The only airport of consequence between the two sides of the state is at Springfield Missouri, so I figured that I could land there if I really needed to. But I was doing a good job of convincing myself that the storms were west of Joplin. And even if they were not, I figured that I could fly around them. And if they did happen to be over the Joplin airport, I could just fly circles to the north or south until they blew through. The lightening was unnerving, but at least that told me where the storms were.
I made it as far as Springfield without a single raindrop. The storms were still out there ahead of me. I had about sixty miles to go. So far the weather had been fine, so that seemed to indicate that things would continue to go well. I checked in with Springfield Approach Control and asked what they knew about thunderstorms to the west. They could not tell me anything that I didn't already know. There were thunderstorms in the Joplin area.
I passed Springfield, and flew on for another five to ten minutes - only about fifteen minutes to go. The light show was continuing in front of me and I was beginning to lose my confidence. But it was late, and the thought of a warm bed at home was enticing.
Then I thought - “This is crazy. What would you say to any other pilot who decided to continue?” So I turned back and landed at Springfield. At that time there was no nice FBO - only an airline terminal with a hard concrete floor. But I made a pillow with my jacket, and woke up a few hours later and looked at a clear blue, sunny sky. I took off, and arrived home in time for breakfast, and was back in the office at a reasonable hour.
What did I learn from all of this? First of all, arriving late, whether an hour late or a day late, is no big deal. And second, given the choice, friends, business acquaintances, and loved ones, would rather see you arriving late than never again.
All in all, four hours of sleep on an airport terminal floor was the best night's sleep I ever had.