Carnival at New Cruz Bay Tiki Bar

There is a new(ish) tiki bar in Cruz Bay called Drifters Tiki Bar at the previous Lumberyard location.  It is near where there were previously shipping container homes available for tour.

The tiki bar has tents setup this week with capacity limits being enforced, and virtual viewing available for people who want to watch from home and play it safe.

All content can be watched live on the USVI Festivals Facebook page.

Click here for previous post with more information about the Virtual St John Carnival: https://newsofstjohn.com/virtual-st-john-carnival/

Sahara Dust Update

The Sahara Dust has been the talk of the island over the last several days.  It is widely viewed to be the worst (or best depending on your perspective) case in roughly five decades.  The sun looked like the moon, and at times you could barely see the gorgeous views of our beautiful island.  But alas, the dust is moving on from St John and headed towards the states.  That means today is a beach day!

CNN is reporting:

“people in places like Brownsville in Texas and Houston will likely wake up to a beautiful sunrise and a hazier than normal sky.  Forecast models show the thicker concentration blanketing most of Central America and Mexico Thursday.”
You can check out this post to see how intense it was just a couple days ago:

https://newsofstjohn.com/a-natural-phenomenon-on-st-john/

 

First Results from Surge in St John COVID Testing……..

There were two positive COVID tests last week and the first positive test from community transmission.  As a result, some people on island have been a little on edge as their friends and relatives swarmed the health department to get tested, and patiently waited in quarantine for the results.

The first two rounds of results are in, and the results are fantastic so far:

  • One June 22nd, the Health Department reported that 14 tests came back negative, and zero positive.
  • On June 23rd, the Health Department reported another 28 tests came back negative!  That is a huge number considering only 112 people on St John have been tested in total.  Two results are TBD.

This essentially means that the contact tracing that was implemented in the aftermath of the positive tests last week have so far come back negative.  This is a hopeful sign that there was not significant community spread following the two positive tests.

It is likely that a significant number of people will continue to get tested this week.  It is quite possible/probable that new positive tests will still be found in the coming days and weeks.  But 42 negative tests and zero positive tests this week is a very positive sign that the Governor’s policies are working and that community spread is very limited.

Please continue to be vigilant on island about wearing your mask around other people.  Our testing numbers are very good but we are all in this together to keep it that way.

Here is a link to the previous COVID update.

Lind Point Trail: A Great Family Hike

If you want to explore St. John’s gorgeous National Parks by taking a hike and you’ve got young kids, you’re probably looking for a trail that fits two criteria: it’s short and easy and will be worth the trek. The Lind Point Trail delivers on these two fronts.

We parked just off North Shore Road in one of the gravel parking lots and started our hike by the large brown wooden “Virgin Islands National Park” sign. It probably took us twenty minutes or less to get from our car down to the beach—and that’s with a little one walking at a near-glacial pace.

The hike itself, which offers expansive views of Cruz Bay and the islands and cays of Pillsbury Sound, was easy enough that my four-year-old managed without ever sitting down in protest or demanding a piggy-back ride. It was rocky in many places but is well-traveled and never too steep. There are a few different paths you can take to get down to the beach, but we took the shortest and easiest route by following the signs that pointed to the beaches (even with its relative ease and the beautiful beach ending, I would still recommend sneakers over sandals).

The trail leads to Salomon Beach and Honeymoon Beach. We hung out at Salomon since that’s where the trail spit us out and because it looked like Honeymoon was the busier spot. Don’t get me wrong, it was not crowded, and we had plenty of beautiful white-sand beach to ourselves. Tons of folks were snorkeling and taking pictures, and my kids had a great time spotting different fish, sea urchins, and coral. The water was warm from the sun, but the breeze kept us nice and cool.

After a couple of hours I had to beg and plead for my kids to get out of the water so we could go home. They absolutely loved this spot—so much so that they’ve even asked to do this hike again. I would definitely recommend this hike to families with young kids.

What’s It Like to Have a Movie Made About Your Life? One Island Resident Knows…

Homer Hickam
Homer Hickam, Owner of Skyridge Villa

Ever wonder what it would be like to make a Hollywood movie? How about a Hollywood movie based on your life? Well, one island resident knows and he wants to share his tales with all of you.

It started back in 1994 when Homer Hickam’s short story about his life as a young boy in Coalwood, West Virginia was published in Air & Space magazine. Hollywood came calling almost immediately, as did a plethora of book agents from New York. And all seemed to want the same thing – they wanted to hear more details his life and his childhood aspiration to become a rocket scientist. Well Homer obliged and soon began writing his memoir Rocket Boys. The book debuted in 1998 and one year later, October Sky was released, a movie based on Homer’s life.

Homer and his wife Linda own Skyridge villa in Upper Carolina. They’ve been part-time island residents for more than 10 years, splitting their time between the island and Alabama.

Ever since Rocket Boys was published, people have asked Homer the same questions: How and why did he write the book, and how exactly was the movie made? Well it may have taken a bit of time, but Homer has finally gotten around to answering those questions.

“I’ve been a little busy since I wrote Rocket Boys with a lot more books, but now I’ve gotten around to writing the answers to those questions and a lot more in my new Kindle Single From Rocket Boys to October Sky,” Homer recently wrote in an email. “Writing Rocket Boys was not an easy journey. In fact after I wrote it, I said, ‘I got a million dollars of psychotherapy I didn’t even know I needed!’

“The making of October Sky wasn’t easy, either. From Rocket Boys to October Sky gives lots of behind-the-scenes stories both on-set and off. Before the first frame of film was exposed, I was involved with the writing of the screenplay. My comment when I saw the first draft – ‘I’m going to have to go up to West Virginia and apologize to everyone in the state!” – perhaps gives you an idea of how that went.

“When you read this book, you’ll be by my side as I struggle with the complexities of how a major Hollywood motion picture is made, and learn how and why I disagreed with aspects of the film even while I admired the dedication and professionalism of the men and women making it. You’ll also be alongside the director and the producers and the actors as they create one of the most beloved movies ever.”

October Sky starred a young Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Homer, as well as Laura Dern.

Homer on the set of October Sky. From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg,  O'Dell Carroll.
On the set of October Sky – From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg & O’Dell Carroll.

In addition to his writings, Homer is also involved with the the Wounded Warriors through Team River Runner (TRR). TRR helps raise money to bring wounded warriors and their spouses to the island for one week of healing each November. Homer, a veteran himself, is proud to support the men in women in their efforts to heal.

“As a veteran, I love to help veterans as much as I can,” Homer said.

Homer will meet with the wounded warriors when they visit during the first week of November, as he does every year. Together they chat and inspire one another. The wounded warriors are also treated to a special screening of October Sky.

And what advice does he give the men and women who may be struggling?

“I tell them that there is a path out,” Homer said. “I suggest they get up in the morning and watch the sunrise. You’ve got the light and the darkness. You’ve got to choose the light.”

Homer Wounded Warriors
Homer speaking with the wounded warriors.

In addition to his work with the wounded warriors, Homer is also in the midst of writing a new book. It involves a pet alligator and one couple’s efforts to drive it from West Virginia to Florida in an old Buick back in 1935. And the best part – it’s a true story about his parents and his mother’s ex-boyfriend who happened to be Buddy Epson of The Bevelly Hillbillies. Stay tuned for more on that one…

If you’d like to read From Rocket Boys to October Sky, you’ll need either a Kindle reader, an e-reader (iPad, Android, etc.), or a computer with the Kindle Application software. You can download the book on Amazon.com for $2.99 by clicking here.


What’s for dinner, and where?

St. John has a number of fine restaurants.  Some really talented people are working hard in those kitchens, trying to do their best with an unpredictable supply chain of meat, fish, vegetables, and so on.  And the high prices at those restaurants reflect both the challenge and the execution.

 Some first-time visitors were wondering on TripAdvisor, “Since groceries are so expensive … is it actually cheaper (to cook at the villa) or (is it) the same as eating out?”

Monkeynoclimb’s answer was fast and conclusive. “Still cheaper to eat in. (Besides,) many times we are too tired to leave the house after a day on the beach, too.”

For couples, going out can be economical, if you go to the right-priced places. “We always go to Candi’s BBQ one night, hit Banana Deck a couple times for a late lunch at the bar, and Aqua Bistro in Coral Bay open night for Tuna Ponzu,” said Bluewater43.

Brenda-2004 said, “Just as expensive to cook a meal in than to just go out, unless you are doing high-end dining.”

Virgin Islands veteran Rick G passed along that, “Groceries are more expensive (than home). Staples are 10-25 percent more. Prepackaged meals, frozen chicken tenders, bag cereal;? More expensive.”  His recommendation: get a whole chicken at Starfish Market, add Cruz Bay Grill Rub and hot sauce from St. John Spice, rice and peas, “and you have four to six meals.”

Coral Bay’s only road in and out, in danger

As if driving on the left side of the road isn't challenge enough for tourists, now they have to worry about there being no road.

So say worried residents in Coral Bay where heavy rains three years ago undermined portions of Centerline Road which still haven't been repaired.  The Public Works Department is still preparing "bid packages for the remediation work", the Virgin Islands Daily News was told.

Now, the problem is worse.  Heavy, heavy rains last weekend did more damage.  The Daily News quotes Denise Barbier saying there are at least five places along two miles of Centerline that could collapse beneath a car, taxi, school bus, or construction equipment.  "There is nothing under the road," she said.

The News reported Public Works has put up some barricades to keep drivers away from the dangerous sections. But, the newspaper said, a week ago, three of them fell over the side of the road.  Obviously, these are not the concrete Jersey barriers we're used to seeing in the States.

"If the road is closed or collapses, then there is no way in or out," said Coral Bay homeowner Franz Jaggar. On the other hand, he said if that happens, "Skinny Legs will do big business."  

As Hill Street's Sgt. Phil Esterhause might have said, "Drivers … Be safe out there." 

Puppies on parade at Wagapalooza

Waga_2
Waga_5
Several hundred people and dozens of dogs are expected to turn out for the 12th annual Wagapalooza all-island pet show on Saturday.  This year the event will be hald at the VI National Park ball field, instead of the hot, noisy, dusty Sprauve School.

The annual fund raiser for the St. John Animal Care Center draws dogs of all shapes and sizes and, of course, many breeds – often in the same body because many parading around the show ring were Island and rescue dogs.

Many of the dogs in competition are flaunting their good looks and/or cute costumes.  A few always try to brazenkly influence the judges by licking their faces.

Elaine Estern, a devoted dog lover and world-class watercolor artist, was chosen to design the official t-shirt and she'll be selling them at the event.

Promotion for this year's Wagapalooza was nil, online … the Wagapalooza Web site's not been changed in a year, and there's no picture of the t-shirt. What the heck!  Send $25 to the Animal Care Center here, and they'll send you a shirt, and you'll know what Elaine's design is.

Wagapalooza starts at 5 p.m.

Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus Photography was on hand to chronicle last year's event and uploaded hundreds of pictures from the event. Click for Bob Schlesinger's portfolio of Wagapalooza, 2012.

Waga_6

Maho Bay: countdown to closing

Mahoclose
These are the final hours of Maho Bay Campground.

Stanley Selengut’s lease expires at the end of June and the last guests at the eco-resort are expected leave tomorrow. And St. John may be the loser.  He told the St. John Source that “Maho’s closure will cost the territory … $20 million in lost revenue” from the some 12,000 guests a year.

For a few weeks, the Maho Bay Blog has been showing a countdown clock, which you can see here.

The blog also ironically links to a (recent?) video segment on Kathie Lee and Hoda touting Maho Bay as a great place for a family vacation or even a getaway without the kids.

The best part of the piece, thought the Inquiring Iguana, was when either Kathie Lee or Hoda said, “St. Johns is gorgeous .”  Duh!

Selengut has not yet announced the logistics of closing down the resort. He and his staff have to dispose of millions of dollars’ worth of linens, furnishings, and equipment.  It could be the world’s largest garage sale.

Selengut’s not leaving the island.  He owns Harmony Resort and Concordia Eco-Resort, both of which are near Maho.

St. John Returning to normal

A check of St. John Webcams shows some on and some off.  The "on" includes St. John Brewers' beautiful shot across Pillsbury sound.  Remember the islands like this.

Brewers

St. John's John Fuller (he also heads up St. John Rescue) blogged on StormCarib.com that Mongoose Junction's juice was restored midday Wednesday. 

"Looks like St. John caught the most of Earl," he continued, "but most of the folks I talked to in and around Cruz Bay were thankful it was mostly a vegetation clearing with little damage."

The Governor lifted curfew last night since electricity has largely been
restored on St. Thomas and St. John.  Government offices and schools
are also open today.