Monday, February 11, 2013

Running outta Gas!

If  you've been following the blog like I hope you've done then you should recall that my brother-in-law Jay came down to visit Julie and myself for almost two weeks a short time ago. I wrote a few posts about the experiences we had while he was here, but I wanted to write another post about another humorous experience we had together while he was here in St. Kitts.

There are many quirky unexpected daily events that take place here and many people become frustrated with them, but I've learned to just be patient, laugh, and roll with the punches figuratively speaking.

As you may recall Jay and myself decided to explore the island entirely on scooters. (As a side note Julie and I have both found scooters to be the most efficient and cost effective way to travel here. For one thing our Yamaha Zuma Scooters only hold a little over a gallon of fuel which allows them go around 85 miles so at $5.75 U.S. a gallon they are fantastic.) At the time of Jay's visit our car "Dawg Pound" was broken down in the street so most days Julie and I would double up on a scooter and I'd keep a scooter and Jay was able to ride the other one.

Jay on the scooter on the Island Main Road on the Northern tip of the Island.
For one of our daily planned activities I decided we'd drop Julie off at work at Ross University first thing in the morning and Jay and I would scoot on up to Brimstone Hill Fortress. (If you're visiting St. Kitts Brimstone Hill Fortress is a must see.) The fort is one of most well preserved forts I've been to.
Brimstone Hill Fortress

As the "tour" guide of course it's my responsibility to make sure our travel plans go off without a hitch and that includes transportation to and from the fort. Now the scooters can go 85 miles on a tank of fuel but not so far on an empty tank. On our way to drop Julie off she said, "Make sure you go to the gas station near the University since this scooter is nearly on empty." Well after we dropped Julie off I thought, "Well there is a gas station right at the base of Brimstone Hill and these things run quite a distance on just a little fuel so we'll just get gas there instead of doubling back now.

Off we rode through each rural village on the Island Main Road, which I must say is one of my favorite things to do here. To me I see these villages as nearly untouched historical places with many small old wooden houses, animals, and structures.

Typical Village house.

We passed through all of the major villages: Challengers, Old Road Town, and Middle Island. On the way during the last maybe two miles my scooter started sputtering a bit but with some shaking it was fine, but I knew I needed gas soon. No problem, the gas station sits almost directly diagnol from the road to Brimstone Hill Fortress's entrance. We'd grab some gas and head on up to see the fort and continue on the Island Main Road counterclockwise around the whole island. Well, it sounds simple right?
Yep, those red lines are the only roads. Courtesy:

We pulled into the SOL station at around 8.30 a.m. and the gas station attendant and another local were sitting on the sidewalk right in front of the building. The attendant walked over, motioned his hands to us and said, "No gas."  Hmm, I was dumbfounded did he mean they weren't open yet or they couldn't sell me gas or wouldn't. After asking him a few more questions we found out that he meant literally that the gas station had no gas to sell us and had been waiting on the gas truck to come since the following evening. The attendant said they expected the gas truck to show up anytime now.

Wow, I've never been to a gas station that had completely run out of gas but I wasn't stressing. Jay and I decided that we'd just head up to the fort for a few hours by that time the truck should show up. Logical plan B we thought.

We cruised up the steep probably mile long hill to the top of the fort and roughly after two hours of exploration we headed back down the hill. I coasted my scooter down the entire mile long hill so I wouldn't use any more gas.

We pulled back into the gas station again and by this point there was another local sitting on the curb, bringing the total to three people just sitting and staring into space. The gas truck had still not showed up so again I asked what time the attendant expected the truck and he said it should've been there already. I asked Jay if he wanted to wait there and the locals said, "Yeah you should just lime here with us until the truck comes." It wasn't midday yet so we thought what the heck, let's wait. And we did.

So the group just got bigger and every time a car or taxi van pulled in the gas station attendant had to wave them off and tell them they didn't have any gas and they'd have to come back. Normally anywhere else a person would just go to the next gas station but this station is literally  the only one out on this entire end of the Island, in fact the closest gas stations are in Basseterre. I'm not sure what these rural villagers do in these situations because it's roughly 7 miles back to the Basseterre and probably 25 the other direction.

So there we are limin and sharing in our sorrows and stories. The first local said he had worked a midnight shift somewhere and arrived at 8 a.m. to fill up his car but couldn't do so and by that time he had been waiting four hours. I'm telling you Americans could learn a lot about patience from Kittitians. The second guy waiting with us was a local driving a four wheeler or ATV.

Yep that's me in the yellow shirt Limin!
We chatted a little more and I went inside to buy something for us to drink since it was kind of hot and it helped pass the time. Interesting enough the lady working inside was stocking the refreshment cooler but apparently had created an avalanche of sodas. Of course the drink I wanted was on the avalanche side.

I dare you to open the right side of this cooler!
Before long all of us were staring into space, reminiscent of one of those old movies scenes of a desert town and a few old men sitting in rocking chairs with nothing to say or do. We just needed rocking chairs.

So after around an hour and being the impatient and inventive Americans that we are Jay and I decided I'd take the bottle that I drank, unhook the fuel line from the second scooter and drain some gas into the bottle. Voila! we'd have some gas. The Kittitians thought I was crazy and said that we should just take the metal cable that I lock the scooter up with as a tow rope and hang on to it while Jay pulled me the seven miles back to Basseterre.  Umm, no. That would be OK if you didn't have to hang on to the handle bars with one hand and the cable with the other. I appreciate the thought but I try not to do some of the unsafe things I see taking place on St. Kitt's roadways like riding in the back of trucks standing up like this:

Or This....

Anyways, I drained out enough gas to fill a 20 ounce Coca-Cola bottle and poured it into my scooter. We left the gas station and headed back to Basseterre. Not more than a mile down the road my scooter started sputtering again and died. We pulled off the road and Jay said, "I'll push the dead scooter back to the gas station and wait and you head to Basseterre, grab a gas can and come back."  Of course I felt bad and told him I'd push it back but he insisted and pushed it back uphill and off I flew.

About the time I reached Middle Island maybe 3 miles back the gas truck passed me heading the other direction. Hallelujah!  I busted a u-turn and back I went.

I was amazed at how far Jay had pushed the scooter, he was almost back to the gas station.

Once the truck driver arrived of course he was razzed thoroughly by the gas attendant and the lady inside. She kept asking him why he wasn't answering his phone. I don't know and at the time I didn't care I was just happy to get some gas.

Yes, that's the driver with his baseball cap on backwards.

I think the driver said he had either 2,000 or 6,000 gallons of fuel in his truck. We only needed one or two. lol

As can be seen in the pictures taxi vans had been piling up in line but first the attendant let the guy who had been waiting since 8 a.m. get his gas and then us. Since we had already used up most of the day we decided to continue on the clockwise direction and stop at the horse race track and then Black Rocks.
Finally this guy can go home!

It sure felt good to be cruising with a full tank of fuel again.

We ate lunch at Black Rocks at a makeshift food stand where a Kittitian had been grilling chicken and ribs on a car rim. The scary idea was that the car rim still had black paint on it so it could've have been very old. Jay was excited to get his "street food" and we had a great story to tell Julie once she got back from work.

Moral of the story: If in doubt in St. Kitts about anything that you want or need, buy it right then and there because you never know when a simple commodity just won't be there and more than likely when you need it.