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Travel Day - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Today was the first day of our Storm Chasing Summer Class. The class not only had me excited for the prospect of seeing some nicely developed storms, but also because it involved traveling to parts of the country I have never seen before and a road trip significantly longer and farther west than I have ever been before. I arrived at the ENR building at about 9am to cloudy skies and temperatures only in the low 60s (and dropping) so it was a chilly start to the day after reaching 92F in my backyard in Staten Island yesterday thanks to a late spring backdoor cold front.  Fortunately heading west meant leaving that chilly marine air behind, by lunchtime we would be looking at perfect weather with patchy clouds and a temperature near 80 degrees.
A little after 13:00z (9:30am EDT) we were making our way to 287 north and heading to our destination.
At 14z (10am EDT) we crossed the Delaware River and entered Pennsylvania as was made clear by the big signs for firework stores as soon as we crossed state borders. Not long after we made our first rest stop for a refill in gas and a short restroom break. The gas station restroom was much cleaner than my expectations, but it was not too surprising since the lady running the store clearly was running a tight ship. I say that since I took a picture of an interesting bag of potato chips and she immediately (and sternly) asked me if anything was wrong. I told her I would have no problem deleting the picture if she wanted to but she didn’t respond. I was already sticking out like a sore thumb and I was only a few miles from New Jersey’s border. 
We head north towards I-80 and then west on there. Along the way we watched the transition from a low cloud ceiling and misty/ cool temperatures to a typical summertime sky with a mix of beautiful cumulous clouds and some upper level cirrocumulus clouds.  When we first started heading into the hillier terrain around the NJ/PA border, the clouds covered the tops of the hills. As we headed west though the clouds slowly broke up and revealed a sky filled with clouds at so many different layers. The cirrostratus/cirrocumulus mix of clouds allowed for a faint 25-degree sun halo to form. It took me a while to actually spot it since I never realized how wide they actually are when the form since I don’t think I have ever seen one in real life.  It was very cool to observe some interesting weather right outside of New Brunswick. Unfortunately we did miss some nice storms in southern New Jersey and PA, but that was probably fortunate since that would have slowed us down a bit and we have plenty of time to see thunderstorms on the trip!
After traveling for about 2 hours without stopping, we take a lunch break at, a Cracker Barrel. I was pretty excited for this trip knowing that we would see some cracker barrels along the way so getting to eat their at our very first spot was pretty nice. I actually was still very full from breakfast earlier this morning and did not eat anything there other than the biscuits and corn bread, but they both were very good. I also had 3 glasses of water, which I knew I would regret (and did). The weather at this point was really beautiful and we definitely were no longer under the influence of that backdoor cold front.  
            There was interesting weather not too far away in Illinois with a spotter confirmed tornado warning issued near Peoria, IL. We later saw a pretty high quality picture of the tornado and saw that the reason why we couldn’t find it on the radar because of it was a landspot (it was basically just a swirling column of air, not something very strong or long lasting) but still very interesting since we were not very far from it.
A little after 21z (5pm EDT) we finally enter Ohio. Shortly after crossing the border I realized my seat had armrests. It probably should not have taken me 8 hours to figure that out!
We began to see Lake Erie influence our weather a bit as the overcast skies returned and temperatures dripped to the 70s (and eventually 60s) with a very humid feel to the air.
At about 21:40z (5:40pm EDT) I saw the 3rd Cracker Barrel of the trip (and in my life). I soon realized that what I thought was a rare treat was actually pretty common. This did not take a way from the fact that the Cracker Barrel we went to for lunch was the “Nicest Cracker Barrel I have ever seen”.
At 22:05z (6:05pm EDT) I note that a lot of drivers on these roads are on their cell phones while driving. It was the second person I saw using there phone as clear as can be. They were easy to pick out because they were going 50mph on the left lane. I guess that law is much more strictly enforced in my tri state area than the open roads of the Midwest (or maybe western Northeast Region to be more accurate).
At 22:19z (6:19pm EDT) after seeing 4 dead deer (and one dead raccoon) on the side of the road, I can finally check the deer off my bingo sheet. Honorable mention goes to the 4 (or maybe 5 since I lost count) tire blowouts we saw on the highway. I did not expect so see that at all.
At 22:54z (6:54pm EDT) I saw a fellow New Jersey license plate on I-80 near Cleveland as I attempted to take my eyes off of the scenery and look at some of our reading material. I ended up falling asleep for about a half hour and woke up when we stopped at a rest stop for dinner at 7:20. I was completely out of it since this was the longest stretch of the trip without stopping and I was tired from an already full day. After stumbling out of the car, I begin to wake up. I ordered a kids menu from burger king, which includes a complicated story involving the cashier girl having a hard time with her boss. She told me that she will give me my order cheaper because she says that she will be fired if she voids an order because of her new boss. I wish her luck with that since it sounded like she and her co-workers were under a lot of stress and ate my dinner. I received an odd Tom and Jerry toy that I named “Dubois” after an earlier conversation we had in the Scarlet van. I am actually sitting here now in my room still trying to figure out what it’s supposed to do.
We arrive at our hotel at the Comfort Inn in Fremont, Indiana for the night. The hotel has been very nice (no bed bugs to be seen thankfully!). The water pressure is a little weak, but definitely a perfect place to get a good night sleep and get ready for tomorrow.
So far the trip has been great and I am really looking forward to hearing the first forecast discussion tomorrow morning and possibly heading towards South Dakota for tomorrow night.

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