You noted the part about the overturned RV, right?? Fortunately, it
wasn't us -- we were farther south of that area -- but severe weather is an RVer's nightmare.
last entry I mentioned there were severe storm warnings,
including the possibility of tornadoes, for the
Houston-Huntsville area the night of February 10. We took the forecast seriously
after hearing on the news that eight people were killed in Oklahoma that afternoon. A weather system
had developed that was unusual for early February: seasonal
frigid air from Canada was colliding with unseasonably warm, very moist air from the
south and east, spawning the type of tornado super cells that are more
common in the spring.
Nothing much was
happening in the Huntsville area when we went to bed around 10 PM but we'd discussed heading to the
nearby, more sturdy bathhouse if it looked like we might be in danger in our
5th-wheel camper during the night.
Well, it's harder to get out of a nice warm bed during a driving rain
than it sounds when you're awake and thinking rationally!
IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT . . .
Around midnight the storm hit the park with a vengeance. I
woke up after the rain began pouring down, missing any early signals
that the storm was imminent. It would have been so much easier to dash
over to the bathhouse before the deluge began.
I woke Jim up to tell him the storm had arrived and we should get over
to the bathhouse ASAP. He was groggy but made it clear that he wasn't
going to get up, period.
The roar of the wind and rain motivated me enough to get up, go
down three steps to the living room, and hunker down under my sturdy oak desk (that
sucker is heavy) -- but not quite motivated enough to get all wet in
transit to the safer bathhouse a couple hundred feet away.
Map from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center
I readily admit I was scared. I've never been in a hurricane but I've
had a tree land on my house during a tornado when I lived near Atlanta. It's
unnerving, to say the least. Here at Huntsville State Park our camper is surrounded by 80- to 100-foot pine
trees (next photo). There is still evidence of the destruction wrought by
Hurricane Ike's incredible winds five months ago; park personnel
continue to cut up and haul off downed trees, including a few in our
While I was under the desk I envisioned those news ferrets' photos you always see
of destroyed mobile homes after a tornado rips through the Plains
or the South. And here we were, camping in a unit made of even flimsier
fiberglass! I was frightened
during the high winds that greeted
us at Mustang Island State Park, but at least we weren't sitting under
any big trees at the beach during that storm.
So I remained curled up in as little of a ball as I could, under my
sturdy oak desk. I wasn't about to go to sleep. Cody snuggled close to
me. He rarely shows any fear of lightning or thunder, but he was mighty
alert that night (and probably wondered what the heck I was doing under
Jim finally came downstairs after about twenty minutes. The wind and
rain were still howling outside and he wasn't able to go back to sleep.
Fortunately, no trees had crunched our little abode (yet).
Wide-angle camera lens required to include the tree
I know Jim thought I was being a drama queen but I convinced him that we
should take Cody and make a run for it to the bathhouse. Since it was a
Tuesday and we were the only people in the Prairie Branch campground
except the hosts, we headed for the women's side (I knew it was clean)
and found a seat on the hard wooden bench in front of the showers. Jim
may have felt a little silly in the women's bathroom but Cody didn't
mind! As long as he was with us, he felt safe.
Of course, after we got over there it took all of about three minutes for
the wind and rain to abate and I was the one feeling a little
silly: had I over-reacted? When it appeared the worst was over, we
returned to the camper, dried off, and piled into our warm bed. I
finally got to sleep about 2 AM, wondering what the trails would look
like later in the morning.
In retrospect, I don't think that I over-reacted even though it turned
out that the storm wasn't terribly violent in our immediate area. It
could have been. Texas, like other nearby Plains states, certainly gets some nasty
winds and tornadoes. I think we would have
been smarter to get our butts over to the bathhouse as soon as the rain
and wind hit because we didn't know how bad the storm might be. Pine trees are notorious for having shallow root systems
and they are usually the first trees in the forest to topple under high winds.
In addition, these
been further weakened by Hurricane Ike.
I don't know how high the winds got that night in the park (research on
weather websites shows gusts of about 40 MPH in the town of Huntsville), but
it doesn't take a lot of wind to knock down whole pine trees or large
limbs that could have seriously damaged our camper -- and us.
As I ran and walked the park trails in the days following
the storm I picked up numerous limbs and branches so I wouldn't have to
jump over them the next time.
These were the only trees I saw that came down during the
I took that photo on February 12 (two days post-storm) on the CCC Trail on
the far side of the lake. This was part of the Rocky Raccoon
100-mile course. I know the trees weren't down during training
runs on the CCC Loop that I did before and after the race. I would guess there were other weakened trees that came
down throughout the forest during the storm that I didn't see.
We've been able to miss several winter snow storms on this
trip and now we have to watch out for dangerous early spring
wind storms. Once again, we were on the edge of potential danger
but escaped any harm. Whew!
That's not the type of adventure I seek. If I'm gonna die
getting hit by a tree in a storm, I'd rather it be out on a
scenic trail run in the mountains than sitting inside my camper!
The older I get, the less risk I'm willing to take with my life.
So I'll continue to lobby to either seek safety earlier or
skedaddle out of Dodge if we hear of another warm air/cold air
collision heading our way. I don't care if that's construed as
being a weenie. It's one advantage of living in an RV -- we can
pick up and take our house with us when we choose, sorta like an
armadillo or turtle.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
Despite what sounded like a deluge of rain during that storm,
only about half an inch was officially measured in nearby
Huntsville. It made a
visible difference at the park within just a few days,
however. Much of Texas has been in a drought this winter so the
ground and plants were very thirsty.
Raven Lake was noticeably lower between the time we left the
park in early December to the time we arrived in early February.
I took this photo of one section of the lake on February 4:
The rain from the recent storm has made a difference. The lake
level is a little higher from all the water flowing downstream
into it. (Perhaps more rain fell farther north?) The next
picture is at the same location along the lake on February 12,
two days after the storm:
The rain also brought out the armadillos!
Before the storm the soil was very dry in the park and leaves
were starting to wilt. Soon after the rains came, the armadillos
were actively rooting around in the now-soft dirt and leaves
along the lower Prairie Branch Trail near our campground for
worms and grubs to eat. This is my favorite trail in the park
because of its peaceful lake and wetland views.
As soon as we saw the disturbed leaves (below, which reminded me
of wild boar activity in North Georgia) and mud (above) on the
lakeshore we figured out it must be the armadillos. Park rangers
confirmed it. I thought maybe those phantom park alligators
disturbed the mud on the shore but rangers say they are still in
The photo above is from February 12. The trail wasn't like that
during race weekend when it was still very dry. The armadillos
kept it dug up the remainder of the month (light rain fell
several more times) and I had several sightings of the little
guys. I'll relate a funny story or two about Cody and
the armadillos in the next entry.
More and more tiny green leaves and flowers popped
up all over the park after the rain. The difference between the time we arrived
(February 2) and left (March 2) is interesting. For example,
here are two photos I took twenty days apart at the wetlands
near the lake inlet:
Marsh area on February 4 (above) and 24
Every day on the
trails brought new surprises. I usually had one of our cameras
with me to record some of the changes. [I've had some digital camera problems throughout this trip.
A new Canon 10-megapixel PowerShot had to go back to the store
when the lens stopped working properly; it was identical to
another one I ruined before leaving home and could not
return because it was my own carelessness). Then my old Nikon
7-megapixel Coolpix lens died recently and all I had left was
the old 4-megapixel Coolpix I used on the AT trek 3+ years ago. Good thing we
brought the old Nikons with us. Gotta get a new camera when we get
back home and I have a better internet connection to research
options. Fortunately all these cameras have been relatively
inexpensive compact digitals, not pricey SLRs.]
After a chillier start to our winter trip than we expected, we've really been enjoying all the sunny days in the upper 60s
and lower 70s this month in the Huntsville area.
Temps have been above average more than below; average is
in the mid-60s during the day and low 40s at night. We're glad
we made the decision to hang out here four for weeks.
Or maybe not. By the third week I was feeling pretty miserable,
couldn't sleep well, and wasn't able to get out and run, walk, and bike as much as I'd
planned. Was I sick or . . .
ALLERGIC TO TEXAS?
This is a post I sent to the internet ultra running list a couple days
I've been reading the posts re: people getting laid low with the
recently and commiserating because I've been miserable the last
nine or ten
days, too. My symptoms haven't been those of the flu, however. I
just had the cold from hell -- runny nose, lots of mucus, very
chest congestion, laryngitis, uncontrollable coughing, very
breathing -- not as serious as fever, chills, and aching joints
but enough to
keep me down. What's odd is that I rarely get a cold or other
illness and I
kept getting worse, not better, after a cold should have run its
It all began right after a nice 4-hour run at Huntsville State
Park in TX,
where Jim and I are killing time between Rocky Raccoon and MS
already been here for over a week with no problems. The trails
for running and cycling, the campground price is low, and spring
-- violets, daffodils, redbuds, azaleas, little leaves popping
out all over!
I love spring, especially when it comes in the middle of
why we aren't home in VA right now.) We figured Huntsville SP
would be the
ideal place to train for the MS 50, as the terrain is similar.
Bright yellow jessamine (L) and purplish
redbud flowers (R) contrast nicely with dark green pine needles.
Since my cold developed, however, I haven't been able to run. My
too congested to breathe that deeply without going into coughing
I've been walking or cycling about an hour a day the last nine
Afterwards I've felt worse, not better. But staying in the
camper all day
when it's so pretty outside would just drive me bonkers. I have
a race to
train for! I haven't done any really long runs since ATY eight
weeks ago so
I've been trying to gradually increase my miles to prepare for
this race and
the ones beyond.
With inadequate miles under my belt the past week, however, I
withdrawing from the MS 50. It's only ten days away now.
This morning I had had enough of feeling crappy and worrying
about whether I
was going to end up with pneumonia or something. After the sixth
night sleeping in a recliner (so I could breathe) and my throat
increasingly raw, I knew I had to see a doctor. That's not easy
traveling. It's even harder when you have a brand new insurance
after being with the same one for 30 years. But we finally
located an urgent
care center where I could go without an appointment this morning
insurance will pay as if it's an in-network provider.
After listening to all my medical history, current history
running at Huntsville SP), and symptoms, the doctor looked into
my nose and
throat. "Oh, my!" she exclaimed. "You don't have an infection,
My response: "So I guess I'm allergic to Texas!"
She laughed and said that was close. "You're allergic to
whatever is in the
air at the state park right now."
New little red leaves almost look like
flowers on some of the trees. They'll turn green eventually.
The doctor explained that this is the time of year in southern TX when
medical offices with allergy symptoms. I used to have mild
reactions in the spring when I lived in Atlanta (which sometimes
outrageously high pollen counts) but nothing like this. I never
OTC medications to handle them. I briefly considered allergies
when I first
got this crud but really thought I had some nasty bacterial
was getting worse.
This is a good news-bad news situation. I'm glad to discover it
viral or bacterial infection because Jim might have "caught" it,
too. And I
pride myself on staying well and would hate to admit that a cold
But an infection would be easier to clear up once and for all
allergy will be. I have concerns about what this means to my
running -- not
so much short term, but in the long term. I know some people
develop new or
worse allergies as they get older. What if I'm allergic in the
longer, no matter where I am? What if the meds don't work? What
if I have to
limit the time I'm outdoors? I live (not a typo) to be outdoors
walking, cycling, gardening, whatever. Just don't coop me up!
A type of phlox along the CCC Trail
The doc prescribed some meds to combat my new allergy(ies) -- a
shot in the
butt at her office to kick start the treatment, a prescription
antibiotics (generic Z-Pak), and an OTC generic version of
Afrin-D (decongestant), for which you have to show a driver's
license (used to make meth or something??).
It'll be interesting to see if they work as fast and as well as
they will. She said there should be noticeable improvement in 24
hours. I don't know if I'll be able to get in another long
the MS 50 but I've decided to remain in the game. My goal is to
through the 50K as best as I can. At least the time limit is
generous so I
can walk if I have to.
If you're a seasonal allergy sufferer or have professional
of same, could you respond on or off-list to let me know how
your running? I hate taking meds so I'm curious to see if these
help me get
back outside comfortably or just exacerbate the situation. This
doc isn't a
runner but she seemed sympathetic to an athlete wanting to
(we didn't get into the "ultra" part of running, just running).
Meanwhile, it's 76 degrees, sunny, and I'm itchin' to run but
haven't kicked in yet . . .
CORRECT DIAGNOSIS AND A FAST CURE
Well . . . knowledge is power and allergy drugs are
By evening I was already beginning to feel better, in part
because I finally knew what was wrong and could stop worrying. I
was still coughing too much to sleep in bed, but it was my last
night in the recliner.
I was almost a new woman within 24 hours. The meds worked quickly to
significantly reduce the congestion, coughing, runny nose,
and other symptoms. I could breathe so much deeper the next day
that I was able to run well for over an hour with Cody. Running
had been nearly impossible for over a week. If only Jim or I had realized sooner what
the problem really was it would have saved a lot of discomfort
and money (my insurance "covers" the medical bills, but it will
be applied toward my deductible = it will come out of our
Another beautiful sunset over Lake Raven
I got some great responses both on- and off-line from other ultra
runners who regularly deal with allergies and have found
acceptable coping mechanisms (mostly drugs). Joe Lugiano made a
great observation that makes a lot of sense to us, one of those
"ah-ha!" moments: "Usually
you adapt to whatever allergies are in your region but since you
guys are in new places frequently you will not be adapted to
With that in mind,
we'll keep some saline nose spray and a good decongestant with
us at all times when we're traveling around the country,
especially if we return to this area again next February for
Rocky. And if
we get any symptoms that mimic these, we'll think "allergy"
before "cold" and treat for an allergy first.
Next entries: conclusion of our memorable month at
Huntsville SP (more stories, observations, and photos)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil