(or what happened days 8 – 10)
I’ve been a bit slow writing this up, in part because we were pretty busy but also in part I didn’t want to write the part where I talked about some of our group leaving us. Day 8 saw only 6 of the group continue. We also said goodbye to a couple of guides. They’d been fantastic the past week and after such a jam-packed week it was like saying goodbye to old friends.
We headed North from Oklahoma passing through Kansas and into Nebraska (our 10th state on this road trip!). The night was spent in Lincoln, Nebraska where despite meeting some really cool people, the doormen at the bars and their sheer randomness meant it was a frustrating night. I understand having door policies, but
A) Julia’s capri pants are not sweatpants.
B) Roy is 40 and doesn’t look even remotely younger than 21. His driving license is a universally acceptable form of photo ID
C) If you were a Customs and Immigration official rather than a doorman you’d understand that visas are now electronic
D) Germans do not get issued with US passports
A strongly worded email to Nebraska’s tourism office got a quick response but the evening was a bit of a bust.
So were our storms the next day (day 9). We drove all the way to West Nebraska to watch our storms fall apart in front of our eyes.
We stayed the night in Dodge City, Kansas in a hotel where a load of doors had rolled up towels at the base of them. I reckoned we were in the middle of some meth lab but we arrived late and got the hell out of Dodge quite early.
Day 10 saw us head from Dodge City, Kansas to Lawton, Oklahoma where we watched super cells build. We then drove into the hail core of one. Holy crap! I thought the windows were going to shatter. A few golf balls but mostly nickel sized hail, but it caused a real racket and was much worse than anything I’ve ever seen in the UK.
With hail intercept ticked off our wish list, we headed south to Wichita Falls where we saw an amazing supercell form and then fall part. It looked like a spaceship and I posted a picture of it a couple of days ago. Great cloud structure was on our wish list so that was another thing ticked off. We also had Team Dominator drive past us and shout out the window at us.
We were quick to drop our dieing cell and bounce West to a new cell. As we pulled off the road, the thing was spinning like a top and we thought it could touchdown. Sadly it didn’t, which may be as well as the light meant that my video contrast was off and you can’t really see it. But something we thought was RFD (rear flank downdraft) did. I caught that on video and yes, it did spin. People are now saying it was a tornado, although I suspect it’s not one in the classic sense of the word. I think this has made me realise that counting tornadoes is a pointless exercise. Whether it was or not didn’t make it any less of a great experience.
We chased that storm for some time but it never became as tight as it had before. So as dusk fell and we joined a procession of chasers, we were treated to finale of great lightening. We got back to find the flash flood had caused the the hotel to leak and flood a couple of our rooms. That was the 3rd of our hotels we’ve destroyed this trip, and a fitting end.
Yesterday saw the rest of us all disperse. I so didn’t want it to end, and today several months of pure adrenaline leading up to this have hit me like an EF5. I did try and keep myself busy by driving a hire car up into Kansas and watching a storm form and fall apart. Got some great video as I drive into it as it falls apart with tonnes of cool lightning. But it didn’t feel the same without the rest of my fellow Road Dawgs to share it with. I stopped the night in Perry before coming back to Oklahoma today.
I happened to see our van as I pulled into Walmart. It was pulling out of a service station with a new group aboard. I so wanted to follow it, drive behind all the way to the Texas storms. But my adventure has ended now, and it’s others’ turn. Instead I must pack and return to normality. Tomorrow I fly home with my only fear that I will return the same person.
I so don’t want to go. Despite hyping myself up to bursting point over the last six months, this trip delivered epicness on a scale I never dreamed possible and that I doubt will ever be repeated. We had nighttime twin tornadoes a couple of hundred of feet before us. We had one hotel hit by a tornado, and two hit by flash floods. We had 6″ of rain in an hour in Florida. We crossed 10 states over the course of a 4000 mile road trip, and we ended up with hail, supercells and a daytime tornado.
I plan to come back next year. It won’t be the same but that’s part of the appeal. The experience, like any good experience, has made me grow in ways I probably don’t quite realise yet. Go have an adventure, I always say, and I just had the mother of them all.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was Epic Adventure and I’ll think you’ll agree it certainly was EPIC!