We started off driving west on the I-80, but about sixty miles into South Dakota Joey made a last minute decision to head South and visit his friend in a small town in Nebraska. The same small town we were in last year when the boys met a pair of sisters, so we told them we'd try to get in touch with them and arrange to see them. What does Jonas say? "Why was I cursed with such good looks?"
We pulled in really late to the campground to find it was one big mud pit. We ended up staying in a road side picnic area just outside of town and in the morning a different friend of Joey's recognized the bus and came over to say hello, so while the kids and I hung in the bus at the local laundromat, doing laundry and trying to reach the girls, Joey got to spend the afternoon with the guys, playing drums, cussing, talking story and talking welding. Eventually we moved over to the local park, and spent the rest of the day perched in our lawn chairs watching the kids play.
One of Joey's friends (and brand new dad) also hung in the park with us and picked our brains on unschooling and living on the road. It's great to see somebody else so excited for their kid's future.
Before long we gave up on connecting with the girls (they were on a beach vacation) and just as we were about to leave, a nice lady from across the street knocked on our door to let us know there had been spotters in the area and if needed we can join them in their basement.
"What are spotters?"
"Holy Crap! We're outta' here, thanks for the offer, though!"
We stop for gas outside of town and when I told the clerks we were heading south they said they wouldn't, they'd wait it out first. I told Joey that massive tornadoes hit Kearney and it's headed this way. He decides that's far away and we're not in danger, so we're going. By now I turn off the satellite radio to hear local news and I'm hearing nothing but scary weather reports. The skies look fine, though, and I guess since Joey didn't get the info himself off the weather channel, it wasn't true. Then it started raining, and I called my Mom.
"Mom, I just want to let you know we're heading straight into a tornado. If you don't hear from me, at least you'll know where to find me."
Then the rain started falling harder and horizontally and I made the fastest U-turn in history...right through someone's yard. Joey, couldn't turn around there and had to keep on going until he found a safe enough spot. I called my Mom back...bawling like a baby now. I repeated to her all the damage the tornadoes had already done and how we were headed straight into it's path. Just what she wanted to hear, I'm sure. We ended up waiting it out back in that town we had gotten gas in, the one that I tried to wait it out to begin with. After about thirty minutes we headed back out, now having to avoid huge downed trees on the highway. We wanted to get to a rest area along the Interstate because they have shelters, but the Interstate is shut down, so we have to continue on this small highway that is now also full of Interstate traffic. I gave Jacob my camera and asked him to get a shot of the skies over Kearney.
I noticed that he was zooming in, and I wanted him to zoom out to get the whole thing, but what he got was ten times better! I'll never try directing him again, I think the boy's got a good eye.
We did finally make it to the Interstate, and spent the rest of the night watching the lightning storms. Other than one storm hitting us during the night, it ended up being a nice, safe, quiet night.
The next morning we saw some of the damage that was done outside of Kearney and saw first hand how close we'd come to ending up just like that barn.
Lesson learned: Trust my instincts and run like hell!