Riding on Empty

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Monday's challenge is to determine what to do for our full hour tonight.

We have been covering Hurricane Rita's (search) aftermath all weekend — and it is a very important topic — but some viewers have written asking for other information on other topics. In programming the show, we from time to time consider the entire network's programming. We want to give you new information — not repeat that which you may have already seen. Of course, this is a challenge that cannot always be met. Having different guests is one way to meet the challenge, but may not always be effective. In sum, my guess is that we will be programming and re-programming our show all day long trying to get the best balance for you at 10 p.m. ET.

Now that we have witnessed two back-to-back hurricanes in the Gulf states, it is with some relief that we discuss Rita. Rita was extremely dangerous and destructive but not as bad as Katrina (search). On the positive side, Texas had an evacuation plan that was not perfect, but was a plan. Louisiana had none — or if it did, there was little or no effort to execute it. Some critics suggest that praise for Texas' efforts is guided by politics. I might remind those critics that the judge of Harris County and the mayor of the City of Houston are of different parties: one is a Republican, one is a Democrat.

We do need to investigate what happened on the bus on the Texas highway that killed 24 elderly evacuees. Words can't describe the tragedy. I suppose the nursing home people were acutely aware of what happened when a Louisiana nursing home (search) did not evacuate its residents, but did they use good judgment in how they evacuated the people of their own home? I don't know. I want to see the results of the investigation.

Viewers have written asking if we have left Texas. The answer is yes — we left Saturday. We played "Russian roulette" with the gas gauge. We left Houston in the rain with about 3/4 a tank of gas and headed for Dallas where the airport was open — the Houston airport was closed. As we drove the four-plus hours in a gas guzzling SUV, we watched the gas gauge. We also wondered about sitting alongside the highway in the pouring rain. The thought of spending Saturday night in the car alongside the road was also discussed. We wondered whether the seats folded down and whether we would go stir crazy in a crowded SUV, in the rain, alongside a deserted highway. At this point, the highway to Dallas was absolutely deserted. We were the only ones who had ventured out and certainly no one was leaving Houston at that time — they had already evacuated the days before!

We realized an hour into the drive that we had the air conditioning on and we decided to turn it off, thinking it uses up more fuel. We also took chances and used gas to drive off exits to look for stations. We had several failures and worried that our failures cost us the chance of arriving in Dallas. Prior to taking an exit, we all discussed whether it was worth the risk.

We drove past many, many closed stations (no gas) and we saw a few gas stations with long lines (we did not have the gas nor the time to wait in two hour plus line.) We also used our cell phones to try and locate stations ahead since we did not want to waste the fuel looking or the time (we wanted to make flights.) We finally got lucky near Dallas: as the gauge headed quickly towards "E," we found a station with gas. I think of all the times I take for granted filling up my tank at home — even at the high prices.

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