Monday, February 1, 2010

The Hell Of An All Electric Home

I thought I was out of the woods. I had survived our second major snow storm in a little over a month, and made it through the night and into the next morning. I stayed up very late Saturday night, so I didn't get up until about 10:00 AM on Sunday. I made a pot of coffee, and because I was planning on having a ham, egg and cheese sandwich on toast, I threw a couple of pieces of bread into the toaster. It takes about a minute and forty seconds to cook one egg and piece of cheese in my microwave. Well, about a minute and ten seconds into the process, the power went off. My egg was still liquid in the center. Having suffered one bout of salmonella poisoning from a piece undercooked salmon last spring, I wasn't going to risk eating a half cooked egg, so I just made a ham and cheese sandwich instead. At least the coffee was still hot. I looked at the clock and it was 10:30 AM.

I'm used to the power going out here. It usually isn't out for more than a few hours, but it was only 18∘F outside at the time, and I was a little concerned about the house getting cold. The house is well insulated, and if the power was only going to be out for a few hours, I'd be OK. So I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. You never realize how much you rely on a home's electrical devices, until they are rendered useless. I keep my I-Mac on all day long, and whenever I have idle time, it gives me something to do. As most of you already know, daytime TV is crap, so the television usually only comes on at night, and then often only to provide some comforting background noise.

So, all day long I sat, alternately reading, and twiddling my thumbs. I would have contemplated my navel as well, but within a couple of hours, the house was becoming noticeably colder, and I didn't want to expose my flesh. I looked at the thermometer, and it had dropped from a comfortable 72∘down to a cool 65∘. It was time to start donning extra layers. I turned a battery powered radio, on and tuned into NPR for some soothing background music. Then suddenly, the lights flashed once, and some electronic device somewhere in the house emitted a single beep! Then nothing! I thought, well at least that's a good sign. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to get the substation breaker to reset, so the power should be back on soon. That was about 12:30 PM, but instead the waiting resumed, and the house got progressively colder. About an hour later I looked at the thermometer, and it was down to 60∘. By 3:00 PM it had dropped to 55∘and now in addition to pantyhose, warm socks, a long sleeve tee, a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, and corduroy pants, I added a fleece jacket and a hat. By 5:00 PM it was down to 50∘and I donned an insulated Goretex jacket,and gloves! Now I was really starting worry. When the power is out for more than four or five hours, it usually means that the problem is more serious than an isolated downed cable. Who knows how long it might take for the power company to complete their repairs? I started to have painful memories of a horrible ice storm that devastated the area back in the mid 90's, and left me without power for five days, and also when hurricane Isabel blew trees down all over the state. I was without power for three and a half days that time. It would be getting dark in another hour, and the limited effects of the sun's rays shining in my widows would soon disappear. As outside temperatures dropped precipitously, I envisioned my self huddled in the dark, under a pile of comforters and sleeping bags to wait out the long cold, lonely winter's night.

As the sun began to go down, I turned on a few battery powered lanterns, and started lighting candles and kerosene lamps. Although I am somewhat adverse to using it, I was seriously contemplating firing up my kerosene heater, but I really didn't want to stink up house. The two kerosene lamps that I had lit, were already doing a great job of that. With no heat, and no running water to shower with, or flush my toilets, I started to think about abandoning the homestead for the comfort of a warm bed and a hot shower in a hotel. By 7:45 PM my mind was made up. I packed a small duffel bag, doused the candles and lamps, and headed into Richmond. Fortunately, I had shoveled the steps and a path to my back door on the deck earlier in the day, and I had also cleaned the snow off of my truck. My super industrious neighbor had been out on his tractor all afternoon, plowing the neighborhood roads, and our driveways as well, so getting out and up the hill to the main road was a breeze. It's about a three mile drive from where I live to the interstate highway. About two miles down the road there is a crossroads with a couple of stores, a restaurant and an auto parts/repair shop. The lights were out in all of the house down the road, and all of those businesses as well, so the power outage must have been fairly extensive.

I hadn't eaten supper yet, so when I got into western suburbs of Richmond, I stopped in a CaptainD's for some seafood. They were advertising a soft shell crab platter on their chalk board out front, so I decided to give it a try. If you have never had soft shell crabs before, they are a real treat. They are whole crabs, that have just molted, so their new paper thin shell hasn't had a chance to harden yet. They are then battered and deep fried, and you eat the whole thing, shell and all. The platter came with two crabs, some green beans, hush puppies, and a salad. The crabs were pretty good, but as is the case with most fast food restaurants, they were a bit heavy on the salt.

I passed a brand new Hilton on the way to Captain D's, and since I don't often stay in hotels, I figured what the hell. It's only going to be for one night, so I didn't mind the extra expense. If only I had known just how much extra it was going to be, I may have made another choice. I parked out front and made my way through the icy parking lot to the lobby, where I was greeted by a uniformed door man! Ha! Now that's something you don't see at your average hotel. The clerk was very courteous, and asked how he could help. I said I needed a room for the night. Then he said their rates were $169.00 per night, and asked me if that was OK. Doing my very best to appear nonchalant, when in reality I was freaking out at thought of paying that much for a shower and bed for the night, I said, "Yes, that's fine." After taking down my credit card information and examining my driver's license, he said I could park my car in their underground garage, and that I should feel free to use their exercise facilities. He assigned me a room with a king size bed on the 7th floor, and told me that for security purposes, I would have to use my key to get off the elevator on any floor above the 6th.

After parking my by truck in the basement garage, I took the elevator up to the seventh floor. Getting off the elevator, I turned the corner and proceeded down the hallway to my room. I hadn't passed more than two rooms, when from behind a door on my right, I heard the moans of a woman crying out in the throes of sexual ecstasy! That immediately put a huge smile on my face. After the hell I had been through all day long, I was glad to know that at least someone was having a good time.

For $169.00 a night, the room was nothing special. I did have a very nice bathroom with a spacious walk-in shower, and a granite topped vanity. It also had a very large wide screen TV, a small fridge, and a comfortable arm chair and hassock, but I have stayed in two room suites with microwaves, sinks, refrigerators and sofas, for $69.00 a night less. The bed was very comfortable, and equipped with an abundance of pillows, but it took me several hours to get the room temperature adjusted right for sleeping. At first I was roasting under the duvet, so I would kick it off, but then in a minute I would get cold and have to pull it over me again. I had to get the room down to about 62∘before was able to sleep comfortably under the covers.

In the morning I went downstairs to their in house restaurant. Breakfast was a western omelet, with fried red potato wedges, a slice of orange, a strawberry and two cups of coffee, for another $20.00 including the tip. Upon checking out, I noticed that on top of $169.00 room fee, the state of Va. added another $8.45 for a room tax, and the county of Henrico wanting their share of the heist, tacked on another room tax of $13.52, bringing a night's stay to $190.97, not including the $20.00 breakfast. It was fun, but next time I think I will be looking for a Day's Inn, or a Motel 6!

I got back home at 10:30 AM this morning, and thankfully, the power was back on. According to the alarm clock in my bedroom, power had been out for a total of 22 hrs.! The heat is back on now, but the house was so cold that it is going to take some time to get it back up to temperature. The last time I checked, it was back up to a sweltering 68∘

Melissa XX


caroline said...

Ouch! Melissa needs a plan B. That would buy a lot of canned gas for heat and light. Added bonus, you know that once you have spent the money the power will never go off again.

And the rooms did not even have good sound insulation!

Caroline xxx

Two Auntees said...

Hotel 6 might be just the ticket next time, since once you close your eyes every room is the same isn't it?

Although I would stay away from motels that have a beer cooler right behind the front desk. Not good. A story for next time maybe!!


Lucy Melford said...

The snag about every hotel, no matter how plush, is that you are never the first occupant of the room, and whatever the bed is like, it always crosses your mind that a host of people, some nice, some not so nice, have already slept on it, no doubt enjoying some kind of 'sexual ecstacy' as well. That's part of the appeal of my little caravan - it's a small space, but you have all the facilities you need for comfortable living, and since I've had it from new, I absolutely know that only I (and M--- of course, but nobody else) have sullied it.

Plus, it has propane, and could be used as an extra bedroom or alternative kitchen in a power cut. Though probably not in the kind of desperately cold conditions you've been enjoying recently!

Funny how, to save face or whatever, we tend to pay up when confronted with a big bill at restaurants and places to stay. I'd do just as you did, although I know people who most certainly wouldn't have!


helenchapel said...

Wow! what an adventure. I was just looking at the snow pics in your other post too! I'm glad you were able to get out of your home and not be blocked in by snow or not have that truck to have the power to plough through the rough stuff.

I think we can all agree that the hotel charges are a rip off. I have stayed in all kinds and the posh ones are ruined because you are always thinking to yourself 'it should be nice too at these prices' and its easy to spot anything not worth the bill. The more modest hotels have more often been a lovely surprise (now and again) because I guess my expectation is lower and when the standard is higher its a pleasant surprise.

Your bill was ridiculous really the tax I mean.

Im glad you have power again now Melissa, hope all will be welll now

Helen xx

Stace said...

Sounds like you have been having a lot of fun over the last few days!

My sister in law still cooks on gas (we cook on induction) and it was a life saver the last power outage. With the house being open plan it provided heat and boiling water for tea! If it goes on in our house we have nothing, same as you.

As for the bill... I thought the 169 was OK (compaed with Dutch rates for normal hotels). When you add on the tax and breakfast it starts to get a little much...


Sophie said...

After Isabel came through I bought a generator. We did not have power for 11 days. I am NOT going through all that again. Since I have gas heat all I need to do is power the blower in the furnace, I am not sure I'd be able to power up electric heat.

lisalisa said...

You do suffer from terrible weather over there. And the frequent power problems would seriosuly upset me.
You would think that in this day frequent power outages would be rare.

Carolyn Ann said...

Reminds me of two nights, on two motorcycle trips: once in Yellowstone, and another time In Virginia.

The Yellowstone night was spent wondering what "that" bear was thinking of doing next. He was about 30 yards from me. The snow was about as high as me - and I'm just shy of 6 foot tall! I was somewhat chilled, that night. It wasn't the first time, but two or three days earlier I'd been camping in Death Valley! Darn it was cold up there. (Not as cold as New Mexico, and how I can neglect that trip across the Rockies?.. And the Ruby Mountains! Brrr. And that trip up the Big Smokey Valley, and across Rt 50? Oh, my! That was cold! But those stories are for a different time.) In the morning some other motorcyclists introduced me to another old-British bike fan. "What do you do for a shower?" the guy asked. "Isn't that what rain's for?" I answered.

So many places without power. So many experiences!

Sorry. Your post brought a few memories, stories, to the fore. :-)

Carolyn Ann

alan said...

I went through 10 days without lights a few years ago; thank goodness I have 2 gas furnaces that run without electricity (ancient "gravity" wall furnaces) and a gas stove. It was below freezing so I put some things in the garage in coolers and sent the rest to my son's and my sister's; the fridge I pulled the bottom drawers from, put in a dishpan with bagged ice and made an icebox of it.

2 springs ago it was a 3 day stint, but having a fully underground basement with a sump pump brought a whole new game into play. We'd had 10-12" of rain in about 4 days and the sump was running constantly.

I bought a battery operated pump and went down every 3 hours and pumped 3 or 4 five gallon buckets out of it, carried them outside and dumped them. That got us through Saturday and Sunday, but I had to work on Monday. I ended up going out and dropping $600 on a 6500 watt generator, dropping cords the the sump, the fridge, the freezer and one to the living room for lights and TV. It wasn't warm enough for us to need the A/C...

Living where I do, I chained the generator to my A-frame engine hoist with the chain and lock from my old motorcycle days to make sure it would be here when I got home.

You can have an isolation switch wired below your meter to plug a generator into, then you just have to cut the breakers that feed the extra things you can't run on it. If it's July or August, I'll be doing that so I can run one of my window units; the generator is big enough to handle one of them.

Glad it came back on before anything froze or was hurt!