first of all, i'm now in illinois: iroquois (population 250), where the native americans had a town long before europeans arrived. there hasn't been a tornado touchdown here in all the history anyone remembers. (this will be relevant.)
i called ahead this afternoon to the village hall, following the adventure cycling guide, to ask about camping in the city park. the mayor wasn't in, but the guy who answered told me sure, i could camp. i rolled in around 7 after 80ish miles of headwindy riding and pitched my tent. met a guy who'd rescued a baby raccoon from the middle of the street when it was about 6 inches long; he had it out in the park, letting it climb up trees. (it's now the size of a medium kitten.) he said he was going to release it to the wild once it was old enough to fend for itself.
as i was pitching my tent, some local kids on bikes rode up and we started talking. they see a lot of bikers, people from around the world, which is unusual if you're a small-town kid. one kid, keegan, said his grandpa was the mayor and that when he grew up he was going to be mayor. i'd guess keegan was about 7, 8: skinny white kid with dirty blonde hair, a crewcut grown out. (he could have been subjective's kid brother.) keegan hung out while i fixed sweet potato and peanut stew.
a police officer drove by, said "bad weather" was coming, and i put up my rain fly. i took the bags off my bike for the first time since the tour started; we rode 2 blocks to keegan's house so keegan could get the key to unlock the park restrooms. (his dad's on the town council.) then the tornado horn rang, signaling that someone somewhere had seen a funnel cloud. i threw what i could of my stuff in the restroom building, pulled the door shut, left the tent up, and we rode back to keegan's house. i met his mom, amanda, who had a little one in arms; and his brother, who was deaf but being raised orally with hearing aids and could speak.
when keegan's dad, dennis, got home in 5 minutes, he drove me back over to the park; i unstaked my tent, and we put it and my bags in the car. i put everything else in the restroom building hastily, as the sky was turning black with clouds and the wind was picking up. i splashed peanut stew--- still quite warm--- all over myself in the frenzy.
back at the house, i cleaned myself up and met keegan's granddad, the mayor, who didn't have a basement and had walked down the street to wait out the storm. as the winds picked up, he told me that when things had blown over i should sleep in his office, which had AC and a shower and a place to put my bike. meanwhile, the winds outside surely would have uprooted my tent and ended my trip. no one seemed concerned about any actual tornado, though.
later, while it was raining but not blowing hard, dennis, a meatcutter, fed me pot roast cooked with bacon, mashed potatoes, green beans with cheese, strawberry cake--- a big plate of home cooking. he was a big blonde guy, built like an ex-football player, friendly and sociable. he told me about living there--- everyone knows everyone, people go on vacation and leave their doors unlocked, etc. afterwards, he drove my stuff back to the park, i took my bike, and he set me up in the village hall. i'm now showered, though my stuff still isn't organized from the all-at-once moving before the storm. i wasn't expecting the help at all, but i don't know what i would have done without it. i told keegan i'd send him a postcard from seattle.
the mayor's office also has a phone, so i'll send this tonight instead of waiting. yay.