Dodging Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

From Lake Texoma, Texas, we headed north via US 75 to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Tinker Air Force Base. When we checked in at Tinker the campground host asked us how many days we wanted to stay and we said just the one night, because we had been hearing about some severe weather that was moving across the plains states and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it. She tried really hard to convince us we would be safer at Tinker than on the road, but we persisted.

The family camp at Tinker is really pretty nice. We had a spot with a great view of a small lake that sponsored a few ducks and Purple Martins and apparently a lot of fish as there were a number of anglers working the banks and at least some were catching fish. The base also has a really neat multi-purpose trail that meanders around the various housing areas and past the family camp. It looked to be just over three miles long. I toyed with an early morning run around the trail before we got underway. It really looked inviting, but it would have meant two days in a row running and I have been trying to avoid running on consecutive days to preserve my legs.

We made a run over to the Base Exchange and commissary to restock the pantry and refrigerator and then settled in for the evening. The late news and weather was not particularly encouraging, so we slept with an ear open just in case the weather radio sounded off. Fortunately that did not occur.

We were awakened to rain the following morning and it was persistent, so I checked out the NOAA Website and sure enough there was bad weather headed our way. As I studied the computer models it became apparent that the worst of the storm was going to arrive in the Oklahoma City region by mid afternoon. What we were experiencing in the early morning was simply scattered showers with no destructive weather. The forecast for the afternoon included severe thunderstorms with golf ball sized hail and the possibility of tornadoes. That made our decision easy. No run, pack up and head north while the getting was good, well at least acceptable.

We opted to drive north on Interstate 35 thinking that we would have the best chance of staying ahead of the weather and also being on more heavily traveled and patrolled roads would increase our odds of being found if the unthinkable were to occur.

As it turned out the drive was only a wet one. We were well ahead of the storm and once we were into the second layer of counties north of the Oklahoma/Kansas boarder we were out of the path of the destructive weather. Other than the rain, it was an easy drive.

We spent that night outside Wichita, Kansas, in a town called El Dorado, pronounced El “Doraido.” The guy who checked us in at the RV Park told us we were right to get out of Oklahoma City as they were really getting hammered. Turns out he was a storm watcher for that county in Kansas. He talked like a storm chaser though. He really wished he were in Oklahoma City watching what was going on.

Driving through all the rain had allowed a good bit of water to leak into one of our basement bays. I have been fighting this leak for a couple of years now. I have been perplexed as to how the water keeps getting in. After wet vacuuming all the water out of the compartment I adjusted the latch to make a tighter fit and then tested the seal with a piece of paper to ensure it was tight all the way around the opening. I went to bed with a bit of confidence that I had a tight compartment again.

Thursday morning we headed for Lincoln, Nebraska. It was raining when we got up, so I opted to move my run to the afternoon once we got settled in at Lincoln. The drive was truly sloppy all the way. When we arrived in Lincoln the car was absolutely coated in sand which I am certain was left over from the winter sand and salt treatments to the highways.

When we checked in at the RV Park I asked the clerk which direction I should go to get an eight mile run in. He discussed with me several options and showed me on a map what would be his preferred route. The very last thing he said as he pointed to a stretch of road was that it was exactly one mile between two points he highlighted. I took that same measurement and applied it to the rest of the route he had encircled and determined it would get me four miles not eight. However, if I included a run around the outside perimeter of the golf course I would get an almost perfect eight mile route.

Connie took charge of connecting services, wet vacuuming the basement(my fix didn’t work at all) while I did a partial interior set-up and changed into running gear. As I was kissing her good-bye I told her I wouldn’t be any longer than an hour and a half. I took no water, no phone and as you will soon find out no brain.
What was to happen will go down in history as one of those dumb runner episodes. I followed the plan laid out by the guy at the RV Park until I got to the golf course where I turned right instead of left, because as I had predicted by looking at the map the loop was going to be only half as long as I wanted it to be. As I got around to the west side of the golf course I was pleased to see that I was coming up on three miles which was going be perfect. I felt great; the cool weather had made for an easy run to this point. I continued south along the golf course perimeter and when I got to the road I saw on the map there was a big no trespassing sign along with another that said no through traffic. That caused a grimace, but I could see another road intersecting ahead and decided that if that intersection was further out than four miles I would simply turn around and go back on my outbound track. As I approached the intersection I noticed that I was going to make the turn almost exactly at four miles. Piece of cake!

I made that turn and just kept going. After another few miles or so I switched my watch to the map mode to see where I was in relationship to where I needed to go. There are two things to understand at this point in this tale. First, it was still completely overcast and drizzling, so I had no bearing based on the position of the sun. Additionally I had made numerous turns while meandering through a housing development, so I really had no idea which direction I was headed. The second important fact is that although my watch draws a wonderful map of where I have been and it even puts little waypoint marks at each mile, it does not have the capacity to show things like streets, rivers, lakes or airports. It simply draws a map. When I looked at that map I was alarmed to learn that I was running due south and the RV Park was to the east and north of my then current position. A quick calculation told me that I would have to run twelve miles plus if I were to turn around. My memory of the map I had studied before starting gave me the impression I had less a distance ahead than behind. WRONG!!

I started looking for any opportunity to head east. I found one within a mile or so, but as it turned out I was only able to get several hundred yards to the east before being forced back to the south. This went on for some time. I wandered around in another housing development looking for a way to the east only to running into one dead end after another. I back tracked to the last street before the housing development only to find a “No Outlet” sign. I was really starting to get bummed by now. So, I spent a mile and a good bit of time looking for a pay phone with equally bad luck. So, I turned back to the south for another mile looking for a turn to the east. When I finally found road going east it was gravel, but I took it anyway. That road headed east for just about half a mile before making a turn to the south. By now I was some 13 miles into this eight mile run and actually walking more than running to conserve fluid. Another half mile to the south followed by a mile to the east and then I could see the south end of the runway. Unfortunately, I had to go another half mile to the south before I could find a through road to the east. Once I made the turn to the east I then just kept going until I was directly south of where I had started and then I turned north and hoped I could hang on until I got home.

Of course I was thinking about what Connie was thinking and doing. I hadn’t wanted to make that turn onto the dirt road, because I knew I had been out long enough that Connie was probably out looking for me at a minimum and at a maximum she had called the police. Either way, I doubted anyone would be looking for me on a dirt road. However, I knew that dirt road was probably cutting miles off the eventual total length of this adventure. When I made the turn to the north it was onto a multi-purpose path that would also take me out of the view of anyone looking for me from a car. However, once again I had to think about how many miles I had already covered and how many I estimated I had to go before getting home. The multi-use trail took me another mile, but it was towards my destination, so that was good. Once I got to the end of that trail I was running in an older residential area and definitely headed in the right direction. At one point I could see a sign in front of me that read “Street Closed Ahead”. That caused a big UGH!! As I got closer I could see much smaller type that indicated it was the cross street that was closed, whew!! I doubted I could survive another turn away from my goal.

Just after crossing over the 19 mile mark a police car passed me from behind and turned into an apartment complex parking lot ahead of me and stopped. He got out; I stopped running and walked over to him saying, “I bet you are looking for me, aren’t you?” He had been and asked me if I was lost. Of course technically I was never lost; I just couldn’t get to where I wanted to be. I always knew where I was even if it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Then he asked the most obvious of questions, “Do you want a ride home?” Of course I said yes. He informed me that I would have to ride in the back seat. I said that was fine so long as he didn’t have to put me in handcuffs. I asked for water, but that apparently is not standard equipment in the Lincoln Police Cars. The ride back to the RV Park was quick as we were only about a mile away.

After walking along a portion of the known part of my route Connie had disconnected the car from the motorhome and then drove around looking for me. When she couldn’t find meand my hour and a half had extended to something over three hours she called the police. When the patrolman arrived at the RV Park there was some discussion about my mental status. Between Connie and the patrolman they agreed I was not mentally stable or I wouldn’t be running another marathon. Had I not been so exhausted when I got home I might have been offended.

Needless to say, Connie was not very happy. I was mostly dehydrated and possibly in early stages of hypothermia and starving half to death. By the time I got to the shower I was shaking terribly and my legs were starting to cramp from the dehydration. I spent what was left of the evening rehydrating and eating anything that didn’t move for an extended period of time. Connie said at one point “I am sure that come November this will all seem pretty funny.”

Well, I survived and I learned a huge lesson. Even though I had looked at a map and was running with my trusty GPS watch, I was still able to get snookered by the local road system. As we continue this adventure this summer I need to make sure I have an easy way to get in touch with Connie if I am not going out on a simple out and back route or a loop that I have driven ahead of time. So, I now intend to carry water either in my fanny pack or my Camelback pack. With either of those devices I can also carry my phone and not have to worry about it getting wet.

The truth is, November first is starting to look really, really good!!!!

Tonight, Friday, we are in the small town of Onawa, Iowa. We ran into a former submariner traveling with his wife to Alaska for the summer. We gave them the low down on how to get the most out of the adventure. We will spend the weekend here resting a bit and taking in the local attractions. I intend to get a speed session in tomorrow at the local high school track.

Connie told me that there was a lot of sand and grit in the basement, but just one corner, so we now think we know where the water is coming in. So, I now have a plan for sealing the potential leak site. I will do that while we are here this weekend. I am sure there will be more to follow on this story.

The weather forecast for the next several days is great. So, we should have a good weekend.

Stay tuned.



2 thoughts on “Dodging Thunderstorms and Tornadoes”

  1. Two things…1) The state of your mental acquity WRT running has long been in question…how did you not know that already? 2) I hope Connie gave you a timeout!

    Glad you’re safe:-)

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