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Trip Start Oct 01, 2010
Trip End Oct 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Big B

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The winds were howling consistently across the highway as we moseyed down the straight 2 lane highway toward Baton Rouge. I hugged the right lane line to add a level of buffer when the strong gusts would push Big B unexpectedly a few feet toward the fast lane. Unlike in New Mexico where the strong winds blew open our rolled up side awning. I wasn't as concerned for that now that we had used zip ties to secure both ends.

I noticed a Louisiana State Patrol car come up in the fast lane, then slow down and pull behind me. I consistently drive Big B at about 55-60 mph in order to maximize the fuel economy so I knew there was never a issue with getting a speeding ticket. None the less, it was strange. He stayed there for a minute or two (possibly reading all the bumper stickers and noticing the CA plates.) Then he sped around and pulled ahead as a big Mac truck entered the highway in front of us. The patrol car drove ahead about 1/2 a mile then pulled over to the shoulder and slowed down. I drove by him but kept an eye on what he was doing. Instead of staying on the shoulder, I saw him get back onto the highway a ways behind me. At that point, I had a feeling he was going to go after me. 

Sure enough, he pulled behind me and flashed his lights. I pulled over, and the officer came up to my window and asked if I'd step out. I figured maybe a tail light was out or Big B was falling apart and dragging something. I wasn't speeding for sure. That much I knew. Maybe too slow? Is that possible? He introduced himself and stuck out his hand to shake. I shook it and thought, "That's weird?!" Then he started asking me all these personal questions, like where are you coming from, where are you going, what are you going to do at that place, where do you work, how long did you work there, how long have you been married, etc. After about the second question, I knew he was trying to see if I was drunk, which was surprising since it was like 1 pm. I just came from the Tabasco tour so I wasn't worried about getting caught for a DUI. I looked him in the eye and answered his questions. As shady as the answers sounded...
COP: Where are you from? 
Me: Hawaii but my hometown is San Diego, CA. CA, that's where I registered this RV.
COP: Where are you headed?
Me: Baton Rouge.
COP: What's there? 
Me: Uhh, I'm not sure really. We are on a road trip and going to find out when we get there. 
COP: Where are you headed after that?
Me: Down to Florida and then around the rest of the US.
COP: Where do you work?
Me: I don't. 
This continued for longer then it needed, with more personal questions. Not because he probably suspected me of drinking but because I think he was trying to gauge if what I was telling him was really true. What's an early 30's couple from Hawaii doing in a huge 34' motorhome with CA license plates, on an indefinite travel agenda, no job and driving outside of middle of nowhere Lafayette, LA?

In the end, he said it looked like I had passed over the shoulder line a few times and he was just making sure I wasn't drunk because there is an 18 mile bridge coming up. I'm sure he knew that high profile vehicles are difficult to keep absolutely straight in strong cross winds so I don't really buy it. I think he pulled up, saw our 23 bumper stickers, including the one that reads, "How's my driving? Call 1-800-AINOKEA," (AINOKEA=I no care=I don't case ya didn't get it) and decided to pull us over to see what we're all about. Maybe not, but no matter. We were back on our way after our brush with the law. 

We stayed in Baton Rouge one night. We walked the New Capitol, the awesome free LA State Museum, Old Capitol, some old churches, historic buildings, USS KIDD battleship and along the bank of the muddy Mississippi River. The most memorable moment though was being woken up at 4 am by Wendy yelling at me about the rocking of Big B. I struggled to wake up, open the shades and saw the lightning and heard the thunder/rain all around us. It was pretty violent but so what? I've been in strong storms before, no problem. I decided to check my iPhone's Weather Channel app and see how bad it really was. To my surprise  there was a severe weather alert for exactly where we where. 

It said a strong storm system was coming through the area and people should stay inside secure areas until it passes. The map showed the storm band and the max (red) rain area was directly over us. We were getting rocked around and it was starting to get rough. When Wendy said they frequently get tornadoes out here I started to freak. My mind flashed the images of mobile homes scattered with debris in the wake. Oh shit! We're in a mobile home, albeit in the Walmart parking lot, but everyone knows that tornadoes love mobile homes. I imagine the tornado searching around from mobile homes then go over to rip 'em to shreds. Decision time. 

Wendy's freaking out, Rusty's looking up at me with even wider boogley eyes than he normally has, and I'm looking outside at the lightning, wind, and rain. Do we make the 100 yard dash to the 24 hr Walmart (another good reason to park somewhere that's 24 hrs!) and wait inside with our dog or wait it out? I consider putting down the jacks to try to stabilize us, then decide not to because of all the lightning and pools of water everywhere. I'm starting to sweat. I imagine us getting picked up or tipped over, and I tell Wendy if that were to happen, grab our hand rail, get down, away from the windows. I'll grab Rusty and try to find something to hold onto. For the next hour or so, different band of rain/wind would pass over us. I watched it all in real time on our iPhone. Then it was over.

Outside our motorhome, next door was a large 24hr truck stop casino sign that was torn up from the winds. Everything else seemed fine outside and I imagined it only felt to us much worse then it probably actually was but it was a real eye opener. I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore (so to speak). We're entering a land of foreign dangers like tornadoes and hurricanes. Coming from the west coast most of my life, I've never had to deal with these things. This was Tuesday morning.

Wednesday we learned a super storm system caused a massive outbreak of twisters resulting in 341 deaths, across 7 states. It was the 2nd deadliest day from twisters in US history. Thankfully we weren't traveling through those areas, which were not too far away! I'm considering getting one of those covered strollers for Rusty so the next time there is some serious weather we'll take him inside Walmart or what ever other lot we may be staying in. We've decided to use his adopted name from Aunt Dacia, Russell, in case anyone asks. Sounds more human... 
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