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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, October 31, 2017

Crossing the Rubicon....

In  just 3 days Lorrie and I will be boarding a plane for Vieques. Yep...call us crazy. We are going down  to help, as much as that can happen. We are going so I can stand on the beach and raise my fist to Maria and say "you will not change the way we feel about Vieques, you bitch!" We are going down with Bill and Joy to tag team this project.

Sounds good, albeit maybe just a tad naive. Vieques is a mess, a real mess. I have heard everything from  little to no  communication, water is hit and miss, no electricity, apocalyptic stories about waiting in gas lines that start at 3am, little food,  and gangs of looters riding horseback.

But any of us that go to Vieques regularly know full well the power of the coconut telegraph. So based on what I do believe to be accurate (or as accurate as one can possibly be 3k miles away), this is what I have learned:

No electricity. Nada. Power is being restored in and around some areas of Puerto Rico.  I believe 17% of Puerto Rico now has some kind of power. I heard that street lights were on in Fajardo. That's the good news. The bad news, someone cut (intentionally) the power cable running from Puerto Rico to Vieques. Scratching my head on that one, but you can add it to the ever growing pile of obstacles. The fiasco with the Whitefish contract will cause delays, maybe long delays, in restoring power. It's already been a month. Did you know there's a  power generator on Vieques? Been there for many years specifically for use in this kind of disaster and  has the capacity to provide power for  all of Vieques. Unfortunately is was never maintained and is now in disrepair (I've heard unusable).

I am taking a generator with me. I am checking it with United Airlines. I bought it at harbor frieght at a cost of $429. It weighs 47lbs/53 in box (hence the $100 overweight charge from united). We also have a propane snorkel conversion kit for the generator. Now, I say "we", when actually the generator is for Jeff Blanding, the owner of Pure Vida. We are staying with Jeff at Pure Vida. He can't check it with his airline, but I can.  I had reached out on Facebook about trying to find a vehicle and Jeff was the first to respond. You see, there is no way to contact any of the rental car agencies and I had heard that Maritza's had their fleet in use by FEMA, Red Cross and other disaster response people. Not much  I can do to help without a vehicle.  I have to say I was bowled over by the outpouring of help from the  house rental owners on  Vieques. We have multiple houses to stay at, plus multiple offers for vehicles to use, all for FREE. Yes..you heard that right, for free. I plan on working on as many of the houses that I can. Simply amazing and I will pay it forward.

Water...you need to boil it. This is not really getting much press, but it's what I am being told. Some areas (Lujan, Monte Carmelo and others) have not had water restored at all  post Maria. The water has stopped  a number of times, I hope this does not become a pattern. Mostly it's  due to part failures on generators or pumps. Securing needed parts for repairs seems to be best accomplished by the private sector, rather than the municipality.   From what I can gather they have been woefully negligent on responding to critical needs. Where would Vieques be now with Vieques Love? They just in the last few days purchased a radiator for one of the large generators at the water plant and got it installed. If you can, click on the link for Vieques Love and donate, they are the best.   We are taking water purification tablets as well as a lifestraw family water purifier.

Esperanza has had problems with the sewer system. Specifically not working and backing up into houses in Esperanza. I was told this had been fixed. Once again needed part was secured by private means and fixed.

Gasoline. The gas situation seems to be much like pre Maria, only amplified. Some days there have been lines for gas that stretch a very long way, like over a mile. i.e. I saw a video of a gas line that ran from the new gas station just around the corner from the vegetable museum (if you don't know what I am talking about it's very near the intersection of 997 and 200) and it ran all the way south nearly to the Mambo. I heard people were in line from 3am. So yes...amplified...but....I read yesterday that there was no line. So it's all over the map. I've waited in a gas line while on island, most people who visit more than once experience it.,  for maybe 30 minutes max. I've seen this before, granted not nearly on this scale, but I've seen it and dealt with gas line etiquette, which is part of this whole combustible dance.

Food. Just prior and right after Maria, the shelves at the Morales and the colmados looked like something you would read about in a dystopian novel. But I just read a few seconds ago where Al's is open and has cold Medallas and gumbo for $3. Yee Haw!!! Subway and Tsunami are open.  Lazy Jacks has cold beer and pizza.  Coque Fire is open with a limited menu. There are all kinds of reports about food provisions on island. Some bad, some not so bad. I saw a photo of the Morales and it was very decently stocked.  Lydias in Esperanza is said to be better stocked than the north stores. I know that the Mambo and the Green Store are open. I wonder if the cat is still sleeping on the cases of beer in the back at the Green store? We are not taking any food with us. From what I have been able to glean, the big problem with food for people on island is the lack of internet and inability to use SNAP cards.  Cash is king now on Vieques. Unfortunately many of the Viequenese are cash poor.

The  beaches. Obviously the refuge is closed, all of it.  Sun bay was described as a desert. With the Garcia gate closed as well as Playa Grande, the only swimmable beaches left are the Sun Bay complex. I had read that Fish and Wildlife were using bulldozers to clear roadways on Sunbay. It was said that the road to media luna and Navio was really washed away. They were supposed to try to work on the roads to Navio and Medai luna if possible after work was completed on Sunbay. I have been told by a number of people not to get in the ocean. It seems there is a problem with sewage  getting into the ocean. From what I have read it's both sides of the island. There has been no "official" warning about this, but there's not been much official warnings about much of anything.

So that's where we are at. I will be taking extensive video and pictures while on island , but will probably not be able to upload anything  until we get back.

And across the rubicon we go, wish us luck.