By early morning on Wednesday, March 30th, I had reached Columbus, OH. My Facebook entry of that morning reads “…beautiful, sunny day” and although I was tired I wanted to keep moving forward it was time for a quick stop for breakfast. A bad selfie at a Cracker Barrel is a reminder of how little sleep I had. It also reminds me that it was the last day I would see the sun bright and shiny above me for a while! The waitress kindly greeted me with a “Howdy! Are you ready for the storm?” What??? Storm??? I really thought it was just small talk and all she was doing was starting a conversation. I forgot all about her weather forecast as fast as she moved to pour coffee at the next table.
After breakfast I got back on the road headed to Louisville, KY where I would spend the night. Driving down the Ohio Valley with the sun still shinning above, the landscape gradually turned from brown to greener and blooming bushes along the road announced that the Spring had arrived. However, gusts of wind were now more and more frequent and stronger. Never mind, I thought: it must be because I am in the valley! A message came through my phone from my couch surfing host in Louisville letting me know that he could no longer host me due to unexpected family issues. Time to reroute! I reset my GPS to take me to the Mammoth Cave National Park. Although that was not in my tentative places to visit, it was a place where I could potentially camp and hike.
Along with the increasingly strong winds that forced me to drive below the speed limit, the bright sun gave way to cloudy skies which continued to grow darker and darker. Before crossing the state line into Kentucky the rain settled in with thunder and lightning. By the time I arrived at Mammoth Cave, KY, it was dark and I had to search for a hotel for the night as I knew that camping was no longer an option. I reserved a hotel through Booking.com which was located out in the country. Getting there in the rain and in the dark on a dirt road was not the worst part, as I would come to find out. In the hotel’s description it advertised a full-service restaurant with breakfast, lunch and dinner. All I could think of was a hot shower and food!
I was greeted … well, in fact I wasn’t! The young lady behind the desk was a thrilled to be there as I was. After attempting to talk to her it became clear that conversation and human interaction was not on her agenda for the day. When I asked until when the restaurant was open for dinner, she informed me that “oh, we don’t open for dinner at this time of the year! But it will be open for breakfast!” Great! That meant I only had to wait some ten hours to see some food on the table. Braving the storm I headed back to the car to retrieve some snacks.
During the night I woke up several times with the wind pounding the windows and the whistling trees. The tornado has landed … or, so I thought! Judging by the age of the TVs in the room I figured that the building was tornado proof and had been through many of them along the obvious decades of existence. The next morning when I mentioned the tornado to the breakfast server she replied with a “Oh no honey! That was just a storm with gusts! The tornado should be passing by here early this evening!” Now it was time to scrape the plans for camping and hiking at the Mammoth Cave National Park. But I was already there so I should at least tour the caves which I believe to be tornado safe. As I arrived at the visitor center the electronic boards announced that all open tours were sold out for the next week or so.
At that point it was time to sit down and figure out all the conflicting weather forecasts; different weather forecasters had a different route for the tornado which had originated somewhere in the gulf in Mississippi a few days earlier. I figured that I had to drive eastbound and around the eye of the storm. Driving through country roads under cloudy skies, listening to country music and enjoying the sight of horse farms and the peculiar scent of wet grass and manure was a welcomed upgrade to the past 24 hours events. But that would not last for too much longer. By the time I reached Campbellsvile in south central Kentucky around 5PM on March 31st, so had the epicenter of the storm. The town of Campbellsville has a few signs indicating that it is a college town and when I googled for a Starbucks, it sent me to the Campbellsville University, which is a Christian college. I sought refuge from the storm in the college students’ hall where I stayed dry, drank coffee and had internet service. It was clear to them that I was not from Kentucky and had never been to a campus of a Christian college before. But I must admit that everyone was kind and polite and for the first time since I had left New York, I chatted with quite a few people for a while. I think that at that point I craved for human interaction as much as they wanted to find out who I was. Do not lose faith, brother! The sun will return!