RV Travel Plans, Severe Weather and Saying Goodbye to Florida
Updated: Jun 13
The final full day at our winter campsite in Florida was shrouded in thunderstorms. Our home base for a season would soon fade from view in the rear view mirror. Most of our pre-departure to-do list was cross checked and it was a day to air up tires, top the fuel tank and evict any reptilian stowaways that may be clinging to our rig. As always we had used our favorite routing tool, the RV Life Trip Wizard app to find campgrounds and plot our route to Colorado. We were looking forward to spending a week on the Gulf Coast before leaving Florida.
Light and moderate rains came and went as previewed our cross peninsula trek on google earth while I sat in my recliner sipping on coffee. Occasional lightning flashes and low rumbles could be heard from the distance and a quick check of the radar showed that we were being approached from three sides by an angry red cel shaped like the open mouth of a pac man. Tammy was awake and comforting Gracie on our bed, covering her ears with blankets and hands and holding her down when her long greyhound legs wanted to flee. I unplugged the computer equipment and watched radar updates on my phone, refreshing the screen constantly. Then after all the angst, the rain slowed and the sky grew lighter. The Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been cancelled and Tammy said “maybe we are in the eye of the storm”. I was quick to point out that that tornados don’t have eyes and I returned to my chair and route planning, jasper jumped back on my lap and life was good for about ten minutes.
The rain came again quickly, this time with wind. I refreshed the weather app to see we were again under Severe Thunderstorm Warning with a chance of damaging winds. Tammy shouted from the bedroom “See, we were in the eye”. A bright flash and a nearly simultaneous clap of thunder directly preceded an emergency broadcast alert that screamed from the tiny speaker on my phone. We were under a tornado warning! “We gotta get in the Truck” I told Tammy as the rain was now coming down in sheets. The truck, we had already decided would be our closest tornado shelter should the need arise while we were at the campground or anywhere else in this part of old Florida where brick structures were hard to come by. We saw one of our neighbors jump in their truck and drive off quickly but the rest seemed to be just waiting it out in their RV’s hoping for the best. “One, Two, Three” I said before opening the door and making our way quickly to the truck, filming it all as we went in an adrenaline fueled frenzy. As soon as we got into the truck the rain slow to a sprinkle and the skies lightened to the point where I could see clearly that the boiling and rotating clouds went just south of us.
For the remainder of our final day we studied the national weather map intently and we decided to change our plans and take advantage of a five day break in the pattern of strong spring thunderstorms that had been sweeping through much of the south. Rather than spending another week to ten days along the gulf coast we decided it would be prudent to work our way quickly west of tornado alley while we had the chance. We would leave the next morning which was a Friday and drive straight west on I-10 racing to get past either Dallas or Houston by Tuesday. Then we would stall somewhere for a few days until the wind and snow storms subsided to the north as we made our final approach to Colorado.
Friday morning it seemed as all systems were GO. The butterflies fluttered about in our stomachs as we attached tag along 2 to Tilly the truck for the first time in almost four months. Our next door neighbors Larry and Peggy came out to help us through the departure. Before hopping into the truck to begin a sweeping right hand turn Larry said “Wait, your rear jack is not all the way up”. I walked to the rear in dis-belief. That drivers side rear jack was the same one that first descended to within an inch of the passing pavement as we sped through North Texas last December. Tammy was busy chatting and laughing with Peggy when our eyes met. “Are we ready to go?” she asked. I motioned with a negative head shake and a pulling index finger for her to have a look. “Not Again” she said out loud. “I must have not put it all the way up and just didn’t notice” I tried to convince myself and Tammy. I raised it all the way by holding down the retract button again. “We will stop in a few miles to check the jack again” I dismissed my concern before we snapped selfie and took possession of a bottle of moonshine gifted to us by Larry.
We pulled our rig under the drooping spanish moss along the only route out of town, weaving wildly from left to right to avoid the lowest looking obstacles. There was a real sadness as we said goodbye to this place where we had regular bike routes, favorite stores and many new friends. “Goodbye Fruit stand”, “Goodbye beautiful pasture with the big oak trees that never got photographed” “Goodbye Alligators til next time”. Those were the only consoling words that could break the silence of our departure.