Hurricane Irene is a Innkeeper’s Worry

At Richmond’s premier bed and breakfast, attention quickly shifted from earthquake assessment to hurricane preparations on Wednesday, August 24th. There were normal obligations, breakfasts for guests who were debating the best routes home, laundry, ironing, cleaning, and stocking up. Of course, every now and again a telephone caller would ask: “Is the hurricane coming your way?”  Innkeepers and bed and breakfast owners are pretty talented, but I don’t think knowing the future is part of the job description or even in the cards.  At the last minute, one guest room cancelled and we breathed a slight sigh of relief, our responsibilities were looming less large.

A special treat for guests: a HURRICANE to drink to go with the one raging outside

Back to the preparations: water, lots of it! new batteries for the personal flashlights! groceries to make a hearty gourmet breakfast that need no cold ingredients! That really stretches the limits of creativity! Buy ice, make ice, get ice any way we can to stuff available space in the freezer. Fill the bathtubs with water so we can flush if we have no water. Make sure we have enough D-Cells for the battery operated personal fans in case the electricity is cut.  Keep the cellphones fully charged – makes them a little less accessible while they are plugged in but if we lose power we’ll have maximum capability. Fill the car up with gas so that if we have o go anywhere we can, and if cellphones need charging, we can recharge them in the car.

Friday afternoon, there’s a knock on the door — it’s our guests here celebrating a very special birthday. We get them settled in their room, give them a tour of the house, hospitality: a glass or two of wine and some hors d’oeuvres. We discuss local dining options for the evening and they walk to Pescadoes China Street for a delightful dinner.  Our discussion is paused while we take delivery of our farm fresh eggs from New Kent County. These eggs get delivered every Friday evening right to our back door!

After our guests leave for dinner, we print out the weather forecast for tomorrow and place sweet treats on their bed. Naturally, we’re chuckling at how silly this usual task seems in light of expected Hurricane Irene. They make it back to the inn, settle in, and no storm yet.

In the morning we have rain and some wind, Mike, chef, here at the William Miller House, whips up Hurricanes to accompany breakfast. It’s a hearty breakfast consisting of a Hanover County tomato, mozzarella, and basil scramble topped with parmesan, bacon from Keenbell Farms, bourbon maple sweet potato home fries, southern biscuits, and, of course, water, juice, coffee and tea. We directed our guests to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to check out the Faberge exhibit – thinking indoors is best and it’s less than a mile away.  They return to the inn early, by now wind is fierce, trees are blowing in the wind, branches are falling.  We breathe a sigh of relief. We know where they are, then quickly realize we are responsible for their safety now.

The wind and rain continue, the bed and breakfast grounds are littered with branches and leaves. The reservation for dinner at a local restaurant is cancelled when the restaurant closes. We offer them two choices: we’ll search out a restaurant that is open or please feel free to eat dinner with us in the innkeeper’s quarters.  After about a half an hour, the decision is made, they will eat with us. A sense of relief takes over when we realize they will not be out driving this evening in this storm.

We decide to dine in the dining room, our guests provided a special bottle of French wine they brought back from Europe, and we get to know them better over a dinner of baked potato, prime rib eye steak prepared sous vide, mixed green salad with tomatoes and candied pecans and a vinaigrette dressing.  For dessert, we presented the birthday girl, with a brownie with candles and a scoop of pistachio gelato! It was quite an enjoyable time for us and I hope our guests enjoyed it as well.

4 pickup truck loads of branches like this get cleared from our small urban property

The entire day on Saturday and into the night, we watched as the street tree through which our communications and electric feeds span the street, whipped and stretched the lines. We expected to lose both communications and power at any time, but thankfully we did not. We laundered everything we could in anticipation and ironed all afternoon just in case power would be out for days like with Isabell several years ago.  Our only issue is that the communications span over the road is now low and the first truck up or down the street will take it out. We have our fingers crossed.

Our guests left us Sunday morning to return home and check out the damage there. We took 4 pickup truck loads of branches and leaves from our yard and sidewalk to the city dumpsters to make the property presentable for our next guests!

Innkeepers just keep on going – sort of like that pink bunny!

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