There weren’t a lot of choices of motel rooms that would take pets. This one would take pets and seemed safe. I left the clean, but somewhat rundown old motel room and headed toward the dark shadow at the end of the back row of rooms where I had been told there was an ice machine. To my left a voice told me, “It’s about 10 feet more, Hon, under the stairs. That’s right. It’s on your right.” I ventured that she must have seem me earlier with my white cane to which she replied, “That’s right, Sweetie. I’m just out here having a cigarette.” I knew that. The smell was overpowering, but I said, “Thanks for your help. Enjoy your smoke.” “Thanks, it’s a terrible habit.” “I know, I had it once.”
I don’t like walking into dark shadows in strange places; especially around rundown old motels, so I was actually comforted by the conversation. She could see, despite the fog of smoke, better than I could, and she wasn’t disturbed. And, I had figured out that she was the woman that L had talked to earlier in the day who had told her that she really coldn’t afford to stay there, but her son had paid for it.
Saturday, Two Days Earlier:
Friday night I had a dream that we were in a wreck and I watched L die before I died as we traveled to Florida. I didn't tell L. It was an eight- hour uneventful drive. We had a beach house rented, one of a row of virtually identical “vertical shotguns” along the gulf side beach of St. George Island, Florida. We had had no rain, no traffic problems – and there are almost always problems coming through Atlanta -and the check-in went flawlessly. The floor-plan was OK, but not my favorite. The houses have two or three plans, all with three floors; the bedrooms on one, the kitchen/dining/living on the second, and a loft bedroom for kids on three. This plan had 2 ½ baths instead of three, and the loft had a sloping ceiling that kept even short adults from standing fully erect except in the center. I threw my guitar on one single bed, and my laptop on the other. I got my laptop out and found that I had brought an old cord that did not fit this computer. St. George has an express grocery and a couple of trucks that sell todays catch out of the back. Forget an electronics store. Bummer. I then turned to the guitar case, opened it, and found that the guitar was still at home.
We had left in a hurry. That’s my only excuse. I packed at the last moment because we were debating what to do about our fifteen-year-old dog. We were concerned about whether she could get up and down the stairs, about her senile dementia, and the possibility that she might pass away while we were away, or that we would have to put her down. At the last moment we decided to take her because she always enjoyed the beach so much. Taking her meant taking two cases of special food and her. It was not until the last moment that we realized there would be room for the laptop and my parlor guitar.
That was Saturday evening that I discovered that I needn’t have bothered with either the guitar or the laptop.
On Sunday we helped a friend celebrate her 70th birthday, and had a delightful evening. The television was on the weather channel. There was something about Tropical Depression Fourteen strengthening into Tropical Storm Michael which might strengthen to a hurricane. By the end of the evening they were calling it a hurricane, and it was headed our way.
The birthday girl and her husband left early to get their RV ready to leave that evening. On Monday I got a text. “All guests are subject to an immediate mandatory evacuation” ordered by the Franklin County Emergency Services.”
We told another couple that we travel with the news who wanted to wait until Tuesday to leave. Finally, we decided to leave most of our stuff in our houses and drive two hours north to Bainbridge, Georgia and come back on Friday. There was no gas on the island. We had to cross the five-mile-long bridge to Highway 98 and buy gas on the mainland. We were nearly killed by someone who came off of a side street without even a rolling stop and forced us off the road on the way. I don’t think he saw us until L lay on the horn. He never slowed down.
I got ice, went back to the room, and fixed a whiskey and rocks. We had earlier grabbed a bite at a place named Beefy O’Brady’s. It was filling.
As I sipped my drink I turned on the TV and found that the hurricane had gone from a 1 to a category 2 storm and might reach a category 3 before reaching land. It did reach a “cat. 3” and was strengthening to a four when we decided to leave Bainbridge and head home in north Georgia. We got home to find that it had reached category four and was threatening category five when it came ashore.
We left food in the refrigerator, a lot of clothes in a dresser on the first floor, because we were going to stay for a few weeks, my guitar case, my favorite sandals, her favorite shoes. Her best knives, all of her herbs, her Weight Watchers cookbook.
We have to go back to get our things out. Depending on how long the electricity is out – and I’m sure it is out – the food could make the refrigerator a throw-away. We have trip insurance, but there is always the headache of collecting.
There may be no house left. In that case we just have to accept things as they are. The house is on stilts and pretty high, but we were told that in severe storms the entire island can be washed over by the storm surge
There are a lot of unknowns and no way to find out the status for a couple of days.
Fifty-eight residents stayed on the island. Two of them are acquaintances. We don’t know what their status is. I hope they all survived.
We are already getting statistics from the weather people. Michael had the third lowest pressure recorded. It is the strongest storm to reach the Florida Panhandle. I’m sure as the sun rises tomorrow we will hear more.