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2017 Happy Trails - Week 16

September 03 thru September 11, 2017, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida

Sunday, September 3

Drove 326 miles.

Route: East on I90 from Rozette, WY to Oacoma, SD

Campground: Oasis Family Campground, Oacoma, SD $40.39

We spent another boring day driving east on I90 out of Wyoming and into South Dakota.

Monday, September 4

Drove 448 miles.

Route: I90 east to Sioux Falls, SD then I29 south to St. Josephs, MO

Campground: Walmart, St. Josephs, MO $0.00

We covered a lot of miles today travelling east as far as Sioux Falls, South Dakota before turning south then through Iowa and into Missouri stopping in St. Josephs at a Walmart for the night.

Tuesday, September 5

Drove 234 miles.

Route: I29 south to Kansas City, then east on I435 to Hwy 350, the Blue River Parkway, to US50 east to Sedalia, MO then Hwy 65 south to Buffalo, MO.

Campground: Home in Buffalo, MO

Drove the interstate south as far as Kansas City, MO and then back on our preferred State Highway system to our camping home base in Buffalo, Missouri.

Wednesday==, September 6==

Drove 0 miles (with the truck; I drove the Jeep into Springfield and back.)

Every day the news seems to become direr as regards hurricane Irma. It has been following a consistently westerly path towards Florida but we know you can never be certain of the path until a day or two at the most before it hits. We have no intention of driving into the hurricane with a trailer in tow (everyone knows that trailers are hurricane magnets – LOL) but we do need to make preparations on our home in Florida.

Son-in-law George is putting up the storm shutters for us and stowing all our outdoor furniture, etc. but there is an issue with three vulnerable windows that for past hurricanes, we have covered with plywood. After hurricane Matthew last year we gave the plywood away intending to buy shutters but then in the hustle and bustle of leaving town for our Alaska Adventure, we didn’t get around to it. George has looked everywhere, at Home Depot and at Lowes, and there is no plywood available anywhere in central Florida. Soooo, what to do, what to do?

We also need to consider that we have around $800 worth of halibut in the freezer! We have a generator at the house and we have gasoline there to run it, but if we’re not there and the power goes out (as it most certainly will do), then it won’t do the frozen fish any good.

The weather here in Missouri is beautiful with temperatures in the mid 70’s and a nice breeze. After doing our WOD 10.1, Tim spent the day mowing the pasture and I drove into Springfield to see about ordering a replacement camera from the Best Buy. Unfortunately they didn’t have the camera covered by the insurance policy in stock, so I had to order it for store delivery. This is just one more wrinkle for consideration in our planning on when to drive home to Florida.

We had dinner at the Maple Street Grill in downtown Buffalo and pondered what to do. There is just no good answer. Meanwhile we continue to track the latest forecast path of hurricane Irma hoping for a continued westerly path.

Thursday, September 7

We looked at the latest forecast for hurricane Irma this morning and it appears that she is going to hit Miami as a category 4 or greater on Saturday morning and then make a sharp turn to the north either along the east coast or up through central Florida. This is bad news for us either way. We checked with George and he has still been unable to locate any plywood for our three uncovered windows.

At 10:30 am we made the decision to bogey on home to Merritt Island, leaving the BBOTTB behind in Missouri. We will have to drive straight through the night to get there before the hurricane. We packed up a few things in the truck and left Buffalo at noon. Our first stop was at Home Depot in Springfield, MO where we bought three sheets of plywood and two diesel cans for emergency fuel along the way anticipating that most of the gas stations will be sold out before we get to Florida.

We drove east through Missouri on Hwy 60 to Cabool where we picked up Hwy 63 southeast through West Plains and Thayer, Missouri then into Arkansas at Mammoth Spring, AR. We continued southeast on Hwy 63 through Walnut Ridge, AR to Jonesboro where we got onto I555 southeast to I55 east toward Memphis and then east on I40 across the Mississippi River and into Memphis, Tennessee. There we turned south on the Memphis Beltway, I240 which we took around to Hwy 78 which eventually, after many traffic lights, becomes Interstate 22 once you cross the Mississippi state line. It is a new interstate so the road is very good but (you knew there had to be a “but”) for hundreds of miles all the way diagonally across Mississippi and half way across Alabama, there are no rest stops and the exits are few and far between, so it makes for an incredibly boring drive.

Friday, September 8

Just north of Birmingham, AL we exited onto I65 which we took south through Birmingham down to Montgomery, AL. We exited the interstate onto US80 to drive through Montgomery and then southeast on US231 before turning east on US82 across Alabama and into Georgia at Eufaula.

This part of the journey was made during the wee hours of the morning. It is very rural in this area of Alabama and US82 takes you through a National Forest. For those of you who like to deer hunt, let me tell you we discovered a sure fire way to get your limit. Drive along US82 in the wee hours of the morning on a night with a full moon. OMG! We were totally unprepared for the number of deer along the highway. We literally passed over 100 deer. We lost count. The speed limit was 55mph but we could barely get up to a speed around 40mph when we would have to slam on the brakes. It was like something out of a horror movie. We were dodging deer left and right and it went on for hours!

And there were no gas stations open. But we have an enormous gas tank, (it holds 50 gallons!) and we were getting 19 miles per gallon so we were in good shape; but we did intend to fill up before we got to Interstate 75. It was almost daylight when we got to Cuthbert, GA and found an open gas station with diesel.

Our next stop was at a 24 hour Walmart in Albany, GA. Albany is only about 45 miles from Tifton, GA where we would be getting onto I75 to begin the last leg of our journey but Tim needed some rest. I took advantage of the stop to buy some groceries because along with there being no fuel in Florida, the grocery stores empty out before a hurricane too and all of our food is in the trailer in Missouri! So he got about an hour’s nap.

Once on I75 it was pretty smooth sailing – for us travelling southbound that is. The traffic northbound was pretty much stopped all the way from where we got on in Tifton to the Florida state line; and then from the state line to the interchange with I10 where we exited, it was completely stopped. In Florida the emergency lanes were open to the traffic flow so there were 5 lanes of traffic stopped. People were laying out on the grass on the sides of the road and there were empty vehicles all up and down the entrance and exit ramps. This is what happens when you try to evacuate the entire state of Florida with its 22 million residents (not counting the number of tourists in the state at any given time). What a mess!

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We pretty much had the highway to ourselves as we continued east on I10 to Jacksonville, FL where we went around the city on I295 to I95 south which brought us all the way to FL528 east to Merritt Island and home, sweet home around 11:30am. Did we feel like fools driving into the hurricane area to ride out the storm in an mandatory evacuation area or what?!?

Altogether we drove 1161 miles in 21 ½ hours! We were exhausted. And now we have to prepare for the hurricane.

Saturday, September 9

Hurricane Irma arrives with a vengeance!

Sunday, September 10

Hurricane Irma.

This hurricane was like nothing we’ve experienced before, and we’ve both been through multiple hurricanes. It was a record setter in so many ways, none of them good ways. To begin with it was the longest duration category 5 to maintain its strength in the Atlantic. Secondly it was the biggest category 5 spanning at times over 600 miles from side to side. That’s wider than the state of Florida and it was moving at less than 15mph. What that meant in practical terms for our location on Merritt Island is that it took over 24 hours for it to pass over us! The hurricane force winds, rain, and tornado warnings began on Saturday morning, lasted all day and all through the night, were still going strong when morning came and didn’t abate until early afternoon on Sunday!

The tornados were the worst part of the whole event. They were vicious and unlike anything the meteorologists had witnessed before. The storms in the hurricane bands that were generating the tornados were themselves moving at 55 to 70 mph! And they were full of lightening, which is unusual. They weren’t like normal tornados where the weather people could track a path; instead they were like bombs being randomly fired from the sky. The meteorologists could spot them on radar and then one would touch down and spin up again, another would touch down somewhere else and lift up again, all too fast and constant for the weather announcers to even keep up with. Plus there was no way for them to determine the extent of the damage because it was all happening in the midst of hurricane force winds and rain and no first responders could get out to help anyone. It might not have been so frightening except we never lost power, so we were watching the weather station broadcast live the entire time. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and we may have been better off not knowing.

Another aspect of the huge span of hurricane Irma that sets it apart from past hurricanes we’ve experienced in Florida is the amount of water that this thing dumped on the entire state. It was unprecedented. And all that water on the eastern side of the state drains into the St. Johns River which flows south to north from Kissimmee (just west of Melbourne) to Jacksonville, where it flows out into the Atlantic Ocean. Normally. But with Irma’s storm surge pushing the water from east to west all along the eastern coast, there was nowhere for the water in the St. Johns River to go except over its banks.

Monday, September 11

Hurricane Irma Cleanup Begins:

All-in-all given the unprecedented scope of hurricane Irma, we were very fortunate. We had the usual mess from the oak trees. Tim removed two full 50 gallon bags of leaves from the gutters alone and there were lots of large branches and some broken ones in the trees that he had to saw off. But hey, none of the trees fell on the roof, so it’s all good.

Oak tress were stripped almost bare of leaves and there are broken branches everywhere.
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Neighbor Eddie's tree took a big hit.
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Entire yard is full of branches and debris.
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Our community pond was well over its banks.
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Our storage shed was demolished.
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Unbelievably we didn’t lose electricity except for momentary hits throughout the night. So the Halibut filets are safe! We did lose water however; Cocoa Utilities had a number of large water main breaks and the treatment facility was flooded. After a few days they did put the water pressure back on but we were under a “boil advisory” – a nuisance but nothing compared to what millions of people in the state are experiencing.

Sadly my Honey Bell tree was decimated – split down the middle. I don’t know if the oranges that are left on the tree will ripen or not but we’ll wait to see before having the tree removed.

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And so after 16 weeks on the road, our “2017 Alaska Adventure” ends with a bang. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

Altogether we’ve put over 16,000 miles on the truck this summer and we have yet to drive back to Missouri to get the BBOTTB and bring it to Florida. That will put it closer to 18,500 miles in four months. Whew! And you wonder why we have “fanny fatigue”!

So until next year,
Happy Trails To You, Until We Meet Again...

Posted by JudyandTim2015 12:21

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