North Dakota hail storms 2001.

The North Dakota hail storm in 2001 was a beauty, I had never seen so much hail before. The underpass on the highway was filled to the bridge with hailstones, and they needed a tractor to clear a path. But lets not get to far ahead, because this was an awesome trip, and the first work trip I had taken my wife and daughter on.

Although it was the middle of hail season, and I had work lined up in St Louis, this was the first time my wife and daughter had been out of the country, so while I do enjoy work, in my opinion life comes first. So we headed straight from Australia to Disneyland California.

A small trip of about 17 hours in a plane with a 4 year old is never fun, but this one was not as bad as you may think. I think the excitement of Disneyland covered for the long hours in the sky. We had a blast, it truly is the best place of earth.

After a few days relaxing it was time to make some money, and we arrived in St Louis refreshed and ready to take on the storm, but what greeted me was daunting to say the least. The auto damage was massive, there were front pillars crushed by ice, and most cars looked like write offs. Of course being the new bloke in town always means one thing, and that is, you get the worst car they have got. It sometimes sits there for days waiting for you.

I always think to myself, if you can though the first job, the rest is smooth sailing. This was not one of those storms, we worked hard, spending days on just one car and never feeling it was 100% repaired. The money wasn’t great and the hours were long, but the stay in St Louis was nearly at an end, because there was a new storm set up in North Dakota, and for what it lacked in size, it was going to make up for with amount. My wife and child had flown home at this stage, so even though that leaves a home sick feeling in your stomach, it also lets you concentrate on the work a little more, and lets face it, you don’t fly half way across the planet, and let home sickness get in your way. Also I had a buddy with me who is my younger brother, only 15, pulling trims out for me on this trip.

For anyone that has driven in another country, on the other side of the car and road from which you are used to, will realize it is not that difficult. But if I had a dollar for every time I got into the passenger side of the vehicle with the keys in my hand, well, I would be a wealthy little Aussie. As I said at the start this storm was a beauty, there was dents covering every square inch of the vehicle. It was a slog to PDR to say the least, and the fact that the sun didn’t seem to go down until 11 pm didn’t help with working longer and longer hours. Most days would start around 8 am and finish about 1 am, and after a quick chat to the wife back in Australia, and a bite to eat, it was nearly time to go back to work.

We covered expenses in this storm, and made a little money, but the best thing to come out of this storm, was friends. The North Dakota hail storm introduced me to some real characters, a couple in particular really stand out, Mark and Tee. When I met these guys from Texas, it seemed as though I had known them my whole life. They were my mates right from the start, and still are, even though our lives have taken different paths. In fact I didn’t meet one person on this trip I didn’t like. I guess that is the best thing about doing this job, the flexibility to travel, and the people you meet along the way.

We finished our work in the states July 5th, but had to drive to St Louis again for our flights. The 5th was not a good day driving for me, after the night I had on the 4th, so I didn’t get far down the long road back to St Louis before I had to stop for the night. Normally this would be fine, but if I knew what was about to happen, I would have left on the 3rd.

My flights started back at St Louis, which looking back was a silly thing to do, but we had a rental car which needed to be returned and I thought why not see some more of the States before I go home. Most of the drive was just boring, and being such a long stretch of road starts playing with your mind, I knew I had to catch my flight about 2pm the next day, so I decided to pull into a motel about 150 miles outside of St Louis and catch some sleep, and drive the remainder the next morning, that’s when the fun began. At 7am the next morning I had a problem, the car just wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even kick over, lights on but nobody home. This doesn’t sound like a big issue, but when you are on the wrong side of the planet in the middle of nowhere, this can really test your patience.

I called the rental company, which sent out a tow truck, who in turn tested the battery and explained it wasn’t the problem. And that was it! He drove off leaving us with a car with fried electronics and a plane to catch 150 miles away. I called a taxi, and then another one, trying to find a company that would come and get us, eventually after offing the driver $200 on top of the fair, I got someone to come and get us.

The rest of the trip was complete madness, only just making planes, and running from terminal to the next, but we made it. And on arrival back in Australia after what seemed like 4 days of planes, trains and automobiles, my wife welcomed me home at the airport with a big kiss, and a cold beer.

Of course only weeks after we returned, the dreadful events of 9/11 happened. And my thoughts were truly with all those involved.

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