Monday, December 15, 2014

St. John

Our adventure began by coming up to Chicago to spend time with Mateo and Helena. These two grandkids of ours are so incredibly clever, cute, and every other high commendation one can give. Helena is just eight weeks old.

At 2:15 AM we were woken up by both Tom and my alarms. We ate a quick breakfast, then requested a ride through the Uber service. This new technology made me see our future where we may not need to own cars: competing companies with fleets of hundreds or thousands of cars coming within minutes at your beckon at a very reasonable price and driving away once you are at your destination.

I pressed a button on my iPhone to request a ride at 2:45 AM. Immediately I saw a photo of a driver, name, ID info. At the same time, I could see his little car on the map turning around toward our location and a timer going: 6 minutes to arrival. I watched as that little car turned to our direction and then onto our street. Just as the timer went to 0, a car stopped in front of our house, the driver came out and loaded our luggage, and off we went into the empty and dark streets of Chicago and on to O'Hare International Airport.

Our plane departed at 5:45 AM. We flew into Fort Lauderdale at 9:20 AM. When did I come here before? The name and place seemed so familiar, though Tom told me we've never been here before. Time to begin unlayering my many layers of clothing. By 12:30 PM, we were on another plane, and we finally arrived at St. Thomas at 4:45 PM.

The cars here are huge! For such a little island, it should be all little cars, especially since there are not many roads, and the roads are narrow. At the car rental, they recommended that we rent either a Jeep (4WD)  or SUV (4WD), but we went the cheaper route and rented a Ford Fiesta. I could not imagine renting a huge car at twice the expense. As the day unwound, I started to think maybe the terrain requires 4WD! The hills are steep, and there are so many blind turns where you cannot see the oncoming cars until you are passing them. They drive American cars (steering wheel on the left) but drive on the left side of the road (English style), which can totally throw off your sense of what's what. When Tom was driving in England, they drove on the left side but the steering wheels were on the right side, so eventually Tom got used to mirror-image driving. The unusual arrangement of British driving with American cars feels strange.

As we left the St. Thomas airport in our shiny red Ford Fiesta (feeling very young), it became evident that we were not in the USA anymore. Soon we ran into flooding on one of the major roads. We wondered if our Ford Fiesta would come out OK. Then we encountered so many pot holes filled with rainwater, and the sewer drains in the streets were covered with what looked like iron grills which did not seem strong enough to hold up cars that were driving over them. Maybe another reason for an SUV or Jeep? I had to close my eyes many times in the heavy traffic of BIG cars on a little island with narrow streets as cars butted in front of us, and watching Tom trying to not lose his place in traffic.

It was getting dark when we finally got to Red Hook Bay where we would drive our car onto a barge to go to St. John, the island we want to vacation on. We are told that they do not take a credit card. Tom has to get cash (US currency). It is after 6 PM, the last barge for the night. Tom went off to get currency. Meanwhile, cars were parked in such a way that all the cars were trapped by other cars. We are not in US anymore. It is a US territory, but it does not feel like the US. So our first day began. Yes Tom did get cash. We got our car onto the barge and came to St John.

We are in St. John now up on a high, steep hill. The hill feels like we're driving at about 45 degrees. We parked on a road which is about 45 degree incline, then walked up a steeper and rougher terrain hill to our one bedroom guest home.