Check out this report from The Politico about Washington Press Club Foundation's dinner. Sample line:
"I'd like to make this as short as Bill Richardson's tenure as Commerce
Secretary," she opened. "I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends — true
story! I know that is the record in the Senate, but in the house it's
held by Barney Frank."
What the heck. I'm already in the Caribbean so it won't cost me anything to get here. The Cocolobo is really affordably priced. I'm working the job search from here thanks to the internet. If the opportunity came up, I could do a phone interview thanks to Skype. And it's freezing at home. So I'm staying another week to enjoy a few more of these:
After visiting the brewery, I continued east towards Port Royal. The road soon turned to dirt and rocks, and it called for a 4WD rather than the tiny Suzuki Alta I had rented for the day:
But what the heck. That's what rentals are for, right? Abuse? So I continued on another 15 km until I reached Camp Bay. It may not be the end of the road, quite yet, but it was for me. With my legs threaded around everything in the cramped driver seat, continuing on with a manual transmission was just too painful. I could barely get the stick shift into first or second gear, seeing as how my right leg wanted to occupy the same space.
Fortunately there was a convenient rest stop awaiting me, since I hadn't had lunch and I was getting pretty thirsty. La Sirena, the siren of Camp Bay:
I slipped past the sleeping dogs at the foot of the gangplank and walked out to check it out. Yet another ex-pat American had settled in to run this fine establishment, accompanied by his very young assistant Carmela. You'll find her in his arm as he prepared by lunch, a serving of conchceviche and crackers. Sharp eyes may note that my beer is a Red Stripe - how could I possibly drink one of the Miller local products right after what I had just heard?
After some relaxing conversation, I turned back towards West End. I was seriously concerned about running out of gas on that 15 km stretch as the fuel gauge had suddenly dropped from maybe an eighth of a tank to the red zone. Made it to a gas station, though. After buying a few gallons (at a price equivalent to about $2.85 a gallon), I went into the expansive but largely empty convenience store to get a soda. They must have thought I was quite a threat, as I was shadowed by a security guard carrying both a machete and an automatic pistol.
The rest of the drive back was a real thrill as I navigated what appeared to be island rush hour. Major craziness on the road, and potholes galore to dodge. The most interesting passage came close West End where all of the traffic was detoured around construction. Through a gas station. Literally - you had to drive past the pumps in one lane of traffic moving both directions. Again, security was heavy. This time the guards were walking around with pistol-grip shotguns. Good grief.
(As usual, you can click on any of the thumbnail photos to see a larger one.)
What's the last thing you'd expect to find on an island off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean? How about a Czech brewery? The innkeepers here at Cocolobo told me there was a local brewer on Roatan, but his beer was hard to find. Aha! A challenge. So yesterday when I rented a car to explore the island, I went looking for the brewery. I found it. Three months too late.
The Bay Islands Brewery sits high atop a hill, next to a couple of telecommunications towers. There is a sign on the road announcing its presence and the fact that it is for sale:
I drove up the driveway, ignoring the do not enter sign, hoping they might have a tasting room. The facilities are imposing - a huge stone fortress surrounded by worksheds and guarded by an orange brewery cat:
The owner came up to greet me as his worker stayed in the background. The worker looked like John Belushi playing a Mexican bandito, only with a much larger gut. Which was in full display as he appeared to be wearing only underpants. I eventually figured out they were just very dingy Speedos. Still, not a sight for those with a weak stomach. I didn't dare try to photograph either of them.
I ended up having quite a chat with the owner/founder, Jiri Maska. Sadly, the first thing he told me was that there was no more beer. He had distributed his product only in kegs to selected establishments around the island. But he had been put out of business by the national big name in beer, Cervecería Hondureña, S.A. They had gone to every one of his customers and offered them large cash payments for exclusivity, ranging up to $50,000, he said. Put him right out of business, at least for the moment. I've had three of their four beers. They're essentially the same as typical American piss-water beers. Which isn't surprising, as they're owned by Miller. They'll do as a safe cold beverage on a hot day, compared to the tap water here, but that's about all they have to recommend them.
Maska isn't giving up, though. He said, "I'm from the Czech Republic. We had a communist dictator. We got through that, and I'll get through this." He has a bunch of plans. One is to bottle his beer so he can distribute it to a lot more small retailers to beat the monopoly efforts of Miller. Another is to make a local line of sodas and bottle them as well. He has a Honduran trademark for the name Cola Loca and already has it painted on his delivery truck.
The facility was quite an undertaking. He built it to withstand tropical storms and last for generations. He found the rock on a hillside on the island and asked the owner if he could buy some. The owner said sure, but he had no power for tools. So Maska hired a gang of four guys to quarry the rock by hand with pick and shovel. He said he's not looking to sell it. But the sign is there in case some insanely rich person gets off a cruise ship and wants to make him an offer he can't refuse.
And then there are his engineering plans. Another of his challenges was reliable electrical supply to run the operation, since his lager needed chilling for weeks before selling it. The utility on the island has been notoriously unreliable (although not while I'm here) as well as seriously expensive. So he has been trying to make his operation independent of it. He has a row of solar panels as well as wind turbines:
Only one of the turbines is currently functional. A hurricane knocked them all down and he has restored only one of them so far. His big plan, though, is to get into hydrogen. He'll produce it himself, presumably using the wind and solar, and then run generators with the hydrogen.
Pretty ambitious efforts, no doubt. But he did manage to get the first (and perhaps only) microbrewery license in Honduras. He used open fermentation and had a capacity to produce 2000 liters a day when he was operational. Hope he's successful so I can come back some day and try his brew.
What a difference a day makes. Wednesday and Thursday were getting awfully hot and muggy by my standards. That's one reason why the sail was so pleasant - got out in a stiff breeze and went swimming for a while in the middle of it. Captain Dusty told us the weather was about to change, though, with a cold front rolling in the next day. That's why so many boats were pulling up anchor and moving around to the other side of the island.
Sure enough, the wind shifted and it began to cool down overnight Friday. Saturday I awoke to overcast skies. By mid morning it began to rain now and then. There were some occasional drenching showers that were a sight to see. By Saturday the effect of the constant wind on the sea was obvious as breakers began to roll up on the shore with some good size waves crashing. And it got comparatively cold. Saturday I felt like I was freezing, which was ridiculous - the temperature was still something like 78 F, with a dewpoint of about 73. But the wind was gusting up into the 20s and it felt simultaneously chilly and muggy. A strange combination. But it forced me to put jeans on eventually.
All a matter of perspective, I guess. Friday evening Rory and Claire, the innkeepers, threw a bash for guests and some of their local friends. BBQ chicken and beef and a lot of sides. I got to talking with a couple who had moved here from north of Toronto, where they know cold (even if not Minnesota cold...). I told them I had been sweltering the previous two days. They complained that it had been too cold for them. Mind you, that was daytime temps in the 80s with dewpoints up in the mid 70s. Cold...
To say I dislike Coldplay is an understatement of astronomical scale. I loathe them. I despise them. The affected caterwauling that passes for singing from Chris Martin is like a dental drill spinning up and spinning down next to my ear. Hell, in my ear. Those who know my musical tastes from way back when will be surprised to hear that I detest the sound of his voice even more than Robert Plant's. That is saying a hell of a lot.
Which is why it pains me to report that there is something even worse. And that is the sound of post-Superbowl drunks attempting to sing along to Coldplay in a karaoke bar. Not that I would go near the inside of one. But this hell house is open to the outdoors on the main (dirt-covered) street of West End here in Roatan.
It was enough to drive me to drinking. To IV narcotic use, perhaps, had any been handy...