As we left North Platte, Nebraska on a Sunday of the 4th of July weekend, we continued heading west through Wyoming. The road was straight and the land began to open up as farm land turned to ranch land with not a single tree in sight. We saw dark clouds ahead and braced ourselves as we headed into probably the most intense electrical storm we’ve ever encountered in a RV.
Now y’all we live in the South, so a storm with lightening and thunder usually doesn’t phase us too much because they happen pretty regularly from about May thru September as the warm air currents hit the cool air currents in our region. Sometimes the rumble of the thunder that rolls across the sky overhead will make the house shutter as the walls vibrate in response.
So, as we are beginning to drive into this pretty dark and imposing storm, it begins to dawn on me that there are no exits and that as lightening strikes on the open plain that there are no trees to attract the lightening to ground it. In some ways, we begin to feel like a sitting duck as we scurry along the highway. The rain the size of marbles began to pelt down on our vehicle and the wipers swished back-and-forth just as fast as they could go.
Visibility began to lessen as we continued into the storm and the danger was evident in that we must keep moving cautiously, for if we stopped we might be in danger of another vehicle plowing into the back of us. With our eyes fixated on the tail-lights in-front of us, we felt the dark clouds envelope all around us. We could only see about 20-30 feet ahead. Slowly we moved forward in faith with eyes peeled for any danger.
It was about then that my 5-year-old began to express concern regarding the storm. I could hear the fear in his voice, so I wanted to console him. I turned in my seat to talk to him so he could see my eyes and began to share with him the story in the bible how the disciples were afraid in a storm probably similar to the one we found ourselves in and Jesus simply slept peacefully in the boat through it. Luke retells that moment like this:
“As they sailed, He fell asleep, and a squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him saying, ‘Master,Master, we are perishing!’ Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ He asked. Frightened and amazed, they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him!‘” — Luke 8:24
I reminded my son (as I also reminded myself in that same moment) that Jesus was able to command the weather so we could trust Him to see us through the storm. Peace. Calm. Trusting in our Creator and those big ol’ guardian angles. I could see the words encouraged him, but before I could turn back around in my seat, a sudden flash filled the cab and the kids’ eyes got the size of big saucers! Evidently, in the field we were passing, lightening struck and according to my older two boys, the lightening had struck a cow in the field! My two oldests (they are twins) shared that there was a burst of fire and a cow left laying on it’s side! Yikes! Even still, we kept pressing forward through the storm and ended up going over a bit of a mountain and emerged to blue skies. I remember feeling relieved to put the storm behind us. We safely made it through!
Some helpful things to know when it comes to driving in severe weather:
- Check your weather app before embarking for the day. Make sure you have weather alerts switched on to warn you of any severe weather warnings and allow the app to track your GPS so that the warnings will move with you and not remain static on a fixed location.
2. Know what your warnings are:
- A thunderstorm or tornado WATCH means that conditions are right for a thunderstorm/tornado to develop in the watch area. Be ready to take cover or evacuate.
- A thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm/tornado has been reported or detected on radar, threatening danger to property or life. Take cover or evacuate if there is time and a safe escape route.
3. If you are able to, pull off at an exit and find a parking lot to wait out the storm. If there are tornado conditions, seek shelter inside a brick-and-mortar structure building immediately and stay away from windows.
4. If there is low visibility, do not pull over to the side of the road along the shoulder as you could get rear-ended by travelers following behind you.
5. Never drive into deeper water with a RV. Fast moving water from a flash flood can be deceiving and dangerous. Flooding causes deaths each year, so be careful!
When we reached Rock Springs, Wyoming, we pulled off of the Interstate and chose to eat at Taco Time before heading north towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The food wasn’t anything to write home about and the service was less than par. But, considering there weren’t too many options in the area where we could pull off and park to grab a bite, it would have to do.
After we packed the crew back up into the Excursion, we started to head north on State Route 191 and my husband realized that we were at less than a quarter of tank in fuel and that we needed to look for a place in town that was open to refuel. Remember, it was already past 5 pm on a Sunday night on a holiday week-end. We had pulled out in the direction we needed to go (north) and we found ourselves quickly on the outskirts of town with no where to turn around for fuel and following a truck loaded with explosives (after it passed us illegally on a double center line.)
We began to check our map app on our iPhone and saw a small service station not too far down the road. We pulled off. Closed. I glanced at the tank gauge. Below a quarter of a tank. I went back to the iPhone map app to see where we might find a place to stay for the night. The nearest campground was at least an hours drive or more and we would need fuel before then…
We drove for a good 20 minutes with no buildings in sight and my eyes couldn’t help to keep glancing over at the fuel gauge. We learned that we were on the Lewis and Clark trail and due to our fuel predicament, we didn’t even feel led to stop and check out a national landmark as it was getting towards dusk and we needed to fuel up — stat! And nothing was coming up in our search as a gas station!
I, beginning to worry, began to pray that we would be able to find fuel and pushed any visual of us stranded in the middle of nowhere to the outskirts of my mind. Probably sensing the urgency of our situation, one of our 14-year-old twin sons felt led to help in that moment. He took his phone out and began to ask how to use the map app on it. He quickly realized that he could look ahead of where we were traveling and began to scan for any fuel stations on his app. Ten minutes into his search, as we inched closer to “E” on our fuel gauge, he exclaims, “There’s a fuel station up ahead on the right! Look here!” I thought he must not be understanding how to read the app, because I didn’t see anything coming up on my map app and when I looked out my window, there wasn’t any building or structure in view. But sure enough — he showed me his map quickly… and there was a tiny fuel icon with the words, “The Station.”
As we got closer off in the distance you could see some lights, but no pumps or station were visible from the road, so we decided to turn down the gravel road and check it out. It turned out to be quite a large service station tucked in behind a hotel and main building with about seven to eight pumps. There was a convenience station, but it was dark and closed. As we rolled up to the fuel station we scanned to see if any pumps were open — thankfully they had pumps that could be used after hours with a credit card! Thank the Lord! Relief hit like a tidal wave as we heard that all familiar sound of the nozzle being fit into our fuel tank.
A lesson was learned that day to fuel up first thing off the freeway before driving away from the interstate.
We decided we had enough excitement for one day and chose the next RV park that we encountered. We pulled in and stopped in at the office as dusk brought the day to an end. They had a spot we could pull through and camp for the night. Score! We didn’t even unhook from the tow vehicle and just put down our stabilizers to settle in for the night.
With the kids all tucked in their bunks and beds, I laid down and began to recount the day… So thankful for protection from the storm, answered prayer in finding a spot to fuel despite our lack of forethought, and a quiet spot to lay our heads down that night. And I slept in peace, thankful for answered prayer.
The next morning was going to be another full day as we looked forward to seeing The Grand Tetons for the first time and Yellowstone! And we were only two days from Washington State!
5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.
5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”