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1988:  Flew to Hawai’i, got a Mazda 626 (HI plates, lol) from the Hilo airport.  This might be the first ‘imported’ car I ever drove—but in Hawai’i, American cars are the imports!  Went to pull the light switch and popped the hood, and of course it was pitch dark…

1990.  Didn’t feel like putting miles on my leaser, so got a Toyota Tercel (NE plates) and drove to Chillicothe.  It was a car.

1991:  Five year anniversary, rented a Hertz Lincoln Continental, (NE plates) and drove to Chillicothe, MO then Brunswick and Moberly chasing trains.  Saw a landspout tornado in Cameron.

1991:  ATL-SAV-ATL, Budget, Mopar sedan of some sort (GA plates) which made no impression.

1996-1997:  Took two trips to KC, each time I rented a Mopar Breeze/Stratus (NE plates).  Nice cars at the time, but they didn’t age well.

2003:  Atlanta and North Georgia, wedding, then SAV and back to ATL.  Ford Taurus, (OH plates).  Decent car, one of the millions Ford built for rental agencies just to say they had ‘sold’ the most cars of any marque.

2005:  Buffalo/Niagara Falls/Toronto/Erie.  Alamo at BUF gave us a PA plate Chrysler Sebring two-door (with two kids) and were fairly unapologetic about it.  I’ve never driven a two-door car since.

2006:  Nashville/Knoxville/NC/VA.  Enterprise Kia Sedona (TN plates).  Delightful minivan, I’d buy one today if they were still made.

2007:  Kona, Hertz Chevy Malibu, HI plates (go figure).  It was a Chevy.

2007:  New Orleans/Gulfport/Hattiesburg.  Hertz Mazda6, AL plates.  Fantastic car.  Love Mazdas.

2007:  Dallas on the way back from New Orleans.  Dodge Nitro (TX plates), Hertz knew we weren’t going far or for long so we got ‘upgraded’.  Too much car for two people, too much car for twenty.  Bird tried to play chicken with us and got absolutely destroyed on a side mirror.  No damage to the car!

2007:  Jacksonville/St Simons Island/SAV.  Hertz Toyota RAV4.  Nice car, better car for two rather than the five we were hauling.  LA plates, ironic because we had been in NOLA earlier with AL plates…

2008:  Rented a Hertz Chevy Impala from the Colorado Springs airport in order to drive up Pike’s Peak.  CO plates for some reason…

2008:  BOS/Montreal/Toronto/Buffalo.  Hertz gave us a MA plate Ford Edge with six miles onnit.  Perfect car for what we needed, and I let Hertz know about it.

2009:  Had to go to Dallas to bring a car home for my daughter.  Hertz’ ‘Green Collection’ was cheaper than a straight-up sedan, so I got a Toyota Prius for ninety miles.  KS plates.  Fine car, perfect for city driving.

2009:  Atlanta for my wife’s trade show.  Hertz Chevy Malibu, GA plates, paddle-shifter in an automatic?  No wonder why GM went BK.

2010:  Went to KC train chasing.  Hertz gave me a Mazda5, MO plates, so I was resigned to fitting in, being in Missouri and all.  North of KC, the windshield wiper shredded, so I stopped at MCI, where Hertz gave me another Mazda5, with GA plates!  That’s more like it!

2010:  Tornado chasing in S KS / N OK.  Big hail was forecast so I got a NE plate Chevy Cobalt.  Airflow was such that the mist I was driving in most of the day wouldn’t clear from the windshield, Rain-X was useless.  NO CRUISE CONTROL! Thought my leg was going to fall off.  Decent car, nothing more.

2011:  Three-day weekend to Saint Louis, Hertz Ford Fusion.  Beautiful car with lots of geegaws.  Two big for two people but I didn’t care!

2011.  Finally, a business trip.  Hyundai Elantra for five days.  New cars are so much better now than back in the day.  TX plates, of course.

2012:  Houston for a RUSH concert.  Enterprise/National Kia Optima, upper-level trim level, nice car, but I’d want something smaller.  TX plates, naturally.

2013:  Train chasing in KC.  Enterprise/National, Chevy Tahoe.  Thanks for the ‘upgrade’, but way too much car for one person.  TN plates were nice, snob factor and all.

2013:  KC again, RUSH concert and trains.  Enterprise/National Hyundai Elantra, MN plates.  Nice car, Sirius/XM.

2013: KC for trains, turned into a stormchase.  Enterprise/National Nissan Rogue, base trim level was disappointing and the KS plates were meh.  Interested in small crossovers, but I’d never buy one with this trim level.

2013:  KC for Steak ‘n Shake!  Enterprise/National Ford Taurus, fully loaded.  IA plates were underwhelming, but the car was more luxurious than a similar Lincoln!  Drove through severe thunderstorms on the way back, nice touch.

2014: KC train chasing.  Enterprise/National gave me a Nissan Altima, base level, IL plates.  Very good car, but slightly too big for consideration as a daily driver and I’d want more options.

2014:  Trains, KC and just south, Enterprise/National gave me a Mazda CX-5, AR plates!  Was glad to see this on the lot, I have no need for AWD and this was the first FWD I had seen.  Mazda still knows how to make them!  Loaded trim level, I was hoping to win the lottery so I could buy this from the agency…I like to get plates from southeastern states, and to find Arkansas on a high-end Mazda was like Christmas!

2014:  Flew into Charlotte, grabbed an NC-plate National from the Executive Aisle and drove to Knoxville.  First location where I could pick my own car, or rather my moms did, she liked the pearl paint on a 2015 Buick Verano with 1300 miles onnit.  It would have been too big if it had just been me, but it was a beautiful highway long-distance car.

2015:  Drove to Fort Hood, TX and return.  2015 Kia Sedona LX, minivan is what we needed and minivan is what we got.  I love driving to Texas, as long as the icy roads were done with before we left.  I love southern Oklahoma, too bad we drove through OK at night :-(.  LX level is damn near base, but well-appointed–the dashboard control panel is illegible during the day, and the entertainment center is too complicated to work while driving.  I would want fog lights and wifey would want butt-warmers. KS plates, ironic since we drove N-S-N through the entire state!

2015:  Another trip to KC to chase trains and get Steak ‘n Shake.  Hertz had a weekend special, which resulted in me getting a 2015 Chevy Silverado 1500, NE plates.  Way too big, and 20 MPG highway besides, but the $25 bill made up for that.  No fog lights.

2015:  First-ever drive to Chicago, to visit with friends who were going to a RUSH concert (Wifey and I weren’t going, long story).  Enterprise neighborhood lot gave us a 2014 Chevy C(r)aptiva, MO plates, 38K Mi., for crying out loud!  Tired tires, and I smelled oil whenever the transmission downshifted.  OTOH, best seats of any rental I’ve driven!

2015: Another trip to Fort Hood, another granddaughter! Enterprise neighborhood lot gave us a 2015 Toyota RAV4, AWD(!), fogs, nice car but we needed bigger. MT plates. Great gas mileage. Originally rented for one week but turned out to be two. Check engine light came on within five miles, Enterprise told us to ignore it. Tire pressure light came on, but never could figure out what tire.

Paul Nyholm hated tornadoes.  I found it hilarious that he’d head to his basement and spend all night there if necessary.

Thursday, 17 June 2010.  The day had started off interesting for Omaha, but the patterns changed over time and the dynamics had moved northeast.  Still interesting, still worth watching and because at the time Facebook hadn’t been net-nannied at work, I could follow in real-time.

It gets close to quitting time and Paul asks if I’m going out.  I tell him no, five hours at least to get to where things were projected to fire, which means at least seven hours back home.  So he asks, “If you were going out, where’d you expect it to happen?”

I thought for a second, flipped a mental coin and said “Albert Lea, Minnesota.”  (I look for crossroads, and the corner of I-35 and I-90 fit the bill.  I could have easily said Sioux Falls…)

Well, of course Albert Lea got whacked something fierce.  Next morning, Paul was all amazed, like I was the Tornado Whisperer or something!  That made his day, he talked about every spring from then on.

R.I.P., Paul.  You’ll never know what you missed, camped out in your basement.  You’ll have a better seat from now on.



I lived in Dallas ‘burbs for almost eighteen months and I loved it.

Then I spent a week in Fort Worth and I loved Fort Worth.

Then I spent a weekend in Houston and I loved Houston!

I like to write.  I like to drive.  I like to travel and I like to buy cars!  The car, among other things, is long gone.  But it was a good time…

November, in the year of our Lord 2003. I had just bought wifey a red 2003 Ford Windstar (our second), hot offa the showroom floor with only 79 miles on the clock. Just three days later, it got recalled for rear seat anchors and McMullen Ford in Council Bluffs, Iowa loaned us a Focus ZTW while repairs were effected.

Nice car. Loved the hard suspension, the acceleration was more than what I needed, cute styling, and the thing went through gas like Lara Flynn Boyle goes through Steak ‘n Shake(!)  Wifey says that she could drive a car like this from time to time, when she tired momentarily of her minivan…

A week later, I turned my 1991 Tempo into U-Pull-It Auto Recyclers. It was a good car, albeit boring. (Boring means inexpensive, and it was that…)  Now our driveway held two Windstars that got anywhere between 16-21 mpg and I sure as heck didn’t need two big-(g)a$$ guzzlers.

I had snagged a Focus brochure at McMullen and I was unimpressed with the color swatches, too small and all.  One thing I was sure of was that I didn’t need another red car with one in the driveway already. The old Windstar was silver and I was ambivalent about another car the same color.   I won’t let my wife wear beige bras, and I won’t drive a beige car! The blues were…okay…

A 35 MPH drag race…

New Year’s Eve. Alex Lifeson is getting arrested for a butt load of alcohol-related offences in Florida, meanwhile I’m spending my December 31st in Olathe, Kansas semi-clean and 100%-sober looking for Joe’s Crab Shack.

Bumper-to-bumper on 135th Street, I catch up to a Focus. Wifey: “Hey, that’s the green!”  Damned if it doesn’t look good—in the reflection of headlights and streetlights. We parallel some poor girl for three miles and 10 lights and we can’t find anything to contradict our original opinion—but it was night and all…

Next morning, we wander into Olathe Ford and find another Tundra Focus in their back lot. While it was a stick and they were closed (!) the green looked good in the daylight, too…

Put your message in a modem…

Well, was still in my browser cache from my Windstar search, for crying out loud…One thing about living in Nebraska, you can find any car you want, as long as it’s red!  Couldn’t find a green one anywhere in Omaha.  There was a Ford lot in Kansas City that specialized in program cars, but green ones there flew off the lot. One weekend, there were four in the KC metro, within five days they were all gone.

Out of town?  It’d have to be in a city where I could get cheap one-way airfare, where the lot was close to the airport, and where there weren’t any relatives—I was expecting a white-knuckle, get-it-done-in-a-weekend-and-get-back-home deal.  A lot in Chicago would sell me one with 24k mi. for 9000 USD, but that was too many miles and it sold. Wasn’t too disappointed…Same deal in Little Rock.

Within a day’s drive? Places in Salina, Kansas and Sioux Falls, South Dakota that advertised themselves as Ford superstores had plenty of white/gold/tan/silver Foci. Yawn. Another thing was the fact that I absolutely had to have ABS. Three snowstorms in two weeks gave me 27 inches and that was enough to reinforce my insistence on ABS.  Hardly any Foci came with it!  Ford lots in Great Bend and Topeka, Kansas had greenies but didn’t bother to answer my e-mails.

What to do? When I get to this point, I decide not to decide and invariably things make themselves clear.  Sent one last e-mail to Morrie’s Minnetonka Ford, who had just popped one up, and turned my back on the whole deal.

Yeah. You know what happened…Melissa from Morrie’s found a green/ABS/auto/power everything, and came up with financing in a jiffy.  She was a terrier with her e-mails so wifey and I said: Let’s Do This.

Mama’s got a squeeze box…

Sequestered the kids, overdosed on Applebee’s (kids on the cell phone: “Where are you?” “Applebee’s” (Didn’t tell them Applebee’s in Albert Lea, Minnesota…!), drove like mad to Minneapolis with The Who By Numbers on the CD player, defiled a Marriott, tried out Caribou Coffee, went to Target for souvenirs.

In and out of Morrie’s in the span of 90 minutes. Took the dealership tour, (“This is our service area, which you’ll never use…”). Melissa plied us with a gross of Morrie’s keychains for the kiddies, a car warsh and a tank o’ petrol.

Hit the Big Dog outlet mall for more payola for the kids, Norah Jones on the CD playa, 31 mpg @ 70+ MPH. Minnesota keeps the plates with the car even after it’s sold, so plates mean no in-transits and no hassles by law enforcement.  7 hours back to Omaha, more Applebee’s for dinner.  Told the kids that we went to Minneapolis to get some Minnesota Wild shirts! They were pi$$ed enough already that we went to MSP and they didn’t get to go to Mall Of America. Shucks…next time!

The Tornado Magnet…

Been chasing using either the Tempo or an 88 Ranger for the past few years.  Haven’t seen gorilla hail in the past few years, so my POS beaters have been dent-free. Naturally, since I’m now going to have a new car this season, it’ll be a record hail year!

“If it could happen to him, what chance did the rest of us have? I think we all felt that. It seemed like we’d lost our leader.”–F1 driver Chris Amon, on the death of Jim Clark, 1968.

Jim Clark was about five years before my time, but being a motor racing enthusiast, I knew how I felt on the days that Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died.

Before Facebook and Youtube took off, a stormchaser got their news from wx-chase and Stormtrack.  In those days, after every chase I busted on, I’d see photos and video from geniuses such as Mike Hollingshead, Shane Adams, Mike Peregrine and Tim Samaras or find explanations from Samaras, Tim Marshall ,among others detailing why they stayed home.  After every chase that I got crappy video from, I’d see better images from them.

Tim Samaras was one chaser who I knew chased the right way, every time and got all they could from a setup, every time.  After an event, I knew the story wasn’t told completely until I saw what Tim had to say about it.  Kirksville 2009 was the best example of when I wandered around half-assed when TWISTEX got it right and did good science, besides.

And more importantly, from my interactions with Tim, I knew he was a gentleman and I have no doubt that Paul Samaras and Carl Young were the same.

Another thing is that they did all this without self-promotion.  You’d see their video and wonder why you hadn’t seen them all afternoon!

Anyone who has heard the infinite monkeys/infinite typewriters/infinite amount of time theorem know that one day chasers would die, and discounting random events such as drunk drivers, bluehairs and deer, I at least thought in vague detail about what ‘type’ of chaser it would most likely be.  I put myself nearer to the top of that list than the bottom…but graybeards like Marshall, Doswell, Rasmussen, Bluestein were at the very bottom and so was TWISTEX.

31 May.  Rick Burriesci said “Everything about that day went wrong”.  Every post on my Facebook feed from 5:30PM CT on was more bewildering and desperate than the one before it.  And the Youtube video that began showing up after 8:00 PM made no sense whatsoever–it was no hyperbole to say that people were driving like their lives depended on it.  And these posts and these images were from people who have done this for years and are good at it.  People who I would trust with my life in a car around a tornado.  None of these people were in control of any aspect of their lives, and a)  I knew them and cared for them, and b) all of them were at least as good as I am in maneuvering around a storm and in most cases far better at it.   Fully half the name-brand chasers were in OKC that afternoon, and most of them are lucky they only have severe damage to their cars.

Friday is not a ‘reality check’…it’s just sad.

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”–William Wordsworth

I used to believe in this statement like no other.  Now I don’t know what it means.  Despite the rationales of disparate stormchasers, their motives, their attitudes, their demeanors, no one loves Ma Nature more than a stormchaser.  Now three people who loved Her died, and speaking for myself, I feel a lot of things and some sense of betrayal is one of them.

So, what to do?  I’m going out chasing, hopefully this week.  It needs to be done.  But perhaps now Ma Nature isn’t a benevolent recipient of good thoughts and harmony like I had portrayed Her.

Hadn’t missed a RUSH tour since about 1988, seen them a total of nine times.  This tour, not only did they give Omaha a pass, they missed KC, Des Moines, Denver…and I refuse to give Chicago my business if I can avoid it.  Had it narrowed down to ATL or HOU, but American wouldn’t let me use my miles to Atlanta.  Houston was on a Sunday which meant dirt-cheap Enterprise rentals.  And it ain’t like you have to twist my arm to get me to Texas!

Four American legs on MadDog-80s, but by way of comparison United wanted me on Regional Jets and multi-stop is more fun, anyways.  I liked United better when it was called Continental…Due to fog in Omaha, I had fifteen minutes to get from one end of DFW terminal A to the other!

Strange, last year I flew to DFW on United, this year I flew to Houston on American.  Nothing sez Ghe-tto like flying to another airline’s hub :-) although I did see my first Airbus A380!


Minutes after leaving Bush Intergalactic Airport.  Kia Optima–nice car, needed to be RainX-ed but that goes for every rental car.  I don’t see why Sarah’s all gripped, She’s driven in LA and I haven’t…

First stop, Tanger Outlet Mall in Texas City.  Got out of the car and I could smell the Gulf.  Almost cried.  Marriott SpringHill Suites in Baytown.  Red Lobster for dinner, mercifully Nebraska v. Wisconsin wasn’t on the TV in the bar.


Staying in Baytown meant I would be doing a lot more driving this weekend than necessary, but I had a reason.  I mentioned on Facebook on Sunday morning that I was going to treat Sarah to the Goose Creek Oil Field, and I wasn’t playin’.  These photos are within fifty feet of the site of the first scene in Wayne/Hutton’s Hellfighters, the best damn movie ever made.  (To be fair, a lot of reviewers absolutely hate the flick, and I can see why.  Hutton had one facial expression, and his idea of dialogue was to wait until Wayne stopped talking then go “Uh-huh” or something similar.  And lots of aggressive cigarette smoking.  A different time…)


And this is the offshore portion of the field.  At one time, this wasn’t offshore…

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Couple views of a workover rig, the only time you’ll see anything close to a drilling rig in this old field.  Really, I had to go out of my way to find an oil field in Houston, counter to the popular opinion.


Tanker in the Houston Ship Channel, seconds away from the ExxonMobil terminal.

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A few views of stack interchanges.  Beltway 8 is a beautiful road.


Webster, along IH-45.  Click on the above photo and you’ll see a Steak ‘n Shake sign.  Building’s been up since February and the store still isn’t open.  Some franchisees are more equal than others, I guess.  The official line is that they want to make sure the staff gets trained, but nine months?

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Galveston.  I suppose there are prettier beaches, but this one didn’t cost anything to get to.  84F each day, gloriously humid.  The distance shot up the beach shows blowing sand and sea mist.

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Some representative views from the beach and the Galveston-Bolivar ferry.     Ships are backed out miles into the Gulf, waiting to get to the ports on Galveston, Texas City and all along the Houston Ship Channel.

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Views along TX-225, my new favorite urban freeway.  Mile upon mile of petrochemical plants, along with container docks and assorted heavy industry.  I would never get tired of this drive.  I wish I’d had time to drive it at night.

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The Fred Hartman Bridge (TX-146) in Baytown, over the Ship Channel.  I’ve seen ocean-going ship-height cable-stayed bridges in Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia, but they never get old.

DSC00037And this wouldn’t either.  The BW8 Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge.  Built before cable-stayed became commonplace, and more impressive because of it!  Not every bridge has warning signs to tell you that it might be closed for ice or high winds.  Ice on a two mile long bridge is nothing to sneeze at, neither is fifty-mile an hour winds when you’re 150 feet up!  The most outrageous bridge since the old Chain Of Rocks in Saint Louis, but more so because you can still drive on this one…

28739_10152283708750063_1531797027_nDinner at Cheddar’s…And, finally–our view of the RUSH concert, the raisin d etter (like they say in Texas) for the whole enterprise.  High up on Geddy’s side, bass PA right in front of me, so I barely heard Al’s guitar or the strings.  Heard Neil’s drums, though…and a sucky seat at a RUSH show is still a great seat!

(Ahem, ten shows now!)

Monday, outlet mall again, Steak ‘n Shake in Pearland, Baskin-Robins in Pearland, and forty miles on BW8 to get to the airport…during rush hour…after the white-knuckle plane-change going down, we only had to go from the south side of A to the north end of C in fifteen minutes, (grumblegrumble).  Last flight DFW-OMA on a Monday night meant the plane was 25% full, we had rows to ourselves.

There will come a time when RUSH will cut way back on their touring, so I better get ready for hauls like this in the future.  I really have no room to complain, lots of my friends go cross-country to see the first show of each tour, and while I’m puffing my chest about my tenth show, more than a few see ten shows a tourI’m ready to travel…

So Santa Claus won the election, with 52% of the voting public drinking the koolaid. All in all, pretty close to Mitt’s baleful prophesy of 47%. That plurality will be expecting their payoff, and Barry will happily oblige by further devaluing our currency. Kinko’s can’t print Grovers fast enough to keep up with Obama, but isn’t Zimbabwe-stylee inflation really someone else’s problem?
That problem is the Right’s to clean up. Doesn’t it always fall to the grownups? The Right/GOP/Teas are called to task by a whored-out media for not compromising. Well, when you’re fed a crap sandwich and the Left’s idea of compromise is only asking you to eat half…fine, but good, honest patriots—the erstwhile Loyal Opposition– either got turned out of their offices or failed in their elections for the simple reason that they dared to disobey or question Dear Leader’s redistributionist, un-American manifesto. Failed to eat the sandwich.
The Right is hamstrung by insisting on playing by the rules and relying on voters’ good nature, common sense, their knowledge of Econ 101 and checkbook math—and their knowledge of the duties and responsibilities that Liberty asks them to respect. We all know what seventy years of collectivist indoctrination has done to the concept of personal responsibility and the social contract. Rather than admit that Progressive policies have failed, the left doubles down—with someone else’s money–while blaming those who oppose them. So here we are. Amok time, is all it is.
“Slouching to Gomorrah”? More like a Bugatti Veryon on nitrous…The behavior of this society resembles a paroxysm of hedonism, free-love 60s with no sense of conscience. Rules are for other people, I Am Therefore I Think, I’m either gullible or lazy but either way, it’s your job to fix me but don’t judge me. And hurry up. Don’t like it? Racist. Sexist. Whateverist.
Keep in mind that progressives really don’t want us to be converted. They just want us to go away. It’ll be good to actually hear them say it.
Step One: Event Horizon, or The Opposite of Gridlock.
Physics teaches us that once you reach a certain point in the gravitational pull of a black hole, you cannot escape. Applied to society or whatever the progressives call it, either society becomes dystopian to the point of irredeemability (liberalism in general), bureaucracy becomes bloated to the point where decision making becomes impossible (governmental deliberation or Benghazi), or you cannot issue debt quick enough to pay today’s bills.
All attempts to stop the headlong flight have been thwarted by the hedonists in DC. I say that the patriotic thing to do is to accelerate the arrival of the inevitable. If this be a Mad-Max breakdown of society, let’s get it over with.
The Dems want control over all three branches, let’s not cede it one election at a time, let’s give it to them all at once. Press conference where all representatives will vote ‘present’ to *every* bill the Dems introduce. Waive the quorum rules so every tally passes a bill. Alternately, if the Dems want an appropriation of $60B to study the effects of Gangnam Style on the reproductive habits of zebra danios, give them a billion.
Keep in mind that this isn’t anarchistic, it isn’t even civil disobedience. Is certainly isn’t dereliction of duty. It is the removal of the progressives’ safety net, and also of their cover of legitimacy. They broke it, we’re just stomping on the pieces. The adults have had enough.

This is the definition of patriotism—200-odd congressmen *know* that their careers are toast—but they would be anyway as society breaks down.
Next, Alito, Thomas and Scalia resign en masse from the SCOTUS. Any nihilistic case that the Left wants to bring up is affirmed by what’s left of the Court.
Then false-flag the next presidential election. The Dems put up a Berkeley socialist? The Repubs put up a person so far to the left even the ghost of Che would be ashamed. Worst thing would be a third-party candidate wins and immediately has no legislative support.
Step Two: If you can’t lick ‘em, lick ‘em.
There are several helpful government databases, developed with massive cost overruns and above-market prices, that point the end-user to all sorts of government support—grants, subsidies, aid applications, etc. It’s time for patriots to use these resources. Use big government to our advantage.
One case, each one of billions of applications are denied. Otherwise, millions of cases are either approved or sent to research or appeal. In any case, government crashes under the weight of…the legitimate access of government resources. Who decides what is legitimate? Who does now? Oh yeah, progressives, social engineers, power junkies, bureaucrats.
Summation: Societies don’t come back from the brink. The Roman Empire is the best, most known, but not the only example. Some collapse from without, but the preponderance from within.
Writ large, we should play by the same rules that have been used against conservatives. Until it hurts Liberalism. Until they cry uncle and plead for help from the adults.

During my Gulf Coast vacation that year, Wifey and I pulled in to Hattiesburg for dinner, Outback.  She asks for a Wallaby Darned.

“Sorry, we’re all out of the mix!” our wait staff replied.  (Up until that point, I didn’t know you needed a mix…)

Wifey asks for a tall glass of Vodka, short glass of peach nectar, and ice.  Puzzled waitstaff looked on as Wifey mixed it up and took a slug.  “Just like home!”

It was a lot of vodka.  I tipped well and let them clean off the table early, because, “There’ll be some table dancing later on, whether this establishment permits it or not!”  and “We’ll name the baby after you if it’s a girl!”




An hour later, a typical Mississippi summer gulf thunderstorm popped up.  Yeah, I’m a stormchaser, but I can honestly say that this was one of the top ten gullywashers I’ve ever seen.  The parking lot of the Baskin-Robins was flooded, had to wait in the car for a time until we could get in to the hotel…turned on the Jackson 10 PM News and they spent thirty seconds during the weather on the ‘scattered showers’…

What am I doing? (Or:  Captain Ahab was a stormchaser…)

Woke up Wednesday morning in Tulsa, spent an hour in the hotel hot tub trying to work the tennis elbow out of my right arm, with limited success.  Internet still sketchy, so TWC told me that southern Missouri was the place to be, but also hedging by saying that you should keep an eye on northern Kansas…western Missouri…western Kentucky and Tennessee…Illinois…Indiana…yikes.

I came this close to cutting bait, heading back to Omaha.  Might have even seen something…  But the siren song of PDS watches sent me east.  By the time I got to US-69, I was committed to heading east some more, because there was no way I was driving on US-71 north.  Through Joplin, no stopping.  I could still smell shredded trees…

Between Joplin and Springfield, I started hearing tones on the radio, and at first I couldn’t figure out why.  Turned out they were for TORs in the KC metro, I probably would have been in KC by then, but no guarantee off seeing anything (I haven’t seen any storm vid yet) and the storms were crossing the whole state, doing damage all the way to STL.

For all the time I’ve lived, vacationed and chased in Missouri this was my first time in the south.  Springfield, and the Steak ‘n Shake franchisee pours Pepsi products!  I recoiled in horror.

US-60 east for the rest of the day.  Really, a beautiful road.  Yeah, it’s hilly, but not mountainous like I’d been led to believe.  I felt that if things fell right, one of these mile-wide wedges that I was promised could be intercepted.  There are plenty of examples in Grazulis’ SigTor of southern Missouri /northern Arkansas outbreaks of huge tornadoes, and it was a high-risk PDS day–and I was in a Red Box soon after noon.

This is when the road network began to bite me.  Not much was forming to my south, and chasing the odd TOR to my north would have put me out of position for anything that did develop.  Too many cumulus, hard to get any feel for the structure, though it was a beautiful, bright, hot, humid, glorious day.

Mountain Grove, MO–Doppler-Indicated TOR, no way to catch it but very pretty.  Radio was doing a decent job, considering what they had to work with.  By now, I was feeling that this was getting bust-ish, and radio resorted to asking for reports from the public–“Yeah, we got some dime-sized hail for about ten minutes”…”We had a bit of a west wind for a minute”…”It just got done raining”…

Stuff started to get a little more organized in northeast Arkansas, and I could start to see it, but warnings weren’t forthcoming and there was nothing for me to park under.  Still east on US-60, missed an EF-3 by I’d guess ten minutes in Ellsinore, MO.  Problem was, that there was no one to nowcast, no one to report this nowcasting to local radio, not that many chasers to call what they saw to EMS, and I was staring right at the storm and saw nothing notable–until I crossed the damage path and by that time, help was there and nothing else to add.

If I can just get to Poplar Bluff…named that way for a reason, it’s where the Ozarks end and the Mississippi floodplain begins.  Add to that, a couple supercells were just across the Arkansas line, right on the edge of the bluffs and heading toward Poplar Bluff.  Found the Mickey D’s and used the restroom just at the sirens went off.  The McManager was going to lock the doors, so I had to sneak out the one he hadn’t got to…and their Wi-Fi was working just fine.  Even though the sirens were going, no one in town gave a rat’s–not even the radio station (which went back to music even thought their county was warned!) or an ambulance that was getting gas when I was, shooting the breeze with other customers.

Well, I really didn’t want to be in town, anyhow…US-60 to between Poplar Bluff and Fisk, beautiful floodplain and a wall cloud passing over those oblivious people in Poplar Bluff.  No road grid, so this was going to be it:

I don’t know how close, but no cigar in any case.  Ten years ago, I would have chased this puppy to at least Paducah and with a few days off, maybe even Louisville.  But I don’t chase squall lines anymore.  Back to tha STL, Residence Inn in O’Fallon.  Fourteen hours in the car turned me into a cripple, hot tub helped a little bit.  Seven more hours to home, then time to ponder what could have been.

Chase southern Missouri again?  If I was starting in Tulsa and it was another High Risk / PDS day, sure.  I still think I could make the topography and roads work.  Would I drive 1+ days to get in position?  No.  I’ve seen too many tornadoes to chase that far to see another.  I know, heresy…

Left town on Tuesday morning after looking at the 1300 SWODY1, on my company-mandated week off, with nowhere to be until my daughter’s wedding on the 29th.

It was clear that I had to head south–way south–optimistically hoping for west of just Wichita but expecting northern Oklahoma.  From southern Nebraska to south of Topeka on the Turnpike I was in high-based rain and lightning, disconcerting to turn your back on a sure thing to get in the way of something hopefully better.  This was two days after Joplin, and not only was local radio on edge already, but the SPC was coming this close to guaranteeing the same deal somewhere today–PDS watches a certainty.  Thankfully, the government-funded armadas were taking the year off, but that was made up for with boatloads of chasers, stringers, and rent-a-satellite-feed syndicated-media companies.  There is so much data available now, that as my friend Shane Adams says, you have to work hard at not finding a tornado on days like this.  But I was going to try, lol…

I don’t know what’s worse–being the only chaser on a storm, or coming across a hundred chasers at the same interchange, rest area or gas station.  Back in the day, I knew everyone who was out, and even if they were too busy to talk, you knew you were in a good area.  There are a lot of people now with good intentions, but anyone with a laptop and a McDonald’s hotspot can at least find a storm, and then promptly get themselves in a hail core, or get road-screwed, or worse:  In Tuscaloosa, at least one car with fatalities was found with a camcorder in it.    So, me and my laptop blasted south on I-35, hitting the hotspots at rest areas and the Mickey D’s in Wichita and Wellington…lol…

Certainly had the juice I was looking for–the sun was out by Matfield Green, dews in the low 70s, southeast wind was decent and PDS Red Boxes issued just after 3PM, as I was in Wichita topping off the gas tank.  Time to get off the Turnpike now–don’t want to get stuck ten miles from an exit…US-81 South from Wichita, sure, there were towers going up but I was bothered that there were too many of them!  Nothing looked dominant.  Also, by now I could get KFOR out of Oklahoma City and things were going nuts down there–because the storms were discrete.

Wellington, KS–one more hit of Mickey D’s internet, Rain-X at Walmart, rain starting and lightning hitting across the parking lot–but only a SVR warning.  To make my hypocrisy complete, back on the Turnpike, south to South Haven, still nothing to see, back on I-35 and on the KS/OK border I looked off to the west.  This was no good at all.  I could rationalize that the scud underneath the thunderstorms was moving upward…occasionally…but I couldn’t will a TOR out of them.

Further south, right along I-35 from Perry, OK to Denton, TX tornadic storms were firing.  I didn’t want to go to OKC–and no one needed me there, given the carnage.  However, storms were leaving OKC and continuing to be tornadic through Stillwater.  If they continued to be worth watching, I could get northeast of Stillwater in time–and I wanted to spend the night around Tulsa anyhow, with an eye toward Wednesday’s setup.  (For obvious reasons, there were no hotel rooms in either Joplin or Springfield, MO).  So, east on US-60.  Reports coming out of Stillwater made mention of debris from Oklahoma City falling from the sky before the thunderstorm arrived in Stillwater.  I made a note to watch for plywood…

Ponca City, drove through the frickin’ huge Conoco refinery, neat to see old-school, obviously AT&SF-vintage signal bridges on the BNSF mainline that bisected the plant.  The refinery smelled so good, too–just like Alton IL when I was a kid.

Local radio was okay, KFOR was tabloid-sensational and didn’t give a rat’s about anything outside of the OKC metro, let alone the Osage Rez I was driving through.  No internet, either.  I was in a zone, but that doesn’t mean it was a good zone.  After a while, I was aware intellectually that I was in a TOR, but radio was indicating it was doppler-indicated and I still wasn’t in front of the storm.  I wasn’t even looking off to the southwest at this time.  I was just driving until I felt that I should be in the right area.

Which was Pawhuska, OK.  I saw a grass airstrip, and I felt that if there was any unsecured internet in this wide spot in the road, it’d be at the airport and I was right.  Fired the laptop up again, but without waiting for data I pointed my camcorder west.  Again, without any algebra, geometry or trigonometry I just pointed the camera because it was time for something to be there.

And it was a tornado, confirmed by NWS TSA, but In the Zone?  Whatever.  Weirdest chase I’ve done.  Almost Zennish, but Zen gets a lot of people killed.

Time to get to Tulsa, but there was a problem with that.  In advance of the cold front which was now through OKC, stuff had popped along I-40 heading toward, north and south of the city.  I had to go through it, but thankfully TUL radio was on top of it.  A bit of hail where I was driving, a couple of branches down, but thankfully the only major deal was the rain.  I was driving on state highways and county roads for the most part, and the tree canopies caught the rain and dropped it straight down on the road, like someone wringing a beach towel out above me.

Drove through Barnsdall, OK–home of Anita Bryant and location of the World’s Only Oil Well In The Middle Of A Street, supposedly.  Too dark to take a photo of it, (or one of Anita, for that matter), so here’s a representative photo:

Owasso, OK, gas at QuikTrip while still nominally in a TOR.  Drove east on the off chance that I’d see one of the tornadoes that went just south of Tulsa, but no dice and had to drive though flash floods in a cul-de-sacky residential/ranch area for my trouble.  Spent the night at a fantastic TownePlace Suites, except that all the storms had knocked out their internet…

Wednesday was another day…


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