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Just returned from STX and STT: some observations  

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RandyNTaj
(@RandyNTaj)
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May 2, 2014 9:28 pm  

Returned home from the week on the islands- and the biggest thing is that we hated to leave!!! We did our PMV and several appointments, and it was a wonderful stay and trip--- and a few observations/opinions (so not so much absolutes as just our thoughts):

1. Anyone that tried/tries to ride a bike as their main form of transportation is insane. Have one for exercise on a few little roads near the beaches and resorts--- and then anywhere else--- you're suicidal to ride it in traffic. People drive down the middle, speeding is the norm, and controlled chaos is probably the most accurate description for some areas with traffic and goings on- I would not want to be on a bicycle unless I was also dressed in a double set of football gear and a helmet-- and even then you'd have to pay me to try it.

2. Food prices for the most part were at or below what we have had here in our markets/area. Some items were high (toothpaste!?) but for the most part we visited 3-4 grocery stores (Pueblo, Plaza, CostULess) and found nothing shocking or unusual--- just a few variations here and there. Loved considering all the rum drinks that can be made, as well as the fresh fruit and veggies we had access to- meals were sublime. Taj drank very little as she was driving, but loved what she got to sample.

3. Driving on the left takes practice but does get easier after a bit. Driving with the locals takes patience as some seem to be oblivious to anyone else, or will honk and scream at you if you aren't driving as they think you should. Best advice: roll with it and have eyeballs in all directions. Stoplights are suggestions in some places. Speed limits are irrelevant. Our rental-car shuttle driver (and PM me if you want specifics) was a teenager, did +25mph over the limit, drove down the middle, was weaving in traffic at 80mph, had his radio blaring with local music, and stopped to buy stuff from roadside buddies/vendors while returning us to the airport. Luckily we are NASCAR and MotoGP fans, and do our own speed/racing on tracks or we'd have not survived his driving us back to our plane. Our comments that he didn't need to hurry as we had a lot of time, and that it was amazing how people drove there (HINT! HINT!) went ignored. We'd recommend you avoid his rental car agency like the plague for that reason and stick with the big names at the airport unless you want a cardiac arrest or to be in a major accident at high speed.

4. Locals for the most part are very friendly and we made/met many friends while there- even just for a few days. Being polite, using the "Good morning, good afternoon, good evening" never hurt us, did us good, and if nothing else put our best foot forward on everything we did for our part.

5. We did snorkeling and swimming as well, walked on beaches and rocky cliffs, shopped and ate local, and in general decided we wouldn't leave the island voluntarily.......but under protest. We're tempted to just wash our clothes and re-pack to come back.

We stayed with a new friend--- who is amazing, wonderful, helpful, funny, and fabulous. As it was a complementary stay- we did everything we could to help out: Randy made some repairs for our hosts around the house and we were happy to provide food and other help as needed as well. Can't rave enough about the friends we made--- and how much we already miss them!!

We would recommend a jeep to anyone looking to truly explore the island as many roads are just beaten to death by the water/salt and erosion going on- a car will take a beating in the chassis, suspension and lower body areas getting around some of the places we went.

Gas was only $1/gal more expensive than it is here at home- and as we repeatedly reminded each other: 28 miles x 7 miles, there's a limit to where you can go before you're back where you started, and all roads eventually bring you back to someplace else you've already been, so getting lost is a bit of fun and a way to see something else!


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divinggirl
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May 2, 2014 9:39 pm  

I am glad that you enjoyed it. You do get used to the driving...most of it anyway!


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Kahu
 Kahu
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May 2, 2014 9:39 pm  

:o)


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doc
 doc
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May 2, 2014 9:44 pm  

driving on STX is certainly NOT insane. drivers are very courteous, see very few people drive faster than safe. in fact, i find drivers stop for little reason to allow others into traffic. maybe STT different?


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RandyNTaj
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May 2, 2014 10:57 pm  

Doc, Taj spent the whole trip driving on STX, we didn't drive on STT, we used taxis.

She does agree with you that SEVERAL times she saw people stop and let another motorist turn or cross--- but in driving on the one divided highway---- speeds of the surrounding motorists were WELL OVER posted limits, drivers straddling lanes, not signaling before turning, etc. We saw many accidents and near-misses.

On smaller roads and in towns, parking is every which way- no uniformity of all parking on the left going the same way, etc. Cars pull out at random. We sat at a stop light and watched a young woman in an SUV sit behind another motorist and honk and SCREAM at the rest of us to let her past us- the light was red. She wanted to turn left but it was dark and traffic was moving fast on the cross street, pedestrians everywhere, so we all were waiting for the light.

We watched two girls on motorcycles going way too fast, neither of them geared up safely---- they turned wide (went into the grassy medians) and then ran two red lights- gunning their engines and then slamming to a stop. We saw many young drivers in sedans, seats tilted back so far you could barely see their faces in the windows, driving erratic, music booming, no regard for signs, lights and other motorists.

Yes, there were many polite motorists--- but it still isn't an ideal situation for a cyclist in our opinion. On the streets of F-sted and near the beaches the traffic calmed down and was more civil. In C-sted it was the same. Mid-island, on the larger roads--- chaos prevailed in what we saw in our limited time.


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Alana33
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May 2, 2014 11:04 pm  

And..........You wish to move here why?
Get used to life in the other lane and all the peculiarities that goes with it and island life or stay stateside.
Driving will become the least of your worries/and/or likes but haven't seen you comment yet on your likes.
Jeeze!

BTW - As far as friendly goes, one has to be friendly to get the friendly attitude back.
I can speak with anyone anywhere on STT (or elsewhere in the world) and have a good feedback so don't know what divinggirl is saying about 1 island being "friendlier" than another. It depends on your attitude.


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divinggirl
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May 2, 2014 11:09 pm  

Don't worry Randy & Taj - Alana is on STT. We are nicer here on STX and we're happy you are coming!


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RandyNTaj
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May 2, 2014 11:10 pm  

And..........You wish to move here why?
Get used to life in the other lane and all the peculiarities that goes with it and island life or stay stateside.
Driving will become the least of your worries/and/or likes but haven't seen you comment yet on likes.
Jeeze!

These were just observations as to things we saw that we remembered threads about here on the forum: biking as a means of transportation, driving and getting around, costs of groceries and consumables. We just made observations about things that we saw and noticed that correspond to topics here on forum. We LOVED it there--- and just as others have done--- we're bringing up items that we've seen discussed that we can now weigh in on as we've experienced them.

Likes: weather, sun, water, beaches, rocks, tide pools, food, drink, smiling people, lots of laughter with our hosts, fixing a refrigerator and toilet in thanks for being hosted and looked after, buying food from vendors on cruise ship day that was amazing, snorkeling and loving the beaches, water and breezes.....finding great potential houses for our next home, talking to lots of amazing people.....there were tons of likes for us!


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Alana33
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May 2, 2014 11:11 pm  

I am happy to steer people to STX, Y'all need them.


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AmberS37
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May 2, 2014 11:14 pm  

Sent you a PM. Just a few questions about moving. Might be headed that way soon.


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RandyNTaj
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May 2, 2014 11:31 pm  

Sent you a PM. Just a few questions about moving. Might be headed that way soon.

Didn't see one from you...I'll try sending you one- might be an issue here on the forum that I didn't get it.


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AmberS37
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May 2, 2014 11:43 pm  

Just tried again. 🙂


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Linda J
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May 3, 2014 12:20 am  

Randy, please let the car rental agency know about your experience. The local agencies try hard to compete and need to know if they have a problem employee.


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RandyNTaj
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May 3, 2014 1:10 am  

Randy, please let the car rental agency know about your experience. The local agencies try hard to compete and need to know if they have a problem employee.

We did their survey that they emailed us...and we did mention it. The full smash:

When we arrived- we called as instructions said for the shuttle. Five times. No answer. The phone rang and rang. Taj ran out to the lane where all the cabbies and shuttles were and happened to flag down their shuttle and get us there. When we got to their office, the desk lady made a lot of comments about how Taj didn't have Randy's last name (she has her own company and is a CEO with it under her name) and basically made 'Leave it to Beaver' type references that Taj was 'not normal' for having a different last name as her husband..... and then she was not very friendly about the rental and made several snide remarks that were insulting. The shuttle driver who picked us up from the airport was a decent driver, but had no idea how to open the doors/windows in the Wrangler we rented-- so it was comic relief to teach him how: "You must have had a jeep, yes?" and Taj said, "I'm from Colorado, I've had four!"

We showed up at 11:30a to return the car and catch the shuttle for our 1:45p flight to STT...and yes, the driver was a different, and younger, kid. Tall, handsome kid...but we really felt that he didn't behave in a way that reflected well on the company he represented: 1) you don't turn the radio to your music and crank it up with a couple of old fogeys in the car to where nobody can hear anyone talking. 2) You put on your seatbelt. 3) You drive the speed limit and not like you're evading in a police chase. 4) You don't stop and chit-chat with friends, buying beverages and who knows what from them on the way. Given what we are doing to get to the island (property management/resort work) we'd not recommend this car rental to anyone coming under our watch or care because of the unprofessional nature of the people working there. I'd worry someone with kids would get in the car with this second driver and it would end tragically in several ways.

Lest you think we're weak constitutioned: Randy and Taj are both race fans (Taj races motorcycles/sport bikes and has driven in France, Italy and Germany) and this kid's driving made her edgy....she can only imagine what it would be like for someone with less constitution for excessive speed, being banged from side to side in the seat with lane changes, gunning starts and slamming stops, and watching scenery whiz by at 80mph in 30-40mph zones.

So...that's what we'd tell the company should they ask us beyond the little survey they emailed us.....we'll see.


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RandyNTaj
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May 3, 2014 1:17 am  

...and Randy's big one: a $600 hold on our credit card that could take FIVE WEEKS to be released. Well beyond our billing cycle then we're charged interest on it. Ugh.


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Linda J
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May 3, 2014 1:51 am  

Ok, now you have to identify to protect others from this very unprofessional business.


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RandyNTaj
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May 3, 2014 2:09 am  

Ok, now you have to identify to protect others from this very unprofessional business.

You have a point. Sigh.
Olympic Car Rental and it went under ACE when I made the reservations online.
We wouldn't do that again--- we'll stay with the big names at the airport, and that's what we'd recommend to our clients/guests.


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Linda J
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May 3, 2014 2:24 am  

I can highly recommend judy of Croix.


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RandyNTaj
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May 3, 2014 2:28 am  

Recommendations are welcome--- we'd take referrals for good vendors over guesswork!


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JulieKay
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May 3, 2014 3:11 am  

...and Randy's big one: a $600 hold on our credit card that could take FIVE WEEKS to be released. Well beyond our billing cycle then we're charged interest on it. Ugh.

What credit card company do you have??? No credit card company holds that long; and even if they do you can't be charged interest on a hold. It's against your terms.


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RandyNTaj
(@RandyNTaj)
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May 3, 2014 3:22 am  

...and Randy's big one: a $600 hold on our credit card that could take FIVE WEEKS to be released. Well beyond our billing cycle then we're charged interest on it. Ugh.

What credit card company do you have??? No credit card company holds that long; and even if they do you can't be charged interest on a hold. It's against your terms.

The rental company said it could take 2-3 weeks to return the hold, and that sometimes it takes up to five. We thought that was bogus. We got home last night- so it's on our list to call our cc provider and ask them for their take on it.


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ChrisMI
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May 3, 2014 3:31 am  

Just curious, because IMHO St. Thomas and St. Croix are quite different in many ways, which of the two felt most comfortable or amenable to you two? (as you've probably surmised here, often people from STX and STT like to poke and kid at each other like rival high schools). Personally, I think both islands have a lot to offer for different people, but I think it's rare (on here A+A recently come to mind) for people to love both places equally, often one seems to be a more natural fit.


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RandyNTaj
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May 3, 2014 3:35 am  

Just curious, because IMHO St. Thomas and St. Croix are quite different in many ways, which of the two felt most comfortable or amenable to you two? (as you've probably surmised here, often people from STX and STT like to poke and kid at each other like rival high schools). Personally, I think both islands have a lot to offer for different people, but I think it's rare (on here A+A recently come to mind) for people to love both places equally, often one seems to be a more natural fit.

We focused our time on STX this trip because while Taj likes cities, Randy prefers country and we had the most promising leads on STX. We did spend a day or two on STT and would like to explore it more--- and should STX not have jobs and good situations for us...we may have to consider STT next-- we're putting the word out on both.

We can't weigh in on STT much other than we liked what we saw, and want to see more!


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STX46
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May 3, 2014 10:22 am  

You went with the absolute WORST rental car company on STX. Try Judi of Croix or Centerline next time.


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vicanuck
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May 3, 2014 11:55 am  

After a while, you get used to the lawlessness of driving on STX and will eventually appreciate that the cops don't seem to have daily quotas to meet. Rolling through stop signs and other petty traffic offences become rather normal and routine even for the most law abiding among us. Knowing that its highly unlikely that you'll get a parking ticket is a nice change too.


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