2007 I got the opportunity to take my very first plane ride. Six of them actually! I like to write trip journals to remember things on my vacation. This one is directly copied and pasted from my word documents so...there you go.
Saturday, May 12
Got ready to go at 3:15 am, I didn’t sleep at all from excitement! We picked up Dusty to take up to St. Louis. Checked into STL airport at 4:45 am and made it successfully through security. Although as soon as I got to our gate, my flip flop broke! We had to scramble around at 5:30 am looking for an open gift shop that might have shoes. Luckily Luke found one and got me a new pair of flip flops. We got on the plane at 6:50 am and I had a window seat. The flight was pretty awesome, fairly smooth. We made it to Miami at 11am. Miami had a lot of haze and smoke from the fires that were there a few days before. We got on board to head to Puerto Rico, and got some really cool pictures of the Bahamas on the way to Puerto Rico! When we got to Puerto Rico, we bought some souvenirs while waiting on our shuttle bus to go out to the turbo prop plane. When we went out to the shuttle bus, it was 91 degrees and you could smell the salt air. We made it to St. Croix at 5:30 pm and we were blown away by the view. Jay picked us up and took us swimming in Cramer’s Park, which is near Point Udall, the farthest most eastern point in the U.S. and we saw Buck Island. We then went to eat at Cheeseburgers. Cheeseburger's was great! We soon realized that everything there was open-air. Jay’s house was so cool! He lived in a downstairs apartment of a house, so we walked down these terra cotta steps to this beautiful terrace! His back porch was as long as his apartment and almost as wide. His backyard had a mango tree, lime tree, coconut tree, banana tree and some prickly pear type fruit tree. It was so lush and green and peaceful! We saw lots of geckos too!
Sunday, May 13
Dragged ourselves out of bed at 8 am (ISLAND TIME is 2 hours ahead of Central time) and we went to Cane Bay Dive Shop to start our Caribbean diving. We got ourselves suited up and headed out to the beach. We had to kick quite a ways out to the buoy where we were supposed to drop down. Going down the first time was a little difficult because we didn’t have enough weight just yet. We went to 62 feet so easily and the view was crystal clear! We saw all sorts of coral, in blues, yellows, purples, and oranges. There were spiny sea urchins all over the rocks, so we really had to be conscious of where we were. These urchins were giants! We saw a barracuda! When we got out, Lucas decided he would like to have a lobster snare after seeing someone else come in with a huge lobster. We decided to eat a late breakfast at Cane Bay’s bar and grill. Then we played in the ocean for a while and sunbathed. We did a second dive out towards The Wall. The Wall is this literal WALL where the ocean floor drops straight down to 1322 feet below sea level. There are awesome coral gardens and reefs there. We went to about 90 feet and looked up and could see the waves breaking on the surface still. The corals were about 20 feet tall in some places. It was breathtaking! We saw Brain corals, fan corals, angel fish, lion fish, and so many others. The colors of these fish were amazing! On the way in, we say a little blowfish. He looked like a cartoon fish with his big eyes and smiling mouth! He puffed up for us and it was cool! We went to dinner at the Terrace on the Buccaneer hotel, and for the price, the service was absolutely terrible. The food was really good though.
Monday, May 14
We got up at 6 am, but missed the sunset. We took Jay to work and played on the beach until 8 am when the dive shop opened up. We went out to dive and went to 121 feet and came back up and stayed around 70-80 feet. We checked out the other side of the coral gardens this time. They were teeming with schools of fish! Coming back in by the sand flats, we saw a baby sting ray and watched him for a little bit. Another fish came up to Luke’s snare pole and bit the end of it, we had a good laugh about it. We then decided we needed an underwater camera. It was a 47 minute dive and we saw these little fish/snake type guys that looked like seaweed coming out of the sand, but as you got closer they would shrink down and hide in their holes. They never came out of the holes though. Getting closer, some wouldn’t go into their holes right away and they had eyes to see us coming. We had a surface interval and drove over to Fredriksted Pier to do our next dive. We had to jump off the pier like a boat dive and swim out about the center of the pier. This pier was for cruise ships and it was HUGE! We dove and stayed about 37 feet on the bottom, and it was a little eerie seeing these massive columns of concrete under the water, but each column was its own little eco system of life. We saw 3 seahorses, and we saw giant schools of blue and yellow fish, and even a fat sea cucumber! The fish would hover over the piles of steel and concrete left in the bottom of the ocean from the old pier. We went to Sharky’s to eat dinner, and it was the only air conditioned place so far we had been to.
Tuesday, May 15
We took Jay to work and went to get sandwich stuff for a picnic lunch. We went over to Cane Bay to get our tanks traded. We also hung out on the beach and watched the sand crabs throw out sand out of their holes. Then we went over to Carambola Beach Resort to dive. It was quite a hike down there, so we had our stuff taken out there by golf cart. The beach was different. The waves were a lot rougher there than Cane Bay. There was a small undertow. We got out about waist deep to put on our fins, and Lucas put his on first. I was on wave detail, to let him know if a big one was coming in. He got his on and I looked down at my BC for two seconds and got hit by a huge wave! It knocked me over, BC, tank and all! I was laughing so hard and so was Luke, after he helped me up, I got situated and we kicked out to The Wall there. We went down and got to 119 feet, and hung out at 80 feet for a bit. We saw a moray eel in the coral hiding out. We say a shark! It was too far away to get a picture of though and I only saw his back end. Luke saw his whole body though. Later we saw a giant sea turtle swimming around and I got a picture of him. Dude! We went up this sand chute, a section where the sand kept the coral from growing, and we had to go through a tunnel in the coral. We hung out around 20-30 feet and coasted into the shore. We went back to Jay’s house and took a nap and waited on the night dive. We got to the beach at 4 pm to do another quick day dive. We took an empty water bottle down with us to see the effects of the pressure. So cool! At just 25 feet it was sucked flat. We planned to fill it up with air at depth. We did at 80 feet, and went back up to around 30 feet. Then we saw another stingray and wanted a picture. The bottle, which was attached to the camera, got loose and shot straight to the top! Whoops, bye-bye bottle! We got our picture of the ray and got out. We went back to do our night dive at sunset. All the fish had this glow about them. Their colors were brighter at night. It was kind of eerie at night with only our lights to guide us. We saw two lobsters, but not big enough to catch for dinner. We saw an octopus, which was AWESOME! It was the only thing I really wanted to see on our dives. It was bluish purple at first and then when it saw us, it tried to hide in a hole and turned red, the same color as that hole he was going in to, trying to hide from us. He also flared out which was pretty great. Lucas touched it with his snare pole and it attached to the pole with his tentacles. Really cool! There were these baby minnow type fish that were suspended in mid water, and when you got close, they would swim off in lightening speed! We turned our lights off to experience the bio-luminescent plankton around us. Some fish were snoozing on whatever they happened to fall asleep on. We snorkeled back in and on the way in saw another stingray but this one was a little too defensive for our liking and we got out of there quick. It was a great day!
Wednesday, May 16
We took the day off from diving and went on a Safari Tour of the island. We left on the open air bus at 10 am, and we picked up a couple from Sugar Beach Resort. Then we headed off to St. George’s Botanical Garden. There were many interesting trees there and it was cool to learn that a lot of the trees were brought over from Africa. Slave traders would bring slaves over and use the trees here for ballasts and parts for their ships, and when they could come back for another trade, they would bring over trees to replace the ones they took. Slave traders would trade slaves for rum, molasses and sugar. Which brings us to the Cruzan Rum distillery, we got to tour around in there and see how they made, aged and packaged the rum. It was pretty cool because we got a free drink out of the deal. After that, we went over to the Estate Whim, one of the old sugar mills that had been turned into a Museum after lack of sales in sugarcane, and learned about the sugar mill and the process behind that. We found out how influential the Danish were over this island also. We went to Fredriksted after that, to eat lunch at Turtle’s Deli for sandwiches. It was awesome, and had an amazing view of the pier. The beach behind it was a Leatherback Turtle nesting ground and was protected. It was beautiful! After lunch we drove through the Rain Forest and checked out the giant Mahogany trees. We did get to see a beer drinking pig; apparently some guy thought it would be a fun tourist attraction to have a 600 lb pig drink non-alcoholic beer. This pig drinks on average 150 cans of beer a day. It was actually funny to watch him chew up the beer can and spit out the empty one. Went by Carambola Golf course, which is world known for its greens. It used to be owned by the Rockefellers. We saw Mount Eagle which is the highest elevation on the island. It was around 1200 feet. We came back past Cane Bay, and around to Salt River Bay, which is the spot that Columbus landed on in 1493 and claimed the land for his own. We learned the history of Salt River, which is now a dry river, as is all the rivers on this island. We made it back to Christiansted at about 3:45 pm and headed over to El Sol later to eat the local food. It was really good!
Thursday, May 17
Lucas took the spear pole today to try to catch some fish and lobster. He was very successful and got 10 lobsters, and a flounder. We went to Cramer’s park and snorkeled over there and got our catch. When we got back, we boiled the lobster and fried the fish. The flounder was super bony and hard to eat with all those pin bones in it, but regardless it was yummy!
We took off toward Fredriksted to dive. We came across Butler’s Bay and took a chance at diving it. We kicked out for what seemed like an hour to the buoy and dropped down to find a sunken ship! It was only about 45-50 feet deep. We explored all around it for a while and Luke tried to spear some more fish. We saw two stingrays and a little black fish swimming with them, they stayed away from us by about 25 feet but they were super curious about us and acted like they didn’t want us in their territory. When they gave up and swam off, we were about through exploring the boat and headed back to shore. The current was really strong there and so we had to adjust our compass heading to get to where we wanted to end up. On the way is, we looked over on the outer edge of the sea grass and say the biggest stingray so far. It was about 6 feet long, tail included and he was defensive right away. His tail was straight up and down in the water, and his front was puffed out really big. It spooked us, but we stayed calm and headed away from him, watching him the whole time. He stayed there the entire time, until he was out of sight. We got out and had a lunch on the beach, took some pictures and headed back to Cane Bay to trade our tanks. We stayed at Cane Bay this time and played in the coral reef. While we were at the edge of The Wall about 90 feet, and we saw a reef shark! It was about 7 feet long, and it had black on its tail and fins. He was really cool! He didn’t stay when he saw us. We learned that the sharks there are not really interested in humans so they tend to stay away, and seeing a shark is rare. Lucas speared two fish for Jay. No stingrays this time. We did see a Hawksbill turtle swimming around. We swam with it for a while and played with it and got a picture and headed back to the shore for the day. We ate at Johnny Mango’s; it was tasty local food also.
Saturday, May 19
This was our last day to dive, so we were sad and wanted to have a great time today. We took Jay to work and played on the Cane Bay beach before the dive shop opened. We watched the crabs again. We dove at 8:30 am and didn’t see anything special at all, but just had a relaxing time swimming in the coral. We did go to 141 feet, which was our deepest dive so far, but we didn’t stay there but for a minute or two. On our second dive, we went to 106 feet and back up to around 50 feet. We saw a barracuda about 6 feet long. Lucas went over towards it to get a good picture of it, and the barracuda got really close to Luke, he was about 6-8 feet away from him. I was watching off to the side and the barracuda flashed and swam away after that, but he lingered around behind us watching for a while. We saw another stingray immediately after the barracuda and watched him for a little bit. We then saw another turtle that I played with while Luke took pictures of us playing. We got to see the turtle go up for air, which was neat to watch from the underside. We stayed in for about 57 minutes. On our third dive, we went to about 103 feet, Lucas saw something but wasn’t sure if it was a shark, a porpoise or a giant sea turtle. After that, we popped back up to play in the coral gardens by the sand flats. We saw three turtles, at different times. I touched two of them and swam with them for a while. The last turtle was the smallest one, and it’s front flipper was missing. I called him little Nemo, because of his missing flipper. That was a great end to our diving part of our trip!
Sunday, May 20
We got to sleep in! Yay! We got up around 730 which on that island IS sleeping in. It had been daylight for two hours. We lazed around until 10 am and then left for Point Udall, the farthest most eastern point of the U.S. Very cool! It was quite a hike to get down there to the actual point, and not a good hike for flip flops. The rocks down there were jagged sharp rocks. They were amazing looking though. The waves there were monsters! They were about 8 foot swells and would come crashing up over the rocks. Some waves hit us, and we were about 10 foot away and up from the water! Lucas went down to the beach area and got some pictures while Jay and I hiked back up. Luke got some bamboo that had drifted from who knows where. We drove to Reef Bay, and snorkeled and sunbathed on the beach. Lucas saw some giant starfish, but the camera was out of film. The beach underwater had a lot of sea grass in it, but the sand on the shore was so soft and fine. We hung out there for a couple of hours before going back to Jay’s to grill burgers and hot dogs. YUM!
Monday, May 21
We didn’t sleep well at all. There were dogs next door that were barking off the wall and keeping everyone up. We got up at 4 am and loaded the car for the airport. We went through customs smoothly and got on our turbo prop plane to Puerto Rico and left at 6:45 am. We landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico for our 8 hour layover. We knew that the ocean was right next to the airport so we decided to walk to the beach. By the time we got to the highway, we were ready for a cab, so we rode in a cab the rest of the way there, which was only like two minutes. The beach was beautiful! It was empty, but it was a very long stretch all the way to a chain of hotels. We walked down to the Marriott hotel and laid in the couples’ hammock out on the beach for a quite a while. Then we decided to get some good pictures of Puerto Rico from the top floor of the hotel. We got some of the airport, and some of the beach. After a couple of hours, we took a cab back to the airport and checked back in. We got to go through the latest and greatest of the airport security checkpoints, it was a bomb sniffer kind of thing and does an internal x-ray. It blew blasts of air down your body to “sniff out” any bombs. I had to hold my dress down! HA! We ate lunch and waited a while longer for our flight to board and we headed out to Chicago. This was a very long flight, and we were traveling backwards in time zones! We flew over the ocean most of the time, and then over North Carolina to Chicago. Then we flew from Chicago for 45 minutes to St. Louis. Dustin picked us up at 9:15 pm, though to us who were still on island time, it felt like 11:15 pm. We made it back home by midnight and were wiped out. We had such a great time there and will miss being in perfect temperatures all day, and being able to dive whenever we wanted to. St. Croix is such a gorgeous place. Our time flew by too fast!