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Published September 15, 2020



Storm in Gulf: It’s time for a vacation

By John Toth / The Bulletin

When I take a vacation, I try to coordinate it with a major storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

This efficient method of vacationing has been working for me since 2005, when Hurricane Rita was heading our way, and I was heading west to one of my favorite camping spots, far away from the action.

That was the year when certain roads westward were barricaded by DPS troopers, and traffic was directed towards Houston from here. When my caravan - consisting of an RV, a van and a passenger car - arrived at the roadblock of FM 521 and FM 1462 in Rosharon, I had to make a decision.

Should I behave and follow instructions, which would take me into Houston, or should I keep on heading west? Those who kept going north on FM 521 got into the mother of traffic jams in Houston, courtesy of some poor planning by officials who bit off more than they could chew when they called for an evacuation of the city at the same time a bunch of us south of Houston were still trying to get out.

By directing all the traffic from areas south into Houston, these geniuses made sure that people fleeing from the hurricane wouldn’t go anywhere for a very long time.

I turned on my left blinker. The state trooper manning the barricade waived at me to go straight. He looked angry and was yelling something - probably like, “Go straight.”

I felt the adrenaline flowing through my veins as I floored the RV’s accelerator and began my turn to the left. I’m not proud of breaking rules, but this time I didn’t think I had a choice. I was headed to Bandera in the hill country (where I had reservations), not to a highway that turned into a parking lot in Houston.

I turned left and knocked over the barricade. My van and passenger vehicle followed, along with countless other vehicles behind us. I felt like a hero as I freed those who followed me from the tortures of Houston traffic. We were rebels as we continued to head west.

We were rewarded for it with less traffic, definitely much better than what Houston was shaping up to be.

Rita was the mother of hurricanes, but right before we left, I noticed on the tracking charts that it was leaning eastward. Had I waited for one more update from the National Weather Service, I may not have even left. But then, I would also not have gone on vacation.

The next morning I checked the tracking charts again, and Rita was veering eastward some more. Brazoria County would not be affected all that much, if any.

The roads in Houston told another story. All highways became packed. Some people spent 30-plus hours in their cars. It was a nightmare that we could have landed in easily had I not decided to run that roadblock.

We had a great time for a few days, wading in the Medina River, grilling, just relaxing, enjoying the great outdoors. The paper was not getting printed that week, so for a few days the only decisions I had to make was what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We repeated this vacation in 2008, although Hurricane Ike did cause a lot of property damage to the county that time, and coming back was no fun. We knew there was no electricity at the house, so we prepared to tough it out in the driveway with the RV’s generator running.

I decided to spend some extended time at the hideaway recently when Hurricane Laura threatened - another vacation forced by a threatening hurricane.

No, I didn’t have to run any roadblocks this time. There was hardly any traffic. We really didn't have to leave, but deep inside I knew I was ready for a vacation.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)