Cross-Country RV Trip Takes a Stormy Twist
recent tornados that crossed the country brought memories of a terrifying
night my sister Liz and I experienced while on our year-long journey across
the USA in our Unicorn the name we had given our motor
Driving across Southern Minnesota, the sunny skies began clouding up. In the east and midwest states, small storms come suddenly and leave quickly, but this sky looked more ominous as the wind increased. It was difficult keeping the Unicorn on the road.
On the radio, we heard storm warning severe wind and hail heading for Swift, Meeker and Pope counties, stay tuned for further news. Out came our map and we discovered we were right in the middle of Meeker County!
We had to stop, but where? Liz looked in our campground directory to find one that was close. Nothing was listed in the area and the closest town, Grove City, population 531, was still 15 miles away.
This couldnt be happening! We still hadnt recovered from a terrifying cruise wed taken down the busy Mississippi River at night on a cabin cruiser without lights and an idiot pilot at the helm who had had too much to drink. But thats another story. Now, here we were facing another nerve-shattering experience. It was panic time again!
We finally reached the small and seemingly deserted farm town. We and were sure everyone was hiding in storm cellars. That didnt brighten our spirits. Driving down the main street, we prayed for a service station, grocery store, parking lot anywhere that might provide shelter.
Hope was running out when I spotted a handmade sign tacked to a telephone pole that read Tourist Camp, with an arrow pointing down a side street. Not expecting much in that little hamlet but having no choice, I turned.
What a surprise! We found a neat little park with eight camp sites that looked liked theyd never been used. We learned from one of the workmen that it hadnt been. This was a project of the local Jaycees and though the hookups were operable, it wasnt finished. More landscaping had to be done and the restroom facilities werent hooked up. That didnt bother us, since we were self-contained.
Before the work crew left for the safety of their homes, they told us we could stay overnight and they even gave us the key to the mens room just across the road from our site in case we needed to take refuge there. That thought didnt allay our fears. We managed to get settled in and turned on the television. A tape across the screen read tornado watch. We knew that meant one was in the general area and might possibly touch down. We also knew that if it reads tornado warning, that means run for cover, its already here!
Turning on the radio, we heard that a storm with winds up to 65 and 70 miles an hour and hail the size of baseballs was heading directly toward us. Two grown women were near tears.
We loved our Unicorn, but it wasnt the safest place to be during a storm. Looking out the window at the ever-darkening sky made us feel completely helpless. We had no control we were at the mercy of the elements, the two of us and Lizs small poodle, Misty.
We looked over at the mens restroom built of cement blocks and secured with a steel door. We felt it would stand up against the wind, and this was no time for social concerns.
Without warning, a huge gust of wind hit the side of the motor home and our roof gave out with a tremendous bang!What the hl was that? I yelled above the noise.
That was one of those hail stones as big as a baseball! Liz yelled back. No sooner said than hail came peppering down! We felt like a target in a shooting gallery at sea as the Unicorn rocked back and forth with the wind.
That did it! Grabbing essentials money, Misty and our makeup (just in case the motor home blew away and we survived, we didnt want to face the world without our lipstick on) we made a beeline for our fortress. We hurried in and pulled the heavy door shut and found ourselves in pitch black darkness. The electricity wasnt hooked up and wed forgotten our flashlight. The only thing resembling a window was a small air vent up close to the ceiling. We groped around, avoiding building material left on the floor, then we cuddled up in a corner, the three of us, stuck together like glue.
We huddled there listening to the wind and rain pounding outside for what seemed like an hour, but was maybe 15 or 20 minutes. When it quieted down, I crawled to the door and opened it a crack. It had quit raining and the wind was down to a breeze.
We grabbed everything and ran back to the Unicorn. We climbed into our beds to watch television and were feeling fortunate that the storm hadnt been as bad as we had thought. Johnny Carson was just coming on the screen when our world turned up side down again but Ill save that for next month. Stay tuned!
resident Joey Franklin, retired from more than three decades of full-time
work in the newspaper business, now writes a monthly column for Spectrum.