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September 2005

Monday, September 5, Labor Day: 

Another Labor Day holiday weekend messed up by a hurricane.  Last year Mac and I rode out the weekend hiding from a hurricane and this year we are helping others after a hurricane.  Not many are thinking that itís a holiday right now.

We left out this morning and headed down Highway 49 to Gulfport.  As we drive down towards the coast there is more and more destruction seen.  We plan on stopping at the Wal-Mart in Gulfport near Interstate 10 and Hwy 49, but we park at the Samís Warehouse parking lot which is only about 3 or 4 buildings away.  It looks like Wal-Martís parking lot is being used as a distribution point or something.  We couldnít go there and park. 

Mac and my dad drive my parentís car to their place to check it out.  Sadly, everything is destroyed in their travel trailer home.  Later Mac and my dad go over to the insurance company to file a claim and then Mac contacted FEMA online and started the process for my parents. 

 I wonít go into any detail about the destruction along the coast.  Weíve all seen it on TV and it hurtís to describe it. 

Tuesday, September 6:

We take both cars and drive out to my parentís place to salvage what we can.  It really has hit me hard that all their stuff was destroyed, pictures destroyed, a lifetime of memories gone.  We just thank God over and over that they are alive; we know that several people did not survive the storm.  Things can be replaced.  I am just having a hard time with this and have to keep reminding myself that itís just stuff.  Itís hard for me because I feel so sad that at their age they basically have to start over again.  I know that itís been hard for them too.  Starting over was not what they had in their plans.

After we return to our RV parked at Samís we discuss what to do and where to go.  My dad really loved his life here and wants to return here as soon as the park is opened again.  So itís decided that they will go to Texas and stay for a few months till this happens.  Maybe he will like Texas and want to stay after theyíve been there for a while but right now he needs to know that he is coming back to his life and friends.  My mom is a realist, she is actually eager to go to Texas and check it out.  She realizes that they are getting too feeble to do it all, and that she needs help to get it all done.  They both have a lot of health problems and need to be where there is some help.

Samís Club has opened its doors to all people not just members to come in and shop for groceries.  So Mac and my mom walked over to Samís to buy some groceries.  If youíve never been in a Samís store itís a unique experience.  Most items are sold in large quantities.  Mac bought the smallest package of sliced cheese they had and it was something like 2 pounds, the next size was 5 pounds.  Peanut butter was 2 large jars.  So weíre stocked up on cheese and peanut butter for sure.  They bought other groceries but those 2 items cracked me up.   

Wednesday, September 7:

We had planned on leaving today but plans are always destined to change.  My dad wanted to go to the VA hospital and get his medicine.  Heís concerned that he wonít be able to get his medicine in a timely fashion.  So, if the man needs his medicine to feel better about leaving then thatís what we are going to do, go get that medicine.  So my dad and I spent most of the day at the VA hospital while he saw the doctor to get the prescriptions and then waited for the prescriptions to be filled. 

The VA hospital doesnít seem to have suffered much damage; or if it did they could function around it.  A lot of the trees around it though were destroyed.  Iíve never been here before and didnít know that a national cemetery was located here.  There are rows upon rows of white headstones.  It reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice that is made so that we can have this freedom that we all enjoy so much.  Thank you soldiers for your sacrifice.

On the drive to the VA and back we saw many of the places set up to serve hot meals, provide food, water, clothing, etc. to the survivors of Katrina.  There are so many volunteers here now helping out.  Itís so good to see people helping people.  It really makes the survivors feel that someone cares about them.  Thank all of you that have helped out in this disaster.  

Later after we arrived back at the RV Mac and my mom went to Walgreenís to get her medicine refilled too.  When they came back they told me that Walgreenís was refilling prescriptions for free for people who didnít have insurance during this disaster.  That is a very nice of them to do. 

One gas station has been operating near us but they are only selling gas $30.00 to each customer.  That isnít very much to go in the RV.  Mac has been buying gas in a large gas can to pour in the RV to keep the generator running.  Today we see that Wal-Mart has now opened to sell gas with no limit so weíll buy gas there in the morning for the RV. 

Thursday, September 8:

Our holding tanks are full, we have no choice now we need to leave and dump the tanks; so finally away we go.  Iím glad to leave all this destruction behind for now.  Since we didnít have any hook-up available weíve been using the generator to run the air conditioner and besides using gas itís very noisy to me. 

So finally after gassing up the RV and ensuring that everything is ready for travel we head out.  Iím driving my parentís car and Mac is driving the RV.  We head west on Interstate 10, then Interstate 12 to Baton Rouge then back onto 10.  We stopped at a rest area and dumped the tanks and filled with some fresh water, then we had lunch and hit the road again.  Then we stopped at the Texas Welcome Center Rest Area and looked around in the Welcome Center while taking a much needed stretch of the legs.  Back on the road and then we stopped at Wal-Mart in Beaumont Texas and spent the night. 

Friday, September 9:

Back on the road again this morning and we continue on heading for Livingston Texas.  We arrive in the early afternoon and get checked in and set up on a site. 

Saturday, September 10 Ė Tuesday, September 20:

We are now at the Livingston, Texas Escapee Park www.escapees.com.  We visited the Care Center and my parents were impressed.  Weíve tried to get them to come over here before and look it over with us but my dad was content to stay where they were.  But now they need a little help and this is a great place for them.  Theyíll get to maintain their independence and have the help they need also. 

For those of you who donít know what the Care Center is hereís a link to a site that will answer some questions regarding the Care Center:  http://www.escapees.com/care/newcare/questions.asp

Folks here in Livingston and at the Escapee Park have been wonderful!  My parents went to a local hair salon/barber shop for much needed hair cuts and after a few days they were contacted that the barber shop had raised some money for them.  So the cash money came in very handy for them to buy much needed groceries and other needed items.

We found a travel trailer for them to buy and live in.  Itís a 1998 Terry with a slide.  It seems to be in really nice condition.  It still had the plastic covering over the carpet and the bed.  The stove looks like itís never been used.  So they have a very nice new home now.  One of the Escapees members and Mac went to get the trailer and drive it down here.  So for right now itís set up on a site right next to us while they do everything they need to do to get into Care.  After that the trailer will be moved down to one of the Care sites.

Several of the park members have brought them essential items for their new life, sheets, dishes, towels, etc.  Everyone has been so wonderful and helpful to them.  They now have all the household items that they need to start over again.  The only things left to find now is a used golf cart so that they can get around the park easily and a television. 

Iíve taken my mom shopping to find some clothes; she had evacuated with only 4 outfits and needs more clothes.  All the thrift stores are giving free clothing and household items to the evacuees in the area.  So weíve been to them to try and find some clothes.

I've updated last month's blog to include budget info.  Click here 

 

September 21 Ė September 30:

(Updated October 1)

Well the excitement just never ends for us; we now have Hurricane Rita coming our way.  We went through enough hurricanes last year in our RV to know that we are NOT staying around here and riding it out.  We just need to watch where the hurricane is headed to determine the safest direction for us to go.  We might go to northern Louisiana or further west in Texas.

So after watching the direction of Rita weíve decided the safest place to go is further west in Texas.  So on Thursday the 22nd we headed west.  We made my parentís trailer as safe as we could to ride out the storm by filling up all the tanks, lowering the front end, etc.  Thankfully, there are no trees that could fall on the trailer nearby.  We arenít taking any of the cars with us on this journey, so weíve also parked them where no trees could fall on them.

We drive over to Bryan Texas and spend the night at Marino Road RV Park.  We were very lucky and didnít have any traffic heading this way such as was seen on TV leaving Houston and all those areas.  Weíve seen long gas lines but not much traffic.

Friday morning we decide to continue heading west so we drove to an Escapee Park in Hondo Texas to ride out the storm.  The park is very nice and weíre parked right across from the clubhouse.  So my dad works on a jigsaw puzzle and my mom and I look at the books to trade in their library while there.  I didnít think of it when we left Livingston but I should have brought my laundry detergent so that I could do my laundry while here; I had left it in the car.  Oh well, live and learn. 

Friday when we got to Hondo we stopped at the grocery store and bought some groceries.  In Hondo there is a sign welcoming you to Hondo and it says ďThis is Godís Country, Please donít drive through it like HellĒ.  We got a big kick out of that. 

We are far enough away here in Hondo that we donít get any rain or wind at all from Hurricane Rita.  After the hurricane went through we found that we could have stayed in Bryan and been perfectly safe; but better to be safe than sorry.  I would rather drive too far than not far enough.

Sunday morning we decide to head back to Livingston and check to see if everything made it through the storm.  Mac has been on the internet on the Escapee forum and we donít know what if any damage was done.  We stop at the grocery store on the way out of Hondo and stock up.  We also fill up on gas in Hondo and then top off the tank at another gas station on the way back. 

We decided to just drive straight through and not spend the night anywhere on the way back to Livingston.  On Highway 190 about Onalaska we see bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic heading west.  We canít figure out why there is all this traffic heading west until we get to Livingston and see Highway 59 South has been diverted because of a bridge out further south.  We were very fortunate all the way back that we were not in any traffic.  Those poor people were stuck in that traffic and you could tell they were hot sitting there.

We arrived back to the Escapee Park late in the afternoon.  Thank God, my parentís trailer survived!  There was only minor damage of the front window covering was blown off.  Other than that there was no damage at all to their place.  The cars were undamaged also.  The park has no electricity, water or sewer.  So we are on the generator until the electricity is restored.  The only reason we need to run the generator is we need the air conditioning on.  It is HOT here! 

There is a lot of damage around, trees down, etc. but the park has made it through with not much damage.  Mac has informed the Escapee forum of the parkís status.  He also opened up our satellite for people around us to use our internet access. 

Weíre without electricity in this section of the park until Monday evening right around dark the lights come on.  Yea!  We get to turn off the generator!  My parents get to spend the night in their trailer in comfort also.   

I think it was the next day we have water also but we were supposed to boil it before drinking.  Weíve been told that we can dump our gray tank on the ground if necessary but to do it slowly.  We donít need to dump it so weíll try and wait for the sewer system to be operational again before we dump.   It doesnít take long before the sewer system starts working so now I can wash clothes, weíre all asked to not overload the system.  So I only wash what we absolutely need to get by until the system is functioning better.

We turn in my parent's completed paperwork and application for CARE.  We expected it would l take several days since not everyone has returned to the park yet, but the application only took one day.  Weíve asked the same person to move my parentís trailer down to the Care site on Friday the 30th of September.  Theyíve got a nice site that is close to the Care Center so they can walk over for their meals easily.  Each site also includes a storage shed.  The shed has a lot more room in it than I thought it would.  This is a really nice place, the sites are good sized with enough room between RVís for some privacy.  They have an end space so they only have a neighbor on one side, thatís good since my parentís canít hear very well and play the TV pretty loud. 

Iím very happy that they are here and that it seems that they will be well taken care of while Iím not around them.  Theyíll have all the care they need and be able to maintain their independence and have their own place. 

Thereís not too much left to do and then we can hit the road.  Weíre looking forward to seeing our daughter pregnant.  Sheís due early in November and we need to get there so that we can be with her.  We must tease her about her belly.  She sent us some pictures and her belly is so cute, it looks like a basketball.  I would scan the picture and put it in our blog but I think she would kill me, or worse name the baby after me, if I did that.  Just teasing, We Love You Nicole!

We finally got through to the Red Crossí Katrina relief number this week (it only took a month of calling every day to finally get through).  I will complain now about the Red Cross.  They do good work BUT it seems very slow.  Also, it seems that they donít give the victims very much.  I know that many people and businesses have sent a lot of money for Katrina Relief.  The poor people who lost everything due to Katrina donít get very much.  My parents, who did lose everything, only got $665 from the Red Cross.  Thank God that so many people here at the Escapee Park gave them so much to start over with.  If they would have had to buy everything they would not have had enough money to buy it all.  As it is, they will need to buy brand new items such as shoes, underwear, and other personal items, with this money.  I really feel for all the victims who havenít been as fortunate as my parents have.  It seems to me that big organizations, such as the Red Cross, donít do as much as the individual people do.  It just seems that there should be a better way to ensure that the victims who really are in the most need are actually getting the donations that generous people are giving for them. 

I'll add my 2 cents here.  Chris and I disagree on the Red Cross.  I'm critical of them, but for a different reason.

In my opinion they're only one of manyrelief agencies -- although they are the largest.  In addition, they're only one source of help.  The #1 source is private insurance (which many people don't have for this type of disaster).  The #2 source is FEMA, supported by our tax dollars.  My biggest complaint about the Red Cross isn't the amount of assistance given, but how long it took to get it. 

At first, the Red Cross was giving out debit cards at shelters.  My in-laws weren't at a shelter, so they didn't get a debit card.  After we took them to Livingston, TX we tried to find a shelter where we could meet with a Red Cross representative and get the aid for them.  After about 10 phone calls, one accidental meeting with a local Red Cross person, and a 45 mile trip to Lufkin, we found that they had stopped the direct distribution of debit cards about 2 days before.  Now everyone had to call a toll-free number to get their aid.  Easier said than done.

My in-laws were lucky they had us to call every day for them.  We likely used up 1000 cell phone minutes before we even got through.  The toll-free number isn't free for cell phones!  Every time you called it you usually got a recording, then a hang-up.  When we finally got through, we waited 2 hours and 20 minutes on hold! 

Can you imagine being a poor evacuee trying to reach them on a pay phone, or by borrowing someone's cell phone?  Or worse yet, by using one of those pre-paid cell phones?  It would likely have cost them several hundred dollars to get through, if they ever did!  There has to be a better way to do this!  I think a combination of direct distribution and call centers is the way to go.  But almost anything would have been an improvement.

End of Month Budget Update

We paid for 16 nights camping this month and that increased our average cost per night by 6 cents.  

Camping costs since Jan 1, 2005

Avg $ per Nite # Dry # Elect # FHU # Free %Dry % Free
$8.11 166 17 90 100 61% 37%

Fuel Costs

We've lost track of fuel cost data.  Spending a month in hurricane zones we haven't been able to fill our tanks but a couple of times.  Most often we've bought gas that was rationed $30 at a time, sometimes filling up a car, and a 5 gallon can, then pouring the can into the RV.  We'll get back on track next week.

Continue to October Blog

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