Which way is Irma headed? Like a flighty teen, she can't make her mind, yet leaves a mess in every space.
Which way is Irma headed? Like a flighty teen, she can’t make her mind, yet leaves a mess in every space.

I feel like a character in bad B movie. We are running to escape the horrors of Mother Nature. Like many other Floridians, we are temporary refugees in search of safe havens from the incredibly powerful storm.

It took us a few days to decide if we should sit tight, hunker down and ride out the storm, or if we should go on the lam. Airline flights were out since I travel with an entourage of 4 birds, a dog, a teenager, my mom and my hubby. So where could we drive to outrun Irma? Well, it’s 9 hours drive (under normal circumstances) to Atlanta, Ga. FANTASTIC IDEA! Atlanta gets us off the peninsula, and it opens up in several directions so we would have options. We packed, we fought, we packed some more, and we left in my mom’s SUV.

Smart as we are, we booked a hotel the day before leaving, a simple Holiday Inn (pet-friendly) in the Northlake area. Our 9-hour drive took 16 long, traffic jam packed hours. We were exhausted. I was thrilled to check in. However, the concierge informed us that due to the hurricane and people leaving from Florida, they had canceled our reservation. After I picked my chin up off the floor and informed him that we WERE escaping from Florida, he handed us a letter (composed in 1st grade English and grammar) that the downtown Ramada Inn would welcome our reservation. Fuming and exhausted I went out to the car and dialed the Ramada. Not pet-friendly, parking fees, fridge fees, and no guarantee of a reservation, but if we came with the letter and there were rooms still available, they might be able to help us out. Oh, and because of Irma, they would honor the Holiday Inn pet policy, but at $75/night per pet.

Rest Stop Co-Pilot
The birds travelled surprisingly well, but they were petrified. The dog just slept.

Across the street from said Holiday Inn was a Quality Inn. I took a chance and called. The manager, Mo, was amazing. He asked where we were coming from and when I told him Boca and what happened with Holiday Inn, he told me to walk right over and they would take care of us. Jasmine and all the other staff we met were super nice. They charged us a lower rate, had more amenities, and they even gave us welcome baskets with bottled water, fresh fruit and chocolate. And ONE $15 pet fee for all of our menagerie. They were perfectly hospitable.

And now, back to Irma. Irma- ironically, means noble and strong. What were they thinking naming this Gigantor storm Irma? She changed course and was now headed straight for Atlanta. So we decided once more to move. Two nights in Georgia and we decided to move Northeast. So here we are in North Carolina. Refugees from the storm, displaced, living out of suitcases and wanting to go home.

Home – so sweet and so far away. As it stands now, our adventure continues. The birds are climbing the walls, literally, and I think the dog is depressed. I’m desperate for my bed and a hot, home cooked meal. Assuming Irma doesn’t twist her panties up again, we may be able to start the trek home tomorrow.

I am touched by all those who reached out to offer us shelter and to check in on us, from old friends to one of my fave new authors and his wife, Mike & Connie Brown. You guys are perfectly Southern and amazing. I hope you are safe in your little corner of the world. The Atlanta community opened their homes and hearts to over 400 families from our little Boca community – amazing. May you all be blessed.

So now, back to the adventure. Irma has decided to change course, and now she’s heading for us here in Atlanta. So we are on the move. Packed up the car, the dog, the birds and we are North Carolina bound. Six hours later, we are at the La Quinta in Raleigh with about 700 other Floridians. Watching the track and talking about what we all expect to see when we eventually return home. A strange camaraderie forms, banding all the “refugees” together, no matter which walks of life they are on. We go to bed in the calm, cool Carolina night, and wake up to see Irma headed to Northern Florida and Georgia, but due to be over by mid afternoon. Brave, intrepid road warriors that we are, we decide to head home. A call from a neighbor ensuring that we never lost power and that our development did not withstand major damage.

Driving through the eye of Irma. So beautiful, but do not be fooled!

And we pack it up again and hit the road. A full tank of gas, a sunny morning, and anticipation of sleeping in our beds tonight has us all in good spirits. Not too much traffic, a little edge of Irma’s bands as we drive through Georgia, but nothing too terrible for those of us used to Florida summers. Just in case you’re wondering, the “Sunshine State” gets torrential rains all summer, either in the morning or afternoon. We keep filling car as it reaches half a tank, so we have no worries about reaching South Florida by tonight. Entering Georgia, we realize that once we pass Brunswick, there is no power, no gas. So we pull up the trusty GasBuddy app. Wow! What a nightmare! Several cars besides us were low on gas, and GasBuddy sent us 8 miles off the highway to a closed station. With only 77 miles left to go, we finally got off in Palm City, Florida, just a few exits north of Daytona Beach. We got off the highway because we saw power. After 45 minutes on the gas line, down to 52 miles, the station ran out of gas, unless of course, you could use diesel. So with no hope, we made a U-turn and set off to find a motel to ride it out until gas deliveries began. As luck would have it, there was one more gas station with a line wrapped around the block. With nothing to lose, we got on the line. Happy happy joy joy! We filled up! Now in a better frame of mind, we set out on the final leg of our tour for home.

The interstate was eerie, as there were no lights, and the damage was apparent as we passed strip malls with no signs. We saw billboards ripped from their frames and prayed the roads would stay clear. We managed to make it home, through the former stop light, now a stop sign, and back through the local streets. Trees were lying on the side of the road or blocking the side streets, but for the most part, the way was clear. We pulled in to our driveway, elated to be home and have power. Our biggest damage came from the Bougainvillea tree in our courtyard. It fell over blocking our kitchen sliders, but we were too tired to deal with it.

This morning saw a beautiful day, hot, but clear sunny skies. So many people still without power, but we are lucky to be powered up and getting back to normal life. My neighbor came and checked our tree. Still rooted, he helped us tie it up and prop it up so it can regrow the broken roots and live. My friend has joined us until her power is restored. We’re going to make the best of it. Bring on the Yahtzee and Boggle tournaments!

To everyone affected by Irma, please, stay safe.

Stay Motivated and Caffeinated!😊☕