A SPECTACULAR Bike Ride; Now Time to Depart St. Croix

Okay, this is the REAL chance to test the sat phone email system again. Kevin brought the inverter we need to power the little Ocens Optimizer so I can connect the iPad to the sat phone. So hopefully this works ( if you're reading this it did).

We're t-minus three hours to departure on Leg 2 of this trip north from St Lucia. St Croix has been a very (unexpectedly) pleasant stopover. Whatever your impression of the USVI, throw it out the window. It's just different here. For the better.

After posting on here yesterday I hit the road on the borrowed Kestrel road bike that Julie and Dave hooked me up with ( shoes and all!) I cycled east along the coast road, headed for Pt. Udall, the easternmost spot in the USA. The road was alternatively smooth, newly paved blacktop and choppy, gritty, potholed rough riding. Thankfully the biggest holes were marked with orange spray paint. Hitting one with skinny road tires would surely have broken the bike and myself.

After I left the town and the fort behind, the road wind along through sparse residential areas and along the beach in spots, with views to the almost artificially blue water off the coast. St Croix is surrounded by reefs (indeed many charter companies won't even allow yachts to visit the island - probably the reason I like it here so much!), and the shallow water inside them just sparkles in the sunshine. White sandy patches glow light blue at midday, while the reefy bits shine a darker green-brown. The deep water is a brilliant navy-purple blue.

About 2/3 of the way out east I passed that Very Large Baseline Array telescope, situated by the side of the road opposite a small park on the beach. The VLBA is one of several around the world that basically, from my understanding, looks for aliens. Ever see the movie 'Contact'. It's something like that.

The final stretch to Udall was a newly paved road that wound through the desert scrubland and into the higher hills to the east. The road dipped and dived and rose steeply along this stretch devoid of human habitation. It reminded me of Tongariro in New Zealand. The final climb to the top and the strange looking monument they erected there was steep, offering views out over the ocean beneath the cliffs.

At Udall I paused to take in the surroundings, tempted to climb down the path to the beach on the south side if I'd have had a bike lock. Then I continued back again, retracing the same road I came in on until it came to the intersection to head south, which i did, and cycled back along the south shore to complete the loop. It was much less populated there, and considerably drier. Again the reefs sparkled beneath the cliff that the road followed. I let out a long 'wooooooooo!' descending one particularly long, fast hill that offered inspiring. Views of the ocean on my left and the mountains straight ahead.

Just before Lowry Hill on the way back into town I spied a guy selling coconuts by the roadside. I ha to stop. His name was Andrew, and he confirmed my laid-back impression of the island.

"It's a sleepy, mellow place!" He said with pride. "Nothing at all like St Thomas." Indeed

Andrew explained that the road I was on was part of the St Croix Half Ironman bike leg, and he sits by his tamarind tree and watches the racers zoom by. For the past several years Lance Armstrong has competed in - and won - the race. And Andrew had a front row seat for the show. I told him Lance might not be back because he was banned, and he was genuinely surprised. I guess the news still doesn't travel that far or fast.

After two coconuts down the hatch I kept on up the hill and descended again back onto the road I first left town on. Before heading back down to town, I made one last detour up Mt Welcome road and looped around the side of town before heading back just in time to beat the rain. Julie picked the bike up along with Marcia, and drove her to the airport.

So now we leave St Croix behind, bound for the Bahamas. Looking at the chart last night at dinner, Dad and I got inspired to try and stop somewhere in the Exumas and revisit one or two of the islands I last saw as a ten year-old when we lived aboard the 36' Sojourner ketch with my Mom and sister Kate and the two cats. That was the defining year of my life, the reason, I'm sure of it, that I'm sitting here writing this right now. It'll be a weird feeling going back.