Posts filed under ‘Virgin Islands’

Virgin Islands: Sunrises and Sunsets

Snorkeling at the Norman Island Caves, I exposed to so much diversity. The variety of colors and textures were amazing.

Above water, breathing through my nose instead my mouth, I was exposed to the same thing in the sky at day and dusk. Each day I was dazzled by the visuals. The textures in the clouds and water differed from day to day. So did the colors. Sometimes the day ended in blues and purples. Sometimes it began with orange. Sometimes the sky was painted with pinks. Sometimes it was a vibrant gold.

As beautiful as diversity was underneath the surface of the water, it was more so in the sky.


Sunset, St. John

Sunrise, Virgin Gorda

Sunset, Peter Island

Sunset, Guana Island (HT Israel)

Sunrise, Virgin Gorda

Sunset, Tortola

More pictures of the Virgin Islands can be found on my Flickr site.

January 17, 2009 at 8:00 am 10 comments

Virgin Islands: Snorkeling Norman Caves

Our last Saturday at the Virgin Islands, we headed over to Norman Island. Norman Island was supposedly the inspiration for the book “Treasure Island” and is home to the floating bar the Willy-T. Most importantly, according to our ship’s crew, Norman Island has the best snorkeling site in the British Virgin Islands. Our entire clan, including the water weary ones, piled into the tender and we went snorkeling at The Caves.

I didn’t have a camera on me, but Flickr‘s got me covered. Thank you to Walkabout Polly, Jalawebber, Paul Garland and Lazslo Photo for allowing me to use their pictures to compliment the post!


Snorkelers at Norman Island Caves (Photo by jalawebber)

Snorkeling the caves was AMAZING. I had seen plenty of washed up coral on the beaches of Virgin Guana and Peter Island and now I got to see what those creatures looked like alive. Resurrection… on a time delay.


Dead Brain Coral (Photo by Paul Garland), Live Brain Coral (Photo by Lazslo-Photo)

The diversity under the surface was incredible. There were so many different types of fish to look at. Ahead of time, one of our crew members described the experience to me. I found her description amazingly accurate:

“It is like swimming in a fish tank.”


Snorkeling with fish (Photo by Walkabout Polly)


Lots of fish (Photo by Walkabout Polly)

There were so many colors– many of them extremely vivid. And you had every range of texture in the mix. There were delicate, silky purple plants(?) swaying with the gentle tide and then on the other hand, spikey little black urchins camped up in the harsh rock crevices. There was so much to see, so much to explore and so much to get inspired by. I felt like I was floating over a miniature forest.


Coral Reef at The Bight in Norman Islands (Photo by jalawebber)


The Caves at Norman Island (Photo by jalawebber)

This outing was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I highly recommend it. You get to see dead things live. You get to swoop effortlessly over an entire world and absorb all its goings-on. And if by chance, you happened to have a can of Cheez-Whiz on you, you are worshiped by all the fish around.

Snorkeling at The Caves must be what it feels like to be God.

January 16, 2009 at 8:30 am 9 comments

Virgin Islands: Sunset Loop on Peter Island

Saturday morning, I “overslept”. By the time I woke up, my uncle and aunt-to-be were all ready to go hiking on Peter Island. I scrambled around, slooshed on sunscreen and stuffed breakfast into a ziplock bag so I could join them.

We started off at the Marina in Sprat Bay. We walked up a road to the top. Once we reached the Falcon’s Nest resort we turned left. After about a mile, that road led to a section of trail called Sunset Loop. Once we completed that scenic circle, we hiked back to Falcon’s Nest and then took a road down to White Bay and Beach on the other side of the island where our boat was already waiting for us. I believe we went about 4-5 miles and the elevation gain was  humble– 600 feet.

Views
My uncle calls this “The Signature Hike of the BVI” and with good cause. The views are prevalent and the views are stunning. From our hike, we got to watch our boat leave Sprat Bay and then later we got to see it enter White Bay! As a finale, ice cold water and brightly colored chairs greet you at the top of Sunset Loop.


Deadman’s Beach from the hike


Falcon’s Nest Resort from the hike


Rocky shore near Big Reef Bay


View from Sunset Loop


Colored chairs invite you to stay a while.

Flora

Today was cactus day! Actually, every day had its cacti, just this particular day I got a lot of cactus photos.


Cacti growing on a rocky hillside

By far the most prevalent cactus we saw was “Pipe Organ Cactus.” If you aren’t juvenile enough to snicker at that name, there is another one for you. It also goes by “Dildo Cactus


Dildo Cactus. Uh, no thank you, I’ll pass.


These vines apparently find Dildo Cactus appealing

We also spotted this guy. I think he may be Barrel Cactus, otherwise known as “Turk’s Cap Cactus”


Turk’s Cap Cactus?

Fauna

We heard and saw more goats, but at this point the novelty was long gone. But we did get introduced to this lovely lady. She’s an American Kestrel and we got to watch her hunt and feed.


American Kestrel

On the dead fauna front, there was a lot of old coral washed up on the White Bay Beach. It so intricate and marvelously constructed. Coral may put Yellow Jackets to shame.


Small pieces of coral on Peter Island

An Observation From the Sovereign

Before we left on our outing, one of the crew members of the Sovereign said something to me:

“You know, you guys are the first group we’ve had that said they like to hike and then actually do it. Usually everyone says they like hiking and then it’s, ‘Nah, I’m too hungover. Eh, I’m tired.’ But you guys actually go out there and hike.”

Her comment made me very proud of my family. Over the course of the trip, we went on four different hikes – the top of Jost Van Dyke, The Baths at Virgin Gorda, Gorda Peak National Park and Sunset Loop at Peter Island. We saw a lot of great views and had a lot of great conversations. I’m so glad my first trip to the Virgin Islands was with people who liked to hike.

They rule.

More pictures of Peter Island are available on my Flickr site.

January 16, 2009 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

Virgin Islands: Gorda Peak National Park

Our last day at Virgin Gorda, we went hiking! We left Leverick Bay at sea level, hiked up Leverick Bay Road and then took North Sound Road up to Gorda Peak National Park. From there we had a 25 minute hike to the tallest point of the island and a lookout tower. By the time we returned to the boat, we had gone 6.2 miles and ascended 1500 feet.

Views
One great thing I enjoyed about this hike was you had views almost the entire time. It was great to look back and see the boat. Walking on the roads, you passed through little towns and got a feel for island life. The last mile was a more typical hiking trail, winding through a forest. Although all the vegetation around me was foreign, being under a tree canopy and surrounded by greenery was a familiar sensation. I felt like I was home. Of course, the view from the lookout tower was stunning– you could see the ocean in all directions!


Our boat near the beginning of the hike


The island from North Sound Road


View from the tippy top of the island


Me at Gorda Peak! Like those new shorts from Jost Van Dyke?

Flora

This day was epiphyte day! On North Sound Road, I passed a tree covered in air plants. On the trail to Gorda Peak, I took a picture of a Heart in Nature which turned out to be heart-shaped anthurium, another epiphyte. Who knew!


Air plants off North Sound Road


Heart shaped anthurium

Fauna

Like Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda had goats. Lots of goats. Thus, I got lots of goat pictures. My favorite was on the way back down to the boat. I passed a house that still had its Christmas decorations out in the front yard where some goats were grazing. The result? A Nativity scene with real live goats!


Nativity Scene with Real Live Goats!

We also passed a number of chickens. I was most impressed by the flock that discovered a handy stockpile of food.


Dumpster Diving Chickens


King of the Dumpster!

Each island we stopped on, I would spot a termite nest. As we went from St. Thomas to Jost Van Dyke to Virgin Guana, the nests seemed to get bigger and bigger. On Virgin Gorda, I saw the biggest one of the entire trip. Jimmie wasn’t around for his measurement duties, so I had to step up to the plate:


Me and termite nest. Click on picture to see Flickr note.

Kill Nothing But Time

On various trails, I have seen a lot of signs that remind hikers to, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” At Gorda Peak National Park, I saw a sign with nice addition to that phrase:

Touch only your heart and kill nothing but time.

I liked that. And I complied. I left very touched by this hike and I killed a great deal of time.

More pictures of the Gorda Peak Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Gorda Peak From Leverick Bay

Length: 6.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1500 Feet

Directions

Have an incredibly generous family member take you to the Virgin Islands

Anchor at Leverick Bay at Virgin Gorda

January 15, 2009 at 8:30 am 5 comments

Virgin Islands: The Baths at Virgin Gorda

Nearly 8000 years ago in what would one day be Oregon, a 12,000 foot mountain collapsed on itself after a large eruption. Determined and patient, the Colorado river and its minions have been eroding away northwest Arizona for an unforgiving six million years. Twelve thousand years ago, glaciers ravaged the landscape of Minnesota, tearing up everything in their path.

These destructive forces left wounds on the land, as destruction tends to do. Nature carried on and healed, as nature tends to do. Today, the ancient traumas have left us with some of the most stunning sights around – Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon and the beautiful lakes of Minnesota (11,842 strong!).


Beauty from Destruction – Crater Lake (Photo by Jersey JJ), Grand Canyon (Photo by cobalt123), Minnesota Lake (Photo by Steve took it)

When we pause to take in a dazzling view, more often than not, we’re looking at a scar.

Such is the case at Virgin Gorda. Sailing around the island, the shoreline is suddenly littered with giant boulders, some piled on top of others. They are as surprising and as seemingly out of place as the boulders at Devil’s Marbleyard.


Sudden boulders on Virgin Gorda

This is an area known as “The Baths“. The boulders were created long ago and were once part of the sea floor. Then 15-25 million years ago, a fault occurred, reaping havoc. Suddenly, what was once under water, the sea floor and the boulders, was…well, land.

Enter erosion. Sea, sand, wind and rain slowly but surely weathered the rocks, rounded them out and sculpted grooves and patterns. Meanwhile, natural cracks and weaknesses caused what had to be superdupermegaboulders to split apart into mere house-size boulders.

The result– stunning. Caves and tunnels to explore. Covered tidal pools to wade through. Textures to absorb on the walls. All surrounded by white-sand beaches and blue waters.


Two kids on the beach by the boulders


Alex, Lee and Kevin explore the caves and tunnels


Ladders assist your exploration (Photo by strass)


Patterns carved in the rocks over time


Glimpse of the outside world between crevaces


Vegetation with boulder


Vegetation has made itself at home between boulders. Is it just me or does this look reminiscent of a rhododendron? : )


Sunbather found a place to lay


Sometimes destruction is beautiful right away

More pictures of The Baths can be found on my Flickr site.

January 15, 2009 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Virgin Islands: Guana Island

Tuesday took us to scenic Guana Island.  There, themes that would last the rest of the trip got their start. First off– anchored offshore in crisp blue waters, that is when we started jumping off the boat. Some of us were more a little more adventurous than others.


Lee flips off deck (Photo by Kevin)

Once we all had a chance to succumb to gravity, our attention turned to the island itself. Here’s how the island is described on guana.com:

850 acres of undisturbed natural beauty. Seven pristine, white power-sand beaches and miles of tropical forest, mountains, hill and valleys.

Best of all, with acres of privacy per guest (usually around 30 at a time), and no marina or public facilities of any kind, you’ll barely have to share it with anyone.

We did have to share it with others, but not with many others at all. The crew managed to sneak ashore ahead of us and set up a nice beach area. They armed us with all the makings for a great stay– chairs, snorkeling equipment and the all important, rum punch.


Near empty beach!


Kevin carries his fiance into the water. There is no one else in the ocean!


Pelicans fly over the ocean

The children were not onshore for very long. They almost immediately got back on the tender to tackle wakeboarding.


Chase, Devin, Lee and Kaylee pose on Virgin Guana (Photo by Kevin)

Virgin Guana was amazingly beautiful, but it isn’t a landscape shot that is my favorite for the day.  It’s a wakeboarding shot by Kevin. Kevin caught my cousin, Allison, getting up on the wakeboard.


Allison wakeboarding (Photo by Kevin)

What endears me to this shot? Let’s look closer at the tender:


The tender cheers

Look how excited everyone is for Allison!!! Even one of the crew members, Alex, is raising his arms to clap. I LOVE it!

While the children wakeboarded, I got to snorkel for the very first time! Where we were at, the coral and rocks were mostly off-white and tan and the fish were mostly silver, so the experience wasn’t very colorful. However, I found myself absolutely fascinated by all the textures. There was such a variety. Before I knew it, two hours had gone by.

“Wow, you didn’t like that much.” Lee joked when I got out of the water.

We returned to the Sovereign for lunch where another trip-long theme commenced. The nail polish made its first appearance! Nail polish would prove to an indispensable amusement in the coming days. In fact, it has earned itself its very own post!

Nail polish also managed to mold my afternoon at Guana Island. After lunch, I painted my toenails. Looking down on a rocking boat… well, it made me queasy.  The crew got me to shore stat and the turn of events was serendipitous. Once I started to feel better, I got to walk along shore and really absorb the smaller facets of the island. I had spent so much time snorkeling, I really didn’t get to notice the beauty of the seagrapes, the washed up old coral and the rocks.

Thanks to my now purple toenails, I got to absorb my surroundings in much deeper detail.


Seagrapes on Guana Island


Old coral and rocks in the sand


A pelican in a tree at Guana Island


Wave splashes over a rock

Our stay at Guana Island came to a close later that afternoon.  We had a space reserved to dock at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Club, so we headed out that way.  We arrived to find another boat was in our spot.  At that point, our ship’s captain, Steve, got to demonstrate some mad skills.  With the help of his able crew, he managed to park our 120-foot yacht in a very snug spot between two other boats.

“You knew it was intense,” my Uncle Jonathan reported later, “when Steve asked us to turn down Rock Band.”

There were no shed tears over the Rock Band haitus.  Watching Steve and the crew park the boat proved to be just as captivating as any video game could be.


Everyone watching the parking operation from the top deck

And thus, the next phase of our journey, a three day visit to Virgin Gorda, began.

More pictures of Guana Island can be found on my Flickr site.

 

January 14, 2009 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Virgin Islands: Jost Van Dyke

Early Monday morning I woke to the boat starting its engines. I scurried on deck and watched as we travelled to our first of the British Virgin Islands– Jost Van Dyke.

I was incredibly nervous about being on a boat, but I weathered this first crossing without any trouble at all. I even took a victory picture! (Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be as victorious on subsequent days).


Crossing from St. Thomas to Jost Van Dyke


Vicky’s on a boat!

When we arrived at Jost Van Dyke, we anchored at Great Harbor. The adults boarded the tender and headed to shore! My uncle, Jonathan, and aunt-to-be, Kim, went one direction for a run. Meanwhile my aunt-to-be’s sister, Lee, and her fiance, Kevin, and I went for hike!

We ascended roughly 1000 feet and got close to the top of Jost Van Dyke. As I have advertised on this blog before, I’m slow at ascents. This trip was no exception, but this time I had a cohort! Without any prior coordination, Kevin and I both adopted the same strategy. We would hike a little bit, take a picture, hike a little more, take another picture, and so on. It allowed us to catch our breath without looking like total wussies. AND when you have TWO people, you can stop TWICE as much and STILL not look like wussies! It worked out well. I have decided Kevin is welcome to hike with me at any time.

The views on Jost Van Dyke were astounding!!! Once we got near the top, we could see our boat anchored in Great Harbor, as well as the other side of the island.


Great Harbor from near the top of Jost Van Dyke


View of the other side of Jost Van Dyke


Me near the top of Jost Van Dyke (Photo by Kevin)


Me at Top

The other great thing about this outing is I got to do one of my absolute favorite activities:


Vicky photographs a tree (Photo by Kevin)

I got to absorb all the new flora around me and I ate it up. I got to see cactii surrounding trees. I got introduced to Sour Sop, Seagrapes and Century Plants and I saw so many beautiful flowers.


A cactus chokes out a tree


Century Plant in the wild


Soursop Fruit


Unidentified flower on Jost Van Dyke

As far as fauna, near the top of Jost Van Dyke, we encountered– GOATS! I scrambled with my camera and was oh-so-disappointed with the one blurry shot I got off. I had no idea how frequently I would come to encounter goats and how many shots I could take with my mother in mind.


The first of many goat sightings.

The town at Great Harbor was nice and quaint. I especially appreciated how they embraced nature for function and decor.


This gift shop built their floor around a palm and and hung signs on it.


Ali Baba’s used an old tree trunk to hang beer advertisements


Foxy’s Bar used a tree to hang some decor, which was also from nature. A whale vertebra!

When I packed for my trip, I realized that all the shorts I owned were either ripped (And we are not talking benign rips here– we are talking full fledged, exposing the crotch, rips) or in storage. So I borrowed a pair…from Ryan Somma. When Ryan bought those shorts, I’m sure he had a set of criteria that drove his purchasing decision. Unfortunately, he left out one key, critical consideration:

How does Vicky’s butt look in these shorts?

If he had reflected on this matter before he handed over his debit card, I am sure he would have come to the resounding conclusion:

Not good.

And so on my very first hike on the British Virgin Islands, I opted to wear my beloved camouflage pants!

(That reminds me how Christina from An American Expat in Deustchand and her husband will not be letting their son wear camouflage which reminds me to tell you today is the last day you can vote for her for Best European Blog).

Apparently my wardrobe was a topic of discussion. When I met my uncle and my aunt-to-be at Foxy’s Bar after the hike, I was promptly informed that they were buying me some shorts. I was escorted over to the gift shop and just like that I was the proud owner of khaki shorts.

We returned to the boat and then it was time for watersports. The Sovereign crew came out and gave people some instruction on water skiing and wakeboarding.


Crew member Joe talks about water skiing to Melanie and Jonathan

I went out on the tender with the water skiing group. First up was my youngest cousin, Melanie. She did not manage to make it up that day, but it was incredibly heart warming to see her excitement at tackling a new experience, to listen to everyone cheer for her and seeing her get extremely close to her goal.


Melanie is all smiles!

When Melanie tired, it was Kim and Lee’s turn! Even though the water was very choppy, both women got up and put on a good show.


Waterskiing at Jost Van Dyke (Photo by Kevin)

Even the crew driving the tender were impressed.

“Wow. She makes that look effortless,” one crew member said to the other.

They were talking about Kim. Yup! One day, I am going to be the niece of a woman who impressed the seasoned crew of the Sovereign!!!

After a full day, I spent the evening on the boat with the kids. We watched “When a Stranger Calls” which kicked off a week long marathon of suspense films.

More pictures of Jost Van Dyke can be found on my Flickr site.

January 13, 2009 at 8:00 am 6 comments

Virgin Islands: St. Thomas

Just three and a half hours after almost missing my flight, I landed in St. Thomas.

The first thing I noticed was the mountains. Noting the proportions and all the greenery, I thought it looked reminiscent of the Appalachians. Then I took a closer look and saw palm trees and cactii!


Huh. It is not like Southwest Virginia at all!

Our modest group of five were the first to arrive at the Marriott Resort. Since our rooms were not ready, we sat out in an open air lobby and took advantage of the free Internet. I did some billable work! It’s quite a treat to be looking at SQL Server Enterprise Manager one moment and then glancing up to see amazing views.


View from hotel. I would volunteer to write a monster SQL statement filled with nested INNER JOINS and UNIONS if I could look at this while I did it.

When there were a few rooms ready, I took a nap on Sam and Jack’s floor. Later, the Colorado branch of our family arrived and we checked into our entire block of rooms.

There was a minor mixup and I didn’t have a hotel room. My aunt-to-be and uncle went to the desk to try to figure out the confusion. It turns out my room was cancelled and was already claimed by another guest. There were no more vacancies in the hotel. Before I knew what they were up to, my aunt and uncle called the Ritz-Carlton to try to get me a room there.

Whoa. That was waaaay beyond the call of duty. I certainly appreciated their generosity and their intent, but I told them I would sleep on Sam and Jack’s floor. Hey, it served me well for my nap.

Just a few months ago, I was sleeping on a foam pad. When I moved to Elizabeth City, I upgraded to a futon mattress. I’ve slept on trains. I’ve slept on planes. I’ve slept on the floor of Dulles Airport. During my separation, I slept in a variety of places including a green chair, a tent and one night I even slept on a concrete floor next to a hot water heater. As a rule of thumb to everyone for all future Vicky dealings, just know– I am really not picky about where I sleep.

In the end, there was a compromise between the “Ritz-Carlton” and “floor”. I slept on a roll-away bed in Sam and Jack’s room… and I slept well at that.

The next morning, I ate breakfast with Timothy’s family and then we all went to the pool. We self dubbed ourselves “The Pansy Family” as we all cautiously inched our way into the cold pool. Once we got acclimated, the water was actually quite nice.


Sam enjoys the pool

The pool itself was pretty awesome. It overlooks the ocean, has a waterfall AND a bar.


The In-Pool Bar at the Marriott (Photo by my cousin, Melanie)

Later, we were much less pansy-like with the hot tub and Timothy, Jack and I plunged right in. We were totally digging the warm water and suddenly the nearby bushes startled to rustle. And out pops an iguana! A real, live, wild iguana. It turns out the island is covered in them and they really liked the pool area.


Sunbather confused by visitor


Two iguanas in a tree at St. Thomas

After taking about a billion shots of iguanas, I took a walk around the Marriott grounds. It is very lovely there.


Me at the St. Thomas Marriott


Houses and Seagrape Leaves at St. Thomas


Waterfall at the St. Thomas Marriott


Walkway to Frenchmen’s Cove

In the late afternoon, we caught a cab to a marina and I boarded my home for the next week– a 120-foot motor yacht called “Sovereign”. Although my Maryland relatives would not be traveling on the boat, they boarded with us at the dock and spent the afternoon and evening with us.


Sam demonstrates how large the boat is


Jack enjoys the deck


Timothy, Jonathan and Maria on the Sovereign

Since St. Thomas is the only island that permits jet-skis, we had to get our fix in. A bunch of us headed out in the tender and took turns riding jet skis and the water tube.

I found my niche with the youngest of the children. I rode the tube with my cousin Melanie and the jet ski with ten year old Reese. Both shared my preferences for velocity. I can’t say the same for my cousin Jack and my cousin-to-be Chase!

We stay docked for dinner which meant Maria, Timothy, Sam and Jack could join us for supper! There was a private chef on board the Sovereign and he was amazing! He served us a fancy three course supper. As each course came out, he would emerge from the galley and explain the dish. It was like being a judge on Top Chef!


Me (at the Kid’s table) getting ready to enjoy my first Sovereign meal

We did have some excitement at dinner— pirates boarded our vessel and threatened to take some of the children. To our dismay, they left empty handed.


Pirates deciding which children looked promising

After dinner, my Maryland relatives left. The docked boat gently rocked me to sleep and my body prepared for the next day’s adventure!

More pictures of St. Thomas can be view on my Flickr site.

January 12, 2009 at 8:30 am 7 comments

Virgin Islands: The Trip to St. Thomas and an Epiphany

My trip to the Virgin Islands was a bit eventful. It started the Saturday after Christmas, well before dawn. I had spent the night in Silver Spring, Maryland with relatives who were also going on the trip– Uncle Timothy, Aunt Maria, Cousin Sam and Cousin Jack!

Early in the morning, we woke up to head to Dulles airport. Being the most seasoned traveler of the bunch, I felt I should share my knowledge with my companions. I announced to everyone, “You do know United charges $15 per bag, right?”

They looked at me dumbfounded and I knew right away they were thankful to have me around.

“Even carry-ons?!?” Sam asked.

“Oh…uh… no… not carry-ons,” I said.

“Oh. We don’t check bags.”

It was then I noticed that all four of my travel companions were armed with identical, dinky, little suitcases. And there was I– with a giant duffel bag stuffed to the point of stressing the zipper. It housed clothes, rollerblades, a camelbak, hiking boots and a GPS.

For a while now, Larry has been trying to persuade me to start doing carry-on with my suitcase on business trips. I have resisted, remembering what it is like to manage luggage in an airport bathroom stall. That, and I am not inspired to re-architect my toiletries to comply with the 3-1-1 rule. Plus, it’s Larry. He always worries about bags getting lost.

Well now, Larry has some traction for his cause. Maria, Timothy, Jack, Sam and I all arrived at the airport at the exact same time. I had to check my bag. They didn’t.

They had a relaxing stroll through the airport. They breezed through a short security line and got to the gate in time to get lunch.

Me, I almost missed the flight!

I got caught in a long check-in line, then I got caught in an even longer security line. Then my little shuttle to the next terminal had to wait for a plane to park. As the time ticked to under ten minutes before the departure time, I was convinced I was going to miss the flight. I was already running numbers in my head trying to figure out how much I could afford to rebook my ticket.

My cousin Sam kept text messaging me from the plane, assuring me the airline knew I was checked in and they would surely wait. But being the seasoned, extremely knowledgeable traveler I am, I had plenty of memories of panting passengers being turned away by the most unsympathetic of gate agents to race through my head.

“Sorry sir, the aircraft door is closed.”

“Sorry sir, the aircraft door is closed.”

“Sorry sir, the aircraft door is closed.”

Even though I was convinced it was hopeless, when my shuttle stopped, I ran.

I found the gate to be void of passengers and the door to the jetway was already closed. In front of the desk were two idle agents. This did not look promising.

Suddenly one of them looked up and saw me running.

“St. Thomas?” she asked.

She rushed to open the door and she got me on board. My cousin Sam was right. I made it.

There are experiences in life that unearth doubts and shake up your entire belief system. Conclusions that were once so concrete are now in question. Everything goes into limbo.

As sweat rolled down my face, I buckled my seatbelt and I worked to catch my breath, I had one of those moments. Not matter how hard I tried, I could not purge a nagging question from my head.

“Could Larry actually be right about something?!?!”

🙂

January 12, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Virgin Islands: Trip Overview

Before I continue on with a series of Virgin Island posts, I’ll do a quick overview of the trip. And before I do that summary, I do have to give some serious props.

My uncle paid for me to go on this trip. He flew me down there. He put me up in the hotel and boat. He fed me. He even bought me new shorts and sunglasses.

This past fall, I was living in a vacant house. All my possessions were sold, donated to charity or placed into storage. The only furniture the dogs I had were a folding table, a folding chair and a foam mattress pad to sleep on. Meals at home were quite simple too. Since all my dishes were in storage, I ate frozen meals… or one-ziplock bag meals.

And then… just a couple of months later– I was in the Caribbean.

I was surrounded by pristine sands, crystal clear waters, a warming sun, new flora to absorb and hills to hike. I rode on a luxury 120-foot yacht from island to island. I ate decadent, gourmet foods prepared by a personal chef. I was flown home on a NetJet, for goodness sake!

What a contrast.

Saturday, December 27

I almost miss my flight. Miraculously, I make it! We arrive at the Marriott at St. Thomas and enjoy a large family dinner.

Saturday, December 28

Spend the day at pool at the St. Thomas Marriott resort. In the afternoon, we board a 120-foot yacht called Sovereign. We jet ski and enjoy a delicious dinner.

Monday, December 29

We head to Jost Van Dyke where I do some hiking! Later, others try their hand at water skiing.

Tuesday, December 30

We head to Virgin Guano where we take turns jumping off the boat. The adults go snorkeling and the kids learn to wakeboard. After the day’s activities, we head to Virgin Gorda and dock for the night.

Wednesday, December 31

I got terribly ill, but it still ended up with amazing memories. We explore The Baths at Virgin Gorda and anchor in Leverick Bay. I slept most of the evening, but woke up to celebrate New Year’s with the kids. We watch fireworks from the top deck!

Thursday, January 1

We decided to stay anchored in Leverick Bay for another day. We enjoy swimming around the boat and water sports.

Friday, January 2

More hiking! We walk about 6.2 miles and ascend 1500 feet to the top of Virgin Gorda. In the evening, the boat heads to Peter Island where we dock for the evening. For the first time on the trip, I go on shore with the adults at night. We go to Deadman’s Beach Bar.

Saturday, January 3

Another hike! My uncle, aunt-to-be and I leave the dock, hike up to Sunset Loop and meet the boat on the other side of the island. My Maryland relatives rented a boat and met us at Peter Island. Both boats head out to Norman Island and we snorkel at The Caves.

Sunday, January 4

We leave Norman Island and go to Tortola to clear BVI customs. Then we head to St. John and clear customs there. Finally, we head to the Westin Resort where we swim, drink Dauquiris, wrestle each other on the water trampoline and share one more giant family dinner.

Monday, January 5

We take a water taxi to St. Thomas, board the Net Jet and fly to Dulles. From Dulles, I go to Silver Spring, MD to pick up my car. From Silver Spring, MD, I drive to Occoquan, VA to pick up my dogs. From Occoquan, VA, I drive to Elizabeth City, NC.

And then I was home.

This trip to the Virgin Islands, this was the trip of a lifetime. And my uncle did this for me.

If anyone has any ideas on how I can thank him, let me know. Two syllables just doesn’t seem to do my gratitude justice (even when repeated profusely and accompanied by a hug).

January 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm 5 comments

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