Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Amy's first beach ride

It didn't take Amy long to get a ride on the beach.

Amy and Dan are staying at Villa Tropical just down the beach from us. Elaine rode Chocolate down to see them and Amy (who used to have her own horses) just couldn't resist a short ride. There will be more to come!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Amy and Dan are here!

Elaine's sister Amy and her husband Dan hit the island for a two week visit. Yeah! Let the adventures begin!

A hot night for chillin'

Sunday was a great night for chillin' at Ola Lola's as chili took the stage at the Second Ever Chillin' Chili Fest.

Nine contestants brought chili ranging from mild to wild with such exotic ingredients as iguana. In the end a panel of 10 randomly selected judges choose their favorite. And the winner is - none other than our own Pichi! She was absolutely thrilled to to win the coveted Ola Lola's Chili Bowl.

After the judging everybody dug in to sample some really amazing chilies. As the judges deliberated and the crowd chowed, our favorite jazz quartet Sabor Groove lit up the night with some truly tasty jazz licks. Look for Sabor Groove back at Ola Lola's in February.

It was a hot night for chillin' at Ola Lola's! The Third Ever Chillin' Chili Fest will be back on January 27, 2013, the Sunday before the Super Bowl. Who knows - maybe next year you will win the Chili Bowl!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lights out!

Many people (not just us) have said that Ola Lola's is a very special place, fitting nicely in this magical corner of la isla. Monday night was just more proof of that.

Monday night was one of the most fun, interesting, crazy, weird awesome nights we've spent at Ola Lola's. And that's saying something!

The afternoon started pretty normally until the power went out about 4:00 pm. With no power, we cannot serve food. Every time the refrigerator or freezer are opened, cold escapes. If the outage lasts too long, food begins to spoil. As long as the doors remain closed, food will stay frozen and cold enough for up to 24 hours. Plus, as night falls, the kitchen staff can't see to prepare food.

So we hung a lantern in the bar and put candles on the tables. We served drinks and beer to all comers. True, a number of would-be diners left in a bit of desperation (we are one of the few restaurants open on Monday nights). But a number of people hung around - and hung around! - waiting for the power to come back on. Others came and went. A couple of people who went came back.

For us, it was an easy night. Elaine and Pichi and Dottie actually got to sit down with guests and socialize.

When the lights suddenly came on at 10:00 pm, the dozen or so people who were still sitting around booed! We quickly turned out all the lights except those in the bar itself.

I've done a terrible job describing the magical feeling but trust me, it was there. We're even talking about doing a lights out night once in a while. Like the electric company doesn't provide us with enough!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First KAP session of the new year

I went out for my first KAP (kite aerial photography) session of the new year. The original plan was to KAP the yola on the beach. When I got out there, the yola was gone! At first I figured it had floated off the beach and started to drift and break up on the reef. It was no where to be found. Looks like somebody put a rope on it and hauled it off the beach and out to sea. That's actually good news.

But the "bay" at Shacks was full of kite surfers, the wind was a (relatively) steady 20+ knots, down from 30 the day before. Looked like a great day for KAPping.

When I downloaded the pictures, I found a had a total of three images from a two-hour session. Panic!!! Did something happen to the camera? No, it was fine. The remote control transmitter? It was working okay. Ah! The servo that pushes the shutter button. It was stuck. It would move manually but not with a signal from the radio. I tried various combinations and it looks like the servo is the culprit.

I'm waiting a new servo. Once that's replaced later this week, I'll try again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Seven years ago today our mother died. We miss her every day but her spirit continues to guide us and inspire us. Thank you, Marti. We love you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another landing

In the early hours of Tuesday morning a yola from the Dominican Republic landed on our beach.

There was less of a mess on the beach than usual but it appears there were more women on this boat than usual: panties in the sand and a bra left on the boat:

a snazzy flipflop:

a couple of purses, already ransacked either by Border Patrol or looters:


We've written before about the sad human cost of these boats. But there is a nearly-as-sad environmental impact as well. This boat was driven across the reef to get to the beach. Who knows what damage was done there. Plastic bags and bottles are just left both in the boat and on the beach. Discarded clothes are left for looters and the ones the looters don't want are just left. Border Patrol doesn't pick up any trash; their job is picking up illegal immigrants. The local police don't do anything. You would think Recursos Naturales (the department of natural resources) would get involved but that would require them to get out of their air conditioned SUVs and actually get out on the beach. Tain't happenin'. Eventually somebody will make a bonfire in the boat. (Officials of both the Coast Guard and Border Patrol swear it's not them.) That will burn off some of the fiberglass resin and release it into the air. Eventually waves and tides will drag the boat back across the reef, then back onto the shore, then back across the reef and rocks again until it begins to break up. Big sheets of fiberglass will come loose and drift on the current until they lodge in some part of the reef. Eventually the sheets will be broken into smaller and smaller bits. The skeleton of the boat will bleach on the beach until it eventually rots. In two or three years there will be no obvious sign the boat was ever here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy birthday, Dottie and Mina!

What a great party at the beachhouse last night! We were celebrating our friend (and co-worker) Dottie's and her mother Mina's birthdays. They were born on the same date. Great food, great music, dancing, singing - everything a party should be. And as a bonus, a beautiful full moon over the ocean:

We know the year is less than a month old but this is already one of the best parties of the year!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

More Vieques

On the ferry dock on Vieques looking back at Isabel Segunda

Getting to Vieques is pretty easy. We decided to take the ferry, one, for the experience and two, because it's only $2 each way. The ferry makes three round trips daily from Fajardo. Depending on seas, the trip to or from Vieques takes about an hour. But get to the ferry dock early and get your ticket. Between tourists and locals the boat is usually full. There are several airlines that fly to Vieques from the Big Island as well. Air fares range from about $20 to about $70 each way. The amount of luggage you can take on the airplanes is limited. That's another advantage of the ferry: you can take as much as you want to carry

Since much of the island is off-limits, getting around on Vieques is pretty easy as well. There are only two towns, Isabel Segunda on the north coast (where the ferry docks) and Esperanza on the south coast (where the beaches are). Publicos (taxis) are around pretty much all the time to take you back and forth or out to the beaches. They are especially common in Isabel II when the ferry docks. Since Vieques is only four miles wide, it's a short trip between the two.

There are a number of local car rental companies on Vieques. No big names though. Reservations are highly recommended. Our trip was pretty last minute and there were no cars available. We managed to rent a scooter for three days from a place on the beach in Esperanza.

There are only a few main roads on the island. Two run north and south between Isabel II and Esperanza. One runs through the Nature Reserve out to most of the beaches. Another runs to the extreme west end of the island. At the edge of another area of nature preserve the pavement gives way to a reasonably well-maintained gravel road that goes through the preserve to Green Beach.

Somewhat surprisingly, the main roads are very good. Even in the "rural" areas, the roads and mostly wider and better maintained that those on the Big Island. This may be one of the few positive legacies of the Navy occupation.

Finding gas for your vehicle can be a problem. There are only two gas stations on the island, right across the road from each other in Isabel II. Gas, like all supplies for the island, come in a truck brought over on a ferry. The gas truck comes twice a week (usually). People line up for hours to get gas. And when they run out, they run out. No more gas til the truck comes again.

It's the same for food and beer. We found two "grocery" stores on the island. The largest of the two, near the plaza in Isabel II, we never did see open. The other, The Green Store in Esperanza, would be a large well-stocked colmado (a sort of local convenience store) here. There are a lot of little colmados on the island that stock mostly canned goods. They all have the usual assortment of beer - Medalla, Corona, Heineken - all in the little 7 oz. "shot glass" bottles. Finding a full size beer outside the restaurants and bars proved to be a bit of a challenge. There is one colmado right in the center of the island on carr. 997, the "main' road between Isabel II and Esperanza, that sort of "caters" to gringo touristas. We found full 12 oz beers there. (I don't know why those 5 ounces make such a difference!)

We were told beforehand that food is expensive on Vieques so we took a most of our nonperishables with us so the grocery store wasn't a big issue.

We have more about food in the restaurants coming up.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Feliz Dia de Reyes!

It's a cloudy rainy start to Dia de Reyes here on our magic corner of the island but it's a great day anyway.

Happy Three Kings Day!!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

First surf photo session of the new year

I love all the "firsts" of a new year. Yesterday was my first surf photo session of the new year, a fun morning session at Middles Beach. The photos from the session are on our website, PuertoRicoSurfPhoto.com.

Everybody had great expectations for today. Forecast said surf over head-high and clean. Well, it was head high in some places but it was clean. It was what the surfers call "washing machine." and that's a pretty apt description. It was messy and agitated and pretty much unsurfable.

Ah, well. Tomorrow's another day and another shot at it. We'll see. Forecasts for tomorrow are still calling for overhead waves but choppy. It's supposed to drop off a bit over the next few days. Hopefully that will clean it up some.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Favorite Vieques beaches

We spent as much time as possible exploring the beaches on Vieques. As we wrote before, the beaches are stunningly beautiful, especially if you want to go hang out on the beach, sipping beer or margaritas, reading and/or sunbathing. Beyond the beer and margaritas, our idea of going to the beach is to DO something - fly kites, ride horses, run dogs, snorkel or SCUBA dive. Since we didn't take kites, horses or dogs and all the SCUBA trips were booked, that left snorkeling. And Snorkel we did! We explored the waters at every beach we went to.

I think our favorite "hang out" beach, the most beautiful, was Media Luna (Half Moon). Like most of the beaches we visited, Media Luna was not a great snorkeling beach. We are somewhat spoiled by the reefs around us here at home in Isabela. Despite the damage that's been done to them, the reefs are alive and have a lot of varied sealife to see. In contrast, we found few reefs on Vieques. There is a lot of seagrass and while there is a lot of life in the grass, it is much harder to see.

Some of the areas we snorkeled had this weird other-worldly almost post-apocalyptic feel to them. White sand covered everything and the coral - what there was of it - seemed strangled. The sand was all stirred up so visibility was limited.

One notable exception was Green beach on the far west end of the island. This is the one place we snorkeled over what we considered healthy reef. It was also the clearest water with the best visibility of any of the beaches. We didn't see it but another couple snorkeling on another part of the reef saw a spotted eagle ray.

Far and away our favorite snorkeling encounter was with this guy at Blue Beach, also known as La Chiva.

This guy was not at all shy and didn't mind swimming with company. We swam with him for 10 minutes or so.

The only beach we wanted to see but didn't was Navio. Navio is down a dirt road beyond Media Luna. The road was muddy and had water-filled holes. We decided that was not the best place for our little scooter.

We also didn't do the bioluminescent bay tour. You have to have guide for these tours to protect the bay and all the operators were booked when we were there.

Sounds like reasons to go back to me!

Monday, January 02, 2012

No kites?!?!?!?

It has been a tradition that we fly kites on New Year's Day. For 10 years we actually had a New Year's Day kite festival held on a frozen lake in Michigan. After I left the parks department that sponsored the event, we kept the tradition alive gathering and flying with friends. We even had a mini-festival the first year we were here in Puerto Rico.

This year, for only the second time since 1990, we did not fly kites. However, family horseback riding on the beach could become a new tradition.

First, Miguel and Elaine took a ride on Chocolate and KTJ. They met up with Amy, Kennedy, Kaiden, Amber and Jazz and me on the beach.

Then it was Kennedy's turn to ride Chocolate with her abuela. (Kennedy truly believes Chocolate is her horse. When her Daddy rode off, she was nearly heart-broken. I picked her up and quietly asked, "is Daddy riding your horse?" Without lifting her head off my shoulder she just nodded.)

And then Amy got a short ride on Chocolate.

When we got back to the "ranch," I even took a little ride on KTJ. That's the first time I've ridden her. She really is a sweet responsive horse. And big! It's a long way up there in that saddle.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Eve

When we arrived here five years ago there was a small group that gathered on the beach at Shacks to toast the last sunset of the old year and to wish each other well in the approaching new year. Every year more and more people have joined the gathering and kept the tradition not only alive but growing and spreading. New Year's Eve 2011 was no exception. More people than ever, visitors and locals alike, came to the beach to watch the sun go down for the final time in 2011.

May 2012 be a joyous and prosperous year for us all! Happy New Year!