January 2003

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January 23, 2003:  Busy day at work and I'm tired!  What happened to my nice stress free life back on the islands mon? :-)  Anyway, I've added a couple more pictures and cleaned up a few spelling errors.  See below :-)

January 21, 2003:  All I have to say is that I want to go back to the islands! :-)

And so it all began on Saturday January 11 at 4:30 AM PT.  The day started with my friend John taking me to San Francisco International Airport for my 6:30 am departure.  I was very appreciative of the fact that he got up that early in the am to take me!  Hehehe, normally I would have bugged Justin for a ride, but he was down in LA with friends for the weekend.  

The flight from SFO to Miami was uneventful and long.  After arriving in Miami, I called Kevin in St. Thomas to find that Paul had arrived safe and sound.  I asked them to save me some rum and told them that I'd be there soon :)  Well, after a 2 hour layover, my flight took off and 2.5 hours later, I landed in St. Thomas (approximately 9:00 PM local time).  Paul and Kevin were both there waiting for me and with that, the vacation truly began!


Paul, Penz and Kevin getting ready to start a week of paradise in St. Thomas!

That night, we went to the Greenhouse Bar and Grill (located right off Crown Bay at Havensight) for a drink and a late night dinner.  This was located downtown in "tourist central", as the cruise ship docks are only about a mile away.  It was a fun atmosphere to hang out in but that night all I wanted was to eat, have a drink and crash.   I had the fish (swordfish) and chips and washed it down with a "Painkiller" (nice concoction of rums and a bit of nutmeg if I remember correctly).  After a bit, we all agreed that we'd make this an early night (as we were all pretty tired), so we headed back to Kevin's place to crash out. 

Kevin lives in the Northern part of the island in the 'town' of Solberg.  The roads to Kevin's place were a blast! First off, they drive on the left side of the road on St. Thomas, so that was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat as we drove up the windy and steep roads to his place.  He's got a cool little one bedroom apartment nestled up in the hills in the rainforest.  It's got a sweet view and yes, you can see the ocean!  After unpacking and blowing up the air mattresses, Kevin let us know that if we wanted to, we could go SCUBA diving the following morning.  Well, that sounded like a cool way to start the day, so we agreed to do it and went off to bed.

The next morning we were up around 7:30, showed and on the road by 8:00.  We got down the hill and made it to Kevin's workplace.  I'ts located right on the pier where the cruise ships dock. Thankfully, there was a place to get some much needed and after that, we headed  next door to the dive shop.  After signing the waivers to promise not to sue the shop incase Paul got bitten by a seahorse, we grabbed our gear and headed down pier to meet the boat :)

One of the cool things about this whole adventure is that since Kevin works for the shop, we got to go out on the boat and use the equipment at no cost!  Needless to say, Paul and I were very appreciative, and to show it, we helped load/unload the equipment on the boat each time we went out.  Hey, a few extra hands lighten the load, and they sure did appreciate the help.  By 9:30 we were under way and heading out to Buck Island, which was about a 20 minute ride from the shore.  During our trip out there, Kevin gave Paul and I a briefing on the dive and went over some of the basics of SCUBA diving.  We decided that since we we had the opportunity, we'd try and see if we could do enough training to get open water certified.  Since we were doing 2 dives that day, we made the first one a recreational dive and the second one a lesson.  We had a blast!

The water temp was about 81 degrees and the visibility was great! (about 60'-70').  During our very first dive, we say a beautiful sea turtle, a moray eel, an octopus (that almost snagged Kevin's dive knife away from him), barracuda, and tons of aquatic sea life.  It was freaking amazing!  We spent about 40 minutes down on our first dive before we had to surface from our underwater paradise.  Then it was back on the boat for a wee bit of rest and then we did our second dive.  It was just awesome!

When all was said and done, we headed back towards the shore around 11:00 and by noon, we said our "see ya later's" and headed off to get some lunch.  Lunch would be had at the Shipwreck Bar and Grill where we had some kick ass jumbo cheeseburgers and our first of many dark rum and ginger ales (aka a dark and ginger).  The rest of the day would be spent kicking around town.  That night, we went to Sibbs for a couple of drinks at the bar and then next door to their restaurant for dinner.  We ate  outside in a beautiful setting under the stars, sipping on run and eating some pretty tasty food.  I had the fish special of the night which was a grilled awahoo and it was yummy!  Hehehe, and yes, we did have dessert that night (not that we needed it, but key lime cheesecake and the other tasty treats sounded so good, we just had to try 'em!).

Monday we headed downtown for breakfast which turned out to be pastry and coffee from the local bakery.  Mmmmmmmmm, tasty and oh so light and fat free (NOT! hehehe).  We took our treats down to the Crown Bay Marina where we sat and ate while gawking at the multi-million dollar yachts.  Damn, there were some GORGEOUS boats down there.  As we were looking around, Kevin spied a yacht flying the flag of the Marshall Islands.  He was intrigued as he had spent almost 3 years down on those islands located out in the middle of Pacific.  We walked around the blue hulled yacht which was named Mystique. She was beautiful!  We could see marble and hardwood floors through the windows and from little what we could see, looked like it was a pretty sweet boat!  Well, a few minutes later, one of the crew departed the boat and we started talking to him.  Turns out his name was Billy and he was the cook on the boat!  Well, after yapping with him for a bit, we all went down to the pier and spent the next 3 hours drinking away the afternoon and telling stories about life on shore and on the seas.  It was a lot of fun and he made for some good entertainment for the afternoon.

After that, we'd go and pick up our rental car from the airport (Kevin's car is a little... tired :) and then head back to his place.  After that, it was off to Frenchtown for dinner at the Hook Line and Sinker.  After dinner, we watched Kevin play in a softball game which was basically right across the street from the restaurant.  During the game, Paul and I nibbled on a couple of Johnny Cakes (basically fried dough) as we watched boys play.  Thankfully, we were home and in bed by 1:00 AM, exhausted :)

On Tuesday morning, Kevin got up and went to work early in the morning. Paul and I said we'd meet him down at the pier around noon (going out diving again).  Paul and I headed downtown for breakfast at Gladys's which is located in the Royal Dane Mall. I read about this restaurant on my plane ride out to the island.  Apparently, they make a killer hot sauce and the owner is known to break into song while tending the bar.  Sure enough, she was there, was doing a little bit of singing, and  yes their hot sauce did rock! (Paul and I did bring a few bottles back with us!).  After breakfast, we headed down the pier and went out on the boat again.  We had another great afternoon of diving.  We primarily were doing our lessons, but did get the opportunity to do our first wreck dive.  We dove two big old container ships that the Navy sunk many years ago during a target exercise.  We had a blast!

After diving, we headed back through town and figured we'd get sushi for dinner.  Well, we still had to go home and clean up so on the way, we stopped off at a very local hole in the way restaurant to try a roti. Basically, it's a Indian burrito and it was tasty.  The name of the restaurant was Roti Palace and it wasn't the type of a place the average tourist would stop into.  The owner was very friendly, and after he took our order, he went back to helping his daughter with her school work. When the food came out, he then started teaching two of the locals how to fix a Xerox machine.  It was pretty cool.

After dinner, it was back to Kevin's place for a quick shower (all of his water comes from the rain, so we had to conserve, which wasn't a problem.  After we cleaned up, it was off to Beni Iguana's for sushi!  Hehehe, a cool little place, tucked away from the tourists, we enjoyed some delicous muscles and sampled some tasty sushi.  I ordered a cold sake and they brought me both a hot and a cold sake.  I sucked down the hot one and didn't realize that funny looking little water pitcher they brought out wasn't a refill for my water, but actually cold sake!  Paul and Kevin got a good laugh when I had to gulp it down out of my water glass, but it certainly added to my buzz pretty darn quick!  

After dinner, it was off to the Greenhouse Bar and Grill for their nightly 2 for 1 drink specials.  There we met up with a couple of Kevin's friends who used to live out on Kwajellain (Marshall Islands) with him.  They were passing through town, so we shared a few dark and gingers with them, tied on a good buzz, and after a while we headed home.  We did stop along the way at a very cool scenic vista which allowed us to look back down on the the main cruise ship harbor and the towns below us.  The Jimmy Buffett blasting from the car stereo added the perfect background music to make the moment perfect :-)


A view of Megan's Bay from the Mountain Top lookout post, St. Thomas

Wednesday was a killer day. Kevin had to work, so Paul and I decided to go exploring the island by ourselves.  We decided to head to the East side of the island, as we hadn't been there yet.  So off we went.  Our first stop was at the Mountain Top.  This great little tourist trap gives you a great view of the island, plus they are famous for their banana daiquiris.  So, we decided to have a one for breakfast while we got some great views of the island.  After that, we took the highway's 42 and 38 around the northern part of the island to Red Hook.  This is the town where you can catch the ferry out to St. John's as well as check out some of the local bars and restaurants.  We had brunch at this cool little restaurant called Burrito Bay.  I had a killer Jerk Chicken Sandwich and Paul had the Jerk Chicken Burrito.  We both split a duck confit taco that sounded (and tasted) really good!  After that, it was off to do some more exploring.  

We decided to avoid as many tourist spots as possible so we were taking all of these little side roads off to nowhere, 4 wheeling in our little rental car. Hehehee, it was a riot and it paid off!  


Heading down the point of Megans Bay (off the beaten path), St. Thomas

We headed down towards Megan Bay, which is one of the most beautiful bays in the area.  Well, there was a line of tourist taxi's waiting to get in, so we said screw this and turned around.  Well, we took our first little side street and ended up four wheeling down the point along side the bay (this is in the town of Peterborg).  This was awesome.  The road was nothing more than a washed out concrete path and along the way, we're passing these quaint little 1.5 million dollar houses. 

The road ended about 100 yards from the end of the point, so we got out and walked around.  We were  greeted by numerous large iguana's running around.  They were so cool!  I've never seen them in the wild before.  

<-- End of the point off of Megan's Bay

 

We climbed on the rocks and followed them around for a bit before we climbed down to the water's edge.  Looking at that gorgeous blue water it wasn't long before Paul suggested we take a swim, so Paul who was wearing his suit, dove right in!  I took off my shorts and wearing nothing but my boxers dove in too.  The water was gorgeous and we just floated around in paradise for a bit before we climbed out and spent about an hour just sitting on the rocks under the sun, listening to the ocean.  I don't think we said two words to each other during that time as we just soaked in the peacefulness of the moment.  We then climbed back up the rocks and walked bout 100' to the other side of the point.  


Could be "Nessie" from the Loch or a Manatee!  Not the best picture, but proof we saw one :)

Our timing couldn't have been more perfect as Paul shouted out "Look at that!!".  Swimming along the shoreline was a manatee.  This big old beautiful sea cow was just swimming along, following the coast line around the island.  We were amazed that there was one out here in the ocean and so we ran along the rocks around the point, following it as it made it's journey.  That was a very special treat, as manatee's are very rare out there and we took it as a sign from "Jimmy" that all was right with the world!  After a little while, we decided to continue on with our journey of the island.  We spent the rest of the afternoon four wheeling on the dirt roads and back trails of St. Thomas. During that time, we saw some gorgeous sights and killer views of the island.  It was an awesome way to spend the day.

Around 5:00 or so, we met up with Kevin back at the house.  He was lying on the couch with his crazy hyperactive cat, chilling out.  After a bit, we decided to clean up and then headed back out to Red Hook for dinner. We ended up at a local bar call the Poor Mans bar.  There, when you order a drink (such as a dark rum and ginger ale), the bartender puts a glass full of ice in front of you, the bottle of rum and the can of ginger ale and then you make your own drink!!!  This was awesome (and as you can imagine, you can go from sober to drunk pretty quick!).  We sat there for about an  hour or so making our own drinks and chatting it up before we decided we needed some food.  After ruling out the restaurants in Red Hook, we drove for about 15 minutes to Bolongo and ended up at The Bottoms Up.  This cool outside bar felt like home.  We did have to wait over an hour for our food but that was because they were swamped and there was only ONE person doing all of the cooking!  That was ok, as we put back a few dark and gingers while we waited and that helped the time pass (along with a few bags of potato chips!).  After dinner (I had the ribs and they were tasty!), it was back to Kevin's place to crash out.


Whistling Cay, just off of St. Johns, opposite Cinnamon Bay

Thursday morning we got up around 7:00 and by 8:00 were pulling into Red Hook.  Why?  Cause we rented a boat for the day!  It was a 25 foot Mako center console with a bimini (that's a fancy word for the canvas roof on the boat) and dual Yamaha 115 HP engines on the back of it.  After loading on gear on board (sandwiches/beer/water in the cooler and dive gear up front) we grabbed breakfast at the Burrito Bay Restaurant and then headed out for an amazing day of snorkeling and scuba diving.

I can't even begin to explain of just how cool the day was, needless to say, being out on a boat with 2 awesome friends cruising around St. Thomas and St. Johns on an 87 degree sunny day in the Caribbean, is just amazing :-)


Oh yeah, this is what living is to us!


Yep, feeling good on the high seas!  87' air temp, 81' water temp.  Nice!


Kevin and Paul with Trunk Bay in the background on St. Johns

On Friday, we got up and again headed out towards Red Hook where we caught the ferry over to St. Johns.  The ride over was a lot of fun as we were packed on this boat like sardines and we plowed through some big old waves that covered a bunch of the cars in seawater.  Heheh, made for a fun trip.  Upon arriving on the island, we drove around until we found a parking space downtown and then we walked around town for a bit.  We stopped at a bar on the beach for a beer and then it was across the street to the Banana Cafe for lunch.  We had a tasty lunch and of course a few drinks, while we chatted with this really nice couple who were there on vacation.  After that, it was off for a drive around the state park that comprises 80% of the island.  This place is simply gorgeous.  Most of the island is undeveloped (unlike St. Thomas), so you really get a feel for the tropical paradise that it is.  Our first stop was a Cinnamon Bay and then a photo op over Trunk Bay and then off to Hawksnest Bay (gorgeous!).  


Penz at Hawksnest Bay, St. Johns


Paul and Kevin at Hawksnest Bay, St. John

After that, we visited Mary Point, Leinster Point and then down to Coral Harbor.  After that, it was all the way out to Long Point (end of the road). We then turned around and decided to stop in at the Skinny Leg bar and grill.  This place turned out to be the exact bit of paradise we were looking for.  A local bar that was warm, friendly and felt like you were attending a good friends house party.  There was a volley ball net setup as well as a horseshoe pit that you could use and the staff were friendly (and very good looking!).  We ended up yapping with this cool couple who were in the US Army out there on vacation for a while, as we sampled some more of the local rum and I woofed down a bowl full of chili.  I then paid a visit to a small gift shop called the Jolly Dog where I met "Parrot Head Pam" and purchased a half dozen t-shirts to take back home.   After a bit, we had to head back to Cruz Bay to catch the ferry home.  When we left, we gave that nice couple we were talking to a ride back into town and then we caught the last ferry back to St. Thomas.

<-- Kevin resting at Hawksnest Bay, St. Johns

Arriving back on St. Thomas, we headed into town where we stopped off at a VERY local little dive for some tasty BBQ, mutton and all of the fixin's.  A true stick to your ribs meal.  After dinner, it was back to Kevin's place where we began to slowly pack up our stuff in preparation for the trip home the next morning.

And yes, kicking and screaming, we headed off to the airport.  My flight left at 10:30 AM and Paul's wasn't until 4:30 PM (so he got a few more quality hours to hang out with Kevin).  The flights back were uneventful.

The trip on the other hand, has been the most relaxing time I've ever had on a vacation.  Even now, two days later, my stress level is still in the negative digits and I'm going to do my best to keep it that way.

Thanks again to Kevin for being such an awesome host.  Without him, this trip would not have been half as good as it was.  I hope that one day, I can return the favor.

As far as settling back into my life here in CA, well it hasn't been easy.  I want to go back to the islands mon!  And if I have my way, that may just happen sooner than later..... more on that to come.

Boat Drinks!

Penz

January 10, 2003:  Well, it's been a long and exhausting week at work.  A good one, but a long one.  I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to getting on my flight tomorrow morning and heading to Saint Thomas!  It's going to be AWESOME!  All I can say is that I will be incommunicado for the following week.  I'll touch base upon my return.  Until then, BOAT DRINKS!!!

Penz

January 2, 3003:  <yawn>  I'm tired!  Heheh, workwise, I hope that the last 24 hours is not indicative of what 2003 is going to be like.  Yesterday afternoon, I got called into work due to a production system down issue with one of our major accounts. My team and I were on the phone with the customer until 1:30 AM PT trying to get their system back up and running.  At the end of it all, we were able to do it, but it was very stressful for us and the customer.  I'm thankful that I've work with such a great group of technicians who were able to pull it together in the wee hours of the morning.

Today was a long day at work.  It was good, but long.  I'm hellah tired, so I'm heading to bed.

Penz

January 1, 2003:  LOL!  Well, I survived a great night of partying my ass off with some good friends on the other side of the bay!  As soon as this hangover goes away, I'll fill ya in on the details :-)

... and t-minus 10 days until my ass is on plane heading out to Saint Thomas to spend a week with Paul and Kevin Barnes.  I CAN'T WAIT :-)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

and of course HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little sister Gini!  Heheheheeh, 23 years old.  Damn.... why, I remember changing her diapers... LOL!

Penz


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