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This is the story of my somewhat unnecessary Irma evacuation tour of the South with my roommate, the other Jessica Rose, and her bow tie wearing sheepdog, Peyton…
Wednesday 9/6: In full panic mode we pack The other Jessica Rose’s car with 27 granola bars, 6 magnum bottles of wine, 8 rolls of paper towels, and the ashes of her dear deceased Aunt Rhonda. We were getting the heck outta dodge because a massive category 5 hurricane is definitely headed directly for our apartment. Definitely. Everything will be flooded or blown away. Definitely. We start the 3 hour drive to Ocala in Central Florida. 8 hours later we roll in on gas fumes. We see lines of people waiting at empty pumps for a delivery to come in. We are panic-stricken. What will we do? We have to leave Ocala in the morning, but with no fuel to be had, we are stuck. By some miracle, we stumble upon a station with gas and no lines. Beyond thankful, we fill up, check into our hotel. We debate heading back to south Florida the next day, but decide against it. A massive category 5 hurricane is definitely headed directly for our apartment. Definitely. The other Jessica Rose’s mother warns us to stay away from Atlanta because the traffic there is horrible!! We drink a bottle of wine.
Thursday 9/7: We decide Panama City sounds like an exotic place to wait out the impending storm. The entire peninsula of Florida is in the cone of death, despair, and destruction. But much like the biblical story of Noah, God has decided to spare the good people of Panama City from Irma’s wrath. There must be a reason for this, we decide. Panama City it is! We make the drive from Ocala to the panhandle. It’s a beautiful day, fuel is abound, Peyton is enjoying being a road dog. The people of Panama City are unconcerned about the wretched Irma. Things are looking up! Alas, we are able to book a hotel for two nights only. Irma has shifted westward! More evacuee refugees like ourselves have discovered the utopia that is Panama City! However, a massive category 5 hurricane is potentially headed directly for our apartment. Potentially. We’re too far to go home now. We must blaze forward! We figure we will enjoy our two nights in Panama City and regroup with a plan.
In the midst of all our excitement, we get notified that two of our vehicles will be towed from the confirmed safe Mizner park garage. Keys are with us, all carriers stopped mail service. It is what it is. We keep driving.
We arrive at our hotel. The Hilton in Panama City welcomes us with multiple condoms in the bed (still in wrappers). Housekeeping tells us that husbands often hide the prophylactics from their children in the bed, and we shouldn’t be alarmed. I accept this as a reasonable explanation. The other Jessica Rose and Peyton do not (In retrospect, it was actually very unreasonable. ), and we switch rooms.
Famished, we proceed to walk to dinner with Peyton in tow, not realizing we must cross a 6 foot deep trench to get to the restaurant. I suggest we attempt to cross. Jess and Peyton disagree. Peyton is wearing a bow tie. Bow-tied dogs do not climb into muddy trenches to get to Mexican restaurants. We head back to the hotel and climb into the car. The restaurant we selected has 389 reviews and an average rating of 4.5 Yelp stars. Excited to nourish our travel-weary bodies, we are seated by a young man who says little but stares a lot. Our food comes looking little like what the menu described. We question the 4.5 stars from 389 people. Maybe Panama City is not what we thought it to be. But we eat. Later, we are informed the place was shut down by the health department the day prior, due to roaches in the kitchen. We drink a bottle of wine.
Friday 9/8: Sir Peyton needs to romp! We meet a lovely mother/daughter duo at a dog park for a doggy date. I wonder aloud if there are dog parks with happy hour. I am reminded we are in the Bible Belt. We drink a bottle of wine.
Saturday 9/9: With crazy Irma’s westward shift, we must keep moving. Hotels are scarce, but a massive category 5 hurricane might be headed directly for our apartment. Might be. We decide the only rational thing to do is get as far away from the drunk and indecisive Irma as possible! The other Jessica Rose’s mother warns us to stay away from Atlanta because the traffic there is horrible!! Our genius plan is that I will accompany the other Jessica Rose through Birmingham, Alabama to St. Louis, Missouri, where I will hop on a flight to Cleveland, Ohio, and she will continue on with sir Peyton to Nebraska. Clearly this is the most logical course of action! Flights are booked and we hit the road again. Sir Peyton spends the drive trying to eat all of the oncoming traffic.
Arriving in Birmingham, we find a lovely and hygienic Bonefish grill, which is not dog friendly, but does allow us to sit with Sir Peyton in their outdoor waiting area.
We drink a bottle of wine.
Sunday 9/10: Drunk Irma has shifted westward even more! Evacuating to Nebraska and Pennsylvania now seems a bit aggressive. The other Jessica Rose’s mother warns us to stay away from Atlanta because the traffic there is horrible!! The other Jessica Rose has reached out to a dear friend just outside of Charlotte, NC who has graciously agreed to take in three refugees. We begin the journey from Birmingham To Charlotte. Sir Peyton seems a little put out that we’re in the car again. The other Jessica Rose takes the first driving shift. The “mountains” of Alabama really throw her for a loop! Growing up in Nebraska and currently living at 4 feet above sea level, she is not used to elevation changes. She is terrified. I am unaware and checking Facebook. Eventually I take over driving duty. I find myself on a twisty turny one lane highway. I am going 35 miles per hour with 157 cars on my tail. I am terrified. I’m hoping they notice the Florida plate and take pity on me. The other Jessica Rose is unaware and checking Facebook. What should have been a 5 hour drive took 8, as we were driving through what our Charlotte host called “small hills”. We drink a bottle of wine.
Monday 9/11: We wake up to drizzly 50 degree weather. These Florida girls packed shorts and flip flops and little else. Yet, we make the best of it. Our Charlotte host shows us a lovely day. We keep our eye on the weather channel. That drunk asshole Irma shifts westward again. A massive category 5 hurricane is definitely not headed directly to our apartment. Definitely not. We drink a bottle of wine.
Tuesday 9/12: We decide today is the day to begin the trek home. Apparently so did the other 6 million evacuees. We figure we can at least make it to Jacksonville and continue on the next day. The other Jessica Rose’s mother warns us to stay away from Atlanta because the traffic there is horrible!! We say goodbye to our lovely host. A bright spot in an otherwise arduous odyssey. She sends us off with wine. Rations are running low. We load up the car once again. Sir Peyton rolls his eyes, but gets in and takes his spot in the middle as copilot. After 11 hours, these road warriors realize we will not be making it to Jacksonville after all. Traffic is crawling and we are a bit cranky. Savannah, Georgia it is. Again famished, we begin searching for food. Apparently, the entire city of Savannah had been evacuated and eating establishments are all closed. I am open to eating pretty terrible food in an emergency situation. The other Jessica Rose is not. She nearly resorted to having salmon from a local Denny’s. Things are pretty dire. Turns out, Denny’s is closed as well. We drink 2 bottles of wine.
Wednesday 9/13. After one week, 5 cities, over 1,000 miles, and explaining that our canine companion is a male, 7 year old, sheepdog named Peyton no less than 15 billion times (Apparently, people in the south really dig dogs in bow ties!) we are home. We have no power, and probably won’t for some time. We have been taken in again from another dear local friend.
We could complain and ruminate about the expense, frustration, and frivolity of our evacuation, however, we know exactly how lucky we are when many others are not. We had the means to evacuate when others did not. Our home was spared, when others have lost everything. We have our lives, when others have perished.
This experience taught two Jessica Roses that 1) things are just things. 2) people are really generally good 3) we should probably practice driving in some elevation 4) Momma Gray REALLY hates Atlanta!
To the makers of Woodbridge Wine, you’re welcome.