Tuesday, March 22, 2011

St John U.S. Virgin Islands - Happy 50th Birthday DUG

Full Set of Picture at the bottom of the post!!
Where to start, most of the puzzle was solved before we got on Margarite’s Aunt and Uncle's jet, though Margarite still had several surprises up her sleeve six great months of surprises and now a week of even more surprises. I wish I could turn 50 every year.

On the jet as I thought was Mobe, Testa Rossa, Margarite, The Rock and Bebe. There was one change Bebe alerted me that Bebe was not her real name, only a name she had used when undercover with The Rock. Her real name was Pate’.

Once on the jet Margarite gave me a shirt to change into. On the front was DUG on the sleeve was LifeOfDUG.com. As I put the shirt on I realized that everybody had shirts with LifeOfDUG.com and their names underneath.

The biggest surprise or should I say unbelievable surprise was everybody had gotten LifeOfDUG tattoos.

There is no airport in St. John so we flew to St. Thomas an island just to the west of St. John. When we arrived in St. Thomas Chuata and Mom were waiting. They had signs saying happy birthday with a picture of one of the kids from our village on it.

Chuata explained he flew over early to pick up C’Girl; yes Mom has changed her name. From St. Thomas we took the ferry to St. John. C’Girl was sitting in front of me on the ferry, with the sun right over head she put on a baseball cap. To my surprise on the back of the hat was LifeOfDUG.com. Everybody had these hats and Margarite gave me one, and I thought I had this puzzle solved, but more pieces were coming together.

On the dock waiting for us was G d’B and his wife “The Unknown Women”. If Dandy Dan had not opened his big mouth I would have never known G d’B and his wife were joining us. One exciting thing, I would now find out “The Unknown Women's” name. All I had to do was look on her shirt. What I saw was a huge disappointment. Where her name should have been was a big "?".

The group had rented three cars for the week. We headed to Margarite’s estate. A better description might be villa or even compound.

We all settled in some of us used the pool, most just vegged out. Even in a private jet 15 hours of flying is 15 hours of flying. I think Margarite must really like me to plan a week long surprise birthday party. She even arranged a catered dinner for our first night on the island.

As a gift the group got Margarite and I a helicopter ride for Monday. We can take the helicopter any where we want for 30 minutes.

Sunday morning I went for the hardest and slowest 4.5 mile run of my life. The last mile had an elevation change of 10% if it went straight up, but the road went up and down some parts had a 20% grade.

After the run and breakfast, the group went to Salt Pond, which is a beach on the south east corner of the island. We hung in the sun and did some snorkeling. The fish and coral were spectacular.

Monday Margarite, Testa Rossa, and I did a 6.5 mile run up and over the island. Pure HELL! But the views were great. Actually Margarite did 8.5 miles she run an extra 2 miles straight up, got the car and picked Testa Rossa and I up.

After the run, Chuata and I went to town looking for a sail boat for Tuesday. We had 8 that would be sailing, so we needed a decent size sail boat 40 foot or larger.

Russ Kerr the Mayor of Cruz Bay and President of St. John Concierge Service hooked us up. Russ has lived in St. John for 20 years and controls most of the commerce on the island. Someone told me if you live on St John you better not fart without getting Russ’s approval.

Russ introduced us to this salty dog of a gentleman, Neil Newhard. Neil is a famous sailing captain who has one more Americas Cup Trophies then any other captain. Neil currently lives on and sails a 50 foot Columbia. This was starting look like a perfect trip in the making Neil, negotiated himself to $600 a day plus tip for his crew. He started at $900 and before we could say a word he kept lowering the price until he stopped at $600. I never saw a guy negotiate with himself. The plan was set for Tuesday.

Margarite and I had to catch the 11:15 AM ferry to St Thomas to take the helicopter ride the group had given us. Chuata and I headed over to the ferry dock to meet up with Margarite. It was 11:00 and Margarite had not shown up yet. My cell phone rang it was Margarite she said they were stuck in traffic. This was hard to believe I thought maybe another birthday surprise. We later found out due to excess stimulus money St. John was re-paving all its perfectly good roads. I told Margarite just get out and run. A few minutes later she showed up barefoot carrying her shoes and breathing very hard. We made the ferry.

The helicopter ride was just out of this world. Our pilot Maria buzzed our Villa so the gang got to see us. Then we hit the north coast of St. John, some private island and then back to St. Thomas. What a great experience and now Margarite loves helicopters so expect to see a few more events like this.

Back on St John we headed to the town of Cruz Bay and had dinner at the Hide Tide there was live music and everybody had a great time.

Tuesday AM; back in England Testa Rossa had been studying levitation skills she learned to lift objects with her mind. Of course I did not believe that hocus pocus stuff. Boy did she prove me wrong not only did she lift me she spun me around.

After the excitement of being spun in mid-air we met Russ and Neil at the town dock. Neil Newhard’s business is Timeless Classics Yacht Charters 340-626-8845

Neil had his dingy all ready for us. He took us out to his immaculate Colombia 50. The name of the boat is Flying Circus. While the boat was built in 1968 it looked like it was custom built just the day before. Every part of the boat had been spit and polished. We were greeted by Neil’s first mate Alex (Alexandria) Alex had been in St. John for 2 years and prior to that had worked as a mercenary in different hot spots throughout the world. I have a feeling “The Rock” and Alex had met before.

We sailed right off the mooring, with “The Unknown Women” at the helm. Clearly “The Unknown Women” grew up near or on the water. We spent about 3 hours sailing through the Sir Francis Drake Channel. G d’B caught a Spanish Mackerel about 24 inches long. Neil cleaned it for us to take home. At noon we picked up a mooring off a small spit of land. Alex served us a 4 course gourmet meal. While on the mooring we took the opportunity to do some snorkeling. G d’B, Chuata and I got caught up in the current. Neil came to our rescue with his dingy. He had a tow line. Chuata, G d’B, and I grabbed on and Neil towed us back to the Flying Circus.

The afternoon was 3 more hours of great sailing. We headed back to Cruz Bay about 4:00 pm. Alex and Neil popped open a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne and we toasted a great day of sailing.

For years I had been looking for a white linen outfit to wear out on special occasion when I am in warmer climate. We had heard that Sally's Coulture, LLC in St. John was the place. I found the perfect outfit plus got to meet Sally.

Sally is named after Sally from the Dick and Jane series.

Today the group is going kayaking we are using Arawak Expeditions. Our guides are Jena and Thomas. Jena was a famous teenage model but gave it all up to follow her ski bum boyfriend to St. John. Thomas was headed to Harvard when his older sister talked him into taking a few years off before college to find himself.

Both are great guides. Jena taught a couple secret moves when kayaking. Thomas made us an unbelievable tasty lunch made up of assorted sandwiches and gourmet salads.

We made three different stops and snorkeled at each.

After kayaking on our drive back to the villa we did some exploring down this dead end road at the end 2.5 mile later was a women painting a sign "you are here".

For dinner we ate at Rhumb Lines. Everybody had excellent dinners I highly recommend it.

My birthday keeps getting better and better.

Most of the group just relaxed in the AM. Chuata and C’Girl headed back home, C’Girl to the U.S. and Chuata to Botswana.

In the afternoon the boys did some swimming and snorkeling (and drinking beer) at Cinnamon Bay. What a beautiful beach. We hit the beach at about 2:00 PM what a perfect time, the sun was not as hot and the snorkeling was just perfect.

Thursday night another birthday surprise from Margarite took me to Le Chateau de Bordeaux Café a French restaurant which looks over Coral Bay located on one of the highest peaks in St. John. What a great romantic dinner.

Friday, last full day on the island, the ladies wanted to do some shopping in town so “The Rock”, Mobe, and I joined them. The guys sat and drank beers on the beach while the ladies did their shopping. Then we had lunch at some hole in the wall Sun Dog Café at Mongoose Junction, which had great food and service.

In the afternoon we all went to Cinnamon Bay for our last late afternoon of sun and snorkeling. Testa Rossa had a huge breakthrough, she went snorkeling, and did not melt.

Now for the final and best surprise; Chuata had left me his rental car to return, he gave me very specific instructions to fill the car up before I returned it. Friday, before we went to Cinnamon Bay I filled the car up. Maybe we drove 20 or 30 miles after the fill up. Saturday morning before I returned the car I dropped Margarite and Pate’ off at the ferry dock with our bags. I then drove the 2 blocks to Denzil Clyne Rental Car. The check in lady started screaming at me that I had to fill the car up before I returned it. I explained I did, but she just kept yelling at me like I was the Gas Guzzling Devil. I offered to give her a few bucks for gas and that made her freak out more. I knew this had to be another surprise for my birthday, so I decided to just walk away. The wacky lady said she was going to call the police. I walked the 2 blocks back to the ferry dock. When I arrived I saw a police car go zooming by. I relayed my story to the group and no one believed me. A few minutes later a police officer arrived with the possessed lady.

The police officer asked me to come with him. I asked if I could just walk back to the rental car place, there was no way I was going to get in the car with that wacky lady; I was starting to think this was not something Margarite had planned.

When I arrived back at the rental car place, there was another police car with a police woman. She asked me if I had called the police. Both police officers looked at the gas gage and saw the car was full. The wacky lady disappeared and the police said I could go. This was very strange. Margarite swears she had nothing to do with it.

I am happily heading to the states for a half marathon in D.C with my brother, and then one final spring ski trip in Colorado. I figured I flew 1/3 the way around the world on Margarite’s dime I should take advantage of it.


Picture Below

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Heading to St John U.S. Virgin Islands (I THINK?)

As I mentioned in my last post there has been some intriguing secrecy going on in our village. Normally in our village everybody is open and no one hides anything. For the last 6 months when I have returned from some of my travels, Margarite and Bebe have always been acting like they are plotting! You may remember Bebe, she went with us on our trip to France a few years back.

Bebe - is originally from Italy but has lived in Botswana most of her life. Her family came here in the 1960's as part of a missionary, unfortunately in the early seventies Bebe’s parents where both killed in a political uprising. Bebe was 12 at the time. She was then raised by a village family as one of their own. Bebe does not speak much about her past and thinks of herself as a native Botswana. Bebe at an early age got involved with a local animal rescue. This is a big issue in Botswana. Poachers try to smuggle the rare native animals from Botswana and sell them to collectors and sometime legitimate zoos. When customs agents stop poachers from smuggling the animals across the Botswana border, they give the animals to Bebe's group who rehabilitates them and gets them back to their natural habitats. Sometimes the rehabilitation process can take a year depending on how the animals had been treated.

I think I have put many of the pieces together and have figured out the plot. It all started back in October when I was speaking to “The Rock” you may remember “The Rock” from our France trip.

"The Rock" - has been in Botswana for 3 years. He is from Norway, at least that is where he says he is from. “The Rock” does not talk about his past and I think it is some what shady. Botswana is a great place to disappear from your past and I think that is what “The Rock” has done. “The Rock” and Bebe married 2 and a half years ago after a 6 month wild courtship. I think it was a marriage out of pity more then anything else as no one in their right mind would marry “The Rock” I think Bebe looked at “The Rock” as one of the animals she rescues the only issue is she can not seem to now release this animal back in to the wild. I am not sure what “The Rock” does but he says he is always busy.

“The Rock” had been away from Botswana for sometime, most likely stirring up trouble in Northern Africa. While speaking with “The Rock” I asked about doing some traveling together, his reply was. “We have a trip planned in March!” I questioned him a little, but he quickly went silent. I gave the comment no more thought.

That was piece one, though at the time I had no idea I was solving a puzzle.

I have the only PC in our village and many of the folks here will use it to access email and the internet. Back in November I was checking my email, when I logged on, I saw and email from Margarite’s Uncle Fred and Aunt Pat, the email was letting Margarite know she could use their Private Jet (See Picture) for a trip in March from Botswana to St. Johns U.S. Virgin Islands. As I read this email, I realized Margarite had used my PC to check her email and had not logged out. So I was actually reading an email between her and her Aunt and Uncle. This email was not meant for my eyes. I quickly logged out and tried to forget the contents of the email.

So now there were two pieces to the puzzle, and I was starting to think I might need to solve this one. It was now November and March was 5 months away. The only milestone for me in March was my 50th Birthday. Could Margarite be planning a Surprise Birthday Party for me in St. Johns, U.S. Virgin Islands?

Rather then wait for clues I thought I might go look for them. I have become friendly with the Pilot of Uncle Fred and Aunt Pat’s jet. So on one of my trips from Botswana to the United States I found out and coordinated a layover at the same airport that this Pilot would be at. After a few beers he let me see the passenger manifest for the upcoming flight from Botswana to St. Johns. On the flight manifest was, Margarite, Bebe, “The Rock”, myself, and two other passengers. The two others are from England, Mobe and Testa Rossa who had joined us on our France trip.

Mobe - is a professional bicyclists, his focus is on climbing. He was on Lance Armstrong’s team 3 years in a row and won the polka dot jersey 2 times. When Mobe is not biking he is either spoiling Bentley or talking about biking. Mobe has a huge sweet tooth, it is rumored that the small village in England he grew up in had a pastry shop at the top of a very steep hill and every day Mobe would bike to the top of this hill to get a sweet. The rumor attributes this training at an early age to Mobe's great success as a climber.

Testa Rossa - is from England another animal lover maybe even a fanatic about animals. Testa Rossa is married to Mobe. They have one son, Bentley. Testa Rossa claims she trains animals but she really trains the owners of the animals to spoil them. It is all about the love of animals.

Now I had three pieces to the Puzzle, I was starting to see the picture. We were taking the jet to St. Johns to celebrate my 50th birthday. I now had the list of people going, or did I? How can I be sure this is the complete list? Questions I wanted to figure out; Where are we staying, and is anybody else going? It was now January, 3 months to D-day and I wanted to solve this puzzle.

February was approaching, I got and email from Chuata one of our village elders, it was actually an email from Mike one of our companions on our trip, rafting through Hells Canyon a few years back. In the email Mike was telling Chuata that, Mike and Ginseng (Mike’s long time girlfriend) were getting married. A few minutes later I got an email requesting that the first email get recalled. Chuata, not a very technical person, did not know this email feature rarely works, and the recall, just alerts the recipient that there is something in the email that the sender does not want you to see. I reread the email and saw down in the bottom of the email was a conversation between Mike and Chuata, where Chuata mentions he is going to St. Johns in March.

Now, Chuata and Margarite could be smarter then I give them credit for and planted this email to throw me off track. While it makes sense that Chuata would be invited to the party, why was his name not on the flight manifest? So this clue has just confused me, I still do not know the complete guest list, and I have no idea if Chuata is coming or not and if he is bringing his lovely American bride, “Mom”.

My next clue came by pure luck; it was the end of February. I had no idea but Margarite’s family owns an estate in St. Johns (see picture). Apparently the family rarely uses this place so in order to use you must alert the care taker that you will be coming. He then gets it ready for you. To start this process started you have to sign a request document, so Margarite’s family can keep track of who uses the facilities. Margarite must have used my scanner on my PC to scan this document and forgot to delete it from the directory. When I was looking for a document I had scanned I noticed a document called “St. Johns House Caretaker Request Form”. When I opened the document I saw that the family owned this estate in St. Johns called Villa Tesori on Rendezvous Bay, St. Johns, and Margarite had requested to use it for a week in March.

So now I knew where we would be staying, or at least I think I know.

I started this story mentioning how Margarite and Bebe have been plotting, another clue that only fit when all the other clues are put together. About two weeks ago, I heard them talking about - eating, food and an event. I thought they were talking about some party back in Europe where they are both from, but I Googled the name I  over heard "Mathayom" and here is what showed up.  During this same conversation Bebe mentioned that she had to get her hair done for St. Johns. Now this really bothered me as she did not ask me to cut her hair. Yes I do cut hair. 

Lastly, just yesterday Dandy Dan told me that G d’B and the Unknown Women were going away for a week next week, so who knows maybe they are on the guest list.

Today the Jet showed up, I know why all the secrecy, and what is going on, or at least I think I do. I know where we are going, where we are staying, and some of the people that will be there. I am still not sure if I know everybody that will be there.

My Birthday is two weeks away so why are we going this week. Of the people going I am not sure any would not be able to go in a few weeks. So my gut tells me there is more guests, but I have no proof. It is even possible Big Bill Ludwick might show up, I think his daughter has spring break this week; my family could be there, even Nami our other village elder.

On the other hand, maybe some or all of the clues I got were planted and there is no trip and no party, and I will be spending the week playing poker trying to recover from my February loss.

Though Surprise, or no Surprise, it has been a great 6 months wondering, thinking, not knowing what will happen on March 12th.

Only time will tell.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poker VERY BAD MONTH February 2011

I’ve been back in Botswana for a few weeks. Something is up, Margarite and a few of the villagers have been very secretive, something is going on. Though this secrecy is intriguing I have bigger issues. I had one of my worst months playing poker in a very long time. My total loss was $10.44. This is 10 weeks of living expense in our little village, thus my concern.

I played 12.28 hours so the amount of play was low, it could have been I just played a few hands poorly and that created my negative month. The total number of hands played was 976 I lost $.85 an hour, a penny a hand.

On the bright side, things in the village are going very well. While most of the rest of Africa is erupting in protests trying to over throw the ruling leaders our little village is an oasis in all this mess.

We now have reliable, renewable electricity (Current) as well as fresh water, with our windmill / water pump. Our compost toilets and compost pits have been producing high quality natural fertilizer so our crops have been doing very well. We have been able to sell both our extra crops and extra fertilizer to neighboring villages; we now have a nice surplus in our treasury.

Now I just need to get my Poker back on track, so I can start planning my trip to the Greek Isles. Attached are some picture I recently took in our village.

I am still wondering what Margarite is up to?