Puerto Rico

by Chubchub couple


A last minute, much needed vacation to the Caribbean that  I will attempt and surely fail to put to justice. It started, like many of these trips do, as a wistful kayak search, a day dream if you will - something to pass the time at work and to imagine a brighter reality than the dim, flat surroundings of the Midwest. After a long happy discussion with hubby which ended in us resolving to save the money because it is the responsible grown up thing to do, I just booked the flights impulsively. And with Delta's free checked bag and a semi guess that we would get seats upgraded at least on some leg of the trip, it felt so right.

And so began the honeymoon we had for so long wanted. Just the hubby and me flying off to the Caribbean, into the much beloved arms of adventure. 

 

San Juan

We flew through Atlanta, to San Juan. We saw Florida and Nassau and some other Caribbean islands from the plane. When we finally landed, the weather was sunny and 86 and we warmly welcomed that from the dismal and wet 30's and 40's we had been having in Nebraska. 

San Juan Airport was bustling with American tourists. I also noticed as soon as I stepped off the plane that the average level of attractiveness shoots through the roof. People work out and are generally attractive. Even the tourists seem to have gotten prettier, or maybe its just the sunlight we haven't seen in weeks!

Once we got in a rental and started navigating to our hotel near Viejo San Juan, it became obvious that I would love driving on the island and hubby would hate it. Friends and family, imagine, a little hilly island with often narrow streets where everyone drives as fast, aggressive and with as much abandon as I drive with here. It's a wonderful, chaotic, sometimes scary drive. People are also quick to hit the horn. The signs are mostly in Spanish and it was funny hearing our GPS pronounce cities like Loquillo and Fajardo in the default American accent voice. Even if the drive hits you with a little more adrenaline than you care for, the views are breathtaking. You are always near a beach in San Juan, since its a port city. The music is incredible and the food is delicious. They don't call it La Isla Del Elcanto (The Island of Enchantment) for nothing. 

We headed to Viejo San Juan almost as soon as we got into our hotel. Viejo San Juan is something to see. The sometimes narrow, pedestrian streets are lined with touristy stores full of souvenirs, tourist traps like Pandora, local craft artists, caricature artists, street food, restaurants, and of course everything is right on the port, with Forts jutting into the sea, kite surfers in the background. The pictures and words will not do justice - it is something to be seen and experienced.

We crossed off jet skiing off of our bucket lists on this vacation. Much like driving in San Juan, this takes a lot of, shall we say, cajones? Going only about 30 mph on the jet ski when the water is 29,000 feet deep and the waves are fairly high is scary, especially when you break. "Breaking" in terms of jet ski terminology is basically when you go fast enough that the jet ski is in the air flying, and then crashes into the water that is moving in waves.  Even though I jumped into the water without securing my life vest properly and hubby literally saved my life, I would, in a heart beat go jet skiing again. In fact I'm pretty certain that crossing jet skiing off of the bucket list just added "Buy A Jet Ski" to my bucket list.

EL YUNQUE & fajardo

The day before we had to leave and go back to the mainland, we ventured out of San Juan and into El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest located on American soil. With rains coming and not having a lot of time, we hiked a bit and then headed off to Fajardo.

On the way, we stopped to get mangoes from a farmer on the side of the road. With our half- knowledge of spanish, a product of Duolingo, living in Miami and some middle school Spanish, we managed to walk away with a bag full of "chinos", what the island called oranges. Not wanting to stand in the way of spontaneity and adventure, we happily obliged the farmer who reassured us that the oranges were very sweet. 

A beach on Fajardo

Having found a tranquil spot on Fajardo, we swam until sunset in the much calmer, shallower waters. Fajardo has a ferry that takes you to the island of Vieques. We didn't want to go to a different island since we had a flight the next day so we stayed in Fajardo. The best and most memorable part of this trip is unfortunately not on camera. 

We went on a kayak tour of Mosquito Bay that night and got to see up close every aspiring marine biologist's wet dream up close. The bay is bioluminescent - the mangroves in the bay along with warm waters, and many other intricate factors are apparently a great place for the bioluminescent dinoflagellates that are teeming in the waters.

Movement triggers the light, so touching the water makes it sparkle as does the kayak paddles, fish and anything else moving in the water. It's a very surreal phenomenon that has existed for centuries. The native Taino people that inhabited the islands think of these waters as sacred.

Overall, Puerto Rico was an incredible, once in a lifetime trip to a part of America that more people should visit. 

Fajardo


Weekend Trip to Minneapolis!

by Faz (Chub Hub)


This was our first time in Minneapolis. Although we went during the end of winter it was still really cold. The city was just hit by a snow storm so there was snow still piled up along the street. We made plans to eat a Thai restaurant called Amazing Thailand in Downtown Minneapolis, but after we got to the restaurant we found out the kitchen had just closed. We left and went to a Russian tapas bar called Hammer & Sickle. Chub Wife ordered the escargot and I sat in disappointment and hunger since I was more interested in what I call "real" food, not appetizers.

I checked on Yelp for another place eat and found a place called The Cafeteria. I ordered the chicken and waffles and Chub Wife ordered the shrimp and grits. The chicken was fried and beer battered and the waffles were made with whiskey. I'm from the south and I have eaten lot of fried chicken but this was by far the best. You can read more here, but sadly they are closed now.

The other highlight of the trip was the Mall of America, ironically owned by the Canadians. We took some pictures in the lego store and the Nickelodeon theme park inside.


Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River

by Gigi (Chub Wife)


A most appropriate track for my most recent trip to the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia) and incidentally, Shenandoah National Park. On Skyline drive right around sunset, we stopped the car at one point for a mama bear and her cubs crossing the road! The pictures just don't do justice to the majestic nature of the park.

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Saint Louis

by Gigi (Chub Wife)


Saint Louis was a stop along our 1000+ mile road trip from Florida to Nebraska. We arrived at night and I was greeted with negative 20s Fahrenheit temperatures (-29C), a steep change from the 80F (27C) winters of Florida I have grown accustomed to over the years. To boot, there was a snow blizzard all through Tennessee and I was driving through the outskirts of the Appalachian/Blue Ride Mountains.  

Tennessee Mountains before the snow started

Tennessee Mountains before the snow started

We spent the night at a hotel using the Hotel Tonight app. This was my first encounter with the app and I was majorly disappointed by the hotel because it was old and the lights went out in the middle of my shower and no one came to fix it. To HT's credit, they apologized and issued me a small credit for a future stay. The next morning we went to explore the Arch! This was my first time in Saint Louis and I was very excited as I had no idea you could climb to the top. In my ignorance, I had always believed it was a fixed sculpture you could only look at. Living all over the world has its perks- but some things that was probably obvious to natives still come as a surprise to me.

The Gateway Arch, as it is called also has a small museum at its base and it is free. 

A Mount Rushmore replica of sorts

A Mount Rushmore replica of sorts

Old Caravans that went west

Old Caravans that went west

A stuffed bear at the entrance of the museum

A stuffed bear at the entrance of the museum

Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana Purchase

Chub Chub Couple likes guns

Chub Chub Couple likes guns

Animated Native Americans who tell stories

Animated Native Americans who tell stories

After exploring the Lewis and Clark like exhibits, we bought our tickets and went to the top of the Arch. Some interesting facts if you care for them: The arch is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide. It is the highest man-made monument in America, the tallest stainless steel monument in the world and world's tallest arch. It was built as a symbol of the westward expansion of the United States in the early 60s and took two years to build. Because of the diagonal shape, standard elevators can't be used. The arch had trams built with egg shaped five seat pods.

The pods are tiny! The doors to the pods are very short. They start about a foot off the ground and at just a little over 5 feet myself, you can see they're probably about 4 feet tall. When you get inside it feels like you are in an old science fiction movie going to outer space.

Waiting for the tram pod to arrive

Waiting for the tram pod to arrive

View of the Missouri River from the top of the Arch

View of Downtown Saint Louis from the top of the Arch

Chub Chub Couple at the gift shop.

Chub Hub by the base of the Arch.

Took this picture lying down. You can faintly see the observation windows at the top.

We made some snow angels for people to find from the top.

Overall, if you're within a 3 hour drive or in town on business, its worth checking out the Arch from the top. We're definitely happy we took the time to make a pit stop here.