Friday, May 22, 2009

Home Again...

We've been home from our US trip for a week now, and our lives are slowly moving back toward what we think is normal. Normal for us, I guess I should say. We were curious about how we would feel about returning to these little islands after spending weeks in a big US city. Would we become spoiled by all the smooth concrete pavement, fast food restaurants, shopping malls and consumer goods outlets on every corner? Would we become re-addicted to living in a place with over 1,400 Mexican Restaurants alone listed in the local Yellow Pages ? (you think I am kidding? Check it out: Mexican-Restaurants) This is quite a change from living in a place that lists a total of 71 restaurants of any kind in the entire nation.

The answer is definitely 'no'. We did not decide we would rather live in the USA. I fear we are forever ruined for the big city lifestyle. We've become island lovers. And while we enjoy visiting the bright lights from time to time, we literally cannot wait to step off that airplane back on Provo. We are even starting to look forward to seeing the customs and immigration people again!

After picking up Dooley the Devious at the kennel, we opened up the house, and then stopped by the marina to check on our boat. Everything was good there, and Dooley got re-acquainted with his old buddy Bernard and his dog Lucy:

I started the boat up and everything seems to have survived without us just fine. I wanted to take it out for a spin, but the wind was blowing like heck, and my new knee is still pretty tender. I elected to be cautious for now and content with just running it and charging the batteries.

We had only been home a couple of days when we got a call from our friend Preacher. He welcomed us back and said he was putting together a small cookout on a beach in Provo on Sunday. I am still a bit 'gimpy' with this new knee, but this was a beach we had never seen, and we did not even have to use the boat to get there. Perfect opportunity for some fresh photos.

This little beach is at the end of miles of dirt road. It's a bit off the beaten path, even for Provo. I mapped out the driving route on Google Earth, and was surprised to see the distance from our house to Osprey Rock is just over sixteen miles:

That's quite a bit of a trip when you consider the entire island is only about seventeen miles long from one end to the other. And most of this trip was on unpaved roads.

Parking at the end of that dead end and walking down through the bushes you come out to a wonderful little uncrowded stretch of sand and rock:

Other than the dozen or so people hanging out with Preacher waiting for him to cook lunch, the entire beach was deserted. Not too bad for a Sunday in late Springtime.

Preacher's nephew Tyreese and some of his friends were swimming in the water, and a few people were casting bait out to see if any fish were biting.

Here's another GE view of this area, and you can see the road and the rocky little beach where these photos were taken:

Basically we were all just hanging out, enjoying a laid back island day, and waiting for Preacher to do his cooking thing on the campfire. That's Preacher in the middle, and one of his brothers (Joe, aka "Hammerhead" ) talking to La Gringa on the left:

The day was going very, very smoothly. Especially when compared to the hectic three weeks we had just gone through up north in Texas. We did have a little bit of excitement, Provo style. Mrs. Lightbourn caught a fish, and those of us who were not busy, lazy, or crippled, ran over to check it out:

I was both lazy and crippled, so I just used the zoom. That's Osprey Rock in the background, by the way. There is a trail up to it, and that cliff is called West Harbor Bluff.

Of course the minute someone hooked a fish, Dooley the Destroyer felt a responsiblity to run over and take charge of the situation. His firm and unshakable opinion is that every fresh caught fish, and I do mean EVERY fish, needs to be immediately bitten. No exceptions.

Well, since this wasn't our fish to bite, I needed to secure the dog in a timely manner. I had forgotten to bring a leash rope from the truck with me, but I did manage to snag him by the collar with my cane as he zipped by on his way to disrupt the fishing expedition:

Mr. Lightbourn and his grand-daughters did bring the fish over to show us:

And a handsome creature it was, too:

I think this is some kind of boxfish, but I didn't think to ask what the local name was for it. I know we see them all the time when we are snorkelling. It doesn't look to me like something I would eat, but I suspect that the locals and at least one Jack Russell Terrierist would disagree with me.

As mentioned, this part of Provo is the closest point to West Caicos. We were having some afternoon thunderstorms at this point in the day so the photography sort of went downhill . This is looking toward West Caicos, some six miles away:

With a little zoom, you can see the buildings of the Ritz-Carleton development out on West Caicos.

I am thinking that six miles across might just be a good kayak trip one of these calm summer days.

As far as we know, this development is one of several major resort projects that have been put on indefinite hold due to the present economic situation with the banks who were providing the funding. Lehman Brothers was involved in the West Caicos project, for example. Some of the other projects scattered around the TCI have also been slowed down by the current political changes going on in the islands. A lot of projects and permits are undergoing government review. We try to stay out of that whole political situation entirely. We consider ourselves guests here, and we just hope it all gets resolved so that a lot of these good people can get back to their full time jobs soon, before they suffer too much more financial hardships. Things are slow here, just like everywhere else.

I spotted a strange rock formation while we were here at the beach. It's a circular section of different composition from the surrounding limestone:

I am curous as to what kind of structure might have formed this. My best guess, so far, is that it is some kind of fossilized sponge that got covered over with sediment many years ago, and became part of the rock itself. I am certainly open to other interpretations, though. Here's another view, looking down on it:

That structure is about two feet in diameter and as hard as the rock around it.

Well, that pretty much sums up our first mini-excursion back at home. The weather has not been cooperating for boating and beach activities. We have had rain five out of the last seven days since these photos were taken. We ain't complaining, mind you. The cisterns are full for the first time since the hurricanes last September. And I can use some time to recover full use of my leg and my new knee. I would probably be frustrated if the weather was perfect and I was unable to take advantage of it. This enforced recovery time is probably a good thing.

I came home to the usual bunch of little maintenance jobs to start taking care of. One of my early priorities is going to be to do something about the soft top on one of the Land Rovers. This top is only four years old, and yet the sun and wind has just about destroyed it already:

I am in the process of trying to find a Land Rover supply house in the UK who is experienced at exporting parts to little countries like this. I'm a bit dismayed and somewhat surprised at how difficult it has proven to be. I want to buy a new top for this vehicle, for example, and some parts for the other one as well. Since we now have a vehicle with the means to seat people comfortably I am hoping to turn this one into something a little sportier. I am thinking I want this kind of top on it instead of the full canvas:

That should look pretty good, I think. And it's practical. And I plan to find someone locally to help me fabricate a combination roll cage and kayak rack for it. The shipping costs to send one from England are astronomical. It would cost me more to ship a roll bar from the UK than it would cost to buy the roll bar. In fact, this project might just justify me buying a small arc welder and learning how to build my own.

Another thing that has been a bit frustrating in trying to buy parts for the Land Rovers is the terminology difference between American English and Land Rover English. I kid you not.

Americans and Brits are all familiar with some of the common differences in automotive terms. We know that what we call a 'hood' is called a 'bonnet', and what we call a 'trunk', the Brits call a 'boot'. Those are easy. Wanna hear some more trickier ones? I am trying to buy a 'soft-top" or 'convertible top' for my Land Rover. Okay. That's not what the Brits call it. They call it a 'hood'. Not to be confused with our 'hood' or their 'bonnet'. To further complicate things, they also sometimes call it a 'tilt'. I have no clue where that one comes from. The frame that I need to hold the 'tilt' up is called 'hood sticks'.

Speaking of which, here is a photo of the inside of that soft top I need to replace:

Can you believe this happened to it in only four years? It's harsh here, I tell you. The problem is that we want to leave it open to get the ventilation, but then the dust blows in with it's salt load. Hopefully, the new small top ( if I can ever get one imported) will take care of this.

Oh, the list of confusing terms goes on and on. For example, this little side light needs replacing on the other Land Rover:

That's not a side light, or a blinker light or a directional signal light. Nope. It's a "side repeater". Where I come from a 'repeater' is a rifle. Oh well. I guess this difference in nomenclature has been a subject for amusement for a long time now. I think it was Playwright George Bernard Shaw who claimed that "England and America are two countries divided by a common language". Sounds to me like Mr. Shaw just might have been trying to order Land Rover parts on the internet.

(And that black plastic thing over the wheel is called an 'eyebrow arch'. That's all I am going to say about that.)

I am hopeful that within the next few weeks I will have a new top to replace the one destroyed by the harsh climate here. Oh, while on that subject, I wanted to do my little bit of public service for other people who struggle with corrosive environments. I know I have been known to harp and complain about the constant struggle with keeping tools and metals from oxidizing here. I have been using all types of different oils and sprays to try to control rust. Well, I think I might have found something that seems to be working far better than anything else I have tried to date. The product is called "Corrosion X" and it is made by a company in Dallas.

I first used this stuff to protect our little diving compressor hookah, and was impressed at how well it prevented rust. After getting frustrated by trying to use WD-40 and other products here, I imported several cans of this stuff through a local friend who runs a paint and supply shop here on Provo (thanks Brenton). So far, I am thinking this just might be one of the best products I have seen yet for protecting metal and loosening frozen parts. It's expensive, but it might just be worth it.

While I am passing on good information, I also wanted to tell you we have found a product that is deadly on ants. We don't have a huge ant problem here, but they do swarm around from time to time. I had tried spraying insecticides and putting out ant traps, with the usual results. Now, I have been using this inexpensive, simple concoction that uses Boric Acid as its active ingredient.

You put a couple drops of this stuff where the ants are crawling, and they go nuts over it. They will pile up over each other to eat this stuff. No kidding.

And then they run away and never come back. Fantastic. No poisons to spray, no obnoxious fumes, gloves, sprayers, etc.

I just realized that I am ending this post with a photo of a bunch of ants eating poison instead of a sunset. This is not a trend, don't worry. It's just that it has been cloudy and raining for the past several days and I don't have any fresh sunset photos. I will get some as soon as the weather clears. In the meantime, dealing with rust and bugs is definitely a part of life in the tropics.

Ok, okay. I can't end the post with a photo of a bunch of soon-to-be ex-ants. SO I went back into the photos we took on the way to Osprey Rock and found something else. (No, it's not a sunset. I don't HAVE any fresh sunsets. Not yet. Hang on a bit, til the weather clears.)

We were driving down that long dirt road toward the beach, La Gringa at the wheel because my new knee won't bend far enough to work a clutch yet. Suddenly she says "What's that? Is that cotton?" And I took a quick look and we were passing by this:

(That's part of Chalk Sound in the background.) And anyhow, she was right. It IS cotton, growing wild here alongside the road. I had written in a previous post, a year or so back, a little about the history of Provo, and the cotton plantations back in the early days, and how the soil played out and the slaves got left to fend for themselves. (see Chesire Hall Plantation )

We were kinda amazed, and actually slid to a stop in a cloud of dust, scraped Dooley off the bulkhead, and backed up to take a look. I even hobbled out with the camera. Actually I was wondering if it was really live cotton, or if someone had exploded a mattress or something.

And yep, it's real live cotton plants still suriviving after all those years. I pulled a boll off, and it was doing just fine, filled with cottonseeds. Well, it was doing fine until I pulled it off, I guess.

So, although it's not a pretty sunset or even a sunrise, it's gotta beat a pile of dead bugs as a way to end a post.


Unknown said...

Oh no you have given our secret beach away.......

we will see what we can do regarding Land Rover bits - Have you checked out for parts? I have used Transglobal to ship from UK to TCI successfully and cheaply. (advice: DHL tend to loose things)

Glad Knee replacement went well - may need CorrosionX.......hopefully not!

Anonymous said...

your blog posts always bring a smile to my face! being from the UK myself i was more than a little amused to hear some of the terms to do with land rover parts, i can honestly say they sound ridiculous to me, probably terms coined by poorly translated eastern european or asian workers constructing the parts cheaply on behalf of land rover

glad you are settling back in well and hope your knee heals up soon, still, at least you have a good excuse for being lazy

Anonymous said...

Ah, you might be right. I didn't think of that. I was wondering if maybe some of the LR nomenclature was left over from WWII. It's not really a huge problem, unless one is unfamiliar with what a part is called when trying to do an online search.

I spent a lot of time searching for what I would call a washer fluid check valve. Ah, but Land Rover calls that little thing a

"washer jet valve, non return"

Well, heck. If I had realized that I was looking for a washer jet valve, non return, I could probably have found in an hour or so....

The fun part is that the vehicle is just FILLED with little secret names like that...

Makes the maintenance interesting. Good thing I stock a full spread of spanners.

CaptRD said...

Boxfish are delicious - the hard exoskeleton is sliced open on the bottom and the belly cleaned out - can be steamed standing up or stuffed with a rice and peas mix and baked. The flesh is almost the same texture as New England Lobster claw meat and it only has one thick cartilage down the middle.
Terro is amazing - ants are everywhere here in the VI.
Heal and do your exercises!

Anonymous said...

There you are, right smack in the middle of the old "into every life..." saw, and you're still giving us beautiful, enlightening entertainment. God bless ya, Gringo.

Hope that knee gets better soon. It just might come in handy on the kayak rides.

"Tilt" does make a bit of sense, methinks. At least, the first convertible tops I remember had to tilt - sorta - on the way up and down.


Anonymous said...

You both give us "main land" dwellers hope that one day we can too escape to true island living.

Keep up the great work.


Anonymous said...

Hey Gringo, I am pretty sure the strange rock is fossilised dino poo ;)


Anonymous said...

Turk & caicos looks good for treasure hunting and live. I wish to be there but I don't have money to do it,...sad!!!

Existentialist said...

I'm glad your operation went well and I'm glad you're back. I need your posts to keep me dreaming of water that does not require a dry suit.

Sea Plus said...

Okay, you can’t stay anonymous forever …

Gringo … check
Texas … check
Beard … check
Electric musical instrument … check

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top

I’ll be in Provo in August…I’ll keep an eye out for ya.