Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday October 17th

The first official day of the Heartland rally has finally begun. Again, I went outside and hung out with several of the guys, drinking coffee and visiting. Stella made pigs in a blanket for us, Bill and Ornell, Ricky Cobb and a few others that had hung out with us. Everyone made it in except for Harry and Nikki Diamond who had to back out at the last minute. There was another couple who had to cancel that had called the park to make a reservation but had not contacted me. I don't know who they were, but they missed a great rally!

The new arrivals today started before noon, and continued into the late evening. Ricky had agreed to fix the hot dogs on his big grill, so he and I along with Bill Sims went to his trailer and cooked the dogs. The hot dog supper went very well and I think everyone was happy with it.

Joe French had arrived with the keys to the Pinehurst that had been delivered yesterday. He had already let several folks look at the trailer. Ray Robinson, the Heartland rep for this area also arrived on Friday evening. There had been a mix-up in his registration and no cabin had been reserved in his name. Luckily, I had originally called the park and they had saved one for him, although it was in my name.

After supper was over, we decided to have a roundtable discussion about any issues for out trailers. TxBobcat (Bob Curry) was very vocal about the recent suspension problems he experienced. He broke a spring which got into the tire almost causing a blowout. He called Heartland as well as Lippert and they agreed to get it fixed for him. He elected to upgrade to 7000 pound axles and agreed to pay for overnight shipping charges. He paid about $1,000 for the shipping which I would not have done, but he wanted to get on down the road and paid the bill. I believe that Lippert also reimbursed him for the cost of his tires too, so his suspension has been upgraded and it only cost him $1,000. Thats still a good deal.

Ray got beat up pretty badly but he took the points that had been made and said he will contact the factory about it. We were in the rally hall talking until after 10, when everyone went back to their rigs and went to bed.

Thursday October 16th

I woke up pretty early this morning in time to watch aJAG rerun on TV. I went outside and had some coffee with several friends. It was nice to just sit around and visit. I can't wait for retirement!

Several more in the Heartland rally arrived today. It was good to finally meet some of them and be able to put a face to their names on the forum. I spoke with Joe French again today about him bringing a Landmark Pinehurst to the rally. It looks as though he will be able to bring a service tech too to perform minor service work for anyone at the rally.

Stella had bought food for her soup/goulash tonight. She spent a lot of time cutting stuff up and preparing the meal. At some point in the afternoon, her brand new crock pot lid got broken while doing the meal prep.
The meal was a huge success and was enjoyed by all.

Bill Sims had brought a lot of firewood to the rally but it never got cool enough for a fire. I was really tired at the end of the day, but we didn't even take advantage of the hot tub and went to bed around 10 o'clock.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Monday-Wednesday October 13-15th

There is one thing I like about the new shift, its the days off that string together. I was off Saturday and Sunday on the old shift and am off today and tomorrow on my new evening shift.

We brought the trailer up to Rayford today but got there about 11:30. The people in our site #52, had not moved out and didn't really show any signs of getting moving. I went to the office about ten 'til to make sure that they hadn't decided to stay longer, but Michelle called them and told me they would be out soon. Sure enough, they left about 12:30.

Our old friends JD and CJ Wigley were there as well as Tom and Judy Atkinson, and Bob and Pat Curry. It was good to see them again and we had a nice visit before the folks left. We got set up with no problem and just hung out for the afternoon.

Rick and Brenda Taube had called and said they wanted to get together this afternoon for an early supper. They were off work today and had gone to a show with Ted and Donna. We invited the Wigleys to go with us and met them at Luby's cafeteria. It was a very nice meal, but Stella got something that didn't agree with her and she was sick all day on Tuesday. We returned to the park and hung out with our friends until bedtime.

As I said before, Stella was feeling bad all day Tuesday, so I just hung around and visited all day. It was really nice and several others arrived Tuesday. Not too much to report for Tuesday because we didn't do much of anything all day. I did start washing the trailer and got the back side done.

Wednesday we slept in a little but got up and made our coffee and some pigs in a blanket for breakfast. Stella was still feeling bad so we didn't do much in the morning. We went to Sam's club and to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend. I asked her to make her goulash for tomorrow night so she bought all the ingredients for it as well as the hot dog fixin's for Friday night. We ended up going to Hooters with Ricky and Dee for our supper.

We're getting ready for the big Heartland rally that will start on Friday!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Trip to Galveston to see damage

Yesterday we went to Galveston to look at the damage to the island. In some ways, it is what I expected but then when you look around, the older houses withstood the storm and had very little in the way of major damage done to them.

Before ever getting onto the island, we saw boats, trash and debris piled all along the side of the highway leading onto Galveston. It was amazing to see, especially since its been a month tomorrow since the storm hit. All of the car lots on the west Broadway look as if they are closed, with no inventory. We don't know if it was all lost in the storm, or if they removed the cars before it hit.

We started on the beachfront at 61st St. The fishing pier is completely gone now, which I guess should be expected. There is still lots of debris along the seawall and most of the businesses are still closed. It is my understanding that utilities have been restored but the stores remain closed. Of course, this is mostly small locally owned stores abnd restaurants. The large chain stores, Kroger, Academy etc. are open for business but the Randalls store on 61st St. was closed. Hmmmm.

For those familiar with Galveston, Gaido's restaurant had a sign out front that they will be open soon and are hiring. Fish Tales, another landmark on the seawall is closed. Everything on the beachfront was severely damaged and I was surprised to see as many restaurants as we did that were open. There are still huge piles of sand and debris all along Seawall Blvd. and it will likely stay there for some time.

The next landmark that we saw was the Flagship hotel. It seems to me that there was so much damage done to the pier that it may not reopen. There is a huge hold in the front of the building and there is no way to drive onto the pier. The main entrance driveway is gone and there is a large hole in the side entrance driveway. There was a large sheet of metal that may have been used to cover the hole. We saw a couple of cars parked on the pier, but they may belong to someone that stayed there for the storm.

The large Murdock's pier and the old bathhouse are completely gone! There is only a frame of one of the stores, and the entire framework is racked and leans to the left. Of course, the old Balinese Room is completely gone. There is nothing left but the concrete bases for the pilings that are down in the water. It's a shame that so much history has been destroyed and cannot be replaced. I'm sure that the State of Texas would not allow anything to be rebuilt over the water. It brought back many memories for me to see the old places on the beach that are now destroyed.

The Galvez Hotel only seemeed to have suffered damage to the roof, although they probably got a lot of water in the first floor and possibly the second floor as well. We didn't go into the driveway to check.

One odd thing that I noticed was how high the sand was now on the beach between 17th St. and Stewart Beach. The sand is almost up to the seawall in places and I guess the water pushed the sand onto the beach and then a lot of it blew over the seawall onto the blvd.

The old Bamboo Hut and the other houses and businesses on the sane are destroyed. The ramp down onto the sand at the end of Broadway was blocked off, so we couldn't go down onto the beach. The old Putt-Putt golf course is covered in sand and everything was destroyed. I told Stella about my friend Steve Norton's father being the manager of the course and how much miniature golf we played in high school. We were co-holders of the course record for a long time.

We then went to check on the houses where my family lived in Galveston. All of them came thought with little visible damage. I know the house on Ave. O 1/2 is almost 100 years old and it didn't seem to have any damage at all. Even the old garage apartment where I moved to was not damaged, but they've added onto it and its much larger than it was when I lived there. I checked MeMa and Grandaddy's house on Ave. T and Janie's old house behind our house and no damage was seen on either one.

Another striking thing that we saw was all of the debris that was piled up on Broadway near the new courthouse. The debris pile is probably 30 feet high and covers at least three city blocks. Down in several of the neighborhoods and all along Broadway there are still huge amounts of trash and debris to be removed, so the job will last several months longer, possibly years.

It's very sad for me as a born on the islander. There is no telling how long it will take Galveston to recover, if it ever does.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week of Sept. 28-Oct. 5th

Well, things around here are almost back to normal. the cable came back on Sunday and when I got home from PA I tried the Internet and it came back on too. I finally got to use my new laptop on the Internet at home. It's really nice and I'm glad to have bought it. It's going to be good for us on the road too.

Jeremy was not able to salvage anything off the hard drive off the old computer, but the only thing I had on it was some photos from our trip to Tyler. I'm sorry to have lost them, but if that's the worst thing that happens we'll be all right. Stella had some documents on there but again they're not all that important.

I picked the boys up from the karate school on Monday and Wednesday to help me with the yard. It went very well with the three of us working. we got a lot done and lots of debris moved up to the front yard to be picked up. We got the old refrigerator and freezer out of the garage which freed up a lot of space there. It was a good thing we got it out when we did because they came by and picked all of it up the very next day.

Not too much else to report from work except it still SUCKS!! Capt. Bell told me on Thursday that my shift will change to evening shift patrol on October 14th. I got mad about it and left without saying too much to him at the time, but got home and thought about it some more. I went in Friday and talked to him about it and told him about the big rally coming up on October 17th-19th and that I had planned to take off on Thursday and Friday. He told me he can give me those four days off (comp time) but my shift will still change. We had a long discussion of our different views about shift assignments but nothing has changed. At this rate, I won't make it until August to retire. In fact, I may not make Thanksgiving. I'm going to have to give this some serious thought before I stay on patrol.

We went to Center on Saturday for Aunt Frat's 90th birthday party. I saw a lot of relatives that I don't see too often. Barbara Fisher told me that Bill really appreciated our coming to see him in the hospital before he passed away. It made me feel good to hear that.

Another week gone by,

week of Sept. 21-27th

Another week of no power, cold showers and miserable nights with little sleep. I didn't sleep very well all week because it was so hot and steamy inside the house, but I guess I'm getting used to the cold showers and cold water shaving. It's not as hard as it was to get into the shower and I do feel better after a shower, but its not the same without hot water. I have a routine of where I leave my flashlights so I can find them in the dark. I have one flashlight that has a tripod base that I can use to light up the bathroom while I shower and shave and two small lights to find my way around the house.

Every morning, I arrived for work very early because I am afraid to go back to sleep. I got in a couple of mornings at 3 o'clock, but used the time to catch up on Internet news and checking my usual websites for messages. I also was able to check my G-Mail account to reply to any emails that I had gotten. I try not to check on personal Internet business on company time. Adam couldn't believe I was there that early but understood why I got up and came in. What else can you do when you have no power, can't make coffee, read watch tv or surf the net?

I kept in touch with Stella by phone all week long. It's hard to be apart this long like this. Of course, I tried to keep in touch with all of my friends who were concerned about me by phone but it was hard to carry on good conversations because I am at work. It was good to talk to everyone and i was very thankful for all the friends I have. I spent a lot of time this week with my neighbors who also didn't have power. Susan Froebel, whose husband Mark used to work for the light company, said that he probably could have fixed the problem if were allowed to, but since he no longer works for the company, he can't touch anything. They were staying in their travel trailer in the driveway like William and Louisa Stevens were doing. They both had generators, so they had a/c and heated water. I could have gone to Port Arthur and picked up Stella and the trailer and then borrowed Jeremy's generator, but that would have been more trouble and expensive than leaving her in PA with Bill and Ornell.

At least work wasn't too bad this week. Everyone is pretty well behaved, still in shock over the storm. I took a report of a theft by an employee of a company in Manvel and got an arrest warrant for him but so far he hasn't been located and arrested by the Alvin Police Dept. which is where he lives.

I went back over to Kim's house on Tuesday night to watch the season premier of NCIS which is one of my favorite tv shows. That turned out to be one of my short-sleep nights. I didn't get home until about 8:30 and then woke about 2:30 and went in to the office. That was the only night I went out anywhere. Most of the rest of the week, I came home and picked up stuff in the yard and piddled around the neighborhood until bedtime.

On Thursday I went to Best Buy to look at computers again. I had gone to Frye's first, but those people that work there have no common sense at all. The girl that waited on me was trying to make conversation with me after I briefly told her my story about retiring soon and living in the trailer. She asked me if I was going to retire this August or next year.....duh, I think we're in September and if I'm not mistaken, that comes after August, so it would be dificult to retire in August this year! I went to Best Buy and found a Toshiba that Stella and I had alreay looked at on sale further, and in fact, the display model was the last one in stock so I bought it. I think it's going to work out very well for us, and now I want to buy a desktop that I can network together for Internet use. Thats something to do in the future though.

I got Stella to come pick me up Saturday morning and take me back down to Port Arthur. It was amazing to see the water lines in the trees on the way down. The trash in the trees was 8-10 feet over the roadway in places. About the time we got back to PA, Nancy Jessen called me to tell me that we had power back on at home. What a relief!!!

Bill and Ornell took us to Sanderson's restaurant for some good seafood. Of course, they all had to brag about the good Cajun food that they had in Breaux Bridge. The owners of the park also have a restaurant and catering service and are furnishing food for 1300 workers a week. About $40,000 a week for disaster relief food. Of course, they have to transport it to Houston, but that's still a lot of money!

It was nice to sit in the air conditioner and to take a warm shower and we really hated to leave our friends, but Stella needs to get back home and get to work. We left Sunday about 12:30 and made an easy trip back home. We got the trailer back into the driveway and hooked up with no problems. Home and tired, but at least we have electricity. Still no cable or Internet, but cool air conditioning and hot water!

Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19th & 20th

After sleeping until 6 o;clock, late for me, I took my cold shower and just laid around on Saturday. I finally got up and went to Kim's house to wash my clothes and to charge my telephones. Since our radios were not working properly, with a busy signal most of the time, we had been issued new Nextel phones that were equipped with the direct connect walkie-talkie feature. Mine had not had a full charge all week because of no power at home to charge them at night and only an hour or so in the morning when I got to work. The police radios were not working because everyone in the three county area were working off one radio repeater tower because many of the other towers were down. I theorize that they are down because there is no power for the towers and no one thought about putting in generators to run the towers. The cell phone towers were likely the same story, but again this is just my theory and I'm sure that I would get in trouble if I voiced this concern.

I got to Kim's house and found Jeremy asleep (all day long) because he had been up late the night before unloading the last of his patients off a bus after being returned from their evacuation location. The boys and I went riding around to see what damage we could see. We came back by the house and found a group from the Mormon church doing yard cleanup for me. They had contacted the city to get all of our addresses so that they could perform this service for us. They wouldn't take as much as a drink of water from me, and I later learned that they had called Stella's phone to verify that the work was done to my satisfaction. Wow, what a wonderful service they performed for us.

The boys and I just hung out all afternoon, with me sleeping most of the time. We went out to eat Saturday night, which was the first hot food that I had eaten in over a week. Many of the restaurants were still closed, but luckily Ryan's in Texas City was open. I went home to bed about 8 o'clock and slept until after 6, another long night of rest!

Sunday morning I went back to Kim's house and picked up the boys, thinking that we could do some more work in the yard. I had put a large Igloo ice chest in the Expedition for iced-down water for the volunteers on Friday but someone had beaten me to the punch, so I needed to get the ice chest back to the office so the company that furnished them could come get them. We took a ride back to Manvel so I could show them some of the damage done to the area and ended up eating breakfast at the Waffle House in Texas City. The food wasn't the best I've ever eaten but since this was one of the few restaurant open for breakfast, it was certainly welcome. I hung out at Kim's house again to enjoy the air conditioning, tv and Internet. I napped a lot in the afternoon and went back home about 7.

Another hot sweaty night at home.

The week after the storm

I apologize for getting so far behind in this blog, but the storm just took everything out of me. It's been weird that I've lost track of time so much that I didn't realize that it was just last weekend that I brought Stella home from Port Arthur.

The week after the storm was just a blur of work. The stores/gas stations slowly opened, and as they did, the traffic jams immediately began. We had to go from store to store, organizing their traffic lines and keeping the long lines off the streets and highways. The Grace united Methodist Church had a POD (Point Of Delivery) every day that further caused traffic problems. The line into the church parking lot where the food and water give-aways were being done were pretty easy to take care of because there is a good paved shoulder on Hwy. 6 that we could keep the waiting traffic contained on the side of the road. the problems were caused by people stopping in the middle of the road (on both sides of the road) to ask questions about what was being offered, or if we knew where to get whatever was needed and not offered here. It seemed as if they were mad that we were giving out MRE's (many didn't want these, only prepared food or sandwiches), water but didn't have ice. I know that everyone was shocked and frustrated so perhaps mad is the wrong term, but it's certainly what I experienced.

Twelve hours a day was very tiring, with walking back and forth to keep things running smoothly. We had no fights in the lines, only a few folks that tried to cut into the lines, and best of all NO traffic accidents involving any of the lines. We only had one accident that week which is somewhat of a record for Manvel. We usually have more accidents than that on a normal work week.

On Friday, the POD had been changed to the Manvel High school from the church. Another brilliant decision from FEMA. They would not allow any FEMA donations to be delivered to a private property, only to a government-owned property. We had something like 15 semi trucks loaded with ice and water on Friday. Once we got things organized and a plan set in place, it all ran smoothly. I'm still amazed at the number of high ranking officers from other agencies who would come by and sniff at our methods and tell us of "more efficient" ways of distributing the items, although our ways have been working all week long with few problems or complaints.

I did get mad about some DPS personnel that came on Friday. Their only job was to watch for anyone that might be getting more than their share of ice or water. When asked to help with a post to help us out in running the operation, I was told that their only job was to stand at the front lines where the distribution was being done to watch what was going on. They did nothing to help the volunteers in handing out items, but later in the afternoon, one did go to the Dollar store and buy some white shoe polish to mark the tires of the cars coming through to keep them from circling the block to return. I wonder how much ice they kept from being "illegally" distributed. I think we had four semi trucks with ice in their trailers and we certainly wouldn't have wanted to run out.

I was released at 2:00 on Friday afternoon, the first 8 hour day in a week. I still don't remember driving home that day, and sat down in my recliner to take a nap as soon as I got home. I didn't wake up 'til 5:45 and then had to scramble to get to the bank to deposit my paycheck before they closed at 6. I came back home and went back to bed at my normal 7 o'clock and slept until 6 the next morning. It was a good thing I didn't have to be at work.....

Again, little real food was offered by the city, only snacks or sandwiches prepared by others were given to us. I was really too tired to eat anyway and at the end of the day, I just stumbled home and fell into bed. With no lights on, there was nothing else to do anyway. I was in bed by 7:30 or 8 every night. Then I would wake very early and be afraid to go back to sleep for fear of not waking again and being late for work. I ran out of hot water in the water heater by Tuesday, so had to take cold showers and shave using cold water.

It was probably one of the worst weeks of my life.