Black Canyon, Brown Sands: Day 1

After our stressful preparation, we finally set off for our first overnight stay at the Amarillo KOA, a familiar stopping point along the way to many western destinations. The six-hour drive was uneventful, but as we pulled in to the campground, we could see some rather ominous-looking clouds on the horizon. A quick check of the weather radar indicated that they were moving north and east, and we would likely be spared the full brunt of the storm. Soon, however, the wind picked up and the rain started falling. We had just enough time to get set up for the night and take the dogs out to do their business before the storm hit.

And it hit with a vengeance. The storm rolled in so quickly, we didn’t even have time to close the door.

If you remember the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” as everyone on the farm was racing to the storm cellar with the tornado bearing down upon them, you’ll have a good idea of what we faced. It was truly the most terrifying experience we’ve had in the Airstream: straight-line winds between 70 and 80 miles per hour (similar to a category 1 hurricane), 2-inch hail, flash flooding, and a loss of power. The dogs were inconsolable; we were so frightened that we said a final “I love you” to each other, just in case Cloud 9 was taken up into the air; and we hunkered down and held each other as best we could.

Obviously, we lived to tell the tale. Now we know what our beloved Cloud 9 can endure. It helped that we were positioned into the wind. Had we been at crosswind, the rig might have rolled.

Our truck didn’t do as well. The hail damaged both the windshield and the driver’s window. The only casualty to the Airstream was to the sewer hose cradle: we discovered part of it wrapped around a fence post about 200 yards away, and several other pieces in a field beyond that. Damage to the Amarillo KOA was pretty extensive: Heavy tree damage, tents blown away, one rig toppled over.

We were grateful to be alive, but too rattled to even want supper. So we dropped into bed, exhausted, as even more storms rolled through.