Arriving at Sandals, we are greeted with ice cold wet towels that smell of lemon and vanilla. Soon thereafter, we are promptly handed ice cold glasses of the champagne bubbly. After filling out a little paperwork, we are escorted to our room that is a mere 50 foot from the concierge desk.
The room: ground floor, private patio with sidewalk access, in room stocked bar, and a view of both the “hangover/old folks” pool and the ocean. You might be wondering what the “hangover/old folks” pool is… well, Sandals Royal Bahamian has two main pools. We commonly referred to one as the “party/drunk” pool for its loud music and topless drunk woman, and the other was the “hangover/old folks” pool because of its laid back quiet nature. The room was just as the website described, so Jonda and I were very happy with our new accommodations. Since our luggage had already been placed in our rooms for us, we changed, and went to make reservations and check out everyone else’s new rooms. The reservation stop is an important one. For those of you traveling to a future sandals, book your restaurant reservations day one, otherwise you may be unable to eat at the restaurants you want as they book up. Diving is similar; if you want on the boat, go to the dive shop, on day one.
Of course, on the way, we had to stop at the bar and order our first drink. I had the “hummingbird”, a rum based smoothie containing bananas, coffee liqueur, rum cream, grenadine, and strawberry syrup. This might have been my best decision of the entire trip. I’d like to say I had fewer hummingbirds on this trip than I have fingers and toes, but that would be a lie. These drinks were tasty.
It didn’t take long before swim suits were donned and we were out on the beach. We discovered these floating rafts anchored out in the surf, and grouped together to visit and watch the sunset. Afterwards, we dined at the Crickateer’s Pub. Crickateer’s is a total hole in the wall. It smells of vomit and stale beer. But the food was enjoyable, they served Guiness, and it had a great “pub” feel to it. After leaving the pub we discovered the comfortable chairs and fire pits that adorn the resort in the evenings. They’re everywhere and they’re very easy to fall asleep in…
Day Two (10/4/2012): Pool Day… at the party/drunk pool. It was also the day we began naming people. It is a small resort, so you tend to see many of the same people in the same places over and over again. Sometimes you hear them and find out their real names and use them, other times, you just make them up. For example, we had “Mary and Pam” (real names)… and then others like “lady with the fake boobs” and “the chimney.” The chimney was smoking a cigar every time we saw him. This was a pretty laid back day, I played water volleyball, and then we watched drunk Mary take off her top and do body shots with her group at the bar. In the evening we visited Kimonos which is Sandal’s version of a hibachi grill. They don’t serve Japanese there though… we were told they only serve “blackanese.” Our chef was humorous and friendly and the food was great. We dined with Jake and Amanda as well as two couples from Italy that spoke fairly good English.
Day Three (10/5/2012): Shark Dive & Rehearsal Dinner Day… We dove three of the seven days that we were there, so I’ve grouped all of the scuba stuff at the bottom of the article. The shark dive was excellent and probably my favorite part of the trip (I know, I’m supposed to say that the wedding was the best part… but seriously, there were SHARKS!) After our dive, we hung by the pool for a bit and then eventually changed for the rehearsal dinner which was held out on the terrace at the “Spices” restaurant. It was beautiful… post rehearsal dinner, the “free”, er… “prepaid” drinks were flowing. Sandal’s held their weekly “Junkanoo” street parade complete with a full marching band. There were all types of food to try including barbequed eel. Of course our group got the Congo line started and eventually half of our group was up on stage learning how to dance “Bahamian Style”… which translates into shaking your hips, thrusting your pelvis forward and shouting “dollar dollar dollar” a lot. Eventually the Junkanoo slowed down and the group grooved its way over to the dance club. Several members of our party showed the Bahamian dancers how to really dance as we shut down the club, and then a large group of us met at the hot tub at the “hangover/old folks” pool. We officially renamed it the drunk pool on this special evening… complete with hot tub cannonballs and champagne.
Day Four (10/6/2012): The Wedding Day… began with six individuals stating the night before that they would be scuba diving on this morning. Three of us (myself, Jake, and Amanda) made the boat… the other three (including the bride and groom) were quite possibly still in the hot tub. None-the-less, the three of us made the DC-3 and James Bond dives. Afterwards, we cleaned up and headed to the beach for a wedding. The wedding was gorgeous. You can check out a “shortened” video of the event here. Or the photos here. The bride and groom were awesome, the pastor was great, the setting was unreal, and afterwards, the reception was on the beach. Sand, sunset, friends, food, and fun… was had by all. How do we know fun was had by all? Because when the party is still going on hours later and the bride is singing karaoke to “Baby Got Back” in her wedding dress… you know fun is being had by all. It was awesome.
Day Five (10/7/2012): The Island Day… was carefully planned into our itinerary. We knew this was the day after the wedding. We knew that by this day, we’d have several “dive” days, several “drinking” days, and several late nights behind us. We knew we would need a recovery day, and this was it. The best tip for the private island: be on the first boat out to the private island, once there, go to the back of the property and go left, six large private cabanas will be there, if you’re lucky, you’ll score one for the day… and we did. Private cabana, snorkeling, shade with just the right amount of sun… it was perfect. Add to it a couple’s seaside massage in a cabana on the other end of the island, and you have the perfect “day after the wedding” day. Bonus, we got to spend a portion of the day with the newly married Chris and Margaret! We also found some sand dollar/sea-biscuit shells, had conch fritters at lunch, and officially missed the last boat off the island. It turns out that when you miss the boat; you get to ride back on the next boat with the daily trash... which was pretty funny after the fact. We returned back to the mainland to clean-up for dinner, and then made our way back to the private island via the dinner boat for food at Café Goombay. The food served in the open aired restaurant was excellent, and the sudden thunderstorm that popped up gave for an awesome island adventure mood.
Day Six (10/8/2012): The Make-up Dive Day… Remember those people that didn’t make the dive on their wedding day? Well, they finally made it on the boat. Jonda and I got to dive with Chris and Margaret on this day (kind of). Then we spent the remainder of the day at the party pool. Followed that up with dinner at the Crystal room, yum, and eventually we ended up with the group watching the Texans play the Jets on Monday Night Football at Crickateer’s Pub. The humorous part about this is that one side of the bar was New Yorkers watching a television set that was about five seconds ahead of our television set. We went back and forth yelling at each other throughout the evening. Luckily it was a good night for the folks from Texas. The hot tub was hit once again, and we took a few photos over at the piano bar.
Day Seven (10/9/2012): Creepy Guy at the Pool Day… So we started off the day with Jonda spending the morning at the spa… this left me with some time to go get dive logs signed and roam the resort. Eventually I settled in on a float at the “hangover/old folks” pool. I was there for a couple of hours, but I kept getting awkward stares from various people. I was that “creepy” guy at the couple’s resort without a significant other with me. I wasn’t with a group of people, my wife wasn’t in a chair nearby… by unwritten rule that qualified me to sit at the nearby bar, but not float by myself in the middle of the pool. None-the-less, I floated. Stare all you want old folks… I’ve got a hangover. The rest of the day was a mix of beach/pool, and eventually dual lobsters at the Baccarat restaurant. This was easily the best meal of the week. We followed that up with some wits-and-wagers in Chris and Margaret’s swank accommodations with Brandt and Denise… and ordered in Potatoe Wedges/Chips from the Pub, delivery ala Margaret and Jonda.
Day Eight (10/10/2012):The Dreaded Day of Departure… I think it was somewhere near day four when we were talking about missing our children. But also around that day that you began to think that this vacation was almost over. And that feeling hung there though this day. We got up and went and had a nice breakfast. Jonda went and worked out while I went and took some photos. We then went and bought photos from the Sandals Photo Shop. This was truly my only complaint about the vacation. The pictures here were crazy expensive. $16 for a digital photo… ouch. The photos are great and you want them, so they have you. However, they should REALLY offer them at a cheaper price. Even throw a Sandals logo on there at a cheaper price. $16 a picture is highway robbery. Of course, they offer a “bulk” package of all your photos… for a mere $320 (insane) . So after we were robbed there, we moved on to the billiards room where we played two rounds with Chris and Margaret. They were beating us handedly in both games when Margaret sunk the eight ball twice. Thanks Margaret! Finally we had one last hummingbird and boarded the bus to the airport. The airport somehow changed in the week we were there. On the departure side of things, everything was new and gorgeous. It wasn’t hot or humid, no long lines… we breezed right through. Of course our flight was delayed, but it was ok… we had Chris, Margaret, Catan (which Margaret won - mark it down), and Sands Bahamian Beer to occupy our time... the perfect ending to a perfect week.
It is important for me to recognize Jonda’s parents, Raymond and Cassandra, for their help with our kids during this trip. Not only did they keep Carissa and Caden for nine nights, they got them to soccer practice, a soccer game, soccer pictures, school… etc. etc. etc. On top of that, Cassandra Skyped us each day of our vacation so that we could visit the kids. We TRULY appreciate them being such great grandparents and parents, and appreciate the ability to take a “kid-free” vacation. It has been refreshing. But we were very happy to come home to our little monkeys. Thanks again we love you guys!
In preparation for our trip to the Bahamas, Jonda and I began our open water scuba certification in March of 2012 through Dive Zone Scuba out of Pearland, Texas. This certification included book work, a pool dive/swim, and four dives at Twin Lakes in Manvel, Texas. Important to note here that after diving in the Bahamas, Jonda now refers to the Twin Lakes as our “hometown ditch.” I went on to take the advanced open water certification which included more book work and five additional dives. Two of these took place in Mammoth Lake in Clute, Texas. We also participated in a refresher dive in late September so that we could avoid wasting time at the resort with a refresher dive (this was totally worth it in my opinion). If you’re looking to certify, Chris and Tanya were great to work with, and I highly recommend them.
So before leaving for the Bahamas, Jonda had five official dives under her belt, and I had a total of ten. All of these dives were 60 foot or less in depth, and most of them took place around the 20 foot mark. Visibility for all of these dives was approximately 8-12 foot… which translates into murky green water. Jonda didn’t really care for it, but she knew I was enjoying it, so she played along (translation: she’s awesome).
Fast forward to the tropical warm waters of the Bahamas… 82 degrees outside, sunshine, crystal blue waters with visibility of over 100 feet, and Jonda and I are about to jump into our first salt water open ocean dive… of course, for me, if you’re going to do something, you have to do it right, so since it is our first official dive, we have to include a few sharks. Seriously… first official dive, sharks visible before we even hit the water, and Jonda is onboard with doing this. (I’m loving life… did I mention that Jonda is awesome?)
Dive 1 – Ray of Hope:
The “Ray of Hope” was given by the Port Authority of Nassau to Stuart’s Cove and officially sunk July 7th, 2003 as an artificial reef. The 200-ft long wreck is sitting upright and is located directly behind the “Bahama Mama” with its bow at 40 feet sloping down to the stern at 60 feet. The “Ray of Hope” was registered as a Haitian Freighter built out of Germany and registered in Belize. We saw several large sharks while there, along with a green moray eel at the bow. The divemaster also pulled out an arrow crab at the bow and Jonda stuck her hand out and played with it. (Who is this woman?!). We also saw a stingray that was about 2-3 foot wide and three lobsters (none of which showed up very well on the camera)
Dive 2 – Bahama Mama
After coming back on board our dive boat, changing air tanks, getting a quick breath of fresh air, and two thumbs up from Jonda (glad to see she still has them), we were ready to tackle our second dive, also including sharks. This dive was a little slower in pace. We searched for shark teeth on the sea floor, played with several large grouper, and then floated around watching the sharks, which were floating around watching us. While the dive site was titled the “Bahama Mama” which was once a party cruise ship that was sunk in 1995. We never saw the party vessel. Perhaps we spent too much time playing in the sand. None-the-less, the sharks are what we came to see, and that’s exactly what we got…
Dive 3 – DC3:
The “DC3” dive site included a DC-3 airplane wreck. Nearby is also a wall referred to as the DC3 Wall. The plane was used in the 2005 movie “Into the Blue” featuring Jessica Alba. Finally we visited the “Long Island Lady” which was sitting in about 45 foot of water. This seventy foot long vessel was also sunk by Stuart’s cove as an artificial reef in 2009. We saw a barracuda on this dive.
Dive 4 – James Bond:
The “James Bond” dive site included the Vulcan Bomber Mock-up Wreck (Movie Prop). A giant metal framework that has been overgrown, we swam through and under the structure. A white spotted moray eel called the structure home. The structure was an EON Productions full-size replica of a Vulcan B.1a Bomber made from fiberglass and used in the 1965 James Bond movie, ”Thunderball”. It has been on the sea floor for over 40 years and is now little more than a metal skeleton.
The “Tears of Allah” vessel was a Connery/Bond boat. It is 92 feet in length and was used by a drug smuggler in real life. It was confiscated by authorities and sold to movie producers that utilized the vessel in the movie “Never Say Never Again”. It sits at a depth of 45 feet. Two large holes adorn each side of the wreck, along with a door that we took pictures through that sat on the main deck. We saw several lobsters and many lionfish within the wreck.
Dive 5/6 – BBC/Nari Nari :
Unfortunately, my camera did not capture our fifth dive. The good news about this is that we didn’t see any wrecks on this dive. There was a wall… and Jonda and I went to 80 feet in depth. The bad news is that I missed the divemasters spearing four lionfish, the groom snorkeling above us, and I had a barracuda within about 3 foot of my face (it would have been awesome footage).
The Nari Nari/Cessna Site included a twin engine Cessna airplane that was sunk for “Jaws IV: The Revenge” which was filmed in 1987. Nari Nari is Latin for “Spotted Eagle Rays”, and while the dive site is famous for them, we didn’t see any on this particular dive. We were visited though by a rather large and curious barracuda that attempted to eat the dive fin strap that was dropped by a diver exiting the water.
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Pictured in this photo is USAAF Staff Sergeant Jack Cherry peering into the cockpit of a captured Nakajima KI-43. The allies referred to these aircraft as a “Japanese Army Zero” or “Oscar.” Beside him stands WWII South Pacific air ace Major Richard Ira “Dick” Bong. Sergeant Cherry had rebuilt some of the instruments and controls of this zero, and briefed Major Bong on a few of the foreign labels. 30-40 minutes after the photo was taken, Major Bong flew the aircraft. A 2nd lieutenant briefly followed up with a flight, and then Sergeant Cherry dismantled the craft, crated it, and shipped it to Wright Patterson Museum. Today, only 10 KI-43 aircraft are on display around the globe. The current whereabouts of this specific aircraft are unknown. The photo was labeled as taken in mid-1944 in Nadzab, New Guinea.
USAAF Staff Sergeant Jack Cherry poses on the wing of a Nakajima KI-43. Note the U.S. insignia that was painted onto the captured plane to prevent friendly fire during flight.
Watermelons… in Chartres Towers, Queensland, Australia December 21st, 1942. Jack Cherry was 2 months shy of his 23rd birthday during this WWII photo.
Related Links of Interest:
Richard Ira “Dick” Bong
Japanese Army Zero
Another captured Oscar
Papua New Guinea Oscar
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Kemah Boardwalk - Carissa rides some of the bigger rides now...
Aquarium at Moody Gardens - Caden likes sharks.
Cozumel Cruise to Celebrate Carissa's Sixth Birthday
Everett Reed Cherry is born!
Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Zac Brown & Mutton Bustin' with Carissa
Pool Season Officially Opens at the Cherry House
Jonda and I both get our Scuba Diving Open Water Certifications
Carissa joins Legacy Gymnastics - Hand stands and Cartwheels
Utilizing our Zoo membership for Zoobilee - Caden likes elephants
Westwood Elementary Round-up Celebration - Carissa has a ball
Beach Trip - Caden decides he really likes dirt/sand
Astros Game - These guys couldn't be any worse this year
Spartan Sprint & Spartan Junior - Aroo
Carissa graduates from Kindergarten - In the blink of an eye
Grandma Cherry Passes
Beth visits from Germany - Guten Tag!
Joey/Loni/Parker/Everett visit from Arizona
Harris Resevoir Crab Cookout
Pirate's Bay Water Park
A Week in Wimberley with the Woods - And water balloons
Chris & Margaret's Engagement Party - Mexican Style
Friendswood Freedom Parade
Symphony of the Goddesses - Zelda visits the Houston Symphony
Carissa goes to British Soccer Camp - Football on the pitch
Carissa plays soccer for the "Toronto Tigers" in Pearland
Carissa goes to Dinosaur Camp - Rarh
Finally completed six months of roof/balcony repair on our house
Jonda turns 25... again. This time in San Antonio -
Natural Bridge Caverns / Wildlife Park
Riverwalk / Children's Museum / Sea World
Robert Irvine Live at The Grand in Galveston
Carissa Starts First Grade - Already!?!
Lake Livingston Trip with the Wilkerson
Caden goes back to Pre-K
Aggie Football Returns... SEC Style. Whoop!
Carissa plays soccer for the "Seattle Sounders" in Pearland
Weddings are coming! Congratulations to all the couples on their future tieing-the-knot dates: Adam & Hollie, Chris & Margaret, Rachel & John, Kevin & Amanda, Jeff & Sarah, and Claire & Matt!
So there you have it, a quick look back of all the things we should have written about in greater detail... but didn't. The spring/summer of 2012 was unbelievably awesome with the two greatest joys of our lives, Carissa and Caden. We're looking forward to getting back into our school routine... and hopefully won't go another nine months without an update.
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After lunch, we came back to the house for cake and presents. Caden was not really into opening the presents, but his sister was glad to help him out. He got some much needed new outfits and PJs, a set of blocks, a silver dollar with his birth-year on it, and his very own chair for the living room. He loves the chair and climbs up and down it all the time. Carissa proudly helped to decorate his ‘smash-cake’, and Caden made the obligatory mess and posed for pictures. We also blew-up the Mickey Mouse clubhouse for the party, and Caden likes it just as much as Carissa does!
Caden is such an absolute delight! He is a very happy little boy and has the best smile and laugh. He adores his sister and tries to follow her everywhere and do everything she does. He loves to watch her play with her friends. Carissa loves him right back. She always tries to help him out, and she plays really well with him (when she’s in the mood). As their mom, I really enjoy seeing them interact, especially when they smile and laugh together. I’m sure this brother/sisterly love won’t last too much longer as they grow, if my and Trav’s sibling relationships are any precursor!
Caden has been described as “all-boy” by anyone who meets him. He will not sit still for any portion of time. Even when eating, his arms are constantly waving around. He has already had a black eye and all the bumps and bruises that come with learning to walk way too fast. Climbing, playing with balls, eating, and being outside are his favorite things to do. I think my dad has lost ten pounds since Caden became really mobile!
He jibber-jabbers so much, and his favorite words are ‘moh’ (more), da-da, bye-bye, uhhh (usually means he wants a snack), ‘mihhhh’ (mine). He loves to take the dish-soap out of the cabinet and the aloe bottle out of the refrigerator, leaving everything else alone. His favorite foods are ritz crackers, Gerber cheese puffs, bananas, applesauce, and french frys. He also likes to take a sip of water from his cup and spit it out at his dad (Trav doesn’t care for that trick too much!) Caden also likes to dance with that little baby-bounce step. It is too cute!
Happy Birthday Caden! We love you very much and cannot wait to see you grow!
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We kicked off the family festivities in Livingston this year with the Campbell side of the family. Pat and Odie rented a great lake house for the whole family to enjoy for the weekend. The older kids all received Karaoke machines from Grammy and Pawpaw so quite the performance was put on! It was a really nice weekend with plenty of playtime outside for the kids, roasting marshmallows by the fire, jalapeno-stuffed olives, a trip to Trade Days, and walks around the neighborhood.
Christmas Eve we spent at my mom and dad’s house. We did breakfast with the Wilkerson-side of the family complete with a Hot Chocolate bar set-up by my Aunt Diane. We then exchanged gifts with Ryan, Valerie, Owen, Mom, and Dad. Travis was really excited about the counter-sized office chair! He has been using a regular desk chair propped up with pillows in the office for months! Carissa got some roller skates that stayed on for most of the evening and also some spy goggles that Ryan picked out for her. Caden really liked a new jumper toy from Owen and a set of Lincoln Logs from Grandma and Pa. I got some moo-lah for some kitchen cabinet accessories. I just need to go pick them out and sweet-talk my hubster into installing them!
Christmas Day the kids surprised by sleeping in! Travis and I were up watching TV in our bedroom wondering when the kids would ever get up! They finally did and WOW do we spoil our kids. Carissa started out asking Santa for a pottery wheel, a two-wheel scooter for Pa’s house, and a three-wheel scooter for Pa’s house. Then, she got to play with Alex and Hunter’s DS and PSP and suddenly that made it to the list too. The problem with this is that Travis and I already bought her one for her birthday and had bought the mobo bike for her ‘big’ Christmas present. We down-played the DS for weeks (“it really is a six-year-old toy”), but she kept insisting that Santa knew she could handle it.
Christmas Eve night while we were setting out all the goods, I begged Travis to go ahead and let her have it. We waffled back and forth until I pulled the “this might be the last year she REALLY, truly believes in Santa”…. Santa came through for her. She was so excited on Christmas morning!
Caden got a Red Racer Car from us to ride in for our walks. He loved it. It was pretty rainy and nasty over the holiday, so we kept the car inside for him to play with. He would open the door, get in it, honk the horn, turn the blinker on, stand up in the seat, get out, circle around, and do the whole thing over and over again.
Of course they both also got a truck-load full of other toys. Like they need a thing, seriously. But, I love spoiling my kids – it was one of the reasons I have a good job!
We normally would have gone down to the Cherry’s for Christmas, but they went to Phoenix this year. We missed our tradition, but it was really nice just getting to hang out around our house and enjoy each other. We had bacon and eggs for brunch and stayed in our PJs for most of the day.
We did go down to Angleton the following Wednesday for Christmas with Pops and Grandma Ronnie. Caden and Carissa both got some awesome books that were personalized with their names. Carissa also got a toy shot-gun from Parker that she loves along with some art projects. Caden got a dump-truck full of blocks that he of course likes to dump out as soon as we pick them up, a dog that sings and talks to you, and a toy train.
New Year’s we spent up in Ace with the Wood Family and another great time, making memories was had. We played dominos, ate all day, watched football, shot guns, shot fireworks, and had Secret Santa. Austin’s girlfriend Krista was my Santa and she got me a new board game called Quelf. We played several rounds of that hilarious game! Let’s just say it involved: Pops talking like Ahmed the Terrorist, Grandma Wood being thumb master and saying ‘Whatever’, David chewing on a shoe, Travis wrapped up like a mummy, Adam acting like a movie-making-Frankenstein, Carissa saying ‘Captain Poopy Pants’ when a player lost a space, me talking like a pirate, Krista singing 99 bottles of beer, Austin being a ninja, and Veronica laughing at everything!
Now all the fun is over, and we’re all back in the routine of work and school. BUT… we do have a certain little boy’s birthday to celebrate in just a couple of days! I don't understand how some days seem so long because the years just keep flying right by us!
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