The Calm After The Storm

This blog entry about the events of Friday, June 01, 2007 was originally posted on June 05, 2007.

DAY 8:  Peter, the older but youthful Englishman, was the last one to casually stroll over to the meeting place in front of the office of the Irish Inn in Shamrock, TX that final morning.  He was wearing yellow shorts, a souvenir Colorado t-shirt, and baseball cap, with a duffel bag strapped over his shoulder and a plastic bag in hand.

“You can almost pass an American tourist,” I told him.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

For us nineteen tourists, our jaunt through the plains states of the American midwest was coming to a close.  We were all different, I assume, with the week-long experience we’d shared, seeing the marvels of Mother Nature: fantastic lightning that could strike (and restrike) from the heavens, hard hitting hail, ominous fog, tornadic funnel clouds — all in the biggest, most prettiest sky that America has to offer. 

“I know [the images are] fresh [in your minds], but when you go back [home] and you see the pictures you took, you won’t believe what you saw,” Brian once told us. 

More than severe weather, we had also been given a slice of the midwest, with its kitschy roadside attractions, and its genuinely friendly people.  Coming from New York, where people really begin to develop an ego about living there, I used to shun any value in the midwest, but I had been transformed — it was a place I had come to love, a place I’d definitely go back to spend some more time.  After all my worldly travels, there was adventure to be found on the homefront after all.

MORE THAN WEATHER IN THE MIDWEST, it was the people of our tour we would all remember the most:  our faithful driver/Navy seal Brett, guides Kinney, Keith, Brian, Dr. Bob, and Bill, leader of the 2007 Tempest Tours “Memorial Week” tour.  In my memory, the rest would remain:  West Virginians Chris and Doug, the twins Matt and Jon, the Manchester and Sacramento Jameses, Mel, Peter, Dutchie Luciana, the Mr.T/Chuck Norris t-shirt-wearing Dan, the Texan boys Rich and Ruben, Londoners Chris and Katie, and Canadian Jennifer.  Mostly I’d remember my wisecracking friends of the Kitschmobile Krew, Minnesotans Rob and Leisa, and Stacy from Long Beach, CA.  The feelings were mutual.

“Erik,” Leisa addressed me, “It was really great traveling with you.”

“[I’ll send you some pictures when I get home],” Rob told me.

“Come to New York,” I invited the couple.  “We’ll have Frito Pie.”

“This trip wouldn’t have been the same without you,” Stacy told me.  She wanted to do the tour again, perhaps the next year, but wondered if it would be as fun. 

“It’s different every time,” Brian once said.  “Every storm is different.”

“If you go again next year, you’re probably not going to be sitting next to a guy who calls New York to get the tater tots picture back on line,” I had told her. 

I also wouldn’t forget Marcia the part-time photographer, full-time architect, and my fellow writer/food junkie/skull buddy Jenna.  “[Here’s a copy of my book],” she said to me, passing me an autographed copy of her first novel, Those Who Save Us, a dramatic story about the relationship between Germans and Jews in the World War II era — the complete opposite subject matter of her proposed storm chasing novel.  Our paths would cross again, perhaps in New York, or anywhere the following year when we competed to sell a similar Tempest Tour tornado chasing article to the various periodicals of the country.

Marcia and Jenna bid us farewell; Shamrock, TX was the last point our paths would cross this time.  The rest of us hopped in the vans to make one last haul back to Oklahoma City.  The score to the film Little Miss Sunshine played in my head while I stared out the window (picture above), as Brett drove us alongside the eighteen-wheelers another hundred miles or so — over 3,000 miles in total for the week, the equivalent of a coast-to-coast cross country road trip.

“FEELS LIKE I HAVEN’T BEEN HERE in three months,” I said when we arrived back where we started, the Wingate Inn of OKC.  We didn’t go through our usual check-in routine this time; some of us, including myself, had to get to the airport soon.  I said my goodbyes and exchanged some business cards.

“Nice working with you, Ron Howard,” I told Dr. Bob, Ph.D of Meteorology, who still had the demeanor of the Happy Days star-turned-Hollywood director.

“Nice chasing with you,” the voice of Richie Cunningham said.  We shook hands.

“I may do this again.  Maybe you’ll be there,” I told him.  “I’ll watch your next movie.”

The goodbyes with the other guides weren’t so formal; they had to rush to clean the vans and return them to the rental company.  We stood outside the hotel reception and watched our caravan zoom by without us.  Tour leader Bill waved from a distance in the lead white van.

“They’re not returning the cars,” Rich said.  “They’re going chasing!

The thrill of the chase was truly endearing and many people said they’d do the trip again in a heart beat.  “How can you not be addicted to this?” Jenna once told me on a storm chase.  It was funny to hear the others in the airport shuttle van, talking about getting their own satellite links and weather gadgets.

Eventually we went our own ways: I went to Chicago, Stacy to LAX, the Minnesotans to their car for their road trip back home — stopping at any kitschy roadside attraction on the way.  Dr. Bob flew off to California to speak at a conference, Brian prepped up to meet — and lead — the next Tempest Tour group of only five people for the following week, and Bill, our fearless “Tour 3” tornado chasing leader, went back to California to lead his regular life… as a mild-mannered grocery store clerk. 

Whether the twenty-seven of us would come together again was a long shot, but just like the way many earthly ingredients must align to produce a tornado, anything could happen — and what a spectacle it would be.


Jenna, the writer mentioned in these blog entries, is accomplished author Jenna Blum.  Her book, Those Who Save Us — a World War II novel about German/Jewish relationships — has nothing to do with storm chasing, but I figured I’d plug it anyway.  For more about her and her book, check out her website:

Next entry: Surprises

Previous entry: Checkmate.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “The Calm After The Storm”

  • GREETINGS as I continue my tour of the midwest—this time to the Lake State of Michigan!  This “Twisted” travel blog is now over—I’m just visiting friends in the lake states, nothing as exciting as storm chasing—but stay tuned:

    The next trip begins… JUNE 18.  (Surprise!)

    (A prologue entry with details coming soon…)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/05  at  05:29 AM

  • i’ll be taking IMs, MMS, SMS, emails and calls to get tater tot pics back up online again soon….

    hopefully all RSS feed errors will be fixed by the next one…but again it works on google!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/05  at  04:34 PM

  • Thrilling!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/05  at  04:34 PM

  • I hope you enjoyed Chicago, where I live, and Michigan, where I’m from.. One more entry?  did you get to any of the street fests last weekend in Chicago?

    (OK, maybe that entry would only be interesting to me..)

    Posted by sara  on  06/05  at  10:19 PM

  • I loved this blog, Erik.  And talk of a new adventure…? 

    I’m very aroused!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/06  at  12:11 AM

  • Wow…great blog and an excellent recap of our weeks events.  Whats funny is that I too thought Bob looked somewhat like Ron Howard.

    Best of luck on all your future travels!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/12  at  08:52 PM

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    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/13  at  04:52 PM

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This blog post is one of nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Twisted," which chronicled a tornado chasing tour of the American midwest in the late spring of 2007.

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