30 April 2013 – CHASE 2013 – Arrival

30 April 2013 – CHASE 2013 – Arrival

TODAY”S activities:

05:00 wake up
05:10 morning chores
05:20 Take trash to the curb
05:30 Airport limo arrived. My favorite driver, David, is driving. We talk about friends, relationship maintenance, and life on the trip to O’Hare.
0615 Arrive O’Hare. Due to my tripod case looking like a gun chase I check that along with backup photo gear. ($60 to check two bags! Highway robbery!!) I also end up gate-checking my carry-on bag (with my primary camera gear). I try to hide my displeasure and eventually settle in for the flight. Regional jets are more intimate than their massive cousins, but I always suffer separation anxiety when I travel separately from my most expensive toys.
__ Wheels up and on our way. Our compact yet comfy Canadair CRJ700 angles southwest toward the heart of Tornado Alley. As I sip my diet tonic water — scored a full can! — I chat with the flight attendant and compare note on her Canadair vs. the ski-equipped KC-130 aircraft of my Antarctic era. It seems that both planes began their lives as cargo aircraft are were later retrofitted with seats for passengers. (Learn something new every day!)

_____ arrive at OKC. To my chagrin, I discover my rental car location is not at the airport, but a $20 cab ride away. What’s more: the airport rental agent had put through the charge already, so I had to have him back it out.

_____ drove downtown. Ate lunch at Thai Kitchen (a recommendation from my Thai can driver). Great meal and great price. I guess the detour to the rental car served a second purpose. Lesson: Learn to make the most of detours; sometimes the scenic route turns out better.

_____ Consulted Google Maps to find a photo store. All the signs (Yelps, reviews, etc.) point to Baker Camera in Yukon, a short hop west of OKC. Upon arriving I make two wonderful discoveries: 1) Yukon is Garth Brooks’ hometown (“teenage!”) and 2) Hank Baker, the owner of this oasis of prosumer Nikon and Canon gear, is also an accomplished storm photographer.

_____ Swing by the Sam’s Club off McArthur Blvd. to pick up protein bars. Imodium (just in case), dried mangoes, and a jar of marinated asparagus.

____ Back to the Wyngate for a brief unwind.

_____ Go to the Texas Roadhouse. Celebrate Willie Nelson’s 80th birthday with a Skinny Margarita. A 12-oz. ribeye, and a cup of chili.

_____ return to the hotel. Charge up phone, photo and video batteries and myCharge (iPhone charge bank). Check the forecasts and models. Looks like we’ll dive south into Texas for our first chase day.

22:00 Turn in for the night


I usually read along with the flight attendant while she (or he) goes through the safety card. Besides the fact every plane is a little different, I’ve always considered it polite to pay attention to a person when they speak. Usually, the safety briefing is pretty repetitious, but today I found something new:

It never occurred to me that a person with a pacemaker would be required to turn it off during the flight! Everybody got a good laugh when I pointed this out. Now my joke collection has a pacemaker joke. “Who’d w thunk it?”


30 April 2012 – PRELIMINARY – DAY 10 – The 5% Solution

  • 0700 – wake up; shower
  • 0900 – breakfast
  • Some chaser humor: “portions of west Texas and the Texas panhandle were severely damaged by last night’s storms, as shown on the map below”


  • Sir Richard Pell, Earl of Waffles (no relation to the Earl of Sandwich) posed with one of his famed breakfast creations. “Brilliant!”


  • 1030 – meet at van
  • 20120430-105930.jpg





















    Inverted T feature


    Photos of my logbook entries for the day:

    28 April 2012 – DAY 8 – Slight risk, High Tension

    I am still trying to process the emotions of the day.

    One person in the group has become so selfish, loud, vulgar, and arrogant that I have had waking fantasies of dragging him behind the van as we race into a hailstorm on a gravel road.

    Another lost his wallet (and I feel terrible for him, especially because he is a talented and wonderful person).

    I even feel a little down because my netbook is dead, one of my shoes is held together with duct tape.

    And we did not see any severe storms, I feel disappointed that after tomorrow the tour is done. I fear having nothing to show for the money I spent.

    Photographs of my chase log notes follow:






    Travel: ??? miles

    25 April 2012 – DAY 5 – Fizzle, Fizzle, f’shizzle


    • 0300 – night bathroom run! Gotta avoid caffeine with dinner.
    • 0400 – neighbors making noise So I can’t sleep! Transcribed yesterday’s paper chase log to this blog. Pure hell to enter WordPress entries via Safari!! (I discovered the WordPress app afterwards. This will be easier/saner going forward.)
    • 0900 – Laundry run
    • 1030 – return to hotel ; pack van
    • 1035 – weather briefing: we have a chance for storms that might produce small hail and some lightning in the plains of Eastern Colorado.
    • 1130 – lunch at Kim Lin Chinese Buffet
    • 1230 – Depart La Junta, CO northbound
    • 1315 – stop 2 miles south of Arlington, CO to photograph an old storm shelter
    • 1327 – Arlington, CO – stop at rest area and photograph an outhouse. Yes, it’s a SLOW DAY!
    • 1341 – N on CO59(?); arrive at Eads, CO to watch the sky, data updates, and toss a Frisbee around.
    • 1530 – leave Eads on US287N, heading to an area where storm development has started.
    • 1607 – turn onto northbound CO59
    • 1625 – stop at I-70 for fuel, washroom visits and snacks; continue north to US36W
    • 1707 – pass Cope, CO
    • 1715 – turn north toward Otis,CO
    • 1740 – dinner at Mom’s Restaurant in Otis
    • 1830 – stop west of Otis. Our target storm has fizzled, having run out of moisture.
    • 1900 – return to Otis; after Bill gets us hotel rooms in Yuma, we head to US34E and on to Yuma. On the way, illustrates how super cells look on radar, using a radar image of a southeast moving storm entering Illinois from near Keokuk, IA
    • 1920 – arrive at the Nelson Inn in Yuma. Bill announces we meet at the van at 9 a.m. (MDT) due to a heavy travel day. Tomorrow appears to be our ‘big day’ for our excursion. Updated this blog
    • 2130 – lights out

    24 April 2012 – DAY 4 – Convection without Conviction

    [editor’s note: entering WordPress blog entries via iPhone is pure hell. It took almost 2 hours to write this entry!]


    I’ve reverted to using paper chase logs, transcribing them after the fact. My log for 24 April follows:



    • 0700 – wake up
    • 0930 – update blog on hotel PC (netbook dead
    • 1030 – pack van; weather briefing
    • 1100 – depart Sands Hotel, Raton, NM
    • ____ – Kmart stop; bought hand pump and inflated Bill’s football. Had fun watching our Spanish and Portugese guests toss around “a demented American fĂștbol” [ed.- my words, not theirs]
    • 1130 – depart Raton on I-25N
    • ___ – enter Colorado via Raton Pass; gorgeous snow-capped Rockies rise to our west, but there is no safe place to pull over for a photo opp. Dang!
    • Leave I-25 at exit 13; eat lunch after an extended search for Lee’s Ribs (which appeared closed for some time). Subway, here we come!
    • 1323 – arrive at Model, CO; photograph the decaying cantina and supermercado. It makes me sad to see the skeleton of what was likely hub of activity, but Bill loves to photograph old buildings.20120425-070552.jpg
    • 1600 – we wander south and east, to Folsom, NM and tiny Walt’s Corner, in hopes we may see some daytime lightning. 20120425-070733.jpg

      The weather is being totally uncooperative . As we wait, we feed one of my apples to a horse behind the general store and toss a frisbee with our Spanish and Portugese guests. My impression: it’s a new experience for them.20120425-070717.jpg

    • 1704 – depart south on CO 389; re-enter NM a minute later, about 14 miles N of Folsom.
    • ____ – photo stop to look over weak storm to our SE<20120425-070749.jpg/li>
    • ____ – continue SE to Des Moines, N
    • ____ – double back to Colorado
    • 1841 – head east on US 160.
    • 1914 – angle north on CO 109 toward La Junta
    • 2030 – dinner at Boss Hogg’s BBQ. I had the BBQ combo plate. “Yummers!” Francisco had a plain hamburger (no lettuce, no tomato, no cheese. Alberto had the lasagna. Too bad neither embraced the “Midwest Barbeque Experience.”
    • 2134 – turn in for the evening at the Mid-town Motel. My fridge smells very stale, as if a dead animal had been stored there. Phew!

    Travel: 270 miles

    24 April 2012 – Fred Astaire without Shoes?

    Yesterday morning, my netbook computer charged up (by outward appearances), but when I tried to use it, it would not power up.

    Last night, it did not even light up when I attached the AC adapter. As it stands, I will be without my computer for the remaining 8 days of my chase trip. As a career computer professional, I find it very trying to be without a computer; as a storm chaser (who needs constant data updates), I feel like Fred Astaire trying to dance with no shoes!

    I can use hotel lobby computers and my iPhone to update my blog (as I am doing right now). I can probably improvise a solution for getting my photos into those blog entries, but will be hard pressed to incorporate my forecasts and nowcasts into the blog ‘in the moment.’

    23 April 2012 – DAY 3 – Playing Tourist

    [All times are MOUNTAIN time (MDT) unless noted otherwise]

    • 0700 – wake; shower; dress; get breakfast; pack bags

    • 1030 – load van; briefing

    • 1100 – head west

    • 1154 – On the road to Taos (US 64 West), we stopped for some photos for 10 minutes. A ranger stopped to tell us we needed to pay $5 (even though it was obvious the 8 people with cameras and no tents were stopping for photos, not to set up camp. “Bureaucrat!” I though as he drove off. (To save further grief and aggravation, we drove off shortly thereafter. No $40 from us!)

    • 1213 – I took more photos of the landscape to our south. I see snow on the mountains and in scattered patches on the ground. Hopefully, we do not have any on the roads ahead.

    • 1229 – We stop for a few photos of a few mountain storms brewing. Typically these fizzle as they reach the flatlands (especially when the dew points are in the 40s there).

    • 1245 – continue to just east of Eagle’s Nest; photo opp for mountain lake with snow-capped Rockies as a backdrop. Breathtaking!

    • 1250 – At the Eagle’s Nest convenience store, we stop for washrooms, food, fuel

    • 1305 – continue to Taos; per GPS, our route crests at 9058 feet above sea level then descends into town.

    • 1412 – After a 15 minute stroll, we have lunch at Ricky’s (based on a recommendation by some friendly, local workmen). “It’s a keeper” $14 plus tip for a hearty New Mexican combination plate and an iced tea.

    • 1538 – depart east on US 64 until NM 505. We stop to observe several storms rolling off the Sangre de Cristo range (one NW, one S of us). Both are photogenic non-severe storms that fizzle as they reach the moisture-starved plain of NE NM.

    • 2100 – we check in to the Sands Motel (again); 5 minutes later several of us pile in the van for star gazing

    • 2127 – then 5 in our group take a stargazing side trip to 7 mi E of Yankee.