Often, the events that occur while traveling leave us with some great stories to last us. Since graduating from university, my adventures have not always come seamlessly. Maybe if they had transpired flawlessly, each would be less of an adventure. From road-tripping across the country with Clay in the midst of a tornado, to racing home from work before my house became engulfed in a forest fire, and to flying out of the world’s most dangerous airport in Luka, Nepal with a physically small, yet potentially large technical difficulty, my adventures have undoubtedly been made that much more adventurous!
In 2013, just a few days after graduating college, Clay and I were packed up and ready to head to Hood River, Oregon for a season of whitewater in the Pacific Northwest. We left Clay’s home in Cumming, Georgia bright and early at 5am. Just later that night we found ourselves on highway 70 traversing the long, flat state that is Kansas. We were utilizing our tricks to stay alert and the wheel: chewing gum, blasting music, touching our tongues to the roofs of our mouths, and crisscrossing our hands on the steering wheel (thanks, Mrs. Lucas!). As we were driving, I witnessed tumbleweeds blowing, rolling in the wind – a phenomenon that I previously thought was solely for cinematic effect in the movies. The wind howling outside surpassed 60mph some time before, and Clay was white-knuckled at the wheel, tightly grasping the steering wheel as he fought the wind that was taking hold of the Subaru. I reached for the volume dial as the sound of a national alert came in over the radio and captured our attention.
The weather alert notified us that a tornado was quickly approaching; vehicles on the roads between exit 40 and 80 needed to seek shelter. I squinted my eyes looking for our mile marker: mile 60. Stuck in the middle, with no exits nearby. With no cover to be taken, Clay and I decided to continue in our westerly direction towards our destination. As Clay drove through the storm, I hurriedly grabbed my cell phone to book a hotel room in the nearest small town. With Siri’s help, I dialed the closest hotel – a Holiday Inn 10 miles away. My heart sunk as I heard the associate reply, “I’m sorry ma’am. We are all booked for tonight”. Panicked, I dialed the second closest hotel and listened with relief as the clerk said they had an available room. Finally, fifteen minutes later we pulled up in front of an “America’s Best Inn” and discovered that the hotel had a bomb shelter as well as an employee who would call each occupant’s room if and when guests needed to retreat. We booked one night’s stay.
This was the kind of inn where I declined a shower after a full day on the road at the risk of feeling dirtier after the shower. Clay and I turned on the local news to finally hear that the storm was heading south, and we attempted to fall asleep as the wind whipped and stole branches from the trees outside. That next day we heard the news – that the same storm and the tornado had struck Oklahoma City – injuring 200 people and killing 20 individuals.
Never before had I experienced driving in those kinds of conditions and in the midst of an approaching tornado. I was so saddened for the loss Oklahoma suffered and was left with a great respect for nature and for the Midwest living up to its claim as Tornado Alley.
Our first 24 hours spent on the road were much more thrilling than I could have anticipated! With this trip being my first cross-country road trip, day one was a strong reminder to be cautious and practice defensive driving as we made our way west. The remainder of our road-trip was adventurous in a less treacherous sense – full of hiking, camping, and pit-stops with friends!
Needless to say, you don’t always have to be traveling to experience thrills and life on the edge! Today, I found myself dialing 9-1-1 to reclaim the bike that was stolen from me just three days ago. As Clay and I headed to the beach for a surf sesh, he spotted my bicycle: sans seat and without handlebars, yet locked to a tree with some unknown lock. I called the local police department who instructed me to call the emergency number which would have an officer dispatched to my location. I was disappointed to learn that without proper registration, despite proof of purchase with a very detailed description of my bike, the police would not legally be able to cut the lock to return my bike to me. So, today Clay and I had the adventure of stealing back my bike. As I left the scene to find bolt cutters, my jaw dropped as minutes later I saw Clay wheeling my bike up the road. By some means, he managed to free my stolen bike from the lock! My hero 🙂 I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines Day this weekend. And as a PSA from me – triple lock and register your bikes!