Albert Lea, Minnesota. The day I didn’t chase:

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 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!

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

“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.

Houston 2012: Awl Bidness, Big Bridges, Too Much Food, RUSH…

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…

Stream-of-Consciousness–White paper for a dark time:

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.

2007: Hattiesburg, MS.

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’…