I’m not proud. If I’m outgunned, outmanned, or outmaneuvered, I’ll run away, reconsolidate, and go to Plan B. The important part is having a really good Plan B, even if you think Plan A was adorable (and a good C, D, E…). Tuesday morning, I looked at Irma, Irma’s track, and then my boss.
Me: I gotta go.
Boss: You gotta go.
Mid-afternoon Tuesday, I ditched work and hied home to Key Largo. I started battening down the house. Living in an idyllic, waterfront house with views that should both be on postcards and inspire Jimmy Buffet songs sounds great. Then you have to batten down and realize that every lawn chair, the grill, the kayaks that we keep on the boat ramp out of habit because it’s easy and when all the kids are home they love spotting the occasional pod of dolphins and running out to the kayaks, pushing off, and frolicking with them, all the patio furniture, everything, is a potential missile and must be brought indoors. Then you have to pack up the essentials (Mrs. Mongo packed our wedding album, which I found touching and romantic and told her so; Yeah, says she, I know. Keep packing.), clothes, chow for the dogs and particulars. Particulars in this case meaning weapons, ammo, whisky, and Copenhagen. Best way Plan A was going to work was us two, two cars, one dog in each car (I got the Big Dog; not as much fun in my sensible Nissan Altima as it would’ve been in my manly Dodge Ram pick ’em up truck), moving out and making our way to Orlando.
I know a guy, and got a rate. I told the lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo we’d be moving out at 0-dark thirty. Yeah, says she, no. Okay, I concede, we’re moving out at the crack of dawn. Well, says Mrs. Mongo, I thought I’d go to the hospital, check e-mails and make sure everything there is locked down, then come home in the afternoon and we’ll launch. Yeah, says I, no. We’re leaving in the morning. We left the Keys on Wednesday morning. “We left the Keys” sounds pretty expeditious, but it wasn’t. Traffic was already clogging up. Miami traffic was even more awful than usual, as everyone that was evacuating was on the FL Turnpike, and everyone that was going to work and would make decisions later was on the FL Turnpike.
We made it to Orlando. It’s usually a 4.5-hour road trip. It took us 9 hours. Since we’ve been ensconced here, Mrs. Mongo has gotten calls/texts/posts from her peeps (I’m a misanthrope. I don’t have peeps) lauding her for being prescient in getting out when we did. The Keys have been slammed: stalled/slow bumper-to-bumper traffic; no gasoline anywhere on the island. Mrs. Mongo has admitted unequivocally that I was right and she was wrong on our launch time. I’m being magnanimous about it. Okay, I’m aiming for magnanimous; pretty sure I’m just hitting insufferable
Governor Rick Scott waived all tolls on all roads in the state in order to encourage people to evacuate. Because my critical, possibly life-saving decision to go North hinged on ~$18-32 in toll fees. It was probably a good decision, but there were unintended consequences. All of the turnpike median service stations had long lines that extended out into the turnpike. We saw dozens of Florida Highway Patrol personnel at each service station, most likely to control traffic flow and keep people from beating each other to death over that miracle liquid, gasoline. Great. Except with all the tolls lifted and people that don’t usually drive on toll roads were zipping through 10-12 lane toll plazas at 55-65 miles an hour, totally oblivious to the fact that within 500 meters, the turnpike was going to choke back down to two lanes. There were accidents on the north side of almost every toll plaza. Maybe some FHP guys there instead of swarming at the service stations could have helped traffic keep moving. Maybe not.
We got to Orlando, checked in to the hotel. I downloaded the vehicles, walked the dogs, then hauled back south 159 miles to pick up my two college girls, and then turned north again to go back to Orlando. That sounds fugazzi, but it made sense when we were putting together Plan A, and the only person that had to suck it up was me, which is kind of what I do. Got the kids back and bundled into the rack and at about 0330 got my first real sleep in two days. Aaaand at 0700, the dogs were harassing me to get up and take them out. Do they harass the lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo? No. Do they harass my spoiled rotten kids who don’t do enough to pay their own freight or pull their own weight? No. It’s me. Sorry. That sounds like a snivel because it’s a snivel.
This morning was our decision point for determining whether to ride Irma out here or push north. We’re riding it out here. I talked to both the head of security and the maintenance chief this morning, and they recommended staying here. In fact, the hotel has made the offer to staff that they and their families can shelter here, and help with all the refugees inundating the place. By the way, the staff up and down the chain are just awesome, couldn’t be better. Let me do a grateful plug, here, and say that if you’re going to see Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, etc., etc., you can’t go wrong staying here. Truly outstanding people, and I don’t complement much or often.
We’ll get hurricane winds and rain, here, but no storm surge. I’d rather bet on this place and its outstanding staff than push north, betting in vain that all the vagaries and variables of the road will break my way.
Zeus, the Great Dane, is now a hotel celebrity, and I’ve gained some notoriety as “the Great Dane guy.” We are trying to empty the dogs out, before the storm hits, so we take the dogs out a lot. The fact that the multitudes of European stewardesses think Zeus is “the best dog evah, absolutely brilliant, darling” has nothing to do with it. I took a break writing this post to take the big dog out, and the coterie of British Airways stewardesses just completely fawned over him. Maybe they don’t have a lot of big dogs in Britain. When I came back up and related the story to the lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo, she said, “They’re probably not digging you wagging your tail, saying ‘Pet me too! Pet me too!'” Maybe, but I think it’s just that famous British reserve that keeps them from petting me, too.
I’ll check in now and again as appropriate/possible. Best wishes and prayers to everyone that has to ride madwoman Irma out. It’s going to suck, but we’ll get through it.