Sunday, November 11, 2007

November 10, 2007, et seq. -- St.Thomas,U.S. Virgin Islands

I fear I must temporarily turn authorship over to golfmobile, as explained below.

Another “Emergency Vacation” Results in Emergency Conditions

Saturday, November 10, 2007

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Wait, first I need to explain whence (from where) this posting is coming. On Thursday, Larry and golf decided to take a few days off, since Larry had some time off from work and has free travel with his Delta Airlines employment. Golf researched Cancun (for the temples visiting), but that was too much to research and put together efficiently in 18 hours. So golf and Larry decided on St. Thomas, because they could find good lodging, affordably, there on short notice, and Larry could get flights to there that fit their schedule. But as revealed below, MAYBE a little more homework would have resulted in a better trip – though the main problem wasn’t in the planning, but in the execution. You’ll see what I mean. Read on.

The good news is: We cleared for our “stand-by” flight and were put in First Class!

The bad news: Delta lost our luggage.

That is particularly distressing because Magnum, G.I., was in the one small bag that we checked, along with everything else we need except the computer, the cameras, and a couple of shorts and shirts for me. All Larry’s clothes are in the checked bag, plus his medication (blood pressure and prostate) and my 14K gold helicopter earrings (which will be an expensive and disappointing loss if the bag is permanently lost) and my special 1930s-style satin nightgown, which I made, and I love that nightgown and I can’t get any more of that fabric (it was an-end-of-season close-out, plus I didn’t have a pattern when I made it, so I’m not sure I can make it again, even if I could find some good replacement fabric – drat, drat, drat!!). So we have no swimsuits, underwear, deodorant, make-up and 5X mirror, Sonicare toothbrush and two heads, no underwear, no mosquito repellant (necessary here!) no make-up, no sun-block, no sunless tanning cream(!!!), no contact lens cleaner, and no tequila, triple sec, and fresh (frozen) lime juice Larry specifically squeezed, put in a plastic flask, and packed so we could have our margaritas here. Booze is cheap here, so the missing booze can be replaced, but we haven’t been a to grocery store to look for limes yet. Will probably do that tomorrow while we’re going around replacing swimsuits, clothes, etc. There is no Wal-Mart here, but there is a K-Mart so tonight we got various sundries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) that we really needed, even if the luggage shows up tomorrow. Which is no guarantee! Delta advises us they do not show our bag anywhere in its system, and we are advised it won’t show up until it arrives . . . . somewhere . . . . and is scanned into the system. They can’t even say it will be on the flight here tomorrow. Here there is only one flight a day from Atlanta. If it doesn’t show up until 4:30 tomorrow, it might as well not arrive at all, since we will have only two more full days here by that time. I wanted to go snorkeling every day, and we can do that only if we go buy new swimsuits, which we can do, but, still . . .

Okay, positive things: The condo is beautiful. It wasn’t easy to find (again, we finally got here the hard way because (1) the roads here are all very small and narrow, not well marked – or at least it appears that way to us because we’re concentrating on driving on the left side of the road – so we missed our turn and took the long way around the island to get to our resort. Say, for example, on a clock, for illustration purposes, the airport is at 7 p.m. Our resort is at 2 p.m. There are a couple of road that cut across the face of the clock to get from A to B – or there’s a road that circles the circumference. We missed the turn for the diagonal road and drove the circumference. (The people here are very friendly and willing to help with directions – the directions just aren’t very accurate in terms of “turn right” when actually you need to turn left – and we found out when we finally got to the condo that we missed the sign for the road we needed to take because the “signs lay down, mon,” and we assume that means someone at some time knocked it down? So, okay, we had more of a tour of the island than we initially planned to do, at least at that point in time!)

And it is very, VERY hilly! Narrow roads, lots of switch-backs, steep inclines and descents – and staying on the “wrong” side of the road to navigate these roller-coaster roads.

But back on the condo. We are on the top floor of almost the highest building on this high hill overlooking Water Bay, just east of Coki Point, where Coral World Ocean Park is (also supposedly the best snorkeling on the island – we need to get snorkel equipment tomorrow too). So we have a WONDERFUL view off our balcony.

The weather is very hot and humid – I confess I keep comparing things to Hawaii, which probably isn’t fair, but we were never this hot in Hawaii and I don’t remember having a problem with mosquitoes there. But U.S. currency is used here, so that’s good.

The floor plan of the condo is that you enter and the bath is on the left and the bedroom (king bed; vaulted, planked ceiling with ceiling fan and no wall but a picture-window-sized opening looking down in the living room), tile floors, you go down four steps to a full kitchen (though galley-sized) on the left (below the bath) and the living room area to the left and dining/breakfast area on the left just “outside” the kitchen. The wall to the condo-width balcony is 90 percent sliding glasses doors and 6’ x 4’ windows (the size of the sliding doors). Ceiling fans in kitchen and living room. The wooden, planked ceiling goes up to a point in the center of the entire condo (probably 20 feet up), so it seems very spacious. Shells and “island” artwork all around – see pictures.

No wireless internet in the condo but I can access it up near the check-in/registration office in an activities center. But there was a gift pint of Cruzan waiting for us in the condo. That was certainly a nice little gift. And, oh, yes, incidentally – free porn on the condo cable TV – yikes! But it is a couples-only resort . . . .

But poor Roaming Magnum, G.I.! I keep having that Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart song running through my mind: “Can’t help if I wonder, I wonder what he’s doing tonight, toniiiiight oooh, oh, I wonder, I wonder, I wonder where he’s roaming tonight . . . .” Larry says, wherever he is, he’s trashed on the margarita components that were packed and wearing Larry’s Hawaiian shirts in the bag.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Both of us had a hard time getting to sleep last night. I guess we were both just a little too wired to relax, with all that had gone on. We had gone to K-Mart to try to find swimsuits, but all the women’s swimsuits were size 22 – I guess MOST people who come here already HAVE swimsuits! Those at K-Mart fit the local population. BUT Larry’s More cigarettes that are $40 a carton in Atlanta are $17.99 at K-Mart! Thank goodness for small favors.

Plus we spent 25 minutes in the drive-through at McDonald’s (that’s a LONG time when you’re sitting in a drive-through!). Let me tell you, at least here, on this side of the island, there IS no such thing as “fast food.” We tried to get Sausage/Egg McMuffins this morning (yes, we should have known better but we thought maybe Saturday night at McDonald’s was a fluke – NOT!).

After a run back to K-Mart to get shorts/swimsuits for Larry (not desperate enough yet to get me a dreadful one), we did find a grocery store this morning and replenished our supplies for margaritas and breakfast sundries. Back to the condo and then the long walk down the rocky trails zig-zagging back and forth to the beach. I was still in shorts and shirt, so we didn’t go snorkeling at this time, though we picked up our “complimentary” snorkel gear at water activities place down on the shore. We spent about an hour down there, wading around the point to get to Sugar Beach, where most of the people there are from the Wyndham Resort, next door, I think. But we had to wade back around the point to get back to our path back up the hill. Luckily we found one of the service people at our resort in a shuttle vehicle there, and he gave us a ride back to the condo at the top of the hill. Larry was getting irritated that I couldn’t go in the water, not as much because of the lack of a swimsuit (I can go in wearing shorts and a shirt), but I don’t have a boogie board to float me. I can’t swim, so I can go snorkeling only with something to keep me afloat while I put my masked face in the water.

So, poor Larry! BACK to K-Mart where I give up and buy the black bottom of a two-piece swimsuit and a black sports bra/tankini to wear as a top. Plus Larry found a kiddie-size. blow-up, plastic half-“mattress” float that should support me. So tomorrow we should be snorkeling.

Magnum, G.I., is still MIA, unfortunately. After numerous frustrating and fruitless calls to numerous Delta numbers, we FINALLY found out at 5 p.m. this afternoon, that, as best Delta can tell, our checked bag went from where we checked it in at the employee travel check-in up to Baggage Claim and came off at carrousel 7, where they think it’s been sitting ever since. It never even got SENT on the conveyor to be put on our plane. (The cool thing is, since Larry is a Delta employee, he can find out exactly WHO scanned it incorrectly and sent it to Baggage Claim without having ever been anywhere. What he can do with this information, I don’t know. But I cannot adequately express how inconvenient this has been. Larry has been wearing the same shirt for the last two days, poor baby At least I ended up with three shirts, since I’d stuffed a couple of shirts and shorts of mine in the computer and camera bags we carried on. But underwear was something I had to buy at K-Mart.)

We didn’t take any pictures today. We didn’t do much really worth photo­graphing today, since all we really did was try repeatedly to find replacements for what didn’t arrive in the lost bag. The beach was nice, but with my lack of snorkeling gear, it wasn’t very picture-worthy today. So far what we’ve seen of the island isn’t all that photogenic – even though we are in a “resort” area, it’s surrounded basically by Third World scenery. The roads make the impassable roads in Hawaii look good, the drivers are crazy – stopping anywhere in the middle of the road, anytime, pulling out in front of you, at their choice of timing, traffic always clogged up, not aided by the jitney-style open-air taxi/bus type vehicle that stops frequently. Well, it’s just strange and not what we’re used to, okay? We’re spoiled, “ugly Americans.”

Hopefully tomorrow will be more fun. Now I have to go up to the “activities center” to see if I can get wireless internet access so I can get this uploaded. Otherwise, I have to pay $9.99 per day for internet access.

We do hope MGI is still residing in the bag at the Atlanta airport – and as of right now, that’s the best case scenario!

Golf (for MGI)

Monday, November 12, 2007

For pictures of today, cut and paste this path:

Then look for the album called “St. Thomas Part 2.”

After what we thought was good news last night – that the bag had been located and that “urgent” messages were being sent (from India, apparently, where Delta’s [and everyone ELSE’s] customer service is now) to Atlanta to tell Atlanta where Atlanta HAS the frigging bag and to put it on the flight to St. Thomas this morning, and urgent messages to St. Thomas to be looking for the baggage to come in today – it didn’t come in today, no one got any messages, and how Delta doesn’t even know where the bag is and denies every thing we were told yesterday about how it was supposedly located. We have spent as much time on the phone fighting with Delta as we have enjoying St. Thomas – and unfortunately for St. Thomas, this is almost ruining our experience here.

Last night, after I ended this recitation for the day, we had a terrific rainstorm last night. We spent a couple of hours out on the balcony last night looking at the stars (the only constellations I could identify were Orion and Cassiopeia) and then the clouds started rolling in and we played “what does that look like?” We found jack-o’lanterns, Komodo dragons, Scottie dogs, the man in the moon, a sea turtle, etc. Larry went to sleep first and then the rainstorm started. Frankly, I enjoyed it. The peaked roof echoed the rain and wind wonderfully, to my way of thinking. So I enjoyed going to sleep with the howling wind and rain on the roof.

This morning was clear, initially, though Larry’s one shirt that I had washed got re-drenched overnight on the porch but was still drying, sort of. We suited up in our bought-here swimsuits and went to the beach for snorkeling (we were able to access the beach via the Wyndham next door), where we snorkeled for a while with our complimentary equipment, which wasn’t quite as adequate as the top-of-the-line equipment we usually rent in Hawaii (you get what you pay for, evidently) – Larry’s mask kept fogging up (in spite of his spitting in it, which, I understand is what you are supposed to do if you don’t have the anti-fogging liquid that is provided by Snorkel Bob in Hawaii), but I’m so used to looking through foggy lens, that wasn’t a problem for me.

Sorry to be the Hawaii-negative again, but the fish to be seen here while snorkeling – and the underwater geography of reefs, etc., is not as pretty as what we saw in Hawaii. The fish, we think, are mostly damsels and wrasses, a few tangs and surgeon fish, and some we haven’t ID’d yet. I saw one tiny yellow tang – which are as common as air in Hawaiian waters – and very pretty. There were some pretty fish – especially the blue tangs – but we were a little disappointed.

However, my little plastic float thingy was great! It allowed me much more maneuverability than a big, stiff boogie board, allowed me to rest a little deeper in the water to put my face down, and it supported me fine. So I really liked that, and wherever we go snorkeling next, I’m deflating this and taking it home and packing it, flat, for the next trip.

We got some good pictures of the iguanas that are all around the Wyndham, plus some kind of sea bird/tern (?) we can’t identify. We bought a couple of frozen drinks from the outdoor bar, but then the bugs started pestering us and we headed back to the parking lot – and the rains came again! We had about an hour of another heavy rain, which really made everything hot and humid when the sun came back out.

It was about time to check with Delta again for our bag – and hence, another two hours of no information.

But we had some more rain this afternoon – that came in right as we were walking to the parking lot from the beach – run! We got pretty drenched – and the parking area is about a block (distance-wise, not geographically) from the condo. So we came in and showered to wash off the salt water and let the rain run its course. Down to the activities center for an internet log-in so Larry could check financials. I didn’t have our daily entry done yet, nor the pictures edited, so that will have to wait till later, for uploading.

We found a Guest Book in the condo today, with writings from the owners of the condo and visitors’ entries. That was very interesting. Wish we’d found it – or noticed it to read it – the first night. There is a lot of information in it about where to go and what to do (and not do) – better than any guidebook. But most people, we discovered, eat out a LOT more than we do. And can you believe it? – In the Guest Book, there were no complaints of waiting in the drive-through at McDonald’s or KFC! Just restaurant reviews of restaurants we haven’t even seen, much less been to. We have a condo with a full kitchen – we buy food and cook it and eat it (except for MickeyDees and KFC – lol).

However, we have given this condo our “third best” rating as to condos we have stayed in during our travels to timeshare places. The first place still has to go to the huge and beautiful condo in Cabo San Lucas; the second is the, again, huge condo at the Mauna Loa Village on the Big Island. This place does have the gorgeous view and we love the layout with the “view through” from the bedroom area, over the living room, out the windows to the balcony. But the first two were timeshare exchanges – thus EXCEEDINGLY affordable (less than $200 for seven nights) and we paid three times that for four nights here, so that always enters into our factoring for “placing” in terms of grading accommodations. And, unfortunately, the lost bag thread continues to run through this visit and colors enjoyment. I do, however, intend to leave an entry in the Guest Book, where the owners have asked for suggestions. I will definitely compliment them on the individualized touches that have added here (things I have already mentioned or photographed) but I intend to add a couple of suggestions – (1) add a blackboard so a message can be left for future visitors to find and read the Guest Book first to “find” the individualized and specific information that may be needed and (2) put an umbrella in the closet on the “honor” system (maybe with a tag stating such) – since it does seem to rain here frequently and catch visitors by surprise, and the parking lot is a noticeable distance from the condo when one is hurrying in the pouring rain.

You see, most of the places we stay are timeshares, so the condo is not owned by individuals year-round who actually take care of and do unit improvements themselves – they’re maintained by an association, we assume. Here we are, in essence, visiting in someone else’s second home, so the special touches here are specific to this unit – which is very nice and has a personal touch (some of which I could personally do without – I really don’t want to think about all the honeymooners who have spent a week in “our” bed! -- or the families or . . . . well, you get what I mean. I think I rather like the anonymity of NOT KNOWING who was previously sleeping where I sleep at night – I mean, it’s not something I particularly WANT to think about!).

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