Monday, December 17, 2007

Live from Puerto Rico

All this week, we'll be posting from a funky little shack in Vieques, Puerto Rico. We've got a pre-Christmas family gathering going on here: my folks, Hilary's folks and grandfather, and some school friends. Vieques is an island a ways off the main island - part of it used to be a firing range for the US Navy until a few years back. Since then it has slowly been developing, but is still fairly rustic. Hilary and her folks have been once before - the notable change from last time is the addition of wireless internet access at La Finca (the shack we're staying at). Although it's a bit slow, it is amble to allow a few postings of the goings on.

Saturday we dropped Jasper off at the dogsitter's in 10 degree weather. We drove up to Minneapolis, flew to Orlando, and then on to San Juan. We arrived a little before midnight, local time, and made it to our room at the Hotel Milano around 1 am. It made for a long day, to say the least. But what a change from that morning - it was 80 humid degrees in San Juan as we made our way to a late sleep.

The hotel is situated in the southern end of Old San Juan, and we planned to spend part of sunday touring around. We met up with my folks, who had stayed in the next room over on Saturday night, and toured the two remaining forts that made up the bookends of San Juan's fortifications: San Christobal in the east, El Morro on the western tip, overlooking the inlet to San Juan bay. The Spanish built up these fortifications starting some 500 years ago. They were attacked at various times by just about everyone, including the US during the Spanish-American war in 1898. The US army even used them during WWII to keep an eye out for German U-boats.

We headed back to San Juan airport in the mid-afternoon. We were to meet up with two schoolmates of ours: Todd, coming in from his parents' place in new Jersey, and Steph, coming from Detroit. Both ran into problems due to weather at their departure points - Steph was sitting on the tarmac in a snowstorm for nearly an hour and a half. As it happened, she hadn't yet landed when we had to leave SJU, numbering only five instead of six, in our hired van to Fajardo to catch the last ferry to Vieques at 6 pm. We tried valiantly to make a reservation for her on a puddle-jumper to Vieques leaving at 5:30 on Vieques Air-Link. Unfortunately, I don't think that they have nearly enough staff - my half-dozen calls to their desk went unanswered, even after 15-20 rings. Thankfully, Steph was able to make her own arrangements when she landed, and even beat us to Vieques by nearly an hour.

Those of us that took the ferry had a bit of an adventure in transit. The wind was up and just off the port bow. The seas were choppy, making for an undulating ride for those of us on the upper deck. As the bow came down, it would shoot up spray that would immediately be carried downwind. At first, nearer to shore, the spray passed us by. When we got out to open water and the wind picked up, we got hit by wave after wave of spray that soaked us nearly to the bone, and got into our luggage here and there. It was a group of drowned rats that Mark picked up at the Dock that evening. But, a change of clothes at La Finca and a long meal of pasta and catching up soon remedied that.

We'll continue posting as the week goes on. Expect pictures soon.

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