A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Life is a highway...

Memoirs of a family on the move

Last Wednesday evening, we were keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Frances - at the time we went to bed, it looked as if she'd give us a miss and figured we'd be able to stay home. By Thursday morning, however, her course had shifted and she was heading straight for us. We began to think more seriously about evacuating. As the 11am and 5pm updates passed with no change, and staring a cat 4 in the eye, we made the decision to go. We were already hearing traffic reports that I-95 was packed, and some motorists were running out of gas. DH gambled that the roads would be less packed during the middle of the night, so we started securing our house and made plans to leave right after the 11pm update. I refueled my car at a little knothole gas station that everyone overlooks, because it was the only place to find gas, filled up two gas cans, and by midnight we were on the move.

DH's gamble paid off - traffic was heavier than it would normally be at that time of night, but it wasn't particularly slow. We made rather good time, even through the troublesome I-95/I-4 interchange in Daytona, and in St. Augustine we pulled into a rest area to dump the contents of the gas cans into our car to top off the tank. The rest area was VERY crowded, and every rest area we saw along the way was similarly packed.

At about 5am we pulled into a Mobil station in Brunswick, GA. There was a bit of price-gouging going on - typically a gallon in Georgia goes for around $1.75, but they were selling for $1.99. But then there was no gas to be had along I-95 in Florida, so they had quite the racket going. We didn't need to refuel, but did need to take a rest break. DH ran into someone who had left a city 30 miles north of us....7 hours earlier. I am quite grateful to DH for deciding to travel in the middle of the night.

An hour later, we refueled in Savannah, where gas prices were more reasonable, and intended to find a rest area and crash for a while. The nearest rest area was also quite crowded, so we just pushed on for Florence, SC. We arrived about 9:30am, and promptly crashed until about dinnertime.

The folks we met in Florence were very hospitable, but there wasn't a whole lot to see in town. It probably is as large as it is because of its proximity to both I-95 and Myrtle Beach. We did attend a nice little Catholic church - St. Anthony's, which was in the more upscale part of town. It was a rather small church compared to my home parish, but active enough to have a school and a Perpetual Adoration chapel. I found it rather telling about the sad state of vocations to the priesthood that the pastor of a tiny Deep South church is an older Filipino gentleman. Other than going to Mass Saturday evening, though, most of our time in Florence was spent watching the Weather Channel and playing cards. I had intended to grab a small ornament kit while I was packing to work on during the trip, but I discovered that I'd accidentally grabbed the remains of a kit I already completed. So I didn't stitch at all, and I wasn't really motivated to read much.

Sunday we had initially planned to head on home, but Frances hadn't moved her big fat eye so we spent the night in Savannah. On the drive down, we passed upwards of 50 electrical utility trucks from 4 different states, all bound for Florida. One of them had even used electrical tape to write "Florida here we come". It was heartwarming to see help coming from all over the country.

We ate at a wonderful seafood place in Savannah called Steamers - it's not an elegant place, but you get excellent seafood at good prices - I had snow crab legs and shrimp, covered with a liberal sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning. The crab legs were perfectly done - I've rarely had such an easy time removing the meat, and I was quite stuffed when I left. If you're ever in Savannah, check it out - it's near the interchange of I-95 and US 17 in Richmond Hill.

Monday we checked out, anticipating a long drive home. Breakfast at Dennys filled us up before hitting the road, and there were a lot of returning fellow evacuees - so many that Dennys had a sign posted that Florida-bound folks should call an emergency info hotline to see if they could indeed make it home. We began the trek home around 11:30, filled up our tank in Brunswick (but not at the price-gouging Mobil station), and continued home. Traffic was heavy but not significantly slow between Savannah and St. Augustine, other than a few rubbernecking delays. Between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, traffic was almost at a crawl, but once we got past the I-4 exit it moved at a good pace again. We passed another 30 or so utility trucks and trailers bearing aid for the displaced.

As we moved along I-95, the further south we got, the more signs of devastation we saw - mostly in the form of downed billboards and trees. From south of Daytona until home, there were very few house lights to be seen, and we weren't able to get off at our own exit because of power line work.

We got home around 9pm, and the only visible damage was to our back fence. Our pool was murky, between dirt that had washed in, and the filter not running for several days. Nothing a little chlorine and the pool vacuum couldn't fix - it's already swimmable again. We had power, but not cable. So many other houses still don't have power, so we were indeed very fortunate.

In general, this might have been a nice trip if not for the circumstances - between anxiety about the weather and the state of things back home, and spending four days in very close proximity between hotel rooms and the car, we were all getting a bit short-tempered and irritable. We're glad to be back home, and trying to return to some semblance of normalcy. DD and DsD are both out of school for the rest of the week, but DH and I went back to work today. It's a start.

I've already starting making enquiries about storm shutters, and I hope that Ivan gives us a miss. I am so ready for hurricane season to be over...

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