RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #5: The Return Trip, Big Blogging Dollar$, And A St. John Update

As predicted it was technically very tough to post from Mexico. The cold, hard truth of the matter is we just totally dropped the ball on this whole blogging thing. We’re already back in the states and we’ve been back for quite a while. Weeks. Maybe months. I’d love to say that we’ll never disappear like this again but the fact is we make zero blogging dollars. As a result, there are very few consequences when we drop out like this. Our scholarships are not on the line. No endorsement deals are in jeopardy. I can honestly say that no one is more disappointed by our lackluster commitment to posting than we are. How’s that for chicken and egg? Let me tell you what happened anyway.

After Todos Santos, we started the long journey northward. We had about 1000 miles of rough road ahead of us to make it back to the border. Luckily, there were a few towns  we skipped on the way down so we wouldn’t just be retracing our steps. In all honesty, our expectations were pretty low. Baja didn’t really seem to be panning out and we were ready to cut our losses. But, lo and behold, the return trip was full of hits! Our first stop was a town called La Ventana. It’s just outside of La Paz and we went because a server at the coffee shop in Todos Santos thought we’d like it. You know, because he knows us so well. And we pretty much always take travel trips from strangers. Turns out he was right. It was wall-to-wall kite-boarders. Literally. But they were all from Quebec and speaking French, which somehow made it way more interesting. Loved La Ventana. We ended up spending a couple of days there.20180207_162344

Next up was Loreto. Which we also liked. It’s a little town with a pretty impressive  (and absurdly Jesuit-positive) mission. Also, there was a carnival going on the night we were there. It was charming and we had some of the best tacos ever. The carnival taco stands in Loreto have table service. Enough said.

 

From there, we headed to Bahia Concepcion which is a big bay on the Sea of Cortez. It’s a fantastic destination for RVs because there are several beaches that you can camp on for just a few pesos. We chose Playa Requeson and it was stellar. We were literally parked right on the beach. Vendors come by selling vegetables and fish and tamales, so if you manage your water and dumping situation you can stay for a while. We were there for three or four nights, just chilling and giving ourselves a little rest. We also stopped in a few other cute towns like San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, and we checked out some very cool cave paintings in Catavina.

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This is so Baja. Beautiful. But also kinda oppressively depressing.

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Beachside camping.

 

We were out of cell reception for several days in a row. When we finally got back on the road and the cell service kicked in, we had inboxes full of bad news. Jennifer’s grandfather passed away and she needed to get to New Jersey ASAP for the funeral. The best plan we could come up with was to make a bee-line for San Diego (which sounds so much easier than it actually was) and hope we could get her on a flight in time. And instead of spending a couple of weeks visiting friends and family out west, as planned, I would start driving from San Diego towards Indiana (with the dogs) and we would pick Jennifer up somewhere along the way.

It all worked out. She made it to the funeral. I got to spend one night with friends in LA. The pups and I listened to a bunch of Audio books, ate some Sonoran hot dogs and In-Out burgers, and picked Jennifer up at the El Paso airport. After that, we spent a few days at Guadalupe National park before driving to Indy for another work week. We spent a lot of that time processing our Baja trip. Here’s what we ended up with:

  1. We’re glad we went, but it was tough. The desert almost beat us.
  2. We definitely wouldn’t do it the same way again. If we did it again, we would only rv as far south as Bahia de Concepcion. If we wanted to go back to Todos or La Paz, we would fly. And the Valle de Guadalupe (wine country) is super accessible by plane, rv, or car and we will definitely be going back there.
  3. There are no really great fish tacos in Baja. Get over it. The mariscos/ceviche is amazing, though. Go with that.
  4. There are sooooo many Canadians. Prepare yourself. I think they might be responsible for the fish taco problem. Just a guess.

I mentioned we’ve been back from Mexico for a long time, right? I wasn’t joking. After that week in Indy, we drove down to Florida so that my mom (World’s Greatest Dog-Sitter) could watch the pups while we did a short trip to St. John to meet with contractors. It was our first time going back since the storms.

Here are some befores and afters. (If you’re reading this, stop what you’re doing and go out and take same nice pictures of your house. We never did this. We have lots of close ups of food and flowers, but this is at good as it gets for the house).

 

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 Before: That’s me in front of our house.

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After: This is me in front of our used-to-be house. Same shirt! That’s my sad face.

 

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Before: View up from pool/workout area.

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After: New open concept.

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Before: The Shack.

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After: The Invisible Shack.

It’s weird. We’ve been traveling like crazy since the storms and even though we always thought we’d go back to St. John and rebuild, we’ve also been sorta open to the idea that we might find somewhere even better for us out there on the road. Have you ever seen that movie Away We Go? With John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph? It’s fabulous. You should see it. Anyway, it’s about this couple who are visiting friends in different places and trying to decide where they want to live and how they want to be. It’s probably about some other stuff, too. Who can remember? I see a lot of movies. Anyway, we’ve felt a little bit like we were in that movie this whole time. Like we’re constantly going on interviews and first dates with all these different places. Like, could we live here?  But nothing has really clicked. We’ve spent a lot of time in super random places recently and when I look around I’m always wondering (sometimes aloud) how did these people get here? I mean, were their ancestors wagon-training-it to California and they just got distracted? Or they ran out of hardtack and salt pork? Did the wheels literally fall off the wagon? Are these the descendants of failed settlers?

Well, that’s the old me.  After all of this time on the road I’m starting to get it. I see how you could end up saying, “Yeah, this is good enough. Forget about where we were headed, let’s just stay here. There’s probably no gold in them thar hills anyway.”  Going back to St. John was a great reminder of where we want to be. Yes, the house is still gone. Our neighborhood is insane. But we can’t wait to rebuild. We like it way better than Mexico. Or anywhere else.

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Plus, we still have the terrible house sign. Our neighbors found it. It’s tucked away in a closet at my mother’s house. For now.

Happy Easter/Passover, everyone. Until next time.

 

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.

 

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?

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Food Fairs and Chainsaws

You might think we spend all of our time here on St. John sunning ourselves on the beach and drowning in Painkillers. Sadly, not true. We do other stuff, too.

Last week was Carnival in St. Thomas and we decided to go check out the Food Fair. It’s a big deal. Government workers get the day off to go. No joke. And it’s just one day, so we jumped on the ferry last Wednesday to check it out and I’m so glad we did.

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Getting back and forth on the car ferry. It’s like our Geo Tracker is amphibious. Sort of.

Normally, I would be skeptical of such an event. I’ve been to things like this over and over, hoping for handmade peach ice-cream and Mrs. So-and-So’s Famous Fried Chicken- you know, like in all the books I read when I was a kid. Like, suddenly I’m going to just walk into the Charlotte’s Web State Fair. Not surprisingly, I’m almost always disappointed by generic funnel cakes, fried snickers bars and maybe some turkey legs from Costco sold by pseudo-professional vendors. (One notable exception is the Pony Swim in Chincoteague, VA where you can get stellar oyster fritters. Really. You should go.)

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Butter Conch Platter. So tasty. So much butter.

Anyway, the St. Thomas Food Fair was phenomenal. Packed with people. Tons of stands set up by church ladies, farmers, families, school groups and small vendors from throughout the Virgin Islands. It was very homespun and very solid. All the food was traditional and everything we had was fabulous. It definitely helped that people were very willing to advise us on which stand had the best whatever while standing in line. We got several excellent steers. It’s like a very frenzied, very caloric scavenger hunt where everyone was actually on the same team.

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Saltfish Pate

There were people selling johnnycakes, stew chicken, butter conch, whelks, and pates stuffed with shark, conch, saltfish, beef or veggies (pates here are like little fried hand pies with kind of a chewy crust. They are amazing.) There was a roti stand. There was tons of sweet stuff too, the usual suspects like coconut tarts and pineapple tarts but also stew cherries, gooseberry tarts, sugarcakes (which I think are pretty much just sugar), pumpkin fritters, and banana fritters. Of course there were Ital stands and tons of natural juices, drinks and tonics. There’s a guy in St. Croix who apparently sells kallaloo every Saturday in some square there, and he made the trip. It was delicious.  The whole thing was spectacular and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in town for STT carnival.

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Chowing down on some seafood kallaloo.

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Lots of high tech signage.

On the way back to the car ferry, we stopped at Home Depot. Because it is a complete sacrilege to go to STT from STJ without going to Home Depot. Also, our internet, which used to be excellent, has been acting shady and we were told we needed to cut back some “bush” (trees), to give our antenna a straight shot to the tower. We were advised we’d need something called a pole saw for this…so we picked one up. Yeah, it turns out that a pole saw is quite literally a chainsaw on a 9′ pole. Did not see that coming. Anyway, now we have a pole saw. A really cheap one. It’s bananas.

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Thought wearing all my clothes at once would count as protective gear.

The chainsaw end is heavier than than you’d think and the pole is pretty flimsy so it just bounces all over the place. You’re supposed to secure it to yourself (according to the directions) with this super shoddy shoulder harness. Once I made it onto our very steep hill, that strap seemed like way more of a commitment than I wanted to make to a chainsaw so I took it off. It was so heavy and so unwieldy I ended up just kind of flailing around wildly in a sea of “catch and keep” which is an almost impenetrable thicket of thorns and prickers. I comforted myself by screaming “Help Me” and “I am not a landscaper” at regular intervals. You know, to relieve the tension. Complete miracle no one was injured.

But at least the internet is moderately better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing Out Of Egypt. Sort Of.

Happy Passover and happy Easter! This year we decided (kind of at the last minute) to have a Passover seder on one of the actual days we were supposed to have it. We’ve been known to shuffle holidays around to fit our very busy schedules because it’s usually just two of us…and is the specific date for Thanksgiving or my birthday really written in stone? No. But this year Jennifer actually remembered it was Passover at the right time and we decided immediately to seder it up. As a total non-Jew, Passover is one of my favorite holidays. I highly recommend it. I’m not going get into the whole history and significance of the holiday. Probably you know. Or you can google it. What it is for me is The World’s Greatest Dinner Party.  There’s reading, there’s ritual, there are all of these symbolic dishes and there are a mandatory, a required, four glasses of wine. It’s a great time.

The deal is though, there’s some stuff you have to get ahead of time- like matzo. Matzo is an absolute requirement. Gotta have it. This is usually not a big deal because you can buy matzo anywhere this time of year. Salted, un-salted, whole wheat, Organic, Streit’s, Manischewitz, whatever. Except on St. John. There’s no matzo on St. John. We checked. Every store.

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Frances on the prowl for matzo.

We could almost definitely have gotten some on St. Thomas (it’s just a ferry ride away, but still kind of an ordeal-I mean, you can do it, but not at the end of the day for just one thing). So, we did what we always do: we gave up on a timely seder. We figured we’d just pick up some matzo the next time we’re shopping in St. Thomas and do a seder then. As a consolation prize, we decided to watch The Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston and Yul Brynner on our new little projector. I don’t think I ever really watched it before. It’s amazing. I LOVED IT. So weird, so wonderful. Anyway, it tells the story of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt and it was a reminder that matzo is supposed to be the kind of bread that you can make when you’re a slave with nothing and you are running for your life. So, honestly, how complicated could it be?

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The Ten Commandments. Solid.

 

We had no idea so we looked on the interweb and found out. Turns out matzo is very easy to make. Flour, water, salt, and maybe some olive oil. The big deal is that you can’t have any leavening, and if you are really strict about it you have to have it all baked and finished within 18 minutes of the water hitting the flour. The idea is that there is no possible way of getting any accidental leavening if you’re moving that fast. There was absolutely no reason for us to follow that rule (because nothing about what we were doing was anywhere near Kosher), but we tried it anyway.

We measured everything out in advance (but kept it all separate), hauled out our pasta roller (because we’re not actually fleeing Egypt), and cranked up the oven.

Then we set the timer for 18 minutes and started mixing. And rolling. And congratulating ourselves on how much time we had.

And then it fell apart. Somehow we went from a carefully executed, nearly professional set-up to a ridiculous episode of I Love Lucy. I’m pretty sure this has something to do with the fact that we only have one little cookie sheet.

And the whole time we’re yelling, “We have to go now! Pharoah is coming!”  It was a little intense. We successfully completed the first batch within the time limit, but on the second batch we got beat at the buzzer. We went ahead and baked off the last two batches we’d rolled out, so all in all the whole process probably took 30 minutes.

It was totally worth it. The matzo worked out.

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Homemade matzo!

It was thinner than normal commercial matzo because I think we rolled it a little too thin, but it was definitely matzo. It did the trick for seder and a little extra for snacking. And I have a feeling we’re going to do this every year now, even if we have regular matzo available. I mean, I know we can get faster…