Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurry up and wait

We are in Kingsland, Georgia, at a Petro truck stop just off I-95 (map). We made it less than 200 miles yesterday before Red Cross staff deployment called to tell us NOT to continue to Columbia, SC. Between 4 or so when the official deployment orders came through, and 6:30 or so when they called back, the NHC released its 5pm forecast update, adjusting speed, intensity, and track to more or less take South Carolina out of the danger zone.

We knew this could happen, and, frankly, we were somewhat surprised they had even deployed us yesterday. We had figured (and previously been advised) that deployment decisions were likely to be made on Wednesday, which is one reason we felt confident making boat plans for Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter; we understand the dynamics in DC and their anxiety to get assets into position ahead of time, before storm-induced travel disruptions make it difficult.

So it was really not a surprise to be waved off, but by this time, we'd been driving all out and were already in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, we had already passed the point where it would have been convenient to make our way to the Orange Park Elks, where we had stayed on our way south and where we could have had 50 amps of power. The deployment center was clear that they were putting the travel on hold, but that I am still on standby, making it likely we will have to continue even further north, so it also did not make any sense to backtrack.

We stopped at an Olive Garden north of town to have dinner and assess our options. With the Elks in the wrong direction, and the Wal-Mart next door to the Olive Garden posted No Overnight Parking, we determined that the next legal parking along any sensible route was here in Kingsland, right across the state line. We checked at the Wal-Mart first, but it, too, is posted no parking, and ended up here with the truckers.

Given that the outside temperature and humidity is still driving our need for air conditioning, we also looked at several RV parks along the way, and even the state park down the road from here. The least expensive of those options is the state park, at $33 per night, plus another dozen or so miles of driving for another $10. At $4.50 an hour, we can get nearly ten hours of generator run time for that kind of money.

I'm pleased to report that the new batteries held their own, running a single roof air from when we parked just before 8pm until perhaps 3am when the generator started. And that's despite me having bumped the low-battery cut-out up nearly a full volt just as a precaution. The generator ran for less than three hours, and we ran it again for half an hour this morning to cool things down after airing the bus out in the coolest outside air we'll have all day.

Now it is a waiting game. Since I am on standby, they can call at any minute and tell me to proceed to Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, or New York. Leadership teams are already in place in North Carolina and Virginia, having been mobilized at the same time we got the call for South Carolina. And New England is too far for us to be able to reach in reasonable time and mileage.

The alternate possibility, much less appealing to us for a variety of reasons, is that they can call me today or tomorrow and take me off standby altogether. At that point, it would become a matter of waiting until post-landfall to see if we are needed and thus recruited by whichever of the operations actually becomes a going concern and can use our help. The biggest issue with this is that we have no authorization to move until we are recruited, and post-landfall, if they recruit us for, say, Raleigh North Carolina, it will be a mad scramble for us to drive all the way there at the last minute so we can be there when we are needed.

The waiting game can be frustrating, indeed. This will not be the first time we spent the day in a Petro truck stop waiting for deployment orders. And while the batteries are adequate to run air conditioning overnight, when it is relatively cool outside, as the day heats up we are going to either have to run the generator full time, or find someplace to go with a power outlet. Officially un-deployed, neither is reimbursable. Even getting our mileage reimbursed for yesterday's scramble will be a challenge if they take me off standby.

The snake in today's photo was lounging behind the bus both times I walked the dog last night.

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