A Travellerspoint blog

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 1

Seattle to Mount Rainier, WA: Two tickets to Paradise

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The trip didn’t start well.

Our flight from Knoxville was delayed for over 3 hours leaving us stuck in Knoxville until after 11:00 p.m. This caused us to miss our connecting flight to Dallas, leaving us stuck in Charlotte for the night. The worst part wasn’t missing our connection. No, the worst part was that the first game of the UT Volunteer football season was on and all of the airport TVs were set to CNN.

I worried for Matt’s sanity.

Arriving after midnight, we grabbed 4 hours of terrible sleep in a cheap hotel next to the Charlotte airport and flew to Dallas the next morning. It was looking like we were finally going to make it to Seattle when they announced that our connecting flight to Seattle was delayed.

Sigh.

I was beginning to feel like this trip would be spent entirely in airports and we would arrive in Seattle just in time to catch our flight back home.
After much grumbling and more delays, we finally made it onto our final flight to Seattle.

At least the plane had seatback digital drink orders. Yes, please.

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Twenty-four hours after arriving at the airport in Knoxville, we finally landed in Seattle.

Let the road trip begin!

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First up was a 2 hour drive to Mount Rainier National Park.

With only one day to visit Mount Rainier’s 236,381.49 acres, choosing where to stay was a daunting task. I had chosen the area called “Paradise,” because, well, with a name like Paradise, I figured it would have to be at least moderately breathtaking.

I had also chosen to stay at the Paradise Inn, a historic no-frills park lodge. I felt staying at the Paradise Inn would be like taking a step back in time. The rooms are tiny, the beds are hard, there is no air conditioning, no TV, no wi-fi, no Keurig, and no cell phone service, but they do have free cookies and tea in the afternoon.

Basically, we would be staying at my grandmother’s house.

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Thanks to the delayed flight fiasco, we arrived at the park too late to do the short, but scenic, hike we had planned. No matter. We were too tired and it was far too cloudy to hike back to a reflective lake anyway. We noticed it growing cloudier and cloudier as we entered the park.

This would be a good evening to do nothing more than relax in our room and catch up on some rest.

This would have been possible if I had paid better attention when I made the reservation and hadn’t put us in a room the size of a shoebox. Mind you, I didn’t realize we would be arriving on 4 hours of sleep when I booked the room. I figured our accommodations didn’t really matter.

I was aware that we were staying in a historic lodge and that, just like the lodges in Glacier National Park, they were less about frills and luxury and more about utilitarian practicality.

What I didn’t expect was that our room would be so small that we could barely squeeze between the tiny twin beds (yes….TWIN BEDS) and the wall. Matt could lie on his bed and touch both walls at once. This didn’t stop him from lying down and instantly falling asleep, feet hanging off the end of the bed.

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It was about an hour from dinner, so I let Matt sleep while I decided to clean up. I felt horrific and I needed a shower. Unfortunately, I had also failed to notice the fine print on my room reservation that indicated we did not have a bathroom.

WE DID NOT HAVE A BATHROOM.

While they did not offer private bathrooms, they did provide a complimentary pair of size 14 foam slippers for the shower as a pathetic consolation. I found myself sliding down the hall in a bathrobe doing my best not to lift my feet but instead to simply shuffle them along the carpet like a 97 year old man headed for a game of pinochle, so that my giant foam slippers didn’t fall off.

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When I found the shower, I was not surprised to find that, much like my room, it too was absurdly small. I am not a large person, yet even I found it entirely claustrophobic. It is important when sharing a communal shower not to let any part of one’s body touch any surface, but this is practically impossible when the shower stall was designed for a Lilliputian.

Apparently, everything in this lodge was tiny with the exception of the bath slippers.

To add horror to an already uncomfortable experience, my NBA sized foam slippers started to grow in the shower, much like those Magic Animal Growing Capsules we used to get when we were kids. You know, the little things the size of a peanut that we would drop in water to watch them get bigger and turn into something? My slippers were the size of small Volkswagens by the time I finished my shower.

I was forced to abandon my slippers in the shower, because they were too large and heavy and WET to step out of the shower with. Instead, I was forced to stand there, dripping and cold and naked, while I created an intricate maze of towels on the floor, using significantly more than my allotted share, I am quite certain, to ensure I could get to my clean, dry socks without my feet touching the tile.

I managed to get dry and dressed without compromising my cleanliness and fled back to the safety of my tiny bedroom.

Dinner was by the large fireplace in the dining room, looking out the windows at views of the fog enshrouded peaks surrounding the lodge. The food was typical lodge fare, decent, but nothing to write home about. But it was warm and it allowed us to escape the tiny capsule of our room for a couple of hours. We lingered over blackberry pie and spiked coffee, finally realizing that it didn’t matter if it was only 9:00 p.m., we were exhausted and really wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

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What our room lacked in size, it made up for in comfort. The beds were soft, warm, cozy nests of tranquility. At least until I woke up at midnight from drinking all that coffee and suddenly remembered the bathroom was down the hall.

Sweet heavenly Moses.

I made it through the rest of the night without incident and I woke up excited to get this vacation turned around by doing an awesome hike.

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We only had one day to hike in Rainier, so I had chosen the Skyline Trail. The descriptions made it sound perfect.

“If your schedule allows you time to hike only one trail at Mount Rainier National Park, we recommend the Skyline Trail, If there’s a single day hike inside of Mt Rainier National Park that offers a little bit of everything to visitors, it’s the Skyline Trail at Paradise. This 5.5 mile loop is an excellent chance to see many of the beautiful treats of Mt. Rainier all at once; from the summer wildflowers to the year-round glaciers. This hike yields close-up views of Rainier, multiple waterfalls, alpine meadows, and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of neighboring peaks Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and, on a clear day, even Mt. Hood.”

I couldn’t wait for those epic and sweeping views.

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I looked out the window and saw….fog.

I wasn’t worried. It’s always foggy in the morning in the mountains. By the time we had a good breakfast, I knew the sun would be peeking through.

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We hit the plentiful breakfast buffet with gusto. A day of hiking must always begin with a feast of carbohydrates. At least that is what I tell myself as I shovel forkfuls of pancakes into my mouth.

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Each time I looked out the window, in between bites of sausage and pastry, I was almost certain it was getting foggier.

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No one ever hopes for a rainy hike in the mountains. No one wishes for wet shoes or soggy backpacks or muddy trails. Everyone knows that vacation hikes are supposed to take place under blue skies, with gentle breezes and abundant sunshine. It’s supposed to be this, for goodness sakes:

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Not this:

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Apparently, no one told the state of Washington this. We pushed our hiking time back another hour, lingering over the breakfast buffet with an extra trip or two, hoping the skies would clear.

Despite a brief moment when the sky teased us with a glimpse of blue, the fog simply kept rolling in, thicker and heavier with each passing minute.

We waited ten minutes. Fifteen. Maybe the fog would lift? Eventually it became clear this was not just a passing cloud. This was here for the day.

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Unfortunately, our extra trips to the buffet had sealed our fate. We couldn’t skip hiking now that we had filled up on two extra plates of bacon and blackberry waffles.

We were going hiking in the fog.

To be honest, hiking in the fog wouldn’t have been so bad. Fog adds and eerie quiet to everything, making the forest deep and mysterious and beautiful in its own way.

It was when the steady, slow drizzle began to fall that it really turned a slightly unpleasant hike into total suckage.

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We were too far to turn back, and, if I am honest, we still held that glimmer of hope that everyone faced with crappy weather on vacation holds to - that inane hope that maybe, just maybe, it would still clear up at some point.

We were fools.

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I trudged through the endless fog and drizzle, silently cursing every review I had read of the stunning views this trail offered.

“This is one of a very few trails that offers wonderful vista virtually every step of the way.”

“The views go from wonderful to breathtaking.”

“Your trip along the Skyline Trail will be filled with views of cascading waterfalls, mighty glaciers and subalpine meadows brimming with colorful splashes of wildflowers.”

Liars.

Views...no. Splashes...yes.

We slogged down wet trails, through waterlogged wildflowers, past giant snowfields, and up slippery slopes. While the hike was supposed to be dominated by stunning views of Mount Rainier, this was the only glimpse of Rainier that we got all day.

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It’s like Mount Rainier decided to peek through one tiny hole for one tiny moment just to flip us the bird.

Several hours into the hike, we reached Panoramic Point, a 360 degree view of …………...absolutely nothing.

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The view was – not there. It was hidden in thick soupy fog. There was no view. We did see a marmot guarding the summit, however, and that was pretty okay.

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The hike out was uneventful, slipping and sliding down the path, stumbling over wet rocks and roots, and passing the occasional marmot. At that point, I didn’t give a rip about seeing Mount Rainier, I just wanted dry socks.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I had been prepared for jaw-dropping views of the mountains, a stunning look at Mount Rainier, and alpine vistas that stretched for miles. What I had gotten were damp feet and a serious wedgie from wet hiking pants.

Despite not getting the magnificent views of Mount Rainier that I’d anticipated, I was reminded of something I continue to learn in the wilderness: I am not in control, nature is, and any effort wielded to make things anything other than exactly what they are is wasted.

Wishing never makes the rain stop. Hoping and praying won’t make the sun shine. Fog is fog, rain is rain, and the views are there or they aren’t. The hike shouldn’t be about the destination. What is it they say? It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey? Wasn’t that what this entire vacation was about?

Cliché? Maybe. But true. My reward was found in the time spent in God’s creation, listening to the sound of my boots crunching on the gravel, hearing my heart beat in the silent wilderness, breathing the fresh air deep into my lungs.

Okay, whatever. My true reward was simply burning off enough calories for pie.

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We changed into some dry socks and headed out of Mount Rainier National Park toward the small town of Ashford, WA where juicy burgers and blackberry pie a la mode were waiting.

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It was worth every, wet step.

We set off for Olympic National Park with renewed vigor. Okay, maybe it was just pie-belly, but pie-belly can often be mistaken for renewed vigor.

We headed west, equipped with happy hearts, Trader Joe’s snacks and an iPod full of tunes.

Posted by vicki_h 12:16 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (3)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip

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When I was a kid, we didn’t take a lot of vacations. We didn’t have a lot of money for travel, and there were 3 kids in the family, so when we did head somewhere, flying was out of the question. “Vacation” meant loading up the car with suitcases, a large brown paper bag of sandwiches, and some 8 track tapes.

Sure, we spent as much time getting there as we did actually enjoying our vacation destination, but I remember that time in the car as much as I remember where we went. Maybe more. My brothers and I would sit in the back of the brown Buick and play “I spy” out the windows and eat Little Debbies while Mom and Dad listened to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. We would fight over who had to sit in the middle, with their feet on the “hump,” because mini-vans and cushy SUVs with DVD players were not part of our 1977 reality. We ate scattered, smothered, and covered hash browns and pecan waffles at Waffle House and stayed in mom and pop motels along the way. We talked and laughed for hours on the road. We fell asleep in the floorboard with the sound of the road beneath us.

As an adult, Matt and I don’t have the luxury of time, and “vacation” means picking a location and getting there as quickly as possible so we can start enjoying our destination.

Like us, the time of road trips has come and gone for many people. Most people would prefer to hop on a plane and get to their destination in a few hours, instead of wasting days in a car.

We’ve lost the beauty of driving down the beaten path, stopping at the small towns along the way, and finding what secrets they have to offer.

With modern travel and busier lives, the simple pleasures of the road trip have been left behind for some of us. But should they? Maybe it’s good for the soul to slow down and take the road less travelled once in a while.

That’s why Matt and I decided to road trip our last vacation.

We have both wanted to see the Pacific Northwest and what better way to do it than by driving Highway 101 from Seattle to northern California?

The easy part was deciding on a road trip. The hard part was choosing an itinerary. That area of the country is packed with so much to see.

Should we just focus on the big national parks? What about the coastal islands? Do we go north to Vancouver or south toward California? Should we make it an urban trip and visit the big cities of Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco or go small and try to see things like the world’s largest frying pan and Jake the Alligator Man? There were so many options my head was spinning.

After much deliberation, we decided to focus on hiking and parks, because that’s our thing. We would start in Seattle and end our trip in Napa Valley, spending the last few days recovering from all the hiking by drinking copious amounts of wine in the golden sunshine.

Even with the trip we chose, we could only make so many stops. There were too many things to see and not enough time to see them all. I can hear you now, “You mean you didn’t stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory??? Are you insane?” Despite my insatiable love for all things cheese and my almost overwhelming desire to have my photo taken next to a giant fiberglass cow, we simply did not have time for the cheese factory and some other hundred stops that would have been awesome.

Sorry, cow. Sorry, cheese. Sorry, Jake the Alligator Man.

We had to choose what we thought would be our “best of the best” and the rest would have to wait for another trip.

The itinerary was set.

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We’d start in Seattle and head to Mount Rainier National Park. From there, we’d head west to Olympic National Park. Next, we planned to drive south along Highway 101 with stops along the Oregon coast until we ended up in northern California, where we would leave the coast and head for the sundrenched hills of Napa Valley.

The trip was epic. It was one of those trips where every single moment buzzed with life and beauty and gratefulness. The view, the company, the weather, the world — it was all magnificent.

I’d love to share it with you.

Want to go on a road trip?

Posted by vicki_h 10:56 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (0)

Tally Ho! A Vacation Within a Vacation.

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We enjoyed our side trip to Eleuthera during a previous visit to Abaco so much that we decided to repeat it on our most recent trip in August.

With 3 couples, Ocean Tally was the perfect place to sneak away for a night. With only 3 private cottages, our group would basically have the place to ourselves.

When I contacted Annette at Ocean Tally, I was delighted to find that all 3 cottages were available for our stay, but was heartbroken when she told me that the bar and restaurant would not be open.

No matter - it was still worth the trip!

It was a beautiful morning as we flew high over the famed “Glass Window Bridge” on the north end of Eleuthera. The deep blue ocean was separated from the incredible turquoise sea by only a few feet of rock and earth. It was as magnificent as I remembered.

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Landing at the North Eleuthera airport, I was reminded how relaxed and laid back this island was. The airport was empty and quiet. “Customs and immigration” consisted of a nod and a wave and a “have a nice time.”

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Within minutes, we were loaded into a dusty, old minivan – our proud car rental for the next two days. No paperwork, no credit cards, just a cash exchange and a reminder to park it at the airport and leave the keys under the mat when we headed home.

Not wanting to lose any time, we made a quick dash through the liquor store across the street from the airport. We planned to spend the day at the beach before heading to Ocean Tally so we needed beach libations. There was also that business about Tally Bar being closed. Sobriety was not a viable vacation option.

The next stop was the North Eleuthera Shopping Center, on the way to the beach. I had found the description online, “One of the largest grocery stores on Eleuthera, located just outside the Bluff Settlement. They have a good selection of deli meats, frozen food and produce.”

That description was slightly misleading.

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They had a large selection of crocs, flip flops, scrunchies, miscellaneous household goods, artificial flower arrangements, and industrial sized foods. What they did not have a large selection of was chips, dips, and sandwich items. The “good selection of deli meats” was dominated by various types of bologna and a few very suspicious looking packages of ham. We finally found a deli counter, sighing in relief as we realized we would not be forced to buy the 3 lb. jumbo package of chicken bologna we had in our hands.

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Unfortunately, the “oven roasted turkey” left something to be desired.

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I am 99% sure this came out of a can.

It was like a giant naked chicken nugget that had been sliced.

I wasn’t sure it was real meat. It looked like a "meat product."

But, we bought it along with an industrial sized bag of tortilla chips and were on our way.

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We were headed to Ben Bay beach and I couldn’t wait for our friends to see how beautiful it was.

I found myself having a little trouble with the directions.

The directions from Discover-Eleuthera-Bahamas.com: “From the highway turn right, then left-right-left. And there you'll be, at a really pretty beach.”

It should not have surprised anyone in that dusty minivan when we drove past the airport for the fourth time.

I was just about to give up on the beach and start eating the gray-turkeylike-meat-product in the minivan when we finally found the right turn, wound our way through several narrow dirt roads, and found ourselves at the parking area for Ben Bay.

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Unfortunately, we had wasted a lot of time looking for edible items in the grocery store and had wasted even more time driving up and down the same road four times looking for the turn to the beach. We reached the beach shelter just as it started raining.

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Let me rephrase that.

Just as it started POURING. This rain was biblical. I expected frogs and locusts to come out of the sky with it.

I’m pretty sure I saw seagulls and beach lizards pairing up two by two.

You know how people say, “It always rains on the beach, but it only rains for a minute or two and then the sun comes out again?”

Those people are liars.

It rained for an eternity.

So, we did the only thing we could do. We ate our weird meat, almost 6 lbs of tortilla chips, and drank an entire bottle of tequila.

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And sulked.

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But then….it happened….a hole literally opened in the sky.

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I did not see a dove with an olive branch fly through it, but I did see the sun. We were able to enjoy a couple of hours of glorious sunshine on Ben Bay Beach.

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Then it was on to Ocean Tally!

I love Ocean Tally.

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The owner, Annette, is one part beach babe and two parts coastal chic hostess tied together with flowing white linen tunics, seashells, and perfectly sun kissed hair. She is at once casual and elegant. She welcomes you in like an old friend. Her place personifies Bahamian charm. Ocean Tally strikes a sweet balance between a boutique hotel and a bed-and-breakfast, and stands in stark contrast to the cookie-cutter resorts that dominate the islands.

The cottages are bright, airy structures that overlook the dramatic rocky cliffs and out to the ocean beyond. They are stylishly but simply decorated, with billowing white curtains, clean white walls, and crisp luxury linens. Ocean Tally is an oasis of relaxation. It is a perfect, intimate hideaway.

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My only disappointment was the knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to visit her beautiful and delicious restaurant and bar. One of my most memorable beach meals was in that restaurant.

I can still taste the buttery curry lobster….

I apologize for getting distracted, but don’t judge. You haven’t tasted that lobster.

We all settled into our cottages for afternoon naps under the breezy fans and agreed to meet at the lighthouse later that evening, where Annette promised to have some dinner recommendations waiting as well as a boat to take us to Harbour Island if that’s what we wanted to do.

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What I didn’t know was that everyone had a secret.

When we arrived at the bar, expecting to be whisked away to some sub-par dinner experience, Annette was smiling and pouring champagne at the bar.

“Happy Birthday,” she said.

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With Annette’s help, my friends had planned a surprise birthday dinner at Tally Bar as a late celebration. Annette had endless bottles of champagne and wine, a private chef, and a beautifully set table waiting.

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It was perfect.

Our first course was a salad of fresh greens, marinated artichokes, and toasted goat cheese medallions.

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Then there was wine. So much wine.

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For dinner, we were served delicious herbed lobster tails with black beans, sweet potato cakes, carrots and asparagus.

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Then there was more wine.

The grand finale was a birthday cake.

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I felt like a queen. (Maybe it was all the wine.)

The evening couldn’t have been more perfect.

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We woke up to a beautiful Ocean Tally morning.

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Even though the restaurant was closed, Annette (always the gracious hostess), whipped us up some coffee, juice, fruit, and fresh coconut tarts for breakfast (okay, she might have bought the tarts, but SOMEONE made them with love…I could tell….).

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It was time to head back to Abaco, but not before everyone had a chance to jump into the Blue Hole. We made the short drive, soaking in the last of the views before we had to leave.

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Having shamed myself with a horrible “running man” posture, side slide, and butt splat on my previous jump, I had no foolish intentions of trying to redeem myself with a second go. I know my limitations and considered myself lucky that I emerged from the water the first time with all of my appendages still attached.

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However, Mr. Olympic felt the need to do it again just to prove he could do it perfectly a second time.

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I had no doubt.

And, we had newbies who wanted to give it a try. We had a couple of takers who made the leap of faith.

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Much like that leap into the Blue Hole, our trip to Ocean Tally had been exhilarating and glorious, but over in the blink of an eye.

Our love affair was brief, but intense. I know I'll be back. Until next time, Ocean Tally!

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Posted by vicki_h 09:14 Archived in Bahamas Tagged ocean bahamas eleuthera tally Comments (1)

Oops, I did it again.

I just can't satiate my Guana Cay addiction.

So I dove in for another taste.

How about we just hit the highlights?

The food: If it's battered, deep fried, golden brown, carb laden, and swimming in fat on a paper plate, I'll eat it in the Abacos. Just to keep my mom off my back, I throw in a green thing every now and then.

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The drinks: Because you need to keep your blood alcohol level up to ward off those pesky mosquitoes.

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The sunrises: There simply aren't words.

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The sunsets: So beautiful they make my heart hurt.

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Nippers: Because it's not a trip to Guana without Sunday Funday!

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The Wildlife: Sharks and stingrays and screaming! Oh my!

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Blue water and white sand: Because that is the recipe for happiness, my friends.

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The colors of the Bahamas: Because nothing brightens my day like a little pop of color.

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Good friends and good times: That's what a trip to Abaco is all about.

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Before I go, I want to give a special "shout out" to Shawna Deal of Easy Touch Massage from Marsh Harbour (easytouchmassage@yahoo.com or find her on Facebook!). Us "girls" wanted massages and with no spa on Guana, we were able to get Shawn to come over for a half day to give us in home massages. While Bikini Hut is not, in fact, a Bikini Store, it apparently can operate quite well as a part-time spa, complete with mimosas and Shawna's magic hands. I recommend contacting her if you ever have a few folks that want a massage on the cays or if you are going to be in Marsh Harbour.

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See....I'm not always long winded.

I will tell you one story. On our last day of our week in Abaco, a sign appeared to me in the sky.

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In case you can't all see what is OBVIOUS, it was clearly a giant lobster.

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I took it as a sign that we weren't supposed to leave.

Obviously, Matt didn't agree with me, because I am home now.

Sigh.

Posted by vicki_h 10:46 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (7)

Guana Cay: This is my happy.

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When we bought a house on Guana Cay, I think we both secretly worried it would turn a place we love into a place we felt forced to visit. We were so afraid that ownership would make us feel like we HAD to go there instead of WANTING to go there and we would start thinking about all the other vacations we could have taken with that money. We worried it would turn a joy into an obligation.

Sort of like having a package of chicken thawed out in the refrigerator at home that you know you should go home and cook, even though your heart really wants to go out for pizza.

I didn’t want Guana Cay to become old chicken.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

I literally can’t wait to return to this place.

Maybe the “new” will wear off at some point, but right now, Bikini Hut and I are tangled in a deep love affair. When I am not there, it’s all I think about. When I am there, I am in heaven.

I guess Guana Cay has become my “guilty pleasure” destination. You know, the one that offers little in the way of new experiences or cultural enrichment, and at times (think Nippers Sunday) might even be a little on the tasteless side, but it’s entertaining and cheerful and just feels really good. Like watching an episode of the Real Housewives in your sweatpants while eating an entire box of ice cream sandwiches.

It might not be the most chic and refined, but it makes me happy.

So, at least for now, you will be subjected to repeated photos and descriptions of the same things. Go ahead and say it.

“Are we really going to Guana Cay AGAIN???”

Yes, friends. Yes we are.

Saturday, July 2:

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The flight from TN to Abaco seems to get easier every time we make it. Maybe that’s because Matt’s doing all the flying and I am doing no more than watching the sun rise over the Great Smoky Mountains and sleeping in the back of the plane.

It seemed like only minutes before we were landing in Marsh Harbour, picking up the boat at the boat yard, and speeding towards that happy little cottage on Guana Harbour.

Hello, Bikini Hut!!

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We were welcomed with open arms (and more than a few millipedes). We quickly shook the travel fugue off, changed into something breezy, and made our way to Grabbers for the first frozen goodness of the week and a spectacular sunset.

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It was a beautiful night and the sunset did not disappoint. Because it was the height of the visitor season, Grabbers had gone “fancy” and had a special surf and turf buffet set up.

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We surfed. We turfed.

And then we called travel day quits.

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Sunday, July 3:

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It was a beautiful first morning on Front Street.

No matter how much I want to sleep in, my eyes pop open the minute the sky begins to turn pale. My internal clock wakes me up (or maybe it was the incessant puppy kisses begging to be taken to the beach). I can’t help getting out of bed while the sky is still a cool gray. I have to see the sunrise.

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It was our first day of a long week and we didn’t have any ambitious plans. The only plan was to have a relaxing week.

We spent a lazy morning at the house before heading toward Nippers for lunch.

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The Sunday before the 4th of July is usually a pretty lively day and this one was certainly shaping up to be a crowd pleaser.

Even though it had been a month since Matt’s birthday fiesta in the British Virgin Islands, we were still recovering from a 7 day hangover from Jost Van Dyke, so, for once, we were the quiet ones at Sunday Funday.

See….I can be calm if I choose. To be frank, it was just too HOT to do much more than sit limply in a chair. Dancing in that heat would have had disastrous effects on a person my age.

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The weather was gorgeous and boats came from every direction. It was fun watching from the beach as scruffy little boats with 17 drunk 20-somethings sidled up to $400,000 cruisers and attempted to anchor with about 3 feet between them. I have never seen an overindulged, middle aged man move as fast as I saw one move when a small boat filled with kids literally got right next to his mini-yacht and drunkenly threw a bean bag over the side to serve as a bumper.

A bean bag.

$90 cigar be damned. He tossed it aside as he ran through the water faster than Paula Deen at a butter sale.

We watched as another boatload of people put a large bottle of Fireball on the beach, partially submerged in the sand, and sat on their boat with a fishing line tied to the bottle.

Eventually, some poor drunk clown would walk past it, stop, and reach down for it. That’s when it would get jerked back into the water with the speed and force of a barracuda.

It was all fun and games until one poor girl did a face plant in the sand.

Oh, the things you see at Nippers Sunday Funday when you are the sober ones.

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When our fingers started to prune, we dried off and headed to Grabbers to see if Steel Daddy was still playing.

We caught the tail end of his show and a beautiful sunset, but the horde of people clamoring for menus convinced us that we should probably find dinner elsewhere.

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We headed inside for a quiet, air-conditioned meal at Fish Tales.

Not only did they have a/c, they had patriotic jello shots!

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And whatever this delicious little thing was.

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After a crisp Caesar salad with fresh caught fish, some gooey nachos, and a seafood pasta, we made the short walk back to Bikini Hut to call it a night.

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Monday, July 4th:

My favorite part of each day is walking the beach at sunrise. It’s that much better when my 2 favorite sidekicks are with me.

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It was Independence Day back home, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some good old fashioned picnic food and a day on the boat.

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We made our way to the lagoon where the tide was exceptionally low, making for some amazing sand bars and shallow pools.

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We did it up right with hot dogs, pasta salad, potato salad, cheese and crackers, chips and salsa and chilled oreo parfaits for dessert!

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NOTE TO SELF: Always be mindful of what your face is doing when your photo is being taken. Always.

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Then it was time for sun, fun, and a whole lot of relaxing.

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Even the dogs got into the action. I had a moment of panic when Rooby leapt off the boat like a flying squirrel, all splayed legs and bugging eyes when she spotted me about 100 feet from the boat.

The good news? We discovered Roobs can swim.

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After that, we put them on a float and paddled them around. If they want to be in the water, they shall be in the water!

We left when a massive number of boats showed up and decided to plow their way into our peaceful lagoon. We probably could have tolerated the company, but it was the superfluity of Gator flags that finally did us in.

We played them a little Rocky Top as we made our exit.

Everyone needed a shower and a little down time before the fireworks anyway.

We took in the sunset with a frozen Grabber and made our way to Nippers for the fireworks.

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There were “FIREWORKS IN YOUR FACE!” and a beach bonfire to finish off the holiday. We could see folks getting a little crazy as we made our way through the crowd to head back home. This was a low key trip for us, so there would be no sweaty midnight dancing for our group.

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I’m sorry. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 5th:

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Apparently, this guy did too much sweaty midnight dancing. Or at least too much sweaty midnight drinking, because something made him think it was a good idea to drive his golf cart onto the beach. Where it will probably live forever, much like that giant ball that made its way down the beach some years ago.

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Maybe it will be discovered hundreds of years in the future by a race of very smart apes.

That cart was STUCK.

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We noticed the Tervis tumbler in the cup holder bore the name of a very large yacht that was docked at Orchid Bay.

Rich doesn’t always mean smart.

After my walk, I scored a loaf of fresh baked bread at Guana Grocery and we had amazing egg sandwiches and fresh mango while we tried to figure out what to do with our day.

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We decided it was a perfect day for Lubbers Landing.

First, we made a snorkel stop at Fowl Cay.

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I couldn’t help but feel nervous when I looked at the choppy water remembering that only days before, a diver had been swept out by the current at Fowl Cay and had to be rescued by Dive Guana.

I nervously bit my nails as we slowly and carefully made our way to a mooring ball.

I was trying to decide if I should fake a cramp, when I looked over and saw the Dive Guana boat on the next mooring ball.

Whew.

The currents were fine and the snorkeling was glorious. I was glad I didn’t wimp out.

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Once we were sufficiently exhausted from swimming, we headed to Lubbers Landing for island burgers and saltwater margaritas….the single best lunch in all of Abaco!

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Lubbers Landing was SLAMMED with a huge group of at least 50 people, but that didn’t stop the amazing staff from supplying us with cold drinks, crispy hot cauliflower bites, and juicy ground tuna burgers with hand cut fries in mere minutes.

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As I was wiping the ketchup off my chin, I noticed a guy walking toward me with a really cool guitar.

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It was Jimmy Parrish http://jimmyparrishonline.com/ a trop rock singer/songwriter from Jacksonville, FL. Jimmy had contacted me months before and requested the use of one of my photos of Abaco for a special wrap he was having made for his guitar. He also let me know he’d be in Abaco over the 4th of July and we had agreed to meet up so that I could see the finished product.

If I say so myself, it was pretty spectacular!

I was surprised (and honored) when he handed me a sharpie and asked me to sign it….like I was the famous one.

Folks, let me tell you….if you want to suddenly silence a room filled with drunk vacationers….hand a girl with a southern accent wearing a pair of cutoffs, sunglasses, and a trucker hat a sharpie and ask her to sign your guitar.

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The entire room spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out who I was.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pretending I was famous and trying to score free drinks.

After lunch and a few too many saltwater margaritas, we headed over to Tahiti Beach for the sandbar party.

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When Fireball invites himself to the party, it’s time to go home!

We cleaned up a little and headed to the Abaco Inn for dinner.

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We might have lingered over one Conch Pearl too many, but we still managed to make it home just before the last of the sun was gone.

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Wednesday, July 6th:

Are you guys bored yet?

Seriously, some trips are for the party, some for the adventure, and once in a blue moon even I take a trip solely for the relaxation.

This had been a wonderfully low key week so far. As I walked the beach with my two favorite buddies, I felt stress free. We didn’t have any plans for the day and I was absolutely fine with that.

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My morning was spent searching for sea glass, chasing Bella into the edge of the waves and watching her run, and watching Rooby stalk this very large bird.

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I don’t think Rooby is aware of her own size limitations.

We did nothing more than laze around the house all morning. At least until we got hungry.

It was such a beautiful day, we decided to do lunch with a view at Grabbers. Now that I think about it, is there actually anywhere you can eat on Guana Cay that doesn’t have a view??? Grabbers was spectacular on this particular day.

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A wedge salad, a coconut crusted fish burger, and a few Grabbers later and it was time for a nap.

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Seriously, you’re getting bored, aren’t you?

I may as well be an old lady at an AARP convention telling you about my knitting and sciatica, but you’re still here, so we’ll carry on.

After naps, I packed up a wine and cheese picnic and we took the boat over to Shell Island for sunset.

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For dinner, Forest and Edmond at Kidd’s Cove whipped us up some lobster. It may not have been lobster season, but a frozen lobster is better than no lobster in my book!

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Thursday, July 7th:

It was my favorite kind of morning, where the sky is lit up in pink and blue and then erupts into gold as the sun makes its way into the day.

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We needed to run some errands, so today was going to be Marsh Harbour day.

I no longer get excited about shopping on Marsh Harbour, because I know I am going to come home with things like a $60 blender that should have been $19.99.

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Our goal was to come home with a washer and dryer that didn’t break the bank.

We managed to score a scratch and dent set, which suited me just fine considering the fact that within 11 months it would be rusted out from the salt air anyway.

We grabbed lunch at Curly Tails. Bahama Mamas and burgers hit the spot.

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It was a gorgeous afternoon and it seemed like a shame to just head back, so we made a short detour to a little uninhabited island I had seen a thousand times, but that we had never stopped at.

But first....dolphins!!!

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Today was the day to try a new spot.

It had the clear, shallow water that I have become accustomed to…but it also held a little surprise. A hidden tidepool!

The water was bath-warm and the views out to the ocean were magnificent.

Another reason I love Abaco: No matter how many times you go, there is always something new.

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Like any old couple, we fall into routines. For some old people, it's warm milk and a rousing game of canasta. On Abaco, it’s sunset at Grabbers. I can’t stand to miss a single, sizzling, blazing one.

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When the sunset had cooled and the water had turned to glass, we headed to Orchid Bay for wing night.

We assaulted our bodies with hot wings, gooey mac n’cheese, and loads of sugar. An all brown dinner with nary a vegetable present.

Don’t tell my mom.

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Friday, July 8th:

We always wake up happy on Abaco.

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It was a great weather day, so we decided to take the boat through Tilloo Pond and down to Pete’s Pub. As we neared Elbow Cay, we were thrilled to see the day’s regatta sailing past. We knew it was regatta week, but we hadn’t really been keeping up with the schedule.

We sat still for a while and watched the boats race.

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Then it was on to Tilloo Pond, where the water was insanely blue and so clear you could see every starfish and stingray that passed.

Before long, we were pulling up to Pete’s. Most people like the Blaster, but I prefer the Caribbean Breeze. Made with 151, it packs more of a punch than the Blaster.

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And when you are wearing a redneck fabulous shirt like this one, you need a punch.

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Before long, we made our way back to Guana with a quick pit stop for snorkeling at Sandy Cay and a beach stop.

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For some inexplicable reason, ever since I got my own beach house, with my own beach kitchen, I have found myself wanting to cook on vacation. I want to learn to bake Bahamian bread and do creative things with mangos and pineapples. I want to make coconut cream pies. Lots of pies.

I’m not sure where this sudden inspiration came from, because, while I love cooking at home, I don’t think cooking and vacation can coexist. Not only do I typically have an aversion to doing anything more than heating up a cup of water in the microwave on vacation, I also have a beach kitchen with an apartment sized fridge, a miniscule stove, and counter space the size of a postage stamp.

So why did I keep finding myself wanting to cook?

Maybe it was the pleasure of doing something I love in a place that was MINE.

Or maybe, it was just, well, PIE.

Whatever the reason, I found myself in a cooking frenzy.

We had dinner in that night, Bikini Hut style.

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Saturday, July 9th:

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Sunrise, sunrise, sunrise. Blah, blah, blah. I realize this is getting repetitive, but it seriously is awesome.

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I still hadn’t gotten the cooking out of my system, so we hung around the house doing some odds and ends and I decided to make lunch.

Yum!

I should try this cooking on vacation thing more often.

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I also have to highlight this AMAZING "Murphy Bar" my Dad made for me. Because Bikini Hut is so small, we just don't have room for a bar, but I needed some place to put everything. I showed my dad a photo I found online and next thing I knew...VIOLA! Amazing Murphy Bar.

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It had been several years since we had stopped at what used to be my very favorite spot in all of Abaco: the beaches at Bakers Bay.

Back when there wasn’t a house in sight, no mega yachts pulled up to shore, and no celebrities cavorting around on shore forcing the Bakers Bay security guards to attempt to chase off any and every beach goer no matter how illegal that is…..it was just a pristine and beautiful beach with the most amazing water imaginable.

I had a hankering to see it again. (I apologize to all you “yankee folk” that may not know what a hankering is, but that’s what Google is for)

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Despite the McMansions that are stacked as tightly as 19th century tenement housing, it was still beautiful.

Despite the mega yacht that was literally pulled up to shore, it was still one of the prettiest spots in Abaco.

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I grabbed my pineapple cup (just to increase the tacky factor), thumbed my nose at the Bakers Bay security guy, and hopped on my float to enjoy the beautiful water.

I think Rooby and Bella enjoyed it too.

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I couldn’t believe it was our last night. I hadn’t once scarfed down an entire bag of Doritos, cried over an empty Nippers cup, or danced badly to the Cha Cha Slide. I had actually behaved like a civilized adult and had ended the week rested, relaxed, and completely rejuvenated.

We enjoyed a final sunset, a final Grabber, and a final dinner at Orchid Bay before closing the door on another week in Abaco.

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It may be boring, but THIS IS MY HAPPY.

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Posted by vicki_h 15:29 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands caribbean tropical bahamas abacos abaco guana_cay Comments (9)

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