Virgin Islands: Monday, October 13
Fortunately, the rain ended by morning. After we got up, we spent a fair time packing up. I was rather shocked to find a cockroach scurry out of one of our bags. Fortunately, I think it ran away to someplace dark and didn’t hitch a ride back north with us.
I had been thinking that we would have to leave just after breakfast, but we had misremembered the time of the flight. It turns out that we had a couple of hours to do things in before we needed to leave. Unfortunately, we discovered this after all of our luggage was packed.
Unfortunately, the stream was still there. I was planning to wear by flip flops and just “wade” across the stream. There was also a large “pond” between our cabins and the beach, where there are a few children wading around and having fun.
It would be bad enough to drag our (wheeled) luggage over the wet dirt road, but I figured that we would need to carry them to get over the stream. We were just walking up to registration to ask if we could drive the jeep down there to get our luggage, when the maintenance man wandered by in his glorified golf cart thingy. So we asked him if he could carry our bags up. He said that he could, so we walked back to our cabin while he turned around and drove there. We threw the bags in and headed out, meeting him again at the edge of the stream.
He asked if we wanted a ride. Amy just wandered across the stream, although Mike and I took him up on his offer, at least to the other side of the stream. We continued up to registration, unloaded our bags, and thanked him.
Then I had to hike back down to the cabin, take the trash out, and bring our hiking shoes and the tray from the first day’s dinner back up. Then we had our last bagel breakfast, and I changed into my hiking boots.
While we were eating, the rain started up again, rather on the heavy side. Fortunately, we had a bit more time to kill than I had originally expected. We figured that we would leave the two big bags at reception, drive around a bit, then pick up the bags and head for the boat.
We waited for a while, and then when the rain started lessening, I grabbed one of the umbrellas and brought one of the carry-on bags up to the jeep. It just barely fit behind the back seat. When I started walking back, I met Amy and Mike coming with the other two carry-ons, which were also added to the jeep. By the time we started driving, the rain was pretty much over. We drove down Rt 20, up to Centerline Road, and visited the “Bordeaux Mountain View Point”, which gives a good view of Coral Bay. It is reported to be a great place to watch the full moon rise. We then paid a quick visit to the sugar mill ruins that Amy and Mike had visited, but which I hadn’t yet seen. Some parts of Centerline Road were flooded, with cars driving up to their hubcaps to plow through them.
Then we drove down to the south west side of the island, the one part we hadn’t been to before. This was a poorer section of the island, where it seemed that a lot of the locals lived. Some areas of the roads were flooded or had gravel and rocks on them, washed down from steep side roads.
We eventually ended up in Cruz Bay around 11am. We wanted to take the 1pm ferry, so I suggested that we catch an early lunch. We happened to run across some acquaintances from Cinnamon Bay, so Amy asked if they could suggest some place. She recommended to us a place about a block down the beach, so we hiked over there.
As seems to be the norm there, this was a beach bar (in fact, I think it was called “The Beach Bar”), but it also served food. We ordered, and waited a bit more than I cared for. Fast service was not their forte. So in the end, we ended up back at the jeep around 12:30, rather than the 12:15 that I had been planning on. That left me only a half hour to drive back, get our luggage, return, drop it off with Amy and Mike, return the car, and get to the ferry. It was doable, but it was going to be close.
Fortunately, I could leave the carry-on bags with Amy and Mike. This means that I could fold down the back seat and have plenty of space for the big bags. I hadn’t been sure that we would have fit the three of us and all of our bags in at the same time, but it seemed that we didn’t have to.
I’m afraid to admit that I drove to Cinnamon Bay like a person possessed. I was going just about as fast as I thought I could get away with. When I got to the camp, I pulled up by registration rather than going all the way over to the parking lot. There was no one at registration, so I just grabbed the bags, shoved them in the jeep, and drove off. I got back to the ferry dock, and for a moment I couldn’t find Amy and Mike, but then they appeared, I pulled out the bags, jumped back in, and drove to the rental place.
It looks like the scheduling fates were smiling on me that day. I went in and told the person behind the counter that I needed to return a jeep. She said that the person who needed to do that was...just arriving outside. Going out, it appeared that she had been away to lunch, and was just being driven back by a friend. I sort of hovered around while she got the paper work, went out and checked the jeep for damage. Everything appeared in order, so I made a quick excuse and literally ran off to the ferry.
I didn’t need to hurry quite so much. I actually had about five minutes to spare before boat was loading.
Amy had already purchased the tickets, which she gave me to hold. When the boarding call came, Amy and Mike got rather ahead of me in line. I had to laugh when she breezed past the guy collecting tickets, totally oblivious to him (and obviously not giving him any tickets). I gave him all three tickets when I got there.
As the boat motored over to St. Thomas, we looked back for a last look at St. John. We watched as the whole island disappeared behind a gray curtain of rain. If we had been there for a half hour longer (or if the rain had come a half hour sooner), I would have been driving like a lunatic through the rain, and we would have been loading and unloading the jeep in the rain. This prompted me to say (out loud) “Nyah, Nyah, you missed me!” to the rain.
Unfortunately, I spoke a bit too soon. The rain chased us between the islands, and we got off the boat fine, but by the time we were out looking for a taxi, it was just pouring out.
There was an overhang over the “sidewalk”, but over the street, so the vehicles were in the rain. We told some taxi-looking person that we needed a ride to the airport. He told us to wait a moment. I’m not sure what we were waiting for. At one point, we saw a private person back his car over the curb, so that it would under the overhang, and they could load someone’s stuff in without getting soaked.
After rather a while, a fairly large van-type taxi backed over the curb until the back end was under the roof. I was guessing that they had waited for a large taxi to appear because there were a number of people going to the airport, but it turns out that it was only for us. I’m not sure what the delay was all about.
So then we were treated to a drive all across St. Thomas, all in the pouring rain. The flooding here was much worse than in St. John. I lost count of the number of times we had to wade through “puddles” that were dozens of feet long and 6-12 inches deep. Some of the sloped streets were turned in fast-flowing rivers. One parking lot (full of cars) was turned into a small pond. I wonder what the shoppers thought when the tried leaving the store for their cars? It was incredible. I had never seen anything like this before.
One intersection was full of rocks, washed down from a side street.
We got to the airport safely, and checked our bags in at Cape Air. Then to speed things up, we went down a ways and got our boarding passes from American Airlines. This was slightly confusing, as we were getting boarding passes in St Thomas for a flight leaving San Juan.
We were slightly confused as to how to deal with our bags, since we only wanted to check two through to Hartford, but we had to check the other three through to San Juan. It turns out that the three were “gate checked”, which in practice was about the same thing as carrying them on, except that they were stored in the back of the plane.
We had to take our bags (both checked and carry-on) to security, but first we had to go through immigration. This also confused us, as this was a US territory, but I guess it sort of makes sense, as it would be very easy to enter the US Virgin Islands by boat from the British Virgin Islands or from any of the other nearby islands.
We didn’t have our passports, but our driver’s licenses were good enough.
We were a little worried that the little plane would not be flying due to the rain, but that ended up not being a problem.
Something funny happened with the Cape Air flight, although I’m still not sure what it was. My impression was that there was an earlier flight that had been canceled, and then they were flying those passengers out on a special flight, that was a bit earlier than our flight, but I’m not sure. The staff seemed to be running around, checking boarding passes, talking on walkie-talkies, etc. It did not at all seem like a normal departure. But all I really cared about was that we got off the island to San Juan at or before the scheduled time.
I guess they are used to the rain down there. We were sent out to the plane, one at a time, with a staff person handing each of us an umbrella to take. Then at the plane, another person took the umbrella while we got onto the plane.
Again, it was sort of neat to watch the pilot fly the plane. The views weren’t as good on the flight out, as that time it had been sunny, and now it was more cloudy. There were some interesting cloud caps coming over the mountain tops. There was a radar in the plane, looking forward, but I had a hard time correlating the image with either the clouds or mountains around us.
Particularly interesting was watching the pilot turn the plane through 180 degrees, nose down, approach the runway, and then land. I was rather surprised that the plane didn’t line up with the runway until the very end. That is, we seemed to be heading towards a point just before the runway at a slight angle to the runway, and then as we reached that point, the pilot turned slightly and we were lined up with the runway. One interesting detail is that as soon as we touched down, the pilot turned one aileron up and the opposite one down. I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect that it was to deal with a bit of a cross-wind.
We got the “gate checked” baggage at the plane, then we were escorted into the airport. This time, we didn’t get a ride, but instead we walked across to the other concourse. Halfway there, we saw some food places, so we stopped to get something to eat. Michael and I went first, while Amy waited with the luggage. We each got a personal pizza, which was actually prepared and cooked while we waited.
Then while Amy got some food, Michael and I watched the luggage and ate. I managed to eat all of mine before Amy returned, but Michael only ate half. This had taken more time than expected, so we had to rush to the American Airlines gate. Once again, just about all of the other passengers were already boarded.
Between being almost late on the flight out, almost late on the flight back, and almost late getting the boat back, I think we used up our “almost late” luck.
This 757 seemed even older and more decrepit than the one we few out on. My tray table was very loose, and the pocket with literature on the back of the seat in front of me fell off when I tried putting something in it. The sun screen on the window was cracked, and the closest TV screen would occasionally start flipping. I was really hoping that the parts of the plane that were concerned with keeping it in the air were in better shape.
Incredibly, they showed the same movie going north as they did going south--Speed Racer. Usually they show a different movie north-bound than they do south-bound; I don’t know why they didn’t here.
We got a bit of a sun-set out the window, before the sun set completely.
We landed without incident, and to our surprise, the bags appeared very promptly at baggage claim, and we were ready to leave very quickly.
Rather than having Amy and Mike hike all the way back to the other terminal and then to the parking garage, we all went up to the “departures” area, then I proceeded to hike back alone. Fortunately, it was not too cold for them to wait outside.
I walked back to the other terminal, and then went out to the parking garage. I made one wrong turn looking for the car, but when it wasn’t where I expected, I quickly found the proper spot, got in the car, and drove off (remembering to now drive on the right side of the road).
I was not used to the traffic patterns at the airport, and instead of looping back to find “departures”, I suddenly found myself on the highway leaving the airport! I quickly powered up the GPS unit and punched in the airport again. It looked like this road was going to dump me onto the interstate (which I really didn’t want), so I turned off to a smaller highway.
Of course, the GPS unit chose this time to spend a lot of time “acquiring the satellites”. Finally it did, and not unexpectedly, it told me to make a U-turn. I did so, then exited back onto the road I had just left, and proceeded to re-enter the airport. This time, I had no trouble finding “Departures”, and very soon I found Amy waiting, with Michael running up and down the sidewalk.
We got the gear loaded into the car and set off home. Michael managed to sleep for a good portion of it, but I didn’t have that luxury. It was a bit of a longish drive for that time of night, but we eventually got home around 11 to 11:30 or so.