Go West, Young Man!
First an announcement from your sponsor!
"The drive west has few pictures, there are reasons for this that will become clear as you read. On top of that our current internet situation is refusing to upload my pics. Rather than wait two weeks, I am choosing to go with the pictures although slim pickings."
After visiting with friends in Central Florida, we meandered North by Northwest (catchy line, huh?) and picked up I-10 on our westbound wagon-train. Wagon HO! (is that OK to say here?)
The next highly anticipated destination was Pensacola, Fl. To be exact, we had a reservation on the beach actually, an RV Park, how cool is that?
But first, a few nights layover in Chattahoochee, a mere stopover to collect our wits from the concrete expansion joints pounding our joints every second and a half. That turned into a few days of rain. You see, Hurricane Sally was passing through South Florida and tossing rain bands like a child wavign a bubble making wand. No leaks, Yeaaaaaa…Then we were on our way to visit my sister and her daughter, who lives in Pensacola.
The RV park in Chattahoochee, FL, Triple C RV Park was decent, well kept, and giving off strange vibes. Something seemed off. It took me a while to realize what. Now mid-September, the school-age children are not vacationing with Mom and Dad in the RV Parks. Almost too quiet, if that is possible. No screaming kids riding their bikes endlessly in circles. or families walking to the pool. Many empty trailers on sites, contractors coming and going to work on construction jobs living here mostly. I would stop here again as we pass through.
Now for a colossal disappointment. To be clear, it was not entirely the Park’s fault. Santa Rosa RV Park in Navarre, Fla, was to be something different for us. A beach location. Perhaps our anticipation and expectations were a bit to high. Or perhaps that Bi*** Karma, woke and waved her bubble wand at us. You know her. She laughs at us occasionally and then goes back to sleep until next time. Sally, that nasty girl, after clearing South Florida had turned North and came ashore close to here, taking the beach, the dock, and any ideas of putting our toes in the water. A mere week prior, she romped through here like a damn hurricane. We chose the location as it was only a short ride to visit my sister and niece, who live not far, so we still had that to look forward to.
That visit with my sister, who is ten years older than me, was painful. She is in a care center home because of early dementia. Seems to run in the family. I can’t blame the care center for how visitations happen. Protecting clients is paramount. They built a plexiglass booth off of the entry. The family members come and sit in the driveway to see their loved one still inside. We were outside the building, talking loudly through the plexiglass. I guess we make do when we have to.
The irony of this situation is when I saw my mother last, she didn’t know me either. The caregiver then was my sister, the same person now trying to remember who I was. My sister did not recognize me until my niece prompted her. As my sister shook her head, answering that she didn't know me, my niece hollered, “It’s your brother Mike,” that seemed to bring a smile and a few words that I could not hear through the damn plexiglass. Apparently, she has good days and bad days, just like my mother did.
As far as the RV park goes, the Santa Rosa RV Park should erect a sound barrier along Hi-way 98, the main drag through the area. Funny, the road noise is not anywhere in their brochure that I could find. Nice stop if you have business in the area, not the first choice for us, though.
A consolation was to learn how well my niece was doing. She is a self-made woman, now just turned thirty-nine. Ok, she loks not a day over thirty-nine but is actually fifty years of age. After two successful careers, first Massage Therapy and then a career in Marketing of a vitamn and whole health product line. She is not afraid to live her dream and has bought a commercial building to open a wellness center right on Highway 98. AWESOME.
We will visit again and learn how things are going for her. Come to think about it, the three siblings, my niece, and two nephews are all self-employed. Obviously, this independence came from their father’s side of the family. Such is life, I guess.
While there, I was able to sort through what was left of the BOICE legacy, our family photos. Everything from the 1930s, all black and white photographs. I could almost smell the chemicals the paper was developed in. Then came my father’s albums.
Prolific war photo’s. He was an Army Photographer during the war and stationed in the Philippines with the 13th Airborne. Then the proverbial plethora of Kodak moments growing up. I will be posting them here as I figure out the categories and get them scanned in. Many had been moldy and too far gone, but I salvaged enough to tell a story of a family. This will be something for me to work on when it’s raining or too cold to go outside.
Back to the disappointing RV Park, take a look if you want and see if they speak of traffic noise anywhere on their website.
Now an update on the importance of trip planning, when you are in an RV. This is a complete opposite for me. I love just going, exploring the road, finding whatever is to come. In a car, that's my style of travel.
Not so much with a rig and towing a car. Knowing where the next stop is and understanding how it looks, landmarks approaching, clearances and of all things BRIDGES is crucial in a no-turning-radius Motorhome. In reviewing the trip ahead, the next stop should be interesting. CAMP JOURNEYS END RV Park looks more like an auto salvage yard from the perspective of the little yellow Google Guy, drive-about.
I have no idea what we are getting into based on the satellite view or the Goggle camera. What I saw was actually a famous barbecue joint on the premises, called The ShedBBQ. They also play Bluegrass on the weekends there, apparently. They call it the SHED because that’s all it is, a shed. Other full-time RV’ers mention this place in their online U-tube videos. We shall see for ourselves.
A funny aside, while in Pensacola, we had lunch with my niece at a Ruby Tuesdays. She asked where we were headed. I had just scoped out the trip and chuckled, “Well, it’s an odd little place, but they have a barbecue joint there… My niece jumped in with, “Oh my god, the SHED. It’s the best ever!” I felt better about our next stop.
We made our way to Mississippi to eat some Barbecue, heck with the RV Park. The I-10 exit was as close to the campground as possible, just far enough to avoid road noise. A cautionary note here folks, the GPS will put you just past the real entry. Turn into THE SHED as if stopping for barbecue and hang to the right. That is the proper entry to Journey’s End RV Park. The office is on your right.
Unfortunately for the RV park, there is an eminent domain situation going on, and the RV park has lost one entire row of sites, if not more. The road is being widened. The friendly, pleasant staff here make up for it, just a small under one-hundred sites, quiet park. We ate twice at THE SHED: fantastic pulled pork and Baby Back ribs. Slow roasted over a Pecan wood fire not at all harsh, plenty of flavor.
An idea is beginning to form in my head. A string of destination RV Parks, about 200 miles apart that are designed for travelers. The old Wayside Inn approach. Food and entertainment. No, not that kind of entertainment, but bring local bands in like they do in Nashville. Many would play just for exposure. Maybe allow local eateries to cater on a rotating basis. Oh, well, it’s a growing thought of mine. Now, where is that investor?
Our world turned then! The third morning we woke to something entirely different.
Waking to the news that the next hurricane DELTA was coming for us., was not making the day pleasant. Nooo… not again. We have managed to dodge two Hurricanes so far this summer. This makes the third. The predicted impact cone was going to encompass the Texas border on one side, all the way to well past where we were currently in Mississippi. We got our coffee and had one of those talks. No panic, we laid out the options, at the moment with a 2-day forecast until impact. Plenty of time!
Our deliberations involved the options:
Hunker down, take the wind and rain at the Park alongside THE SHED in Mississippi.
Drive North in hopes of adding buffer to the storm hitting the coast close to our current location.
Drive EAST, backtracking, to be away from any impact.
Drive to Texas immediately, passing through the cone, ahead of impact.
We chose door number 4 - to make a dash across. This was based on the weather services predictions of strength. With the debris still in piles from Pensacola to western Louisiana, it was a grim reminder of what was to come. Just tropical force winds will blow these piles apart again, scattering the mess far and wide, extending cleanup efforts.
At least you can’t knock down a wall that is already on the ground. I drove the neighborhood at the surround the next stop, a one night layover called the VRV RV Park. A small mom and pop operation, a one-night stopover, maybe two nights. The devastation locally adn in the Park was a grim reminder of what Homestead Fl. looked like after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Blue tarps on rooves, but only if there still was a roof. Debris piled in front yards from clean up. All possibly about to be hit again and scattered to the wind. Not a good scenario at all.
Mentioning other Hurricanes has me reminiscing some about my interactions with Hurricanes over the years.
First, there was Hurricane Agnes in 1972, a killer storm that slid in along the East Coast and pummeled the mid-Atlantic region. Being a local volunteer fireman at the ripe old age of 17, maybe 18, I thrived on the adrenaline jazz. This was long before the A-Team coined the phrase, sorry Nick. There is something about the adrenaline rush of responding with your flashing lights and jumping on the next firetruck under lights and siren, heading out the door to whatever. Go NSFD #41, will never forget you. Maybe I will include you in a book one day. Oh, wait, I did!
Check out the Drifteers by yours truly… on Amazon, a 4 book series.
The Delaware County Fire Community pulled together, and each distinct Fire Company sent a truck, by convoy, to assist in the Wilkes Barre, Scranton area. The old coal mines were flooded, and the town was partially underwater. This was my first taste of being looked at, waved too, like a parade, only people were breaking down crying, seeing close to one-hundred fire trucks roll into town. They needed our help. The powers to be assigned each truck a sewer grate. Yep, a sewer grate. Not raw sewage, but street drainage, the runoff. Lurking below was water that could not drain anywhere. The mines were full. We laid hose over an embankment to somewhere deemed to not flow back into the mines, and for three days, we pumped out the coal mines of Wilkes Barre, PA. Everyone was skeptical that the city engineers might be wrong about where the water was going that we were pumping. Nothing was happening.
With the gallons per minute of moving water, it still took a day and a half to see any gains at all. Finally, we saw the levels go down. Now the back story, we almost lost a man the second night. He nearly succumbed to Carbon Monoxide poisoning by sleeping on the truck’s open hose bed with the engine running at a high RPM to keep the pump going. Fortunately, he survived. Me, well, I was dealing with my own little drama. The 7 or so, inoculations we got the night before leaving were rendering me about useless. I helped as best I could muster. We had started going house to house pumping basements out to the street. It tired me out something fierce carrying the portable pump to each.
I also went with my father’s 8mm wind-up movie camera. Yep, I actually found the damn thing just the week before in the bin of family pictures in Pensacola. I simply could not part with it. It will go with us as the last vestiges of Boice legacy.
My next large hurricane was a mere 20-years later, Labor day this time rather than July 4th as it was in 1972, now in 1992, a cute little storm called Hurricane Andrew. A mess of a storm that was narrow and the most powerful in the last 100 years or so. Powerful enough to take most of everything in its path. Living in Florida and managing a Multifamily Property, the company I worked for had several in Florida then. I managed a place called Hamilton Gardens in Bartow, Fl- trust me, a Blog for another day. The property in Homestead Fl., an elderly only, three-building affair, had taken a direct hit. I remember watching the weather channel on that Saturday morning.as it approached the Miami area. I called my co-worker, who had a pickup truck.
My words to him were, “gather everything you can for an extended camping trip.”
His reply was, “Why?”
I replied, “Turn on the damn weather channel. We are going somewhere, just don’t know where yet, could be Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Ft. Pierce or Homestead., any of those properties may be affected.” I was reasonably confident that our property in Central Fl. was safe. I called my superior at home and said, “we are locked and loaded. Call me with where and when. We have chain saws, water, fuel, and sleeping bags ready.”
He said, “I was about to call and ask you to get ready to go.”
I got the call the next morning.
Finding it not too bad Southbound on the Florida Turnpike, on the way toward Miami after stopping first in Ft Pierce the cutting over to Ft. Lauderdale, We were cutting up a few trees that had been blown over when the manager there came out and said., you guys are needed in Homestead, the phones are down, but somehow a fax got through. You see in 1992, cellualr was still in its infancy, landlines were about all we had.
Everything changed in an instant as we cleared over a small overpass in Cutler Ridge, just south of Miami. The only way to know where you were was to have been familiar with the area. There wasn’t a street sign to be found. By the way, the co-worker I called was the same friend I had just visited in Florida. Something about us together and Hurricanes, I guess. We met up with two others who had driven from Orlando, we each took a building.
Day One- we searched every apartment for survivors, any injured, and of course, any deceased. Walls were blown in, bathtubs blocking the hallways. Water flowing from pipes sheared off—a real mess. By days end, we had over 50 elderly to care for: no power, no safe water to drink, and a lot of food in freezers: rotting. We cooked in the courtyard whatever we could find still edible.
Day Two- we cleaned out refrigerators tossing everything into the courtyard to burn or bury. Nothing was salvageable. Our corporate office in Orlando hustled a few generators to us, and we had the only hot showers going in town. The 10th Mountain Army Unit out of NY arrived, landing in the now vacant lot in front of us. The Sikorsky helicopters were reminiscent of Apocolypse Now, the movie, only this was real. They wanted to use the land, they needed to set up camp. Great for security. Somehow they had heard we had a few hot showers. In return for their cleanup efforts and their protection, we provided those showers.
I guess the point of all this was to let you know I was no stranger to Hurricanes and have sat through many over the years. Folks in Coastal Florida came to where we lived in Central Florida as it was, so why leave.
But in this case, I knew when to fold my tent, pick up my winnings, tell the barmaids to go home, and say, “Estoy aquí, tontos, necesito una cerveza para ir.”
For all my non-Spanish speaking friends, that means, “I’m outta here suckers, I need a beer to go!”
We did just that. We skedaddled west. A week ahead of schedule but safe in Texas!
As always, remember, life is too short to not laugh at your own foibles, follies, and screwups.
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