Kelly McGarry

Dodging Thunderstorms & Tornadoes in the heartland


Words By Natty G

I like the lyrics “when a tornado meets a volcano” because it pretty much sums up the life Trey and I have been living since trading-in our house, more than three years ago, for full-time travel in a large over-weight truck camper. I won’t go into great detail, but lets just say, we drove our 12’6” tall camper under a 12’6” high bridge today, wondering if it would make it! It seems that lately, we have been in the line of thunderstorm fire, here in the mid-west. Let me re-cap, (for those who didn’t catch last weeks write-up) Trey and I were parked in Brandon-South Dakota when the skies parted and let out a lightening strike that landed very near the camper; jolting Trey, Dude and I right out of our sleep. Only a couple nights later, Trey and I were in for the night after a day of riding and shooting photographs at Middleton Bike Park in Wisconsin, when sometime after mid-night, I woke to Trey standing in the kitchen area, asking me “what should we do?” It was only then, that I could hear the tornado sirens going off. (I don’t hear beeps or sirens anymore thanks to 12 years working in a hospital environment. I use to sleep through my pager going off all the time.)

So let me back up a little to earlier that day. We woke in La Crosse-Wisconsin, after a good night of sleep and had plans to drive to Madison-Wisconsin. The friends we made while riding the trails there suggested that we detour and ride at a bike park in Middleton, not far from Madison. We met up with a guy named Aaron out at the bike park after a short drive from La Crosse. Middleton has a pump track, dirt jumps, and some ladder work in the forested area that surrounds the dirt jumps.

After riding there for a couple hours, we were ready for dinner and to find a good place to park the rig. Aaron had suggested that we drive south to a trailhead near Verona Wisconsin at the Quarry Ridge Park. There are trails there too, so we couldn’t resist going out for yet another rip.

This area has three trails rated green, blue, and black. There are varying degrees of drops, rock slabs, jumps, and even a wooden wall-ride!  Both areas were small but well built. So, we didn’t mind making multiple laps on the same trails. The only complaint I had was that there is a serious mosquito situation in Wisconsin and the mid-west in general!

After our ride, we drove our rig a little further into the forest just enough to not be seen, and I made dinner before calling it a night…that was until the sirens went off!

In a panic, we packed up the camper and I texted my good friend Jess and asked her if they (Jess and Brian) had ever been in a similar situation. I figured, since they travel full time too, maybe they would have some advice for me. Trey and I were sitting at a red light (after packing up the rig) when Jess wrote, “the worst thing to do is to stay in your [truck]!” With no basement to escape to, we decided to swing the rig around and park. Waiting out the storm was our only and best option.

Fortunately, we were fine. We woke to house debris and tree branches everywhere. Trey got on his phone in the morning and found that a tornado had hit about 6 miles  from where we were parked! Homes where damaged but no one was injured. (more here)

(you're welcome)

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