Long trip home. Dropped the rental mini van at the airport at 9 (Centerline Car Rentals, which otherwise seems to have been awesome, billed us for two hours overdue at 11:40 return, which is rather impossible given that our flight left at 11:00. Still need to work that out), flew St. Croix to Miami, to DFW, then to SFO, then drove to Petaluma.
2016-02-12 Friday evening
Looked at parking prices, discovered ParkSleepFly.com, said "we can get down there tonight and have no problem making our early flight", so made reservations through that site. Unfortunately, that sight isn't actually tied into the hotel reservations systems, so they dutifully faxed off a request to Holiday Inn Express, which was full.
We got down there, the nice lady there redirected us over to the Holiday Inn. So lesson learned: Call the hotel directly. Also, Holiday Inn was was perfect to crash at, but does anyone else find this command slightly sinister?
2016-02-13 Saturday travel
SFO to Miami to St. Croix. Airports seem to be designed to remind us that we are just a commodity being moved around. From the cattle call of badly designed security theatre to flow in public areas which encourages impeding traffic to the bland food repackaged with a bunch of different branding options (or, in some cases, two Peets or Starbucks or whatever burned roast of the moment on opposite sides of the same damned waiting area), the whole experience is a reminder that we're a resource to be exploited.
In Miami we had a bit of a layover and were trying to find food for Charlene. Asked for a place with lots of vegetables. Got directed to a Cuban-themed restaurant, "...vegetables you may not be familiar with, like plantain". Yeah, they had yuca and plaintain, and steamed frozen cauliflower/broccoli/carrot mix. Ya take what ya can get, and it was a learning experience for me that "yuca" is apparently what I know as "yucca (cassava) root" (and pronounced "YOOOka" rather than "YUCKah"), but got us through.
Somewhere in there we had wandering around Fredericksted, because it was a cruise ship day, and snorkeling off the beach. To a Northern Californian, the idea that you can dive into the ocean without a wet suit or a dry suit is pretty damned amazing, and it was.
And in the evening, there was a big ol' Reggae Dub party in the campground, 'til probably 2 AM. I have come to the conclusion that much DJing is of the form "You know what'd make this song more awesome? Slide whistles and 'awooga' horns."
2016-02-15 and 2016-02-16 Monday & Tuesday
Dad and I did our PADI SCUBA checkout dives with Alex from N2theBlue dive shop, starting with basic skills demonstration near the beach we started going deeper. I got through the first morning session with a T-shirt and shorts, but after that realized I needed at least a shorty wetsuit in that water.
We progressed up to swimming through the pilings, aka "dolphins", and then over to the pilings of the pier itself, which was spectacular. From barracuda to stingray to coral and sponges and a gazillion spectacularly colored fish and other creatures, just spectacular.
No pictures because we didn't carry a camera during our SCUBA stuff. Eventually we did finally carry a camera snorkeling, but those images haven't het been downloaded, there'll be a revision here eventually.
In the mean time, enjoy this video shot by my uncle Ron of snorkeling the Fredericksted pier:
at one point we were driving down the road to camp and saw this Boa laid out across the road. The story is that there were no snakes on St. Croix, a snake likely blew in from somewhere, maybe Venezuela, and these snakes can reproduce via parthenogenesis, so the ones we see are all the same age, from that one mother, but are sterile. So the theory goes.
Snorkeling north of where we were previously, I think it was Butler Bay. There were a number of buoys off-shore, someone told us that there was a shipwreck out there, and as Charlene and I were snorkeling about we realized we were a third of the way there, so we continued out. Came over the first boat, a long way off shore, and there's a freaky feeling, it's not clear how far down the boat is, the environment is unsettling, and...
...there were a bunch of larger perch-like fish, seemed like a foot long more or less, in a huge school. We're floating over the wreck and they start to come up and swarm us. Which was kinda cool until they started bumping our flippers. Then it became "get me out of here".
We started towards another buoy, but became aware of how far out we were, how unfamiliar the environment was, and turned towards shore. On the way back we saw two sea turtles, and when we got to shore it turns out Sara had found someone she knew on the beach. Small world.
Sara also said she'd seen two triangular fins swim by between us and shore while we were out there. I'm glad we didn't see those.
The rest of the party went over to the Whim Estate Museum, and then met us back in Fredericksted where we explored the pier more:
And then there had been some talk of turning the roosters who were waking us up early in the morning into stew. We filled up a big ol' pot of water, got it boiling, and there was one of the owners of the camp with a dead bird, our camp-friend Jeff and Celia cut the head off, drained it, we repeated the process with another bird, and Jeff put 'em in paella for Friday's dinner.
2016-02-18 Thursday Buck Island
2016-02-19 Friday Cane Bay
No snorkeling around the pier, so up to Cane Bay on the north shore. There was an eastward current, so walk up the beach a way, put on the snorkeling gear, swim out, drift down the reef, repeat. Did this 3 times before we got cold and headed back into town.
A few pictures from the GoPro, contrast stretched and cropped.
2016-02-20 Saturday Home
St Croix to Miami MIA to DFW to SFO to drive home.
Status Updates From This Time
Turns out for the price of long-term parking, or even the airport shuttle, you can also stay overnight right by SFO...
Well. Screwed by ParkSleepFly.com. Managed to make alternate arrangements, but definitely avoid them.
Three cheers for the lady at the SFO Holiday Inn Express who got us set up down the street after ParkSleepFly.com screwed us over.
The airport as a designed environment is a constant reminder that we are a commodity resource to be exploited.
In Miami. Didn't shave, so I have the stubble, but I lack the garish sport coat and the Lambo. And the cocaine.
At Camp Victory on St Croix, US Virgin Islands. The insect and bird sounds are amazing!
No pictures from today because I spent it under the Caribbean. Still too much to think about to have a camera down there, but amazing!
Another day of diving, around the Frederickstet Pier. I have demonstrated all of my PADI skills, and seen really cool flora & fauna.
Having made friends with the other coffee drinker in camp, I now have a better sense of the camaraderie that smokers have.
When the cruise ships are in port, the pier is closed to snorkeling, so we went north to Cane Bay
May be tough and stringy, but nothing tastes as good as the roosters who woke us up at 5:30 many times... In a paella.
Stopover in Miami coming home. Just discovered that the Cubans pronounce and spell it "yuca", not "yucca".
Must read on the FBI-Apple kerfluffle, and why the FBI is way over-reaching and setting evil precedent http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5645
Bouncing off DFW. I clearly need to learn more about Texas geography, everything I learned about this area was from the TV show
Careful with those random USB ports, this Airbus A321S wants to mount my phone as an MTP device when I go to charge it.