Wow, time really does fly! Somehow our summer in Colorado is over already. We spent our last week squeezing in as many visits with friends as humanly possible…. Oh, and eating lots of Mexican food!
We spent our last weekend in CO with Micki and Nathan in Denver. We got to enjoy a beautiful summer evening on their Caribbean themed patio, the Rhum Shack… with very non-Caribbean oysters, champagne, and cheese.
We were especially lucky to be able to celebrate Micki’s graduation from the Lighthouse creative writing program – she’s one talented lady!
We managed to squeeze in brunch with our former ski condo besties, and with little Ester 😍
And just like that, we loaded up the Bat Mobile, with way more junk than we started with (Darn you, Costco!) and pointed the bow back east. Three loooooooong days on the straight, fast highways through Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and (finally) Vermont. We made it! This beautiful green slice of paradise will be home for the next month or so as we hike the Long Trail from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. Wish us luck!
Don’t worry though, Capt Mike’s still got a little pirate in him. He managed to find a painkiller in Burlington, VT🏴☠️
In case you were wondering, the crew of Sanitas are land lubbers this summer. Like most everyone, we’ve been separated from our friends and family way too long due to Covid, so we’re making a grand USA cross country tour this hurricane season. We’re loving the quality family time (with lots of hugs – thanks vaccines!) the opportunity to cook delicious meals in a full size kitchen, and the chance to stretch our legs and run, hike, and go on bike rides. There have been a few instances of culture shock for sure, as we readjust to life in “the land of plenty” but we’re having a great time. Have you SEEN how huge a Walmart Superstore is? Especially compared to a typical grocery store on Bequia in The Grenadines?!?
First stop has been visiting family in Upstate New York. We bought a used car (we sure have good timing, huh? Buying a car during a nation-wide car shortage?) installed a bike rack, and hit the road. We told our folks to have the ToDo lists ready – what’s the point of all those boat projects if we haven’t learned something to help out with our parents’ home maintenance while we visit? We helped with lawn work, cleaned out basements and garages, configured streaming accounts and Bluetooth speakers, and even rebuilt a fieldstone wall. Or at least Capt. Mike did. I mostly supervised and took photos. Did you know you can put almost any old junk by the side of a country road and SOMEONE will stop and take it?
But it’s not all work! We’ve also caught up with high school friends, and been tourists in our home towns.
We had a great time looking through photo albums at my parents house in the southern tier of New York. Recognize this future sailor?
I’m really enjoying the chance to get some land-based exercise again. Not much of a swimmer, I’m loving alternating between hiking in the national forest, building my running endurance with the C25K app, and getting used to my road bike again. You know what they say – it’s just like riding a bike, lol.
I know, I know. It’s not as exotic as life on a small sailboat. But we’re enjoying it! Please follow along, as we start our epic road trip to Colorado on Monday, and as we attempt to get in shape to backpack the Long Trail in Vermont this fall. Watch out mountains! These sea level sailors are coming for ya!
Time flies when you’re having fun! We’ve somehow spent a month in Admiralty Bay, Bequia in The Grenadines.
First, we enjoyed the holiday festivities. Then we hired Mr. Winfield Sargeant to do some varnish work on Sanitas. It takes a long time to build up a good coat of varnish when you allow 24-hours of dry time between coats! Especially when you’re applying ten coats, and when it rains every other day in the tropics!
Luckily, we’ve fallen in love with this beautiful small island and we’re in no real hurry to leave! The anchorage is well-protected from the Christmas winds (although it gets rolly at times) and there’s a lovely winding boardwalk that connects the beaches on the south side of the bay to town.
There are several short hikes to scenic overlooks, and when we get tired of these, we just pick a direction and walk to the end of the road! Once you get out of town, traffic is light, and you can only walk two or three miles in any direction until you run out of island!
Sometimes, the walks bring delightful surprises! Such as young Miguel who adopts and feeds the tortoises he finds in his garden…
Or the lovely Bequia Heritage Museum which preserves some of the wooden boats and simple tools that islanders have been using to hunt whales for hundreds of years. The UN has granted special permission for Bequia to hunt whales in order to maintain their history and culture. While I certainly have mixed feelings about hunting whale, throwing a harpoon at that ginormous creature from an 18-foot open wooden boat powered only by sail or oars means the whale has more than a fighting chance. Years go by between successful whale hunts but when they get one, the islanders use every last bit of the whale – meat, oil, skin, and bone.
On our most recent walk (to the end of the road in a northeasterly direction) we visited Mr. Orten King at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. 82 year old Mr. King has been working to preserve and protect hawksbill turtles for over 25 years. He maps and protects turtle hatching grounds, and raises baby turtles in his salt water tanks for three years before releasing them back into the wild. I’d certainly rather see a turtle in the wild rather than in a tank, but I hope this little project is successful in increasing the hawksbill population here in the Grenadines!
The island of Guadalupe is famous for producing rhum agricole – which is rhum (with an h) produced from the juice of sugar cane, as opposed to rum (without an h) made from molasses. It’s famous around the world, and extremely popular in its parent country of France. So when Capt Mike and I rented a car from the marina in Point-a-Pitre, the first stops on our island tour were at distilleries. Literally our first stops! All the rhum distilleries are only open until lunch time, so you have to be willing to stiffen your spine and go rhum tasting in the morning.
First stop was the boutique family-owned distillery Montebello. Unfortunately, there were no tours being offered the day we visited, because all of the machines were up and running, making rhum, and it wasn’t considered safe for visitors inside the factory. Drat! But we were encouraged to pour our own samples of several young (white) rhums and vieux (aged) rhums, as well as fun fruit flavored rhum punches. We got chatting with the young man working the shop and learned he’s a member of the only punk rock band in Guadeloupe, The Bolokos. They filmed a video in the distillery and released a special commorative rhum bottle with cute little cartoon punk rockers on the lable 🤪 He called up the video on the shop’s computer and let us watch their signature anthem “We drink white rhum”. Super fun – and if we’d still been in the area on Friday night, we’d definitely have attended their gig in the next town over. But as it was, we just bought a bottle of 4-year aged rhum and continued on our tour.
Next stop: the larger and more commercial Distillery Longeuteau. The man in the shop said he speaks a little English, but the tour would only be in French. When I said that I didn’t think I wanted to pay 8€ for the tour in French, he put a finger to his lips to show it was our little secret, and handed me two tour entry tickets for free. I’m so glad we did it! Here, the machinery was also running, but apparently Longeuteau doesn’t consider it dangerous to give tours – at least not if they’d lose 8€ per person, lol. Mike kept saying, “they’d never let us get this close in the US!” A very nice gentleman from Toulouse France offered to help translate for us, and really made the whole tour more enjoyable.
Step 1: Juicing the sugar cane – A big front end bucket loader scoops up a massive amount of red sugar cane chunks and dumps it into a hopper that starts a series of conveyor belts, crushers, and presses. The end result is a gush of cloudy yellowish liquid. This part really didn’t seem Heath and Safety endorsed. In fact, a French couple finished taking their photos and stepped side just before – plop – a small avalanche of spent sugar cane fiber landed right where they’d been standing 😁
Step 2 – Fermentation – The cane juice spends several days in big open fermentation tanks building a thick froth of bubbles. It doesn’t even need to be stirred; the fermentation is so active, that the cane juice bubbles and mixes and churns automatically.
Step 3 – Distillation – Fermented cane juice is pumped to the still where the vapor from the distillation process is now high in alcohol content. The distilled alcohol exits the still at about 80% alcohol – which is not as delightful as it sounds. Our guide poured a generous dose of pure cane distillate into our cupped palms and urged us to breathe the fumes in though our noses and to sort of huff the fumes by breathing into our mouths. I definitely felt it in the back of my throat! Then he gave us a smaller pour to taste. Nothing even slightly resembling the sweet delicious aged rhum it could eventually turn into! He urged us to rub our palms back and forth to dry our hands until hardly a trace of smell or stickiness remained. If I run out of hand sanitizer, a bottle of pure sugar cane alcohol would certainly do in a pinch!
Step 4 – Aging – The pure distillate is diluted to about XXX proof and then aged briefly in steel tanks for white rhum, or at least 4 years in oak barrels for vieux (aged) golden brown rhum. Punch is also very popular. You can buy a bottle of fruit flavors, spices, and rhum that’s ready to pour over ice and enjoy. My favorite punches are coconut or passion fruit. (I’m kookoo for coco punch 🤣)
Speaking of punch, I wanted to thank the French gentleman for translating for us and making our tour so much more enjoyable. So I practiced in my head how to tell him (in French) that I wanted to give him a thank you gift and to ask which kind of punch he preferred. He really seemed to appreciate the gesture – and the bottle of Planteur Punch. I thought I’d end this post by leaving you with the recipe for a ti punch. You’re welcome!
2 oz of white rhum agricole
1/2 tsp of turbinado sugar
1 lime wedge
Use a small spoon to muddle the lime into the sugar in the bottom of a short glass. Add the rhum, stir, and serve. I prefer mine with a couple of ice cubes. For variations, use a stick of sugar cane or cane syrup instead of sugar. That’s all there is to it!
Ok, so this one wasn’t a real surprise. The Irache wine fountain is famous on the Camino. The plaque on the wall next to the fountain reads, “Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness.” So we did! Even at 9:00 in the morning. We arrived at the same time as for women from England and Australia so we all toasted and mugged for the cameras and got a little bit giddy together.
Mike started up the trail, and I was still busy adjusting my pack when Antone, an older gentleman dressed all in black, walked up and asked me why I was walking the Camino. He said he was walking to help people and to provide healing. So he pulled out a crystal and let it swing above his palm. He told me that my soul is very advanced, that I am in my last life before reaching enlightenment, and that I am close to working through all the karma from my past lives. So I’ve got that going for me!
The next village of Villamayor de Monjardin is one of those stone cities high of a hill that you can see for miles as you walk toward it. We found a shady oasis just below the church tower for a picnic of chorizo, hummus, pate and olives, before heading to our final stop of the day in Los Arcos.
The wave of brutally hot weather was well underway by now, and when we arrive in a town at mid-afternoon during siesta, it feels like arriving in a ghost town. Los Arcos was no different, but we found a bunk at Casa de la Abuela (Grandma’s house), cleaned up, and moved as little as possible until it was time for the communal dinner of lentils and sausage and salad. This was one of many nights on the Camino when Mike and I were the only English speaking pilgrims at the table and the conversation just sweapt around us. The church at Los Arcos is surprisingly beautiful, with much of the stone walls and arches still painted in brilliant colors, rather than faded to one of the many colors of J Crew chinos (stone…ivory…khaki…vanilla…eggshell…)