Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Storm Chasing

So, brother Tom is out storm chasing again, this time starting at Devil's Tower in Wyoming, just slightly northwest of prime Tornado Alley real estate.

Courtesy of Brother Tom.
My parents took us there some thirty-plus years ago when we drove cross country for a couple weeks. There were my parents, me, brother Tom, brother Steve, and sweet cousin Betsy hopping from one KOA campground to another in our Dodge Sportsman van and sleeping in our luxury Cox pop-up camper. Don't laugh. The thing had a sink and a stove and a table that converted into a bed. By 1970s standards, we were seeing the country in style! Parked in the shade under some tall pines it made the perfect safe haven from heat and bugs. Just don't touch the canvas when it's raining...

Although we didn't quite make it coast to coast, we sure hit enough of the major attractions along the way, Devil's Tower the least among them.

Actually, Devil's Tower was a bit of a disappointment. We were there not long after "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" showed us the happy side of extraterrestrial musical grooviness, and while I wasn't naive enough to think we'd see aliens, I was hoping for a light show or a themed gift stand. Maybe just a trained seal honking out those five memorabe notes on a rack of horns. After all, if it weren't for the movie, most of the country never would have heard of the place.

The entire trip was perfectly planned, and we spent just the right amount of time at each location to leave an indelible mark. I recall with great clarity the hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone Park, riding on muleback along narrow ledges halfway down the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, admiring the reflected vista of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Lake, watching with excitement as a dark funnel cloud came rolling over us in Iowa, taking in the man made wonder of Mount Rushmore, and slicing my finger open with a pocket knife I begged my parents to let me buy.

Okay, that last one isn't the best memory, but it remains very clear in my mind. Just like the stop we made at Wisconsin Dells. You'd think we were there to admire the scenic beauty of the glacial gorge, but we really were there for the amusement parks and gocart tracks. The rides were simple, probably little better than your average county fair equipment, and I wanted to try every one.

One night at the campground in Wisconsin Dells, a bombastic lightning storm ripped through the area, rocking our Cox pop-up camper with slashing winds and scaring the bejeezus out of us all with every thundering boom, especially cousin Betsy. I suppose that's one difference between boys and girls. It's difficult for us to fully enjoy being in the middle of an electrical storm of biblical proportions when someone is screaming at the top of her lungs from fright during the entire show. Most boys are internally wired to run to the windows for a better view.

Maybe that's why brother Tom continues to return to Tornado Alley year after year. It isn't about tornadoes at all. He's searching for that perfect storm -- the lightning, the winds, the horizontal rains, the crashing thunder -- just like the one in Wisconsin Dells all those years ago so he can stand in the middle and take it all in without the distraction of a screaming girl.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

1 comment:

  1. I think girls scream over storms for a good reason...they're smart. The KNOW that storms are dangerous.

    Boys press their faces against the window during storms for a reason as well. They're not too bright, and run towards danger instead of away from it. ;)