Women Riders

Moldy Oldies

Written by  September 30, 2011

This column will have nothing to do with riding (much). The reason for that is, life got in the way of my plans. At the very least, it interrupted them a bit.

Twice a year, I drive from New Jersey to Tennessee to spend almost a week with my best bud, Becky. So as to not be a boring houseguest, one of things we do is we go to the Bristol Motor Speedway for the NASCAR races. The fact that Becky lives less than three miles from the track just happens to come in handy. So, this August, as in Augusts past, we were enjoying our time off, downing wine coolers, eating steaks, cheering our favorite drivers and just having a great time.

Portions of our conversations centered on the poor saps up north that might get a taste of Hurricane Irene, and we wondered how my own home would fare. But, hell, I was in Tennessee and, not being one to panic too easily, I continued to do my part to reduce her burgeoning supply of Mike’s and Smirnoff’s. Still, visions of my more precious items floating in water would pop up in my head and, just as quickly, leave. I made it a point to tell both the spousal unit and the resident princess to “keep an eye on the tree” because when there’s water under that tree, there is water in my basement. The spouse was positive things would be fine (apparently he’s hidden his meteorology degree from me all these years). The daughter promised to check the tree. I continued to enjoy my vacation.

The day after the race is dedicated to sleeping in, so once I awoke, I had to check my voicemail. One message: “You can kiss the sofa and everything else goodbye.” I figured this message required a callback. The spouse went on to explain that he had, in fact, checked the tree across the street and, at 1 a.m., there was no water. However, when he awoke six hours later and went to the basement, he was greeted with over six inches of water covering the floor. Did I mention that my office and our family room are in the basement?

There was more good news: the power was out. This meant that a pump was worthless. It meant that soon, my food would also be worthless. The spouse did what people did before there was electricity in order to salvage what he could--he sucked. Putting one end of a garden hose into the sewer drain and the other to his mouth, he began a siphon. The water was soon gone, but the damage was just beginning.

It is truly amazing what can be acquired in a quarter century. And it is amazing how much of what was acquired should have been thrown out years ago. But it sticks around as a “someday” until a flood or a fire or a divorce forces you to decide if “someday” just passed. We rented a trailer for the rest.

The water didn’t just damage furniture and items, it created a haven for mold and a playground for centipedes. Each time we moved things to the trailer or the curb, I attacked the walls and floors with a spray bottle filled mostly with bleach. I was leaving windows open and lights on, even sticking lamps in dark places and keeping them lit, but it was too little too late. Each night since I came home, we have piled things in the backyard, sifted through it all and filled garbage can after garbage can and piled the larger items on the curb. It feels like we have barely made a dent.

My vacation with Becky is usually five days, but after the call, I cut it short one day. When I walked into my house after that ten-hour drive, the odor of mildew hit me like a fist to the nose. Within an hour, I was putting my suitcase back into my car and went to a local hotel for the night. My daughter came with me, but my husband stayed home. By the following afternoon, we had power, so I didn’t go back to the hotel. Hindsight tells me I should have. Within two weeks, I developed an odd cough and headaches. Afraid I might have gotten pneumonia; I went to my doctor, who thinks I may have developed a type of reactionary asthma from the mold. My daughter is also getting sick.

Many areas in New Jersey were badly hit by Irene. Towns were cut off for days, either by flooding or loss of power or both. In the first few days, only certain counties were declared disaster areas eligible for FEMA funds, and my county was not one of them. This little fact did not stop me from filing a claim, however, and three days after I did, the entire state was declared a disaster area. Not waiting for the change was a smart move on my part; by putting my damage claim into the system, I got on the list and on Labor Day, was visited by FEMA representatives. One week after that, I got a payment. Many who waited for a declaration before filing a claim may not be so lucky as FEMA is saying its funds are running dry. Lesson learned: don’t pay attention to the details; just do what is needed quickly as possible. We were lucky in that our damage was not as bad as many others’. I am trying to be optimistic by looking forward to a nice, clean, shiny basement and new furniture. What I really want, though, is to get back to normal but I know that will take time.

I did manage to break away from all this to go to Roar to the Shore in Wildwood, NJ on September 10. I can only describe this as “Sturgis meets the beach.” Thousands upon thousands of motorcycles converge on this shore town for four days of outrageousness. Last year’s numbers hovered at 80k and I am sure this year topped that since main roads were closed simply to provide more parking.

Roar to the Shore happens the weekend after Labor Day. If you are the adventurous type or have experienced other major rallies, put this one on the short list of “must do.” You won’t be disappointed.

By Louise Reeves