A Cold and Snowy Interlude

On Saturday morning, we dropped off Justin and Shera at the San Juan International Airport. We ran some errands on the way back to Beatitude before meeting up with some other friends. From 1996-2000, I was in medical school at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey. We lived in the campus housing, affectionately known to its inhabitants as the “Kennels,” where other medical students and residents lived with their families. Among our many lifelong friendships we developed there was the friendship with Mitchelle Rivera Villegas and her family. Her husband was doing a residency in child psychology at the time. Not long after finishing residency, they returned to their native home in Puerto Rico. Now, 16 years later, we were blessed to meet up once again. Mitchelle and her friend, Ivelisse, journeyed from their homes in Dorado to Fajardo where we enjoyed visiting aboard Beatitude before having dinner at The Blue Iguana.

Ivelisse, Cindy, Mitchelle in Beatitude's Salon

Ivelisse, Cindy, Mitchelle in Beatitude’s Salon

With our good friend, Mitchelle

With our good friend, Mitchelle

On Sunday, we attended church at The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Fajardo. We really enjoyed it. The people were exceptionally friendly. For us gringos, one of the best things was the ability to participate more fully in the liturgy. We had a Spanish Book of Common Prayer, and the words to all the readings and songs were provided (in Spanish, of course) in the weekly bulletin. It was nice to receive the Eucharist once again. After church, we met up with Mitchelle, Ivelisse, and her two sons, Bebé and Oscarlito, at the Kiosks in Luquillo for lunch. We had Puerto Rican fare at a spot called La Parrilla.

The Iglesia Episcopal El Buen Pasto (Good Shepherd Episcopal Church) in Fajardo

The Iglesia Episcopal El Buen Pasto (Good Shepherd Episcopal Church) in Fajardo

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Selfie at the Luquillo Kiosks.

Selfie at the Luquillo Kiosks.

Bebé, Oscarlito, Mitchelle, Cindy, Barry by the beach in Luquillo.

Bebé, Oscarlito, Mitchelle, Cindy, Barry by the beach in Luquillo.

Alas, Tuesday rolled around, which meant it was time to leave our tropical paradise to return to the cold and snowy northern United States. I flew to Portland, Maine to do a week’s worth of shifts in the emergency department. Cindy flew home to Barberton, Ohio to be with family. Two of my seven shifts are complete. There are five more to go before we fly back to Puerto Rico on Thursday, March 3rd. Julie and Tracy arrive on the 4th. And, if all things work according to plan, we’ll head for the Virgin Islands on the 5th. While we are away, my Yamaha outboard on Dalí is being serviced and repaired. My Garmin electronics are also being looked at (the wind speed and direction indicator as well as the water temperature readings are not functioning). Hopefully, all will go well and we’ll be ready to continue our journey southward and eastward when we return.

The full moon, as viewed from Beatitude, on the night before we left Puerto Rico.

The full moon, as viewed from Beatitude, on the night before we left Puerto Rico.

Brrrr!!  Two inches of new snow on my first day of heading to work.

Brrrr!! Two inches of new snow on my first day of heading to work.

El Yunque National Rainforest and Ziplining

Sunrise in Fajardo

Sunrise in Fajardo

Friday, Justin and Shera’s last full day with us, was filled with more fun and adventure. It all began around 9:30 am as we pulled into the Rainforest Zipline Park. For the next couple of hours, we were happily occupied zipping from tower to tower over the treetops of the lower rainforest. Cindy and I had done this a couple of times before, once in Alaska and once, I think, in Costa Rica. But, this was a first for our guests. Fortunately, we all had a blast. I strapped the GoPro to my helmet for the adventure, so I was able to produce a 7-minute video of our forest fun (found below).

The Over the Hill Gang ready to soar over the tree tops of El Yunque

The Over the Hill Gang ready to soar over the tree tops of El Yunque

After a quick lunch, we drove up into the El Yunque National Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. The highest peak in the forest rises to 3,494 feet above sea level. Over 200 inches of rainfall each year creates a lush, jungle-like setting. We first visited the El Portal Rain Forest Center where we watched a brief movie about El Yunque. From there we stopped by the barely-flowing, but still beautiful, La Coca Falls. We then visited, and all climbed, the Yocahu Tower, enabling us to look out over the beautiful surrounding countryside all the way to Luquillo and the ocean. Lastly, other than a shopping stop or two, we parked near the Big Tree Trail. Cindy and Shera stayed in the air-conditioned car while Justin and I hiked the 2 mile round-trip trail up and down the mountainside to view the much more active La Mina Falls. They have small pools at the base in which quite a few of the visitors splashed and enjoyed themselves. As we hiked, we failed to see the elusive Puerto Rican Parrot, but I did hear the call of the Coqui, a tiny tree frog about one inch long with a distinctive, high-pitched “ko-kee,” song-like call.

This fantastic tree was at the El Portal Rain Forest Center  just after entering El Yunque.  I think it is called a Rainbow Eucalyptus.

This fantastic tree was at the El Portal Rain Forest Center just after entering El Yunque. I think it is called a Rainbow Eucalyptus.

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La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

Cindy holding what I believe is a flower from the African Tulip Tree.  These beautiful trees have brilliant patches of large red-orange flowers among their foliage, earning them the nickname, "Flame of the Forest."

Cindy holding what I believe is a flower from the African Tulip Tree. These beautiful trees have brilliant patches of large red-orange flowers among their foliage, earning them the nickname, “Flame of the Forest.”

Yocahu Tower

Yocahu Tower

Spectacular Views from the Tower

Spectacular Views from the Tower

El Yunque Tropical Rain Forest

El Yunque Tropical Rain Forest

The view from the Yocahu Tower

The view from the Yocahu Tower

Descending the tower

Descending the tower

Justin Hiking the Big Tree Trail

Justin Hiking the Big Tree Trail

La Mina Falls

La Mina Falls

Proof we actually made it all the way to La Mina Falls

Proof we actually made it all the way to La Mina Falls

Unfortunately, our short time with the Argabrights had come to an end. On Saturday morning, we drove our friends to the Airport in San Juan. They would return to Charleston, and we would return to Beatitude for two or three days before our return to the states.

Shera and Justin atop the tower

Shera and Justin atop the tower

Cindy and Barry atop the Tower

Cindy and Barry atop the Tower

Old San Juan

Because we had some sight-seeing we wanted to do on the main island of Puerto Rico, we weighed anchor at 6:40 am on Thursday morning for the 4-hour, 27.2 nautical mile trip back to Sunbay Marina in Fajardo. The fishing lines were out, but we had nothing to show for it. We did have one hit on a line, but before we could start reeling it in, he was gone.

Sunrise in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Sunrise in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Leaving Culebrita in the early morning.

Leaving Culebrita in the early morning.

Hanging out on deck on our way back to Fajardo

Hanging out on deck on our way back to Fajardo

Securing the lines in our slip at Sunbay Marina

Securing the lines in our slip at Sunbay Marina

Upon our arrival back on the mainland, we quickly tidied up the boat, found a rental car and drove in to Old San Juan, the historic colonial section of the city. The original settlement in the area was founded in 1508 by Juan Ponce De Léon. That settlement was abandoned and moved to the present site in 1509, obtaining the name “San Juan” in 1521, honoring the name originally given to the entire island by Christopher Columbus (for John the Baptist).

The Streets of Old San Juan

The Streets of Old San Juan

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These blue cobblestones which make up the streets of Old San Juan are made from the slag which served as ballast in sugar-carrying ships in the 16th century.

These blue cobblestones which make up the streets of Old San Juan are made from the slag which served as ballast in sugar-carrying ships in the 16th century.

The Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) statue in Old San Juan.

The Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) statue in Old San Juan.

The ladies did the shopping version of a city tour, while Justin and I visited some churches and other historic sites.

Old San Juan Cathedral

Old San Juan Cathedral

The nave of San Juan Cathedral

The nave of San Juan Cathedral

Looking down the transept of San Juan Cathedral at a side chapel.

Looking down the transept of San Juan Cathedral at a side chapel.

One of the stained-glass windows along the side of the church in what appears to be an empty chapel.

One of the stained-glass windows along the side of the church in what appears to be an empty chapel.

The memorial marker of Juan Ponce de Léon, who is buried here in the San Juan Cathedral.  He died in 1521 after being shot in the stomach by Indians in Florida.  He was taken to Cuba where he died and then was buried in Puerto Rico.

The memorial marker of Juan Ponce de Léon, who is buried here in the San Juan Cathedral. He died in 1521 after being shot in the stomach by Indians in Florida. He was taken to Cuba where he died and then was buried in Puerto Rico.

The San José Church, one of the earliest surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western hemisphere.  Unfortunately, it is undergoing renovations which kept us from entering.

The San José Church, one of the earliest surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western hemisphere. Unfortunately, it is undergoing renovations which kept us from entering.

La Capilla del Cristo, a tiny chapel along the walls of Old San Juan, was built in the 1750s to commemorate a miracle.  A young man and his horse went off the cliff here when someone cried, "Christ of Good Health, Save Him!"  The horse died, but the young man survived.

La Capilla del Cristo, a tiny chapel along the walls of Old San Juan, was built in the 1750s to commemorate a miracle. A young man and his horse went off the cliff here when someone cried, “Christ of Good Health, Save Him!” The horse died, but the young man survived.

The exterior of Casa Blanca, the 16th century home of Ponce De Léon and his family.

The exterior of Casa Blanca, the 16th century home of Ponce De Léon and his family.

Who knew the Piña Colada was invented here!

Who knew the Piña Colada was invented here!

Dinner in Old San Juan

Dinner in Old San Juan

Dinner at the "Salty Bull"

Dinner at the “Salty Bull”

We finished the evening with tapas at a favorite restaurant of mine (from previous visits to Old San Juan) called Toro Salao (“salty bull”). Bullfighting posters decorate the two-story-high walls, setting the mood for enjoying their delicious tapas.