So while I didn’t shit my pants…

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The storm rolling in.

I’m not saying last night was the scariest night of my life, but…. I wouldn’t deny it either. Our hotel is downtown OKC and the bowling alley is in Shawnee. We kept an eye on the radar and saw a storm approaching from the west. Shawnee is east of OKC so we hoped that by going east the storm would skip north of us. We got to the bowling alley and were pretty much glued to the TV screens that had the news on.

I will say, that most everyone around here has the attitude of ‘there ain’t nothing you can do about it, so just go with it’. Cait and I couldn’t understand how people 943428_10100355763460850_1039848678_ncould be so calm. Like, we could get blown to the fucking Mississippi and you’re standing there sipping your bud light and look like you’re pissed because you forgot to move your grill into the shed. Um… hello?!

Unlike the previous day, rather than curving north, the storm followed I-40 east, right for us. We stood outside the building and watched as it approached until the Sheriff got word that we needed to evacuate. Not gonna lie, for Cait and I… our ‘out of town’ was showing and we were the first bitches across the lot to the storm shelter. I mean, I even ducked back into the building to grab the photos I was going to have autographed (I ain’t leaving that shit behind), and still made it through the doors first. We could see the massive lightning (like multiple streaks across the sky at once), hear the thunder, etc. The sky looked so, so angry and it was loud. Oh so very loud.

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Those are my sparkly shoes in the bottom of the pic.

The designated shelter was a concrete bathroom inside a giant empty ware-house/grocery store type building. And while I know there was nasty tornado weather outside, I was a little more freaked out by the spider and huge dead bugs in the corners (like, if I have to huddle in here, can we not keep it clean?). We spent approx 90 minutes in the shelter tweeting/facebooking the storm. The people in charge (police were great, had water bottles for us and were really good to clear, concise, calm directions). We got the chance to go back out and ‘watch’ for a bit in between storm cells and…. I have no words.

Since it was a community shelter, it wasn’t just event people that were there. I talked to one woman who had about 10 minutes to get out of her house and when we were leaving, she had no idea if she had a house to go home too. I really hope she does.

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Eventually we were allowed to head out (if we wanted). We waited around a bit until the police could confirm that I-40 was open and that it was just thunder/lightning and wind gusts. We hit hail at one point but it didn’t get to be too bad. The first few minutes of driving in the lightning was pretty terrifying but it was so constant that we just sort of grew numb to it. There were no street lights, so I lingered a ways behind the car in front of me and had my brights on so I could see the lanes on the highway. The lightning also lit up the road in flashes and actually helped to see the highway exit. We found covered parking across the street from the hotel and the rain had slowed enough by then that it wasn’t bad going across the street.

Today we found out that people were supposed to be off the roads by 4pm. We never got the msg, so when traffic was heavy at 5:30… it was people still leaving. Glad we didn’t leave any later, traffic got worse on I-40 and people were essentially ‘sitting ducks’ on the interstate. I believe almost all the fatalities were due to people staying in their cars.

Today it’s in the high-70’s, sunny and we can see the tail of the storm off in the horizon as the weakened system moves across Arkansas. We get a re-do of the event tonight and it’ll be interesting to see the area in day light. Tomorrow we head south to New Orleans and our route will take us right through Moore, Ok.

Let me tell you, from the bits and pieces I saw last night… nothing in the news even remotely prepares you for this shit. Nothing.

** At one point we had a bit of a break between storm cells to get out and get some fresh air (it was hot in the bathroom) so here is a bit of a video that I recorded. You can’t really see/hear the rain, but it was coming down pretty good. The video doesn’t really do it justice, but… click here

Dear Oklahoma, time to put your big girl panties on and pull your shit together.

I’m not saying that this trip into Tornado country was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done…. not exactly suggesting it was sane either.

We arrived in OKC without issue yesterday right around dinner time. We actually had more wind in Colorado than anywhere else. We decided to haul it to OKC instead of making fun stops along the way so that we could a.) arrive in daylight, and b.) try and beat the storms that we could see on the radar. We were lucky though, two huge storm systems rolled through Oklahoma. One south of I-40 (the stormroad we drove in on) and one about 35 miles north of OKC in Guthrie. We could see both storms in the distance and while they didn’t look ‘dark’ they were HUGE. Little did we know that this….

… was hidden under these seemingly harmless clouds. Well, okay… we could see on storm1the radar that they weren’t very ‘friendly’. We could also see the clouds as far away as Amarillo, TX.

Three tornados touched down in Oklahoma yesterday and we’re at about a 50/50 chance for today. Tomorrow the storms will have moved off and the most we might get is some rain and a bit of thunder. So really, all we’ve got to do is survive the night (which is our goal… aside from the MH autographs). When we arrived we basically said we were new to the whole ‘tornado watch’ thing and asked about standard operating procedure. We were relieved to find that our hotel DOES have a basement, we’ve only got 9 floors of stairs to run down. But on the up-side, the hotel worker said they’d never had a twister come through downtown. Reassuring? Yes. Also, if there is a tornado warning, no doubt I will be mid-suds in the shower. That said, we hit our three favorite bars yesterday in case we end up not being able to get out much. We’ve had our southwest chicken wrap and margarita at Brix, the sangria/margarita swirl at the Mexican place and the Flint martini at the hotel bar.

It sure is different watching for tornado information when you’re right smack in the middle of it compared to on the news. We’re also headed through Moore, OK on Sunday as we make our way to New Orleans. I’m sure it’ll be an eye-opening experience to say the very least. In fact, I overheard someone at the bar talking about having been out helping people dig through rubble over the past week. Everything is just gone.

We drove past a place selling F5 storm shelters yesterday. I can’t imagine living here without one. We’ve been paranoid enough checking the weather just while we’re visiting – I would go absolutely nuts if I had to go through it all the time.

Well, it’s about lunch time. Weather is decent enough to head out to Brix (again), though it’s a bid windy (huh, who woulda thunk it) though, so no point in doing anything remotely fancy with my hair until much later.

“Oh shit, there’s running involved!” – Me

Oh man, these bison are crazy!

IMG_6661Traffic slowed to a snails pace as we approached a few bison along side the road. They were walking in a line and suddenly were walking alongside the road. People moved super slow, and the bison didn’t seem to care. That said, several cars started to go around and pass on the quicker side which upset the SUPER GIANT ANIMALS. So the car in front of us picked up speed and as the car passed, the bison started moving quicker, tail was swishing and head lowered. I was certain that the car was going to lose it’s back bumper. My turn to pass was next and we went far out into the lane for on-coming traffic (no cars were coming, obviously). There were a few more ahead, so traffic was slow, but once they were behind us, the other drivers were trying to get them to move faster and suddenly they were running behind us and we had nowhere to go. Eventually they crossed the street, but between Cait and I it was a chorus of “OH GOD, I DON’T WANT TO DIE” and “DON’T HIT MY CAR” and “OH SHIT, THEY’RE RUNNING.”

Overall, I’m still madly in love with Yellowstone. Weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. A few patches of rain/hail, but nothing to keep us in the car when we wanted to pop out for a picture.

We hit Cody, WY around 4pm and went through the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (cool, but over-priced). We’ve got a lazy evening in the hotel and a relatively early morning as we head 10 hours south to Pueblo, Colorado (plus a few museums).

743 miles in 12 hours, 42 minutes.

photoLet me just say, we hauled ass.

Since we’ve driven this part of the route before, there wasn’t anything we really wanted to stop and see along the way. We decided that getting to the hotel early, having a decent sit-down breakfast and then an evening chillaxing in the hotel would be more our style.

We were on the road at 5:44am – stopped in Ellensburg for the bathroom, Cour d’ Alene for bathroom/fuel and somewhere around Missoula for the bathroom. We kinda had to pee the last 40 minutes or so of the drive, but we pushed on. Actual driving time according to the gps is 12hrs 22minutes. Our three stops only added 20 minutes.

This place we’re staying, just outside of Yellowstone is sketch to the max. I’m sure things pick up as tourist season picks up, but it’s pretty quiet. This ‘resort’ (while clean) is right out of a 1970’s horror film as far as looks. But it was cheap (and has decent ratings – it’s not uncomfortable, it’s just old) and we’re out by 7:30 tomorrow morning.

The drive itself was uneventful. A few times we started to get antsy and laugh at ridiculous things, but we settled into our driving groove easily enough. Weather was good (hit a few patches of rain, but not much). A bit of PTSD when we drove past the place where that tire flew off the SUV in front of me and hit my car. I tried looking for my hubcap, but… no dice.

Tomorrow should be fun – Yellowstone and Cody, WY. Yeehaw!

p.s. good thoughts that the storms they have been talking about for the end of the week, don’t happen.

Whoever is happy will make others happy, too. — Anne Frank

Shots on a barAh yes, it’s finally that time of year again. Time to hit the road, time to move with the wind (though preferably not tornado type wind)… whatever you’d like to call it.

Time to dust off the gps, the state maps, and settle into some long drives across the country. Time to turn up the tunes and pick a pair of shades.

TIME TO ROAD TRIP.

I hope to be blogging fairly regularly over the next three weeks. And I promise it’ll be more than ramblings about NCIS and Mark Harmon (though Fri/Sat are reserved for NCIS love).

A quick over-view of my route:

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“Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” – Swami Sivananda

It’s funny how there is always something – something that sparks extra excitement within us. It’s like my heart-rate jumps, I sit up a little taller, I focus a little harder. It almost sounds like I’m in love. And to some extent, I am.

The prospect of another road trip. I know there is always another trip ahead of me, but usually I don’t know when. Without specific dates, I can plug them into a hotel finder or search local events. But now with the dates locked in for Mark Harmon’s charity event in OKC, I have dates. And it’s like something has been lifted off of me. I have that goal, and I want nothing more than to go barreling head-first toward it.

It’s not just the actual trip – it’s the planning, the reading, the maps… I feel like an addict of sorts, checking and rechecking distances and drive times. I know I can comfortably hit 6-700 miles in a day, up as high as 900 if I’ll have a break the following day. I know how much time I need for bathroom breaks and fuel purchases and that I need to add an extra hour for roads I’ve never driven so that I can pull off to take photos.

For the roads I’ve already driven, I have favorite coffee shops and diners, dotted along the route. Favorite bars and restaurants in the cities I know so well.

There are gift-shops and postcards. Tourist information centers and truck stops. The new people you meet. This year will be nearly 7,000 miles of both familiar and unfamiliar territory.

IMG_3363Of all the places I’ll be returning to one this trip, Memphis, TN is my favorite. While I would never live there (own a vacation home, yes), Memphis is a place that I consider to be my ‘Soul-City’. A place where you find yourself letting out a deep sigh, dropping all the negative baggage and breathing in renewed energy. Some places, when I arrive, I spend the first evening in my hotel room, with a bottle of wine after a hot shower. Memphis is one of those places where I can’t get my car unloaded fast enough, as all I want to do is stand in the middle of Beale and watch the excitement move around me.

It’s simply mesmerizing.

So I still have a good four months to go – I foresee several more trips to AAA, numbers of miles and drive times mesmerized and outfits analyzed. But it’s good. These are all things that make me feel alive. I feel more inspired for the gym. I want to read more. I want to write more. I just want more out of life when I have a goal within reach.

It feels good to feel alive again.

The traveler is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep. – Margaret Mead

I spent some time at the airport today. No, I wasn’t going anywhere, nor was I arriving from a far-off destination. On one hand I was meeting my roomie as she returned from a long weekend in Paris, but if that was the only reason, I wouldn’t have stayed for 3.5hours.

There is something about the airport that just draws me in. Part of the appeal is that it’s the only place in Denmark to indulge in my love of fancy coffee drinks ala Starbucks (though they don’t do specials like Pumpkin Spice Lattes or salted caramel hot chocolate), but at roughly $10 for a grande mocha, it’s not a place I could afford to frequent often. Most of the appeal isn’t just with the Copenhagen airport, it’s with airports world-wide. So I’ve come up with a little list as to why I love spending time at airports, even when I’m not going anywhere.

1. Emotion: I think the airport is one of very few places where people are truly open with their emotions. Where else can you see such a mix of people who are happy, sad, worried, relieved..? The Starbucks where I sat is located in the arrivals hall, so a majority of the people around me were waiting for loved ones to return from vacation, from business, from school, from… They weren’t embarrassed to hide their happy tears, pouncing on loved ones as soon as they exited customs areas. So often in everyday life people walk around with a mask, especially here in Denmark, so I find it a welcome relief to read the open emotion of the faces of those I encounter at the airport.

2.) Fast pace: Everyone (except me) is going somewhere and they want to get there now. I don’t like to leave things last minute at the airport, instead I prefer to watch the hustle and bustle around me. It’s kind of like watching people last minute Christmas shop the day before Christmas (hi dad) while you sit around and drink hot chocolate.

3.) Mix of language: Airports are so international, and if anything fascinates me, it’s the sound of foreign languages. It’s kind of like spoken poetry… only I don’t usually know the topic.

4.) The fact that it’s never the same: It doesn’t matter the time of day or day of the week, an experience at the airport will never be the same. Always something new to see, hear, do.

A few things I’m not a fan of…

1.) They tend to be pricey: Never mind that you had to break the bank to afford your plane ticket, they know you can’t go anywhere else (esp. once you’ve checked in) and charge accordingly.

2.) Customer Service: With the exception of maybe business travelers who get to know baristas at their favorite coffee stand, you won’t likely be served by the same person when you go through the airport. I think this has a bit of an effect on customer service. Rather than being friendly, I’ve often felt as though I’m rushed through my purchase and herded on my flight. On the other hand, I’m sure airport workers have dealt with their fair share of unruly passengers – and that must suck.
What I have learned from the airport:

1.) Small things = big difference.
– Sometimes letting someone ahead of you is an easy way to make someones day.
2.) Someone is always in a bigger hurry than you.
3.) Customs officers (usually) don’t have a sense of humor.
4.) Having a sense of humor can usually make it easier (even if you have to keep it to yourself).
5.) Sometimes a $10 mocha is worth it.