It was a perfect storm that preceded our trip to Paradise, that being Grand Bahama Island recently devastated by hurricane Dorian.
Sunday the hurricane camped out above the island, gusting winds to 200 miles per hour.
Our hope is that it can be rebuilt.
Our trip to Grand Bahama Island became a series of firsts for Kathy and me, a young couple fresh out of Kansas State University.
The Adventure Tour, as it was billed, was a graduation gift from Kathy’s parents, Joe and Doreen Couture. Pretty sure they didn’t take a vacation for the next five years to pay for our trip.
Our perfect storm started on Friday afternoon and when it ended, 18 inches of snow had fallen on Eastern Kansas.
Our chartered flight was scheduled to leave the Kansas City airport Saturday afternoon, but it was still snowing then.
My tank of a vehicle with solid snow tires started on Jackson Street in Junction City but ended at the entrance to Interstate 70. That road to Paradise was impassable.
Despite the heavy snow in Kansas City, Adventure Tour officials said the flight was a go, right up to liftoff time that Saturday.
On a whim and hoping against hope, we phoned Sunday morning to find out the flight had been rescheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon so we took off.
On the trip to Kansas City the westbound lane was closed as a snowplow had gotten stuck and was completely engulfed in snow and blocking traffic.
We made it to the airport though and the flight finally left at 8 p.m. Those that were already on the plane were pretty hammered from partying those four hours.
When we reached the airport in the Bahamas, the white sand on the runway looked like snow but the warm air when the door opened was welcomed by all on board.
“Stay behind the yellow line,” a huge customs officer was repeatedly telling the couple behind us, who had been among those partying on the plane.
“Follow me,” he finally said to that couple, taking them to another room. We never saw them again on our trip.
Upon arrival we found that the residents of Grand Bahama Island operate on a different time schedule. We have a.m. and p.m. over here in the states. They have whenever.
I swear changing a $100 bill at the front desk took 20 minutes.
As it turned out, it was a grand vacation. Just what was our hurry anyway? We had made it and it was our time to relax.
Unable to rent a vehicle because we were not yet 23, we used bicycles to tour the island.
Like I said it was a week of firsts for us.
• First airplane flight.
Smoking was allowed in the back of the plane. Non-smoking was in the front. Made perfect sense back then.
• First trip outside of the United States.
However, we didn’t need a passport, everyone spoke English and the U.S. currency was valid.
• First time to officially place a wager.
They had crab races. Just like in para-mutual wagering, there were six hermit crabs painted different colors. They were placed in the middle of a huge circle and the first one to crawl out of the circle was the winner. The second one was “place” and third was “show”.
• First time to win a dance contest.
Who remembers the Bump?
• First time to swim in the ocean.
I went snorkeling on the coral reef while Kathy enjoyed the perfect sun on the beach. She was getting a little worried that I had ventured out too far only to see me stand up in waste deep water yards from shore.
• First time to see a live shark.
Fishermen had snagged a hammerhead shark and brought it up on the beach.
• First time eating conch.
And it was the last time. According to Nassau Paradise Island, conch is the national food of the Bahamas. Similar to calamari, conch meat is firm and white and somewhat chewy. We saw literally piles of conch shells while on our bike ride.
After seeing the news reports of the airport at Freeport completely covered with water, my memories of the adventure through customs and days in Paradise came to mind. That beautiful white sand is surely washed from the beaches. I’m sure Grand Bahama Island will come back from this catastrophic event but it won’t happen in a hurry. It’ll be done on Island Time.