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BVI Trip Report - Part 1

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BVI Trip Report - Part 1

Postby jmq » Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:34 pm

Trip report Sunday 6/15 through Monday 6/23 to maybe (?) Anegada (ANG) and Virgin Gorda (VG), family of 3, Dad JMQ, Mom AMQ, and 15 yr old daughter A, aka TrackGirl (TG). Second time to BVIs for us. This first part is long with a Preface and details the travel drama of the first day. I promise succeeding parts will likely be minimal text and lotsa photos.

PREFACE - Last Minute Trip to BVIs
This trip was pulled off at the last minute because we didn’t know if TG would be exempt or not from taking finals last week of school until 4-5 days before we left. They have a policy in place that if you maintained an A or better average PLUS scored and A or better on your midterms then you didn’t have to take the final in that subject. You could even skip school those days if you could afford to take the absences.

We took a chance and bought the tickets on Memorial Day when the airfare dipped under $400 and Guavaberry (VG) and Neptunes (ANG) still had availability. We didn’t tell TG because we didn’t want to put anymore pressure on her than she already does. But if she screwed up the last round of projects, papers, and tests, then we would have to re-book the trip some other time and eat the $ associated with that, because there wouldn’t be enough time between finals and start of her camp counselor job.

Needless to say, I pitched in to help where I could. Cant find enough in the local library for your research paper? No problem, lets borrow your Aunts card and go over to that new library in the next county over. Need help with closing statement or to practice for your mock trial in History? No problem – lets do it.

There were times after we bought the tickets and left deposits when we thought “what have we done?? Have we gone mad??” but we also had confidence because she had pretty high averages and was quite motivated to not have to take finals.

Who wouldn’t be? Used to be something just the seniors got, but she was able to completely pull it off both this year and last year in all subjects, and actually by only 1 point o the midterm this year in math. There is talk of taking this “bonus” away from all but the seniors next year, but junior year is killer in the honors and AP courses so that will be really hard to score again anyway.

When she was finally able to confirm that she didn’t have to take any finals on Tues the 10th, we said wow that’s great, now we’ll probably able to get away for a whole week before camp. We had discussed Boston/Nantucket and some other options, but when we told her we would be going back to the BVIs, she said
“WHAT??? WHEN???”
Well, Sunday.
That was pretty cool.

Now, last minute travel is pretty exciting, and something I’ve always wanted to do, but combine it with TG school pressures, TG first date (!) on the Friday before we left, work very busy for JMQ and AMQ, and it contributed to some errors that compounded some of the travel difficulties that got the trip off to a very rough start.

DAY 1 – travel day
Best last minute rate by far was out of JFK through SJU connecting to STT where we would have to ferry to Tortola to stay overnight to catch 7am ferry to Anegada on Monday.

Normally I try to get non stop to STT whenever possible and I’ll do that from any of the NYC airports or Philly, or if I have to go through SJU, I’ve looked for and gotten no plane change in SJU – just land and drop off some, pick up some, then onto STT.

Didn’t have those choices this time with last minute but told myself that 8am on a Sunday mitigates a lot of the car AND air traffic and we had 65 minutes to make the connecting flight to STT. If we missed that then there were several later American Eagle (AE) flights that afternoon they could put us on to catch that last ferry to Tortola which I thought I knew ran pretty late.

Sure enough drive out to JFK between 5-6am on a Sunday (Fathers Day) is no problem whatsoever. Don’t think I would ever attempt similar during the week – its taken me 3+ hrs to get out past JFK during weekday rush hour.

Use a new off site parking service that was recommended by someone on the TTOL board who owns a villa and yacht in Virgin Gorda that was ½ the price of all others. I checked out the neighborhood where it was located, and I figure if good enough for him, then I’ll take a shot, but take the company car just in case (!) The parking guy had a Jaguar and Volvo in his small lot so I figure if someone wanted to break into the lot, they would take cars like those before my P.O.S. Chevy Impala.

The new American terminal at JFK is very nice, but still rather chaotic because of the way they have the self check in lines set up (not clearly delineated, poor signage). Check 3 bags by 6:18 and watch them heave them into huge pile behind them rather than right onto the conveyor belt. I get a fleeting bad feeling but don’t say anything.

Why do we have 3 bags to check? Good question. We’ve done the Caribbean with 1 or 2 checked plus carry on, but with surprise nature of trip plus pressures and distractions of last few weeks everybody just kind of threw their own together without much thought, plus we haven’t had a bag go missing in 20 yrs. We come to regret this.

Plane boards on time, seems to be minimal ground traffic, but we are going nowhere fast, and luggage carts are still sitting on the tarmac. They announce they are having trouble with a cargo door. I recall now that the planes AA runs to the Caribbean from NYC tend to be older than dirt and its no wonder they have equipment problems, plus they must be pretty fuel inefficient too.

As we approach an hour late, I start getting concerned. I call AA from the plane, put a hold on a later flight to STT in case we miss the booked flight, ask about going into Tortola direct instead. They tell me that will be $120 more each, which would be mitigated somewhat by eliminating the cost of the ferry, but I decide not to book that yet.

After we finally take off 1:40 late, start wondering if they will hold the original flight. We make up some of the time, but land 15 minutes after the original STT flight is scheduled to leave. As we step off the plane, they tell us original flight left, and hand us 2 new tickets for only JMQ and AMQ for the later 3 something STT flight, but we need 3 tickets. Told to go down to gate to sort it out. Can get a third ticket, but learn all 3 are on long standby. Told there are later 5 and 7 something flights, but quick check of Tortola ferry print out I have with me shows last ferries on Sunday are 5:45 from CA and 6:30 from Red Hook (they have later ferries only during the week - I shoulda paid more attention to that).

That wont work as we have to be in Tortola for the 7am Anegada ferry the next morning (they only run M,W,F). Go to service desk to plead our case as nicely as possible. Agent is sympathetic and agrees to try to book us onto a flight direct into Tortola (Beef Island EIS) instead, no extra charge, which would be sweet.

Why didn’t I book JFK-SJU-EIS in the first place? That was well over $200 each more, and lunch at Gladys Cafe in STT, then late afternoon ferry to Tortola sounded like a nice way to ease into the trip.

I urgently remind agent she has to get our bags pulled NOW before they go to STT. After a few calls down, she reports back they can only find 2 of 3 bags (we don’t know which ones) and she cannot ticket us through to EIS without all of our bags. S**t. Do we chase the bags to STT, knowing we have to blow off Anegada, etc. etc.??

We must’ve looked pretty upset because she offered to talk to the supervisor to see if she could get approval to send us through to Tortola with only 2 bags with the hope that the 3rd will be put on a later flight to Tortola. That would be pretty sweet if it happens. She gets approval and we make snap decision to roll the dice and go to Tortola. Run downstairs to American Eagle gate, they are loading already. I start thinking it will be a miracle if the other 2 bags make it.

On way there, we start thinking about how to cope with missing bag. Complacency, secret last minute nature of trip, plus distractions and pressures leading up to trip make us regret violating golden travel rules of cross packing or 2 days of clothes for everybody in a carry on. And hasty booking made me overlook lack of evening Tortola ferries on Sunday. Maybe whoever is missing bag can buy some basics in Roadtown…wait a minute, stores will be closed early on Sunday, and we anticipate that there will be VERY limited shopping on Anegada if and when we get there. uh oh.

Wife AMQ is Queen of the Glass is Half Empty Society and is sure it will be her bag that will be missing. Luckily she still weighs within about 8 lbs of teenage daughter TG. I don’t miss the opportunity to point this out several times and we have a good laugh about what she will look like in those clothes (I think not bad) and ask if she will wear 3 tops at once like TG.

What if it is my bag? “Who cares? You wear the same shorts for days on end anyway!” No respect, even on Fathers Day.

We fly on AE puddle jumper through haze to EIS. Watch bags come off – there is JMQ, and there is AMQ, where is TG? Uh-oh. Not there. She is pretty upset, mostly because AMQ as Forecaster of Doom did mention at one point that sometimes you never get your bag back, so TG starts worrying she might never see her stuff again, including all the new outfits she got at PacSun etc.

Of course we are told it might be on a later flight, but we say we want to start the paperwork anyway so go to the baggage claim counter. First lady there nice, seemed pretty competent, starts doing the entries, then all of a sudden had to disappear to “help out on the tarmac”. Hands us over to a young girl who starts the process all over again but clearly has little idea of what she is doing. An example – she cant figure out how to put more than one contact number in, because we want to leave cell, Tortola hotel, and ANG hotel.

By the time we get the paperwork done, the other flight has come in and one of the taxi guys I had chatted up a bit gets me back through customs into the baggage area – not there. Although there is another flight or 2, I am now convinced the bag went to STT, but when I make the logical to me suggestion they call STT to ask about it, they look at me like I’m from outer space. Now I cant remember if they went through the motions of making the call or not, but that didn’t work.

I think we are just about done here, sun is setting, we are hungry, get the friendly cab to Marias by the Sea in Roadtown. Pretty long ride from Beef Island, only $30 including bags. He immediately passes judgment on the young baggage claim person who was helping us “she don’t know what’s she is doing!” and he gives me the name of the best supervisor I should ask for when I call back. Sure enough in Roadtown all stores are closed early on Sunday.

At check in, Michelle behind the counter at Marias hears our plight and offers to assist anyway she can by calling the airport to follow up etc. So she calls again, bag not there, she takes a copy of our claim from and says she will call again later before they close, and will alert others at desk if bag is delivered to Marias in next day or 2 so we can get it when we return from ANG on Weds.

Room is big, clean, partial view of harbor. Eat dinner downstairs at Marias on their covered deck that overlooks the harbor, rather nice evening with near full moon glistening off the water, good rum punch, think we got 2 grilled grouper and 1 grilled snapper – all good.

Trying to enjoy ourselves despite our situation and kicking ourselves for not being smarter about it all. We work on the mental state of TG and start to realize that maybe her bag was the best to be without as the sharing wont be so bad going that way, and try to reassure her that most bags do eventually show up. TG and AMQ point out the hard to replace stuff she has vs. I could just go blindfolded into a Kohls and randomly grab stuff and replace my wardrobe in 15 min. Again, no respect, but at least humor is helping us cope.

Back up in room, Michelle calls us at 10:30 to report she called airport again, but that bag wasn’t there at closing. Oh well off to sleep for early ferry to ANG.

Apologize for length, and again, succeeding parts will likely have a lot less text and will include photos once I get motivated to start taking pictures.

Last edited by jmq on Thu Jun 26, 2008 3:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby LC » Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:01 pm

What a gutsy move on booking the vacation - kudos to your daughter for coming through for you! :)

Thanks for the report!
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Postby PA Girl » Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:53 pm

The first time we didn't cross pack, Hubs bag went missing for two days and his reaction was likely similar to a teenage girl.

I hope it turned up. Can't wait for the next installment!
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Postby martini girl » Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:55 pm

LOL on the "wearing 3 shirts" comment. Too funny. My daughter is 13 and that whole look is interesting, don't know how they aren't sweating with all those layers in the middle of summer!
You are truly amazing to keep your chin up through that chaos/adventure. Can't wait for the next installment.
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Postby chrisn » Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:30 pm

Decided to take a break from VG part 5 when I found this. I've been waiting! What a fiasco! And what a trooper TG seems like she's being. Drama Girl would have pitched a fit to be heard all the way to China! Can't wait to read and SEE more! Keep em coming!
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Postby liamsaunt » Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:35 pm

Ooh, yucky start to your trip! At least it sounds like TG was a sport about it. If my bag went missing when I was that age I probably would have had a complete meltdown.

I bet the rest of your trip gets better. Can't wait to read about it!
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Postby RickG » Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:14 am

Dude, I just know that part 2 is going to be way more chillin'!

I was rooting for pics of Mom in the teenagers distressed capris and Independant tank top.

I'm sitting here in DC imagining being out on the patio with Vernon and Linda drinking a Dark and Stormy. Jealousy is a gift.

Yep, 100% carryon in November, including cooler.

Next time we hit Anegada we're taking the charter flight from PR!

Cheers, Rick
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Postby sailorgirl » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:52 am

I feel your pain! Last summer we squeezed a trip into the one week my 19 yo step daughter had free between an internship in Hartford and a month in Korea. Needless to say her packing was rather haphazard and disorganized. I had the presence of mind to pull a few things, out and transfer them to her carry on.

We arrived in STT and the bags came off. Soon that sinking feeling sets in as everyone else from the flight had the bags. Picture the 19 yo standing at the mouth of the baggage conveyor, tears and huge sobs, melting down from lack of sleep. I try to explain to my straight A Ivy league SD that, "no honey we can't just wait and see if it will show up, we were only the only flight from NY for the day". Somehow this seemingly simple statement is not getting through as she is now non verbal and reduced to just shaking her head.

This was my first experience with lost baggage, and one I hope not to repeat. Many calls, never the same answer twice. Told we think we located it in Chile! SST(Santiago) STT (St Thomas) . No we were wrong, its still missing , 10 calls later fours days pass and we get a call from St. Thomas saying the bag is with a messenger on the 6:00 Ferry to St. John, can you meet it at the dock. Seems the bag had been sitting in a corner of the airport for 4 days. By this time we had replaced some of he cloths, at resort prices. The refund process was also a nightmare, didn't get a check for 6 months.

Love your report so far, can't wait for next installment.
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Postby pjayer » Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:41 am

Nice start! We've tried to have the "carry-on only" talk with our 15 year old daughter for our upcoming trip, but it doesn't seem to be getting through. I think I'll have her read this! I know it wasn't funny at the time, but I had to LOL as I was reading it. Especially the part about you asking, "What if it's my bag?" and their response. I can imagine that's how the male in our household feels, too. :lol: Thanks for posting.
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Postby jmq » Sat Jun 28, 2008 12:19 pm

Don’t know if/when part 2+ is coming. Our beloved Sheltie Sandy chronic kidney condition has turned into acute kidney failure and it doesn’t look good. Although this was the long term prognosis from 2 yrs ago, and we have being dealing with doing the subQ IVs etc., it doesn’t make it any easier. He is only 9. He was boarded at the vet and he seemed to do OK, but we are dealing with the guilt of the stress it may have put on him. Although he was slowing down, we didn’t know his levels had gotten so precarious. Life sucks sometimes.
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Postby Kentuckygirl » Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:44 am

Sorry to hear about Sandy. I hope he is okay. I assume that beautiful dog in your avatar is him.
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Postby jmq » Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:23 am

He is already gone. Once the kidneys shut down it went too quick. His chronic kidney condition was asymptomatic before we left, but it turned out he was down to only 3-5% capacity.

We are tremendously heartbroken. He was a joy. He was only 9.

Maybe I’ll resume this TR some other time, but we have tremendous guilt associated with this trip. He was boarded at the vet, they said he did OK, and this probably would have happened real soon anyway, but he certainly didn’t need the additional stress. We could’ve gone on a drive vacation with him. He was a good traveler as he could deal with that stress because he was WITH US. Maybe we would’ve had a few more weeks or months with him.

He was my bud. I keep looking for him – as a working breed, he always did stuff with me and I work mostly at home and the house seems empty. I miss him terribly. Sorry to unload (you all don’t need a downer on this Monday morning) but maybe it will help. Thanks for listening.
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Postby waterguy » Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:39 am

He is probaly in the islands now playing with tigger. Sorry for your loss.
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Postby Lex » Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:16 am

So sorry for your loss. We've had, and lost, a number of pets over the years. It's kind of a stacked deck whenever we've gotten a new pup or kitten, because we know that we're going to outlive them. For many people one of their first experiences with death is the loss of a pet.

We have a shelf that holds the ashes and photos of our dear friends. We keep thinking that we should do something with the ashes, but we haven't figured out what yet, so they stay on the shelf until we do.

Each loss is different. For some it involved us making that terrible decision that "it's time".One just went to sleep and never woke up. Two died traumatically. One terribly sad one was a young dog that got lost and we never knew what happened to. That loss was very hard to grieve. The guilt around that was crushing.

I expect that they're all hanging out at Rainbow Bridge and that when "it's time", it'll be a very sweet reunion. And I'll tell that little lost dog how terribly sorry I am that I didn't keep her closer.

I don't know if Rainbow Bridge is real, but I choose to believe that it is. Seems like it should be.
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Postby chrisn » Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:39 am

What a sweet baby JMQ. I'm so sorry for your loss. Remember though that he'll always be alive and with you inside your hearts.
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