Oh, we’ve had some incredible days! Including Day 5, when we left Van Buren/Fort Smith, Arkansas and drove to Weatherford, Oklahoma. It was a warm, windy day that knocked us around a bit on I-40. Still Tim handled it like the pro driver he is, and I got a great look at Oklahoma—flat, dry, beautiful. We settled in at the Wanderlust RV Park and just before bed, he checked the weather at our next destination: Amarillo, Texas. There were not one, not two, not three, but FOUR weather warnings, a high risk of fire, high winds, and blinding dust storms among them, beginning at 9 am the following morning, continuing until 9 pm, and stretching so far in all directions there was no way to route our sweet RV out of the way.
Let me give you a look at one of the warnings, so you can see what we saw and why it concerned us.
And it went on from there.
What to do? What to do? We could stay where we were, but we didn’t have a reservation for the Wanderlust the following night, didn’t know if one might be available, didn’t feel great about being in the RV, even if it was parked, in an area that also now had the high wind warnings. We could get on the road but just as with the tornados last weekend, we were driving due west and these were going to be crosswinds—the worst possible scenario. One thing we knew for sure is we didn’t want to be in our HIGH PROFILE VEHICLE on an interstate in 35 mph winds with a high risk of low visibility.
This, my friends, was no joke.
We debated for quite a while, and ultimately agreed we’d try to beat it, heading out long before daylight and if all went well, arriving in Amarillo at just about the same time the warnings took effect. In our second planning miracle we had already booked a Best Western, deciding months ago Night 6 would most likely be a great time for a real shower and a real bed. (It’s funny. The reason Tim checked the weather one final time was because we were thinking about cancelling the hotel reservation and booking at the Fort Amarillo RV Park!) As it was, if we could get there before the bad stuff started, we could park, sit tight, then check-in to the hotel as soon as a room was ready.
MORNING CAME, and we took off. No breakfast, no bathroom stops, just a full-on run to make the 3+ hour drive as fast as we safely could. Blessings abounded. This section of I-40 was remarkably smooth, and but for us and a few semis, there was little traffic. The full (and auspicious, I decided) moon hung just above the horizon straight in front of us in a very dramatic fashion, illuminating the way. Forecasts for the high wind weather’s start time of 9:00am held, and if we stayed on course, we’d hit Amarillo
by Morning (you know I had to) Amarillo by 9:15 am.
Also this, which didn’t hurt. The drive was beautiful.
The closer we got, though, the stronger the winds became. The first half was fine, 10 mph, per Tim’s estimation, and this allowed us to book it, moving along at 75 mph which we would not normally do in deference to 6-10 miles per gallon + the $$$$ of gas + it’s just not a good practice in a 25-foot RV. But we were in a race. Three quarters of the way, winds began increasing, and we were getting pushed here and there but still it was okay for driving. Then? With 50 miles to go? Every five miles made a difference, and by the time we arrived, sustained winds had reached 27 mph.
We pulled into the Best Western parking lot and it was nearly empty, allowing us to tuck in on a corner spot that shielded our RV from the worst of the wind. Our room would be ready in a couple of hours, so Tim took Stella for a walk (those two are a pair!) and I stayed in the RV, straightening up, gathering our things for the night, keeping myself busy and trying not to faint every time the big ol’ thing rocked.
OF COURSE ALL all would be well, all was well, as we checked in and settled in, our room on the second floor with a great safe view to it all. We made ourselves comfy with me pounding away on a short story with a deadline. (Time to write was a really great benefit of an unexpected day inside.) Tim showered, talked on the phone, checked the weather online, over and over. We could see the trees bending and we could hear the gusts gusting and then—out of the literal blue—the dust arrived. We looked up to see a world turned brown, dull, and thick, the air taking on a quality I’d only ever seen in disaster movies. THIS WAS AN HONEST TO GOODNESS DUST STORM right in the heart of the dust bowl and we were in it. We turned our attention to the show of it with both awe and fascination.
(My pictures do not do it justice. still here are a few.)
We also tuned in to the local news, during which the weatherman reported Amarillo was experiencing sustained winds of 41 mph with gusts to 70 mph and, oh-get-this, there now was a quickly spreading wildfire 13 miles to our north, where residents were under a mandatory evacuation.
IT WAS QUITE a day, I’ll tell you that, and something we sure didn’t expect to experience. It was also another reminder that the best thing you can do when traveling via RV is be smart, be alert, and be flexible.
Next up? Four days in Santa Fe! We’re staying with good friends and no doubt will have the time of our lives. Then on to White Sands National Park near Mesilla, New Mexico, to Saguaro (near Tucson), to Sedona, then to Page, Arizona. That will get us to Day 18!
I’ll report in along the way, and I’ll also offer a better look at our sweet RV. We’ve named her Evelyn, EV for short. We love her.
(Which reminds me. There’s also this, from the following morning.)
Until next time ~