Cayman Islands Trip - Winter 2008

Contents to Below:

Queens, NY

Friday, January 25, 2008

Well. I'm on the plane. It was a bit stressful, but I made it. The problem was I went to the wrong airport! I always fly out of JFK when going to the Caribbean. When I booked the flight two months ago I had the option of 8:15 AM at JFK, or 8:30 at LGA. In addition to the extra 15 minutes, LGA is closer to my home.

I try to check in at JFK. The machine spits out a ticket saying to go see an agent. I do. I tell her my flight. She replies that there is none. She looks me up. Surprise! I'm at the wrong airport. If she had room she would have put me on their 8:15, but it is full. She says I have enough time to get to LGA. So I run and get a cab. It is now a little less than 1 ½ hours to my flight. The ride is 20 minutes with no traffic. But this is the morning rush. There is traffic on the Van Wyck.

I get to the check in kiosk at 7:27 (and $31 poorer). I'm panicking. I ask for help. I get my boarding pass at 7:29. Then she says that the requirement to be checked in one hour before is at JFK. I can check in only 30 minutes before at LGA. Even checking bags? Yes. It then takes me 15 minutes to get the sticker for my checked bicycle. She wants to charge me $80. I tell her no one at AA has. She asks another agent. Since it is a folding bike under 65" it is free. But I do have to take it to a special X-ray machine. I ask for preferential treatment (as it is now just 45 minutes to departure).

It is slow going through security. I get to the gate and get into the line of people already boarding.

We pull back a couple minutes before schedule. No delay in taking off. We have a tail wind. We got good flight control. But, despite arriving early, the prior plane was still at our gate. So we had to wait. The end result: 15 minutes early (or just on time, as the schedules are padded).

Miami, FL

I had planned to bring along some Indian kabobs for lunch. They were in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. I realized they were still there. I had been concerned about remembering them. As I was preparing breakfast I thought of taking them out. But I wanted them to stay in there as long as possible. I didn't starve. I had pemmican muffins and Larabars. Plus I bought some fresh fruit in the airport.

The flight to Grand Cayman is far from full. This is in contrast to the overbooked flight on the way down. But a flight attendant said they would be full on their trip back.

We fly right over Cuba. We get a look at the Bay of Pigs.

Grand Cayman

We arrive a little early. I go through immigration. I'm about the last. She enters into the computer each place I'm staying with all the dates. This is a first. I guess they really want to be sure no one is sleeping on the beach.

I get my Dahon Glide P8 bike. The rear wheel rubs. But it does function. I see over at customs they are going through people's luggage. I have undeclared pemmican. According to the USDA it is okay, but this is not them. I'm at the end of the line. Over at the something to declare line she starts taking people from the nothing to declare. I go over. I ask her where I can find a place to get bike repairs. She starts to draw a map and give me directions. She sends me over for a free map. Anyway, despite my opening up my luggage to get papers out, and leaving it open, she does not go through it. I guess my asking for bike repair distracted her.

I head out. I figure I can get directions to Uncle Bill's along the way. And I do.

Uncle Bill's is a large variety store that also sells bicycles. A Filipino fellow is repairing bicycles in one of the aisles. He trues the rear wheel. He straightens the fender. He checks the brakes. Then he finds the front wheel a little bent. Only the back rack is left bent.

I have to go through town to get to Eldemire's Tropical Island Inn. I settle in and change to shorts. They are much better to bike in with the heat.

I decide I'll start the driving tour #1 (George Town to Rum Point) in my Frommer's Guide. I first stop at the Grand Old House. This is a landmark, a top restaurant, and a popular wedding spot. Nothing is going on in the late afternoon.

Next stop is Smith Cove. I get a picture. Then I pass the National Trust visitor's office in a park. I don't find my way into the office, but I walk through the park.

I bicycle on. My next destination is the Village of Prospect. The road merges in with A2 coming out of George Town. The traffic is the worst I've seen on a small Caribbean island. I spy Willie's fruit stand. He has fresh juices. I have one with star fruit, mango, papaya, and something else.

I find a large park with a pier and beach. There is no name on a sign. A fellow says I'm between Prospect and Spotts. I decide this will be my turn around point. It has become obvious that to really go through the Village of Prospect I have to take a side road. I find it. I try to find the Watler Cemetery. I ask a jogger. She points out a large cemetery. I accept it as the one I'm looking for, though it doesn't have the tombstones in the shape of houses. All of the tombstones face east. The sun is setting in the west. I don't take a picture. I then find the little monument marking the site of Prospect Fort.

It is time to head into George Town to find Gateway to India. I first stop at the bus depot. I ask some bus drivers about taking my bicycle out to the east and just bicycling back. With the steady east wind this will lop off a lot of biking into the wind, and I won't be biking on the same road twice. They say no. They then say if I pay for a couple of spots the bike takes up, like CI$6, then okay. I get some hazy directions to the restaurant.

I head north. After a ways of not seeing it I stop at an Esso. They say to go back and it is past the Burger King. I go all the way back into town and don't see it. On my way out again I stop at the Burger King. The girls never heard of it. They find a guy. He says it is across the street. There is a restaurant there, but it is not Indian. I go over. There is a family in an SUV. The mother knows exactly where it is. I have several miles. I head north. I don't see the thing she says to look for. At one point I stop and ask. I'm right across from Foster's (the landmark I was to look for). There is a large shopping center. Gateway to India is way in the back.

The restaurant was okay. But expensive! The island is the most expensive I've been to. The standard of living is high. My rooms, the cheapest available, are not cheap.

On my way back I stop at Kirk's Grocery Store and get breakfast food. I return to my room and I'm in bed at 9:30.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I awake at 5:25, but I go back to sleep. At 6:25 I get up, shower, and make breakfast. The bacon takes forever to cook. The flame is the size I would have at home, but the breeze from the fan and the windows keeps the flame dancing around.

I head into town at 8:30. I ask about the bookstore. It is closed on weekends. (I should have done this when I arrived!) I head to the bus depot. A large tent is being set up in the street. On Monday is Hero's Day. I fold my bike. The bus drivers have never seen such a thing. I put it in the bus aisle. While I wait for the bus to leave we watch the police and others practice their marching.

I get out to Frank Sound. I am not charged extra for my bike. It is 9:25. I bike up to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. This is a new botanical garden. It started in 1990. Its newness is quite evident. A fellow with a web site on Island Cacti [no images in] is looking for pictures of local ones. But the cacti garden hasn't been created yet. I do get a picture of a xxx.

There is almost no one else in the park. There are no cruise ships this day. At 11:00 I head out.

I bike through Old Man Bay. Then I head on to the North Side. I see a sign for the Mastic Trail. I figure I could walk in a short ways. But the trail was just walking through grass at this point. I don't walk any of it.

I continue on. I get a picture of Rum Point in the distance. I have not taken many pictures. This isn't a very pretty island. Its claim to fame is the Seven Mile Beach.

At Rum Point Beach I stop and walk around the beach and concessions. It is mostly food and water sports. It is five miles back to Old Man Bay. I will have a head wind. I decide it would make sense time-wise to hitch this. But I can only get a ride from a pickup truck. While some pass in the other direction, none pass my way that have room in their backs. One does when I'm in North Side, but by that time I'm close enough that I've stopped trying.

I had been planning to have lunch at Vivian's in Gun Point, but it is approaching 2:00 and I'm hungry. So I stop at Over the Edge. The fellow at the bar says I can have roast pork. I ask about everything that it comes with. Out it comes. It has macaroni! He didn't mention that. I ask about the gravy on the pork. The waitress returns and says I can't have it. There is wheat in the gravy. She says all I can have is the mahi-mahi. It was fine, but the fried plantains and the rice & beans were cold.

I continue on. It is slow going. I have a headwind until Collier, and the road to there is rough. That stretch took almost an hour.

I make it to Gun Bay at 3:45. I find a bunch of sailboats out racing. A fellow watching says that sailing at this end of the island is new. I spot prams and laser like boats (with a shining sun on the sail).

The lunch wasn't that filling. So I stop at Vivian's for a second lunch. Many things I can't have, like the conch stew, but I can have the chicken stew.

The meal was okay, but not gourmet. But now I'm well satiated. The sailboats are in. I get a closer look.

My next stop is the memorial for the Wreck of the 10 sails. Ten sails, as in 10 sailboats wrecked on the reef all at the same time. Then I found East End Lighthouse Park. It was just a light on a metal pole on the top of a small hill. The island doesn't have a traditional lighthouse. I stop at a few more places. One stop is at a bus stop. I was looking for a schedule—there was none—but I was able to get a picture of some people riding horses on the beach. Then a little further is the tourist trap Pirate's Caves & Mini-Zoo. I go across to look at it. Just as I am returning to my side of the road the woman [Emily] from the entrance at the Botanic Garden passes and says to wait until she turns around. She offers me a ride. She knows I'm too far away to make it back before dark. I know it too, and I've already put my taillights on. I fold up my bike and it fits very nicely in the car's trunk. We chatted as she drove to Eldemire's. She's an American that has been there a long time. She says no one rents bicycles on the island anymore. As I brought mine I had stopped looking.

I go up to my room. But I don't stay long. I check my guidebook and decide to try to find Harry's Caribbean Restaurant in Tropical Plaza. In the center of town I ask a fellow. He gives me directions. He says it is about four miles away. [It wasn't.] I ask for an alternative. He suggests Champion House II. He says to turn at the light past Kirk's. I turn there. It looks like the road is taking me into Kirks'. So I go back to West Bay Road and go to the next light. I turn in. I have no idea what to do next. I ask a couple of women. They say I should have turned at the light at Kirk's. As an alternative I can take the inside road, the Harquail By-Pass. I do and find the turn to Eastern Avenue, and then a fellow on a bike tells me to turn left. I find it. I lock up my bike. The waiter starts to bring me bread and butter. So I jump right into my dietary restrictions without seeing a menu. He suggests curried shrimp. It was fine, and well worth the reasonable price. It did have more spice than the Indian food the night before!

I get directions and head back to my room. I try to find some news on the TV. I'm curious about the South Carolina Democratic primary. But a quick flip through the channels only finds MSNBC, which is a premium channel that Eldemire's is not paying for. I get to bed even earlier than the night before.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm up at 6:00. I awoke in the middle of the night and could not get back to sleep for a long time. Despite the many hours in bed I'm tired.

I get to the bus depot at 7:55. No buses. No bus drivers. Some people milling around say there is sporadic service on Sunday. Then a fellow on a bike comes. He says to wait. There will be one soon. He is taking one in the other direction. He hopes mine comes first. He wants to see me fold up my bike. This bike is a hit wherever I go. At 8:25 a bus comes. It is a small one, but I can still fit the folded bike in the aisle.

I get out in Bodden Town. I find the Guard House Park. I then realize that I missed the Mission House. So I go back and find it. But it was closed (Tuesday - Saturday only). Next to it was a bird sanctuary (part of the Mastic Reserve) with a viewing stand. I tried to get some pictures. But to get good ones you need a much greater telephoto lens.

I then biked to the Pedro St. James National Historic Site. I'm thirsty. For the first time I have to buy water (they have no water fountain). It is US$2.00. Everything in the gift shop is priced in US dollars. I am only carrying CI currency. He gets out a calculator. He charges me CI$1.68. I wasn't paying attention. Later I realize he used an exchange rate of CI$0.84=US$1.00, a 5% premium. I pay with the local currency and I'm charged 5% more! What gall!

The 10:00 guided tour never started. At 10:20 I was their first visitor. Then a few others appeared and we got the tour. Carl, our tour guide, is a 7th generation islander. Some of his relatives were in the old photos. He started off shaking everybody's hand. It was only a little later that I noticed he had a cold. From then on I did not touch my face until I could wash. People with colds should not shake other people's hands!

After a pedantic discussion of the old photos and stamps we were led into a theater for a multi-media presentation on the history of the island and the great house. Until tourism few people lived there. Initially they harvested turtles and mahogany, but then they were depleted. Then they sold Silver Thatch Palm rope to Jamaica. The government mostly financed itself by selling stamps to collectors. The building of the airport in 1950 was a major source of jobs, and it was upwards from there.

I find a cactus garden. I take lots of pictures for the Island Cacti web site. I tour the house. I look at the café. There is nothing there for me. There will be a barbecue, but not for a couple of hours.

I head on. I find Spotts Beach. I bicycle north looking for the Gov. Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary. I don't find it. Maybe I didn't go far enough? [Looking at the web page I now see I should have made a turn.] At Pedro St. James the fellow did say it was not rebuilt after Hurricane Ivan.

I head back to town. I wanted some fruit or juice from Willie's, but he wasn't open. I looked for Harry's Caribbean Restaurant. I find it, but it was no longer open. Something about a management change. A fellow cleaning the building suggests going to Welly's for local food.

I get into town. A guard on the waterfront recommends Hammerhead's Brew Pub and other places on the waterfront. Hammerhead's is large and full of tourists. I bike to the bus depot. I find a driver. He explains how to find Welly's. With the help of a cyclist along the way I find it. I'm clearly the only tourist in the place! I get curried goat. There is a large group at a very long table. They are leaving at the same time as I. I ask one of the women if the group is from church. She replies yes. I tell her that I'm eating there as I don't need to travel thousands of miles to eat in a restaurant surrounded by other Americans.

My afternoon, or what is left of it, is to take Frommer's driving tour #2: George Town to West Bay. I head up West Bay Road along Seven Mile Beach. At a few places I head to the beach for pictures. At one stop I ask some people if they are following the news. Not really, but they did know that Obama won in South Carolina by a wide margin. Some places, like in front of the Marriott, the beach is quite narrow with no shade at all. The sand is white and clean. The beach's claim to fame is its length.

I turn onto Boggy Sand Road. This road contains some of the most traditional historic Cayman houses. I get pictures of some of them. On the water side the houses are all new, except for one wreck. A few of the new ones were made to look old. As I'm leaving (it's a dead end road) a fellow is walking. So I slow down and chat with him on the way ouy. I had wanted to stop for a snack at the Heritage Kitchen. The guide book says it is open on Sunday. But he says there is a new owner and it no longer is. He recommended Alfresco, which is right there. And he recommended Liberty's Restaurant, and showed me where on the map.

I continue on the route. I find a neat harbor [name?] carved in the rock. My next stop is the Cayman Turtle Farm. I'm hoping they are open to 5:00. I get there at 4:40. They close at 4:30. I do talk the security fellow into letting me go in and snap a couple of pictures. I tell him I'll give them a link. He says to come back and ask for a pass. I would like to come back.

Across the street is The Tortuga Rum Cake Factory. It is closed on Sunday. Plus I'm not sure how good all the wheat smell would be for me. I do go around and check out the Macabuca Oceanside Tiki Bar & Grill at the Cracked Conch.

The next stop is the Hamlet of Hell. This is a very overrated tourist trap. All is closed when I get there, but I can go around and see the rather interesting rock formations. While I'm out front a fellow arrives on a bicycle. He had obviously never been there. I tell him to bike around the building and look. He does and returns. He lives nearby, in Hell, but had never been there. We chat. He recommends bicycling out past Conch Point into the National Park to Palmetto Point. He also recommends wading out until it is knee deep, and to look for large sand dollars.

I continue on the route. I pass the Liberty Restaurant. Now I know exactly where it is. At Ristorante Pappagallo [Be prepared for one of the most annoyingly overdone Flash sites on the web!] there is a bird sanctuary. But there is not a single bird! At 5:30 PM are they all asleep?

This is Conch Point. So I go off the route and bike through the park on dirt roads. I stick to the road closest to the water until I come to a flooded part. Then I backtrack to get out.

At Ristorante Pappagallo I get back on the route. The only destination left is Morgan's Harbour Marina on the North Sound in the little backwater of Batabano. I arrive at 6:30. It is now dusk. The fishing boats are in. There are a lot of packed restaurants on the water's edge. It is a bit dark for pictures. But I could come back.

I head to the Liberty Restaurant. It is rather direct from here. I find a buffet for CI$19.95. There are lots of different meats, including turtle. Most of the things I can eat. I pig out. My best meal so far! [Note: Buffet is only on Sunday nights.]

I ride back and I'm in bed by 9:00.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm up at 6:30. I'm heading to Little Cayman this day. I have enough time that I can bike into town and look at the Hero's Day celebrations without my luggage. They are still doing the final setup. The orchestra is in place. I get pictures.

I return to my room for my luggage. I take the signed way to the airport. It is a little longer, but doesn't go through town. I time myself. It takes 30 minutes. This will become important as my flight home is early in the morning and AA will be more of a stickler on arriving early.

The fellows outside the terminal try to stop me from taking my bicycle inside. Then everybody watches me fold it up. Folding is always a hit with people.

On the flight down from the States there was something about the Sunday flight leaving late. (My return flight is the following Sunday.) I find an AA person. He says that was only yesterday, due to equipment problems.

I find CNN playing. Edwards isn't dropping out, despite the very poor showing in his home state of South Carolina.

I go sit by the gate. I chat with an American fellow who has been living on Little Cayman for some years. We then sit next to each other at the back of the plane. There are a total of five of us. We then switch seats, so I can take pictures from the down sun side.

Little Cayman

In Little Cayman I'm the only one with luggage. So I'm the only tourist on the flight. I unfold my bike and get another audience. I pick up a map at the car rental place and head to McCoy's Lodge [now only Sunset Bar]. The place seems deserted. But then I find Sam McCoy. His wife is out shopping. So I just leave my bags in the kitchen and take off for a ride. I find the "port." The seas are rough. No boat could dock in this. The map has mule pens shown. But I can't find them. I walk a few feet into the Salt Rock Nature Trail. Supposedly it is good for wildlife. I didn't see any.

I bike to the large liquor store [name?]. The fellow on the plane had pointed it out to me. I buy a small bottle of water. He has no large ones. He explains how to find the mule pens. The spots on the map are not to scale, and I was looking as if they were.

I continue on to the West End Lighthouse. It is just a light on a frame structure. I bike through Mahogany Estates. No houses have been built yet. The map says iguanas are often seen on the road. I don't see any. I bike into town. I buy a large bottle of water.

I stopped into the Hungry Iguana Restaurant. I didn't know how much food I would get at McCoy's. I figure I could eat two lunches. I looked at the lunch menu. Everything had wheat. The only thing possible was burgers. I say possible, as if they fry them on the same griddle as bread I can't. The fellow behind the bar ignores me. I leave.

I look at the historic houses. I find the museum, but it is only open on Thursday and Friday afternoons. I find the National Trust Visitor's Center open. I ask about the museum. She says sometimes you can get the key from the Little Cayman Beach Resort. She calls. They said we would have to ask another. She tries and gets a disconnected number. I ask about cacti. She says the woman that will be there from 3-5 knows about plants. I say I will be back and I'll bring the list of four names given to me. I talk about lunch. She calls and finds when lunch will be at McCoy's. It will be a little later. (I learn later this is because she waits until the people return from the morning dive.)

I bicycle over to McCoy's. I meet Mary McCoy, her daughter, and grandson. (It's a school holiday.) I get my room. I meet some of the other guests. (There are six others, but two don't eat lunch there.) Lunch will be hamburgers and French Fries. The fries were homemade from potatoes she peeled. (Why peel them?) The patty was a frozen 4 oz. one. It was not much food.

I bicycle back to town. I stop by the National Trust again. The other woman doesn't really know about cacti. So they start looking them up on the web. The first in my notes (Consolea millspaughii var. caymanensis) is listed as endemic and rare. We don't find a picture, be we do find exactly where on Cayman Brac that it was recently found. This is the only place it is known to exist. I write down the location. I look up the other cacti. I see pictures. I can't remember them. I'll just stick with taking pictures of any that I see.

I bicycle east along Booby Pond. I find the bird lookout across from the Southern Cross Club. There were some trees in the way, so no panorama picture. I come upon a flock of Black-Necked Stilts. I get pictures. At the Southern Cross Club I go out on the dock and get a panorama of the bay with Owen Island.

I decide to return to the National Trust for a panorama of Booby Pond. Along the way I learn that the iguanas at Mahogany Estates come to the entrance between 3:00 and 5:00 as people feed them then and they know to come then. So I head there. I'm there at 4:45. No iguanas. [I later learn that you need the sound of cars and people talking.] I now head back to the port and find the Mule Pen. I then find a new road cut into the brush. I go and climb the bulldozer that is sitting on a hill. But the scrub around it is still taller. I do see a nice clump of cacti, but they are directly towards what is now a low sun. I return to McCoy's.

The American couple, which I learn are from Arkansas, is out on the deck. I go and chat. They do not like the Clintons at all. I fill them in with the results of Saturday's South Carolina primary. They are quite happy that Obama won. But they, like others, are afraid he'll be assassinated if he's elected. We watch the sunset. The clouds are lovely, but there is no color. I'm hungry, so I eat my second Larabar for the day.

At 7:00 dinner is ready. It is the same five of us that were at lunch. The other couple is a Swedish woman and a Norwegian guy. Out come some rolls. Then out comes a big bowl of spaghetti. Then out comes the meat loaf. I already knew it would be okay. As the others were helping themselves to the spaghetti, I served myself the meatloaf first. I could see that there where two slices for each. The pieces on top were the smallest diameter, with one especially small. I had to take them. The Arkansas woman takes just one. Good. Then the Norwegian guy is last. As everybody is served he takes all three remaining. So all I got to eat was the two slices of meatloaf and a bowl of shredded cabbage (the others had Cole slaw). I'm furious that the Norwegian fellow grabbed the last three slices without asking. I move everything blocking his view, so he could see how little food I got. He does not notice. Mary McCoy comes out and asks how things were. I reply that all I had was two small slices of meatloaf. The Norwegian admits he took three. Mary doesn't know what to do. She had sliced it all up, so there was no more. I'm, of course, still hungry and I'm still sitting at the table!

The others devour the large bowl of spaghetti. We chat. The other two men arrive. She has plates for them with two slices of meatloaf and a heap of spaghetti. I learn that they are doing research on the Nassau grouper that once a year gets together and spawns. Just when they do this depends on how the full moon falls after the winter solstice. All the action is between 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after dusk. They are taking videos. Then they count the fish in stills. [You can see a couple of the videos, and a discussion of the project, at the grouper link above.] I then leave to write these notes. The others remain chatting. I eat my third Larabar of the day. I get to bed at 10:00.

I can't fall asleep. I'm starving. Larabars are date bars, not protein bars. So after an hour and a quarter, I get up and eat one of my few remaining pemmican muffins.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm up at 7:00. Breakfast isn't until 8:00. While waiting for breakfast I chat with the couple from Arkansas. Breakfast for me was bacon, eggs, and an orange. The Norwegian fellow was careful to not eat a lot of eggs, so I can have more. But it was still much less food than I would eat at home.

At 9:00 I head out on the North Coast Road. I stop at all the viewing stands. I did not see many birds. I walked on the beaches that made the map. I visited the lighthouse, or more correctly, a light pole. There was no sign saying don't climb. There was a Werner extension ladder mounted straight up. You had to start standing over the ledge. The sun was not favorable for a panorama picture. I did not go up. All in all, most of the ride was boring. There were sea grapes on one side, with mangroves on the other. Rarely was there a view of the sea.

Back in town I stop at the National Trust to see if a green lizard was on the railing. Nope. I timed myself from the airport to McCoy's: 10 minutes. My total trip time was 4 hours and 45 minutes. While I did eat a Larabar halfway, I'm famished by the time I get back. The others have not returned from diving, so I wait for lunch.

After about 50 minutes the others show from their dive. Lunch is chicken curry with rice, sliced tomatoes, and a small piece of watermelon. The chicken was just a few chicken wings. I will be hungry again in a couple hours. But then I'm now only a couple hours from dinner time.

I settle up my bill. She charged me US$20 for the extra lunch. That could be either the frozen hamburger patty with French Fries, or this one. A lot for a little food!

I figure I can check in an hour ahead of time, but keep my bike. I go find the Arkansas couple to say goodbye. They also have been starving. After their first day (they've been there a week) they have been stopping at the grocery store and stocking up on candy bars.

When I get to the airport I find a plane there. The flights are running late. I check in, get my bike luggage tag, but keep my bike as planned. I stop by the grocery store. I'm hungry already, of course. I see a small can of cashews. It is almost US$10. I buy it. I also get a paper towel. My hand will get greasy and salty. I eat half the can standing in front of the store. Then I figure I can go to the Booby Pond viewing stand and watch the birds while I eat. The wind has quieted down. The view is down sun. The snowy egrets are all around and motionless. I get a good picture. I also figure out how to eat the cashews and keep my hand clean. I dump them into the plastic lid and slurp them up.

I return to the airport. It is now the time it should leave. I start talking with a woman who is also waiting for the flight. I mention that I plan to stop at a restaurant, and I'll ask them to call Walton's Mango Manor [now closed] and tell them I'll be late. She replies that she is Lynne Walton. And I've now told them. So we start chatting about Brooklyn (where she was born) and how I want to find this rare cactus that is endemic to one spot on Cayman Brac. I show her my notes on its location. It is clear where they are. But how far up the side of the bluff is it? We finally decide that she will call a fellow [Travis Platt] that will know.

We discuss restaurants. The one I was planning to stop at has closed. She recommends Aunt Sha's Kitchen. But I say it is in the other direction. No. It has moved. My 2007 guide book has inaccuracies. I then ask if she can take my bag to my room. It's preferable to bike without luggage. I haven't forgotten the lost opportunity of dropping off my bag with the husband to the place I was staying on in North Caicos, when I had more luggage, and it was a brutally hot and long ride! The plane leaves 50 minutes late.

Cayman Brac

On Cayman Brac I figure I can save a couple miles getting a ride to Aunt Sha's. So after a long wait for my luggage I stick my bike still in its bag in her car. But it turned out that the restaurant was very near. This means I will have three miles from there to her place.

The meal was fine. I had grouper, rice & peas, vegetables, as a dinner, for a lot less than the McCoy's lunch. Now food ingredients are more expensive on Little Cayman, but still.

I find Walton's Mango Manor. Lynne is there. She has spoken with Travis, the local plant expert. She gives me instructions on finding the cactus.

Compared to the McCoy's Walton's is absolute luxury. The plumbing is new, and the toilet actually works! And there is an alarm clock. I set it for 6:00 and get to bed at 9:00.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm awake at 5:30, so I go ahead and get up. I'm ready to go out for a walk at 6:00, but the sun isn't up yet. Instead I go into the kitchen and meet Maureen, the woman that cooks the breakfast, and Etrick, another guest. I find the washing machine, but they are out of detergent. When it gets light I go explore the grounds. There are three acres. In the middle is the Temple Beth Shalom (the only non-Christian place of worship in the Cayman Islands), and the villa they rent is way in the back with a view of the water.

I get bacon, eggs, and fruit for breakfast, with a small glass of juice. This is what I asked for, but as usual the quantity is a fraction of what I usually eat for breakfast. I get ready and I'm off at 8:00.

I pass the museum. Across from it is a cat walk tower that goes up to the top of the bluff. Cable & Wireless used to use it to get to their radio tower before the roads were cut through to the top. I climb up for a look.

I bike down to the water a couple of times. I find Halfway Ground Cave. I bike across Ashton Reid Road. I find the Seafarer's Building. It is supposed to also be a hurricane shelter. There are no corners to catch the wind. But the roof is metal and I heard that it really rattles in the wind.

I find the Christopher Columbus Gardens. Columbus discovered Cayman Brac in 1503. The park was built in 2003.

Down on South Side Road East I have a long ride to Pollard Bay. I pass a potato shaped house. It looks hurricane proof with no corners. But I learn later that it has no foundation and it could roll away.

I get to the end of the road. The last house has a couple of men painting it salmon in color. I ask about the cactus. A fellow comes down and starts to tell me the good news and the bad news. I already know about the bull's rope knocking it over. (The bull is now on the field on the other side of the house.) The fellow takes me over to the cactus. He's the owner. Only after he bought the place did he learn that he was the steward of this cactus that exists no other place. He shows me the dead one, lying on the ground. It had been about 5' tall. He shows me all the little ones sprouting on the leeward side. Apparently after cacti die they throw off small pieces in the wind. He wonders if he can pot one. He wonders if he should be doing anything special.

I continue on a few feet to the Great Cave. I check out the beach. I bike back along the South Side Road until I get to Bat Cave. There I find a group from the cruise ship that has walked from the public beach with a tour guide. They're leaving, so Cantrell, the guide, loans me a flash light. And he points out a sleeping fruit [??] bat.

I'm able to catch up with them and return the flashlight. I ask about the Red Shrimp Hole. He says it is across from the public beach.

I get to the public beach ahead of them. Most of the people are still there. The cruise ship, the Hebridean Spirit, has 85 passengers. [No longer cruising in the Caribbean.] The prettiest and youngest (the rest are all old) comes up to me and says something about did I take the tour. I tell her I'm not from the boat.

I again ask Cantrell about the red shrimp hole. He takes me to it. There are some red shrimp. There would be many more if it were high tide. Back at the public beach I am aware it is a private party. Cantrell says I can probably get some jerk chicken. (It is separate from the catered food.) I go and ask if I can buy it. No, it is free, he replies. I wait a little and get the first piece. The pretty ship hostess sees me and gets annoyed. She can't stop what I'm in the middle of eating, but tells the men no more and tells me I can't have any more food. Then I drop part of it in the sand. I try to rinse the sand off with water from my bike. Then Cantrell says the water in the men's room is potable. So I can really rinse it off.

The woman tourism officer that was on the plane the night before was there at a table. She is the Inspections and Promotions Officer for the Sister Islands. I chat with her and some of the other tourism people. They are not aware of the very rare cactus. I want some water. They say I can have ones that they are providing. So I drank two small bottles.

I head out. I check out Rebecca's Cave. I start the Salt Water Pond Walk. But I see no pond and backtrack after a short while.

I stop at the intersection where the right turn leads to the airport. A fellow is there and while I'm taking a house picture comes to admire my bike. We chat. He wants one.

I continue on. While the piece of chicken wasn't small, I want more food. I come upon Captain's Table Restaurant. I go in. The burgers are cooked on the same griddle with bread. Breaded things are in the same fryer. The waiter gets the chef. He can cook the burger in a pan. He can switch the French Fries for a baked potato. It was not a large lunch, but it was more food for 40% of the price that I was charged at McCoy's.

I bike to the east of the two Westerly Ponds. I walk out the boardwalk to the viewing platform. There is a woman hanging out there. She is into nature photography. To get birds one has to be very patient. She has a small point-and-shoot camera with more telephoto than I have. We chat for a while. I try for some pictures.

I bike to the west of the Westerly Ponds. I get a panorama. I couldn't walk to a better spot, as the ground was really soft. Cantrell had mentioned this. It looks okay, but you sink right in.

I biked to the Brac Reef Resort. I wanted to go out on the pier, but it was sign posted for guests only. This really isn't the way to attract prospective guests.

I get to the West End Point outlook. I get a view of Little Cayman.

One of my lunches was contaminated with gluten. I strongly suspect it was the Captain's Table one. Either he cheated and used the griddle instead of a clean pan, figuring I couldn't really tell the difference, or he used the same spatula he used for other things. Using a clean spatula wasn't one of the things I specified.

I continue around to the airport. I check if I can leave on an earlier flight on Friday. I'm now on the 11:00 AM. There are five free seats open on the 8:40. Which flight I want will depend on whether I can get to the museum on Thursday.

Next is the new Community Park. It is mostly a playground, with some exercise areas for adults.

Next is the windlass of the S.S. Kearsarge, an 1860 ship. I think it is at the end of the road and then walk further. I do that and reach the restricted area of the airport. So I pull out the tourism guide. I was to walk right. Plus there are specific road instructions. Did I follow them? I walk right for a ways, but don't find it. So back to my bike I go, and I back track until I'm on course. I then find it easily.

Because of the contamination I'm hungry. I plan for some nuts at the Market Place near the airport. But then I pass Brac Snack. She can make me a couple burgers. They start frozen. They are served with ample tomatoes and lettuce. As I didn't get the rolls, with a small bottle of water she charged me CI$5.00 total. It was quite fine. And it makes the McCoy burgers even more expensive.

I bicycle to the Market Place and buy laundry detergent and a can of walnuts. I ate a few. They are never as good as the ones I get from my Food Coop. Mine are organic, but the big difference is freshness. Who knows how long these have been at room temperature. They should be kept at 45° or less. Mine are above that only for a week or two. Plus these have corn oil and BHT.

My next stop is the other Red Shrimp Hole (a little past Aunt Sha's). It is not on the map. As Cantrell said, I was able to bicycle all the way there. The tide was high. And there in the hole were a bunch of them in the sun in very shallow water. For some reason these deep water shrimp like the still warm water they find in these holes that have a subterranean connection to the sea.

Next on the map is the Pioneer Walk. I bicycle and walk to the sea. It would be walking on pebbles, and I don't have the time.

I next find the National Trust House. It was closed by this time, of course. Next to it is the Mass Grave Site from the 1932 hurricane. I see a grass field. A mother and her kids are getting out of their SUV. I ask. They don't know where the grave is. Just then a fellow appears and says he'll show me. He had seen me and my bike (it's always the bike) earlier. He takes me down a short walk in the woods. He then asks if I'm familiar with Caymanite. It is a semiprecious stone that is only found in the Cayman Islands. On Brac it is past the rare cactus. He explains how it was formed. He makes jewelry out of it. His name is Clifford Gibson, but he doesn't sell over the web. He takes me across to his yard and finds some pieces for me to photograph. He also works the deli at the Market Place. He says he'll try to find a piece for me to take back as a souvenir. And I can pick it up from the Market Place before my flight. He tells me he's from Boston and has been there 20 years. He got divorced. He lost the house. He came down to visit and met a woman. He then came down again and ended up staying for good. I tell him about the cactus. He knows the fellow that owns the land. We talk about whether they should be thinned and given to botanical gardens.

Next is the Stake Bay walk. It is the road behind Walton's Mango Manor. I bike it. I do see a couple of historic houses. One in particular is lovely. But it is getting dark. I'll come back.

Back at Walton's I find Etrick in his Port Security outfit. We chat about what he does with the cruise ship. I learn that the youngest passenger on the ship is 50 years old. Some passengers stay on for months. I get him to tell me about the funeral part of his job. He does everything. He transports the body. He does the paperwork. He embalms. There is more work, of course, on Grand Cayman. Recently an American woman drowned and he has to ship her back. On Brac there is a death less than once a month. The last one was in December. Two fellows were out fishing in a rowboat. A storm came up and capsized the boat. One could swim. The other couldn't really. The swimmer tried to pull the other to shore, but couldn't. The dead one got pretty bashed up on the rocks. All the while I'm trying to get my clothes washed. I decided I would go for dinner after I put them in the dryer. But the wash takes forever. Etrick and I fiddle with the dial and get it to spin. They are not really rinsed well. Then Maureen shows up and says you just have to wait a really long time. I should have gone for dinner after putting them in. I put them in the dryer and leave. Etrick is leaving at 5:30 AM, so I say goodbye now.

I ask about Biggie's, another restaurant. Etrick says he went in once, but didn't stay. So I stop in to check it out. It is run by a couple of Sri Lankians. The prices are high. Everything, except one for CI$28 (that's US$35) has heavy cream. I point out that the prices are high. I leave and go again to Aunt Sha's.

I want something different. She says the pepper steak would be okay. She says the sauce is natural. I'm leery, but it turns out to be okay. I return to my room, fold my clothes, shower, and I'm in bed at 10:40. It was my latest night.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I get up at 6:00. When I get out breakfast is not ready. So I go for a walk towards the water. I want a picture of the house behind. I get one. The house doesn't really look old. There are big picture windows across the front. A woman comes by walking her dog. She's Trisch from the Cayman Humane Society. She points out which house is the Captain Charlie Kickconnell's House. It is being painted, so there is scaffolding in front. We chat for a while. I get in for breakfast. Guiliani has dropped out and is endorsing McCain. I think I hear that Edwards is also dropping out. I eat breakfast and again I'm on the road at 8:00.

I decide I'll bicycle to Spot Bay first, then to the Lighthouse. Along the way there are gardens across the road from some houses. I stop and ask a woman getting a rake. She says the people on the water side own the small plots of the other side, between the road and the bluff. [Maybe the properties were there before the road?] We chat.

I bicycle looking for each highlight on the map. First is the Spellman McLaughlin House. Then I stop in the Heritage House. They were showing art from high school kids. One was quite good. She could professionally do cartoons. Next was the Big Channel Road Outlook. This was one of two poorly marked sites. The plaque at the top was missing. I walked in a ways and didn't find a lookout. Then I see another path. I follow it. It may have led to a lookout, but it was overgrown and I gave up.

I take pictures of houses and churches along the way. I then see a restaurant: Almond Tree Café. The food isn't quite ready. So I'll go to the end of the road and come back. I find the path to Peter's Cave and outlook. I walk up. This is also the path to the lighthouse. I could lug my bike up. The road is 11 miles! Then I realize that folded it will be easier. At the bottom an old fellow is starting his car. He encourages me to lug it up. He says he used to lug up 150 pounds. Of course, had I realized the situation, I would have biked to the lighthouse first and carried my bike down.

I bicycle to the end. I walk out to Long Beach. I get a picture and return. I then check out the Community Park. Then back to the Almond Tree Café. I first have a goat curry. Then after I catch up on these notes I have a chicken curry. They should keep me satiated for a while.

I head to the walk to the lighthouse. It sprinkled a little. This was my first rain! It takes 10 sweaty minutes to lug my bike up. Ten minutes saved 11 miles! I bike to the light "house." Like the others this is just a pole. The decommissioned one is climbable. I climb up and get my first [and only] 360° panorama. I walk along the path to the Little Cayman Brac Outlook. I did not go all the way to the Cay (large rock), but I did see some brown boobies.

After hanging around for a while I biked to the Parrot & Reserve. I get a few more sprinkles as I rode. I walked in the Nature Trail. It was way too long. Everything to be seen could have been seen in less distance. Then, as I was close to the south bluff, I walked to the edge. I get to see the potato house from on high. I walked back, but slipped and fell. The wrist that broke the fall got all sliced up. Then further along the same trail (Bight Road, South) there was a tree that had fallen across the path. It was a bit high. When stepping over it my knee scrapped it. That ended up looking as bad as my wrist. I did not see any parrots. [Later some other guests said they saw some in the parking lot. I did not go their.]

The only thing left was the museum. I headed there. I got there around 3:00. I washed the dirt off my hand and arm. I got an accompanied tour of the museum. It was mostly old artifacts collected from island old timers. So the items were not necessarily made on the island.

I stopped at Walton's Mango Manor for a drink of water. Then I went to see if the Trust House was open. It wasn't. Then, as it was still cloudy (great for me), I got a better picture of the Mass Burial Ground. Then I went to the airport to change my flight. She mentioned a charge for bicycles. I reply that I've never been charged. She wants me to check in at 7:40, an hour ahead. I then go to the Market Place to see Cliff Gibson. He has some Caymanite samples for me: a raw piece, plus some polished pieces that for some reason or other can't be made into jewelry. I get his e-mail. He only knows the first name of the fellow with the cactus. Then back to Brac Snack. It was just down the street. I might as well fill up with food.

My ankle was twisted in the fall. It is a little sore. Maybe I should minimize my bicycling. I return to Walton's.

A couple from England is just checking in. I ask if they'll take me to dinner. They agree. Then another new couple appears. She has a new Canon DSLR and is still trying to figure it out. I show off my scrapes. People can't miss the one on my knee. Maureen says she'll make breakfast early. I go shower.

The English couple said they'd go for dinner at 7:30. I'm done with my shower at 6:00. So I watch the news. How inefficient! To get the news you want you have to wait through useless news, commercials, and the blather of the announcers. Getting the news from a major newspaper website is so much more efficient.

The English couple comes down and we go off for dinner to Aunt Sha's. We chat a lot about all the islands I've been to, how they are different, and what I thought about them. And about diving, which is their interest. After returning I get my things organized and I'm in bed before 10:00.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I get up earlier than the 6:00 alarm. I figure with the extra paper towels I have I can clean some of the dust off the bike. I don't think I'll be on any more dirt roads before I leave the island. Maureen arrives a little early for me. She knew I had the early flight. I do get the bike clean, but not the wheels. I'll work on them on Grand Cayman. There is no fruit for breakfast. The ship didn't come in. I have plenty of time and I take it easy. Lynne Walton shows up. I say my goodbyes.

I get to the airport exactly one hour before. I'm either first or second. You really can't believe the airlines when it comes to when to arrive. I ask the fellow to be sure the bicycle makes it on. I don't care if my luggage is delayed. The woman checking me in wants $21, as my bike is sports equipment. I protest, saying I've never been charged. She goes in the back. She makes an exception just this once for me.

I make it to the waiting room. There is a concession stand. On the menu are beef patties. Of course I'm hungry already. He says they are precooked at the bakery and he just microwaves them. I tell him I can't have wheat. He microwaves them. I see that a patty means it is in a wheat crust. Obviously I can't eat them. Both of us slipped up on this one. As the time approaches I wait by the door to get a rear seat (for the most unobstructed view for pictures).

The plane arrives. I see why it took a long time for my luggage to get into the terminal when I arrived. He uses the same tug and trailer for outgoing and incoming luggage. So he doesn't bring in the incoming until all the outgoing is stored on the plane.

I get my rear seat and what will not be the sunny side, except for landing and takeoffs (we stop on Little Cayman on the way back). But he flies to the north of the islands, so I get mostly a view of the water.

Grand Cayman

In Grand Cayman I first bike to the Atlantis submarine place. I ask about the night dives, which I had learned about on Little Cayman. They are on Tuesday and Thursday only. I bike to my room at Eldemire's and check in. I decide taking a bus up to the Turtle Farm will save me some time. I do. It may have saved me 15 minutes. She makes me pay for two people, even though my bike did not keep anyone from getting on. On the way I'm hungry, so I get off early and bike to the Liberty Restaurant for lunch. I have turtle stew with lots of sides. It was very filling. I bicycle to the Turtle Farm. I hang around getting pictures. I get far more pictures than I'll put on the web. I talk with the guides and learn some things about the operation and feeding the fish.

I bicycle to Morgan's Harbour. A picture from the dock looking at the shore is directly into the sun. I chat with a couple from Wisconsin. He's carrying a little point-and-shoot camera, but has a Nikon digital, which he can use with all his lenses from his film days. I give him my card. [And he did e-mail me.]

I bike down West Bay Road. I'm intending to bicycle into the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. [Be warned. This web site is exceedingly obnoxious.] Based on the hotel markers on the map I turn in. Instead I find a new development of grand non-island-like houses called Salt Creek [no website!?]. I head out. The hotel markers are misplaced on the Caribbean-On-Line Map. I do learn that the next road is the one (Yacht Drive) I want. I go in that one. I did not bike very far in. Looking at the map afterwards I see I missed most of it.

I reach the Butterfly Farm at 4:00. Their hours are 8:30-4:00. So this will be my start on Saturday. I bike into town and check out the old things at Artifacts. They have lots of lovely old things, all inside glass cases. The first woman asks, as I walk in, if she can help. No. The second woman asks if she can help. No. The first woman then hovers over me. I move a foot. She moves a foot. I have my arms crossed over my chest. Was she staying near me as she suspected I was about to pull a hammer out of my pocket, smash a case, and then grab something and run off? It was a creepy place.

I get a picture of Elmslie Memorial Church. I see a plaque about a historical trail. I confirm that the museum is still closed for renovations. I stop for breakfast food and take it to Eldimire's. It's now 5:00 PM. I figure I can try Pure Art, which is south of Eldemire's, and at least I can learn their hours. I pass the National Trust Office. I had stopped by before, but not gone in. So this time I find my way in and ask about the Heritage Tour. She gives me a printout. We chat. I look at the pictures of the Watler's Cemetery that I missed in Prospect. She invites me to a silent auction and party that is nearby. It is a benefit for them. So I go back and shower.

I head out. I pass the massive number of cars parked for the Sunset House's Friday Happy Hour. I find the party. I have my camera with me. I take some pictures which I e-mail to them. All of the photographs were donated by one fellow. After costs the proceeds will go to the trust. I ask about dinner. A fellow suggests the Barbecue King at the public beach way up West Bay Road. So I bike up. Most people used it as take away. To eat my barbecued chicken leg I had to sit at a table on the beach in the dark. The meal was heavy on the carbs. For all this it was the same price as in a restaurant. I would have preferred a regular table with lights. I head towards my room. There are fewer cars by the Sunset House. I'm curious as to what is there. I find an enormous outdoor bar area. I can see how many hundred's of people can be there. I get to my room and I'm in bed a little after 10:00.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I get up at 6:15. I time myself so I know how early to get up before my flight. I have a large breakfast. I bought a 30% less sodium bacon. That is 30% less than bacon that is already less than the horribly salty Gwaltney I had the first time.

I take my time. I head to the Butterfly Farm. I get there exactly at their 8:30 opening time. The place is rather neat. They have hatching cases where the butterflies emerge from their pupa, dry off, and get their strength before flying out and around the pen for the few days that they live. I take pictures. The best will make it on the web. I chat with the woman at the front desk. She suggests a night kayaking tour, but knows no details. She gives me a pass, so I can return after the sub.

I bike to town and follow the Heritage Walking Tour. First stops are on the waterfront. I check out Fort George. The printed notes are a little weak on how to find the next site. Some I just knew from having been around. I had to ask where the post office was. It was unclear as to which houses behind the RBC they were referring to. And the last thing listed I didn't find, and it wasn't something anyone I'd ask would know.

I returned to my room to charge my camera battery. I was to do this the night before, but I forgot. At the trust party I had been viewing pictures. That ran the battery down much quicker than usual. I may have had enough, but I didn't want to take a chance. I looked in my 2007 Frommer's. There is no mention of kayaking on Grand Cayman.

While charging the battery I had the opportunity to visit Pure Art, which is south of my room (the opposite direction from town). The woman running the place says her son will be my sub pilot. [I don't think he was.] I ask about the kayaking. She looks up the phone numbers and writes them down. I tell her I have no phone. She is surprised that Eldemire's doesn't have them in the rooms. She does not offer to let me call there.

I return to my room to get the charged up battery. I decide I'll go to Welly's for lunch, it being the closest. I again state my dietary restrictions. I again ask about butter in the rice. This time it does have butter. She offers me a baked potato, but it will take a while. I don't have the time (as I have my submarine trip soon, plus they aren't likely to have olive oil). So I leave and head to Champion House II. I'm pressing the issue of butter in the rice. And yes, they put butter in both their plain rice and rice & peas. Again they served me this before after I specified I was dairy-free. And again a baked potato would take too long. A fellow nearby overhears me. I go over to chat. He says all places here put butter in their rice to keep it from sticking. He says as they don't put it in for flavor, they do not consider it an ingredient, and don't disclose it. I have been having digestive problems the entire trip (though only one was gluten related).

Finally the restaurant figures it out. They serve me their potato salad ingredients before they add the mayonnaise. They give me green bananas instead of the contaminated plantains, and steamed fish. It was fine.

I head over to Atlantis Adventures [no longer operate on Grand Cayman]. She starts to charge me $89. I protest. Their website says $79 for registration there, and $84 otherwise. So she charges me $79. I don't know where the $89 came from, or what she was trying to pull.

I ask about the kayak tours. She says she can only call if the numbers are not cell phone numbers. Both are cell phone numbers. She calls one and asks that he call back on their land line. He does. No night trip on Saturdays. They are only on Monday-Thursday, plus Friday. He says the bioluminescence tours also exist in Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

I chat with a couple waiting. About 20 in total show up. We go down. Most is at 50 feet under, with a little at 100 feet. During the day the colors are all washed out and a pale blue. At night with the artificial light it is more colorful. It is hard to take pictures. As things are not sharp the camera has problems focusing. And the fish move quickly. I set it to manual focus at 20 feet. I'll hope a few come out okay. I, and others, notice that there aren't that many fish. Have they been all fished out?

I head to the Butterfly Farm. There is only one couple there and a fellow is talking about the pupae and the life stages of a butterfly. It was very interesting. I remain until the 4:00 closing time. I chat with the woman at the desk. What is there to do to fill my remaining time? She suggests a walk through the Ritz Carlton. It was a good idea. So I go do so. I take a picture in their lobby as a souvenir. [Looking now at their site I see I missed the pool area by the ocean.]

I then continue bicycling up West Bay Road. I pass the Government House. There is a free art show taking place. It is 4:40. I have 20 minutes. I talk with an artist. All are local artists. I find a section with non-profit organizations. One is for the botanic gardens. I talk with the fellow. He's the director. The cactus I found on Brac was not the one I was looking for. The web did say on a bluff. The one I found was on the ground. The one on the bluff has no spines. He writes down the name of the one I found. And he, like everybody it seems, knows Wallis Platt. I talk about thinning the cacti. He says yes. In nature they would fight it out. I ask about the Brooklyn Botanical Garden getting some cacti. He says it is best if it is a botanical garden to botanical garden and they can help with the paperwork if the BBG wants one, or two to share with the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

It is now past 5:00 and they are breaking down. I decide I'll again do Yacht Drive, and this time I'll go to the ends of both roads.

It is now getting towards dinner. Of course I'm hungry. I stop at a The Canton Chinese Restaurant in The Strand Shopping Center. They don't put butter on the rice. No Chinese restaurant does this, but they are getting confused on my dietary requirements, so they push only steamed on me. [Soya sauce has wheat in it, so I'm asking for a white sauce.] I leave. I bike on. I see another Chinese restaurant, but I also see that the sun is about to set. So I bike down a beach access road. There is an English couple watching the sunset in front of their condo. We chat about English antiques (which we both collect).

I cross the street to another Chinese restaurant. We talk. The chef comes out. He talks about wheat starch and soy sauce on everything. He suggests I not eat there. Right next door is Lone Star Bar & Grill. It is a bit noisy. All surfaces are hard. The people talking noise travels, rock is playing on the sound system. I get a 14 oz. steak and baked potato. It was very filling. After paying I'm left with CI$9. One of the waiters has US$ and swaps it. Not bad for nine days and one CI$600 withdrawal. Though had I had less, I would have charged some things.

On my way out I mention to the manager that the steamed vegetable mix was very nice, especially adding onions. She tells me her brother has celiac disease. It took him seven years to get diagnosed. They gave him an IBS diagnosis, and told him to eat more fiber. He was a big sandwich person and got worse.

I bike back to my room. The port is humming again. Apparently all port activity is done at night. It is noisy. There is lots of beeping as vehicles back up. And every container truck is driving through downtown.

Back in my room I get things organized to leave. I figure out why I get this itchy rash behind my knee on vacations. It is sunburn! I apply sunscreen to my legs sitting down and I've been missing that spot.

I set the room alarm clock and get to bed at 9:00.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My second time at Eldemire's I'm in room #2. The first time I was in room #1. The first was better. One of the windows here does not close tightly. It is not at all sealed around the air conditioner. So, the humidity is higher, and the sound of a rooster that likes to crow for a while periodically comes right through the openings. I awake before the alarm. I have lots of time. I do not rush and I still get to the airport about two hours before the flight.

One of the tourism women is waiting in the airport. She's going to Miami. We chat until her flight leaves.

Miami, FL

Miami is a zoo. First, I and a few others wait until all bags are off the carousel. Ours weren't there. Then someone discovers they are off to the side. I guess the fragile sticker that Cayman Airlines put on my bicycle bag got it special treatment. I had already decided not to remove the sticker. On the flight down it clearly got no special treatment.

Then after immigrations and customs we are outside of security. There is a place right there to turn back in the bags that are checked through. There are bags all over the place.

To get back inside the secure area the lines are the longest I've ever seen. Security for Concourse C is closed. For D, my concourse, it is a complete mob scene. Too many people to form a line. A porter had tipped me off to go to Concourse E, and walk back after security. There we start in a single line. After we cross the main aisle it splits into two. The woman managing the line says take the shortest. The couple in front of me takes one on the left, I take the other. My line doesn't move. I watch their line move. Mine is longer, as we first have to get in front of our stations (#1-4, they're #5-8). I watch the other couple. There make it through security about the time I get to behind #1-4. Now I see why we don't move. #1 is closed. #2 and #3 are for first class and business class and are being fed from the other side. We are only feeding #4. And not even that! The woman is so slow checking the passports that the #5-8 people are also using #4. Our woman can't even check passports fast enough to keep one x-ray machine occupied! After an hour I make it through. People say this is normal for Miami.

On my way to my gate I buy some fruit. Most of the passengers are already on board the plane. So I walk right on, sit down, and eat my fruit.

I had a strange couple sitting beside me. They never spoke with each other, or even looked at each other. Were they having a fight?

Queens, NY

At LGA all was not well. No bicycle. Despite handing it to the security screeners 1 ½ hours before departure, it didn't make it on the flight. At least I was the first of the dozen with missing bags to get in line and record it missing. [They delivered the bike the next day.]

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