- I am a skilled, light, and efficient packer
- I am laid-back, have been called unflappable on more than one occasion, and am willing to try anything once
- I can go for long periods of time without or with very little food or drink
- When in adventure mode, I don’t require much sleep
- I have a lot of stamina
- I carry my passport almost everywhere because you never know when the opportunity for adventure might present itself.
On my recent trip to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, I decided to use part of my 48-hour trip to do a little adventuring and seek out Blackbeard’s Castle. The resort we were staying at was out by the airport, about 1.5 miles from town. The options to get there were walk (80+ degrees, humid, my leg is still gimpy), taxi (more money than I really want to spend), hotel shuttle (10-minute wait and only goes into town, will not take people back to the hotel, which seems odd), or the local bus.
In the spirit of adventure, I opted for the local bus. Plus, I had gotten the low-down on how the bus works the night before.
- The bus stop was about three blocks from the hotel, past the stoplight, near the bright yellow gas station.
- Approach the bus, which looks a bit like a trolley, and ask the driver, “Are you the dollar bus?”
- Do not tell the driver where you want to go because they will tell you it costs more than a dollar, which is not true, but if they say that yes, they are the dollar bus, get in.
- When you arrive at your destination, push the button, get off and pay the driver $1.
I found the bus stop, with a bus next to it, and a man half in the cab, half out having a conversation with another person in Spanish.
“Are you the dollar bus?” I asked.
He had a mouth full of sandwich and mumbled something I couldn’t understand. I waited a bit, he swallowed, and said, “Yes, but I’m not working right now.” Then he pointed at his sandwich.
Then we stared at each other for a bit before another bus pulled up and I got on that. The only problem with taking the bus versus taking a cab or shuttle, is that I wasn’t precisely sure where I wanted to get off. I figured once I saw my destination, I would just know. Then after a little while, some other white people got onto the bus, so I figured that I’d just get off where they did. After sitting on the bus for more than thirty minutes, I was pretty sure that I had missed my stop, but I was also pretty sure that I was seeing a lot more of the island than most people there for only the weekend, so I sat back and enjoyed the sights and hills.
After getting off at the Red Hook stop, where the other white people got off, I realized that they were going to the ferry, and I was not. There was nothing in Red Hook except the ferry, a very well-promoted ATM, two restaurants, and a lot of sailboats. So I got back on the dollar bus, and asked one of the locals which stop was the downtown that I wanted, specifically, where was Blackbeard’s castle.
“Oh, you’ll be able to see it. I’m getting off a little before then, but once you see the water and all the pretty boats, get off and you should see it up the hill. I’d take a cab though because you have to go through a rough neighborhood, and with the economy down, and you being alone, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”
Then she got off the bus and went to church. Wonderful human being.
Except she didn’t count on how cheap I am and how little I worry about my personal safety. After wandering the length of the downtown area, and quickly discovering that had I not taken the extended bus ride and actually seen the island, I might have mistaken St. Thomas for nothing but jewelry, cigar, and perfume stores, I tried to find the castle.
I could not see it at all. Finally, I just started climbing the hill in the hopes that once I got a little higher, it would present itself.
I stopped at a hotel conveniently (for me) located halfway up the hill, inconveniently (for them) located in the bad neighborhood my bus friend had mentioned, and asked if I was on the right track. The nice woman at the desk assured me that I was, and once at the top of the hill, I’d just need to cut over to my right. So I climbed, and climbed the steepest hill in the world and once I reached a crossroad, looked around, and still did not see the castle. I asked two passersby where it was, and they directed me into the parking lot of a hotel. Finally, I started walking along the horizontal road, only to find that it gradually sloped downhill and brought me right back to the place I’d started climbing up.
It was then that I glanced up the hill, and actually saw the castle for the first time.
It was also then, that I decided that I did not want to climb the hill again as I was drenched with sweat, extremely thirsty, and my gimpy leg was killing me. Damn you, Blackbeard.
I went back to the beach.