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Coccoloba

Coccoloba

The Cast

Date: 09/02/2019

FILLERBUSTER’S ELEVEN

BACKGROUND:  This started as a long-winded numbered blog.  It transformed into an organized long-winded category blog.  Now, it is a quick-hitter to ease your pain.  I lack time.  So, the preparation of the blog actually made me procrastinate from writing the thing.  Let’s see who makes the cut.  Barely edited as usual unfortunately, so please excuse any mistakes during my stream of consciousness.  I feel the need…the need for speed.  Let’s turn and burn.

SETTING:  In the words of my old boss, Holy Crap.  I have been gone for two weeks, one pretty much off the news and sports scene.  Second week was in the know, but busy doing water stuff.  Anyway, I kept in the loop enough to write about my sports world, but probably a little more distant and general than usual.  Anyway, this is written on Sunday morning and Monday evening of Labor Day weekend.  Released on Labor Day.  Lots to get to…

  1. EVERGREEN:  I don’t like events that make the assumption or have the appearance that the USA is #1.  I like fairness.  I get that the USA just won, and that the event was created IN the USA, but let’s spread out the draw.  I hate that one side of the draw is all USA teams and the other side is the world.  Let’s draw straws, put everyone in randomized rankings, or ballpark rankings, but basically let’s mix it up.  Let’s have international teams playing the USA teams earlier in the draw.  This is not just because I hate that the USA owns an entire side of the bracket, but because some of the best baseball is NOT in the USA.  Puerto Rico, Japan, and the DR have some of the best baseball foundations in the world.  Let’s let their young ones have a better chance, and chances to meet some USA kids along their journey towards winning or losing.
  2. EVERGREEN 2: I was in a hotel room in Florida when Andrew Luck announced his retirement.  Mind was blown, and the general football fan part of me was saddened deeply.  Sure, he might have had a few more injuries, but the Colts are on the rise, made the playoffs last year when he was healthy, were a popular pick to make some contending noise this year, and this decimated their QB depth chart for years to come.  That is not to say we should fault Luck.  But, the ripples he sent to his team by leaving also resonated across the entire NFL.  This is on the level of Barry Sanders and Robert Smith suddenly retiring, in their prime.  Both had fantastic seasons the year before, and then decided to call it quits for good reasons.  I guess I should be happy that there is one less AFC contender for my Steelers to outlast.  But, what I am really feeling is a hole of a guy in his prime, fighting through injuries, that we ALL hoped had the best yet to come.  Big loss for the sport, the team, and fans.  His Twitter goodbye as Captain Luck almost made me shed a tear.
  3. NFL: (in fluid style) During this whole Zeke-Jones standoff, is he still in Cabo “training?”  I fully support breaking barriers, and since there is no women’s football league, you go, Carli Lloyd, and a kicker who was a soccer player makes the most sense.  Speaking of barriers, I love that Ryan Russell announced his bisexuality WHILE being a free agent.  Maybe not the best business model to get a job, but statement is now made and out there.  I am a Steelers fan, and even am tired of Big Ben and Antonio Brown trading media barbs…just text each other personally.  The Luck absence has given us a Brock Osweiler sighting, at least.  Before you think we will get another dose of Fitzmagic, know that the rest of the Dolphins kind of stink.  No Fitzmagic in Paxton Lynch, as the previous first rounder just got cut again.  If Josh Gordon succeeds with the Pats, know that the Patriot Way saying will only be more energized.  Terrelle Pryor was cut again, and maybe he should have stuck to the QB position.  Make sure you are still reading Why Your Team Sucks on Deadspin, as they are almost done and it is funny whether it is your team or not.  Clowney to the Seahawks is a good gamble for the Seahawks.  Kid is still young.  How in the HELL does Kaepernick not even get PHONE CALLS about having a job.  Embarrassing.  When I was traveling and wearing my Steelers hat, other fans would tell me about their game tonight.  A preseason game is not a game.  Televised practice.  The Chargers allowing Melvin Gordon to look for a trade is more proof that the players have way too much leverage these days.  Sure, he has a previous relationship with him, but I would have given LeSean McCoy another shot too.  Smart, Andy Reid.
  4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: (breaking into bullets, as there is WAY too much to say)
    1. SEASON PREVIEW THINGS I NOTICED:
      1. One interesting thing to watch this year is the quality of the Oklahoma offensive line.  Most people forget they lost 4 of 5 offensive linemen.
      1. But, according to the USA Today, OU is the most likable team, so they have that going for them.
      1. I enjoyed this read on the college football season.  https://www.si.com/college-football/2019/08/28/ncaa-bold-predictions-texas-nebraska-notre-dame-pac-12
      1. Notre Dame plans Georgia, Michigan, and Stanford on the road.  Tough.
      1. If Michigan doesn’t make the playoff this year, they can’t say they didn’t have the schedule to do so.  They play Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State at home.
      1. I admit to forgetting that Jacob Eason, ex-UGA QB, is the starter at Washington.
      1. I forgot that Brandon Wimbush is the starter at UCF this year.
      1. Texas A&M has a great team, and they might be highly ranked until late season, but their last two games are at UGA and at LSU.
      1. Penn State plays Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State on the road.
      1. I am sure there were good reasons, but there HAD to be, as I don’t understand why Alex Hornibrook left a solid Wisconsin team.
      1. Another team having a good schedule is Nebraska.  They get Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin at home, and that gives them no excuses.
      1. We talk about their defense all the time, but Michigan State surprisingly is only 20-18 the last three years.
      1. There is a good chance that Virginia Tech is 7-0 going to Notre Dame.
      1. Iowa State should be favored in every game until a November date in Norman.
      1. Stanford’s schedule dodges Utah, which is good.
    1. FIRST WEEKEND NOTES:
      1. Bama has wall to wall five stars, but you only stock so much in the cupboard.  They lost Dylan Moses in the last few weeks for the season.  He was their leading tackler and signal caller, and that importance can’t be just replaced by a new guy.
      1. It is bad enough that a supposedly Florida State team lost to Boise after having such a huge lead, but it is even more embarrassing that this occurred at HOME after the move for the hurricane.
      1. The Auburn-Oregon was a great game to watch by two teams that are obviously very talented and possible contenders.  But, Oregon is the early spokesperson for the Pac-12, and they took their gas off the pedal against a freshman QB and got burned.  That will be a hard loss to come back from, because Auburn will lose to a couple SEC teams.
      1. The REST of the mid-tier SEC didn’t have a great weekend.
      1. The Miami-Florida game had a very sloppy ending, and neither team seemed to want to win it.  Both of those teams either need to grow up quickly, or will be out of the mix soon enough, especially with their schedules.
      1. The Pac-12 voted down 9am kickoffs, and this doesn’t make sense to me.  They at least need to see some of the conference games, and that was a good option.
      1. Iowa State slipped past Northern Iowa in three OT’s.  They were sneaky contender picks preseason, but that performance won’t do when they hit the meat of their schedule.
      1. OU beat Houston, and Jalen Hurts definitely put a nice initial foot forward for the three-peat Sooner Heisman run.
      1. I was on the good side of the bet when Stanford sacked Northwestern with :20 left to beat the spread.
      1. Let’s wait until a real game before we are impressed with Maryland winning 79-0.
      1. Tennessee was on the up and up, right?  Nope.  Georgia State stopped that progress quickly.
      1. UVA played three good quarters against Pitt to win a road opener in convincing fashion.  Hope.
      1. South Carolina apparently didn’t get the memo that losses IN the conference are OK, and losses NOT in the conference are bad.  Lost to UNC.
      1. Ole Miss lost to Memphis, but we will see as this season goes on that it wasn’t as bad as loss as people think.  Memphis is solid.
      1. USC had an early kick return TD negated because they had two #7 players on the field.
      1. But losing JT Daniels hurts USC more.  I wanted to see that talented kid play this year with a year under his belt.
      1. The Mountain West had a solid weekend.
  5. NBA: (in fluid style) The Golden Nugget will offer sports betting, as long as it doesn’t involve the Rockets.  A warrant was issued to DeMarcus Cousins, and glad to know he is back to old habits.  Wilson Chandler got suspended for PED’s, and it appears those weren’t working very well in the last few years given his output.  The Rockets locked up Eric Gordon, and I get potential and ceiling for a guy who averages 16.1 points a game, but they are now paying three backcourt players a ridiculous amount of money.  The USA hoops team lost to Australia, and brace for more close calls and possible losses.  The team is talented, and I am just hoping this takes their cockiness down a notch, as the world is slowly catching us in our sport.  I feeling like I am being repetitive over the years, but THIS has to be the last chance for Dwight Howard (Lakers), right???  HAS to be.  I am glad that LeBron has nothing better to do with his resources’ time than to patent Taco Tuesday.
  6. MLB: (in fluid style) Aaron Judge delivered on a HR promise, and I am too rushed to Seinfeld this up.  Alonso set the rookie HR season mark, and taking over for Beltran and Hundley is no small feat.  The Diamondbacks, as of last week (not checking when they got above this mark recently), had spent SIXTY straight games two games above or two games below .500, meaning they are setting the record for being very average.  There is an SI story called Stuck in the Mud, that is VERY interesting.  South Jersey guy with a secret stash of magical mud that has been used on MLB baseballs for decades and decades.  Good read, and I wasn’t fully aware of its origin.  Something to keep in mind for the home stretch in MLB.  The Yanks just got back Stanton, and the Indians just got back Kluber.  Both had been out for most of the year.  Pretty good adds late season.  Finally, two weeks ago, the Rays combined pitching threw 24 K’s and ZERO walks in a 13 inning win.  Impressive.
  7. MISCELLANEOUS: (fluid style, but only a few things) Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship, and even if it is not a Major, at least he won ONE thing of note in his very weird year.  Phil Ivey, poker legend, got busted for edge sorting and had to pay back the Borgata $133k.  I saw an Adidas shirt that read “Three Stripe Life” and their marketing department deserves a raise.
  8. US OPEN: (in fluid style) Serena is now 20-2 against Maria Sharapova.  Stephens fell early at the Open, and I guess her high ceiling is done for the year now.  Halep lost, and she is just plain confusing.  Medvedev talked trash to the umpire and fans, and that is one way to become the next Djokovic, who also never gets cheers when playing Nadal or Federer.  Gauff lost to #1 Osaka, and still the girl to watch for next year, as she is must-see TV.  The women’s tennis tour needs to let youngsters play more tournaments so we can see young talent more.  Stop restricting them ( in case you were curious why we haven’t heard from her since Wimbledon).
  9. THIS AND THAT: (in fluid style)   My guitar buddy, Pancho, finally listened to the guitar solo in Superstitious, and now he listens to it constantly.  Eric Chien made the later rounds of America’s Got Talent, and that is the magician I shared with everyone a few months ago.  He was doing some Rubik’s Cube tricks this time around.  There is another Rambo movie?  First, how did I not know this.  Second, I am pumped.  The new Tool song kind of stinks if you ask me.  I think five Terminator movies was plenty.  The Irishman is an upcoming fall movie with Pacino, DeNiro, and Scorcese.  Next concerts, Toto, Greengrass, Kiss, Motet.  Next trips, San Diego, Vegas, Dallas, Aspen.  Crazy Rich Asians was a decent movie, but much more about love, and less about comedy than I expected.  I give it a B.  The Dan Brown book Origin was well done, and is a must read for anyone who likes discussing and learning about our creation, both scientifically and religiously.  I find it odd that in scuba thumbs up means you have to surface and things are NOT good.  A bartender told me a good idea.  If you need ice, go to a hotel with a plastic bag.  I think looping guitarists sound amazing, although sometimes I am mixed on it since they are sort of cheating.  I love the song Fool No More by the Motet.  I wish backwards hats were accepted when I was playing tennis.  Our Ari BNB is busy enough that we now have to block dates to get anything done down there.  The cacio e pepe pasta dish at Bar Dough is one of the most heavenly brunch dishes in Denver.  I couldn’t enter a second fantasy league because they scheduled it the last night of my vacation and I had to draw the line on that.  Former Saint in Denver has a very, very good breakfast sandwich.  I went to the Taste of Colorado briefly on Saturday, but immediately discovered that you don’t like buying things when you just got back from a long vacation.  Good Boys underachieved.  Every single funny part is in the trailers, it seemed a little forced, and definitely shouldn’t have compared it with Superbad.  I give it a B-.  Maybe a B.  I had to bow out of a football pool I am in every year because the guy (with an AOL email address) doesn’t have Venmo OR Paypal, and wanted a check.  I don’t have a checkbook.
  10. THE FILLERBUSTER:  I had quite the journey, so no Fillerbuster thoughts except the massive travel journal and pics below.  Optional reading and viewing after the closing.
  11. PICS BY MY PIXEL (pictures from my phone): Again, below, AFTER the journal part.  Great picture selections from the 800 plus I took on the trip.

ALTERNATE CATEGORIES

  1. THE BEST WORKOUT SONG EVER FOR THIS WEEK (because the best song this week IS the best song ever…for now):
  2. QUOTE OF THE WEEK
  3. LINKS TO SAVE YOU TIME IN LIFE
  4. TRAVEL
  5. THIS WEEK’S LIST
  6. MY NUMBERS
  7. GONE FISHING (the riddle for money):
  8. LIFEGUARD ENTRY:
  9. COLLEGE BASKETBALL
  10. NHL
  11. TWEET OF THE WEEK

The theme?  The trip.  Lindsey’s brother and I always have a wordplay joke for each vacation, and it usually happens naturally.  This year, it was coccoloba.  Coccoloba is good.  Lobacocco is not.

Thoughts and prayers to the East Coast, and hope Dorian decreases in strength.

And our weekly reminder of the greatest sequel ever made coming out next summer… Top Gun 2.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVRHG6z7sN8

That’s it for today.  Hope you enjoyed or are at least more informed.  Remember two things.  First, feed yourself, feed your family, but always, always remember to…feed the wolf.  Second,  if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.  Will I blog again?  That is a CLOWN question, bro.  As one shepherd said to the other shepherd, let’s get the flock out of here.

TRAVEL JOURNAL AND PICS:

San Juan/ St. John/ Key West August 2019

  • Participants:  My wife (Linds) and I, her parents (Steve and Debbie), her sister (Avery), her brother and his wife (Drew and Gini), and Avery’s friend (Kristin).  Kristin exited before Key West.
  • One note before I start.  The original plan was to do Key West and THEN St. John.  That would have stunk, with what Dorian ended up doing.  We would have had curfews, all inside time, and not the two weeks of perfect weather we ended up having.  Luck of the draw that we switched the order.
  • FRIDAY:
  • I got a new backpack before trip.  I am religious about backpacks, so this was exciting for me.  The Adidas backpack treated me well.
  • We were going to St. John, so although it felt like an international flight, it really wasn’t.
  • SkyCab is the best, and it makes my day when I can pay someone a few bucks to avoid the inside line.
  • Smashburger serves breakfast, this was only my third time eating there, and I still don’t get it.  Burgers are smashed and tiny, but not really better tasting.
  • I avoid the “stall usage” at airports like the plague, and I had to use my first stall at an airport since 2014, which coincidentally was my last St. John trip.
  • Anyone else get sad when you end up flying out of the “old” side of the C Terminal at DIA?
  • No movie for me on the first leg/flight.  I had the most irritating work request ever, and I did work for 3.5 hours.
  • We had a three-hour delay at Tampa Airport.  VERY nice airport, I didn’t know it was privately owned, and they seem to be scared of fog out in Florida, as delays were all down the board for…fog.
  • If you are at Tampa Airport, I HIGHLY suggest getting the Blue Crab bisque at Rumfish.  It is magical.  Also, I had the shrimp flatbread, and that was pretty stellar too.  Also, after your meal, I recommend the Not For Nothing IPA at the Cigar Brewing Company.  Side note:  at the brewery, the playlist randomly played No Easy Way Out, which is from the Rocky IV soundtrack before he decides to fight Ivan Drago.  Odd song choice from the movie that stopped the Cold War…well, odd that it was played at a bar.
  • I watched the bag loading here for some reason (not used to checking bags, and it was a very long trip).  The flight started, and I didn’t see my bag.  It was OK though.  It made it there.  I wanted the visual though.
  • With work under control, I got to watch Crazy Rich Asians on second leg (three MORE hours to Puerto Rico??).  Solid movie, but my expectations were WAY off.  I thought it would just be a hilarious movie.  Much more love story based than I expected, although I still would recommend it overall.  I give it a B.
  • I love how once you get in the tropics, people clap when you land.  I think we should do that everywhere.
  • The Sheraton in Old Town is a hotel I would recommend, although they apparently use a competitor for their digital signage.  TouchQuest or something.
  • We got into San Juan late, but still made time for a few things…after Steve found a food place.
  • Pirilo Restaurant was a GREAT call by my wife.  It is a pizza place, but we got a delicious sandwich.  Had a good IPA there called Oceanlab-Hop Diver IPA.  Great beer.
  • Douglas Pub is a small locals place, and oddly has about 12 pool tables upstairs that make it feel like two separate places on top of one another.
  • We were told to go check out San Sebastian Street.  Good call.  Aqui Se Puede was a cool locals place, but I think they were talking smack about us in Spanish.  I really need to become fluent in Spanish.
  • Rivera Hermanas was my favorite place of the speed tour.  They had toilets as seats in the offshoot room.  So random.
  • Home.  Sleep.  Typewriter jokes (inside joke).
  • SATURDAY
  • We walked around Old Town the next morning.  It is a cool place to do that.  Take some time and explore their forts, fountains, churches, and water views.
  • Sofia’s is the #1 restaurant in Old Town, and the service and food was outstanding.  They are now an Italian restaurant.  The lasagna was solid, but I would not have it break my top 5.  Maybe top ten though.  I still like white sauce lasagna.
  • Riding around, you see remnants of damage from the hurricane everywhere.  They are recovered and functional, but it is obvious they got hurt pretty badly.
  • There is political spray painting referencing Ricky everywhere, post the unrest recently.
  • In the San Juan Airport, we ate at Margaritaville, which is odd since we would be in the real one the next week.
  • We figured out that San Juan pretty much charges $1 per beer ounce.  Not a cheap place, not that any airport really is of course.
  • Then, the airport and Seaborne Airlines.  This is the tiny aircraft airline that puddle jumps you where you need to be, can leave earlier, later, or not at all.  You have to pay attention.  I saw Gallinari on my puddle jumper five years ago.
  • Delays, rain, but when riding in a tiny plane, you don’t ask questions.
  • 30-minute flight.  We took off, leveled out, and went into final descent.
  • We get to St. Thomas and then had to make the ferry to St. John immediately.  Car ferries are fun.  There was a lounge, and this was used to get out of the heat.
  • Driving on the left side of the road makes its first appearance.  Glad I wasn’t driving.  Odd.  Because you are on the other side, but the steering wheel is still the same. 
  • Given that we were now in bug country, this is where Lindsey’s genius online purchase made its first appearance.  She purchased a device for $10 online that literally sucks the bite venom out of bites, leaves a mark, and then you don’t itch.  I am not a contraption or medicine guy personally, but the rest of her family used it religiously for the rest of the trip.
  • We dropped our stuff at the Westin in St. John, and beelined it for some food and drink.  We hit the Doghouse initially.  Fun place, fun server, I had the Jala Jala burger, which has queso on it, and my first Island Hoppin’ IPA (brewed locally).  This place would later be in OUR doghouse.  More on that in a bit.
  • We looked around for new and old stuff.  There were obviously some places that didn’t make it out of the hurricane and had to close or were destroyed.  Longboard looked new, Castaways was gone.
  • When you get to St. John and St. Thomas, the Painkiller becomes your drink of choice.  It is hard to avoid, tasty, and a way of life down there.
  • Our Westin room had two key things for me.  Own pool, and walk-in shower.  What else do you need?
  • Slight house party that night, but we were exhausted.  Went to bed for the first full day there.
  • SUNDAY:
  • 830am breakfast.
  • I formed Adventure Station in my room, which became the corner of the room designed for many outdoor adventures to come.  Small backpack, sunscreen, frisbee, etc.
  • The bird with curved wings is NOT an Albatross by the way, as we initially thought it was.  It was just a monster pelican.  Many of them all around there.
  • First stop was Cinnamon Beach.  Good starter beach, but we all knew it was the warmup one.  This is a beach right past Parker Bay, which is basically where all of the super, ridiculously rich people live (or just have houses for down time).
  • Got to try out my new swim trunks-Birds of Paradise, tropical trunks.  My wife’s favorite flower is that, and they were $6 at TJ Maxx.
  • You have to use reef-safe sunscreen down there these days.  Kind of a pain to track down, harder to apply, but we all made the decision after our trip that we would probably use this stuff moving forward.  Anything that is killing reefs probably isn’t doing good stuff to your skin either.
  • Beaches aren’t crowded down there.  We found a spot under a tree with a picnic table.  We did some snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing. 
  • We had gotten our future lunch at Sam & Jack’s.  I HIGHLY recommend this place.  The sandwich was ridiculous even after sitting on a beach for a while, the cookies there were off the hook, and I only became sad when an aggressive seagull snagged the last piece of my sandwich while it was 3 inches from my face.
  • Next, we went home and checked out the rebuilt hotel pool (from the hurricane).  It kind of felt like you were walking to a temple when going to it, but nice pool with one of my favorite things, waterfalls, throughout.  Beach nearby, but more boat and activity-oriented beach.
  • We went an checked out the “Owner’s Box” next.  This is basically a place where people drop off things they A) only needed temporarily B) couldn’t travel back with and C) would be useful for future travelers.  Anyway, we snagged some floaties and a straw hat for Drew.
  • We hit up the new spot, Longboard.  Not a great happy hour, expensive, tiny portions, and a queso that was pedestrian.  I wasn’t impressed.
  • Next, Woody’s the legendary place AND cheap as heck.  The ladies did a shot ski, I bought a dri-fit that was incredible, and fun was had by all.
  • Next was across the street to a newer place, Tap & Still.  I had a decent Patty Melt, the environment was great, they had a door that Drew and I did Kramer stuff with, and I only regretted that we didn’t make it back here the rest of the week.
  • We went to The Drink for one, and then some stayed and some left.  Live music was very island-y.  This is technically in Cruz Bay.  Back home for me, as Lindsey and I had to scuba dive the next day.  Early night.
  • I studied some scuba stuff before bed.  So, I don’t die or something.
  • We went grocery shopping the day before, but you never know what you are getting down there.  I got some Cheerios, and ate those stale Cheerios before bed.
  • MONDAY
  • There are a LOT of abandoned cars in St. John.  Basically, you drive a car until it breaks down, and then just leave it, since no one will come and fix it.  Cars with weeds as high as the car are all around.  If you are a tow service or a mechanic, I would recommend starting a business down there.
  • Scuba was great.  We did Cow Rock, and Scraggler’s Rock (which is right by an island that was owned by Jeffrey Epstein oddly enough).  I sucked on one dive as I am a novice enough to not remember how much weight I need, and then the second dive went very well…like I knew what I was doing.  Linds did her normal thing of acing it like a pro.
  • After scuba, we hit the High Tide Bar, which had a nice view of the beach while we ate.  I had some freshly caught Mahi Mahi, and discovered Baron’s mustard-based hot sauce, which was magical.  Others went to St. Thomas while we were doing this.  Steve came and picked us up, and then he headed over there too.
  • We went back to High Tide for happy hour.  I am convinced there are NO parking spots anywhere in St. John.  You are either paying per hour, or you are out of luck.
  • At High Tide, Linds actually talked to a local proactively, Garbo, that she knew from a previous trip.  Good memory.
  • A little shopping and bead/dri-fit searching.
  • We went to Cruz Bay Landing for a bit.  Outdoor bar and I loved this place.  Great prices, near the main town square, and very cool.
  • Forgot to apply bug spray.  Not good.
  • A bug bit me on my hand while taking a sip.
  • Our bartender was a guy who did what I am kind of jealous of.  Him and his woman just dropped everything, changed careers, and MOVED.  We asked him about the hurricane, and he said “things are definitely different, but they are the same too.”
  • We are dinner at 1864.  HIGHLY recommend.  I had a wagyu steak that was ridiculous.  Great atmosphere.  Played a joke on the bartender, who was the girlfriend of our bartender at the last place.
  • I wrote down The Goddess Athena and Richard Binson, but forget that whole story.  Just logging it.  I think it was at a store selling hurricane stuff.  Not sure.
  • I broke my flip flops during this part of the trip.  Luckily, this only affected THIS mini-trip, as I am an Eagle Scout and of course had a backup pair packed.
  • Home party with some karaoke.  Well, with just me and Avery.  Bed.
  • TUESDAY
  • At this point, I notice my right ear is muffled.  It hasn’t cleared/ popped/ equalized post-scuba.  Probably a post-effect from diving.  Slightly concerned, but no pain.  We plan on diving Key West, so hope it goes away.
  • On a positive note, I have no sunburn at this point.  No sea urchin stings (happened already five years ago).
  • Trunk Bay Day.  This is Steve’s favorite, and one of the best beaches you can go to.  Amazing color of the water, not overrun with people, perfect.
  • We snorkel along the big rock here.  There are signs, and I see sea urchin signs, but I know to look for my enemy now.  Plenty of wildlife, but you can tell there was hurricane damage that hasn’t recovered.
  • We do Aqua Bistro for lunch.  We had some tomato crab bisque and fish tacos, and both were pretty ridiculous.  We have a new contender for a hot sauce.  Valley Doll Hot Sauce, also mustard based.
  • We went to Skinny Legs after lunch, and I amazingly bought nothing (already had a shirt from last time).
  • Next/ later was Uncle Joe’s.  Local favorite.  A must.
  • We knew that Doghouse had karaoke tonight from our stop the other night, so that was on our radar.
  • Then, things were a little complicated.  Everyone sang a song.  To shorten the rest, let’s just say that a long day of fun in the sun, happy hour, our leader’s caring, and a blitzed wait staff at Doghouse manufacturing a bill that didn’t exist all collided.  Everyone goes home and goes to bed.  All good.  Long trips with all the same people in close quarters have obstacles.
  • The next day Linds and I separated and went to Honeymoon Beach, one that no one had ever gone to, and that you had to hike to.  It is now my favorite beach.  Fifteen-minute hike down, beautiful beach, paddleboarding available, a place to buy stuff, food, and drink, and a short swim to see the wiped out fancy resort from the hurricane.  All empty buildings.  Sad view.  But, the beach was magnificent.  Golf cart ride back to entrance, and Steve picked us up.
  • Honeymoon had the closest water color to Bimini (my #1 overall-Radio Beach) that I have seen.
  • There are a LOT of people from Jersey and New York either living or visiting the Virgin Islands.
  • Sam & Jack’s again.  Sandwiches, cookies.
  • Work hour for me.
  • Nap.
  • Then, Rhumb Lines for dinner.  This is on the other side of the island, and the craziest drive you will find, but worth it.  You need to go here if you visit the island.  The great live Reggae music made the experience.
  • When I talk about the roads, everyone owns a Jeep, there are switchbacks galore, and it is an adventure going anywhere.  Hills, drops, etc.
  • Movie night after.  Despicable Me was the choice.  I actually looked at ESPN for a bit to catch up on the sports world.  Full work catchup complete.
  • Even a sports nut like me kind of zones out on sports a little when down there.  There are other things to do.
  • THURSDAY (the great, great day)
  • Linds cooked breakfast again.
  • We rented a boat.
  • Woclin was the captain of the Local Vibe (boat name), and under the same guy who drove them years ago, Darcy.  He was your typical island guy.
  • Woclin showed us Peter Bay from the water.  Lots of stories about the rich people who had houses there.  Oppenheimer Beach was owned by some finance guy, whose name escapes me.
  • British Virgin Islands next.  Drove by the island that the guy who invented Otter Box owns.  Customs and check in.
  • Then, to Jost Van Dyke.  Picture a place where the boat has to drop you off in the most turquoise water, you swim to shore, and spend a few hours playing the ring toss game that originated here, drinking Painkillers, which originated here, and laying on the beach doing nothing.  The Soggy Dollar is the bar at this magical place.  We ate at Hendo’s, and the food was pretty darn good.
  • Then, it is off to Willie T’s.  Basically, this is a boat in the middle of nowhere out that way, that has food and drink onboard.  It is anchored, and therefore you have to dock your boat to get on, and it is a floating party.  The tradition is to jump off the second level, and that was done by us many, many times.  You can snorkel, go explore nearby land, and do whatever.  I bought a sticker, and slapped it on my work computer, because what a conversation starter it would be for prospects, considering not many people I will ever meet have been to Willie T’s.
  • Back to dock, home to rest.  Long day.
  • FRIDAY (last day at St. John)
  • Bacon only breakfast
  • First, Hawksnest Beach.  The beach was cool, and was the original beach the family had visited in the early 2000’s, but this was where Linds and I went to find a “secret” beach (many of them on the island).  Anyway, we had to swim about 25 minutes each way, but there is a Mermaid’s Chair Beach, and we found it hidden on the far coast.  It is a rock-formed chair, with a miniature 10×10 beach behind it.  Pretty freaking cool to snorkel up, hop on it, and swim back.  Saw some turtles on the way back.
  • Then, it was Majo Beach.  Right by the road, more land action in spots for more wildlife, turquoise beauty in between, and great snorkeling.  Every one of us took the snorkel, went out about a football field worth, and got within a couple feet of multiple MONSTER sea turtles.  Big enough that they had fish ON them, like on their actual body.  Anyway, very cool, and a great warmup for our Ecuador trip early next year.  I didn’t have time to play tropical miniature golf, so maybe next time.  Bought a turtle bracelet, since I had just had that face to face experience. 
  • Next was Greengo’s.  This is a Mexican place at Mongoose Junction outside of the town.  The walls had all sorts of cool pictures, my enchiladas were awesome, and their house made hot sauce had some of the best flavor I have ever tasted in a hot sauce (and left my mouth on fire for an hour).  Highly recommend, but don’t stay if they are busy.  They are built to visit in slow times, and our service was subpar.
  • Somewhere in all of this, I spotted a monster wasp.  Debbie told me to not worry.  They are Caribbean wasps.  They are low key, and probably say, “hey, man, I can sting you, but I am cool, so just stay away, man.”
  • We hit the pool and beach, but were too late for paddleboarding.  Just some pool time.
  • Linds and I had dinner with Steve and Debbie that night at Ocean 362.  Quaint little place at a point over the water (above the Gallows Point Resort).  Good food, but nothing mindblowing.  My pork was good, and we ordered some off the beaten path cheesecake appetizer I didn’t expect to be good, but it was tasty.
  • Quiet night before the flight, and ate any food we couldn’t take.
  • SATURDAY
  • 8am car ferry to St. Thomas.
  • We decided to kill some time before our later flight by visiting the Charlotte Amalie area.  Very touristy, but still cool.  We hit up a flea market where vendors pounced on you (no cruise ship that day), did some shopping and wandering (Steve was entranced with a sphere that was a windchime), and then ate at Side Street Pub.  This was a FIND.  In an alley off the main drag, it is the #1 restaurant in St. Thomas.  Great drinks, fantastic fish tacos, and awesome queso.  Highly recommend.
  • Linds bought a hat, and Drew decided to roll with his curly cue beard he messed with the night before.  Half goatee, half beard, with a circular finish.  Only a drunk street corner guy noticed this odd facial setup.
  • Then, the St. Thomas Airport.  I broke down and bought a bracelet before leaving the Virgin Islands.  Since Linds hates all of my bracelets, I just let her pick from about 50 of them.  So, I bought the one she hated the least basically.
  • Here I also found out it is a good idea to carry my Global Entry card, as I bypassed the whole customs line.
  • If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check, you need to spend the money and time to get it.  And if you don’t pay the extra $15 for Global Entry, then you are shooting yourself in the foot when traveling to foreign places (or evidently US Territories).
  • We flew American on this leg.  Southwest rules in every other category, but how come Southwest doesn’t have phone charging plugs in their seats?  I watched Alita on this flight.  Take the cartoon girl version of Jason Bourne and Gladiator, throw in some Star Wars and a very odd non-ending, and that is what this movie is.  I enjoyed everything except for the end.
  • We arrived at Miami Airport, and it was exactly what I remembered about it.  Endless walking to everything.
  •  Sixt Rental Car has what appears to be stores like Apple.  Very hard attempt to be the “cool” rental car company.
  • During this whole trip, we had a mini-van for the eight of us.  Everyone kept sitting in same seats to be simple.  We lost Kristin now, so now there is a seat for everyone.
  • Because of scheduling, we had to stay in Homestead that night.  Olive Garden for everyone but Steve and Debbie.  BBQ for them-some secret place Steve had heard about.  It was lasagna night at Olive Garden, so that fell into my lap.  Although I get the feeling if I came back next month, it would still be lasagna night there.
  • Homestead Hampton Inn.  Two things about those hotels.  Comfortable bed, and free hot breakfast.  Never a letdown, never overachieves.
  • I made the rest of the party watch Miami-Florida football on this night, the first good football game of the season.  Sloppy game.
  • My ear is still the same at this point.  There will be no scuba diving unless there is a miracle.
  • SUNDAY
  • The drive down to Key West was that long pretty drive with lots of bridges, Winn-Dixie’s, Wawa’s, Dive Shops, Cracker Barrell’s and more things Denver doesn’t have.
  • We started listening to the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, Zac Brown, and Queen.
  • A lot of the Keys towns have police cars on the side of the road, but with no one IN the car.   Good system until you pass by the third one.
  • I am not Googling it, but so confused what the other, half-built bridge on opposite sides of the highway is.  No one is ever working, there are gaps in the bridge, and not sure of the end game.
  • I needed to buy gum to chew to try and clear my ear.  I don’t chew gum and haven’t bought a pack in decades.  Anyway, I seemed to gravitate to Big Red, just like old school days (I chewed gum when I played hoops sometimes, because…MJ did).
  • You pass by all sorts of businesses with straw rooftops, and it is so tropical and cool.
  • We stayed at the Hyatt Residence Sunset Harbor.  Good place.  Right by the cruise ships I would say is the only downfall of the place.  And we switched rooms twice, but the end game was the largest room ever for Linds, Avery, and myself.
  • On the first day, Sunday, we just had a pool day.
  • You should always hit at least one happy hour at The Boathouse.  Great atmosphere, great prices, and the fish, steak, wings, and Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA were all fantastic.
  • We did the Green Parrot after our early dinner.  Green Parrot is famous for being one of the best live music venues in Key West.  It also has a Golden Tee machine.  Basically, it has three qualities I like.  Live music, adjective/ animal in name, and Golden Tee.  I already own a dri-fit for the place (no new ones-I checked).
  • Back home, quick errand for me, and passed by a place where I heard Chris Toler playing.  Linds has a fascination with his voice and music.  And he IS good.  We stayed in that night, as we knew we would catch him later in the week.
  • MONDAY
  • Linds and I decided to do the Dry Tortuga ferry ride.  Not a bad decision at all, and I recommend it highly.  It takes you out to Fort Jefferson (I didn’t know Thomas had a Fort named after him), where history, beaches, and snorkeling await.  It is overpriced, but the ride itself is a well-oiled machine, and the end location is pretty freaking cool.
  • When walking to the ferry at 7am, it is ironic how many roosters Key West has, as they provide background music to your personal parade while walking in the early morning.
  • While walking on the Fort, I don’t understand how people did NOT go snorkeling.  I was profusely sweating in about 5 minutes of walking.
  • Side note.  Tropical regions are great, but MAN do you burn through a lot of clothing, or have to wear sweaty clothing.  I don’t understand how people go outside even without sweating in the summer.
  • Key West doesn’t have good beaches.  Most people know this.  Rocky, warm water, etc.  Fort Jefferson had better beaches than Key West by far.  Water was COOL.
  • We snorkeled through some docks/ ruins, and it had a ridiculous amount of wildlife.  Amazing snorkeling.
  • We hung out with a couple from Tulsa for the end part of being there and the whole ride back.  Bo and Becky Spicer.
  • When we got back, and since we were by the docks, we went to one of my favorite Key West places.  Half Shell.  Locals bar, and very beachy.  We had the hot lips, the shrimp, the oysters (well, she did), and met new friends in Velvet and Deb from Asheville, and Bill and Barbara from NYC.
  • Exhausted.  Back to hotel and to bed.
  • TUESDAY
  • The boat day.  We rented a boat for the day, and Steve would be the driver.  The rest did this last year in Key West when Linds and I weren’t with the crew.  They apparently went to a sandbar in the middle of the water, and hung out all day.  I was anxious to see this spot.  Well, we cruised for about 15-20 minutes, found the light water, and hung out on floaties for an hour or two.  I was amazed that only one other boat was out there.  Then, we went to another place closer to land.  Here, there were many boats, and you could walk the couple of football fields to the shore and be on a beach.  Then, as the tide changed, the sand rose, and you had access to swings too.  Then, back to the boat, and back to the original spot, which had a spot of sand starting.  Yes, a beach in the middle of the water.  Epic.  Great day.  Sting ray, barracuda, and shark sightings at the first/ last spot.
  • At the 2nd spot, a dog had his own floatie and lifejacket.
  • We found out, during the musical shuffle to satisfy all parties, that Desperado was one of Steve’s favorite songs.  Who would have thought he would be crooning Desperado from a boat by a sandbar?
  • Lots of Seinfeld references in the hook above.
  • Debbie is so short, that many times we asked her to stand up to measure the depth from the boat.  She WAS standing up.
  • We took the alternate, longer harbor way back, which passed by the crappy beaches on the south side.
  • We stopped by Fishbustersz to get some fish, which obviously made me happy, being the Fillerbuster.
  • Yellowtail Snapper for dinner, epic sunset, and then nightcap in our new room change monster room.
  • WEDNESDAY
  • During all of this, a decision was made to leave a day early.  Rather be safe than sorry, and probably shouldn’t be stranded in Florida after a two-week vacation.
  • We ate lunch at La Grignote, a great French find Linds and I discovered the last trip.  Very, very good once again.  They should charge a little more and buy an air conditioner though.
  • Then, the second part of the Recycle Day was The Little Pearl for dinner with all of the crew.  The Little Pearl is a MUST for visitors to Key West.  Great, quaint setting, a butter of the day, and can’t go wrong with the seafood pot pie or the swordfish.  The scallops are also heavenly.
  • No one has plain iced tea in Key West.  Everything was lime or peach, I felt like.
  • Linds and I decided to walk back along Duval, the main drag.  We stopped by the legendary Irish Kevin’s, where you get announced when you enter the bar.  I always get flagged for being born in Jersey.  They have special hello’s for Jersey people.  We met some new friends here.  Ryan and Amanda were Denver peeps.  Stretch and Chris were DC folks, one 6’11” and the spouse at a gusto 4’10”.  Funny dance pics.  Stretch had something in common with me.  Both of us were mad we couldn’t be a SEAL or a pilot, me for eyes, him for his height.
  • Ryan and Amanda then took us to another bar.  The Whistle Bar.  It was sort of a trap.  Third floor was “clothing optional,” I am pretty sure they were swingers, and we exited stage left and went to Sloppy Joe’s for a nightcap before heading home.
  • Back to hotel, end of day.
  • THURSDAY
  • Great morning decision after some Linds research.  MORNING happy hour food and drink at Bagatelle.  Small dishes for $5 each.  Food was off the hook.
  • Then, back to hotel and over to Hemingway House.  This is basically a good history lesson on Ernest Hemingway, a cool house, and about a hundred six-toed cats all over the premises.
  • And if you don’t get enough history there, do what we did.  Go do the run tour at the Pilar House.  I learned the history of the rum shot, who Pilar was, the history of Sloppy Joe’s, the origin of the term Papa, about heads, hearts, and tails, that the Pilar bottle is shaped like his canteen, where the distribution comes from, that smells dictate what you taste in rum, that the Moscow Mule is actually a knockoff out of Connecticut from the original Pilar Dark and Stormy, and that he was a boxer.
  • I was surprised to see so many foreigners in Key West.  I wouldn’t think that would be an accessible go-to.
  • One of my favorite meals was our lunch.  Santiago Bodega.  I recommend the two heavenly tapas I ordered.  The croquetta and the pork tenderloin.  I cut the pork tenderloin in tiny bites so it would last longer.
  • Hotel time.  Pool, nap window missed, and packing.
  • Then, some confusion.  The main focus of the night was seeing Chris Toler for Linds, so she could continue to be the stalker that she is.  It got changed from 11pm to FOURpm.  Big change.  Bar doesn’t answer the phone, no way to track him down, so we had to walk to Blue Macaw in 15 minutes to go ASK him where he played at night.  He was down there.  While sweating profusely again, we found out he would be right by our hotel at 8pm. 
  • Everyone met us at Blue Macaw, had a drink while staring at our phones checking in for Southwest flight, and then checked out.
  • We went back to Bagatelle for happy hour.  Steve almost drove over a chicken crossing the road, which would have been sad but kind of funny too.  Horrible service this time around, but the lobster mac and cheese was to die for.  The bartender said people kept coming and leaving and asking for stuff, and that she was sorry.  Confused as to what she thought she was signing up for.
  • Linds and I had a reservation at Better Than Sex.  Highly recommend it, and mad I didn’t think of it.  It is a restaurant experience for desserts only, with everything alluding to sex stuff.  The menu was totally in sex talk, pics all around, curtains around your booth.  I got the Peanut Butter Perversion, and she got the Double Stuffed.  I had a beer, but with no rim job, which apparently was an option.
  • We got a ride back to Tiki House for the Chris Toler show.  Our driver, Yosnel, heard us talking, jumped out when dropping us off, and went up to Chris and hugged him on stage.
  • Chris could win The Voice, if he wanted to.  But, he doesn’t.  He just wants to chill out in Key West, play twice a day, play some Jack Johnson tunes, loop his beat boxes and guitar taps, and rap and sing with a tone that is mindblowing.
  • Listen to the one of his original songs, Strawberry Days. 
  • I also liked the song Bootleggin’.
  • I think my wife should run his Facebook page, so people knew where he was at.
  • He likes to drink tequila with a pineapple chaser.
  • He says the phrase “Yaaaaassssssssss” a lot.
  • The performance that night could have been called “Conversation with Lindsey,” as him and her just chatted freely between songs.
  • We met Kevin Lauer here.  Inside joke.  My bad ear would have been deaf if it wasn’t already.
  • We met a chick who was officially a Chris Toler stalker.
  • Chris played well past 1130 and wasn’t quitting, so we had to quit.
  • We had breakfast that Avery cooked with all remaining fridge ingredients.
  • We drove back to Fort Lauderdale, and I believe we could tell we were getting a little tired of each other in close quarters.
  • Steve returned a $2.00 container of Orange Juice to a store in a strip mall before we started that drive luckily.
  • Steve wanted to go back to the BBQ place in Homestead, so that is what we did.  I had burnt ends, fried mac and cheese, and cheesy hash browns, as you can never have enough cheese in a meal.  Steve got some BBQ to go also for eating right before returning the car.
  • Last Jai Alai IPA at the Airport at Margaritaville.  Island Hoppin’ IPA was St. John, and Jai Alai was Key West.
  • No wifi on the 4 hour flight back, so no movie.  I read the rest of Origin, the Dan Brown book.  It was fantastic.  If you debate the beginning of life and science’s and religion’s role in that, it is fascinating to know both sides fully.
  • We got to see a cool sunset of the mountains (finally again) on the descent.
  • It was weird arriving on a Friday night in the airport on a holiday weekend when others are just leaving or arriving on their vacation.
  • Uber ride home.
  • Home.  Great trip.  Hope you were entertained by the above a little, but please understand it is for MY benefit when I get old, and for other travelers who want help with their plans.
Majo Beach in St. John, home of the monster sea turtles
My wife while we are listening to Chris Toler.
At the Pilar Rum Distillery


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