By John Roberts
We have been to St. Thomas three times already, so we are in the mood to try something a little different this time.
We meet Travis Johnson at 8:10 sharp at Mojo's Surf Shack on the morning of our arrival.
The Army brat who has lived in multiple places before finding a home in the Caribbean is about to take us on a 5-kilometer running tour around the Charlotte Amalie area to show off some of the splendors of St. Thomas.
Running? On your vacation? In the hot sun?
Yeah, I guess you could question my sanity, but I enjoy challenging and unique excursions. Especially the kind that make you sweat.
Our guide Travis, whose prolific head of frizzy locks rightly earn him the moniker Hair Bear, asks what type of pace we want him to set for our running tour. Casual works for us this morning. (It's just Mrs. In The Loop and me, and we want to make sure we stop and take in all the sights.)
He also asks about any injuries and anything else he should know about. Then, he gives us each a bottle of water and a set of hand signals he will use to help direct us as we jog around town.
And, we're off.
We head along the waterfront, and we are glad to have an early start for the tour because we can already feel the power of the sun and humidity a few minutes in. But stops are frequent. We see a historic church site that is being restored to serve as a museum.
Travis tells us the history of how the island was settled by Denmark, with much help from the Dutch, and later sold to the United States. The most taxing part of the tour was a run up a neighborhood hill and the "99 Steps" to reach Blackbeard's tower.
Be ready to tell Travis how many steps you count on the way up. (Clue: There are at least 99.)
More historic homes, statues and a look at FDR Park break up the run nicely before we return to the waterfront for some more pics (we snap plenty and Travis carries along a GoPro to capture posed and candid shots of the tour group) and a quick chat about neighboring Hassel and Water islands we spot from Charlotte Amalie.
I'm the type of traveler who tries to go it alone and as cheaply as possible when landing in a new spot and weighing activities and sightseeing options. The $50 price tag might be cause for pause, but you do get value for that, I believe.
The historical sites you visit are recommended by the island's historical society. (Active Island works with island organizations to find the best spots to highlight.) Many of the locations are tucked away in neighborhoods off the main routes traveled by buses and cab tours.
Active Island includes a high-quality wicking tech T-shirt as a memento of your tour, as well as photos, a cup cozy and a voucher for a free Cruzan Rum-based drink.
Indulge in your run drink (it's good for a Diet Coke, or other drinks, too) right away at a port-side bar while you are still sweating or hold off until later to enjoy the rum for which you run.
You also have access to your tour guide, an island resident who is very willing to give you advice for how you might like to spend the rest of your visit on the island, from the best restaurants and beaches to where to find reliable Wi-Fi.
Altogether, it was a super-fun experience and a fantastic way to get the day started. This tour unveiled many new historic spots. Fitness buffs and history buffs alike will enjoy this.
Thanks for reading. And always travel happy!