St. Thomas, USVI, 2004

Wednesday 11/24/04 - Pre-Trip Preparations

We had only been home from Berlin for a week, so we were doing a lot of last minute packing after work today. Marty and Tiffany, our friends that live in St. Thomas whom we are going to visit, really like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and there is no Krispy Kreme on St. Thomas. So while Craig and I finished packing, Steve went to the Krispy Kreme in Saugus. Doughnuts were coming off the conveyor belt after being run through a waterfall of sugar glaze. We learned that the neon light on the sign outside the store is only lit when there are fresh doughnuts coming off the line. He brought home two dozen. We each ate two fresh doughnuts (our first Krispy Kremes ever) and they were delicious, still warm, the glaze not entirely hardened. We put the second dozen aside to carry on to the plane the next morning.

Thursday 11/25/04 - Arrival

We woke up at 3 am and were out the door by 4 (after eating our remaining two doughnuts apiece.) It was around 50 degrees and pouring rain but this was much better than the snow we had earlier that week. We were in the check-in line at the airport by 4:40. The check-in line was very slow, but we were able to get Steve (who was ticketed on a later flight) onto our flight to San Juan, so the wait was worthwhile. The check-in guy eyed the doughnuts and joked to his cohort that he didn't think we were allowed to bring them on the plane. The security line was very short when we got to it. We ate breakfast at the small Burger King (Craig had a sausage egg and cheese croissant and I had French toast sticks.) The flight boarded at 6:35 and left the gate at 7:05. Steve was seated toward the back and we were in the front. We were in the middle segment (it was a 2-4-2 configuration). I had the aisle and Craig was inside. The flight hit some turbulence, and our flight attendant (with a weeping wound on her face) started to freak out about how bad it was and she immediately sat down on the armrest of the person across the aisle from me. The other flight attendants were more calm. They went to their jumpseats and parked the food carts, but didn't make a big deal of it. We noted how unprofessional she was, and how one of the jobs of a flight attendant is to make the passengers feel comfortable, not make them worry even more!

We had breakfast (Craig had an omelette, ham, a bagel with cream cheese, and a cantaloupe. I had Rice Krispies and raisins). The movie was "The Terminal". We hadn't thought to bring headphones and didn't want to buy them at the ridiculous price they charge for such things, so we ended up spacing out, occasionally watching the movie with no sound. We arrived in San Juan at around noon.We went to our gate and kept an eye out for the person working the desk. Now that Steve had made the earlier flight to San Juan, he hoped to get onto our earlier St. Thomas flight as well. We bought Dominos personal pizzas while we waited and they were quite good. Steve went up to the desk as soon as the woman got there, told her he was put on the standby list in Boston, and managed to get ticketed on the flight. We were delayed because the plane we were supposed to board had hit turbulence on the way in from New Jersey and a flight attendant had fallen and was hurt by the cart. Medics needed to get her off of the plane to a waiting ambulance. We knew these were some of the worst turbulence experiences we had encountered but we were glad that she was ok and that we didn't have such an emergency on our plane as the weeping-faced stewardess would have been useless. We ended up leaving about 20 minutes late, but the flight was only about 20 minutes anyway.

We arrived in St. Thomas at 2:00. We went to the Budget rental car and were told they didn't have our economy car. Steve and I joked that it was like that "Seinfeld" episode: "Anyone can TAKE a reservation. But can you KEEP a reservation?" It turned out that we could use a Jeep for the same price so we took it. We got all of our stuff loaded into a white Jeep and started it up, noticing that it had less than 1/4 tank of gas. So Craig went back across the street to the desk and told them. They made a note of it, and a gas station would have to become our first stop. Craig took notice of the desk woman's name knowing that this wouldn't be the last of this incident. (It turned out Budget charged us an additional $45 to fill the tank as we brought it back with a 1/4 tank. Fortunately Craig took note of all the proper information and had them note the account accordingly so the charges were straightened back out once they were told of the misunderstanding.) We put in $15 of gas (which barely got it up to 1/2 a tank). Finally out on the road we went to Kmart to stock the hotel room. Because the Jeep was a soft top and didn't offer any security, Steve stayed in the car with the air conditioning running while Craig and I went into Kmart to buy food supplies. As happens every time we come to St. Thomas, this is when we really remember what "island time" is all about. It took us quite a while in the store. 20 minutes waiting in line alone! Watching the woman at the register is always interesting. At home, where everyone is in such a hurry, this woman would be eaten alive. Here, the woman moves very slowly and manages to be about as inefficient as possible. We had to just laugh and say "island time," and realize that this is why we are here. On the way out of the store we saw a life-sized motorized black Santa statue that was dancing to Christmas songs. Ahhh, St. Thomas. Our store mission was about 45 minutes total, but we managed to get the food and drinks that we needed for the next few days. We got to Secret Harbour at 4:00. Craig checked in and it turned out that they didn't have a beach level 1-bedroom like we had requested. Every year we had managed to get the room we asked for but this time they put us on the second floor but upgraded us to a 2-bedroom at no extra charge. We came up to room 322 and unpacked. Steve went for a quick swim while we tried to put the football game on. The game was on but kept blacking out every few seconds. It was far too frustrating and quite clear it wasn't going to get any better, so we turned the sound off and made a few drinks.

Marty arrived shortly after at around 5:00. We sat around getting re-acquainted and went outside on the balcony to watch the sunset. After sunset we freshened up and Marty decided to leave his bike and helmet here and drive with us in our Jeep. Marty was being a smartass the whole time; it was clear he had missed us. On the drive to their house he even made Craig pull into the parking lot of El Cubano saying we needed to meet Tiffany there. The parking lot was very uneven and not easy to pull into, as it was very crowded. Craig finally found a parking space and Marty started laughing, telling us it is a whorehouse. Arrgggh, Marty! Now Craig had to pull out of this very dangerous lot on a blind corner. Marty found this all very funny but I'm not sure Craig agreed, as he was driving an unfamiliar vehicle on the other side of the road, etc. We finally got to their house and were greeted enthusiastically by Tiffany and their dog, Freddy. We sat outside on the deck and presented them with the Krispy Kremes and the Jack Links beef jerky that we had brought them. A few months ago Marty had asked us to look out for Jack Links because he used to get them at home all the time but hadn't had any in a few years. They were very happy with their gifts and we were very happy that the Krispy Kremes managed to get into their hands without disaster, although it seemed inevitable that Freddy was going to manage to eat at least one of them. We had a drink out on their beautiful deck overlooking Magens Bay and decided to head to INDiGO, a restuarant at Magen's Resort.

We hopped into our vehicles and made the short drive down the winding slope. Once there we were seated in a secluded corner behind some plants. There was a sax player who also played guitar and sang, everything from "Knocking on Heaven's Door" to "Tell Laura I Love Her." Since it was Thanksgiving, we all ordered the turkey dinner, except Marty, who got the bacon wrapped filet mignon. The turkey was good as restaurant turkey dinners go: stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread and cranberry sauce. I got a Smirnoff Ice and Craig got a Carib (the beer choices were very limited). We tried a bite of Marty's filet and it was melt-in-your-mouth succulent. We should have had that! Then for dessert we got the apple cinnamon chimichanga, which was warm apple pie filling in a crisp pastry wrap, with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on the side. It was so decadent! We went back to Marty and Tiffany's apartment and hung out on their deck for a little while. It had been a long day and everyone was tired so we headed home, getting back to our room at 11. Craig brought his laptop on this vacation so I typed up the journal rather than writing in a notebook. Craig read a magazine, and we just hung out, enjoying being away on another vacation.
Craig and Steve at Logan airport, Krispy Kremes in hand

The Jeep

Our living room at Secret Harbour

Balcony view of our beach at Secret Harbour

Sunset from Secret Harbour

Dinner at INDiGO: Craig, Steph, Tiffany, Marty, Steve

Friday 11/26/04 - Captain Marty's Island Hop

Steph, Craig, Tiff, and Marty on the boat

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Steph at the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Craig at the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Tiffany at the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Downing another shot-ski on the Willy T

Rainbow over the Willy T

Marty and Steph on the boat

Today was our yearly tradition: Captain Marty's Island Hop. We woke up at 6, had a quick shower, ate some Pop Tarts and Fruity Pebbles, and got ready for the day. We left the room at around 7:10 and headed down to Red Hook. We parked the car in a spot down the street, and while we were walking to Marina Market, Marty and Tiff drove by and honked the horn. We went into Marina Market and ordered our sandwiches first thing. I usually get the turkey, cranberry, and stuffing sandwich, but with turkey last night and Tiffany's upcoming delicious, home-made Thanksgiving dinner, I opted for roast beef, cheese, and horseradish. Steve got a coldcut sub, and Craig got a tuna sub. We bought Bugles, Cheetos, Gatorade, water, beer, Mike's Cranberry Hard Lemonade, etc. Tiffany showed up a few minutes later to get their supplies. It seemed we were all wearing our specially made t-shirts for the occasion so we looked official! The market was out of ice so Craig had to go next door to the gas station which was populated by locals. They gave him the key to the ice machine and he bought two bags. We headed over to the marina and filled out the paperwork. Marty had started it and filled out some interesting occupations (me: lumberjack, Steve: hairdresser, Craig: waitress). We got onto the boat (See and Ski #2) and headed out by 8:00.

We had decided that if it the water was relatively flat we would try to go to Virgin Gorda to the Baths. It is a place we've always wanted to see since our first trip to St. Thomas four years ago. Marty and Tiffany started calling the the day "Revenge of Captain Marty's Island Hop". This made sense asthe itinerary was differing a bit from the normal Island Hop route. We killed the engines in the bay in front of Mick Jagger's house on St. John, as we do every year. The castle which is being built in front of it is taking shape nicely. We get to see the progress each year. Then we headed straight toward Virgin Gorda. The ride across the deep channel was getting somewhat rough but it was much more smooth than other years so we decided to keep pushing forward. We arrived there after about an hour and a half and pulled into the yacht harbour to dock. Tiffany went ashore and cleared customs. We ate half a sandwich and a huge fresh chocolate chip cookie. We then took the boat over to the Baths. We pulled up and attached to a mooring ball a ways offshore. No sooner did we tie up but a National Parks boat pulled up and told us we needed to pay a fee of $3 per person. We did that and then swam to shore. It was a fairly long swim but we felt it was worth it. We arrived at a gorgeous beach which had few people on it. We headed toward the granite boulders. We scrambled up and down some and found ourselves in a cave where we could sit for a while in total seclusion. It was sort of a dead end, though, and we needed to get one or two bays over to get to the actual tourist Baths spot. There was no easy way to get there through the boulders, so we walked back to the beach. A couple of local guys told us that we'd have to walk all the way out to the road and then down the road and back to the beach. They suggested we take the boat over. So we had a more leisurely swim back to the boat and boarded. We ate the remainder of our sandwiches and some Bugles.

We were afraid of not being able to find a mooring ball near the proper beach, so Marty decided to pull up as close to shore as he could and then either circle around or moor, depending on what was available. So he took us in close to some rocks and we swam in. The current was fairly strong between the rocks and I got sucked into a small whirlpool while trying to beach myself on the rock. After trying to fight the currents a bit too much I realized it was futile and that I had to simply ride the currents in until it helped land me on the destination boulder. I got a little cut on my knee which started to bleed, but what would a St. Thomas trip be without me having a bloody knee? We jumped off the rock into the water (feet first as we touched bottom) and swam up to a better place to get ourselves out of the water. We wandered around the Baths. It was very cool. The boulders are unlike anything else you find in the Virgin Islands landscape. There are various little ocean water pools and grottoes created by the boulder formations. Some of the more difficult places to climb were aided by wooden stairs or a rope. When the sun came out it was absolutely gorgeous shining through the rocks and reflecting off the water. We really wished we had our proper camera with us but given that we had to swim here we had to suffer with a little point-and-click waterproof one. We walked down the Devil's Bay Trail to a beach where people were sitting and there were t-shirts for sale. We then retraced our steps along the trail and ended up back at the rocks where we had come ashore. Tiff stood on top of a rock and signaled to Marty. We swam out to the boat through the rocks and boarded the boat.

Next it was off to Willy T, the floating bar and restaurant off Norman Island. When we arrived there were a bunch of kids there. We always tell people not to bring their kids, but do they listen? No! So the spring-break style shenanigans that usually ensue were pretty tame. We said hi to our buddy Zeus the bartender. He acted as though he didn't remember me but looked down at my chest and said "I remember you now" in his thick island accent. We all had a good laugh and sat at the bar. At the time there were two other couples in the bar area. Zeus gave them tattoos and when he first saw me he told me he wanted to give me a tattoo also. We ordered our first round of painkillers. Drinks seemed to be going down quickly today. Maybe it was because it was a little later in the day than usual. Maybe it was because we were a bit more excited after our day of swimming and exploring the Baths. Either way, Marty ordered us Will-agra shots with our next round. Zeus was impressed that Steve, whom he nicknamed Milky two years before, was drinking painkillers too. Zeus then pointed out that Craig must have had a problem with his cup. It appeared to have a leak. That was the only reason he could think of that would explain why it kept being empty so quickly. He made him another drink in a classic black plastic cup with skull and crossbones on it. The other people at the bar challenged us to a shot ski competition, to be judged on style points. The shot ski is a waterski with 4 holes into which shot glasses are fitted. Marty had a great idea, in theory, but its execution didn't work out that well. Marty and Craig were on the ends with Tiff and I in the middle. Tiff was kneeling on a stool and while we were doing the shot, she kicked the stool away. The idea was that she was supposed to hang her body from the ski while the rest of us held it up (all drinking the whole time, of course). She kicked the stool out but wasn't able to hang because of the strange angle the ski was at. It was hard trying to drink through the whole thing, and I got a slight cut on my lip from the shot glass. Another minor injury for me as seems to be the norm in St. Thomas. The other two teams competed and they didn't do anything fancy. Tiff came up with the idea of doing the shots then taking our hands off the ski and supporting it by taking the shot glasses between our teeth. Marty really wanted to redeem ourselves by trying this, but the rest of us were done. We had several more painkillers, and Tiff and I did a woowoo at the insistence of the other couple. Somewhere around this time a three year old with light blonde curls showed up. Zeus is always on better behavior around kids and I wondered if this (like the presence of some other children who had wandered in and out of the bar area) might tone the atmosphere down. I needn't have worried. Within minutes the girl's mother was padding the girl's bathing suit top with a lemon and a lime. The little girl was laughing hysterically. There was a gorgeous rainbow over the Willy T and Tiffany (who was on our boat talking to a friend on the Captain Nautica boat) called us over to get a picture. It was so bright and you could practically see both ends of the rainbow. I showed Zeus the picture I snapped of it and said it would make good advertising for them. I finally got my temporary tattoo applied. The mother was trying to shield the eyes of the three-year-old, but apparently she kept peeking around her moms hands desperately wanting to witness what was going on. Oh well, there were some very raunchy tunes being played over the speakers, so clearly the mom wasn't too worried about her little girl. We needed to head back if we wanted to make it back to Red Hook in time so we got some to-go drinks in a few more black plastic Willy T cups. They showed us the new prize T shirt, which was cool, but we had really had to go and I didn't feel up to competing for it today. I wasn't really feeling the alcohol before this, but it started to kick in by the time we left (shortly after 4 o'clock).

The ride back was much smoother than the ride out had been and as always we were headed directly into the setting sun. We arrived at the marina by 5:10 only a few minutes late. We unloaded the boat, paid for it, and headed back to Secret Harbour. Marty and Tiff went to Marina Market to pick up some last minute turkey day ingredients. They then showed up at our room. We hung out for a while just chatting and laughing about our day. It seemed so much later than it actually was! They left at about quarter of 7 to get home to Freddy. But they left their groceries on our counter! We realized this much too late to catch them so we put them into our fridge. We were getting hungry so we headed down to the Blue Moon Cafe on the Secret Harbour premises. Even though we didn't have a reservation, we got a nice table facing the water. There was a steel pan player, which means we didn't get the traditional Blue Moon soundtrack: Sade's greatest hits. For the past few years it seemed everytime we were in the restaurant that was what was playing. The steel pan player was much more enjoyable to listen to over dinner. We got bushwhackers and some rolls. Steve and I got potato leek soup as an appetizer. For meals, Steve and Craig got specials. Steve got the grilled seafood combo (tuna, scallops, and lobster tail) and Craig got the surf and turf (filet with lobster tail). I got the blackened scallops served with tropical fruit chutney. There were three of them and they were quite large and very spicy. We all agreed that our meals were delicious. We got coffee and dessert. Craig got a brownie sundae, Steve got peanut butter pie, and I got key lime, the house specialty. We all started feeling mighty sleepy while still sitting at the table so headed back to the room at around 8:30. We sat on the couches and fell asleep immediately, so we decided to just go to bed. I think we were all sound asleep by 9 o'clock.

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Saturday 11/27/04 - Relaxing at the Resort and Nightlife in Havensight

We woke up at around 8:00 and had a very leisurely morning. I took a shower. We couldn't find the key to the safe in my water-tight plastic thingie. It's the only key and it would cost us about $100 to replace it. I swore I had it in there the day before for the Island Hop, and that there was no way it could have fallen out as I only opened it on 2 occasions, and I would have noticed if a key on a big chain fell out. We were slightly panicky and searched the rooms top to bottom. Steve won the prize for eventually finding it. It was all bunched up under a cushion on the wicker chair. No idea how it got there, but at least we had it now! Tiffany called to say that today wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner afterall because the 20 pounder was still frozen after 3 days in the fridge. It also didn't help that she had left a bunch of ingredients at our place the previous night. She said she'd make the dinner tomorrow, but she had the day off today so we could still hang out. We invited her over to our place, and we continued our leisurely morning. Steve called Heidi, the on-site masseuse, to see if we could schedule 3 massages for today. She was just back from a trip to Germany, and was too exhausted and jet-lagged to do it, but she hooked us up with her friend Lisa. We got appointments at noon, 1, and 2.

Craig made scrambled eggs with cheese and toast. It really hit the spot. Steve went to his massage at 12. Craig took the second appointment at 1 while I wrote up some Berlin notes on the laptop. Bringing the laptop definitely made things easier on this trip but on many trips it just isn't possible. Tiffany called to say that she had been running a bunch of errands and was now going to take a nap. She'd pick Marty up around 4 and then they'd come by. At 2:00 I headed over for my massage. I met Lisa, who was very nice. She set up the massage table with sheets. She left the room for me to disrobe and get under the sheets. She then came back with hot towels. She rubbed some sort of hot oil onto my back and then laid one hot towel on my upper back and one on my lower back. The combination of oils and the hot towels really heated up my muscles and it felt fantastic. I started off on my stomach and she massaged my legs, back, and arms. The entire time Lisa kept a sheet over any parts of my body that weren't being focused on. I was afraid it might feel a bit awkward but it was all feel very comfortable. Then she had me turn over as she did my feet and neck. I think the neck felt the best because she lifted up my head and extended my neck. There was soft meditation music playing and blending with the droning sounds of a tabletop waterfall and an air conditioner. After about an hour we were through. This was my first massage so I have nothing to compare it to, but I do know that it felt fantastic and that I was so relaxed afterwards. I headed back to the room. The cleaning lady had just left, and Steve and Craig had been sitting on the balcony. After a little relaxing, we headed out to the beach to have a swim. It was really enjoyable. We sat on the beach for a while and then headed back up to the room.

We were sitting on the porch watching the sunset when Marty and Tiff arrived. We chatted for a while and decided to go to dinner at Charlotte Tamales, an East-L.A. style Mexican restaurant run by a guy named Biker John. The name is a play on the name of the main town on the island: Charlotte Amalie. We followed Marty and Tiff there. It's at Havensight, a little bit tucked behind the main buildings. It was a converted garage or warehouse. A banner proclaimed its name, and there was a Harley with a sombrero on the back decorating one of the entrances. We went in and ordered at the counter. Craig and Steve got the "bro-rrito", John's special, the most enormous burrito you would ever see. It actually had two tortillas wrapped around it in order to properly keep it from overtaking the table. Craig got steak and Steve got pork. This thing was a few pounds of food, Marty wasn't kidding. They ordered Heineken to wash it all down. I ordered a steak burrito grande and a sangria. We sat down on the white resin chairs, with matching table. The kind of furniture you might have on your back yard patio. The place was really clean and simply decorated. The walls were white and the ceiling was black. There were piñatas hanging from the ceiling. The walls had very large openings, like garage doors, all around giving a very comfortable outdoor feel to the restaurant. We got nachos and salsa for an appetizer. The chips tasted like stone ground corn, and the mild salsa still had a nice zing to it. Then our meals came. The bro-rritos were about the size of a one-liter soda bottle lying on its side. My burrito contained steak and cheese and was in a tangy tomato-based sauce, served with a few nachos. We all ate everything on our plates. Biker John came over to our table (big moustache, do-rag, total Mexican Harley guy) and asked how everything was. He went around to every table and it seemed there were nothing but glowing reviews from every patron. We must come back here again.

Afterwards, we went across the street to the Offshore for a drink. Craig and Steve got Heinekens and I got a Mike's. We started out downstairs but it was too loud and sitting at the bar wasn't conducive to conversation. So Marty took us upstairs to the dart room. We sat on some leather couches and chairs next to a suit of armor and some video poker machines. The music started to get to us (hip hop rap that was way too loud) so we decided to head to a table outside. The outside tables were right on the parking lot. The Offshore is a hangout for boat crews. We got to witness a little of the more seedy side of island life as a crackhead woman came over and started talking crap to Marty. He asked her to please go away, and he threatened to call the bouncer. She said go ahead, and kept provoking him further. When he went inside to get the bouncer, she threw the remains of her drink, plastic cup and all, at the door. Although it missed Marty it ended up splashing Tiffany. Although the crackhead woman wasn't making much sense, she seemed to have realized she went too far. She seemed concerned that she had involved Tiffany, so she apologized to Tiffany and walked away. The woman seemed so out of it that it was starting to get a little scary because you just don't know what she might be capable of doing. At this point the bouncer came out to assist, and confronted the woman as she walked away. He had dealt with her often and as he followed her he turned to us saying "If they ever organize they're going to kill me". It takes all kinds. We also met some other local folks who work on the Doubloon. At around 8:30 or 9, they decided to head home so that Tiffany could get the stuffing started (she had grabbed the bag of ingredients from our fridge). They invited us to join them at the house, so while Tiffany was preparing stuffing and cranberry sauce, Craig, Steve, Marty, and I were hanging on the deck with Freddy, just having a good but low-key time. Craig had a rum and tropical Sprite, I had a cranberry lemonade, and Steve had a Blackbeards. Steve fell asleep and snored in his chair several times.

At 11:30 we left. Tiff said she'd call us tomorrow but she'd like us to come by around 1. She will put the turkey in before work but is afraid to leave it in a gas oven unattended. Fair enough. So we thought we might come by to turkey-sit while she was at work. We left their apartment and stopped at Eddy Convenience, a small store in Red Hook to buy some bread, Oreos and other goodies for the room. Right before leaving we saw these pints of Edy's ice cream and we just couldn't resist. Craig and I got vanilla and steve got chocolate. We came back to the room and broke into the ice cream. Meanwhile I typed in my journal, and we went to bed at 12:30.
Sea grape tree, Secret Harbour

Palm tree, Secret Harbour

Secret Harbour beach

Steph at Secret Harbour beach

Sunset off Secret Harbour

Craig enjoying his Edy's ice cream

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Sunday 11/28/04 - Virtual Thanksgiving

Tiffany's wonderful Thanksgiving dinner

Craig and Steve, Thanksgiving dinner

Sean, Marty, and Tiffany, Thanksgiving dinner

We woke up around 9 and had a leisurely morning. Craig made the remainder of the eggs, cheese, and toast. We talked a bit about what we might do for the next couple of days. Ideas included the Doubloon snorkeling trip, Reef Bay Trail on St. John, etc. I worked on the Berlin journal for a while. One by one we took showers and enjoyed just lounging around the room and balcony. At around 12:30 we called Tiff to see what the plan was. She was on her way to the dock to see what was up at work and she would call us later. So we continued to hang out for a while longer on the balcony. Tiff called back to say that she was finishing up work and that we could come by their place any time after 3. We were just about to go over to the Blue Moon for lunch when housekeeping showed up. Perfect timing. So at 1:20 we headed down the beach for lunch. We got a nice table facing the ocean. We got an order of conch fritters with a horseradish sauce for an appetizer. Steve and Craig had Philly cheese steak sandwiches and I had a pizzadilla (quesadilla filled with cheese, pepperoni, and tomato sauce). We each got nice frosty bushwhackers to drink. Then we came back to the room and hung out for a while waiting for 3:00.

At around 2:45 we headed out to Marty and Tiffany's house. When we arrived Tiff had just put the bird in the oven, and it had nearly toppled the stove! She was trying to be extra careful knowing that the stove could never hold the weight of the turkey with the racks extended. Even with advance preparation the stove almost ended up falling over on it's face and Tiffany laughed. Marty got a ride home from work as his bike was still parked at our house. We were all chatting and Tiffany asked if we'd ever been to the Pirate's Chest, their friend Sean's store at Paradise Point. We had been on our first visit to the islands, but that was before we even met Marty face to face. Tiffany brought up that we should go there and Marty immediately got on the phone and called Sean, inviting him for dinner. We decided that since it was Sunday, and we wouldn't be able to do our weekly visit, we should call our 80-year-old friend Frank a the nursing home. He always worries and misses us when we are on vacation, and since we didn't get to wish him a happy Thanksgiving in person, we really wanted to talk to him. He answered the phone and when he heard it was me he said an enthusiatic "Hi!" I asked how he was doing and he said "I'm doing fine now." We had a nice chat.

We turned on the Patriots game at 5:15. Sitting outdoors with a beautiful view overlooking Magens Bay and watching TV in the outdoor entertainment center is always rather amusing for visitors. It seems like such a clash of activities and yet we were enjoying watching football in these surroundings. We felt like it was heaven. Sean showed up and he was a total riot. We all got along very well. Turns out he's from the Boston area, as we guessed when he first used the word "wicked" as an adverb. We all watched the Pats game and chatted as the sky grew dark. Soon afterwards the turkey was done and we had a delicious meal of turkey, Tiffany's secret family stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, and rolls. It was absolutely incredible, and we really enjoyed it. Tiffany gave Freddy some as well. The turkey was so juicy and tender. As with any good holiday meal, we all ate way too much food and yet wished we still had room for more. To top it all off, the Pats beat the Ravens which led to a nice chat with Sean about the Pats and the Red Sox. It sure has been a very exciting time for the Boston-area sports fan! We were all feeling rather sleepy and Marty finally fell asleep in a chair in front of the TV on the deck at around 9:30. We decided we should probably be going. We said our goodbyes and thanked them for the fantastic meal. We got home a little after 10 o'clock and put the ESPN Sunday night football game on. I typed up the journal and soon afterwards we were all falling asleep and decided it was bed time.

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Monday 11/29/04 - St. John

We woke up at 6 am and had a healthy breakfast of Pop Tarts and Fruity Pebbles. We left the room shortly after 8 and headed down to Red Hook. Craig parked the car near the high school and we went to Marina Market to get roast beef sandwiches with cheese and horseradish mayo. While waiting for the sandwiches to be hand-made, we got free samples of a "turtle bar". It was a sort of brownie-type thing with chocolate chips and caramel inside. It was delicious, so we bought a big square to share. We crossed the street to the ferry dock and stood in line to buy tickets. It cost $3 each for a one way ticket to Cruz Bay, St. John. We caught the 9:00 ferry, sitting inside in the middle of the boat. It is interesting to see all of the locals that use the ferry to get back and forth from work. Many locals live on St. Thomas yet work on St. John. We couldn't hold back any longer and ate our turtle bar en route. Soon after finishing the yummy concoction and wishing we had bought more, we noticed the big "no food allowed" sign at the front of the boat. Oops. The ferry ride took only about 20 minutes.

When we got to Cruz Bay we got an open air taxi to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins ($7 per person one-way). When we arrived we were the only ones there. There is supposed to be an entrance fee of a couple dollars, but there was nobody even there to collect it, so we walked in on the trail. The sky was a beautiful blue with big puffy white clouds, so we had no idea why it was deserted. I guess they only bother to man the place during peak season, which hadn't started yet. The first thing we saw was some ruins of slave housing from the 18th century. In 1780, Annaberg was one of 25 sugar plantations on St. John. Annaberg also produced molasses and rum. A variety of buildings are perched overlooking the British Virgin Islands. The buildings (most of which date from the 19th century) are made of stone and coral blocks, and there is some inlaid rock and shell work making for a design that is very pleasing to the eye. One of the buildings was the trunk of the largest windmill in the islands (38 feet high, and 34 feet in diameter at its base). The windmill is estimated to have been built between 1810 and 1830. Before the windmill was built (and after it existed, when there was no wind) a horse mill was used. The circular horse mill ruins date back to the 18th century. We also saw the ruins of the boiling room, where cane juice was boiled and purified in large cauldrons. There were picnic tables in various spots and we chose a shady one near the windmill that had a great view of Tortola. At around this time, some other tourists arrived to tour the ruins. We ate our roast beef sandwiches, and then walked around the rest of the ruins. It was interesting to see the remains of this industry. Near the exit, there was a small garden area, devoid of leaves and absolutely overrun with bright colored caterpillars. They were yellow and black with a bright red head. One small tree must have had a hundred of them piled on a single branch. We theorized that they probably change into some pretty amazing-looking butterflies.

After we were done in the ruins, we saw a taxi waiting at the entrance. We almost got on it to head elsewhere on the island (such as Cinnamon Bay) but instead we started walking down a little trail toward nearby Leinster Bay. The trail follows the shoreline, and consists of rocks and coral. There were some great views of the turquoise water, and at times the path was shaded by trees. After about ten minutes of walking, we were rewarded with a beautiful little beach. The water was so clear that from the shore we could easily see a large (about 8 inches across) orange starfish below the water. The beach had a view of Waterlemon Caye, and was quite tranquil. We saw several turtles swim by. We set out our towels and laid back in the partial shade. After a while I went into the water for a couple of minutes, including heading over to the starfish we had seen and getting some pictures of it. The pound of the surf was very calming, until we started to hear a chainsaw in the distance. Nonetheless, it was peaceful and we laid partly in the shade, on the edge of napping, for a couple of hours.

At aroung 2:30 we headed back, hoping to be able to catch a taxi at the trailhead, where we had seen that other taxi. We wound up waiting for almost an hour. Annaberg is a dead end, so our only hope was that a taxi came specifically to there, but it was getting late in the day for that. Things were winding down. We wondered whether we might be able to hitch with some other tourists in a rental car, but most of the cars leaving the parking lot were filled to capacity. We saw two mongooses cross the road while we were waiting. After pretty much everyone had left from Annaberg and Leinster, we decided that our best bet was to start walking. Soon after setting out we noticed a large tree with a sign on it. Closer inspection of the sign revealed its forboding message "Warning! Manchineel Tree. The leaves, bark, and fruits of these trees contain a caustic sap which may be injurious if touched. Columbus described the small green fruits as death apples. The trees are common along Caribbean shores. Avoid contact with any part of this tree!" Who would have known? It looked innocent enough. Point noted, we moved right along. It was way too far to walk all the way to Cruz Bay, but we hoped we could at least find an intersection where we could flag down a taxi. It turned out to be a good idea since as soon as we arrived at the nearest intersection, we found a taxi that was heading to Maho Bay Campground. He said he'd be going to Cruz Bay after stopping there. Good enough for us! We got into the open air taxi. It took us to Maho Bay, where most people got out, and several others got on. After a few minutes waiting, we were off again. The roads on this island really are crazy. We were happy that we weren't driving ourselves or even worse, walking on the roadside.

We got back to Cruz Bay shortly after 4:30. We walked around and decided we'd have some supper before we took the ferry back. We decided on JJ's Texas Coast Cafe. We sat at an outside table and there were chickens roaming around. One black baby chick sat on the table next to us. He was making peeping noises. At one point he stood on the sugar packets and pecked into the ash tray. It was pretty funny. Craig got a Heineken, I got a margarita, and Steve got a frozen strawberry margarita. We ordered conch fritters as an appetizer. They were amazing. Craig and I each got enchiladas and Steve got a taco salad. For dessert I got the Death by Chocolate and Craig got a caramel cheesecake.

We bought ferry tickets and got onto the 6 pm ferry, where we sat inside and toward the middle of the boat. The sky outside was a beautiful deep blue, purple, and orange as the sun set. When we arrived at Red Hook, we headed into Marina Market to buy some munchies for the room. We got back to the hotel at around 7. We called Marty and he was just leaving work. About 30 minutes later, we were sitting on the balcony and heard a knock on the front foor. I turned around and saw the shadow of a dog at the door. Freddy came through the room and out onto our balcony. Tiffany was not feeling well tonight, so she had stayed home. We were very uncomfortable about having Freddy in the room as it seemed he wanted to snoop into everything but we couldn't leave him unattended inside. Since we were out on the balcony, we needed to keep him out there with us but there just isn't enough room for Freddy to be comfortable out there. After a short while, the phone rang and Craig ran in to answer it thinking it would be Tiffany. Instead it was the hotel management. "How many people are there?". Craig answered that there were three staying in the room and that we had a friend over. "Does he have a dog too?" he asked. Craig said that he did and was immediately told, "You cannot have a dog in the room, they must leave". Craig apologized and hung up the phone. Oops. We weren't trying to cause trouble, and Freddy was being well behaved, but I guess we never realized dogs were not allowed. Marty apologized for getting us into trouble and immediately left. It was only about 9:00, so I journaled, and we watched Monday Night Football. We went to bed around 11:30.
Windmill base, Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins, St. John

Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins, St. John

Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins, St. John

Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins, St. John

Underwater starfish at Leinster Bay

Beach at Leinster Bay

Click here for more pictures See more pictures from 11/29/04

Tuesday 11/30/04 - Relaxing and Shopping

Rainbow over the cruise ships, taken from Paradise Point

Biker John, proprietor of Charlotte Tamales

Steph and Craig at Secret Harbour manager's reception

Sunset from Secret Harbour manager's reception

We woke up around 7. The sky looked pretty interesting as it had just rained. We had yet another healthy breakfast of Pop Tarts and Fruity Pebbles and relaxed in the room for a while. Then we set out for Havensight at 9:00 as Steve had a piece of jewelry he wanted to buy. Before parking the car we drove up to Paradise Point and took in the views of the harbor. We went into Sean's store, the Pirate's Chest. The first thing we see is a pirate dressed in Red Sox garb out in front. He said that it garners a lot of attention and comments and helps to get walkers to drop in. We saw a few people pointing it out and then going inside so we'd have to agree. He had a lot of cool shipwreck coins and other various things of interest. Craig and I weren't really looking to buy anything so we chatted with him for a while and Steve bought two skull banks for the kids. Just as we were leaving the store we saw a rainbow right over the cruise ship dock. If it were a little brighter it might have made for a great cruise ship ad. We went upstairs to check out some of the other shops and although not really looking for anything, I bought a pocketbook with a map design at a store called Africaribe. Then we went into a couple of other stores and eventually bought a small St. Thomas magnet. We finally went back down the hill and went to the Havensight dockside shopping area. We chose to split up and do some shopping. Craig and I went into Boolchand's and we were quickly tempted by the next generation of our camera. We have been very happy with our current camera overall, but not so happy with it's very rough video option without sound. The newer model had 4 megapixels and much smoother video clips with audio. Since we were going to be in Chile soon, taking our grand vacation for 2005, we were really considering a new camera. The salesman offered to throw in a free case, so we bought it.

Getting a little hungry, we crossed the street to see if Charlotte Tamales was open. The food was so good the other day we were looking for a repeat performance. It was indeed open, and they were in the process of hanging wreaths and Christmas lights. It looked very festive inside. Craig and I got steak burritos grandes and Steve got a ground beef burrito grande. I had sangria and Craig had a Heineken. While waiting for the food to arrive I opened up the new camera and tried taking a few video segments. We were quite happy that we decided to pick up this complete impulse purchase. After a very short wait, the food arrived. Once again it was delicious. When Biker John stopped by and asked us how it was, we told him we really enjoyed it again and then I asked if I could get a picture of him for our web site. He was very gracious and suggested that we go over to the front of the restaurant where he posed with the Harley.

Next we crossed back to the Port of Sale mall and went into Cold Stone Creamery. We each got their cookie dough special. It was a medium serving of ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and caramel sauce folded in, and it was served in a waffle cup. It was delicious, and we finished every bite. We picked up a few more items and then headed back to the hotel. We sat on the porch in the sun and just enjoyed the afternoon. Steve scheduled a massage appointment with Heidi for 4:30. The weekly manager's reception at Secret Harbour started at 5:30 so we decided to take a walk over and see what sort of goodies we could score. They had a steel drum player performing while a maintenance guy and Ernest, the manager, sang along. They served free rum punch, meatballs, veggies and dip, and chips and salsa. We came back to the room at 6:20 and talked to Marty on the phone. I journaled for a while as we waited for Marty and Tiff, who showed up at around 7:30. We showed them the pictures from the trip that we had downloaded to the laptop earlier today. After a brief discussion about where to go for the evening we decided to go to Molly Malone's, an Irish pub in Red Hook. Apparently it hides behind the American Yacht Harbor and none of us could ever recall seeing it in all the years we have come here. Sure enough, around back there was a small parking garage and there it was, Molly Malone's. I got a bushwhacker and Craig got a Newcastle Brown. For appetizers we ordered mozarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, and conch fritters. Craig was in the mood for some shepherd's pie and I decided on the cheese ravioli alfredo with garlic bread. We had a great time. Marty kept getting up from the table and heading over to dance with the life-sized motion-activated Santa. It was pretty funny! We eventually decided to get some peanut butter pie for dessert. We came back to the hotel and looked at pictures from our four previous trips to St. Thomas. Marty and Tiff presented us with gifts: new "My Dixie Wrecked" t-shirts that procaimed "Revenge of Captain Marty's Island Hop" on the back. These were in the works for a long time, and they found it funny that the "Revenge of..." name had stuck before we even saw the shirts. It looks like we will have a new outfit for next year's Hop. Marty and Tiff left at around 10. We decided to watch "NYPD Blue" at 11, but Craig and Steve fell asleep in their chairs and I was the only one who stayed awake for it.

Click here for more pictures See more pictures from 11/30/04

Wednesday 12/1/04 - Departure

We got up at around 7 and packed up. Craig noticed a rainbow from our balcony. This would be the third rainbow of our trip and we took few photos. It started rain very lightly. We had no other food in our room so we headed down to the Blue Moon cafe for breakfast at around 8:45. We got oj and coffee. Once again we had a nice table in the corner overlooking the ocean. Craig had an omelette with home fries and toast and I had French toast with a side of sausage. Check-out time was 11 o'clock so we really didn't have too much time to linger and enjoy our last morning on St. Thomas. Before we checked out we decided to have our ceremony. We had meant to do this on the Island Hop, but we had forgotten in all the day's excitement. A few days before our trip it had snowed a lot in the Boston area and Marty jokingly said that we needed to bring some snow to the Caribbean to set it free. We laughed at this idea, but Craig thought it was rather funny. He collected some snow from home and put it into a small 4 oz. water bottle that we had leftover from our Berlin trip. We decided that we did want to set it free in the warm waters of the Caribbean. This was our last chance at doing this properly so despite a little light rain we all went down to the beach and performed a little ceremony. Marty would have been proud. After that, we checked out and drove downtown to Marty's office to have a look around and say goodbye. As always, it is very sad having to say goodbye to Marty but hopefully we'll see him again before we know it.

We headed off to the airport arriving there plenty early for our 4:00 flight. We breezed right through check-in since there were very few others around. Once inside the terminal we decided to go over to the little cafe and get some lunch. We got cheeseburgers and fries and ate them while waiting at the gate. The plane left on-time and we found ourselves in San Juan in no time at all. Now we were waiting for the next leg of the journey, this flight has been late pretty much every year. Not this time though; the uneventful flight left only a few minutes behind schedule. Steve sat separately from us. The woman next to him offered him her headphones because she didn't want to watch the movie. Steve politely declined, but when he saw that the headphones were going to go unused, stuffed into the seatback pocket, he reconsidered and watched "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton". We arrived in Boston on time. Leaving the airport by 10:00 pm, we were home soon after 10:30 and settled in for another day of work the following day. Another fantastic journey was over.
Rainbow, Secret Harbour

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