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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My sheer act of stupidity June 25th 2010

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So...I usually take great pride in not doing really stupid things when I chase. Everything from positioning on a storm to equipment, I'm pretty conservative as 1) my family likes it when I come home after a chase, and 2) my mortgage company likes it when I pay them.

On June 25th after the storms started to sag into Iowa, I headed up highway 15 towards Madelia, MN. The anvil crawlers were just insane so I found a very nice, very quiet township road to park on. It wasn't quite dark enough to get the shots I wanted so when I parked, I made the decision to shut off the car. I NEVER turn off the vehicle if the storm is coming at me or if I am flanking it.

I remember the story of a well known Skywarn spotter in MN who parked along the side of the road near Pennock, MN to observe a tornado warned storm out in Kandiyohi county, shut off the vehicle and left all of the ham radio gear on. Time came when it was time to move for the obvious reason and the battery was dead. Dumb, dumb, dumb... That could have ended very badly.

Anyhow, back to June 25th of this year. I use a basic 300w inverter to run my laptop and streaming video camera. It only has one outlet but since both devices draw well less than 300w combined, I use a splitter plugged into the inverter.

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99 out of 100 times, I unplug the inverter if I shut the vehicle off and let the cam and laptop run on battery power. The other 1% of the time the vehicle is off for less than a minute or two. This time I reached down onto the passenger floor to grab a camera lens and figured since I was down there, I'll just turn the switch off on the inverter since I would be parked at this location for an hour or so.

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Take note the power switch is down for "off" and up for "on".

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Also note on the picture with the splitter attached there is not a whole lot of room between the splitter and the inverter.

So I shut the inverter off grab the cams and shoot away for the next hour or so taking in one heck of a light show. About 11pm I figured I had everything I wanted so I would pack it up and head for home. I noticed my laptop was making this awful screeching noise as I opened the door. I was like "WTH is wrong with the laptop??" Then it hit me....it was the low voltage alarm going off on the inverter. I grabbed the power outlet end of the cord and pulled it out. Sure enough, the alarm stopped. DAMMIT!!! Somehow when I pulled my finger back up between the inverter and the splitter I turned the f***ing inverter back on! I grabbed the key and tried to start the vehicle...NOTHING. Dead as a freakin' doornail...it's 11pm and I'm 2.5 miles from Madelia. Not much to do but start walking. I wasn't real keen on the idea of walking along highway 15 in the dark but I keep a lime green safety vest with the reflective strips with me just in case. Well, this was "just in case" time.

I called Melinda and told her what had happened. I think it kinda freaked her out she could hear the semis whizzing by me as I hoofed it up to Madelia. Along the way Melinda was using Google to find me some type of business that would still be open a little past midnight on a Saturday night. SN made it look like Andy Revering was close by so I gave him a call only to find out position reporting hadn't updated in a while. A long while. Grrr...back to walking. It turned out all of the gas stations were closed down, but the American Legion wasn't!! Thank goodness for pull tabs, an ATM and tap beer to keep some of the locals up that late. I walked into Post 19 and got some odd looks. I'm sweaty, bug bitten, and wearing a green safety vest. "WHO IS STILL SOBER ENOUGH TO DRIVE, HAS JUMPER CABLES, AND WANTS $20 ON THEIR BAR TAB?" Those were my exact words! The first two takers couldn't clearly focus on me but thankfully the third guy was OK. As I explained the situation, he said he and his wife would drive out and get me going again. "Tubbs" owns a auto repair shop in town so I started asking him if he knew a couple of guys who used to competition hunt hounds I knew and sure enough, within a few minutes I had the update on them and they were showing me pics their son had taken from the June 17th hail down by Albert Lea.

After a few more minutes of small talk, the car was running again and I was on my way as Tubbs and his wife went back to the American Legion to close the place down spending the $20 one $1 draw at a time. Good people. I'll take him up on his offer to stop by his shop next time I pass through town.

So the lesson here boys and girls is think ahead and make sure nothing is going to strand you in BFE. When you chase your vehicle is your lifeline. Treat it as such! Tubbs may not be there to bail you out!

1 comment:

Bryan J. Howell said...

I hear ya! I had a bad battery in my truck that I just replaced. Back in May when I discovered it, the battery would be drawn down in ~5 minutes just from sitting on the side of the road with headlights and flashers on. Great advice!!

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