Saturday, February 27, 2010


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 65, low of 45

Kathy and I drove three hours north to Orlando on Saturday to meet Kathy's son, Chad, and his wife Tiffany for lunch. They had driven down from Atlanta for Daytona bike week so we were happy to come join them. They are expecting a baby girl in June and Kathy will fly up there after the big arrival.

We got some much needed rain in Southwest Florida today. Now if we can just chase away these cold temperature...

Monday I fly to Philly to teach on Tue/Wed. After class on Wed, I will make a four hour drive through Baltimore, Washington DC, Alexandria and southeast to Richmond, VA. There I will teach on Thursday, ending the week Friday in Newport News. My flight home won't be until Saturday the 6th. This is a rescheduled trip from early February when I got snowed out by the blizzard.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Below is a photo essay of my Saturday in San Juan.


Walking up to the 500 year old El Morro Fortress

The flags of El Morro: United States, Puerto Rico, and The Cross of Burgundy, the Spanish military flag of the 16th Century.

These lookout points cover all vantage points at El Morro

The maritime course of the Spanish fleet. Red squares are major forts, black dots are smaller forts. Spain controlled the seas and thus controlled the world's riches

Cannons were used to fire upon enemy ships attempting to enter San Juan Harbor

A view of the Harbor. In the back ground, a smaller fort would fire on ships that tried to stay out of the range of El Morro. It was a 16th Century gauntlet.

I captured this image of a ship about a quarter mile off shore

Cannon balls

Artillery weapons of El Morro

View from the upper decks of El Morro

David, clowning around in the gift shop

This guard tower is featured on Puerto Rico's license plates

Firing positions atop the fort

Historic cannon

San Juan Harbor

Waves hit the rocks where 500 years ago, wounded enemy ships broke apart

View of the fort from the harbor

A historic Spanish mercado (marketplace)

The Bacardi Rum factory

Bacardi didn't authorize this Pitorro from the trunk of our car

Hey look, they serve free drinks anyway!

Bacardi's 1952 headquarters

Rum and cigars

Cigars and Rum

My colleagues and hosts, Jose and David, both Puerto Rican born

A coconut palm damaged by Hurricane Hugo still stands

Pirates fought for Rum....can you blame them?

Bacardi chose the bat for their it, it's a great story

Drink mixing lessons from the Bacardi staff

After the tour, I'm seeing more than double rums

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Mid air, Puerto Rico (80*) to Miami (63*)
Scheduled landing: 10:45 PM
My trip to P.R. was great, except for not having Kathy along. We will certainly have to budget for her to come along when I return in April. Work went very well. The new hire guys I trained last November are filled with pride to be working for our company and working safely.
My host, David, arranged for some R & R this trip to thank me for all I attributed to his success here. Thursday was all business until 7PM, then I had a great workout in the hotel fitness center, expending 685 calories on the treadmill. After a shower we enjoyed a nice steak dinner, followed by cigars and drinks on the beach. We stayed up until midnight, despite having a 4AM wakeup call to go back to work.
After work Friday we changed clothes and headed to the beach in Luquillo. The water was a beautiful aqua blue and the perfect temperature for a swim. The winds were about 15 knots, which made for some fun breaker waves tossing is around. We had lunch at a little beach vendor shack, lobster tacos and Medalla light beer, locally brewed.
After our swim we got back in the rental car and drove to El Yunque, Puerto Rico's rain forest. We drove from sea level to 1,700 feet and what a difference we found. The temperature dropped from 85 to 77. Clouds were everywhere and, big surprise, a light rain was falling.
The size of the trees and the enormity of the leaves reminded me of Jurassic Park. We stopped near this incredible waterfall, La Coca, cascading out of the mountainside. As I began to take pictures, David began to take his clothes off! Leaving just his swim trunks on he climbed over the guardrail and started ascending the rocky cliffs toward the falls.
I thought for sure this couldn't be permitted and my thoughts went to those people who climb into the zoo exhibits with the apes. If David falls to his death before me, how would the regional safety manager (me) ever explain. Does he have the rental car keys? Oh to hell with it...keep taking pictures.
Minutes later David reached the beautiful rush of fresh water showering down from God's canvas and he became coated in this painting come to life.
"Woooooo!", he screamed, echoing throughout the rain forest. He opened his mouth to the rush of natural spring water and drank in its freshness. "Wooooooooooo!" He bellowed over and over as a small crowd gathered and passing cars stopped to gawk at this nut. I wanted to join him but couldn't leave my camera with all of these onlookers.
After five minutes or so, he began his descent back to me. "You gotta do it, Bill," he said. He didn't have to ask twice. I shed my inhibition and my shirt and climbed over the rail.
I've never professed to be much more than a tenderfoot but I ignored the occasional sharp edged rocks as I sought out the path my friend had traveled. It was slippery and very dangerous. One false step and I would fall. If the impact on the rocks didn't injure me, I'd nonetheless need a rescue team to get out. Saying a silent Hail Mary, I continued until reaching the falls. The rush of the water looked freezing cold but it was only slightly cooler than the ocean I had enjoyed earlier. How many times in life can you swim in the ocean and stand in the falls of the rain forest on the same day?
I stuck my whole head on the cascade and looked up to the fabulous flow, thinking, "Slide Rock has nothing on this place." I paused for a few photos shot by David and decided to get out before my luck ran out. (It turns out, according to David who was born in P.R., visitors are allowed to do what we did at their own risk).
We drove further up the mountain, as visibility decreased and rainfall increased. We parked at a designated trail and headed down the .86 mile course to another waterfall. On the way down, my glasses fogged continuously and at one point I stopped to clear them. Apparently I stopped atop one of the many smooth, polished, rocks because without warning my legs flew out in front of me and I landed hard on my tailbone. David tweaked his back in a vain attempt to stop my fall. I wasn't really hurt but I must have hyper extended my right knee because it didn't have any strength to support my steps down the trail. I knew it wasn't serious because it didn't hurt, it just wasn't working very well. I stopped for bit any noted no swelling. For me, it was like my own episode of Survivor, Puerto Rico. We continued, stopping dozens of times to take amazing photographs of the plants, trees, rocks and water. This ranks right up there with my trip across Lake Powell (AZ) when it comes to things to tell my kids not to pass up in life. Breath taking, is what it was.
By the time we reached the bottom of the canyon we were soaked to the bone from the constant, gentle rain. The next waterfall, La Mina, was much more violent and I didn't dare think about getting closer than the trail. David said it's not always so strong like this, as he has showered here as well in the past. A natural spring pond had tourists bathing in its wonder. I wanted to go in but thought better of risking my knee going out and being unable to climb out. I'm sure at some point during the last few thousand years mankind has had to be rescued from here but I didn't want to be next. We made a sure and steady climb back up the trail, focusing on our footsteps rather than the lush landscape about us.
We drove back to San Juan and after steak, mofungo and shrimp for dinner I was ready for a shower and a good nights sleep.
Saturday started with a late "desayuno" (breakfast) at the Courtyard Isla Verde. We drove to Old San Juan to tour another Puerto Rican treasure, El Morro, a Spanish fortress built in the 1500s to protect San Juan Harbor from enemy ships. We were joined by our colleague, Jose, another PR native who has transferred home to continue working for our company. He was nice enough to bring along some Pitorro (P.R. moonshine) for our sipping enjoyment.
The fort is a national park and is in great shape. The views from the former cannon and gun ports are incredible. If the 500 year old walls could talk they would tell tales of men with ingenuity and survival skills lost in time.
After .... David drove us to the 60 year old Bacardi distillery plant, where the offer free tours to the public. The tour begins with a hosted bar serving a multitude of mixed Bacardi Rum drinks. Just what the ships captain in me wanted: RUM? Of course I'll have some! Or three. As an accompanyment for the rum, David and Jose bought us some Puerto Rican cigars.
The Bacardi story is a fascinating tale. They began in Cuba in the 1800s but like so many others, were victimized by the Communist Castro regime. Having already expanded to Puerto Rico in the 50's, they re birthed their headquarters and survived. I highly recommend the Bacardi tour for anyone visiting P.R. We ended our rum run by buying each of our wives a little something to remember our visit by.
At 630pm local time we headed to dinner in Old San Juan. Aquavida is a very upscale restaurant that is Jose's favorite. We dined on Oysters, Muscles, Shrimp and Ceviche. And that was just the appetizer. I ordered whole red snapper with lobster mofungo and enjoyed a couple of mojitos with, what else? Bacardi Rum.
It was 745 before we left for the airport. Our flight was leaving at 905. Yeek, we gotta go! David did a masterful job in getting us there just in time. As I prepare to touchdown in Miami, I feel like I had a week long vacation instead of a three day business trip.
I arrived home at 2:10AM for a 15 hour pit stop. I leave tonight for Palm Beach, Tuesday/Wednesday in Boston.
I will post the El Morro Fortress and Bacardi pictures later, so check back tomorrow.