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Tortola: An Expected Adventure

By: Bogon , 7:19 PM GMT on December 23, 2012

It all started on Thursday, December 6th. Wife and I were up early, packing our bags and squinting into the rising sun as we drove to the airport. As we rolled our luggage from the parking deck to the terminal, a gust of frigid early morning wind sent a shudder up my backbone.

Our first flight was a local hop from Raleigh to Charlotte.

"Are you excited yet?" Wife queried insouciantly.

"Nope," I replied. I had seen Charlotte before. I was holding out for the Real Deal.

The second plane bore us fifteen hundred miles to the southeast. This was new territory for me. The adventure really began when the jet dropped beneath the clouds over the blue Atlantic. Where was the airport? I could see a few lumpy green islets out the window, but none of them looked large enough (or smooth enough) to land a plane. At the last minute, with the airplane coasting over the waves at an altitude comparable to its own wingspan, a berm of riprap rushed beneath us, and suddenly there were welcome glimpses of grass, blinking lights and -- finally -- the painted concrete of a runway.

When the plane braked to a stop and the door opened, we passengers descended a roll-up staircase into a steamy tropical afternoon. A rain shower was ending as we filed around the side of the terminal building to the baggage claim area. My first act was to drain a shot of rum. Welcome to St. Thomas! Then I took off my long-sleeved shirt and stuffed it into my carry-on bag. It had failed to block the chill that morning, and it was too hot for comfort now. Won't be needing that till I get back to Raleigh!

We were a party of four. Wife and I were accompanied by another couple, friends who had made this trip before. They knew the drill. Throughout the journey they would act as hosts and guides. They introduced us to a couple of local libations as we waited for our luggage to rumble around the conveyor. One, the Painkiller, was a tasty concoction of rum, tropical fruit and nutmeg.

But first I was induced to try something called a Bushwhacker. This beverage is mixed with pureed ice like a daiquiri. I slurped it down too quickly. My carotid arteries pumped instant chill from my esophagus directly to my head.

"Brain freeze!" chuckled our hostess.

"Ow!" quoth I. Thus did my vacation officially begin.

Charlotte Amalie (a-MAH-lee) is the capital of the U. S. Virgin Islands. We rested there overnight, but we were not done traveling. Next morning we rode a taxi to the harbor. Sights and sounds along the street were typically American, except that the bustling traffic whizzed down the wrong side of the road. The taxi driver was at home here. I was glad he was doing the driving.

Like an airport (or Janus) the ferry terminal presents two faces. The public side faces the road. There is a parking lot and a view of the busy town.

The working side faces the water.

In order to cross from one side of the building to the other you need a ticket and a passport. You need a ticket to board the ferry. You need a passport because this boat ride is international. Somewhere out on the ocean there is an invisible border.

The ferry roared and splashed across the waves for about forty minutes. When we reached our destination we debarked onto a different island in a different country. There were customs forms to fill out, and our luggage had to pass inspection. It didn't take long. Her Majesty's customs agents were courteous and good-humored. The mood was infectious. We were wearing smiles when we stepped through the door on the landward side.

Why go through customs hassles to reach a similar island only fifteen miles away? I was wondering that myself. The answer would come to me slowly, though some clues were immediately apparent. One was the grin on my face. I heard chickens clucking among the parked cars outside the ferry terminal.

Everywhere dark skinned islanders went about their business, while we pale tourists gathered our baggage and blinked in the sun. The language was English, but the accent was decidedly Caribbean. The pace felt more relaxed. I learned a new phrase, "island time". The time zone was only an hour ahead of Charlotte, but we were now clocking island time.

Soon we were checked into our villa. (That's what the sign said. It was like a small hotel; our friends moved into an adjoining suite.) Here's a view of Cane Garden Bay taken from the balcony.

The crescent-shaped beach stretched to either side.

Ahh, that's better.

The azure water was clear as crystal. To me it was perfect. I overheard one or two Tortolans complain that it seemed a bit chilly. I noticed a few folks wearing sweaters. It was, after all, the middle of their 'winter'. I tried to empathize, but it wasn't easy.

Easier to imagine what a disaster it would be, if all those steep roads were covered in snow. It probably never will happen. At a latitude of 18°25' Tortola is truly tropical. The trees were green, and flowers were blooming in December.

"It's a blessing," said one native, whom I interviewed briefly after we met each other on the steep, narrow driveway outside the gate. He understood what I was saying. He had lived and worked in Detroit, so he had seen his share of snow. It turned out that we were exactly the same age. Before we parted, we shook hands to cement our membership in the International Brotherhood of Sexagenarians.

There are a lot more than two Virgin Islands. If you count every rock big enough to grow a tree, there are dozens. Most of them lie within sight of each other. It's a place made for boats.

We saw a lot of boats. Each night a score of them would come to anchor below our balcony.

Our preferred mode of transportation was the automobile. Our host had made arrangements to rent one. Unfortunately Tortola is not nearly as friendly to the motorist as it is to the mariner. It's a matter of topography. The Atlantic is flat. Tortola is anything but. The vehicle we acquired was a Japanese SUV. Its four-wheel drive, hefty suspension and high ground clearance took the steep grades and frequent speed bumps in stride. Like most of the cars we saw, ours was outfitted American-style with the driver's seat on the left. I guess that makes it easy for American tourists to operate the controls, but it was the wrong geometry for Tortola. I mean, presumably there are good reasons why the driver of a car normally sits near the center of the road. I thought it was a curious thing, because in both Britain and Japan people drive on the left. Looks like a Japanese manufacturer could ship a car with proper handedness to the Virgin Islands. It could be a question of peculiar islander preference, but I bet it's a matter of economics. Do vehicles destined for the B. V. I. pass through Seattle or Houston?

The choice of driving direction may be British, but almost everything else is American. Currency is the U. S. dollar. Electricity is 120 VAC, 60 Hz. The market was full of familiar products. One exception was the butter, which was imported from New Zealand. Another was gasoline. We only had to fill our tank once, but the price was five dollars per (U. S.) gallon. A nice round number, to be sure.

But I digress. We were on vacation. No worries.

Actually, not every day was sunny and bright. Each floating cloud cast a different light on the islands and water. Most days (or nights) included passing rain showers. We heard no thunder and saw no lightning. The rain was part of the ever-changing scene. If you were swimming in the sea, you were already wet and so had nothing to lose. The admixture of fresh water only made the experience more piquant. Those who were dry (and determined to stay dry) huddled beneath a beach umbrella while the rain drifted overhead.

Each day ended with a glorious sunset.

Before we knew it, a week had passed. On our last morning in Tortola a shower bestowed a marvelous rainbow, which shifted and shimmered for the duration of a leisurely breakfast. Our friend captured this moment with the camera in her cell phone.

When the last slice of toast had been buttered and the final cup of coffee gulped, it was time to go. Reluctantly we turned in our vehicle and boarded the ferry back to St. Thomas.

That's when I understood the difference. In St. Thomas customary American concepts apply. The island is covered in real estate and infrastructure. There are no scurrying chickens in Charlotte Amalie, no roosters crowing. Horns were blowing, engines revving. Those of us with smart phones had internet again. The clock was ticking. We had a plane to catch.

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Reader Comments

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37. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
2:14 PM GMT on January 05, 2013
Bogon has created a new entry.
36. Bogon
6:05 PM GMT on January 01, 2013
People sometimes ask me my opinion on current events in Raleigh or Washington, DC. On such occasions I'm obliged to admit that I'm a low-information voter. I gave up on watching the news years ago. Some of what passes for news is irrelevant, and much of it is hardly new. Most of the news I hear is bad, which doesn't help the tenor of my day.

I like to start my day by reading the comics. I have better luck with that. A perennial favorite is Calvin and Hobbes. The strip is no longer in production, but the loop of oldie goldies is long enough that I never notice the repeats. Most of the daily offerings remain relevant, at least from my admittedly dated outlook.

The strip I linked above is a case in point. Calvin begins the year with the largest possible perspective, complaining about the management of the universe. This is a legitimate beef. I continue to wonder at the unbelievably optimistic appraisals of starry eyed Christians, who affirm that it's all part of the Holy plan, and if we only believe hard enough, we'll all be raptured up in the end. "The best of all possible worlds", as Dr. Pangloss used to say.

As Michael Valentine Smith says, "Thou art God." We are the management. I'm telling you this, so that the next time you have a problem, you'll know whom to call.

If the universe had a cover charge, I wonder what sort of currency would be demanded, and onto which side of the velvet rope Calvin would naturally segregate?
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35. Bogon
3:32 PM GMT on January 01, 2013
Hoppy Gnu Ear, everybody!

I tried to watch some of Dick Clark etc. before midnight last night, but the concerns of (unknown, to me at least) young celebrities gathered around Times Square in New York City were too impossibly far from anything about which I was equipped to care.

Wife and I had a nifty new year's eve nonetheless. The evening began when we accepted an invitation from crosstown friends to share champagne and conversation. Our hostess sent us home with a braided loaf of freshly baked hoska.

Except that we didn't go straight home. We drove to a fairly decent chain restaurant and ordered a giant pizza, which is one of my favorite things in all the world. My wife knows this about me. I don't think she is nearly the confirmed pizzaholic I am, but she seemed a willing enough accomplice at the time. She matched me slice for slice throughout the early going. The only negative vibe resulted when Wife ordered some raspberry flavored beer, which didn't seem to complement the pizza very well. I ordered something called Modus Hoperandi based solely on the punny name. Although a single glass sufficed for the evening, more would be welcome, if I should be so fortunate as to find this Durango, CO, product on the shelf of a North Carolina store.

As we devoured slice after tasty slice, each of us had a view of the Chick-fil-A (formerly Peach) Bowl showing on television sets mounted high on the wall of the restaurant. That turned out to be a good choice as well. It was Tigers versus Tigers; the matchup was too close to call. This was the first bowl game this season that managed to snare our attention. We turned the game on when we got home. The outcome remained in doubt until the last two seconds.

The victors' ebullience was absolutely catching. That set the tone for the aforementioned channel surfing, whereby I sought to share the view while a brightly lit ball descended over Times Square. Alas, too much inanity. One commentator spent the final seconds of 2012 saluting members of our armed forces, who may have had the misfortune to endure New Year's Eve in some distant and hostile hot spot. That made eminent sense, but once the clock had ticked past midnight I clicked off the boob tube and heard fireworks popping and banging around my own neighborhood. That didn't keep me awake long.

So far 2013 seems to be flowing along smoothly enough. It's a gray, rainy day, perfect for watching more bowl games. I just warmed up a slice of hoska to go with my morning coffee. (Slurp!) Here's to continuity!

Munch, munch. Ah, that reminds me. Thanks to the recent birthday/holiday gift exchange, I have a new calendar to hang.
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34. shoreacres
2:14 PM GMT on January 01, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
33. juslivn
7:03 AM GMT on January 01, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
32. palmettobug53
5:00 AM GMT on January 01, 2013
Currier and Ives

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.

~ Ellen Goodman

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
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31. BriarCraft
4:30 AM GMT on January 01, 2013

Have a great 2013!
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30. masshysteria
6:40 PM GMT on December 31, 2012
Hi Bogon!

Fortunately, over the weekend, we received approximately 5-6 inches of snow without any resulting power outages! That's a positive start!

I also wanted to stop by to wish you and yours A HEALTHY, HAPPY, SAFE AND MORE PROMISING NEW YEAR AHEAD. Heaven knows, we could all use it!

.....New Year's 2013 countdown banner



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29. Bogon
10:39 AM GMT on December 31, 2012
Good morning, Sandi. Thanks for the swell benediction.

I, for one, am looking forward to 2013. Should be quieter than last year. No elections, Olympics or leaping. No Mayan apocalypse. The current solar cycle should peak this year, but it promises to be one of the least active cycles since astronomers started counting sunspots.

I invite my readers to reach out to their televisions and turn off Fox news. With that constant source of disquiet eliminated from your household, it might indeed be possible to tune into love, happiness and peace. Those channels are still there, right where they always have been.
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28. Bogon
10:10 AM GMT on December 31, 2012
Hey, Ylee. Wife and I considered retiring to the Virgin Islands, but only for a moment. It would be too far from family and friends. And, in truth, it's only paradise for the young and fit. I've just completed a three-year course in what the end of life looks like. It won't seem long until our days of swimming, diving, mountain climbing and, yes, even disc golfing will be over. Most likely we'll be picking a place to live based on criteria like availability of good medical care.


Its a raw, wintry morning. The furnace is running, and interior air is dry. Our forecast calls for more nights dipping below the freezing mark (or, as Lee Grenci elaborates, the melting point of pure water at standard pressure).

Wife has contracted a cold. I'm hoping that it's the same one I caught earlier this fall. Otherwise I'm doomed.
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27. sandiquiz
10:02 AM GMT on December 31, 2012

Bogon - I do hope 2013 is a very happy, healthy and safe year for you and your family.
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26. Ylee
6:50 PM GMT on December 30, 2012
Cooper Island has a resort that boasts a webcam that I featured on my blog a few months back!

I don't think I could live there permamently, though; I guess I'm too strongly attached to my own area.
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25. Bogon
1:30 AM GMT on December 29, 2012
Thanks, Alley. Believe me, it was fun doing the research for this blog. :o)

According to the wiki, there are about twenty-three thousand permanent residents of Tortola. It's not as if you can go there and just stake out a claim. Bear in mind, however, that Tortola is not the only destination in the British Virgin Islands. You can see Jost van Dyke in several of the pictures in the main entry. It's likely that Anegada and Virgin Gorda also have room to spare. Some of the smaller islands belong to folks like Richard Branson. Some of them are uninhabited.
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24. Alleyoops
6:34 PM GMT on December 28, 2012
Love your blog Bogon... Tortola is a dream haven of mine. I would permanently move there if finances permitted. I tell ya, the thought of no major infrastructure other than pure island beauty really does appeal me in more ways than naught. Simple put, its a piece of paradise. No wonder pirates loved that island as a hideout...LOL

Thank you for posting your story and wonderful pics of your trip. Blessings to you and yours for a wonderful New Year.
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23. Bogon
3:27 PM GMT on December 28, 2012
That's a noble sentiment, Ylee. It's the best you can do. Don't be upset when your kids make their own mistakes, though -- as they surely will.

It's the nature of things. Young folks rebel, and old folks regret. The pendulum keeps on swinging.
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22. Ylee
12:33 PM GMT on December 28, 2012
Well, strictly as a father, I try to present my life history to the kids honestly, in hopes that they don't make the mistakes I made in my youth.
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21. Bogon
8:23 AM GMT on December 28, 2012
The motto of Tarheels everywhere is, "esse quam videri". I am not a Latin scholar, but I'm told this translates as, "to be rather than to seem".

To me, that means that we are unconcerned with appearances. We don't care about superficialities, hype or spin. We want the real deal. We want something genuine and true.

Let's mention, briefly, two more movies that are making the rounds this holiday season. Lincoln recounts a bit of Civil War history. The action takes place in early 1865, as the House of Representatives debates the 13th amendment. It is near the end of the war, and Lincoln is obliged to prioritize his pursuits of peace and of human rights. A lot of people liked Abraham Lincoln. They called him "Honest Abe", because he could tell it like it is. He stood for something. He could walk the talk. We still respect him for that.

In Life of Pi a writer listens to a man tell his life story. At the end of the movie we learn that there are two versions of the story. Pi, the raconteur, judges that the first version makes the better tale. The writer agrees, and so, we assume, does the majority of the audience. It's a beautiful movie visually. Wife left the theater wishing that we had watched the 3-D version.

I felt unsatisfied for a different reason. I think maybe it goes back to the state motto. It's not enough for me to know that one version of a story makes a better yarn. I want to know which version is right. I believe that it matters. We ought to want to know. How much of our history is truth, and how much is "better tales"?

Our history tells us who we are. Who are we, really?
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20. Ylee
5:23 AM GMT on December 28, 2012
Your telling of BVI's "Brand"(Nature's Little Secrets) made me think of my state's "Unbridled Spirit". Wonder what the brand slogan of Dry Slottoria would be? :)
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19. Bogon
2:12 AM GMT on December 28, 2012
Hi, sp. Wife and I enjoyed our time in Tortola. I'm glad if we can spread little hints of that joy with words and pictures.

The only thing that worries me is that license plates in the British Virgin Islands all bore the description "Nature's Little Secrets". I'm afraid that by giving them this free publicity, the secret will be out.

Nope, you don't get intermission with your hobbit, not unless you count the intermission between Part I and Part II. There's plenty of action to keep things moving along. There are more than enough characters for variety. I mean, Snow White only had seven dwarfs.

The version we saw was shown in 3-D at a high frame rate. Some reviewers have complained that the gimmickry got in the way of the story. I wouldn't say that, but the documentary-like clarity of the medium did make it harder to suspend disbelief in things like props and makeup. In that sense it was more like a play than a movie. Some people might think that was a good thing.
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18. sp34n119w
11:29 PM GMT on December 27, 2012
I saw the photos awhile before you wrote about the trip and, as lovely as they are, your description of adventure in the blog and in the comments adds much to the magic. So glad you had a good time!
Good luck keeping the vibe alive through winter weather - I hope it works :)

The only thing I want to know about The Hobbit before I go is if it has an intermission! LOL
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17. Bogon
8:03 PM GMT on December 26, 2012
Big rain again this morning. It appears to be ending now. This storm is dropping snow on places not very far to the northwest, and there's a severe weather threat farther east.

The law allows importation of several bottles of rum per person in checked baggage. Between the two of us Wife and I brought back five. We'll probably give a couple of those away. We don't drink much booze, although we stock a selection for our guests.

Since we got back from Tortola we have been trying to keep the vacation spirit alive. Winter gloom and chill don't make it any easier. A sip of rum once in a while seems to help. :o)
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16. ycd0108
4:49 PM GMT on December 26, 2012
Good morning Bogon:
I enjoyed your travel pictures and observations.
Looking out at a grey wet morning - snow from yesterday melting slowly in the light rain - it is good to know that somewhere there are tire dodging chickens in the sun near an island beach, an ice filled cocktail is readily available and it can be appreciated for it's cooling influence.
I'm going to light the fire in the furnace and have a hot rum.
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15. Bogon
3:42 PM GMT on December 26, 2012
I can see it all now, UK.

“And ’oo moight you be?” inquired the pirate captain, the hairiest, dirtiest, meanest looking member of the group. He slashed his saber through the air as though to emphasize the fell seriousness of his intent.

“I am Bogon of the Dry Slotterites,” announced the pilgrim solemnly.

At once the scurvy crew began falling about the deck amid howls of derisive laughter.

I wouldn't worry too much about the nimble chickens of Tortola, if I were you. A flock of chicks getting schooled in the finer points of car dodging was among the sights to greet my eye when I first emerged onto BVI soil, er, I mean pavement. I'm sure that any yardbirds who survive, I mean graduate, that Darwinian training process could manage it in their sleep.

I recall at least two occasions when I opted for a chicken dish during my daily repast. I don't know whether that chicken originated in a clinically frozen antiseptically clean white package or whether it represented the latest casualty from the parking lot. Either way, it was tasty by the time it landed on my plate.

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14. insideuk
11:51 AM GMT on December 26, 2012
Enjoyed the travelogue Mr B. It sounds as though the British Virgin Islands hit the right spot at just the right time – with a bit of help from some very delicious looking drinks. Any mixture of rum, tropical fruit and ice sounds good to me! Being British I keep my head at fridge temperature most of the time so brain freeze is less of an issue. A perk of living in the northern latitudes.

I can only imagine the affect on dry slots people, no, hang on, let me think about this...

Dry Slotters? Dry Slotterages? Dry Slotterites? Yeah, Dry Slotterites sounds right. I'll give the Oxford English dictionary folks a heads up on that one in the new year.

I'm pleased to hear Her Maj's operatives were doing her proud. I'd imagine there are much more stressful places around the world to fulfil such a role, like Bermuda for instance. They have to wear those daft knee length smart suit-like shorts for a start...


You were all wearing them were you?

With long white socks too? OK.

Moving on.

Interesting that they drive left hand drive vehicles on the left hand (correct) side of the road. Many chickens must get reversed over given the unacceptable blind spots drivers are dealing with during tricky manoeuvring from the wrong seat in the car. Unless the chickens are wise to it now and all walk only on the left side of cars? On stilts? Perhaps you didn't notice this time – if you could make a note to let me know when you return, I'm just curious. Thanks.

There is something to be said for arriving in a new country by boat though. Somehow a sea crossing, even a brief one, makes the border more tangible than arriving from the air. Setting foot on dry land once again has more resonance within my brain, I have arrived somewhere new, my senses can drink it in. Unlike the whoosh of strangely mixed oven hot temperatures and aviation fuel that have greeted me as I disembark a plane (everywhere is hotter than home). A boat prepares you for the new land slowly, it lulls you in and deposits you safely, whereas a plane just hurls you into it before your faculties have had time to catch up.

Given a choice between owning a private boat or a private plane I'd take the boat every time.

I'd be in no rush to arrive and reverse over an unschooled short arsed chicken in the airport car park.

Have a happy Boxing Day with the 'lively ones' Bogon!
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13. Bogon
8:56 PM GMT on December 25, 2012
Howdy, Mass. I owe you a visit.

Thanks for the Christmas wishes. Wife and I have spent a quiet morning. Things promise to liven up this afternoon as we drive across town to visit with her family.

A miraculously better new year might be just what the doctor ordered. Carrying on in the rather gloomy spirit of my previous blog, it may take a miracle to cure what ails us.

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12. masshysteria
5:05 PM GMT on December 25, 2012

Good Afternoon and a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours! Here's also hoping for a miraculously better NEW YEAR ahead! Stay safe, warm and well!

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11. Bogon
6:40 AM GMT on December 25, 2012
BriarCraft, when we went through BVI customs, we weren't smuggling anything. We were there to have a good time. I'm sure the agents get a lot of that.

There was a personal factor. The couple with whom we were traveling really are delightful folks. They have visited Tortola enough times over many years to know people there. As they went through the line they were chatting up the customs inspectors, asking for news about mutual acquaintances. It seems as if everyone on the island is cousin to everyone else. The ice was effectively broken.

Add the psychological factor. We had just gotten off a bracing boat ride with great scenery. If Wife had asked me then whether I was getting excited, the answer would have been, "Yes!"

Lastly it was a short wait. Not many people got off the ferry at West End. Most passengers were bound for Road Town.

Bug, I had a moment of anxiety before I boarded the return flight from St. Thomas. As I stepped through the security checkpoint an agent asked me to step aside. I had to raise my hands, while he waved a beeping wand over my torso. It turned out that I had forgotten half an ounce of chocolate in my shirt pocket. There was foil laminated into the wrapper, which set off the metal detector. Luckily he did not confiscate the evidence. I destroyed it myself shortly thereafter.

That graphic is perfect, Ylee. If I had eight magical reindeer and a sleigh parked outside, I would zoom back to the Caribbean tonight!
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10. Ylee
5:19 AM GMT on December 25, 2012
I reckon the investors behind The Hobbit are looking to cash in a la Lord of the Rings !

Merry Christmas for you and the missus! I figured this graphic would be on topic for your blog! :)

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9. palmettobug53
10:23 PM GMT on December 24, 2012
Wonderful blog, Bogon.

I agree: gimme the chickens and a laid back pace!

I remember those customs agents in Bermuda. Same thing. Very friendly, smiling. I think they went through my shopping bag once, getting back on the cruise ship, but it was perfunctory. Kind of like, "Sorry, dearie, but job requirements state we have to do this once in a while."
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8. palmettobug53
10:20 PM GMT on December 24, 2012

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.
~Author Unknown
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7. BriarCraft
9:56 PM GMT on December 24, 2012
Her Majesty's customs agents were courteous and good-humored. The mood was infectious. We were wearing smiles when we stepped through the door on the landward side.

Those few sentences said so very much more. Just the fact that you could pass through customs and leave with a smile instead of a scowl is something in itself.

If I had read this and seen these pictures in a travel magazine, I would have been impressed. That you created this masterpiece in a "simple" blog, it means so much more. You really waxed eloquent on this one, Bogon. Well said!

Thanks for letting us tag along to B.V.I. I now know that if I ever make it to tropical waters, that's the place I want to go.
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6. Bogon
9:06 PM GMT on December 24, 2012
Hmm, sorta gloomy and damp outside my house today with temperatures running in the low to mid forties. 'T is the season, I reckon. The forecast for tomorrow looks nicer.

Ylee, there is commercialism in Tortola, but it's mostly of the home-grown variety. I mean, you're not likely to find McDonald's or KFC there. The Tortolans are smart enough to figure out how to make a buck on their own.

I don't recall seeing a single billboard on Tortola. Didn't watch television while I was there, so I can't comment on that sort of advertising.

I was surprised by a couple of small restaurants we visited. You had to know they were there. If I had seen them anywhere else, I would have given them a wide berth. They didn't look like much, but we got excellent value for our dollars. (And we didn't get sick once. No Montezuma's Revenge, just good eats. Would that be equally true in the summer? This report is based on a single sample. You'll have to ask someone else.)

As for The Hobbit (Part 1), I don't think I can do a one-size-fits-all review. If you're a Tolkien fan, this is probably something you've gotta see. If you're a kid, you'll have a good time, as long as you're old enough to handle the fight scenes and ugly orcs. It's not a movie for small children because of violence and scary monsters. There's also a certain amount of complexity -- lots of characters, background history etc. And there's an issue with dividing the story into three parts. You're going to need a lot of attention span before this tale is done.

If you're a skeptical adult, you might want to give this one a miss. Wife and I had a good time, but we've devoured most everything that bears the Tolkien imprimatur. Peter Jackson has a history of getting a little too enthusiastic with some of his films. King Kong comes to mind. Too long, too clichéd. I guess it depends on whether you can get in touch with your inner child and willingly suspend your disbelief.
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5. Ylee
5:08 AM GMT on December 24, 2012
Great blog, Bogon! Tortola sounds familiar to me, as if I've seen it on a webcam sometime.

Don't worry about the pics; after seeing the beach sunset, I'm good! :)

I think I would go thrugh the hassle of getting a passport and going through customs to get to Tortola. I don't do hustle-bustle and commercialism well.

I'm game for the movie review. Won't see The Hobbit until it comes out on DVD, anyway! :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4. Bogon
4:19 AM GMT on December 24, 2012
whitewabit, we went to Tortola in need of serious downtime. We didn't do a lot of exploring beyond looking for a restaurant each evening. There was good chow near where we were staying, and we found excellent dining opportunities farther afield. Fare ranged from "cheeseburgers in paradise" to alien-looking spiny lobster. Prices were what you would expect for a tourist destination. You might find similar rates for food and accommodations in a place like Asheville or Charleston. Tourism is serious business down there. The premier of the government is also the minister of tourism.

Tortola is only a dozen miles long, smaller than a county in my state. The gradients and narrow roads limit the speed of automobile traffic, so it feels bigger than that. The landscape has character, lots of nooks and crannies. Views can be spectacular. If you have a boat at your disposal, you can explore the entire archipelago. Even sitting on the beach is more rewarding than you might imagine.

To tell the truth, I didn't spend as much time acquiring a tan as my repartee might lead you to think. Ours was a group of older folks. We were not interested in strenuous outdoor activities. There are abundant opportunities for hiking, diving etc., if you have the energy. There are parks on the seashore and on the island's highest point, Sage Mountain. If you crave a more urban milieu, you can visit the capital city, Road Town.

Little Tortola was more than big enough to occupy us for a week. We never made it to the east end of the island. We'll find plenty more to explore during our next visit, as well as revisiting favorites we discovered this time. I want to learn more about tropical botany, so I can recognize some of the common trees and plants. Much of that green vegetation in the photos is unlike anything I know. Once in a while I saw something familiar -- but here it only grows as a houseplant!

Cal, BriarCraft and UK, thanks for your sympathy on the last blog. Mom's funeral went very well. Eventually I may want to blog about the end of Mom's life. Until I've had a chance to sort things out, I don't trust myself to make sense.

Ylee and sp, thanks for checking on me. I'm okay. :o)

Ylee, some of these photos are served from an el-cheapo image hosting outfit with which I signed up a couple of years ago. You may not be able to view those at work.

Proserpina and Barefoot, thanks for the Christmas greetings. I'm not sure I'm ready for Christmas, but look out, here it comes! There's one (1) more shopping day...

Friday we went to see The Hobbit. Anyone interested in a movie review?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
3. whitewabit
11:36 PM GMT on December 23, 2012
Quoting Bogon:
Hi, wabit. My wife and I are agreed, we would love to return to Tortola.

Maybe just the two of us next time, now that we know what to expect.

Is there much to explore on the island? laying on the beach only goes so far .. were the prices reasonable for the area ..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. Bogon
8:34 PM GMT on December 23, 2012
Hi, wabit. My wife and I are agreed, we would love to return to Tortola.

Maybe just the two of us next time, now that we know what to expect.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. whitewabit
7:37 PM GMT on December 23, 2012
Very nice blog, informative and entertaining .. Wife and I would like to go after she retires in a few years..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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About Bogon

Retired software engineer. "What is that?", you may ask. It's someone who has time to blog about the weather...

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