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Stovebolt Sagas

Oral history of Stovebolt Quests, Journeys, Treasures and Dragons

Tangos with Tornados

7 twisters, red tape and a mugging complete a quest

By Mikey

Mikey and Sheniqua, the Tornado Magnet

"...all of a sudden very, very heavy rain, hail and then ... Silence and the grass stopped moving. Johnny said, "I don't like this," so we stopped the truck and turned off the lights."

      To the left and above us was a black funnel extending towards the ground..."

        Here's a true-life, no-kidding, too unbelievable to be fiction submission from our good Canadian friend, "Twister" Mikey ...

        VANCOUVER, BC -- Last month I finally found what I felt to be "The Truck" for me on Trader Online. A 1940 Chevy 1/2-ton truck in Illinois already named "Sheniqua the Chevy."

        So, with a week conveniently already booked off work, I rented a Ford Explorer from Avis. Our trip began smoothly with a doubtful eye from the US Customs Agent and we traveled through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah before we decided to pull over and go out to the bar on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

        The next day we traveled through Wyoming (where I saw a great 40's International in downtown Cheyenne for sale). Johnny, my buddy, kept babbling about tornados and so, to amuse my curiosity, asked the clerk at the Kum & Go (great name, eh). She mumbled to my shock that a twister had touched down outside of town earlier that day. Ah! he was right and it was getting dark.

        We drove through the night in the middle of numerous ornery clouds and Lightning. We kept on driving into the farming areas of Kansas. In Kansas City we decided to call the fellow who was selling the truck, but little did I realize that the guys on the other side of the phone booth were shooting-up. Johnny quickly motioned for my return to the vehicle.

        We carried on to St. Louis where we decided to rest for a night. We went out. Johnny insisted on going to the after-hours bar which, little did we know, was in the worst area in the city (St. Louis, Illinois). I decided to go back to the hotel as Johnny entertained most of the bar and as I unlocked the Explorer a man held a weapon to my head and demanded everything. (Editor's Note -- Sounds like one of Johnhancock's tool trades...) He got my Visa, driver's license, Blockbustervideo card (laugh), cell-phone and bank card.

        Good thing I remembered the Visa phone number as within a few minutes he tried to charge $3.00 at a 7-11 which was declined. I unfortunately didn't have the money to see the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Without any money, bank card or visa and little gas left, we proceeded on to the town where the truck awaited our arrival.

        After checking into the hotel we visited Sheniqua, the pickup. I wanted to take her for a drive but the owner advised that we seek shelter immediately from the oncoming tornado weather. Without a clue of what we were dealing with we proceeded to the gas/truck stop. They advised us to go to the church.

        We spent a good hour in the basement with a number of different people huddled around an emergency radio listening to a computerized voice (which in my opinion sounded more German) as the lightening flared across the sky and the rain went sideways. Johnny's comment, "This is sooo inconvenient," got some rather unhappy glares from the other people in the basement.

        After the tornado, we slept and decided to go to Chicago the next day to visit a good friend and deal with paying for the truck. Thank goodness my emergency visa arrived! We drove a back road through corn fields and little villages - it was definitely Norman Rockwell country! Upon arriving in Chicago on the main highway north, I decided "This exit!" was good and ended right in the middle of the ghetto. "The lake should be just over there" and so we drove for some time with Johnny's knuckles turning white uttering, "don't look at ANYONE" until we got to Lakeshore and drove north to my friend's place.

        We spent 2 days in Chicago and enjoyed every minute -- it was fabulous. As no bank would cash my certified US fund cheque on a Canadian bank and I now had no driver's license, I decided to do a cash advance on my Visa but because it was an emergency visa and no bank would do a cash advance without a passport or driver's license, I decided to go to the Canadian consulate. It took some work and doing but we ended up getting it finally done.

        We left and returned to the town where Sheniqua awaited and as we rolled into the gas station off the highway, I called the fellow and stated, "We're back and so are the tornados." As we arrived at his house the sirens went off and we had to seek shelter. We went back to the gas station where 2 busloads of kids arrived who were promptly stuffed into the freezers as they last longer in a tornado. I was busy hiding the knives and metal pizza plates in the kitchen and Johnny was helping people into the building in the high winds.

        The sky went lime-green, the rain went sideways and the lightening looked like varicose veins. This tornado really did scare me and apparently it did touch-down not far away. It was a very serious tornado and we were lucky. When we had originally arrived in the town we both noticed that all the homes looked new ... little did we know the town was devastated a few years earlier by a twister.

        After paying for the truck the fellow asked, "You're not coming back, are you?" - in humour as both times we came, there was a tornado. I asked for a guarantee that the truck wouldn't be sucked up in a tornado but he couldn't promise. As we were already late getting home for my work on Monday morning, we left and drove through the night through Iowa and South Dakota. I must say, Iowa's rest stops were the best - really clean and great weather info.

        South Dakota's were not and that's where we ran into ... our last set of tornados...

        Johnny wanted to go north to avoid the twisters but, as luck has it, we went right in the middle of them again. We pulled off the road to look at a car museum but I had a tough time enjoying the well-put-together and huge collection of vehicles as I had already experienced those clouds and I was very much on edge.

        Sure enough, we were told to go to the church on the hill and seek shelter.

        Five tornado systems surrounded us. As you can see by the twister picture attached it formed before our eyes, and I thought the KFC sign was going to be sucked up in it. The weather was not good. We left the church to find a hotel but as everyone had come off the highway and had booked in, there was only one hotel left with rooms. After a lengthy wait, the lady at the front refused to let us stay.

        We did not feel comfortable driving at night in the tornados but we knew that was what we had to do. We continued on and, again, in my wisdom said, "take this exit" so we did right into the middle of the Badlands park. The only hotel in the town was quite quiet and looked closed at 11pm on a Saturday night so we decided to drive back to the highway.

        We drove for some distance....all of a sudden very, very heavy rain, hail and then silence and the grass stopped moving. Johnny said, "I don't like this" so we stopped the truck and turned off the lights.

        To the left and above us was a black funnel extending towards the ground.

        I don't think that truck will every drive that fast again.

        We drove into the small town and woke up the owners to get a room. In the morning we continued with nasty looking clouds following us the rest of the way. Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower, etc - it later turned into a pleasant journey. We drove into BC a day late and a few hours after crossing the Canadian border 2 funnel clouds touched down on the Canadian ocean side - something I don't think we've ever had here. A dark, mean cloud hung over my office all day on Tuesday and I was checking it quite frequently as it was unlike anything I had ever seen here during my life in Vancouver.

        Sheniqua is either on a transport truck with passport transport somewhere across the US or will be picked up in the next few days to be shipped to my friend in Seattle. I intend on having a Citizenship ceremony, Christening and barbecue so if you get this e-mail you'll be invited. Her journey is not over yet. I'll be arranging a convoy from Seattle to Vancouver for the event.

        Life is eventful, isn't it?

        Here's the final tally:


Postscript: Mikey and Sheniqua have been reunited. You can read more of Mikey's adventures in The Gallery section.

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