Avoiding Tornadoes!

Saturday: Woke up at 8. It’s rained, but it looks okay outside. Checked the weather channel. Sue got us coffee and yogurt and pastries from the breakfast buffet. No help from the front desk about the weather. We decided that rather than sit here in this dirty hotel room and watch TV all day, we might as well drive north and see how far we get. I checked the bra on the van — it’s been inflating and bulging out as we drive along — but couldn’t see any easy way to tighten it. We filled up gas and were off.

The road was good. The sky was partly cloudy. Warm. Sun. Lots of trucks on the road. Not enough 4 lane. We had opted to head for North Platte, Nebraska — hoping thereby to avoid the area to the east of it which is expected to get the serious dangerous weather.

Drove like that all morning. No problem. Listened to the rest of the Tina Fey audiobook on the car stereo.

Stopped for lunch just before 12 at a McDonalds in Liberal, Kansas. As we pulled into town the rain started to fall. As we exited the van it began to REALLY fall. POURED on us. We got into the restaurant soaking wet. Stood in front the hand dryer in the washroom for a while. Reminded me of the day we got caught in a downpour on our 2003 Cross-Canada cycling trip and spent much of the morning in a Tim Hortons washroom, trying to dry out.

After we ordered our lunch we sat and ate it and looked out the window at the lovely day. No more rain! If only we had just waited in the van for FIVE minutes. Oh well, it’s an experience. We have more clothes in the van. In fact, after lunch Sue got naked in the van and changed into her dirty clothes from yesterday. We draped our jackets and socks over the back seat of the van and headed back on the road. North. To Nebraska.

The heat in the van was on high. And it didn’t take long to dry out our shoes and socks. Our pants and shirts. And the rain was over!

Feed lotsThe drive continued to be enjoyable. Mostly 2-lane, but not so many trucks, and I was going about 70mph in the 65mph zones. But the clouds around us were definitely interesting! I kept looking for funnel clouds around us. Once we got into northwestern Kansas, and then into southwestern Nebraska, the rains began again. And lots of movement in the dark clouds all around us. We got to North Platte and decided to pull over and maybe wait this thing out. Sat on a Ramada Inn parking lot and looked out the window. But if a tornado hits us here, how is this better than driving along the road? So after a few minutes of that, we decided to keep going.

We were listening to the local radio now. And about 5 miles north of North Platte it started to pour again. I pulled over. A semi and 2 cars went by me. Okay, I’m going back on the road too. As we kept driving the guy on the radio starts warning everyone to take shelter. In North Platte. In the basement of your house. If you’re on the road, get off it. Huh? Yes, there is now marble-sized hail in North Platte. And a tornado has been sighted. And then another tornado is sighted. And this is all happening 10 minutes behind us! We keep driving. It’s not so bad! But the county we are entering has already been hit hard, according to the radio guy.

We kept on going. And although the skies continued to be dark and interesting, we really never had any trouble driving — no real downpours, no really high winds, no hail or tornado.

The Garmin was suggesting that hotels and restaurants would be no problem in Valentine, Nebraska, but if we opted to continue and go up Murdo, SD or on to Mitchell, SD (near Sioux Falls) we would be taking our chance with restaurants and fewer hotels. Okay, we’ll stop a little early today. We can drive a LONG day tomorrow, since we don’t have to worry about finding a place for tomorrow night.

So at 7:30 we pulled into Valentine, NE. Drive right by the little Drive-in where we stopped for a meal a year ago — and we can’t even remember when or why we would have driven through this town! Booked a room at the Comfort Inn. Then went to Peppermill, the local restaurant, and had supper.

Back in our room, Sue called Alex (who had read about the dangerous weather this afternoon and was worried about us) and let her know we were safe. She’s having a birthday party for herself at her house. We drank some wine and warmed up and watched the weather channel — looks like we avoided quite a few tornadoes and some serious weather today! Let’s hope it blows over and we’re in for a great final day of driving (11 hours from home here) tomorrow.