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January 15, 2008

The U.S. Virgin Islands

P1010878_editedHaving had loooong plane trips last spring, we decided that we wanted a short one for a mini vacation in December.  Our December 9th flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a week, fit the bill.

St. Thomas is a very pretty island with houses dotted all over the rocky hills that rise out of the ocean.

P1010809We stayed at Bluebeard's Castle which is on a high hill overlooking both the town of Charlotte Amalie (Ah-MAHL-yah) and the Cruise ship harbour.  We walked most places so we certainly got our exercise on the hill.  In this picture, our room was in the top right building, second room from the end and second floor down.

Columbus arrived in 1493 and claimed the islands for Spain, but by the late 1600’s the Danish flag was flown (under the management of the West India Company).  The United States purchased the islands for $25 million in gold from Denmark in 1917.  It is now an unincorporated territory of the U.S.

P1010853P1010854There seems to be careful attention to the preservation of historic buildings  – although most of them now house retail establishments. 

It is a luxury goods shoppers’ paradise.  We took a guess that there could be 100 jewelry stores in the main shopping area downtown. 




A trip around the island took us to one of the overlooks where we could get a birds eye view of Charlotte Amalie. 

One day we took the ferry to St. John – about a 45 minute ride.  It was interesting seeing the islands from the water.  The shoreline was much more rugged than we had expected it to be.


In 1956 Laurence Rockefeller purchased and then transformed 2/3 of St. John into a National Park.  We went hiking on one of the shorter trails.  It was very hot & steamy. 

This idyllic beach was about a mile along the trail.   

We met Bob & Claire at the Art Gallery in the bustling little town of Cruz Bay.  They live on a boat in the harbour.  We talked and compared our life styles.  Many, many similarities. 

On Friday night there was a Festival in town.  All the cruise ships had departed so the party was really for the local population.   The downtown streets were closed to traffic, stores stayed open until 9, local families had set up food stands with all kinds of island food and numerous steel drum bands played in the streets.  It was a festive time and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole atmosphere.



Speaking of cruise ships – this was the view from our window of the cruise ship harbour.   However, there is another harbour on the other side of town that can berth 2 ships.  Two days we were there both places were full.  There was never a day that didn’t have at least one there.  I would guess that there were 25 ships in, in the 7 days we were on the island.
There were too many people downtown when 5 ships we in and docked.    Well, I guess that is one point of view – I’m sure the storekeepers there didn’t think that.

Did we enjoy ourselves?  Yes.  Will we go back?  Probably not.  After having seen so many different places perhaps we are getting too hard to impress.  And maybe, other than being a tropical island, it wasn’t much different than the mainland.

We headed back to Charlotte, N.C. on December 16th to continue our winter journey.

Bernie & Ross


Posted by Bernice at 09:49 PM | Comments (1)

January 05, 2008

The rest of 2007


We came home to our trailer at the KOA just to the west of Milton, ON. late on Thursday, June 7th.

Mark & Julie, the managers of the park, had kept an eye on it and everything was in good shape.  Mind you we had to go shopping the next day as we had left the refrigerator virtually empty.

We quickly got to work at the KOA, as we were to be “work campers” there for the summer.   For those of you who don’t know this concept, we worked 20 hours a week between us, in exchange for our camp site.  Ross did the grass cutting and I planted and maintained the flower beds and other landscaping.  At the annual KOA inspection, we were pleased that the inspector acknowledged how good the park looked.   We enjoyed the work, and Mark & Julie were very flexible and we were able to determine our own hours so that we could plan on doing other things as well.



The family happily attended the wedding of Kim, Ross’s niece, to Doug Wigle on July 7th.  It was a lovely day and we were glad to welcome Doug into our family.  Our daughter Mandi and grandson Ricky were home from the Bahamas for the wedding, so it was a also a great week with them. 
The end of August, Bernie went back to work.   Her previous employer ask if she would come back again as interim General Manager.  She says “It was surprisingly easy to get back into the swing of things.  Of course what made it much easier was my senior staff had not changed.  We all picked up as if the three years I had been away had never happened.  I retired again in mid November after the new GM was in place.”

But we learned something – Bernie decided that she really liked being retired.  Ross decided that he really liked Bernie being retired.  Both of us decided that we particularly like being on the road with each other in our RV.

IMG_5789_editedOn October 13th, our daughter Michelle and her husband Barnaby, became the very proud parents of Timothy David, our second grandson.

He is wonderful!

We were so happy to have a month and a half of seeing him, before we were on the road again.

We headed south on December 2nd after visiting friends in Brockville, ON.  We were fortunate as we travelled south, staying about 24 hours ahead of a big storm.

After visiting with a cousin of Ross’s in Greenville, NC we left the trailer in Charlotte, NC for a week while we took a “vacation” and flew to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.   We’ll write a separate journal for that trip.

P1010987_editedIn 2005 we had visited the Gulf Coast about 4 months after Katrina had devastated it.  We decided to return there for the Christmas season (we feel it’s important for tourists to come back) and stayed at a campground in Long Beach, Mississippi (right next to Gulfport).  Long Beach was in the eye of the hurricane.   Most of the rubble has been cleared away and there is some reconstruction happening but it was still an emotional visit.  As we drove along the beach highway there appeared to be a wonderful park about a block deep, for miles.  Then you realize that you are seeing driveways to nowhere, and foundations of houses hidden by shrubs.  These blocks and blocks of emptiness had been blocks and blocks of wonderful old homes.  Gone.

P1010959EOne day we drove to New Orleans and took the city tour.  As well as the standard visit to the French Quarter, a Cemetery, the Garden and Warehouse Districts we also had a short tour of the Lower 9th Ward.  As the rescuers searched each house they recorded the date searched, if any dead were found and the search team.  After having seen the devastation, it is difficult to understand how slow and unconcerned officialdom seems to be.  What possible “excuse” can there be for the lack of action.

P1010965EBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have purchased a home in the French Quarter and spend a good amount of time in New Orleans.  He is heading a huge drive to build homes in the Lower 9th and we were able to see the “pink tarp” outlines where these home will be built.  Our tour driver spoke very highly of him, indicating that the residents were impressed as he not only talked about helping, but he really “put his money where his mouth was”.

What has come back to the Gulfport area are the Casinos and with them jobs and a reason for the tourists to return.  We had a lovely Roast Beef  Christmas dinner at one of the big casinos.

P1020003From the Gulf, we headed north and stopped one night at Pelahatchie (just outside Jackson, MS) to visit with RV friends, Michelle and Louie.  The next night was in Hallsville, Texas and we came across the most wonderful Christmas light display.  No one at the attraction knew how many lights there were, but the drive was over a mile in length.  The one way trail was carved out of the forest with lights strung on trees, on wire frames – actually anywhere there was a place to hang a string.  $15.00 a car and well worth it.

We ended the year in Grapevine, TX which is a lovely town north of and between Dallas and Fort Worth.  The campground was run by the City and was excellent.  We have never found staff so friendly and willing to go out of their way to assist.

The Dallas/Fort Worth airport was close by and that was important as we were flying home for a couple of weeks on Jan 2nd and were leaving the RV at the park.

We flew from DFW to Kitchener/Waterloo via Detroit.  The KW airport is a very efficient, friendly smaller operation and we will happily try to arrange to fly in to there from now on if at all possible.

The day following our arrival home, Jan 3rd, we had a wonderful start to 2008.  We’ll tell you about that in another journal.

Ross & Bernie

Posted by Bernice at 12:18 PM | Comments (4)