Saturday, August 5, 2006

Knock, knock...

We are still in the gravel lot outside the Red Cross JP office building. After looking carefully at the limited campground options, we decided that our best strategy was to simply remain here, and bite the bullet on diesel fuel. That would, at any rate, be easier on the donated dollars than the campgrounds, not only with respect to the daily fees, but also the commute expense. At least here at JP, we have access to the Red Cross shuttle to the Metro to get to the downtown office, and the JP office requires no commute at all.

The Metro issue may be moot, since we ended up with our friends' rental car, after dropping them off at the airport. If we can get approved for a parking space downtown, we'll likely drive in each day, which halves the commute time. The diesel may not be much of an issue either -- We haven't had to run the A/C yet today, and we can live on four hours of generator run time every other day if we don't run the A/C (by contrast, full-time A/C requires at least 12 hours of generator use each day).

All these plans were cast into serious question first thing this morning, while we were still in bed (we ended up getting the weekend off), when a uniformed officer knocked on the door. We're always prepared for this possibility, even though, in two full years of living aboard, this is only the second such knock (the first being at a rest area overlooking El Paso, TX). As it turns out, the information we had about the ownership status of this lot was incorrect, and the lot actually belongs to Fairfax County, having been acquired as part of a project to consolidate facilities for the school board. The school board occupies a brand-new building adjacent to this lot and to the Red Cross building, and intends, at some point, to expand further onto this lot.

In any case, after seeing us parked here for three nights, the manager of the building had someone from their security force stop by to check us out and ask us to move along. Officer Davis was extremely pleasant, and took the time to ask us what we were doing here. When we explained that we were Red Cross volunteers, he suggested that he could inquire if we could stay. He left, and was back within ten minutes to tell us that we could indeed -- our Red Cross credentials came through for us. We will have to remember to send the school district a thank-you card.

After dropping our friends at Reagan, we visited Arlington National Cemetery, taking the tram tour and stopping to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns. We then drove around downtown DC briefly before returning home. While it was nice to have a day off to sightsee, we're always on duty when volunteering -- my phone rang twice with calls from the field. Specifically, one of the guys we worked with in Baton Rouge is back there again, setting up a relief HQ in, almost unbelievably, the very same ex-big-box-store we were in for Katrina.

That landlord, you may recall, booted us out because they had a real tenant for the building -- some unnamed big-box hardware store. Apparently, the deal fell through, because the store is still empty. Even though Chris has all but fizzled out (though regeneration is always possible when the depression moves back over the warm waters of the Gulf), the Red Cross still wants to have a relief headquarters "ready-to-go" in Baton Rouge -- we're only up to "C" and, you may remember, we ran out of alphabet last hurricane season.

So our friend Rob and a small band of other volunteers will be pulling wire and putting together a headquarters facility, even if no other staff gets deployed to Baton Rouge for this event. Similar activities are occurring in MS and FL, and we're supporting all of these teams from here in DC. That's the work we have cut out for us next week, although I'm glad that Chris is looking to be a non-event. It means we will be able to leave here on Friday, as planned, to head down to NC for the FMCA rally.

Speaking of which, our plans are to spend a few days at FMCA, which is in Charlotte, then mosey over to Atlanta. Our friends Jimmy and Carolyn, from San Jose, are getting married later this month, and we'll be flying round trip from Atlanta to San Francisco for the wedding, and to catch up with our other bay area friends. So, once again, we will need to find (1) a safe place to park Odyssey, and (2) a kennel for the pets. If you have any suggestions for either of these in the Atlanta area, please feel free to email us. Our trip dates are August 22-29. With a bit of luck, the next Atlantic hurricane will hold off until we get back.

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