Our trip to Oklahoma was nice, because we got to see our families. My folks and brother and sister and their families all came. We laughed and talked and laughed some more, as we always do. Then we went to Vinita to see April’s mom, grandma, aunt and cousins. We had a good lunch with them, and enjoyed ourselves. But that’s where the fun times ended. The time spent with family was great, but everything else sucked a bag of dongs.
If you read my post on Saturday morning, you know how our trip TO Oklahoma went. It rained the whole way, and Graceedecided to be a total A-hole and screamed at the top of her freaking lungs for the whole entire 6+ hour trip. I’m not talking about “oh, I kind of unhappy so I am going to fuss for a minute.” I am talking about, “I AM THE BRIDE OF SATAN AND I AM HERE TO POSSESS YOUR SOUL AND CAST IT INTO HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY” kind of screaming. So needless to say, when we pulled into Mayes County and walked into my brother’s house, I was really happy to be there. I didn’t think that a trip between Tyler TX and NE OK could be much worse. But as I have been countless times in my 36 years on this planet, I was very, very wrong.
Sunday afternoon, I got everyone packed up and loaded into the truck, and we were southbound. We left Vinita, knowing that there would likely be a few thunderstorms in our path, but didn’t think much about it. The girls had school and I had work on Monday, so there wasn’t much discussion. Besides, what could a little rain hurt? No big deal. We were Texas bound.
First, we had to stop by KLA-Mart to get the flooring that we bought. I bought 1,000 sq. ft. which was 50 boxes. They were stacked on a pallet and weighed about 2,000# lbs. Yeah, it was a pretty good load on the truck, but no big deal. I’d just take it slow and easy, and we should be fine. We got loaded and got en route to home sweet home once again. Everybody was in pretty good spirits after having got to see all of our family, but also glad to be headed home.
As we got into McAlester, it was clear to see that the weather had started to get more serious. We were getting some weather updates on our phones for Tornado Warnings and Flash Flood Warnings coming from the south. In McAlester, we take the Indian Nation Turnpike which takes us southeast. We looked at the paths of the storms, still knowing we’d likely run into a storm, but having no way of knowing what we would actually have to go through to get to the other side.
If you have never driven the Indian Nation Turnpike, let me tell you what’s on it. Nothing. There is nothing on it. There are no stores, no towns, and often hardly any traffic. As soon as we got on it, the skies turned black and still. Being from Oklahoma, having lived through and seen some pretty gnarly tornadoes, I knew what the air felt like, and I knew that something worse was yet to come. We looked again at the radar and decided we’d try to outrun it. Now I know that some of you are sitting there and maybe rolling your eyes and calling me names, but at the angle the storm was coming, I thought that I could get south of the worst of it. So I pushed on. And then, about ten miles later, it happened. We were in the storm. Now, I don’t mean we were just getting hit by the storm. I mean we were IN the storm. Dead center. The rain began to come in from the side, and the hail began to come in from all sides it seemed. And leaves and trash and tree limbs came from nowhere circling the truck. The wind hit me so hard, that it almost took me straight off the highway. The few cars that were on the road were pulling over, but there were NO places to take cover. There wasn’t a ditch, there was nothing. In all of my life, I have never felt like I was truly in danger from the weather before. I’ve seen plenty of tornadoes, but I’ve always had access to shelter, or something. Here, we were completely vulnerable and I had the girls. My instincts took over. I hit the gas, leaned forward to look through the insanity that was happening outside, and never let up. All four girls were crying, terrified. April said, “You’ve got to pull over! What if you are running straight into it?!” I said, “I’m getting us out of here.” And I never let up. I knew on the radar that the storm was coming from southwest. And now, since we had been in the middle of it, I knew that south was clear. I just wasn’t how far south I had to go. The wind was almost more than I could control, especially with that big load of flooring in the back. Again, April said, “PULL OVER!” I said “I’M NOT PULLING OVER, I’M GETTING US THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” And then Abby said from the back seat “DON’T YELL AT HER!!!” And I said “SHUT UP ABBY! I’M TRYING TO GET US OUT OF HERE!” And I kept pushing through it.
And finally, the skies lightened up, the rain cleared up, the wind slowed down, and we were safe. We all sat in silence for a minute. Just trying to loosen up and take some deep breaths. The girls decided to say a few prayers of thanks. I said “Abby, I am sorry for telling you to shut up. I was really stressed and trying to keep us safe.” We all laughed about it, and began to relax. Whew. We headed on to Paris. And there was another storm headed our way.
It rained, there was lightning and thunder, but nothing near what we had seen earlier. We got to Mineola and the weather started taking a turn for the worse. I went over a rough railroad track a little faster than I meant to, and a few miles down the road, Aprilsaid “Hey, look at your tire pressure.” I looked at the panel in the truck and I had low tire pressure showing on my passenger side back tire. All others showed 40 psi, and it showed 28, then 26, then 22. We were between Mineola and Lindale. There were no stations or stores anywhere close. I tried to push on to Lindale, because the weather was quickly getting worse. It was POURING rain. Lightning was everywhere and constant. When the pressure dropped below 10 lbs, I pulled over. It began to rain even harder. And about that time, we got tornado warning updates for….Lindale. Ok, let me lay this out for you. We are stranded with a blowout, in a severe thunderstorm, we’ve got a tornado warning right where we are at, I’ve got a flat tire and a 2,000 lb pallet of wood in the bed of the truck. I generally keep a floor jack in the back of the truck because I hate the little rickety factory made jacks that they put in trucks. But I had taken it out and hadn’t put it back in. I called roadside assistance for them to send someone out there to help us. Roadside assistance called back 20 minutes later and said that they couldn’t find anyone to come help us because there were tornadoes on the ground and they were all responding to accidents in other places. Oh….and there was a tornado on the ground in Van, about 10 minutes away. AND WE ARE STUCK ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. She said she’d try to get a wrecker out there to me, then she said she’d get a police unit out to me, and finally I got pissed off and said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out.” Madder than hell, I bail out of the truck, unlatch the shitty little jack from under the passenger seat, and get to work in the torrential downpour, the lightning and the thunder. April is watching the weather, and to our west it is NASTY. I am working as fast as I can, the weight of the truck is definitely more than this little jack should be used for, but I have little choice. I gently work to get the blown out tire off and the spare on while the jack squeaks and sways from side to side. I get the tire on, and begin to put the lug nuts on when a Highway Patrol pulls up. He says, “Howdy. How you doing this evening?” Dripping wet, I said “IM WONDERFUL. How are you?” I threw the blew out tire in the back of the truck, loaded up my tools, and he said “Ok, wellhave a good evening. Watch out for bad weather.” And he left.
I got back in the truck. It was nearly 11:00 and we still had 45 minutes home. We had been in the truck 7.5 hours, survived the eye of a tornado, skirted the outside of another bad tornado, got stranded on the side of the road, and I got to go head to head with the stupid storm in my favorite golf shorts and t-shirt on the side of the highway. Roadside assistance and the highway patrol were completely worthless, but finally, we made it. I have NEVER been more happy to be home. Ever.
Happy Freakin’ Mother’s Day.