I’m writing from the bed of a hotel in downtown Atlanta. My husband and I came here to find refuge from Irma, a category 5 hurricane heading for Florida with the Weather Channel’s promise that it would wipe Miami Beach off the face of the earth. The minute we heard that evacuations were in order for the southeast of the peninsula, we took our seventeen-year-old dog, a suitcase filled with essentials, and hit the road at 10 mph. Yup, that’s pretty much how it went for twelve hours until we got to Gainesville to rest for the night. The next day we drove for another grueling twelve hours until we reached Atlanta.
Despite of the long drive, I can’t say it was a terrible experience. In fact, if not for the constant concern for the family and friends who stayed behind, I’d say our stay in Atlanta was pretty amazing. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. This was a process.
We were told on Wednesday that there would be no school for the rest of the week. I covered the instruments with plastic bags, and as soon as the kids were dismissed, got in my car and left. I turned right onto the backstreet I usually take to beat the traffic, but got stuck in a gas station line with four cars in front of me. Since I’d heard a lot of people complaining about the lack of gas in Miami, I figured it was divine intervention, so I filled up before heading home. That evening I went to the pharmacy to pick up our dog’s prescription, and saw a man filling up the shelves with water bottles. Since I’d heard a lot of talk about the lack of water in Miami, I figured it was divine intervention. I bought three bottles to leave at home for our return. Once I’d finished bringing all the plants inside I gave the keys to my brave neighbor who decided to ride out the storm in our building next to Biscayne Bay. I got a little teary-eyed as I said goodbye to the place we’ve called home for three years now. With a hurricane in the midst there really is no way of knowing what you’ll return to.
Powwow, our old dog, is very dear to us. Our decision to leave had more to do with her well-being than ours. I lived through hurricane Andrew, Wilma, Katrina, and another dozen hurricanes that left the city in the dark for weeks. Having to sleep on a cool floor to withstand the 90 degree temperature with 70% of humidity while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes isn’t exactly pleasant but it’s something I’ve done. But Powwow is an American Eskie with a long list of health issues. We both knew she wouldn’t be able to survive the chaos of a hurricane’s aftermath. The alternative wasn’t much to her liking, but it was still the better choice—ride in a car with me driving!
I’m not saying I’m a bad driver, but I’m a Miami girl. I drive defensively and sometimes a bit too fast. Oh, I’m also famous for not using the turning signals because in South Florida they’re a waste of time.
Our dear Powwow spent the first hour of our drive fidgeting, moaning, and drooling, until she fell asleep. She would sleep, then wake nervously until she grew tired. We stopped more than we’d have liked along the way, but at every stop we found gas to fill the car and water to keep in our car. It was close to ten o’clock when we finally made it to Gainesville for a good night’s rest.
The following morning we took a series of country roads to beat the impossible traffic on I-75. And when the GPS forced us to take the highway to cross the state line, we waited until the following exit to get off, cruising through the small southern towns of Georgia, staying on state road 129 and later 341. With Powwow fast asleep in the back, Julian took photos of the eerie town of Griffin, joking that at any given point we’d found ourselves being attacked by zombies. Only later we found out that Griffin is the town where they film The Walking Dead.
Then came the wooded area south of Atlanta, slowly changing from hills filled with cattle to luscious green mountains where tall pines swayed to the breeze. At twilight, I was certain this landscape belonged to a dream world that could only be visited by supernatural beings. Such beauty couldn’t possibly exist for human eyes.
Our hotel in Midtown Atlanta has been very accommodating, although understaffed for the amount of Floridians they’ve hosted. Every day has been a little adventure, and for the first time I got to really spend time with my husband without the burdens of work, bills, and house chores. I’ve learned that we share a love for adventure, for architecture, for food, for looking for the coolest dive in town that we can brag about. Most importantly I learned how much I enjoy spending time with him, even when we argue over who got us lost.
Tomorrow we’re leaving Atlanta and although I’m extremely grateful, part of me feels blue. The two of us never had a honey moon. Not when we got married by the civil court twelve years ago, and not when we took our marriage to the altar last month. Hurricane Irma sent us running for our lives but God had other plans. Based on our short trips to the groomers and the vet, we didn’t expect our dog to adjust to the perils of a long road trip. We knew it was a risk. But now we know we don’t need to limit ourselves. Even at her age she can ride in a car for hours and stay at a hotel sleeping soundly while the two of us visit the city. Based on our rushed, stress-filled schedules, the two of us expected to have constant arguments during the trip, especially knowing we’d have to deal with each other 24/7 in this small hotel room. Now we know how much we enjoy our time together as a couple, and how well we compliment each other. Hey, it’s been nearly a week and we haven’t killed each other. That’s something!
I’m going to miss Atlanta, the warmth of the people, the biscuits with gravy and the fried peach pies with ice cream. I’ll miss the Fox theater’s Publik Draft House (the coolest little dive in town), the old churches, the Centennial Olympic park, the sweet potato vines, the lantanas, the roses, and the maple trees. I’ll miss the noise of the city outside the window, the red brick buildings, and the chill in the air this early in September. But I won’t wait for a weather forecast to return to this city that has given us so much in so little time. The two of us will come back in the near future with the certainty that we’ll cherish our time here. Meanwhile, Miami Beach is waiting, and although it’s in less-than-perfect shape due to the storm, we’re blessed to have had power restored to our building and no damage to our apartment. Our family and friends are doing well and that’s what matters. And we get to go home with many great memories of a terrible hurricane that unfortunately destroyed many lives and many homes, but somehow blessed us with an unexpected honeymoon.
Sometimes the biggest challenges are blessings in disguise.