Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lake Dardanelle, AR

After driving 278 miles between home and Lake Carl Blackwell to shuttle squirrels and birds around, we finally got the squirrels repatriated, and were ready to continue east. We really weren’t sorry to leave Blackwell. It’s a beautiful place, but the campground was filled with oil field workers who were up every morning between 5 and 5:30 am, cranking up their huge diesel trucks, and letting them run while gear was thrown in the back of their trucks. They weren’t bad company once we learned to get to bed plenty early, since it was obvious that we weren’t sleeping any later than they were.

Up in a finger of Pine Bay, Lake Dardanelle.
The weather had been threatening tornadoes every night since before leaving home. We had to keep a close eye on the weather, and Michelle, a friend of ours, was keeping a close eye on the weather radar for us. Today, we had tornadoes ahead of us, and more behind us, so we tried to just move at the pace of the weather fronts. By evening, that brought us to Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville, Arkansas, where they were still cleaning up from a tornado that hit the week before.

For just a little sidebar on tornadoes that I picked up from the show Raging Nature, Tornado Alley is the strip of the Great Plains running from Minnesota to Texas. There are roughly 1,000 tornadoes in the United States each year, more than the rest of the world combined, and 95% of those occur in Tornado Alley.

The next day still had us between two huge weather systems, so we went to the park’s Visitor Center to extend our stay an extra day. We were told our space had been reserved for people coming in for a crappie fishing tournament. Since the whole park had been sold out, we had to not only leave our space, but the campground as well. A Corps of Engineers park was only a few miles away at Pine Bay, also on the lake, so we backtracked west a few miles.

The morning mist begins to clear as we sit waiting
to see what the weather is going to do.
It started pouring heavy rain, and we had severe weather advisories all day. We went into Russellville to Wally World (Wal-Mart) for some provisions, and headed for Pine Bay in London, AR. We were blessed there with a perfectly flat and level campsite, so I didn’t have to stand in the pouring rain blocking and leveling. Heavy storms paraded through all evening, but they were broken by short spells of sunshine before the next one moved in.

Michelle called during the evening to warn us that a possible tornado outbreak was expected in our area for the next afternoon, so she suggested we set the alarm early, get on the road, and start making some miles to stay ahead of it. The weather service was equating them with the El Reno, OK, tornadoes of a year ago. Even without the oil field workers, conditions demanded we were “early to bed, and early to rise.”

Jean wondered about the safety of all those fishermen on the lake during a threat of severe weather, possibly tornadoes, but I‘m sure the tournament organizers had all that planned for. Besides, I pointed out that they were fishermen, who like golfers, won’t let hail, rain, tornadoes, earthquakes or the second coming get in the way of a good day’s fishing---or golfing. I went down to meet a couple of the stalwart anglers, who were members of crappie.com. When Michelle called, I told her we had gotten to Russellville and fallen in with a bunch of really crappy people. She was getting all sympathetic over our bad luck, so, for the benefit of her husband, Bob, another avid fisherman, I had to explain that I was talking about crappie with an ‘ie’, the deep-bodied pan-sized sport fish. Crappie.com is promoted as America’s oldest and friendliest crappie fishing community on the internet with 36,148 members. This tournament was just one of many they arrange at various locations to get anglers out on the water. For those in other areas, the fish is also known as a croppie, or kroppie.

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