As I looked at the calendar this morning and it clicked that this weekend is Memorial Day here in the United States, I was reminded of the excitement I used to feel about the “unofficial beginning of summer” when we lived up north. Back in my radio days songs like “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama and “Summertime Summertime” by Nocera would get added to the playlist.
Even though we’ve lived in Arizona for over two years I still get confused as to what time of year it actually is, and that’s because it’s sunny for over 300 days of the year. The weather forecast is calling for possibly hitting 100ºF/38ºC this weekend. The trick is to avoid the sun and subsequent skin damage. I find the heat rather easy to deal with until it gets over 112ºF or so. Then it’s just too hot.
I kind of miss that feeling of “ooh it’s summertime!” excitement but then I focus on the fact that we don’t have “shoot, summer is over” later in the year so I guess it all balances out.
Our friends Richie and Jake are visiting for the week. They’ll be here through this weekend. In a rare occurrence, the whole family went out to dinner at one of our favorite local eateries. The Barnyard is not far from home.
Lucky and Jinx stayed home for their longest duration alone thus far and survived the ordeal just fine. There was much rejoicing when we got back home. I doubt Truman even noticed our absence.
It’s still exciting to me that we eat outdoors in May in a space with large swamp coolers to keep the customers cool in this Arizona heat. But then again, we’re quite comfortable eating outdoors in January so I suppose it all makes sense.
I had a Champagne and Orange based spritzer as my one adult beverage since it was a school night. We had a very nice time.
When I arrived home from my storm chasing trip on Saturday, this card and flower arrangement were sitting on my desk in my office. It immediately made me smile. Romance is such a wonderful thing; even after 27+ years of marriage.
Like the rest of The Empire State, my native Northern New York is quite conservative with speed limits on roadways. Interstates and other freeways top out at 65 MPH in New York, all other roads can’t be posted above 55 MPH. This is due to a “one size fits all” for the entire state, and because anything higher than 65 isn’t practical downstate, the relatively flat plains along the Great Lakes are treated the same way.
Here in Arizona, Interstates and other freeways top out at 75 MPH. Two lane roads top out at 65 MPH (in my experience thus far), though speed limits here in Pima County tend to be slower along non-state maintained highways.
Texas is a different matter. Two lane roads, even barely paved farm roads, top out at 70 MPH and the Interstates and other freeways are usually 75 or 80 MPH. One toll road in the state is posted as high as 85 MPH.
These more realistic speed limits, which match the intended design of the roadway, nudge drivers in the direction of respecting speed limits. In my limited experience during last week’s storm chasing trip, I didn’t see folks exceeding the speed limit all that often. In the Northeast of the U.S., the trend is the complete opposite, speed limits are often treated as a minimum or a suggestion and are downright ignored.
There’s a lot to question in the way government handles thing in Texas, but I really feel like TxDOT handles speed limits brilliantly. I know more states west of the Mississippi take the same approach. As a person that leans on personal responsibility more than nanny state tactics, posting a realistic speed limit encourages better behavior from motorists.
I returned the rental car this afternoon. Luckily, there were no broken windshields or other damage to the rental car from this year’s storm chasing trip. This Buick Enclave was great to drive. We spent just shy of 4,000 miles in 10 days together.
Tomorrow morning I’m back at work. My mind and spirit are where they need to be. My first meeting is at 6:30 AM. I know it’ll be a good meeting.
So I’ve decided that tonight is the final night of this year’s week long storm chasing trip and personal retreat. I drove from Dumas, Texas to Odessa, mostly under beautiful skies and away from the Interstates.
The drive was quite pleasant. I love the flatlands. There’s a lot of oil rigs down here.
Mother Nature decided to get a little feisty today. It was nothing like last night’s adventure in Amarillo, but I started chasing a storm to the NE of Midland when I ran into a traffic jam on Interstate 20.
I sat in traffic for over an hour before escaping onto a side street. The storm got way ahead of me and though I tried to catch up, it dissipated before I could get any photos.
I’m back at the hotel now and getting ready to wind down my night. There’s lightning flashing in the distance. I won’t chase at night, so I’ll just watch the lightning show from my hotel room instead.
People ask me why I chase storms. I have always been fascinated by storms and have wanted to chase them, and more importantly, experience them, since I was a young boy.
There are four distinct storms in my childhood that kicked this interest into high gear. One of these storms came into our small town around noon and darkened the area like it was midnight. We were trying to drive home but the wind and the lightning and the rain made it impossible for my mother to drive and we had to ride the storm out on the side of the road. I watched trees bend and lightning flash and all sorts of water wash over the car and it was awesome.
One summer night my sister and I were sleeping on the living room floor (because it was cooler than our bedrooms) and a very strong thunderstorm blew through in the middle of the night. This storm holds two memories for me; it was the first time I’d seen a large maple tree get blown over by a thunderstorm and our cat Waldo came home in the middle of that storm after a two week absence.
Anyways, onto the present day.
I settled in Dumas, Texas this afternoon and immediately headed south toward the building storms coming in from Dalhart. After navigating Texas roads through construction, I made my way to north of Amarillo, where a supercell was forming and showing promise of a tornado. I was watching other storm chasers on their YouTube feeds and monitoring radar; so I had a decent idea of where to position myself.
I found a good spot just north of Amarillo, where there were dozens of storm chasers.
I ended up following this supercell for a few hours, finally ending up just west of Panhandle, Texas. There I got to meet storm chaser from Tornado Titans Raychel Sanner. We had a nice chat. I also saw Reed Timmer and Dominator Fore along US Route 60. The storm had very impressive lightning and wind and for a few moments, ping pong sized hail (no damage to the rental car). At one point I was a little too close for the action, so I repositioned myself and watched it for as long as I could until it just got too dark.
This was the drive home.
I am now in my hotel room, enjoying some Moët my husband packed for me, in the event that I had a good chase day.
I was concerned this trip was going to be a bust in the storm chasing department, but this was an awesome experience and more intense than last year’s chase up in Nebraska.
Just a guy with a husband. We've been together 27 years and he still makes me see fireworks on a daily basis. Tech Guy. Open Data. Hackerish. Aviation Geek. Private Pilot. Storm Chaser. Weird? Eccentric!