Saturday, August 6, 2011

Letter to Tropical Storm Emily

Dear Tropical Storm Emily,

I hate you.

Okay, so I realize that it was kinda my fault for booking a trip to Puerto Rico during hurricane season. I do. But the thing is, Michael had a conference in San Juan, so we were going to be there anyway, and we were really hoping to squeeze in a little genuine vacation time. You know, some hiking in the rainforest, some kayaking in the bioluminescent bay, some sitting on the verandah sipping rum, that sort of thing. And then you had to come along and ruin it with your rain and your wind and your storm surge.


In all fairness, it wasn't a complete bust. We did discover some great new foods --- like sorullito, which is a deep-fried cornmeal patty stuffed with cheese, and mofongo, which is mashed plantains stuffed with veggies. So that's something. And we got to see the fort of Castillo de San Cristobal in San Juan and drink Don Q rum and hang out by the pool. I guess that part was OK.

But here's the thing. After leaving San Juan, we'd specifically picked Luquillo as a base of operations because it was close to the El Yunque rainforest and within easy driving distance of the bioluminescent bay.

View Larger Map

We had grand plans to go hiking and kayaking --- but you had other plans, didn't you,  Emily?

Turns out the rainforest was closed the entire time we were there, because all of the trails were flooded out. The entire time! I mean, really, was it too much to ask to be able to do one single hike in the whole week we were there? And the kayaking trip was canceled because of the rough surf. No, that's fine, it's not like I really wanted the magical experience of kayaking through swirling swarms of bioluminescent bacteria, sending sparks through the water with every wave of my paddle. Nope, didn't miss that at all.

We tried to make the best of it, but we basically had to spend most of the time puttering around Luquillo, which (let's face it) isn't the most interesting or populous spot. We got to do some walking on the beach, mostly to and from the line of kioskos (little restaurants) along the edge of the ocean. I wouldn't have minded so much if this weren't the only place open and serving food.

Despite the slim pickings, we found a couple of kioskos that served veggie food (such as Tapas 13, shown here). But one does get a little sick of mofongo after three nights in a row. Luckily, there was Pasta y Pueblo to mix things up a bit --- a beachside shack (literally) near the hotel with good home-cooked food. And, thanks to the local liquor store, we got to experience the joy of Medalla, essentially the Puerto Rican equivalent of Budweiser. Before you go criticizing my lowbrow taste, you have to admit there's something about drinking cold cans of beer on the balcony in 90 degree weather with 100% humidity, watching the storm roll in.

But by the fourth day, we were starting to go a bit stir-crazy. There's only so much Medalla one can drink, you know. At this point it wasn't even raining anymore, and everything was still closed! Again, your fault. So in an effort to entertain ourselves, we took some ill-advised drives down the southern coast to see the lay of the land.

Perhaps we should have considered alternate forms of transportation?

At least the local fauna didn't mind your presence that much. In a nice drive along the coast towards PiƱones, we were able to explore a few beaches and a roadside boardwalk, where we spotted an array of lizards.

And there were a few moments of levity. For instance, as we were checking the Park Service's website for El Yunque to see if any of the trails were open, their Smoky the Bear indicator said that the fire danger was "moderate." WTF? The island was in the grips of a tropical storm and it had been raining for three days straight. What the hell does it take to get to "low"?

They finally did decide to re-open the park, but on the morning of the day we had to leave. Never ones to pass up an opportunity, we decided to check out of our hotel and have a quick walk around before getting on the plane.

This would have been much better if you hadn't been around, since the humidity was overwhelming --- so much so that it was actually hard to breathe. And then we had to get on the plane in our sweaty hiking clothes, which was not the nicest experience, either for us or our fellow passengers.  I never thought anything would make me appreciate August on the east coast, but I guess now I know that it could be a lot worse. I suppose I should thank you for that.

If I'm honest, we managed to make a nice trip out of it, despite your damned interference. But it would have been really nice to do some legitimate hiking and go kayaking in the bioluminescent bay. Maybe next time, Emily, you can hold off a bit and not ruin our plans so much? Maybe go hang around Cuba for a while instead, 'kay?

Thanks, girl!