Sunday, October 30, 2016


Robert Brickman and John - time to be with friends at Oktoberfest
Every Fall, many cities around the world celebrate a phenomenon  called Oktoberfest. This is when people get together with friends, family and strangers tipping steins full of ale, eating German food, and singing both familiar and unfamiliar songs with gusto. 

So, what's the history of this world-wide phenomenon?

It started back in 1810 in Munich with the wedding of King Ludwig and Princess Therese. Unlike a lot of royalty these two decided that the 'common' people should enjoy such a wonderful event as their wedding. They invited the citizens of Munich to witness the exchanging of vows and it turned into a 12 day celebration when the city turned out in droves.

Honey - what did we start?
Fun was enjoyed by all. Thus - Oktoberfest was born.

Well, J and L can't go back in time to visit King Ludwig but we can head to Big Bear Lake in Southern California to visit friends and enjoy the excitement of Oktoberfest.

Brats, sauerkraut, German potato salad, dumplings and beer in steins (not saying J and L had beer but saw many people enjoying gallons).  The guests seemed to be in the perfect spirit of Oktoberfest - singing, drinking, eating and enjoying themselves. Of course there are silly contests like holding beer steins weighing five pounds to see who is the strongest person. We really liked these!

Look at these studs - no sweat only strength

Strength and beauty - tough competition.
J and L met up with a great friend Bob and his wonderful family on a previous Saturday to spend a few hours at the 46th annual Oktoberfest in Big Bear - Southern California.

The event which counts in the thousands of enthusiasts every weekend during the celebration which runs from September 10th to October 29th was colorful, loud, and nothing but fun.

It was fun - that's it - fun with friends and strangers laughing, singing, eating, dancing, and just being around people.

Vicki and Laureen enjoying the dancing 

The youngsters enjoying the music and the dancing
Not much to report except that we all had fun - Oktoberfest is just that - go out during the end of September and the month of October with friends to enjoy good times. Eat - drink and laugh - that's all.

That's all J and L did with Bob - along with his spouse Vicki and son Jeremy - nothing but fun in mind.

The crew at Oktoberfest
As researchers we at J and L think it's important to look into local events and see if they are what you may want to experience. If not then don't go. If so - then by all means go.

If good friends are in the equation then you must go and enjoy yourselves. We researched Oktoberfest and liked what we learned but the idea of spending the afternoon with fabulous friends was all we needed to ensure we'd be there. 

This is what happens when friends get together - fun!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Island Hopping

The Turks and Caicos Islands are Nature's way of saying – come on down for a warm swim in crystal blue waters along pure white sand. An invitation like that is not one to turn down and most people don’t.

Ah - a warm beautiful beach - seems enticing!
Who would?

Besides the beaches, there are other places just a short distance from Provo (that’s what the locals call Providenciales) that are worth a visit. Something totally different than what most tourists would imagine. And that would be the islands of North and Middle Caicos.
First stop - North Caicos.

Welcome to the jungle, baby!

One of numerous ponds surrounded by lush jungle on North Caicos
This island, which is about the same size as Provo, is a must for those who want to venture off the regular traveled path and see what a nearly deserted island is all about. Yes, there are plenty of long stretches of bright soft sand to tread upon barefoot while sticking ones toes into the aqua colored water but there is also the intoxicating draw of the green and lush jungle.

North Caicos can only be reached by boat or small plane. And there are not a lot of amenities for the person who likes to travel in comfort and style. There are a few hotels but nothing like the luxury resorts located in Provo – the jumping off point for travel to the other islands.
J and L were excited as they arrived at the TCI ferry service marina departure point in Provo near Big Blue and across from Mangrove Cay at six a.m. for the thirty minute boat ride to North Caicos.

Step in an buy a ticket for island hopping

Now Sit back and enjoy the trip
When visiting North Caicos one should rent a four wheel drive Jeep. There are plenty of rental vehicles available but the chance to go off road onto the sandy beaches or the thick jungle is too much of a temptation. The explorer needs a machine which will take him or her where their adventurous heart desires.

That’s what J and L chose on their last visit to the British West Indies. A Jeep with the torque and ability to go where they wanted without complaint.

A Jeep is the only way to go!
A different day was planned while visiting this small piece of paradise in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Though it is thought the Turks and Caicos are in the Caribbean they are not, exactly. The forty islands and cays are actually located in the Atlantic Ocean, 550 miles southeast of Miami. But with the long history of early explorers and legendary pirates the Caribbean seems to fit the geographical term for this locale. It isn’t but does a precise location always matter?

For pirate treasure, yes – but for the rest, not so much.

Today - not so much
After getting our jeep – rather hinky at first when a gentleman named Roger strolled up to us as we disembarked and said our Jeep was waiting. J had never spoken to Roger but instead had made an inquiry with a woman named Maria the night before about renting the Jeep for the day. How did Roger know we were the ones he was looking for? Perhaps, as J likes to believe he has that certain look of a well-seasoned traveler and EXPLORER is etched across his ‘manly’ forehead.

Turns out Roger does this regularly with people coming over from Provo. He smiled, we smiled and within a few minutes we were off bumping down the road toward unknown adventure – of course we had a map given to us by Roger.

By the way – Roger didn’t know anyone by the name of Maria from Provo. Hmm. But he was the only man with jeeps -- so the deal was struck.

North Caicos has a population of around 1,400 compared to Provo which boasts nearly 24,000 residents - not counting the extra thousands of tourists who visit weekly.

But who is counting? It's the emptiness of the place which demanded the adventure begin. 
Not far from the docks is an abandoned resort - stopped in the middle of the real estate disaster in 2009. What was started was not finished and only the ocean breezes and buzzing insects occupy what would have been a first class destination. Very sad.

Very sad indeed for the developer
After leaving the would-be resort, we were off for breakfast at My Dees Restaurant on the Kings Road near the town of Whitby and marveled at the detail of preparation for our fare. Delicious and filling and a good start for a day of traveling.

Driving through the lush landscape emphasized the difference between North Caicos and Provo. Most times being able to see a yard or two off the roadway was impossible due to the growth of the vegetation. Stopping here or there to snap some photos showed us the countryside was alive with sounds of insects and the myriad of bird species was nearly uncountable as they winged here and there in the air near us.

It was the bats during the early morning that was really entertaining especially as we exited the Jeep for photo-ops and they seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them.

The Wade's Green Plantation was a must see since it was a Loyalist’s home after leaving the newly formed United States in the late 18th century. Long roads led the way through thick and thicker undergrowth – the place was alive with sound and the humidity was only making it more exciting.

Moved from the Colonies to TCI during the Revolution

Thick jungle background instead of barren rocky like Provo
After leaving the historic site of Wade Green Plantation a side trip was taken to Flamingo Pond – it is boasted in the guidebooks that this pond has the largest collection of flamingoes of any of the islands.

This is what Flamingo Pond is supposed to look like - but not when J and L visited
Thirty minutes later combing the pond and skies J and L ended up with a large goose egg – not one flamingo was seen. So much for guidebooks but the mosquitos were biting – back to the idea of complaints and not about the Jeep. Dozens of bites later – some probably sand fleas left J and L feeling like pin cushions.

Forgot to bring the DEET! Silly travelers.

After spending the better part of the morning exploring we found ourselves crossing the causeway into Middle Caicos (again about the same size of North Caicos with a population of nearly 280) and then to Bombara Beach.  (As L points out -- the one the rum is named after -- ah, perhaps that's the reason the rum's always gone.) A nearly deserted three mile long pearl white sandy beach begging to be laid upon. Only four other people were there in the hours we spent soaking up the late morning sunshine and enjoying a dip in the warm and shallow waters.

Forested jungle to water's edge

An island 1/4 mile away - water is only thigh deep

Sandy, wet and rested we headed back toward North Caicos.

Nourishment was needed after the activity of the day and so it was taken at the Mudjin Bar and Grill located at the Blue Horizon Resort. Another wonderful meal and views of the Mudjin Harbour just added to the delight of a late lunch.

Great food and terrific view from the Mudjin Bar and Grill
After a quick detour to view the Indian Cave dating back to pre-Columbus times which was awe-inspiring we were back on the road to the ferry on North Caicos.

Indian Cave - near Mudjin Bar and Grill
We made it with barely any time left before missing the last boat off the island for the return trip to Provo wondering where the time had gone.

So, on this last visit to the British West Indies J and L explored the wonders of two other islands in the world of Turks and Caicos.

It is always well worth it to do some island hopping when the chance offers itself – the sights and solitude was well worth it.

Lots of exploring to do while Island Hopping in TCI