On Friday I packed up, said goodbye to my favorite hotel staff, and headed out on Union Ave and hopped on I-40 toward Nashville. I skirted around the city and toured Andrew Jackson’s home. It was pretty, and much smaller than I expected. I had to dodge a bit of rain, but it was nice to stretch the legs a bit. From there I headed north to Louisville, Kentucky.
I was a little disappointed by Louisville itself. Granted, I really only drove through downtown (and the old part of the city with the historic homes), but it wasn’t that great. That said, I was ready to move to the rolling hills of Lexington thought signs for storm shelters but a bit of a damper on that love. Saturday I spent some time touring the grounds of Lincoln’s boyhood home as well as a Lincoln museum. I also toured the Jim Beam distillery. It was hot and a little humid, but not bad.
I spent half of Sunday at the Kentucky horse park. I could’ve spent all day there, but I wanted to check out the shaker village (which turned out to be a waste of time because a storm rolled in and the rain was too much to see much). I toured the museum at the horse park, watched a show and toured the barns before strolling along the pastures. What a sweet place to be that reminded me of playing around in the pasture or riding with Lydia. Really made me think about somethings and where I’d like to end up. Maybe that dream of a horse of my own could come true…
There is just something about that horse smell. Was nice to scritch a few pony noses and run my fingers through a mane.
Driving to the shaker village and then nearly an hour back to my hotel, I fought with a massive downpour and a bit of thunder/lightning in the distance. The radar app on my phone told me that I’d be skipping the scariest bits, so I wasn’t worried about the thunder and lightning, but the rain was coming down hard and I had to slow to about 40mph on a road where the limit was 65. By the time I got back to my hotel, I was exhausted. I curled up in my hotel room and watched awful TV before going to bed early.
We rolled into New Orleans around 11pm after a slow start in OKC. The drive was long, but the weather was perfect after all the Tornado drama. We pulled into the parking garage beside our hotel (located in an awesome part of the French Quarter on St. Ann. Opening the door was a bit of a slap in the face as far as heat/humidity are concerned. Check in was smooth and we were taken through a maze of a courtyard to our room.
Oh my Lord. Love.
The Place was beautiful. With a small pool, fountain with goldfish and big, green plants everywhere! I could’ve spent a whole week relaxing in the courtyard (in the cooler hours) and never left the hotel. We crashed pretty quick in the comfort of the chilled room. I think our hotel offered breakfast, but we ended up at Stanley for breakfast. Not a huge place, but super simple/delicious items on the menu. Much of Monday was spent in/out of shops, grabbing a bite to eat and shopping again. By 3pm we headed back to wait out the hottest part of the day and then hit the streets again around 7. We grabbed dinner and then headed to a bar called ‘Port of Call’ for a Monsoon. From there we found Bourbon St. and wandered a bit until we found a fun bar and parked there. Knowing we had to be out the door early, we started early and were back before mid-night.
Tuesday we hit the road by 8:30 and drove 30’ish miles to Jean Lafitte for an airboat adventure. Again, it was ridiculously hot/humid even by 9:30. We went out on a boat with about 12 people, plus our guide James. He was pretty funny and took us around, pointing stuff/alligators out. He got out and hand fed one named Vicky that he’s been working with ‘for years’. We moved on and were cruising along when suddenly we’re slowing and he’s asking me to get up (Cait and I were on either side of him). I jumped up and turn to see that there is smoke coming from the engine in the back.
The boat overheated.
So we sat. And waited.
It took about 30 minutes for the ‘rescue’ boat to come. James switched with us and the other guy towed the original boat back. We lost out on a good chunk of time, but James took us to this closed off area. He killed the motor and suddenly all these gators are swimming toward the boat (these gators know the sounds of the boats and come quick for treats). He’s feeding them and talking about size and suddenly goes…. “okay, who wants to touch one? I’m not suppose to let you, but I gotta make it up to you.” Cait and I nearly fell from the boat, we were so excited. Basically he brought them in close and then as they turned to swim along side the air-boat, we could reach down and pet behind their eyes. So cool. I touched a wild alligator. Life changing. Such a powerful creature.
Afterward we headed back to the hotel, grabbed lunch and hit up a few museums before retreating to the cool of our room for a few hours. The museum exhibit about hurricane Kartrina was so sad. And the huge screen playing clips from the storm with the added fans to have wind was a bit… off putting after the storm we’d been through. Pretty sad at how much damage was done, but also how everything was handled.
Dinner was at the gumbo shop and then we wandered a bit before heading home to get stuff ready for this morning. We were able to sleep in a bit (8:30), have a easy breakfast and then headed up toward Memphis by 10am. We made a new friend with the woman that helped bring our bags to the car. She talked a bit about her experience in Katrina and because of it, her family photos, deed to her house, etc are kept in her car. As much as I loved the city, I couldn’t live in fear like that.
We had a short drive today – only 6hours. The drive was fine until we were about 2 hours from Memphis. We hit a massive lightning storm with rain so hard that we couldn’t see more than 30 feet in front of us. We crawled along I-55 at 35-40mph for a bit before it let up. I pretty much just white-knuckled through and Cait sat perfectly still staring out ahead. Needless to say, we skipped ‘Eye of the Tiger’ on the playlist.
We hit Memphis around 5:15. It’s the same hotel that I’ve stayed at the previous two times I’ve been here. I absolutely love it. It’s right downtown, easy access to Beale, and major highways and I *know* the area. We grabbed dinner and drinks at the Kooky Kanuck and then wandered Beale for a bit before coming back to our hotel so Cait could pack her purchases (I’ve got to drop her at the airport at 5:30am). We were relaxing when suddenly we hear something outside. We weren’t sure what it was, so I jokingly commented that, with our luck, it was a tornado siren. Joke is on me, because the dark clouds rolled in with thunder/lightning and surprise (!!) it was a tornado siren. It only lasted maybe 20 minutes and the hotel staff said they weren’t concerned – we’d get a call to our room if we needed to hit the basement (plus side, we have a basement). Weather is supposed to be fine for tomorrow, but I can assure you that I’m pretty tired of this weather crap. Like, legit… I’m done.
Not sure what tomorrow holds, but I know it includes getting some more sleep once Cait is safely delivered to the airport. I’m exhaused.
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 could 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.
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.
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
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 road 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 the 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.