Stuart Wilson

Review of "Tour #2" by Cloud 9 Tours

  • Review by:
  • Tour Operator: Cloud 9 Tours
  • Tour: Tour #2
  • Year: 2008
  • Validated: This review has NOT been validated.

General review

**The set-up** 2 vans with 8 seats (4 sets of 2) each and a 4x4 (don’t know how many seats). Van 1 was driven by George Kourounis (well known storm chaser and adventurer from Canada (don’t hold that against him!)) who has many, many hours experience of being in and driving through and out of severe weather situations. Van2 was driven by Mike Theiss (a well know hurricane chaser from Florida (now you can hold THAT against him if you like!). The 4 x 4 was driven by John Guyton a retired fire-fighter with many years storm chasing experience and an extremely cool head in a crisis. Our tour was made up of people who were on their first chase (like me, though I had been on DIY chases with a mate before), and people who were almost veteran Cloud9 customers – that certainly speaks volumes for the Cloud9 ‘experience’ **The technology** The vehicles were kept in touch via radio. Internet access was available via mobile phone (cell phone to you if you’re American) access and an amplifier – we had pretty good coverage most of the time. Charles ran GRlevel3 (Google it dude!) and obviously SPC et al. **Getting to the storms** Charles is a trained meteorologist and a very experienced storm chaser. He managed to pick the right areas to head for on a given day and was almost uncannily good at getting on the ‘best’ storms. We were incredibly lucky during tour 2 being treated to an outbreak that lasted for 4 days but hardly moved at all. This meant that ‘down time’ was much less than you might normally expect – sadly this meant we missed spending more than 5 minutes at the world’s largest ball of string! We normally stayed at motels such as Motel 6 – perfectly adequate with the world’s worst booking in systems (I’ve been to Romania and believe me it’s worse at Motel 6 for booking in). Charles runs a forum on his website which is private for his customers and that is excellent for general banter, bad jokes and reports. I have no doubt that Cloud9 are amongst the best (and it’s a very small group) of tornado chasing tour companies and gives it’s customers as much chance of seeing and experiencing severe weather as any other company. Cloud9 has a reputation for getting closer than other tour companies – not having chased with other companies I can’t tell you if this is true or not, but I can tell you that we were taken quite close to some awesome weather, but at no time did I feel that this was at the expense of our safety or Charles’s for that matter. Cloud9 exists, as far as I can tell (and I apologise to Charles if this is not true), as a vehicle (no pun intended) to allow Charles to do what he loves – storm chasing. He runs 3 tours each year with a maximum of 18 guests on each – figure the expenses and there’s no way he’s retiring within the next 5 years. Why not a 10?. The only aspect of the tour that was lacking is that Charles does not really do an 'educational' tour. He doesn't explain his reason for his target choices - either the night before nor the initial morning target. Also, in the back of the van you can feel a bit isolated from what is happening if you don't pipe up. That's not to say that Charles isn't forthcoming but you do have to ask him why, what, where and when.

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