I made a short, poor quality video of my Alexandria, LA 'riding out the storm' visit, but it turned out rather disappointing. Nontheless, it's here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=O-4xosdn7kQ
While I was puttering around the house wondering what I was going to do about the impending storm, Cappy called and said, "Get everything into da truck and go on up to Alexandria and wait out the storm with Uncle Eugene and Aunt Marguerite; I already called them". Actually, I was much relieved. I've never ridden out a hurricane, close up or from a distance. I thought I'd already had it kinda/sorta settled in my mind, to just go across the street, as invited, to ride hurricane Gustav out with Jude and Sonia and their family, but then, watching ol' Jim Cantore, despite my better judgement, I got myself all into a confused lather. Cappy's orders came as an instant relief.
I did the best I could at stowing things around the outside of the house, but at the last minute, I grabbed the little red barn birdhouse, which was sitting on the porch glider's arm, and took it into the house, along with sundry other things I wanted kept safe while I was away. In the kitchen, with the birdhouse still in my hand, I noticed a swarm of angry wasps, who appeared to be forming some kind of posse...Oh-oh! I ran outside (leaving the door hanging open) with the 'birdhouse' aka newly renovated hornet barn and tossed it onto the glider, then made my own bee-line to the SUV. The dogs and I waited until we figured the coast was clear, then I sneaked back to the house long enough to close and secure the doors, then we hit the road. I had to kind of laugh to myself, thinking, "Well, I'll bet I'll never see that birdhouse again, or the wasps; it'll be long 'gone with the wind' by the time I get back".
First, we got to Aunt Gussie's house and stayed with her a couple of days, which was nice. She decided, instead of going with the dogs and me, up to Alexandria, rather to go stay with her doctor, who is more like her son. Actually, he insisted she go stay with them, much to her delight. I don't blame him; I'd keep her if I could...I just love her to pieces.
The storm was to hit the next day, and the gas stations in Aunt Gussie's town were already sold out of gas. During the night, however, a truck had made a delivery, so I mosied over to the gas station on the corner and topped off my tank. There were only a couple of pumps working, tho', and people who were waiting, had stopped being polite. One guy got out of his taxi-cab, walked over to another man, who was pumping gas, and started yelling and shaking his fist at him. I quickly finished my business, jumped into the Trailblazer and got outa town. I tried getting onto the recommended interstate 49, but at that point, they weren't letting anyone onto it, and even tho' there was 'counterflow',(ALL lanes headed North) it was a "parking lot". It was jammed packed full of vehicles, but nobody was moving...at all! Well, I figured I could make better time than that. Actually, I had planned on driving up one of the older routes, 71, and I'm glad I did. There was practically no traffic at all. It was just a regular Sunday drive. The dawgs and I had a wonderful drive, looking at cows and horses, or dogs in folks' yards; (their favorite views). It would have seemed like just another day, but for the fact that halfway to Alexandria, 18 ambulances (I counted them) were in a convoy, all headed south, then as we got close to Alexandria, we came across an evacuee shelter at LSU Ag, where many, many buses had already unloaded hordes of humanity. Just the sight of that jolted me back to reality.
We easily found our way to Uncle Eugene and Aunt Marguerite's house and made ourselves at home. Soon, another lady, Pam and her daughter, Katy showed up to stay with us, too. Then cousin Cindy and cousin Larry. It was fun visiting and catching up on the lastest news, all the while, in the background, the television was broadcasting the progress of Hurricane Gustav. Cousin Cindy and I went to Walmart to buy a few more supplies, then headed home. The store had a flurry of people, also doing some last minute shopping and already a few of the shelves were looking kind of sparse.
The next day day, the storm was due to 'hit'. We watched television and continued to visit that day, Monday. Around suppertime, while the others were about to eat, I only wanted a small can of asparagus, with some cheese or something. I couldn't find the regular can opener, so...aha, I spied the electric can opener. Have you ever seen something happen before it actually happens? It came to me that if/when I put that can under the can opener, the lights would go off. I chuckled, knowing it was a silly thought, crossed the kitchen, put the can of asparagus under the lip of the electric can opener, put the lever down and the lights went out. Pitch dark. "Good one", I thought. The lights didn't come back on. I remember thinking, "I want a 'do-over'!" Immediately Aunt Marguerite set about lighting the candles and hurricane lanterns, which she had strategically placed earlier in the day. I was impressed. I hadn't thought the wind had gotten strong enough as of yet, to have taken down the electric poles, but sure enough, something had happened. As the evening wore on, it started to get a little warm in the house. When we all went to bed around midnight, I really slept well. It was wonderful, and I slept til I felt guilty, until around 9:30 a.m. I thought everybody would think I was a slug-a-bed, but was relieved to see folks were only just getting up, as well. It was kinda warm...and quickly gaining ground on the warm scale. By noon, it was downright sultry in their big sprawling house. Going outside didn't help. It was hot out there. By three o'clock, it was really, really hot IN there. There was no relief from it. It felt as though we were immersed in very warm bath water, from the floor to the ceiling, breathing in the water, but we weren't drowning. Breathing was an effort, tho'; breathing in the warm bath water, breathing out the warm bath water. The dogs were panting constantly, too, and flopped anywhere they thought might have any promise of cooler air. A couple of times, I wandered outside, but was immediately met with a fiery gust of scorching hot air, so back inside I went. I couldn't complain...the others weren't saying a word about it, so how could this 'X-Yankee'? I tried reading, but it interferred with my concentrating on breathing in the hot, thick air. Napping was good...sleep was good. Lying down, feeling as though there were an inch layer of sweat encasing the heated body, and beyond that, the very warm bath water. I was surprised at how easily I could fall asleep for those three or four days. Uncle Eugene and Aunt Margerite, and the others are made of sturdier stuff than I. But I refused to complain...my goodness, they had taken us in...me and the brat dogs, and others, too! They were very gracious hosts. For that I am more appreciative than I can say.
When Hurricane Gustav finally made his appearance in Alexandria, I have to admit, I got frightened, and when I could have gotten some very good camera footage, I opted to hide out inside, while the others sat out in the 'breeze'. Tuesday and Wednesday were difficult, as we were in a total news blackout. No radio, or television, the phones didn't work. Nothing. I was worried about our friend, Melissa and her family, our friend, Pam and her family, our friend, Lona and her family, and all our neighbors, like Jude & Sonia, Steve and Monica, the Loups', Miss Annie and our wonderful friends on the local Forum.
HotHotHot...NapNapNap...walk the dogs up the street in the blazing heat, to the grassy cul-de-sac circle for them to potty, then back again four times or so, a day. The whole street was a loud roar, with the sound of hard-working generators coming from all the houses, powering their homes with electricity.
Finally, on Wednesday, one of the house phones started working, so family started calling so everyone could touch base and see how one another survived. Cappy called and said that it looked bad as far as power coming back on. He related that on the news it said that the electricity wasn't expected to be turned back on, for at least four to six weeks! Oh no!!!! I couldn't stay at Uncle Eugene and Aunt Marguerite's house for that long, putting them out that way. I told him I might as well, go on up to New York State, if I could find gasoline, because we were supposed to be leaving to go up and visit with Dan and family in Rochester, NY the next day, anyhow. He said he'd get back to me. Well...he got back to me and said to get ready to come pick him up at work the next day, but we couldn't go to NY because we had too much to do at home, and gave me the yard report about his pecan trees, etc. By then, everyone else had gone back to their own homes, cousin Cindy, cousin Larry, Pam and her daughter, Katy. It was just our hosts and da dawgs and me.
So, I kept breathing the suffocating 'bath water', along with everyone else in the house, and went to bed early, around 8 p.m., but had a harder time falling asleep, so just lay there in the swaddling of warm sweat and hot, thick air. I woke up sometime later, hearing MarkyBear somewhere in the pitch black house, whimpering. I had no idea about where he was, but surmised he was way out, past the long hall, through the long dining room area, somewhere around the enclosed porch area, wanting to get out to go potty. I tried whispering for him, "Mark!!!", but he kept insitantly 'mewing' that he had to go out. rats! and me with no flashlight, as I was told by Cappy and the radio and television to keep handy. I thought there was a lantern in the bathroom, mayhaps, with a lighter or matches. With out-stretched arms, I made my way there, but found no lantern, no lighter, no matches. I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face, it was so dark. ("Ok...if I make my way down the hall and through the dining room, hands ahead of me, knocking precious knick-nacks off the wall and overturning lamps along the way, I might be able to locate the darned pup".) I knelt down and began slowly crawling on my hands and knees along the carpet, feeling the familiar area rugs along the way, as guideposts as to my location. Down the little room division line, which I hadn't really noticed before in the myriad times I had walked over it, to the open glass-sliding door and found MarkyBear, who was thrilled to have found me down on all fours right in his face. I was suddenly aware of a bad smell...a very bad smell right there next to the enclosed porch area, and whispered, "Mark, what did you dooo?" But he still wanted out, so I crawled along through the doorway out onto the cool linoleum floor, found the door to the outside, stood up and followed him out into the cool refreshing night air. Oh, it was wonderful! I sat out there and drank it all in, the sky revealing a few twinkling stars, here and there, but they were quickly gobbled up by the still present clouds, accompanying the hurricane, which was waning somewhere farther up north of Alexandria. I was startled from my reverie by a clawing on the door next to me, looked to see a kind of white blur inside, stood to let SparkyBear outside, who seemed to be 'harumping' for having been left to fend for himself inside the big dark house. I didn't know what time it was, but would have been delighted to have spent the rest of the night sitting out there, but knew I needed to get some sleep if I was going to travel all that way in the morning to go pick up Cappy and drive home. As soon as we got back in the house, I smelled that awful pile of whatever it was again...darn! I can't believe Mark would have done something like that! I pawed around on the porch, lightly trying to feel for a lantern, which I thought for sure, I had seen right there. Yep, there it was. Nope, no lighter or matches there, either. DangDangDang. I hope I don't 'step' in doggy-doo-doo with my knee as I'm crawling back through the house or then track it all along their carpet. Back on my hands and knees, I gingerly felt my way around, this time with 'laughing' dogs, who thought it was great fun to have their 'mother' as part of their pack on an adventure wandering around on the floor in the black dark. "Lord, just don't let them step in it and drag it all over Uncle Eugene and Aunt Marguerite's carpet...pleeeeeze". Oh it smelled terrible. ("Uncle Eugene & Aunt Marguerite!!") Now what to do? I could just imagine them getting up, walking along unsuspectingly and stepping in a big pile of dog cah-cah.
I had forgotten to mention that upon our arrival to their house, the first thing SparkyBear had done was to 'potty' in their fenced-in back yard, and in doing so, the big wad he was waiting to finish, hung onto his fur and stayed there. He stayed in position for what seemed like forever, then looked over his shoulder at me with pleading eyes, that said, "Hellllp". I tried everything to get him cleaned up, but the more I tried, the more embedded it became in the white fur on his backside, spreading into a big huge, stinking smeary mess. Even Aunt Marguerite started bringing paper towels and dampened rags to try to help with the dark growing blob. What a way to start the day as a welcomed house guest. Eventually, we got him cleaned up.
The prospect of another dog mishap involving poor Aunt Marguerite was more than I wanted to deal with. Panicked, I stood up in the darkened dining room and prayed...my only recourse as I see it now. (It's usally my only 'out' in any situation.) "Please, Lord, let me find some kind of light so I can find the mess Mark made, so Uncle Eugene and Aunt Marguerite don't have to step in it...pleeeeeeezzze". Just then...what? Light? Uncle Eugene was coming out of their bedroom with a flashlight. I hope I didn't startle him, but nontheless, there I stood, in the dark and said softly, "Uncle Eugene...?" I told him I was afraid that Mark had had an 'accident' and that I needed to find it. We never did find anything that I was afraid had happened. He said that it was five o'clock a.m. and he was going to work. I went back to bed and slept a few more hours. Later, Aunt Marguerite and I found that the foul smell was from things which had defrosted in the refrigerator on the enclosed porch. (whew, then.)
I created a 'staging area' in their kitchen breakfast nook and began loading the SUV, while Aunt Marguerite 'ran herd' on the dogs for me, who were anxious to go home, and knew what we were up to. She walked us out to the curb, and I knew I wouldn't need their leashes because they'd get right in the Trailblazer, wanting to "go get Daddy and go home". True to course, SparkyBear jumped right in and assumed his position on the center armrest compartment. MarkyBear ran to the next door neighbor's yard and rolled in a big pile of some other dog's manure, getting it stuck all over in the fur on his back. That found me, once again, with a big nasty stinking brown swath of dog poo to deal with, upon our departure. We left as we came. I only had a package of those damp hand wipes to try...and try I did, to do my best to clean him up, but left with an obvious tan residue still tatooed to his back, and the strong odor of someone else's dog doo to permeate the beautiful air-conditioned LONG ride home...four hours, of it. It would have been bad enough had it been the smell of my own dog, but to have it be the stench of some other dog. Where was the justice in that? The whole ride home I was left to ponder which was worse, breathing hot bath water, or icy A/C dog pooie.
Because I was told that the roads were once again slow rolling parking lots where people were trying to get back to their homes, I, once again, took the back roads. I should have taken more pictures, but just didn't have the luxury of stopping many times for photo ops. I listened to the radio the whole way, and it sounded as though I was returning to a war zone, with gas lines miles long and waits as long as seven hours in some cases. MRE's and ice were being handed out by National Guards. Driving the back roads was like driving through a dark green tunnel much of the time. I drove on, under, around and through downed power lines and in some cases trees were tenuously resting on power lines, which I hoped wouldn't fall as we passed under them. Trees were down everywhere and everything was 'painted' with green from all the leaves which had been ripped from the trees during the storm. Over the radio it said that flooding was imminant in the areas I was driving through. I could see that it was true, and only hoped that I could be driving ahead of the buildup of water, avoid any of it and not be trapped along the way. People I passed looked shell-shocked, stunned. A few times, I beat the road crew and had to drive around downed electric poles or trees, wondering if I'd actually make it until I'd end up having to turn around and drive miles and miles and miles back the way I came, wasting precious gas and time. A couple of times I had to stop and ask people directions because the map was confusing. People were more than willing to help, and one young man even drew me a map. I thanked them all profusely and asked God to bless them in their recovery.
Eventually I made it to Cappy, recovered him, and we made our way home to see what devastation awaited. Our yard looked terrible. Trees were leaning way over, and as you see from Cappy's post, we lost one of his beloved pecan trees. But...we still have each other. Things on the patio were blown over, things were blown away. But not the light-weight red barn birdhouse. It still sat there on porch glider, right where I had tossed it, and there were the same tribe of angry hornets! We still had each other, Cappy and I...and we still have them, the angry 'bees'. Well, that just stinks, doesn't it?
But you know, as long as we do have each other, and all our friends and families are fine, that's all that really matters, isn't it?