OK sorry this turned into a novel but I had a great time.
I and a friend went San Pedro for Jerry Jeff Walker's annual shindig. It was an incredible week in an incredible place. I made a lot of friends while I was there. I couldn't have asked for a better vacation and believe me I'll be back. I'll do a day by day and then hit on some of the high points.Monday Jan 20th
Thanks to 1BKeeper's suggestion I had contacted Nellie Gomez's Paradise Villas
and rented a 2 br apartment. Angel met me at the airport in a golf cart to take me to my room. It was raining pretty hard and he said we could wait for a cab but it was so much warmer (high 70s) than the snowy and cold Denver that I'd left 12 hrs ago I said "heck let's go". We and my suitcase were soaked by the time we got to PV but it didn't matter. I was checked in, out of the wet clothes and into shorts and flip flops in minutes. The rain stopped and I was sittin' on the porch, smoking a Cuban cigar, drinking a Belikin and reading a book when my buddy arrived at 1PM an hour later.
After he unpacked, we went over to Wet Willies
to get something to eat and check out the weeks Jerry Jeff events. From PV's front gate Wet Willie's dock is about 50' north so it's very convenient. Kayleen and Felipa welcomed us and before long we were eating pulled pork sandwiches and drinking Belikins out on WW's deck. Not bad for only being on the island a couple of hours. I hadn't seen my friend for over a year so we had a couple of beers catching up and enjoying the northeast breezes and the sun.
We then ambled south down the beach to check out the town and the scuba operators (my buddy is a avid diver). I was immediately struck by the friendliness of everyone. Whether local or tourist, all had a smile and a howdy, good afternoon or how are ya doing? We got the lay of the land then went back to PV for a quick nap (we'd both been traveling all night). When we woke up about dark we were hungry so we headed down "middle street" and settled on Elvi's
for dinner. Good choice. The bbq'd lobster kabobs were a great first night dinner. We checked out a couple of the beachfront bars after that, went to the supermarket behind PVs to stock up on food and were home by 10. Big partiers, huh?
That's OK. It was still a perfect first day in San Pedro for us.Tuesday January 21
We were both up early after a good night's sleep to a perfect day in San Pedro. Scattered clouds, slight breeze from the NE. We went down the beach to Lily's
for breakfast. By this time I'm carrying the flipflops more than wearing them. As Anthony Bourdain says food sure tastes better when there's sand under your feet. We continued exploring San Pedro and my buddy found himself a dive operator (recommended by some nice strangers/soon to be friends we'd met at breakfast) and booked a dive for that afternoon. I'd come to Belize with thoughts of booking a snorkeling trip or a fishing trip or maybe renting a jetski to check out the island. Today though was a precursor for my whole week. I went back to the room, changed into my swimsuit and grabbed a book and went out on PV's dock to read and lay in the sun. I'd shuck off the sunglasses and dive off the dock now and again to cool off. When I got thirsty I'd walk over to Wet Willie's for a Belikin.
Tonight was the first of Jerry Jeff's two concerts and Wet Willie's went all out to make sure 150 of us had a good time. They cooked up a mess of bbq chicken and pork and did their best to feed us then kept the drinks coming all through the show. When Jerry Jeff came on he brought the house down with Come Away To Belize to start, LA Freeway, the Pickup Truck Song and had the crowd in his hand. Just about the time he started singing Moon over Her Shoulder, damn if the full moon didn't come up over the Caribbean. It was as Jerry Jeff said "damn near perfect". He played almost 2 hrs that had us, his loyal fans, tapping our feet and singing along. After Jerry Jeff had left the building Dennis Wolfe and The Usual Suspects
started playing. Most of us stayed around for their show also. It was a great night of music only made better by the location. We stumbled a bit on the way home but with big smiles on our faces and thankfully PV close by! Wednesday, January 22
You will start noticing a pattern here. I woke up about 7AM after a great night’s sleep. My buddy left to go diving; I drank my coffee on the dock while the day warmed up. I ambled down the beach and once again got breakfast at Lily’s and watched the morning rush at the fuel dock. I had to buy postcards so did a bit of shopping and mailing and just checking out San Pedro. Then it was back to the dock for more reading, sunning, swimming and Belikins. When my buddy came back from diving a little after noon we ambled down the beach to eat at a place where I’d smelled some incredible food the day before. It was Estels
. We had Sangria’s and he ordered the stewed chicken. He said it was incredible and it sure smelled like it. After sitting for a while on Estels patio watching the world go by, we did some more exploring and shopping for souvenirs before heading back to the condo to get ready for the night.
We went back to Estels and learned that they close at 5P but next door there was a huge crowd at Caliente’s
and we found out we’d stumbled upon the legendary Wednesday Chicken Drop! We had a great meal and darned if The Usual Suspects weren’t playing there that night also so we sat under the stars drinking and singing along. We got introduced to the band and I got a kick out of talking about the music business with Dennis. I swear the guy knows 10,000 songs and is the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. After a very leisurely stroll up the beach to PV and in bed for a very restful sleep by midnight, so ends our 3rd day in paradise.Thursday, January 23
Once again woke up around 7am, went out and drank coffee on the dock. Tonight was Jerry Jeff’s second and last concert so we had a purpose. To be at Wet Willie’s early enough to get good seats. I had another dilemma. I needed a book. I’d finished the one I’d brought from home and had seen a book store/beauty salon down Middle Street so off I went. The nice lady who owned the shop pointed out the "Travis McGee" books and I found one I hadn’t read. I went back to my now favorite eating place, Estels. The Mayan Eggs and fryjacks were incredible out under the palapa looking at the ocean. I had a very leisurely breakfast watching the people up and down the beach. It was a great way to start the day.
I headed back toward PV but stopped at the supermarket behind the complex to refill our Belikin and food supply, then headed for the ocean to read and get some sun. Travis McGee always draws me in and before I knew it my buddy got home from his diving trip. He was hungry and we knew where to go so we headed back down to Estels. He got the stewed chicken again and I was jealous I was only having a Belikin. I couldn't take it so I ordered up a plate and he was right. It was great. We sat back and talked of the day, laughed about what a wonderful place we’d come to and generally just enjoyed the moment. We ordered more Belikins and were just sitting back enjoying the scene when an old man came out and asked if he could join us. We said sure have a seat. It was the best things that happened all week.
I didn’t know it but I’d just met Charlie Worthington. Charlie is a drummer. Pretty darn good singer too. He’s also an encyclopedia of music trivia, lyrics and stories. Mostly though Charlie is a storyteller and a damn good one. My buddy and I spent 2 hrs listening to Charlie’s stories and his music. We left about 4 to go to Jerry Jeff’s concert with a nice buzz and smiles on our faces talking about our new friend.Wet Willie’s
once again went all out to provide us Jerry Jeff fans with good food, drink and hospitality. I can’t say enough about WW’s. We were always met with a smile by Kayleen, Garrett and Felipa whenever we dropped in. Great hosts and great people. After Jerry Jeff played another fine show out on the deck we hung around for a while before heading home. It’d been another darn good day in San Pedro.Friday, January 24
Today the plan was to go see Caye Caulker. My buddy was taking the day off of diving to just hang out and that was our plan. I swear it was. By the time we got to the water taxi dock we saw that we had 2 hrs before the next departure. No problem. Go have breakfast at Estels. I took my usual place out on the patio under the palapa closest to the town square and kicked off the flip flops. It was another beautiful day in Ambergris Caye. We had a leisurely breakfast while looking out at the ocean and foot traffic on the beach. About the time we were done out comes Charlie and we invited him to sit down. My buddy was talking to another diver at another table while Charlie and I started talking music again. Before I knew it I was inside at his big table, listening to different songs, drinking Belikins (hey he offered!), looking at pictures and rare albums and listening to his tales of the music business, island life, travel, people he’d met and much more. He introduced us to his whole family and many of his friends who filtered in and out during the day. Before we knew it, it was late afternoon and we had to go. Our big plans of going to Caye Caulker were taken up listening to Charlie Worthington tell some of his many tales. Besides he had to go walk his dogs. It turns out this was the best day I had all week. One thing about Charlie. Most storytellers have to use “poetic license” (otherwise known as “bullshitting”) and a few times he hit me with some facts I was suspect about. I later Googled them and darned if Charlie wasn’t spot on. He’s an amazing man and quite a character.
We ambled back up the beach to the condo and got ready for Jerry Jeff’s meet and greet at Wet Willy’s. That ended pretty early so we walked down the beach and had a beer at the Tackle Box
. It was nice sitting on their dock with the NE breeze cooling us down while we chatted about our week on the island and the world in general. We headed back up toward town square where there was a political rally going on. We bought a couple of the best spicy beef/onion burritos you’ve ever eaten from a lady on the square then ambled to our condo. Nice way to end a great day.Saturday January 25
My buddy went out early again to dive and I headed off to Estels again for breakfast. I thanked Mark for saving my favorite table and ordered up the Mayan breakfast again. I got daring and even ordered up one of the house specialty Bloody Mary’s. I was in my usual pose, leaning way back in my chair, flip flips off and feet in the sand, sunglasses on admiring the beauty of the ocean. Ya can’t get much better than that. I said hello to Charlie who was talking to some other friends at an adjoining table. I interrupted to remind him of Eldon Shamblin and Johnny Gimble, two musicians’ names that neither of us had been able to remember the day before. He got a laugh out of that, introduced me to his friends. We all chatted a while and I went back to my routine of just enjoying the morning. That afternoon was taken up with last minute shopping for hand carved sharks, tshirts and hats and just bumming around San Pedro.
That evening there was a food festival in the town square and we’d heard that The Usual Suspects
were playing at Canucks
. We had some great food and drinks from the vendors on the square. We saw the same lady with the same little makeshift grill with those great burritos from the night before and darned if we didn’t bump into Charles from Estela’s behind us in line. He was with his friends and treated us as the same. He gave us some good tips on food and where to go. When we’d had enough to eat we hopped in a cab and went to Canucks to hear some live music and TUS especially. A lot of the people we’d met from the Jerry Jeff shindig and even some locals we’d met were there. It was a great night sitting under the stars and moon, listening to good music, talking, laughing and dancing in the sand with our new and old friends. With one more night in Belize to come we were pretty pleased with ourselves as we rode in the cab back home.Sunday January 26
Our last full day on San Pedro. I found it funny that I wasn't sad as I sat on the dock watching the sun come up. The week has been too much fun so far to be sad. My buddy doesn’t fly till late tomorrow so he was off for a short “one-last-time” dive and I went to Estels for breakfast. Mark had my table waiting for me (It got to be an inside joke that I had the same table every morning). I had a last meal of Mayan eggs and those incredible fryjacks. Charles said Hi and showed me the pork loin he was going to be bbqing later. I was going to say Hi to Charlie but he was busy talking to somebody else. LOL Imagine that. I went back to the condo, changed into my bathing suit, got out my last Cuban cigar and went out to finish my Travis McGee book. When my buddy got back from his dive I was just floating in the clear warm water enjoying the sun. We cleaned up and went back to Estels for lunch. Our plan was to be at BC’s
for the Sunday Jam by 2:30 and we had a couple of hours to kick back and enjoy lunch and our last day on the beach. I wasn’t hungry but I told my buddy about the roast pork Charles was grilling and soon he was eating a heaping plate of pork, potato salad and beans and rice. Plus we had the pleasure of the chef himself sitting with us as he worked the grill. I told Charles to give me a heads up when the bbq pork was running low and man did he hooked me up. Now being originally from Oklahoma I know good bbq. Charles had told me what he used for his BBQ sauce and it was great. Kind of a KC blend with a touch of the islands and Tennessee mixed in. As good as it was the sliced pork loin was fine without it. Add that Ray Charles belting Mess Around on the stereo and my bare feet in the sand and I was in heaven. We sat and had another Belikin before saying our goodbyes to Charlie, Charles, Mark and all of our friends at Estels
. We’d spent a lot of time there and they really made us feel at home.
With big smiles we ambled down the beach to BC’s and sure enough as we walked up you could hear Dennis’s guitar and Drummer Dan. We got us a table on the beach and settled back for the Sunday Jam. The Usual Suspects were the core band but Conrad Olson and his bassist Gary and some other local musicians started to join in. As the band played the sun set on our last day in San Pedro. When the band finished we said our goodbyes to our new friends Dennis, Dan, Sherry and Derek then headed back up the beach for home. We stopped into Wet Willies and said goodbye to Felipa and our friends there then back to the condo to pack.Monday, January 28
Well as Jerry Jeff sang “We’ve been here a week or so.
Now it’s finally time to go.
Can’t believe how quickly time has flown.
Packing up the bathing suits,
gettin’ out the cowboy boots,
that’s a sign we must be going home”.
My taxi to the airport was supposed to arrive at 7:15 to take me to the airport for my 8AM flight. I'd set my alarm for 5:45AM, made a pot of strong coffee, poured a cup then headed out for the dock to watch the sun rise one last time. The breeze was back out of the northeast and it was mid 70’s in the predawn. Right as the sun was just beginning to break over the clouds on the eastern horizon I walked down the steps into the ocean. It was warmer than the outside air. As the sun lit up the eastern sky and the ocean I walked down the dock back to our condo. I took a shower, put on my traveling clothes and finished packing. By then my buddy was up. We both agreed it’d been one helluva week and we’d both be back as soon as possible. Soon the cabbie showed up and 11 hrs later I was home in cold and snowy Denver.
One last funny story. On the shuttle to my car I was sitting next to 2 older couples. Very comfortably retired types. They got to talking and each were returning from vacations in Mexico (one in Puerto Vallarta and one in Cancun I believe). One lady was gushing that they had the beach on one side of their hotel and Saks on the other side. The other couple was talking about how special their ground floor room was while the other tsked that their room was on the 17th floor. Then one couple floored me when they remarked about how casual their hotel was by saying that only ONE
of the hotel's restaurants had a dress code!
At that point I sat back and smiled, very thankful that I'd picked San Pedro for my vacation.