Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Bucket List Item Fulfilled - Detroit Race Day

Race day morning! I woke up before my alarm, and then ate my breakfast of Cheerios and banana while checking the weather, emails, and browsing Facebook. My plan was to leave my room just before 7:00 AM for the short walk to the start line. The race started at 7:00 but I was in the very last corral, Corral N, and knew there'd be a long wait. I had time to to duck into a portapotty (no lines!) before squeezing into my corral by 7:10 AM for the wait.

It was still dark when our corral finally crossed the start line just a little after 7:20 AM. As we neared the mile 1 marker, we could just make out the giant Ambassador Bridge ahead of us, its lights glistening in the lightening sky. Oh, wow!! It really did look enormous! Our race route wound under the bridge and then around in a spiral as the ramp began to steepen. Here there were a large number of border patrol officers standing in a line across our running lanes and mingling amidst the stream of runners checking for bibs and looking for possible disallowed runners as they periodically checked sheets of paper in their hands.

They had the two right lanes open to us runners and had barricaded one of the two lanes in the opposite direction, leaving just one lane open for cars. As a result of this, the line of cars waiting to cross the bridge stretched back the entire length of the bridge ramp as they waited for the pilot vehicle to return from the other direction. We runners were almost off the bridge at the other end when the pilot vehicle finally returned, bringing those waiting cars with them.

There were numerous race volunteers cheering us on along the bridge span and near the bottom in Canada. A race announcer was chatting non-stop as we came down the bridge toward the toll booths, and he was absolutely hilarious, warning us of the "horrors" of the tunnel ahead of us. There was a huge bank of portapotties just after we passed through the bank of toll booths so I took advantage of that.

The elephants - mom and two babies - in Windsor Sculpture Park, along
the Detroit River in Windsor ON. Photos come from Windsor Sculpture Park
website. link here -----> City of Windsor
From here, we followed along the base of the bridge until we got to the river edge, then ran about 1.5 miles along the river on the Windsor, ON side. There were a good number of spectators in Windsor, cheering us on. The views along Riverside Drive were beautiful! All gorgeous landscaped park with lots of statues and artwork, and a really great view of the Detroit skyline across the river. At one point along the river, there was a gorgeous life-size statue of an elephant with two infant elephants following her. The comment made by that announcer suddenly made sense! He told us to watch out for elephants in the tunnel! Fun!

It seemed like no time at all before we were turning right, away from the river, and I knew we were headed for the entrance to the Windsor Tunnel. As we passed through the empty customs booth lanes, several agents were standing there cheering us on and telling us to have fun in the tunnel.

I must admit it was a lot of fun running through that tunnel. Others who had done this race before complained about it being hot and smelly, but that definitely was not the case at all. First of all, traffic was halted so there were no vehicles passing through. We had the tunnel all to ourselves. It was very well ventilated as I discovered quickly. I ran along the left wall, near the curb and I could feel large volume of cool fresh air coming out of the vents that were down near the curbs on either side of the tunnel.
photo courtesy of running friend Patty

I wish I was carrying my smartphone because at the mid point, there were Canadian and American flags on the wall to mark the national border. I "borrowed" a running friend's photo of this to share at my blog.

We popped out of the tunnel on the Detroit side at mile 8. Now just 5 more miles to go! The route took us back toward the bridge in order to go through Corktown, but my thought at seeing that bridge looming ahead of us was, "Oh dear Lord, don't let this be an episode of Groundhog Day!"

Photo from Google Maps

Through Corktown on 18th Street, we passed a really neat old fire station with a granite plaque dating it to 1897. Then we turned right onto Bagley and back into the downtown area. Just a couple more miles to go and I'd be done! Lots of spectators as we passed through town and then I was turning right onto Fort Street and just a few blocks away from the finish line!

Finisher medal

I collected my finisher medal, my bag full of snacks and treats (I love it when races do this!) and then worked my way out of the finisher chute and found my way down toward  Congress Street and then Fort Street toward my hotel.

Done! And a bucket list item checked off! I snacked on some of the items in my race bag then got cleaned up and headed for Renaissance Center to have a late lunch at Granite City Food & Brewery. This really hit the spot! I had lunch off their special Oktoberfest menu....a plate of sausage trio, sauerkraut, and German red cabbage, washed down with a special Oktoberfest pint of beer.

That done, I headed to the Starbucks nearby, got myself another of those maple pecan lattes, and then headed back to my hotel, fully satiated and on my way to getting fully caffeinated. As I passed through the hotel lobby, I grabbed a bottle of beer at the lobby bar to bring up to my room for later. But of course, by 7:00 PM or so, I was hungry again, so I went downstairs and had a light dinner of chicken fingers and fries in the lobby bistro area. And a beer.

I was still experiencing that post-race afterglow that I get when I've done a particularly special race. It can be special because it was hard (Rome marathon), or because it was a gorgeous route (Vancouver) or because it was unique (this Detroit race). Now I could start gathering my things up and getting them packed, hoping I had enough room for two new long-sleeve running shirts (the race shirt and the nice logo shirt I bought at the expo).

Tomorrow I'll check out of the hotel, take an Uber to the airport and then be home well before dinner. Next trip will be to Las Cruces to run Day of the Dead Half Marathon and attend our annual 50 States running club banquet. I'll receive my 100 Half Marathons Award at that banquet.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Bucket List Item Fulfilled - Detroit Day 2

Cheerios, coffee and a banana in my room, but what I really wanted was a Starbucks! So I reluctantly got showered and dressed and walked the sky bridge to Renaissance Center to get my first Starbucks of the trip.
Horace Dodge fountain in Hart Plaza, overlooked the
Detroit River and Windsor Canada beyond.

The day was overcast but with comfortable temps as I headed out on foot to visit some of the sites in this immediate downtown area of Detroit. Hart Plaza is right next to Renaissance Center so I took a stroll through this very large riverfront park, stopping along the way to look at some of the artwork and historic markers in the park. The unusual Horace Dodge fountain sits right in the middle of the park, sort of an anchor to the wheel-and-spoke design of the park. There's a large outdoor amphitheater in the park and this large monument dedicated to Michigan Labor Legacy.

Rather cool monument. Viewed head on, it frames the plaza below.

In the middle of the median on Jefferson Ave, facing Hart Plaza and the river, is this odd monument to Joe Lewis.

Joe Lewis Memorial Monument
In continued walking on Jefferson Ave, toward Cobo Center, and came to the Spirit of Detroit monument in front of the Municipal Building. What's interesting is that none of the monuments in this area of downtown are old. They all seem to date from the second half of the 20th century.

Spirit of Detroit

There doesn't seem to much "old" remaining in downtown. But I did find this very nice block of gorgeous and lovingly preserved old commercial buildings tucked in among the much newer glass and concrete buildings on Woodward Ave. One can almost imagine there might have been a milliner shop or barber or shoe shop in these store fronts.

I continued on Woodward toward the beautiful art deco Guardian Building, what was at one time the tallest skyscraper in Detroit and a real gem! It breaks my heart though to see that someone thought it would be a good idea to punch a hole in her side to connect her to a modern skyscraper with a sky bridge.

The Guardian Building
I entered through the main door on Congress Street and was immediately treated to an over-the-top art deco foyer and lobby with pristine and colorful art deco artwork on the walls, the ceilings, the lettering and numbering. Wow!!!

Entrance plaque - love the art deco font

Vaulted ceiling in foyer

View from inside front door, looking across lobby toward the stairs
to the main hall

Main hall of the building
Well, look! There's a Starbucks right across the street! Imagine that! This time I got a small maple pecan latte to sip as I continued my stroll through downtown.

Another runner in our group made plans to meet up at a restaurant in Greektown and was going to text me with the actual location once she got there. I never got that text and it was now past 1:00 PM so I walked over there, cruised Monroe St, which is the main street of Greektown, looking for a good potential lunch place and settled on New Parthenon restaurant. It wasn't crowded, had a simple menu which included Gyro sandwiches, so I settled into my booth and placed my order.

Soon after, I received a text saying they were on their way, going to the pizza place that happened to be right next door. Good. I could join them after I finished. Just as I was paying my check, I received another text saying they were still at the expo, having run into some other members of our club, and wouldn't be coming. Oh well, glad I didn't wait for them before eating!

Heading back to the hotel, I got a good view of the Renaissance Center and noticed she was lit up in pink and had a pink breast cancer ribbon displayed on the digital screen. Very cool!

Renaissance Center, with pink neon lights across the
top of the towers and a breast cancer ribbon on the display
I walked back across the sky bridge to the Renaissance Center and went down to the food court where I'd learned there was a Subway sandwich shop. This always ends up being my perfect go-to dinner the night before a race. So I ordered a sandwich, some chips and a cookie and brought it all back to my room. Passing through the lobby, I picked up a bottle of beer, too. My dinner that night! And I still had those baklava squares waiting for me, too!

Just as I was stowing my food and beer, I received a text from another fellow runner, one who'd come to Houston last year to do the Austin marathon with me. I knew he was coming and had been watching his Facebook posts all day, as he made his way through airports to get to Detroit. His text said that he was heading into town from the airport. We exchanged texts to confirm he was going straight to the expo and that I might just walk on over there and meet up with him. After all, I still wanted that cute running top that I looked at but didn't buy yesterday!

Running friend Jim.
And then more runners we know showed up! So glad I walked back over to the expo. I was feeling a little miffed at the other group that blew off lunch earlier today.

I laid out all of my things for race day morning, then settled onto the comfy sofa with my sandwich and my beer and watched college football on TV.

Tomorrow: Race Day! I was excited to finally be doing this race!!

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Bucket List Item Fulfilled - First Day in Detroit

Over the years, I've accumulated a very, very short list of races to do before I get too old. The list has always been very short, because, well...I've discovered more races along the way and completed them before they even got onto my bucket list. But some races have stayed in that bucket for a variety of reasons, the biggest being scheduling.

So there sit those bucket list races... Just a small handful of them until the race and my calendar could mesh. Now that my 50 States challenge is complete, it's getting easier to reach into that bucket and put one of those races onto my calendar. One giant bucket list item that I did manage to fulfill after many years was the Rome Marathon back in April 2016. It took a while because it required that I get back into full marathon training, and run a couple of full marathons in the months leading up to Rome to reassure myself that I could do it.

Then, in early 2017, registration opened for one of those bucket list half marathons, one that kept floating near the top of that short list but never making it onto my calendar, until now: the Detroit Free Press International Marathon/Half Marathon. What makes this one so special is the fact that it starts and finishes in Detroit but runs across the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor ON, Canada, spends a few miles over there, then runs back through the Windsor Tunnel to get back into Detroit. Definitely a very large COOL! factor to this race! was going to be their 40th running of this race!

My race registration completed, I began researching hotels that would be an easy walk to the start/finish line, to the expo at Cobo center, and to lots of great things to see and do and eat while there. Initially, I settled on the Crown Plaza hotel, but as travel dates drew near, I began to second-guess that choice, based on mediocre to poor reviews on Travel Advisor. Looking again, I discovered the Courtyard by Marriott hotel, just a couple of blocks further away from the start/finish, saw their good reviews, and checked to make sure they had rooms available. It was, after all, just a couple of weeks away from race day, but surprisingly I got a nice room and - even better - will get Marriott points as a Rewards Elite member.  It was going to be a much better choice as it turns out, being attached by skyway to the Renaissance Center, where there were restaurants, food court, and a Starbucks.  Whew! That worked out well! Glad that I took a second look at my travel plans!

The weather forecasts for Detroit were a moving target so packing was difficult!  The early morning temps for race day were all over the place, changing daily. So I said to heck with it and packed for all contingencies: capris and long sleeve shirt, shorts and short sleeve shirt, a lightweight running jacket. Crazy to have to pack so much, but better to be safe than sorry!

The flight was easy, a first class seat in an Embraer jet, and we actually arrived 10 minutes early. I grabbed a cab for the long (and expensive!) ride to the downtown hotel, got checked in, then walked to Cobo Center to attend the expo and get my race packet.

It was a really large expo with lots of vendors and plenty of other runners there to get their packet and shop. This expo, like so many others that I attend, forces the attendees to work their way through the exhibitor aisles, one aisle at a time - no short cuts - in order to get out of the hall. Grrrr! The place was mobbed since it was Friday evening and lots of after-work attendees were there. It took forever to fight my way down those aisles, getting stuck behind large groups that were strolling slowly, stopping, starting, turning, chatting. It was nearly impossible to get around these human roadblocks. [Sorry, but looky-loo slow walkers are one of my giant pet peeves!]

I stopped briefly to shop the official logo wear booth, since their clothing sponsor was New Balance, one of my favorite brands of running clothing. I found a really cute cowl neck long sleeve running top with little zippered side pocket but the lines at checkout were so long that I finally gave up and put the top back on the rack. More later on that cute top.

I walked back to the hotel, hungry for some dinner. It was 7 PM and I hadn't eaten since the light lunch provided us on the airplane. I thought I might take the sky bridge over to the Renaissance Center, see what was there for lunch, and passed a Chinese takeout restaurant on the way. That will work!! I ordered Szechuan Chicken and fried rice to go, then on the way back to the hotel, passed a little convenience/liquor store that had fresh fruit, so bought a couple of bananas and then noticed the big pan of homemade baklava and bought a couple of squares as a treat for later. Yumm!

Back to my room, picked up a beer to go from the little bar in the lobby, and then dinner in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. And did I say what a fabulously nice room this was? Big, comfortable room, king bed, nice sofa with little moveable table to eat off of, and mini fridge to hold any leftovers. I have come to discover these Courtyard Marriott hotels in the last few years and how nicely furnished and appointed they are, how convenient their little bistro is for grabbing lunch or dinner and a drink with little fuss.

Tomorrow: Explore Detroit, hopefully meet up with some running friends.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quick Trip to Philadelphia

It may have been a quick trip, but it was one I'd planned many months ago and was really looking forward to. I'd been to Philadelphia many years ago on business, but had no time while there to see the sights. So this trip I was determined to cram as much as possible into the limited time I had while there.

I registered for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon and then booked my hotel room at the Marriott Courtyard downtown. It was a great location, a compromise in distance between the race start/finish line and the historic Independence Mall area. It was just an easy 2-block walk to the convention center and just a block away from the Reading Terminal Mall with it's iconic and historic food market. Oh, my! I could not wait!

Originally my flight was scheduled to leave Houston at 10:30 AM on Friday, which would get me into Philly early afternoon with plenty of time to get my race packet and maybe do a bit of sightseeing before dinner. But as always seems to happen when I book my airfare too far ahead of the trip, the itinerary changed and my flight was now scheduled for a 1:00 PM departure. Yikes! This was going to be cutting it very close. It's a 3 hour flight, and then there's that time zone change, plus the cab ride from the airport in evening rush hour traffic. The race expo closes at 7:00 PM, so not a lot of wiggle room in case of flight delays or traffic problems.

Philadelphia City Hall, right across the street from the hotel

And sure enough, though the flight was on time, even a bit early, the traffic getting from the airport to downtown was a parking lot on the freeway. The cabbie got off the freeway at the next exit and made his way to the downtown area on all surface streets. I didn't least we were moving. And it was actually scenic and interesting, riding through some older row house neighborhoods with their little corner grocery markets and storefront businesses.


Packet pickup

He got me to my hotel just a little after 6 PM and I'd already checked in to the hotel using the Marriott app on my phone, so I could quickly get my room key, get up to my room to drop my bags, and then boogie on over to the convention center to get my race packet and even do a bit of browsing before it closed. I really don't like cutting things that close, but sometimes life is out of our control.

Back at the hotel, I grabbed a mediocre sandwich and beer at the hotel restaurant for a very late dinner, then bought a container of strawberries and a cappuccino at the Starbucks in the hotel to bring back to my room. I laid out my running things for the 5K the next morning, set my smartphone alarm, and sprawled on the bed to watch TV. I was tired, more tired than I realized, and the bed felt wonderful.

Philosophical Society Hall
With a start, I bolted awake the next morning, realizing that I'd overslept and had forgotten to change my phone's volume from vibrate. Well darn! It was 6:45 AM, the 5K race starts at 7:00 AM, and it's about a mile walk away from the hotel. This race was going to start without me!  Well at least I had strawberries to eat with my Cheerios! I made a cup of coffee in the room and surfed my mail and Facebook while feeling sorry for myself for missing the race. But only for a little while, because I really wanted to get dressed and get over to the Independence Mall area before it got too crowded.

Commodore Barry, founder of the U.S. Navy

It was a beautiful morning and an easy 1/2 mile walk and I arrived at the National Constitution Center at 9:30 AM, just as they opened. I bought my ticket and then browsed the displays and gift shop a bit while I waited for the 10 AM performance in their theater. It was an interesting one-man monologue with visual effects, recounting the history leading up to the Bill of Rights and the constitution.
Independence Mall

That done, I walked down the Mall toward the visitor center to get my entrance ticket for Independence Hall. They're free, but are controlled, with timed tours given by the National Park Service. My ticket was for 12:15, so I had an hour to kill. On the way to Independence Hall is the pavilion that holds the liberty bell. I thought I might see that, until I saw the long line snaking through a Disney-like maze and then spilling out on the sidewalk for another 50 yards. No thanks!

I wandered the few small blocks that surround the mall and Independence Hall and took photos of some of the really old and historic buildings, like Library Hall and Philosophical Hall. But it was still too early for the Independence hall guided tour, so I headed back to the Visitor center where there was a little snack bar and got myself a snack of popcorn and a bottle of water and sat for a bit to kill time.

Independence Hall

Back of Independence Hall

The Independence Hall ticket said to arrive 1/2 hour before, so I got over there at 11:45. They were just letting the 11:45 group into the hall, and staging the 12:00 group into the cordoned off area. The park ranger noted the small handful of us who were there early for our 12:15 tour, and when it got closer to 12:00, and he had room for a few more folks, he let us in.

The judicial room with judge bench and jury box

We were ushered into a room adjacent to the hall itself, and given a lecture about the history of the building. We were then herded out that building and into the main Hall. On the right, was the judicial hall, and the guide told us about the history of this room, events that happened here, and about the furnishings (none original but all of that era) and decor (some original). Then we moved across the main center hall to "the room," the room where history was made and our nation was born! It was very inspiring to actually be in the room. The lecture was very interesting and informative, with lots of detail and interesting tidbits.

This is it! The room where our founding fathers hammered out a new nation

The tour finished, and with hunger overtaking my desire to perhaps see more museums in this Mall area, I started back toward my hotel, stopping at a Subway shop to pick up a sandwich to bring back to my room.

That afternoon I decided to walk back over to the convention center and take another spin through the race expo, buy one of the long-sleeve Brooks shirts in the official RnR merchandise area and spend a little more time browsing the vendors.

Then it was time to get back to the hotel, modify what I'd laid out for the 5K race with things I'd need for the half marathon, and start hydrating. Late that afternoon I walked down to Maggiano's to order take-out dinner - meatball lasagna - and again returned to my room, and ate my dinner in front of the TV.

Race day morning!! The smartphone alarm worked this time....yay! But I awoke about 1/2 earlier and used that time to eat my breakfast of Cheerios and strawberries, sip some water and check my emails before getting up.

The walk to the start line, though long, was pleasant as I joined the throng of other runners heading in the same direction. This particular race series uses a protracted system of corrals and waves so I knew that the race would have started even before I got to my assigned corral. I was about halfway to the start line when the first corral of runners zoomed past me in the other direction. I took my time getting there, found a bank of portapotties with no line and took advantage, then worked my way down the line of corrals to duck into one that was three or four corrals ahead of my assigned corral. This far back no one cares, and I knew this race attracts a lot of slower walkers, so I wanted to be ahead of them.

At the start line area, waiting to go

Behind me I could see the iconic Museum of Art with its bank of steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone in the film "Rocky." Our finish line will be right in front of those!

The race route was absolutely one of the best in the entire Rock 'n' Roll race series, second only to maybe Vancouver or Montreal. It ran down through the downtown area, past the gorgeous City Hall, then around Logan Square with its gorgeous Swann Memorial fountain then past the front of the Museum of Art. A few miles further and we turned right up a hill and past the old and spooky former Eastern Pennsylvania Penitentiary before retracing our steps back to Kelly Drive along the Schuykill River.

Race route, data captured with my Garmin GPS watch.

We ran right along the river, past rows of rowing club boat houses, past scullers out on the river until we got to mile 9, when we crossed the river on an old iron trestle bridge and then headed back toward downtown on the other side of the river.

Every mile was beautiful and scenic, especially the miles along the edge of the river! We had a nice cloud cover the whole way, giving us pleasant temps, though the humidity was very high. Every mile there was an energetic group of volunteers manning the water and sport drink station. The support was among the best of any RnR race I've ever done.

Close up of race route and finisher area

As we neared downtown, could see the skyline, we could also see the massive back side of the Museum of Art on the other side of the river.  It was a welcome site, because it meant I was getting close to the finish line.


Finish line!! I collected my finisher medal and passed through the finish chute, grabbing a bag of chips, a bottle of chocolate milk, and bottle of water along the way. Then I walked through the pretty park in front of the museum and found a curb to sit on, where I relaxed, ate my chips and chugged some water. Then I eased myself back up and walked back to the hotel. Sadly, the Starbucks espresso machine was down for maintenance (had I known, I would have taken a slight detour to get to the Starbucks on Market St). I returned to my room, drank my chocolate milk and nibbled on a granola bar.

Finisher medal

I had plans to join a friend for dinner later, but short-term I needed to find some food. So I showered and dressed and then walked the short distance to the Reading Terminal Mall, which is a giant indoor food market in the style of so many that are typical in the north and northwest. Aisle after aisle of baked goods, meats, cheeses, fish, sandwich counters. As soon as I stepped inside I came up on an oyster bar and immediately sat down and ordered a dozen mixed oysters on the half shell. Four different varieties from different regions along the east coast, and each tasted just a little different. So good and definitely hit the spot!

As I wandered the aisles, I came upon Old City Coffee and had the best macchiato I've ever had this side of the Atlantic. It was perfection! Served in a little paper cup, and with rich creamy coffee foam clinging to sides of the cup as I finished it. Oh my!! I picked up a salami on rye at a deli counter and then some sweets at a bakery counter - some macarones, whoopie pies, and a cupcake - and then brought it all back to my room. I ate the sandwich and the cupcake and saved the whoopie pies to bring with me to dinner with my friend that night.

Dinner with a friend after the race

My friend picked me up at the hotel and brought me to a pho noodle shop, a food I was definitely craving post-race. He is from Southeast Asia and I knew he'd know exactly where to bring me for a simple, family-oriented place with extensive menu and great food. It was perfect! And it was a very pleasant way to spend my last evening in Philly.

The next morning I packed my things and checked out, then took a cab to the airport for my flight home. It was a great trip with a very memorable half marathon and a chance to spend a little more time in this historic city.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Harvey Was No Gentleman

It's that time of year again. It's the time of year when all of us in the Southeastern United States start watching the radar maps of the Atlantic Ocean, dreading the appearance of those first storm systems spinning off of the Cape Verde Islands.

Then right on cue, a Tropical depression formed and began chugging its way west toward the Carribean, gaining strength and eventually "tropical storm" status as it crossed the Lesser Antilles. He lost some punch as he encountered land and wind shear, but began to strengthen as he crossed over the Yucatan peninsula, eventually reaching hurricane status once he entered the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche. The fact that it survived crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula and eventually became a category 4 hurricane caught many Texans by surprise.

Hurricane Harvey, photo image By NASA, NNVL 

Within 48 hours it made landfall just north of Corpus Christi, in Rockport TX. This gave very little lead time for residents to prepare. Then, to add insult to that injury, it lingered over S. Texas for hours and hours, feeding its rain bands with water from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping multiple feet of rain. There were no steering currents or weather systems to give it continued momentum over land, so there it sat, wandering around for a couple of days, inching northeast along the coast then turning north and moving toward Houston at an agonizingly slow pace of 2 mph!

Since I've lived in this house, I've survived one extreme rainmaker tropical storm (Allison) and one hurricane (Ike) before Harvey came ashore. Allison was an extreme rainmaker, also stalling and wandering over Houston for hours, dumping record-setting rain on the area. In my neighborhood we had street flooding and water levels that began to creep up onto lawns and driveways, but never really felt threatened with flooding homes.

But this most recent hurricane was worrisome because of its rain-making capabilities. I made a trip to the grocery store on Monday, just days before landfall, and stocked up on things I knew I'd appreciate having in case we lost power or were unable to get out for days after the storm.

We began to feel the outer rain bands on Friday, August 27.  Water was overflowing the curbs on our street and starting to creep up onto the lawns and driveways.

Friday afternoon, first day of outer storm bands

What I woke up to Saturday morning

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of sheets of rain rattling against my windows and the non-stop roars of thunder, while the lightning illuminated the darkness. I got out of bed and peered outside my sliding glass door. I saw some movement on my deck so ran back inside and grabbed a flashlight. Poor little raccoon guys! seeking shelter under my deck!

Raccoons crawling under my deck in the heavy rains.

Around noontime on Saturday I noticed that water was no longer flowing down the storm drain, which is right at the end of my driveway. I waded out into knee-deep water during a lull in the rain and, with a rake, pulled out a huge pile of pine branches and needles that had created a dam and was blocking the drain.

Giant wad of pine tree limbs and needles created a huge clot, blocking the drain
OG the cat was VERY concerned that I was out there in the rain, wading through knee deep water to clear that drain!

Example of the type of storm drain
we have in our neighborhood

We have vertical under-curb drains so this is really saying something about the force of the rain water flow and the debris it lifted off of neighbors' lawns and into the street! All day I watched the water advance, despite having cleared the drain, and worried all night.

Later that day on Saturday water was overtaking my front lawn and had crept up my driveway. I went back out to check the drain, but it was open and flowing, just not able to keep up with the sheer volume of rain coming down.

Water in my lawn on Saturday

On Sunday there was a lull in the heavy rain and by that afternoon we could see the water starting to recede down our lawns and driveways, and we could actually see sections of our cul-de-sac emerge from the water. But it didn't last long. It began to rain more heavily and the water levels began to creep back up as it rained heavily throughout the afternoon and evening.

Water had started to recede on Sunday afternoon. Line of debris left behind
marks the high water mark at that point

Water high point on Sunday, but not for long! It was even higher by Monday

Water high point on Sunday, but not for long!

By Monday afternoon my front lawn was nearly completely underwater. I was beginning to worry because it was starting to creep up toward the foundation plantings against my garage. That night, before going to bed, I planted a little US Flag at the high water mark on my driveway. Several times during the night, I peered out the front door to see if water was getting any higher, using that little flag as my reference point.

The highest point - Tuesday morning. Up to my garage foundation plantings
Water line Monday night was at the little flag. By Tuesday AM,
it had started to recede, ever-so-slowly

Thankfully, the water never rose any higher, and the rains began to let up. As Tuesday went on, the water receded little by little and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Water receded this much by Tuesday noon
By Tuesday afternoon, there was significant improvement as the rains stopped and the drains could start to catch up.

Tuesday afternoon

Tuesday afternoon - water is half way down the drive and lawn

Water at the curb - still almost to my knees

On Wednesday morning, finally, the sun came out and neighbors began to emerge into the streets to survey the damage. I tried to walk the 3-mile loop around the perimeter of our neighborhood, but could only get about 1/2 mile before high water in the street and on the lawns blocked my progress. Many neighbors with golf carts were cruising the streets to see if neighbors needed any help. We began to hear from other neighbors and to learn that other streets in our neighborhood weren't so lucky.

It was another full day before we could exit our neighborhood. The entrance and exit roads were still flooded as were surface roads immediately adjacent to our neighborhood. We could go neither east nor west on McHard Road.

Thursday morning - almost back to normal
Thursday morning I got out and did a 3 mile run, the first since before the hurricane hit. I was able to get a better sense of the water damage to some of the homes. A couple of the streets were still flooded and impassible. My heart broke for these neighbors of mine, many who are friends, almost all of whom are elderly and some are infirm.  I could finally get out in my car, and I made a trip to the grocery store and picked up some eggs for my neighbor. I'd checked up on her the day before, asking if there was anything she needed, and "eggs" was her answer.

Walking around the outside of my house, checking for any damage, and I could see just how high the water had gotten in my front yard.

Water line clearly visible. I guess that liriope on the left didn't like being
submerged for so long.

Water was right up over the lip of these foundation beds

I could also see that some critter - some say a skunk, others say an armadillo - had dug up huge portions of my now-very-soft front lawn in search of breakfast.

The work of a skunk or an armadillo, digging up my front lawn, looking for grubs

Our town and our little neighborhood all did a fantastic job of keeping us fully informed throughout the ordeal. I received emails and could see the frequent Facebook posts that Pearland was sending out to all residents, keeping us totally up to date, advising us of any threats or emergencies, and of access to services from the city and even from the businesses and stores in our town.

Our office manager, even though she was not at the Carriage House, was working from her home and doing a great job of communicating with us. She fielded questions, asked us all to send her photos as we took them, and sent out email notices at least hourly throughout the weekend, sharing others' photos with all of us and giving us updates on closings, city services, on street conditions, and on stores that were open once the flooding subsided. These communications had a great calming influence on many of the older residents and let us all know that we were not alone and were all in it together.

Within three days of the storm's passing, it was hard to tell that our street was under three feet of water! It will be a while before those neighbors whose homes flooded will get back to normal but the whole community is pitching in to help them recover.

Hopefully this will be our one and only hurricane for another long while.