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Thirty-three years ago:

Bucket list, revised:

1. Fly in an A380 to CDG, in the most expensive seat.
2. Achieve a level of renown sufficient to be asked onto Top Gear to drive the Reasonably-Priced Car.
3. Vacation in Iceland.
4. Ditto at Reunion Island.
5. See Mauna Loa erupt–from 100 feet away!
6. Visit Chile, Pucón specifically.
7. Get eyewalled by a hurricane.
8. Skydive.
9. Own an oil well.
10. Corepunch while driving a Bugatti Veyron.

11.  Spend a weekend or so in Sint Maarten on Maho Beach watching planes land, with a woman who looks good in a one-piece bathing suit.  Or less.

1973 Plymouth Valiant
1974 Plymouth Duster
1980 Chevy El Camino
1976 Chevy Chevette
1986 Ford Tempo
1975 Chevy Nova
1982 Mercury Lynx
1988 Ford Escort
1990 Ford Tempo
1996 Ford Windstar
1988 Ford Ranger
2003 Ford Windstar
2003 Ford Focus
2005 Ford Freestyle
2008 Mazda3
2003 Mazda Tribute
2010 Mazda CX-7
1999 Ford Ranger

2010 Mazda3

God laughs:

Charlton Heston, reading Michael Crichton:

You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity! Let me tell you about our planet. Earth is four-and-a-half-billion-years-old. There’s been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away — all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time.

It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. Might take a few billion years for life to regain its present variety. Of course, it would be very different from what it is now, but the earth would survive our folly, only we would not. If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears earth, so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It’s powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. You think this is the first time that’s happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive gas, like fluorine.
When oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. Hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.

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.  This car doesn’t have a front plate bracket, so when its prepped the plate just gets screwed into the bumper cover.  In this car’s case, screwed in not-horizontally.  That’s will require some explaining come resale time…

2016:  Another trip to KC for trainchasing.  Walked through National’s lot at Eppley Airport saw a Kentucky-plate Nissan Rogue (SEC!SEC!!SEC!!!), walked into the terminal, got that car in five minutes, no problem!  Plastic wheelcovers and no fog lights, I thought that strange because it was AWD.  However, all things considered it was a better car than the Rogue I’d rented in 2013.  None of the 12V outlets worked, so I had to be vigilant of my cellphone use.

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…


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