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Friday, December 18, 2015

Far Flung Points, Posers, and All the Beaches Inbetween - St. Croix, Part 4


“I have a challenge for you,” I tell the concierge. “We’d like to take a snorkel trip to Buck Island but we haven’t been able to find a boat willing to take the wheelchair.”


“Challenge accepted,” she tells us.

While she goes off to find that tour, we’re off to find the sunrise.  No, we’re not actually getting up at the crack of dawn, we’re just driving to the end of the island.


Watch The Video!


Point Udall is the eastern end of the island.  It’s also the eastern-most point of the United States.

It’s still hard to wrap our heads around that this is still our country…part of the good ‘ole U.S. of A…but it is. This barren little rock outcropping is the first soil in our country to feel the sun’s rays.


A monument put up at the millennium alludes to this fact.

I peer over the side to see the extreme end of the point. The rocky outcropping is constantly pounded by waves.


There’s even a little waterspout when the waves hit it just right.

Now, let’s go find the island’s most famous industry, the rum.

St. Croix has been making fine Caribbean rum for over 300 years. Cruzan is their brand and is found as the well liquor in just about every bar on the island. The distillery offers tours but it is full of stair climbing and is not hospitable to wheechairs.

We’d like to take a tour but this just doesn’t sound like much fun for Tim. Luckily, there is now another option.


Recently, Captain Morgan rums relocated their distillery from nearby Puerto Rico to a new plant near the airport. It’s new, this is the United States…home of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it should be accessible…right?

We pull into the handicapped spot in front of the new visitor’s center. Inside, we’re told that the tram used for the tour is not wheelchair accessible and that there is also one part of the tour where visitors get off the tram and walk a little bit.

I ask if I can transfer Tim into the tram and if he can stay on it during the walking part. The answer is yes to both so we sign up for the tour (no pictures allowed during the factory part).

We roll Tim out to the tram, which looks like the kind Universal Studios uses for their backlot tours. We’re escorted to the side where one tour guide notices the seat behind the driver folds up.

“If you can lift both him and the wheelchair, you can put him there,” she says.

No, I can’t lift both but I can transfer him into the seat onboard.

Then the other tour guide notices a slot under the floor of the tram.

“What’s this?” she asks and pulls on a strap there. Low and behold, a ramp slides out. In operation for a year, no one had noticed there was a wheelchair ramp built into the side of the tram.

They pull it out, I wheel Tim onboard, and beg to take a picture.

“But you don’t understand, a lot of wheelchair users follow our travels and would be thrilled to know your tour is accessible,” I plead.


After a few minutes, I’m finally given permission to take one, really quick picture. It turns out Tim is the very first wheelchair visitor they’ve ever had and I am happy to report that the Captain Morgan distillery tour in St. Croix is now fully wheelchair accessible…even the walking part halfway through.

After the tour, we watch a very entertaining film about the brand and learn how to do the “pose” while sipping samples of their dozen or so rums in the bar.


During this little “happy hour,” we also get to have two cocktails of our choice mixed with one of their brands, of course. We spend another hour in the gift shop looking for souvenirs and rum. It is a very inexpensive place to buy it. Before I left home, I saw Captain Morgan Spiced Rum for sale at Costco for $34.99. Here? It’s $9…no tax, either (U.S. citizens can take up to 6 liters of liquor home duty-free, as long as at least one bottle is made on the island).

We take a dozen bottles home.


Back at the Buccaneer, we change into our swim trunks and head to the beach. There are three beaches here but most people only go to two. Mermaid Beach and Grotto Beach. We go to Grotto because they also have a swimming pool there.

The road is long and the hill steep enough that you don’t want to walk down to the beach from the great house, especially with a wheelchair. The hotel runs shuttles up and down the hill all day long but we opt to drive in the rental car. That way we can set our own schedule and throw a six pack of beer in the back to supply us on the beach.


Not quite accessible, it takes two steps to get to poolside here but I’m able to back Tim down them pretty easily. We blow up an inner tube and Letty and I get him into the pool without a problem. Tim takes a couple of hours to float around the pool while Letty and I tag team to stay with him there while the other goes swimming in the adjacent ocean.


I get a diving mask, snorkel, and fins from the beach shack and head to the coral reef just offshore. It’s a bit murky since there was a storm a couple of days ago, with lots of little bits of seaweed floating around. Not really great and not really worth the great effort it would take to get Tim in the water.

Still, I was able to get a little video of it, which you can watch in the embedded video, above.


As the day comes to an end at Grotto Beach, we go back up the hill to make homemade rum punches, sit on the terrace and listen to the sounds of the house band playing on the beach and wafting up to our room on the sunset breeze.

Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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