If we had gone on the cruise ship we would have been looking at living quarters so small a person could wipe his ass and blow his wife's nose in the same swipe (Doing it in that order, not recommended). So when we arrived at our villa and realized that we had just scored the ultimate party pad for the next five days, we were extremely ecstatic. Well, until the lady showing us the place pointed out the ceiling fans and we noticed she had a full compliment of armpit hair anyway. Even then, we were still pretty stoked. To begin with, the two-story villa had four bedrooms, four bathrooms (that doubled as courtyards), kitchens up stairs and down, a hot tub, and a pool and, oh, by the way, it was located on top of a mountain so we could basically see half of St. John every time we looked out the window. Plus, the owners left us a full wet bar that worked sort of like that penny tray at the Quickie Mart - need a liter, take a liter, have a liter, leave a liter. So we had that going for us, which is nice.
HAVE SHOVEL, WILL TRAVEL
Once you get your breath back from seeing the island for the first time and walking up one those hills that ought to come complete with its own Shirpa, you realize very quickly that there isn't a whole hell of lot to do on St. John, other than go to the beach or hang at the bar. Which is actually just fine seeing how you don't really feel like doing much else anyway.
Other than the obligatory shopping trip to "Tourists R Us" and perhaps a visit to a historical sugar mill ruin for some conscience-appeasing culture, most tourists spend a lot of the time hitting the beaches for suntans and snorkeling. And the great thing about the beaches in the Virgin Islands, there are a ton of them and all are open to the public. So whether you're into the people watching scene or would like a more intimate atmosphere, St. John has you covered. If you ever go, we recommend Cinnamon Beach. It's just past a couple of other popular beaches (Trunk and Hawksnest), but the snorkeling is just as good, the crowds are light because the cruise ship passengers don't know about it and if say, your eccentric friend Mike, decides to dig a hole big enough to be seen from outer space, you don't have to worry about some Park Ranger busting your chops. As for why Mike feels the need to dig these geological monoliths, I'm not exactly sure. If you ask him, I suppose he'd respond similarly to that mountain climbing Sir Edmund Hillary guy and simply say "because it's (not) there."
JOE, JOE, JOE YOUR BOAT
With only two days left on St. John, Whitney, the consummate traveler, pulled another feather out of her cap and under her direction, the eight of us chartered a boat to take us from one end of the Virgin Islands to the other. The name of our boat, and this is no joke, was the "Magnum V.I." I swear, you can't make this kind of shit up. And even though Tom Selleck didn't show up to guide us, we were pretty happy with Captain Joe, a cross between Tommy Bahamas and Long John Silver. Along with the captain was his first mate Kim, a Jersey girl who, unless I'm mistaken, had successfully defended her crown for best butt in the Caribbean six times now. Fortunately, we have pictures to prove it thanks to wingman extraordinaire Mike "honey, I was just taking a picture of the anchor" Travis. And while I'm sure that excuse floated about as well as the anchor did with Mike's wife Vicki, the guys all appreciate Mike's sacrifice just the same.
About an hour and three beers (complimentary on the boat, which is nice) into a pretty bitchin' Booze Cruise, we reached Virgin Gorda, which, for those of you who aren't "bilateral," means "fat virgin" in Spanish. And I'll save you the time and just say "no they did not name the island after me." Anyway, from a distance, it kind of looks like Easter Island except the natives never tried to do any rhinoplasty on the exposed rocks. Instead there's a cool path along the beach interspersed among these huge boulders known as the "Baths." It's hard to describe this series of pseudo caves other than to liken it to that scene from "Goonies" when Sloth lifts that big rock up so Chunk can get his fat ass through the hole ("Sloth love Chunk"). Get the picture?
At the end of the trail is a little hut where you can buy beer and other assorted goods and also the place I experienced my only casualty of the trip. While walking amongst the sunbathers and staring at "nothing in particular", I filleted my big toe open on a rock causing a gash that would make the movie Jaws look like one of those Jimmy Houston fishing shows Saturday mornings on the Deuce. Fortunately for me, Captain Joe had a First Aid kit on the boat and after a few beers, some rubbing alcohol and my wife Maura going to town on my toe like she was dissecting a frog in Biology class, I was good to go.
THE JOLLY ROGERING
Next, we stopped for lunch on a boat anchored in the middle of a Bight off the coast of Norman Island affectionately known as the S/S William Thornton or Willy T's depending on how many "Bushwackers" (it's a drink, not a porn star) you've consumed. And though you won't find this dirigible of a diner on any map or tourist guide, I assure you that it does indeed exist. Go to www.williamthornton.com if you don't believe me. As far as I know, it's the first pirate ship with its own web site.
Besides a damn good cheeseburger and a full service bar, the other claim to fame on this infamous boat is Willy T's version of walking the plank. Instead of tying your hands behind your back and forcing you to jump off a diving board, the bartenders "encourage" patrons to go up to the roof and jump off the deck in their birthday suits. And let me tell you, if you think your pool at home causes shrinkage, try hanging winky over the edge of a 30 foot drop off. In the end, Mike and I decided to take the plunge with our suits on, but wouldn't you know it, there just happened to be two strippers eating lunch at the same time. So we had that going for us, which is nice. And when I say strippers, I don't mean a couple of girls gone wild, I mean cocaine, boob job, lap dancing specialists. I think they even had business cards. So for journalistic purposes only I assure you, I followed the ladies out to watch them take the plunge. You had to be there. Most people put their hands over their faces or try to hold their noses before they jump, but these two just held onto their boobs like their lives depended on it. And after meeting the two Guidos they were hanging with, I can understand why. Boats, burgers and hooters...what a day. What a trip.
BACK TO THE BIRDCAGE
As a little ancillary bonus, we were "forced" to spend our last night of the trip back in Miami before catching our originally scheduled flight back home on Sunday. So where do you go when you've got some time to kill in Little Havana, South Beach baby. And seeing how Lady Luck was still kissing our dice, wouldn't you know we just happened to meet a young lady in the airport who just happened to work for Holiday Inn. Go figure. And for no real reason at all, other than the fact that a lot of people think I look mentally challenged and feel sorry for me, she hooked us up with a couple of rooms at about 75% off the rack rate. So we had that going for us, which is nice.
Not long after dropping off our bags, we were headed down Ocean Drive to a kitschy little spot called the News Cafe - thanks to Whitney and her magical cell phone once again. So I'm about three Mojitos (Mexican Mint Julep) into a liquid lunch when Kristie starts explaining the notion that "Jack" is a nickname for guys named Jon. Why we were talking about this other than the fact that Kristie's husband's name is Jon, I have no idea. I guess after a week together, we'd pretty much covered everything else. Regardless, never one to shy away from a conversation, I blurted out "yeah, how the hell do you get Dick out of Richard anyway?" And if you've ever been to South Beach, you'll probably agree that another example, like "Bill from William," would have been slightly more appropriate. But oh well, after six days with me, I'm quite sure the group, like most of you who know me by now, weren't surprised and probably expected it.
So maybe Jimmy had it right all along. As I see it, vacationers are passive and predestined for whatever happens to them on their journeys and in their lives. On the other hand, travelers try to dictate their pathways and do the best they can, with what they've got, to control their own destinies. In the end, there are no guarantees except one, shit happens. What you do after that is up to you. Be a traveler.
By the way, though I wasn't able charge the whole vacation on the Underhill's Amex card, in addition to being refunded for the cruise, Norwegian Cruise Lines gave each of us a voucher for a free cruise. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
54b is the resident clown of Burnt Orange Nation. He's got his own blog, which is stocked to the brim with great stories just like this one. Have a gander for yourself.