruise ship work, got his Captain’s license and bought a boat after scratching and saving. He moved down here and never looked back. I’ll link his website at the end of this post. If you’re down this way, he is inexpensive to hire, personable, and does snorkel/scuba and fishing charters.

c. The water down here is better, clearer, warmer than pictures or descriptions allow for. πŸ™‚

d. I don’t have an underwater camera, so all the shots are before and after the snorkeling. Just look at some wildlife pictures of sea turtles, stingrays and fish, and you’ll see what I was seeing. Only I was seeing it in 3d. heh.

e. Yes I got sunburned a bit. Not as bad as it could have been, but I have physical evidence of being out under the orange glowy ball that I normally avoid. πŸ˜€

Pictures:

Cap' Spencer

Cap’ Spencer

On the way to snorkelin'

On the way to snorkelin’

The gang

The gang

$$$

$$$

So, the Black Pearl shrank a bit. :-D

So, the Black Pearl shrank a bit. πŸ˜€

Getting ready to set sail

Getting ready to set sail

Up they go!

Up they go!

Underway with good wind

Underway with good wind

Island time with your host. :-)

Island time with your host. πŸ™‚

I have somehow morphed some duck feet.

I have somehow morphed some duck feet.

Just in time to say buh-bye to the morning run tourists. Us afternoon tourists are taking over.

Just in time to say buh-bye to the morning run tourists. Us afternoon tourists are taking over.

The reef. Just below the surface are corals, fish, turtles, stingrays, and beauty.  Above are frigate birds and gulls nesting grounds as well as iguanas and such.

The reef. Just below the surface are corals, fish, turtles, stingrays, and beauty. Above are frigate birds and gulls nesting grounds as well as iguanas and such.

Another stock image...but spot on EXACTLY for what I saw. There were three futzing about during my dive, one of em' was about five feet across, the other two like the picture were about 2 feet across. Just beautiful.

Another stock image…but spot on EXACTLY for what I saw. There were three futzing about during my dive, one of em’ was about five feet across, the other two like the picture were about 2 feet across. Just beautiful.

Sail Happy Hour Charters

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 2

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Morning on Water Island

May 7th 2015

First full day in the islands is done.

1. Woke up early. Had coffee. Different view than I’m used to. πŸ™‚

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Yep, not ready for prime time writer-type-guy. πŸ™‚

2. A bit of writing, and then it was time to go to St. Thomas for groceries.
I’m “glamping”, so putting stuff in my cabin food box and refrigerator is a necessity.
Took the water taxi over to the marina in St. Thomas.

$$$

$$$

Insane $$$

Insane $$$

Must be nice. :-)

Must be nice. πŸ™‚

Oh…first shocker. food here is insanely expensive…I’m not talking about the tourist side of things…the grocery store I went to is for the locals more than tourists, and most stuff here is 2 to 3 times more expensive PER ITEM than in the States, and the selection of products isn’t that great. But I knew this going in, so was somewhat ready to see 2$ items selling for 4-6$.Β  Oddly enough, beef products were only marginally higher than home.

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2b. A bit of a surprise. I walked about near the marina and the grocery store to kill some time before taking the water taxi back to Water Island…and some of the things I’d read about areas of St. Thomas are pretty true. There is very high unemployment (11% +) and away from the tourist docking areas around the bay, this is a pretty run down city.Β  In fact, I’m bypassing St. Thomas altogether for my excursions. St. John’s is the place to go for beaches and laid back living. (That and the island I’m on…water island is almost 100% residential.)

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Wrong side a da’ road people! Sheesh! πŸ˜€

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Permanent residents

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Non touristy part o’ town

Still getting used to seeing American style cars driving on the opposite side of the road.

3. Headed back to the Island with my grub.

4. Late in the afternoon started getting a sinus headache. Tis the humidity, which is vastly different than the dry climate I’m from. Took a long snooze and felt better after that.Β  Sun was down with a beautiful moon hanging in the sky.

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4. Island time achieved. I’m kicking back and doing not much of anything right now.

5. I’m posting these a day late, so I’m uploading this one while slurping coffe in the morning on day 3. Today’s fun will be a snorkel tour to Buck Island. I like to call this: “Swimmin’ with de’ Turtles” day.Β  πŸ™‚

Virgin Islands Blog Bits 1

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The View from my Cabin

May 6th, 2015

1.
So, 38,000 feet up in the air over pure blue ocean. Just passed the bahamas a little while ago. It occurs to me that in all my years of travel (5 years as a field engineer flying every week), AND traveling half way around the world back in the Navy days…I’ve never actually flown over the ocean….well, maybe corners of it…but never OVER it over it.Β  Kinda’ nifty. (The Navy days were filled with SAILING over the ocean. πŸ˜€ )

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Over the Bahamas

I’ve been taking pictures like a madman, and although I’ve been up about 18 hours, I’m not tired. I guess I really needed this break. Most of those pics are for me, as views out the cabin window are pretty much done to death. What I have here are some highlight shots of the journey.

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The Mississippi River

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Ready to roll out of Atlanta

Another thing. Getting out of one’s comfort zone and experiencing things new, strange and unknown is living. I’m out of my comfort zone. I’m flying solo to a place I’ve never been. Doing something I’ve never done before. This is probably just as responsible for my inability to crash out on these plane rides.

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Honeymoon Bay/beach from above at Sunset

2. Settling in at my cabin. It pretty much is EXACTLY as I expected, and wanted. –well except the refrigerator isn’t being as “cold” as it should be for the ol’ icemaking purposes, but oh darn.

3. Took a hike down to Honeymoon Beach to grab some food. Dingy’s Bar and Grill is about as stereotypical a Jimmy Buffet hangout as you can get.Β  Love it. heh.

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Bingo on the Beach

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Yes, first hours in I got my feets to ze beach!

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Me, a local brew and a beach

4. Was so tired from the trip day that when I got back the hill (a steep one at that), I decided to fall down on my bed and get some much needed rest. I will add that the bed is comfortable, the breeze blowing in from the ocean is nice and even though it is 80 degrees and humid as hell, it feels really really really (x 10) good.

I’m writing this last point after getting up before the sunrise. The wifi provided by the campground kinda sucks, so another goal here achieved. I’m really “offline” for the most part other than basics.

5. I will blog the day’s pictures and thoughts at the end of those days, and bounce a post up here.