Thursday, August 3, 2006

Red Cross Operations Center, Falls Church, VA

We are parked in a gravel lot in Falls Church, Virginia (map), nestled between the Red Cross operations building here known as "Jefferson Park," or just "JP" for short, and the Marriott Residence Inn, where most volunteers end up staying.  The ownership status of the gravel lot is unclear -- it is not really attached to any of the surrounding properties.  Nevertheless, our friends, staying at the hotel, asked the desk there, and the hotel claimed ownership and granted permission for us to park here.

US Coach finally finished up Tuesday afternoon (although the tag steering damper never showed, so we dropped that part of the plan).  By the time I paid the bill, it was already past 6, and we decided to spend the night while we still had some power available.  We packed up yesterday morning, and were on the road by 8:30, with the mercury already into the mid-80s.  We loaded up on groceries and then headed to FlyingJ, where we found that fuel went up by another $0.04 while we were in the shop.  Still the best bargain in the US, though, at $2.759 per gallon.  We filled up to our nominal "high" mark of 7/8, and I'm sorry now that I didn't just top it off, since we ended up running the genny the whole day to keep all the airs running.

Our route plan involved cutting across the Delmarva peninsula, across the bay bridge to Annapolis, and taking US50 until just inside the capital district, where we had planned to cut onto I-295 to I-395 over to the west side of the beltway.  It was a great plan and we did fine right up to the US50-to-I-295 turn, which we missed.  That dumped us onto the city streets of Washington, so Odyssey got a little unintended city tour, right down New York Avenue and crossing The Mall on 15th, right past the White House and the Washington Monument.

We then came straight here, with our original plan being to spend a couple nights here, visit with our friends (who intended to leave Saturday morning), do the tourist thing, and then move on.  While we were en route, though, the Red Cross asked if we could spend a week or so here in town, helping out at the Disaster Operations Center (DOC), downtown on E Street.  We agreed, with the proviso that, in this heat, they would need to foot a campground bill so we could get some power.

We're looking into area campgrounds, but none is close by.  The best option seems to be one on the other side of town, out near the beltway, which has good access to transit.  Still, it would be an hour commute each way, and we would still need to figure out how to walk the dog in the middle of the day.  Also, at $50 a night, it strikes us as an unnecessarily large expense, but we're blowing through $40 of diesel a day running the air conditioning in this oppressive weather, and that doesn't even count the other wear and tear on the genny.  We'll be looking closely at the weather reports -- if things cool down enough for us to reduce our generator run time, we might just stay put.  Here, next to the hotel, we have access to a ride to the office, a shuttle to the metro, and other volunteers at JP who can look in on Opal during the day.

We'll be heading into the DOC tomorrow, to get badged and briefed and figure out what we'll be doing next week.  Rumor has it that the DOC will be fully staffed over the weekend, too, so our touristic ambitions may have to wait for a return visit.  Also, we are still planning to make the FMCA rally in NC, arriving on the 13th, but we may forego that if a major disaster strikes.  We have a hard stop the following week, though:  we already have our plane tickets to California (from Atlanta) for our friends Carolyn's and Jimmy's wedding.

Of course, much of the hubbub here has to do with Tropical Storm Chris, which, at various times, looked like it might strike Puerto Rico, the USVI, Florida, or the Gulf Coast.  The latest forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center, though, suggests the storm is becoming disorganized and weakening, and may fizzle out altogether without a seriously harmful landfall (let's hope).  Who knows -- by Monday, they may decide we're not needed at all.

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