Friday, April 22, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Do That

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut, and a woman who can't sleep with the window open.
George Bernard Shaw
I recently began a story of a trip my husband and I took to Turks and Caicos in March. It was a celebration launch of a new life together as Empty Nesters (even though some of them are still home.) A "loll and bask" on the beach for rest. No movement, just relaxation. Alas, with my husband, little time to laze exists. See here to catch up.

Meanwhile, back at the beach...

After two days of adventure and bumping along dirt roads, I had hopes I could return to the beach outside my motel room door for a day's rest. I knew better. The evening before, we had met a retired couple from Cleveland. While her husband wandered off to snorkel, walk, or whatever, she laid on the beach with her carton of books declaring that for the next three weeks, she was there to read and "rotiss." Her husband could do whatever he wanted.

As I shared my woes of yet another adventure ahead, she nodded, said she'd done that for years. "That sometimes you just have to do that."

I looked at her with envy, wondering if I could leap ahead and join the ranks of the rotisserie vacationers. Then she looked at me and winked. "I don't do that crap anymore. I suggest getting yours trained earlier."

Wish I'd thought of that two days before.

Day Three of Relaxing Vacation brought us to my next chariot. Destination? North and Middle Caicos - reachable only by boat.

I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. A reef surrounds the islands so the ocean is rather calm, rendering a smooth ride through waters like this...

and this...

But I should have known there'd be a catch.

We walked up the plank after landing and passed $75 cash to a Belonger who pointed to a Toyota Corolla with beat to death tires and 175,000 miles. He handed us a map and said to leave the car with the keys in it when we came back to catch the boat. Then he pointed, "Go to the end of this dirt road, take a right on the next dirt road and then a left. That's the main road."
Which was, guess what, another dirt road.

I would have taken photos of the harrier roads, but I was too busy trying to control my heartbeat. That and throw back out the window the debris from the flora that came through as we weaved around craters. (Note to the next traveler - call a few days ahead and reserve a jeep!)

Notice guy below - in hog heaven.

The fun began. Of course we drove, and drove, and drove. Middle Caicos has 200 residents, but the only people we saw were the occasional car filled with a couple or small group from the boat we rode in on. We'd wave.

A shipwrecked Toyota Corolla

I'm not being fair, there were portions of the road that had blacktop. And that road that connects North to Middle Caicos? Yes, there is a road or was a road, before the hurricane took it out a few years back. But no matter, we had a Toyota Corolla with 175,000 miles on it and as long as we didn't go over 5 miles an hour, no problem.

The first beach was easy to find, sort of.

But, you know, can't stay in one place too long. Back in the car and after a few hours of this road and that, I wanted to shoot myself. As beautiful as the place was, I wanted out of the car. No more bumpy roads. I was hungry. I was out of patience. When we followed a dirt road that had a sign that said "To Beach" and we were still on the dirt road after 20 minutes, no beach in site, I spoke.

"I've had enough. I'm done. Take me back the other way."

(Sometimes I think men, or my husband at least, need someone else to give in. They might want to give in, maybe even before the other, but can't until someone else says it.)

My husband's response? "Had enough adventure, have you?" He immediately turned around and headed back across the islands. I choose to believe he shared my pain. On the long ride back to the boat landing, we came across some lovely things like these flamingos.

We turned a corner on a dirt road and came across this incredible restaurant where we ate a lobster sandwich and had warm bread pudding, right out of the oven.
We had two of the local beers and the full attention of the waiter and owner. We were the only ones there.
Of course, we did have to find one more dirt road
Please note even though that looks like a two-lane, it is one, with big rocks in that middle section. I had no idea what we would do if we came across a vehicle coming from the other direction. The gods were with us -- we didn't.

And we found this gorgeous place...

Three Mary Cays

before getting back on the road to catch the boat back to Providenciales.

At days end, we gathered under a shelter to await the arrival of the return boat. Waiting also were several other dusty, travel worn faces. Rejuvenated by the fact that I had declared myself done with adventures and that on the morrow would rotiss in front of our motel and not move, I greeted the weary explorers with a new found zest. "How was everyone's day on the beaten path?" The travel worn group of Canadians and French perked up a bit.

I could tell the difference between those that led the show, like my husband, and those that had chugged along, like myself. I wanted to take their names so I could hook my husband up with the leaders on future trips.

While watching the sun set, we shared tales of what we'd found, or didn't find.

Next day, here I was. Bob had taken the car to find a snorkel place down the road. I'll be damned if only an hour later, I heard the chink of ice in a cooler as it landed beside my chair. Guess who? The perky adventurer found his way back, complete with a six pack of beer. Spent the afternoon sitting next to me. Go figure.

Even though this was a trip to launch our empty nest life together, I'm thinking we're older now. We both have different ideas on how we want to spend our time. Next vacation, like five years from now, I might look into organizing a relaxation trip with about four other people. Surely out of that cluster someone will want to tour dirt roads with Bob.

And I will rotiss.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Then Followed that Beautiful Season

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Twenty-Eight More School Days...

...til summer.
Can't wait.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Can We Bring Our Friends?

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.
Lillian Smith

I now understand why married people travel in groups. In fact, I'm thinking that three couples or a group of six might be ideal. Why?

When researching a destination for this celebration retreat with my husband, I searched far and wide for the perfect journey to fit my burned out parent frame of mind. I knew I didn't want to travel as we usually do, wandering museums and traveling from city to city, guidebook in hand. I was tired and wanted a trip where I sat on my butt and read books and magazines, with beautiful water in front of me where I could take a dip, snorkel, maybe, then nestle back into the sand and read some more. I didn't want a lot of fancy people, cruise ships, shopping, or noisy stuff (kids) around me.

Relaxation. No adventure. No guts/mind required.

I discussed this at length with my husband. He doesn't sit well (or hear me when I talk) so when I suggested Turks and Caicos, known for its beautiful beaches and not much else, I tried to make sure he understood the landscape. He agreed this port of call sounded good. He was tired, too.

Turks and Caicos, part of the British West Indies, is south of the Bahamas, east of Cuba and north of Hispaniola. The trip is an easy two hour jaunt from Atlanta, 2 1/2 hours from New York City. Many Canadians, French, German, Americans, and English frequent the islands.

One of the least developed group of islands in the Caribbean, Grand Turk welcomes cruise ships, but Providenciales, boasts the 12 mile long Grace Bay Beach, good restaurants right on the waterfront, and no shopping or crowds. Perfect. No need to do anything but hang out at the beach during the day and walk through the starlit sky to eat dinner at night. Take an occasional trip to the grocery store to purchase Cheetos, chips/dip and picnic lunch/dinner items. Beer.

I reiterated the details of the trip and asked my husband several times: Will you be content to sit on beaches each day and spend our days splayed out on top of the sand?

He said it sounded perfect.

So, fast forward. Here he is. Sitting on the beach in front of our great hotel, the 28 room Sibonne'. Looks pretty content, right?

Good thing I caught this moment in my camera lens. Might be one of the few moments he simply sat there.

Like I said, he doesn't sit well. So after the first day and a half, I was one book into my stack and reaching for another. He had already roamed 8 of the 12 miles of beach in front of us. That next morning, while I drank my coffee on the beach and set up for the day, he joined me and said how he'd studied the guidebook and had found a beach on the other side of the island.

What? This spot was working for me. I had this view three steps outside our hotel room.

And a 45 second stroll through here... get here.
But, all good things...


Into our little rental car we loaded our cooler, floats and snorkel equipment. My husband handed me the map.

Now I don't know how it is where you live, but where I'm from maps mark things like interstate highways, state highways, main thoroughfares and side streets. Dirt roads don't make the cut. In Turks and Caicos, with very few exceptions, dirt roads are the state highways, main thoroughfares and side streets. Also, being a British Commonwealth, you drive on the opposite side of the road. (Every time we turned a corner, I had to remind my husband, "Get on the left.") Stress.

I studied the map and we embarked on our search for Sapodilla Beach, or rather the small wooden sign that led to it. Nestled at the end of a dirt bike trail, where we dodged craters the size of nuclear bomb sites in our Daihatsu with dime-sized wheels and six inch ground clearance, we discovered the largest natural kiddie pool I'd ever seen. Three feet deep, the clearest turquoise water one can imagine. Perfect. I set myself up in my float and with sun and sunscreen on my face, breathed deeply to acquire a meditative state.

Halfway through my second beer, my husband walked out to my float. "Time to go," he said.


"We've been here. Time to move on."

"But I want another beer," I plead.

"They're all gone."

"But there were six."

I then come to find out he's also been for a walk and scouted out an entire 25 square mile area.

I packed up, reminding myself it is his vacation, too. We headed back down the bumpy road, into the village, and out into the countryside in search of Da Conch Shack. Bolstered out of my comfort zone and clinging to a two beer buzz, I'm now the navigator on roads with names known only to the natives - the Belongers. We dodged pot holes big enough to swallow an elephant on "paved" roads and drove what seemed like endless miles past above ground cemeteries and cinder block homes painted delightful colors until we came across a restaurant situated five feet from the beach. And they had rum punch. Delicious conch salad. I adapted.

After a trip to the local grocery store, I got a few moments to rest on the beach, watch the sunset and study the stars before an early sleep.

The next day, car got loaded again. My tour guide informed me we were headed to Malcolm's Beach. This time I knew the way to the gravel road because we passed it while wandering the day before. This road, the only road that reaches the east side of the island (on my map,) is an endless drive down yet another rut-filled dirt road. Driving our Daihatsu, we traveled 5-10 miles per hour. However, the prize at the end of the line was indeed beautiful. Remember this beach from my last post? All to ourselves.

We did have to share with this lone avian adventurer.

My husband snorkeled (first photo) and took a walk. As I cracked my second beer and turned the page of my book...

... the man I married long ago stood above me. "Let's go."

This is when it dawned on me, that this is why couples travel with others. So those with like minds can hang out together and people like my husband will have a pool of poor souls to drag on his adventures. That for him, the relaxation part comes from the adventure and unknown. And once he's conquers the quest, he's ready to roll and find another one. Unlike me, who in my older age conquers reluctantly and then quests to sit on my ass.

With that revelation, I still didn't anticipate that the next day would provide an opportunity for me to recall the dirt roads of these two days...

and rename them The Autobahns.

To be continued...


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