This morning had an abrupt start at about 3am.
I was woken by someone knocking on my door-- not loudly, not just a one-knuckle tap, just a steady knock as though someone was just coming over for tea.
My first instinct was obviously-- I'm definitely not answering that, I'm alone. It's 3am for crying out loud! Then I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I turned on my phone to check the weather. Just as I saw the weather radar with a big red half-moon shaped cloud heading straight to Des Moines, a giant clap of thunder and lightning struck-- and close.
Sure enough. I looked outside and people were running to the concrete bathrooms nearby for shelter. Checking the weather app's alerts, I noticed not one, not two, but EIGHT WEATHER ALERTS! Flooding, watches, warnings, advisories, you name it. I believe I saw the words "extremely dangerous lightning and 60mph gusts" and "take cover immediately." But by the time I decided I needed to heed the warning, I was too scared to run to the bathrooms with everyone else. The lightning was already so intense it never seemed to get dark between flashes. The trees around my RV were swaying like toothpicks. My first instinct was to unplug the RV and drive away, since trees landing on fiberglass-shelled RV's usually win. But I wasn't about to go unplug my RV from the outlet in an electrical storm.
So I did the only thing I could think to do in my half awake state-- I curled up under the sturdiest part of the RV-- the steering wheel. It's the only part of this RV that is enclosed by metal, not fiberglass. I stayed there for about 20 minutes, peeking out the windows to check the trees and see if anyone was exiting the bathrooms yet. Then I saw a flashlight darting around inside the tent across from my RV -- I can't believe someone was in a TENT during that! I was scared out of my SKIN just being in an RV!
After the lightning began to subside and the trees finally started get still, I got even more nervous. I know from my previous tornado experiences that things get very still before one touches down, so I wasn't about to come out of my steering-wheel cubby just yet. Then I heard a giant crack and a giant limb fell to the ground about 4 feet in front of the RV. If I hadn't backed up so much into my spot that night, that would've defintiely have come through my roof and possibly hit me while I slept.
So about 4am, I attempted to go back to sleep with no luck. It's hard to sleep when you're still not sure whether you should take off your running shoes or not. I finally got back to sleep around daylight, but it also meant I woke up dead tired and still a little shaken.
I did all my RV chores and ate breakfast, realizing after the first bite that yesterday at the store they sold me six expired yogurts. Lovely.
I got behind the wheel to head to the Urbandale Goodwill® a little late to meet Mark Gard, but still excited to see what Iowans have to offer. As I turned on the radio and drove away, the first song that came on was "Tomorrow" from the movie Annie. I haven't heard that song in years and the sound of it brought memories flooding back. I loved that movie as a kid-- I even dressed up as Annie for Halloween. So just hearing it made it feel like everything was ok again. We can all take a lesson today from Annie.
So I got to Urbandale and loaded up my cart with camera gear. It's funny-- I always get looks and questions-- "Did you find that here???" I gotta keep my close or one day someone's going to try and check out with my D3!
I go straight for the t-shirts and Mark joined me, pulling out shirts that say this and that. He shows me a"<3 U DM!" on it. (Heart you Des Moines). It's awesome! It goes in the cart. Any and all local color and kitch gets me in the jugular.
There's lots of university wear-- both Iowa and Iowa State. But I'm also curious to see how much political swag from the most recent caucuses have made it to the donation pool. BINGO! I spot a Fred Thompson 2008 t-shirt in mint condition. I keep looking, but that's all the political flavor the thrift gods have to offer today.
I browse some more, the mugs-- the kitch, etc. I came across a heart shaped ceramic box with a rainbow on it and a small red heart that reads, "The sun will come out tomorrow!" I had this EXACT SAME CERAMIC BOX AS A KID! It is far too strange to have just heard that song and to come across this item. It's .99 cents. It goes in the cart.
I found a 79cent pair of aquamarine earrings I couldn't pass over, so I took a few last photos and checked out.
My friend Lori had seen on Facebook that I was in Des Moines and she was about to drive through, so we were able to meet for lunch and catch up on the last--what-- 10 years? It was great to see another unexpected friendly face along the way. This trip has been full of fun serendipitous moments like this.
I'd inteded to hit up some Madison County thrift stores today, but checking the maps, I could find only one sorta-kinda sounding thrift store who never answered their phone. I guess people in Madison county are too busy photographing covered bridges and having secret love affairs with Clint Eastwood to be able to donate much.
So instead I headed north to Clear Lake, Iowa. It's where Buddy Holly played his last concert and where I stumbled onto Village General Store, a cute little "used goods" store that benefits local mentally challenged individuals with services and housing. I also found something I'd never knew existed-- a tiny, ceramic, hand-shaped gum holder for $1. Who uses this? Are we really keeping our gum, people? Yuck! I guess someone will use it-- or at least someone HAS used it.
Then I stopped to do a video portrait of Merrilee and her daughter Stephanie who are perusing the aisles today together. Merrilee is an avid thrifter and volunteers at the store. She picks out some items for her daughter, who has come along a bit reluctantly today. She perfers to buy new clothes at Kohls and Hot Topic, but she's willing to come along with her mom on occasion. She's found a few shirts she likes and her mom has found a lamp for her bedroom. She likes to shop here because it saves her money and she loves to decorate.
The two talk back and forth like a thrifty version of Laurel and Hardy, coming across more like sisters than mother and daughter. It's fun to watch them interacting. They say they get that a lot from people, thinking they're friends or sisters.
Stephanie admits she's her mom's polar opposite when it comes to shopping since she doesn't hunt for bargains and prefers new clothing. She rattles off some of the recent items she's purchased, from where and how much they were and how much she spent in each shop. She likes to go to Mall of America.
I put the camera on the tripod in the cart and wheel it around as I browse-- it's cart cam time! I find some cool 19th century family photos up for sale, someone's crystal engraved achievement award from their work, a pair of leather Thai shoes, a pair of adorable size 12(!) blue and white polka dot heels and lots of bibles.
I have to say, if you have big feet like me, the Northwest and upper Midwest are your gold mine. I've never run across so many pairs of shoes that are TOO BIG for me! There are lots of tall, Nordic stock folks living up here and they have the shoes to prove it! It's a big-footed girl's paradise!
It's time to pack up my cart cam and hit the road again. I slid up I-35 another 40 or so miles and checked out a state park that was closed. So it was on to a KOA camp next to I-80 where I'm plugged in for the night.
Thank you, Minnesota. You're probably the only place in the midwest that I can be comfortable tonight without having to turn on the A/C!
Here's to a non-stormy night! At least I'm closer to the bathrooms this time.
Tomorrow-- Minneapolis/St. Paul and hopefully talking to a collector of thrift store taxidermy! Stay tuned!