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High winds, ranging from 20-30 plus mph, high temperatures, and coupled with a tornado watch made this an extremely challenging travel week. In the last post I ditched my scenic route in South Dakota to escape the high temperatures and headed straight north to North Dakota.
Unfortunately, as you'll discover in this weeks video and post, I only accomplished running straight into even higher temperatures and high winds.
High Winds Rocking the RV
I'm beginning to think that driving an RV is a workout sometimes. Lord knows I can use more exercise, but I'd prefer to do it on my terms rather than mother nature forcing me into it. It's not just an upper body workout, but lower too.
Let me explain.
These high winds all the way up from South Dakota then all the way across North Dakota, from the west to the east, kicked my butt. Most of the time the winds were gusting at 20 mph, but much of the time it wasn't a gust – it was constant. With my 11 foot high box of an RV, the wind would shove me to and fro in my lane.
Mother Nature Workout
Wind pushes me across the lane, so I grip the wheel even tighter with my hands and consequently my forearm muscles are contracting with each death grip of the steering wheel.
Then, since the wind was so strong, I'd have to maneuver the RV with every shift of the wind, so my shoulders were getting a workout from the back and forth, and to and fro. Not to mention, I was stressed so I clinched the wheel harder.
Okay, so the lower body workout was great for my buttocks, because, again I was stressed and doing “active driving” as I call it, when your fully engaged and having to constantly move the wheel to stay straight, so I'd clinch my thigh muscles and consequently my glutes from the stress.
Then also the constant moving off my foot from the gas to the brake, because when a gust of wind would hit me so hard that it pushed me into another lane, or to the shoulder, I would keep braking to make sure I didn't hit anything.
So my whole body was engaged in driving. It was exhausting and my body was sore and tired from all the driving.
I thought of pulling over, but I figured if the semi trucks weren't pulling over, I was okay AND the weather outlook called for these high winds for the whole week AND local told me this 20-30 mph in North Dakota was “normal”!
However, on one of the days I just happened to look in my left side mirror in time to see another RV passing me and one of his awning poles had busted loose from the high winds and was heading straight for the side of my RV.
I quickly moved to the right – all the time honking my horn and pointing to his awning. He looked at me like I was crazy and kept driving down the highway with this pole just sticking out ready to side swipe another vehicle. I guess he finally figured it out, because about six exits later I saw him pulling off.
During this crazy drive, I was praying those high winds wouldn't take hold of my solar panels or vent covers on the roof. Every time I stopped I would visually look up top to make sure everything was intact.
Finally, Cooler Weather and No High Winds
As soon as I crossed over into Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, the winds died down and the temperatures were definitely cooler.
I stayed at my favorite, on-the-road dry camping spot, Walmart of course, and captured a beautiful sunset that made the day end perfectly after the exhausting drive for the last several days.
The next day I was determined to relax and get in a hike around something beautiful.
After a little research, I found a nearby county park called Dunton Locks, still in the Detroit Lakes area. So Lily and I hopped into the cab and drove the short distance for some fun.
Dunton Locks get its name for moving small craft boats from lake to lake.
There's a man that operates the locks by helping to facilitate the boat onto the mechanism, collects payment once they are on shore, and then pushes the button to keep the mechanism moving forward to the next lake.
Lily and I had such a wonderful day, talking to locals and those fleeing the North Dakota high winds and heat, eating a picnic lunch, and doing some hiking around the area.
It was a beautiful day!
Tornado Watch and Flying Shopping Carts
As I left the beauty of Detroit Lakes to move closer to Minneapolis for my work trip out of the Minneapolis airport, I stumbled upon Mille Lacs Lake, which I probably mispronounced all throughout the video.
This beautiful spot at Garrison Park had a circular drive to pull up to the stone wall so there I sat all day working. The Verizon connection was strong so I decided to stay here all day and get some work done with this incredible view of Mille Lacs Lake.
It was just another perfect day until…..
The next day I was in Princeton, Minnesota – dry camping at Walmart – when a tornado watch flashed across my phone.
Looking outside, everything was still, calm, sunny, with a few clouds, but nothing unusual. Was this the calm before the storm?
I kept a watchful eye on the radar and had only one freak out moment when trying to decide if I could outrun the storm by heading east or stay and deal with it and hope it passes. My last experience with running from the weather didn't work out so well, so of course I'm thinking, “Amber, you should really learn from your mistakes.”
Okay, wait, hold on. Stop.
Honestly, my self talk went more like this, “Amber, are you crazy thinking you can outrun a storm? You're in an RV that you will only drive 55 mph max so how are you going to outrun this storm AND your last episode with running, the weather followed you and got worse!”
I might have used a few f bombs in there too, but I was censoring my statement above.
So I stayed. Went to bed fully clothed. Packed a bag with essentials, documents, Lily's leash, and my purse – in case we had to ditch the RV and run into Walmart.
Around midnight this burst of wind came howling through, waking me up quickly and I thought for sure the tornado was right on us.
I tried closing the fantastic fan vents with the button but it was struggling to close against the force of the wind. I had roof vents over the fans, but the rain was coming in sideways so I was trying to shut the vents as quickly as possible.
All of a sudden I heard all this racket outside, like metal crashing against each other. Myself, along with five other RVs, were at the back of the parking lot, furthest from Walmart, and as I looked outside I saw shopping carts flying towards us. Some rolling, some tipped over and the high winds were propelling them towards us.
As fast as I could, I jumped into the driver seat – Lily was still in bed snoring – gassed up the engine, and roared through the parking lot, dodging the shopping carts all the way to the back of the store. I can't believe none of those carts hit me.
I wedged my RV between the back of Walmart and a cement fence in order to protect us from the wind; however the rain was coming in buckets and the wind was still rocking the RV back and forth.
Admittedly, it was pretty scary. We were safe from tornados, but the storm was fierce. Then it started to hail and that's when I saw the Lowe's contractor awning so I quickly drove the RV under that and was completely protected from the rain, wind, and hail.
After holding up there for several hours and falling asleep in the driver seat, it finally calmed down and I returned to the Walmart parking lot, which was now a hot mess with carts turned over everywhere.
Now I look at the weather daily and at the radar just so I can be prepared for those crazy storms.
You're definitely one with nature when you live in your RV. Between the heat, the high winds, the tornado watch, and the crazy rain and hail storm, I was ready for some calmer weather. It was a stressful week and quite the learning experience.
Leave me a comment below if you've ever experienced anything like this while driving.
Overnights & Places Visited
Place: Walmart and Dunton Locks
RV Accessibility: Any length
Cell Phone Signal Strength: Mostly full bars
Park Pass: N/A
City/State: Bismarck, North Dakota, Detroit Lakes, and Princeton, Minnesota
Video/Audio Equipment Used
Sony A6000 Camera – For most still images and vlogging
Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video
Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.