Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Partial update from New Orleans

The sale of Marty's house should go through in January. Having stayed dry and intact through the storms, it sold for about 18% more than they had expected pre-Katrina, with the new owners no doubt still feeling they got an excellent bargain. The place is really fresh and pretty after all the hard work put in by Garry, Judy, Chris, and, to a lesser extent, Frank and Marjie.

Judy and Garry have phone service at their place in Slidell again. It only took four months!

Cori came home from North Carolina for Christmas, to visit with our family and hers.

And Jerry is in Iraq. :-( Please keep a good thought for his safety and for a better set of orders for his unit.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Seven GirlsTop: Megan (10), Chloe (11), Marjie (13), Chelsea (13)
Middle: Emma Lou (6), Madison (7)
Bottom: Ella Bella (2)

Marjie and Frank Marjie and Frank

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Finally! A listing!

It has taken SO long to get the Zombie Princess' listing on the Internet! Wilma has things marine and electronic in a tailspin down there, I guess, although it was amazing how fast the listing appeared once I'd discovered that our broker's parent company hadn't paid their YachtWorld bill. Anyway, it is up now, and it has several pictures of our boat, for those who are curious about our living space these past months. They left off the galley photo for some reason; I'm working on getting that added.

To view the listing, click here, and then click the Full Specs button.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ratty holidays to you

Mezza Christmas

Road notes and some belated photos

We chose the Lake Okeechobee route from Miami to Orlando. A lot of it was scenic/interesting, with the occasional gator and wings-hung-out-to-dry cormorant sighting, but our view of the lake itself was obscured by a levee. And then traffic through the greater Orlando metropolitan area was awful. All in all, we might have preferred the turnpike. ;-)

We spent Night 2 in Gainesville, where the temperatures dropped down into the @*#(! range. We actually had to run the heater and put on coats!

About the time we hit I-10, the van's engine malfunction light came on. The ol' tighten-the-gas-cap trick didn't help, so we drove into the Honda dealership in Ft. Walton Beach. They diagnosed some clogging in the emissions system, strangely reminiscent of our exhaust-elbow problem on the boat back in September. $200 and a few hours later, we were able to backtrack to Destin.

Many of you will recall that the four of us lived in Destin the winter of '96/'97 and have been back there for a couple of vacations since. The Florida panhandle has the best beaches Frank and I have ever visited, and that includes the Caribbean and Hawaii. I called the sand there sugar sand, as people are wont to do, but the texture is really closer to flour. It is very soft, very fine, and very white. Gorgeous. The girls and I spent a lovely couple of hours beachcombing (yes, some hurricane debris and damage here), digging, and scribbling movie quotes in the sand. The temperatures in Destin were a bit milder, too, although we did have the mother of all rainstorms our second morning there. (Seduced by the microwave and refrigerator in our hotel room, we just had to stay two nights!)

Alabama and Mississippi
Zoom zoom zoom.

Louisiana is still a very sad place. The scene in Florida is one of recovery; in Louisiana, destruction. East New Orleans made me cry, because it's a very battered ghost town still, more than three months after Katrina. Despite the claims of certain radio 'personalities' I could mention, things in Louisiana are NOT getting back to normal. Well, they are, but the pace of the return is beyond slow, and there are whole cities there that may never recover.

We drove over the Twin Spans. They have all traffic moved onto one side of the freeway there, to get past the section of I-10 that fell into Lake Pontchartrain. We were impressed at the amount of repair. Interstate commerce is a powerful motivator.

Farther west, where Chris and Marty live, the situation is somewhat better. Not normal, but livable. About a third of businesses are open, with limited, variable hours. Most houses still have heaps of debris in their front yards; Frank has taken to calling it "house puke." Make no mistake, residents here are aware every minute of every day that they are in a disaster area. Nevertheless, Christmas decorations are up, and life goes on.

We had a nice visit with Marty at his retirement villa. The staff there is working hard to reestablish their pre-Katrina routines, and Marty was looking forward to watching the Seahawks during that night's Monday Night Football party in the common room. He says not all of the staff and residents have returned, but he is obviously happy to be home, and he looked good.

We missed Chris but were able to visit briefly with her son, Paul, and his frisky dog, Sancho. Paul is working for a clean-up company. He is able to work at home mostly, working up bid and invoice spreadsheets. Having been in on some large-scale cleanup operations, he is more optimistic than I am about the amount of recovery that can happen. I hope he's right!

Monday night, we had dinner with Bob and Anita. Finding an open restaurant was a bit challenging, and we were on Veterans Blvd., one of the main drags in Metairie. Chevy's came through, though, and we had a nice visit. After we said our good-byes, we made our shivering way to the van and resumed our trek west, listening to our Seahawks kick butt on the radio. About half-time, we pulled into a motel in Lafayette, where we were able to watch the less exciting but still triumphant second half. Our first Seahawks game all year!!!

Lest we forget
Western Louisiana and eastern Texas were hit very hard by Rita. The damage there is being overlooked by the media (mostly), probably because no major metropolitan or tourist areas are involved, but it is as bad as anything we saw in New Orleans and Florida. Along one short stretch of Texas freeway, we saw three separate churches whose north faces were ripped off. Gigantic oaks have crushed homes that have obviously been given up for lost. And we saw more blue-tarp roofs through here than even in east New Orleans.

Mother Nature really had it in for Louisiana this year.

I don't think I've ever been so cold. The cold snap that chilled us in Florida and Louisiana turned us into blue popsicles in Texas. The wind was bitter and relentless. On the bright side, the sunset was extraordinary. We spent Tuesday night in Ft. Stockton.

New Mexico
We were there for about two hours. It was uneventful.

I love Arizona. But by this time, we had promised the girls we'd do our best to get home by Saturday the 10th so they could attend a tree-decorating party at my mom's. It meant driving with dedication, despite the lure of the beautiful Arizona scenery. We enjoyed another spectacular sunset past Tucson, cruised through the huge freeway superstructures of Phoenix, and settled in for the night in Buckeye.

We've driven the length of California so many times, it was mostly a chore this time around. We did cope with and enjoy some amazing fog, and were impressed by our 3rd stunning sunset in a row. Thursday night, we stayed in Tulare (north of Bakersfield on Hwy. 99). Friday, we drove past the stunning vistas of feedlots (not really stunning, except the smell), Shasta Lake (really stunning), and Mt. Shasta (and how!), and it was a very happy Krewe that crossed into Oregon about 8 p.m. On a whim, I took exit #1 so we could get out and play in the snow for two seconds. It turned out not to have a return ramp to I-5 N., so we ended up sailing right on back into California to turn around at exit #796 or whatever it is. The girls and I were wildly entertained by this, and cheered even louder entering Oregon the second time. I think Frank was less amused. :-)

Somebody else pumped our gas for us. That's Oregon for you (state law requires attendants do the pumping). We slept in Eugene. Portland was as pretty as ever. And then we crossed the mighty Columbia River into...

...where we promptly got stuck in traffic. That's Washington for you. Travel the entire country and people keep right except to pass. Enter Washington and everybody jumps into the left lane. And traffic stops. Coincidence? I think not.

We did eventually make it to our very own hometown, though, with about two hours to spare before Grandma's party.

We got off the freeway and entered our residential neighborhood. It hadn't really occurred to us, but that was our first visit to a non-hurricane-ravaged residential neighborhood since Houston in early September. The first words out of my mouth were "It's so clean!" The lack of destruction here seems like a miracle, and it is certainly a big psychological relief. (Washington locals who want to know what the Katrina aftermath is like should imagine Tacoma to Marysville flooded then dried out again, with mud and mildew everywhere, and with *every single house* gutted onto its front lawn. Then imagine living in that environment for three months, with no real end in sight.)

And now
We've been home for a week. We're almost unpacked, almost settled into life here, almost ready for Christmas, and almost happy to be here. Well, the girls are completely thrilled to be here. Frank and I are still grieving for what should have been and wishing things were different.

We did finally plug in the CF card from our camera and found some poignant pictures of our time in Bayou Bonfouca. It's pretty ironic that turned out to be our only real cruising time, but they're fun shots. I'll close with a few of those.

SmileyChloe's solo in the dinghyYes, we were cruisers
Note all the cruiser gear shown in the 3rd picture: sun awnings, spare gas and water tanks, windscoop (colorful "sail" over the forward hatch, funnels breezes into the cabin), mosquito netting, laundry/dishes bucket, and cushion and pillow for lounging on the bow. The scuff marks on the side of the boat are Katrina damage. There are similar marks on the port side, too.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Home again, home again, jiggety jog

Yes, we are back to being landlubbers. Our 4,200-mile drive home was long and mostly uneventful. We froze from about Gainesville on, with our two days in Destin a relatively warm stretch and with Texas being especially frigid thanks to a cold snap. California and Oregon were more temperate, but very foggy.

Back in the great northwest, we're unpacking, getting back on top of the details of real life, and suffering a certain amount of culture and climate shock. We're also kind of jet-lagged after all the time-zone changes. But I do have some things to say to wrap up this blog, percolated stories to add belatedly and reflections-in-conclusion to share. If you check back in a few days, I might have gotten caught up enough to get some writing done.


Saturday, December 3, 2005

'Home' in Destin, FL

After an unexciting bit of car trouble, we are cozy in our old stomping grounds. Sugar sand at last!

Friday, December 2, 2005

The last cruise of the Zombie Princess

Yesterday morning, we put to sea once again, to sail around Key West to the new home of the Zombie Princess at Peninsular Marine boat yard. It was a beautiful, sunny sail, with crisp wind and calm seas, but it was a bit chilly! (A cold front has come through that's bumped the high temp down to about 71 degrees. Brr!!) Marjie spent most of the sail huddled under a blanket, and we got an early (before noon) start, so nightowl Chloe slept through the whole thing. But we had a completely uneventful trip, believe it or not. No rain, no giant swells, no seasickness, so sail mishaps/errors, no spills below. Amazing.

At the boat yard, we tied up to the seawall and emptied off the last of our belongings. The rats found their shady space on the wall pretty interesting, and the yard guys found the rats pretty interesting. But duty called, and before long, the ZP was loaded onto the TravelLift, going up.

Seeing the bottom was pretty interesting. It was "done" last June when we bought the boat, but you couldn't tell by looking at it. I think they didn't do a very careful job. On the other hand, the boat's been through three big storms. There are a couple of whacks (my highly technical term for places where we obviously hit something), one at the bow and one at the crease of the keel, that must be from Katrina. I hope potential buyers won't be too turned off by them.

As for the Krewe, we are headed home. I write this from a motel in Florida City, the gateway to the Keys, or, in our case, the gateway to the continental United States. We've rented a small U-Haul trailer so we can haul home the dinghy and motor. (Our too casual effort to sell them resulted in only one lowball offer. We have always been tempted to keep them as our boat for home, and we figure it won't be too late to sell them once we get there.) It also let us pack quickly and with abandon, instead of having to carefully apportion van space. So we're loaded for bear.

We're keeping our options loose for the trip home, taking one day at a time. Today's big debate is which route to take through Florida. The choices are the Florida Turnpike (efficient but dull with about $20 worth of tolls), Alligator Alley (very, very cool -- gators sun themselves along the freeway -- with a return trip to Naples on the other side, but a longer, squared-off route), or this little principal highway that runs by Lake Okeechobee (an unknown, probably scenic but slow). Whatever we choose, we're all looking forward to some fun land cruising.