So there I was, headed to the Gulf Coast again for a string of gigs at some of my favorite spots: The Southern Lights Coffee House in Fairhope, Ala., The Flora-Bama on Perdido Key, Fla. and a new festival in Mobile, Ala., called "Bay Fest."
Upon my arrival in Fairhope I drove in and went straight to the dressing room to prepare for my first show. The opening act, Guthrie Trapp and Dave Leather, were on stage playing when I got there. That Friday night and Saturday went great. I have to say, if you haven't heard of Guthrie Trapp, you soon will. He is a 16-year-old prodigy. He plays guitar like someone who's been doing it for twenty years and mandolin and bass as well. It's hard to explain just how talented someone like Guthrie is. I'll just say go see him if you ever have the opportunity. Dave Leather is a fine blues singer from the Mobile area.
I was staying with friends in Orange Beach, Ala. and the Sunday after my Fairhope gig there was nothing but talk of Hurricane Opal as she made her way closer to land. She was headed straight towards the coastline from Mobile all the way over to Ft.
Walton Beach. Everyone was genuinely worried and with good cause as they had just recovered from Hurricane Arin which had hit them two months earlier. I was due to play again on that following Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at four different venues, so suddenly my gigs were in question as well.
As Tuesday night approached, Opal was doing about 75 mph and expected to make landfall sometime late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
I woke up Wednesday morning to the sound of my friend Lynn's TVon the weather channel at 6 a.m.! Opal was now carrying winds up to 150 m.p.h. and had graduated to category 5, which is catastrophe level. I jumped out of bed to find Lynn and his helper, Lee, in rain suits, starting to board up the windows on Lynn's beautiful self-designed home, which sits at the end of Bear Point on Perdido Bay. This is a location that was at that hour in grave danger. I got dressed and immediately started helping with the boarding process. Opal was now due in at around 5 or 6 p.m. and there was no time to lose.
By 10 a.m. we had the house pretty well secured and the announcement had come over the air to evacuate. Lynn and his wife, Joanne, had made plans to drive up to Monroeville, Ala., about a hundred miles inland to the northeast. About that time our friend Gove Schrivner, a fine singer and songwriter from Nashville who moved down to the area six months ago, called. He was packing his belongings in his pickup truck, which has a cap on it and was planning to drive somewhere to the north. He wasn't sure where yet. He said he'd come over as soon as he could; I figured I'd haul up to Montgomery to Andrea Harris' place. Andrea is a high school English teacher, songwriter and poet who I met when she was heading up the Alabama Songwriter's Association. She was at school teaching, so I left her a message that I'd be up there as soon as possible.
Gove arrived around 10:30 and said the police had advised anyone who wasn't already well on their way not to leave at all, but to go to area shelters which had been set up at local schools, churches and other facilities. We all started discussing what we would do. I decided to leave anyway and take my chances. I reached the end of Lynn 's driveway and turned on the radio.
"Yes, Julie, that's right.All the side roads as well are bumper to bumper. There are no alternate routes available and we urge anyone who has not already gotten well on their way to not go at all. A good number of people are going to be caught on the highway when the hurricane hits and a vehicle on the open road in 100 m.p.h. winds is no place to be during a hurricane."
lt was the voice of a police officer. A momentary twinge of panic ran through me.
Then I thought, screw it, I'm staying.
(To be continued.) Alan Rhody will celebrate the release of his fourth album, From A Real Good Home, at The Rudyard Kipling, 422 W. Oak St., on Friday, November 24, starting at 9:30 p.m. Rhody is a free-lance writer, touring acoustic artist and hit songwriter,' residing in Nashville since 1977.