poured rain. Lightning flashed and thunder shattered. You asked for safety from the storm at that service station. Other cars also stopped.
The storm was all my fault. I went camping.
My camping trip started very happy. Early Saturday afternoon, I had pitched my tent in the Windmill State Recreation Area south of Gibbon. It’s a quiet little Eden with ponds, walkways and spacious, shaded tent sites separated from RV platforms.
In recent days, meteorologists have mentioned a “chance” of rain on Saturday. On Saturday morning they predicted a 20% chance of rain and then erased that to zero, so I headed to the Windmill. But now, I checked my phone and saw an 80% chance of severe storms expected by 8pm, should I stay or leave?
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One Saturday afternoon last summer, it wasn’t long before I pitched my tent in the Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area that a battalion of storm clouds lined up in the western sky like Beckett’s forces at Gettysburg, but that storm dissipated. It never rained. I thought this might happen here too, so I set another log on the campfire and settled with my book.
Then I heard a thunder cough in the distance. I saw something sparkling behind the trees. It blinks again, and then over and over, like a little kid playing with a light switch. It was lightning.
Another bump of thunder, higher this time.
I don’t play with lightning. Lightning killed two people I knew, so I gathered the camp stove, food, light bulbs, and a jug of water and threw it in the car. Then I headed to the gate and left the park.
It wasn’t a moment early. As I walked out, I looked north and saw a cumulus cloud as black as tar, rolling like clouds of dust during the Dust Bowl. As I turned around to I-80, a different cloud, this rough, ugly purple speck, was rolling right over the head.
Suddenly the sky exploded with rain and wind. I can hardly see. I slowed to about 20 mph, but the wind pushed into my car like an award-winning fighter. Semis pulled off the highway. The windshield wipers I use have been grappling with the rain in vain. Enough was enough. I backtracked at the next exit and took refuge at that gas station, where I stumbled into the last parking spot in the store.
Other I-80s also took off. Some people rushed to the store, but I canceled it. I’d be overwhelmed just getting out of the car. Instead, I turned on the car’s headlight and opened a book. I was relieved to have escaped from the camp site. If I had stayed there, I would have met on the floor of the cold bathroom.
The deluge howled for 25 minutes. Finally, I finally pulled back, so I turned back to I-80 and headed west, but within minutes, greasy raindrops scattered all over the windshield. I prayed to get home before the storm intensified. Fortunately, I did.
Late Sunday morning, I returned to the park and pitched my tent. She survived, but a massive branch broke very soon. As I worked, I remembered last summer’s storms in Gallagher Canyon, Medicine Creek and Pine Ridge State Recreation, and the wind howling all night in Victoria Springs and Niobrara State recreation areas.
Back home in Ohio, it rained for eight hours one night at Lake Hope State Park. So much rain fell in Findley State Park in Wellington one night that a trench swept into my tent the next morning.
I love camp, but the gods have spoken. This weekend, rain is scheduled for Saturday night, so I’ll be staying home.