Chase trips - are you as flexible as you can be?

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by Dan Robinson, May 22, 2018.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    We've discussed at length the best times to schedule a fixed-date chase vacation (which is the last half of May). But as we all know, the atmosphere operates on its own schedule - it simply does what it will, when it will. We can't change it, and it certainly will not change to accommodate us. So, to successfully see its displays, we must mold our schedules to that of the atmosphere's - that is, chase when good patterns present themselves. To preface this, I understand that many are bound by family and job obligations and the prospect of chase trip flexibility is simply impossible. If that's you, this post isn't directed at you at all. For others, I get the impression sometimes that *some* additional flexibility might be attainable, but might not be considered to the degree it could be.

    Some of this boils down to personality. Some are of the type to be in complete control of their day-to-day lives, planning every hour or day in advance. To deviate from this is to introduce uncomfortable chaos, and is unacceptable. I know several people like this who have wanted to go chasing with me, but they always back out because there is something going on that week that they don't wan't to postpone. I'm not talking about a wedding or the birth of a child, I'm talking about things like cleaning the gutters out on their house that Saturday, defrosting the freezer, a dental appointment, picking up a suit from the cleaners, or some other errand or chore that they want to get done. "Can we leave a couple days later so I can get this done first?" some say. I respond with "I wish that were possible, but the atmosphere doesn't wait". In the end, they choose not to go, simply because it interrupts their rigidly-planned routines.

    Surprisingly, some of these same people tend to complain after the fact that their chase seasons have been bad. I say no: A truly bad season (like 2006, 2009 or 2018 so far) is rare. Tornado season is April-May-June, and almost every year, there are good patterns during that timeframe. The main reason most have "bad" seasons is because they don't go when the atmosphere says it is time to go. Again, I know, for some, this is completely out of their control. For others, I believe it might not entirely be. Let's take 2012 for example. 2012 was in fact an excellent season, for no other reason that it produced one exceptional day on April 14. What more can you ask of the atmosphere? It gave a nearly perfect tornado setup, with days of advance notice, and it produced!

    What are the reasons you hear for missing days or systems like April 14, 2012? Some are valid. "I couldn't get off of work". "My son had a little league game". Others, not so much. "I had a big to-do list at home that day". "I had a dental checkup that Friday." "I wanted to get my 10-mile run in that afternoon and didn't have time for the flight". My question is: what's wrong with postponing the to-do list for the next weekend? Or calling up the dentist and saying " I need to reschedule my appointment" (even if they charge you $50 for the missed date)? I expect the non-chasers I know to not care enough about seeing a tornado to rearrange their lives around them in the spring. It's puzzling though to see some chasers, who presumably *do* care, not willing to make the adjustments.

    Everyone is different, and maybe getting the to-do list at home done that day really is more important for some than seeing a tornado. It's not wrong to be that way, and I'm not being critical of you if you are. To each their own. But don't expect the atmosphere to be so generous in giving you great storms & tornadoes when you don't do the one necessary thing: simply being there when it happens. Other hobbies have similar dilemmas: the bird or wildlife migrations/flocks that only happen at a certain time. Solar eclipses. Heck, even fireworks over a city on the 4th of July. If you want to see amazing things in the world, you have to go there when they happen, not when it's 100% convenient for you. If you're always missing it because of the to-do list at home, maybe the "bad seasons" you keep having might rest more on you than on the weather.

     
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    #1 Dan Robinson, May 22, 2018
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  2. Jeff House

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    Oh I know the excuses are amazing! OK I'm venting a little, but I cannot believe some of the things potential chase partners have to do. Then they act like I'm bothering them after they asked to go. No it don't work that way. I got other chase partners and if they don't know, they don't go!

    OK, OK, Dan is trying to start a positive thread here. First step is set up a floating vacation request at work. Most managers understand, even if they are not into weather. They usually do understand fickle nature in general. Next try to keep the personal calendar generally clear in May (or some other 3-4 week period). Only agree to things with condition, not storm chasing. Finally there will be major things one simply has to do, graduations, weddings, performances, sports. Just try to keep them at a minimum. Two closer together is better than spread out at 4-5 day increments, virtually guaranteeing no chase. Some years, unfortunately, the one event will be during the one chase. Most years are not as wretched as 2017 and 2018 though. Two or three chances typically come up.

    That said, exceptional sequences are generally 3-5 years apart. This hobby demands flexibility if one wants to see a really special show, 3-4 cycles and 60-90 total tornado minutes. Even a 10-15 minute single tornado requires one drop the dry cleaning BS, lol!
     
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  3. Dave C

    Dave C EF1

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    I can agree, having had chase partners who will not get themselves into flexible scenarios. I also know several people with no jobs who chase literally everything and probably think I am inflexible.

    I'm somewhere in the middle, having chipped out a tenuous ability to leave work on moments notice during the 6 or so weeks of prime storm time each year, and maybe get out afternoons for local excursions outside of that window. It really isn't always that easy for my peers to arrange at their work, and it took some clever thinking to get it done for myself. Some managers understand, some do not. In some industries bosses want people predictable and working. My best advice is pencil in the days during the weeks you expect to use them ahead of time, and try to slide the dates around as needed during the season. At least managers in certain industries can work knowing roughly when they will be missing a person or a certain job slows down.

    Regardless, in my brief storm photography career it has helped to be flexible and keep trying. I've been at it since 2012, arguably the start in a downturn of good storm/tornado years if you ask some. I've seen some pretty sweet tornadoes, structures, lightning, and atmospheres but missed a lot too.

    For me, flexibility is important, but not just the kind practical flexibility you are mentioning- I think people should change their chase goals so that they have fun and success without seeing tornadoes. Structure, road trip sights, etc can all be fun. I'll admit in a year like this year, you might as well see blue sky as grey mush (except for Tescott, KS) and it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to call the miles fun when there is almost never a reward in line with the primary goal and all your enjoyment comes from secondary entertainment.

    As for commitment level and dates flexibility- people who want to be out there will find a way to at least make it sometimes. Jobs, families, etc. are real reasons not to be out there. People who make other lame excuses for anything and refuse to commit have no right to make a complaint later.
     
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  4. Jeremy Perez

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    I haven’t experienced a potential chase partner waffling due to nitpicky personal agendas—my daughter is the only other long-haul chase partner I’ve had and she knows the workflow by this point :) I definitely try to build in flexibility to increase odds of hitting the best time frame. Not everyone has flexible vacation options from work. And that (plus important family matters) definitely qualifies as a hard barrier to getting out there at the right time. I do what Jeff was describing—try to keep the calendar light toward the end of May/early June. If climatology & forecast looks promising in the week or two leading up (not this year), I try to balance opportunity with good will by asking coworkers to avoid scheduling things during that time. But if something critical needs to be hammered out, then schedule must-have discussions for early morning so I can join meetings remotely while I’m hopefully not in chase mode. A lot of people don’t have a work situation that will let that happen though.

    But yeah, dentist appointments & other mundane/reschedulable things definitely get rearranged. For some folks though, I think that a very rigid, weeks-&-months-in-advance schedule is the key to holding their lives together. Break that, and it discombobulates their entire groove. Improving storm chasing odds in those cases just may not be an option.
     
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    #4 Jeremy Perez, May 22, 2018
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  5. Robert Forry

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    Most of what I hear is "lack of finances" and "we had prior plans." I totally get those both, but I always make sure I have enough money saved and clear my schedule in April, May and June.

    The financial part is the first priority for me, followed by making sure things are taken care of ahead of time at work. No dough, and no time off equals no chasing... Regarding the "prior plans" thing, family and friends know now not even to bother asking if I'll be available anymore. They already know what they're going to hear... "yeah sure, I can do that, but if there's a set up, you know where I'll be." Heck, I don't even schedule schedule seeing any rock shows during that time.
     
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  6. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    For me, I made a choice that resulted in less flexibility to chase every time I want, but after the issues I had first in the 2 years after Active Duty, and 2015 when oil crashed and it killed my income, I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck (and not being able to chase because I was getting crap pay and was barely scraping by). I accept that I'll miss a majority of the good setups for the foreseeable future (unless we have another 2015 where they line up on weekends). It's the price I pay to remove a large amount of stress from my life (and the associated health issues that long term stress tends to cause).

    I know I'll never have the numbers that most have who have chased as many years as me has under their belt. I made bad life decisions in an effort to "keep up with the Joneses" of the chasing world and didn't rack up any numbers to speak of to even compensate back years ago. Not anymore. I generally chase solo though so I'm also not impeding on anyone else's plans if I'm not able to get out.


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  7. Jeremy Bower

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    My chase opportunities are somewhat limited due to my job with the state of Nebraska. I can't complain too much. I'm well respected apparently for my meteorology knowledge, I get all the major holidays off paid, and I have a decent retirement to fall back on. Not too shabby. The steady 8 to 5 job is not exactly optimal for chasing as it pretty much eliminates most of the opportunities that come up. I'm able to chase for about one to two weeks a year in terms of a chasecation but most of my chasing will be localized on weeknights or weekends. Hopefully within the next few years I'll be able to have longer vacations so I can chase more. Last year I only chased one week and took two weeks off in November to go to Hawaii with my wife...not exactly complaining there.

    I've made it a habit not to compare myself too much to other chasers' successes. All I know is that will leave one unhappy and borderline depressed most of the time. It's a fun hobby and I do the best I can with what I can. Leoti...*sigh* Just kidding.
     
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  8. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    FWIW, I've been averaging 5-7 Plains chase days per year, mostly during two or three short trips. I don't even use half of my PTO on chasing. Point being, if you go when the pattern's good, you don't have to have a lot of days off available - just being able to shift when you take them matters the most.
     
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  9. John Farley

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    We had tickets to Crosby, Stills, and Nash at the Sandia Casino amphitheater in Albuquerque on what turned out to be the day of Campo. Were it not for that, I probably would have chased with a target of northeast NM, and could have easily made it. Watched it unfold and more or less sit there for hours before we left for the show. Have kind of avoided May shows since then. That said, it was a great show in a great setting, with the sunset lighting the Sandia Mountains as a backdrop to the performers. So I am not complaining. Well, not much anyway. ;-)
     
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  10. John Moore

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    I am mostly retired so I generally have few time commitments. But, I also live in the Phoenix area, which is at least a 10 hour drive from the nearest tornado territory - or at least, supercell country most of the time. The other problem is chase partners with time commitments. Finally, I do not want to do long drives alone - both for personal safety and because I dislike it.

    So, at the moment, I'm sitting at home. If I lived in the Midwest, I'd probably have been out once or twice already.
     
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  11. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    That's the tough part on my end. While I do have *some* flexibility, I can't take just one day off. I have to take an entire 3 day run off (that's about a $600 hit on my paycheck). I also need to have arrangements made a week in advance, which eliminates spur of the moment setups. But, like I said before, that's the sacrifice I made to ensure financial stability and not having to work until the day of my funeral, and still have a job that I don't absolutely hate.


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  12. JamesCaruso

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    Dan, thanks for starting another good topic for discussion.

    Agreed that some people may let meaningless things get in the way of chasing. But I would venture to guess most of them are not serious chasers.

    Aside from that subgroup, this is going to vary widely based on each chaser’s unique situation, probably mostly defined by work demands, as the family events are more likely to be one-offs as opposed to annual conflicts.

    It took me many years of fixed vacation commitments until I got to a point in my professional career where I had some flexibility in scheduling a chase trip. But I have too much responsibility to be completely flexible. My strategy now (which I have posted in other threads) is to set aside a three week “window” for chasing - generally the last two weeks of May and the first week of June. I always want to be home for Mother’s Day though, so that could knock out a weekend. For example this year my window was May 14 toJune 3. However, I can realistically only be away two consecutive weeks - both from a work and family perspective. So if “Week 1” of the window looks good, I head out, and my trip will be “Week 1” and “Week 2” of the window. If Week 1 does not look good, then I wait and use “Week 2” and “Week 3”. Normally once I am down to only the two weeks left in the window, I will head out no matter what, even if it doesn’t look great, as long as it’s not a complete blue sky death ridge. Of course, I could theoretically end up chasing from the middle of Week 1 to the middle of Week 3, but I prefer to start and end on a weekend if possible because it makes for a longer trip: usually I can squeak out extra time by leaving on a Friday (maybe even flying out on a Thursday night after work) and returning two weeks later on a Sunday. But if the first potential weekend of the trip does not look active, I will usually stay home and start the trip on a Monday; no reason to miss the weekend at home with the family for no reason. The hard part is when Week 1 looks “OK” but not *great*: Do I go for it, or let it ride for a potentially better pattern later? As you can see, with this strategy I am chasing no matter what in the middle of the window - “Week 2” - so it becomes a decision of whether to trade Week 1 for an unknowable outcome in Week 3 (remind anyone of the old game show, “Let’s Make a Deal”?)

    In a year like 2018, I have already shifted my window into a “Week 4,” which I can’t necessarily do every year. My original window was May 14 to June 3 this year, but obviously neither of the weeks of May 14 or May 21 looked good. So now I am looking at starting the week of May 28, and have extended my “window” into the week of June 4. However, assuming it is worth heading out next week, it is going to have to look pretty good for me to stay out there past June 4, because I would be missing a family event on June 5. In any event, I do not have that entire extra week of June 4available to me because of a family trip beginning June 8. I was able to at least add a few extra conditional days into my window this year, but my total trip will end up being less than two weeks (if I get out there at all...)

    The whole concept of these multiple short trips that Dan talks about is not appealing to me. For one thing, having to fly from the east coast is much more of a hassle, and I just don’t want to have to do it more than once. Not to mention it’s expensive, although I do have a lot of miles to use from frequent business travel earlier in my career and also from an airline miles credit card. But the main thing is, I enjoy the cadence of a two-week chase trip. It feels more like an adventure, being on the road for that long. I get really immersed in it, almost like I am a totally different person for two weeks. Two individual one-week trips might be OK, but still obviously more trouble and expense than just one contiguous two-week trip. If my current remaining window in 2018 only features one week of decent activity, I would consider going out for a separate additional week later in June, but with Father’s Day and other family events it’s going to be tough to find a decent stretch.

    Having said all of this about my strategy, it is somewhat stressful to maintain flexibility, and I sometimes think I would be better off just picking two weeks and setting it in stone for better or for worse. When I maintain a noncommittal flexibility, my boss and coworkers don’t think of me as definitively scheduled to be away at a particular time, nor does my family, and it becomes more likely that I’ll get sucked into something that arises unexpectedly and then I may not be able to leave when I want to. I am always on edge and anxious, worried that the longer I wait, the more can go wrong to keep me at work or at home, and the less likely I am to actually get away. When I finally decide to hit the road, it becomes to family and co-workers almost as if I’m leaving suddenly and without warning, even though I previously informed them of my “window”. If it was scheduled more firmly and with more certainty, less can happen to get in the way. It’s also hard to keep my work calendar free from meetings and commitments for a solid three consecutive weeks. So that’s the downside of my strategy. This year in particular, I feel like I am in limbo, still hoping to get away and not fully engaged in my work as I remain preoccupied with if/when I am heading out.






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    #12 JamesCaruso, May 23, 2018
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  13. Quincy Vagell

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    This is somewhat related. One of the main reasons why I almost exclusively chase alone is that I don't have to answer to or rely on anyone. People's plans and minds change and if I'm chasing alone, I don't have to worry about any of the what-ifs that come with chasing with others.

    Early in my chasing career, I used to chase with others more often than I do now, but a few experiences with a clear lack of flexibility swayed me away from that.

    There was one time in which I missed much of a tornado outbreak because the chaser I was staying with wanted to sleep in the day of the event. Staying at their family's house, there wasn't much choice, I didn't want to be rude. However, my chase approach is that I almost always get up early on a chase day (without an alarm) and I try to get into position as early as possible. You never know when traffic or construction may slow you down, storms end up developing early or you have to significantly change your target in the moment.

    Other times I've chased with those who are very picky about food options, hotels, etc. When I'm chasing, I'm focused primarily on storms. I don't mind visiting interesting restaurants along the way, if time permits, but going out of the way during a chase rarely makes sense. I'm actually picky with food myself, but I pack most of my own food. It saves money and time, but it's also healthier than relying on fast food. For lodging, I don't stay at the worst hotels, but I also don't limit myself to 5-star establishments. As it is out in the Plains, sometimes you are hours away from a relatively big city, so options are limited. Part of the reason why I'm able to chase so much is that I try to be efficient with finding good hotels that are inexpensive. I also joined Wyndham Rewards and I know that the vast majority of their properties are good, plus the points add up quick. When it doubt, I'll check and cross-reference reviews online.

    Going back a bit to more of the original focus of this thread...
    I agree with @Dan Robinson about how people have different personalities. Some people are very flexible and adaptive, but others need more control and order in their days. The way I chase is that I often don't know exactly where I'm going until a few hours prior. As we all know, the location where we expect to chase the following day can change drastically. Sometimes what looked like a good chase day will just evaporate last minute. This doesn't work well for many people. I've also come to accept that some people just have trouble committing, where seemingly small plans or changes in their days can cause them to back out of past commitments. When I make plans, I stick to those and don't back out unless something major comes up, or in the case of weather, the pattern simply becomes unfavorable for worthwhile chasing. If anything, I go out of my way to make chasing possible, not the other way around.

    Overall, I think that a large percentage of the storm chase community is flexible. You kind of have to be given how fickle and complex the atmosphere can be. Another takeaway from this thread is to be emotionally flexible. Weather patterns can get you down, but try to stay positive and look forward to the next chase. After all, sometimes it's the days that appeared uninteresting that ended up producing great storms/chase memories.
     
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  14. Brett Roberts

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    What relatively new and/or infrequent chasers sometimes lose sight of is that even modest differences in priorities, flexibility, and stress tolerance between two individuals can lead to extreme frustration on a chase -- nevermind an extended, multi-day chase outing.

    What often happens when two or more poorly-matched individuals chase together is that the more aggressive person (the one who will make major sacrifices just to maximize the chances of seeing a good storm, even on a questionable setup) is forced to concede his or her priorities. The social pressure, especially in larger groups, tends to go in the direction of "c'mon, man, it's just storms -- let's not (sacrifice family time/waste money/etc.) unless it's really worth it!" This is why I also tend to chase alone, despite really enjoying successful chase days with others.

    The irony in this mismatched scenario is that the more casual chaser/passenger often doesn't even realize what frustration he/she is causing, since they don't see chasing as worth that kind of anguish in the first place! I've learned this over the years: if you're a really serious chaser who spends thousands of dollars and dozens of hours during the off-season preparing to maximize your chances of success, it's almost never worth putting someone in your vehicle who has little to no such investment in the outcome of your chases. </buzzkill>

    To be clear: while I've more often found myself on the aggressive side of the mismatch, I've once or twice been on the other side, having to begrudgingly continue pursuing a squall line at twilight 6 hours from home. This just goes to illustrate that it's not about one person or group being right or wrong -- it's simply a matter of taking your own vehicle and making your own decisions if you're serious about chasing and have the ability to do so.
     
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  15. Jeff House

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    I would add chase partners should have similar risk tolerance in both of two separate categories. First what Brett/Quincy say, risk tolerance of marginal setups disappointing should be similar. Second, safety risk tolerance should be similar. None of us take crazy risks, but some like getting closer than others. That has to match too.

    In the latter safety tolerance, it can be solved fairly easily with two vehicles. Pair, or even group, is pretty much together the whole time from lunch/nowcast through cell selection. Split up to document. Rendezvous again for dinner/drinks.

    Experienced chasers do have the option to go alone. I have done it but it was not much fun. Like Brett says, it is simply better with a like-minded chase partner(s). Intercepts are more exciting with company. New chasers should always go with at least one other person.
     
  16. Alex Elmore

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    I am very fortunate that my wife is also a meteorologist and is passionate about storms and chasing. More importantly, in our 6 years of chasing together, we've never had any major disagreements in terms of target area, storm choice, or chasing strategy when on a storm. If a difference of opinions does arise, we've always been able to maturely logic through it and come to an agreement. We have teamed up numerous times with others to go chasing, but it is becoming less and less of an occurrence as time goes on; mostly due to a lot of the points already touched on in this thread. There are those who have chased very little, if at all, who have expressed interest in going with us. We've made it perfectly clear that they need to be prepared for lots of driving and that we may need to leave at a moment's notice. They usually state that it shouldn't be an issue...until the time comes to go and they're either a no show/no call or had to do something that honestly could have waited (meaningless chores, duties, etc.). And this is for local chases, e.g., those where we just stray a couple hours from home and make it back before it gets too late. We don't even bother taking anyone (experienced chaser or not) along with us on our chasecations or chases where we'll be out for a couple days. Living out of a vehicle and hotels for days at a time can be strenuous. I don't want to have to worry about entertaining or taking care of someone when things get boring or they get tired of being out there (which is why I'll never be in charge of a tour ;)). This usually isn't an issue with those who have chasing experience, but there's been enough trouble in the past with differing opinions, questionable forecasting, and unsafe driving that it doesn't matter how much experience they have; multi-day trips with others are off the table. If I'm going to miss a storm in my own backyard or hundreds of miles away from home after spending so much time and money preparing to chase, it's going to be because my wife and I messed something up, not because a guest or partner did.
     
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  17. JamesCaruso

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    Reading these last few posts on compatibility of chase partners, I realize how lucky I am to have found a perfect match in temperament, risk tolerance, motivation, safety, etc. Of course we’re not 100% in synch on everything 100% of the time, but we are pretty darn close. He’s not big on forecasting, so I don’t get much resistance with target area selection. We tend to agree on most decisions in the field -cell selection, navigation, when to stay on a storm vs when to call it quits, etc. And we are usually of the same mind as to whether it is worse driving a certain distance for a marginal/conditional risk; some chasers will go anywhere for the most minor opportunities, but we do not and we make similar cost/benefit assessments. There have been times when we had different safety tolerances - one of us wanting to get closer, the other wanting to be more cautious - that actually tends to vary from situation to situation, it’s not that one of us is always inclined in one direction or the other. But it seems that we always end up counterbalancing each other. We have similar financial tolerances as well, in terms of how much we are willing to pay for hotels and restaurants. This is a guy that lives across the country from me, I only see him on chase vacations, and barely even talk or text with him throughout the year. Yet somehow we’re able to spend two weeks straight together and have a great time. The only issue is that he’s a little inflexible about deviating from his required number of hours sleep (not a factor on most days though) and seems to need shorter stints behind the wheel. But other than that it’s great chasing with him. The ironic thing is, I met him when I was going on chase tours back in 1996-1998, and I met two other people then also; the two others, and I, never thought this guy would last chasing, but he ended up being the only one of our group of four that continued on all this time.

    I really don’t like chasing alone. It’s so much more satisfying to share the experience with a friend and be able to talk about it afterwards, whether the chase was successful or a failure. Driving so many hours alone is just excruciatingly boring, not to mention unsafe because there are times I get very tired behind the wheel and need a break. And it’s unsafe to try to do so much in general, navigating, watching the sky, radar, etc.
     
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  18. Ethan Schisler

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    Hello everyone!

    This is a topic I can relate to. As Dan mentioned above most long time chasers have had to use the “excuse” of either family properties or job priorities. Myself included. I missed the Dodge City day in 2016 because I opted to work at a company project after being asked. Yes I felt horrible afterwards but I just chalk it up to life. We all make decisions that could have gone better. Otherwise the only other decisions I have to consider is school during the early spring (which I’ll be done in a few semesters, woooo!!!), or if I’m severely sleep deprived....I’ve only called off one chase because of that. I guess what I’m getting at is we have all had situations that simply don’t allow us to get out and chase storms. It happens, it’s life. I know we would all love to be out there for every setup but as mentioned on another thread, I’ve learned to become content with what I DO see.

    Another issue for me recently and it’s probably not entirely related to this thread is anxiety following 2 severe car crashes I’ve been in (neither my fault). Also dealing with some residual pain as well, which is another factor I have to consider. Even in my mid 20s I have a lot of health factors that play into my life and I’ll be frank, it sucks.

    It’s easy for me to get over the anxiety' if IM the one driving the vehicle but being in the vehicle with friends or other chase partners, I become extremely anxious almost to the point of being physically ill. It’s somrthing I’ve been dealing with the last few years and I’m not sure how to go forward with it. If anyone has anything on this and would like to help me I’d appreciate hearing it! Sorry this has been on my mind a lot and I thought this might be the proper place to post it. Have a good one!
     
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  19. Devin Pitts

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    My actual chasecations I have to schedule well in advance as it's incredibly difficult for me to take multiple days off with little notice. That said, work is at least flexible enough for me to take 2-3 days in a row depending on what's going on at the time(which is what allowed me to chase the first week of May and nab Tescott this year). One-offs are easy to do with little to no notice, but I have to take an extra PTO day just to cover the drive to and from alone for Plains trips as I live in Central IL.

    I've gotten quite used to chasing solo now though and I don't know if I can chase with a partner anymore. Along with being able to save money just sleeping in my car rather than paying for hotels, being able to leave when I want to, be where I want to, and position how I want to is extremely crucial to me now.
     
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  20. Jeff House

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    Devin I do like flexibility chasing alone. Experienced chasers can almost justify it, in that we know how to avoid weather trouble. However increasingly I'm with Ethan on the driving safety. Other drivers are just horrible!

    I might chase Dixie alone. Sounds ironic at first, awful terrain alone? Well, my biggest safety issue is other drivers not the weather. Dixie is less crowded. South population is more dense, but without the chaser herds traffic is lighter.

    The Plains I usually have one or more partners. Friends are still in Wichita plus a former KS coworker also lives in Tenn. We can roll out to the Plains. We generally mesh well, I guess because we learned to really forecast at the same Company.
     
  21. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    Very good points about chase partner compatibility. There are only a few people who I actually want with me. Much of that has to do with risk management. I'm not one to feel comfortable getting close, so there are a lot of people who would hate chasing with me. I figure after a decade in the army I tempted fate long enough, so I choose not to tempt it further.

    Even on a relatively short trip, personalities can clash and make it miserable to everyone. That's something I learned in the trucking industry.

    The last reason I typically chase alone is I'm very instinctive when in actual chase mode. The night before I'm very analytical in how I target, etc., but once storms go up I've learned not to ignore my gut. More than once I ignored my instincts to stick with conventional wisdom and got burned. A lot of chasers are too analytical even in chase mode to tolerate my snap decision-making so it's just easier to go alone, especially since I prefer to be in my own vehicle.


    Sent from my iPhone using Stormtrack
     
  22. JamesCaruso

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    Being flexible worked out well for me this year. I ended up staying pretty much within the original “window” I had set aside, but was able to avoid going out *too* early and having to jerk around for nothing while missing family and work stuff back home. Got to see my daughters’ play, spent one day at home with the family on Memorial Day weekend, and am now going back in time for another family event on Tuesday, which I was prepared to miss if necessary for chasing but clearly it’s not. So it was a short trip, but at least we were there for the good days of 5/27-5/29 and 6/1 (although they did not all work out good for us, but that was mostly our own fault except on 6/1) and did not waste a lot of time or money on either side of that stretch.

    Looking forward to the rest of this week - since I was scheduled to be off anyway, I arranged with my boss to work a reduced schedule this week, allowing me to avoid missing too much work while still enjoying some time off, a flexible schedule, and the chance to gradually transition back to real life before hitting it hard next week.
     
  23. Jeff House

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    Possibly I erred the other direction. I sat out a couple set-ups for marginal family events FEs. My rule is go sit-out chasing only for major FEs. This year I had 2-3 marginal FEs at the same time as marginal set-ups. Those are hard. Major FEs are easy, no chase. Major set-ups are easy against marginal FEs; chase. Marginal vs Marginal is 2018, and I so far have not taken chase vacation. It appears unlikely now.

    No August eclipse to save the year. Time to book the 2019 total solar eclipse in South America!
     
  24. JamesCaruso

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    The 6/6/18 Laramie tornado is another lesson that flexibility is great, but sometimes it’s better to just stick to a plan. You’ve got to just be out there and not try to be too “cute” with scheduling. It’s like they say with investing, don’t try to time the market or you’ll miss all the biggest increases or get burnt by the drops. In this case, I left the Plains too early (Monday 6/4) and regret it. Over the weekend of 6/3, I thought 6/6 looked good, maybe even having some pattern similarities to 5/27, but I didn’t feel like enduring two or three more down days until then. Plus the SPC and Cheyenne discussions didn’t look that excited anyway, particularly by the time Monday morning rolled around. Having a family event back home on 6/5, and my chase partner needing to get home as well, also influenced me not to stay. Now I somewhat regret it, although realistically what are the odds I would have been at Laramie anyway, when it wasn’t even in the 2% area and fooled a lot of chasers?

    It is yet another lesson though, about the importance of just being out there. These events are extremely rare and lots can go wrong with the atmosphere, a chaser’s forecast, or a chaser’s field decisions. In my opinion, there is far more often downside than upside. But one thing is certain, and that is we have ZERO probability of seeing it if we’re at home. I have to be more willing to put in the time and effort. I say that now but I know I’ll end up making the same type of decision again - whether it be to delay a trip, go home early, avoid driving too far for a marginal risk, etc. (And I’ll continue to feel I’m in the “wrong” spot if I’m not inside the SPC’s risk area...) But I told my chase partner we should at least try to keep events like Laramie in mind next time we have decisions to make, and if one of us is talking about going home early or not chasing, the other one of us should play devil’s advocate and bring up considerations exactly such as Laramie. We should be more willing to head out even if the pattern doesn’t look great, as we sort of did this year, but then we probably gave up too soon.

    If we had taken a full two week trip from 5/27 through today, and were more successful, we could theoretically have seen photogenic tornados on four different days (5/27 WY, 5/28 CO, 5/29 DDC, 6/6 Laramie), even in this terrible year, and I don’t think I can say that about too many other chase vacations in my 20+ years. Only the last half of May 2013 comes to mind, but probably not many others...

    I think overall I need to say to myself, I am out there to chase, it’s only a lousy two weeks, and not allow myself to get easily bored or sucked back in by work and family demands the minute the weather goes into a lull. Work is an easy one because if there’s no weather I could just work remotely, there is really no reason to rush back, I work remotely more than half the time anyway. Major family events or crises are one thing, but minor stuff should be able to wait and as the kids do more and more stuff, I (and they) simply have to accept that I can’t be at every single thing. I mean I’m really glad I saw my girls’ concert on 6/5 but that Laramie tornado could have been more of a once in a lifetime event than any single thing with the kids. Of course there’s no way to say I would definitely have seen it, so it’s a false choice in some regard and that makes it somewhat easier to deal with missing it...
     
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    #24 JamesCaruso, Jun 8, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  25. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    As tempting as it is to do otherwise, I'd be hesitant to change long-term chase strategies based on events like Laramie and Simla. They are exceptions that won't happen in 95% of seasons. And I can't even be confident that I would have targeted correctly on a day like that, as most chasers who were out there didn't (including many experienced long-timers). It's a visceral reaction in the immediate aftermath of one of these to stray from the fundamentals, but if you choose the upslope targets more often, chances are they will cost you great events like the Dodge Citys and Benningtons in "normal" years. Not that Dodge City was normal, but if you favor Colorado/northern Plains/June too much you run the chance of missing those more classic dryline events.

    As a "classic dryline system"-only chaser, I know I'm likely going to miss all of the Campos and Laramies as a result. I'm OK with that, because it means I'm going to get the Dodge Citys, Benningtons, Hill Citys, Mulvanes during the setups that are more reliable/consistent performers year after year.
     
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