Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend off

We are at the Bass Pro Shop in Ashland, Virginia (map), a familiar stop. We had actually planned to spend last night at the Richmond Elks lodge, a bit southwest of here in Glen Allen, but we could not get our satellite on-line from any of their three 30-amp RV spots. I'm sure we could have parked elsewhere in their lot for the same $10 per night, but if we were just going to dry camp we didn't see the need to pay for the privilege. Besides that, they were having a turkey shoot last night until 10 pm, and we didn't want to have to listen to gunfire all evening.

We have been working (and parked) at the Red Cross maintenance facility in Richmond since Monday morning. Just before I turned in on Sunday night I heard back from our "big boss" in Washington (we normally deal only with his direct reports) that he would be in Richmond around 10 am Monday to meet us, and we had a mad scramble in the morning to get the scooters loaded and hit the road. We were in Richmond by 11:30.

The Red Cross facility in Richmond is mostly a large warehouse, used to store disaster supplies such as cots, coolers, toiletries, cleanup kits, and shelf-stable meals. A very small section of warehouse has been dedicated to technology resources, and nearby is what used to be a snack/break room for the building's previous tenant, and we are turning that into a technology maintenance and computer imaging room. At the other end of the building, nearly a quarter mile away, is a small cluster of office space, which we've turned into a "hot site" similar to the ones in Montgomery and Baton Rouge that I have written about previously.

In addition to being usable as a hot site for a disaster relief operation, such as the one we worked here in Richmond back in 2006 (in a different, earlier Richmond hot site), this site can also be used as a backup to the Disaster Operations Center (DOC) in DC. The primary DOC backup is in Ashburn, but that is close enough to DC that this somewhat more distant facility would be needed in the event of a large enough disaster in the metro Washington area. We've spent most of this past week getting the hot site operational.

After scoping out the entire enormous facility, we found a loading bay door close to a power panel with a 30-amp outlet and several 20-amp ones, and we got Odyssey settled in Monday evening after getting our marching orders. The warehouse manager had already cleared it with the landlord's maintenance staff, but, apparently, on Tuesday some higher-up on the landlord's staff noticed the bus and told the warehouse manager we could not stay overnight. After several back-and-forth discussions involving how we were volunteers and the Red Cross would have to expend donor dollars to house us elsewhere and that we were parked where no one but the landlord's own maintenance staff could see us resulted in a grace for "a few days."

Not wanting to push our luck, we pulled up stakes mid-day Friday and moved to the front parking lot until we were done for the day. We'll go back to our spot and plug back in on Monday, and we have our fingers crossed that we can just stay there until we are done with our project sometime later in the week. While we have a key card and the alarm code and could easily have worked this weekend, the warehouse staff is off as are the folks in both DC and Austin, Texas with whom we have been consulting all week, so we, too, took the weekend off.

Louise has relatives who live in the Richmond area, and we will try to visit today or tomorrow. The Elks lodge, in addition to being the cheapest "official" place to stay in the Richmond area, would have coincidentally been very convenient for that visit, but here in Ashland is nearly as good. However, we will likely need to bounce around to three different locations across the three nights, as the generally accepted overnight etiquette at Bass Pro and many other retailers is one night only.

We had a nice dinner last night at the Islamorada Fish Company restaurant inside the Bass Pro store, and today we watched the fish feeding in the 23,000 gallon aquarium as well as the "trout stream." On our way back out of the store they were selling hot dogs, so we had lunch here, too. In a few minutes we will roll out to Home Depot, just down the road, to take care of some maintenance items.

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