Week 4 Part 1 – Auntie Em, Auntie Em!
Week four dawned with the realization that we were stuck in the Midwest in tornado season. We heard over the weekend that a major storm was due to hit the Midwest on Tuesday. We checked the weather forecast and found they were predicting tornado watches all the way from Kansas City to Dallas…with the most likely areas being a strip from Oklahoma City to Wichita, Kansas.
So we decided bail on Oklahoma City and start heading east. We made it as far as Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday and stopped for the night. The next morning we went to Anytime Fitness to grab a shower and as we were leaving, the bat phone rang. The load was to go from Little Rock to Fort Collins, Colorado. Knowing this was going to put us back into the path of the storm, we purposely bid high on the load hoping we wouldn’t get it. But sure enough, the phone rang again a few minutes later and dispatch informed us that the original person who won the bid had backed out and the load was ours. Oh hell, if we die, at least we were getting paid well.
So we grab the load and head out. Looking at the radar, the storms hadn’t moved into Missouri yet, so we went as far north as we could and found a small break in the storm front in southern Kansas so we headed on in. We kept a close eye on the radar and it appeared that if we could get to Wichita by midnight, we could duck in behind the stormfront heading north and then we would be home free by the time we hit I-70 towards Denver. We did some stop-and-go traveling for a few hours…stopping to let a storm cell ease by us and then scrambling to get past it before the next one moved it. That strategy worked pretty well until we were about 20 miles from Wichita. Then a miscalculation in timing on my part led us straight into a huge storm cell.
The winds hit first practically blowing us off the road a few times, then blinding rain and finally pea-sized hail. The hail was so loud hitting the metal roof, we could barely hear ourselves think and we figured the funnel clouds wouldn’t be far behind. We were looking for something, anything, that would give us some cover. Of course, this being the middle of Kansas, there wasn’t an overpass or gas station to be found. Finally, on our Garmin GPS, (who we affectionately call Mother) we saw the symbol for a bank up ahead off the highway. Banks have covered drive-thru’s right? We pull into what passes for a town, all three blocks of it, and find the bank. Unfortunately, it appeared to have been built in the early 1900’s and had no drive thru. Frantically looking around, the best we could find was a church parking lot. We pulled into the lot and got as close as we could to the church, figuring if God decided our number was up, he’d have to take the church with us.
We stayed in the parking lot and listened to the storm for a bit. Then Michelle figured we had better use the time so she climbed into the back of the van and started making sandwiches (it was already 10:30pm and we hadn’t had dinner yet). We munched on the sandwiches and looked at the radar. The cell we had gotten caught in was moving out and we were clear to Wichita if we left right away, otherwise we would be stuck there for hours when the next cell moved in.
We pulled back onto the highway and wouldn’t you know it, about 2 miles further down, there was a gas station with covered pumps. Figures. We hit Wichita, turned north and made it to I-70 with only a few minor rain showers.