Category Archives: Beaches

Of Seaweed and Seawalls

Recently it was announced that parking along the Seawall in Galveston would no longer be free.

City leaders had been trying for years to turn the parking spots along the beach into revenue so the fact that they succeeded in finding a way to do that should really surprise no one.

Of course whether they are providing a product that is worth paying to see is another issue entirely.

Starting last month parking along the seawall in Galveston was no longer free. While it now costs more to see it there is little evidence that the view has improved. Photo R. Anderson

Starting last month parking along the seawall in Galveston was no longer free. While it now costs more to see it, there is little evidence that the view has improved.
Photo R. Anderson

It is no secret that while I am a fan of the town of Galveston and its various historic places, my affinity for the island ends pretty much where the seawall begins. To put it bluntly Galveston has an ugly beach that one could not pay me to swim in.

So when it was announced that visitors would now have to pay for the privilege of parking along the seaweed covered shores it made me laugh.

The parking meter system that was chosen made me laugh even more since it seems to discriminate against people who do not have cell phones.

That’s right boys and girls one now needs a cell phone or another means of wireless access to the web to pay for a parking spot on the seawall since the meters do not accept cash or credit cards.

I know that it is assumed in this day and age that everyone has at least one cell phone.  So, I am sure that making owning a phone the only way to pay to park seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately the new meters leave out the part of the population that does not carry a cell phone with them. So how is that keeping the beach open to all?

So setting aside the whole Texas Open Beaches law which states access to the beaches should be free to all and there are several other areas where the new meters seemed destined to meet legal challenges.

In fact, several lawsuits challenging the new meters have already been filed so it will be interesting to see whether the meters stay or go.

Now, I have nothing against paying to park when I go to downtown Houston to watch an  Astros game since those meters are the good old fashioned type that take cash and even a credit card.

Since being built over 100 years ago there have been many changes outside the Hotel Galvez. The latest change is the addition of parking meters which ironically do not accept change. Photo R. Anderson

Since being built over 100 years ago there have been many changes outside the Hotel Galvez. The latest change is the addition of parking meters which ironically do not accept change.
Photo R. Anderson

And while I own a cell phone if I had to stand on the street and make a telephone call to park I would find that a huge inconvenience and it would probably make me go downtown less often.

And I certainly am not against the idea of paying for certain premium parking when one goes to a beach.  When I go to Pensacola I usually pay to go to the beaches inside the boundaries of Fort Pickens National Park.

For about $10 I get unlimited access to the beaches for about a week. But that is a National Park where admission prices go towards keeping everything nice and clean so I gladly pay.

But, aside from the boundaries of the National Park all of the other beaches near Pensacola are free to park at.

The same is true for most every other beach I have ever been to. And the beaches that do have parking meters are the coin or credit card type which means that anyone with some change in their pocket can enjoy the beach.

Galveston definitely has a seaweed problem. While it was once free to see this view, with the installation of parking meters this view will now cost you. Photo R. Anderson

Galveston definitely has a seaweed problem. While it was once free to see this view, with the installation of parking meters this view will now cost you.
Photo R. Anderson

But assuming that the new meters along the Seawall are somehow deemed constitutional and are allowed to stay I certainly hope that the revenue is used to improve the actual beach experience there and not just charging people to pay for the same thing that was free for hundreds of years.

Of course while adding parking meters is certainly a negative change to Galveston in terms of being tourist friendly there was some other news that made me think that perhaps they are finally understanding the need to present more of a nice beach for those visiting tourists and their monies.

This glimmer of hope came in the form of an announcement that at long last the tons of seaweed that wash up onto the shore would finally be collected and not allowed to just sit on the shore and rot.

It seems a no brainer to have a beach rake that combs the sand each morning and removes any debris that washed ashore. I have never understood why Galveston did not have such a system in place.

Of course one can always travel a few hours east of Galveston to see seaweed free beaches. Photo R. Anderson

Of course one can always travel a few hours east of Galveston to see seaweed free beaches.
Photo R. Anderson

But now it seems the seaweed will be harvested and used to restore the dunes which is certainly a better use for it than shoreline sand blanket.

So I guess one has to take the bad news of paying to park with the glimmer of hope that the seaweed will be removed from the shore. Personally as someone who does not really go to the seawall that often I will not be affected by the pay to park plan.

I will still go for the Mardi Gras parades each year but as far as spending a day in the sand and the surf, that is what the beaches of Florida are for.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about seaweed on Galveston has me in the mood for some spinach.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Expert Warns of Rising Seas, Just Not Sure When They Will Rise

Yesterday I was scanning the local news, as I often do, and I noticed a particular headline that got my attention.

The headline basically said that according to a researcher, rising sea levels will put Galveston, TX 25 percent underwater.  Since I live near Galveston, I decided it was an article that I needed to read to find out if I needed to pack the Jeep and head for higher ground, or perhaps invest in a house boat, to avoid the coming flood waters.

Experts are divided regarding just how high the sea level will rise in the coming centuries. Photo R. Anderson

Experts are divided regarding just how high the sea level will rise in the coming centuries.
Photo R. Anderson

Now I should know by now that the local media in this part of Texas, and perhaps everywhere now, tries to raise the level of sensationalism to epic levels in every story that they post.

So, the headline should have been a huge red flag to me since this was the same paper that just the day before had sensationalized a traffic stop involving a man legally carrying a gun by saying “Man pulled over by police in north Texas with gun in car.”

Of course in Texas I am sure that people with the legal right to carry a concealed handgun or rifle are pulled over every day by police without incident. The gun laws state that a concealed gun owner must alert the officer to the presence of the concealed firearm, and the traffic stop continues as normal just as it would were there not a gun in the car.

What made this particular gun in car police stop more  tasty for the “if it bleeds it leads” newspaper was the fact that the man in the story pulled over with the gun was none other than George Zimmerman who was recently acquitted by a jury of his peers in Florida of manslaughter charges.

Had it been any other man with a gun in the car getting pulled over it would not have been news. And the officer did not even issue a ticket as Zimmerman was left with just a warning.

So with that and many other examples of poor reporting from my local media I should have taken the rising sea levels story as another example of Chicken Little the sky is falling reporting and nothing more.

And of course after reading the article that was exactly what it was. Basically according to the expert quoted in the article in 87 to 100 years, when most of the people reading this article will no longer be alive, the oceans are expected to rise and cover 25 percent of the current land along the coast.

After that more and more land will be covered every few decades until at some point Dallas, which is around four and a half hours from Galveston, becomes a beachfront town.

Actually, Dallas as a beachfront town might not be a bad thing since the only thing I really don’t like about Dallas, aside from the high occurrence of tornadoes, is the lack of a decent beach nearby.

Views like this could be coming to cities that are currently inland if theories on sea level rise are to be believed. Photo R. Anderson

Views like this could be coming to cities that are currently inland if theories on sea level rise are to be believed.
Photo R. Anderson

So as has been the case for years the rising waters of the future are being blamed on polar ice melt caused by man made greenhouse gases, etc.  While it is certainly important to do what one can as a society to ensure that climate change is not heightened through the efforts of man, there is tons of evidence showing that the change has little to do with man’s activities.

I am certainly a believer that the climate goes in cycles of change and there was another article in the paper that had me less concerned about the rising sea levels (beyond the comfort of knowing that I won’t be alive to see it).

There is a beach near Beaumont, TX that has arrowheads and other primitive tools wash up on shore from time to time.  The items tend to wash up after a big storm churns up the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is believed that the items come from long submerged villages about 25 miles out to sea. So that stands to reason that there has been ocean encroachment for centuries if not eons.  And it is highly doubtful the early residents were emitting massive amounts of greenhouse gases leading to the flooding of their villages.

Get you beach front property complete with pelicans in Dallas while you can. Of course you will not be alive when the beach gets there but your grand kids can take advantage of your thoughtfulness. Photo R. Anderson

Get your beach front property complete with pelicans in Dallas while you can. Of course you will not be alive when the beach gets there but your great great grand kids can take advantage of your thoughtfulness.
Photo R. Anderson

The seas will rise and fall again as they have before. As Eugene Levy’s character in the American Pie movies would say, “It’s a perfectly, ah, natural kind of thing.”

So despite headlines announcing pending doom and despair brought on by rising waters along the coast, the effects are centuries away from reaching the level of devastation seen in the Hollywood disaster films.

And who’s to say that the Earth doesn’t get destroyed by a huge asteroid before the oceans gobble up the shoreline since according to some people in the United States space industry that is the real threat facing the third rock from the sun.

And while I hold little faith in NASA’s asteroid lassoing efforts ever getting off of the ground, I certainly believe that technology will exist by the time the seas are rising to coast swallowing levels to pump the water inland for irrigation and desalination or find some other way to win the battle at the shoreline.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put a down payment on some future beachfront property in Dallas in case I live to be 150.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fire Represents Life on Survivor and Food on the Beach

About this time last week I was able to do something that I had never done before.

It was not that I had never wanted to do this particular thing. In fact I had often thought about how fun it would be to try.

Still despite my best efforts and desires I had never found myself with the opportunity to grill my own dinner.

Of course I have cooked my own dinner numerous times and actually enjoy coming up with new creations but the pivotal manly event of cooking over either a propane or charcoal grill with visible flames had eluded me.

Early attempts at fire starting proved difficult to say the least. Photo R. Anderson

Early attempts at fire starting proved difficult to say the least.
Photo R. Anderson

I mean some people would say that guys are born to grill from the womb with generations of instincts rattling around through them dating back to the first fire discovering cave men.

Others might think that a man of my age who had never actually harnessed those generations of innate fire cooking skills is not really living up to their full manly potential.

It is hard to say how it is that I got so far in life without ever being head griller. There were just always others around who would do the cooking.

And of course apartment living did not always make for the best open flame situations so I did get to be quite good at George Foreman Grill cooking.

In the spirit of full disclosure I had cooked over an open flame before with Smores and campfire hot dogs but I am talking about never firing up the grill and having an honest to goodness All American barbecue where it is man versus grill.

Of course as is often the case one needs to be careful what they wish for.

While burgers, steaks and other red meat delights tend to be the go to carnivorous treats for cooking over open flame, my grilling debut experience included jumbo shrimp and fish fillets.

As they say about what to do when in Rome, it seemed more fitting for seafood grilling when overlooking a pool and hearing the sounds of the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

Knowing that the shrimp were likely so fresh that they were still swimming and doing what shrimp do a day ago was also a bonus to the entree choice.

Through trial and errors, and the right charcoal, fire finally arrived. Photo R. Anderson

Through trial and errors, and the right charcoal, fire finally arrived.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, fresh seafood can be way less forgiving on a grill than say a huge hunk of meat.

So I knew that my seafood would require constant supervision and a keen eye to avoid it getting too rubbery or over cooked.

What I did not know was how difficult it would be to get the all-important cooking flame going at the start of the process.

While I had witnessed many a time on the grill this was my first attempt at actually starting the fire making process.

So armed with charcoal and an Aim in Flame I went down to the grill to get the fire started.

Now in my mind I pictured a quick shot of the Aim in Flame followed by glorious full spreading fire that would be the start of the process.

I have never had much luck with using paper matches. Not sure why that is but they always seem to give me fits. So with the Aim in Flame I knew the spark to start the fire would likely not be an issue.

Unfortunately the charcoal I had to work with was the non-presoaked kind so it involved lighter fluid as well as spark.

After numerous attempts to get the full range of charcoal burning and applying copious amounts of lighter fluid I just could not get the full glorious flame that I had seen in my previous observations of grilling.

Fish on the grill waiting for the shrimp to join it. Photo R. Anderson

Fish on the grill waiting for the shrimp to join it.
Photo R. Anderson

After switching to presoaked charcoal though I was able to get the flame going and was one step closer to putting the food on the cooking surface.

Once the charcoal turned a lovely shade of gray it was time to foil up the cooking surface and place the Old Bay seasoned food upon it.

Just for the record Old Bay goes great on pretty much everything.

Of course I forgot another crucial step in the cooking delicate seafood on foil approach and that was the use of non-stick cooking spray.

Growing up I did not see a lot of non-stick cooking spray used so it did not really dawn on me that things could stick.

So, some of the seafood stuck to the foil and some of it did not.

Then when it came time to flip the items over for even cooking it became clear to me that I was missing the crucial grilling tongs and other utensils that are often found where grilling is taking place.

So instead of longer tongs with insulated handles I was forced to use regular all metal kitchen tongs which had me closer to the fire than I would have liked.  Also since the tongs were completely metal they tended to get really hot while I was trying free the stuck fish from the foil’s grasp to flip it.

Still, despite the various challenges I was able to cook the fish and seafood for just the right amount of time and had a lovely dinner that was grilled to perfection.

Once I finished the dinner I will admit to having a Tim Allen Tool Time moment where I may or may not have let out a vocal manly grunt to commemorate my success.

So I am sure that I will grill again and grill often now that I have discovered how easy it can be. Of course the right charcoal and non-stick surfaces don’t hurt in making it easier.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to find something else to cook over fire.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

 

Decades Later I Finally Explore Mote

Sarasota, Florida is home to many fine institutions.  It is home to among other things the Ringling Museum, The Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Facility and Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium.

Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in Sarasota, FL. is well worth visiting. Photo R. Anderson

Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in Sarasota, FL. is well worth visiting.
Photo R. Anderson

After decades of trying I can now cross off the second of the items on my things to do whilst in Sarasota wish list as I finally took the plunge and explored Mote Aquarium. Perhaps next time I am there I will tackle the Ringling experience in addition to another trip to the Orioles Spring Training stadium.

As mentioned before my grandparents lived in the Bradenton/Sarasota area for about three decades so visits to that part of Florida were quite frequent when I was growing up.

Still, despite that frequency of visitation it wasn’t until last week, after the grandparents were no longer there, that I was able to see the great little aquarium that they were always talking about taking me to.

That is not to say that visits with the grandparents weren’t full of other fun activities, it is just that to build up the excitement of an aquarium year after year without delivering on the visit can be a little upsetting for a small child. Of course as mentioned before I maintained my own home aquarium with items my grandparents and I caught in the Gulf so I guess in a way I had my own mini Mote.

A sting ray makes the rounds at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

A sting ray makes the rounds at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

But in terms of promising to take me to the real Mote the exchange usually went something along the lines of, “look Ryan there is Mote Aquarium. We will take you there sometime.”

Of course that statement was usually uttered as we were driving to Big Olaf’s in St. Armand’s Circle to get ice cream so my mind soon switched from seeing swimming fish to eating a homemade waffle cone and pistachio ice cream.

Still, on my recent trip back to the coast of my grandparents I was able to see the swimming fish and have my Big Olaf’s ice cream, too.

Mote Aquarium is relatively small by aquarium standards but it is just the right size for a quick day trip to see what lies beneath the surface of the waters of Florida.

Sea turtles like this one are one of several endangered and threatened species that can be seen at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

Sea turtles like this one are one of several endangered and threatened species that can be seen at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

Mote is also an active research facility and has made great breakthroughs in marine biology and species preservation. And through the aquarium they raise awareness and funds to continue that work.

Sea World to the north also does things for marine animal rehabilitation but few can argue that Sea World is about entertaining guests first and research second. The roller coaster free Mote seems to have the priorities in the right order.

Both institutions, and many others like them, serve a great need in marine preservation and the men and women dedicated to marine biology are to be commended for their work in protecting the undersea world and helping to ensure that it can be enjoyed for generations to come..

Mote allows visitors to see several species of fish as well as sea turtles and manatees. There is even a shark tank to allow visitors to watch the feeding of the predator of the deep.

Mote is home to a pair of manatees named Hugh and Buffet. Photo R. Anderson

Mote is home to a pair of manatees named Hugh and Buffet.
Photo R. Anderson

The manatee exhibit was my favorite part of the day. I have been a fan of manatees for about as long as I can remember. I even had a “Save the Manatee” license plate for years when I lived in Florida.

I have seen manatees in the wild before and I have seen them swimming in captivity but this was the first time I was able to see them swim from below.

Watching the graceful rolling and playfulness of these gentle creatures reminded me once more of the need to protect them as much as possible from the damage done by boat propellers and other factors that are leading to a decline in their numbers.

Watching them swim also made me think that those early sailors who mistook them for mermaids must really have been out in the sun too long.

Mote manatee Buffet and sea turtle pal go for a swim at Mote Aquarium. Photo R. Anderson

Mote manatee Buffet and sea turtle pal go for a swim at Mote Aquarium.
Photo R. Anderson

The aquarium also taught me that the Mollies that I had in my own home aquariums for years were actually native to some Florida waters.

I am not sure how I never knew that. I really thought guppies were the only aquarium fish found in the wild waters near my old stomping grounds.

So I guess it is true that one really does learn something new every day.

After leaving the aquarium it was time for a seafood dinner. I do not believe that the aquarium inspired the need to eat fish as I do not recall looking into the various tanks and saying, “Hmm that will be tasty later with some butter and Old Bay Seasoning on it.” But there is definitely a lot of fresh seafood to be found along the coast of Florida.

Of course not everything you find under the sea is cute and cuddly like Nemo. Photo R. Anderson

Of course not everything you find under the sea is cute and cuddly like Nemo.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course time will tell if the seafood remains as abundant in the years to come as the affects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are probably decades away from being fully realized.

I am hopefully optimistic that the seafood will remain as fresh and abundant in the decades to come as it is today.

Although my visit to Mote was decades in the making it was certainly worth the trip. If you do ever find yourself in Sarasota I highly recommend stopping in to see the various creatures of the sea.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a hankering for some homemade ice cream for some reason.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Sunrise, Sunset

Each day just like clockwork the sun rises and the sun sets.

Okay, technically the sun stays in the same spot and the earth just rotates around on its axis to give the appearance of setting and rising but it is nice to think of a rising and a setting sun as opposed to a spinning wildly earth whipping through the solar system.

Sunset off of Bradenton Beach, FL.  Photo R. Anderson

Sunset off of Bradenton Beach, FL.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course saying that the earth moved around the sun as opposed to the other way around was once cause for severe punishment as it went against the commonly held beliefs of the day.

But thanks to people like Copernicus it was finally determined that we earthlings are in fact moving through space across the solar system dragging our little buddy the moon around the sun.

There were of course the believers in a flat versus round earth as well but those theories were also debunked through science and exploration.

The sun standing still while the earth moves up to greet it. Photo R. Anderson

The sun standing still while the earth moves up to greet it.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite this lack of actual rising and setting of the sun, people tend to flock around to see the beginning and end of each day.

To help make that even easier to do the weather forecast each day includes a listing of a time for both sunrise and sunset.

Of course the listing of sunrise and sunset times tend to be geared more towards farmers and people who need to know how many hours of daylight they have to tend their field, but you don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate knowing when the sunrise and sunset will occur.

More setting sun. Photo R. Anderson

More setting sun as the tip appears to touch the water.
Photo R. Anderson

Truth be told I have seen way more sunsets than sunrises over the course of my life.

If memory serves I have actually seen sunsets on three continents and a few island nations here and there.

I have nothing against sunrises per se, it is just that I am usually either asleep or in the shower when the sun is doing its morning light show each day.

Of course, there are people who are the opposite and for them I do feel their pain for rising so early to be up before the sun.

On the days when I do see a sunrise it is certainly worth seeing but I certainly wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.

Sunsets on the other end are quite a different thing and during the spring and summer months I see the sunset daily on my way home as my commute has me pointed west each evening.

Getting lower still. Or is it the earth getting higher? Photo R. Anderson

Getting lower still. Or is it the earth getting higher?
Photo R. Anderson

Of course nothing quite compares to a sunset on the beach and during a recent week on the beaches of Manatee County, FL I was able to see many nice sunsets over the water.

And, take it from me sunsets are best observed over water if one has the option of where to view them.

I knew that there were people who enjoyed watching sunsets over water as I do and I have been on enough beaches through the years to see the people gathered, but my recent week on the water showed a sunset watching club like I had never seen before.

After spending the day battling the rays of the sun under the cover of sunscreen and umbrellas dozens upon dozens of people strolled to the waterline each night to watch the sun fall beneath the water.

The sun sinking further under the waves. Photo R. Anderson

The sun sinking further under the waves.
Photo R. Anderson

Some of these sunset worshipers bore the telltale pinkness of losing that day’s battle with the sun as they ventured to the shore for the evening viewing.

Perhaps it was sunscreen that wore off, or maybe it was from no sunscreen at all but the signs of what the sun can do to unprotected skin were everywhere along the shore.

The image of the beauty of the sunset paired up with the vicious burn and scent of aloe was quite the combination. It was almost a game of sun roulette with those not yet burned taunting the sun to try and get them another day.

Despite my best efforts of remaining free of the redness of the sun I bore two small marks on my arms from the sun’s rays pushing beyond the sunscreen barrier. The burns will heal and will likely not peel but they certainly do not take away from the beauty of the sunset.

The last bits of sun on a Florida day. Photo R. Anderson

The last bits of sun on a Florida day.
Photo R. Anderson

As the sun is setting the shore comes alive with various creatures of the deep coming to feed. It can also be a good time to look for seashells and also just to unwind from the day and get refreshed for the day to come.

So if you ever find yourself on a western facing beach around sunset by all means take in the show and watch the parade of people watching it along with you.

And of course if you are ever on an eastern facing beach and get the urge to watch a sunrise they are equally impressive.

And for all of those late sleepers and snooze button hitters out there who want to see a sunrise without actually getting up in the predawn hours you can always just take a video of a sunset and then play it backwards to get the full sunrise affect.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a sunset to catch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

There and Back Again with Some Minor Modifications

Across much of the country school is out for the summer. Or if it is not already out it will be so in the next week or so.

The end of school also marks the start of summer vacation for many families who will head towards the beaches on the Nation’s borders in search of sun and surf.

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.  Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.
Photo R. Anderson

For those like myself who grew up along the coast the drive to find summer sun and surf is a relatively short one.

Another benefit of being so close to the coast meant that summer vacation did not need to be a single week on the beach and could truly last all summer long.

As part of the summer long salute to summer, I would often spend time with my grandparents who lived on Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida which was about two hours away from where I lived.

Although the distance between Orlando and the island was short, there were worlds of differences as time seemed to slow down the closer to the coast I got.

My mom’s dad died when I was 5 so the only “grandfather” I had was my dad’s mom’s second husband, Ryland. So from the time I was five I did not have a biological grandfather per se but I did have a Ryland, and that was twice as good in many ways.

My grandfather Ryland Hall

My grandfather Ryland Hall.
Photo R. Anderson

Trips to see my grandparents would include fishing and shelling and if I was lucky a trip to Big Olaf’s to get homemade ice cream inside a waffle cone.

One summer I even created my own saltwater aquarium with hermit crabs, shrimp, mollusks and other creatures of the sea that I caught.

Whenever my grandparents would travel up to visit they would bring gallons of saltwater from the Gulf to keep my aquarium going.

It was years later in a pet store that I learned about making one’s own saltwater for aquariums. Still, I am glad that I had the gallons of real Gulf of Mexico water delivered to me.

The bottles always made me laugh since Ryland would write “non potable” on every spare side lest I think that the brownish water contained inside was good for drinking. I never had any desire to drink the water, and the markings were not necessary, but I never thought to tell him that and I am sure even if I did he would still have marked them anyway.

Ryland and Mom Mom lived on various parts of Anna Maria Island for around 30 years and while my visits to see them became harder and harder to accomplish after I moved to Texas I always tried to see them whenever I could.

When I would visit them after I moved to Texas I would wear the same UCF shirt. I don’t know if they ever caught on or thought that I didn’t have enough clothes but to me it was fun to have pictures of us together year after year and me wearing the same thing.

I last saw them and wore my photogenic UCF shirt in 2009. Ryland died about a year and a half after that visit and Mom Mom moved to an assisted living center near Orlando so they are no longer on the beach.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish. Photo R. Anderson.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish.
Photo R. Anderson.

Recently I had the opportunity to return to the beach of my youth for a week long vacation in a beach house.  I did not realize it at the time the house was booked but it is two blocks away from the last beach house that my grandparents had.

Driving in from the airport I was surprised at how little had changed since my last trip there. Of course with everything looking the same, my mind was tricked into thinking that I would see my grandparents as I always did when I came down there.

While the rationale part of me knew that they aren’t on the beach anymore, there was an emotional side that thought they were still around.

Years after they moved my grandparents' name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived. Photo R. Anderson

Years after they moved my grandparents’ name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived.
Photo R. Anderson

This mind playing tricks on me aspect came to the forefront one day when I was relaxing on the patio. A man walked up to tell me something about the trash being at the curb and for a moment I swore it was Ryland.

This is not to say that I am losing my mind but more to the fact that there are certain types of people that live on the beach and a metamorphosis occurs once that sun and water hit the retired folk. Whatever they were in their working days falls by the wayside and they become beach bums or fishers or numerous other things.

For Ryland the days were spent fishing and looking after beach rentals.  For all I know the house I rented may have even been one of the ones that he oversaw.

So my week at the beach included floods of memories of places we went and things that he showed me or told me. At the time he was saying the things it was usually chalked up to Ryland being Ryland but as I have gotten older I can see some of the wisdom in what he said. But of course some of the stuff really was just Ryland being Ryland.

Ryland did not want a funeral so none was held when he died. All he had asked was that people stop and think of him now and then.  I do think of him during my time back home as there are various memories that are triggered but the week at the beach opened the flood gates of memories.

And while I often wish that I had been granted the opportunity to know my other grandfather, Pop Pop, for as long as well, I am lucky to have had as much time as I did with Ryland. And for a week on the beach that he roamed for three decades I was once again close to him and seeing the sights that he saw and walking the docks where he taught a much younger version of me how to fish and how to fillet a fish while it was still squirming. And while I will most likely never have to fillet a still breathing fish, or properly dispose of the non edible portions of said fish, at least I know how to should the need ever arise. And remember if the water is brown it is probably a good rule of thumb that it is non potable.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some new memories to make.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Hurricane Week: In a World Where Trees Have Fallen and They Can’t Get Up

Editor’s Note: As the first week of hurricane season is upon us we at Triple B have decided to dedicate this week to the three phases of the storm, before it arrives, its arrival, and the aftermath following its departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Today let us turn our attention to what happens after the storm arrives.

Although it may seem to some that the worst is over once a hurricane makes landfall and moves away or rains itself out, that is not always the case.

In a best case scenario, one is left with some well watered grass and a few tree limbs down. In a worst case scenario however, one can be left with no power and in some case no home.

And as is the case with hurricanes and tornadoes alike, sometimes the line between the best case scenario and the worst case scenario is visible from each side.

Finding your boat after a hurricane is a good thing. Finding your boat on dry land however can be a bad thing.  Photo R. Anderson

Finding your boat after a hurricane is a good thing. Finding your boat on dry land however can be a bad thing.
Photo R. Anderson

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why certain homes are flattened and others a few feet away in some cases are spared.

That is just the unpredictability of weather and shows why everyone needs to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Solely hoping for the best with no preparation could leave one far from high and dry.

As mentioned before, Hurricane Ike was the closest I ever came to realizing the worst case scenario of a direct hit from a major hurricane.

Thankfully once the storm had passed and I returned home I found no damage and also had power and air conditioning.

A few towns up the road however my parents were not as lucky. While their home was completely structurally sound it had a forest of fallen tree limbs in the front and no power inside.

The power was out for about a week at my parents’ house.  Despite my invitations for them to come where there was power, they soldiered on in a nomadic tent fashion along with their neighbors until the lights were once again restored.

In case you are ever faced with a similar situation let us focus on some tips for what to do in a post hurricane world with no power.

The first step for restoring order after a storm is securing the property. This could include removing tree limbs or simply mending fences or placing tarps over holes in the roof. As storms can arrive one after the other it is crucial that one is as prepared as possible to avoid further damage from additional rain.  Calls to insurance adjusters will of course also need to be made during this phase.

Tree limbs are a common casualty of hurricanes and can leave quite a mess when they fall. Photo R. Anderson

Tree limbs are a common casualty of hurricanes and can leave quite a mess when they fall.
Photo R. Anderson

The next phase of storm recovery of course is to ensure that one has enough water and food to ensure proper hydration and caloric intake to accomplish and recover from the post storm cleanup.

Following Hurricane Ike there were several areas set up where residents could pick up cases of water and Military grade Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE).

Each day I would drive up from my comfortably air conditioned residence and drive a few towns over to visit my parents in their self-imposed tent city. Upon arrival I would check the progress of the cleanup efforts and then take my mom to the park down the road where the ice, water and food was being handed out by relief workers.

It really was quite the operation to drive thru, pop open your trunk and have supplies loaded and then be sent on your way.  While I do not wish a storm to come and put anyone in that position it was nice to see how calm the recovery can be.

Once back at my parents’ house it was usually time to crack open some MREs in the backyard tent.   Of course the first few days of meals consisted of neighbors grilling meat from their freezers as each level slowly defrosted. But once the meat was gone it was time for the MREs.

When faced with no power after a storm a supply of MRE rations can come in handy. Photo R. Anderson

When faced with no power after a storm a supply of MRE rations can come in handy.
Photo R. Anderson

Now for anyone unfamiliar with a MRE, it is set up to allow troops out in the field to have a hot meal despite being far away from their base. This is accomplished through a chemical reaction that heats up the food to near boiling point without the need for open flame or anything not included in the MRE bag.

Of course as a word of warning for anyone on a sodium restricted diet MREs contain about 200 percent of the recommended sodium intake. These meals are purposely sodium heavy to replenish the salt lost by troops marching throughout the day.

So as a rule if one is not doing massive amounts of physical exertion then a diet heavy in MREs would probably not be advised. It should also be noted that the chemical reaction that takes place in an MRE is banned on commercial airliners due to the potential explosive risk.

But during a post hurricane time of moving limbs MREs can be and very much are a lifesaver and one tries to not think of the fact that they are basically cooking with explosives; albeit low grade ones.

Beer companies also pitch in and send relief water after a storm. Photo R. Anderson

Beer companies also pitch in and send relief water after a storm.
Photo R. Anderson

Regarding the post storm cleanup it should be noted that there are out of state contractors who will enter an area hit by a storm and offer to help areas recover. While most of these outfits are well intended caution is certainly advised when dealing with out of state workers who do not have a brick and mortar office to bring any complaints to.

A good rule of thumb being if the price seems too good to be true and the bulk of it is required to be paid before any work is done, and the base of operations is the Motel 6, odds are it is not as good of a deal as it sounds like at first look.

Of course as I am writing this the first storm of the season, Andrea, has already made landfall in Florida as a tropical storm.

The arrival of Andrea during the first week of the Hurricane Season is a reminder to everyone along the coast to be vigilant in getting enough supplies and keeping an eye on the skies, or at least the local weather forecast.

Hurricane season is here and while the bulk of people will only have to deal with the before the storm phase, if at all, there will be a select few who experience all three phases of the storm this season.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering for some MRE’s for some odd reason. I wonder how long they stay good for?

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

 

Hurricane Week: Beware of Those Carpetbaggers From Atlanta

Editor’s Note: As the first week of hurricane season is upon us we at Triple B have decided to dedicate this week to the three phases of the storm, before it arrives, its arrival, and the aftermath following its departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Today let us turn our attention to what happens once the storm arrives.

During a hurricane there are two types of residents. Those who are riding the storm out in their homes and those that went elsewhere during the brunt of the storm.

As a rule of thumb I tend to ride out any storm lower than a category 3. Storms larger than that and I will be one of the first ones pointing my car to dry land.

For those who stay behind the roads can be hauntingly quiet with the exception of emergency vehicles and others who have to be out on the roads.  For the most part just prior to the arrival of the storm local authorities will urge residents to clear the roads and seek shelter.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

There is of course one group of out of towners that do not heed that warning since it was the storm that brought them to town in the first place.

I am of course talking about the national reporters from Atlanta.

Okay, so the reporters come from elsewhere as well but with CNN and the Weather Channel based in the Peach State of Georgia it is a fitting statement.

For almost as long as there have been television reporters, residents of areas bracing for the storm have dealt with the arrival of reporters from various news outlets hoping to ride out the storm and win an Emmy in the process. This relationship of course can put revenue in the pockets of local hotels but for the most part it amounts to a lot of wind blowing much like the storm itself.

The reporter battling the elements cliche is one that is played out whenever nature strikes. Perhaps no where is this shown in its silliest sense than when a hurricane is involved.

Reporters dressed in their best outer wear try to convey that the storm is bringing pounding winds, waves and of course rain.

Rain and wind are two things that are never in short supply during a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

Rain and wind are two things that are never in short supply during a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

Since television is a visual media it does not do to simply report from the dry comfort of the hurricane command center about the conditions outside.

Oh no, the reporters from parts local and far and wide go out in the elements to share just how powerful the storm is.

Of course the reporters while well meaning tend to turn it into a comedy bit when they do leave the safety of the hurricane command center. And I will admit to watching some of the continuing continuous coverage just to see the unintended comedy bits from the reporters.

To be clear I am not wishing damage to anyone’s person or property during a storm it is just that some reporters go way overboard in trying to sell the story and quite frankly it makes for very compelling television for all the wrong reasons.

Common missteps including inability to hear the report or losing that all important visual link have all been experienced through the years by reporters covering from the heart of the storm.

There are even the reporters who get knocked down by the wind gusts but as one-hit wonder Chumbawamba would say they get back up again.

Then there are the reporters who try just a little too hard to sell the story.  I forget which storm it was but there was a reporter covering the terrible flooding conditions here in Houston. The reporter appeared to be up to their waist in floodwater and valiantly doing their live shot.

The only problem was when the camera operator panned back to show the scope of flooding a man could be seen a few feet away from the reporter in ankle deep water. So that can only mean one of two things. Either the reporter was sitting down in the puddle to make it appear worse than it was or the man behind her was a giant in search of his beanstalk.

Fe fi fo fum I smell an over reaching reporter, hmm.

Reporter embellishing aside, the swarm of reporters can serve a good purpose for the residents who were smart enough to leave the area ahead of the storm.

Despite warnings to the stay out of the water and the risk of deadly rip currents hurricane enhanced waves are hard for many people to avoid. Photo R. Anderson

Despite warnings to the stay out of the water and the risk of deadly rip currents hurricane enhanced waves are hard for many people to avoid.
Photo R. Anderson

A few years back during Hurricane Ike my parents were able to see their house on national television a day after landfall.

Normally one would not want to see their house on television since reporters rarely are there just to say hello. But in this case the sight of their home seemingly in one piece gave them peace in knowing that aside from some downed trees chances were it was not as bad as they had feared it could have been.

Conversely my house did not have a news crew drive by it so I had to wait until I got back home to see if it had survived the worst of the floodwater and the wind.

Another group aside from reporters that makes a beeline for the shore as the storm is hitting are of course the surfers. Big storms bring epic waves and when the waves are 10-12 feet above normal it makes for a temptation that is hard for some to resist.

Sadly there are often deaths related to people underestimating the power of the waves in the storm. It is not uncommon to hear reports of people drowning or getting swept away by the waves while standing on a dock.

So enjoy the waves from afar and enjoy the pratfalls of the out of town reporters from the dry comfort of one’s home. Hurricanes can be very powerful and they can be very deadly. It is crucial to keep that in mind and never tempt the belly of the storm.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about waves has me curious to check tomorrow’s surf reports. Cowabunga dudes.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Hurricane Week: The Rain Bands are Coming the Rain Bands are Coming

Editor’s Note: As the first week of hurricane season is upon us we at Triple B have decided to dedicate this week to the three phases of the storm, before it arrives, its arrival, and the aftermath following its departure. While this information is mostly geared to residents of coastal states in the path of storms we encourage all of our readers to learn about the three phases of the storm. Today let us turn our attention to what to do before the storm arrives.

As I have mentioned before I would much rather face a hurricane than a tornado any day of the week.

That is not to say that I want to experience either. But given the choice of the two, hurricanes are preferred in that they allow more time to prepare people and property prior to their arrival.

The time to prepare for a hurricane is long before the first rain bands hit. Photo R. Anderson

The time to prepare for a hurricane is long before the first rain bands hit.
Photo R. Anderson

For the most part residents in the path of a storm will know days in advance of the likelihood of their being impacted by the storm through computer modeling and tracking.

It should be noted that the tracking models from various agencies around the world do not always agree on the path of the storm which leads to models showing a variety of impact zones.

These impact zones are than tabulated to create a cone of uncertainty where the center of the storm is most likely to arrive. Of course depending on the size of the storm, impacts can be felt for hundreds of miles away from that landfall area where the eye touches dry land first.

Once a storm is predicted to hit a certain region the residents spring to action and buy up all of the water and other supplies that they can get their hands on.

Of course, one does not need to wait until a storm is barreling towards them to get their supplies. In fact it is best to get the Hurricane kits made early in the season so that in the event that a storm if approaching time can be used for securing property and planning an evacuation from the path of the storm as needed.

So what should a good hurricane kit include?

While each kit can be tailored to the person making it a general list of items to include in a hurricane kit includes a first aid kit, water, supplies, documents, clothing, and of course food. The general rule is that the kit should allow enough supplies to last three days.

Let’s look a little more into each of the areas, shall we?

The American Red Cross recommends a first aid kit for both home and car ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

The American Red Cross recommends a first aid kit for both home and car ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

First Aid Kit: A first aid kit for both car and home is a good rule of thumb. The kits should include prescriptions, band-aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, bandages, gauze, tape, pain relievers, antihistamines, latex gloves, safety pins, tweezers, aspirin, antacids, a towel, Calamine lotion for insect bites, insect repellent, tissues, and sunscreen. As water is a major component of Hurricanes the kits should be placed in water proof containers to protect them.

Water: The American Red Cross and other agencies recommended having one gallon of water per person per day. Half of the water is used for drinking with the rest being available for hygiene.

Supplies and Tools: A fully charged cell phone and flashlight will be useful in the event of electricity going out. Having a car charger for the cell phone is also worth packing. A battery powered radio with plenty of spare batteries is also a good thing to have in order to hear updates and instructions that may come across the airwaves.

Plenty of flashlights and batteries can shed light on dark days after a storm knocks out power. Photo R. Anderson

Plenty of flashlights and batteries can shed light on dark days after a storm knocks out power.
Photo R. Anderson

Do not assume that there will be power and cable service. It is best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  Plastic utensils, paper plates, plastic bags and napkins and antibacterial wipes are also important.

Documents: Passports, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, deeds, insurance papers, wills, and other important paper work should be placed in water prove containers as well and ready to grab quickly in the event of an evacuation.

Clothing: Assuming one might not be able to bathe for a few days change of clothes can be very important to help feel less overwhelmed.  In addition to the normal items one might wear since rain will likely be a factor it is good to also pack waterproof outer clothing and boots to avoid that soaked to the bone feeling.

Non perishable food like the items pictured are crucial to have after a hurricane hits. Photo R. Anderson

Non perishable food like the items pictured are crucial to have after a hurricane hits.
Photo R. Anderson

Food: Be sure to stock up on non-perishable foods. Some of the best items to consider are energy/protein bars, crackers, peanut butter, nuts, canned fruit and vegetables, canned tuna/chicken, cereal, dried fruit, and even baby food. And of course even though many cans offer a convenient pop top opening don’t forget a manual can opener.

This is of course in no means a complete list of items to grab before the storm but it is certainly a good starting point for anyone in the path of a storm to keep in mind.

I have ridden out storms where the electricity didn’t flicker once and I have had storms where I lost power so no storm is exactly alike and all regions are not affected the same way. I do know that when the power is out it is definitely not the time to go try to find batteries at the store.

Proper preparation prior to the storm definitely makes riding out the storm more comfortable.  At least as comfortable as it can be.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about canned goods has me tasting some canned ravioli. I just hope I remember to save some cans for the supply kit.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

 

North Winds Blow! South Winds Blow! Typhoons… Hurricanes… Earthquakes! SMOG!

Tomorrow, June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

I realize for many people not living near the coast this fact does not hold much water. But, for those people near the shore tomorrow marks the start of a six-month period of keeping their eyes on the skies and hoping for another year free from the devastation that a direct hit by a hurricane can cause.

When I lived in Florida I rode out many hurricanes from about 30 miles inland. That central location meant that by the time the storm reached me it was normally just a wind and rain maker.

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

The highlight of those storms being a water spout that picked up a school of catfish and deposited them in my parents’ yard.  I can still picture my mom running around trying to save all of the fish that were very much out of water.

Since leaving Florida I have had a few vacations cut short due to the pending arrival of storms that I have had to outrun in my car to reach the safety of home and avoid getting stuck. To that end I try to avoid travel during the peak of hurricane season now to minimize the chances of having a trip washed out.

Upon moving to Texas I came a little closer to the shore through my proximity to Galveston Bay. While still around 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico the Bay acts as a direct line for storm surge as demonstrated during Hurricane Ike.

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

In the little over a decade that I have lived in Texas I have evacuated ahead of the storm twice. The first time included a 17 hour drive to Irving (a drive that normally would take five hours when not ensnared in bumper to bumper traffic) and a more reasonable seven hour drive to Gulfport, Mississippi during the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike marked the closet I ever came to losing everything to a hurricane. Ike made landfall right at the mouth of the Bay which allowed the floodwater and storm surge to push well inland.  When I returned back home I realized that the damaging floodwater stopped a mere two miles from my house.

While waiting out the storm in Gulfport I was glued to the television set watching the coverage of the pending storm. Ironically by evacuating east for the storm I actually experienced some of the outer bands of Ike in Gulfport before it made landfall in Texas.

Returning back home was like driving through a foreign land. There were still familiar sites but the parts of buildings strewn everywhere made it clear just how powerful the storm was.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

One particular comment from the reporters on the seen was the proclamation that the Galveston Hooter’s restaurant was gone.

Truth be told, the Hooter’s was one of many buildings perched on stilts above the water that were picked up and tossed onto the seawall like Tinker Toys. But for whatever reason the reporter on the scene felt that the most prudent way to help the viewers at home understand the scope of the damage was to focus on the loss of the Hooter’s.  The singling out of the Hooter’s made me laugh for some reason which may have just been a coping mechanism since I did not know what I would be coming home to.

To this day when I am driving along the seawall I will stop at the spot where the Hooter’s once stood and in my best Anderson Cooper voice will proclaim that the Hooter’s is gone.

Much like the Hooter's restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter's has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore. Photo R. Anderson

Much like the Hooter’s restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter’s has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

After Ike the area around me rebuilt and for the most part there are few signs of the furry of the storm.

There are still pockets that have not come back and individuals still dealing with the loss but by and large a first time visitor to Galveston would not really be able to tell that a storm had flooded so much of the island.

The same is true in other places that have had storms hit. After the water recedes the cleanup begins and lives are slowly put back together.

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. Photo R. Anderson

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier.
Photo R. Anderson

With the exception of Super Storm Sandy it has been a few years since a storm of the major category has made landfall in the United States. Here’s to hoping for another year where the big storms stay away.

But if a storm does head this way this year I think I will most likely ride it out.  It is not that I am being brave or foolish for that matter it is just that after seeing the worst that a storm can do from afar I would rather be up close and relatively safe than battling the thousands of people on the road heading north.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to check my hurricane supplies.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson