The Calm Before The Storm

This blog entry was originally posted on May 19, 2007.

So it’s been a whole eight months since my last adventure, not including quick mini trips to go snowboarding and snowmobiling in Colorado, or to drive to Miami for a quick jaunt before helping escort my friend Jack‘s iguana to his new apartment in New Jersey, or to visit King Tut at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia’s super fun science museum.  During the past eight months I’ve more or less stayed put in New York City, still working at a youthful interactive advertising agency where we drink beer and forward YouTube links to each other all day.  But while living in New York is grand — especially on the days you run into Mr. T or Gary Coleman — it’s still nice to get away from it all and see the world.

Many fans and friends have bugged me over the past eight months, asking the same burning question:  “So, where’s your next trip?”  (I believe I’ve heard it about a million times.)  Well, as it is, I’m gearing up for the next trip, leaving this week on May 26th in fact, to a destination that only a few privileged people know about.  If you were take three guesses, you probably wouldn’t guess where since it’s a complete departure from my usual sort of places — in fact, it’s (gasp) domestic.  But if in your three guesses you were to say, “Oklahoma!” you’d be correct — after of which you’d ask the next burning question, “Why the hell are you going there?” 

The answer is best summed up in one word:  tornadoes.

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN a fan of weather — severe weather — especially on the days that it’s not ruining any plans I have that require it to be sunny.  I really enjoy a good lightning storm when I’m out somewhere with a good vantage point, and unlike most New Yorkers, I think it’s cool when it snows in the middle of spring.  Some days in New York, when the sky gets really dark and ominous in the middle of day, I get excited because it looks like the end of Ghostbusters, and Gozer the Gozerian is about to take form of the the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Storms are never necessarily a bad thing in my mind — in fact, news of destructive storms awe me in a way; it’s a reminder that no matter how grand mankind thinks he is, Mother Nature can still kick his ass. 

Growing up in the northeast of America, where tornadoes aren’t common and are almost mythical, twisters have become a novelty to me, a sought out trophy to behold.  In my existence I’ve only seen one tornado in real life — off the coast of Zanzibar in eastern Africa — and I remember being really thrilled to be in its presence, even if far away.  I don’t know if it’s because of the movie Twister, that movie with Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as tornado chasers that’s on HBO about twenty times a day, but apparently I’m not the only tornado fan out there; I remember Lara saying she wanted to see one, and wanted to go tornado chasing with me one day.  In fact, when planning this upcoming trip, I e-mailed her to join me, but she declined for whatever reason.  And so, I booked the tornado chasing tour by myself.

That’s right, it’s a tornado chasing tour.  Lara and I had always wondered if there was a tour operator that actually took tourists on tornado chases, and wouldn’t you know, a couple of months ago, I read about one in National Geographic.  The article mentioned the Texas-based tour operator Tempest Tours, the self-proclaimed “most successful, most professional and safest operator in the industry” — I didn’t even know there was an actual industry.  Partnered with the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association, Tempest Tours has recently guided a film crew for The Weather Channel.  I feel sort of privileged to be going with them, even though they can’t guarantee an actual tornado sighting — much like a wildlife safari can’t guarantee you’ll see a lion — and the fact that they made me sign this incredible waiver that states in big bold capital letters:  “I AM AWARE THAT STORM CHASING IS A HAZARDOUS ACTIVITY AND HAS CERTAIN INHERENT RISKS. THESE INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, DEATH OR BODILY INJURY DUE TO TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS; SEVERE WEATHER CONDITIONS SUCH AS HAIL, LIGHTNING, RAIN, FLOODING, FLYING DEBRIS, AND TORNADOES. I AM VOLUNTARILY PARTICIPATING IN THESE ACTIVITIES WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE DANGER INVOLVED AND HEREBY AGREE TO ACCEPT ANY AND ALL RISKS OF INJURY OR DEATH.

As excited as I was to sign my life away (yet again), I almost didn’t make the cut; just when I was solidifying my decision to register for the Memorial Week tour, Tempest’s relatively small tour group was already full — most likely because of their recent press — but they squeezed me in, since I was just a solo traveler.  Since then, I think their popularity grew for them enough to squeeze six more people in, taking an additional van along than their usual trips.  (Tornadoes are apparently the “in” thing now.)  There will be nineteen of us in the group, from all parts of the country (and possibly the world), to be led by a team of meteorologists who will teach us in the ways of storm tracking, so that we can intercept as many tornadoes as we can in eight days.  It’s crazy, but I’m very excited, much to my mother’s chagrin — you should have been there to see her reaction when I told her I was going to do this (picture above).

I will be flying to Oklahoma City in the heart of “Tornado Alley” — with my video camera and the Milton Bradley game Twister in my bag — where the tour will meet and group together.  From there, we can be anywhere in the plains depending on weather patterns: northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas — and if swept away, quite possibly Oz.  Because of the nature of the tour — most of it taking place in the N.I.Z. I assume — I’ve decided not to stress myself out looking for an internet connection everyday to blog about the trip, and will just do a video about it at the end.  Hopefully I’ll live to tell the tale, edit it, and post it on YouTube so that I can forward it around at the office.

Stay tuned, the storm is brewing…


“To die… would be an awfully big adventure.”

-Peter Pan

Next entry: Weather Nerds

Previous entry: Welcome to version 3.0!

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Comments for “The Calm Before The Storm”

  • alright! no blog duties for this trip!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  07:25 PM

  • Love your moms reaction!

    Posted by bil  on  05/20  at  07:34 PM

  • I expect fantastic pictures… will you be taking them?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/20  at  10:15 PM

  • This is so funny… can wait to read more.  I like the disclaimer they make you sign.  Inclement weather while looking for tornados?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/21  at  06:31 PM

  • I would tag along if i wasn’t shackled up here for the time being! Have fun! wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/21  at  09:59 PM

  • Yay, blog!

    Enjoy the tornados… watch out for the slime, don’t cross your streams, and if someone asks if you’re a god… you say YES!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/21  at  10:39 PM

  • OMG!  Followed you all the way around the world (via the blog of course…not REALLY followed)...I’m not a stalker! smile Only to find that you’re coming to my part of the world (OKC and Wichita, KS).  Too bad you’ll be running around with Helen Hunt…I would have bought you a beer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/21  at  11:05 PM

  • Erik, you’re poor mother!  You didn’t tell her on Mother’s Day I hope. (I see something about that on the wall behind you.) Mothers aside I think that will be a wild and crazy trip if you actually get into the thick of things.  Be careful out there! I will look forware to hearing all about it.  Especially now that all the season finales are almost over - now we have something to look forward to!  You don’t know how badly I need a vacation but traveling vicariously through you is almost as good!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  12:19 AM

  • The first time I read the name Oklahoma I thought “we’ve lost another great mind to crack.”

    But now that I’ve read a few more details, this trip sounds awesome.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  04:38 PM

  • NOELLE:  Pictures, yes.  But I will primarily focus on video; I got this new Sanyo Xacti camcorder that fits in my pocket whereever I go.

    MICHELLE IN MICHIGAN:  Inclement weather… hmmm, maybe you think?  See you in Ann Arbor, assuming I survive!

    ALI:  Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.

    SHERIE:  Keep in touch, we could be anywhere in the plains, stopping in random towns for the night.

    JANICE:  Funny you should mention Mother’s Day; originally I was going to tell her during Mother’s Day brunch, but it just worked out to tell her two weeks before then.

    KENT/TD0T:  Welcome back, welcome home.

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  05/22  at  08:51 PM

  • Kent (Td0t): Where have you been?  We missed you on the last couple of trips! Good to see you back.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  12:23 AM

  • Janice: I was AWOL the last couple of trips… but I’m here now, and it’s good to be “home.” Are you still in Taiwan?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  05:50 PM

  • im quite looking forward to this. your next trip should be to the northwest!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  11:02 PM

  • Kent: No, I was in mainland China (Changsha, Hunan) but I’ve been home for 2 years!  Time flies!  So, Erik, when does the trip begin? We’ll all be tuned to the news and weather channel!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  12:10 AM

  • Hi Erik, i’ve been reading your blogs over the last couple of months during my lunch hour at work and have become a massive fan.  I am planning a trip much like your 16 month RTW and your stories and photo’s have been really inspiring (especially the jobbies).  Im actually quite excited to be ousting my SBR ways to bask in the glory of the blog.

    Anyways dude, if you’re ever in Scotland (hunting for Nessie or something) then the beers are on me.  I’ll be sure to check back regulary for some sweet blog action.

    Take it easy!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  04:01 PM

  • Just thought I’d share this latest briefing from Bob, our tour leading storm chaser:

    Well, Tour 3 is approaching rapidly, and the forecast picture is becoming a little clearer now.  The weather pattern has improved from what it was a week ago, and chasers are now seeing tornadoes on the plains once again.  This week’s weather pattern of a trough in the western U.S. will probably be replaced by a more zonal (west to east) flow across the northern and central U.S. by the end of the week.  Next week, it looks like the flow will change some more, and we’ll have northwesterly upper winds over the plains.  That will bring some cooler air southward, and often in that pattern, some Gulf moisture sneaks up onto the high plains (New Mexico), and there can be some nice storms there.

    Anyway, here’s my current estimate of the day-to-day breakdown.  It’s certainly a guess at this point, as the details of the forecast will certainly change as the time draws nearer.

    Saturday: there will be a system moving across the Northern Plains that may produce severe weather over Minnesota/Iowa or Wisconsin/Illinois.  I’m not sure I like this a whole lot because I’ll be flying down from Minnesota on Friday night, and I hate to go away from interesting weather, but that’s often how the timing works out.  I anticipate we’ll drive northward as soon as we can to see some storms along the southern edge of this system in Kansas.

    Sunday: We will probably drive northwestward to western Nebraska as upslope flow develops in advance of the next system crossing the northern U.S.  I’d expect some nice storms there later in the day.

    Monday: central/eastern Nebraska or southeastern South Dakota.  This just might be our best chance of seeing tornadoes during the tour as the moisture and the wind shear look best, and a system crosses the plains.

    Tuesday: This is when the transition to northwesterly flow might take place, or if Monday’s system is delayed, we’ll still be in Nebraska or South Dakota.  There is a lot of uncertainty about what our plans will be on this day:

    Wednesday and beyond:  It looks like we could be playing in the upslope flow in eastern New Mexico or the Texas Panhandle.  I’ve seen some nice storms there in northwesterly flow and hope we can see some more next week.

    Well, that’s my guess about how things look.  Next update will be on Saturday.

    I’m looking forward to the tour and meeting you all.



    Posted by Erik TGT  on  05/24  at  05:41 PM

  • Well, I’ll be in Wichita, KS Saturday…so

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/25  at  12:06 AM

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    Belstaff jackets became well known by the different appearances in blockbusters. In Blade, Batman and The Aviator, the English designs had a guest appearance. The very light summer jackets from Belstaff include inter alia Cotfort, a mixture of cotton, nylon and spandex. By the middle of the Twentieth Century the company’s Belstaff Trailmaster jacket had become legendary and worn by everyone from motor-biking champions to Che Guevara on his journeys across Latin America.The reinterpretations of the jacket from the fifties is a most popular pieces of the label. Kate Moss likes to dress in Belstaff leather jackets.
    The cuts remind Belstaff jackets in the past and the label are clear from the sporty, hard-nosed style of Motorcycle inspired. The jackets are decorated in striking colors. A bright red jacket, a long belstaff jaket with belt,a stylish short Belstaff Blouson jacket with slanted zipper or a Belstaff bomber jacket in leather with three-quarter sleeve dress decorated woman, if she decides to Belstaff. The selection of parkas and Blazer from Belstaff Outlet is less significant, but convinced by his unusual for both types of Jackets

    Posted by belstaff  on  11/30  at  07:33 AM

  • The world is cute just because of them. What will the fashion people in streets do?You See, earphones Direct the Fashion Trend of Detroit. The present young people like to dress themselves up different, in any case just to look like different from others. In the List of Most Welcomed Embellishments, headphone sale are the NO.1 Therefore, we can often see many fantastic impersonations that may be fashionable, strange, or alternative in headphones UK.Habits that Stimulate Excoriation to Bose Headphones, everyone has their own views Sennheiser Headphones, and then let’s follow the street snaper to have a look at them in the Occident. Why Shop headphones for WaitressesHey Colorists! Keep Away from Sony Headphones!
      Special skirt with big lattices is rare. Have a jimmy choo shoes and maybe you can obtain an unexpected effect ed hardy. The suit headphone upper body doesn’t feel obtrusive, probably because of colour assortment is syncretic. So there can be such good effect.

    Posted by bose headphones  on  12/01  at  08:09 AM

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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.

Next entry:
Weather Nerds

Previous entry:
Welcome to version 3.0!


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
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