The Prime Suspect

I got a message from my housemate, Debbie, while I was in Bahia Kino, Mexico, relaxing on the beach. The message totally unrelaxed me.

Don’t worry, it said. It is taken care of.

Just the beginning scared me.

We had an attempted break in last night. But Chloe chased him off! Nothing appears to be gone or even touched. She must have gone after him immediately.

When Debbie got up that morning and wandered into the kitchen for her coffee, she noticed a long slice in the screen of the sliding glass door. The door has a security door over it but I have never bothered to lock it figuring everyone would believe it was locked. The security door was ajar.

And Chloe was missing! Debbie had watched her go to bed. Later she closed the dog door and then headed to bed herself. So where was Chloe? Still chasing the perp? Who knows. Then Debbie went back to the kitchen, examined the screen, and dialed 9-1-1. When she called, she was told it would be an hour or so before anyone could come. Unfortunately, Debbie had to get ready to go to work, so she arranged for a deputy to come by in the evening.

As she left for work, Debbie saw Chloe across the road and got her back inside quickly with a dog treat. She opened the dog door and left the house in Chloe’s capable hands, er, paws.

Debbie arrived home and just before the deputy arrived, she noticed Chloe out across the street again. What the hell? How did she do that?

That evening, just a little after Chloe had again been rounded up, Deputy Morales came by. Debbie said he was exceptionally soft-spoken and sweet, just the type to be reassuring for a woman who was understandably concerned.

Any suspects? the kindly deputy asked. Debbie could think of none.

He talked with her awhile and in doing so found we occasionally forget to lock up the house. He was, appropriately for a law enforcement officer, horrified. He told her to check the doors each night and to buy some rods to drop into the tracks of the sliding door and all the sliding windows. He also discussed video surveillance.

As Debbie and Deputy Morales talked, Chloe kept nosing about and Debbie proclaimed how she was so proud of the dog for chasing off the would-be burglar. My pup earned a few more treats and scratches.

And then, the lightbulb moment. Debbie and the officer took a closer look at the screen. Not a slash, but sort of sliced up. And how did Chloe get out again that evening?

A short time later, a look around the yard showed the gate to the road had been dug at and dug at and the gate shoved and shoved. There was room for a thirty-five-pound dog to slide through.

Clearly, Chloe had gone to bed and while Debbie’s back was turned had gone back out again – right before the dog door was closed. When Debbie closed the dog door she’d inadvertently locked Chloe in the yard. Desperate to get back in to food and water (and her comfy bed, no doubt), Chloe had broken out of the yard and scratched at the window trying to get in or at least get Debbie’s attention.

Chloe hadn’t chased off a burglar at all. She’d merely been trying to get into the house for a good night’s sleep.

With a reminder to lock up and secure the sliding door and windows, Officer Friendly departed. Chloe, I’m sure, had a bit of a grin on her face for getting all those extra treats and scratches.

Suspect 37408

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Mazatlán

Mazatlán is the sea. The Oceano Pacifico. Twelve miles of sandy beach. El Faro, the lighthouse, the highest in all of the Americas, or in all the world, according to Mazatlecos, those from Mazatlán. It is rocky islands just off the coast and statue after statue along the Malecón, the walkway along the ocean. Rows of pangas, small boats used by fishermen and used to give short rides to tourists. Parasailing and kayaking, snorkeling near the islands. A water slide into the ocean. Sunbathing, bikinis, and topless women. Gaping men.

Mazatlán is high rises on the Zona Dorada, the Gold Zone, the tourist zone. Entire neighborhoods that cater to the the wealthy tourist. $300,000 condos and $200/night hotels. Trendy cafés and signs in English.

Mazatlán is drug wars. The war among those trying to replace Chapo Guzmán. It is extortion and gangsters in the neighborhoods. It is gunfire at night, in the clubs, in the barrios in the streets. It is the thirteen who were shot the night before I arrived.

Mazatlán is kindness. Men holding doors for women. Strangers helping a lost tourist, even walking out of their way to point out the correct street. Offers of food. Young women stopping to pick up something I dropped.

Mazatlán is traffic. Pedestrians scrambling across six lanes of moving vehicles. Cars and busses that blast through yellow lights. Honking horns and screeching brakes. Bicyclists and men on bicycle carts competing with trucks and busses on the roadways. Traffic jams in downtown Mazatlán Viejo, Old Mazatlán.

Mazatlán is El Centro, the downtown area. The mercado that fills an entire city block, bursting with stall after stall after stall of meats, vegetables, cheeses, taco stands, clothing, trinkets, purses and jewelry. And more. It is the the cathedral and the main plaza, Plaza Republica. Park benches and shoeshine stands. Wandering musicians. The small clubs where anyone can get up to sing with the band and old men play dominoes. Streets filled with shoppers and tourists, huaraches and Birkenstocks, mini skirts and aprons over housedresses. A man with no legs on the sidewalk, begging.

Mazatlán is public transportation. Truck-taxis with benches along each side running the length of the truck beds, the whole covered with tarps for shade. It is open-air taxis of small cars that look like offshoots of a Volkswagen Thing. It is city busses, each one decked out with photos, fringe, crucifixes, posters of the Virgin, saints and the Playboy bunny. Bus drivers who switch lanes into spaces so tight I wouldn’t try to put my car there, who talk on their cell phone while they drive, who text when stopped in traffic, who let their wives and children board without paying.

Mazatlán is small stores and enterprise. Tiny grocery stores every few blocks. Small restaurants on corners and in front rooms. Vendors on bicycle carts. Home garages turned into stalls where women sell snacks or men repair toasters.
Mazatlán is sidewalk nightmares. Sidewalks rise, they fall, they disappear. They are level with the street or two feet above it. They change levels, textures, angles and stability a dozen times in one block. Holes and cracks abound. Concrete, tile, dirt and brick, often all four along three connecting storefronts. Sidewalks in Mazatlán are to be respected, attended to while walking, and are not for the faint of heart.

Mazatlán is cosmopolitan. Many races, many nationalities, many languages. Theaters and museums. Public art. Business meetings in a café. Excellent coffee. Baguette, lobster, mocha, sushi. Fine dining. Nightclubs and waterfront restaurants, trendy shops. Women breastfeed in public.

Mazatlán is its barrios, its neighborhoods. Cars with speakers atop them cruise the street announcing fresh fruit, bread, or bottled water for sale. Neighbors in front yards or on the steps, chatting. Children playing soccer in the street. Fireworks at night because … well … because.

Mazatlán is her people. Mothers with babies and a gaggle of young children. A school outing with a long line of first graders and two harried teachers. Tourists with cameras, everyone with cellphones. High heels click click clicking down the sidewalk. Lovers oblivious to all others.

Mazatlán is still the sea. Fishing and fish markets. Dolphins and sea lions, seagulls and frigates. Turtles lumbering onto the beach to lay eggs, hatchlings erupting and scrambling to the water.

Mazatlán.

Days Three and Four

Day three dawned gray and cool. Not ones to be put off by a little bad weather, we set off to Bath via back roads as recommended by Michael, our Couchsurf host.

But what is it about cemeteries? Both Barbara and I were drawn to one along the road. It had death dates in the early and mid 1800s. Although some had not died until they were in their seventies or eighties, many had died in their thirties, and quite a few were children or babies. The fragility of life two hundred years ago.

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Bath is a sweet village on one of the many inlets along the coast. Michael told us that if the Maine coastline were stretched out into a straight line, it would be longer than the California coast. I looked it up, and yep. Maine’s coastline north to south is 228 miles long compared to California’s which is 840. But in a straight line, Maine beats California by about fifty miles, with a grand total of 3478 coastline miles. Compare that to its 228 mile length and that is a lot of inlets!

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Bath has a major shipbuilding industry and there are also several small shops that build small wooden boats.

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It has a very walkable downtown with an odd bookstore, interesting shops, antiques, and lots of warm clothing available. It also has one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen.

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The library in Bath

Then we backtracked to Freeport where we met Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel for lunch, and since we were in Freeport, the home of LL Bean, well, we just had to visit. And we ended up leaving dollars behind in exchange for some great clothes.

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We settled back in at Michael’s house then left in the morning after a thousand thanks and goodbye hugs. Off we went back to Portland (back roads) where we picked up Kathy and headed out to roam the streets and go to Gilbert’s Chowder House. More chowder!

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Now we we are three!

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An old fire truck repurposed as a tour bus, downtown Portland

We did a bit of shopping and Barbara bought us a cigar to share.

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Then we noodled our way north to Rockland where we met up with Cousin Jill (actually, the wife of my cousin Bruce, but she is now my cousin too since she married him.)

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The final foursome

We had a light dinner of salad and then … we boarded the schooner!

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Because the sail wasn’t fully booked, we each ended up with a private room. After settling in, we wondered how in the world two people could comfortably share such a tiny space. The answer is simple: Don’t stay in the room. Head out on deck.

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We learned our way around the schooner and learned basic important terms: port, starboard, galley and head.

None of us slept well that night. Too many people in a small space. We could hear each other enter or leave the head, heard some snoring from several directions, and even heard someone talking in her sleep. After that, earplugs ensured a sound sleep.

On Wednesday morning we had a hearty breakfast and then had a bit of time to roam town and pick up last minute items we may have forgotten. Kathy and I did a strange thing: We walked to McDonalds. But there was a good reason. Honest. I wanted to see if what I had heard was true. I’d been told that McDonalds in Maine served lobster rolls!

Yes, it was true, but sadly it was out of season so I couldn’t even see it on the menu. The young woman behind the counter told us to come back in the late spring. Oh, well.

Back to the schooner where we waved goodbye to anyone around, and off we sailed.

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Maine, Days One and Two

Day One: Departure, Arrival

Barbara and I flew out of Tucson while most of the city was still sleeping. As soon as we hit cruising altitude, I fell asleep and awoke just as we entered the Dallas area.

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Smooth landing, quick dash to a new terminal, and then we were on the plane to Philadelphia.

On this leg of the flight I managed to read a while but still caught a nap.

In Philadelphia, a major cross-airport hike took us from Terminal A to Terminal F. We needed the hike by then after sitting and sitting. And sitting. Then we boarded and sat some more.

We landed in Portland, Maine, a little early and walked through the small but lovely airport. Can you imagine a terminal with seating areas filled with couches and rocking chairs? That’s Portland’s airport.

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We soon had our bags and then our car. Warning! At Dollar rentals, a second driver costs $13/day! It is only $5/day at Budget. Keep that in mind the next time you travel with a friend. We surely will. Foxx, by the way, does not charge for a second driver. Sadly, there was no Foxx here.

We made one wrong turn but corrected quickly, and soon we were headed south on Highway 1, traveling a short distance to Saco. However, in the dark and the rain, it seemed a bit long of a drive. Just as we were sure we had passed our turn, I pulled into the left turn lane to make a u-turn and voila! The street where I was making the u-turn was the street we needed to turn on,

We checked into our motel then headed out to the Sea Salt Lobster House for steamy bowls of creamy clam chowder, some calamari on the side. And hey, some chocolate cake for dessert. We were smart and split the cake.

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Long, tiring day, but here were are in Maine. As we flew in we saw acres of green dotted with fall’s fancy ladies: the maples and elms and other hardwoods all decked out in reds and golds. Hopefully it will clear tomorrow so we can do some dry wandering rather than soggy wandering.

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Day two: Wandering in the Rain

We awoke to find we had missed sunrise except we hadn’t really missed it at all. Heavy, heavy skies meant all there had been was a lightening of the color from black to deep gray, so gray that most of my photos for the day look like black and whites.

We ran across some wild turkeys.

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We first wandered south from Saco to Kennebunkport.

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Lovely little area where we found a grocery/deli/coffeehouse/bookstore/post office. The yang man behind the butcher counter insisted we must, must try a Maine specialty: the Whoopie Pie. And he said if we weren’t going to buy it, he would buy it for us.

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We succumbed.

Between us we ate less than half. Enough sugar to induce diabetic coma if we had even split the whole. We may nibble on a little more today.

North to Old Orchard Beach.

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We wandered town and had the privilege to witness a proposal on the beach! We encountered a young woman setting out photos, jars of lights, and sprinkling rose petals. She was excited and quit nervous as she waited for her girlfriend to arrive.

It was a “yes,” and we went up to be the first to congratulate them.

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North to Pine Point where Barbara stuck with clam chowder and I opted for the halibut chowder. We shared a large salad.

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North to Cape Elizabeth where we visited Fort Williams Park.

There we stood in front of one lighthouse and could see two others! Maine is a lighthouse lover’s dream!

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Then north some more, past Portland to Topsham where we stayed with our Couchsurf host Michael. What a great guy! He had six of us staying with him last night! The others leave today, we leave tomorrow. What will Michael do all alone? He has been hosting for years and says, with a big smile, that he hasn’t traveled the world but the world has come to hm. A wonderful guy providing a wonderful service.

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Enjoying a meal with Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel, from China.

 

Turtles, Part I

I am a turtle person.

I became one in a brief moment in the late summer of 1990 on a boat as I crossed Lago Atitlán in Guatemala. I saw a vision that included a sea turtle and I have had a powerful connection with turtles ever since. And before you roll your eyes at my vision, know I never much believed in them until I had one.

But this is not the story of that vision I had twenty-six years ago. This is the story of loggerhead turtles emerging from their nests, in what is called an eruption, on Edisto Island in South Carolina.

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I was there with my sister and her family for about eight days. As soon as I knew I was coming I contacted the island’s turtle project. The day after I arrived my sister and I went to a turtle presentation held at a local coffeehouse.

http://www.townofedistobeach.com/loggerhead-sea-turtles   (Sorry, the link wouldn’t attach correctly. Copy and paste if you’d like to take a look.)

There I met Pat and Susan, two turtle volunteers. The crowd at the coffeehouse learned that due to beach erosion, a climate change problem, turtles often have to lay their eggs too close to the shore and can wash away in a storm or be filled with seawater during high tide. If that happens, the babies will drown because the eggshells are permeable. So far this year about 90% of the nests on Edisto have had to be relocated to higher ground.

 

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You can see the erosion in this photo of a turtle “runway”

To locate a nest, Turtle Patrol volunteers walk the beach each dawn during nesting season, May through early August. Volunteers look for mama turtle tracks to and from a nesting site. Then they use a probe, shown below, to find the nest. They start away from the nest to get a feel for the density of the sand and move closer. When the density changes and becomes less dense, they know they’ve found the nest.

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Two turtle volunteers with a probe

When a nest is found, volunteers rope it off, moving it first if necessary, then date it and number it. That way they know when the eggs in each location will be ready to hatch.

Weather helps determine how long it takes the eggs to hatch, which is anywhere from about fifty-eight to sixty-three days. Both weather and placement in the nest help determine the babies’ sex. More males hatch in cooler weather, more females in warmer weather. More males are located at the bottom of the nest where it’s cooler and more females are at the top.

Sixty days or so after the eggs are laid, the turtle babies begin to hatch and their movement causes the nest to sink. When patrol members see the sinking, they create a sort of runway for the babies and put black plastic along the back and sides of the nest to force the babies toward the sea. Two to three days after the nest begins to sink, the turtles begin to emerge.

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Crowd waits by the runway

An eruption.

Next blog post will be about the eruption and the babies!

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I Coulda Been on the Ocean

I coulda been on the ocean.

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Yeah, this is the end of the story, but I just gotta tell it now. Then I’ll get back to posting about the Island.

I spent eight days on Edisto Island in South Carolina with my sister and her family. A few days before my departure, my sis suggested I change my flight, stay a little longer. They’d be there several more days after I left. I could have stayed.

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My partner encouraged me to do so even though I’d miss his birthday. But I declined the offer and encouragement. I had a few things scheduled at home. I wanted to celebrate his birthday with him, I had some work to do, and it seemed easier to just head on out rather than stay.

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Oh, what a mistake. What. A. Mistake.

I got to the Charlotte airport in plenty of time and sailed through security with a pre board pass: no scans, no pat-downs, no shoes off.

When I got to my gate, things still looked good. But about forty-five minutes before departure, they still had anther destination posted at boarding at my gate. And it wasn’t boarding.

I approached the counter and found there were THREE planes to board at that gate before mine. Somehow, they eventually shuffled things around and got us all out of there, albeit over an hour late.

I texted my sister who got online and found my connecting flight in Chicago, Midway Airport, was also delayed. Whew! I might make the connection.

Then we landed and the runways were all backed up. A few more texts to my sister and I learned my flight had been cancelled. She told me to get to a Southwest station ASAP so I could reschedule.

But as soon as I got off the plane I could tell it was, in the words of Stephen Colbert, a clusterf#@k.

Lengthy lines snaked through the airport. Rebooking lines. I took my place at the end of one and eventually heard the story.

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The Southwest computer system had totally crashed. All Southwest flights across the country were affected. I later heard this had made national news.

With no computers, there was no way to communicate with ticketing agents or boarding gates, no way to reschedule flights, nothing. They could not even tell where planes were or what plane might be landing.

A clusterf#@k, for sure.

I stood in line a little over four hours before I got to a reticketing station. Well, that is not quite true. I didn’t stand the whole time.

About two hours in, I noticed a line of wheelchairs. I grabbed one. Then I grabbed one for a woman who was struggling to both hold her cranky four-year-old and drag her bags along. The wheelchairs made it so-o-o much easier! A short time later other folks my age and other single moms had scarfed up all the wheelchairs. We all shared them around over the next few hours.

A few of us laughingly talked about renting a car. Looking back, not a bad idea.

While we waited:

Two pre-teen girls practiced their dribbling and tossing skills with a basketball. They both tried spinning the ball on their finger.

A group of early twenty-somethings laughed it up and sang a few songs.

An eight-year-old turned cartwheels.

People lay on the floor.

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Southwest employees passed out peanuts and water. (It should have been steak and wine.)

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We heard a huge cheer and soon watched a plane board. Then forty-five minute later the same plane deboarded. It seems the pilot had already worked nearly a full day and was therefore not allowed to fly for three more hours.

Makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t want to be on a plane with an overworked, sleepy pilot. But why in the world couldn’t someone have figured that out before they loaded all those people onto the plane? Well, no way to communicate. The passengers were livid when they were herded back into the airport and told to reschedule.

Frankly, I was livid, too. Someone should have been there to simply reschedule all of them onto a whole new flight.

Eventually it was my turn at the ticketing desk. Four hours and fifteen minutes in line. The woman gave me the bad news that I would not get out until 10:15 that night. It was 2:45 a.m., so I asked for a motel. More bad news: Motel rooms had not been authorized.

I stumbled away, new boarding pass in hand, and found someone to ask about my baggage. I had no idea if I was supposed to pick it up and check it in again or if it would be done for me. I should have figured it out, but I’d been up for nearly twenty-two hours and was punch drunk. I was sent down to baggage, out of the security area, to find out. Yes, it would be done for me. I asked about motels and was told all the motels Southwest worked with were totally booked. The woman also told me all the cots were full.

Cots? There were COTS???

I staggered back upstairs and through security where the water Southwest had given me was promptly confiscated. I told the woman, who apologize while taking it, that I was about to have a meltdown. I had been awake 23-1/2 hours and had been dealing with airport madness for over five hours. She told me where to go to try to find a cot. I love her.

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I struggled through the airport to the cot area then wandered down the aisle searching for an empty one. I found one with a woman sitting in a wheelchair beside it. I asked if it were available and she told me no, that she might want to put her feet up on it. I refrained from choking her.

Finally I saw a woman getting up and reaching for her bags. I asked if the cot were available and she said yes. I told her that was the best news I’d heard in twenty-four hours.

I stashed my bag and purse underneath the cot, grabbed my little pillow and lay down. Just as I snuggled in and closed my eyes, I heard a loud voice: “Four a.m. wakeup call! Everyone has to get up.”

No, I thought. This simply cannot be happening. It can not.

I looked through bloodshot eyes at the woman and gave her the sixty-second version of my last twenty-four hours. She said she knew a place I could lie down. I love this woman, too.

She took me to a basement room. It was warm and comfy and had cots with blankets and pillows all waiting. Few cots were in use.

Finally. At 4:15 a.m., I settled in, pulled up my blanket and drifted off to a not-very-comfortable sleep.

We were awakened before eight. The area had to be cleared. The good news was there was another area set aside for those of us who had a full day to spend. The bad news was the room was on the ground floor, full of windows and light, and was quite chilly. But I got a new cot, a new pillow, and a new blanket.

I had to take my things if I left the room, but I could come back. All day long!

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I left once and put a note on the cot saying it was occupied. I was starved, having not eaten for about twenty hours, so I dashed out for a bite to eat. But I came back a short time later to find my blanket and pillow gone, along with the note. Thankfully there were a few more blankets and pillows still left.

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So here I stay, not comfortable with leaving the chilly room because if I leave and my blanket is taken, there are no more blankets. But for now, this is my place, my home away from home for the next ten hours. And it feels okay until I remember: I coulda been on the ocean.

Addendum:

My flight that night at 10:15 was cancelled and many more were postponed. We found this out after waiting for hours at the boarding gate. I knew I didn’t have it in me to stand in line another few hours, so I hightailed it back to the room full of cots.

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Thankfully, there were a few unoccupied cots, and I settled down for another few hours of sleep. And there were little kits of necessities. All but a comb or brush, and mine was in my suitcase.

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By this time, though, nerves were frayed. People were beginning to holler at others. One woman was in tears because she would miss her son’s wedding. I wondered how many others were missing important family gatherings: weddings, funerals, memorials, reunions.

At four a.m. I got up and stood in line again until I had secured a standby position that would be good all day on any Tucson-bound flight with space available.

I managed to get on the first flight. I was the last passenger on, and although it was delayed a few hours, it actually took off.

Thirty-seven hours in the airport, up for fifty-seven hours with only three hours sleep when I coulda been, you know, on the ocean.

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To Edisto Island!

On Monday morning I was up before three a.m. InTucson to pack a few last minute items and get out the door before four.

It is odd getting to the airport in the dark, but it was so worth it to head out on this wonderful trip to South Carolina.

I had to change planes in Chicago at Midway Airport – not quite a direct line to South Carolina, but so much more pleasant than having to change planes in somewhere like Dallas or Atlanta. I pretty much hate big airports!

We got off the ground on time and went straight into the clouds so I couldn’t see a thing even though I had a window seat.

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Soon we were in total cloud.

Part of the family was there to meet me in Charlotte, then off we went down two-lane roads to Edisto Island where the family had rented a house on the beach.

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When I first read of this place, I pronounced it in my head as it would be pronounced in Spanish: eh- DED-stow. Wrong. It’s ED-iss-toe.

Most of the beach houses are big and likely very pricey.

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We have a smaller, older place that though it is a bit worn, is just perfect for us.

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Complete with a simple outdoor shower.

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I had my choice of places to sleep: I could have shared a room with four females ages five to thirty-three, or I could have the old porch, totally enclosed by windows, with a view of the beach. Hard choice, right?

Here’s my view.

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And here’s our path to the beach.

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The beach is a nice, gentle slope into deliciously warmish water.

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we’re off to Savannah, Georgia, to wander that beautiful city for a while. But based on the clouds you can see over our neighbors’ houses, I am not counting on it.

Either way, I’ll be back with more photos soon.

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