Irmageddon~ Alabama Evacuation Vacation
I turn on the news and watch entirely too many hours, of the upcoming devastation to hit my area. They say Irma is the largest formed hurricane in history, not only the largest, but also so powerful that they were contemplating creating a Category 6 for it, instead they left it at 5.
It was forecasted to have a direct impact on where I live, Jacksonville, Florida USA. I was waffling back and forth about leaving. However, what sent me over the edge was helping around the compound I live, securing items that could potentially be “missiles”, tying boats to trees, hiding and tying up anything that could possible kill or destroy in winds over 100 mph. After and long talk with my landlady the idea of crouching under my dining table in hopes of not dying was just too much for me.
I had spoken to so many here who’s general consensus was “it is nothing” “don’t worry” “we will be fine” I am happy that they have complete control of weather. I however do not. I was so stressed about it I finally decided to leave, I spoke with family members to try and get them to come with, but after days of that, I decided to go it alone (well I brought Mr. Bear, my pacifier after Henri died). Leaving was not an easy decision.
So, I packed up a few item’s, surprising to me I am not attached to my “stuff “and my mind was all about survival, not even so much surviving the actual storm but the potential months of aftermath from it. No electricity, contaminated water sources, lack of food in stores. This was all quite frightening to me.
I had decided to head towards Alabama, lucky for me I ride a motorcycle so I know backroads of the Southeast of USA pretty well…the evacuation news was gridlock on the freeways, gas shortages and chaos. I however had solo beautiful sweeping views, with little signs of the “end of days” mentality that Irmageddon was creating.
Now on to making the most of an ugly and terrifying situation.
The storm was not going to hit for a few days, and the path of it was ever changing. So, I headed to Birmingham, Alabama. Home to many things I soon discovered but the one I was heading for was Barber Motorcycle Museum (http://www.barbermuseum.org/)
I had to drive about that far to even find a hotel so I booked it for 2 nights, this was all they had available. I had access to a TV to see the progress of the storm and any doubts I had were confirmed that I evacuated. One whole day at Barber, even getting to meet Mr. George Barber himself. Which was so fun after being a multi-time visitor to this great homage to motorcycles throughout the years. I highly suggest this museum if you have not been, the facility and collection is most impressive.
After this stop, I drove up to Arley, Alabama where I picked up my friend Will, who was traveling in the USA from England and had evacuated as well. We went to Dismal Canyon for the day. What a fun and gorgeous hike this was. Only after did I learn of why it was called Dismal and about the night tours. This is on my list to go back and experience. (http://www.dismalscanyon.com/) Then a wonderful night of camping under the beautiful Alabama sky.
From here I headed to Huntsville, where I was lucky to find a hotel for another 2 nights. Huntsville is a town of Rockets and Space. If you miss the large Saturn V towering over the highway, you probably should not be driving.
The first few days were very rainy due to Irma turning Northwest, here I saw what damage was being done to Florida, heartbreaking. Virgin Islands which I had frequented often ripped to bones by high winds and flooding. Heartbreaking. Once again, I was glad I evacuated. One thing about traveling motorcyclists, is we are usually close by, and Huntsville was no exception. I met up with motorcyclists for dinners and day excursions.
Huntsville Art Museum, walked a Labyrinth (https://labyrinthlocator.com/home), touched a rocket, lunches and dinners with old friends, made new friends and lots of support. I was a complete wreck of nerves. So these people were blessings to me, even if they had no idea how their kindness was blessing me.
I had met a local who actually wrote the book on backroads of Alabama http://www.uapress.ua.edu/product/Motorcycling-Alabama,5042.aspx)
and he sent me a route of covered bridges and a waterfall to see, since he knew that I had just experienced my first covered bridge. This was a short mileage day, however filled with the art of Covered bridge construction and the beauty of the back roads of Alabama.
From here I headed back to Birmingham, where I had pizza in an old converted Post Office building and then to a neat place that stands in the Birmingham history called Sloss Furnaces (http://www.slossfurnaces.com/) . The incredible history of this blue collar hard working town, that I was completely clueless. Coined its name as “Magic City”.
Next stop was Horseshoe Bend National Park, which is sad and very important part of the history of Alabama as well as the United States. A humbling and sobering experience. (https://www.nps.gov/hobe/index.htm)
Now from here, I was heading back south towards home. I had previously planned to meet Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States in Plains, GA.
Since gas shortages, food shortages, no electricity awaited me at home I explored more of Alabama so that I could make this event. Three Sundays a month, he teaches Sunday School lesson at his hometown church (http://www.mbcplains.org/?page_id=212) Wow! This was an amazing experience, just to be in the presence of such a great and honourable man. I woke up about 4:15am to get in line and was #2, which allowed me to be sitting directly in front of him, 2 feet away, and as he walked by, he shook my hand.
This is an experience that changed my life. It makes me want to strive for greatness, follow my dreams and reinforced my belief that anything is truly possible. His accomplishments are almost incomprehensible to me.
After this, I headed home, a changed woman, still sorting it out in my mind and heart. The emotional journey was much greater than the physical one.
I have to thank the State of Alabama and its people. The kindness of all the people I met, the beauty and history.