In July of 1986 my wife, young daughter, and I took one of our frequent summer driving vacation trips from the Chicago, IL to the southwest portion of the United States. We camped along most of the way, but occasionally stayed in a motel to break-up the two-week routine.
We owned a 3-person tent and the majority of the camping time we stayed in KOA Campgrounds. We had many such trips over the years from the late 1970’s into the middle 1980’s.
We encountered many storms during our trips. The one this story is about is one of the worst we endured.
On a hot summer afternoon, we stopped at a KOA in Las Cruces, New Mexico for the night. It was a nice campground. Our daughter loved to play in the swimming pool there and met some young kids to share some time with as the evening started to settle in around us.
In the warm beautiful air we enjoyed clear skies above and all the way to the horizon. We relaxed in our camping site, absorbing all of the good feelings inward to our souls.
About 7:00 pm in the evening, looking to the west, we could see far off in the distance, three sets of thunder and lightning storms. It was a spectacular scene to see storms so far away with clear weather between those weather patters and the calm air where we were.
In the following three hours, the three storms slowly made their way towards our location. The sound and light display of the three distinct storms increased the closer they approached. We knew we would be engulfed when the storm front arrived with strong gusts of wind. In short order we put all our external gear into the car and we entered the tent for the night.
Our campsite was designed for storms. Around the west and south facing sides were strong steel walls, our tent was just inside those protective barriers. Within a matter of moments of entering the tent the full force of the first of those three storms hit.
The wind was howling, lighting and thunder above us, the sides of the tent bowing in-and-out at a very high frequency. It was the worst we had met in all our camping trips to that point in time.
My daughter said she was scared. I told her to look at me. When she did I said, “Do I look scared?” She said, “No”. Looking directly into her eyes as I hugged her, I said, “When I look scared, that’s when you can feel scared. Until then, you’re safe with us here. It’s just the wind spilling over the steel wall and hitting our tent sides.” With that she felt more assured and we all drifted off tho sleep as the other storms arrived and departed through the long night.
In the morning before departing for our continuing trip westward along I-10, most of the overnight campers were all talking about the three storms that hit the previous night. Some said it was the worst they ever felt while camping. We agreed. Some said they were concerned for the campers in the tents, like us. Our daughter told them her Dad wasn’t scared, so she and her Mom weren’t scared either.
Sometimes it takes courage to not express fear, even if it is sensed within us. Powerful storms are to be avoided out in the open, if possible. If adequate protection is available as was our camp site, then it is a chance to experience the power of Mother Nature safely.