Sunday's highlights: slightly later departure from FLG + chasing/driving all day + more junk food = recipe for a late night!
Saturday featured monsoonal moisture covering the entire state. All that was needed was a mechanism - either "dynamics" or surface heating - to force lifting (and both factored in).
Sunday, the moisture was clearing out from west to east as the trough edged in. Thus, it looked as if the best chances for Tstorms would be east of FLG. Hence we were again driving eastbound on I-40 (after we had a long southbound detour due to a decision to close the connector ramp for roadwork on a Sunday). With our now-practiced "one eye on the road, one on the cell phone radar app, and the third eye on the Threatnet weather display", we chose to focus on a nice cell building due south of Holbrook. Today's lunch - McDonalds. No fancy route 66 cafe food for us. The cell we watched cycled though these stages: building, then decaying but with a new cell developing to the S-SE of the old cell.
We stopped near the southern entrance to the Petrified Forest NM (PFNM) to take photos and set up a RAWS. FABULOUS VIEWS!!! Reason? No pesky trees or buildings or mountains to obscure view. Also, we saw a pronghorn antelope, which was cool. Immediately to our south (20 miles maybe?) was our storm. Nice rain shaft, sound of thunder (but didn't see lightning). See pics of thunderstorm, and thunderstorm menacing students!
With a view to seeing the southern (developing) side of the storm, we headed E-SE via a gift shoppe at the PFNM. Two things: (a) this place gets the "grossest toilets" award so far for the trip. To speed things up, I went in the men's loo, and oh-my-god...I feel sorry for you guys; and (b) they had some large chunks of petrified wood outside with prices like $18K!!!
Onward ho. Trying to get closer to the storm, we took off down a dirt road (which did have a name). To our surprise, here out in the middle of nowhere, we met traffic, mailboxes at random locations, and houses with barking dogs. Boy - people really living off the grid!!! We stopped by one herd of barking dogs to watch the storm (slightly fearful that the dogs' owner might appear with a gun). Some of the students were more interested in some centipedes they found, but I'd be the last to suggest a change of major!
The storm really never quite built into the biggie we had hoped for. Problem was - that dryer air moving in from the west. At this point, it was either: drive east and chase other cells (all of which were moving away from us), or head back west, which is what we chose to do. As we stopped to get the RAWS, we decided to do a balloon launch, and again - the system failed us. We're still not sure what the problem is: software? conflicts on the PC? crappy hardware? interference? So many possibilities, but we haven't given up yet!
Heading back west, I think the strain of being jammed in the van endlessly driving for many days in a row was catching up to us! At one point, we were watching clouds near FLG, and shouting out things like "It looks like an alligator", "No, a frog", "No, a boy on a surfboard", all of which produced lots of laughter! No idea what was going on in the other van!
For dinner, a case was made to support the local economy, as opposed to eating at a chain, so we found ourselves at the Beaver St. Brewery. They were seated us in the pool room, which accounts for the pool playing photos (upper=me; lower=students).
The food and beer were deemed delicious! Spontaneously, the faculty decided that - after six days of non-stop classes, driving, talking weather etc. - a few "off" hours were in order. Which accounts for why students trickled back to the hotel - and submitted their forecasts - between 1 and 4 am. Of course, there might be consequences (in tomorrow's post).