Monthly Archives: July 2014

Hull Bay Hideaway

Sunday 27 July 2014

So, after Wednesday’s full day of cleaning training, we finished up washing all of the villa linens and towels. Clean linens are in all the bedrooms, either on the bed or in the closets since we don’t have any bookings in most bedrooms until late October. Plus, there is a clean spare of everything that has to be ready for the mid-week cleaning on any stays over 7 days. That’s all done and ready. We’re on top of it for now. We do have one couple coming in on Monday. They are friends and work for the owners at their other business venture in New Orleans. So their stay of 9 days will be a test run for us with “real” guests.

The last few days were spent doing odds and ends around the villa like watering plants and skimming the pool (regular schedule) but nothing major.  Spent some time with Carol going over the “Host” book which covers pretty much anything we need to know. There is also a “Guest” book that helps them plan their stay and provides information on things to do while on the island.

We spent Saturday getting caught up on some of our own business work so we can start the week off not too far behind.  Yes, we’re both still working at our “real” jobs since the villa work is not full time. Maybe we’ll discuss that in a future blog – but not today.Hull Bay 14.07.27-02

Sunday evening we decided to go do a little exploring at Hull Bay – a place Scott showed us earlier in the week – one of his favorite places. Only about 10 minutes from the Villa – over on the north side of the island. It’s a pretty cool place …. nice secluded bay with a small restaurant and two bars – Hull Bay Hideaway … mine and Sharon’s kind of place. Supposedly more of a local place versus a tourist place. Our kind of place.

Hull Bay 14.07.27-01The beach isn’t big and there is sand but the water’s edge is not shells, it’s small pebbles and rocks and very interesting shapes, sizes, and colors. We spent some time walking the beach and looking for cool rocks. A fun late afternoon and evening. Once we tired of that, we decided to grab something to eat. Hull Bay 14.07.27-05

Sunday night special menu item is what they called Brisket. More like pot roast to us but damn, it was good! Served with fresh veggies and mashed potatoes … it hit the spot. We shared an order and it was more than plenty. Check out their menu, they have a special every night. Our first “Date Night” on STT.  We will be back!

Wax On, Wax Off

Wednesday 23 July 2014

It’s training day for cleaning the villa – top to bottom, end to end. Today Carol and Scott show us how they want it done. The day begins at 0800. 

This training is to show us what a full turn would involve once a full house departs. Full house is 4 King bedrooms AND the owner’s 2-room apartment.  The reason it is dirty and needs cleaning is the owner’s family departed right before we arrived a few days ago.

I won’t go into the details but the cleaning involves spit-shining the bathrooms, all with tile floors and showers, vacuuming wooden floors, clean sheets and bathroom towels, packing up the dirty linens for washing, cleaning sliding door screens, wiping off porch rails and porch furniture, inspecting and making sure all AC units and TVs are in working order, cleaning and shining the great rooms and common areas, large kitchen, skimming the pool and surrounding decks, and various other odds and end that need checking. And then there’s the washing to do later. Whew.

Oh look. It’s 5 pm. Where did this day go?

Yes, it took us all day and we stopped for lunch. But there was a lot of discussion with the owners and taking time to explain everything that needs to cleaned and checked to make sure the entire villa is “Show Ready” for the next guests. It’s not hard. But a full house turn will need to be done in 5 hours or less if we have a back-to-back booking in the future. But that is not the norm so we’ll usually have plenty of time to get the villa in A-1 condition.

All in all a very informative day and I believe we now know what the owner’s expect as it relates to cleaning. We can do this. We got it covered.

Villa Caretaker/Host Training Begins

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Today is shopping day for our groceries and other odds and ends we need to set up home here in our apartment. We already know the prices are going to be higher than the U.S.

But first, Scott and I have to go into town to pick up a couple of recliner chairs that go in our apartment. They are at an upholstery shop they have been using for years. They tell us you make things last down here any way you can – just too hard and expensive to get good furniture. The trip to this guy’s shop was enlightening, to say the least. A very nice, local fellow he was who also asked Scott to take him to a gas station to get some fuel in some gas cans for his vehicle that was soon to be out of the shop. We did. Then returned to his shop and loaded the two recliners in the bed and headed back to the villa.

Around lunch, Sharon and I headed out with Carol for the shopping trip. She requested I drive and Sharon navigate from some pre-printed directions they provide to guests so they can get around the island without getting lost. Since I had been out with Scott earlier, I knew a little about the general direction we were headed and had had a chance to see how folks drive down here. A little scary at first but the trip with Carol went fine as far as my driving was concerned. Even Sharon said I did fine.

After 3-4 stops at various shops and stores, we completed our shopping and headed back up to the villa. I say up as it is located at about 700 feet above sea level, perched on a hill, overlooking Charlotte Amalie and the bay where the cruise ships dock. There are some pretty sharp curves and blind spots but as long as you’re careful, you’re OK. Generally, the drivers on the island are courteous, so far.

Later that afternoon Scott requested we take another ride to let Sharon get some practice driving but she just wasn’t ready yet, so I drove again. This time, we went down to the water’s edge, drove along there for awhile, then headed east by the cruise ship port then on out to Red Hook, which is as far east as you can go by car. Then headed to the north side by Megan’s Bay where we learned where we have to take the trash and garbage. Then on to Hull’s Bay which is a very lovely and secluded place we plan to visit often. I have a feeling it will become our little hideaway. Even has a bar and restaurant. Departed Hull Bay and headed back over the top of the mountain to the villa. Nice driving learning trip and got oriented to most of the eastern and northern parts of the island.

We still have a lot of exploring to do. It should be fun in the coming months. Click the map below for a larger version. The general location of the Villa is: find the words “Charlotte Amalie” in the middle of the map, then go up/north where you see “Hotel Mafolie”, see the little white road off the yellow road, leading to the red road? We’re off that white road.

Welcome to Silk Cotton Villa

Monday, 21 July 2014

Our flight departed on time from Atlanta and arrived on time in St. Thomas. Uneventful – the way we like ’em. And waiting in the lobby were the owners (Scott & Carol) of Silk Cotton Villa and they recognized us right away from images we had sent them and from Facebook postings. Next we headed over to baggage claim and grabbed our luggage – it arrived safely, too. That’s always a good start to a trip.

Right away, Scott starts training us by explaining this is where you meet the arriving guests, showed us where the rental car agencies are located and explained the importance of getting whomever rented the vehicle to go ahead and get the vehicle because sometimes they run out … oops, that would suck.  Once we grabbed our luggage we headed out to the parking lot and they showed us where and how to explain the escort service to the guests so they can follow us back to the villa. The escort is a valuable service, especially for Americans, since in the Virgin Islands, they drive on the left side of the roads. Freaks most folks out.

Once we arrived at the villa it was getting to be late afternoon. They assisted us in getting our luggage down to the caretaker’s studio apartment and said once we got settled in to come on up to the villa for our little “Welcoming.”

Shortly, we headed up to the main villa and they had some light snacks for us and adult beverages. We sat around and chatted for awhile and then they gave us a tour of all the bedrooms and guest areas. It’s big. 7600 SF big. And everything, including the view, is even better than on the website.

After snacks and the tour, they invited us to have diner with them a few hours later. We went down to our apartment to freshen up and rest a bit. At the appointed time, we arrived for dinner and we had a very nice meal out on the patio next to the beautiful pool. We talked more and generally got to know each other a little more. Before we knew it, 10 pm had rolled around and we were pooped – time to get some shut eye.

Tomorrow we go do a little shopping and get acquainted with the area.

PS: Below are a few images of the caretaker studio apartment. About 500-600 SF.

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

THE DAY has arrived. The day we depart Georgia and head off to St. Thomas, V.I. to start our new position as Caretakers and Hosts for Silk Cotton Villa.

It was a busy weekend finishing up the packing of our personal items at our home andLeaving for STT getting them in the storage room in the basement. Then, the packing of the two bags we’re bringing to STT. We were able to get all the clothes we are taking into one suitcase under 50 lbs. Then another suitcase for personal items, toiletries, shoes, etc. 1 year, 2 suitcases. But we did ship 5 Priority Mail boxes down last week full of other personal items, vitamins, extra contact lenses, etc.  When Saturday night rolled around, we were pooped but had a nice dinner with one of our cabin neighbors on the mountain.

Sunday was spent handing over our car to Sharon’s daddy, having lunch with her family, and a ride to an ATL airport hotel. Then we hooked up with some more friends for a few drinks in the hotel bar that evening. All in all, a nice last day on the mainland.

Got up and decided to head to the airport for some breakfast and give ourselves plenty of time for a no-stress departure. Although it’s a Monday morning, we made it from hotel to check-in and then through security and on the “train plane” in right at 30 minutes. Unbelievable.

So here we sit, at the gate, waiting to board a jet plane to start our new position at Silk Cotton Villa. Next stop, St. Thomas.

Almost Time To Go

The last few weekends have been rather busy with visiting friends saying good-bye and packing up personal items we aren’t purging. About all that is remaining to pack and get into the office storage area are some kitchen items.  As far as food goes, we’ve been trying to eat up what’s in the freezer and pantry the last month or so. Whatever is left goes to neighbor Mark.

Speaking of Mark (who is taking over the Getaway Valet business), he and I have a few Getaway Valet jobs to do on Thursday and after that, it’s all his. I know you will do well with the business Mark.

This week is more good-bye dinners with friends and tidying up loose ends around the home. Still have to pack the suitcases we’re taking to St. Thomas but we can get that done this Saturday. Also packing up a few Priority Mail boxes we will ship down to the Villa before we depart containing items we can’t take in our suitcases. It’s not much – just items we don’t want to have to buy once we arrive.

Countdown: A little less than 6 days.

Purging Is Fun

Near the end of summer 2013, my old 1995 GMC pickup just quit working. I needed a truck to perform my Getaway Valet tasks. Plus, with a home and needing firewood and always working on projects, you have got to have a truck. Right, guys?

Toy 002

So, in August 2013 Sharon and I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new Toyota Tacoma pickup. We hadn’t had a new vehicle or a car note in umpteen years – now we did. But at least most of it could be expensed out through the businesses.

Now we’re departing for a new life in St. Thomas for a year and who knows where we’ll be after this gig. We don’t need the truck any longer. Need to sell it. So we created a flier, sent it out to friends and family and their networks. Also placed an ad in Auto Trader. Guess our “luck card” hasn’t run out yet … had a buyer from Auto Trader in a week of placing the ad. Cash money. And got the price we were asking that paid off the note. Toyota Tacoma gone and another hurdle out of the way.


Now we need someone to take over our Getaway Valet business. Lucky us … again. One of our neighbors we’ve know for a few years is retired from the military and U.S.P.S., is young, healthy, and looking for a business that’s not full-time and will bring in a little extra cash. We offer him the business. He decides to take it over. After a little training and learning what each existing client requires to be happy, he’s now on his way to growing a nice little business in Blue Ridge. Good luck, Mark! You will do fine!

About all that is left to do now is pack up our personal stuff to get it out of the way for the new renters coming when we depart. Sharon’s current office becomes the personal storage locker. It’s also a great time to purge and get rid of stuff we just don’t use or need any longer. Purging is good. Purging is fun. Purging makes us feel good. Purging is good for the local thrift stores (and relatives and friends who want our stuff – LOL).

To Sell or Lease

OK. One major task completed – we found a great home for Bailey. Now, what to do about our home – sell, rental program, or lease?Front view

We had done so much in the past few months to get our Blue Ridge home ready to sell regardless of getting a caretaker position or not that we almost completely forgot about the lease/rent option. We did contact a few cabin rental companies about putting our cabin in a vacation cabin rental program but initial responses were that it didn’t look like a cabin. They are right … at least from the outside. From the inside, it looks like a mountain lodge. Oh well, we don’t have time to worry about that.

Screened porchTime is slipping away and selling a home sometimes takes more than a few weeks. One morning I woke up and remembered that Sandy had told us that there was always a need in Blue Ridge for long-term home leases. I decided to make some calls to my contacts at the Chamber to see if maybe they had heard of anyone needing a long-term lease.

I guess we’re on a lucky streak because within a few hours, I received a call from a fellow who wanted to come by and see our place after I sent him a few photos. His dad lives in the area, runs a successful business, and this guy and his wife just moved to Blue Ridge from Memphis so they could be closer to the parents. She recently started work at the local hospital.

Long story short … over the next few days they decide they want to lease our home for at least a year, maybe longer. Our timing works for them so we start the background check process and before long, it’s a done deal. Both sides are happy. And they need it furnished as they still have a home to sell in Memphis. Home issue resolved for the next year. Another major task completed.

Bailey, A Good Dog, Good Friend

We got the position of Caretaker / Host at Silk Cotton Villa. The house is “Show Ready” to put on the real estate market. But do we have time? About four weeks before we have to report for duty at the Villa on July 21st. It’s crunch time.

Let’s see. We need to get the cabin on the market. Find a new forever home for Bailey (the beautiful rescue we got back in early 2013), sell the 2013 Toyota Tacoma truck, and decide what we will do with our other vehicle.

Bailey 3

Sweet Bailey

Finding a new forever home for Bailey was first priority. I created a nice flier on her and within days it was flying through cyberspace from the help of many friends and family who are extreme dog lovers. We received a lot of calls but it was the first person that I discussed our situation with that ending up helping the most. I met him at our Vet’s office. He overheard me telling the Vet what was going on with our moving and why we needed to find Bailey a new home. This guy knew of someone close by who had recently lost a beloved pet of 18 years and had been dog-less for about two years. Within a week these folks came to our home for a personal family visit and they fell in love with our Bailey. We agreed to drop off Bailey the next day at their home for a Saturday visit while we attended an all-day family affair. When we arrived to pick her up that evening, there sat Bailey on the couch with the husband watching TV – like she owned the place. They had a great time that day and asked if she could stay overnight with them. They said they really wanted her. We could tell then Bailey had found a new home. We agreed.

Photo of Bailey at her new home after about a week. New toy was a gift from a new dog friend.

Photo of Bailey at her new home after about a week. New toy was a gift from a new dog friend. Looks pretty happy!

On the way home we decided we would just bring all her things back the next morning as we had another family function to attend on Sunday. When we arrived Sunday morning, there she sat on the couch with the husband again watching TV and didn’t even get up when we came in. We knew she knew and she just looked happy. Yes, it was hard to leave her but we knew we had found the right family.

The way we look at it now is we were chosen to rescue her back in March 2013 so we could eventually find her the perfect “forever” family. We will always love you Bailey! You brought a lot of joy into our lives.

Paradise Calls

Late June 2014

Most mornings, as I’m scrolling through my emails, I see the latest updates from the couple’s job offering sites we follow. Kind of nice to sit there and share with Sharon, discuss the potential, and maybe start our research online of the place and area. We call these discussions our “Board Meetings” before we make a decision to apply or not.

In late May, a job posted for a Caretaker / Host position in the Caribbean … St. Thomas, V.I. to be exact. Positions in the Caribbean don’t come across often so this one really caught our attention. The workload was part-time and provided living quarters. The facility was absolutely gorgeous. Silk Cotton Villa – check it out. We did our research and decided to apply.

Within a week or so the owners emailed us to let us know we had made the first cut. Now they wanted some additional information. Of course we complied. Got the requested information back to them via email ASAP.

A few weeks later we received another email from the owners informing us we had made the final cut down to three finalists. You can imagine our excitement while reading that email. We had been out all day on a lake with some friends and the email was several hours old. The owners also stated they wanted to conduct a phone interview that evening. We emailed back to let them know we would be available during the assigned time.

Sharon and I both thought the phone interview went well. The owners asked a lot of good questions that would help them make a decision. As we had been through several interviews like this before, we knew not to get too excited because you never know what the other end is thinking or who is your competition. All you can do is be prepared, be honest, and put your best face forward. Then wait.

Near the end of the phone interview, the owners told us when they would make a decision and they would contact us whether it was a Yes or No. The prescribed day came and that evening, the call came. And then the message we wanted to hear, “Are you ready to start at Silk Cotton Villa?”  Guess what our answer was?