Ladies and Gentleman, Take My Advice, Pull Down Your Pants and Slide on the Ice

August 14, 2023

OK, there are a couple of you who should get that quote… lets see.

I’ve never really grasped the full meaning of the phrase, but I believe the essence of the meaning is something like, if sometimes in life you might be surrounded by trouble or discomfort but you need to retain a sense of humor and make the best of a bad time.

Well yesterday wasn’t “bad” by any stretch of a measure. But it sure had some frustrating moments. Mostly around unexpected/undisclosed fees, service charges, delays, overages which all rolled together by the end of the day to add about $400 to the cost of yesterday…. but like I said, slide on the ice right?

But really, yesterday was quite glorious. Before I said good bye to Mr. Belvedere (thanks Joe!) and the St. Regis I spent several hours chilling out on the beach and in the ocean (ocean temp of 87 degrees!!!). Then put an empty backpack on my lounge chair to hold it while I went back to the room, packed up, showered, got dressed for Church (as well as I could) and headed of to mass at Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Río Grande. Only a 10 minute drive from the hotel, the church is a quite lovely small church situated off what seemed to be a village square.

Now I’ve been to mass in a LOT of different places, in many differfent languages, but this place was different. So incredibly vibrant, the music was distinctly latin influenced, the peoplel were softly clapping their hands and singing loudly. Just a lot of energy. I hate to say it but so very different than at home. Needless to say, I was not understanding a word being said as the rapid fire Spanish was too fast for me to even catch any of the maybe 50 words I know. So I surreptiously tried to used Google Translate on my phone, but it couldn’t keep up either. So I kicked back and just enjoyed an hour in the presence of our Lord.

This much I can tell you however, I believe it was teh associate pastor, a young man of about 30, was on FIRE. He was gesticulating like crazy, passiionately exhorting the congregation to spontaneous laughter and the occasional Amen from the crowd all while he would do the occasional hop or a little dance kick or hip sway. It was kind of a crazy cross between a southern fundamentalist Baptist preacher and priest. Very very wild, I turly wish I could have understood what he was saying.

Then back to the hotel, 30 more minutes in the water and a final shower and off to my car.

Thanks to the Tenkel clan, I knew about this beach bar they said they loved about 15 minutes away , towards the airport, El Trasmayo. Now if you ever find yourself in this part of the world and want a GREAT local watering hole with fantastic food bites this is it. When I say it is on the water, it is ON THE WATER. You will drive down a narrow windy road, through a pretty dilappedated neighborhood, but keep goign. When you get to the end of the road, it is likely the gate will be closed (to keep out the riff-raff) but if you look directly to your left there is a half build cinderblock home where you can park in the grass in front/under the house.

One of hte barkeeps speaks good english, the empanadas are amazing as are the shrimp (Camerones) pita like pocket thing I had. Washed down with a Medella beer while watching the terquoise ocean lap the shore, nothing better!

Now I have left myself at this point just underr 2 hours to get to the airport before my rental car was due so I decided to take the scenic route that Google said was mostly clear with onl one small slowdown. Well that small slowdown cost me 45 mintues. Which as it turns out, meant I returned my car 57 minutes late to the rental car agency (57 minutes over the 24 hour rental I booked)… so they have decided that this 57 minutes is worth $27.50. The car rental cost me $38… so 57 minutes cost me a whopping 75% as much as the entire day’s booking. Someone has some explaining to do when I get a chance. Thankfuly I was in a bit of a time crunch at the timem I returned the car so I didn’t know this until later at the next airport.

You see I was retruning the car at the man San Juan airort, Luis Munoz International Airport (SJU), but my flight to Culebra departed from Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport, or Isla Grande Airport (SIG). This airport is about a 15 mintue ride from SJU. Uber has consistently been idenifed as the cheapest way there and indeed, the rate was $15. However, when it went to update driver details, it said 25 minutes to pickup which mean an hour roughly until (yes I’m taking Island Time into account) until I reached SIG, which would be WAY too close for comfort. Fortunately, you can always count on some enterprising indiviual to be wandering arond trying to poach rides and this airport was no excpetion. He came up and offered me a ride over the airport in a very nice SUV forr $22 right away. The comfort of knowing I would get there with plenty of timem was worth the extra $7 (of course there is another upcharge I wasn’t expecting).

The driver however was crazy friendly and we talked about how he learned english driving the taxi and watching movies he knew by heart which english subtities on. I guess I am going to have to start watching M*A*S*H* wtih Spansih subtitles as I know every line to every episode, maybe it will help.

Eventually we ge to the one gate airport wedged between the Air Force medivac helicopter field and the shipping port. At check in, I, personally, had to step up on the baggage scale, then my backpack and my daypack. Guess what.. more fees… it seems my two bags exeeded some 25lb limit I had no idea about so there was another $30. But I’m checked in, I’m early and I have a diet coke which I’d been jonesin’ for for two days!

Now I sit down, pull out my phone, read the email bill from Avis and find out that fiasco on how a $38 rental charge turned into $108. Then I opened my bill from the St. Regis…. WOW… I knew I spent about $200 in food and drink, but WHAM, the bill is $400. Turns out an undisclosed “resort fee” of $99 (plus 11.5% tax) parking and about 9 other fees and surcharges, totaled up to another $200. Slide on the ice.

I was actually very proud of myself, I really didn’t get too bent out of shape. Don’t get me wrong I was a bit upset and annoyed, but I didn’t get hot. Thx docs!

Now its time to fly. Well this is a little Britten-Norman BN2 Islander, apparently has a capacity of up to 9 passengers, but we have only 4. I partially guess this is due to my fat ass as well as my 40 poulds of luggage limiting how many folks they can put on the plane. I of course being the largets of the passengers, as the last to board as they wanted the weight forward/center in the plane which mean I was in the row directly behind the cockpit. I noticed the pilot was watching a baseball game on his phone when I sat down so I asked who was winnning. He said the Marlin’s were getting crushed but he lived in Miami so what choice did he have on who to root for. I commiserated and said at least you’re not a Tigers fan, I live in Detroit. He rolled his eyes, laughed, and simply said, “root, root, root for the home team”… I like this guy!

Well the flight was smooth, we flew right over the St. Regis so there is a pic below with that from the air, then along what I did not know what there but essentially a string of rock outcroppings and out islands that lead pretty much the whole way to Cuelebra. The approach into Cuelebra was a cute little thing swinging around the mountain, with a last minute bank into the runway. But we got to fly over world famous Flaminco Beach which was cool. I plan on headed up there after my dive today to check it out.

Takoff From Isla Grande Airport (SIG)
Landing at Cuelbra Airport (CPX)

A quick 5 minute walk down the street and I’m at Carlos Jeep Rentals (which also offers golf carts). Some chit and chat at the counter and I find mysel getting upgraded to the pimp daddy version of the golf cart.

Then its off to find this apartment I’ve rented through Booking.com. It is Villa Ensenada Honda. Well, the villa is actually up on a hill but the Google Maps directions take you to the road down the hill. Which, when it tells you that you have arrived, you can look to your left about 750 meteres up a hill and take in the majesty of hte apartment… but you can’t get to it. But Lizzette (host) was super helpful, made sure I got to where I was going , knew which lock box was mine and into the condo I went.

First impressions… AMAZING view. Second impressions, HOLY WOW this place is smoking HOT.. please tell me I didn’t forget to look for AC on the list of amenities. In the immediate room is a futon so I’m thinking I rented an efficiency type apartment, not a problem, just want to find the AC… no AC in that room.. I walk down the hallway to the bathroom, no controls on the walls… I’m tired and sweaty so I head back out to the patio to gather my thoughts. I pull up the reservation, sure enogh it says AC. OK, now I have to find it. Well, genius, there was one more door at the end of the hall in my rush that I just blocked from my vision I guess. It was the bedroom and there as the AC. Now at that pointI knew it would be dubious as to if that would be able to cool the whole place but I’d give it my best shot. Cranked temp all the way down, fan all the way up and opened the bedoom door and hoped it woudl reach the living area.

Eventually it did and cooled it to maybe 75-78 dgrees.. descent enough for what I needed as I wasn’t planning on spending much time there. While I waited for the cooling process you absolutely know what I was craving… a BEER. So pulled out the trusty google and it said there as a General Store 2 minutes down teh road that was open. Well that was wrong… was I surprised.. no. But the other side of the parking lot was the seediest bar that rivaed any I’d seen around the world. So I walked in thinking lots of times these types of countries will sell beer to go from the bar. However, I do have to say I was getting eyballed pretty hard by the locals in there which was when I noticed there as a Drive-Thru window to this place…. Get outta dodge! Lets try it!

So I hop in my golf cart and get in line. In front of my is an SUV and I can see at least 6 if not 8 shots being sent out the window and watching the driver and passenger toast each other and throw back the shots… WTF… un-freaking believable. Well, mental note, give all drivers a VERY wide berth, cause they are probably drunk. I finally make the window, get a 6 pack of Medella Lite (why don’t thy make a full on version of this stuff) which is kind of like makig love in a canoe.. figure it out. Prices here were reasonable about $2 / beer, probably expensive for the island but a damn sight cheaper than everywhere else I’ve been.

So then back to the apartment to put the beer in the cooler and find a place to eat. As its now creeping on 7pm my options are definitely limited. But I find this place called Zacos Tacos. Not only were they still open, their prices, while truly not reasonable to me yet, were about 15% less than the others and I was hungry and most importantly they took orders over the internet. Perfect. I just wanted something simple so ordered a chicken Quesadilla with some guac and was on my way.

Now I don’t know what the local excuse here in Puerto Rico is (in Michigan its the “Oh, its the freeze/thaw”) but their roads are every bit as horrible as ours. Dodging potholes, drainage ditches, roosters, cats, horses, you name it. But I get to my destination, amazingly find a parking spot the perfect size for a golf cart and go to pick up my food. Now this place is seriously cool inside, I may have to go back for drinks, but I proably will not as I know me and I love a beach side bar which I have to find!

Back to the apartment, as soon as I pull my food out on the deck to eat, I’m descended on by the kitty mafia… yes I mean gatos, cats… at least six of these ferral bastards could smell my food and came running.

This Little Guy was WAY More Persistant Than The Others

I literally walked 20 ft inside to grab a fork and when I came back out one of them had their head in my food bag. So I spend about 5 minutes shooing these characters away and start eating. The food was AMAZING. I mean it was a quesadilla so it shouldn’t be that hard, but I’ve had some bad ones.

From there the evening was pretty benign. I was starting to get buzzed by no-see-em’s and I didn’t feel like putting on bug spray as I just took a shower. So I went inside. I got everything plugged in to make sure all my batteries for camera, strobes and video ligh were all charged full. Then did the assembly job on the camera body to the camera frame, camera into the camera body, strobes arms on the camera frame, srobes on the camera arms and the video light on the camera body mount. Thinking I’m doe, I crack my final beer for the evening (only 3 but these are lik 9oz beers). About halfway through I realize I didn’t hook up the strobe light trigger cables. The most crucial part in the whole operation and one that I always screw up the first time. Today was no different. I finally got all that accomplished, and I was in my bedroom wehre it was cool and I was tired. So I just decided, I have nothing to prove staying up late, so I’m going to bed. Yes, me… in bed.. by 9pm!!

So I’m up early again this morning writting yesterday’s blog. Today holds some diving. I don’ t honestly have high hopes as I’m going with Aquatic Adventures and when Ann told me that on the one day I had to dive on Culebra, she already had a father and two junior divers, I know that a) we’ll be going to relatively benign and dare I say it boring locations, but 2) I can likely count on people bouncing off the bottom destroying visibility. But any day under the water is a good day in my book so I’m not stressed.

I miss everyone at home and hope you are all well!

4 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentleman, Take My Advice, Pull Down Your Pants and Slide on the Ice”

  • http://BEACON%20&%20Bouys

    I’m exhausted just reading this. Mass sounded truly uplifting even though you could not understand, you felt the community love. Ocean looks amazing. Extra charges could fund a scholarship somewhere! Sounds like you are having fun which is always a good thing.

  • http://Sidney%20Freedman

    Always an adventure with you Bill. I have a rule not to get on planes that need to know your weight before you get on!
    Or, as I like to say, “I’m not going out there without my bulletproof couch!”

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