In Transit

Away We Go…To Puerto Rico

Posted on: Saturday, February 21st, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit | Leave a comment

We combed and climbed much of Grenada, and fell in love with its people and pride. Nonetheless, after 28 days, it’s time to pack up and go. One last stop remains:  The most pedigreed sleep, a “Waldorf Astoria” resort on Puerto Rico. With a water park. And a private island. That’s exciting, but I still don’t want to go. Y’know?

Once again, we fly on the dreaded Liat Airlines, so you pack carefully.  They have more restrictions than a hazardous waste dump.  So if your luggage is overweight and your Liat liaison has her undies in a bunch, you’ll be on the floor re-arranging your undies til they approve.  Happens all the time.  So do confrontations and tantrums.  It’s not pretty.


  • But First, Grenada’s Revenge

We’ve been so healthy, so sick-free during this trip, that of course the last day is when someone finally has to succumb to something.  AllBoy this time, along with another boy from a family we’ve been hanging out with.  Now, when two kids from two fams get Grenada’s Revenge, panic can hit: Might we all run into this bug?  Dare we fly manana?

I repeated a handy BreakAway Five-Word Mantra:  I knew this might happen.  I knew this might happen.  I knew this might happen.  (What we gonna do now?!)

AllBoy went through the ringer for 24+ hours, only pausing to pass out in between.  It would have carried on longer. But as the cab pulled up at 5:55 to take us to the airport, one unfortunate incident inspired me, his dad, to serve a heavy dose of Imodium.

Sorry, but Liat and island airports and a 12-hour travel day is not the time for a half-assed approach.  Needless to say the pills did their trick and we got through the day without incident.  But in the hours and days ahead, AB’s stomach grumblings ramped into to vocal protests as the Imodium worked way too well for way too long.

  • Grenada’s Revenge #2:  Customs Complications

Liat took an hour to approve us and our baggage, and then had trouble printing our boarding passes.  But the real trouble came when Customs blew a gasket over our papers.  Held us another hour.  Held up the plane!  By the time we got on that rusty winged beast, we were getting stinkeye from everybody.  Controllers, pilots, customers, gas pumpers.

The nature of this airline is that they hop around islands all day long, and guests must make connections to eventually find their desired destination.  Thus, and for a million other reasons, delays are de rigueur.  Today was our turn to disrupt that fragile schedule.

See, we had never declared ourselves or cleared customs in Grenada.  Not a good idea, and I knew it all along.  But we came by boat, and every single person I asked would just laugh and laugh.  

I’ve been here five years and I’ve never cleared!”  

I don’t think there IS a customs on this island, ha-ha!”

I asked the Attorney General for you; he says, ‘No problem!’”  

(For real.)

So we floated around the island illegally for a month.  Ha ha ha!  But the oh-so official in the gold-striped uni who held the rubberstamp when it was (past) time to board the airplane seemed to see matters differently.  She was not impressed. Not at all.

And by the way, she also knows the Attorney General!

Long (long!) story short, some yelled and waved hands.  One made vague threats.  A few more uniformed agents (one with a particularly sassy smirk) came out of nowhere to join the brouhaha.  One participant fought tears.  One bent over and held his belly.  One laid down on the floor.  Me?  I mostly just stood there and played along.

I knew this might happen.  I knew this might happen.  I knew this might happen…

There are many things to love about the Caribbean.  But one of them is NOT an occasional propensity to, when issues hit the fan, gather a committee and turn on the Patois and make a big, noisy scene.  That said, they did their work, gave us much guff, kept the plane waiting, and found a way to let us legally enter the country, then immediately exit it, without making a pit stop in jail, Jah bless.

After that, the day was dull, if tedious as we island-hopped our way to P.R.  Oh sure, there was another airport waiting room (they would not let you out of) with a broken TV and no water or AC.  We had our bags searched aggressively over and over as if in NYC the day after 9-11. And feeding the ever-hungry children was a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge.

  • Bienvenido a Puerto Rico!

With practice, anything can become easy.  That includes long travel days—even with illness, border patrol problems, and the ever-present gamble of “Will our luggage make it?  In one piece?”  We did.  It did.  And we were poolside—if dumbstruck—by sundown.

After faraway isles, Puerto Rico came on like a Spanish-speaking Mack truck.  A high-tech, mega-airport!  High-rises! Fast food!  Billboards! Big buses!  Fast freeways!  4 million people—all driving or going somewhere or working at once!


Welcome to…America?


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To Grenada: 3 Vessels, 2 Seasick,1 Exciting Day

Posted on: Monday, January 26th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | 4 comments

The alarm chirped at 5:55, long before sunrise, but this insomniac had already been stirring for hours.  So we arose fast, snarfed food, and began this Sabbatical’s most ambitious day of travel. Taxi Calvin to downtown.  Friendship Rose schooner to Tobago Cays.  Water taxi to Petit Martinique.  Ferry to Grenada.  Taxi to our next home. 


Taxi Calvin was uncustomarily late.  But after our requisite (and passionate) dispute (that he “won”) a few days earlier, this was a predictable rebuff.  Yet he got us to port, whereupon we and our large luggage boarded the stunning old schooner and enjoyed the generous continental breakfast that was awaiting. 

  • The Promises of Sail:  Get Bliss or Seasick

The trip exceeded expectations of beauty, service, and comfort—for the first half-hour or so.  Then the dark clouds began to roll in.  It rained.  Hard and long.  Stinging and cold.  Captain Lewis had all sails up and engines on and tried every maneuver, but the clouds followed us like pesky dogs. 

Stormy Seas Ahead

Elegant white pillows filled like wet sponges.  The deck turned into a skating rink. Crew donned raingear while the rest of us had none.  (Note to posh boat:  Keep cheapo ponchos for your customers, please.) 

The mammoth vessel had space to burn, but only two places to try stay dry:  Under a little canopy on deck; or in the cabin below.  I avoid cabins in choppy seas—in that way that I avoid puking when possible.  But my family descended into the dry but perilous purgatory. 

For a while, that is.   Then, naturally, they came up and started belly-aching.  My sick 5-year-old, CurlyGirl, collapsed on my lap as I sat under a corner of the canopy on the hard, drenched deck.

Seasickness Happens

And there she stayed for, oh, an eternity or two.  My squished body went from uncomfortable to miserable.  But she fell into a shaky sleep, after much moaning and whining, and a few hours later woke up giggling about a few “little burps.”  In no time, she was ambling her way back to stability—and I was happily munching more ibuprofen. 

That was a big, messy bullet to dodge, as our 11-hour travel day was mostly on boats.  In the worst-case-scenario fearbook, she could have been green and groaning all day. 

  • A Day of Island Hopping

Thanks to motor-sailing in uncooperative but heavy winds, (so loud, so unromantic), we made it “on time” to the Tobago Keys—a surreal preserve of tiny, beachy islands plopped atop a shallow reef and loved to near-death by 100s of yachts.  A dinghy took us to a tiny secluded islet.  A place where you can stand on a strip of sand, face out, and see nothing but uninhabited cays. 

Leaving the Friendship Rose

The trip was off to a so-so start, but that moment provided the payoff.  This was the edge of the earth.  A place where simply standing makes your spine tingle.  A snorkel revealed dozens of endangered hawksbill turtles; even CurlyGirl saw several and felt the enchantment.  Then we were rushed back to the boat for lunch, as we’d soon be picked up by a water taxi right here, in the middle of nowhere. 

  • Island Time Knows 2 Speeds

The thing about “island time” is that it’s very digital.  Usually it’s on “LOW”—slow and sluggish; don’t even try to rush things or people and powers conspire to gradually assimilate you.  But when someone in charge of your destiny gets a bug up their butt, and there are a lot of bugs in the tropics, they get ants in the pants and make you dance. 

So it was when our dinghy driver asked us if we wanted to snorkel some more, a mere rhetorical question.  Because then, he abruptly shifted to “HIGH” and started barking at us to get our stuff and get back to the Friendship Rose.  Speedi (the taxi driver) had arrived.  Very early.  But he too was on “HIGH.” Our Water Taxi

Indeed, there floating about 12 feet off the stern of the FR was a sorry tub painted pink, and one sunglassed race-driver with a hand on the ample motor.  Back on the Rose, I pulled aside Captain Matt (an acquaintance from long ago that we did NOT know would be on the boat, but that’s another story), “Isn’t Speedi early?”

Matt confided, “Yes, and that’s unusual.  He must want a little something to eat.”  And sure enough, Speedi boarded after us, shook our hands, and got a bonus lunc,.  As we gobbled (a yummy chicken dish with Calypso sauce) and gabbed, “island time” hit the “HIGH” button again, and the crew started throwing our luggage down to Speedi’s boat.  Everyone started hollering commands about needing to set off before the dinghy got to the boat with the rest of the remaining, and staying, passengers. 

Captain Matt did some quick Q&A and PR work on our behalf with Speedi, some of which went something like this…

M:  Speedi, do you have a tarp if it rains?  These people have electronics gear.

S:  You doan need to worry yo’seff about no rain!

M:  I’m not worried, Speedi.  They asked me so I’m asking you.

S:  (Quick glance at sky)…I doan tink it gwine rain.  If it rain, we figga some-tin out. 

M:  Well, we have some large garbage sacks…

S:  Yeah-yeah-yeah.  Give me sum dem big socks, mon. 

Speedi moved full-speed at distributing our stuff and our persons for weight and mind control.  My “seat” assignment was beside clingy CurlyGirl, and on the edge of the boat—ensuring that I would endure nonstop ocean spray plus the sensation that I was about to fall off. 

  • High Seas Ahead

Our new, now-rosy friends on the Friendship Rose waved with one hand (while the other clutched drinks)—just like in the movies—while Speedi hit the motor and we lurched into the seas.  When I enquired about the gnarly conditions, he shouted, “Yeah, it does be pretty choppy out dere today, but I does have some life preservers.”  I’m sure he did, though I couldn’t say where. 

But away we went, into the rocking and roiling blue abyss. 

To be fair, we took air only five or ten times.  The kids loved it, sometimes.  I found it frightful and delightful, and kept reminding myself that since I signed up for this at great cost, surely I could soak it all in and keep fear, if not seawater, at bay.  That worked mostly, though less so when AllBoy would thrust his arms in the air as if we were riding a roller-coaster.  “Boy Overboard!” was not on this itinerary! 

Speedi spent most of the time selling us, his captive audience, on taking a full day trip with him to study all the sights we were buzzing by—bellowing in harmony with his big motor. 

  • The World’s Tiniest Port?

Finally, we slowed, and started entering the world’s smallest port, Union Island.  Speedi babbled about this taking “maybe 3, maybe 5” minutes, which I know means add a zero to both numbers and start to pray.  I asked if this was the customs stop where we’d have to pay a fee.  He replied, “Yes!  $68 EC”—different from what others had quoted—but added, “Maybe since you wid me I git you outa dat money today.”  My eyes rolled, both from the rough ride and his expected comment.

Frozen-in-time (or was it ice and rum?) yachties watched us drift in, while the little boys fishing on the dock stopped to stare.  Speedy tied up loosely to a slivery dock, left all our stuff, and commanded, “Follow me.”  Island time was still on “HIGH.”  We scampered for several blocks on a muddy road—past dead shops, tiny bars, a neglected “Yacht Club,” and shanties. 

Customs This Way

Once inside the world’s smallest airport, it was clear that we would undergo some sort of customs thing here, as there was an 8” x 10” yellowed, ripped piece of paper on a door that said “Customs In Here.”  But that’s another story, too, this surreal customs encounter. 

At any rate, and by that I mean at least 30-50 minutes (and only a few “Please dear Gods…”) later, we emerged—having gradually been granted permission to leave the north end of the Caribbean and enter the south end.  An invisible line in the sand and surf that says:  Good-bye, St. Vincent Grenadines; Hello, Grenada Grenadines. 

Best of all, they waived the fee.  Speedi gave himself the credit, but it didn’t hurt that the kind lady was smitten by our rare, blonde, little CurlyGirl. 

  • Riding the Waves

Speedi pushed us back into his giant floating bathtub, and off we returned to the wild blue yonder for more thrills and chills, as waves and swells grew to several feet and Speedi zipped around them like an Olympic bobsledder, or else over them like an Olympic ski-jumper.

As with the first leg, the middle of the voyage was the worst—once protection from islands and reefs disappeared.  We watched our luggage take a sea bath.  Sunglasses became salt-glasses.  And we passed some surreal sights:  Abandoned homes built on remote, unreachable precipices; bedroom-size islands with one palapa and a chaise lounge; peninsulas piled high with precious conch shells, some ancient gray, some fresh pink. 

Happy Island

Who ARE these people!?!  I kept wondering.  What do they “do” for a living?  Or are they on a secret, perma-BreakAway?  Before I could figure all that out, Speedi mercifully slowed toward a dock on Petit Martinique, population 1,000 (as if!).  Thanks to Island Time on “HIGH,” we had arrived an hour and 15 minutes early.  Go figure. 

All About Petit Martinique

PM (as its called down here) had not a lot of “there” there.  So AllBoy went exploring a dirty beach with 1000s of forgotten conch chunks.  CurlyGirl needed a bathroom, which set off an lengthy expedition.  And I rested on wet baggage and watched this little world go by—a few loud fishermen coming in, a curious boy not in school, and some Bible-toting ladies sauntering off to do the Lord’s Work. 

  • Ferrying the Final Leg

Finally, the impressive Osprey Express tooted its arrival and came slamming into the dock, looking out of place on this Gilliganesque island.  At most, 5 or 10 of us boarded.  My children chose the air-conditioned indoor area. Partner and I took choice seats on the deck. Leaving Petit Martinique

One more stop before Grenada:  Carriacou.  This time, 100 enthused folks piled on, including a rowdy cricket team celebrating victory (or loss), a dozen international tourists, and one large motorcycle.  The ride was fast and smooth, with myriad, mysterious flying fish soaring, veering, and skipping over our wake like so many waverunners. 

Speaking of, two rambunctious waverunners DID soon find us, and join the flying fish in riding the waves.  The world being a small place, they occasionally rode right up to the deck and had conversations with friends on board.  They all but passed along beers. 

The emerald, craggy west coast of Grenada provided entertainment.  And by the time the sun was setting, we pulled into the handsome port of St. George’s. Grenada Welcomes You

Taxis fought over us, almost literally, and the one who won was yelling, “STOOPID!  STOOPID!” to the loser (who was yelling more and shouting much naughtier phrases) until we drove out of sight.  (He kept his language G-rated on account of our children.)  As usual, this driver sold us nonstop on his island tour while repeatedly pushing biz cards into my palm. 

Then we checked into our little resort, a lovely and refreshingly sleepy place.  Land felt good, but that wavy sensation took hours to subside. 

After a day like that, the buzz wears off slowly.  So unpacking clothes and gear and taking an enthusiastic swim in the cool saltwater infinity pool were good ways to wind down.  Overpriced Sauvignon Blanc was room-serviced to our villa.  The restaurant took its sweet, “LOW” Island Time to feed us supper.  And we toasted our adventurous day. 

We did it.  We’re drained, but still in one piece. 

Grenada looks grand.  And we have about 27 days to make ourselves at home. 

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Leaving St. Vincent, Garden of Eden

Posted on: Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | Leave a comment
Sometimes when you travel (if you’re lucky), you land somewhere that you don’t want to leave.  And maybe you’re not even sure why you ended up there in the first place.  So it was with St. Vincent…

SV made our itinerary purely due to transit connections.  And as the plans got super-sized, a 3-day recovery layover seemed only fair.  An opportunity to see another island…  A chance it might be a Garden of Eden…  Off most people’s radar… Better check it out!
How fortunate that we did.  Because when you’re on a BreakAway, a secret aspiration is bliss, in some form, on some day.  Bliss comes and goes.  It might be a common payoff of a family cabin, favorite hike, or hidden beach.  But never always.  There are no guarantees—and it’s more moving when it sneaks up from behind and surprises you.
It did here.  Over and over.  In flowering yards and from the window of a taxi.  Under a pummeling waterfall and beneath giant bamboos.  Inside a funky restaurant and alone on a beach at sunrise.  Watching the children harmoniously playing in a pool and later reading to each other in a shared bed (!). 

Sometimes, you find what you’re looking for.  Even when you’re not sure where you are. Perhaps that’s a good time to move on—like leaving a feast when you’re not quite stuffed, and still sober enough to savor it.
So Mr. Andrew, our favorite, faithful taxi driver and tour guide in pressed white linen, arrived 10 minutes early and helped us schlep our luggage into the back.  He shepherded us like floating bobbers through the bureaucracy of getting on board (a security gate here; a tax to pay there; a hidden ticket stand; a labyrinth for luggage storage). 

He then suggested he call a friend on Bequia to pick us up—great idea.  And with a smile and a handshake, suggested we return when we have more time.  Another great idea. 

The ferry ride was dramatic, not only because SV and Kingstown slowly receded into the memory bank, but because the swells were huge.  The massive ferry (laden with trucks and cars) bobbed up and down like a merry-go-round pony.  Walking across the deck was an adventure in itself.  But only a few sorry souls got sick. 

We raced a stunning Windjammer with myriad sails.  The ship won, and had her sails coming down before we headed into the main harbor town of Bequia, also known as Port Elizabeth (because she once took a short dip there). 

Our home for some 18 days, eh?  Oh my, it looks so tiny.  SV has only 90,000 residents, but suddenly seemed massive.  This little island (pronounced BECK-way, by the way) has about 5,000, and suddenly looks too small. 
Suffice it to say that if you blow out your flip-flops or step on a pop top here, you’re probably SOL if you need new sandals or a good doctor. 
“Bequia is like St. John was about 40 years ago,” sailors and Caribbeanheads told me.  Upon first impression, I’m thinking they should have said 55.  Or more.  But our ferry pulled up, and we disembarked, aiming to find out. 
Two taxi drivers awaited—one called by Mr. Andrew, and one arranged weeks ago by our rental agency.  They were father and son, 3rd and 4th generation Bequians.  Now, some folks might have been pissed that only one fare was awaiting, and we’d screwed up by arranging two cabs. 
But these two?  They thought it was hilarious.  What a small world!?!  And to think Andrew JUST called!?!  Can’t believe you’re the same family!  We all laughed.  They answered some questions and gave us cards.  And assured us we’d be seeing them more, and they’d be available for anything, any time.  (And they have.) 
We lugged our luggage and selves into the back of an old Nissan pick-up (that’s a first-class taxi down here), and enjoyed a picturesque 10-minute ride to Friendship Bay, where our next home (and chapter) was waiting. 
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Passengers Held Hostage (But it Could Be Worse)

Posted on: Sunday, January 4th, 2009
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | One comment

“Island time” works well for, well, not working. Not living off deadlines. Not getting anywhere by any particular time or worrying about much. But “island time” fails miserably when trying to catch ferries and make airplane connections. 


The ferry floats away from saintly St. John.


The good news is we made it off St. John and on to St. Thomas.  Then Anguilla.  Then Antigua.  And eventually to our destination, the island of St. Vincent.  And it is breathtakingly beautiful.  Worth the hassle?  Of course (but that’s easy to say now).  The bad news is the day was, as expected, an endurance test, only worse. 

Stuck on the Ground

"Island time" and flying skeds don't mix well.


“Island time” was taken to new levels, and I don’t mean 20,000 feet in the air.  I mean:  Refusing to let planes land.  Stranding people in airports.  Canceling flights.  Holding passengers hostage and inventing a form of “island torture.”  They call it a “soft strike.” 

It comes courtesy of the air traffic controllers on the island of Antigua, a hub for Liat island-hopping airlines.  Seems the Controllers want more money, or something, and the government won’t pony up.  So…they create chaos out of flying (which is already chaotic down here) and make everybody really, really mad (in all senses of the word). 

We’d already received angry and defensive e-mails from the airline.  Every cabbie or airport employee was talking about it—or refusing to.  And frankly, there probably hasn’t been this much drama down here (other than hurricanes) since Reagan and Troops invaded Grenada 20 years ago. 

As for me, I got scolded by a flight attendant and frightfully threatened by a security officer (who was about twice my size).  A Gamegirl was stolen from right under my nose.  And I witnessed unprecedented airport panic and paranoia.  And that’s saying something, since air travel has been increasingly unpleasant since 9-11, if not before. 

In the Antigua airport, most chairs were taken.  Most garbage cans were boiling over.  And the food stand was down to hot dogs and warm beer.  At one point, I stared at an (empty!) garbage can for an hour or more, convinced that this was the appropriate mediation focus for the day. 

Airport Purgatory

Stranded. I meditated on this trash can.

A TV preacher barked in a Patois growl while a nearby CD stand played short samples of reggae, Jamaican toasting, and soca at full volume.  At one point, I thought I would scream.  But instead, I must have zoned out, because that’s when the new pink GameGirl (a necessary drug for CurlyGirl on a day like this) was pilfered.  Disappeared like magic.  

We got lucky.  Our plane flew.  We got out of there, and onto St. Vincent only a few long hours late.  Needless to say, we went out for a celebratory dinner and stayed up way too late.  When getting there is not half the fun, getting there feels twice as good. 

  • On St. Vincent, “island time” is alive and well.  And suddenly, slowing down to soak it all in is a euphoric experience.

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Up, Up, and Breaking Away!

Posted on: Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | Leave a comment

Time to get UP! That alarm sure sounds rude at 4:30. Especially when you were packing past midnight. Particularly when the slumbers weren’t golden anyhow. And most of all when the guy who is supposed to drive you to the airport doesn’t show up—making you wonder why am I up? Hate to say it, but…

Traveling Ain’t What It Used To Be

Oh sure, we’re schlepping 8 bags and 2 kids—and going away for 69 days to five faraway islands. Still, shouldn’t this be, like, exciting? Not just exhausting? Wishful thinking. But there’s too much beyond your control.

Hiring “A Driver” Ain’t What It Used To Be

Like our driver. Let’s call him Dean; he owns an airport service and has been slightly more dependable than the utterly erratic cabbies we’ve called in the past. Today, he sent “an associate.”  Who came late. In a too-small car. Amidst an icy snowstorm.

Once we realized that the Associate couldn’t possibly carry all of us and our baggage (physical and metaphorical), we called and ranted to Dean…who offered all kinds of lame excuses–but no adequate transportation to the airport.  

Now, Dean used to arrive in a big fat Town Car. Cool! Then he moved on to a Lincoln Navigator. Fine! Now? Who knows. Wouldn’t surprise me if he showed up next time in a K-Car, just for Kicks. We’ll never know. We’re done with Dean. And after the the requisite cell phone yellfest, I reckon he’s done with us too.

Anyway, Dean put on his problem-solving hat and did what we should have done in the first place:  He called a cab. So two of us went ahead to the airport with the Associate, already dangerously late, to check in the luggage and start schmoozing the airline. The children and I awaited the cabbie. This forced me to feign calm, since the kids were picking up on our peaky freakiness.

Cabbie did come and was charming, albeit even dangerously later. Thank goodness he liked to drive fast. And pass. Never mind the ice on the roads and the cars in the ditch.

Flying Ain’t What It Used To Be

Luck happens. So we made it through Security (even all the metal in my left leg), hijacked a ride on a too-small cart, and wheeled our way to the gate—where we were well past last call. They let us on anyway, on to a flight that was oversold and bursting at the seams with carry-on luggage.

Back in the day, traveling by airplane seemed exotic and exciting. It’s still exciting—but for all the wrong reasons. What happened? I mean, flight attendants don’t even referree arguments about whose seat is whose. Food is lousy and expensive or, worse, nonexistent. No breakfast for a 7 am flight? Come on!

We’ve learned to carry sacks of food for the kids. Fruit, nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, whatever. They have a knack for being irrationally ravenous at innopportune times. Heck, everyone carts their own meals onto planes anymore. Somebody’s “meal” always smells better than mine.

Note to self:  Business Idea:  Bring on lots of excellent food with aroma-appeal and auction it off to famished flyers.


The plane was held together by duct tape.

The plane was held together by duct tape.

Lunch came, though, sort of. But they quickly ran out of the “entrees” they’d been describing ad nauseum. “Always our most popular lunch!” one steward beamed at me (for the only time). Paint was peeling. Carpets too. The 1970s TVs that hung from the ceiling not only didn’t work, but were held together with duct tape. See for yourself! 


Staffers did, though, aggressively sell $7 drinks, Skymag schwag, and their very own Mastercard. Who needs TV when the flight sounds like QVC?

Island Service Ain’t What It Used To Be

Still sane, we made it to St. Thomas, found our luggage (eventually), tipped the porter and were plopped into a crowded cab/van to rush to the ferry. Now, please understand that the routine to get into a cab at this airport typically includes much yelling by the porters, expediters, and cabbies, and others. In thick Island Patois.

It scares first-timers and children. It entertains veterans like ourselves.

They will send you back and forth while a van driver wants you, then says he has no room, then makes room and insists you return. But by then, another cabbie may have started loading you into his van, so they yell at you and even tussle over your suitcase. It can go on and on, while you wonder if you’ll make the ferry dock in time.  It’s hurry, then wait.  Welcome to island time.  

(One time, a driver told me to unload the luggage of a couple getting off at a resort, so he could take a pee. Which he did, about five feet in front of the vehicle. He then barked at me to fasten my seat belt, though he refused to wear his own. He told me how pumped he was that we were his last ride, “Gonna drink me some rum tonight!” Ya mon!  {My reply.}  We exchanged the island handshake.  Get the picture?)

No worries. As usual, we made the ferry. Dudes drive like NASCAR wanna-bes, and are colorblind when it comes to stoplights. Fortunately, locals know to get out of their way. Ours parked in the middle of a busy street, dumped our luggage, and overcharged us by at least $10. We couldn’t hand over that extortion fast enough.

Ferries, Jeeps, Left-Lane Driving, and Finally…“Home”

The ferry ride was uneventful, but only because we sat indoors instead of on the roof, where a serious sundown squall drenched everything. We + luggage barely fit into our Jeep, but after enough re-puzzling, we did. The drive across the dark island and its hairpin, mountainous roads was gut-wrenching. But soon, we were “home.” Sweet home.

By the way, you drive in the left lane on St. John. Ask a local “why?” and know what he’ll say?

Because everyone else does.

Home now is Coral Bay. “Where tired angels go to rest.” I’m no angel (to quote Bob Seeger). But we could all use some rest. After a burger and a beer at the closest joint, we all headed back up the hill. And straight to bed, where–despite the cacophony of chickens, frogs, donkeys, and goats–the slumber would last for 9.5 hours.

Can’t remember the last time that happened. May it be the start of a trend.

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