Epilogue - Bermuda November 2018
We’re rolling down the tarmac in Philadelphia, about to take off for Denver. It’s 1630 Denver time, Tuesday 11/6 - I’m scheduled to touch down at 2030. Four more hours to enjoy the remnants of and reflect on my latest in a series of life adventures. I didn’t think it was fair to leave you on the dock on Saturday morning, with no idea what I did with my time since the mutiny. Let me share...
Day 1 - Saturday:
When I visited Bermuda on my maiden Atlantic voyage in the Spring, by buddy, Alejandro, and I took the bus from St.George’s harbor, where we were lodging to the capital and epicenter of the Island, Hamilton. Back then, I had been so shocked and pleasantly surprised by the beauty, cleanliness (see journal for references to public bathrooms), and cosmopolitan yet laid back Island feel, that I was bound to return. When given the gift of a shortened sail and extended Island stay, I thought it presented the perfect opportunity to revisit the city I had spent only an afternoon exploring, six months prior.
Before leaving Tango, and repossessing my passport, I had to demonstrate to the custom’s office that I had in fact booked a flight home and secured a place to lodge. I’m sure they’ve encountered all kinds, running away to the modern equivalent of a deserted island. The first place that showed up on Hotels.com, when searching for lodging in Hamilton was a cute little B&B called the Oxford House, with 4.5 stars...whatever that means. After spending 7 days sleeping in a bunk smaller than most park benches, in a room half the size of my bedroom closet, I wasn’t going to be choosy. Five more minutes on Travelocity, and I had a flight back home the following Tuesday, remarkably getting me to Denver 5 hours after take off, when accounting for time changes. In less time it would have taken to swab the decks, I had secured an extended weekend in Bermuda. Thank you iPhone.
I suggested we all go out to lunch and a cocktail before my departure, so our 5-man crew, walked to a restaurant on the water and sat down. 15 minutes into dining, I looked around the table at 4 guys glued to their phones, my first of two beers a striking contrast to their diet cokes, ginger ales, apple juice (or whatever English version of a kiddy cocktail might be) and whatever doubts I had in my decision dissolved along with the sobriety I had endured for the previous 5 days. As was commonplace in the last week, the bill payment was going to be an exercise in algebra, long math, and confusion amongst the wait staff. To speed up my departure, make it clear that I meant no harm, and highlight how cheap our captain truly was, I snatched the bill, handed over my card, and told the crew it was on me. “I realize I don’t have to. It’s the least I can do (to get the hell out of here as quickly as possible)” I said, grinning.
30 minutes later, I was in a cab, racing (20kph speed limit) toward the epicenter of the island and the beginning of my vacation from the vacation. I was a pirate without a map, but knowing full well there were spoils to be had on this patch of paradise...I just had to find them.
Pulling up to the Oxford House, I was pleased to find a two-story colonial-esque house just off of Front Street, the main drag through Hamilton’s waterfront bar/restaurant district. Nevermind that my room was 8 times larger then the previous week’s accommodations - location location location. Other than a real shower, my first order of business? Sleep. I laid down on a palace - one that didn’t pitch and roll uncontrollably, and I was lights out within seconds.
After coming to, I decided to try my hand at Hamilton’s nightlife. After all, it was Saturday. A change of clothes and I walked down to Front Street, familiar from my brief afternoon six months prior, returning to the scene of where my Dark N Stormy infatuation began - The Pickled Onion. This hip restaurant overlooks the harbor and Front Street, and was the perfect place to rekindle my love affair with Bermuda and her signature cocktail. Striking up a quick conversation with my table neighbors, I learned that the Dockside Bar on Front would set up beer pong tables some nights. I stored that in my evolving mental itinerary for the evening.
After dinner and a few cocktails, I made my way to Flanagan’s Pub, further down Front. There, I was ingratiated back into English culture with a lively football match between Real Madrid and some lesser known team. The pub was surprisingly quiet, but I was able to enjoy a beer or two, while charging my phone at the bar. So modern, this country.
Looking for a more lively crowd, I continued down Front, eventually landing at the Dockside Bar. There were massive TV’s over the bar which were playing the American version of football, and I was excited to sit down to the much anticipated game between Alabama and LSU. The score was nil-nil as I ordered my first Smithwicks of the evening.
With a quick tour of the place, I learned there would be no rowdy pong matches. Rather, the massive bar area at the rear had been transformed into a dance floor for an ensuing Halloween party. I then began to notice the black lights, and various locals with brightly colored face paint, glowing against their dark skin.
I sat down to watch the game, and befriended Shay, a local who was hugged by almost everyone as they entered and made their way to the rear for the party. Shay was probably in his 30’s, had attended school in Canada and was the father of a 12-year old son, the result of what I can only imagine was a wild night in Toronto. His girlfriend, Kara, appeared younger, and was friendly as well. I showed her pictures of my girls, and she loved that I referred to Tara as my bride, slapping Shay to get his attention. I’m sure I wasn’t helping with his commitment issues. Touchdown, Alabama.
As the night progressed, the beers continued, and the occasional shot with the locals was consumed, the bar filled to capacity and I realized I was the minority. It didn’t take a black light to highlight that I was the one short white boy, in a black sea of locals. I had grown so comfortable with Shay, and his buddies, that it didn’t bother me, but I was in no shape to mingle or find a dance partner. I decided to save myself the embarrassment and walk home.
Diving into the deep end of Bermuda’s local charm, without a lifeline, was a perfect strategy.
Great first night.
Day 2 - Sunday:
When I came to, and the clouds of a hangover began to dissipate, I remembered that the second B of my B&B was the free food in the AM. I wouldn’t say lept, as much as fell out of bed, splashed my face and walked down the hall to the dining room where I was thankfully the lone patron. The friendly staff offered to hard boil a couple eggs, while I choked down a yogurt, some cantaloupe and Honey Nut Cheerios. Did I mention how Richard had purchased grocery store brand cheerios for the trip? Who’s Richard?
I sat down to my first breakfast in the peace and quiet of my now all-consuming novel. I had started “The Hearts Invisible Furies” while out at sea, but had now found myself in a rythm of reading, and looked forward to any free minutes to curl up with my book. It was a perfect companion on what could otherwise be a very lonely weekend.
I decided that today could be spent exploring the old Bermuda, a short ferry ride through the lagoon to where the original fort of the colony existed. 20 minutes on the ferry placed me amongst the refurbished ruin of a place lost in time. The battlements of the fort were still in tact, though being overtaken by grass growing between the bricks of corral. I decided to FaceTime the kids, and bring them along for the exploration.
Over the next 40 minutes, Charley, Nora, Ruby and I visited the park, to which they insisted I take them down the slide multiple times, and descend through the deck of a ship onto a tire swing. We explored a mini-golf course, which has 18 holes overlooking the Atlantic, laid out in a replica of 18 famous golf holes around the world - Pebble Beach, Troon, Augusta, The Old Course, on and on - it was awesome. I told the kids we could play there when we came back as a family. I showed Charley the chickens roaming the island, and pointed out the sea creatures painted on the battlements to Nora. I pointed out that they could all play in the splash park near the playground. I loved sharing the entire experience with the kids.
I was beginning to feel that perhaps this exploration of Bermuda was why leaving the boat mattered. I felt like I was pioneering what would become a family and a Tara/Royce destination many times over. This trip had initially been an opportunity to experience the boat, the ocean, and the weather, individually. What I discovered somewhere out on the Atlantic, in the company of people that held less than zero importance in my life, was that it was my family and exploring something new with them that made all the difference.
I ferried back to Hamilton, took an afternoon nap, and walked to a quiet dinner with my book. The night ended, reading in bed, watching my beloved Packers get pummeled by New England, and sharing sweet texts with my bride.
Even better second night.
Day 3 - Monday:
I had yet to mention that before leaving Connecticut, a good friend from Northwestern Mutual, named Simon, had sent me a Facebook message informing me that he would be in Bermuda for 10 days, playing Rugby for the US, in an international tournament held annually on the island. We connected once I made landfall on Saturday, and he informed me that their first game of the tournament would be on Monday night at 8:30 against Argentina. I told him I’d be there.
Although I stayed up late on Sunday, reading my book in bed was far less harmful to my body than the evening at Docksides, so I lept out of bed ready to conquer the most difficult and enjoyable part of traveling away from a family of 6 - buying gifts! Following my hard boiled egg-cantaloupe-cereal breakfast, I set off for the shopping district of Hamilton, also along Front Street. I broke the excursion in half - trying to find something the girls would love uniquely, then lunch, then finish out the errands. It was a successful and fun way to spend the day. I could picture each of them opening their gifts, squealing with delight - well, at least the littles would - Avery and Tara are much too cool for those sophomoric outbursts. Avery hugs and Tara kisses - both great rewards to a job well done.
Satisfied, I ended the day with a coffee at a local spot where I could duck out of the now pouring rain, and enjoy my book.
Back in the room, I showered and changed into one of my new wares purchased earlier in the day, and was ready to attack my last night on the Island. Having lost some juice in my phone, and looking for some juice to start my evening, I headed to Flanagan’s again where I could satisfy both needs. After a few Dark N Stormies, I thought I could start my 1-mile walking journey to the Bermudian Sports Complex, which was hosting the international rugby competition. This would be my first rugby match. I was excited.
Somewhere en route, walking the dark back streets of an island where I felt perfectly safe, I must have walked into something because upon paying admission and inquiring about how to purchase drink tickets a lady pointed out a mass of greasy muck on my brand new button down. Visiting the bar, I worked with club soda against the stain, only to permanently imprint the smudge into the shirt. A tide stick round and words of encouragement later, I surrendered to the fact that I would walk around with what looked like a massive caked-on pile of bird shit on the front of my shirt. Not a good start.
I purchased some overpriced fish at one of the tents, and found an open spot on a bleacher to watch the Lions of the UK come back and outscore the Pumas of Italy just before regulation. It was the first 30 minutes of a Rugby game I had witnessed and was trying to pick up on the lingo. Scrum, try, smash, etc. I was enjoying it...and as long as I sat in the front row with everyone staring at my back, my Scarlet Letter would remain invisible.
I noticed the US team warming up next to the field, and spotted my buddy Simon. While he warmed up, I decided to buy a rugby apparel souvenir to cover my shame and warm me up. The island breeze and cold Boddingtons were taking their toll.
The previous game ended, and the US guys all took the field. I hollered to Simon, who came over and was pumped that I had delivered on my promise. Come on, Simon, like I wouldn’t follow through on something I promised... After a hug and a pat on the ass for good luck - not sure why he patted me, I noticed a bunch of women wearing red, white, and blue occupying the bleachers. I asked if they were the US cheering section, to which they replied emphatically and invited me over. Turns out, I was surrounded by a Denver contingency, all of whom knew Simon through their husbands’/boyfriends’ involvement in the team. I was with my people.
The US had their hands full with Argentina, who has won the tournament 4 of the last 5-6 years. They manhandled our guys, with bigger, faster, and more skilled players. I felt bad for Simon, but still enjoyed the match.
Afterward, I hung out with the team, as Simon ate then drank, trying to catch up on my 3-hour head start. The team all left except a few guys, and we migrated to the massive tent, blasting dj’d dance music for the 50-100 people remaining on the grounds, partying for the second night of the tournament. I was learning that there are groupies who love the event and the slabs of man meat that show up annually for the big tournament. Anyone not in a rugby jersey, even if they have a massive bulls eye of cow shit smeared across their chest in a “look at me” fashion, is invisible. Again, I was the minority. Oh well, it was a riot watching Simon play, drinking for a few hours with him afterward, and experiencing a little more of the sub-Bermudian culture.
Another memorable evening.
Last Day - Tuesday
Like Sunday morning, I woke up in a fog, with morning breadth that tasted like a hamster defecated in my mouth. And still, I wasn’t about to miss my last breakfast to go with my bed. I fell out of my covers, and in hindsight, should have done more to freshen up as I was greeted in the dining room by 4 professionally dressed men and women my age, in my pajamas. By their disgusted looks, I’m sure they were embarrassed for me.
After breakfast, and a quick shower, I tidied up my luggage, left it with the staff and headed out for my final morning in Hamilton. There was a moment where I contemplated a second round of shopping before deciding that a cup of my favorite Bermudian coffee and a quiet hour in the park, reading by the harbor, would be better use of my final time on the island.
And so, as I sat in the shade of a tree, misty eyed from the happy ending to a sad novel, and the sad ending to a happy journey, I looked out over the harbor of an Island in which I had fallen deeper in love. This pirate had found his treasure. Bermuda.
I wonder if Richard would let me bring the Zimmerman Crew next time. I think we’ll just fly.
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