The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Tortola, BVI
May 2006
"Pay It Forward"

It was hard to believe that four years had passed since we visited our friend Kathy in Tortola.  We decided that it was high time we rectified the situation, so after a few emails back and forth, we agreed on the first weekend of May for our trip.  Amazingly, we were able to coordinate schedules with seven travelers!   Because of flight availability, we decided to take the St. Thomas flight and ferry over to Tortola and return via San Juan.  We agreed to meet at 8:30AM to carpool over to the airport.   The afternoon before we were to leave, “Nervous Nellie” decided maybe we should back our meeting time up to 8:00AM.

We learned from friends who had visited Kathy the week before that the things she really misses from home are Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Since our friends had taken Chick-Fil-A’s, we decided to take some Krispy Kremes.   Tony and I left the house around 7AM to allow time to pick up the doughnuts and still meet the others at 8:00.

We got our friend David to shuttle some of the group to the airport.  We rode with Karla.  On the drive over, the conversation turned to passports and that is when we realized that Tony and I had left ours at home!  We got David on the cell phone and he circled back around to pick us up.   David had been in the same situation some months before and JeRie had taken him to his home and back to the airport so he could make his cruise.  He decided to “Pay It Forward” and took Tony and me to Smyrna to get our passports.  We just barely made it back to the airport in time to check in for the flight (thanks go to both “Nervous Nellie” and “Speed-Racer David”).  The line at security was very long, so by the time we got to the gate, the flight had boarded.  We breathlessly handed the agent our standby verification cards and were extremely pleased when he gave us our seat assignments in First Class!  We barely had time to order Bloody Mary’s and make a quick phone call to thank David before the doors closed and the plane pushed back.

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Upon arrival in St. Thomas, we were greeted with a complimentary rum punch.  Then we slipped into something more comfortable and headed for the duty-free shop to get some “supplies”.  Outside, they packed the seven of us and three others into a taxi bound for the ferry dock.  The air-conditioner in the van was inoperative, so it was a hot and sweaty ride.  The driver insisted that the air-conditioner was on and would not allow the windows to be opened.  We bought tickets ($28 per person) for the 3:30PM Smith’s Ferry and headed upstairs to wait in the Petit Pump Room for our boat, The Sterling, to arrive.  At 3:15, we wandered back downstairs and watched cargo being loaded onto two other boats.  They literally dropped three identical 27” TV’s onto the deck and were only slightly more careful with a big flat screen TV.  The stevedores almost let one bag slide into the ocean.  We decided to watch our bags very carefully as they were loaded onto our boat, deciding that we were going on whatever boat our bags went on, no matter where that was. 

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The 3:30 ferry finally left the dock at nearly 4:15.  The weather was perfect for sitting on the upper deck.  The ocean breeze was refreshing and except for the occasional drop of bird-poop, the ride was very pleasant.  The boat made a stop in West End and then went on to Road Town.

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When we got off of the boat, we saw Kah-Tee (the island pronunciation of Kathy) and Ashbell.  We got excited and were shouting at her through the fence until the customs official got angry and yelled at us.  We finally made it outside where we could hug Kah-Tee and Ashbell.  The customs agent followed us out where she told Ashbell that “I almost did not let them into the country”.  She turned out to be Ashbell’s cousin.

Ashbell gave us a guided tour of the east end of the island on our way to the hotel.  He named all of the islands that could be seen off the coast.  The Tamarind Club hotel itself can’t be appreciated from the road.  All you can see as you drive over a cattle grate into the parking lot is one white wall with flowers cascading down it. 

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Once you climb the stairs though, you pass through a nice outdoor dining area and into an island paradise. 

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The bar area and rooms surround a huge blue swimming pool surrounded by trees and flowers.

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We received our room assignments.  Room #5 (ours) had a queen sized bed.  Room #2 was a family room with a king sized bed, a futon and two twin beds.  Room #8 was on the top floor and had two double beds.

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We quickly dropped our bags in our rooms and met back in the bar for our welcome cocktail.  Before we were seated, we presented Kah-Tee with her Krispy Kremes. 

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Simon, the bartender, gave us some umbrella drinks and the visiting began. 

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At some point, Ashbell said that he could see that “dis is a sinking ship” and deserted us to head home.  We didn’t even bother to move to the dining room for dinner.  Tony had the special of the evening, pasta with beef tips and the most wonderful pear, walnut and blue cheese salad.  The rest of us had a variety of salads, soups and pastas from the regular menu.   All of the food was wonderful.  The rest of the evening is sort of a blur as we sampled more of Simon’s drink specials.

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We met two guests from Idaho, Robin from England, and our hero, Collin, the combination taxi driver, tour guide and escort (who made sure we all got safely back to our rooms).

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The next morning, I was the first one up.  I found the complimentary continental breakfast buffet and enjoyed a cup of coffee while I waited for the others to stir.

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Everyone eventually wandered down, although the last one to bed the night before (we’ll call her “The Missing Link”, was a little late arriving).  No one seemed too anxious to start any activities, so we spent the morning eating fruit and English muffins while quietly chatting and petting the dogs (Chiquita, Maverick, Ting, Buster, and Molly). 

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Only our room had a hotel information book, and since I had read it, I became the authority on hotel information.  The book said that it was a 1km walk to the beach at Josiah’s Bay.  Our friend who had been the week before said it was 1 mile.  After we started to feel completely lazy, we decided we should take the walk.  When we got to the beach, we stopped in at Naomi’s restaurant for a beverage.  We left Tony in the shade with his book while the girls dragged their chairs onto the beach. 

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The surf was much too strong for snorkeling or floating so I just played in the waves for a bit.  It was easy to see how one could get dragged out by the undertow or dashed on the rocks, so I was careful not to get out too far.  Soon, our stomachs told us it was time for lunch, so we joined Tony back at Naomi’s for lunch. 

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After lunch and a few more beverages, we made the hike back to the Tamarind Club.  I picked a piece of fruit on the way back to the hotel to ask the locals about, but no one knew what it was.  They just kept saying, “Don’t eat that, it might be poisonous.”  I cut into it and it immediately turned brown, so I opted to follow their advice.

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The Cinco de Mayo party was getting into full swing when we got back to the hotel.  Kah-Tee introduced a few of us to a new game called Rummikub while others relaxed by the pool.  Tony made friends with some of the other guests at the bar and in the pool after he discovered a new favorite beverage (Gin and Ting). 

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At some point, he switched to Pain Killers after which I had to fish him out of the pool and put him to bed.   He missed the special Cinco de Mayo menu, but the rest of us feasted on Fish Tacos, Nachos and the Mixed Seafood Grill.  Once again, the rest of the evening was a bit of a blur.

The next morning, since it was Kah-Tee and Ashbell’s day off, we decided to go for a boat ride.  (All except Tony, who decided to relax by the pool.)  While we were eating breakfast and waiting for everyone to gather, the cat brought us a little treat…  A partially eaten mouse.  Mmmm – appetizing!

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On the way to the dock, we asked Kah-Tee to take us to see her house.  On our previous trip the house only had one room and a cistern built, so we had trouble visualizing what it might be like now that they were living in it.  Kah-Tee told us that they had had trouble getting the government to run power to it, so they had lived in it for 8 months with no electricity!  The drive to the house was a little more treacherous than I remembered.

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The transformation was nothing less than amazing!  The ground floor was finished with beautiful tiled floors and countertops, three bedrooms and a spacious bathroom. 

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Windows on three sides afforded breathtaking views.  The upper floor was at the concrete block stage.  Kah-Tee said that the plan was for them to live on the upper floor when it was finished and rent out the lower floor.

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After we finished admiring the view, we headed to the dock on Beef Island and boarded the boat for Virgin Gorda.  The seas were a little rough, so the two wooden benches on Ashbell’s boat got a little uncomfortable for those with less than adequate padding on their backsides. 

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We docked at the Bitter End Yacht club and found some lounge chairs under a cabana.  Ashbell pretended to doze while the girls chatted. 

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As lunchtime approached, we boarded the boat to Saba Rock, a precisely manicured little island with exactly one hotel/restaurant. 

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There was a live fish tank outside the restaurant with sharks and lobsters.

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After we placed our lunch order, we explored the island and the gift shop, stopping briefly to try out the hammocks. 

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On the way back to Tortola, we made one stop at Marina Cay (pronounced “key”) for a beverage. 

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We made it back to the Tamarind Club just in time for the Kentucky Derby party!  JeRie placed a strategic bet on horse #8 and then joined the rest of us at the swim-up bar.  There was lots of splashing and celebrating as horse #8 took the lead in the last seconds of the race!

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We actually ALL had dinner together in the dining area for the first night of the trip.  Most of us opted for pasta, each declaring that theirs was the best.  We retired to JeRie and Rhonda’s room after dinner where we all dozed off and had to be awakened and sent to bed.

Sunday was our lazy day (even lazier than the others).  We established a camp in the shade by the pool shortly after breakfast.  Kah-Tee said they were expecting around 100 people for brunch, so if we wanted to eat, we should go early.  We were seated at 11:00AM.  Brunch included a complimentary Bloody Mary, Bloody Caesar or Mimosa.  I ordered the Bloody Caesar (made with Clamato juice) and passed it around.  Everyone (except Tony) decided to have one as well.  Then we all overate on items like the “Hangover Cure” and “Southern Eggs Benedict”. 

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Sluggish from brunch, we dragged ourselves back to our camp by the pool and napped until early afternoon.  Ashbell stopped by with fish from his traps that he brought us for dinner.  He filleted them and left them in the capable hands of the chef to prepare for us.

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Feeling completely worthless, we decided a walk to the beach might revive us, so we made one last pilgrimage to Josiah’s Bay and Naomi’s. 

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Afterwards, back at the hotel, we played Rummikub until it got too dark to see the colors.  Ashbell announced that Kah-Tee should spend the night with us at the hotel since it was our last night.  We enjoyed Kah-Tee’s company while we ate our wonderful fish dinner.

Monday morning, we were all up early and gathered around our usual table for coffee.  Kah-Tee presented our bill.  We had asked her to just total it all up and let us split it 7 ways since it would be difficult to figure out otherwise.  When we saw the stack of charges, we started to hyperventilate, but when divided by 7, it was actually very reasonable.  The cost was comparable to an all-inclusive resort – which basically describes the vacation.

Collin picked us up at 8:00AM for our 10:00AM American Eagle flight.  What a nice guy that Collin is.  He made a speech before leaving the resort.  He told everyone to make sure they had their passport and $20 cash for departure fee.  He said that if we didn’t have enough money to pay him, that would be okay because he knew we would come back, but to MAKE SURE we had the money for the departure tax.  He charged us $5 each for the ride to the airport – very reasonable.

We got to the airport early enough that we thought we might be able to get on an 8:35 Air Sunshine flight, but it seems that the days of showing your airline ID, paying $10 and jumping on an island hopper are over.   They had seats, but they wanted about $180 for a one way fare!  We’re airline employees for goodness sake!  Thank goodness we had bought reduced rate tickets on a couple of other airlines.  We stood by for the 10AM American Eagle flight. 

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Three of our party were cleared on the flight, but before it took off, they analyzed the weights and balances and decided that they needed to remove one of the standbys.  They picked the smallest person – those of us remaining decided that if her tiny weight made a difference, we were glad not to be flying on that plane!

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Our next opportunity to stand by was an 11:35AM Cape Air flight.  Four of us were cleared on that flight, leaving one lone soul, Tony.  He was a brave boy and stood by for the 12:20PM American Eagle flight.  The Cape Air flight was aboard a 10 seat Cessna 402 aircraft. 

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The female pilot announced that a storm was coming in and we would try to beat it to San Juan.  White knuckle flyers beware! 

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As we circled San Juan (several times), we notice the pilot kept looking out the side window.  Karla finally leaned over and told me to see if I could help her find what she was looking for.  We finally landed, collected our bags and cleared customs.

We headed for the food court to wait for Tony.  He called to say he was on the American Eagle flight waiting to take off.  He was scheduled to land at 1:35PM – seemingly plenty of time to make the 3:00PM San Juan to Atlanta flight.  His flight was delayed a bit due to the weather and then he was delayed again clearing customs.   We went ahead and got in the LONG security line.  He caught up with us just before we rounded the first corner in the queue so he was able to duck under the ribbon and join us.

We walked to our gate (the last one in the concourse) and set up camp to wait for our seat assignments.  I decided to walk (all the way) back to the duty free shop.  I lined up my purchases and then found out I needed a boarding card.  I walked (all the way) back to the gate to get my stand-by verification card, and then walked (all the way) back to the shop.  The cashier refused to sell to me unless I had a seat assignment.  I tried to explain that as a stand-by, my seat assignment is only displayed on the monitor at the gate, but she still refused.  By the time I walked (all the way) back to the gate, it was time to board the aircraft, so no duty-free items for me.

Our seats were in zone 9 so we were the last to board the aircraft.  As we were putting our bags in the overhead, we heard a cabin announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please help us congratulate some passengers on our flight today.  BJ and Tony Morris are celebrating their 50th anniversary and they have brought their daughter JeRie with them…”  Unbeknownst to us, one of the flight attendants was a friend of ours and decided to play a little joke on us.

A GREAT TRIP!  I highly recommend planning a visit to see Kah-Tee soon!  She and Ashbell and Cindy and Eric and Katie and Clint and Simon and Collin and Naomi will take good care of you!

BJ and Tony Morris