Downsides of Chasing
(Apparently I've already covered some of this in the "What's chasing like?" topic.)
It is likely a fools idea to try this topic in its own section. I'm sure some of the stuff will be rehashed in other topics I put on here, oh well.
Straight up chasing has more bad aspects than good ones, and yes I'm also 60% pessimistic/negative. It is easy to come to this conclusion without it just coming from being negative. I think anyway. For starters, the more you chase, the less interesting some storm types become. Sure I can enjoy any storm, but that is any storm I watched from say home, or close to home. If I drive a day one way, I'm sorry but any ol storm simply is not worth that time and money. It's just not. I walk outside or drive outside of town or something, fine...simple thunder works wonders in that case.
Problem is you obviously can't know for sure what will happen before you leave home, so it's not like a typical vacation at all. Vacation to the mountains, well the mountains will be there. Drive 500 miles one way to a target, well you have to leave home before many of the things that might happen to ruin the day...and you may not get any "mountains" or any worth chasing.
Chase go/no go decision
You wake up early and see widespread clouds and it's not always clear how much those will clear. Same with precip, might be tons of precip over the target region at 7 a.m. Even if you start off clear with no precip...sometimes there's big hints that early day elevated convection will fire in the target area, that could then ruin the day just as well. Say like models showing convection firing at 10-11 a.m. You stay home thinking that will ruin the day or even in the case of morning precip and/or clouds already raising questions. Then what happens, no storms fire early on and/or those clouds and precip dissipate nicely early in the day....and an outbreak happens. Or you leave and chase it hoping things work out and you find continued and growing convection, contaminating the whole airmass and killing the day. In chasing there may be tons of available data on the road these days, but that morning go/no go decision always has to be made without any certainty of what will end up happening. This is what makes and breaks most chasers now, or at least a fair chunk of the problem one faces in seeing cool storms. All the data and equipment in the world isn't going to eliminate the long drives for what often are bust days or typical boring storm days. It's a whole lot nicer when you happen to only be 4 hours or so from a target and can wait and see how the morning situation unfolds. In 2010 though for instance....what 4 hour or less chase! So yeah anyway, this morning go/no go decision I'd say is the number one negative to me. With me I can chase year round, there's really no day I would be without an option to chase if I want to. But I'm not made of money, so I have to pick and choose. Even if I was made of money, there's not an ounce of me that wants to be the guy that chases more than everyone else...every single setup. I'd love to keep chases to less than 40 days a year, which is a lot for a pick and choose person that isn't out there for a month straight of forced chasing on some vacation.
The other aspect to the morning decision is timing and front location. When will storms fire and where, pretty important on when you will plan to leave home. I really don't like to end up in a target 4 hours too soon and wait wait and wait some more. Worse is obviously being late to the target. Sometimes a model will blow a front through faster than you like and end up too far away or you playing catch up all day. Then what happens when you decide it was a lost cause? The model was wrong and the front moved nothing like what was prog'd. Or you go and a convective complex that was supposed to die out and leave the boundary north under the better shear, ends up the complex grows and plows south, leaving your instability and initiating boundary down south baking under a cap, as well as no shear aloft. And it's not just "ho hum that day sucks" then. No, you are spending hours in a car all day, spending money making it suck more than it probably comes off as to a non-chaser.
So anyway, the go/no go decision in the morning can be a terrible part of chasing. Not much can haunt a chaser more than that aspect, unless they just chase every single day they can, but this is not healthy. Repeated long drives home after seeing nothing are indeed depressing. The more times you bust on long drives, the more critical you are on that decision when it is of some distance. If there is one truth in all this, it is that for as many days that look amazing that turn out like crap...there are days that look pathetic that figure out a way to get it done and end up amazing. Ok, so maybe that isn't as even as I make it sound. The point is the same. This little truth makes the go/no go decision that much more frustrating. It's a truly tricky aspect that if anything gets harder as the years go by, because you know how good days can go bad and how bad days can go good. You know those truths extremely well after chasing a while and the amazing sights are why you are bothering with any of it in the first place.
The long drives can be nice but anymore I really can't stand the interstate. I've got a billion pet peeves now on drivers and simply want a nice gap I can chill in and drive. I'm more aggressive than I am a Sunday driver. It's just nice when you are in more rural areas on empty highways, which isn't often the case on the longer drives to targets. Those are often on interstates, where all the "special" drivers are. I'll just have to make an entry on those pet peeves. There's a ton. Ok, so I mention a few of them down below.
Getting a motel can be a "blast" nowadays. You are ending the chase, but storms are still ongoing and worth photographing. Do you get a motel in the late evening or do you keep chasing. Often there is a chase the next day that makes this all the more difficult. If you wait too late, just getting a room becomes a challenge. Mom and pop chains close up the front desk early on. Main chains are usually filled up fairly early on, especially when you're out west in the middle of chase season with a million other chasers, tours, scientists, all in the same area trying to get a room. Get a room too early and some storm stays interesting and you find yourself driving away from your motel/town only to have to come back later on at some point.
Also the price will add up obviously. When it is late and I've chased all day, I don't really even ask a price. I'm just like whatever, here is my card. Often I'm dead tired and wishing I could just finish the drive home. Soon as I'm in the room I'm on the internet and awake and alert just fine then. I'll end up staying up till 3-4 a.m.....a time which I could have driven the rest of the way home most times. I've learned there really are no tricks to staying awake/more alert on a crazy long drive home. You just have to weather the storm and you'll likely get a 1-2 hour revival after the extreme tired portions. Music, heat, cold, open windows, slapping the face, getting out walking around....etc......just does nothing! Driving on doesn't do anything either! Like a bad cold or flu, just have to weather the storm or get a damn room. I absolutely love that post-"storm" period where you are awake again for some crazy reason. You're usually home free once you get to that.
My worst drive home ever was certainly from Yellowstone to near Omaha Nebraska. Woke up in West Yellowstone like 5 a.m. and decided to make the drive back worse by going south to the geysers for 3 hours of morning photography first. I then headed for home. Oh my god was that a stupidly long trip and it proved to me I'll never fall asleep at the wheel. I've got a ton of self control on obvious stuff such as that, like most folks should have. That doesn't mean it was easy. It was around 7pm when I reached Rapid City. I was at one of my most tired points ever right then, sun barely setting. Rapid City! Still not near Omaha. I wanted to get home though. I remember passing Wall SD around 8pm and maxing out on the old tired scale, or nearly so. I got a decent revival after that for a short ways. By Mitchell SD stopping to get gas, it was just bad. Bout feel like you are going to fall over as you pump gas. No stretching there either, just seriously light headed tired and need to sit back down. Had that before after a chase once real good like that. I think I made home around 2:30 a.m. Think it was around 21 hours driving. After a rough trip as it was. Anyway on chases it can be such a trick in deciding to try and make it back or not. Often if the chase was good I won't care and I'll just get a room. At least now I really do know how bad it can suck and that thought alone results in motel stays. I just hate blowing more money on motels when I can make it home. But man at the same time I hate those stupid late drives about just as bad. The deal coming back from Yellowstone was simply just wanting to be back home. This reminds me of another negative point.
Consecutive chase days
I can't stand multiple days on the road in a row. If I see that stuff coming I will skip days I wouldn't otherwise skip, just because I don't like to be away from home for long. Really it is rare I will be gone 3 days in a row. It happens. 4 days in a row is extremely rare for me. Maybe that happens once in 3 years. At least good consecutive days isn't that terribly common in chasing. Sometimes you'll get the 4 day'r but one of the days or more often looks questionable with this or that. But, the fear of missing the "accident" storm raises its head, but worse in this case. Worse because it is often in the same area you'll be on those other 3 days. So it seems real stupid to skip one day of several that will happen in the same location. I did do a 4 day'r this year, 2010. June 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. I hedged my 12th chase north because I knew I was going to drive home after it. 9th should have been skipped and I blew both the 10th and the 11th anyway. So it sucks when you already feel a bit guilty leaving pets home alone and then you also bust anyway and blow money. There's a lot to suck with chasing lol. I don't think the typical non-chaser person that reads this site likely at all gets it, even just the number of these sucker days/etc to get the good stuff. Especially in my case, as I'm not that great of a chaser! I get the impression many think I am, they are just mislead somewhere lol. My trick is this, being free to chase any setup all year long but not exactly doing so....but picking the better ones. Not the most number of chases for a chaser, but a whole lot of the better days for sure. I then screw up a good chunk of these better days I'm going chasing on. The results end up fair. Just look at 2010 and 2004 for me. Years I got the best stuff so far and both years were flat out insane chase years. I've been able to chase any day I want since 2004, so was completely free both these years. Yet really, I messed up more than half the days I chased. Others that are truly good are nowhere near 50% bad. Out of all the days in 2010, all I really have to show for it are 4 of them. The other 25-30 chases were either more in the junkers category or me blowing them. 2004 was no different. Might look on here that I got a lot of stuff that year, but trust me, I was blowing a lot of days. May 21, 22(got a cool supercell but not compared to the other stuff that day!), May 29, June 10, the best chunk of June 11, June 12, July 7th...others.....others I should have chased too....I need to knock this off because the pain is coming back rapidly as I think about them! The truly good chasers really are more in the 80-90%+ nailing days arena. They exist. When I think I'm getting good a new year rolls around to remind me otherwise. Meaning I think after the year's screw ups that I finally will know which little things to notice and remember in the forecast/targeting, but then that new year comes around and shows me I'm still just as stupid! Like seriously it is fall 2010 and I think I will know better on several things next year. It's just not true though! I at least know that much! So that is good. Well prepared.
The actual chase of the storm
The main thing I want to do more than anything else is not blow the chasing part of the storm I'm on. I can live with blowing a day by not chasing, when I think it looks bad but it ends up a good day(taken a while but I think I'm there now). Not real well but I can deal with that. I can deal with blowing the day I chase by being far from the right/good storm. What I do not handle well is blowing the storm I'm on image and chase-wise. If there is anything I think I'm good at, it's really really getting storm structure and what is likely and not likely...which leads itself to having an idea of the when on things too. It's not rocket science after doing it a while. Often something will be noted that just won't work....the storm won't "fix itself" with. Though I'm starting to see even these things I think I know, can be wrong(like I don't get how the July 13, 2010 storm sw of Fargo ND came from what it did and morfphed into a nice legit supercell lol....I should have made an account on that). Hell I guess I'm certain of nothing really with storms, in a sense, but aware of likelihoods. Anyway, in short I have a pretty good handle on storms at this point, 11 years into it and chasing a lot and on a lot of better days.
I truly have some disorder on dealing with dumb decisions on the storm I'm on, as in after all is said and done there's serious long-lived beating oneself up. I will go over them in my head over and over and over all year long. At least the next chase year tends to just replace them all. So it "ends" that next year. I have a problem of not thinking at points on a chase. Critical points. This is all pretty much with my close tornado intercepting lack of ability. I blow this crap like there is no tomorrow. It's only the last few years I even gave a damn on close tornado intercepts, but I do.
There's a truth with storm photography. If it looks crazy now...shoot it now. If it doesn't look crazy now...reposition now. Be damn aware and react right away. Not doing so leads to regrets. I just don't have a ton of regrets with storms in this regard. Tornadoes though....yes.....I'm very much haunted with my screw ups. I need to work on the notice and react aspect to that so bad. In the whole picture though, I just don't find it acceptable to screw up in aspects relating to when to stop and when to move, on storms and tornado photography/videography....chasing. I think I should be smarter than screw ups while actually on the storm. Forecasting and everything else...fine...I screw up often.....I'm not haunted. Once in striking distance of a storm I apparently will never be happy with how I chased it, once it is over. I come close and those are at least somewhat tolerable. I just think that afterward when I realize something, that I should have realized it at the time and moved or whatever. I'm severely haunted by June 16th this year, 2010, as well as May 22nd this year. Probably my top two tornado encounters I guess too. Top two tornado experiences and I truly drive myself insane on what I should have changed.
I should feel so proud on June 16th and how I chased that. Not just deciding to chase it, but nailing it when so few others were anywhere around(I mean middle June in 2010 and for the longest time just me and one tour group..that is it). SPC MD and tornado watch both hardly even acknowledging that area...3:30 in the afternoon. I mean seriously, the storm wasn't even in the tornado box issued after the MD. Probably a huge part of why hardly anyone else was on the thing. All eyes were west with some wording on the warm front "further east". I was there and I didn't move on the storms drifting northwest....left of the shear(which was on the weak side to start with) and away from any inflow. I positioned where I could strike once it was obvious...keeping the left/nw movers in range incase they opted to turn. Once the se one fired I acted, not even looking back at the storms that would be eating its outflow in short order. I can do a lot right, see a great show, be nearly the only one there which is a feat these days....but I screw up one aspect of the actual chasing the storm part and seriously, my regrets just about ruin the whole damn deal. Like I can hardly watch the video because I will slap my head on the dumb move...or lack of a move. Every time I watch it. I think, I don't even want to watch this cause I will get pissed off all over again. I won't watch it and think, damn did I nail that sucker. The nailing the forecast and targeting, driving there in time, chasing to begin with, etc.....just aren't as important to me as nailing the storm after I'm on it. I should notice everything then I think. So all that went right this day, it all just basically goes out the window if I screw up the op while on the thing!
Look up Dupree SD on a google map. The tornado formed sw of town a few short miles, out of a storm that was not moving at all. At times the storm would actually reform westward and southward. The main tornado is freaking amazing. It didn't even form till like an hour after I was sitting there west of town. I could have drove all around that area and researched how bad/good roads were. The tornado at first moves east or northeast, as this completely massive and wild bowl with fast fast multiple vortices spins away. Never seen such a large deal doing that stuff. Then a fat cone/wedge happens on that east side of the even larger bowl. It stops moving then begins to move what looks like due west as a wedge. Does more shape changes and ends up flying back east as a rope. I'm filming it from a ways away, in the rain. Look at the map. The most wild show ever could have been seen had I taken that deal south out of town just a few miles. Out of the rain for sure. Closer. This massive thing was under a stationary supercell. The most amazing op is there right in front of me and I'm stupidly content shooting from the highway in the rain, never even thinking to look for something better. This is how I'm still a storm chaser that just isn't a very good tornado chaser. I don't even want to rehash my screw up on Bowdle, May 22nd this year too. Yeah yeah be happy....doesn't work for me. I'm not sugar coating a thing. I can't stand when it seems one half lies to themselves, just to feel better about what they could have done better. Like just be real about it, even if it sounds like you are whining LOL. I'm a real whiner for sure. Next year needs to get here fast, so I can replace Bowdle and Dupree days.
Now I thought of a question for myself. Am I completely happy with any chase and if no or if so which one/which one is closest? I'd say I actually am with a lot of storms. Just no tornadoes lol. It's not even that I can't do good at tornado chasing. It's just that I've always been so content watching the storm and catching any tornado from afar while doing so. Mostly cause the tornadoes are rather rare. I just don't think to do some crap when chasing a tornado. At least not till later! The other aspect there is going to straight up be chaser numbers(though wasn't a real issue on Bowdle, I just figured it was worse than it was.....and for sure a non-issue on Dupree....sigh).
Chasing itself has a plethora of bad aspects. The thing I find myself having the biggest issue with is simply number of chasers around. All too often I find myself making some decisions just based off number of chasers around. Tangle with a tornado by yourself is not the same as tangle with a tornado with 100 chasers around, though many are quite good at it anyway. By the time I get to that point, there will be a ticket booth 5 miles away anyway. "$5....enjoy the tornado." I like to stay in the path of stuff for a few reasons. For me getting close to a tornado is more difficult because I worry about too many others clogging up the escape route. I think too much and think the worst too much as well. Been in a few situations now that it's just kinda hard to shake the concern while there at the time. I mean all the minds on the storm range from deputy safety to jackass caliber, and everything in between, in what is going on around you all. One second you can be there pretty much by yourself. Next minute a looooooong train of chasers can show up. And obviously me being out there I too add to it. Can't complain on numbers too hard unless you yourself are willing to stay home...don't think so.
If you are not in the tornado's path it's not a huge deal. But often trailing the tornado is where the damn line of chasers is(I'm continually amazed when I drop off a storm behind it and see chasers coming and coming, when you know you yourself didn't even have a chance when you left it...like what the hell are some thinking in some of those far back trailing groups). Sure not fun to be stuck in a line, especially when a whole lotta chasers don't even want to do the speed limit, as in slow. Or a local doing 30mph cause it is hailing a little. Regardless of any of the right and wrong issues with any of that whole deal...speeders....go too slowers..., it just sucks being stuck in the long convoys.
There are times you can't see the beginning of the line or the end of it behind you. So often if I see any hints of these situations, I just tear off either further ahead once everyone gets ahead and starts pulling over, or I take another route like June 17, 2009 east of Grand Island...hoping down onto I80....which completely blew a crazy tornado op. I found myself around more and more chasers, saw the exit to hop on I80 3 miles south and just took it. Like screw this, hop down to I80 and blast ahead on that. Soon as I'm on there...wala tornado right on the highway I just left. I need to learn better on when to just deal with the numbers and not blast. Did the same sort of thing but worse the year before May 22 in KS. If things are already going good it won't bother me as much. When things aren't that great anyway, man I lose it easy the more and more chasers that end up in the same area. It's real easy because a lot of chasers/people do really stupid stuff. Not wreckless even, not what I'm getting at....just stupid other stuff. I LOVE it when you park on a gravel road, middle of it all by yourself. Some jackhole then thinks they have to pull up on your bumper and stop there. But better yet and this happened on that May 22, 2008 deal that helped get me annoyed off my rocker and completely leave the area. Not only folks stopping right behind you when there is plenty of other room.....but also stopping directly across from you on the gravel! It wasn't even crowded there. I found a nice open section and bam bam folks parking on my bumper and right across from my damn door. Like way to keep things flowing, park so there is a one car gap between us when you have all these other places to stop. It's like there's just a ton of "clingy" types out there that feel better being near someone. Seriously that is what it has to be a whole lot of instances. The other is folks parking at stop signs on these roads....or on the highway shoulder right at the gravel roads. Just the stop sign deal is annoying. I wanted to flip around and go back to the interstate and accomplishing that was even a challenge. Cars on my ass wanting west, cars lined up coming east, cars going north and going south in lines at the same intersection....and folks parked all over the place by those stop signs. I get into much of that stuff and just end up saying screw it and driving a state further south hoping the dryline works down there lol.
This stuff is easier to deal with when a storm is good. In rain with no good view of what radar says is probably crap anyway and I'm gone/quickly annoyed out of there by the masses. But yeah if the storm is good right then I don't notice as much.
Otherwise so far chaser driving activities haven't seemed too bad to me. Of course I'm a more aggressive/quicker driver and if someone blows my doors off, good for them. Not seen much of any stupid stupid passes. The biggest gripe I'd have is the folks that dink around well under the speed limit watching a storm or wishing a pull off spot would appear for them. Like drive the speed limit OR pull over. Don't try and make some odd mix of both at once, forever down a road. Just be considerate of others. It's real simple. If there's no place to pull over.....drive. It blows my mind where some think to stop and park, like half on grass half on the highway...when there's no shoulder(or even when there is!). This I do see fairly often and bugs me fairly bad. For sure though, the overly slow types drive me crazy. Half those are only driving slow because they are near the storm and watching it from the highway as they troll along. The other half I think are just slow up stairs and not considerate at all there are people behind them....as they wish for a spot to pull over. Stop wishing there was something to use and go! Man that pisses me off lol. Saw some of that as I drove north on Bowdle day this year(2010). What some will do is tool along at 25mph, no signal going so you don't know what exactly they are trying to do...then what do they do? They just yank the wheel left as they think they found a spot to pull into...zero signal at all...as you were trying to drive/pass them on the left. Aaarrrghhh it's so easy to be more considerate when doing this stuff. It's so obvious some lack this big time. I think my biggest driving problem is I have too much of it. Too considerate(half a joke...cause this shouldn't be a problem). If I'm driving down a highway and want to make a left turn when someone is behind me, I'll get over in the oncoming lane when possible to do it, not slowing up the person behind me at all. I won't be the jackass that does the turn as slow and long as they can. Same goes for right turns, I'll get over on the damn shoulder even at full speed. Same goes with folks pulling out. Good grief it's such a simple concept there too. If you decide to do it with little room from the cars coming, you better hammer it. There is NO excuse to pull out and cause the cars on the highway to have to slow down. Wait to pull out or hammer it when you do! Stuff with that blows my mind too. I will become one of the worst/most aggressive drivers once someone breaks some of the obvious considerate rules of the road. Like they pull out ahead of me, I will not slow down any bit more than I absolutely have to. I will make sure to hit their slower speed after I'm 1 inch behind them. I look at it this way, they are on my bumper not me on theirs...they put me there! All they had to do was hammer it harder or wait a damn second. I notice about everything and let it annoy me at the time more than I wish it would. So yeah, crowding sucks. More folks means more of the dumber drivers you'll cross. Doing it around a storm just compounds it.
Roads have their issues too obviously. I'm fine when I have new tires. Once they wear down some, well driving in the rain for very long can suck. The back end of a Mustang is rather light and it's just real easy for the dang thing to bounce on the water with anything less than brand new tires. Also they don't tend to update the paint on many of these rural highways. It can be a true nightmare driving home after a chase a lot of the time thanks to rain, bad tires, and no paint. You are already tired from leaving early, driving all day and chasing all afternoon/evening. Then deal with a bad driving situation all the way home. The storm you saw had better been worth it. It usually wasn't. So then well, it's that much more annoying you left and chased that day. You start thinking back about that whole morning decision to leave and go chase. You have the whole drive back home to think about that lol. Nothing like being in Oklahoma after a crappy chase and wishing you'd never have left home(eastern Nebraska). This is another aspect that sucks. It sucks so you regret the money you have blown and then think you need to not get a motel room. So you think, I need to just drive all the way back home tonight to cut some of the losses that chase was. It's often at that distance and point in the night that you think you can almost do it lol. You figure out you'll get home around 3 a.m. and know you'll be losing the ability to stay awake by midnight, just because driving is boring. Staying up till 3 while on the internet is one thing, doing it staring at a highway all night is so much different. But the day sucked so you just figure out a way to make it happen. And it truly sucks at the time, fighting off sleep for so long.
Fear of missing something by not chasing
This last bad drive home part reminds me of just the whole fear of missing something aspect. That gets me out the door so many times when I shouldn't have. I will think the day looks like crap. Storm Prediction Center will issue an overblown hyped forecast(obviously not an all the time deal but most certainly they happen...then the morning guy has to come in and restore some reality on the 13z....sometimes) and I'll fear myself out the door in the morning lol. I can see how dumb reading the outlooks can even be(it's very pointless at this point in a chaser's chasing...11 years...but I can't just learn that and never ever look) and I'll still get suckered on occasion. It's at least getting a lot harder to sucker me out via a spc outlook the last 4 years I guess. I'm seriously slow in this regard. Over and over I will think a day looks like ass but let a higher prob SPC outlook talk me into it....and I will regret going! Over and over and over. And I'd never learn. Often those overly dynamic setups that you slowly learn SUCK more often than not. The other ones are those speed shear only setups that should support nice supercells. All you ever see are string bean barely able to hook supercells, that constantly tease and get undercut and long all the time. I learned to recognize some things long ago and only recently am I actually getting better at not being talked into chasing them. It's mostly because I already have this massive issue with fearing I will miss something if I don't go. Because I've thought days have looked like crap before and found out the hard way they did not. I've thought they looked like crap and gone chasing and seen great stuff too. Chasing really has a way of driving home a fear of missing things this way. You can never know unless you go. What I finally did just this year, 2010....was learn to NOT care and miss something I feared would happen. Hard to explain but I actually was at the point that I WANTED to sit out a chase AND miss something good. I had to learn to be ok with it before it happened and stay home. This was a trick. I spent 2006-2009 chasing like a madman because of the fear I'd sit out this or that day and it would be the day that went nuts. And I did this in that very very crappy stretch of chasing! Not a good combo I tell ya. Kept on thinking, ok I've chased so much stupid stuff, but the second I stop is the one that goes crazy...so I'd not stop. But nothing ever went crazy! Basically. And if they did I was blowing those days nicely anyway. Just weren't many days in that 2006-2008 stretch especially. This 2010 year I HAD to come up with some legit ok feeling on letting go of this fear crap. Hard when you really really really want to see crazy storms. But the fact I'd chased like mad with that fearset and was blowing the good days anyway....made it easier lol. I was like screw it, I'm chasing them all and blowing it when things are good anyway.
In this sense I think I truly know what an addict feels like. This is not a common use of that phrase in chasing either. Like "yo man I love chasing, I'm addicted." No, not a cool form of addiction in this sense I'm talking about here. A holy crap I have a big issue with fearing I will miss the days that go nuts. I think very few will even really get how much I mean this and to what degree I'm talking here, because I go and add the fact my soul income is coming from this at the time. That truly ramps up things. I want to see cool storms and at the same time I also really have to! All these days I'd do this on didn't even look great or even good many times. It wouldn't matter then. I would think they would suck, but I wouldn't be sure of it. So I'd go. I'd be far from home and see that yep, the day did suck! I'd hate myself the whole drive back home and wish I could do anything but be a chaser. In a very strong and serious sense. I hated myself for yet again being stupid and chasing when I didn't really like the setup but feared something working out. I then get home after a long drive, disgruntled and still hating that I'm a chaser in a legit serious sense. Not a typical oh that day sucked, I hate chasing sense. The I have a serious problem and I know it sense but CAN'T stop it when I know I have to. The next day comes and like a true addict....I'm back to being stupid and chasing something stupid. Heck in that 2006 year I wound up in Illinois, was that desperate. Having a whole year to chase any day you want, you really shouldn't have to leave the alley to chase in Illinois unless it looked crazy good and obvious. It didn't. Day sucked I get a motel room. Next day is a moderate further east. Hey I'm here I better keep Indiana honest that next day! (Indiana!) (I live in tornado alley and can chase all year!) By 5pm that second day in Indiana, it was over and a lost cause. Pissed off I was so stupid and addicted I drive from central Indiana back home to near Omaha that same night. Was home like 2-3 a.m. Only a true addict(bad sense here again, not a "hey I'm a cool addicted chaser man" phrase)....would then do the third day on another crappy setup in far northwest Kansas! Seriously I went to Illinois, then to Indiana the next day......then from Indiana to far nw Kansas the very next day(that is a gap)....all for crap...and it was obvious crappy pattern. But in a slow year you have to go go go to at least catch something! Right? No, there's no gaurantee at all no matter how much trouble you cause yourself. If I remember right, the day after nw KS I drove to Mobridge SD area for a bust too. Dumb set of desperate days, one small part of the bigger similar year.
2006-2008 I hit things hard hard hard with a serious addict issue ongoing. Afraid to miss something so go even if the day looks like crap. April 6, 2006 I got a decent to good tornado in ne KS. Around 120 chases during that year and the next 2 netted a half second tornado August 8, 2007, nighttime tornado March 28, 2007 and a far off tornado May 23, 2008. One quickly asks themselves, would you really drive 60,000 miles if you knew this is what you'd get LOL. Sure there were some other storms in there, but seriously not much. 60,000 or so miles...of......addiction STUPIDITY. That was such an unhealthy stretch of chasing for me. I chased them all, I was dedicated and was paid very little back by ol mother nature for the trouble. Bad setups and the worst part of all of it....the few real good setups in there I blew so bad. Because think about the days that panned out those years and I was chasing the extreme vast majority of them, surely over 90% of the alley setups. I've thought about that stretch with a very open mind and I think it's going to be damn hard for anyone to have a worst stretch that they also chased as much in. Especially when we're not talking a vacation based chaser that has to chase x time of the year. I could seriously add up the mileage since I keep it for taxes. It's around 60,000 miles, 120 chases for this and this for daytime tornadoes....April 7, 2006 through early 2009. I don't judge soley on tornado intercepts obviously but they can be a pretty fair indicator. That is a bad figure when one realizes it is off pick and chose chasing that many days and miles. Consider how much travel and expenses that is. During this stretch my soul income is coming off chasing too. Not a healthy thing to be doing! Not only are you busting/wasting time and money like a mad man, but you wonder what on Earth you are doing still letting the income side try and work out like it has been.
This year, 2010, I learned I could change my mindset in this fear regard. It started on April 22 I think it was. I really didn't want to just miss anything on purpose. I wanted to stay home when I saw issues AND be ok with it once I was wrong and things dropped tornadoes all over. The clouds that morning bugged me and caused me some concern, as I had no intention on TX. It's also tricky early in the year because you don't want to blow all your chase funds(credit card debt) on waste of days...which the early season really is known for. So anyway I sat it out and blew it by sitting it out, but I was honestly fine with it. I half thought that once I could do this I'd shake the bug of blowing the good days anyway. Like good things would come if I could get a handle on my fear of missing something issue. I soon saw the Wakita show, the Bowdle biggest beast tornado I've ever seen, as well as the Dupree tornado machine. I also sat out the high risk day in Oklahoma May 19th because recent outflow boundary setups never seem to have good results with them(either whole thing blows up, or recent/deeper colder air near them undercuts and grungifies things). It really did feel amazingly good sitting out those two "better days". In 2010 I felt a lot like I did in 2004. Seeing some great stuff AND being a bit below average chaser still in the process. For sure in 2010 as many days as I ended up chasing, I still fell in that below average area. I didn't feel as in a funk anymore though. I was also shaking those SPC talk me into chasing outlooks. God why do I even set my eyes on those outlooks. There's ZERO use in doing so but I do it anyway, then get talked into something I regret later! Probably a whole nother topic, like I guess half this book here should have been done in.
Here is another bad aspect of chasing, staying up too late the night before. In 2010 I've also gotten a little better grip on this issue. I always stay up late, looking at model after model, even though I know I have to get up early. I then also have an issue with falling asleep when I'm excited and knowing that I need to sleep soon. No worse way to get to sleep than to keep thinking how much you need to fall asleep. Here is the biggest problem with this problem. Wake up tired as all hell and that biggest factor to chasing....deciding to leave home for the target or not....is a whole lot slanted towards staying home and going back to sleep. If there is any distance and much of any question to how the day looks, if I'm also tired from getting like 2-3 hours of sleep(seriously), I not only find it so common to stay home when I should have gone....I even find myself going on real stupid stupid days. It's all on just how that morning sleep feeling is. Horrible decision making ends up being done...period. I don't learn well though. I would find myself staying up for the 1 a.m. SPC outlook for nothing more than to see them go crazy and share in the excitement/potential of the next day. It's an odd deal after you've chased for a lot of years and can forecast enough to get by. You will know reading the outlook changes nothing, but yet you read it and maybe stay up later for it too, just to like I said.....read something else exciting about the coming day. Just like all the new models you find yourself staying up for. The only thing I really hate there is extended stuff and how much time I will waste on those model runs. The rest, fine.
Poor road surfaces/types
I forgot bad roads while chasing. (Just scrolled up for a second and was reminded by the picture I included for this...doh) I drive the dumbest chase vehicle, a Mustang. I've actually chased in this car since 2001. 200,000 miles on it now! 90% chasing for sure. Before that was probably worse, a rear wheel drive Dodge Dakota that was a joke on mud. First year in 1999 was probably best in a Probe GT(heck just realized 2010 was the 12th year chasing, not 11th lol. I'm not scrolling up and fixing any 11 year references at this point, this thing is too long). Anyway, it doesn't take getting stuck many times before you fear it like the plague. The picture above was at least fun. April 2005 in southeast Nebraska. Just before that Randy Chamberlain and I went over one gravel hill onto muddy minimum maintenance. I barely backed back off it to the gravel. We take another grid and bam did it again. This time we appeared to be 1/2 mile or so from another gravel intersection. It was slime. It was rolling hills of slime. I let him bump the back of my car with his 4x4 Jeep to see if we could get out that way...I mean see if we could get me out that way. It worked fine on the flats and was just barely what you could call working on the inclines. He'd bump me forward a hair and that would send him sliding backwards. As I'd slow back down(from maybe 1 mph progress upward) he would have sped back up and bumped me again. Repeated bumping back and forth to get over that hill, only to have to go down another hill to do it again on the other side. And then yet another time after that. It sucked because you couldn't get any speed going down or you'd just go completely off. Well as you can see this muddied his vehicle up real good lol....my tires flinging mud.
I had to get a tow earlier that year too, heck maybe it was 2003. That little deal alone was interesting with a crazy drunk farmer. Thankfully Randy was again in the area chasing too and I reached him on my phone once I was stuck. Randy thought we should stop at a farm house, as the "good ol boys would love to yank a car out"....I disagreed lol. First off this happened because I was trying to get west through storms for the mammatus display behind them, since the storms sucked themselves. I was doing 55mph west on a gravel road in the rain, completely missing the whole "minimum maintenance sign". The crap I hit at 55 was worse than snow, right at the bottom of a hill. I would up about 1/4 mile into it, no idea how I didn't go off the side, stuck in an intersection ON TOP of the mud. Perfectly flat ground, my tires not sunk in one bit but just spinning like mad and not going anywhere. Literally if the car was idling the back tire was spinning ontop of this stuff. It was so bad when Randy found me he wouldn't even take his Jeep down there. Nothing like wearing flip flops and walking 1/4 mile back to the gravel. Anyway we stopped at a house near there, not because I wanted to try! Initially sane farmer "turns the corner" and is soon in our faces, yapping about everything under the sun and griping about Randy's "pager"(cell phone) and how he was from Omaha this that and the other. I was for sure we were about to have to fight this guy, he kept coming at us. He was perfectly normal at first. Problem was he was trashed, could smell it right away and more importantly we should not have been bugging him! Much like I was suggesting before Randy gave it a try. LOL I'm the last person to bug anyone. Hell I killed my car battery in Pittsburgh KS and wouldn't even ask for a jump....while actually being stopped at a gas station where I killed it looking at data(bad battery). I had jumper cables and still wouldn't bug anyone lol. Called around for tow service, someone who expects to be bugged/paid. Anyway back to the mud deal. We got out of there and drove to town where I called for a tow, much like I had wanted to do from the start. I got to ride back out there much later by myself with a very nice tow truck driver, who was also trashed. It was a weekend night I believe and they are just on call, so you know. Least he was really nice. I told him it was quite possible we'll be shot at while we are out there getting my car out of that. It's just a real crappy feeling/situation being stuck anywhere far from home. It is not hard to accomplish while chasing non-paved road networks.
I also nearly got stuck on the Fort Dodge Iowa tornado in 2004. I thought I was filming the tornado from good gravel as rain wrapped around. I go to back up and barely move. It was a slippery mess getting back to the highway. It was the same stuff your tires don't sink into and it feels more slippery than driving on snow. Other times you are racing rain cores on really bad roads. You know if the storm's core catches you before you reach pavement again, that you are screwed. It's really rather frequently GPS mapping of these gravel square grids is way off. You think ok I'll squeeze out another mile north as I get ahead of this tornado coming from the southwest and take that east option there. So you drive on up there and once there see that gravel grid on the GPS map is nothing but a grass trail behind a fence, through some farm field. Or it is minimum maintenance. Or sand. A chaser just learns to really fear anything other than main highways. Some states are at least a lot better with their paved county roads. Like they stay paved. Iowa is one of the states great at it. Nebraska not so much. At least in Oklahoma I've always been terrified of red dirt lol. I don't even think about it there. I wonder if I've ever once used Oklahoma red gravel. Tried some ranch roads in Texas Panhandle but not very far. Had plenty of fun in western/central NE on those things though.
I know I've forgotten plenty of bad things about chasing, but I really need to wrap this one up and move on to something else for now. Maybe there will be a part 2 for it later. For whatever reason I just felt like making a small list of some of the bad aspects to chasing, since some may not even realize the down sides and how extensive some things can be. I will take a wild guess and say I add a new part to this in its own deal on money and chasing.