A DAY IN THE COUNTRY!

Trip Start Dec 29, 2010
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Trip End Apr 16, 2011


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Flag of Puerto Rico  , Utuado,
Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 28 Another rough day of having to go to the beach and enjoy the cool breezes.  I will tell you about things we have seen and noticed that are a bit different:
-         The police cars drive around with their blue lights, across the top of their car, on all the time.  They really stand out at night time not only to us but probably to anyone doing something they shouldn't be doing!
·         The ambulances drive around with their red flashers on.  I think it is an emergency when they put their sirens on.
·         Turning signal use on most vehicles is just about nonexistence.
·         Cars sit at the end of the runway, off the main road, to watch the planes coming in, but one day, the car in front of us just stopped on the road and watched the plane come in, lucky one of us was watching to yell stop and not rear end that car.
·         The locals are all very friendly and very happy, they go out of their way to help you.  Some only speak Spanish.
·         Wendy's, Burger King, McDonald's,KFC, Taco Bell, Subway, Quizinos are all here, along with Little Ceasar's, Pizza Hut and Denny's, Ponderosa Steak House, Longhorn Steaks, Sizzlers, Outback Steak House and I am sure we will see many more on our travels .  They do have their own El Maison Sandwiches' the chain was created, owned and operated by a local.  The business began as a U of PR paper!
- More facts will continue as we move along.

January 29  Today we are off to Utuado and small picturesque town in the mountains and central inland area.  We take the main highway #2 along the north shore of the island and then turn inward.  After driving along for about 10 minutes we both say it’s like doing #1 out of San Fran heading north.  The road is narrow, curvy and in some areas drop off on both sides!  No signs of anyone going over, thank God or we would have been going back.  The name Utuado comes from the Taíno (the original natives of Puerto Rico) word "Otoao", meaning "between mountains". 

At the time of the discovery of the island in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, Puerto Rico was inhabited by the Taíno Indians. The Taínos were a culturally developed society with a universal language, a developed agricultural system and a social organization based on caciques or chieftains.

Utuado was first an agriculture town, then there was the gold mines that brought more people and industry to the area.  When the gold mines closed then the 'black’ gold prospered - that would be coffee.  In the 1890’s the town prospered with a rich social lifestyle for many of its citizens, a casino and theatre were established.  In 1899 this golden era came to a screeching halt due to two very important events that had a lasting negative effect on the city's economy. The first event was the United States occupation of the island in 1898, which made sugar the new crop of importance instead of coffee and a hurricane that wiped out all of the coffee houses and crops.  There was resistance here in 1950 against the US occupation that ended with the loss of many lives.

We enter the town square with trees and fountain at one end and the church at the other.  It is very picturesque.  The Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel, the local Catholic Parrish, was founded in 1746. The current double-steeple church was built between 1872 and 1878.  We went to go in, but the doors are locked on the church.  We go into the church’s library next door and ask if we can go in, but the padre is not around and he has the key.  We meet others on the street and they said you should have come on Sunday, the church is open all day!  Why didn’t we think of that?  We walk up and down the streets and look in the shops.

We decide we will continue on #10 to Ponce and then come back up #2 to Aguadilla.  Oops, the road suddenly ends due to construction.  We go back and take #111 across to Mayaguez.  The road is still twists and turns.  We see lots of bamboo, which surprised us, we are now looking for the pandasJ   I notice on the map that we are close to the Caguana Ceremonial Park and said let’s stop in there and check it out.

In 1270 AD at Caguana, the Taínos built an impressive series of ball courts. The Caguana Ceremonial Park is considered the best example of Taino engineering in the West Indies.  It is a beautiful park like setting, we walk down and go into the little museum to see the artifacts.  Very impressive, beads, bowls, circles carved out of a piece of solid granite.   There are some huts on the lawns that represent what their living quarters were like.  Michael the gate taker was very well versed on the history.  The Taínos thought this a special area because their sacred Cemi mountain is just behind.  They had built over 30 ball courts, there are just 5 protected ones visible now.  There are large stones with Monoliths and petroglyphs positioned around the ball courts.  Some are very visible (specialists came in and cleaned the grunge off the stones, but left it in the carved areas) and some are all but recognizable.

We picked up a very big pod on the foot path and tried to figure where it came from, we looked up and seen new feathered flowers on the tree.  There were other pods on the tree, so we knew this covered the new flowers inside.

We made our way back to #2 and home to Aguadilla.  We did stop for supper out at ‘Made in China’ .  A Chinese food menu in Spanish, hmmm, interesting.  We figured out what to have, Len had fries and pepper steak – that came with green peppers, his favourite – NOT.  I had rice and chicken broccoli.  It was also interesting, but now quite what I was expecting either.  I ate the rice and veggies.  I would highly recommend you not try any of the Chinese restaurants that look new, like the New Flavour Chinese, Country Chinese, etc.   

What a wonderful day!
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