Saturday, August 2, 2008

The eye of the storm

We are at the traditional lull in the middle of the operation. The chaos of setting up headquarters (twice now) and field sites is over, and all the niggling little fires are out. As usual, we are now overstaffed for our current workload.

We've sent the two ECRV's home, along with a relief crew from Spokane that arrived to take over the Spokane truck, which never actually made it here due to problems with its brand new MotoSat dish. I have to say, MotoSat has been absolutely atrocious to deal with (are you listening, Royal?), making me somthing of an idiot, as I've been suggesting the trucks be equipped with MotoSats since I first came aboard (the older gear is electrically operated but manually aimed and positioned). I suspect this will be the Red Cross's first and last MotoSat installation.

The Spokane relief crew drove the Ryder rental truck back to San Antonio and, along with another couple of folks, packed up all the gear we left there. They should be in Austin by now, unloading it all. I'm not sorry to see that truck go, as it completely ruined a brand new pair of my khakis when I slid out of the driver's seat the first day we had it. Harumph.

Everyone's been here at least a week now, so we are rotating through days off, which is good timing for the current workload. Louise and I did not want to take different days, but neither could we both be out all day at once, so we took two half-days (well, more like one-third days) off Thursday and Friday. We got the laundry over to the fluff-and-fold, and Opal to her overdue blood testing (her levels have stabilized, and we are reducing the Prednisone dosage). We also had early dinners both days and hit the sack early to catch up on sorely needed sleep -- I couldn't even keep my eyes open long enough to blog.

We have another person going home today, and one more on Tuesday, which will still leave us with more than enough folks to tear everything down and pack it up. We have one box truck left, so we will just stage everything for departure rather than shipping it to Austin as we usually do. Someone (maybe us) will drive it back there when we are all finished.

I neglected to mention earlier that we coasted in here on fumes. The fuel gauge has been acting up lately -- it read "full" halfway through Wyoming after filling up at the Flying-J, and then, one day, it suddenly read 2/3. On the way here, it rapidly dropped from 1/4 to 1/8, and then held there until just before we ran out of fuel on US83. When we passed the Flying-J north of Pharr, I reasoned from the gauge reading and the mileage that we had plenty to get to Mercedes and then to Mexico to fill up.

Fortunately, I recognized immediately the symptoms of fuel starvation, and was able to nurse the bus to the next exit and into a Valero station, where I put 20 gallons in. That's not enough to run the genny (or the heater, not that we would here in the 105° heat), but it's enough to get us over the bridge to Nuevo Progreso and a Pemex station when we are done here in Mercedes. So we'll be putting over 300 gallons in when we finally get there, and, in the meantime, we have full hookups paid through the 21st. (There's also a pool, but who's got time for that?)


  1. Sean
    Try eating in the Red Snapper about three blocks South of the Progreso Bridge. Its on the West side of the street. I usually had Camarones al Mojo de Ajo. Fried garlic shrimp. Its quite good. You'll have to find a place to park on a side street, as main is head in for cars, and your a tad big.
    We spent the winter in Llano Grande resort, and went to Mexico several times.
    Rod Ivers

  2. Sean, have you tried looking at Starband for satellite instead of Motosat? I've been using it for about 7 years, manuel setup, works great. Antenna and modem is a few hundred dollars vs motosats thousands and the monthly is half of hughesnet. Using a birddog sat finder I'm usually up and running within 5 minutes of unfolding the tripod mount.

  3. @Rod: Thanks for the suggestion. I'm not sure we'll be in NP long enough even for a meal -- we'll probably make a "surgical strike" just for fuel. Although, if we have a few days, we might hang out for a night or so, assuming we find someplace nice to stay. We generally avoid staying near the border, for a multitude of reasons.

    @Spyderman: Our MotoSat dish pre-dates StarBand (and all the other consumer satellite internet providers) by a fair amount. If we were doing it today, we might well choose a different solution. Now that we have already invested in the dish and hardware, we're committed, so to speak.

    That said, our monthly is only $60 -- I haven't heard that Starband is only half that.

    Also, I'm not sure what I would get rid of in order to have room for a tripod and a dish -- we like our scooters and our hot tub too much!

  4. I was reading the news this morning and I noticed that all the pictures shown of Dr. Bruce Ivins showed he was wearing a Red Cross badge and standing in front of a Red Cross banner. Did you ever meet him?

  5. @f550man: No, we had not met him. I believe there is just one such photo, but it has made the rounds. He was, apparently, a Red Cross volunteer, and the photo shows him in that setting.

    There are literally tens of thousands of volunteers around the country, so the chances of meeting any one in particular on an operation are slim. Although we do see some people over and over again -- they tend to be retirees, who get out in the field a lot.


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