Saturday 6th May 2017
Today was a busy and productive day although it was mainly focused on preparations for Chasepalooza!
My first order of business was editing The Climb for today. I’d done the graphic yesterday so that was pretty quick to schedule, which is just as well as I had a bit of a lie in this morning.
I skipped breakfast and had brunch instead. I’m sure I’m going to put weight on as it was a mound of food, even by my standards. I felt I needed to work it off but that was OK as I’d planned to go into the town anyway.
However, instead of going to the gym, I lugged a load of bags into the center of town. You see, one of my big problems storm chasing is that I need to travel with a DSLR and a laptop. My laptop doesn’t fit in my DSLR bag, and my DSLR won’t fit in my laptop bag. So this year I decided I would buy a new bag. I went and looked at camera bags last month and the shop owner suggested I bring in my kit and we’d find one that would fit it all.
And that’s what I did. I might have been able to get cheaper on Amazon (I just checked and it wasn’t! Woot!) but he did me a deal and gave me great customer service so I felt obligated (in a good way) to buy from him. I’ll be shopping there again.
Got a phone call when I was there to say Amazon were trying to deliver the items I ordered yesterday and so my plans to have a look round town got cut short.
Carrying everything back was cumbersome, so I ended up stopping off and emptying my old bags into the new rucksack and found it much easier.
Got home to find my new gear: a multi-USB charger, a memory card wallet, a V multi-device horseshoe mount and some cables. Nothing major but all stuff for the trip.
As I had to race back, I took a walk to Morrisons to get a few bits for the evening before coming back home and working on a few more items.
I booked my hotel for Winnipeg today. A friend offered me the chance to stay at her house and whilst I’m very grateful for the offer the reason I fly in early is because my body clock is all messed up and I’m up and about at weird times. I got a good deal in a decent area of Winnipeg.
I’m currently of the opinion not to get a hire car for the 4 days before I chase. The malls are just a short distance away and so a taxi is going to prove so much cheaper.
As it is my itinerary is looking like I’ll spend most of Tuesday in bed. Why? Well I don’t get in until 12:40am and my friend Kim has insisted that she’s going to meet me at the airport. That’s super nice of her and I can’t wait to see her. But best of all, I’m going to check in, dump my stuff and then head out with her. So time I actually get to bed it’s going to be the morning and I’m going to be shattered. So my plan for the Tuesday is to sleep. Tuesday evening I’m out for a meal, which leaves Wednesday and Thursday for shopping, before heading out on Friday to start chasing.
I’ve attempted to do a bit of vlogging today. I’m not sure how good it is, but I really like the idea of attempting a daily vlog whilst chasing and I need to get some practise. So this weekend, I’m trying to get some footage so I can make a load of mistakes before I travel in just over a week.
I’m planning on editing it tomorrow but seeing as I have sparring in the morning and then my brother and I are going to go on a little adventure in the afternoon (vlog content) it’ll probably late Sunday evening before it goes live. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to maintain it during the week but I think I should give it a go. My big problem is the office I’m currently working in is secure enough that you’re not allowed to use camera phones, which means I can’t even do content on the iPhone. So that could prove a challenge.
Still going to give it a go but I don’t suspect I’ll be here this time next week with 7 vlogs done.
The evening was spent watching some Tornado Chasers whilst friends on Facebook reminisced about the time we went to Lincoln, Nebraska exactly 3 years ago.
For the longest time my favourite TV Show was the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers. It ran for 5 seasons and it was my favourite thing on television by miles. Watching Reed and his crew go and try and drive vehicles into the middle of fricking tornadoes was just the insanest thing I’d ever seen. I’d always loved tornadoes and seeing one was on my bucket list years before the first season aired, but that show just cemented it for me.
So when Discovery cancelled the show I was literally distraught.
But then Reed launched Tornado Chasers online and I was bought in from the start. Even though season 1 was a terrible season for the team I loved the series and so when they kickstarted the second season I was heavily invested.
This all happened around the time of Leggedon and so whilst I spent the best part of 9 months house bound recovering, those episodes were an escape.
Being housebound for so long results in several things happening. The first is that you save a lot of money because you never go out. The second is that you vow to do something really awesome when you can.
I decided that 2014 would be my year of adventure and so decided I would cross off two things on my bucket list: I would start swordfighting and I would go storm chasing. I found out that Reed owned a company that took people on tours. OK, I thought. So we’ll be miles away whilst the ‘professionals’ get close but I was cool with that.
I remember when I paid my deposit. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that my bucket list item was about to come true. But I was so worried that friends and family would talk me out of it… I told no-one except my boss (because someone needed to know if my plane fell into the Ocean).
I created an elaborate lie that I had to go to a remote part of Scotland on business for several weeks for the day job and made a load of teaser videos. I spent a week geocaching before started my chase and so I timed the release of the videos over the course of that week so that friends and family suddenly became aware that I wasn’t in Scotland.
Of course, I told them it would be epic. Most of those people thought I was exaggerating… until they found out what I was doing.
Heck, my Facebook post from my first day chasing reads thus:
“In Birmingham, Alabama. Brief update on my blog but last night was insane with a line of storm producing tornado after tornado. Historic outbreak. Saw 3 tornadoes in the dark, nearly got hit by 1. Our guides did brilliant work keeping us safe, even after we had to change hotels after our original one got wiped out by a tornado on the way to it.”
Small correction – data shows that the one that ‘nearly’ hit us actually had its outer band pass the other side of us, so I class that as an intercept.
I went to Reed’s house for a BBQ and tornado videos, I got to know some of the Tornado Chasers crew (who are friends to this day), and I went back year after year.
And this year, I’m chasing with friends. I’ve taken off the training wheels and am a bona fide storm chaser. Calling yourself a Storm Chaser is a bit like calling yourself a writer – everyone feels uncomfortable using the term even though there’s no qualification as to when you can start calling yourself one. I still feel a bit funny about using it in my writer bio, as I always think some chaser is there going “but you just went with a group”. Truth is that the groups get far closer than the pros and last year was insane – I was standing closer to Tornadoes than we’d even driven up to (discounting my first one, because the outer bands hit us and got me into the elusive 0 metre club on my first encounter)
Looking back to those images from Lincoln, Nebraska 3 years ago, and watching the El Reno episode of Tornado Chasers (which I don’t think I’ve watched for a couple of years) I realise just how far I’ve come.
2014 was a huge adventure and every year since has just been bigger and badder, and whilst 2017 will see us a little further back, the fact that we’re actually chasing by ourselves is just mind-blowing.
I was thinking tonight, how many people in the UK can actually say they are a seasoned storm chaser? A couple at most? I’ve chased with some of the best chasers out there.
Watching Tornado Chasers, I now see it slightly differently. I notice different things. Things that I would have thought as dangerous, no long seem as much so. Things that seemed quite tame, now seem incredibly risky. I understand the emotions inside the vehicles right now. I have so much of a deeper insight.
And in a little over a week I’ll begin my latest in a long line of epic adventures that marks yet further growth of my evolution as a storm chaser. I’ll be on the road with awesome friends covering parts of America few tourists see, chasing down storms and trying to film them in a way that, oddly, will seem a bit similar to those episodes of Stom Chasers and Tornado Chasers that I loved.
Everything has come full circle.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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