Welcome to our exceedingly messy, beautiful life: "a big world is OUT THERE WAITING for us to live in every day. Outside, you will find, there is love all around you... It's a beautiful life & it's a beautiful world & it's a beautiful time... to be here!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

St. John Vacation - Day 11

Our last day of vacation started early, 7:30AM.
Our alarm went off and we hopped up and started packing and tidying.
D had washed all the muddy evidence of off-roading off the jeep the evening before, so it was all house stuff.
Laundry, dishes, packing, putting stuff  away etc.
We filled the bananquits sugar water one last time (by now, they had invited ALL their friends!!!... it was a bananaquit PARTY!)
(I know, this is a terrible picture, but I wanted to show how MANY there were.)
We said goodbye to our view and the house and the island and headed off to the car barge.
We got in line and the timing looked GREAT!  We had guessed (and if you guess wrong, you could be waiting a LONG time for the next ferry.)  We were maybe the 5th car in line... the car ferry fits probably about 20-25.  We got on and departed pretty quickly.  We were chugging away from STJ by 8:45.  

We got into Red Hook and Dad (D) expertly maneuvered through traffic to K-Mart where we purchased a new duffle bag to check (we ALMOST didn't make the 50lb. weight on the way here, and we didn't want to go through that again, so we decided to just check 2 bags this time).
The we picked our way through Charlotte Amalie back to The Green Iguana.  
Sue let us check in early (10:15), which was REALLY nice.  We put our bags in our room,
 got swimsuits on, and were heading to Magen's Bay by 10:40 and on the beach by 11:00.  (Again, nothing short of miraculous left-hand driving by Dad!!!)

Magen's (pronounced like the girl's name Megan) was a big bay, crowded with cruise ship day-trippers.  But we could walk down far enough to get away from it all.
The day was nice enough but we sure missed our beach chairs :o(
We swam and read and napped.
We ate lunch at the snack bar the swam, read, and napped some more.
All in all a perfect last day.

We met a young couple from Iowa on the beach and were able to give them some tips and encouraged them to make a day trip to STJ for the day.
We had to go find gas and TRIED to go shopping for a few souvenirs but parking proved to be a nightmare, so we gave up and went back to the hotel and showered and got ready for dinner.
We went to Cuzzin's (local, Caribbean fare) with another couple who was just BEGINNING their vacation and staying the night at Green Iguana.

Our flight is super early in the morning (be at the airport checking in at 6:00AM).
We will be at LAX by 3:45 if everything goes smoothly.
Then we jump back in to high speed life with Lando's CIF game up near Magic Mountain on Saturday night and Miss M's round of 32 League Cup game Sunday.
After having a nice long break, this actually sounds like a fun way to spend the weekend... we are looking forward to it!

Love you!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

St. John Vacation - Day 10

As I mentioned, we started the day with a flat tire (poor D).

We eventually got to leave the house and head to our daily Starfish Market trip 
where we bought our daily sandwich.  By the time we left it was raining and the skies were blanketed in thick, black clouds... not a very promising looking day for our last full day on St. John... BOO!
With the rain coming down fairly vigorously, we decided that our plans of basking in the glorious sun on a favorite beach was not in the cards right then.
So we took off down a new direction (more exploring) and decided 
to hike to Waterlemon Bay where Waterlemon Cay is (WaterLEMON, not melon and Cay is always pronounced "Key").
The hike was over a mile each way.
It was raining so we stripped down to just swimsuits... we didn't bring towels or chairs or anything... just snorkel gear and a couple bottles of water.
We hiked through the dripping greenery along the coast on a narrow trail at beach level.  It was actually a little chilly and VERY wet.
We met some people leaving and they said the snorkeling was good and worth it, so we were heartened.
We got in the water as soon as we got to the little sandy and rocky inlet.
Almost immediately, we saw a sea turtle munching on the sea grass.
We could get VERY close and watch him munch.  He seemed unperturbed by our presence.  Seeing him was GREAT!  He was the first sea turtle of the trip.
We also got to see a lot of great fish, as usual... but the other highlight was the sting ray.  Cool!
When we were done, we hiked back.
The rain had stopped by this point although it was still very gray and dark.
We went to Maho bay (with our good friends, the chickens) and spent the rest of the day there reading, napping, eating, filming, etc.

The sun peeked out in spurts - but it was never the glorious day we had hoped for.
(Although we DID we see two rays frolicking in the really shallow water of our bay right before we left.)
When the noseeums started biting, it was time to leave.
We popped by Starfish again on the way home and bought stuff for dinner (sometimes it is just too much work to go back out).
D has a meeting in town tonight.
I'll probably make dinner.

Tomorrow we pack up and leave here and head over to STT for the day.

St. John Vacation - Day 9

I am sitting here typing this while D is changing the FLAT TIRE on our jeep that we woke up to.  BUMMER!  But it DOES give me a little time to write about yesterday.

We got up early - 6:30AM (which, for all the CA folk is 2:30AM) to get packed up and ready to be down at the docks at 7:30.  We handed in our passports and customs money because we were going to be in British waters and on British soil all day.  We took off on the "Bad Kitty" (I know.  I know.  But I didn't name it) 
for Virgin Gorda (fat virgin).  It took over an hour and a half, but we were zooming across the glittering azure ocean under an expanse of aqua sky with a few cotton ball clouds scattered here and there... who could mind?
We arrived in Spanish Town to clear customs then on to "The Baths".
The "Baths" is short for Batholiths which comes from the Greek bathosz "depth", lithosz "stone".  These are AMAZING rock caves and tunnels and caverns that you can hike through.  There is one cavern called the "cathedral room"... it is SO beautiful, people even get married in it!
 When the light shines in a certain way, apparently, it lights up all the walls like stained glass windows. We had to swim in to this area, so WE DIDN'T GET TO BRING OUT CAMERA!!!  Tell me we were not grumbling and complaining the WHOLE time to each other that we didn't have our camera.  It became the joke of the trip for everyone "Don't you 
wish you had your camera?"... "Oh, this would be a great time for a Kodak moment." etc.
When we got back on the boat, we finally got to take some photos with them in the distance... definitely NOT the same :o(

Then we rode about 10 minutes to Cooper Island for lunch.
The bay was so turquoise it almost blinded.
Lunch was mediocre... thankfully, they was not the point.
Back on the Bad Kitty and off to The Indians for snorkeling.

The Indians were a big out-cropping of rocks off the coast of Norman Island.
We snorkeled around these and saw jelly fish and heard a parrot fish munching the coral (did you know his munching and digesting and *ahem* pooping make sand???).
Our guide, Antonio free dives and can go down up to 60 feet with no tank or anything.
It was fun to watch him swim like a fish while we tourists bobbed above him.

At the end, we headed to Jost Van Dyke (pronounced Yost), another BVI.  
We pulled up onto yet another crystalline beach and spent about an hour there before heading back for St. John and going through customs to come back into America.
What a GREAT trip!

For dinner we went to Morgan's Mango for lobster and steak.
We came back and watched a movie before bed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

St. John Vacation - Day 8

Yesterday was an exploring day.
We 4 wheeled up Bordeaux Mountain road.
It was a little precarious, but D is an AWESOME drive, so I really felt very safe.
We came upon a septic pump truck (STINKY!!!) that was blocking the NARROW dirt road (we were wondering how HE made it up there???)... he had to back up to let us through.
We got a tiny bit lost, but it is pretty impossible to stay lost on a small island... and a lady who live up there pointed the way.  

We went to Skinny's (Skinny Legs) for lunch.
Known for their excellent burgers (in all the guide books).
After, we tried to go to Vie's beach again, but it was
 CLOSED... her personal, private beach is closed Sundays and Mondays... go figure?
We decided that as long as we had made the hour long trip to the east side of the island, we should stay over there and find a beach.
We went to Salt Pond Bay again and swam & read for about 2 hours, then the no-see-ums started to come out and bite, so we headed back to the jeep and drove home.
We decided to stop by Fish Bay before going home and look at a lot for sale (cheapest lot on the island)... we didn't actually find it yet, but we DID run into two ladies out walking their french bulldogs who asked us if we wanted to see something cool.
Of course we said YES!
They gave us directions (turn right, find deserted, brown, psycho house, find narrow path, 5 minutes to the beach).
We drove around for probably 1/2 hour TRYING to make sense of her directions.
Is THAT the psycho house?
No!... it can't be.  Could THAT be the trail?  No... it can't be. etc.
We finally DID find it and it was BARELY visible from the road... maybe 2 feet wide.
We couldn't BELIEVE this could be it.
But sure enough, a few yards down into the steep tree tunnel, there was a Virgin Islands National Park sign!!!!!!!  It was almost like they didn't want you to find this trail, but if you did, THEN they would tell you it was part of the park system. 
So we climbed down the 5 minutes and were on this ENORMOUS deserted beach (Reef Bay).  We were the only people on it.
We had wanted to go there, but the only route was a 3 mile hike down (and 3 miles back up!)... so we thought we wouldn't get to see it.
It was beautiful... there were crashing waves and lovely white sand.
(And this REALLY secret trail to this beach made our other secret beaches seem like imposters - haha.)

Came home.  Made dinner.  Watched a movie.

I'll write about today in a little while.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

St. John Vacation - Day 7

Hello there.

We are getting fun & happy email updates from home:  Miss M's header goal yesterday and 2 league cup wins today (we're moving on!)!
  Lando's making progress on college applications!  Deev's going to church retreat & starting high school soccer.  C's new baby brother's safe arrival.

And some NOT as good updates from the Tennessee Bakers - their house as sprung a MAJOR leak... I am SO sorry (prayed for you on our deck these last couple of mornings.

Missing the family, but still happy to be on vacation!  MAN!, we need it!  And MAN, are we making the most of it!

After breakfast, 
Dad (Dar) went to a meeting on Hawksnest beach... pretty cool location!  Mom (S) woke up and prayed and did Bible study and then went for a walk (felt good - I am missing my regular walking!!!). When Dad got back, we packed and went to Trunk Bay.  This is the most crowded, touristy beach on the island (where all the day-trippers want to come), frequently voted one of the TOP beaches in the entire Caribbean.  It was pretty, true... but, it was crowded... and we didn't think it was any prettier than any of the other beaches we have been on this week. 
 We met a couple who moved to the island 3 years ago.  He started his own welding business (he said they NEED another good, hardworking, honest appliance repair man on the island) and she works at a restaurant.  I think it takes courage (or stupidity) to just up and leave everything you have known and move to another world (they were from Ohio).     
We drove through town in search of a coffee drink.  the only shop selling them was closed (boo!).  We went and got pizza & greek salad to go (to take home).  While waiting, we met to 25 year old girls who had just arrived 2 weeks prior to work for 5 months before heading home to Martha's Vineyard.  (Oh, to by young and adventurous and brave!)
On our way back home, we stopped and booked our trip to the other islands for Tuesday.  And we got some rubbing alcohol to pour in my ears (water).

I am up to 100+ mosquito bites (but who's counting?).
But I have been FORCING myself to eat RAW garlic for the last 3 days.  And although I do not smell too good (I'm sure), I don't think I am getting any new bites.
Worth it?
Not sure.

We watched our nightly movie and ate our pizza.
Heading to bed now.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

St. John - Day 6

Woke up at 8:30 and got on my face out on the deck for my prayer time. Nothing quite so amazing as praising God with the expanse of His glorious creation - the ocean - stretching out before you while a flock of tiny, bright yellow birds swarm a dish of sugar water and a brown thrushie bird zips back and forth feeding her nest full of chirping babies over head.
From the BIG to the little, God's creation is AMAZING.
Did my Beth Moore Bible study (catching up on the Psalms of Ascent).

Dad (D) & I woke up and had coffee & breakfast then packed up for the beach and dabbled on our laptops for a little bit.  We got gas then headed to our daily trip to Starfish to get a sandwich to take (we split one every day and bring that along with some sodas and chips and maybe a candy).  We did a little research to find out about ferries over to Virgin Gorda (fat virgin) or Jost van Dyke (pronounced "Yoast"van dyke) - which are both British Virgin Islands or BVI (whereas we are on the US virgin islands , or USVI).  We can do a self-guided all day trip to one of these via ferry or we can do more of an excursion type tour and hit 4 islands in one day.  Sounds like this might be the best way to go.

We ventured to another of the 'secret beaches' today... Gibney.  Parking is up on the road by a steel gate.  
We hiked down and there was a police officer parked at the bottom with his scout troop.  We hiked around through the water to a more secluded part of the beach and were all by ourselves (except for a dog we named "Daisy" for the day, because she reminded us of Bijou but we didn't want to call her "Jouey", so we gave her a name of her own).  
An older woman with long gray hair, a floppy orange hat, and a large gap between her front 2 teeth climbed out of the water and we were able to ask her some questions about the island.  (She currently lives in Maine, but had lived on the island for 20 years.)  She was back for 3 weeks for a 60th birthday party being held that very day in the Oppenheimer property (Oppenheimer was apparently called the "father of the atomic bomb" and he bought SOME of the property from the Gibneys back in the 1950's).
Anyhow, we were alone on the beach from about 11:30-2:30 when a group of about 12 women, no men, cam and flopped down 15 feet from us and then 20 minutes later a couple and their Yorkshire terrier cam and parked 15 feet from us on the other side.  Oh well, we had secluded paradise for a FEW hours.  Meanwhile the sounds of music floated through the air from the party and the ocean ebbed and flowed and pelicans dive-bombed the water and it was a fine day.  

We left Gibney at about 4:30 and headed 'home' where we showered in the shower with open views to the south and west and overhead (open-air skylights with screens)... feels almost like showering outdoors.
We've eaten in 3 nights and out 1 night.
I think tonight might be another 'out night.
We have also watched a DVD (rented from home before we left) every night.
(Yesterday, in the rain, we watched two.)
Ahhhh... vacation rhythm... Just limin' mon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

St. John Vacation - Day 5

Woke up at 6:30.  
Worked for 2 hours (yep, gotta do that).  
Climbed back into bed next to sleeping Daddy (D) and went back to sleep for 2 hours.  (Hmmmm... nice!).  
We got up, had breakfast, packed lunch & grabbed a sandwich at Starfish then headed out in search of Jumbie beach.
Apparently, Jumbie means "Ghost".

We stayed for a while in this little Robinson Crusoe beach 

until the dark, foreboding clouds converged overhead and large water bullets pelted us from the sky.  
We saw it coming and were already high-tailing it up the small trail and wooden steps to the jeep.

We drove the winding roads in the downpour and got back to our lovely abode where we caught some darling Bananquits happily drinking the sugar water we had left out for them (finally!!!).

While waiting to see if it will clear up & we can head back out to the sandy shores, I now type and Daddy prepares lunch.
If it doesn't, perhaps we will watch a movie?

Later gators.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 4 Continued

We packed sandwiches at the house today and headed out around 10:45 or so.  We read about the beaches on the far east end of the island and looked over the road map, packed up the ice chest and jeep and headed out.

We took a long, winding, green & lush road across the entire island to Coral Bay.  
Through town we came upon donkeys 
and goats roaming the roads.  At one point there was a goat herd of a couple HUNDRED goats (I got the video camera out in time, but not the still camera. Boo!) ... pretty funny!
We then veered South and went to Little Lameshur Bay and Salt Pond Bay.  These were down long, unpaved, rocky roads that you really needed 4wd for... the jeep came in handy.  We snorkeled at Lameshur and Dad (D) got the hang of the cheapo underwater camera we bought at Starfish market.  About 20 people at this beach.  Mostly an older, retiree crowd.

Thunder boomed in the distance and some big clouds rolled in so we took that as our cue to head out.  We went to Salt Pond and hiked down to the bay (about 10 minutes).  It was steep and rocky.  This was a nice little bay.  A little rocky.  Only about 20 or so people there... a lot of hikers.  We were there just long enough to take a dip then hiked back and it started raining.

We took this opportunity to drive to the far East End in search of Hansen Bay.  We FOUND it but it was all barbed wired in and had 'no trespassing' signs.  We did a few u-turns but couldn't figure out HOW to actually GO to this little beach.  We stopped at Vie's Snack Shack to ask and found that you COULD go to this beach for $2.50 per person.  This little beach had been owned by Vie's family since 1894 (or something like that).  We walked through the little gate, through the small, above-ground cemetery (complete with basketball hoop???) 
and onto the small but lovely shore.  We snorkeled and saw a little troop of 18 squid staring at us as they floated together.  We met a couple from the Jersey Shores who owns a place on the island.  They told Mom (me) about a couple "secret" beaches we will visit in the coming days.  They also pointed us to some good snorkeling spots.  Although it seems to kind of be a dormant season, it was still great.

We came back to the house, showered and went out to La Tapa for paella.  On the way back to to the car, we stopped and watched a local soft ball game... it looked like maybe employees from 2 separate companies battling it out... we watched an inning.
Now we are back at the house to watch a movie and hit the hay.  We are beat from a LONG day at the beach & exploring (haha!).
Nightie Night!

Day 4 Begins

Woke up to pouring rain and 45+ mosquito bites.
(Yes! I used repellant. Gallons! Even on my SHEETS, if you can believe it. 
D has NO BITES whatsoever.)

The rain stopped within minutes and now we have blue skies.
The itching still continues, however.

I WAS able to post some photos on facebook... if you have an account (or know someone who does), you can check them out.

We plan to go out Lameshur Bay & Salt Pond roads today...  a little explorin'.
We'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

St. John Vacation - Days 1,2,3

We sat on the plane at the gate in Miami for 3 hours before take-off and didn't get into STT (St. Thomas) until 2AM... good thing we had a room for the night on STT!  
We got into the humidity of the early morning sweating, got to our tiny, air conditioned room at the Green Iguana, and promptly passed out.  

We woke up at 9AM and called out rental car company.  We checked out of the Green Iguana (the managers are originally from san diego, they are retired and move all around the world, living and working for a year or so in each place... pretty cool!).  
We rented our car, grocery shopped at the local Cost U Less (like costco) and headed over the the car ferry.  
We were pretty impressed with ourselves.  

Our house manager (Eric) met us as we exited the ferry and guided us through a curvy maze of roads to our house - Tre Scalini.
The view is just as delicious as the photos... ahhhhh!
You can hear crickets and birds and frogs chirping all night l
ong... it feels like we are in a tree house!
No air conditioning, but the weather is very mild at this time of year, so we're OK.
Weird: the bedroom (and bathroom) is only accesses by leaving the main body of the house (a "great room") and going out on the deck and then going into the bedroom.  
Same AMAZING view!
Zipped out to Cinnamon Beach (where the kids' handstand photo was taken last year) for a couple hours..  A little rainy & buggy because it was later in the day.
My real man and I picked up some quiche & salad and ate in for dinner.
Watched "Lars & the Real Girl" (sweet and tragically funny) on DVD in our bed and fell asleep by 9:30PM.

Up at 8:30AM.
Went to Starfish market for sammies to put in our cooler along with waters and sodas.
Explored a bit (francis bay & school ruins)... the green, wind-y tunnels of trees with drizzly rain is SO like Hawai'i.
We ultimately landed at Maho Bay for the day.

A little slice of heaven (with chickens)!

If we went to that beach every single day (which we won't), I would be just fine!
Thought of poor Tyra who would have been TRAUMATIZED by the THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of teeny tiny fish that surrounded us.
Also HUGE fish (grouper?) and long skinny fish (tarpin?) and sea urchins.
We read and basked and swam and relaxed.

Swung by the market again on the way home... we are going to eat in again tonight.
Daddy (D) will head out to a meeting in town for an hour or so while Mommy (me) BLOGS - ha!
Then we will eat and watch another movie and do it all again tomorrow.
We have real, quality problems I tell you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Non-funny Humor

I didn't vote for Obama, but I am going to pray for him and hope you will join me. Pray specifically for wisdom and direction for Obama. He is our President.

Still, is a little post-election mourning acceptable if presented as cartoons???