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Trip 34 -- Vieques Walk

Day 5: Isabel II to ferry
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Yesterday: 845 steps/0.65 km/0.40 mi/8m
Grand total: 112623 steps/87.89 km/54.61 mi/16h 46m

The Vieques Good Vibe Guest House looked better in the daytime. It was bright green, making it easy to spot from down the street, and horses and chickens roamed the lawn next door. The balcony lounge, adorned with Bob Marley posters, must be fun when there are more people around, but I had the building all to myself the second night.

My room -- with a double bed, a bunk bed, and a wobbly table -- was supplied with little travel-sized shampoo bottles, but the communal shower included similar bottles in various stages of emptiness. I had no problem with this. Why not finish them off?

Vieques's small capital of Isabel II consists of a small street grid of roughly four blocks square, with a main park at the eastern end among churches and the town hall. The western edge slopes down northward to the ferry landing and southward to the aptly named Sea Glass Beach. To the east, the roads head up into the hills. There are a few restaurants, grocery stores, and bars. It's a pleasant place to spend a couple of days.

It's small enough that by the end of a day of walking around, I was recognizing people and dogs. I spent the day keeping my Mexican lunch away from the chickens (the server threw them the last of the tortilla chips anyway), swimming in the beach (beautifully warm, clear, and clean, even so close to town), and getting back to my good vibes just before the brief downpour and the concomitant rainbow.

The dive bar down the street -- the one I was headed toward when the handyman came to let me into the guesthouse -- had old newspaper-style photos of pinup girls on the walls and a museum of farm tools hanging from the ceiling. A local beer was $1.50, which the bartender collected in wads of cash strewn along his side of the bar.

Experts played pool. The woman who took over after I entered was hitting off-the-far-end ricochets that bounced swiftly back past her opponent's balls and into their intended pockets, almost defying mathematics. Everyone else at the bar appeared to be Viequense except for one Santa Claus lookalike, who grunted like a disgruntled ram whenever he missed a shot. Closing time on Sunday was 11 p.m. on the dot, but there was no problem carrying out an unfinished drink.

Yesterday morning I walked down the few short blocks to the ferry, chancing a 40-minutes-early check-in rather than the requested hour. I scanned my ticket and still had time to head back out to a food truck for a beef turnover. The crew warned us to sit down because of rough seas, but if there was any chop, I barely noticed it.

Back on the mainland, I looked for a p├║blico to take me back to San Juan, or at least to Fajardo. I found a van driver who had me sit up front with him. I assumed he was going to fill the back, but there were only three adults and a child of about three years old, also visitors from up north. They had been on the ferry with me.

There was some confusion where they were going, and some anxiety about their getting back to make the next ferry to Vieques after running an errand and picking up another passenger. I didn't want to pry, but the mother gave us the story. She and her husband, their child, and their two friends had planned to take the ferry to Vieques the day before. The husband had gotten drunk and, just before the ferry's departure, gone off looking for more beer.

The others couldn't find him, so they headed to Vieques without him. That night, the police had found him walking around in inebriation and put him in a hotel. We were about to retrieve him from that hotel and bring everyone to T-Mobile, where the other man's phone needed to be fixed, before everyone was going to take the ferry in an hour and resume their vacation, perhaps not as tranquilly as they began it.

The driver, Joel, had planned to bring me to San Juan and leave them to find another, but they needed him immediately more than I. And I wasn't in a hurry. And Joel needed to do an airport pickup in a couple of hours anyway. So we agreed that I would have lunch in Fajardo, and then he would take me back near the airport at a discounted rate. Everyone won.

I had some fried cheese and chicken milanesa at a sports bar and rode with Joel back to Isla Verde, the beach directly behind the airport. It's a popular snorkeling spot, but I enjoyed it on land. I took a stroll around the Foxwoods casino, watched a blackjack player win a doubled-down hand, decided that all the good cards had been dealt, and headed out.

Google Maps prescribed a four-hour walk to the airport that avoided the highway, but I did it in just under half an hour, finding a good sidewalk all the way except for a brief stretch. I emerged from the plane in New York City and dug out my jacket. What was I saying about walking a cold island? Manhattan seems to fit the bill these days.