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Westward bound in 2001 - start of a new era
This photo is one of my favorites - it evokes some great memories. This is the afternoon of May 26, 2001. I was westbound on I-64 toward the Great Plains, seeing the Midwest for the first time. This first crossing of the Indiana state line here in the Louisville metro was ushering in a new era. Up until that point, Kentucky and Ohio had been the farthest-west states I had ever traveled (aside from a California trip by air as a very young child), and this was the first major trip I had ever undertaken solo. This photo shows what I consider to be the true 'finer things in life': green trees, blue sky, warm spring air and the freedom of a road trip. I have, and will always, value this type of experience over any other earthly possessions or luxuries.
click to enlarge
Later that evening, I rolled into St. Louis for the first time, stopping for about 20 minutes to grab a couple of photos of the Arch before resuming the journey west. The next day, my first chase on the Plains would be a big one - the derecho of May 27 in southwest Kansas/northwest Oklahoma.
Some of the great memories of that trip include how weather expeditioning used to be. I was on the way to the Plains mainly for lightning photography, which back then was (and still is even today) my primary focus of observing. I was in my (then-new) Ford Ranger pickup, with only a small suitcase of clothes, a few rolls of Sensia 100 film, a paper USA road atlas, a primitive digital camera, an all-manual Pentax K-1000 SLR and a VHS-C video camera.
I used to carry all of the camera gear in a small cooler, so I traveled pretty light - not much clutter. No laptop, no GPS, no internet, no inverter power, no Jotto desk, no permanently-installed vehicle gear. Glass-bottled Cokes, iced tea and beef jerky were a staple of roadside stops, and Steven Curtis Chapman's 'Speechless' album was in the CD player (my all-time favorite). And even though I didn't see a tornado on those first expeditions, I consider them as some of my best observing trips of all time.
9 years later, I would be picking up and moving everything I owned on this same road to relocate to the St. Louis area, a testament to how much this highway and the country surrounding it grew on me in fondness over the years. I have to say I am very thankful to have been blessed with the ability to make these first trips which led where I am today.
By the way, the expedition log for this trip can be found here.
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