Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bad Wind Blowin'

Trouble ahead. Sometimes it's good to know so you can avoid it, and sometimes knowing it makes you know you're hitting trouble, but you have to plunge into it.

Such was the case yesterday as I headed across central Texas, on backroads, of course. I was nearing the town that was my destination for the night and I saw some ominous clouds on the horizon. Uh oh, I thought, the band of storms that I thought maybe I missed was darkening a growing portion of sky.

Steady as she goes, I figured. Since this is crackling dry central TX, I started pondering the grassfires that I used to dismiss as No Big Deal. Three years ago as I ventured on my first HEAR US trip, I was treated to an up-close-and-personal tour of the after-effects of grassfires, and have since revised my NBD opinion to V(ery)BD.

As I neared town, I became more alarmed because the dark sky was resembling either tornadoes or smoke. Hmmm...and me, down to 1/4 tank of gas, not the ideal amount if you have to run for the hills in rural anywhere.

I figured I'd keep driving in that direction until I could figure out what was up. Certainly cop cars would block our path if this were a fire or tornado. I hope.

As I neared town it became ominously obvious--of course, a dust storm. After all, we're nearing the Great Depression 2, and plenty of bare topsoil is available in the Dust Bowl. I'm not making this up. Here is a link to my pix I took as I neared the storm...

I'm wind-seasoned, but it's like snow, the first time of the season is a learning curve. No time for learning here. I kicked on the Weather Band and heard that gusts of 60+mph, regular winds 45-50. It got dark. And when it started spitting rain, my initial thought was "Oh great, mud on the windshield." The new wipers I had were useless because of the headwinds/sidewinds, whatever-winds.

And suddenly my 1/4 tank of gas became even a bigger problem than my empty water tank. Temps were supposed to drop into the 40s, with wind, I figured that would be plenty cold. And since my genny doesn't run on less than 1/4 tank I'm screwed. I had to get gas. The ubiquitous WalMart appeared, with good ol' Murphy's gas. OK.

Despite my ample size, the winds nearly blew me across the lot as I held the nozzle. I figured $20 would do the trick, and literally as I was replacing the hose the gas station's power went out. Timing! At least for me.

I aimed Tillie's nose into the wind on the edge of the WM parking lot. And we rocked and rolled for the better part of 3 hours, when it subsided somewhat. I was tired, and used the motion to rock me to sleep.

When I looked out this morning, I saw what could explain some of the lessening winds...a semi had parked between me and the wind, shielding Tillie from the worst of it. Thanks, trucker.

My thought through most of this was for those households living in old beater mobile homes and RVs that I've passed on all the backroads of this country. I know how wind-proof Tillie is not. And it's a newer RV. What would it be like to try to live in a dilapidated home of any sort with this wind, or other bad weather common across the nation? (I'm not ignoring the even worse realities of other countries, I'm just writing from my experience.)

All this at a time when Congress is debating an amount of money I can't even begin to imagine. And they can't see that millions of substandard houses are posing hardships for tens of millions of people? Perhaps they should ride around with me....