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Last week I took Friday off to prepare for my long awaited Memorial day weekend up at Hippie Hollow.  It was a lovely day and I was feeling rather blessed to be able to take a day off with no problems and indulge in things like a pedicure and a trip to Central Market to load up on food.  It was going to be an awesome weekend! 

I caught myself feeling rather guilty at having such a good life.  Then I checked myself.  A long time ago something (minor) happened that made me realize I should enjoy the good times because right around the corner is a big pile of shit waiting for you to step in it. Case in point: my Memorial Day Weekend.

It all started well enough.  I had my book on cd from the library and a freshly loaded and charged ipod.  I woke up bright and early at 5am, stopped off at BofA to get dinero for the park fee and, of course, Starbucks to get me through the first leg of the 3 hour drive up to Austin.  I made it to the park early and was happy to find only one other car in the lot.  The primo spots were mine for the taking.

Unfortunately the water level was still low.  This proved to be bad for reasons beyond not finding a decent spot to lie in.  But more on that later. I wandered around to my new favorite spot in the little cove beyond the second bathroom only to find nothing but rocks near the water.   I ran into the one other park occupant who told me it was very unlikely I’d find a spot near the water.  I ended up trekking back to the little place before the second bathroom where there was an actual beach, even if it was clouded in shade at that moment.  In a few hours I the sun would be high enough to give me that tan I so desperately needed, right?  Little did I know….

There was one clothed man eating an avocado at the stairs where I wanted to be.  I didn’t like it one bit, but he didn’t have the aura of an ogler and he was sitting there first so I had no cause to complain.  There’s no point in going to nude beaches if you are worried about people seeing you naked after all.   So I made my way down, created a comfy spot (or as much as there can be at Hippie Hollow) and stripped. 

An hour later a reader of this blog woke me from my stupor and introduced himself. We sat and chatted.  It turns out he’s a Mormon (LDS?…I’m not sure about the PCness here) and he was thanking me for introducing him to LDS nudists through my blog!  Always happy to be of help to fellow nudists.  He had created a spot higher up where the crowds usually are and so after about half an hour we parted ways.

Then tragedy struck.

If you happened to be in the park around 9:30 ish and an hour or so after, all that hoopla?  Yeah, that was me.  Unknown fact (til now): I have hip replacements.  So  there…now you know all bodies on nude beaches aren’t perfect.  Anyway the right was recently done and I made the boneheaded move of turning my knee inward and…bam!  out came the ball from the socket.    I won’t go into the details of the excruciating pain that caused, except to say I imagine it will be what it’s like if I give birth….to twins…..at the exact same time…without meds.  Here are photos to illustrate the point:

The difference between what my hip should and shouldn't look like.

The difference between what my hip should and shouldn't look like.

As I lay there screaming and helpless but, in the words of Mr. Burns, finding only slack jawed gawkers (and shame on you guys!!!), I finally called out specifically to a man who happened to be walking by.  He also happened to be my Mormon (LDS?) friend from before.  I’ll call him Sam*.  Someone up there was paying attention.  Related Note:This whole experience questioned my lack of spirituality.  Still opposed to organized religion, but I’ve no cause to pick on religious individuals and have to wonder at certain pieces falling into place.

Long story short in bullet format:

  • Sam rushes down to my aid, holds my leg in place to keep it from moving and bringing on more unimaginable pain
  • Sam continues to hold even when it’s obvious rocks and pieces of glass from inconsiderate asses who violate the park rules and bring in glass bottles only to break them are digging into his knees
  • I stupidly ask Sam to get my phone so I can call my mom and have her look online to see how we can get my hip back into place
  • Mom, predictably, tells me in no uncertain terms to CALL THE PARAMEDICS!
  • Sam, thinking far more straight than I am at the time, suggests calling the ranger and does so
  • Ranger calls EMS
  • Sam, still thinking far more straight than I am, suggests I put my top back on.  Note I am now rather embarrassed at the indelicate poses I must have made completely naked while my mind was focused elsewhere.
  • All in all poor Sam made about 4-5 trips up and down the rocks for me.  And got all my belonging safely back to my car.

Now here’s the part that will be helpful for your purposes.  When EMS is called you get not only EMS, but the fire department and a bunch of park rangers as well.  This is especially if, as was the case this weekend (Memorial Day Weekend!?), there are no boats on hand to carry you out the easy way.  All in all there were about 15 guys total.  Fortunately they were all strapping handsome men and perfectly friendly and helpful, thus making me feel like the Queen of Sheba as they lifted me from my spot on the beach, unnaturally low because of the water level. 

The nice EMT gave me a delicious shot of something to curb the nausea and and even more wonderful shot of something to kill the pain.  Thus I felt nothing when they lifted me on my towel into the “rescue” stretcher.  Everyone seemed like they were having a grand old time despite the hike up.  I’m sure the fact that they were surrounded by nude gawkers helped alleviate the same-old, same-old of the experience. Still, kudos to them for bringing a sense of levity to the situation.  Even more kudos to them for managing to haul my hefty ass up all those rocks without dropping me or falling to their deaths. Case in point:

Like this...but with the water 10 feet lower!

Like this...but with the water 10 feet lower!

 Some fun Hippie Hollow facts from the rangers who tried to chat away my distress.  The highest the water has ever been was at the railings for the path through the park in 2007!  For those who’ve been there, the water was at eye level in all the bathrooms.  The lowest was about 16 feet below what it was that day.  According to him I would have had to wait for a boat had that been the case.  

Then I was whisked off to Seton hospital where they made me sit and wait several hours because I had the non–prophetic bad sense to actuall eat something when I got to the park. Then they gave me more drugs (unfortunately NOT before the excruciating experience of being moved from the stretcher to my hospital cot or having to shift my leg to take x-rays), tried 4 times to knock that sucker back in (of which I was thankfully conscious for only 1).   Finally they gave up, put me completely under and got it back into place.  Thus forcing me to spend the night.

yadda, yadda, yadda, as I type this I’m pretty much back to normal except my entire body is sore, I suppose from being tense for 5 hours straight.  What a work out!  I have some sort of post traumatic thing happening where I shudder at the thought of going back  to Hippie Hollow lest it should all happen again. 

But how can I avoid the place I love, which has brought me so much joy?  Rest assured I will whip my subconscious back into shape  in time to get a pre-vacation tan so I don’t look like a complete novice on the nude beaches of the Netherlands/Belgium!

Here are photos of the whole endeavor Sam caught with his cell phone.   Sorry for the small size, it was too blurring when enlarged

Putting me in stretcher

Putting me in stretcher

Prepping the drugs

Prepping the drugs

carrying me from the beach

carrying me from the beach

starting the hike up

starting the hike up

more hiking up

more hiking up

My carriage awaits

My carriage awaits

*all names have been changed to protect the nudists.

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There are a couple of ways to get from San Juan to Fajardo in Puerto Rico.  I’ve seen and considered the following:

  • Bus (cheap but more complicated and limiting than I wanted)
  • Publícos (same benefits and problems as the bus)
  • Taxi (ridiculously expensive)
  • Flying (pointless expense)
  • Rental Car

Ultimately I chose a rental car.  I borrowed it from Avis for the three days and it came to  $109.  But I got 50 Continental One Pass points per day(which I had to pay a tax on!) and it allowed me the freedom to come and go as I pleased.  Being a native of Los Angeles and now living in Houston, both of which are definite car cities, I’m most at home on the road behind the wheel.

Of course each new city I’ve ever driven in has given me cause to think the natives are horrible drivers.  Those in Puerto Rico were no different.  They actually obey the speed limits! I should also point out that their 50 MPH (the highest I saw) speed limit is a good 10 miles lower than most places I’ve seen in the states.  So it was rather frustrating for me, being so used to driving amongst drivers who use the speed limit as minimum.

But that was on the highway.

Once you get into the winding side streets with wicked turns and lanes of varying widths, drivers treat the lines on the road as more of a suggestion than a rule.  At least that’s how it was in Fajardo.  Be careful on those turns because you never know if you’ll get some guy speeding around the bend halfway in your lane. It was not at all uncommon to see so many cars parked facing the opposite direction on my side of the road that I began to think I was going the wrong direction on a one way street.  One tourist told me that the woman at the front desk of her hotel told her that after midnight you could drive through red lights.  Thankfully I was safely in bed by then during my stay there.

But I’m being unfair.  I have no doubt that anyone visiting either LA or Houston would have a lot to say about the driving standards of individuals in either of those cities.  Luckily both places have honed my driving skills enough that Puerto Rico was no problem for me…aside from the frustration of being surrounded by law abiding drivers. 

Anyone who is comfortable driving will have no problem getting around there…with certain caveats:

  1. GPS systems:I brought my Garmin with me and it was perfectly useless.  The voice does not pronounce Spanish at all, which is a problem if you know how to read the street signs correctly.  Half the time I couldn’t get a signal, and when I did, it led me in the wrong direction.  At one point I found myself going 15 miles in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted to go.  In Sum: Get a map, it will help immensely. There are also magazines entitled ¡Que Pasa! lying around in most tourist spots.  That alone saved me many a headache as it has maps galore and (cheaper) hotel listings I was unable to find online beforehand.
  2. Road Signs: Many streets, especially small ones, just don’t have them.  I live in Houston so I’m used to this annoyance. Again, use a map to help you out.
  3. Spanish:Words to know: Oeste = West.  Este = East. Norte = North. Sur = South.  Everything else either has the same visuals (the big red octagon for a stop (pare) sign) or is self explanatory.
  4. Gas: They measure in liters (I think) not gallons.  So don’t get too excited at the $.45 you see listed on the sign in front of the station.
  5. Toll roads: They spring up on you without warning (at least in my experience).  They generally run from $1-2 so be prepared!  Fortunately there weren’t too many of them and I’m sure a bit of preparedness will help you avoid them.
  6. Airport.  They seriously need better signage for how to get there.  I ended up wasting $4 paying a toll by going the wrong direction. I’m sure this is some sort of evil trick for tourists.  Note: take exit 8a but NOT exit 8b.

If you are used to driving in your city, driving around Puerto Rico will be no challenge at all, even if you don’t speak a lick of Spanish.

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Miles

Being up until now, pretty much a homebody, I’m fairly new to the world of “miles”.  You know, those points you earn by shopping here or going there or using this agency vs. that?  Yeah those kind of miles.

Today I was reading Chris’ blog as usual and he discussed his travel plans for 2009…all of which pretty much run circles around my own plans.  But toward the end he pointed out how cheap most of his flights were, and how he got upgrades, because of miles.  Considering some of his destinations are pretty off the tourist track (Eritrea!), a $150 ticket is nothing to scoff at.

So naturally I’m more aware of when and where I can pick up points for my own future travels.  Being in Houston, I’m pretty much a slave to Continental, since this is their hub.  Fortunately they do have a points program, One Pass.  It will take me about 20,000 minimum just to get a ticket within the Continental US, Canada, and Alaska. Right now I only have 4,546.

The good news is, while planning my trip to Puerto Rico, I made sure to be on the lookout for places I could get miles via partners of Continental.  The Hilton I’m staying it gives 500 miles per stay (I’m seriously hoping “stay” means “night”) and I get Hilton points as well (I’m in the Hilton Honors program as well).  I wanted to use Enterprise rental cars, only because I’m used to using them, but they aren’t a partner.  Avis is, so I’m going with them to the tune of 50 miles per day.

All in all I should be earning a total of 3150 miles on this trip, not including the miles earned from the flight itself.  That almost doubles my current total!

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One of my planned trips next year is to Amsterdam.  I know a fellow there and he promised to show me around.  Originally the plan was to take the train to Paris.  Now that I’ve been introduced to nude beaches I’m not so hot on the idea any more. Instead I’m thinking of hitting the beaches of the Netherlands.

Of course my handy dandy nude beach guide informed me that the Netherlands has more nude beaches per capita than any other European country (or something like that).  Considering Amsterdam, is it any wonder?  Since I have no doubt my friend’s willingness to serve as host does not particularly extend to taking off his clothes in public, I was at a loss as to how to get there on my own.

God bless the European’s love, or perhaps just need, for public transport.  I found this site, which pretty much tells me how to take the train to several nude beaches.  The only problem now is how to fit it all in!

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In researching my upcoming trip to Puerto Rico I was happy to find that Flamenco Beach on Culebra was noted as #2 on the Discovery Channel’s top 10 list of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  Of course I couldn’t subsequently find that list anywhere on the web. But I did find a longer list on the Travel Channel.

You can view it here.

Not only is Flamenco Beach listed (or rather Culebra as a whole…I guess the whole island is spectacular) but Vieques is as well.  It’s unfortunate that they don’t list specific beaches, since I know for a fact they differ from one another on Vieques.  But I’m still looking forward to the trip that much more.

And now I have  list to use as a guide for future travels!  Of course their idea of a “beautiful” beach is probably vastly different from mine. Especially since my focus is mostly on the sand…and ability to go nude.  The last thing I’m interested in is yet another white sand beach with crystal blue water and lots of annoying tourists.  Give me an isolated cove with dark water and interesting pebbles filled with bold nudists any day.

But I love beauty as much as the next person, and some of the destinations sound rather interesting (Phi Phi Island?).  Besides, on my trip home for Christmas I can knock more than a few off the list:

  • Carmel
  • Coranado
  • El Matador
  • Hermosa Beach
  • Laguna Beach (whatev)
  • Newport Beach
  • Santa Barbara (ties in perfectly with one of my nudist destinations)
  • Venice Beach (already on my to-do list.  What trip home would be complete without it?  I don’t know about “beautiful” but it’s certainly “interesting”)

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