Vida en la isla

12/04-07/2023

Monday started out as any other day of the week, Kathy sat down, drank her coffee, and got to work. Not at all what Dave expected for living the island life.  Chilling on the couch, he waited for mom to wake up and Kathy to finish work, both which happened at approximately the same time.   We spent the rest of the afternoon just relaxing with mom until she retreated to her bedroom for some quiet time and a nap.  Late afternoon saw Kathy and Dave heading to San Juan to experience a bioluminescence kayak tour that takes place in Bio Bay, Fajardo. The approximately two hour tour saw us kayak down a narrow river canal that ended up in what is considered bio bay, which is home to single cell organisms that glow in the dark. We sheltered from the ambient light under a tarp and played with the water that glowed when we moved and touched the water.  It was a fun, wet time and we enjoyed the trip immensely, especially after Kathy bought a dry sarong for the trip home.

Enroute to Fajardo, they passed El Conquistador Resort.  Dave recalled staying there overnight back around 1995 while he was working for the National Park Service.  Hurricane Marilyn had recently hit the Caribbean and devastated the US Virgin Islands.  He was sent on a detail as the Security Manager for the hurricane relief effort.  He flew from Washington DC to San Juan where he met up with other members of the NPS team.  They could not get a flight to the Virgin Islands that day, so they had to overnight in Puerto Rico.  The next morning, the NPS managed to fly the team over to St. Croix on a US Air Force C-130 cargo plane.  Ahh, memories!

Tuesday dawned bright and early as we headed back to San Juan to meet a couple from the area, Maria and Raul. We met them on a trip to Egypt a few years ago and hit it off with them. A fun and engaging couple who enjoy their family, travel, and life, which is a connection we share with them.  Finally getting to the rendezvous point, we texted to let them know we were here and Kathy scampered over to the local Burger King to use the bathroom! Going in the door, Kathy met Maria going out the same door – great minds think alike. We soon headed off the El Yunque National Forest to discover the only rain forest in the US National Forest System.  El Yunque National Forest – Home (usda.gov)  The area is beautiful with stunning waterfalls, graceful ferns hugging the edges of the road, and flowers blooming in every corner. We climbed an area tower where we had beautiful view that gave us the overview of the rich green tropical forest, then the city, and then the ocean all the way to where a cruise ship was “parked” in the water. (Of which Kathy thought was a building and Raul attempted to give her a geography lesson—little does he know she is geographically challenged)  Next stop was a traditional lunch nestled alongside the beach where we enjoyed a local meal and ice cream.  Soon it was time to head off and we were sorry to say adios. We hope to see them again soon as they are such a joy to be around.  Arriving home early, Kathy worked a bit and Dave chilled enjoying some quiet time.

Last day here saw us spend some more time as we would at home, kind of like home away from home – except with no snow. We did get an opportunity to spend some more time with family in the afternoon on a trip to the Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy with Kathy’s sister, nephew, and some friends of her sister Frieda. The cavern is considered the third largest underground cave system in the world. The main part of the cavern is seventeen stories high and is awe inspiring when standing in the middle of the massive cavern. At one point you can see an opening on each side of the cavern which enhances the overall delight of the cave system.

Last thing the agenda was a relaxed local meal with Kathy’s mom and then some time saying goodbye to the family. We were soon headed off to the airport for our 0100 am flight out of Aguadilla where we hoped to catch a few zzzzz’s before our seven hour layover in Newark’s airport.

Dave remarked that he knew this wasn’t a vacation as he was not called upon to do any EMS (as has happened the last few vacations!) and Kathy drank coffee and was glued to her laptop. Kathy, on the other hand, felt that “vida en la isla” was a nice respite as she got to wear shorts in December, and chill with her family during her downtime. It was nice to see her sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and mom – something that she has missed the last couple of years.   And, for the first time in the last 3 trips, Dave was not robbed by any monkeys!

La Vida Loca en Puerto Rico!

11/30/2023

Start, stop!  Start, stop!  Start, stop!

The start of our trip began pretty uneventfully as we went to our Dave’s brother, George’s, house, picked up him and his wife, Judy, and dropped them off at the airport.  We then went and got something to eat. Next task – we dropped our car off at their house and called an Uber to take us to the airport.  We then hit our first “stop”:  when we tried to pay for our Uber by credit card, we kept on getting the twirl of death. Trying the third credit card, it finally went through.  But then Dave realized that the address Kathy had put in was a few houses down the block. Schlepping down the block with our luggage, we waited in the cold weather, wearing our “warm weather” clothes for PR, as we tracked the Uber driver to see how close he was.  Phew!  Finally we were at the airport where we gratefully waited to start boarding for our first flight.  It was on-time and had no unforeseen glitches.  Once we got to Newark, our next delay occurred when our layover was longer than expected.  The flight before ours was delayed leaving the gate, preventing our plane from parking there.  Of course, that delayed boarding our plane. Kathy was given an opportunity to upgrade to first class, but there was only one seat available and she decided sitting next to Dave for four hours was the better option! Finally, we arrived in Puerto Rico.

Our next stage that we needed to start was getting the rental car.  Of course, there was a delay there, but, while it was a bit painful, it did not stop us from finally getting on our way. We knew it had to be too good to be true!  That old adage came true when, 30 minutes into the journey to our nephew’s Airbnb, the rental car agent called us. “You have to come back to the airport.” he says. What??? Apparently he forgot to give us the key to the car which was running when he presented it to us. (It has a push button starter.) In this case, if we did not turn around and drive back to the airport, when we next stopped the car, we would not have been able to start it again! Trekking back to the rental agency, we tried not to let it get the best of us.  After all, we are living the “island life” right now.  Heading back to Graham’s Airbnb was much quicker as Dave quickly learned that when in Puerto Rico, he should do as the Puerto Ricans do.  Apparently, after midnight, people consider it optional to stop at red lights!  He swiftly got the hang of checking quickly and then darting through the red light.  We did drive up through a maze of a road that was narrow and rutted and twisted and turned – Dave really thought he was on a 5 mile long driveway!  But, at no point did we have to stop and start again and we just kept going till we hit the bed – at 3 AM.

Morning came early… like way early…as we soon figured out when the dogs started barking, the roosters started crowing, oh, and of course, the battery in the smoke alarm angrily chirped that it needed to be replaced. Yep, we had started to sleep at 0300, but that ended rudely early.  We were soon out the door though, and yep! our vacation really started!

 

Friday saw us spend time with family, which was a treat for Kathy to spend time with her sister, mom, brother-in-law, nephew, and great nephew. We enjoyed pizza at the house and just talked and talked. Saturday saw Kathy and Dave head down to San Juan to see the San Juan National Historic Park San Juan National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) which has been part of the Puerto Rican landscape since the 1500’s.  We walked the parapets and gazed through the cannon portholes and even walked down into the cellar of the fortress. The drive was a nice treat and a good trial run as we will again head in that direction both Monday and Tuesday.  The end of the day saw us spend some more time with family as Dave regaled Paul with stories about Africa and went through the pictures from our most recent trip. It was a nice time all around.

Sunday, the day of rest, saw us start the day in a beautiful church that sits in the town square. While Kathy did not understand a word of the Spanish being spoken, she felt familiar enough with the rhythm of the mass that she could follow along, but praying in her native English. The rest of the day was spent chilling with mom at the Airbnb, letting her relax and spend some time with Kathy and Dave.  Dinner at a fancy restaurant where Graham worked capped off a perfect day. As we stop this post, we are fat and happy, just “living” the island life.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has history, great beaches, natural beauty and El Yunque – America’s only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System (…and home to bouncing frogs!)  Vieques Island has nature reserves and bioluminescent waters.  Oh, yeah, and Puerto Rico has Kathy’s Mom, sister and nephews who moved there to live la vida loca.  We will be heading there this fall.  Can’t wait!

Puerto Rico Info