Friday, June 13, 2014

"Is This Frostbite Or Sunburn?"


A hitch or two ago I started to feel like I was on a tropical vacation. The rig was moving which meant no mud to check and hardly any work to do. It was starting to warm up around here and though that meant nice toasty weather in the 30's and 40's, it also meant all the ice and snow was melting and making lots of lakes and potholes. At one point I heard there was a bear around our rig. I panicked for a moment until I heard it was "Just a grizzly bear," and then I felt immensely (but not entirely) relieved. I take this as a warning sign that I've been in the cold too long and should return to somewhere tropical, like Puerto Rico, where Travis and I spent our first married days.


We flew the day after the wedding, through Miami and Atlanta, all the way to San Juan, Puerto Rico. In San Juan, Travis was pulled aside after he showed his license. This made me a little nervous but turns out the TSA agent just wanted to show his buddies so everyone could have a good laugh at us poor Alaskan's living somewhere so cold. (We haven't switched our licenses to Washington state yet.)

Our flight to the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, a well kept secret Caribbean paradise located in the US, was an experience to say the least. It was in a tiny little plane that only sat about 10 people. They stashed our luggage everywhere. I mean, they actually popped open a compartment on the wing to put my purse in. I got to ride in the cockpit in the copilots seat. It was an amazing view the entire ride, crystal clear blue water and tropical green forest.
Travis had to sit in the back of the plane
But here I am in the co pilot seat!
The plane we flew in.
That little dark blue area on the wing has a hatch where they put my purse and other luggage. 
This was literally right in front of me. 
My view out the side window.
My view out the front of the plane.
The Vieques airport
The island of Vieques is roughly only about 20 miles long by 4 miles wide. There are only two lane roads and the speed limit was never over 35 mph. We saw a couple iguanas run across the road and tons of little mongooses (mongeese??) running across the road. It only rained for about an hour the entire time we were there and the weather was pretty much always sunny and warm with a nice breeze. "Wild" horses roam everywhere. More accurately they are more like feral horses. Kinda of cool but much less glamorous than you might expect. It's also quite close to the Bermuda Triangle, however we did not get a chance to visit.

Horses, right outside our casita.
We stayed at a casita close enough to walk to the all inclusive resort and use any of their amenities, but far enough away that we had our own private beach. Our host was very hand's off and we basically had the run of the entire place, including the use of the saltwater pool and outdoor bar and kitchen. We rented this fun bright red Jeep wrangler. This immediately marked us as tourists, bright red rented jeeps are EVERYWHERE. It was lots of fun to drive though, I liked it so much we came home and bought our new Jeep. That Jeep is a white Patriot, so slightly more tame but still fun.

Our shiny red Jeep.

The view from our casita.
Our free time was spent exploring wonderful restaurants with lovely views and exceptionally tasty food, sampling all the tropical drinks, exploring the shops, taking in the views, and wading/swimming in the ocean. We went on a sunset horseback ride on the beach, cliche but a honeymoon must do.
Ocean view. 
More ocean views.
We also went on a sailing trip out to a reef for snorkeling. I was impressed with myself because I managed the trip without getting seasick. The problems began after we strapped on our flippers, facemasks and snorkels.  Travis jumped right it. As I'd snorkeled a bit once before, I thought I'd have no problems. But here's a bit of background information to explain a few things about me and water. First, I grew up in Colorado. That means lakes are small enough to see the opposite shore and pond are small enough to fit in the backyard. I just haven't been around water as much as someone who grew up swimming in the Great Lakes has. Secondly, I have an irrational fear of sharks. The kind of fear that sometime scares me enough to get out of a pool. Clearly irrational, but unavoidable. Thirdly, I can swim enough to keep my head above water, but I'm not the slightest bit graceful in the water. I can doggie paddle a little bit better than Roxi which isn't saying much. All this is to justify the fact that instead of diving gracefully off the boat into the water like Travis did, I half jumped before changing my mind.  And instead I hung there clinging desperately to the rails of the boat dangling my flippers in the water, fogging up my goggles while very heavily mouth breathing around my snorkel. Eventually, I was forced to let go simply because I couldn't climb back up into the boat with the flippers attached to my feet. Travis could tell I was a little nervous but he had no idea how panic stricken I was. I understand with snorkeling that all you need to do is lift your head up if something goes wrong but the internal struggle I went through and willpower it took me every time I had to lower my face into the water far exceeded the time I went skydiving. I was a mess. While I floundered around looking like a drowned cat, Travis did graceful flawless merman dives down for a close up look at the coral and fish. Eventually, I calmed down enough to breathe steadily like a normal human and to very much enjoy the view. On our next trip out to the ocean, we brought along a floaty. Embarrassing, but I'm learning to accept it and Travis thinks I'm hilarious.

Our other main water adventure was a nighttime kayaking trip to the bio bay. It is a bio luminescent bay filled with plankton who light up like fire flies when you disturb the water with oars, boats, or hands and feet. It was darker than normal this year but still very neat. It was exactly like seeing hundreds of tiny fire flies in the water. The tour group we went with was...unique. We were with a family with two teenage daughters who were loud and very disrespectful of their mother. Their mother appeared to be overly medicated and completely checked out. The father was aloof and irritable. It was one of those times you are embarrassed for someone else because their behavior is so appalling. They spent the entire trip bickering and didn't seem to realize they were such a mess. The ride back and forth in the tour van was a bit bumpy as well, we watched the two girls sitting in front of us bounce so hard they smacked their heads together and let out identical shrieks. Luckily they laughed about it too because it was too funny to contain our laughter.

While we were in Puerto Rico, we also had to mail out our marriage certificate, turns out we took the wrong copy. While I don't think it's actually my dad's fault we took the wrong copy, it does vaguely remind me of the time my dad sent me off to sell my car with the wrong car title. I handed off my blue Subaru along with the title, the car guy looked at, looked back at me with raised eyebrows and said, "This is actually the title to a red Chevy pickup...is that the car you're trying to sell?" Luckily I still managed to sell the right car and also legally marry Travis.

Besides all the adventuring we had a night of cooking and swimming at our outdoor bar and pool. It should be mentioned that there were all sorts of little geckos running around the casita. As well as a feral cat named Shadow. Shadow appeared to be in the process of becoming a tame cat. She was fed by the casita owner but you were not allowed to pet her without a claws out swat. If she liked you (aka we bribed her with sausage pieces leftover from dinner) she would run over to you and meow and possibly rub against your leg. On this particular night we left the door to our casita to let a breeze in while we ate at the table. As we were getting up to put away dinner, we noticed Shadow wandering over with what appeared to be a gecko in her mouth. Suddenly, Shadow dropped her prey and it became immediately apparent that the little gecko was still very much alive. Before I could move the gecko was at my bare feet and then scrabbling at my leg. I let out a pretty uncharacteristically girly shriek. Now I actually like reptiles quite a lot but I was wearing a skirt and I did not want a gecko running up my leg or a feral cat following said gecko up my skirt. The gecko immediately took off and disappeared once it realized I wasn't a good hiding option. Shadow, on the other hand, bolted through our open bedroom door upon hearing my shrill little scream. We went from romantic evening to "There's a gecko on my leg and a feral cat under our bed," in a fairly short time. Oddly, this is not the first time I've let a stray cat into my bedroom. Part of the reason Travis fights so hard to not get a cat for a pet I think. But I digress. In the end we lured Shadow out of our room by laying a trail of sausage bits from the bed to the door. And the gecko came back the next day, this time only narrowly avoiding being squished in the tiny space between my toes and my sandal.

This little guy is trouble.
One thing that puzzled us for a while on the honeymoon was a single spot on my ear that blistered. First, we thought it was sunburn. But it was weird it was only in one spot. Then I began to wonder if it was frostbite from the slope that I had somehow missed. For most of the honeymoon neither one of us could figure it out. And I was torn between amusement and frustration that it was actually equally likely to be either one. Finally, we figured out my ear must have been burned slightly when my hair was done for the wedding and then irritated by the cold and sun both. So that's how I made it through the wedding and honeymoon with neither frostbite or (much) sunburn.

Me climbing trees. 
Looking majestic by this cool wreck.
We went two tracking and the road ended here, at the ocean.
Black sand beach, we rode horses here. 
And we found these cool fossils covering a rock at the beach.  
A 375 year old ceiba tree; a tree of life. 
This tree is HUGE.
This is me by part of the tree trunk for scale. 
Travis standing by another portion of root, this tree went on forever!

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