07:00-11:00 – work from home, online, that is. (Don’t lots of folks do that now?)
11:00 – Lunch at Charlie’s (Bolingbrook Clow International Airport).
(They have scheduled flights to Canada, so ‘International” is quite real.)
12:12 – Depart Bolingbrook Airport, traveling southwest on I-55S.
14:09 – A brief pit stop in Atlanta, IL. Still good on fuel!
14:22 – Resume southwesterly course on I-55S
15:25 – Oh no. traffic jam!
17:28 – Refuel at St. Clair, MO, just west of Six Flags enough to avoid paying a premium price for gasoline.
2100 – Arrive at Red Roof Inn, Springfield. Check in then eat dinner at Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub. Had the monstrously generous prime rib dip (like a classic French dip, but using prime rib). Too much food!
After building a fairly long list on shakedown cruise number one, it just makes good sense to do a second shake down and see what remains that list.
1145 – Lunch with Joe and Barb
1400 – Depart for Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Wolcott, Iowa. It was, at one time, the world’s largest truck stop. Supposedly a larger one was being built in Russia, but I’m not sure that ever happened. Needless to say, the place is huge, and technically qualifies as a national landmark. It also happens to be reasonable distance from home. Depending on conditions such as weather, construction, traffic, the drive can be anything from 2 to 3 hours. (And on this occasion, it was just barely two.)
1559 – Cross the Mississippi river on the interstate 80, entering Iowa. (Upon inspecting my video after returning home, I find out that the crossing was captured on the starboard wyzecam. A nice surprise: the camera system delivered on its promise)
(insert link to crossing video later)
1615 – Arrive at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop. As it turns out, the shakedown cruise is also a test of the driver. I make a hasty run to the bathroom, and discover I am in real need of some Imodium AD. Given that I had a recent battle with “full on” diarrhea, I don’t mess around: I take a large adult dose of this medicine immediately (and do not have a problem with “digestive distress” for the rest of the trip, thankfully). I take a quick moment for some photos at the truckstop. To paraphrase Peewee Herman, “It’ll last longer if you’ll take a picture!”
1645 – Make a brief stop at the National Weather Service, located at Davenport airport. Grab a quick picture of myself in front of Weather radar
1655 – head back across the Mississippi and onward to home
1915 – Arrive at home. Goodness, I made good time driving back. The WyzeCams seem to be dropping out every once in a while, perhaps because the laptop is running low on space on the way back, but I do not stop to investigate. I just want to get home given the delicate state of my digestive tract.
2030 – Time to call it a day. And a good day it was. It seems the afjustments that I made in response to the to do list from the first shakedown cruise have been effective. I did not test the camera mounts but have a pretty good idea that I need to adjust the friction on the I pistol grip for the DSLR camera.
I took a 90-minute test drive of the chase vehicle and the technology onboard
Here’s a list of issues I’ve found:
The camera mounts easily loosened up. Fortunately, the camera “droop” did no damage to the cameras.
The GPS puck is seen by Franson GPSgate, but it’s output is not seen by GRlevel3 or other applications.
The dashcam needed to be tested beyond seeing it power up and display a video of the road ahead.
The cabling clean-up has yet to begin, but should be a fast task. Last year’s set up is unchanged, except for the mysterious disappearance of the original dashcam micro-USB cable. I replaced it today, but have some disconnected cables dangling.
The rear seat’s Android tablet needs to be re-installed.
Luggage space needs to be reclaimed. It’s full of bric-a-brack at the moment.
The iPhone bracket need to have the stabilizer arm glued into place. It came off in my hand! WTF??
The antenna cluster needs to be road tested. It was ‘indoors’ today. One antenna needs to be glued to its mag-mount.
All this amounts to another weekend afternoon spent with this new ‘to do’ list.
Our day really started with Chinese lunch at Golden Palace, a place with over 100 items of high-quality Mandarin and Cantonese appetizers, soups, entrees and (American-style) desserts.
After lunch and a quick fuel stop, we visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. If you go, allow up to two hours to walk through the amazing exhibits, pictured below.
After the museum visit, we went to the Oklahoma National Memorial (“the bombing memorial”). Although it is a somber place with moving tributes to those lost, it also holds a message of hope and recovery. Photos are below.
We met up with most of the tour group and walked up to Charleston’s for dinner. Simon and I split a Kale-Quinoa salad, which was still an overwhelming amount of food, even split in half.
Then, we returned to the hotel, where I spent the balance of the evening charging devices, uploading photos, and (finally) sleeping.
This morning I woke up in Springfield, Missouri. Did not need an alarm clock, as one of my Motel neighbors (who I will simply call #MethMom) was shouting over the second floor balcony to her friends that this motel was “no f***ing kind a place for my f***ing kids!” If memory serves, this is how certain moms in Missouri (and other states in the Midsouth) indicate that there is no pool for the kids. No matter. I am awake now.
After a quick round of dental hygiene (to remove that taste that I can only describe as “Walt and Jesse starting a meth lab in my mouth”) and a quick cuppa tea I was ready to face the day.
After a quick round of dental hygiene (to remove that taste that I can only describe as “Walt and Jesse starting a meth lab in my mouth“) and a quick cuppa tea I was ready to face the day.
I spent a little bit of time in reviewing yesterday’s photos and getting the updates for yesterday‘S blog page started
Today’s weather is gray and drippy day, a fairly common sight after the good storms have passed through the area a few days earlier. A quick look at the SPC outlook seems to indicate that the next few days are going to be for a little bit quiet, weatherwise. So will be playing tourist and various natural wonders instead of chasing. That’s the way it goes.
I checked Facebook and responded Do a post asking about “what equipment do you use when you chase” as follows:
* Kenwood TMD-710GA 2m/440 ham radio
* Radio Shack PRO2067 500-channel scanner
* Radio Shack TRC-519 CB Radio
I also carry a good assortment of cameras/camcorders.
* Nikon D7000 DSLR (plus a lens collection)
* Two GoPro Hero2 cameras (w/3-D frame, various mounts, including the popular suction mount)
* Sony AX-53 4K camcorder (plus zoom and telephoto lenses)
Next stop: Sid’s Diner in El Reno. We arrived about an hour before closing time. I had the King Burger Deluxe, Paul the BLT, and so on. We had a moment of dismay when the British Contingent realized no beer was available there. We survived, however.
Final tourist stop for the day: the Twistex Crew Memorial. We let Simon try his hand at rural Oklahoma driving He negotiated gravel roads, muddy ruts, and got us to the memorial in time for some great photos, including shots of a beautiful classic western sunset.
After a quick WalMart stop, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
First, drove from the motel in Bolingbrook into the Loop of Chicago. After an unplanned orbit of Lower Wacker Drive, we got into our parking garage and walked to breakfest. I had a tasty apple-walnut oatmeal and my first-ever (and probably last-ever) keto coffee.
Then, we walked across the street and went up to the 103rd story attractions of the [former] Sears Tower (a/k/a the Willis Tower).
The views were spectacular, but when I stepped out onto The Ledge, I got dizzy and withdrew immediately. My #FearOfHeights kicked in hard. After a moment of calming down, I backed into my slot in the transparent box so high above the street and we were able to get a few pictures.
Looking out in each of the four compass point directions, we took in the amazing views. The multiple shades of view on Lake Michigan, looking to the north, was astonishingly beautiful!
Along the Way: Fill-Up Philip
After of hour of “103” time was up, we returned to the car, headed west on Madison Street, and took I-94 and I-55 southwest, departing Chicago.
A few hours later, we stopped at Dwight, Illinois for lunch. We had a classic American cuisine lunch (burgers, BLT sandwiches, hot soup), then visited the 1950s-vintage gas station across the street.
One Tall Tomb
Next stop was the Lincoln Tomb (the actual final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his four sons. The route to the monument took us through some pretty unassuming side streets (and I was beginning to the the GPS had misguided us). The tomb is topped off with an imposing obelisk and has many beautiful statues of Lincoln, depicting the various stages of is life from young adult to the final year of his presidency.
Quarter of the Way ‘Round the World
Continuing southwestward, I pulled the van to the shoulder for our ‘mystery stop’. I must have given half a dozen hints where we were going, what it was about, etc. We got WAY past twenty questions, but my guests finally figured it out without me telling them outright. Here we are after arriving.
After many more hours of driving, we arrived at our dinner destination in Versailles — pronounced ‘ver-Sails’ — in Missouri. Thanks to a cable between the van’s CarPlay port and my iPhone acting up, I had to rely on my guests’ phones for navigation. (Excellent job adapting to the situation, gang! I am in your debt.) Fortunately, we never got off the desired route, arriving at around 9pm. We met Kathy’s stepdaughter, Allison, at a local microbrewery and restaurant call The Bee’s Knees. Other than a brief whiff of the beer, I abstained (as I was driving). On the other hand, I enjoyed a generous portion of the delicious varieties of thin crust pizza. It was a good thing we were driving; I could barely walk after the meal.
One Last Push
In a final push to our goal of Springfield, Missouri, I drove us on MO 5 toward Lebanon, Missouri and I-44. The winding road, hilly terrain, and stretches of re-paving activy along the way made for a challenging drive, but we arrived safe and sound at Springfield around midnight. Four sleepy travelers went to sleep about 30 minutes later for some very solid and well-earned rest.
This Thursday was like any other Thursday, except for my great excitement that my friends are arriving from London. Well I did get work done at work, I am mostly prepared for being absent. I sent a quick email delegating various responsibilities, reasserting the chain of command, and outlining a few goals for the team during my vacation.
Other than leaving my mobile phone at home, the day went pretty much as planned. But I had to come back by the house anyways after work because I was not going to drag a company laptop with me on the road. Absolutely no reason for me to incur that kind of risk when it is in my power to simply store the laptop in a safe place.
After a quick stop by the house, I headed to O’Hare airport. The drive was everything I expected it to be cold and slow moving, filled with cars, trudging along. Here’s a quick time-lapse video to give you a taste of my drive:
Fortunately I got an early enough start that I arrive right around the time that my friends’ flight was arriving. That said, fortune seem to smile on me: I found a parking spot that was only two or three slots from the sidewalk leading into Terminal 5 (the international terminal), encountered my friends quickly, and left almost as quickly (after Phil ran back into the building to pay for the short term parking, as I flew right on by the pay station without thinking about it). From the time I arrive to the time we departed could not of been much more than 10 minutes, a personal best for an airport pick up.
Kathy, Phil and Simon were happy and energetic as we exchanged hugs. Their Dreamliner flight seem to agree with them and they even remarked that the meals exceeded their expectations. Sliders anybody?
Our ride from the airport down the tri-state, 88, and I 355 went smoothly (but slowly due to moderate traffic).
We sat down to a nice dinner at the Family Square Restaurant in Bolingbrook, just a few minutes From the British contingent’s hotel.
I hung out during the check in process to make sure everybody was able to get into their rooms and settle in for the night. Getting to the rooms just before sunset and having a large meal contributed to everyone aligning their sleep schedules to U.S. Central Time. Jet lag is not much fun, but I hope we were able to get it under control by lining up sunset and meals.
Friday morning comes with an early start, so hopefully everybody gets some good solid sleep so we can enjoy the day. I’m pretty sure the positive attitudes will carry us through no matter what, but some good sleep will really help. I’ve been really tired lately, so the rest will be welcome.
I have lots of stuff on my mind. House stuff. Packing stuff. Car stuff — OK, that’s 100% finished, actually. But I won’t have a peaceful departure until the pre-vacation ‘to-do’ list reaches zero items pending. (That’s just how I’m wired in my brain, folks.)
The last 48 hours before ‘launch’ are always a bit anxious for me: what will I forget. One year I forgot to put the water heater in VACATION mode, but I’ve never made a serious error like leaving the stove on.
Last night, I taught a 3-hour class on using GRlevel3 and CR2Analyst programs for weather awareness during emergency management agency (EMA) operations. Not bad to handle this on 4 hours sleep!
Today, I’m drinking lots of caffeine and thinking about the last three items on my to do list:
Purchase a wireless shutter control for my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera
Pack my clothing (photographing the contents of the bag as I go)
Adapt the bucket handling my roof leakage to send water to my bathtub while I’m on vacation (‘flood and mold avoidance’).
There are little ‘nice to have’ items I’d like to finish before the trip, but if they don’t get done, the trip will still be pleasant and relaxing.
The truth is that I’m a bit distracted today. The SPC Day 1 outlook showed a MODERATE RISK blob over the Texas Panhandle, one of my most favorite places to chase. It was accompanied by a 10% TORNADO RISK blob. Those who can chase today should be richly rewarded!
While I’m not superstitious, it’s sometimes fun to consider whether or not sighting the weather radar-themed UHAUL truck is a good omen.
My name is Lisa Beal. I’ll be touring with Tempest Tours for my 17th trip this year. Where has the time gone?
I’m nearing retirement, but still have plenty of energy for storm days. I’ll need it: I usually carry a hefty assortment of gadgets, earning the name Gadget Girl on tours past.
I live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and I work as an IT middleware engineer (that means I make big servers go, go, go). Like my buddy, Owen, I’m tied to a keyboard most of my waking hours — and sometimes those hours run really long.
To maintain my sanity, I will NOT be answering calls from work on vacation. Would you?
My typical chase-cation starts with a drive to Oklahoma city, usually with a stopover near friends on the way. And I take about 3 days to get home afterwards, if severe weather is around for chasing.
I have a dedicated chase vehicle (“Gadgetmobile III”, as the first two were gracefully retired in 2007 ans 2018, respectively).
See more information about my chase vehicles here.
I like chase in groups, with a friend or two, or solo.
I’ll be arriving in Oklahoma City on the Saturday evening before the trip so if anyone is wanting to explore locally, let me know! Usually, I make a trip to WalMart on the Sunday before departure, and it is pretty usual to have 2-3 others with me for that store run. Let me know if you need to do that. Text me … to connect for that store run, a lunch or dinner on Sunday, etc. I welcome the company.
I cannot say enough good things about the Tempest Tours crew, especially Bill Reid. He is the storm whisperer, and has put me in front of at least 30 of the tornadoes I’ve seen, among the 50 total I’ve seen. Bill is also an excellent photographer. Don’t be shy if you need camera advice. His is very solid advice.
I will be blogging each evening (or early the next morning) after each chase day. Look for updates athttp://www.underthethunder.org/blog/2018/05/(once I set it up, in the next few days) . I’ll also be posting (after the fact) to Facebook &/or Twitter. I’m user polarpal99 on both.
11:45 AM – Depart from I-355, entering I-55 southbound. Drove through a brief call shower.
12:28 PM – Passed by Dwight, Illinois. Just saw a northbound Amtrak train heading to Chicago. Feels very like in my childhood memory of travel between Rockford and Monmouth, Illinois. The family used to travel US 34. We used to see many trains along that route. (Sorry, no picture, as I am in traffic.)
Traffic has slowed to a crawl. Seems there is some roadwork or a police action of a head up ahead.
“Work zone speed limit 55 mph.” (Actual speed 24, but it has been 10 mph for the last 10 minutes. Do the math!) And there they are: those people who see the merge signs for the last 2 miles and wait to the last minute to join traffic because they think that the rest of us are stupid and will let them in. And it only takes one generous person to make them right. Now four lanes have become two lanes, one northbound one southbound. The southbound lanes of I-55 or being revealed re-built. (76.3 miles into the trip)
12:49 PM – Left the construction zone at exit 201, Continuing south on I 55. Detour signs indicating the delay was about 13 minutes with results. That feels about right. (Around Pontiac, Illinois)
1:03 PM – South of Pontiac, Illinois. It is wonderfully flat and open near here. This is prime central Illinois chase country. You can see all the way to the Verizon in almost every direction. And the landscape is almost completely free of distractions, except for the occasional microwave, cellular, or radio tower. There are power lines in the distance. A few scattered trees, I’m really not much here. Basically a blank canvas on which to paint a memory. (Tried to take a picture here, it was cut in half the long horizontal. What’s up with that?) I have moved far enough south that I have left the 60°F weather in Chicago and I’m surrounded by 80°F temperatures.
1:36PM – stopped at rest area south of Bloomington-Normal, to stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and grab a light snack. Leving the Illinois pollination exhibit behind, By-bye busy little bee!
1:48 PM – Departed rest stop. Continuing south to St. Louis
2:02 PM – Passing the NWS weather radar at Lincoln Illinois (KILX). It is approximately the midpoint between Chicago and St. Louis along interstate 55.
2:24 PM – travel note: 555 mile post 104 is the location of a rest area on the southbound traffic. This is a little closer to the midpoint of the Chicago St. Louis leg of the journey.
3:24 PM – Just outside St. Louis. Traffic has crawled to a near halt due to construction. We are
grinding along and about 20 miles an hour. Looks like the right lane is closed ahead. We are just south of Worden.
3:37 PM – Exited the construction zone. Very lucky to only have two delays in Illinois. On certain past trips I had 50 miles of construction; this time wasn’t so bad.
4:10 PM – Welcome to Missouri. Took I-255 across to I_44 and beyond. Definitely better than going downtown during rush hour. Temperature here is 91°F. It is like summer! I am loving every minute of it.
5:40 PM- fuel/bathroom/food stop at Roll, Missouri.
8:08 PM – Arrived at Motel 6 North, Springfield, Missouri. Feeling tired but very happy. So THIS is what vacation feels like, I had almost forgotten! Unpacked the van then went to sleep (gently). Zzzzzzz.
TODAY’S ROUTE: 499.3 miles as shown below (map courtesy of DeLorme Street Atlas 2014):