Then I moved to North Caicos, and learned that a day on Provo could and should never be wasted in such a manner. Because planes from North moved only in the early morning, noon and late afternoon, the only way to get all the errands done (the bank line alone took half a day) was to go early and come back late. For me, that meant a lot of hanging out at Gilley’s in the morning, waiting for my rental car, since nearly nothing opened on Provo until after 9 a.m. Then there was a lot of hanging out in the late afternoon, waiting for a plane that almost never, ever left on time.
The process was not at all what I’d imagined and so annoying that I no longer cared about eavesdropping on the guys at the bar or figuring out a story for the lone figure hunched over his rice & peas. So much for that idea.
As Provo got busier, the airport got bigger, and much of the local traffic shifted to the ferry, Gilley’s became less of a local hangout and more focused on the travelers pulsing through on a daily basis. Like those travelers, we visit only in transit. Yet the place still has a vibe that recalls the old days of pilots running air taxis and grabbing a beer to take with you.
Maybe it’s the unspoken self-arrangement of customers. Airport workers tend to take places at the back of the restaurant, it seems—perhaps getting as far away from their work as they can while on break? Other local workers find a spot at the bar and order takeout. The rest of the space goes to travelers … usually people who are frequent visitors rather than the tourists who zip through to the international departure area and the offerings there.
Tom and I always take a booth near the window so we can watch the airport parade as well as the Gilley groups. Servers who have been there a while recognize us and know that we don’t use the menu. We know what we want. It’s not exactly the “old” Gilley’s, but it’s still comfortable like a neighborhood bar.
Provo keeps changing, its “top tourist destination” pride pushing at the local places and in some cases pushing them aside. High-end restaurants and even chains are creating a division between local places and tourist spots. That’s too bad, because much of the charm of the Turks and Caicos that I first visited was the mingling of the two. Gilley’s on this side of the airport still has it, even if Provo now has little time for long afternoon breaks at the bar arguing about politics and boats. Each time we visit on our way out, we drink to the continuation of that charm.