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While we are away visiting family and friends, or off on land adventures

A New Year, A New Beginning

Sunday night we rang in the New Year with high hopes for 2018. We are at a point in our lives where the only way to go is forward and we couldn’t be more ready.

I apologize for the recent silence here yet again. Whenever I go silent on the blog it is definitely not because I don’t have anything to write about. Usually I have so much to share that I don’t even know where to begin. (Not to mention how hard it is to find time to write when your baby doesn’t take very good naps!)

The time passes by and the days go on and I feel like there are no words for what is going through my head. This past year has given us some extreme highs and some extreme lows and the shock that comes with each of those moments has been more than overwhelming.

June 13th 2017 was the birth of our first child.

September 6th 2017 ripped our lives apart as Hurricane Irma destroyed our home, our jobs and many of our belongings.

December 16, 2017 marked our first wonderful year of marriage.

We’ve been so fortunate to be able to stay with family and friends during the past four months while we sort everything out and try to figure out where to go from here. It’s been a blessing to be able to let everyone back in the states meet Brig, even under these unfortunate circumstances. A blessing in disguise indeed.

So what have we been up to?? Well…

For the first two weeks after Irma, Peter was still stuck on Tortola. I was going out of my mind with worry and could barely take care of myself while trying to coordinate things for him from afar. Time stood still for me and it felt like we were in a vacuum. I’m so thankful my mom was able to help so much with Brig because I was a total mess.

We finally got Peter out of there and it took awhile to let it all sink in that we had no home to go back to. At 34, I had officially moved back in with with my parents bringing with me my husband, my 3 month old baby, and my dog. I never thought in a million years that I would ever have to move back home. I SO wasn’t prepared for that. I had a family, success and a good life, and it had just never crossed my mind that it could all be flipped upside down in the blink of an eye. The eye of Irma to be exact.

Within a few short weeks we ended up buying a Chevy Tahoe off Craigslist and took off on a road trip for a wedding – and to see Peter’s family (and some friends) – down in Arizona and sunny California. It was a good distraction from the hurricane craziness but it was three more weeks that we weren’t really able to focus on a plan for our future. We headed back up Washington to regroup and come up with a plan.

Luckily our boat was insured. Two years ago I spent a significant amount of time researching the intimidating world of marine insurance and I couldn’t be more relieved that we ended up with some really good coverage. Although insurance is one of those things you hope you never need. we absolutely did end up needing every insurable penny.

A few days after the Hurricane, I got word from Peter that the damage was beyond what he could repair himself and I filed our insurance claim for a total loss. They sent a surveyor out who ended up totaling the boat with exterior damage alone. Damage to the mizzenmast and cracks in the fiberglass were enough to max out the value we had insured so we signed the paperwork and began waiting for the payout.

(our boat shown below still floating, lower left)

During the last four months we’ve talked about a lot of options for what we want to do next. It’s what everyone wants to know. Will we get another boat or will we move back to land? The only thing we can be sure of is that we DEFINITELY want to get another boat and get back down to Where The Coconuts Grow. The islands are where our hearts belong and even though the islands we called home are no where near what they used to be like, it’s where we both want to be.

(It didn’t take long for the hills to start turning green again!)

The next priority was to get Peter back down to our boat and try to salvage any equipment and belongings he could. BVI is slightly more functional (and green) than it was when he left the last time so it wasn’t a totally impossible mission to send him back. The longer we waited the more mold damage there would be so upon returning to Washington after our road trip, we bought him a plane ticket back down to the Virgin Islands. This time, he had a solid plan for what to do with the rest of our belongings, and our boat! More on this later ;)

Two weeks turned into three and Peter still wasn’t back yet. I was basically waiting for more local intel before we could make anymore plans so the waiting game continued. Part of me was hoping he’d return with some super exciting news about a business opportunity in the islands. A few possibilities popped up but nothing in the works yet. Then, I got a call with news that Peter’s step-dad’s father had passed away. Peter flew back up to Washington right away and the three of us made an impromptu flight down to LA and San Diego for a week to be able to attend the memorial service.

Peter had already spent Thanksgiving alone, in the islands and away from us, and Christmas was just around the corner. We got busy again with family so our ideas about the future stalled out again. Brig’s first Christmas was one we will never forget though. It snowed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, altering our plans yet again. We were literally snowed in because the roads got dangerously icy up at my Dad’s house on Camano Island. We ended up having a slumber party with 10 adults, 1 baby and 3 dogs AND we all had matching Christmas jammies!! So much fun and so in line with how much our plans have been changing.

Time felt like it was standing still yet it was flying by so fast my head is spinning! We have been so busy visiting family and friends all over the place that it’s really kept our minds off of how Irma changed our lives forever.

Our travels don’t end there. Believe it or not, we are now in Georgia! We are visiting our good friends Jack and Nikki and family for the New Year and we’ve been working really hard to finally come up with a plan for the future.

There are a couple of boats we really want to go look at now that our insurance claim is finally settled and we can actually move forward if we find the right one.  There’s one boat I really love, but part of me thinks the one we will end up buying hasn’t even presented itself yet.

From the very start of all of this, all I wanted to do was go home – and I couldn’t. I got on that plane in St Thomas just two days before the hurricane hit thinking I was leaving just in case… and that I’d be back in two weeks. I left with a backpack, a diaper bag and my baby and four months later I still can’t go home.

One thing I know for sure is how grateful we are for all the love and support from ALL OF YOU. As soon as we arrived in the states back in September we started receiving messages of encouragement, emails, cards, baby clothes and toys, clothes for me and Peter, treats and toys for Betsy, food, shelter, gift cards and paypal donations to help get us back on our feet. It’s amazing how much “stuff” you need for just the basic necessities. For those of you that helped us out when we needed it most, you know who you are and we can’t thank you enough. We hope to be able to pay it forward some day in a way as equally profound as was done for us.

I know that many of you also donated to various relief funds and organizations that are helping the people of the islands directly as they also struggle to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Our friends Jen and Mike friends from Three Sheets spent countless hours coordinating relief efforts on the ground between St Croix and Tortola. Our friends Brittany and Scott from Windtraveler and Aristocat Charters raised nearly $170k on their fundraiser in coordination with many other organizations at the same time. You can see how those funds were utilized in the updates published on the site here: BVI Immediate Relief. Scott personally distributed supplies on Tortola to families that needed help and the amount of work they both did to help the locals is immeasurable. If you contributed to these efforts or others, even the smallest amount helped in such a huge way.

For now we are taking things one day at a time. We are so thankful for everyone that has taken us in and opened their homes to us. Our family is safe and that’s always all that really matters. ❤️

Stay tuned as we book even more travel plans within the next few days and get one step closer to finding our new home!

 

 

Surviving Hurricane Irma

Our worst nightmare came true.

Peter, Betsy and our boat were in the BVI, in the path of a historical Category 5 direct hit from Hurricane Irma on September 6th, 2017.

(Islands outlined in purple in the photo above are the USVI. Road Town is the main city on Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands, Northwest of the eye)

Brig and I had flown off island two days prior “just in case” while Peter stayed behind to secure our boat as well as our employer’s work boats in a mad dash to protect both our home and our livelihood.

It wasn’t until last minute that it was even an option for Brig and I to leave. Technically, Brig could not enter the U.S. without a passport. Since he was born in BVI and does not qualify for a BVI passport, we needed to wait until the US Consulate from Barbados came to visit in BVI to apply for his US passport.  This only happens twice a year and we still had several weeks before the next scheduled visit. Given our circumstances with an impending life threatening storm headed for us, the US Customs and Boarder Protection at the St Thomas airport granted me special permission to let us travel with just a birth certificate for him instead. The day after we arrived in the states we applied for Brig’s passport in person and have since resolved the issue. If it wasn’t for this ridiculousness of not being able to get Brig a passport immediately after he was born, we would have either hauled our boat out of the water like we did last hurricane season and flew up to the states to visit family, or we would have sailed down to Grenada where statistically fewer hurricanes ever hit. This year, we made the best hurricane plan we could with the circumstances we were given.

Irma was only a Cat-3 when I left and we had no idea it would strengthen as much as it did. Not only did it grow to become a major Category 5 hurricane, “Irma sustained 185 mph (295 km/h) winds for 37 hours, becoming the only tropical cyclone worldwide to have had winds that speed for that long, breaking the previous record of 24 hours set by Typhoon Haiyan of 2013″ according to Wikipedia.

I watched the news on TV as the eye passed over the entire country of BVI with wind gusts reached a frightening 220 mph. When wind increases, the force is not just incremental, it’s exponential. I can’t even comprehend that… I’m so thankful I have the support of my family – but especially during those awful hours when my communication with Peter was cut off. I couldn’t even take care of myself, let alone my baby. It was absolutely torture for me to know what had just happened to St Martin hours before and that Peter was now going through the same unspeakable disaster. I was terrified for my husband’s life. Thanks to Scott and Brittany’s satellite phone, he was able to call me as soon as the storm calmed down enough for him to go outside.

During the storm, Peter and a few others hid inside a well-built home up in the Belmont neighborhood on the West End of Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The house they thought would act as a fortress ended up with blown out windows behind hurricane shutters and was stripped of it’s roof. Debris blocking the roads to the lower part of the island caused them to hike by foot over the wreckage in order to go anywhere. They had the satellite phone which they used to relay messages for me to post on our facebook page in the early days following Hurricane Irma, and they were also able to reach other survivors to let them make calls to their family and loved ones. With great effort, Peter and others that wish to remain anonymous helped facilitate several medical emergency rescues as well.

Our boat was tucked away inside one of the well known hurricane holes and it took days for Peter to get back down there to check on her. At first glance he saw she was still floating! Hopes were high that our boat might have been one of the very few boats to survive. A closer look, however, revealed that our home had been destroyed. Peter did everything he could but no amount of preparation could have saved our boat or prevented any of the widespread destruction caused by Irma. Cleats and winches were completely ripped off. The mizzenmast was detached and tangled in the rigging of a nearby boat. The hull deck joints were severely cracked, and the vessel was bringing on water below the waterline from an unknown origin. Stanchions and chainplates ripped out of the decks.  Bow pulpit crushed. Bulkheads smashed. Most of the electrical system nonoperational. Mud, dirt and debris inside the boat. Water damage and mold everywhere. She was simply battered beyond repair.  What really salts our wounds is that while the boat was left clinging to the sides of other boats that had been tied to the mangroves, a family of rats had taken up residence in our absence of just a few short days and had been chewing, pooping and peeing on everything inside our boat. If there was ever a hope of salvaging any of our personal belongings, it was now completely gone.

It feels like it took a lifetime to gather the few items we brought with us when we moved aboard our boat four years ago. We couldn’t fit much in our 42′ sailboat but the things we did have in our tiny floating home meant the world to us. Every tool had multiple purposes. Everything that wasn’t a tool had a specific purpose or sentimental value. Friends and family had sent us all we would ever need for the first two years of Brig’s life. We had everything we would ever need for our whole family and we lost it all.

It took two weeks to finally get Peter and Betsy out of there. Thanks to our friends at Three Sheets Sailing, they were able to get on a relief boat in Tortola that was returning to St Croix where they could then take a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, then Houston, and finally arriving to Seattle, Washington late Sunday night. Although the Royal Navy had imposed martial law with territory-wide curfews, Peter still didn’t feel safe staying on Tortola. Everyone left there is just surviving. With such a significant lack of infrastructure it will be awhile before island life can continue as normal. Although the states doesn’t feel like home for us, we are all glad that our little family is together and safe.

(The above photo shows how Betsy had to ride on the plane from St Croix to Puerto Rico as there was no room for her by Peter’s feet.)

Part of me actually feels guilty that I wasn’t there and will never know what Peter went through. I will never understand the sheer terror he experienced. He literally survived a direct hit from one of the strongest category-5 hurricanes on record on earth. I know the most important thing is that he and Betsy are safe and our little family is whole again, but the grief and emotions surrounding the loss of our home and the shattering of our dreams are overwhelming. I recently read a post by Charlotte Kaufman about what she learned from Losing Rebel Heart and her words explain it best.

Before he left BVI, Peter did the best he could to re-secure our boat back on the dock with all the lines he had left. He sealed up all the cracks he was able to, cleared out the bilge and hooked up a solar panel in hopes that there will be enough power to run the bilge at all. Even if he could’ve salvaged anything off of our boat, there was nowhere safe and dry on island to store any of it. With Hurricane Maria on the way, the best thing Peter could do for our family was to get out of there. Hurricane Maria didn’t end up being a direct hit for BVI but it passed just south of the Virgin Islands and was the second Category-5 hurricane to devastate the Caribbean within a period of two weeks. At this point we have no idea if our boat is still floating or if she incurred any further damage. Hopefully our boat will still be accessible, floating, and not looted by the time any insurance surveyors ever come to inspect her.

We’ve filed a claim with our insurance company but I was told that it will take a very, very long time for it to be processed, if they ever make good on it. The volume of destruction that the BVI sustained is unimaginable. These islands that so many people love and cherish have been completely decimated. Everyone that survived this historical disaster are forever changed.

Basically there is nothing left for us to go back to right now. We are homeless and unemployed along with so many others that lived in the islands. There are very few structures for anyone to shelter in and not even a hotel for us to stay at. It will be a long time before power and water is restored and basic necessities are available to everyone.

BVI is where Brig was born and where our hearts will always belong. Our home, our jobs, and all our belongings are gone and our cherished islands have been practically leveled, but Peter and I would still love to go back. We would love to help the islands rebuild and help uncover the magic buried beneath the rubble that so many of us found there in a time before Irma and Maria. With enough support from those that feel the same way, it will happen. The islands will rebuild and start over.

To see many photos of the devastation, visit our facebook page where I’ve shared tons of photos that others have posted.

How You Can Help:

Individual Families:

Many of you have reached out asking how you can help *us* during this difficult time. You know who you are and we can’t thank you enough. Your kind words and generosity means more to us than you will ever know. If there is anyone else interested in how to help us directly, here are a few ways:

  • Donate via the PayPal donate button at the bottom of our website (Donations made directly from one paypal account to another incur no fees. Donations made via paypal  with a credit card incur a standard fee of 2.9% + $0.30 deducted before reaching us).
  • Donate via the YouCaring fundraiser that Stacy Najar set up to help us to get back on our feet. (Donations made via YouCaring with a credit card incur a standard fee of 2.9% + $0.30 deducted before reaching us. YouCaring has zero additional platform fees unlike sites such as Gofundme). www.youcaring.com/wherethecoconutsgrow
  • Use our Amazon Affiliate link at the bottom of our website! This is no additional cost to you but means a lot to us. If you click our link before making a purchase on Amazon, we get a small commission. Just save our website as a favorite in your web browser and it’s only one extra click to use our link before doing your regular Amazon shopping.

-ALSO-

The Soeters Family – Very good friends of ours Darcy, Luuck, Stormer and Rio of the Sunkissed Soeters lost their boat and all of their belongings when Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on Sint Maarten, and unfortunately they were not insured.  Like us, they are now staying with family back in the states until we can all figure out what to do next and how to get back to doing what makes us happy.

USVI “Adopt a Family”

Communities as a whole:

So many relief funds have been created in support of the islands affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Here are just a few of the links dedicated to supporting the devastated communities as a whole:

BVI:

BVI RELIEF – Links for multiple options for donating money and donating supplies, news, resources and a gallery

Convoy of Hope – First responders to disasters all over the world

BVI Immediate Relief – Set up by our good friends Brittany and Scott for immediate relief on the ground in BVI

BVI Hurricane Irma Relief – Yacht Sea Boss providing relief supplies to BVI

BVI Meals 4 Kids – Al Broderick and The Lunch Box feeding hot meals to children in Tortola

#BVISTRONG Gear Shop Remember the Adventure’s #BVISTRONG gear shop where 100% of the proceeds go to VISAR’S BVI Relief Fund

VISAR BVI Relief Fund Virgin Islands Search and Rescue directing funds to those most in need in BVI

BVI Community Support Appeal – Fund for long term reconstruction of BVI, Virgin Unite’s overhead costs are covered 100% by Richard Branson & the Virgin Group

BVI Medical Supplies – Medical Supplies requested for the hospital in Tortola

Virgin Gorda Relief Fund – Community aid for the residents and infrastructure of Virgin Gorda

Jost Van Dyke Humanitarian Aid – Basic life saving needs and community recovery for Jost Van Dyke

 

Most importantly, the BVI SAFETY CHECK website was created just for people to search for loved ones and mark people as safe.

PLEASE know that BVI is not the only area that needs help. The US media coverage has primarily focused on Florida but Barbuda, St Barts, Anguilla, St. Martin, USVI, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas and Florida have ALL incurred apocalyptic damage from both Irma and Maria and left an unimaginable amount of people homeless and left with nothing. What makes it even worse is thinking of the combined damage from #Harvey#Irma#Jose#Katia, #Maria#mexicoearthquake#wildfires and so many other worldwide disasters all happening in such a short period of time. The fact that looting and civil unrest quickly spiraled out of control after these events is just heartbreaking when our world is hurting so much. Luckily most of it is now back under control. Everyone needs to come together NOW more than ever. Do what you can, however you can, to help somehow.

 

Caribbean in General:

Sailors Helping – Info on how to support several islands in the Caribbean that have been devastated

International Rescue Group – Disaster relief and humanitarian aid

 

USVI:

USVI Irma & Maria Relief Fund – For USVI residents in need

St John Rescue – For the St. John Community

St John Community Foundation – Resources for the St. John Community

Love for Love City – Kenny Chesney’s fundraising campaign for Disaster Relief in USVI and BVI

Tim Duncan VI Relief – Relief fund matching every dollar for the USVI up to $1 million

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands – Relief for short term and long term critical needs in USVI

Irma Relief for our Sister Islands – Relief for St. Thomas and St. John coordinated from St. Croix

Art for Love City – Proceeds go to Love for Love City relief fund

United Way USVI – United Way Relief fund for USVI

USVI Amazon Wish List – USVI and surrounding islands delivered by relief crews

ReVIve the VI – St. Thomas community relief

 

St Martin / Sint Maarten:

St Maarten Hurricane Irma Relief – Funds will go to families affected by Irma

Rebuild SXM – Foundation set up to help rebuild St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba

Dutch Sister Islands Fund – Dutch Sint Maarten relief

French St. Martin – French St. Martin relief

 

Dominica:

Fund Directive – Emergency relief for Dominica

The Dominica Red Cross – Local nonprofit relief

 

Turks and Caicos:

Turks and Caicos Hurricane Relief – Helping families, churches and the community rebuild

Turks & Caicos Relief Fund – Helping all those affected in T&C by Hurricane Irma

Turks & Caicos Just Giving – Relief efforts in T&C

 

Barbuda:

Halo Foundation – Barbuda Relief Efforts

Barbuda Hurricane Irma Relief – Senator Freeland’s relief team

Barbuda Recovery and Conservation Trust Fund – International Community Foundation’s page for Barbuda Relief

 

Bahamas:

Bahamas Humane Society

Bahamas – You Caring

 

 

If you want to help but aren’t able to donate, please share this post! 

Adventures in Guadalajara

Catching up on our adventures from this summer…

After spending some time with family in San Diego and LA, we bought flights to visit Peter’s grandmother in Guadalajara, Mexico. It had been a very long time since he had seen her last and we didn’t know when we’d get the chance to do so again. His Aunt Lucy had been there many times before and speaks better Spanish than Peter does so we were relieved to know she would come with us ;)

The easiest way to get there was to walk across the boarder in San Diego and fly from Tijuana to Guadalajara. Peter’s cousin Kayleigh dropped us off so we wouldn’t have to leave our car there. We tried out the new Cross Boarder Express (CBX) walkway and it was a breeze! It took us right into the airport in Tijuana. Super easy and we didn’t have to go through the mess of traffic that you can find in Tijuana while trying to get to the airport.

The flight wasn’t bad, though it was a whopping three hours. We arrived in Guadalajara and instead of hailing a taxi we decided to rent a car instead. The best part about our whole travel experience was finding out that our AT&T prepaid Go-Phone plan worked like normal in Mexico too! I couldn’t even believe it! We could make phone calls and text, and even had 3G internet the whole time! That was a HUGE relief to find out we could rely on Google Maps to get us around. I had actually been a fan of Apple maps before, but in Mexico I immediately realized how much better Google Maps was when it showed us what each lane was going to do before we got there. If you’ve ever been on a highway in Mexico you know that the roads the signage there sucks. If you think you want to stay in the slow lane, be prepared to end up exiting onto a different freeway with no idea where it goes to! I don’t think I’ve ever loved Google as much as I did during those four days.

Peter’s Grandmother SO excited to see us! We took her shopping at the mall, and went to lunch.

Peter’s Tio Marco knew we were deeply deprived of some real Mexican street tacos so he took us to his favorite spot. We ate them so fast I couldn’t even get a picture!

Driving around in Guadalajara was easier than in the islands. We were deep into mainland-Mexico and it was surprisingly pretty nice there! No hills, traffic lights, functioning blinkers, and everyone drives on the right side of the road ;) There are sidewalks and even ATVs sharing the lane.

Commercial driveways were a bit funky.

Many residential garages and driveways are short carports that extend into the front of your house.

Lots of one-way streets.

One of the days we took Grandma into the historic town of Tlaquepaque for a little sight-seeing and lunch.

We don’t go anywhere without our Yeti’s! (Thank you Jack and Nikki!)

Saint Peter:

Grandma’s caretaker came with us to help her get around and we all had ice cream after lunch!

A traditional Mexican novelty here is to have your fortune told by a little bird that picks several fortunes out of a little box. Grandma really wanted to do it. They were very long to read and didn’t translate well so she said she would read them when she got home and tell us what they said then. She never did tell us what they said.

One of the best meals we had was that afternoon in Tlaquepaque. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!

There was even an all-female Mariachi band that came in to sing for everyone.

Peter and I had been running every evening for exercise and we were super excited to find this awesome park very nearby to where Grandma lived. It was huge! And super safe. There were lots of other people out here every day to get exercise too.

Our trip was short but we were happy we were able to visit Peter’s Grandma and take a little vacation from our vacation and explore somewhere new :) We’re always looking for a new adventure!

Peter Gets Up Close and Personal with Majel the Tiger

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During our trip to California in August, we paid a visit to the San Diego Safari Park. It was one of Peter’s Mom’s favorite places. The first stop is always to visit her memorial plaque which is displayed just outside the Wings of the World enclosure. Peter’s Mom’s boyfriend Dave and Aunt Lucy went with us that day and we all felt the peace that Christine would have wanted us to have. We were ready for a fun day ahead!

The San Diego Safari Park is a non-profit organization home to more than 300 species of animals and is well known for their free-range habitats and successful breeding programs which help fight extinction all over the world. We saw tigers and lions and bears, OH MY! Just kidding, we didn’t see any bears. There were all kinds of birds, cheetahs, elephants, gorillas, giraffes, rhinos, bats, reptiles and lots of other species I can’t pronounce.

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Of course at lunchtime I couldn’t resist getting the coconut sorbet which came frozen in a real coconut shell ;)

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Look close and you can see a rhino camouflaged near the boulders in the shade…

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This guy was some very rare species that I can’t remember or pronounce, and they told us its even more rare to get a glimpse of him in plain view. Normally very elusive, he was enjoying this beautiful day in the sun just like us…

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Always a kid at heart <3

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Mud bath anyone?

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Finally we made it to the relatively new Tiger Trail. The very cool and zen entrance would be a perfect place for a little meditation or just a nice spot to rest.

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Shortly after the exhibit entrance, a secret pathway led to a thick glass wall where one of the male tigers happened to be napping.

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A little further in we met Majel, an adult female that apparently wasn’t feeling very welcoming. I later zoomed in on the camera and discovered she was warning us upon our arrival, though we didn’t even know it at the time. With a face like that we would have steered clear had we known how she felt that day.

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As we moved along the walkway, Majel roamed around behind the chain link fence and made occasional appearances to check us out. Talk about up close and personal!

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Even further down the walkway we found her laying in the shade.

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Just then, we saw her head turn, and her gaze fixed on Peter who was standing to my left. As he unknowingly and gently loosened the ice in our Yeti tumbler, Majel’s eyes and whole face changed in a way that instantly sent fear running up my spine. As if by waving a magic wand, her whole demeanor turned instantly savage. I involuntarily blurted out “Uh Oh…” and within seconds later, Majel had made one crouching tiger leap into the air and was headed straight for Peter. I couldn’t process what was happening fast enough to get it on video but somehow I managed to get this one picture of her mid-air before her massive body bounced off of the seemingly insignificant chain link fence just 5 feet away from us.

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The fence literally gave way about a foot towards us before she landed on the ground and made one final attempt to bust through and eliminate Peter from her surroundings.

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After that very stressful moment, she decided to go cool off and take a dip in the nearby pond.

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Walking back to where Peter’s life flashed before his eyes, we were in awe of just how close we really were. One of the keepers witnessed the whole thing and shared with us that she hadn’t seen Majel behave like that in many years. She asked that Peter not get close to the fence again because for some reason Majel did not like him. He may have reminded her of someone or some time in her life that she did not like. She didn’t necessarily want to eat him as they are very well fed by the keepers, but she definitely wanted him gone from her space. We were later told by another keeper that she was in heat. Peter has been known to have a very strong effect on females! ;)

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We left Majel to rest after that and continued on our way. Whew!! What an experience!

California Dreamin’

 

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After a short layover in Miami, we arrived at LAX airport in the very wee hours of August 6th. Peter’s dad was waiting for us at the baggage claim area with arms wide open. He’d visited us in the islands a few times but it felt like forever ago. Until this moment, we were California Dreamin’ about what it would be like to be back in the states. After years of living in the islands, it becomes quite clear that the U.S. is the land of milk and honey – the land of plenty – where everything you could possibly want is at your fingertips.

What did we do first? We went to the closest In-n-Out burger drive-through of course!! We fed our starving faces after a very long day of traveling and then proceeded to take a nice long, real, hot shower back at Peter’s dad’s house, before completely crashing out.

The very next day we made it a priority to find some real authentic Mexican food! Three years without it is just wrong.

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Over the next few weeks we accumulated some new clothes and some running shoes. We went into a Costco probably a little sooner than we should have – I think I almost had a panic attack from sensory overload in there. The carts were four times bigger than the ones in Soper’s Hole and it was like a frickin freeway in every isle! We went into a normal sized grocery store, a CVS pharmacy and even the movie theaters. It was exhausting.

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I stared in awe at things like water fountains in the mall where they just keep dumping water out all day long and people even throw money into it!!! Mind blowing!!! Its things like this that I never would have noticed before. Now, it’s incredibly disturbing how wasteful our society is. I thought California was in a draught. (I know its probably recirculating water but still… )

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We also took care of some real-world responsibilities like renewing our driver’s licenses, buying and registering a new-to-us car, obtaining car insurance, and sorting through mail. We even stood in line outside the DMV before it opened. What a nightmare.

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We found a great deal on a 2006 Tahoe on Craigslist that would serve many purposes for us, most importantly getting us around to all the family we were going to visit. We wanted something comfortable, reliable, something we could potentially sleep in while driving from California to Washington, something with 4wd and something that would easily tow the motorcycle trailer we had left our stuff in three years before. We had plans to tow the trailer up to WA then empty it at my dad’s, then sell the truck and trailer before flying back to our boat.

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When we saw the trailer again for the first time, we were surprisingly pleased with the condition! Fear of water damage, heat damage, rats and insects had us scared to even open it. A huge sigh of relief came from both of us though as we saw that everything inside was perfectly safe. The plastic hatch/vent on top of the trailer had long since disintegrated in the hot California sun but luckily nothing was damaged by the little bit of water that did come in. There were a few spiders but not enough to gross me out.

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The first order of business was to take everything out and decide what we wanted to get rid of, and what we really wanted to haul up to Washington to store with my family. Some sentimental items like an old rocking chair, photographs and Christmas decorations were definitely being saved.  There were other items inside like camping gear and yard tools that would be very expensive to replace if we ever moved back to land but just not realistic to hold onto anymore. Honestly, we have no plans for becoming landlubbers anytime in the foreseeable future. We gave away a lot of things to Peters family and carefully repacked the trailer with the remaining items – about half of what was there before.

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After getting the trailer prepped for our journey north, we continued to enjoy our time in sunny southern California. We visited SO many people, both young and old. Peter and I learned about Pokemon-Go and Uber. So much had changed since we had been there last!

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One of my favorite moments was visiting a nail salon with Peter’s step-mom Monica!! I picked out a Caribbean Blue nail polish (to match my ring of course) and tried to explain to the poor ladies why my hands and feet were so calloused :S

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While staying at Wiley and Monica’s house in LA, we ended up doing a little ‘Cesar Milan’ work with their dog Little Man. He had this complex where he would “claim” their entire dining room table and every chair around it! Apparently he had been doing it for years and they couldn’t even have guests over. After watching a very short Cesar video on YouTube I set to work to claim back the table and chairs :) The picture below was taken by Peter while Monica was at work one day. She could not believe it!! Not only was Little Man allowing me to sit in ‘his’ chair, he was sharing his new bed with Betsy :)

I am SO proud of Monica for how fast she learned how to do what I did. She couldn’t believe how easy it was to change her energy and her actions, which in turn allowed Little Man  to be less stressed and calm and submissive! Monica has happily reported that after we left, she is still able to sit at the table whenever she wishes. Yay!!!

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With lots more family to see, we drove all over southern California.

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I’m SO happy we got to see my friends Jen and Mark one afternoon as we passed through Orange County. Before we left three years ago, Peter and I had attended their baby shower for their first child, Isabella. I was heartbroken I couldn’t be there when she was born, and even more heartbroken I wasn’t there when she had her second baby, Jamison. Jen and Mark were very good friends of mine since the time I first moved to California back in 2008. Even though we only had a few hours with them, it was definitely a highlight of my trip. Their babies are so beautiful, so very sweet, and so lucky to have such good parents!

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At Peter’s Aunt Lucy and Uncle John’s house, his cousin Kayleigh found a way to sneak Betsy up on the only couch she wasn’t allowed on ;) She wasn’t deprived of cuddling, that’s for sure. This was our home-base in San Diego. We had the most amazing home-cooked meals thanks to Aunt Lucy, and we even started running in the evenings. During the days we bounced all around visiting friends and our favorite places in our home away from home – Sunny San Diego.

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Another luxury I treated myself to was scheduling a visit to see Rob – the best hair stylist in San Diego – at The Park Salon! It was SO nice to walk in and be offered wine, soda, water, coffee or tea, then get shampooed in a special room that could also double as a meditation room, which ended with an amazing shoulder massage – just in case I wasn’t relaxed enough – followed by laughter and chit chat without ever having to describe what I want done because he’s that good. Even though I have a harder hairstyle to cut, Rob knows exactly what to do. Back in the islands I never ever got my hair cut because no one knows how to my cut the right way! Sigh. What a relief to pay for a service where someone actually knows what they are doing!! Maybe I can convince Rob to bring his family to Tortola to open a salon!! ;)

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Speaking of the park… we visited a few real parks, with real green grass and open spaces. Peter played baseball with his little cousins at Kate Sessions park in San Diego and of course he learned how to hunt for Pokemon.

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We visited my sister Annie and met her incredibly charming boyfriend Charlie! One of the items we found in the trailer was Peter’s old skateboard that Betsy used to tow him on. Annie loves skateboarding so we thought it was a very appropriate gift for her. When we brought it out to show her, I think Betsy was just as excited. She instantly remembered what to do and Peter took her for one final run. She went nuts!!!

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The beaches were just how we remembered them. A cool, crisp breeze with the warm sun kissing our faces… It’s a totally different kind of beach here.

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Peter did manage to get in some surf while we were there. We stayed at the South Carlsbad campground – camping out in our awesome Tahoe – and had a bunch of friends come visit. While we didn’t get to see everyone, we both saw some of our closest friends. We did our best to not get too overwhelmed with scheduling all of our visits though it was a very daunting task to try to align schedules with so many different people in so many different places. For those that we missed, you’ll just have to come visit us in the islands!

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Up next… how Peter was almost eaten by a Sumatran Tiger!!