Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

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It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.

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Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.

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That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.

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Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.

 

 

Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.

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Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.

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This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.

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That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.

 

Street Spice!

Ok, we did exactly what we swore we weren’t going to do. We went a long time without posting. We went a lot of places and we did a lot of things. Should we relive them all here? Should I spend all day trying to remember everything we did? I’m thinking no. I’m thinking I’m just going to do a synopsis slash hit list. So here it is.

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Aquatic as ever.

Synopsis: Since our last post we basically did a 33-day 5,000 mile shakedown trip in our new Winnebago Travato,which we now refer to as Street Spice (sort of a nod to the horrible name we inherited when we bought our now non-existent island house, Sweet Spice). Anyway, we took Street Spice from Indianapolis up through the Finger Lake region of New York and through the Adirondacks into Maine. We spent about 5 days in Acadia National Park, which I highly recommend. (I also recommend eating as much lobster as possible, which we did.)  We actually had reservations in Acadia so we kind of sped through New York to get there but we’re looking forward to going back eventually.

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Also we went to Niagara Falls.

After Acadia we had to haul ass to DC to catch the always fabulous All Things Go Fall Classic. That’s a music festival. You should go because it’s always fabulous. This year it was three days instead of one and we only made it in time for the last day, by which point we were so fried from traveling and just like, coping or whatever, that we ended up leaving before the headliner. And it was STILL FABULOUS. Also we got to spend a few hours with several of our favorite people, so that’s a plus. We got out of DC as fast as possible because we were just generally kind of freaking out about having the RV in the city, but everything worked out great. Sidenote: We are much more comfortable with the RV now and take it pretty much everywhere.

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Soooooo many leaves.

After DC we headed over to Shenandoah National Park (which we’ve visited many times) and hopped on and off of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way down to Asheville, NC. Basically this whole trip was a foliage-fest. Jennifer loves fall foliage. I’m not that into it because changing leaves means weather and I think we can all agree that weather just plain sucks. Nevertheless, we have lots of pics of Wembley and Frances and leaves.

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The Biltmore. Be sure not to miss the “bachelor wing.”

While we were in Asheville we finally made it to the Biltmore Estate which we’ve been meaning to do for years. We love a good house tour. The Biltmore is this gigantic, enormous estate that one of the Vanderbilts built. It’s beautiful and amazing. Frederic Law Olmsted, the guy who designed central park, designed the grounds. Yeah, it’s like that. The thing is, it wasn’t really that interesting. It was kind of too tasteful and classy and there wasn’t much of a story (except that it seems like this Vanderbilt guy was pretty gay, although it was never mentioned and he did eventually get married and we’re totally just guessing . But, you know, it was tasteful). I’ll take circus-mogul John Ringling’s house in Florida over the Biltmore any day of the week. Onwards.

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Hiking like it’s 1992. We are extremely wardrobe-challenged when temps dip below 75.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was kind of a bust because they have a pretty tough dog policy. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds but not on the trails. This turned out not to be a problem because there’s tons of National Forest around the park which is, in many ways, better to camp in anyway. Usually it’s cheap and/or free, the sites are less developed and way less crowded. We did tons of camping and hiking and figuring out the complex intricacies of life in the Travato. (It’s not that hard, mostly because we don’t really have much stuff.) We did buy some camp chairs which are pretty ugly but have upped our recreation game considerably. And a Soda Stream! We finally bought one of those soda stream machines and it is completely life changing. Endless seltzer. Endless boxed wine spritzers. In chairs. We’re getting good at this.

 

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Rocking the self-timer.

On our way back to Indiana we stopped in Oak Ridge, TN. Maybe you know about Oak Ridge? We had no idea. Basically, it was a completely secret town that was part of the Manhattan Project- you know, the development of the nuclear program? Yeah, it turns out there were thousands and thousands of people living in a SECRET CITY in Tennessee during WWII working on making the atomic bomb. We got there late so we didn’t get the full tour but it was still mind-blowing. We’re definitely going back.

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In lieu of a driver’s license, Jennifer got an official Oak Ridge ID.

As an added bonus while driving towards Oak Ridge we ended up on a crazy, twisty road full of hot rods, motorcycles and photographers. Apparently it’s some famous achievement to “drive the dragon.”

 

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Professional photo, guys. We slayed the dragon. Let us know if you’d like a print. Or a t-shirt. They’re available.

After that it was straight back to Indy for a week of motel-living and a paycheck. Yes, we were back in the same extended stay hotel we’ve posted about previously. No, nothing at all interesting happened in that week (although the Hallmark Channel is doing it’s holiday movie marathon, in case you’re interested. Like me.).

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One of the benefits of being a frequent guest at a quality hotel is that the staff sometimes attaches little notes when your new shoes are delivered. Thanks, Renee!

Finally, we headed down to Florida (where we are now) to register the van and get some government ID. On our way down here we camped at a state park in Kentucky. On Halloween. When we pulled in it was after dark  and almost completely deserted.  So we took a spin around all the sites to find the best one and then we went to the after-hours registration station, filled in our info and parked at our deserted campsite. Five minutes later headlights show up out of nowhere. Right behind us. Suddenly Kentucky didn’t feel like the World’s Friendliest Place. But it turns out the couple in the car were the campground hosts. Apparently, we were looking very suspicious pulling in late at night in a black van. They thought maybe we were a meth lab. You know, like the two other meth labs they busted at that campground the week before.  Not even kidding. All in all it was a pretty good shakedown cruise. No major malfunctions. Lots of good times.

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Kentucky. I think.

*Progress Update on Sweet Spice: We had several text exchanges and static-y conversations with multiple insurance adjusters who have confirmed that “you’re house is gone” and “seems like it was a nice place, probably.” Then we got a letter from FEMA denying our request to build a bridge. We had no idea that was even an option. Stay tuned.

 

 

Eating Our Feelings: Lobster Quest 2017

This is our first update from the road. We’re learning that wifi is spotty out here in America and we’re staked out in the Starbuck’s alcove of what may be the last remaining Barnes and Noble. Who knew? I thought they were long gone, but if you need to relive the You’ve Got Mail era head over here to…somewhere in Virginia.

Anyway, we’re going to have to keep this update fairly brief. Our travels in the Travato so far have been great. We’re still a little shell shocked from the whole hurricane displacement issue, but our motto has turned out to be: keep moving. In that vein we have spent the last 2.5 weeks camping through the Finger Lakes and Adirondack park in upstate New York (all of it lovely and kind of a blur), hitting up Niagara Falls, and spending about 5 days in Acadia National Park in Maine. I don’t have time to share all the details of these spectacular destinations right now but, trust me, they are spectacular.

In Maine we decided that our second motto should be: distract yourself with treats. So we completely dedicated ourselves to Lobster Quest 2017: Pursuit of the Perfect Lobster Roll. This happened because we knew we wanted an amazing lobster roll while in Maine (obviously) and we found a list of great places for lobster rolls. Then we selflessly dedicated ourselves to trying as many as possible and coming up with a way to rate them. Ultimately, we ended up trying lobster rolls from 5 different establishments on the list. That’s a lot of lobster in 5 days.

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The Maine: Mayo and Chives

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The Connecticut: Hot Butter

First, let it be said, we did not have a bad lobster roll during this challenge. We have to be nit-picky in order to rank them. They were all delicious, but when you take in the overall setting/ambiance as well as the overall quality of the roll (amount of lobster, lobster taste, roll/meat ratio, etc.) there were some clear winners. Here are our results, good to great, of Maine’s best lobster rolls (according to us).

#5 Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor. This was kind of a weird one.  All of the other places we tried were legit lobster pounds or seafood stands. This place is like an eclectic cafe in the touristy town right next to Acadia National park. It’s right in town, so it’s really just a lobster roll of convenience. We took ours to go on our way out of the park. Were it not on our list, we would never have stopped. They have a whole burrito section on their menu. However, the lobster roll was still above average with a nicely buttered roll and a good amount of lobster meat. Not really memorable, though.

#4 Muscongus Bay Lobster in Round Pond. This is a lobster shack in a quaint setting on the water in an out of the way town in Maine. Jennifer picked up the lobster rolls and she said the place had kind of a bohemian feel. Whatever. Their deal is they make their own buns. And they recommended the whole wheat, so that’s what we got. Terrible idea. Lobster rolls do not belong on whole wheat buns no matter how good they are. Period. The lobster can’t compete with that kind of culinary pressure. Also, they had some kind of tarragon mayo going on (risky move), but we couldn’t really taste it. Basically, this place is ranked #4 instead of #5 just because it’s in a way cooler spot than Side Street Cafe and you feel like you’re getting more of a “Maine” experience.

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Bite Of Maine Food Truck/Trailer

#3 Bite of Maine in Cape Elizabeth. This is actually a food truck near the big city of Portland. We hit it on our way out of the state. We were expecting it to be kind of a weird urban lobster experience, but it wasn’t. The truck/trailer is parked in this ridiculously beautiful city park on the water with a crazy lighthouse in the background. You pick up your roll and take it to whatever picnic table you want. The deal here is they have different styles of lobster rolls. They have some with wasabi, some with curry, some with cole slaw. In the interest of keeping the competition pure we only tried the classics, which are the Maine (mayo and chive) and the Connecticut (hot butter). The Connecticut won hands down. It was a very, very solid lobster roll. Buttery and delicious and with good lobster flavor. The Maine just tasted like mayo, pretty much. There was a lot of it. I’d still be up for trying some of their more creative rolls next time.

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Lobster Glow

#2 Five Islands Lobster Co in Georgetown. This was our first stop. It’s in a totally out of the way, completely quaint little village right on the water. You order your roll from the shack and take it out to the wood deck to chow down with a gorgeous view of all of these beautiful little islands (probably five).  You can practically hear the theme song of Murder She Wrote in the air. It feels like you think Maine should feel. The lobster roll was very good. A little bland, but good and full of meat. What it lacked in flavor was more than made up for by the setting. Yeah, you should go.

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Uh-huh.

 

#1 Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. This was the best lobster roll we had on this trip. No question. Great roll, perfect ratio of meat to bun, amazing lobster flavor. Plus, it’s a legit lobster pound right on the water about 30 minutes from Acadia. They have a screened in porch you can eat on over the water, but we ate in the Travato because we had a great view and we also have a screen door. Total happiness. They also do lobster dinners…you pick out your lobster at the counter and they throw it in the steamer out back. It was dinner time when we were there so we branched out and got some corn on the cob, too. Also excellent. Also, they have great t-shirts. I should know. I got one. Perfect blend of cotton and poly, very 1987.

 

 

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View of Thurstons from our screened porch/van. Does your car not have a screen door???

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Chowing down in the van.

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Thurston’s. Yeah, there’s lettuce. It works.

In the spirit of absolute fucking transparency, I’d like to mention another lobster hot spot that has stellar rolls that we didn’t get a chance to stop at on this trip: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset ME. It was our first great lobster roll experience and if the lines outside the door are any indication, they’re still turning out a very fine product. Probably you should stop there if you can.

And finally, because how can we have even one post without a mention of St. John, I’d like to give a shout out to the super delicious lobster rolls once served at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay. Sadly, the Tourist Trap closed down even before Irma, but those were great lobster rolls in a truly beautiful spot. Hope you had a chance to try them while they were still around.

So that’s it. That’s our lobster list. It’s time to use the Barnes and Noble bathroom for the 103rd time and get back in the Travato. Stay tuned.

Oh, we’re headed to the Asheville, NC/ Great Smoky Mountains area right now, so if anyone has any tips, please let us know!

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On The Road. Again.

Well, ok, we’ve made some progress. Basically what happened was-we kind of lost our minds. Faced with months and probably years of couch surfing and extended stay hotels while we try to rebuild our house in STJ we both sank, simultaneously, into a deep, dark depression in Indianapolis. I’m not going to go on about that because you can probably figure out that the whole situation sucks (for everyone touched by Irma, not just us. And yeah, we know we’re lucky).

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Jennifer and Wembley packing all of our remaining clothes in hotel.

Anyway, we were seriously thinking about changing the name of this interweb journal from detached and amused to down-trodden and disgusted. But, you know, wordpress is more of a pain in the ass to edit than you would think. So we decided that if the title is detached and amused then that’s what we have to be. AND if we already have the about us page set up to chronicle our journeys in a Winnebago, then we needed a fucking Winnebago. So we got one.

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Introducing the Travato. This is a HUGE upgrade from Coachese (for whom we found a lovely and fantastic new owner). This guy is brand new. All the bells and whistles. Very extended warranty. The best Winnebago has to offer in a campervan (and much, much nicer than many of the places we’ve lived). Anyway, we checked out of the exended stay hotel and directly into the Travato a few days ago. Yes, you’re right, we can’t afford this. Thanks for reminding us.

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Frances in the Travato. Yeah. We fancy now. She knows it.

 

Let’s stay positive, shall we? This guy is super stealthy. He doesn’t really look like an RV. He’s 21 feet long and pretty much fits in regular parking spots. And even if people know its an RV, it’s so fucking nice that no one minds having it parked in their driveway. I know this is true because we already camped in our friends’ driveway in a very swanky neighborhood in Cincinnati. Thank you Adeoyes. We really, really love you guys.

 

Right now we are somewhere in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Yesterday, we went to Niagara Falls (first time for all of us and very impressive). Later this week we’ll be in Acadia National Park in Maine. And at the end of the month we’ll be back in Indy because Jennifer has work dates scheduled. And that’s how it will go, hopefully. Instead of spending the next year or more in a semi-soul-crushing Days Inn while we battle insurance companies and scheme about how to get our life back, we’ll ping pong around the country in our 100% operable rv, visiting friends and family (yes, this means you) and World Famous Attractions between work weeks (while also still battling and scheming to get our island life back).

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Niagara Falls. Taken by storm.

 

Hey, let’s not forget that this was our plan all along. We always wanted to spend part of our time doing this. I know this because I’ve actually read this blog. We just forgot for a minute because it almost always sucks a little when you’re forced into something. Even if it was one of your dreams.

Sweet Spice Down. Irma Update.

Well, it’s official. Sweet Spice, our island paradise home is gone. We’re still stateside and so we haven’t seen the damage in person, but the words that have been used to describe it are “destroyed”, “totally destroyed”, “missing”, and “not much left.”

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Weirdly, one of our neighbors found our high-quality sign in the rubble. It outilved the house.

We’re fine. We’re in Indianapolis where Jennifer is finishing up a week of work. We were supposed to head back home in a few days, but that can’t happen now. Not just because we don’t have a house or any possessions left, but also because the whole island is just devastated. I mean, really devastated. The pictures we’ve seen and the few messages we’ve gotten from friends, neighbors, and the coconut telegraph have been totally heartbreaking. As far as we can tell, it’s just a complete disaster zone. Here’s a picture I stole from an interweb page about our neighborhood.21761666_10209811717829745_5002246930315855434_n

The media coverage of the Virgin Islands was super sparse, especially in the first few days  after the storm but there are some reports coming out now. Like this article in the Washington Post about how the people in our neighborhood, Coral Bay, are coping. Read it. It’s totally amazing. And speaking of things that are amazing, almost everyone we can think of has been accounted for. If you see the pictures, you’ll know how crazy that it is.

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Before

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After

And then maybe if you’re feeling generous you could make a donation so that the people in STJ can buy chainsaws and diapers and tarps and mosquito repellent, and hopefully maybe some beer because my neighbors have been huddling under mattresses in a Category 5 hurricane, dodging power lines and dead donkeys, cutting each other out of barricaded houses, and just generally surviving for 8 days already and I think they deserve some beer. This is St. John we’re talking about after all. Withdrawal is a real consideration.

As far as our plans go, we really don’t have any yet. I think we’re a little shell shocked. We just sold our Winnebago, by the way. That was actually one of our goals when we planned this trip. Things were going so swimmingly with all the improvements at Sweet Spice we decided to just focus on the house. Good timing. Go us.

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Coachese in happier times.  So long, Coachese!

I don’t know much about blogging, but I’m pretty sure I read that it’s really important to pick a specific subject and stick with it.  That’s going to be fairly fucking tough since this blog is supposed to be about our travels in our Winnebago and our life in our house in St. John…and we don’t have either of those things anymore. So, unless you’re super stoked to read about whatever it is that we end up doing from here on out, feel free to un-follow us or de-subscribe or whatever. Who could blame you?

Our post-Tuesday reality will most likely involve driving down to Florida to stay with family while we figure out what’s next. Ultimately, we’ll rebuild and live in STJ. We know this. We just have to figure out how. I mean, we’d like nothing better than to go home on Tuesday. Because clearly what St. John needs right now is two more homeless, middle-aged ladies. And their dogs.  Probably not. So for the immediate future we’re completely open to suggestions. Seriously. Ideas currently being batted around include: another RV (that actually works), a tent on our property, a container house. We’re spinning. Who has ideas?

 

Hurricane Irma: We’re OK. We’re Off Island.

Thanks to everyone who has called and texted and emailed to check on us. We are not on STJ right now. We’ve been in the States for the past couple of weeks working (and selling Coachese). We feel very lucky to be here while our friends and neighbors in Coral Bay are hunkered down riding Irma out. I can’t even imagine how scary that would be. We have no idea what’s going on at our house. It was completely boarded up before the storm (thanks, Paul). We are scheduled to head back around the 19th, but that may change.  We don’t really have any information about what’s going on in St. John right now. Pretty sure communication will be very limited for some time. Thanks again for all the crossed fingers! Keep the good thoughts going for everyone in the VI.

My Blue Island

If we had more readers, this post might get me in trouble. But we don’t. So here goes.

If you live on a small island in the Caribbean there is a distinct chance that you have some sketchy neighbors. I don’t mean this in a bad way, and I am the first to admit that we are definitely someone else’s sketchy neighbors. What I mean is that living here you meet a lot of people who are…not quite linear. Most of the people we know here are super nice and friendly and we readily throw them into categories and think we know who they are. Like, oh yeah, Scott, he’s a boat guy. Or, oh yeah, the Snyders they’re great, they’re like old hippies. Or, Todd, not sure what his deal is but he seems really classy. They don’t spend much time talking about how they got here or what their story is, which I, for one, appreciate. It makes for an interesting vibe: unbelievably laid back while simultaneously maniacally guarded.

But the other day I started thinking about it. It started like this; somehow, we ended up hanging out with some neighbors of ours who have this amazing house of which I am often somewhat jealous. These are established people who have a finished house that has a name and who don’t sleep on a pullout couch. They’re adults. We went over for drinks, got the tour, went for some dinner, had a blast. Very neighborly. Thoroughly enjoyed myself. Got a glimpse into how the other half lives. Jennifer knows them a bit more than I do, so the next day I asked her what their story was. She said she wasn’t sure, but she thought someone else had mentioned he was in furniture.  Huh. Ok.

But, I mean, their furniture wasn’t really…noteworthy. And, like, when does he do this furniture-ing? I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s not furniture-ing anything here and he’s here like 60% of the time. Whatever. Maybe he secretly invented furniture, built a house here 20 years ago, and called it a day.

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Ok, this is not their house. This is Robin Masters’ estate from the hit tv series, Magnum, PI. But you get the idea.

And what about Scott the boat guy? Late forties. Always friendly. Always helpful. Always a little rumpled. A little sunburnt. Lives on a sailboat of some kind. Always see him at the grocery store, or the mail drop, or the bar. Seems to eat most of his meals out. Not flashy, but not starving. Doesn’t really seem like he has any visible means of support and I’m pretty sure he’s been here for years. I know approximately seventeen Scotts. Seriously. Just off the top of my head. Scott is almost the norm.

Finally, it dawned on me. This is the place where you would go if, say, you figured out how to swipe a big chunk of change from under the nose of the company you worked for and you ACTUALLY DID IT and didn’t get caught. Or, like, if you were a cop and you stumbled on a dead guy in a car with a trunk full of money and only the dead guy got turned in. I think when people do stuff like that, like, take the money and run….this is exactly the place they’d to run to. No passport required, not a lot of scrutiny, just a boat ride away from several other nations. Excellent weather.

I know, I know, I’m being dramatic. Probably you can tell I watch a lot of movies. So, when I had this realization the movie I immediately thought of was My Blue Heaven, starring one Mr. Steve Martin. In this gem of a film from 1990, Steve plays a mob informant from NYC who gets relocated to some All-American suburb courtesy of the Federal witness protection program (supervised by none other than Rick Moranis-you know, Honey I Shrunk the Kids?).  blueheavendvdAnyway, Steve Martin’s character is a zany fish-out-of-water in a very shiny suit. He struggles to adapt. Until…he realizes the old guy at the pet store is one of his old mob buddies who ALSO was relocated to this little slice of heaven. Eventually, he realizes the Feds have “hidden” so many people there that the idyllic suburb houses more criminals than Sing Sing. That might actually be a quote from the movie (which is fabulous, by the way. Embrace the dance sequences). Sorry, I digressed.

 

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Anyway, that’s how I’ve been feeling here on St. John recently. Like everyone has some crazy backstory I don’t know about. Hey listen, I know that most of my fellow island dwellers are not on the lam or in witness protection. I know this. They are just as boring as we are. But a girl can dream.

Sweet Spice: Our Projects Have Projects

This is an update. Ideally, I’d wait until we actually finished something before posting about it but 1) we never finish anything and 2) we had a personal request from our number one fan, Mr. Hoffman. This one’s for you. See you in the comments section!

There are changes afoot here at Sweet Spice (what a terrible name for our island paradise, no? More on that another time). We are taking the bull by the horns and making progress on our to-do list. Also, we are hiring people to help us. As I write this, there are three guys working on screening in our front porch. Amazing. But no matter how hard they work, it will not be done today because we are waiting for screen doors from St. Thomas. That’s just how it works. I envision an extremely prolonged semi-screened situation looming. You know how the old saying goes, “better to have half a screen than no scr……just kidding.  Half a screen is pretty much just as useless as no screen.”

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Future screened area. Fingers crossed.

Moving on. We finally had the property fenced in to keep the donkeys and goats out. It’s like a miracle. Things are growing and nothing is eating them. We did not tackle this project ourselves, which is probably why it got finished. After the fencing, we basically had a truckload of palms and bougainvillea planted to help stabilize the hill that was damaged by a wayward wedding party and their SUV a while back. Read more about that here. It’s made a huge difference. Really. Much less like an abandoned accident scene.

 

Our neighbor-slash-landscaping guru, Josephine, did an incredible job, but now we have to keep everything alive, even during droughts. It’s a lot of pressure. We don’t want to let her down so we built a somewhat elaborate irrigation system (so far, so good. Thanks youtube) and have been mulching and weeding our asses off all over the place. Kinda.

 

 

No projects here are ever just one step. The people who build the fences and plant the plants are not the same people who build the gates to the fences. But, after a month of scampering under treacherous wire fencing every time we had to leave, we finally found someone to build us a gate. Life. Changing.

 

 

Seriously.

That same guy is also helping us improve our sleeping situation. Basically, we’ve been sleeping on the pull out for so long that I’m pretty sure we’re both maimed for life and utterly deserving of some special parking compensation. The “bedroom” of our house is basically a weird little room tucked under the porch. There is an elevated platform to hold a mattress, some very sketchy crumbling drywall, and a scary bathroom in a separate shack next to the pool. Read more on that here. Anyway, we’ve been using the space as the global headquarters of Crossfit St. John Sweet Spice (membership: 2), but those days are coming to an end. We eventually hope to build the taj mahal of fitness, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we bit the bullet and impetuously ordered a real mattress. Shockingly, it called our bluff and showed up. There it is now, behind the couch that we’re still sleeping on.20170712_132851

So the plan became, ok, we’ll just go down there and move the weights to the side, maybe throw some paint around, step on a spider and make it work. But it was so gross. It was too gross for our new mattress. I accidentally bumped into the wall and it literally crumbled into sand and dust at my feet. Plus, there was a lot of suspicious fly activity. I don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, I showed it to the guy who helped us with the fence. One thing led to another, and… we decided to rip everything out. Then he suggested we could maybe fit the world’s smallest bathroom down there. The reason this might work is because this guy, Paul, is like a combo of an actual handyman and a youtube video tutorial. He doesn’t show up with a crew. He shows up and tells us what to do. So he’s building the new bedroom, but we’re going to help. We had to tear everything out ourselves. Current dead rat tally: 2. I can’t talk about it. But at least we work cheap.

 

The status right now is that everything is torn out, down to the studs. All of the many, many, pest-inviting openings have been sealed. We ordered pretty much the smallest sink we could find on amazon (it’s so small that amazon will deliver it here) and the toilet is on the way from St. Thomas. Allegedly. We are definitely headed in the direction of a good night’s sleep and 15 sf of bathroom decadence. I have no idea how this is going to work, especially the plumbing. Especially if Paul vanishes into the St. John version of the Bermuda triangle that has claimed so many of the contractors around here. If that happens, I’m not 100% ruling out a very long pipe leading deep into the woods…

Stay tuned.

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This is the platform where the bed will go. One day.

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The bathroom will be in that corner. Can’t you see it?

 

 

 

 

 

Iguana Drama

So, one of the downsides of having an empty pool is that iguanas sometimes fall in and can’t get out. That seems ridiculous, I know.  They’re wild iguanas- of course they can get out, right? Nope. We figured this out when we had to scrape dried iguana off the bottom of the pool when we first moved here.

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This is our state-of-the-art iguana rescue apparatus.

Well, it happened again. We heard scratching and scrambling and, sure enough, there was an iguana in the pool. After carefully assessing the situation we decided to put some sticks and a long-handled pool brush in there so the little guy could climb out on his own time. You know, let nature take its course. However, when a lady we know who has lived here a while found out about our plan, she clearly thought we were silly and ridiculous people. Then this happened:

 

Yep. She’s a badass.

Sincerely,

Silly and Ridicuolous

How To Make Your Own Sea Salt

It’s not all fun and games here in paradise. I mean, mostly it is- but there are some exceptions. Here’s one.

There’s a very cool thing that happens here when we go through a drought. Just behind an amazingly beautiful beach called Salt Pond, there lies an actual dark and murky saline pond. No idea about the science of this, but probably you can look it up. Anyway, it’s on the South Side of the island and if you’ve ever been here to visit us (and if not, why not?) we’ve probably taken you there for a beach day or to hike up Ram’s Head, which is a breathtaking trail. So usually that’s what we get up to when we head that way- fun and sun and happiness. But, when there’s a drought and enough water evaporates out of the pond behind the beach, the salt crystalizes and all of the locals get giddy and start talking about going over there to “get salt”.  All natural, free, delicious sea salt. Who could resist? We, like many of our neighbors, grabbed a bucket and headed over.

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Salt Pond Beach- where we’d take you if you came to visit.

Here’s the thing: harvesting salt is way harder that you’d think. The pond is like a muddy pool with a hard white crust of salt forming at the edges. Also, because the water table is so low there’s a not-so-delicious sulfur smell going on. You have to carefully pick a spot where you can chip away the crystals (by hand, mostly) and not break through the salt and into the mud.

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Salt Pond Mine- just a short trail away from the beach.

By the way, this is all stuff we figured out after some disasters last year because no one ever tells you how to get salt. They just tell you it’s there. One of the things we learned is not to overfill your bucket. Hiking out with heavy buckets of salt flat-out sucks. All along the path back to the parking lot you can see where people have either started dumping their salt on purpose as a load lightening technique or else they dropped their bucket out of fatigue (hello, last year).

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Salt Down. Bummer.

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Salt Harvesting- not all it’s cracked up to be.

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Huge Crystals

Even if you make it home with your bucket of salt, the work is not over. This salt is not shaker ready. This year we did a combination of processes. We dried it in the sun (excellent way to encourage rain, by the way). We picked out the debris and rinsed it. We put it in a very low oven (last year, we burned it. Did you know you could burn salt? You can.) Then we crushed it with a mortar and pestle.

Then we put it back in the oven until it was bright white and very salt like. Now it’s in jars, ready for use. It actually worked out. We’ve got a stellar end product (not like last time). We probably have 4 or 5 quarts of St. John’s finest sea salt…but it wasn’t easy.

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If any of you reading this have any suggestions on how we could make this easier on ourselves next time (other than just going to the store), we’d love to hear about it in the comments.