Island payoff outweighs travel issues

PELICAN POINT, Bahamas — It took roughly 12 hours to go 200 miles.

Hell, we could have gotten there quicker by racing camel. And to rule any mode of transportation out would be silly considering where we were headed. Pelican Point, Bahamas, pop. about 50.

This was the lodging location for the first event of the Built Ford Tough ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series presented by TakeMeFishing.org, which kicks off Saturday with the Deep Water Cay Redbone.

The majority of the competitors were staying at a sprawling resort on nearby Deep Water Cay, which will serve as the launch point for competitors this weekend.

In contrast, the staff was staying at a place that lacked hot water and heat. But we are in the Bahamas and that generally brings about feelings of beach, sun and fun. Not this week. I slept in a jacket last night and it was roughly 45 degrees when we woke up Friday morning.

Alas, we were appreciative of the fact that we were even here.

Rewind to Thursday when we realized it was going to be a long trip. Thanks to Spirit Airlines and a plane malfunction, a trio of ESPNers — including myself — were left scrambling for travel arrangements to Freeport. We ended up renting a car and speeding to Ft. Lauderdale to catch a plane to Freeport. I use the term plane liberally. This was the definition of a "puddle-jumper."

I had the fortune of sitting in the front row, which I typically enjoy. Not this time. The size, age and style of the plane allowed all the passengers to see directly in the cockpit. I was five feet from both pilots and could see them as they worked the gauges.

With every noise, buzz or beep, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. With the wind howling and gauges buzzing, I would have preferred to be comfortably ignorant in a different plane without the ability to read the altitude gauge.

After a surprisingly soft landing, the trip had only just begun. Although we were staying 70 miles from Freeport, we weren't given directions to Pelican Point.

Our renter, the Rev. Freddie Laing — a prince of a guy — told us to look for the food store and take a right. Seriously.

Thankfully, the Bahamas Tourism Department sent a representative, Willie Love, to meet us at the airport and point us in the right direction. Love sported a bright-pink flowered shirt, a fantastic white hat and a penchant for cursing.

Like most of the Bahamians we met, Love is a jack of all trades. In addition to his gig with the Bahamas Tourism Department, he plays in a Calypso band and has cut 10 albums. My favorite lyric, "Love, love, love, let's have some fun."

Love led us to the food store (actually called The Food Market) and we got the basic provisions including an 8-pack of toilet paper that cost $25. That's $3.12 a roll.

From there, he pointed us in the right direction and told us to drive until we got sick of driving. Consider it was pitch black and there is little light pollution in the Bahamas so we felt less than confident. After a long drive and knocking on two wrong doors, we finally found the Rev. Freddie Laing's residence. He showed us to our rooms.

As we walked to the cottage and complained about the price of our groceries, Laing explained to us that cost of importing goods is so high that many Bahamians go to Miami and load up on groceries at the Sam's Club.

Laing is practically the mayor of Pelican Point. In addition to running church services on the weekdays, he rents cottages, fishes for barracuda (which he sells to locals for food) and was able to fix the lock on the back door of our cottage with MacGyver-esque grace.

After a hectic day, we were all happy to hit the hay. I shivered through most of the night but slept heavily. I woke up just in time for the sunrise, and the Bahamas revealed itself in the day.

As I stepped out onto the deck of the cottage with crystal-clear water seemingly running until the end of the Earth, I realized the trip was all worth it. As they say in the Bahamas, our islands are like no other place on earth.