A blustery morning

By early evening all the sky to the north had darkened and the spare terrain they trod had turned a neuter gray as far as the eye could see. They grouped in the road at the top of a rise and looked back. The storm front towered above them and the wind was cool on their sweating faces. They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Nothing seemed to be going right this morning, so we decided to get out of the house and have lunch on the beach. We had to stop into one of the surf shops to get Elise a new sweatshirt. Having very much adapted to the Florida heat, we were all shivering in… 63-degree weather. One woman passed by us in a heavy coat and scarf though, so we weren’t the silliest people out by the water. All of the shops and restaurants had heaters on full-blast.

Some incredible winds started up last night, and the ocean has been roaring and churning so loudly you can hear it indoors. We decided to walk out on the pier after lunch to watch the waves, which were at least 6 feet high close to the shore. You could feel the violent water shaking the pier. It was really something.

I have a stack of books arriving in the mail today, so I am ready for days of showers. I’m often reminded of a book I read a couple years ago by a homeschooling couple in Arizona. They had a rule in their house that rainy days were reading days. They paused whatever curriculum they had for their kids those days and let the kids spend all day curled up with whatever book they wanted, watching the rain. Of course, we’d never get anything done if we had that rule here. (We have far more rainy days than they do in Phoenix.) But it still seems like a brilliant idea.

Fort Lauderdale, Part Two

After the first day of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, we went to downtown Hollywood to eat dinner at Runa’s Peruvian restaurant, which I highly recommend. The area seems to be mostly folks from Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela, and has many wonderful places to eat.

There is a lot of neat street art in downtown Hollywood – here are a couple shots.

The bar menu at Runa’s has a lot of Pisco cocktails. Pisco is a type of brandy that is produced in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile, invented by Spanish settlers in the 16th century to replace orujo from Spain. It is fantastic.

I ordered a dish of beef tenderloin strips with risotto and a béchamel Huancaina paste, simply amazing. The mixed ceviche was out of this world too (with a wide variety of seafood, including octopus). Even before the food came out, Elise was thrilled that they brought out a dish of fried corn kernels to munch on.

A view of the Atlantic from Ft Lauderdale. The water was beautiful, but I have never seen so many jellyfish in my entire life. Needless to say, we did not spend much time swimming. (Though we live on the beach, so it’s not like it ruined our trip.)

This is pretty much the view anywhere along the ICW in Ft Lauderdale. Boats, boats, boats everywhere.

One of the yachts at the boat show. I was impressed by the balcony off of the stateroom.

So many screens.

On our way out of town, we grabbed some pastries and whatnot for breakfast. Elise was less interested in a croissant than orange mousse. Breakfast of champions.

I ordered what seems to be a Latin American version of baklava.

You know you are in South Florida when there are iguanas everywhere. Some are quite enormous and will run out in traffic.

And that’s the end of our long weekend in Ft Lauderdale.

Our piece of the Intracoastal Waterway

We are blessed to live on the Intracoastal Waterway here in Florida, and moreover to have a several mile long esplanade to walk along every day. We try to make it out there in the early mornings or evenings (or both), and enjoy seeing a lot of wildlife. Dolphins and manatees are regular visitors. Fishermen catch snapper, sharks, crab, and many other things. We’ve met people from all over the world while out on our walks. (Incidentally, we have a ton of people from Russia in our neighborhood.) One lady stopped me recently, screaming “I know you! You are the lady with the crazy gardens! I love driving by your house!” It made my day, to be honest. I love to joke that my garden aesthetic is Versailles. I just need to install some fountains.

I have spent a lot of time hiking in the mountains, having lived along the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the Appalachians in the Bluegrass region. Hiking through wetlands is now one of my favorite wild experiences. I am glad that Floridians do so much to preserve the natural environment. Our daughter has learned incredible things out and about.

One of the best things about living in Florida is the state is in bloom all year long. Even in the “winter” months, plants everywhere are blooming. That’s actually how Florida got its name. Florida was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon on Palm Sunday on April 2, 1513. He named the land Pascua de Florida, meaning “Feast of Flowers,” claiming it for Spain. And Florida truly is a feast of flowers. This is what autumn looks like here.

Sometimes I could do with a little less wild, however. We watched this danger noodle along our trail tonight. (Yes, that’s a copperhead. We see cottonmouths from time to time too.) I took the opportunity to explain to Elise that this is why I yell when she tries to play in the palmettos.

Home sweet Florida

We have finally returned to Florida. It feels wonderful to be cruising down the A1A again.

It was an interesting trip from North Georgia back down the coast. We thought the storm would have moved through the area before we made it to Savannah, but we were wrong. The eye of the hurricane was just off the Georgia coast when we passed through. There wasn’t any rain, but it was gusty outside. It was odd to see the storm we had spent a week hiding from not far in the distance.

We made excellent time driving home because there were very few cars headed east or south on the freeways. They had just opened I-16 to eastbound traffic. And most of the traffic on I-95 was hurricane response teams chasing the storm north.

It is difficult not to have an emotional response seeing the thousands of utility vehicles, first responders, and search and rescue teams who had traveled to Florida to help with what could have been an absolutely catastrophic storm. We seriously saw about 150 police vehicles driving from Lake Hartwell to Palm Coast. We saw hundreds of cherry pickers from utility companies up and down the east coast and tree experts. We saw dozens of semi trucks pulling trailers for search and rescue operations. There were fire and paramedics trucks from all over.

On the southbound side, we saw semis from Operation Blessing, Pat Robertson’s charity (now run by his son), hauling food to vulnerable populations affected by the storm. They have folks on the ground bringing water and food to residents of the Bahamas too.

Living in a developed nation, we don’t often consider the vast planning and resources that go into ensuring that we maintain a comfortable lifestyle and that minimize loss of life in even the most extreme events. But it’s impossible to ignore it when it takes over one of the busiest interstates in the country. And this is happening while our nation is sending our bravest men and women to help in rescue efforts in other countries. We are truly a blessed population.

After seeing that our house was mostly as we had left it – a lot of branches down, primarily from palm trees, and many of my plants in my gardens still had flowers on them! – we decided to grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants on Flagler Beach. We’ve been eating out a lot lately, but we figured they’d appreciate our business since the hurricane drove the tourists away. Have to support the local economy.

I ordered a dish at the Golden Lion that I had never had before (though we’ve eaten there a million times). They have ahi sliders that are seriously brioche stuffed with the contents of a poke bowl. So delicious it is unreal.

There were plenty of lunatic surfers braving the swells at Flagler Beach. No visible beach erosion, and the plants they had just put into the dunes after constructing the new sea wall were still there and thriving.

We have not found any snakes hiding in strange places since we’ve returned. But we did find this guy.

I am convinced that love bugs come out in force after crazy storms. We are getting swarmed with them post-hurricane. I am not looking forward to picking up all the debris tomorrow with them landing on me constantly. But this is a week for counting blessings, so I’ll quit complaining now.

All is right with the world. I’m looking forward to getting back to our normal routine (whatever that is). Along the way, we discovered that we only live a few hours down I-95 from Charleston, so we will be going there soon. It’s a toss up between heading there or the Florida Keys after work calms down a bit. There is no place in the world like the South. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

The maddening innumeracy of hurricane models

These are two cycles of models for Hurricane Dorian taken merely 24 hours apart. Do you notice something about them?

There is zero overlap between them. There is no mathematical way that the folks running these scenarios are representing the actual range of possible outcomes.

The consequences of these mathematical failures are huge. Yesterday, reporters nationwide were telling people in Florida that one of the most catastrophic storms in the history of the State of Florida was about to make landfall. Today, they are telling them that they are in the clear and the storm might hit the Outer Banks instead. Both claims are absolute bullshit from a quantitative perspective.

Why can’t the federal government hire a single quant from Wall Street to model hurricanes?

Hurricane memes, because Dorian

So I’ve been polling friends trying to decide how much I should worry about Dorian, which may or may not hit Florida and may or may not be a hurricane when it does. One person confessed that she had bought some water bottles while at the grocery store. A few people called me a chicken. And the server at dinner said she didn’t even know there was a storm because she doesn’t have cable. She returned later to tell us that the restaurant is now going to serve a drink named Dorian.

I’ve also been trying to find out what exactly we should do to prepare our house for a hurricane. This seems kind of important to me since our house is on the Intracoastal Waterway. So far, I have learned that we can fill our washing machine up with ice and use it as a beer cooler. And we should come up with a hurricane playlist. I’m not sure whether I should be terrified or get excited at the prospect of blaring the 1812 Overture as a storm moves in.

Anyway, I posted here about the last wicked storm that was supposed to move through the area and then it fizzled into nothing so we spent the weekend playing at Cocoa Beach. Here’s hoping Dorian isn’t much of a threat either.

(I don’t know. That last one feels a little personal.)