Monthly Archives: February 2010

St Thomas Report on 24 Dec 09


The town in St Thomas

The town in St Thomas

See route map here.

The day started out a little gray as Jessica and I disembarked the ship with the bikes and made out way out of Long Bay by about 9am. Our intent was to make our way out of the harbor area, ride through town quickly on the way out, and make our way to the airport and points west.

Long Bay in St Thomas

St. Thomas has strange driving rules and habits. They drive on the left, even thought this is American territory. Apparently, though, it was a Danish territory fifty or so years ago. Thus the left hand driving rules. The US worked out an agreement to take control of the island around the 1950’s or 1960’s when they wanted to use the island for NASA tracking of launches for the space program. They decided to leave the driving rules as they were.

The island looked pretty flat for most of the first part of the trip but we knew there would be hills around and beyond the airport. We hoped we could avoid any major climbs while still being able to look at some of the beaches and other sights along the coast.
Our wishes were borne out for the first part through town. We rode along the coast in frontof the commercial district just inland of the harbor. The road went along the harbor for a mile or two past a nice beach right in the middle of the city. As we passed out of the commercial district, we entered an area with what I would call suburban homes, and then into the Nisky Shopping Center.

Typical downtown houses at the outskirts of the harbor area.

Again, a lot of stores here catered to the tourists, but we also got an idea of what the local supermarkets were like. We passed gasoline stations every half mile or so.

Prior to looking at the airport, we turned off on a detour to get to the top of a hill which should have great views of the entire southern coast. We passed through a commercial harbor area and then onto a raod which circled the hill as it rose. We were able to ride up the entire hill. At the top, we found the local version of the Federal Aviation Agency with offices managing the airport and the harbor too, I think. We stopped in and looked around, but the building didn’t seem to be set up for visitors. The lookout on the hill gives a good view of Krum Bay as well as the offshore islands south of the harbor.

We headed back down the hill around and around and then headed west toward the airport again. The area we passed contained large tanks which I assumed held aviation fuel for the airport and possibly marine fuel for the ships. The final road into the airport from this direction takes you past Lindbergh Bay and some very nice homes. Building was going hot and heavy in this area and the homes were large. We turned into a side road and into the entrance for a small hotel looking for a way to get to this beach. Eventually, we just parked the bikes and walked through a passageway between the rooms and walked to the beach. This is a very nice, almost private beach. A few hotel guests were playing beach tennis and stopped to watch us as we tried out the water, getting our feet wet. Jessica even dipped her hair in the Caribbean water. But we only stayed 15 minutes or so.

We put our shoes back on and grabbed the bikes for the ride to the airport. Not large or very busy, the airport had a small newly built terminal and 10 or so cars drove up to the building as we were riding through. I think the airport is busy only a few hours of each day and we were perhaps visiting an hour or so before the next flights.

Not finding much to warrant further interest in the airport, we retraced our path out to the main highway and turned west. This part of the ride was beginning to become more rural and also more hilly. The next several miles turned out to be a series of climbs and drops, each up to 100 feet in height. Most were gradual but at least one of them was so steep that we walked up the last quarter mile. We then passed through the St Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. .

St Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin islands

I saw few students or other university people walking through this part of the campus but I could recognize dorms a few hundred yards inland and I was a few foursomes playing golf on what turned out to be the campus golf course. It was a little crude with rough greens and unkept sandtraps, but the hills probably made the course somewhat challenging.

During this part of the trip I could also see birds flying 100-200 feet above the hills. I believe many of them were vultures. A little further along the way and about two hours into the ride, we came upon Brewers Bay and a nice beach. I believe this is a beach for the locals because I didn’t see any tourists there. I did see many families of what I guessed were locals because of their dark skin.
We rode past the beach and into some hills again when I spotted birds diving into the ocean through the trees. In this case, the road was 50-100s yard off the water. I stopped at a hill perch 50 feet above the water and watched birds diving for 15 minutes. Jessica got some pictures, but we decided to end our western journey here and backtrack to the beach to get a better view of the birds.

Brewers Bay

Birds diving through the trees beyond Brewers Bay

A couple rode up to us here as we were getting ready to move. They asked what we were looking at and asked to join us to look more closely at the birds.

We rode onto the beach and parked the bikes. Here we learned that the couple was also on a cruise ship, although one different from ours. We mentioned our bicyclecruising blog and they thought it a wonderful idea. We all walked down the beach toward the birds and watched two pelicans and another seabird circling 50 feet over the water and then streamlining their bodies before diving into the ocean. Most of the time they came out with no visible catch, but each of them eventually won a fish, perhaps 8-12 inches long. I surmised that this was a good fishing area for both birds and people because we spotted several boats and surfboards anchored near shore with fishing gear including nets and snorkels. We didn’t see any people fishing here, though.

We then headed back to the boat along a pretty direct route past the airport entrance, past the Nisky Center shopping Center and onto the commercial area along the coast in sight of our ship. We stopped at what seemed to be a local place called the Green House (I later learned this was one of a chain of restaurants found on several of the Virgin Islands). There were several families from the cruise ships here for lunch. I finally got to try conch here. In this case, the conch was in the form of conch fritters with a dipping sauce. The conch was not a single piece of meat but more like a meatball. Nevertheless, I thought it was wonderful. I had it with Blackbeard Ale,a local beer brewed outside the Virgin Islands, and finished with key lime pie which also was excellent. Jessica ordered a grilled cheese sandwich which she said was OK.

Lunch at the Green House on St Thomas

Key Lime Pie and beer at the Green House

On the way back to the ship we stopped for Jessica to shop for some souvenirs—t-shirts and post cards. She also bought a wrap for after the beach. By the time we returned to the ship, we were pooped. We had ridden 25-30 miles over the previous 5 hours.

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