My amazingly epic storm chasing adventure of 2014

As some of you may know, I went storm chasing last week. Yes, storm chasing. It’s okay if you did a double-take. I realize it’s a totally out-of-character thing for me to do/to write about but when a friend who is a meteorologist and experienced chaser asks me to go storm chasing, I go!

All in all, we covered 7 states and drove over 4,000 miles in 9 days. We got as far north as Glasgow, MT and as far south as the area around Marathon, TX, with both destinations bringing us within ~50 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders, respectively. I’ve always loved road trips, but this trip really challenged my ability to stay in car for that long. I might have been clawing at the window on a few of our staging days. A week later and I think my bum is still numb from all the sitting.

You can see my full photo gallery on my photo site. Otherwise, some of my favorite photos from this epic adventure are posted here.

Our driving route for the 9-day trip.
Our driving route for the 9-day trip.

The first day of the epic adventure was also an epically looooong day. I flew 4+ hours to OKC (6+ hours of travel time total) to immediately get whisked off on a 6-hour drive to southwest Texas to chase storms. This was my first trip to Texas and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My summary: lots of oil rigs, the occasional cow, and really flat land.

I was ready to hate on Texas, but she really delivered on the storms. We were pretty much able to drive up to a tornado-warned storm and follow it for a while.

Storm Chasing 2014 - Texas

Storm Chasing 2014 - Texas
May 24: From the airport to a tornado-warned storm in West Texas.

Day 2 in Texas didn’t serve up any storms, but we did see the (former) world’s tallest roadrunner statue in Fort Stockton, Texas, and got some great landscape shots while waiting. We also found some good beers and eats at the Famous Burro Cafe in Marathon, Texas, which the waitress hilariously muttered under her breath that they aren’t really famous. It doesn’t matter since they’re in the middle of nowhere. They can call themselves whatever they want.

Paisano Pete, the former world's tallest roadrunner statue.
May 25: A stop in Fort Stockton, Texas to see Paisano Pete, the former world’s tallest roadrunner statue. He’s 11 feet tall and 22 feet long. Why? Why not.
May 25: Waiting for storms outside of Sanderson, Texas, somewhere on Highway 90.
May 25: Waiting for storms outside of Sanderson, Texas, somewhere on Highway 90.

Day 3 was another long drive from Midland, Texas to Sidney, Nebraska, a total of about 700 miles. We made a stop at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo on the way out of Texas. It’s an interesting public art installation, more so after a good rain when it turns into a giant mud pit.

Cadillac Ranch
May 26: Another roadside stop at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

Day 4 was finishing the drive through Nebraska and on to South Dakota for what would turn out to be a pretty good chase day. Early in the day, we were able to drive by Mount Rushmore, but then chased a tornado-warned storm through the Black Hills near Keystone and Buffalo Gap. The storm did produce a tornado about 10 miles from us, but we couldn’t see it because of the hilly terrain. Boo.

Mount Rushmore
May 27: From Nebraska to South Dakota and a drive-by visit to Mount Rushmore.
Storm in South Dakota
May 27: Watching a storm in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Storm in South Dakota
May 27: Following that same storm. This shot was with the Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.

Day 5 was – you guessed it – more driving! We left South Dakota for Montana.  We almost made the great escape to Canada from Glasgow, MT. No tornado, but there are some lovely storm pictures, a rainbow, and a pretty kickass sunset.

Montana storm
May 28: Weird lighting with this storm in Montana.
Rainbow in Montana
May 28: A rainbow at a windmill (of course!) after the Montana storm.
May 28: An amazing sunset in Montana.
May 28: An amazing sunset in Montana.

Day 6 was a day off. Only storm chasers can be grumpy about a beautiful sunny day, by the way. But we found some fun by visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in South Dakota and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Memorial at Custer's Last Stand
May 29: The memorial at the site of Custer’s Last Stand.
Storm chasing 2014 - A Day Off in Montana
May 29: Just a small portion of the cemetery at Little Bighorn.
Storm chasing 2014 - A Day Off in Wyoming
May 29: The approach to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Day 7 was another day off. A rainy day means beer at Miner Brewing Company in Hill City, South Dakota, me trying Rocky Mountain Oysters, and a trip underground to Jewel Cave.

Jewel Cave National Monument
May 30: It’s raining so we go underground. Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota has the third largest cave system in the world.
Eating Rocky Mountain Oysters
May 29: That time when trying Rocky Mountain Oysters seemed like a good idea. (Psst, they aren’t really oysters. Haha.)

Day 8 = storms! Maybe! We found a rest area in Wyoming that had a great vantage point for any storms in the area.  We followed a storm for a while, saw a few funnel clouds, and another rainbow. Then it was time to haul ass south so I could make my flight the next day.

Storm brewing in Wyoming
May 31: Big storm clouds in Wyoming. (Notice the semi in the lower left.)
Rainbow in Wyoming
May 31: Another rainbow!
Funnel cloud in Wyoming
May 31: Funnel cloud in Wyoming.
Wyoming
May 31: My very last shot of the trip.

The final day of our trip was a 6-hour, 450-mile drive from Colby, KS to Oklahoma City so I could make my flight that evening. Seems fitting that the trip was bookended with 6-hour drives on the first and last days. What an epic adventure. Thanks again to my friend JR for allowing me to ride along. I will never look at the sky the same way again.

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