Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rolling again...

This morning, Joan said to me, "It seems like all we do is move stuff. When are you going to quit working me so hard?" Yeah, this retirement stuff isn't for sissies. In the last 6 months, we've moved from the boat to the house, to the small RV, to the toy hauler, back into the house, back into the toy hauler, and now we're on our way to pick up our new 5th wheel. This may be the reason people decide to full-time in RVs or on boats - not having to move in and out!

We had the house buttoned down early and the trailer packed, so we decided to head out today. With the forecasts for Hurricane Gustav (bearing down on the LA/northern TX Gulf Coast), we decided that earlier is better. There will be a lot of folks heading inland to the north... and nasty weather chasing right behind them... better for us to be ahead of that situation. As it is, I expect we will see some precip and nasty weather all the way up to Missouri shortly after we get there.

Gustav is currently bashing Cuba - winds are 150 mph with gusts to 185. This is going to be an ugly situation. On its current path, it is going to create havoc with the offshore oil industry, and impact the New Orleans area... we are all going to feel the effects of this in our pockets with rapidly rising fuel prices. And heaven help the folks who are in the path of this one. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Been a while

While there was no big damage to our house, it was several small things that added up to being a real pain in the butt. Getting someone in to do work (like drywall) is tough enough around here, and really compounded by the extensive hurricane damage in the area. Yeah, good help really is hard to find.

However, we wrapped up the last of the work yesterday; the house is back in tip-top shape... and the really good news: the RV dealer called to tell us that our new 5th wheel is ready to be picked up. We will head towards Missouri this weekend.

In the meantime, between waiting for non-showing workers, we have been out in our boat, Wild Blue. I REALLY missed cruising. Although we will be putting her away again tomorrow, it has been a real treat to be out on the water again.

We've been dolphin watching, cruising in the Gulf, anchoring in the Laguna Madre, running in the ship channel... just enjoying the warm water in the Tropical Tip of Texas.

We are looking forward to RVing again with the new 5th wheel. I'm thinking: a few months in the RV, a few months on the boat... repeat. Maybe we need to re-think this whole house situation?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Amazing what a bath will do...

We've been trying to tackle one project each day. Today was "bath day" for the house; I swept the siding with a broom to get the big clumps off, then pressure washed the whole thing. What a difference! The poor house was nasty looking... I described it as: imagine taking a big shaggy dog, dipping it in honey, rolling it in sand, then letting it run through a field of weeds.

The gray siding looks good, and the white trim is sparkling again. I need to get back up on the roof and reinstall the satellite dish and reseal around the vents, then have the contractor get after the roof trim, exterior storage area wall and start the inside drywall work. Figure another week tops if the contractor stays on the job... obviously, we are not the only ones on his agenda.

It's coming together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fix Up, Clean Up

The insurance adjustor came today... he found more damage than we did. Looks like we'll be replacing a ceiling and a wall inside, and an exterior wall on our storage area under the house. Lots of other clean up, paint, and replacing trim... but, compared to many of our friends and neighbors, not too bad.

I fixed the dock first thing, then went to work on the soffetts under the eves. The roof stayed intact and looks good. It's a wonder when you see all the shingles laying around. Tomorrow, we'll start powerwashing the house... lots of tarry stuff where shingles hit us.

We put the toy hauler in storage yesterday and checked on Wild Blue (our boat) - she did fine. I was hoping to bring her back and get her launched again, but one of us (and I won't mention her name) thinks I won't get anything else done if the boat is back in the water. Well, duhhh... isn't that the point? ;-) The boat will have to wait a while, I guess.

As soon as we hear from the dealer about our new 5th wheel, we'll make some plans to head out again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

After doing some unloading today, we drove around to see the area... it is heartbreaking to see shattered homes and businesses. Lots of blue tarp roofs and boarded over windows. A few "We're Open" signs in front of businesses that have patched together to try to keep things going. One bayside bar looked like the building was ready to collapse, but there were a half dozen people at the bar. Our favorite bayside, sunset-watching bar and grill was open... the roof is gone, there is a tarp suspended over the seating, and they are cooking on a big gas grill... you can order from anything on the menu, as long as it's shrimp or a hamburger. Trying to maintain some normalcy and a sense of humor.

South Padre Island seemed to take the brunt of it. When the wind switched to the west and kicked up, the homes and business on the bayside were really battered. It didn't matter if you were on the ground floor or 7 floors up... lots of water damage. A once-beautiful Luhrs sportfisher still sits onshore above the seawall - evidence of the power of Nature. I took a camera along, but couldn't bare to shoot anything.

The damage we received is minimal compared to many here. The palm tree in front of our place stayed standing (many were snapped off or toppled), but it looks like it's doing an impersonation of Fritz the Cat. We won't be putting Wild Blue at the dock until most of it can be replaced. Right now, other than drying things out in our storage area under the house, we are trying to leave things until the insurance adjustor comes out.

Some of the excursion boats were out today, and there were plenty of tourists on SPI; life and business goes on. Most of the big hotels (like the Raddison and the Bahia Mar) are shut down... this is their busiest time of the year. Some marginal businesses won't recover.

We've seen a lot of changes in this area in the 13 years we've been a part of the community. It was looking good... and it will again.

We have seen what a Category 5 looks like when Iniki devastated Kauai. This was a "weak Category 2" (not "weak" when you talk to those who stayed). It left almost all of our buildings standing, and didn't cost anyone their life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The trip to Chanute (August 6th) was great - we toured the Nu-Wa 5th wheel factory to see how they are built. No question that we will be buying one of these 5th wheels... just need to decide on the best floorplan for our needs and find an enthusiastic dealer.

August 7th. We drove to Ozark, Missouri, and met with Robert Guthrie from Campbell Ford. Robert was recommended by folks on the Nu-Wa owners forum as a dealer who is competitive on price and great with service and follow up. We found this to be the case, and decided that we were ready to order our 5th wheel. Robert will be taking the toy hauler in in trade. We will be coming back to Missouri sometime in the next month to take delivery - we are excited!

August 8th and 9th. A long drive back to south Texas. We arrived later afternoon today. Here's a note I sent one of our boating friends...

Well, we are home. We didn't escape unscathed. Some of our dock is gone. Some of the facia on the roof is gone. The hurricane shutters did their job and kept the house from being breached (the scuffs, dings, and debris stuck in them shows that). The siding on the house looks OK. Not sure about the roof, yet, since I haven't gotten up there. And, the kinda bad part: with 22 inches of rain and 120+ mph winds, and 24+ hours of hammering, we got some water in the ceiling and walls... likely that it came in the roof vents. So, not real bad, just kinda bad - we are going to have to tear out some ceiling and wall drywall to find out where it came from and how much damage it did. We are in line for the insurance adjustor, and the contractor who built our house has said he will do the work; it may be a while. There are a lot of people here whose homes are in bad shape.

While cleaning off the hurricane shutters so I could roll them up, a couple neighbors came by to welcome us home. We heard the stories of debris so thick you couldn't see the streets; the docks and boats on the bay side of South Padre Island were devastated; homes, too. The eye wall of the hurricane passed just north of us, so we had winds from every direction.

The outside of the house is a gawd-awful dirty mess... nothing that some water, a scrub brush, and some elbow grease won't fix. There is some facia under the eves that is hanging funny. Our underneath storage area walls are still wet all the way through.

On the bright side, we are in air conditioned comfort and will be sleeping in our own bed tonight. The damage is confined to one bathroom and adjoining small bedroom, so it should be easy enough for us to live around it for a while, if necessary. The satellite dish on top of the house was flattened, but the cable TV is working. We parked the toy hauler beside the house, plugged it in, and will be able to take our time unloading it. We didn't know if we'd need to stay in it, but we were ready with full fresh water and empty holding tanks.

No idea yet when we'll get Wild Blue back in the water... I think there is a lot of debris in the canals, so I'll get the inflatable out and "poke around" when I get the chance. That may be a while.

We only saw the main highway into Port Isabel and the road to our island; there is plenty of damage. Seems like when the hurricane came inland, the national media coverage of it moved on. July and August are the busiest tourist months for South Padre Island; a double whammy for businesses there.

On our little island, neighbors and workers pulled together. They've done an amazing job of getting it back in shape in just 2 1/2 weeks. Our friends who watch our place while we're gone have a lot of damage; they are moving out of their house tomorrow so the walls, floors, and ceilings can be torn out and replaced. Another neighbor told us that he knows of only 5 places, out of nearly 1000, that didn't have some kind of damage.

We're counting our blessings.

Best wishes,
Jim B.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Left the Black Hills today, heading south. Tropical Storm Edouard will be causing some havoc along the Texas Gulf coast, but should be well north of our home this time. We will have to time our arrival in Texas to avoid inland problems with this storm.

Spending the night at the city park in Phillipsburg, KS - we are the only camper here... sure different from the Black Hills!

On to Chanute, KS tomorrow.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

We are gearing up to head south; still in the Black Hills. For any of you who ride motorcycles, you may know have heard of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The first full week of August, hundreds of thousands of bikers (motorcycle enthusiasts?) decend on the small town of Sturgis. This is the 68th year of this revelry, and the crowd is predicted to be down (yes, gas prices affect bikers just like boaters)... only about 500,000 + or -. When you put that many people in a town of 5,000, it makes a bit of an impact (major understatement).

For 28 years, we not only participated in the Rally, we often worked it. At one time, we shot and processed the "official Main Street photos"... imagine a couple hundred thousand of your best friends gathered together for a group photo!

Since we retired, we have skipped the last couple years here. Joan wanted to stick around and see what has become of the Rally. By the way, we have been motorcyclists much longer than boaters. I wasn't so sure... the Black Hills has some of the best motorcycle roads in the country, but during the Rally it is over-saturated with traffic.

So, here we are. This is hard to describe to the uninitiated. The crowd size is over-whelming. The noise is deafening. There is much about the atmosphere that is shocking (yes, some folks that are really going out of their way to BE shocking). I've always considered it "Mardi Gras on Motorcycles." Much of it is certainly not family friendly, and you won't see that side of it in this post. There are seasonal campgrounds (only operated a few weeks each year) that host tens of thousands of bikers - each campground with its own vendors (people trying to sell you stuff... food, t-shirts, leather, motorcycles, trailers, motorcycle stuff., tattoos, etc, etc. And big name entertainment. Performing this week: Kiss, Kid Rock, Kelli Pickler, Kenny Chesney, Dan Fogelberg, Larry the Cable Guy, and dozens of others... including an appearance by John McCain. There are custom motorcycle shows. Helicoptor rides. Motorcycle demo rides from all the major manufacturers. Harley-Davidson rents out the entire Rapid City Civic Center to showcase its new bikes. This is a very big deal. An economic shot in the arm to the entire state. The single biggest event in the state.

But mostly, people come to gawk. OK, more so than Mardi Gras, it's also the biggest motorcycle themed flea market you can imagine (my description). You can buy the greasiest food imaginable. Alligator on a stick? Sure. You want a fender for a '38 Harley? Someone here is going to have one for sale. You want to see people at their weirdest? You've come to the right place. Enjoy reading t-shirts? There are plenty of "official" Rally t-shirts, and plenty of others that somehow manage to use all 7 of George Carlin's words you can't say on the radio.

The Rally doesn't "officially" start until Monday, August 4th. Main Street in Sturgis is already blocked off to car traffic, allowing only motorcycles to park as far as the eye can see...

We parked our bike on Main Street and started wandering. Food prices are almost as outrageous as the grease and fat content. This place is not for the faint of heart... wallet... or or artery build-up. Food vendors come from all over the country for this - and it is very apparent that gas prices are affecting their prices (I'm sure it couldn't be another case of gouging Wink ).

With our bellies full and our eyes wide, we walked for blocks, admiring beautiful bikes and doing our own share of gawking at the goings-on. When I say some people come here just to be weird...

The temps were warm today - in the 90s. That brings out many unusual forms of dress... or undress. No, you're still not going to see that in this post. But, here's a cheeky look at some of the tamer sights...

The crowd and the attitude changes as the sun goes down. I call it "the Weirdo Parade"... people driving up and down Main Street, trying to attract attention to themselves. Yes, that guy was wearing a Body-Web (look it up, I'm not posting a photo). Oh, and that woman isn't wearing a Body-Web. Shocked The crowd has changed over the years... matured somewhat. Some things have settled. You see some things that make you say, "I'll bet she doesn't dress like that in her home town." Twisted Evil

Having been away from this for a couple years, I have to say it has been interesting. My eardrums are ringing, I feel close to sun-stroke, and I could really use some quiet time at anchor in a secluded cove. But, this has been fun.

In a couple days, we will start our journey south. We think our house is OK; we have talked to the insurance company and they are sending an adjuster out to inspect our place. The climate controlled storage place where we keep our important papers and photos didn't get any water or wind damage. We intend to go back home, check it out, clean up whatever needs it, regroup, and make some decisions on what next.

Hey, you wanna see my new tattoo? Mr. Green Yeah, I'm kidding.