I have to put the first day of our trip among my most physically uncomfortable days ever, right up there with 8+ hours on a small motorboat lost on Lake Powell and teaching English summer camp in a Taiwanese elementary school with no air conditioning in August. Let me back up for a moment and explain that Science Guy were in Puerto Rico for 6 days, and this was by far the largest-scale grown-up trip I have ever tried to plan for myself. I’ve actually been to PR twice before (and I staunchly believe that I was Latina in a past life), but this time I did not have a cushy tour group or seasoned resident guiding me around. Furthermore, the last two weeks running up to our trip were unbelievably hectic; Science Guy had a presentation to prepare for (which he nailed, yay Science Guy!) and I was up to my eyeballs at work managing the transition to a new document management system and a slew of new listings, not to mention picking up some extra buyer contracts for Bosslady. So I didn’t have a chance to prepare the way I would have wanted to, I.e. researching lots of places to go, getting small change, programming numbers into my phone, and printing the equivalent of a AAA guidebook of information. So the first 24 hours were a lot more seat-of-the-pants than I am used to. More than once Science Guy’s query about the next step was met with a diffident, “I dunno!” Reassuring, I know. There were not many photos taken on this day because I had other things on my mind. Click through for a play-by-play of one of the longest days of my life.
4:30am – Wake up with a few mumbled swear words.
4:45am – Leave the house for the airport.
5:00am – Arrive at airport. Fail to find the cheaper green parking lot and shiver in the cold waiting for the shuttle.
5:50am – Flight leaves CMH. Science Guy was excited to see the turboprop we flew in since it reminded him of the small planes his dad used to fly…I was cranky that we had to walk outside to board the plane.
7:23am – Land at Washington Dulles airport (whyyyyyy asked my body) and scurry to the next gate.
7:55am – Board plane to San Juan. Commence to wait for almost an hour.
8:45am – Connecting flight takes off.
9:00am – Turbulence begins and doesn’t effectively stop for the majority of the flight. This might have bothered me less if my stomach hadn’t been mostly empty except for sloshing acid.
1:30pm – Land in San Juan.
1:45pm – Pick up rental car and start out for Fajardo in the east, the jumping off point for the island of Vieques. Very quickly Science Guy discovers Puerto Rico’s benevolent disregard for traffic formalities like lane markers and turn signals. (He has better survival skills than I so I made him drive, muahaha.)
2:30pm – I call the biobay tour company to let them know we would be on the 4:30 ferry. She tells me that we wouldn’t make the 7:00 tour we had scheduled. But she kindly offers to put us on the 10:00 tour, and I resign myself to a very, very long day.
3:30pm – Reached Fajardo and begin to pick our way to the ferry terminal. Having not eaten an entire meal all day, we pulled into a fast-food place that turned out to be Chinese-flavored, which neither of us wanted. So we bop next door to Church’s Chicken.
3:50pm – Place our order after TWENTY MINUTES in line behind, I kid you not, two orders. Science Guy’s order got lost in translation and I made the mistake of craving vegetables in the land of fried and sugar, so we ended up with a small salad with bits of chicken to feed both of us. Not ideal, but at that point, it was 4:00 and we had yet to find the terminal from which to board the 4:30 ferry.
4:05pm – Finding the terminal was not the difficult part. Waiting in an unmoving line for an hour and a half was the difficult part. Rumor grew of a shadow in the east, whispers of a nameless fear…just kidding, we were told the ferry had had to turn back, that the previous crossing had been overbooked and that only residents were allowed to buy tickets for now. So we stood, sat, and squatted for an hour before we are allowed to buy tickets. Science Guy found himself an empanada as well as a mayoral candidate and his buddy (The Man in the Yellow Hat) to talk with and try to pump some insider info from. I fretfully texted our hotel and biobay tour while praying for teleportation to be invented and growing increasingly hangry…bordering on hungerage, actually.
5:30pm – Ferry arrives at last and ticket sales open to non-residents.
5:45pm – Finally stagger onto the ferry. As we went up the stairs to the second level, we pass a group of tourists our age who had been in front of us in line to buy tickets. They were heading back down to the second level and muttering darkly, “There’s no room up there…just a bunch of kids.” The Man in the Yellow Hat waves us on encouragingly: “There’s always room!” So we trustingly follow his promptings and find this:
Oh. My. Lord. There were literally a hundred pre-schoolers on the ferry, and pre-schoolers have exactly one volume: ON. They weren’t even that loud, but there were a hundred of them and it sounded like a flock of budgies. At this point, we were so drained from baking in the sun for 90 minutes at the ferry dock that we just slumped in our seats and prayed for the end.
5:50pm – The waves. Begin. To roll. Our stomachs. Begin. To heave.
7:15pm – The ferry docks and we drag ourselves onto dry land. Our hosts at the Sea Gate Hotel pick us up and take us back to the hotel where we promptly collapse for an hour.
8:30pm – We go back out in hopes of finding a publico (taxi) and–more importantly–some food. Penny, the elderly proprietor, gives us a lift back to town while scolding us for not going down earlier with another group.
8:45pm – Pull into Sabores, the only restaurant around that seems to be open. While I confirm transportation instructions with Penny, Science Guy talks to the hostess and asks if we can be served quickly. She affirms and we order: vegetable mofongo for me (yasssss) and some sort of chicken pasta alfredo thing for Science Guy.
9:15pm – Realize that “quickly” in Puerto Rican time may mean something different than we would have liked. Start to fidget because the publico will be there at 9:30. Ask server when food will be ready and she replies, “They are doing it now.” Um, what?
9:20pm – Debate whether to leave and run to the convenience store up the street.
9:25pm – Publico arrives.
9:26pm – Food comes out. We jump in the publico and begin wolfing down our first meal of the day.
9:26:30pm – Discover that the food is delicious but scalding hot–she wasn’t kidding when she said they were “doing the food” ten minutes ago.
9:55pm – Bump and grind all the way to the meeting spot for the biobay tour, which turns out to be an empty field.
9:56pm – A crew member walks up to the van and says that the tour might be canceled because the bay is at low fluorescence.
9:56:15pm – I start to cry just a little because I’ve been awake and traveling for 16 hours to get to this place and now they are telling me it might be canceled. We are given the choice to leave and I almost take it because I am exhausted and feeling sick, but Science Guy talks me off the ledge.
10:15pm – We pile into another passenger van and commence to drive on the most unfriendly terrain I have ever been through. The hastily gobbled mofongo in my stomach now makes me want to cry. I whimper. A lot.
10:30pm – Arrive at the biobay and get our group orientation in kayaking. Discover that we are accompanied by a group of clueless Chinese girls who have never kayaked and are sillier than my present state of mind is able to handle.
10:31pm – Science Guy and I climb into our kayak and start paddling. I am tempted to paddle away from the group and escape into the jungle. The bay itself was peaceful, if not spectacularly bioluminescent. An almost-quarter moon gave some light and it was quiet. The dinoflagellates were like little living glitter specks in the water…not as dense as when I went to Fajardo two years ago, but still cool to see.
11:15pm – We pack up the van and endure another tortuous ride through the forest.
11:45pm – We arrive back at the hotel and collapse after a 20-hour day.