Thursday, September 21, 2017

America's Second Independence Day

If there is a way to tour a place by water, that's what we want to do. In New Orleans, the Mississippi river is at the heart of the city and it's history and the Creole Queen paddlewheel boat is a great way to see it. We liked the idea of the mid-morning cruise with a $5 Bloody Mary and unlimited refills. Hey we're on vacation! And, I just love the playful nature of New Orleans.

We especially liked the commentary on board, provided by Christyn Elliott, Creole Queen narrator. We love learning about history and Christyn put a delightful personal twist to it since she is a born and raised New Orleanian (sp?) 

  • 1718: French rule. Louisiana, the entire Mississippi watershed, and some of Canada including Montreal was under French rule.
  • 1762: Spanish rule. French were losing money, gave French Canada to Britain and Louisiana territory to Spain
  • 1800: Napoleon forces Spain to give it all back, but no one knew so it was never official. Louisiana area remains under Spanish rule.
  • 1803: French flag raised, taken down 20 days later
  • Ownership passed by signing of documents a world away, no one really knew who owned Louisiana when the US bought it from France in 1803.
  • The battle of New Orleans, on January 8, 1815, settled the issue and, according to our narrator - it should be called the country's second Independence Day. Without it we may be speaking French today.
Here is Christyn:

We thoroughly enjoyed that boat ride, and we learned a lot at the Chalmette Battlefield memorial.

Further your computer education**Subscribe to the Free Geeks on Tour Newsletters**

Watch our Weekly Online Show on Learning Smartphones and Tablets!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Evacuation Parties

After you've traveled by RV for a few years, you make friends and see them at various places all over the country. In evacuating Florida, we knew that some fellow RVers and Hurricane Irma refugees, were safely parked in Alabama. We pull into Rainbow Plantation Escapees RV park in Summerdale, Alabama and Chris and Cherie of Technomadia came out to greet us. We also had a text message from Chris Yust to come over for happy hour!

Our parking spot at Rainbow Plantation with the Technomadia bus in the background
We're all breathing sighs of relief for our own safety, yet glued to our phone screens for news of friends and family still in the path. For Chris and Cherie, they are fearing the worst, yet hoping for good news of their boat that they left tied up in Marathon - Florida keys.

Hurricane Party #1

The first night (Sunday) we gathered at Chris and Charles motorhome. I was able to get my mini-poodle fix as we all drank wine, felt grateful for being out of harms way, and continued to search for news about those still in Florida. The second night was Monday 9/11. That was the worst day for the hurricane in mainland Florida - we didn't do any partying that day.

Hurricane Party #2 - aka Apple viewing party

Tuesday, Sep 12 was the day for the big Annual Apple Event where they announce all their new products. Chris and Cherie offered to host a viewing party in their motorhome where they can project the event onto a big screen. They know a lot more about the Apple world than we do, so this was a geek's dream to get their commentary as well as watching the event together.

It has to be one of the very coolest parts of RVing that you form temporary neighborhoods where your friends are right next door and you can visit each others' homes and party.

We hosted dinner at our place that night ... which meant sitting on the ground outside our tiny motorhome. Hey! It was beautiful weather. We had dinner then went for a nice walk.

Hurricane Party #3

We had decided to stay just one more night, Wednesday. Chris and Cherie would also leave the next day, so we had to have another party! Everybody but us seemed to know about this great restaurant nearby called Big Daddy's grill. A beautiful setting, good food, and great company.
The CH and J group! Three people named Chris, 2 more start with CH - Charles and Cherie, then there's Jim and Joe.
Chris Dunphy, Cherie Ve Ard, Jim, Chris, Chris Yust, Charles Yust, Joe "ComputerGuy"

Good News

Jim's son, Devon lives close to our townhouse in Fort Lauderdale. His home came thru the storm unscathed, not even losing electricity. He checked on our place and said all was well, but we had no electricity. Charles and Chris had their home with them and they got reports that their RV lot in Ft. Meyers looks good. Chris and Cherie still don't have a first hand confirmation, but they did see an aerial photo that showed their boat is still tied up to the slip where they left it. It's still afloat.
My Mom's assisted living facility was spared any damage during the hurricane, but they lost power. It was quite disturbing when I tried to call and could not get an answer, but it didn't take long before Kathy - the manager in the memory care wing - called me on her cell to let me know that Mom was fine. The worst part was no air conditioning, so they were taking all the residents out to the Coral Springs center (a mall?) for the day where they could stay cool and get something to eat. I heard from her Hospice care aid, Kerrie, that the power was back on by Wednesday evening. Both Kathy and Kerrie are wonderful. They pay close attention and take very good care of Mom - I rested easy Wednesday night.

Next Decision

Once again, we are faced with a decision of which way to go. If it had been a short evacuation to Gainesville, we would clearly have just gone home. But, as it is, we are now 2 days away from home and it's nearly a week later. Our next gig is Sep 24 in New Orleans for the Carriage Travel Club rally. We are only a couple of hours from New Orleans. We have 10 days to work with. We had fully expected to go home, but, being the lazy people we are, and enjoying RVing as much as we do, we decided against the trip back to South Florida. Another fly in the ointment is we had planned to continue on from New Orleans and take our time getting to our next gig at the Workamper Rendezvous in Heber Springs, Arkansas. After that we go to Illinois, and we would not be back in Florida until November.
Choice 1: from our current position at #1, go home right now, then back to New Orleans and on ...

Choice 2: from our current position at #1,  go to New Orleans, then home before heading on to Heber Springs and beyond

We picked choice 2. So, we have a week in this area. Then the rally in New Orleans. Then it will be decision time again - do we really need to go home? Or can we just head to Arkansas? We have two weeks in between, plenty of time.

Life was so much simpler when we were fulltime RVers! There was no "going home" we were always home. Then we just moved on to the next place and we were "home" there. I love Fort Lauderdale and the townhouse, but it does complicate things sometimes.

Let the good times roll!
Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma - Evacuation Indecision

A screen shot from my phone. The blue dot is our current location
Let me begin at the end ... we are #SafeAndSound in Summerdale, Alabama at the Escapees RV park called Rainbow Plantation. We got here about 5pm on Sunday, 9/10/17 after a 400 mile drive from Gainesville.
Our parking spot at Alex's near Gainesville. She was hosting several friends from around the state who were hiding from the hurricane. It became a party she referred to as "Irma Palooza"
 But, it wasn't always clear what to do. As we sat, comfortably, in Gainesville, the eye of the hurricane was still between Cuba and Key West, heading west. The hurricane trackers showed that it was going to come north - but it kept heading west. We knew that other RV friends Chris and Charles Yust, as well as Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia) had escaped Florida and settled at the Alabama Escapees park. Chris Yust even called us on Saturday, essentially to say - "Get your butt over here NOW"

Don't Cross the Streams!

Looking at the image above, it seems clear that we should follow our friend's advice and head west, right? But it wasn't that clear on Saturday. We needed to leave, but it wasn't clear which direction to go. We actually said good-bye to our wonderful hosts, Alex and Jim, pulled the electric plug and put the key in the ignition.

Then we started studying this image:

It just didn't seem right to get on the western side of this thing when it could still be headed that way. If you've ever watched the movie Ghostbusters, you know:

So we sat there and looked at more maps and more options. It appeared that our home in Fort Lauderdale was going to be spared. Could we just go back now? If it did continue west, then heading east - and up into Georgia would be good. But, if it did go straight up, Georgia would be on the more dangerous side of the storm. We had a full tank of gas, but we didn't want to squander any of it because most gas stations were empty.
So we sat there.
and we sat there.
and we stayed there.

We told Alex to make the dinner reservations for 10 instead of 8 and we enjoyed another evening of the "Irma Palooza" party.

Sunday morning was rainy and a little windy. It didn't have anything to do with Irma - but it gave us a bit of a kick-in-the-pants anyway. Not to mention the squealing alarms coming from our phones since the night before:

The storm had taken its predicted turn to the north, so we said our goodbyes - again - and hit the road. There was no traffic at all, and we found a Flying J gas station near Tallahassee where we topped of the gas tank. We were heartened to see all the electrical bucket trucks and other emergency vehicles in caravans heading to south Florida.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hurricane Irma: To Go or Not To Go

We got back home from our Summer Tour just in time for hurricane season. Home is Fort Lauderdale, in southern Florida. We were at home for some of hurricane season last year as well. We were threatened by hurricane Matthew. We shuttered all the windows and brought all the patio items in from outside. Stocked up on food, water, and batteries and went to bed. It hardly even rained and the hurricane was gone.
That happens SO often in South Florida. It's hard to take hurricane warnings seriously. They twist and turn in unpredictable ways, often it feels like they're playing chicken with you and veer off at the last minute. I've been known to say I prefer earthquakes to hurricanes (I was in the big one in Alaska - Good Friday 1964) because they happen, or they don't. None of this anxiety, work, and worry, for nothing!
Also, our townhouse is a very sturdy, concrete block building and foundation. We are not in a flood zone, and the building has a brand new roof. My Mom lived in this townhouse for 21 years and weathered many a hurricane. During Andrew in 1992 I went there to ride it out. She always had friends who came to stay because it was such a safe place. Here is a little video she made from there during Hurricane Wilma - the worst one to hit this area in our memory.

Hurricane Irma demands attention. Most powerful ever recorded in Atlantic 185mph winds

If it follows anywhere near the projections, there is nowhere to go in Florida to get out of the way

We pulled everything in from outside, shuttered the windows, packed the Roadtrek RV, and drove north.

First destination, Alex's house just outside of Gainesville. We've stayed there in our RV many times in the past. Once there, we'll watch the direction of the hurricane and decide what to do.

We were in stop and go traffic on the Turnpike once were passed Ft. Pierce. It backed up for nearly 20 miles before each service plaza. We got off after Orlando and took back roads thru Ocala Nat'l forest. Most all of the gas stations were empty. It was a joyous feeling when we saw one with a line - that means they have gas! We arrived safe and sound at Alex's house and we have a full tank of gas for the next step once it becomes clear. We aren't the only ones taking advantage of Alex's hospitality. Thank you Alex for hosting "Irma Palooza" :-) 

I've been asked if we brought my Mom with us. Sadly, no. There was a time when she loved coming with us in our RV. Those times are over. She doesn't really know who I am any more, she doesn't have the strength for climbing up steps, she is incontinent and there's just a lot I don't know about how to take care of her any more. She is in a facility that is not in a flood zone. She's been there over 3 years now and the staff all know and love her. They know how to take care of her. I don't.