Route 66 (2) – Haunted by a Storm.

May 24, 2o17

Tornado warning close to Tulsa on Route 66
Black nightmare: My worst day on the road

It’s summer on Route 66. The sun is burning, the asphalt is shimmering in the hot light. But not today. On an overcast morning in Joplin.

Dark black clouds were waiting on the horizon like a wall. I grabbed my stuff as usual to follow the historic road down to Tulsa. From Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. Visiting old gas stations, museums, oddities. I often do meet smiling people alongside my path. But not today. “You’re going to Tulsa?” a lady asked. “Take care. There is a big storm coming up in the afternoon.” She was worried. Me too.

“I know.” I tried to look optimistic. Oh I didn’t know anything.
I crossed the border to Kansas. Landscape became lonesome. Rusty railways cut through bare fields. Only a few villages every 20 miles. My look went up to the sky again and again. The clouds seemed to spill over the hills like thick and dark smoke.

Shelter in the Historic Coleman Theater

Coleman Theater in Miami, Oklahoma, Route 66
Time machine Coleman Theater

Route 66 just cuts Kansas on a very small piece of land. So I soon reached Oklahoma. There I met two nice travelers from England at a restored gas station. Simon and Michael. They were also on their way to Tulsa today. We had some hamburger and coke and a nice chat. “Better hurry up” the owner of the station told us. “A severe storm is coming up.” Simon checked his radar. Dark red areas appeared on the way from Joplin to Tulsa.

 

It was impossible to make a detour because the areas were just too huge. Neither we could wait because it was coming towards us. So we went off.

I met the guys again just a few miles later in Miami, OK. Round about 13.000 people are living here and the city has an outstanding old theater – the Coleman Theater. We decided to go on a tour with a very handsome old lady who told us everything about the beautiful organ, the changing rooms in the basement and the history of that golden walls.


Railway in New Mexico

"You've got 3 Hours Left"

Motorcycle Museum Miami, Oklahoma, Route 66
Hiding in a motorcycle museum

By coming up again rain was pouring on the streets.

“Ah, let’s go!” Simon said. But some employees in the theater held us back. “There is a tornado warning out there just for the area you will pass. Well, you might go there. But that would be crazy. “ A guy laughed. I didn’t.
So Simon, Michael and me went to the Motorcycle Museum next door. As soon as the rain stopped, they wanted to head further down to Tulsa. No matter what about the storm. I let them go feeling terrible. I just went to a hairdresser around the corner because I don’t have data on my phone for the trip and there was no wifi available to check the radar again. The people inside of the shop were very kind. They made me a coffee and checked the weather all over again. “The storm might come up in the evening. So if you hurry up right now it should be no problem” one of the ladies told me with a smile.

Tornados on Route 66

Route 66 sign on the road in Oklahoma
Route 66 is part of the "Tornado Alley"

I thanked them a lot and went back to my car and out of the city. It is all about risk, isn’t it? All the time you’re travelling you’re taking risks. Otherwise, I should have stayed in Germany covered with insurances not leaving home anymore. Nearly no cars were on the street. And then it happened. A tornado warning appeared on the radio. I started sweating. A warning does not mean that a tornado has been already spotted but it could happen anytime. The clouds turned purple and black in front of me. My heart beat fast. I stopped and started to put all my important things like passport, money and water in one bag. So, what things do you really need? I mean really? Just in case I had to seek shelter immediately. Shelter. Haha. I stared at the flat fields all around me and the rotten hut without roof right next to me.

Most of the Americans I met seem to be quite relaxed whenever severe weather appears. Maybe it just belongs to their life. For me it is impossible to stay relaxed. We don’t have anything like that in Germany. No tornadoes, no earthquakes, no fire. I speeded up. Still 2 hours to go. Guys I can tell you that might have been the longest 2 hours in my life. I went through dark sky, twisting clouds and it scared the hell out of me. I stared at my GPS. Still 2 hours to go. Was it broken?

If Life Seems to Pass by

Thunderstorm on Route 66 Oklahoma
Close to Thunder and Storm

Oh my gosh. The tornado warning was repeated. I put more attention to the sky than to the road. My fingers held on to the leather on the steering wheel like it was a cliff.

But no tornado. Just a severe thunderstorm some minutes before Tulsa. Hard to see anything through the rain. It reminded me of Niagara Falls. But then I reached my airbnb for today. I did not get out of the car for minutes. Then I laughed. It took me some hours to realize that I really had fear of death out there on the road. The sun shone again. Just to laugh at me. Thee next day I was listening to a report on the radio about two “touchdowns” the day before. That’s what they call it when a tornado really touches ground. Only then you can call it a real tornado. The sky is blue on my way to my next destination, Oklahoma City. Something I won’t take for granted anymore.

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