View from the Top

About a year and a half ago, we took a Celebrity cruise out of Miami to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. It was our first trip with Celebrity, and we had such a fantastic experience it inspired us (or the drinks did) to book our next cruise on board to Alaska later that summer. In addition to everything the amazing ship had to offer, in our ports I had the best Mofongo at Cafe Puerto Rico, visited Blackbeard’s Castle on St. Thomas, and spent the afternoon watching planes land on Maho Beach. As Hurricane Irma bears down on all those islands today, I can only hope that the damage is not too devastating. I’ve had to write about hurricanes all too much recently.

Irma’s eventual path is still subject to change, of course, so I’m hoping that Florida might avoid a direct hit. I’ve come to love Miami and Ft. Lauderdale over the course of my annual work trips, and I have family living closer to Tampa who would also be affected by a direct hit. During Harvey, I exclusively followed Space City Weather for their non-hype forecasts and updates. While they are Houston-based weather reporting, they received enough inquiries on Irma to provide some forecasting. As of now, they have given the “near-miss” scenario a 50% chance (up from 30% yesterday), so I’m hoping that trend continues.

Until then, I’ll leave you with the gorgeous view of St. Thomas from Blackbeard’s Castle. It was a bit of a trek from the cruise port terminal to the top, involving a wrong turn, angry chickens, and cutting through someone’s backyard, but the destination was worth the work. They usually always are.

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Capitol Hill

My first trip to Seattle was in July of 2009 to visit my friend who lives on Capitol Hill. This was also my first trip as an “adult.” I had just completed my Master’s degree, and in addition to it being a graduation present to myself, it was my first trip that wasn’t a family vacation. While heading to the airport and boarding a plane is business as usual for me at this point, back then it was the strangest feeling in the world to go through the entire process alone, including a connection in Oakland. But, I fell in love with the city on that trip, especially Capitol Hill.IMG_2686

At the time, my friend lived in a small, oddly-shaped one bedroom apartment with thin walls and an old elevator in a historic building called The New McDermott. It is on Bellevue near Pike, and was the perfect location for two early-twenties friends to find plenty of trouble. I remember being amazed at how you could walk everywhere. Those of you who have been to Texas in July know how impossible that would be. Well, not impossible, just no one would want to stand next to you once you arrived at your destination.

We probably walked around ten miles per day and drank half our weight (or more) in alcohol, but we saw and did everything. When you think of Seattle, you typically think of the Space Needle or Pike Place Market, but my stay on Capitol Hill showed me all the unique things the city has to offer: karaoke at The Crescent, fried chicken from City Market, pizza from Bill’s Off Broadway, brunch at Linda’s, and sushi from Ha Na, to name a few. The area has gentrified a lot since my first visit, with a lot of old buildings being torn down to build housing for the thousands who have moved to the area due to an influx of jobs with Amazon, but each subsequent trip I try to visit all my favorite spots, and find more to add.

We’re actually staying in a hotel this trip since we figured it would be rude to crash at my friends apartment during his own wedding. While I’ll miss waking up to his view, I’m excited to explore more areas of town! But, I’m already craving a huge plate of sushi from Ha Na; maybe I’ll have to go there first.

Market Fresh

We are under a week away from another trip to Seattle, this time for a wedding. We found an $85 dollar flight out, so we built in a little extra time beforehand to enjoy one of my favorite cities. The last time I was there for work, I had the chance to go down to Pike Place Market early in the morning before the crowds, get some coffee, and wander around while the vendors set up. It might be a major tourist attraction, but if you have the chance to go early, there’s not even a line at the original Starbucks. The only downside is not having access to a kitchen to be able to fix some of the fresh fish. It will be nice to get out of town for a little while, especially to Seattle.

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After the Rain

One of my travel quirks involves swiping all the soaps in my hotel each day. I never pack shampoo or soap to take with me; I always use what I find at the hotel and bring home the rest. I build up quite the collection of soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion and it turns out, these are great items to donate in a crisis. They’re free to me, and easy to transport. I’m sure those who were soaked in flood waters overnight would put them to good use if they can get access to a shower.

I’m off work for the entire week while the city continues to feel the effects of Harvey. Of course, that does not mean I’m not working at all, but it seems like I’ve received almost zero emails since this disaster began. None of my fall travel is impacted by the closures of our two major airports, but for both of our airports to be closed until at least Thursday, I’m sure the rest of the country is feeling the pain of flight cancellations or other interrupted travel plans. We are supposed to be on a flight to Seattle the middle of next week for a wedding, so we will see if air travel is back to normal by then.

Houston is resilient, but of course anything you can give helps. You can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, or donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, organized by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. He’s already raised over 2 million dollars since Sunday and upped his goal to 3 million, which I’m sure we can surpass. The rain is about over, but recovery has a long way to go. buffalo bayou

It’s Not Over Yet

The last major hurricanes to threaten the Texas coast did so while I lived in Waco. In the panic of hurricane Rita, which developed shortly after the destruction of Katrina, the entire city of Houston and surrounding areas attempted to evacuate at once. As you might have imagined, that did not go well. It took my family over twenty four hours to get to my apartment, normally a three hour drive.2005_rita_houstonevacuation.jpg

Three years later when Ike was threatening to make a direct hit on Houston, they made the same drive in similar traffic. With both Ike and Rita, my family was lucky that the hurricanes veered east enough to spare them any major damage, but especially with Ike, a lot of damage was sustained throughout the city. I distinctly remember seeing the blue tarp “FEMA roofs” adorning so many houses when I made my first trip back, weeks after Ike had hit.

I am so glad that no mandatory evacuation was ordered for us this time. That parking lot of cars you see above from the Rita evacuation? They would all be completely underwater. So many people would have died.

I described Harvey as a “zombie hurricane” on Friday, and that description has been pretty accurate, as he is still a tropical storm and is lingering along the coast. After devastating the city of Rockport, north of Corpus Christi, he is now devastating Houston with rain. The rain won’t stop, and it’s not going to for days. We have been extremely fortunate that we have only lost water pressure for a few hours, but never lost electricity, and only have a water leak in the drywall by our window. So many others have not been as lucky. One of my coworkers has lost absolutely everything.

If you are able to spare more than your thoughts and prayers for everyone here who has been through what is being described as the biggest U.S. flood storm of all-time, you can text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, or donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, organized by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. Anything will help. It’s still raining, and the flood waters are not finished with the city yet.

A Zombie Hurricane

So, you may have heard that something is happening in Texas this weekend.  Hurricane Harvey is supposed to hit Corpus Christi later tonight, but I’ve been calling him Zombie Harvey because he died after hitting Mexico and then came back as a monster.  After forming in the Atlantic and taking his time crossing the Caribbean Sea as a tropical storm, he was supposed to have dissipated after passing over Mexico.  However, after becoming disorganized, Harvey sprang back to life and is now a Category 2 storm, potentially Category 3 by landfall.  If current models hold, he’s not even done there  After bouncing off Texas, he will head east as a tropical storm and dump water all along the coast on his way out.  Harvey came back to life and we need Rick Grimes to take care of him.  Okay, who I’m I kidding.  Probably Carol instead.

I’ve been to Corpus Christi numerous times and have friends whose families have had to evacuate (also I always get the best poblano soup at Nuevo Cafe when I visit), so I’m hoping that the damage to the city will not be devastating.  When I was there once, a severe storm came through and the streets and roads flooded so badly that I couldn’t get to my destinations the next day.  With that in mind, I can only imagine what a hurricane will do.

We are stocked up and prepared to ride out the floods, thankfully in a third floor apartment. Stay safe everyone, and be careful if you do venture out.  It’s past time for Zombie Harvey to finally die. Harvey