Fleeing Hurricane Irma – Part II

Saturday September 9th:

I left the Holiday Inn Express in Greenwood SC after a desultory free breakfast, and hit the road at 10:00

Most of the front portion of the trip, the  44 plus miles in a northerly direction to Greenville, SC, was on US-25 which threaded its way through rural South Carolina. This was a good road, basically a 4-lane divided highway.

Coming out of Greenville, I remained on US-25 and did so into North Carolina. Even before Hendersonville, one could see that the terrain was changing. Bigger hills could be seen to the north. This made the road a bit more complex to drive.

I would hit a lengthy bit of stop and go approaching the Asheville Regional Airport. But it only added a half hour additional to the journey.

I had told my Airbnb hosts that I would arrive at 1:00 PM and I arrived at the Dogwood Grove address at 1:06 PM.

The house was up in the hills and there was plenty of forest to be seen. The first picture below is of the solarium just off the bedroom.

The second image is a view of the bedroom which came equipped with a TV, a small refrigerator, Wi-Fi, private entrance, private bathroom, and with the ceiling fan in use, there was no need to run the AC.

I chatted with the hosts and found them to be very warm and inviting. They were also former New Yorkers like me.

Time to get my bearings. Coming out of Dogwood Grove, I’d eventually run into Route 70 and that would leave me with a choice. Shall I go Right or Left.

I turned left and that took me in an uphill direction. Within minutes I was looking at the entrance to a tunnel. No surprise there as the road is called Tunnel Road. But I didn’t know that beforehand.

This was one scary tunnel. Though quite short it was unexpected and I hadn’t time to switch from sunglasses to regular glasses. Even with my headlights on – it was till way dark. I mean really, really dark.

I could barely see the car behind me, and sometimes the approaching car hadn’t put his headlights on, so it was harrowing from beginning to end. I’m talking about a minute or a minute 15 seconds tops of sheer automotive terror.

But I made it through safely twice – out and back – which enabled me to return to write this for you.

Dinner was decided by a coin toss. Heads it would be Outback at 611 Tunnel Road, tails it would be the Yoshida Express at 30 Tunnel Road. The coin came up heads. So I headed out for some steak and some bloomin’ onions plus a side salad.

Of course leaving the apartment at 5:45 PM on a Saturday night was too late. Parking lot was filled  and people were waiting outside to get in. So I need a reversal of direction. Back on to Tunnel Road in the opposite direction.

The Yoshida Express featured Japanese style food. Steak and Chicken with fried rice and seasoned sweet carrots would do just fine.  Only aside from the style of the food, and some Japanese decorations, the place was in Asheville, NC – and I didn’t see any Japanese staff, or even hear any Japanese.

The price for the entrée, salad and a beverage was $13 and change.and then there was a mandatory tip of either 15% or 20% or a custom tip – fill in the amount yourself. I don’t mind tipping or even service changes like they do in Europe – but

– this place was completely self-service. Carry the drink to the table yourself, pick up your salad, then the entrée at the counter, then ‘bus’ your own table when finished. So the tip was for the counter girl/cashier who took your order and likely the cook..

The food was okay but the whole tip business turned me off. I would later find out that Asheville had a good many fine Japanese restaurants. I should have done more research.

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Hurricane Irma Storm Post

Thursday September 7th:

My memories of last year’s storm, “Matthew” which happened in early October of 2016 are still fresh, or should I say – those memories have been refreshed. In early 2016 I had moved from Sarasota, FL to Port Wentworth, GA. The reasons for that move are not germane to for this post, so I won’t mention them. What I will say, that while living in Sarasota from May of 2008 to April of 2016, none of the hurricanes or tropical storms, or even the far too prevalent thunder storms, created any suffering beyond only a few short power outages – all of which were measured in hours rather than days.

But with storm track models for Hurricane Irma – if the storm made its way up Florida east coast, there was a distinct likelihood, that this storm would eventually impact coastal Georgia. In fact Savannah appeared in almost every projection. Now I don’t live in Savannah. I am in Port Wentworth about a 15 to 20 minutes drive west from Savannah.  Meaning I live in a western suburb of Savannah.

Now Matthew had left me with out electricity, as well as no cell phone or internet service for about three days. I also suffered some small amount of water damage. Not flooding mind you, just wind-driven rain which seeped in under the front door. The cure was four days of an electric blower (battery operated) to dry out a section of my bedroom carpet. So yeah, I escaped with a minimal amount of inconvenience and/or damage,

But I wasn’t about to take my chances on a repeat. So yesterday I booked an apartment via Airbnb in Asheville, NC, which is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in western North Carolina. About 308 miles north and west from Port Wentworth.

I booked the place for Saturday, the 9th with checkout on Wednesday the 13th. My plan was to remain high and dry and not lose days to a loss of electricity, or worse.

That was the plan.

Friday September 8th: Watching CNN’s coverage of the storm was not at all pleasant. The size, strength, and direction of the storm remained ominous. Which is a long way from assuring.

Around 1:00 PM, I left the apartment to fill up the gas tank of my car. No problem to do that, as there was plenty of gas, and no lines.

But –

The gas station  was close enough to I-95 that I could see that the northbound traffic was stop and go as in bumper-to-bumper. Now Port Wentworth is exit 109 on I-95 in Georgia. This makes it the last exit in Georgia and it is only about 4-5 minutes from the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Now my route to Asheville was not going to put me on 1-95. Rather I would take GA-21 north from Port Wentworth utilizing a series of state roads and the older federal highways that aren’t Interstates but are still excellent. That is until I would get on I-520/I-20 coming out of Augusta, GA But it wasn’t the traffic that worried me. I thought that there would be a gasoline shortage based on the amount of traffic

So after deciding to leave one day earlier, I went back to my apartment and booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Greenwood, SC. Staying in Greenwood would leave me with about a 128 miles run up to Asheville.

So I quickly packed and at 2:30 PM I started the car. Having met some of my neighbors, I was the 4th of 6 tenants in the building to leave for higher ground. Chatham County had issued a mandatory evacuation notice. Plus the apartment complex office would be closed, meaning there would be no staff on hand, and no maintenance issues could be dealt with.

So it seemed a no-brainer to take off.

I saw plenty of mileage through Georgia’s ‘back roads’, There was no traffic at all until I got within 5 miles of the I-520 exchange in Augusta. What should have been a quick 5 miles became a lengthy crawl of nearly an hour. Nevertheless, I made it onto I-520 then exited to I-20. I think I was only about 10 minutes on the interstates. Then more of the Georgia and the South Carolina back roads.

I did make it to the Holiday Express in Greenwood, and it is from that location that I write this.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll have about 128 miles to go to get to Asheville.