We’re home from Puerto Rico after a lovely 10-day stay at a fancy resort hotel. This isn’t the first time Jen and I have stayed at a hotel (we traveled to Curacao before Finley was born) but we’re very rusty on how these things generally work. Some thoughts from the trip:
The flight was cheap because the hotel underwrote it to get us to the hotel; Frontier Airlines, while not the top-shelf carrier available, was remarkably clean and punctual, even if they did charge us extra for everything. Baggage and seating were tacked on to the ticket, but it was a direct flight and we didn’t have to cattle-call to get three seats together. The seats were relatively comfortable, and there was plenty of legroom.
Our hotel, the Wyndham Rio Mar, was beautiful. Our room stunk of mildew no matter what setting we had the A/C on, and it seemed to get worse as the week went by. That being said, there were seven restaurants available to us onsite, including two outdoor bars, a huge set of pools, a palm-fronted beach, and most importantly, drink service everywhere on the premises. All in all, not a bad place to stay. Our half was the Wyndham half, and the other side was part of the Margaritaville chain. We did some light investigation and it looked like that side was in better shape than ours was. As would be expected, food and drinks were roughly double what they would be in the outside world, so our final room bill was, shall we say, large.
The hotel concierge is there to help you find things to do, but also to put a hard sell on the not-a-timeshare timeshare presentation to get you to buy into the Jimmy Buffet Empire; we listened politely to the pitch from our sweaty concierge, took his maps, and noped the fuck out of there. I avoided him for the rest of the trip. Sorry, Enrique.
On the first day at the beach, I was out in the surf with Finn having a good time floating in the warm Caribbean water. A rogue breaker hit me from behind while my attention was elsewhere, and I lost my brown Ray-Bans to the gods of the ocean. I had them for over ten years, and they served me well; I’d lost them several times but they always seemed to turn up. I did go to the lost and found twice to see if they’d washed up on shore and were turned in, but had no luck.
The hotel was three miles away from the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. After consulting with the concierge, we rented a car and drove up the road to check it out. After stopping to check out several of the sites along the way, we parked our little rental and hiked a mile and a half through the forest along a 650 foot elevation increase to reach the Britton Tower, which, on a good day, offers a view of the water on both sides of the island. While we were there the clouds blew in underneath us and we were treated to a gentle, cooling rainshower. But the air was clear and crisp, and the scenery beautiful. It was worth the pain in my calves and thighs. I should note for the record that I am woefully out of shape.
The Ford Focus we were rented was an interesting comparison to the Explorer I got a month ago; the Focus felt agricultural and buzzy compared to the smooth and powerful SUV. I had no problem with the transmission in the Explorer but it felt like the Focus was constantly hunting for a gear to be in, and I was constantly jamming my foot to the floor to get it to move. Visibility sucked behind my right shoulder; I never felt safe trying to change lanes. It got us where we wanted to go, but I wouldn’t ever recommend one.
Old San Juan was about an hour away using the no-toll route, and it was beautiful. Both times we got there in the afternoon and had to pause for food before we could explore; we were advised to park down by the water where the cruise ships come in, and we instinctively walked up the hill away from the touristy shops to find good places to eat. On our first night we chose an out of the way restaurant and lucked into some of the most delicious food on the trip, as well as the best margarita of Jen’s life. The second night we found a louder place advertising honest Puerto Rican food, and we all chose excellent meals. The city is absolutely beautiful, especially at night; I should have brought a set of Pantone books down to try and capture some of the colors used to paint the villas. If we’d planned better we would have spent a full day there exploring the fort and more of the city, but I think we did really well with the time we had.
Jen had asked some of the employees at the hotel where they would go if they wanted to eat real food, and we got a good lead on a restaurant in a local town, so we made a beeline for that on the last morning we had the car. We found the place off the square of a pretty little coastal town called Luquillo and sat down for some of the most amazing food we’d had on the whole trip. Tostones (twice-fried plantains) are absolutely delicious. The trifongo at this restaurant, served with a fried strip of the local fish, was out of this world.
Everybody we met was amazing. Frankie the cab driver was engaged by the bellhop to pick us up at 1:30PM for our 4:30 flight out of San Juan, but the bellhop got the time wrong. Our room phone rang at 1:45AM for reasons my tired brain couldn’t comprehend, but I woke enough to put it together and realized he’d texted my silenced phone. I sent back a profuse apology and he waved it off, telling us he’d see us at 1:30PM. The car ride out to the airport was friendly and fun, and he told us not to worry about the hassle, but I doubled his fee for his trouble. Everyone asked us how we liked Puerto Rico and we honestly told them we loved it.
I’m acutely conscious of my inability to speak a second language. Somehow, in some way, I’ve got to start learning Spanish without looking like the dad in Barbie. You know, with all the free time I’ve got.
I’m sitting at a Jimmy Buffet-themed beachside bar on the north shore of Puerto Rico this afternoon, enjoying a cold Corona with lime while the girls sleep off an overnight flight and pre-dawn checkin. It’s warm and humid here and the ocean breeze feels good on my skin. My table is surrounded by noisy grackles, who are waiting for me to order some overpriced bar food and drop it on the floor for them. Sorry guys.
This trip has been planned for a while but issues finding a sitting solution for Hazel meant it was looking like one of the two adults wasn’t going to be able to come. She’s unboardable given her allergies, medications, and lack of current vaccinations (due to the allergies) so Jen searched for months for someone who could house and petsit for us. I have trust issues with my house being occupied by people I don’t know, so many of our avenues were immediately blocked. At the 11th hour, my sister heard our predicament and threw all her stuff in a car to come down and make the family trip possible, for which I won’t ever be able to repay her. So we three jumped on a direct Northwest flight—which was delayed by two hours—and got into the hotel room at 3:30AM. (I had serious reservations about Northwest, but I found our flight painless—even though baggage and assigned seats were extra charge).
at 11AM I got up and found us all some breakfast, and after noshing the girls fell back asleep, so I walked down here to the pool area and ordered a beer, preferring the humidity and my avian friends to the ice-cold air conditioning. In retrospect I should have changed into a bathing suit, but I think I’ll just take my shoes off and walk through the surf when my beer is empty.
This hotel is beautiful, the beds are comfortable, and the water looks clear and blue. It’s great to get away.
I’ve always done my own IT support for work as long as I can remember. My first real paying job was at Johns Hopkins, where I took over a loosely-organized island of Macs and learned how to optimize, upgrade, and network them all until they were singing in harmony. For a lot of reasons that was my favorite part of that job, actually. From there I took my skills and applied them to various situations, inside bastions of PC’s or design firms filled with Macs—but rarely did I ever need to call on the IT department. At my current gig the whole backend system is a Microsoft implementation, and despite their assurances my Macs would be fine using Sharepoint (“it’s just as good as Dropbox!”) Teams (“it’s just as good as Slack!”) Onedrive (“it’s just as good as Dropbox!”) or whatever service they rolled out, the reality never met up with the promise. There was always some reason why their service wouldn’t work correctly: it completely brought my Mac to a crawl, files got corrupted on their way back to my machine, or there wasn’t enough space on the Sharepoint drive and I was always having to ask them to give me more space.
They fielded a SSO system through a kernel-level nannyware system that’s now keyed to the serial numbers of the company Macs they’ve issued, which means that if I wanted to upgrade them anywhere past MacOS 10.14 the nannyware would immediately take over and install itself automatically, without any option to bypass. I held off for as long as I could but they’ve now got the wireless network in the office tied to SSO as well as printing and a bunch of other services I can’t do without, so I bit the bullet and upgraded my work machine to MacOS 13.3 a few weeks ago. On Friday I had to update my password, which worked fine from Mom’s house. This morning I’ve been locked in an endless loop where I can’t access my machine to access the reset to access my machine, which is the definition of modern technological stupidity.
The modern OS is very nice, and has taken some getting used to, but I like it. Things are peppier, the browsers work better, and there’s some software I use that I’m now able to upgrade to a modern version. The nannyware is there, and I have to use a secondary login to install apps on my own machine (grrrr) but generally speaking it’s OK.
With that experience fresh in my mind, it’s probably time to upgrade my personal machine—a 10-year-old Macbook Pro running a 5-year-old OS. Once I’ve finished paying off our vacation trip, I’m going to bite the bullet and buy my first personal Mac in 13 years. I’ve got it narrowed down to either a 13″ or 15″ M2 MacBook Air. Everything I’ve read says there’s not much point in paying the extra money for a Pro, and nothing I do on my personal machine requires the extra cost. Plus I’ll be able to pair it with my watch and use Sidecar to work more closely with my iPad on illustrations, which I’ve not done much with lately. And I was able to get a sweetheart deal on a lifetime Microsoft Office account for $60 a few weeks ago, which won’t run on this old machine.
I’m sipping some coffee in Mom’s living room this morning, looking at her twelve-toed cat clean herself in the sunshine. I drove up to Syracuse after work last night to attend the service for my uncle Neil, who passed away after a stay in the hospital last week. He was a giant bear of a man who loved his family very much. They ran a marina on Cayuga Lake for years, and sold the business and retired about ten(?) years ago to a nice ranch away from the water. I’ll be working from her dining room table today and then tomorrow we’ll attend the service; Saturday there will be a celebration of life at an Inn in Auburn. It’ll be good to see the extended family but the occasion sucks. The girls are at home, as Jen has to drive her Dad to a doctor’s appointment on Friday, so I’m flying solo.
On my way up here I rolled the odometer in the Accord right outside of Syracuse.
I’m laying in bed holding a thermos of warm lemon mint tea, with a sleeping dog curled up at my hip. Outside the sound of rain echoes off the leaves of the trees, and a cool wind blows at my shoulder. It’s only 9:30 and I’m ready for bed. I’ve had a sore throat for three full days now, and it shows no sign of leaving. I have no idea where this came from, but Jen assures me I do, in fact, have allergies and should have been taking medication for that, especially as I was outside for all three days this past weekend and the desert-like conditions probably stirred up some pollen that doesn’t agree with me.
Downstairs, stacked on the front porch, sits about half of our camping gear, packed and ready for a trip we can’t take this weekend. The forecast until next Monday calls for at least 50% chance of rain each day. I’ve camped in the rain before, and if there’s one thing that’s worse than a wet sleeping bag and cold food, it’s two kids complaining about their wet sleeping bags and the cold food. So I’m out a nominal amount for two reservations (an attempt was made to get Zachary’s uncle to join us) and I have to find an alternative solution to get the kids out of the house on Saturday. On the bright side, we’re at the point when I can make reservations at Assateague for next year, so I’ve got my finger on the trigger next Tuesday to make that happen.
- Walked down to the Farmer’s Market with the girls and the dog, and bought a thick steak for dinner as well as a frozen tri-tip for smoking, along with vegetables and other goodies.
- Knocked out a number of errands around the house, including the attic fan, finishing the refinishing of our coffee table, and assembling my new Father’s Day gift: a Weber charcoal unit.
- Got the brakes bled in the Travelall and then spilled brake fluid all over the driveway (ugh)
- Grilled the steak over charcoal. Paired with parmesan fingerling potatoes and a salad; Mama baked a blueberry cobbler for dessert. YUM
- 7500 steps, about 3.6 miles walked.
To the beautiful lady I married, and for what we made together.