Bots and Team regroup in Ontario

Ontario, CA – The bots and the team have regrouped in Ontario, CA, pretty much as per schedule. Had to do some quick shuffle to get past Rita. There are only three members still in Lafayette –¬†Scott, Patrick, and I. (Had to make a call on whether the timeline should show Lafayette or Ontario. I am writing from Lafayette. But its about the team in Ontario, so I chose Ontario.)Incidentally, Continental Express did finally cancel the flights on Friday too, the eve of the hurricane. Had they been a little more flexible, rather thoughtful, about their policies we’d have still used their tickets. Per their policy, you could reroute without penalty or extra charge so long as you changed neither the origin nor destination. So if you were scheduled to fly out of Lafayette, you could not choose to drive to Baton Rouge and fly out a day early when Houston airport was still open. In order to do that you’d have to pay $700 to change each ticket. This policy stood even after flights from Lafayette were canceled. Like I mentioned before Continental would make even FEMA blush.

Thank goodness the State of Louisiana has some pre-negotiated rates, though out of a few limited city. I was able to get fully refundable tickets at very reasonable rates. It did require the team to drive some distance to Shreveport. Given the circumstances, that was the least of the concern. As for the non-refundable tickets, they became automatically refundable when Continental canceled the flights.

Having heard the stories of evacuees from Houston stranded on highway, I really feel lucky that the CajunBot Chase Team made it to Ontario. They did get caught up in the traffic of early evacuees, and took four hours to go around Houston. I thought four hours was long. But it doesn’t look so bad considering that later evacuees spent over 10, and sometimes 20, hours heading out of Houston.

And now Rita has come and gone. Areas West of Lafayette have really bore the brunt of the storm. Lafayette, at least my neighborhood, got a lot of water and high winds, but all the houses, roofs, and cars are all in tact. No fallen trees, except the crepe myrtle bushes outside my house. This was bad enough news for my wife, and I had to ‘do time’ shoveling dirt to anchor the bushes. No regrets at that. At least I did not have to climb the roof to put tarp like one of the last hurricane (I think Lily) hit.

With weather stabilizing and life coming back to order, its time to schedule flight to head west. DARPA has some ceremonies (meetings) that say ‘Attendance of Team Leader is mandatory’. Its not worth trying to find out what happens if Team Leader is stranded due to hurricane.

– Arun Lakhotia

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