I just can’t do thunderstorms. Driving in them that is. These are the kind of thunderstorms we Californians have absolutely no clue about. They are no joke. They are a force to be reckoned with. As you approach the dark clouds, which seem to appear out of nowhere, there is an eerie silence that takes over. Then the lightning starts right outside your car window (I might be exaggerating a bit here, but trust me it is CLOSE). Once the lightning has been spotted you can pretty much bet on water pounding down upon you in mere seconds. Usually it would begin with a few large drops pelting down on the windshield (the sound reminds me of Isaac throwing dirt clods at a fence- THUD!), and then quickly followed by a blanket of water. I mean, seriously, no joke. A full blanket of water. I have no clue how people continue driving under these conditions. But they do- they keep truckin’ along while I’m white knuckling the steering wheel and praying to God we make it safely out of the storm. If you could hear all that’s going on in my head during these moments, it would sound something like this:
Oscar is amazing behind the wheel – a real road warrior. He has driven us through two really impressive storms, navigating the weather system with a sense of ease and calm. Me, in the passenger’s seat, not so calm (internally). Isaac would be in the back seat loving the lightning show and reading his book or playing an app all the while, internally, I’m saying things such as “There’s NOTHING natural about this” or “Is God kidding right now?” or “This can’t be THE end. It just can’t. I haven’t even seen the Grand Canyon yet!”
A very interesting aspect of these thunderstorms is they pass rather quickly, sometimes in as little as 5 minutes. However, my post-traumatic stress lingers far longer than the black clouds. The My Radar app helped ease any panic that would arise as a result of thinking I might spend the rest of the trip seeking refuge under the overhang of an abandoned gas station (which is exactly what happened in South Carolina).
We were very fortunate to have some incredible weather conditions for our trip. We dodged some pretty intense storm systems and never experienced the “true southern humidity”, or at least that’s what many locals told us (apparently it had been at least 10-15 degrees cooler than what would be normal for this time of year). But let me tell you, when we met some of the thunderstorms I wondered how we were going to make it out alive.
My first storm was in South Carolina, on our way to Charleston, with me driving. When I could no longer see through the aqua curtain, I found the first bail out spot and took it. It just so happened to be an abandoned gas station. We sought refuge under the overhang and tracked the storm with our app. At one point, with the rain pounding down and the lightning illuminating the sky, I looked at the gas pumps and thought “Gosh I hope they’re empty!” Now, I normally would have felt like a Class-A Sissypants, waiting out some rain and thunder, but remember these storms are in a class by themselves AND I was kept company by two other vehicles, both with South Carolina plates. Phew- my ego was spared!
My second wicked thunderstorm encounter was near Pensacola, Florida. Thankfully Oscar and I had just switched seats and he was in control of the wheel. Otherwise… we would have been parked again! Like I said, Oscar is a champion behind the wheel.
Then there was El Paso, Texas. Oh, El Paso. Not my favorite to begin with and now you’re going to throw in an infuriated thunderstorm? I’m really never going to return. Done deal.
So what did I learn from these storms? When things get really dark, there’s no shame in taking a break and asking for some help. Or at least that sounds better than: When life gets stormy, hide yourself at an abandoned gas station.