Years ago, one of those famous old newscasters like Walter Kronkite or Drew Pearson said "That was the week that was ..." -- I don't recall what happened that week --- end of the war or something -- but many significant things happened. Same thing for Joyce and I during the week of September 1-7, 2004. We did alot of driving, were almost hurricane'd a couple of times, and had several interesting adventures.
Actually, it all started the night of August 31st. We were having our 20th anniversary dinner -- the anniversary is actually September 1st, but we knew we wouldn't have time for dinner out on the first, so were doing it a night early. We decided to eat at Appleby's on Merritt Island and got a window table overlooking the Indian River (inland waterway about a mile or so from the beach). We had just ordered and were looking out the window when BAMMM! They finally launched the Atlas II that they'd been trying to get up for about 4-5 days. And it was right outside of our window! Really beautiful! The closest we've ever been to a launch. It actually appeared to be going straight up. We're usually several miles away, so we see it as a curving path (see Chapter 30 for pictures of our usual view). As I told Joyce, "what a surprise! We came expecting dinner and got launch! ... hahaha." And no, I didn't have my camera with me.
Our house, ready for Hurricane Frances
Florida Turnpike traffic jam
Frances approaching our central Florida home
Just South of us, in Palm Beach county
Burning car at Baskin-Robbins
Saw a few empty stations going up, more coming back
So, why couldn't we eat out on our anniversary? Well, there was Hurricane Frances, heading our way, and she was no lady. On Tuesday, before going out for our dinner/launch, we had already parked the RV in front of the house, turned on the refrigerator, and started the planning for loading up. We spent most of Wednesday (the anniversary) putting put the hurricane shutters on all the windows and doors. This was our first time to use them, so it took a little longer than it hopefully will in the future.
As usual, click any photo to see a larger version
So, we pack the RV late Wednesday and early Thursday, then start happily up the interstate to hide out at my sister's in Tallahassee --- NOT! Before leaving, I decided to drive across I-95 to Walmart to pick some things up and to check out the interstate -- it was a parking lot! Found out later that I was seeing the lower end of a 30-mile traffic jam. Instead, we went up U. S. 1 to 528 (Beeline Expressway), then across 528 toward Orlando. Traffic really didn't get too bad until we drew near to Orlando, then WOW! We were going to turn up the Florida Turnpike, but it was also a parking lot. We ended up cutting up 441, then SR 44 -- whatever -- bottom line, in 7 hours we got as far as Leesburg -- 100 miles! Found a campground there, and settled in for the night. I didn't get any photos, but there's one on the right that I copied off the internet. That's exactly the way things looked for about 4 of those 7 hours, but I guess if we'd stayed on the interstates, we'd still be there ... lol. Next morning, we jumped onto I-75 for about a mile, then it stopped also. Cut over to U. S. 27 and made the rest of the trip in record time. In fact, we liked 27 so well, we used it on the return trip also. I'd probably take it to I-75 to Beeline every time if they'd turn off those stupid tolls. This trip, tolls were off for Frances, so saved the $18 or so that it costs each time through there.
Bird's-Eye view of Frances
Some of the many power trucks we passed on the way home
Frances path on Labor Day
Me on TV! Caption says Fled Melbourne
Tuesday morning -- everybody's gone!
We spent the weekend at my sister Marylin's house, watching Frances and playing Cribbage, Chicken-foot, Risk, and eating alot. By Sunday, Frances looked like it was heading straight for us. It wasn't nearly as large, but we RVers don't even like Category 1 hurricanes, so off we went again! In case you haven't see Frances pictures, I've included some on the right, along with the familiar sight of stations with no gas.
I've also included a photo of one of our adventures. We were at a Baskin-Robbins, stocking up on energy for the hurricane, when we saw smoke out the window. Went outside and there was a car, burning. The owner was nowhere in sight, people were moving their cars away, and eventually the fire department showed up. My sister commented that there is never a dull moment when we're around.
Drove on over to Pensacola on Sunday. We were looking for a Passport America park, as usual, but missed the one we wanted because they had the old exit number instead of the new one. [Here's a warning for Florida newbies -- they've changed all of the Interstate exit numbers to match the mile-markers, but many of the billboards, website directions, etc. are still using the old numbers.] BUT, the park we ended up in had a Wi-Fi hotspot, so I was content! Played about 12 hours of Poker, picked up a hundred or so, and had a great time. Joyce was a little bored without her HGTV, but she survived on the available TV. I said Pensacola, but actually we were in a nearby town named Bagdad --- That's Right! Spent the night in Bagdad! I told you it was an interesting week. Campground was Pelican Palms and their Wi-Fi worked great. They were Good Sam, so at least I got my 10% discount -- not as good as Passport, but better than full price.
If you've never sat in your RV and accessed the internet, you'd really be surprised how exciting it is. If I'd been told when we took our first RV trip in 1984 that I'd have my computer on the dinette table, accessing the internet through a wireless network, I'd have been really skeptical. I really look forward to a time when more RV parks pick up on the Wi-Fi trend!
While surfing around, I found a really great website for hurricane information from all around the world. Lists all storms by name and all parts of the world by location. Click the logo to check it out.
To the right are some AccuWeather photos, showing the state of Frances on Labor Day. We were just on the left-hand side of the Eye Path shown and got very little rain and wind.
Now for our next adventure! Ready? We were on TV news! You know how the newscasters go around interviewing all the rednecks after a storm? Well, we were the rednecks this time. We were sitting outside the RV when a Fox 10 news van drove up. The lady was looking for people who were running from Frances. Hey! That's us! She talked to us for about 20 minutes and took footage outside and inside the RV, including shots of our four dogs. In fact, the lead-in to the story was a picture or our littlest Yorki, shaking and shivering because she was traumatized by the guy with the big camera. When they presented it on TV, they implied she was in fear of Frances ... lol. On the right are some stills of the newscast. It started off "And for a little dog named Tinker, this was a trying time ..." I wrote to WALA-TV and they sold me a copy of the newscast for $35. Money well-spent to have a record of our 15 seconds of fame. Just for kicks, I included the Fox Ten logo here.
Tuesday morning when we got up, all the neighbors were already gone. The couple next to us were from Cocoa and the next guy was from Palm Beach. Don't know when they left, but we got started around noon -- no point hurrying things ... haha. We drove back to sister's house for one night, then on home on Wednesday. Hard to believe it was just a week -- seemed much longer.
Some of the thousands of love-bugs we killed
So, you ask, did you have any damage from Frances? As it turns out, very little. We were very fortunate. A few sections of our 6-foot fence fell down and one tree was leaning way over. Put the fence back, cut down the tree, took down the storm shutters, and took the RV back to storage. And then all is as it was ... more or less.
Once more, I've got to go on and on about how great it is to have an RV. Where else would we go with four little dogs? Leave them and go to a shelter? I THINK NOT! If we didn't have the RV, we'd probably have ridden it out and been okay, but I much prefer the safety and convenience of the RV. We only lost power for about 6 hours and never lost the phone or TV, but it could've easily been alot worse. With the RV, we're guaranteed comfort, food, water, electricity, TV, internet ... what else could one ask for?
I almost forgot about the bucket adventure. We were on I-10, heading toward Pensacola, when we came upon a little bucket in the middle of our lane. I saw it too late to swerve, so decided to straddle it. Well, as luck would have it, it was just wide enough to get stuck between my front axle and tie rods. We heard it scraping along under the RV for a few seconds, then I decided to stop and remove it. The rain was sprinkling down, the traffic was zooming by at 80, and I was lying under the front bumper trying to kick the bucket loose. No luck! I finally had to put down the front leveling jacks to raise the front end, then go back out in the rain and kick the bucket. When I finally got it out, I threw it as far as I could into the forest on the side of the road. Who knew a little bucket could be such a problem? But, thank goodness I had the leveling jacks -- guess there's always a good news for each bad news. And, while doing all that, the storm caught up with us and we had to run/drive even faster to get away from it. Whoever dropped that bucket -- #@$%&*(#
And one more afterthought -- two of the strangest complaints we've ever heard. First, while eating at a Barnhill's in Milton, Florida, a waiter commented: "This is terrible. Frances makes 6 hurricanes that have almost hit us. And now there's Ivan coming." This said in a restaurant where probably 60%-70% of the customers were travelers, escaping from areas that WERE being hit by Frances. The interesting thing there is that Ivan might actually hit the Milton/Pensacola area -- then the waiter will stop complaining about the misses?
Secondly, on TV on Labor Day, some tourists sitting on a Florida beach somewhere in the panhandle were complaining because Frances wasn't strong enough! They wanted to see some high waves and a damaging storm and all they got was alot of rain. My! My! Don't we all have problems!
Click to read about our four little dogs.
Littlest dog Tinker becomes famous! Milton is where we were .. Milton, Florida
My Travel Log
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60. The Week That Was ...