Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings.
Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.
The average american household does 400 loads of laundry a year. That comes to 7.69 loads per week. That's according to the Consumer Energy Center.
It has been reported that Tide is the clear winner for the first place spot in laundry detergents according to Galtech.
So...if the average household does 400 loads a year and uses Tide laundry detergent they're spending roughly $118 a year on laundry detergent. I searched and the best price I could find for Tide was at Walgreens. Using the 50oz bottle from Walgreens @ $9.49 they would have to buy 12.5 bottles in the course of the year to do the 400 loads. That's roughly 30 cents a load.
I have a way you can do the same amount of laundry for 2 cents a load. Is it worth 15 mins to save over $100? It is for us and has been for years.
You'll need one bar of Fels Napha Soap. We buy it at Krogers for $2
One cup of 20 mule team borax. A box (76oz) of this will cost you $4. You'll get 10 cups out of the box. So one cup will cost you 40 cents.
One cup of "Arm and Hammer Washing Soda". Now that's washing soda, not baking soda. It's gonna cost you $4 for a 55oz box. That means one cup is gonna cost you 57 cents.
Add all this up and you have a grand total of $2.97. We'll round up to $3 and that's for 5 gallons of laundry detergent. At 1/4 cup per load you'll get 160 loads and that's 1.87 cents per load. I rounded up to 2 cents per load.
Here's how you make it:
Grate the entire bar of Fels Napha soap. We just us a metal grater. In a large pan bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add grated bar soap, stir and dissolve. Remove from heat and add 1 cup borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Mix well. Pour this into a 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid. Fill the bucket with warm water to the rim. Detergent will form a lumpy consistancy and will need to be stirred prior to use. Use 1/4 cup per load.
You can make 7 loads or 35 gallons of detergent out of the box of washing soda. The only thing you'll have to buy is a bar of soap.
Just got off the phone with AT&T. The reason for the phone call was to cancel our local phone service and go to a dry loop DSL line (that's a phone line with DSL only..no local phone). We already have cell phones with AT&T. Our current phone bill with DSL was $52. They gave me a promotional offer for 12 months for phone and DSL for $39 total, including tax. The dry loop was gonna cost me $30, so I'm getting the phone for $9 a month. I took the bait. One phone call just saved me $156 a year.
Make the phone call...your in the drivers seat..they're losing customers.
"5 ways to save $2000 a year." That was the title of the video on Yahoo "Shine" that Lorrie and I watched last night. Always ones to be interested in finding new ways to save some dough, and at $2000, we gave it a view. I've got to say it was worthless, well almost. They did say negotiate with your cable provider to see if there are any promotions they offer. That's the wrong approach. If your gonna do battle you had better bring some artillary.
Thinking about just how worthless that clip was and knowing full well there are so many other tangible ways to save some money, take control and live debt free, I've decided to share some of what we've done to get us to where we are. You know..."After the Mortgage."
1. To take control you've got to know where your money is going. There is no secret system to getting out of debt. Dave Ramsey and all those others are just putting a different wrapper on what's nothing more than simple math. What's coming in minus what's going out. You want the incoming larger than the outgoing, of course. When we were first married, "ahem", some 24yrs ago.....I used to take a calendar and mark each week with what bills had to be paid and how much money was left over. I did this every January and did the whole year. That way, each week, Lorrie could look and see just how much money was left over, also showed you when to pay each bill. Not the best system in the world but at least we knew where it was going and we were in some sort of control. Now I use a simple spreadsheet in Micorsoft works:
For us the spreadsheet is not really necessary anymore, I still maintain it anyway. The point is one should know exactly how much it costs to live. Include everything. All utilities, insurance, food, car gas, car payments, day care, monthly memberships. If you pay your insurance bi-annually then divide that amount by six. If you pay your house insurance once a year then divide it by twelve. If you don't know how to set up a spreadsheet you could always go to the library and get a book or inlist the help of your child or a friend. You could always do it on paper, but it doesn't offer you the flexibility to see what happens if you pay off a car. You immediately see the change to the bottom line. That $400 car payment means another $4800 a year. The beauty of this is you only have to set it up once. You can always add a bill or changes incomes.
This is the part that most people don't like. Mostly because they don't want to face reality, secondly because many are just lazy. How many of your friends know exactly what their living expenses are and I'm not talking about the mortgage only? Once you do it, and you know exactly where you are at, it will influence your financial decision making or at least it should. If you've only got a few hundred dollars extra each month the premium channel subscription on DirectTV might not be as appealing. Somehow make sure you know your bottom line and check it regularly.
2. Raise your deductable on your insurance as high as possible. When I tell people this they say "But what if I get in a wreck? I don't have $1000 for the deductable." I say you do because your paying out each month, albeit a little bit at a time. I say raise your deductable and open a home equity line of credit. Use it only if you need it in case of an accident to pay the deductable. A second option is to get a no annual fee credit card and use it to pay the deductable. This should save you at least 10-15% each month.
3. If you have a cell phone dump your land line. That's a pretty simple one. Why pay twice for the same service? If there are other services you have that are dependant on a land line then evaluate whether they are necessary or not. i.e. security systems, sat tv, internet.
4. This brings me to one of the biggest leeches out there, sat TV. We have become so conditioned to think that we've GOT to have 100's of channels of TV, do we? Is it worth the cost? I mean really. If your not ready to dump the sat TV try this: If you've been a subsriber to say DirectTV for some time call them up and say you want to cancel your service. I did it before we were ready to totally get rid of it. They gave me a $10 rebate each month for a year. Not only that they did it twice, two years in a row. I'm telling you that the internet is eating into their business and they are losing customers. You have the advantage here. We totally dumped sat TV and now use the internet and Netflix online.
5. Along those same lines if you use ADT security and have been with them for awhile you can call and say that your want to cancel your service. They cut ours in half before we dumped it all.
6. Get a dry loop DSL line. You don't have to have local phone service to have DSL.
Up to this point I've only talked about changes that really don't require any effort on your part. But to really get ahead of the game you've got to put some effort into it. So here we go:
8. Take your lunch with you. The savings from this are huge but you've got to do.
9. Drink water at work and I don't mean bottled water either.
10. Only buy used vehicles, never new ones. Huges savings on insurance not to mention the underlying cost of the vehicle. Did you ever think what the purpose of a vehicle is? It's to get you from point A to point B. Well if you buy the brand new vehicle the cost of getting to point B is darn high. Especially when you figure in insurance and gas, somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 a month or $8400 a year. I used a $400 a month car payment, $100 full coverage insurance and $200 a month gas.
11. Buy used cloths. yeah I know...but I can save 1k year by going to resale shops. You pay the premium price....I'd rather spend a month in Vieques.
12. Recycle, compost and burn (if your in an area where you can) the rest. I canceled our trash service and built compost bins and a incenerator. Compost bins are nothing more than plastic garbage cans with holes drilled in them. The incenerator cost $200 to build. I was paying $18 a month for trash service. I'll recoup my cost for the incenerator in the first year. After that we are saving $200 a year.
13. Make you own laudry detergent. We make 5 gallons for under $2. We used to buy the ALL free and clear. It cost would .25 cents a load to use. Our own costs less than .02 a load. Roughly you'll save between $50-$70 a year.
14. Learn the lost art of cooking and eat in. I don't mean microwaving a frozen meal either (huge waste of money not to mention how unhealthy it is).
15. Un-plug all charges and electronics that are not in use. If you've got a TV in the basement that is rarely used, unplug it. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
16. Use your local library instead of buying books. Your already paying for it...so use it.
Hopefully this may be of use to someone. By far the biggest living exspense for most is their mortgage payment. Pay it off and the rest is easy. You pay it off by diverting as much extra cash as possible towards it each and every month. If it means forgoing a vacation, then do it. If it means taking your lunch and having co-workers look at you strange, do it anyway. If it means not driving the latest and greastest new car, then do it. I can't tell you just how great it feels to watch your extra cash grow each month once you reach the debt free point. Everything changes.
Just for the heck of it we decided this evening to put up some maps of places we have snorkeled on the island and places we plan on snorkeling in 8 weeks. (can you tell we're anxious to be back on the island!). Ok...here's the way it works...yellow on the maps shows areas we have snorkeled (Some of these places we have video of too), orange are areas we plan on hitting in 8 weeks. The first map is of Caracas:
We were unable to get to Garcia beach this last visit because the road was closed because of the all the rain. It looks to be much easier to reach the island via Garcia. We also thought that the south end of Garcia might be interesting. All the sea fans I filmed this last time were off the east side of Caracas, the area I have circled in yellow.
Next photo is of Puenta Arenas. I have included an inset on this map that shows of close-up of a really nice spot to stop and watch the sunset (that is IF you can stand the sand fleas). There's this lone palm tree that provides the most perfect spot to camp out.
Once again the yellow is where we have snorkeled. I have some video of a box fish loaded from this last trip. There is a very long line of coral to snorkel in this area. Thing is it was difficult to find a place to get out of the water. Your better off entering and leaving near the closeup area I have above. The rock and coral comes right up to the beach in this area. Seemed to be larger areas to snorkel here. We saw more larger fish too.
Next photo is of Playa Chiva (blue beach). Unfortunately we don't haven any video of this because we were unable to snorkel out to isla chiva because of all the rain. The water clarity was terrible on Playa Chiva this last trip. The trip prior we had some wonderful snorkeling at Playa Chiva.
Once again the yellow are areas we have snorkeled. When we were there in March another couple saw sea turtles in the coral line close to the beach that I have marked in yellow. The best snorkeling was out off the island. I've also marked in orange some areas off of Orchid beach we plan on snorkeling this next trip. We've never snorkeled off of Orchid.
Since this post we've snorkeled some other areas on the island. I made a list of what we think are the best spots we've found so far. You can find it here updated snorkel maps.
Reading the news this morning has taken me down a tangent that ended with an article I just finished this evening about living on a boat. Crazy that an article about how a U.S. official reportedly said that the administration is willing to increase the U.S. contributions to the IMF led me to end the day with reading about living on a boat, but it happened. I already knew that the U.S. is the largest contributor to the IMF. Reading the article outraged me so I decided to watch a movie on Netflix. Just so happens one of the movies that came up was "Life and Debt". Director Stephanie Black's documentary on how policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other aid organizations have altered the Jamaican economy over the past 25 years, leaving the locals to struggle in poverty. I was already primed because of the article so I thought "what the heck". The movie is eye opening and worth the watch. I encourage people to watch it.
So what does all this mean? I see so many people trapped. Be it in an upside down mortgage, credit cards or just being hooked on the plethora of gimicks that are designed to steal your hard earned $'s. I listen to co-workers regurgitate sporting stats with the exactness of an neuro-surgeon, yet if I ask them what the IMF is or what their supposed function is, all I get is a "deer in the headlights" look. Uninformed. All the time wondering if there's going to be any overtime this week, as if that's the answer. Mortgage, credit cards, cell phones, sat TV, car payments...it's a trap and the vast majority of people are nothing but plankton that the sharks feed on . The same sharks that have now put so many countries begging to the IMF. You buy the new car....you pay higher insurance, along with a hefty car bill and don't get me started on depreciation. Cell phone....biggest trap out there. Is there a limit to how much the can actually get people to pay each month? They're like leeches sucking your money from you, and you let them. Our friends just couldn't believe it when we dropped our sat TV. I'm telling you we've haven't missed it AT ALL. We've got dsl in the house and get all of our news off the internet. IMHO the $25 a month I pay for my DSL is one of the biggest bangs for the buck out there. Not only do I get my news off of it, we listen to free internet radio (it's what feeds the background music on this blog), we pay all of our bills via online bill pay and watch all of our movies via the web. I was paying Direct TV $83 a month. They're leeches. We went to liability on all of our vehicles. Our friends thought we were nuts. "What happens if you get into a wreck?" they would say. Well...we would buy another USED vehicle and pay cash. They just can't understand how one could have the cash to buy a vehicle. Well...take some that money your pouring into sat TV, cell phones and all the other sheit you don't need and save it. Better yet take it and pay off your mortgage. Your not going to get 5% return on the money in a savings account, so why pay the banksters the 5%. Nope..they would rather study sport stats. None of our friends could understand why we never amortized our property taxes nor house insurance, when we had a mortage. Well...if you write that check out you know exactly what it's costing you. You also pay more attention to any change in your taxes or insurance. But no..that's not the American way. We've got to have in idiot proof and absolutely painless and that's the trap. It's the same trap the IMF is setting for the global community and the same trap Greenspan set for U.S. homeowners.
People need to wake up and take responsibilty. Live within our means. At the very least start somewhere. Take your lunch to work. Dump the texting on your phone (do you really need texting?). We dumped our trash service and I built compost bins and an incinerator, we recycle the rest. We even make our own laundry soap. What if I told you that we make a 5th of Kahlua for 3 bucks. How about making your own exspresso or cappuccino at home instead of Starbucks. Stop buying pre-packaged meals and learn the lost art of cooking. Take all those little steps together and they add up. It can work, we're proof. Our biggest monthy expenses now are food and gasoline. I've even thought about biking to work, it's 9 miles one way. You don't have to buy into the game the crooks have ginned up. When you realize this your whole perspective is shifted.
You'll spend your evening reading about living on a boat or you'll spend one month a year in a place like Vieques.
Well the trip is all confirmed now, thanks to the Tropical Guesthouse. I talked to so many different places and they refuse to rent for one night. I can't imagine what the Bio-Bay people do, especially if they come over from the main island. We'll see what the place is like, but so far they've got high marks with me.
Note to self: plan WELL in advance to vacation in Vieques.
I can't stress enough how important it is to plan in advance for a trip to Vieques. I mean like 6 months in advance. There are so many different elements that need to come together.
We are now in the final stages of finishing our next trip to the island. This next trip should make for some good blogging, given how much moving around we're doing. We have, for the last two trips, been having problems arriving on the island before 6pm. Just can't make it into San Juan out of Indianapolis prior to 4pm. Three weeks ago we were 4 hours late getting on the island. It was 9pm when we arrived and the airport was shutting down. Your not going to find any publicos outside the airport at that time of night. So with this in mind we decided to spend the night in San Juan and fly out the next morning, Sat, to the island. We are staying at the Best Western San Juan Airport . From what I've read it's within walking distance of the airport so no need for a taxi or car. We are then taking the 8:10 Cape Air flight to the island.
Once we make it to the island it gets kinda crazy. We are going to stay 1 night at a CHEAP place on the island (this has yet to be found, we're still searching). The reason we're having the one-nighter on Veiques is because we couldn't check into Quinta Jabali until Sunday. We are both looking forward to our stay at Quinta Jabali. The web site for the place is stunning. After we are there for a week we head back to Casa Dos Chivos for another week (Casa Dos Chivos is perfect and fits us). If Casa Dos Chivos was available we would have probably booked it for the whole two weeks.
We're heading back to the island in less than 3 months! Last two weeks in Febuary this time. Have our flights, just haven't booked a place yet. Can't get Casa Los Chivos....tan triste. We've found a couple other places, neither has wi-fi and that's gonna be different cause I would have to go to Roys Coffee lounge in Isabel to upload. Decisions...decisions.
In an effort to thwart the depressing nature of these gray November days here in Indiana we've decided to try and learn the native lanquage of Vieques. Last night we purchased Rosetta Stone, Espanol. It was $250 for level one, 550 or something for 1,2 and 3. Against my daughters recommendatoins, she's a first year college student and has had 2 years of high school spanish, we bought just level one. We will update how well we like it.
When we were in Vieques a week ago we were unable to order food from a place on 201 across from the GE plant. They sold chicken and ice cream. The menu is all in spanish and we were looked at sort of oddly when we walked. It seemed to be a local hangout. I noticed whenever we drove by that there were lots of cars parked in front of the place. After a half-hearted attempt to read the menu we opted to leave. Now I'm sure if we had told the person behind the counter that we couldn't read the menu they would have helped us, but for whatever reason it just didn't seem appropriate. We had both said to each other that we really needed to make the effort to learn the language.
Just by some chance a spanish speaking person happens to read this....Is the ll in ellas or ellos pronounced with a y or with a j sound? My daughter was taught to say it like "ajah", although the Rosetta stone says it like "ayah" sometimes and like "ajah" other times.
Been back home for a week now...having serious withdrawl issues. Current temp outside is 40 something, gray overcast day, typical November in the midwest. Miss the bright colored casas and all the green vegetation and of course those warm tradewinds. We have narrowed down a return trip, this will be #3, to the last two weeks in March. Lorrie is still trying to get the vacation approved. We so miss the island. Have looked extensively for houses/property but haven't really seen anything yet. Would be wonderful to find a shell and be able to finish it, especially given my occupation.
The jeep did fine other than it died a few more times during the week. We told Maritza's of the problem when we returned it. It was a pleasure to meet you to Peter and I hope to see you again soon.
Ok...back to the last full day. After coffee we decided to go to Playa Caracas because it had been so nice the day before. We also decided to try and take a different route to 997, the one that Peter had told us about when we met him at Bananas. Somehow I think we must have taken a wrong turn because we didn't end up on the winding road he was talking about. We did end up going by some sort of playground for young kids that was on a nicer paved road. None-the-less we did hit 997 and headed out for Caracas. We were the first ones there and the water was quite still and clear as glass. It didn't take long for us to decide to head out to the eastern point and do some more snorkeling. The video I got this time was much better because there wasn't nearly as many waves. We snorkeled for a good hour or so. Here's a few clips of the snorkeling. (I know...enough with the snorkel videos):
Then we went walked down to the western side of the beach and took a few pictures:
When we walked back a few other people had arrived. Lorrie ask one woman if she would take a picture of the both of us, especially since we had none yet. Here's the only shot of the two of us together:
Later in the morning we ran into the guy who had gotten stuck on the road to Puenta Areanas (Shawn) and his wife (Nicki). I told Shawn that I had put some video of him on the blog. He got a laugh out of it. They were flying out later that afternoon.
We spent 4 hours on Caracas Friday. The weather was perfect. Sometime just before noon or so a nice boat came almost up to the beach. I took a few shots of it...oh and Lorrie:
Here's just a goofy shot of our legs:
After that we headed out for Esperanza. We were looking for another noodle for snorkeling. Yesterday with the big waves I learned how valuable one of those can be. Keeps you much more buoyant and you don't have to expend nearly as much energy snorkeling. It's almost a necessity when trying to film. We only had one noodle and were planning on heading out to Puenta Arenas for the rest of the day. We ended up finding a noodle in Esperanza. Can't think of the name of the place, but it is next to Diva's Closet and the owners name is Denise. She had exactly what we were looking for. After that it was on to Puenta Arenas, via 995 this time. No more jungle excersions for us, we've earned our stripes.
When we arrived at Puenta Arenas someone had our spot. Yes our spot. Our specific spot. The one we claimed ownership of the prior evening. (Strange how we tend to take ownership of something we've only seen for a few hours.) Anyway we camped out to the north, on the next spot. We were both so tired from the morning at Caracas that we decided to just chill under a coconut palm and drink a few Coronas. It was sometime during the second Corona that the person in "our spot", happened upon us. She was a teacher from the east coast (met so many people from the east coast while we were on the island). She was trying to find a place to snorkel. (I'm thinking...HELLO...it's like right in front of you. You've already got the BEST spot). She proceeded to tell us that her girlfriend had said that this area was good for snorkeling. I mentioned that I too had heard the same thing. I also told her about all the reefs that were right out in front of us and how they came nearly up to the beachfront. She disagreed and said the darker blue areas I was seeing was sea grass. Hmmm...then why the buoys just out from it I ask? She hadn't noticed them. I told her we were heading out to snorkel in just a few minutes. She ask that we let her know if we found the coral. She was there with her two daughters and husband. Great lady..we talked for a very long time about a plethora of things. Such interesting people we've met.
So...about the snorkeling. We hit coral and fish as soon as we got into the water. Not sure how they missed it but they did. The only place we didn't see any fish or coral was right out from our original spot, the one she had taken. How about that..fate has a way...
It wasn't long before the lady and one of her daughters were right out there in it with us. She was pleased and smiled at me saying "You've found it!" Lorrie and I snorkeled a long way southward down along the beach. The rock and coral along that section runs right up to the beach. It makes getting into and out of the water quite difficult. At one point we had to get out and walk, it was just too far. Here's some video of when we got out to walk:
Good thing we had the noodles too. We are going to invest in a couple of floatation vests for our next trip. By the time we found a spot to finally get out of the water, we were totally exhausted. That was some of the biggest reef we've seen. We saw a lot of larger fish too. I got some decent video of a boxf fish. (yeah...yeah...more snorkeling videos I know)
We walked along the beach back to our NEW favorite spot. I was just ready to sit and wait for the sunset. Lorrie layed down at the edge of the water and crashed after just one Corona. I think she even may have fallen asleep. I saw her laying there and grabbed the camera for some pictures. Here's some of the ones I took:
While I was taking these shots a sailboat came in an anchored. I got a few shots of it with her in the foreground:
Here's a shot of just the sailboat:
Lorrie woke up and saw me taking pictures of her. So she just had to snap one of me. I like the looks of her better:
While we were sitting there this older gentleman comes by from up the beach north (that's behind me in the picture above). I noticed him kinda fiddling around up beach from us. Not sure what he was doing. He came down to us and ask if we had any phone reception, in very broken english. He explained to me that he was stuck, in the very same spot as Shawn had been the day prior. Lorrie and I both got a laugh out of it. I checked our phones and and we too had no phone reception. But I told the gentleman that I had seen a young woman just down the beach texting and I was sure she had reception. (It was one of the daughters of the lady we met). He went over to ask her and was able to get some help. He lives on the island. He came back and thanked me. Such nice people, I didn't do anything, but he felt compelled to thank me.
Lorrie and I sat there watching the sun slowly set, not really saying anything. Just drinking our Coronas and taking it all in. It was perfection. Lorrie looked at me and said that a week is just not long enough because it seemed as though we had just now struck the right chord with the island and were in tune. I agreed.
We ended up getting our sunset. It had taken all week to develope but was worth the wait. Here's a few shots I took:
I knew when I took this below below that the light wasn't right, but I took it anyway. Lorrie had put on her blue dress and even though you can't tell it in the picture it was a beautiful shot:
I was so mellowed from the beautiful sunset (and my fair share of Coronas) that I suggest to Lorrie that we head out to "Next Course". She got a big smiled and said "why thank you Curtis". Ha...I know I rack up major brownie points when she says that.
Ok...hold onto your seats. (sorry but we're easily impressed). Here's what we had:
Lorrie starts off with a mojito, of course. I've already had enough Coronas so I just do tea. First course consists of local caribbean lobster wontons, asian style slaw, coconut red curry broth for Lorrie. Donna's bayou shrimp, drunk in house lager beer over fried polenta for me. Yum!
Second course we both do baby spinach, apple wood bacon, crumbled blue cheese, red onion & cranberry cider vinaigrette. We had this in March and loved it!
Third course was a herb crusted ribeye over wild mushroom risotto, shoe string shallots and red wine balsamic reduction.
Let me tell you folks that IS the perfect way to end a perfect week in Vieques.
One last note. I'm typing this as we're flying to North Carolina to connect with a flight back to Indy. Today was the first day in 6 that Lorrie or myself have really cared about what time it is or what day it is. And furthermore it's the first in 6 that we've worn pants and SOCKS. I even forgot to check the markets. I was so turned around that when I did finally check the futures this morning I was confused by the data and Lorrie informed me "it's Saturday Curt".
So that's it. Back to the real world. I'll miss the roosters in the morning and the clippity-clop of the wild horses going down the street outside the casa. The smell of the ylang ylang tree outside the veranda and the breeze thru-out. We'll miss it all just long enough to prepare for the next trip. Right now we're trying to decide if it's 4 months away or three.
Awoke this morning to the roosters crowing. I told Lorrie that everytime I hear a rooster crow from now on I'll think of this place. Weather looks to be fantastic today. We both wish we had planned on staying another week.....or month. We hate to leave. Anyway....here's some video of the morning rooster choir:
We found today, against the good advice of our new friend Peter, what might be the worst road in Vieques. More on that later.
Today began earlier, thanks to me waking up sleeping beauty. She seemed a bit grouchy in the kitchen. When I ask if she slept alright she replied "just fine..but why can't you give your wife a kiss and say softly, wake up dear?" I didn't have an answer. If I told her the thought never occured to me I know it would get me into trouble. I did ask what I said...because I honestly couldn't remember. She told me I said "If you don't get up your gonna miss the best fork'n part of the day." So...after I patched things up we headed. We packed for a full day today because the weather looked promising.
First stop was Playa Chivos (Blue Beach). Water was turbid and there was lots of debirs along the beach. My shelter that I had built earlier in the week had also bit the dust. If this was how the beaches were gonna look today there would be no snorkeling.
Given how nice Playa Caracas was last night we headed to it next and to our delight it was just how we left it the night before, only with a little less rough surf. We were the first ones there too. So we set up camp and waited for the weather to clear. There were a few lingers storm clouds but they looked to be moving east. While we were just sitting there enjoying the vista some horses came on the beach and one of them kept drinking the sea water. I managed to film it:
Then the both of us walked down to the western side of caracas were the waves were the biggest:
If you can't see the video click here
After that we decided to get into the water because the waves were still really nice. It was a lot of fun trying to body surf. A few other people began to show up too.
It was about this time that I noticed the water clarity and that I thought it might be possible to do some snorkeling. A nice lady, with and ausie accent, told me that there was some decent snorkeling on the eastern side of caracas where a rocky point sticks out. With plan in hand I suited up and head out to see for myself. Although the surf was still pretty rough I manged to see a few fish and some coral formations. During my time snorkeling the skies had cleared and the sun was out in full force. I head back to the beach to grab my video cam. Lorrie grabbed her snorkel gear and we headed out. (and I think it is worth mentioning that she had no problems getting her mask on today, I was genuinley impressed ).
Now before I post these underwater videos I must warn you that it was still very wavy. And...when your snorkeling your just kinda floating along with the wave action. So...if the videos make you a little dizzy or queasy..you've been warned. I'll also say that I was impressed with the quality of my little $150 Kodak Play-sport.
We were at Caracas for about 6hrs. It was a great time and the weather was just perfect. But...our stomachs were telling us it was time to head into Esperanza to grab a bite to eat. So off to Esperanza we went, Bananas was the destination. Now when we were walking into Bananas a gentelmen looked at me and said "I recognize you". At first I was perplexed because I didn't recognize him and just replied "well...that could be good or bad". It was then that he said that he recognized us from this blog. It was Peter who posted our one and only comment on our blog. It was nice to meet him and we sat and chatted for a while.
Now...this brings me to the title of this entry. When we mentioned to Peter that we might be going to Puenta Arenas (Green beach), after we left Bananas, he warned us that it was a long drive and could also be buggy. Well against his advice we headed out west of Esperanza on what I believe was 201, our destination, Puenta Arenas. Now, rather than driving north on 995 and hooking up with 200 to get to Puenta Arenas, I (yes...it was all my doing) took the road north from the turn to Playa Grande. We don't have any video of this drive, I wish we did. I have the road circled in pink on the map below:
Be warned if you take this road it is not very much wider than a sidewalk and large sections of it are gone. Once your into it for more and 1/2 mile or so your committed, because there's no place to turn around. As a matter of fact, there's not enough room to pass another vehicle on it. The vegetation at places has the road narrowed down to what looks like 4 foot or so. And it's UP over a mountain and DOWN and up over the next mountain and DOWN. It was on one of the DOWNs, not sure which one, that our Jeep died. I mean just quit, electronic coma. I just about sheit. Lorrie looked and me and said "what just happend?" The jeep just died, I said. I was so rattled that I forgot to put the thing in park and was trying to turn the ignition key, which wouldn't turn. I couldn't even get the damn key out of the ignition. All the while I'm thinking...."I'll have to call Maritzas emergency number...that is IF the phones work in this jungle". Finally I saw I had the damn Jeep in D and not P. I put it in P and it started. Thank gawd! That road is a bitch...I'm telling ya now. It took us forever to make it to 200. Always ones to finish what we start, we turned west on 200 and continued to Puenta Arenas, rather than turning right and heading back to Isabel.
The coconut palms along the road near Puenta Arenas are really something. I had read about how they used to grow along Playa Chivos and how the military cut them down for war games or somthing. Anyway..they were impressive to see. We did take some video of the drive on 200 into Puenta Arenas. We ended meeting a guy walking along the road (again I use that term loosely here). He had managed to get his Jeep buried in one of the many mud holes in the road. He told me he had called his rental agent 40mins ago and they were on there way. It was at that point that I developed a mental bond with this guy because a mere 30 mins ago I was feeling the same way, only I didn't have to end up making the phone call. We saw his Jeep...and yes...it was burried. Wasn't too many more minutes before their rental car person showed up and they pulled the Jeep out. Here's the video of the drive into Puenta Arenas and our conversation with the guy that got stuck:
Lorrie and I found a really nice spot on Puenta Arenas. We also found quite a lot of sea glass along the beach. The sand there is totally different than on the Chiovos beaches or Caracas beach, much coarser and not nearly as white. Here's some video of the spot we found:
You can see the big island easily from that beach and we watched a storm worked it's way over Puerto Rico. I saw lots of reef not far off the beach to snorkel, but the sun was not cooperating. We waited till nearly dark for maybe some sunset shots...but no luck.
Tomorrow is our last full day on the island. We've not decided where we want to go yet.
Went over to the Atlantic side to look for sea glass. Took us forever to find the beach. Our map has it just west of the cemetary in Isabel...well we sure couldn't find any public access points to the beach before you hit the W. Finally pulled off on this large fenced pasture area. Walked thru the pasture to the back and found a trail down to the ocean. We found lots of sea glass on the beach there. After an hour or so we headed back to the house to check the radar. Everything looked good so we headed out to the beach to maybe catch an hour or two of swimming. Drove back to Blue beach and it was extremely rough surf and the water was very muddy from all the run-off. We couldn't even drive back to where we normally park because of all the water and the gravel road outside Blue was really washing away, all the way down to the fabric that they put under gravel roads. We found another access point to Blue and walked back. Couldn't believe how big the waves were. While we were on the beach we decided to take our sea glass and lay it in the sand for some pictures. Well...we thought we were far enough up the beach to miss any waves. We were wrong...this monster wave comes crashing right up to our display as we were trying to photograph. Grabbed the bulk of our sea glass and started dragging it out to sea. We went into panic mode (you would think they were diamonds or something the way we scrambled to save them) We were throwing handfuls of sand back up away from the waves. We think we didn't lose any. After we had cleaned all the sand off we took another picture further up the beach. Here's the final shot:
After the near catastrophe with the sea glass we left Blue beach and headed back. On the way back, on a whim, I suggested we stop by Red beach just to see if the water looked the same. Boy are we glad we did. The water was not murky with run-off and was there ever some waves. We stayed at Red beach until the sun set and it was a beautiful sunset at that. The wind really picked up too. We think the low pressure has finally moved out. Here's some videos we shot at Red beach:
Just got back in from shopping. Went to the vegetable market first thing. I hope the guys there didn't get offended because of me taping. If I could speak some decent Spanish I would have ask them..but I can't. Something we need to work on. Anyway...I got video of the market and what fruits and vegetables are available. This for anyone who might be curious about it. I know it would have been nice if I could have seen something like that before we came last time.
So..after that we headed into Isabel to visit Blackbeards Sports. I was looking for some sandals or flip-flops. Yes...I didn't bring any. Anyway find a nice set. Lorrie found a swim suit and being the smart shopper that she is, she bartered with the guy about some spots on the suit. She got a 20% discount...that's my girl. Talked with one of the guys there about the water clarity. I was asking if it was due to all the runoff from the rain. He said yes and that he had cancelled a snorkeling tour yesterday because of it. Nice shop..Blackbeards. Went to a couple other little shops and picked up the Vieques book that we've seen around town, couple T-shirts and such. Ended up finding a place called "Roys Coffee shop and Lounge". Really nice place and they had ESPRESSO!!!!!!!!!!!! We were both going through espresso withdrawl. You see.. we're used to at least a quad-shot in the morning. Start your morning off with a bang! We had brought our own beans and grinder, but have only been drinking coffee...big difference. Left Roys and wandered around town peeking in little shops and just people gazing...taking it all in.
Last stop before heading back to the casa was Morales....and we must have hit it at the wrong time or something because it was packed. They do have EVERYTHING there though. Nice store. Really got to watch the locals while we were waiting in line (took 45 mins to check out). I think that maybe today there was some sort of government aid release because we saw a lot of people outside the bank on the way to Morales and a lot of them used gov. checks to pay with (at least that's what it looked like). Seems no matter where you go that part of society creeps into your experience. Hate to see such wonderful people reliant on that kind of aid, but this is the world we live in. There was this nice quite elderly woman behind us in line. She was smartly dressed and looked quite handsome. She stood there patiently just waiting to check out, moving out of the way as people shopped. When they opened up an adjacent line a gentleman in front of us offered it to us, seeing as we only had a few items. I thanked him. Lorrie and I went over to the line. Then she looked at me and I knew what she was thinking. We stepped aside and let the elderly lady checkout...we are visitors here.
So..now we're back at the house checking out the radar...might head out to look for some sea glass.
Hola! .....(spoken softly cause Lorrie is STILL sleeping)
It's Wednesday morning and very cloudy out right now. There's this low pressure hanging over the island. What's really strange about the whole thing is that it doens't bother us? Can't explain it...Lorrie and I both commented about it last night when we were at Island Adventures eating. There's like this smile you carry around when your here and everything is kewl. Maybe we're just weird or something but this is how it works for us. We had decided before we made this second trip to the island that it would be a test. If we loved it as much as we did the last time then it's a winner. And...it's a winner...even with the daily rain showers.
It was interesting watching the people at Island Adventures get ready for their trip to the bio-bay last night. We...being ardent veterans of the tour, just sat back and watched. (Actually we went there because the food is good and very reasonable.).
We ended up going to Lazy Jacks after we ate. Ran into Cameron, he's a guy we met in San Juan when we where flying in, or trying to fly in. He been absolutely hammered everytime we see him out. His brother lives here on the island. They're both really nice guys. He had three shots of Jack lined up on the bar when we arrived and by the look of him he didn't really need them. Lazy Jacks is a kewl place...nothing really extraordinary about it...well other than the people. It's appeal to us is it's consistancy. It's exactly the same everytime we go. They're shoving kamikazee's at you, some great music is playing and everyone is having a great time. Here's some video I shot last night. It was really dark so the quality is not very good:
I'm eating some fresh papya this morning as I upload...it's the best.
Today we're going to run some errands this morning..maybe look for some sea glass on the atlantic side. Thought about trying to find the black beach. I plan on filming the road we take to 997 from the rental, it's kinda unique.
Oh..and Peter..thanks for the comment. Your the first one ever! Nice to know this is not all in vain.
Wanted to get an early start today because it's been raining later in the afternoons. I woke up around 5am or so. Made coffee and waited for sleeping beauty to get up. Can't say I blame her though...it's so relaxing here on the island. Lorrie got a picture of me drinking my coffee and uploading videos on the veranda:
So after a breakfast of coffee, eggs and this cinnamon bread that they bake here we headed out. I believe it was about 7:30am when we hit the beach. I decided today to make some kind of shelter to block the sun. Below you can see I'm trying to put together the frame-work. All you have to do is grab a few straight branches and some of this vine that laying all over the beach. After you get it all lashed together you just throw on a few palm leaves and voila!
Here you can see how I was really concentrating...Lorrie thought it was funny.
And finally I'm throwing on the palm fronds.
And her's Lorrie sitting outside the shelter...of course.
We were at the beach about 6 hours today. Had great weather and then a little after noon the storm clouds starting forming.
We stayed at the beached right up until the rain hit. It looked sureal with the black clouds coming in. Water was a strange sort of color. Rained like hell too.
Here's Lorrie in the water watching the storm come in.
It was probably a good thing because we both got a little sun burned today. After we left the beach we headed into Isabell because on Tuesdays and Wednesdays there's a fruit and vegetable truck that is set up along the road. When we pulled up to the truck it was raining like I've never seen it before. Water was running down the street. Three guys were hanging out until a flimsy PVC sort of shelter. After waiting for what seemed like forever for the rain to abate we said what the heck and jumped out of the jeep. There was litterally water running ankle deep. I looked over one of the tables they had lined with fresh fruit and the guy was standing on a plastic tray to try and stay out of the water. We picked out a few grapefruit, papya,apples, bananas and some sort of melon. When we were paying it was then I noticed the extension cord running from the truck to the electronic scale and the cash regester. They had a power strip plugged into the extension cord and had it loosely tight up to the table. All this while we are all standing in ankle deep running water....crazy...I'm telling ya.When we got back to the house the power was out...which we fiqured by all the rain and lightening. We crashed and took a nap. Headed out into town tonight to eat and maybe do "Lazy Jacks"
Here's a video of us trying to decide which palm tree to use. I mention that there's a coconut under the palm tree we use. I ended up spending about an hour opening up one of them. We ate fresh coconut.
Made our way to Blue beach early this morning. Weather was great and the water was perfect. Stayed there until 1pm or so. Left Blue beach and went to Orchid beach. We were unable to visit Orchid beach when we were here in March because of road (I use that term loosely) closures. Orchid is much smaller than Blue but it lays right next to some of the restricted areas so we can possible snorkel out to the edge of it. Met a guy from Rochester, New York while we were on Orchid beach. This was his second trip to Vieques. He's a retired dairy farmer. His wife and him take a two week sailing trip through the BVI (new acronym, British Virgin Islands) every year. They rent a sailboat and 6 of them (two other cpls go) sail for two weeks. He said it's undescribable. He uses a place called Conch Charters : http://www.boatbvi.com/bareboatcompanies/Conch-Charters.htm Said we've got to do it sometime. He has a favorite island in the BVI's that's nothing more than an 8 mile sand bar. He said it has one of the largest reefs in the carribean. Sounds like something we would enjoy.
I've uploaded another video but it's not showing up on youtube yet...I think there's a lag from when I upload to when they're available.
I'll put the links up later. We just ran back to the house for lunch and are going into Esperanza now to do some shopping.
Awoke to the roosters crowing, litterally, they're everywhere. We didn't get onto the island until 9pm last night, we were supposed to get here @ 5pm. Took two tries in the puddle jumper to make it. The pilot turned back on the first try, which was 2 hours after we were supposed to, so....it was pitch black with lightening. Visability was only 3 miles and since he has to see the airport in order to land we turned back. We tried again around 8:30pm and made it. Everyone (which was 8 of us) clapped when the pilot finally landed the plane on the island.
Our next problem was that the airport closes @ 9pm and we still had to get to the rental car place, which closed @ 6pm and get our jeep. The caretaker of the house had left the keys with the owner of the rental car business. So...not only did we not have a vehicle, we also didn't have the keys to the house that we've never been to before. But after a few phone calls "ivonne", the caretaker, got things in motion. We ended up with a 2010 Jeep Wrangler thats white.
Found the house with no problem. Unloaded luggage and headed to Lazy Jacks. Had a couple Coronas and a kamikazee on the house.
Well...it's 10pm, we have to get up @ 2:15am, I forgot to print out the map to get to the house we've rented and the printer is out of ink. Just my luck! So....I'm posting it out here on the blog so we can find it.
Three and one-half weeks left till we leave for Vieques again. Lorrie and I have been religious with our diet and workouts. We've had an ongoing competition to see who'll make the most progress. Now...at three weeks out she has, without a doubt, lost more pounds than I have, but it has yet to be determined exactly how the winner will be chosen. We were both in relatively decent shape when we made our first trip to the island, some 7 months ago. I offer the below photo as proof:
So...the question becomes how to accurately gauge the progress and exactly what areas need to be improved upon and used as benchmarks. The first possible area of contention is visable, albeit very slighty in the photo below:
In order to be fair and unbiased I feel it necessary to also include the next photo, which I only took to show how clear the water was on that day and in no way was meant to capture anything thing else: