It was late in the summer, and early in tornado season. But being much more concerned with our entertainment than our safety, we decided to pack up the kids in the RV and head to the Smokey Mountains. Knowing we would only have a couple of days, we asked some friends if they knew of a nice place that wasn’t all the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. They told us about a little place near a stream that was only a few hours away. Friday afternoon we hit the road.
It was our first trip in the RV and the kids thought it was so cool that they could “camp” while driving. By the time we got there, it was late. We knew RV’s were allowed – but there was no electricity. We had a generator so that did not bother us. When we saw the site was pretty empty, we thought it was because of the lack of electric power and we laughed at the “sissy” campers who had these fantastic RV’s and couldn’t handle a lack of power for a couple of days.
The children had fallen asleep and my husband and I spent some quiet time sitting outside listening to the water rush by and watching the stars, which are magical in that part of the country. Soon we decided to get some sleep and we told each other how smart we were to have found such a great camp site!
We opened the windows to smell that mountain air and snuggled in for a good night sleep. We drifted off quickly after the long drive.
Sometime just before dawn, I was awoken by a noise. It was a low rumbling noise. I lay there listening wondering what it was. Soon the noise grew louder… and louder. I woke my husband and told him to listen. It was very dark out and we could not see. There were no other RV’s around us. We listened and the noise continued to grow. Then my husband said, “It sounds like a train”. I said “A train? How could it be a train?” Suddenly the RV began to vibrate and then to shake. The noise was deafening. I yelled, “A train! It’s a tornado!”
We panicked. We had no idea where to run. We were not familiar with the area at all. There was nothing around us. But we each grabbed a kid and ran! We ran out of the RV. It was dark but my husband could make out a place where the dirt and grass was higher than the rest, where you would walk to get to the shore of the stream. He ran to it and I was right behind him, each of us with a screaming child in our arms! We fell down on the ground and pressed against the small dirt wall. We each had a child pressed against the wall and our bodies covering theirs. While we were waiting to be lifted and taken to the land of OZ, we realized the shaking had stopped and the noise had grown faint. The sun was beginning to lighten the sky and we looked up. It was clear and there was no rain, no wind, and no tornado. Looking further we saw just a few feet from where we had parked our RV was a train track. The train came through every morning before dawn. Sound travels in the mountains and the noise was deafening. We realized we had just scared our kids half to death to out run a train.
About then an elderly man and his wife came strolling up, fishing poles in hand. They looked at us with big eyes, then turned and walked the other way, shaking their heads. It was not until then that we realized that my husband was wearing nothing but tighty-whities. Me? (This was the 80’s) I was wearing a shear purple baby-doll nighty, trimmed in fluorescent pink… that GLOWED IN THE DARK!
We didn’t see the couple again, of which I am grateful. Honestly, I would die less in a tornado than in their presence!