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Weekend Water Fountain

The Weekend: It’s what we all live for except when you live in the Caribbean. Life in Puerto Rico never seems to surprise us. This past Saturday started with a bang. The road in front of our house collapsed. Then the coolest thing ever happened.

Have you ever visited a house with a beautiful fountain in drive way?

Yep, that is our house now! 

An incredible water spout erupted from the cavernous hole in the road spraying water 40-50 feet in the air. What made the water spout so exciting was the amount of debris mixed with the shooting water. We found rocks, mud and even pieces of coral in the pool in the back yard.

We called the water company all weekend and even got hung up on several times. I guess the fountain was our Christmas gift? We just didn’t get the memo.

I think it is safe to say we have a permanent fountain now. But I actually kind of like it. The water flowing sounds are more soothing than the dogs barking and roosters crowing. But the falling rocks make it feel a little apocalyptic. 

The Caribbean continues to excite us and makes every day more memorable than the last. I love my Caribbean life.

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Go With the Flow

For the last several weeks we have been driving back and forth between Mayaguez and Fajardo. It takes about 3.5 hours each way. I still can’t figure out why it takes 3.5 hours to go 113 miles. Whatever right? It’s a beach life now anyway. Fajardo is located in the northeast corner of Puerto Rico. It has the largest marinas and tremendous selection of boat brokers. 

We went there with the intention to buy a sailboat. We need something big enough for our Alaskan family of five. These are some of the things we are looking for. 

  • Walk through transom                       
  • Self-tailing winches
  • Lazy Jack for main sail
  • Roller furling Jib
  • GPS/VHF/Autohelm
  • Low hours on the engine
  • Three berths
  • Center cockpit helm
  • Dingy with outboard
  • New bottom paint
  • New keel bolts
  • Holding tanks and A/C

We are hoping to use the sailboat to explore the other Caribbean islands. We have looked at over twenty boats now and we still have not found that dream boat for our family of five. On Wednesday I received a call from a yacht broker in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. He claims to have the perfect boat for us. He said his boat has everything on our checklist plus more.

So on Friday we tried to fly over to Tortola, BVI. We actually thought for a moment we were back in Kodiak again. The weather was horrible. The airport had flash flood warnings, overbookings and mechanical issues. Our adventure to Tortola, B.V.I. did not work out for us this time. We ended up spending the next several hours fighting traffic in San Juan in super heavy rain.

After about two hours of traffic and only moving ¼ mile. I decided to maneuver to the right lane and get off the highway. I took the first exit and ended up at the Bacardi Rum Distillery.

Yep, you read my mind! Mojitos!!!

I knew that this would be a GREAT spot for us until traffic died down. We of course did the tour and meet some wonderful people. After the last group of cruise ship tourists left we had the entire distillery to ourselves. We ordered a drink and sat back and said, “Gosh, this is so much better than sitting in traffic. Can it get any better than this?”

Then you would never guess what happened…..

One of the family owners of Bacardi walked up to us and asked us to stay for dinner. He said, he would be honored if we would stay for the VIP party for the European launch of the new Bacardi Oakheart Rum. Hmm, what would you say? We said, “Heck yes!!!” What did you think? We aren’t crazy.

In Puerto Rico It is amazing how a bad day can change in the blink of an eye if you go with the flow.

If you decide to visit Puerto Rico you have to remember one thing. It’s only as good as you let it be.

 

 

 

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$20 for One Mojito? Hemingway Would Have Been Pissed!

Our weekend away. 

I have to start with, the kids didn’t fight that much this weekend. I’m not sure why? They were actually a lot of fun this time. 

We started our adventure in Dorado. Dorado is a large resort area west of San Juan. We spent the night at a very nice hotel on the beach at a golf resort. I didn’t get to play golf. This was a work related event. So after the work thing we drove east to El Conquistador Hotel/Water park. 

Gustazos offered a family weekend getaway for 64% off so that is what hooked us. This website offers tremendous discounts on just about everything in PR. We should have brought some food and drinks with us because a bottle of water started at $6.00 each. Ouch!! That 64% discount disappeared quickly. 

This resort is beautiful and offers a free ferry ride to an island with every water sport you can imagine. The food and drink prices still hurt but everyone agreed that this was a better vacation spot than Cancun.

We then took a day off from the water park and went hiking in El Yunque. I was surprised that the kids agreed to leave as they made a bunch of friends at the water park. El Yunque is a rainforest preserve in the mountains west of the resort. After hiking an incredibly steep mountain and fighting the slippery trails in the rain we arrived at a beautiful swimming spot under a waterfall. It was beautiful. 

We left there and had dinner on our way to our next adventure. 

We took a kayaking trip to the bio luminescent bay near Farado. That was worth every penny. Awesome trip and incredibly informative. This bio luminescent bay is one of five left in the world and is considered to be the best of those five. From there we walked to a local park and had dinner with one of the local vendors and listened to a local band. The Pinchos and tostones were amazing. And yes, the $3.00 street drinks are way better than the $18.00 mojitos at the hotel. 

If you have read any of the previous posts you will understand this, eat with street vendors and drink at the restaurants. But I’m thinking it’s all better on the street. The locals have it all figured out.  

I have come to the conclusion that this is a true paradise. Living here is like no other place I have ever been.  

Don’t be jealous. Someone has to live here. I wonder why we didn’t move to the Caribbean sooner. 

I’ve got to go now, my $3.00 drink is here. 

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The Long Cut

Saturday, we got off to a late start. Not sure why. Maybe the island life is starting to hit us. The weather was forecasted to be hotter than normal. Normal is supposed to be in the low to mid 80’s. We have not seen those normal temperatures yet. It always seems to be in the 90’s or 100’s. Basically it’s always super-HOT and super humid!

We have some friends that invited us to visit their mountain home. They live high in the mountains. It should be cooler up there, right? So today was a perfect day for a mountain drive. Of course we dealt with the normal, “I have plans. How long are we going to be gone? What are we going to do up there? Can I drive?”  After all of those super important questions were answered we headed out on our mountain drive to find those cooler temps. And no the seventeen year old did not drive.

We drove east out of Mayaguez into the mountains toward the town of Maricao. Maricao was the spot of the last strong hold of the original native population. The original natives fled to this mountainous area and hid in the caves and dense forest. Maricao is around 2500 feet above sea level. The roads to Maricao are very dangerous. The roads/trails were originally set up horses and cattle and were later converted to paved roads. The town was founded as a coffee farming area.  Later as coffee production decreased the town moved more into a resort area. Today Maricao is home to one of largest factories in Western Puerto Rico. The German owned company called Fenwal Inc. is located downtown Maricao. They manufacture blood storage devices and transportation equipment for blood related products. Wouldn’t this make a great story line or location for a vampire movie? Maricao also has Puerto Rico’s largest fish hatchery.

The drive to Maricao from Mayaguez took us about 45 minutes. We even had to drive up a terrifying one lane road straight up a mountain side. This scared the daylights out of me. I can’t even imagine what sitting in the backseat would have been like. The kids thought it was fun. My lovely bride screamed the entire way up. We ended up on the top of a mountain overlooking valleys, rivers, waterfalls and a mountain that looked like a volcano. This area is by far one of the prettiest we have seen so far and we were above the clouds. 

We had a wonderful lunch with our friends and a tour of Maricao. They even showed us several properties that could make a great vacation or weekend home.  The breezes and cooler temperatures make Maricao one of my favorite places on the island. Before leaving we bought some freshly ground coffee from a local store. Gosh, that smelled so good. I love the smell of fresh coffee. We said our goodbyes and headed home. About five minutes later the kids started complaining about the smell of my coffee.

It went something like this, “Open the windows! It stinks in here! How can you like that? Can you put that in the trunk? I can’t be in this car all the way home with that smell. Can you drive faster? I was so proud of my lovely bride. She just looked at me and smiled. I knew what she was thinking too. It’s time for the “long cut”. Besides, driving down that steep mountain road was not something I wanted to do. So I choose a different way home.  My kids knew it when I made that left turn. I could see their faces staring right when I happily made the left. My sense of smell was heightened because of the glorious smell of fresh ground coffee.

Yes, the famous Long Cut!

We drove up and down mountains around crazy turns for what seemed to be hours. It was fun. Plus the extended drive with the smell of fresh ground coffee was heavenly. The frowns from the backseat made the drive that much more enjoyable. We arrived home in less than an hour. My Long Cut wasn’t that bad after all, this time. I am sure I will make up for it next weekend.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekend Warriors

Shopping:

The weekends, it’s what we all live for right? Some of us stay home and enjoy the quiet and some of us fill every second with crazy things. I like to think we are in the second group. Yes, the crazy group.

Our weekend started with driving to Bayamon. We went to a mega box store called Cost Co. The purpose was to buy tires for my car. I am not sure why, but my car has tires that are very difficult to find in PR. This store was the only place that had the tires in Puerto Rico. It was a good day for a drive so off we went.

If you look on a map Bayamon is about three inches away from Mayaguez. So it should not have taken us three hours to get there. But the stop lights, traffic and curvy roads turn a quick three inch trip into a really long day trip. Plus we are still in the honeymoon stage or happy exploring stage so it’s still fun to drive and see all the crazy things you see here.

The drive was uneventful and we arrived at around 12. They installed our tires and after buying a few other items we really did not need we were off. I actually saw someone in the checkout line buying a pallet of toilet paper and two full carts of canned Chili with beans.

I’ll bet you were trying to think of something funny to say also, huh? The only thing I could come up with was, “I hope that is enough toilet paper?” I didn’t say that out loud at least I hope I didn’t. Sometimes my words just spill out. I even surprise myself. 

We stopped for dinner at Chili’s in Barceloneta. Barceloneta is a coastal town on the northwest side of Puerto Rico. In its early days it was known for sugar cane and pineapple farming. It is also an old shipping port. Today it is known for its Pharmaceutical factories and outlet stores. Yep, outlet stores!  Guess where we went? Wait; guess where my lovely bride went. Liam and I wondered aimlessly around for hours kicking rocks. I really don’t think boys like to shop. I’ll bet there is research on this?

Anyway we left and made it home by six and decide we would go to the Mayaguez flea market at night. I know, shopping again and at night! What was I thinking? I must be crazy! The parking lot at the flea market was crowded but once inside it was virtually empty. I’m not sure where all those drivers went? It was weird. We only stayed a few minutes and left.

We continued our shopping adventure and went to Baskin Robbins. Did I mention that no one should ever order from a drive through in Puerto Rico? It’s true! Don’t do it. They always get it wrong and it has nothing to do with the language barrier. I think they sit in the back and deliberately do this so they will have something to laugh about later. We ended up stuck in that parking lot for over thirty minutes because of an impromptu Puerto Rican classic car show. These classic cars were everywhere with the loudest radios on the planet. All the hoods were open. The engines were bright and shiny and revving loud, and all the girls were in Bikinis. Ok, that last part wasn’t true.  We escaped without having to show off our car and made it home by 10 PM and this was only Friday.

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Is Your Life Worth Watching?

I saw a commercial for a car company a few years back that started off with, “Someday your life will flash before your eyes, Make it worth watching!”

It really makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what started this crazy journey? I feel sorry for my lovely bride at times. She could have had a normal quiet life in the mid-west of the US. Instead she married a knucklehead who wants to live everywhere in the world. She really has put up with a lot form me. I blame that commercial every chance I get. We have lived in Arizona, Washington DC, Wisconsin, Alaska and now Puerto Rico. It’s hard to believe we have held hands for over twenty years. She really is my best friend and my soul mate. I love her more than she will ever know.

Puerto Rico has become an incredible experience and a wonderful home. We have met wonderful people in every city we go and in every place we stop. On Sunday, we met two fantastic people in La Paraguara. They also moved to Puerto Rico to experience a different life. One of them told me that life is too short not to experience as much as you can, “You only get one shot!” That must have echoed in my head for several minutes. I wonder if he saw the same commercial.

La Paraguara is a unique seaside town on the south west side of Puerto Rico. The ocean is calm and the beaches are covered with immense mangrove forests. The town overlooks over thirty small islands with beautiful white sand beaches. As you drive over the hill into La Paraguara you find yourself in awe of the view. It is breathtaking. This town also offers tours to several small islands and trips to two separate Bio luminescent bays. Of course it has the normal tourist trap stores, bars and restaurants. It is far less commercial than other towns. The University of Puerto Rico has a research facility on one of those small islands. It would be a great place to live. The climate is very different. It is a lot less humid and more like a desert. It is one of my favorite towns so far.

 

Now back to that commercial. It has really caused a lot of thought provoking discussions in our house. I don’t even know what type of car it advertises. It doesn’t really matter. We always end up with this. Memories are all we really have. The money, houses, cars and other unbelievable items we continue to carry throughout our lives somehow fade. In the end, memories of family and friends are what we treasure most. Of course, I like the sights, museums and monuments but I always start off with, remember when we went to? Think about it. Most of your most memorable trips are because of the people that went with you or the people you met.

I will remember La Paraguara because of the two people we met there. They were both very positive and fun. They shared their adventure and stories. They welcomed us into their town and even had dinner with us. It is not coincidental that our thoughts of the town match how we feel about them.
 
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Ex-Con

 

Well another weekend in paradise has passed. At least this is what we keep telling ourselves. The normal frustrations still occur but I think we are finally letting the craziness go by the wayside. Life in the Caribbean is truly incredible. We try every weekend to fill every moment with something fun and interesting for the kids. This weekend included a trip to Ponce, La Guancha, and La Parguara. We saw Japanese gardens, the Don Q mansion, a haunted house filled with scary creatures. We even saw some unbelievably big fish and crazy Pelicans with attitude.  Yes, those pelicans had more attitude than my kids. We also squeezed in a day of windsurfing.

On Friday, Jenn and I looked at a penthouse condo on a mountain top in La Paraguara. It has a beautiful 180 degree view of the southern Caribbean Sea. This condo is on the sixth floor of a building built into the side of a mountain. The building is not free standing and was designed to be part of the mountain.  It’s a little small but for the right price we can down size to have that view. After living on the ocean in Alaska we were very spoiled by the view we had. Besides the housing market here is still in the toilet here. So the price should be extremely negotiable? We plan on going back to see it again this weekend to discuss the possibility of changing the floor plan. If it works out we may be living in a new home very soon.

On Saturday, we started our normal weekend adventure a little late. This time it wasn’t as easy to wake the kids and get them moving. Surprised? I was. I will agree it was a long tiring week. But we were able to leave the house by 10:00. We headed east on highway 2 to La Guancha. La Guancha is a seaside port where the fish swim up to the docks and shore line. These are not normal fish. They are the size of dolphins. They look like large carp and are called, Sabalos. They are a protected fish and are hand fed from the docks. The Pelicans are all over the place and are fighting for their share of the food. I think they are a little jealous and that might be why they have so much aggressiveness/attitude? The Pelicans can stare you down like an ex-con. It’s a bit intimidating. We left after being run off by a few angry pelicans.

By now my hostages (My Lovely Bride, Maddie and Liam) were also hungry. I know, right? They stared me down like a pelican. I was instructed by Maddie to find a PF Chang’s Chinese restaurant. I was surprised that Jenn also wanted the same restaurant. Usually we all end up in some lengthy debate.  After driving all over Ponce I found the restaurant and we had a wonderful meal. After lunch my hostages were eager for the next leg of our weekend adventure.

We drove up to the DON Q Rum Mansion. I know what you’re thinking driving, alcohol, kids, and a mansion. This has the makings of a realty show. Ok, I thought that too. But the mansion was donated to the City of Ponce many years ago. The city gives tours and holds events in the mansion. It looks like a castle you would see on the Spanish Riviera. It is used as a haunted house for three weeks before Halloween. We have been to several haunted houses, but we have never seen anything like this. The line to enter was over two hours long but I will admit it was worth it. It was by far one of the scariest haunted houses we have ever been too.  I knew the Screams or Boooo’s would be in Spanish. So I was convinced they would not be able to scare us because we don’t fully understand Spanish yet. But I was so wrong. The Spanish screams and Boooo’s were scarier. We had a wonderful day in Ponce and La Guancha except for the ex-con part.

The next day we spent trying to use our yard sale find. We bought a windsurfer and a kayak for $75.00 each. Yes, I know that’s a pretty darn good deal. We drove to the closet beach and jumped right in. I was surprised Liam got right up and took off sailing. That boy has water skills. Then the wind changed and we couldn’t sail the board back. It wasn’t much fun walking along the beach all the way back to the car carrying a heavy windsurfer. But Liam carried it back like a champ. Someone had to supervise and provide encouragement, right? He stared at me like a pelican all the way back to the car.