Tag Archives: Caprock

Lightning, thunder = excitement

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Bear with me as I write briefly about the weather.

My wife and I long have had a fascination with explosive weather. We got a first-hand look at just how explosive it can get when in 1984 we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Beaumont proved to be a place where the lightning was extremely bright, was spectacular in its displays. The thunder it produced was noisy beyond belief.

And, oh yes, the rain comes in torrents, unlike in Oregon where it rains for three days before you even notice it.

Then we moved in 1995 to the Panhandle of Texas, the Caprock, along the Llano Estacado. They boast there about the lightning and thunder. To be honest, in our experience it didn’t measure up to what we saw and heard on the Gulf Coast.

We did experience a couple of baseball-size hail events that wrecked the roof of the house we built in Amarillo in late 1996. So, yes, we had our share of excitement.

Now we have settled in what they call North Texas, in Collin County, just NE of Dallas. It is storming as I write these few words. The intensity of the lighting and the accompanying thunder is beginning to remind us of our time in Beaumont.

It gives me a strangely pleasant diversion from the other things that usually occupy my time at the keyboard writing on this blog.

So my attention has been yanked away from the weirdness of the national and international news. I am fixated at the moment on Mother Nature’s sound and fury.

It will pass. Then I can think about the other matters that occupy my mind these days. Until then, I am going to stand in awe at the limitless power of our planet.

Ready for the best season of the year

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

You hear it on occasion: This is my favorite time of the year. My favorite season of the year. Most folks I know keep saying it’s the autumn.

Why? They’ve been through a grueling, boiling-hot summer. The cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from the heat.

That’s not for me. My favorite time of the year is about to arrive. I love the spring. In Texas, spring produces an unusual and often unpredictable series of events.

We have spent 36 winters in Texas. We came initially to the Golden Triangle on the Gulf Coast. Winter in Southeast Texas occasionally was, well, rather un-winterlike. We spent our first Christmas in Beaumont — in 1984 — lounging around in shorts and t-shirts.

Nearly 11 years later we gravitated to the opposite end of the state, settling for 23 years in the Panhandle. The winter there was, shall I say, more like winter in most regions of the world. It got cold … damn cold at times! We had winters with heavy blankets of snow. We also had one hideously dry winter that didn’t produce a single drop of precipitation.

We have moved to the Metroplex. This is our second winter here. It’s been a bit chilly, although not as cold as it often gets up yonder on the Caprock.

Spring is about to arrive. The grass will snap out of its dormancy. The leaves will produce buds. It’s a time of renewal. A time of rebirth. A time that will give way to the fruits and flowers of the season.

Spring in the Panhandle occasionally produces some explosive weather. The wind howls. The storm clouds swirl. It rains hard, man. It would hail on us.

The Metroplex occasionally produces that kind of frightening weather. However, I look forward yet again to the time of year when we spring forward and emerge from our winter doldrum.

It’s my favorite time.

Happy Trails, Part 162: Back to ‘hot and humid’

My wife and I are still in the midst of a wonderful journey through life. Nearly 48 years of marriage have taken us from Portland, Ore., to Beaumont, Texas, to Amarillo, Texas, and now to Princeton, Texas.

We’ve traveled a good bit, seen all but three of our United States and a good bit of the rest of the world.

Our final stop in Princeton, though, is reacquainting us with an aspect of our journey that we didn’t experience in our previous stop.

Humid heat is back in our lives.

We ventured from Portland to Beaumont in 1984, where we learned all about humidity; although I did live for a time in some sticky weather in Vietnam back in the day … but I digress. Take my word for it: You haven’t lived until you’ve gone through a Texas Gulf Coast summer with its requisite stifling heat and equally stifling humidity. I can speak only for myself, so I will: I did not ever totally embrace the humidity down yonder; I merely learned to expect it.

Then we ventured to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995. We spent 23 years there. The heat was the same as it was in the Golden Triangle. The humidity, though, was vastly different. Which is to say it’s the hackneyed “dry heat.” We broke an all-time record in Amarillo one summer when the temperature hit 111 degrees. But when the sun set at the end of that day, the temperature — as it does normally — fell to comfortable levels.

We grew quite used to that sort of high-altitude heat, given that Amarillo is perched atop the Caprock at nearly 3,700 feet above sea level.

Oh, but now it’s different.

We’ve migrated back to the “more humid zone” in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. It’s been blazing hot the past few days. Many more of those days are coming along this summer. And you can bet your sweaty armpits, the humidity has been brutal.

Has it been as rough as it is on the Gulf Coast? Hah! Nope. It is humid enough for me to gripe about it from time to time.

I’ve already boasted about my adaptability. I won’t belabor that point. I do plan to adapt to this new/old climate in Princeton. Hey, we lived in the Golden Triangle, for criminy sakes! This final stint — for the duration — ought to be a piece of cake.

You want big sky? Try this

AMARILLO, Texas — We came back to the Texas Panhandle — and got a look at this!

Let me be clear: I have talked already on this blog about how God gave the Panhandle the kind of sky that makes jaws drop. It is the Almighty’s payback for declining to give the region towering mountains and tall trees.

But I don’t care that you’ve heard it already. It bears repeating.

The sunrises and the sunsets are two of the reasons we enjoyed living here. They reminded us frequently that natural splendor isn’t contained in snowcapped peaks or endless miles of virgin forest.

Indeed, we moved to Texas in 1984 from a part of the country — the Pacific Northwest — that contains plenty of both tall mountains and tall timber.

We settled initially in the Golden Triangle along the Gulf Coast, where we were treated by thunderstorms that roared incessantly.

We ventured to the Top of Texas nearly 11 years later. Sure, we had our share of thunder and lightning. We learned early about Palo Duro and Caprock canyons. We discovered how you can lose sight of your location on that flat terrain called the Caprock when you ventured into the floors of those chasms.

That sky, though . . .

It ignited again tonight with the sunset that took my breath away. As a matter of fact, at the very moment I snapped this picture the voice on the radio made specific mention of that “gorgeous Texas Panhandle sunset.”

So, there it is. I’ve said it again. Who knows? There might be more to say the next time the day ends in such spectacular fashion.

Time to study up on local election races

I regret that I haven’t yet gotten up to speed on the political tides of Collin County, where my wife and I have lived since May.

An election is coming up. I have to get busy. Like … right away.

Our congressman, former Vietnam War prisoner Sam Johnson, is retiring. Rep. Johnson, a Republican, was held captive for seven years by the North Vietnamese, which is about a year and a half longer than the late Sen. John McCain was imprisoned.

I still hope one day to shake Rep. Johnson’s hand and thank him for his years of public service and sacrifice to the country.

I also need to catch up with the Republican and Democrat who are running to succeed him.

There’s also a whole lot of county races I need to understand.

And then … we have the Legislature. We’re going to have a new state senator and a new state representative elected from our part of the county.

I’m pretty well versed on the statewide ballot and the individuals who seek to represent us in Austin. I’ve made my share of commitments, made up my mind on many of the races. I’m still working on a few others.

Living more than 23 years in the Texas Panhandle gave me a pretty solid grounding on the individuals who seek to represent residents in public office. That’s behind me now.

It’s time to get better acquainted with the lay of the land in Metroplex, where the politics — based on what I’ve seen to date — is a good bit more complicated than what we experienced way up yonder on the Caprock.

Pray for me.

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

What was I thinking?

AMARILLO, Texas — I must have been off my rocker, had rocks in my noggin, gone around the bend when I had all those positive thoughts about the Texas Panhandle wind.

Twenty-three years of life on the Caprock have schooled me about the wind. It’s far more of an annoyance than a blessing.

We have returned to the Panhandle for a brief visit. And, oh yes, the wind greeted us — with a vengeance.

There once was a time when I could rationalize the benefit of the wind. Such as:

  • It keeps the bugs away.
  • It cleans the air.
  • It helps reduce the stifling humidity.
  • It provides a relentless, endless source of clean energy.

That’s about it. But I would trot those “benefits” out when someone would gripe about the wind. I now join the gripers. The whiners’ chorus has gained a member, although I remain a huge proponent of wind power as an alternative energy source.

I also understand the threat the wind presents, particularly during the summer months.

The wind exacerbates fire dangers manyfold. It dries out the grassland that has been moisturized by rain or snow. The grass grows, it adds fuel that can ignite easily.

You know how the rest of it goes.

Our new home near Dallas presents some other annoyances, such as the humidity that one doesn’t normally find way up yonder on the Caprock, which sits roughly 3,600 feet above sea level.

But … I look at it this way: My family and I spent nearly 11 years on the Texas Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle. We didn’t exactly enjoy the stifling summers there; we merely adjusted to it.

My memories of that period are still vivid. So I won’t let the relative humidity of the Metroplex get me down.

I also remember the Panhandle wind. Those memories are even more vivid. I no longer enjoy what I used to pass off as a flying bug deterrent.

Here is God’s gift to the High Plains

You don’t see any mountainous splendor in this picture.

Instead, you see flat land. You also see a very large sky that seems to be on fire. Those of us who live on the High Plains of Texas got to see this sunset on Black Friday, 2017.

Not a bad way to end the day, if you ask me.

I didn’t take this picture. I did snap a picture of the sunset, but this image comes from a social media acquaintance, Bill Bandy, a fellow Amarillo resident.

I want to share a view with you that I’ve had for as long as my wife and I have lived on the High Plains. It is that God Almighty has a way of paying us back for deciding to put those tall mountains and tall timber in other regions of the country.

My wife and I returned recently from a 4,200-plus-mile journey out west, where we got our full measure of nature’s splendor. The Rockies, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada — along with the endless stands of tall timber we saw in the Pacific Northwest — all provided plenty of stunning landscapes for us to ogle on our journey to Oregon and back.

We don’t have that kind of scenic splendor out here on the Caprock. We do, though, have a sky that won’t quit. I have said before on this blog that whoever hung the “Big Sky” label on Montana never laid eyes on the Texas Panhandle.

The sky is the Almighty’s way of telling us: I get that I didn’t bless you with terrestrial grandeur, but I hope you appreciate the sunsets — and the sunrises — I am able to provide.

Yes, I do. I’m quite sure we all do.

Who needs mountains to enjoy nature’s splendor?

A former mayor of Port Arthur, Texas, once told me upon returning from vacation in Wyoming that the “mountains were nice, but they kept getting in the way of the sunsets.”

Well, tonight some family members and I got a glimpse of what the mayor once mentioned.

We peered east down our street and saw some “mountainous” thunderheads forming not terribly far away. OK, the sun was setting in the other direction, but its bright light shone on the clouds, lighting them up in this fashion.

It reminded me of something I observed about the Texas Panhandle almost immediately upon our arrival here in early 1995. It was that God Almighty didn’t bless this region with lofty peaks, but it did grant us the pleasure of looking at the biggest damn sky I’ve ever seen.

I saw it as God’s payback. It’s as if he’s saying, “So, I gave your neighbors to the west all those mountains and tall timber. They can enjoy that. I’ll give you folks out here on the Caprock a chance to relish that big ol’ sky that lights up at dawn and again at dusk. And I just know you’ll enjoy that as much as the mountain folks enjoy the snow-capped peaks.”

I believe God was correct.

Then again, is God ever wrong?

The sunrises and sunsets in this part of the world are nothing to sell short. What’s more, even the sky at the opposite horizon from where the sun is setting — such as tonight — can take one’s breath away.

There’s just so much of it out there.

Yep, that long-ago Gulf Coast mayor was right. The mountains can get in the way.

Journey coming to an end

at the beach

COLORADO CITY, Texas — It hasn’t been the Trip of a Lifetime.

My wife and I have experienced a couple of those already in our 44 years together.

We did, however, answer a key question: Are we able to spend more than, say, a long weekend on the road in our fifth wheel travel vehicle?

Our answer? Yes … absolutely.

It’s our final night on the road. We’ll get up in the morning, unplug the water and the electricity and head to Lubbock for lunch with two of our best friends in the world. Then it’s home to Amarillo.

We’ve had a wonderful time catching up with some old friends along the way. We saw family members … including our precious granddaughter Emma.

We have nearly completed the big circle that covered roughly have of our huge state. We’ve taken in a good portion of Texas’s amazingly diverse landscape: from the Caprock, to rolling hills and the lakes, the Piney Woods, the Gulf Coast, the Hill Country — and tonight we camped out at Lake Colorado City State Park, which feature the cactus and scrub brush common in West Texas.

Our pets — our dog and cat — proved to us that they’re both excellent travelers. We took a gamble with our 13-year-old kitty, Mittens; she didn’t let us down. Toby the puppy? You know about him. He’s the coolest customer … ever!

Our latest journey is about to end. My wife and I are convinced more than ever that, yes, by golly — we can do this when the time comes to quit working for a living.