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Indiana, United States
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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last day....

This is  a clean up post of some pictures I took on the last day we were on Vieques, which seems like eons ago given the current 22 degree high today and fresh snow. The weather here has been horribly cold. It has gotten so bad that  I was considering trading places with the women in the video shown below. I mean, I love tropical weather and barbecues, she hates the heat and can't figure out why everyone wants to barbecue?    I wonder if  she would consider coming up here to Indiana where I guarantee we  would definitely cool her butt down a few degrees:

Speaking of weather (and didn't that women do a fine job of it), we had the most perfect weather this year on our Feb trip. One couldn't ask for any better. Rain was forecast for as high as 80%, but we really never saw a significant shower at all. The last day on island I was convinced our luck was about to run out. I was watching this storm out to sea and was convinced that we were going to get hit. Typically the storms in Feb move from a southeastly direction to the northwest. It was different this year. They were moving from west to east.  Below is pictures of the storm:

Now in years past this storm would head right for La Plata. As it began to grow you could see the rain  and even a rainbow:

It just kept moving east and never came close to us.

Ok, enough of that, we all have our weather demons to deal with. Like I said this is a clean up post from the last trip, which was Feb 14 Valentines day. To celebrate Lorrie made heart shaped Zen circles around the pieces in the gallery at La Plata:

Nice touch I thought. The gallery was as beautiful as ever and Judy and Andre initiated some new members into the International Rock Balancing Association this season. We even had some members from years past show up on La Plata. 

The strange weather also shifted a lot of the trash I normally see on La Plata to the east, more into Ensenada Honda. One item that did end up on La Plata was this buoy with about 50 foot of attached rope. I watched it way out in the ocean with binoculars. At first I couldn't figure out what it was. As it got close to shore I could tell:

So that's about it for this trip. Lorrie and I decided it was our best trip yet. Why? We think because there were no expectations at all. The novelty of Vieques is not wearing off on us.

I'll leave you with another guy, his name is Michael Grab,  who's really into rock balancing. Amazing pictures. Just imagine what he could do on Vieques. Be sure to check out his web site Gravity Glue.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Muchos Gatos......

Last night we went out to dinner with friends to Coqui Fire Cafe. Our reservations were for 7:30pm. We got to town early because there was something we had heard about but had never seen. We were lucky enough to arrive at just the right time. You see, there's this guy in Isabell and he feeds the cats. When I say he feeds the cats, I  mean he really feeds the cats, like 60 cats. We weren't exactly sure where it was but we knew it was just a block or so from Coqui Fire Cafe. It was dark when we drove by, but you could see all these cat waiting. Waiting on the curb, lined up like statues. Waiting on the the couple cars parked in front of the house. It was surreal there were so many cats.

There's 31 cats in the above picture. Lorrie and I counted at least 60, maybe more. What's weird was that they were all so quiet. No fights or growling. They were all waiting to be feed.

Like I said we timed it just right because the guy came out to feed the cats just a few minutes after we arrived. He was a gentle person and told us that he feed them twice a day and that it took a bag of cat food each day. We've heard that he spends a large chunk of his SS check on the cats.

What was even wilder was this hen chicken that was walking around among all these cats, also eating the cat food:

Still having a few minutes to burn before our reservations, Lorrie and I walked down to the Plaza in the middle of town. It's such a nice place with people" out and abou"t in the evening air. The breezes are just about perfect.

It was so nice being  there. We've really grown to love Isabel. Back when we first started coming to Vieques most all our time was spent in Esperanza, but that has since waned. On the plaza there were families out enjoying the evening, kids playing and of course the ambient noise from the people in the Bar Plaza. It's almost like stepping back in time, a gentler, more simple time. Yes, I know, I'm  romanticizing. Vieques has it's problems, but there is that vibe and I hope that never gets lost.

We left the plaza and made our way back to Coqui Fire Cafe. So far everything we've heard about the place has been good. I know we love their hot sauces. Coqui Fire Cafe is located two blocks from Blackbeards on Calle Carlos Lebrum. They are open Mon-Fri 5-9 pm. and serve Authentic Mexican Food with a Caribbean flare.

We sat outdoors, it was a beautiful full or nearly full, moon.  They had the plastic chairs and tables, much like other smaller restaurants in Vieques. No liquor license yet, so it was BYOB. We opted for water, given it was Mexican cuisine. We started off with  a quesadilla  appetizer.  Two of us didn't caer much for the quesadillas. Much different than what we have back home, but I believe that we eat more of a  Tex-Mex than actual Mexican, so we're not accustomed to the flavor. For entrees we ordered carnitas with black beans and rice. I almost ordered the Big kahuna Burrito, but opted for the pork.

Man was I glad I did. This dish was fantastic. Wonderful flavor. The presentation was so enticing that I started eating and forgot to take a picture first. Here's a picture of my Carnitas, partially eaten:

The portioning was perfect and the flavors bounced off each other just enough to make it interesting. Chef Jimmy came over to our table and ask how our meal was, nice touch. As our conversations with him went on his wife, who greets you, came over and told him "you've got to cook, people are coming in!" I walked back to the kitchen and ask Jimmy if I could take a picture of the place:

Great place, great food, great people. I think that's a Big Kahuna, front and center....yum. Total for the meal was $49. That was  shrimp fajitas for Lorrie, carnitas for me, pina colada cheesecake for desert (oh man was that good there was no picture taking of that beauty) and the quesidillas which were the only thing we didn't care for.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014


 Forecast was for clear skies yesterday and today. Here's what clear skies looks like:

That is a Schofferhofer Hefeweizen I'm holding. I bought a 6 pack of that at Morales. That's a really great German Weissbeir and I found  at the grocery in Vieques.  I was blown away.  Not at all what you would expect to find. 

As you can tell from the picture we spent the day at La Plata. There was about 15 people on the beach when we arrived, which was pretty late, like nearly 12 noon. Wasn't long before we got set up that a group came in from Littleboat sailing. 

I walked down to speak with Jorge, but he wasn't captaining the Hobie today. It was someone else. I ask where Jorge was and he told me in San Juan. While I was there the group ask if I would take a picture, which I did. 

Spoke with lots of different people yesterday. One young guy, Jeremy came up to us quite nervous. His battery in his rental car had gone dead and he wondered if we had any jumper cables. Nope no cables I told him. Next he told us, desperately,  that it was their last day and "he" hadn't really gotten an early start, like his girlfriend had wanted, and now with this snafu the day was really turning sour. During the conversation he  mentioned  that he couldn't get any cell phone signal. I told him to calm down and I would drive him out to the pavement by Caracas where he could call the rental car owner and if that didn't work we could drive on up to the refuge center and see what they might be able to do. During the drive out he kept thanking me. I just wanted the poor guy to take it all in stride.  I told him he was too young to get so frazzled by a little hiccup like this (he was 24). I continued opining, adding that  "if you don't have some kind of issue while vacationing on Vieques you haven't really lived it" and that this would make for great conversation and memories when he got back home.  We hit the pavement, he got hold of the rental agency and we drove back to La Plata.  The four of us hung out under the cabana where we learned that they didn't have any sunscreen either. We helped them out with that too. 

 After Jeremy and Kate left that we met another group of youngsters (I hate saying that but it's true, they weren't much older than my daughter). The foursome was heading out snorkeling and ask if it would be a good idea to go out without any fins? They had 4 masks, but only 2 sets of fins. I advised them that, given the surf, it would be some tough going without fins, even more so since they were unfamiliar with the reef.  I offered them our fins to take out. The couple that needed the fins were getting married on Vieques in a couple days. We told them to leave their stuff with us at the cabana and we would watch it for them. They told me their names but I can't remember now. Anway, the two on the right, in the picture below,  are getting married  this Saturday.

Somewhere around 3pm I told Lorrie that I was going over to Escondida. We had drove down to it last week one day and saw it was a mess.  I enjoy walking over to that beach. Walking gives a completely different perspective to part of the refuge that I think most people fail to see. They're anxious to see the beach.  But there's a lot to see walking the dirt road, sauntering. Thoreau talked about "sauntering" many times before his Lyceum audience:

"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, - who had genius, so to speak, for sauntering" ~ Walking -  Thoreau 1862

So I walked the dirt road to Escondia. Watched the butterflies in the mud, check out the cotton tree/bush and took it all in at a different pace and from a different perspective. Doesn't take long from La Plata before you see Escondida:

 Escondida is a beach that can swing to both sides of the pendulum. Some times we find it picture perfect and other times it just looks like sheit. This trip is has mostly looked like sheit. Covered in dried sea grass/seaweed with hardly any beach exposed:

Not sure if you can tell from the above picture, but it's all seaweed until the wave breaks. But I wasn't looking for a sandy beach, I was ready for a trashy one. That's exactly what I got too. As soon as I got to the edge I saw this monster wad of rope. It was so big that there was no way I was going to be able to move it (much like the huge wad of blue rope that's between La Plata and Econdida and has been there for at least 3 years. I moved it up and out of the water last November).

Hard to tell from the picture, but it was probably 7 foot across and a couple feet wide. I have no idea what it weighted. I decided to focus on the normal stuff I find and there was plenty of it:

As I was working my way down the beach, doing my cleanup, I noticed a palm. It was the palm I had replanted when we came in 2010 after hurricane Tomas. It had uprooted the palm and the whole thing was laying in the ocean. I dug a monster hole and replanted it. Problem was I couldn't really get it stand up straight, it had a lean to it and still does nearly 3 1/2 years later. But it looked great and has really grown:

Here it is right after I planted it

I ended picking up 2 full bag of trash on Escondida. Got the bulk of trash off the beach. It still could use some work. Trash duty complete I sauntered back over to La Plata.

We ended up staying on La Plata till everyone else had left. While we were enjoying it all Little Boat came back in from an afternoon tour:

After they left so did we, close the beach down. 

I'm running a day behind on posts, tomorrow is Muchos Gatos and let me tell you it was eerily unreal. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Road trip....

Lorrie and I filmed the roads going into  the refuge today. We drove to Caracas, Pata Prieta, Playa Chiva and La Plata, in an effort to show the current road conditions. We also wanted to point out that many times there's no need for a 4WD vehicle on the refuge beaches. Green Beach, maybe a different story. So strap in, kick back and let ZZ Top take you on a road trip, if your game.

Speaking of trips, look what Lorrie found in one of the beach chairs from Casa Dos Chivos when we set them up this morning on La plata!

We laughed  so hard when she found it. Casa Dos Chivos translates to house of two goats.

"Like a true Nature's child, we were born, born to be wild."

 Weather was beautiful  on La Plata and  since it's been such a groovy kinda day, I'll leave you with some Steppenwolf. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who's no longer with us) having their own road trip. 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Vieques Bio-Bay goes dark.....

Last November I posted here about the bio bay in Fajardo going dark, now the same thing has happened in Vieques. 

Here's a link to some really good info about the bay and what may be causing the problems. Follow the link below to Science Friday and listen to Edith talk about the bio bay and why sometimes they go dark. Just click the orange "listen" button once you reach the page. Great info.

Who pulled the plug on the Bio Bay?

and thanks Brandi for sharing the link


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Not being cold....

Just got back to the house and finished showering. I came out of the bathroom and told Lorrie "you can't put a price on not being cold, especially when you step out of the shower." And you can't. Back home you jump in the shower and then when you step out it's like SHEIT!!!! Well, at least it is at our place with the thermostat set at 70. Down here on Vieques there's no difference from when you step in, to when you step out.  That is a wonderful feeling.  Something about having the house all open and the fresh air. Lorrie and I have not used the air conditioning, nor will we. There's no need. We're experiencing, at most, a 10 degree temperature swing from heat of the day, to low at night. Your body acclimates to that narrow range quickly and all your joints feel soooo much better. Not sure why I needed to share that, but if you've spent any time in the Caribbean you'll know where I'm coming from. 

Today it was back to Playa Grande. I had some unfinished cleanup and we just felt like it. Forecast was for a 20% chance of rain showers. We hardly saw a cloud, no beer in this picture. It was 10:30am and I just wasn't feeling it. 

Like I mentioned I had some unfinished cleanup to do at Playa Grande. I opted to get it done first thing.  Right out of the gate it  seemed like I was finding an inordinate amount of flip flops/ shoes on this particular sojourn.

Not exactly what I would expect to find on the beach?

Thought the same about this one

Then I started finding the flip flops

I should have counted, but I didn't. But I would wager that I found more than 25 different shoes. Of course I found plenty of plastic liter bottles, plus 5 lighters. Two in one bag and 3 in the second bag. Having already filled the first bag and now nearly at capacity on the second, I sat it down rather than lugging it. I would search a 20 foot stretch and then move the bag down.  I've also started taking the caps off of the plastic bottles and then smashing them with my foot so as to get more into each bag. When I saw that my bag have fell over and spilled I new it was time to quit. 

I made it to marker #85 on Playa Grande. I could still see garbage on ahead of me, but I had to stop. I've been using a piece of bamboo or driftwood to carry the bags back. Smashing the bottles makes for much more weight and using the ties at the top of the bags nearly turned your fingers blue trying to carry them. I just loop the ties over a stick and carry them like a hobo would, works great. 

Trash detail complete the rest of the day was spent enjoying Playa Grande. We went swimming again, with noodles this time. Only saw one other couple, who parked behind us. Young couple from the main island. They told me if we needed to leave they would gladly move their vehicle. I told them we would be on the beach till the sun went down. The walked west up over the rock outcropping. 

While we just hanging out and old friend stopped by, Officer Sanchez. I shook his hand and he said it was good to see us. He's a great guy, and a real asset for Vieques.  We talked for a short bit, kind of caught up. He pointed out how the beach was much wider on Playa Grande than it normally is this time of year. He also talked about how cool the temperatures have been (depends on your point of reference, I know). Then he explained why he had stopped. The car that was parked behind our Jeep had the doors locked and windows up, plus a purse laying in plain site on the seat. There was also a phone in plain site. He was worried that the car would get broken into and was wanting to talk to the owners. We explained that the car was not our, we had the Jeep, which he assumed. I explained that the couple had went west over the rocks down the beach and that we hadn't seen them for about 30 minutes. I told him I would be glad to pass on the advice, if that would be alright. He agreed and thanked me. I like him a lot and I think most people will also.  The young couple showed up 20 minutes later and explained what officer Sanchez had said. 

We packed up about 5:15pm. On our way out Lorrie wanted to stop at the eastern part of Playa Grande. We did and what we found, which we had no idea was there, was a small protected little swimming spot. 

That reef that is out to the right of Lorrie in the above picture, is breaking the waves and creating a nice little calm stretch.

This is looking the other direction, west. It's a nice little area that's really calm. You can't really tell but Lorrie had some other reasons to stop at this area of the beach. Sea glass. At the rate we're going I'll have to check another bag just for the sea glass. She was on the hunt for the elusive " blue" sea glass. About all we could fine was this little piece:

Finally here's her find:

Tomorrow it's back to La Plata, plus we have a new video project to work on. 


Turnout #7......

Spent the day on La Chiva, turnout #7. There's this really nice spot with two palms that you can hang out under. Clean area with little to no sand burrs. Here's a better shot of it with Lorrie sitting out front:

Surf has calmed down considerably. We still haven't done any snorkeling this trip yet. I really think the novelty is wearing on us a little, that or we're just lazy. Probably not even 50 people on La Chiva today. Really different than the past few years. Even Michelle, at the Sol Food truck, commented on how things never really got started this season. The truck is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sundays  because of the slower traffic. 

A few people who did make it are David and Andrea. We got to spend some time with them on  La Chiva. They're friends with Owen and Vanessa (the parents of the little guy sailing his toy boat).  The 6 of us got to swap Vieques stories and visit. Lorrie was a trooper and drove  to the Sol Food truck for everyone. This is the only time she ever drives on Vieques, the rest of it is up to me.  We also ran into Bill and Joy who've been coming to Vieques since early 2000. We share a common thread in that they're also concerned about the trash on  Vieques, so much so that Bill made a deal with one of the local baseball teams. If  the local people could convince the young players to pick up the trash (especially the plastic) along the roads, he would buy each one of them new baseball mitts. There was a certain threshold, in pounds of plastic, I believe that they had to reach. They called his bet and he bought $700 worth of new baseball gear for the team. How about that! Really great people who also love Vieques as much as we do. 

Today was forecast for a 60% chance of rain. Here's a shot of how the day looked:

The police presence we noticed in November has subsided, or maybe disappeared. I've not seen any officers on the beaches, other than one guy on an ATV a number of days ago.  Could be a budgetary issue, I don't really know. Speaking of budgets, I ran into this article on the NYTimes yesterday that talks about the tremendous problems facing Puerto Rico.  It's an interesting read, but I warn you it's not pretty. 

We stayed on La Chiva until sunset and as you can see it was packed. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

What time is it, anyway?

Yesterday was spent at La Plata. We arrived about 11am, had to go into Isabel for some more provisions, which caused us to arrive somewhat later than normal. The beach was empty? 11am and empty? Strange, but it might be confirming anecdotal evidence we've been seeing.  For instance, when we left Judy and Andres after dinner it was about 8:45pm. We drove the Malecon back to Los Chivos. The Malecon was not busy at all. Lazy Jacks had just a few customers and you could drive down the Malecon without having to wait on people to get out of the way. Looked much, much different from Febs we've seen before. Unscientific, I know. But we've noticed other things too. 

Anyway, all told there were maybe 10 people all day long on La Plata. The turnouts to La Chiva had 9 cars total when we drove in.

Weather has deteriorated though. Forecast called for 80% chance of rain, just like tomorrow. Here's what an 80% chance of rain day looks like:

We somehow managed to tough it out. Lorrie says the water has warmed up, I tend to agree. It's  that or we're getting used to it. Air temperatures were in the lower eighties with a nice constant breeze, just about as  perfect weather one could ever ask for. 

We spent time over at the gallery today doing necessary curating, a couple pieces had fallen over. The area to the north of the gallery is still without sand, just like it was in November. We miss being able to walk under the Portia tree on our way over there.  There has been a buildup of sand on the south end of the gallery. Could be part of the beach has shifted, who knows. 

This piece below has been balanced for at least the last 3 years. 

We also did some work on the west side of La Plata. Here's Lorrie hard at work:

It wasn't until later in the afternoon that we realized we hadn't taken a watch or phone with us today. We were trying to figure out what time of day it was.  You know your on island time when you don't worry about the time of day or even what day of the week it is. Gotta love island time. Just when we said "to heck with it"  I remembered that Andre had put up a sundial. So we walked down to that part of the beach to check the time:

 Right at 4pm.  We stayed on La Plata until 6pm (according to the clock in the Jeep), leaving it the same way we found it, empty. I took one last picture of the gallery in the setting sun:

Beautiful day.