The fact that you’re reading travel blogs tells me you’re dreaming of that alternative lifestyle which is so prevelent in today’s media. It’s the dream man, the dream. Traveling to those far away, exotic places. Everyone has the dream, they’re just different. It may be Asia, Europe, even South or Central America. The point is that practically everyone shares this dream in one way or another. I’ve been chasing it for years and I am getting closer all the time. For Cheryl and me, the allure of third world countries seems to scratch that itch. Maybe it reminds us of our childhood, a simpler time – not to mention the economy making way for that next trip.
My first trip was to the Caribbean back in 1994. A friend had the opportunity to take their band down and play some venues in St. Croix, USVI. That friend invited me down for a long weekend to check it out. While there, I was able to get around and see some of the sights on this 23×7 mile island paradise.
As the plane began its descent and we emerged through the clouds, I could see St. Croix in its entirety. The vibrant green carpet covering the mountainous spined island contrasted against the aqua blue of the Caribbean Sea. Breathtaking! As we drew closer, I could see the houses of various affluence dotting the hillsides. Upon exiting the 747, the warm humid air washed over my air conditioned, hermetically sealed, sardine canned body. My flight mates and I walked down the 1960ish rollaway stair to the tarmac and made our way to baggage claim. The last time I walked on a runway was in the Air Force back in the 70’s. Sharing the concrete floor with chickens and small lizards was a new experience. With the addition of the Cruzan rum stand offering free shots, I soon realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The livestock may have been unsettling to some, but I loved the time warp back to a simpler time. An old black man was sweeping the concrete with a broom. A Cruzan woman pushed a cart and offered locally made trinkets. The cab drivers gathered outside sitting on mismatched chairs and boxes in a corner close to their 15 passenger vans. Again the warmth reminded me of my cooler acclimated clothing and I ducked into a restroom to zip off those long legs and sport a tee shirt.
The gang was waiting with cold beer and a couple of jeeps to gather me and my backpack and deliver us to downtown Christiansted. After getting settled, an offer was quickly accepted to tour the island. We four wheeled our way west to Fredricksted. “Left side!” yelled one of the guys. It takes awhile to get used to driving on the Brit side of the road. When we made Fredricksted, we began bar hopping and my friends introduced me to many bar and restaurant managers which would prove very useful in the future. Like the US, St. Croix is a melting pot and peeps turn up from everywhere. Fred was from Indiana, Diana Wisconsin, Tom was from PA. Each owned a bar and each had an interesting story of how they got here.
In the southwest corner, Fredricksted (like Christiansted) has an old fort which once protected the bay from invaders with a cache of cannons and now serves as a museum on protected grounds for tourists to enjoy. Also, Fredricksted maintains the large pier for mooring the 10+ cruise ships per month that list St. Croix as a port of call. After several stops on the west side , we proceeded through the rainforest to the north shore and Cane Bay Beach. On the way, we stopped at the Domino Club to give the beer drinking pigs a non-alcoholic beer. That’s right! Just hand them the can and they puncture it with their tusks and drink it down. How bizarre! Continuing on to Cane Bay, we found more venues and once again introductions were of interest to a traveling musician like myself.
Three years later, Cheryl and I ran into a young man at home tending bar who had roadied for a band that played in St. Croix. I was able to get the contact info of a woman who owned a bar on the east end. I called that bar owner and she not only gave me some dates to play, but picked Cheryl and me up at the airport and found us a place to stay. It was an easy first trip. Everybody spoke English, US currency, free place to stay, and I made enough money to pay for the trip. Little did I know that this was all Cheryl needed to embark on a long list of travels and trips that have continued for over twenty years!
I frequently return to St. Croix simply because I can pay for the trip by playing and singing at the various venues I learned of during that first trip. Each time I return I learn something new, meet new and interesting people, and see the island from a different point of view. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this in St. Croix on our 17th trip! And, of course, not our last.