Dominican Republic: Part I
Trip Start Mar 10, 2006
1Trip End Mar 17, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Me: Do you know how to get to the airport?
Jeff: No, do you?
Me: Me neither. Let us gogogogogo.
Of course, two hours later, we're lost in the maze of 94s, 394s, 494s, and 694s that the state of Minnesota conveniently named to confuse the fuck out of you. We pull off and stop at a gas station, where Jeff is unable to get anything that resembles coherent directions from the clerk, while I am solicited by a kid on a bike to buy him cigarettes
After driving around for another half an hour, we stop at another gas station. Jeff feels awkward about going in and not buying anything. In this situation, I try to find their supply of Mamba's, because the percentage of time during the day I don't want Mamba's is 0%. Well, either Jeff has a distaste for Mamba's or just likes frivilous gambling.
Jeff: How do we get to the airport?
Clerk: Get on I-94 heading into Minneapolis, you'll see signs for it.
Jeff: Ok. Give me $50 worth of scratch-offs.
We get back on the road and use the lights from surrounding buildings to reveal the undoubtedly non-existant fruits of our gambling labors. Finally, we arrive at the airport and park the car. It's about 1:00 a.m. at this point, and our flight leaves at 3:30. We look around for the girls, but they're not there yet. I call Gretchen's phone, and she doesn't answer
We're happy to see each other, and our giddy factor is at an all-time high. We laugh at a guy who is standing in line and is casually munching on a bucket of KFC. We check our bags and get through security without incident. We show up at our gate, and it's immediately clear that this is not our type of crowd. Sitting next to us is a strange woman from western Minnesota with her young daughter. She enjoys talking so much that I decide to go buy a deck of cards (Sidenote: the single most important travel item is a deck of cards. Somehow, this nugget of knowledge somehow slipped by two poker players). My best option at the terminal store is "The Many Moods of Loons," a far better choice than the Minnesota Twins or the "Hilarious Vikings Sexcapades" playing cards.
When I get back, Gretchen and Katie's boisterous behavior has already alienated the woman sitting next to us. I look around the gate for the next unsuspecting victims, which come in the form of 25 high schoolers, all wearing matching t-shirts. One of the guys in the group tells us they're doing missionary work, which is nearly as noble a cause as our plan of having a week-long bender
Finally, we board the plane. My seat is next to Jeff, with Katie and Gretchen a few aisles behind us. I am still nowhere close to being sleepy, but Jeff's eyes are drooping. Seeing him in a weary state, I challenge him to iPod Brick for $20, with the highest score at the end of the flight being the winner. He accepts, only to fall asleep ten minutes after takeoff. He's lucky, because when we arrive in Puerto Plata five hours later, I haven't slept a wink, and have officially pulled an all-nighter.
I immediately regret not catching any z's once we get off the plane. It becomes clear that I will have to navigate our group through the airport and to the hotel. I win that job by default, seeing as my rusty Spanish is the best of our group (I ended up with the affectionate title of "Dad" during the trip). After herding everyone through customs, Jeff stops into an airport bathroom, while the girls and I try to figure out how to get to the hotel. After picking up our luggage at the carousel, Jeff realizes that he's missing his sunglasses, which he had worn off the plane. After a quick sweep through the bathroom and the rest of the airport, it's obvious that he's not getting them back. Jeff has a penchant for losing things, and I pray that we're all able to make it through the week without losing our passports/cash/dignity.
There is some confusion with our hotel shuttle, but we end up convincing a guide standing outside of a big tour bus to give us a ride to our hotel. Our sweaty bodies stumble to the back of the bus, where Katie and Gretchen catch their second wind. They are particularly enthused when we pass by the cropped, golden sugar cane fields, from which Brugal, a national brand of Dominican rum, is made. Their excitement draws scornful looks from elderly passengers, and looks of terror from the children.
Our bus eventually abandons the rural landscape for concrete, bright pastel colors, and swaths of hotels. We are shooed off the bus at our destination, the Paradise Hotel. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. We would be staying in Katie's father's timeshare, and while very economical (we only had to pay $230 for all-inclusive meals and drinks for the whole week--what a deal!), I could picture all four of us "sleeping Dominican" in one single, tiny bed. These worries are quickly replaced by new ones upon check-in. Apparently, they only expect Katie and Gretchen to be staying there; Jeff and I are not in any of the computer records. The clerk assures us that it would not be a problem, we would simply have to cough up the money for a wristband, our ticket to unlimited booze.
Walking through the open-air lobby of the hotel (complete with a waterfall), our surroundings begin to sink in. Palm trees and lush flora surround the brick walkways between buildings, a pleasant change from the barren winter landscape of the midwest. We are all very surprised to find that our room is not even a room; it's a suite. There is a living room, complete with a couch and a twin bed in the corner; a square dining area tucked between the master bedroom and a patio looking out at the ocean; even a kitchenette, which would likely go unused all week.
After settling in, we put on our bathing suits and copious amounts of sunscreen, prepared to hit the beach. We quickly rearrange our priorities when we spot two beachside bars. Something about us--perhaps the pale, unsunned skin, or possibly the look of excitement in our eyes--hints to the bartender that we have just arrived. He sets four glasses on the bar, methodically pouring dark Brugal Rum into each glass. We toast to our coming week and eagerly gulp the dark liquid.
That was the last shot of Brugal I took that week.
We order a fresh round of drinks to cleanse our palates, and scurry toward the beach. After finding some beach chairs, we lay out, exhausted, yet satisfied. Within five minutes, I'm fast asleep with the Caribbean sun warming my face.
I wake up, and I'm fucking starving. I've been on the Cheez-It diet for 24 hours, and decide it's time to shower and get some grub. It's too late to make reservations at the two hotel restaurants, so we wander over to the dinner buffet. Not surprisingly, we're sidetracked by the beachside bar that lies between our suite and the dining area. We end up sitting next to a group of middle-aged guys, two from Massachusetts and one from the Dominican Republic. They tell us they're here "on business."
Katie: Sure, ok. What kind of "business" do you do?
Roy: Well, uh, if we told you, you'd laugh at us.
Katie: I can handle it.
Roy: Alright. We're bodybaggers.
Apparently, the bodybag business is booming in the Dominican Republic. After fielding Katie's questions about "specialty bodybags filled with whiskey," they tell us they know the workers at the nearby restaurant and can get us some food, even without a reservation. This seems like a good plan, and we start to throw back a rainbow of alcohol including red "Ron Punch," green "Viagra," and the Dominican's golden beer, "El Presidente."
Around midnight, we decide to hit up the hotel's disco, "The Moon Room." It may as well have been on the moon, seeing as we are the only four people in there, barring the staff. We order drinks, and are puzzled when the bartender asks for cash. It's unwise to interrupt our steady stream of free booze, and I retaliate by stumbling over a couch and knocking over a potted plant, nearly snapping off a palm frond. Through the alcoholic haze wee decide to call it a night, and wander back to our room, wondering where are the young people are.
To be continued in Part II...