20160525-28: Kansas Storms

Lane, Nick, and I all arranged to be off work Thursday and Friday in order to chase in Oklahoma and Kansas. We had glorious plans, but plans don’t always go as planned. And boy oh boy did this trip not go as planned!

I arrived in Denton, TX at my hotel Wednesday night. The hotel’s WiFi didn’t work and because it was a cheap ass Howard Johnson’s (yeah, those still exist), they didn’t care at all. So I checked out a day early. The owner doesn’t give his employees the ability to refund nights. Was the owner there to do it? Nope. It took 48 hours before he refunded my money back to my debit card.

While waiting on Nick and Lane to arrive my inverter fried and the engine in my car started making this weird sound. The sound went away after I stopped and restarted the engine and it drove just fine as we went to Walmart to replace my inverter.

Lane calls and says he’s going to be late because he’s stuck in traffic. While waiting I notice that the 127,500 miles for the next oil change sticker in the window actually says 121,500. There’s an ink smear that made it look like a seven instead of a one. So I have to go get a last-minute oil change while Lane and Nick head to drop off their vehicles.

Two hours later we’re finally heading north (three hours after when we originally wanted to leave). We have to race north where storms are already developing in Kansas with Enid, OK as our next destination. From Enid we see development north of us and head toward Kansas. We watch it develop an overshooting top, but it was moving too fast for us to catch up to it. So we decided to head to the storms in west Kansas instead.

Our original target as we were heading north from Enid, OK.

Our original target as we were heading north from Enid, OK.

As we came into Greensburg, KS we got to see amazing mammatus clouds and then some great structure, a forming shelf cloud, an awesome wall cloud, beautiful lightning, and some 1” hail. We got to hang out under the whale’s mouth and watch the rear lightning on a passing cell while two more cells came in from the west of Greensburg. We ran into a mini chaser convention in Greensburg, including the two mobile radar vehicles and their chase team.

Mammatus east of Greensburg, KS

Mammatus east of Greensburg, KS

Then we saw it. The most beautiful sunset the three of us had ever seen. A cell to our SW with a developing wall cloud, a cell to our NW with heavy rain shafts with the sun behind the shafts coming through, but making the sun appear to be an obscure yellow dot, all while there was a whale’s mouth above us and a shell cloud to our NE. All moving very slowly and while finger lightning illuminated all around us. It was mind blowing and gorgeous.

One example of  the amazing sunset that night.

One example of the amazing sunset that night.

We then started back toward Enid. We were making good time and suddenly the cruise control failed and the engine was running at 5,000 RPM at 50 mph. We tried going from neutral and back to drive, going to third gear and back to drive, turning the engine off and back on, but nothing worked. So we drove at 45 mph at 4,000 RPM in order to not burn the engine out. The goal was to get to Enid, get a hotel, and check it in the morning when local mechanics were open.

We made it another 20 miles to Cleo Springs, OK when the car simply quit driving and wouldn’t respond to the gas pedal being pressed. After pushing the car to the shoulder we called AAA to get a tow truck started to bring us to Oklahoma City.

Why OKC instead of Enid? The plan was to leave the car in OKC with a scrap yard and rent a car. Then I realize I don’t have my credit card on me, just my debit cards. Rental car companies don’t take debit cards, at least none that I have ever dealt with. So we have to come up with a new plan and have no idea what we’re going to do at this point except go to a mechanic in OKC instead of a rental car place.

Hours later we’re cramped in the back seat of a tow truck. The tow truck dropped the car off at a mechanic we found and went on his way.

We made a reservation at a more expensive hotel than we wanted. We get there (it’s 5 am at this point) and they cannot find my reservation. A call to corporate and they finally find it. The A/C in the room is not working correctly. At this point we are so exhausted that we no longer care and go to bed sweating. We overslept and didn’t get to the mechanic until almost 11 AM. Can you really blame us at this point for oversleeping?

We talk to the mechanic and he immediately says, “We don’t work on transmissions, but even if we did we wouldn’t be able to get to you until Tuesday.” He was at least willing to listen to us and take a precursory glance and then recommend a local mechanic who worked on transmissions. After a second and third mechanic got involved they determined we had a leak and came up with a possible temporary solution to at least get us home: fill the transmission fluid up over and over again to maintain pressure until we got home. We filled it up and the car drove just fine.

We bought jugs of transmission fluid and hit the road to Denton, TX. We made it 60 miles. We pull over, let the engine cool, and fill the transmission back up. We made it 15 miles and repeated the process.

This time we only made it 5 miles before a huge plume of smoke appeared behind us. We had a little less than two miles to the next exit and struggled to get there, leaving a trail of smoke behind us. We found an abandoned parking lot near the exit and pulled in with the engine smoking, screeching, and whining.

At least we made it off the Interstate. Totally dead at this point.

At least we made it off the Interstate. Totally dead at this point.

We notice that the back of the car is literally covered in transmission fluid. The “leak” was not just a leak, but a transmission that exploded and blew all the fluid out. Transmission fluid is literally dripping down the back of the car, from the rear window to the exhaust pipe.

Transmission fluid literally dripping off the back of the car.

Transmission fluid literally dripping off the back of the car.

The tow truck, which is really a Ford F150 with a trailer bed, shows up and wenches the car up on the trailer and gets us to Denton, TX. The plan for the car is for Nick to sell it to a local scrap yard and send me the money (and keep a fee for himself, of course). Lane heads off to his house in DFW while Nick uses his truck to drive me back to Austin.

We are 70 miles north of Austin when we get a flat tire. Yep. That’s right. Another f&*%ing car problem! Seriously? To make it more interesting, there’s a nail in the spare tire. UGH!

A flat tire just 70 miles from home...

A flat tire just 70 miles from home…

While waiting on another tow truck, a car pulls over to see if we’re okay. We tell him we have a flat and a spare, but we’re missing the lift rod for the jack and the lug nut remover. He offers to help. He pulls out a large tool box, cardboard box to lay on, a really good jack, etc.

I turn to Nick and say, “You realize this is a scam for us to pay him, right?” Nick replies, “Yeah, but he’s cheaper than a $100 tow truck.” He never asked for money and even refused the money we offered him, but of course that’s part of the schtick, where he ultimately accepts it, at our insistence.

The nail in the spare wasn’t piercing the air and the spare was fully inflated. We made it to Austin at 1 am and went immediately to bed.

All the hassle. All the problems. All the suffering. All the trauma. It was all worth it because we spent time together. We saw beautiful storms. We saw an amazing sunset.

Some more pictures from the chase:

20160526_200709

20160526_200759

20160526_202627 20160526_203611 20160526_203726 20160526_204047 20160526_204348 20160526_202922 20160526_202948 20160526_202953 20160526_203109 20160526_205013_001 20160526_211505_001 20160526_211633_005 20160526_211640_006 20160526_204810_060

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