Fuimos a Culebra

Puerto Rico has a tiny island off the east coast named Culebra and for far too long it’s been on our to-do list to visit. Time to go!

We splurged on an airplane commute, departing from Ceiba on the east coast. Which was a prudent choice as a few days before our departure the newspapers had tales of woe regarding the ailing and unreliable ferry.

Ceiba airport is tiny and Vieques Air didn’t even require verification of IDs when we checked in, and simply yelled out first names of the passengers when it was time to board. They did however insist that we physically step onto their baggage scale to see how much each person weighed. I guess they assume people will lie on the weights questionnaire when buying the tickets. No hiding the truth – we want a balanced plane!!

The small twin engine airplane was super loud but the flight was only about 14 minutes. The pilot thought he recognized me, and I asked if he attended the EAA meeting in Arecibo recently. His response of “What’s EAA?” was my answer.

We rented an AirBnB with a nice view of the main bay. The hosts were nice but there was only one air conditioner so night time was a little warm.

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our balcony

Culebra is quite small. About 10 minutes after Trevor signed the rental Jeep agreement saying we would stay on paved roads, we drove up the first dirt road we saw to explore haha

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Zoni beach our first evening there

 

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We also stopped in the little Culebra museum

 

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Culebra was used at a Navy base and bomb testing for many decades

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There’s not that many restaurants so everyone kinda ends up at the same ones – here’s Dingy Docks right on the water.  Some huge yachts were in the harbor!

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downtown

The next morning we followed all the other tourists to a cute little cafe. Pretty much the only one. There are sharpies laying around so you can draw on the walls!

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By her head you can see where I drew “Traura” – Trevor and my nickname when we were dating

The main attraction on the island is a beautiful beach named Flamenco. Consistently ranked among the worlds best, it has a parking lot, facilities, and plenty of alcohol and food stands. One of the most unique features are abandoned tanks left on the beach by the US Navy when the locals finally won the battle of booting them out. They left the tanks – they were too heavy for anyone to move, so they’ve stayed ever since.

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The locals paint them occasionally. I don’t know if there’s more than two, be we only find this pair.

 

It was a cloudy and very windy day so we didn’t opt to pitch an umbrella. It was a lovely beach, but I like the ones in Cabo Rojo just as much. Trevor made me fall in love with him all over again when he totally got into doing a mini photoshoot on those tanks. He’s got a creative eye!

That night we went to another restaurant on the water–overlooking the river this time.  There were plenty of stay cats meowing for food

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a fun light inspired some cool photos

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Our last morning we drove to Playa El Tamarindo and Playa Punta Soldado. We tuckered ourselves out so much the day before we didn’t swim – only walked around. Pretty!

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The stones say “Marry Me” and someone wrote out “no” haha

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Overall, the island is cute. I’m glad we went.  It would’ve been nice to snorkel a little bit but the kids don’t do that yet so I wouldn’t have been easy.  oh well. I’m glad we went.  Three days was enough.

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Hector the protector wooden statue, rebuilt after the hurricane

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From Oshkosh to Arecibo

Being from Wisconsin makes you pretty cool in the aviation world. It doesn’t really matter the rest of the time. haha

This is simply because the EAA Airventure fly-in every summer at the Oshkosh airport is one of the biggest in the world. And we go every year!

A man named Jorge contacted Trevor because we are EAA members and they are putting together an EAA chapter here in Puerto Rico. So when they had a pancake breakfast in Arecibo – we were so there!

We flew there in our minds but our butts rode in the car. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. You never know how these things will go so this was fantastic and made the trip worthwhile.

Making pancakes

Our kids putzed out in the heat and sun but we were able to make many new contacts before the kiddos whined too much. I knew that most of the guys there assumed Trevor was the pilot but my hubby made sure everyone knew we both had licenses. He’s awesome that way.

The kids were literally crawling all over us, like, the whole time.

Ski divers peppered the sky periodically.

Trevor and Steve – nice guy

We met Antonio

Several other pilots had been to Oshkosh before. Maybe we’ll meet up with them next July! It was hard keeping track of all the new names but we took notes.

William’s seaplane garnered much attention

I’m so glad we went!

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Bummin’ around San Juan

While in town for Hamilton, my family and I decided to explore a few new areas in San Juan.

Very eclectic Bistro Cafe in Isla Verde

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Isla Verde is pretty and had a great rooftop restaurant which we all enjoyed (I gave a little talk to the kids beforehand that said no one was allowed to whine or complain!)

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Super good food, good views and a pool!

 

Our hotel, the TRYP by Wyndham, was decorated so awesomely!!

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I posed her in all the cool chairs in the lobby

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Central Park of San Juan was pretty nice, if not eerily deserted.  There were a few other families there but really – Saturday morning with beautiful weather.  One would assume more patrons would be there.

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Saturn

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Sadly, the river boardwalk was cerrada.  Closed. Bummer – I’ve been wanting to walk it since I saw it from the Tren Urbano.

That night our friends took us to the coolest mall food court EVER! Mall of San Juan’s food court is on the roof outdoors, with a band stand, a view of the lagoon (but it was dark when we got there) and waiters ready to take your mojito order! yeeeees!

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A replica of the Santa Maria was in port in Old San Juan.  It looked like a toy next to the mammoth Carnival cruise. There was no line to board! Incredible! The Spaniards who sailed it over were very helpful in answering our questions. I took many many photos to use in future photoshop projects….bwa-ha-ha

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We asked a person trying to charge tourists for petting his iguana (I think it was declawed.  We didn’t pet it. We had actually ran over one in the road earlier that day and are therefore not really impressed by iguanas anymore) where the umbrellas were.  He directed us to the end of Calle Forteleza.  Super pretty!

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photobombing kids

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We ate at the Choco Cortez restaurant – where I tell all people touring San Juan to go.

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And my kids – MY KIDS! – fed pigeons lentil beans.  My how they’ve changed over the years…

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And we decided to visit San Cristobal! Eh, the kids wanted to see canon balls. ok! And – it was free to enter.  Don’t know if that was because of the government shutdown but thankfully the fort was being maintained.  Mostly.  The garbage was cleaned up but those bathrooms….hm….

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He said there will be a historical re-enactment at the forts in March.  We are SO there!

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Hamilton – Puerto Rican style

My husband and I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Saturday and it was all I had hoped for. But boy was this adventure a crazy ride. Never have I (virtually) pushed and shoved to get tickets for a musical. (Literal pushing and shoving for Broadway tickets in the big Apple is another tale haha)

There was general confusion about how to go about getting tickets. There would be $10 tickets for PR residents! Excellent! I live here! Not so fast –  I didn’t realize that this was the same deal given to every city hosting the show. And it’s a lottery so you might not get tickets and if you do, you find out only days beforehand. Not the best option to guarantee tickets or to prep child care. We decided to fork over the cash and but tickets the morning they went on sale.

Online I waited with thousands of other people to be put into a virtual waiting room and randomly assigned a number in line to buy a max of four tickets.  I was extremely lucky and was put in the front of the line.  Sales started at 9am and by 9:08 I was in the checkout process.  BUT! I wanted to buy 4 tickets. The screen kept telling me that that amount wasn’t available for ANY show I tried.  I finally gave up trying to buy four and ended up with only two for the matinee I wanted.  That was really stressful!

I later found out that I was the only person out of all my friends to actually get tickets.  The rest would play the $10 lottery.  (believe me – my ticket was much more than $10). So the $10 for Puerto Rico residents was just like any other city the show toured it.

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So bright in line!

Our lovely friends who have a home in San Juan watched our kids while we saw the show. Apparently everyone else thought to get to the theatre a half hour early because there was a long, sunny entrance line.  Trevor began regretting wearing a formal coat! But we were glad we dressed up as everyone else did likewise.

The finally entered with about 8 minutes to spare before showtime. Security practically shoved us inside because there was still a line out the door.  I don’t know how they managed to start the show at 1:38! not bad!

The audience seemed to be mostly Puerto Ricans. The couple next to us came to the island without tickets but with the hope they could score some. Lo and behold they made friends with someone in their hotel lobby who was connected to the show and sold them two tickets that had been cancelled.  IMG_1563-sm

When Lin-Manuel Miranda came on the stage the audience deafeningly roared for over a solid minute.  I suspect that happened for all his shows, but I also suspect that this was a but more than usual. The actors just held their poses then resumed the singing once we finally quieted down.  I sure hope they soak that moment in because it was quite energetic.  IMG_1564-sm

The lady behind us cheered obnoxiously loud (I loved it) for some actors; King George was of Puerto Rican decent.  Auditions were held locally for signers and dancers last fall but I didn’t see any locals in the cast list so who knows what happened there.

Trevor wanted to read the synopsis but I had to translate the program for him because it was in Spanish!

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Lin-Manuel whipped out a Puerto Rican flag from his pocket after the bows

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The people cheered and cheered after they left the stage – hoping for a speech or encore. None happened

The show was AWESOME and so worth it!

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10 person deep crowd for memorabilia

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Yaucomatic

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In November my mom and I drove to Yauco – a city about 40 min drive from Mayaguez. At first I planned on taking the kids too. Mom suggested we go alone. But it’s culture! Art!

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I’m SO glad we didn’t take them haha.  It was about 90 degrees out, with no wind and endless concrete radiating the heat back up to us. Sweatsville.

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Yauco is a cute city on a very steep mountainside. After Hurricane Maria the city decided to revitalize itself with murals strewn around the city.  They call it Yaucomatic

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One of the biggest murals are these famous steps. I actually think this painting was here pre-Maria but I’m not sure.

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Mom trying to look cute while sweating

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She took a photo of me.  I can’t be behind the camera all the time!

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Yauco is like any other city and has abandoned and broken down homes all around

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Down the street from the steps. Yaucomatic has a Google map on their website showing where all the murals are

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My family saw this road with steps at the end the last time we drove around Yauco

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My main goal was to see the colorful street with all the houses painted. But Yaucomatic didn’t have that on their handy Google map…so we just guessed a street and entered it into the GPS. We saw this view as we totally went the wrong way.

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Google GPS tried to direct us on numerous staircases (not helpful) and the most steep and twisty roads imaginable.  In fact, I actually stopped to ask a guy if we were indeed on a road and not someone’s driveway.  I’d die driving here in the dark. We saw our destination waaay over there….

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I should’ve taken more photos of the crazy road. But we were laughing, I was trying not to flip the car over sideways and suck it in as we squeezed by other cars. This is the road curving around a house.  Is it two way? Yeah, I think so.

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You know a street is steep when the sidewalk is steps

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Eureka! The city – or someone – put out a city and a PR flag so tourists could snap their selfies.  Cool!

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There were several other groups of tourists walking around – and it was a Tuesday midday!

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The locals were talkative and said that the residents volunteered to have their houses painted and the same artist is doing a similar street in the city of Aguadilla.

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Me thinks Mayaguez could use some artsy lovin.  It’s pretty ugly (is that an oxymoron?)

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Capturing the shadows

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Mom opted to stay at the bottom but I climbed up up up the steps to the top

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Looking down from the top

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The prettiest abandoned building ever

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Would wouldn’t be happy seeing these steps? There was a house at the top of this very long stair-strewn trail.  I assume there was a road up there for easier access to their home than the long route I took…

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I made this photo intending to make it black and white – nice shadow!

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A chatty local said we could walk up to this porch – no one lived there.  Um ok…it smelled like piss 🙁

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Love these!

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What’s with the stop lights?

Ever since we returned from summer break the stop lights around the Mayaguez Mall (where half the traffic of the city filters through) are either blinking, mistimed or off completely. And that changes hourly.

Our route to the new school now takes us along highway 2 for a mile. I noticed that police officers are manually changing two traffic lights by plugging in a device to the electrical box at the intersection.

IMG_8408Sometimes there sit in their car.  Sometimes they look menacingly at the traffic.

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In any case – aren’t the cops better used in another capacity? Shouldn’t they be giving out tickets to all those cars that run the reds right in front of them every morning instead of playing civil engineers? Don’t they have computers to analyze traffic and create algorithms for optimal traffic flow? Because the cop at one light isn’t paying attention to the other guy’s lights and there is always a huge backup along the road. So this stupid method isn’t really working anyway.

So strange.

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Is Puerto Rico loud or is it just me?

I have sensitive ears. I get them from my Mom. My sisters complained that as kids if they wanted to share something secretly they’d have to walk down the block so she wouldn’t hear.

Even now, I can’t sleep with the windows open because all those damn roosters wake me up – I think they are a kid calling out for me.

I even complained to an employee at the movie theatre because the previews were SUPER loud. Ok – even Trevor was covering his ears that time. They turned it down.

Me and a guy named Jose are the only two people in Zumba and kickboxing that wear earplugs. I tried salsa dancing at Pik Akí without earplugs and think I did permanent damage. So … I decided to investigate my world around me.

I downloaded the free app Decible X and began taking measurements. Everywhere.

At at red light I asked my kids to make the loudest noise they could. Jeez girl!Honestly the inodoros at my gym hurt my ears when I flush. So I took that measurement. The ambient workout music by the machines… this didn’t seem too loud to my ears.

So insert earplugs because here comes kickboxing! Some days it’s louder than others. This day I didn’t think it was too bad, but I bet sometimes it gets close to 90 decibels. Without earplugs my ears would ring after this class. Are José and I the only ones worried about our hearing? Or does he have sensitive ears like me?

Continuously curious, I took some readings around my house. The Okey Dokey brothers were playing on Alexa at volume 10 while I made polenta. I actually had her at about volume 8 but turned it full blast for the reading.

Our giant A/C unit in the sala is pretty loud. We usually turn it off to watch TV.

My Hubster studied electrical engineering and sound canceling. He says for a proper reading of the lower ranges of sound I’d need one of these fuzzy phallic microphones. Oh well.

I took a 2 minute reading in Zumba class on Tuesday. The peak was 102! With the average 89. So what does this mean for my little oídos ??

Uncomfortable feeling starts at 115 my ass. It seemed from my observations that decible level of 80 is my top comfort point for a sustained amount of time, so it surprised me to read that I could listen to level 90 for 8 hours a day. Holy crap! No thanks!

Miracle Ear is much more conservative with their numbers and judging from my own lil ears I’m more apt to use their guidelines. 15 min of level 100. Roger that.

So….where does that leave salsa dancing?? I had to wait until Tuesday night to learn:

It was already loud where I parked. Then I stood where I normally do up front by the band.

This reading seemed way too low. So instead of using the camera feature I went back to the part of the app with the little reader and took a screen shot.

Holy bleeding ears Batman! This was the highest number I metered. Miracle Ear said only 15 minutes of exposure over 100. This band plays for a couple hours. Whoa. So glad I’m the only dorky one wearing earplugs.

Which no one has ever mentioned or stared at. I’m sure they notice. But no one ever says anything. Not that I’m worried, I really don’t care about coolness with my ears.

So there.

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Maria- a year later

 

My sister asked me recently how Puerto Rico is doing one year after the hurricane. (I refer to Maria even though PR was effected by Irma as well). To me my daily routine feels much like it did before it.  I’m doing the family thing, I expect the power to go out a few times a month (or week), it doesn’t surprise me when we don’t have water pressure, and I make sure to have enough bottled water on hand and a full generator tank.

Little things here and there keep the memory fresh in our minds.

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Painted on a storefront in San Juan

Something simple like street lights. After the hurricane my city fixed the street lights near major intersections. But along the rest of the main highway they are dark. I assume the city realized that not lighting up half of the freeway through town can save a lot of money. And most people have functioning headlights anyway.

My friends sold their boat so they didn’t have to deal with that liability during another hurricane season. There are still crooked electrical poles and powerlines on the ground here and there. Small businesses are slowly getting back on their feet.

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Put your hand in Boriqua, this fight’s for you

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We do not understand this democracy

There’s not much else I can write that hasn’t already been rehashed on the news and opinion pages. Life here marches on.

 

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Foto hahas

Balancing act

 

visible license plate optional

Guess I have to wait…

the hazards of living in a very humid environment

I can see around the bike officer!

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only $999 for soda? I’ll take two!

nature’s cleaning service


  

I love me a good religious ball


Googleado – spanglish for Googled

  
  

Google wants to NOT make it me and my aviator hat

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Abandoned Bowling Alley

About a mile from our house is an abandoned bowling alley.  There are many many abandoned buildings all over the city but a bowling alley is an extra special lure.

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For the first two years of living here there was a fence around the establishment, and even though I passed it several times a week I kind of forgot it was there.

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As time (and hurricanes) went on, the fence fell down and the doors blew off. C,mon there wasn’t even a No Trespassing sign. Trevor and I spent part of a date last June poking around. (I didn’t get a photo of the front sign because it was near a busy street and I didn’t want someone yelling at us to leave haha)

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WordPress has jumbled my photo order but here goes. I didn’t plan ahead and bring a tripod but I did the best I could with my SLR camera.  Here’s the main area with the lanes.

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This was so freaky eerie. We didn’t bring the kids because we weren’t sure if there were any homeless squatters around, packs of stray dogs or broken glass lying about. We were alone, but there was certainly evidence of others before us (aka beer cans and a strong smell of piss. ew.)

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Ceiling panels were laying about having suffered from water damage and age. Bowling shoes and pins were on the floor like the building was abandoned in a rush

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Amazingly the wall paint was unaffected by age and time

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I wandered to the behind the scenes by the machines that loaded the pins. Remember, it was pitch pitch black this far into the building.  Trevor didn’t even go back here. I was using my phone flashlight. It was too creepy to dodge around these machines to go in any further.  I didn’t want to step in anything too nasty or get stuck somewhere!

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I told Trevor  we should’ve helped ourselves to a bowling ball or two. haha  But we didn’t.  Probably should’ve brought rubber gloves to touch stuff.

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Trevor looked in the lockers and found a bunch of street shoes. What happened? Halfway through a Saturday night of bowling they made an announcement it was closing and everyone had ten seconds to get out?

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Above and below are photos near the shoe counter.  There were a lot of questionable goop and trash on the floor we had to step around.

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Someone earned this trophy dangit and now it’s broken and dusty. aw.

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I also told Trevor we should help ourselves to some bowling shoes. We didn’t, but why I’m not sure.

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This photo below is the front lobby and restaurant. This would’ve been a cool place! Intricate ceiling, pool table, large bar and balcony seating.

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We ascended the stairs in the restaurant to find the office space for management. What happened here? jeez

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Trevor poked around the very full filing cabinets but didn’t see anything exceptionally interesting. Why was the desk overturned and who did it?  All these windows were broken or just gone.

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This is the second floor of the restaurant.  There must have been railings so patrons didn’t fall down onto the pool table below haha

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I was AMAZED to find these letters strewn on the floor. (I arranged them for the photo). They are bills from 1987 and 1988. When did this place go under??

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We only saw one little doggie who was scared of us and hid in the bush.  More bowling balls outside.

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These must’ve been offices rented out or something. Some areas seemed like it was organized long ago before being abandoned.

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Rock or bullet?

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Sorry these are out of order. This is the lower level of the bar/restaurant again. I love the checkered floor.

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You can see the bar way in the back there.  Those are the steps on the right we took up to the offices

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Here’s wider shots of the bowling lanes. It was quite dark in there!

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We totally should’ve taken some souvenirs!!

Answers: my neighbor was very helpful

Overall it was one, if not the, creepiest thing I’ve done in a long time.

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