Three weeks of Heaven and Hell.

This week you should be reading about the King’s Daughters, a charming bed and breakfast in Durham, North Carolina. In fact, you should have been reading about it last week. Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence dropped in uninvited and wrought havoc in Eastern North Carolina. This, coupled with a devastating diagnosis, destroyed my ability to concentrate on producing the kind of story you deserve to read.

The Joy Before the Storm

When we left home September 6 on a road trip that would end in Rochester, New York on September 17, Hurricane Florence wasn’t even on our radar. We spent two unforgettable days exploring the well-known and lesser-known treasures of Arlington, Virginia. There we learned why everyone loves living in this vibrant city with a small town feel, right next door to Washington, DC.

Our biggest weather concern was whether we would be able to take our scheduled glider rides in Elmira, New York before the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference in Corning. Not only did we take our flights, we explored Finger Lakes Wine Country in the rain with Duncan and Jane, our ToTravelToo blogger friends from Australia and participated in pre-conference FAM (familiarization) trips. But by the beginning of the conference, it became clear the Southeast was about to be hammered by Hurricane Florence’s wrath.

Our house sits at one of the highest elevations in our community, so we were less concerned about our home than those of our friends and neighbors. Following unsuccessful attempts to persuade our friends, Bob and Pamela to heed the call for mandatory evacuation, they finally agreed to stay in our house, since it was a foregone conclusion that their’s would flood.

The start of the flooding from hurricane Florence (© Bob Leahy ~ Published with permission)

The start of the flooding from hurricane Florence (© Bob Leahy ~ Published with permission)

Power went out on September 13, and the storm raged on for nearly two days. Meanwhile, we networked, partied and learned a lot at TBEX. The conference was followed by an incredible three-and-a-half day Culture and Cuisine tour of Rochester.

During the Storm

We received frequent updates from Bob and Pamela on the progress of Hurricane Florence. With no power, they piggy-backed off a neighbor’s generator – and yes, we will be looking for one of our own – to keep the refrigerator and freezer running. They had no lights other than flashlights and candles, no air conditioning and for a a couple of days, no water. Stores were closed, there was no gas and many lost their homes and businesses to Florence’s rage.

Hurricane Florence - a further rise in the water and now with significant flooding seen from the safe vantage point of our house across the water (© Bob Leahy ~ published with permission)

Hurricane Florence – a further rise in the water and now with significant flooding seen from the safe vantage point of our house across the water (© Bob Leahy ~ published with permission)

Wilmington was where the hurricane came ashore, and the city was isolated for days. The devastation was off the charts. New Bern didn’t fair much better, though. The downtown area was under water, and boats that had broken free at the marinas lay on their sides in the streets.

Our community suffered severe damage from both flood water and wind, but because of our home’s location and sturdy construction, the only damage we incurred was a popped out window screen and a couple of missing boards from our dock.

Painful News

Our luck ran out on our way home from Rochester. Otto had had surgery to remove his spleen in late August, A tumor had caused bleeding in his abdomen, but we were still waiting on the results.

While we were on the road, Otto was his usual exuberant self: tail up while he was working, and wagging constantly when he wasn’t. The grim possibilities were always in the back of our minds, but we tried to push them aside until we had the pathology results.

Otto reposing comfortably in the vet's office waiting for his stitches to be removed (©

Otto reposing comfortably in the vet’s office waiting for his stitches to be removed (©

Our vet called when we were about three hours from home. Otto’s tumor was malignant.

Aftermath and Action

When we returned to our home, there was still no power and we were under a boil water advisory. The next morning, both problems went away, and we had cool air, hot showers and safe drinking water. But we still have no internet access, and are hot spotting our phones.

Bob and Pamela are still with us. They had 13 inches of flood water in their house and have a serious mold problem. We are helping them as much as we can, but getting them back to normal will take months.

As for us, needless to say our press trip to Wilmington beginning in two days is canceled, and my heart goes out to her citizens. We will be doing what we can to help our friends and neighbors who were affected and try to catch up with our writing and photography work.

And Otto? We have an appointment on Monday at the North Carolina State University Veterinary Medicine Clinic. There we will learn what treatment options are available that will prolong his life and give him the quality to continue doing what he loves as long as possible. And, of course, we will give him all the love we can.

To say the last three weeks were a roller coaster would be an understatement. We love what we do, and Otto is an important and precious part of it all. All we can do is take it one day at a time and try to make decisions that will be in his best interests. There will be changes and challenges, but that’s life as we know it. Our sons, family and friends have been sensitive and supportive, and we treasure them for their goodness. We have been overwhelmed by their concern about our safety and that of our home via phone, email and social media. When life hands us lemons, the people we love are our lemonade.

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