Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Day 3, 5:15 p.m.

A pair of mallards just approached me. One is clearly injured, and I suspect they haven't been getting their fair share of the food suitable for ducks as a result. I threw 'em some dried corn as quietly as I could manage. Some other ducks figured out the score and are closing in, seemingly calling the others, as well.

Well, I gotta give credit where credit is due....

We have postal service now. Once the import of this settled into the must of my mind, I wrote a brief For The Love Of Frelling Anything, Send Help!!! letter to someone in Virginia, asking that the message be distributed with some haste.

What *is* the outside world doing to help us, anyway? I *know* already that we're groping in the dark, alone together (if you can squeeze some meaning out of that). But what about the rest of y'all, watching this on CNN and discussing it from various angles? Are y'all dropping everything to organize a massive relief effort? I guess time will tell.

And where's the National Guard? Where are our Reservists? Oh, they're off in Iraq.... Crap.

Look, I'm not gonna get all political here, but if some military folk show up here with water and working toilets, I doubt we'll start shooting at 'em or organize some insurgency. That's all I'm saying.

Katrina Day 3, 4:00 p.m.

The clouds have done little but tease and threaten. I'd love to stand in a cold rain for a bit, but I'd hate more rough weather slowing down relief efforts.

On the radio I hear that many others are no more fortunate than we are. People need power, ice, baby formula, medicine, food, water, gas, and pretty much everything. At least I have a really good bike & some food. My house doesn't have a tree running through it. I have enough tea to last for at least several days.

I worry about my mother, who's 75. There's no way I can cool this place down for her or arrange for any kind of appropriate diet. She's been away all day to see a doctor, who I hope has air conditioning and such, so she can get at least a brief break from conditions at the house. [Turned out later she'd had no such luck.] She doesn't even know Aaron's gone to Arkansas.

Katrina Day 3, 12:30 p.m.

90 degrees in the shade, according to the bicycle computer, which also indicates that I've pedaled for over four and a half hours in the last few days, totaling 75 miles since I bought the bike 12 days ago. I guess you could call it bike training, but surviving a hurricane is more like the actual event than like training.

In any event, I've decided about the best thing I can do at this point is to pour up a shot of Don Julio Blanco, sit on the back porch in shorts, and pretend this is all jsut a really adventurous vacation in Mexico.

Ahhh.... God, how I love the smell of a premium tequila! In fact, I feel a little sorry for people who can't appreciate this wonderful substance as I do.

These last few days have given me the opportunity to actually meet some of my neighbors. So far, a little to my surprise, I seem to like them.

I've also had more opportunity to get to know the local wildlife more intimately. Squirrels, by the way, are insane. I can not express this too strongly. I thought it was crazy for me to bike in the hurricane, but these little freaks must live on adrenaline the way we do with oxygen.

I wonder how many other people are journaling & blogging their Katrina experiences. And of those, how many are writing as events transpire in a stream of consciousness, the way I am? When the power & internet connections come back online, will a deluge of personal reflections suddenly appear?

I'd love a second shot of tequila. But who knows when I'll be able to replace this stuff? Gotta stretch things out. Dammit.

I sure hope Aaron remembered to take a good, thick book to read when he left for Arkansas. Without a fair bit of diversion, he may find some of his exile difficult to tolerate.

I notice that many of the details of day-to-day living have changed for me while I await utilities & the chance to work again. I usually carry a bag of stuff with me, for just in case everything goes to hell all of a sudden.

Well, everything has gone to hell on me all of a sudden. And I happened to be home when it did so. Now I find that my emergency supplies have migrated from the bag to various places where they're generally used or at least easy to obtain when needed.

People pick on me quite a bit for carrying so many contingency-related things. I wonder if I'll seem so odd when we all go back to work....

Just a few days ago, we were thrown sideways by hurricane winds. Now, however, not a breeze moves the choking stillness. The air is still, humid, and hot.

[time passes between paragraphs]

What had been a perfectly blue sky has now filled largely with ominous clouds. Wouldn't some nice lightning storms hit the spot about now? That would be just craptacular!

I've pulled the front off a fan, so now I can give it a good twist with my hand for a few moments of light breeze. And I've re-hung the porch swing (wisely taken down during the hurricane), which brings a little relief from the stifling heat.

Katrina Day 3, 10:56 a.m.

Aaron's gone. That sure happened fast.

I inherited a bag of charcoal that should last up to several days if used with care. And I'll do some light cooking on Aaron's propane grill until that runs out. If power's not restored by then, and if we don't encounter any more foul weather, we'll be able to burn debris in the back yard to boil water & such.

The ducks that come to our back yard to eat corn are starting to look tasty. And Aaron mentioned having a tackle box, so fishing will be an option if necessary.

Katrina Day 3, 9:37 a.m.

Tuesday was a long day. I didn't write much in my journal beyond some notes on how bad things were and a list of crap needed before the next apocalypse. Having lost water, things were looking increasingly desperate.

I was able to find my friend, and we did some trekking about, looking for roads, food, water... pretty much anything.

I took a bit of a shower from a water hose at my sister's house in Florence this morning. They were able to even provide soap, a rag, and a small ( by my gargantuan standards) towel. It felt soooo good!

At least a few people out there recognize Aaron & me as the two guys on bicycles at this point. We've been able to carry small loads from place to place by bike, and yesterday we had the only real means to travel from Hoover Lake to Florence. Even the Rankin County Sherrif Dept. car we saw yesterday had to turn around at a completely destroyed stretch of road we were able to navigate.

I've taken quite a few pictures during & since Katrina blew through. The place looks like we've been bombed. I haven't had the heart to take a bunch of pictures of destroyed homes, big trucks with broken axles, and other identifying property damage, although I did snap a shot of a mansion gutted during the last storm some weeks back.

I've logged 74 miles on the 7300 since I bought it a week & a half ago. 35 of those miles have been logged in the last 4 days.

Sadly, Aaron now plans to leave. A relative from Arkansas is currently heading down with gas for the return trip, trying to find a way in. If she succeeds, Aaron & his family will take the same route back.

Having Aaron around has made this Katrina business a lot easier on me, if only psychologically. I don't know if my job still exists or when anything will work, and using the restroom in the traditional way ceased to be an option early Monday morning. Things like this are easier to tolerate with a long-time companion around.

Besides, he's my only biking buddy. Without him around, I'll have to be more selective about my routes for food, water, & other provisions, because I won' thave back-up.

And it'll be tough not to worry about him out there on the road to Arkansas. If they encounter problems, he'll be the only able-bodied adult to take care of several people and his cat Cheyenne. And since he's already been robbed twice, I imagine looters will consider his place a prime target. My first move will be to make several trips to bring the survival-oriented goods from his place over here for safe keeping.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Day 2, 2:25 a.m.

Power is out in most of the state.

Most of the cell phone towers don't have back-up generators & depend on the power grid to be up.

The cell users who can get any kind of signal are using their cell phones constantly, which is reducing availability even further.

I just treated myself to a Diet 7-UP from the fridge. I grabbed a few ice cubes, since the fridge has been warming up since 9 a.m. Monday. There's a puddle of water in the ice box already. We are so screwed. The prospect of all our hard-earned food rotting in place is unappealing to say the least.

Because of our location, I hope we're back on the grid sooner rather than later. The more rural and remote locations will be the last, and the urban centers will be first. We're in the middle - heavy residential between towns & not too far south of Jackson.

If we can gain access to a working phone in the morning, the first task will be to find people with working freezers, so I can transport food out by bicycle. Next up will probably be to bring back more charcoal. One way or another, that bike of mine will be put to use. But I don't have any spare tubes, so I'd better not flatten any tires. If the bike shop's even open tomorrow, I'd be in shock. Besides, it's nearly 15 miles away. I can bike 15 miles, but I've just taken my last warm shower for the foreseeable future.

Katrina Day 2, 2:00 a.m.

It's closer to 2 a.m. now. Sitting up and writing sure beats lying in bed wracked with anxiety in the dark.

Occasional useful bits of info come via radio, and I talk with my mother, who has her own thoughts on getting through all this. Who knows how many others are awake out there right down the block or scattered through the storm path? Most of us are unable to communicate with one another, but we have more in common right now than we'd usually imagine. A Category 5 hurricane is capable of wreaking so much havoc that we're all unified in a variety of ways. We'll need each other to get back on with the routine of our lives.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina Day 1, 11:30 p.m.

I went to sleep shortly after writing my poem. It had been necessary. After my bicycle tour through Cleary Heights, I'd become frankly unpleasant to be around.

My discovery that even escaping via bicycle was simply too dangerous due to all the fallen power lines & such has upset me more than I'd anticipated. Not only is there a serious risk of electrocution from any of those lines that may be hot, but the lines themselves are difficult to see. I had nearly entangled myself within 45 seconds of leaving the house when an unseen fallen line snagged in my front V-brake mechanism.

The winds were supposed to have died down somewhat by this point, but the constant howl continues unabated. We lost power around 9 a.m. & phones somewhere around 4 hours later. Stepping outside, I see a faint glow in the canopy of storm above, brighter in the direction of Byram by my best guess. Byram's in Hinds County, whereas I'm in Rankin. Last estimate is that we'll have power restored in three weeks. What a difference a few miles makes.

From the wreckage I've already witnessed, even an inch can be all the difference in the world. Some homes still had phone service earlier, but not ours. We've been struck (our house, that is) by falling/hurled debris, but we know of no structural damage. But a chunk has been torn from the neighbors' house. People I've known for years are trapped in their homes or have fled somewhere.

No wonder I'm grumpy!

I haven't been actually dry since this morning, when I'd been hanging out at my best friend's house around the lake. At the time, he had power, but we didn't. Now his house has a tree in it.

What are we ever going to do with the fallen trees? They've blocked roads, impaled homes, trashed fences, yanked the phone/cable/power/etc. grid.... They're everywhere. Some trees have been mangled, but others have simply been ripped from the ground in their entirety.

I guess I should've taken a camera along & snapped pics of the carnage out there when I rode my 7300 through the hurricane. Aaron & I had talked about heading out in the morning to take some "after" pictures. But now I don't even know to where he fled, & what I went through on my bike put fear in me.

He can't have gone too far. Fortunately, he'd freshly aired the tires on his Schwinn Mesa, so he can technically have escaped entirely (although the whole world around us seems obliterated, so "to where" would still be the question), but he wouldn't likely abandon his cat entirely. My best guess so far is that he went to check in on (and possibly stay with) family.

At times it'll grow quiet outside, & something in me hopes blindly that it's suddenly passed - that we can get on with the business of clearing roads, de-treeing homes, and generally doing *anything* not to feel like the helpless little mammals we so clearly are. Even the Governor is helpless to do much beyond wait for the morning and tell anyone fortunate enough to have a working radio to stay put.

Of course, not everyone does stay put. Some people tried to return to their coastal homes as early as this morning, when we hadn't even been fully hammered by Katrina yet. And there are also idiots like me who just can't resist sightseeing on bike, foot, or vehicle of choice. Not bright.

I burned off half the battery reserve in my laptop & a bunch of AA batteries in the digital camera during the afternoon in order to snag some digital movies of the trees swaying, waves whipping along the lake, etc.

When we discussed what preparations we should make for this, we anticipated outages lasting as long as days. Now, we face weeks without power & phones. Gods help the people with addictions to feed out there. I'd sure hate to be grinding my teeth in need of nicotine, cocaine, crystal meth, or some other substance. Heck, I'm kicking myself for not picking up enough oranges & bananas!

We've got enough charcoal to grill out one more time - clearly not enough. I'll be able - maybe - to dry out wood for fire cooking, but everything's pretty water-logged. We've got enough non-cook food to last the week, I'm sure. And there's cash in the fire safe. I'll be able to bike out for provisions once stores start opening again.

The food in the freezer will keep for a few days, but not for a period of weeks. Deciding what to do about that is high on our list, presently. We didn't have adequate warning to cover every possible contingency. I'm afraid it'll be impossible to get through this without some losses. Fortunately, we (in my family) prefer to always maintain a base level of preparedness.

We've got candles, matches, flammable fluids, rain gear, cameras, a charged cell phone (in case service resumes), books to read during daylight, and a bunch of other stuff that mostly takes up space during non-emergency situations. I even tried to park my Sentra in a spot that I figured might suffice, which is a serious consideration when one expects everything to go to hell. (And it's World War III out there - trust me.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In case anyone cares about this sort of thing, I've uploaded a pic of my new TREK 7300 and the 3 Wood that Dan (one of the club builders in the golf forum) made for me. It's in the Padre personal album at the forum.

I've just returned from a 12.2-mile ride in the hills (bringing me up to a 51-mile total for the bike, which isn't bad for one week's riding, particularly since I haven't been able to ride every single day) and figured this would be as good a time as any to take a pic of the bike before the hurricane hits. (I hope y'all who are down in the real thick of the hurricane are doing OK!)

Yesterday I snapped the chain, and while I had it in for repair I snatched up a rear rack for load bearing as I take increasingly longer rides, leading up to day- and weekend-long touring rides when the weather cools a bit in the autumn. Before I start touring, I'll be adding greater amounts of load to increase my conditioning and get a feel for what all will be really needed for those trips.

Since I plan to transport the 7300 on or in my Sentra for these trips, I should have no trouble carrying along a complete set of clubs, so I should do at least some weekends consisting of both bike touring and golfing. This will allow me to visit a few of my semi-local fellow forum participants, like some of the Florida contingent.

As temperatures cool, and particularly as I migrate over the next weeks from 1.5 jobs to only 1 job, I should be able to tick off more mileage. Now that I'm on a properly-fitting bike, I'm venturing farther from the neighborhood and doing more exploring, which makes the whole process much more enjoyable.

With this oncoming hurricane, I think I may continue riding for another day or two before I take a recovery day, because I presently expect the weather to dictate one or two for me soon enough. Let's face it, even on a bike with brakes that work well under damp conditions, I'm not interested in excessively risking injury from flying/falling debris.

Exertion good. Injury bad.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I took off this morning thinking I might bang out a quick 30 miles on the new TREK 7300. I did squeeze off an enjoyable ride, but my chain snapped just short of the 10-mile mark.

Fortunately, I'd taken a route near home and (by fluke) happened to be less than a mile from the house at the point where the chain failed. I looked around for several minutes for stray chain bits and walked/coasted (very hilly here, as mentioned previously) back to mi casa.

After a shower, I packed the bike in the Sentra and rolled on to The Bike Rack on Lakeland Drive, where they quickly replaced it. They were more concerned about my well-being than about anything else, with a secondary concern that I was still happy with the new bike.

Just for the record, I'm very pleased with the new bike, and feel confident that I've chosen the right shop for me. Tom, Rex, and the staff in general have catered to me with thoughtfulness and professionalism. And the bike's proving well-suited to my needs and tastes.

While there, I picked up a stout little rack for the rear of the bike, which I was able to mount with little fuss back at the house. For commuting, day touring, errands, and general running about, this is a great investment.

I'll take another crack at that ride either this evening or in the morning. It doesn't have to be a full 30 miles for me to be happy, because I just enjoy getting out and about. 30 is just a distance I should be able to cover comfortably in a few hours. 10, 15, or 20 also allows me to cover a lot of local scenery. As the weather cools (unlike the literally deadly heat we're experiencing currently), I want to be conditioned to enjoy touring some of Mississippi's great towns on weekends this autumn, so I keep that goal in mind as I set up challenges for myself in the present.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

local treasure

I'm so amazingly fortunate. I admit it.

I live in a place where gorgeous scenery awaits right outside my door. Lakes, hills, farms, trees, and winding roads come together in a kaleidoscope of scenery, making even short jaunts into mini-tours.

Friends I've known for years are reachable on foot or bicycle in safety. And I can bike to the office (where a shower awaits) in an hour and a half of casual spinning.

In an hour of cycling local roads, I may be honked at by a driver or two (but usually not), but now I just reply by dinging my little bell. It's usually pretty tame around here, and most of the people I encounter while riding range between neutral and friendly.

People do let their dogs run wild, though, which has both positive and negative aspects. OK, by positive I guess I'm being generous. I get to practice kicking dogs in the face without breaking any more stride than necessary. That's motivating!

The negatives you can imagine. And if you can't imagine what's negative about being chased by dogs while out riding a bicycle, you've missed out on too much of life for me to be able to help. You're just unreachable.

But it's a small price to pay for the many niceties of living on the edge of a rural paradise.

random 7300 prattling

According to my cyclocomputer, I've racked up 28 miles on the new bike since Sunday morning.

Maximum speed so far... 34.6 MPH. I imagine I can top that speed somewhat on longer, steeper downhill slopes, but probably not by a great deal.

I've invested $12 in flashing LEDs for the handlebar for the benefit of semi-conscious drivers simultaneously drinking coffee, fiddling with the radio, rubbing their eyes, and reading the paper at 6:00 a.m.

This bike is crazy good for the hills around here, and it's quite comfortable so far. I haven't made any trips longer than 10 miles yet, so I don't know how how comfy it'll be on longer touring rides.

The handlebar doesn't allow for multiple hand positions, so that's probably the first thing I'll need to tweak for seriously long distances. Maybe a solid fork front fork eventually, although when it reaches that point I'll probably be thinking along the lines of a dedicated touring bike. This puppy is great for cruising my hilly rural world as-is, so I may not make many mods to it at all, and certainly not in the immediate future (except for things like headlights and panniers).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Finally got the new bike

The first few bikes I tried to obtain turned out to be just too difficult for the bike shop to track down in a reasonable amount of time. Highly specialized bikes are just tougher to find. Plus, summertime is not the best time to go hunting for bikes in a picky way due to increased demand and the approach of the new model year for bikes, and more people seem to be buying bikes due to the rise in terror attacks and North American gas prices. (If only people around here realized how cheap our gas is, since our taxes subsidize the pump significantly.)

So anyway, I popped into The Bike Rack to check in with Tom, who's been helping me out with the bike hunt. I'd already stashed a healthy bit of cash in an account there for when we did settle on a good bike for Rob, and had some extra dough in the pocket. I turned Tom loose to fit me up with one that would suit my needs, because he knows the geometry of my body, what I want to do and under what conditions, etc.

Don't shop for a bike. Shop for a bike shop! If you're gonna be spending a lot of time & money on something like this, it's good to have some insanely knowledgeable pros understand you & your biking needs.

Turned out he had a couple of frames that fit my body well, and one was a Trek 7300 Multitrack. At first, I cocked an eyebrow at the front suspension and shock absorbing seat post, because I've been using stiff frames all my life. But he took the time to tutor me on tweaking the suspension, and I took it out on the road a few good times. I'm happy with it.

No disc brakes on this model, but the V brakes seem quite solid, and Tom assures me they should do what I need 'em to do. And now that I'm working two jobs, and therefore can't seriously commute by bike for a while, I don't see the disc brakes as quite a necessity for this one. (When riding recreationally, wet brakes are less of a big deal than when riding to work on a tight time frame and rain hits from out of nowhere.)

After riding it around a bit, I was sold on the ability to shift gears with a flick of the wrist instead of the more familiar (and frankly taxing) thumb shifters.

I really didn't have to change anything on it. I just had 'em tack on a basic speedometer and a couple of water bottle mounts, and was ready to roll on out the door.

And, since I'd already stowed away a tidy account, I only owed $13.83! Me gusta mucho.