The Entire Month of January Can Be Summed Up in a Few Words…

I’ll start off by recapping the fact that January was unbelievably boring. We did almost nothing all month. I literally took more photos in the first 5 days of February than all of January. That’s mostly because I went back on keto, which canceled out a lot of fun stuff. And, in Austin, all fun stuff revolves around food and drink.

On January 1, after returning from New Mexico, I weighed in at 262.5. That was probably inflated a bit, because the very next morning I was already down to 259. At the low point, weighing myself at a particularly opportune time on an empty stomach and fresh off a swim, I saw 245 on the scale. But my most recent weigh-ins have been around 248. Ultimately, still a big success. It isn’t very tough for me to stick to once I get going, but it puts a cramp on the family meal plan because we had to make so many substitutions. But, that’s over now that the calendar flipped to February! Now, just like last year, I can work to quickly gain all that weight back in 2-3 months by returning to my normal diet and exercise routine.

Historic Ice Storm Slams Austin

It was going to be a big week in the Glanzer house! On Wednesday, February 1, Lauren’s aunt Alice was to fly into Austin directly from Minneapolis and stay with the kids for three nights while Lauren and I flew to Nashville to meet up with Alex and Ann for a long-planned vacation. Except old Mother Nature had other dastardly plans instead. We may be in the South, but as the last few winters have proved, the temps do indeed fall, and the accompanying storms can be brutal and destructive for a metro area completely ill-prepared to deal with them.

Things got off to a grim start when school was called off early Monday as icy rain began to lightly fall, with expectations it would turn worse overnight. The forecast at that time called for icy precip ending Wednesday morning—surely that wouldn’t derail any travel plans! As expected, daycare and school were both canceled Tuesday, and the kids mostly hung out in the shed while I worked. The weather was cold and rainy, but we weren’t necessarily fearing anything dramatically bad at this point. The forecast kept pushing the winter weather advisory back and back, and by this point the cautions had extended into Thursday morning.

Wednesday, while in bed, shit hit the fan and thickly lathered fecal matter on everything in its path—so to speak, of course. We repeatedly were greeted by thundering crashes on the roof, followed by the sound of sliding and then crashes onto the ground. I sprung out of bed every time, waking up every ten minutes or so. The shed was sure to be a goner, I figured. With every crash I raced to the window to ensure it was still standing. When I woke up in the morning and could see outside, the sight around the neighborhood was shocking. Trees were frozen over and limbs were sagging all the way down to the ground. Literally every 3-4 seconds I could hear another big limb snap and crash somewhere in the neighborhood. You could just watch in the horizon and see the top 10 feet of a tree break clean off.

Things got even worse that morning when we lost power. The kids were both home from school, and neither Lauren or I could work. It’s not like we could just drive to a coffee shop and find somewhere with power to work. It was down everywhere, and roads weren’t even drivable with trees blocking streets. With no power, people went to their phones, creating poor reception and cellular service. Predictably, Alice’s flight to Austin was canceled along with every single other inbound and outbound flight. The power came back on for a couple hours and we thought we were in the clear, but it went away again at 2pm.

Alice had been placed on an evening flight to Austin, but then that was canceled. She was rebooked again on a Thursday night flight through Atlanta with a long layover. She was still happy to make the trip, though, if we could somehow figure out a plan for our Thursday morning departure, which she obviously would not be present for. The idea we’d actually go to Nashville felt like a 1% chance at that point. Being it was Lauren’s birthday, I urged her to go alone, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Bringing the kids along would have cost thousands. The weather was continuing to somehow worsen, as more trees fell all over town. A neighbor diagonally across the street from us actually had an entire tree fully uproot and crash through their roof.

We sent John over to a friend’s house with power to play for the day Wednesday, then hung out with the Novak family in the evening. They had heard we were canceling our Nashville trip and insisted we leave the kids with them until Alice could arrive. We thought that sounded like a possibility, especially since the kids were ecstatic about the idea of a sleepover. And then their power went out right before our eyes.

We returned home to a cold house with no power and put the kids to bed, buried under piles of blankets to the point they were shedding layers during the night. Thursday morning, the storm had ended, Edie’s daycare reopened, and the temp peeked just a hair above 32º, allowing the melting to begin. We didn’t take the friends up on their offer to watch the kids—it would be too irresponsible to have left early in the morning in that condition, especially with their power now out. We decided to switch flights to the next morning, miss a day of the fun, and hope for the best.

It was a surreal scene that afternoon standing under the backyard covered patio. It wasn’t actually raining, but it seemed like we were in the midst of an hours-long hail storm as ice chunks fell off branches all day long. It was wildly dangerous to actually step outside though, with large ice blocks and limbs continuing to fall, and our yard entirely covered by massive trees. Whereas in the morning the tree in our driveway was literally touching the ground, by 3:00 it was back to its old self and I could park a car under it. But, still, no power. I worked for a couple hours hauling what branches had fallen out to the curb. Apparently everyone else saw me and followed suit. Soon the street was buried under mountains of branches.

That night we had no choice but to go out to eat. It was Lauren’s birthday, after all, and there was no way we could eat at home. Just a couple miles away at The Domain, it was business as usual—restaurants fully powered and people going about their business shopping happily. Our neighborhood really seemed to get the brunt of the damage. On the way home, we noticed stop lights in our neighborhood were completely out. Not just blinking red, but out altogether, and in some cases missing. It was every motorist for himself as some cars could see where there was supposed to be a light and stopped, while other cars sped through obliviously. It’s a miracle no one was killed… that I know of.

With the break in weather, ice fully melted and 50s and 60s expected Friday, and Austin Energy quoting customers a 6pm Friday deadline to restore power, we went ahead with plans for Alice to fly into town. She landed at 12:30am, and I happily volunteered to go pick her up seeing how the van had heat and the house was an icebox. We returned to the house around 1:15 and got a little sleep.

Friday morning it was all systems go! Alice and the kids were all set. Power would return soon, and in the meantime they’d go out and have breakfast, maybe visit an arcade… who knows what fun they could find! We honestly didn’t think much of it. It seemed like everyone and everything would be fine. The worst of our branches were cleaned up, the weather would be cooperative, the kids were teeming with plans. We made it to our 9:40am Southwest flight to Nashville and barely gave anything a second thought.

In Nashville we met up with Alex and Ann and the fun began, checking out bars and live music on Broadway. As the afternoon crept along and power hadn’t yet been restored in Austin (we were able to see if power was on remotely through our Nest security camera app), we decided to book Alice and the kids a nice Hilton hotel for the night. Well, that didn’t transpire. Upon arrival to check-in, the hotel informed Alice they had suffered a power outage earlier and were vastly overbooked. The third-party sites just kept letting people book because there was no way to communicate that the rooms were filled. That left Alice and the kids in a big bind. Alice drove around until they found a hotel with one room left, a Best Western in Round Rock. That left Edie upset as she was promised a pool! It sounded like quite an ordeal to even secure that room, which was in high demand. Obviously, upon learning all of this, we felt pretty damn guilty for having left on the trip! But, we were assured the drama was over, the kids were happily entertained in the hotel, and all was well. That Aunt Alice sure is a saint!

Our Nashville trip continued Saturday morning with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame, followed by the discovery of an all-day karaoke floor within Alan Jackson’s Good Time Bar. I got around ten songs in, singing to virtually no one but Lauren and the karaoke host for much of the time. Word from back home was that Alice had dubbed Friday a “FF Day”—frustration-free! It sure sounded like they kept busy, eating at fun restaurants, visiting parks and play-lands, and enjoying the beautiful 60-degree day. But still—NO POWER. They had to book the Best Western for a second night. Did I mention how much we owe Aunt Alice??? Figuring it did no good to mope around, we booked our tickets to a party tractor that pulled us around town at night in an enclosed party trailer. It was a blast!

At some point that evening I received a text from a neighbor that power had been restored! And then minutes later another text saying it was back out. And finally an hour later, another text that it was back on… and on it stayed, thank goodness. But the gang was already at the hotel, likely sleeping.

By Sunday, we had had enough of frolicking around Nashville and were anxious to get home and relieve Alice from her sitting duties, so we moved up our flight a few hours. We returned home at 5 to a warm, lit-up house. Alice, John and Edie were all excited to see us, I think!

Had we any idea that power would have been out for that long, we absolutely wouldn’t have traveled. We were quoted Friday before dark, and given how they had quickly fixed it Wednesday morning, we figured they would be true to their word. So, yeah, like everyone else in town, we’re not thrilled with Austin Energy, but I’m sure they did their best. We both felt foolish for leaving the children, their great aunt, and a dog home together while we flew out of town. But it sure sounds like they wound up having a great bonding experience, and a story none of them should ever forget!

Even now, a full week after the storm started, the neighborhood looks like a war zone with crushed roofs covered by tarps, piles and piles of branches on every curb, limbs dangling from treetops just waiting to fall and mangle another car, stop lights still out, barren grocery stores, empty gas pumps, spoiled food from everyone’s unpowered fridges and freezers, and thousands still without power. The main damage here—trees notwithstanding—was the gutters were pulled off the roof, my car antennae got bent, and a piece of the fence got busted off. It was far more damaging than the blizzard of 2021, and probably the third or fourth most damaging storm I’ve lived through, with that Carpenter wind storm of the late 90s leading the way.

I of course opted to not go hog wild posting photos of Nashville on social media, feeling sheepish that I was there at all. But the trip did happen, it was fun even though it was cut short on both ends, and two days of barhopping is all this 40-year-old body can really withstand, having been in bed before 10 both nights since returning.