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Oshkosh Fun Part 2, Dark & Stormy…

By Beth Hardy Duff

AFTER A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP…  Thursday morning came and we had the day planned to sit in on more forums than we could possibly squeeze in a day, but that was the fun of it – plan way too much to possibly get done in one day, so you are never NEVER bored!  That afternoon, we found a fantastic forum called, “Flying with your iPad”.  Since we both own iPads and we fly a “paperless cockpit” with them, we thought this might be the perfect opportunity to learn more about using them.  We got settled into the forum and it was a packed house!

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT….  Well, it wasn’t night, but the sky was looking like it.  That might also have been another reason that this popular forum was so popular.  People were beginning to crowd in and it was standing room only.  The speaker began his discussion of the virtues of the iPad and the wind began to huff and puff, then blow, then just downright howl.  The sides of these forum buildings (which are open on 3 sides) have heavy-duty curtains that can be let down to keep out wind, rain, dust or whatever else is blowing that day.  The curtains were let down and quickly, there was quite a commotion going on.   Some people began to stand up and well, of course, so did I.  The speaker asked, “How many of you folks are worried about your airplanes parked out there?” knowing full well that he had indeed lost the immediate attention of his audience.  About that time, I decided it was a good time to video whatever I could with my phone since I always seem to be about 10 seconds late in cutting it on and missing out on anything I’m trying to video.   I had my phone well over my head (since I’m short) and I thought that maybe it could see what I could not see.  It did record the impact of the storm and the howling of the wind, but neither it nor I could see what caused the entire back part of the audience to gasp and shout, “Oh My God!”

Okay, by this time, we were well beyond being able to pay attention to the very interesting speaker and his subject and were near panic with worry over our sweet Caddie and Big Broken Tall Agnes, so we picked up and left the forum.

UH OH…  As we quickly trudged back toward the plane, we noticed what everyone had been gasping over.  A beautiful, little yellow experimental bi-wing had been flipped over on top of a mini replica mustang.  Oh, what a terrible sight, but we couldn’t stop, we had to head on and find out the status of Caddie & Agnes.

As we got closer, Paul turned around to me and with a big frown said, “I don’t see our tent — again.”  We got closer and there lay Agnes again in a heap, but with Taylor’s sweet helping hand attempting to hold the tent up and keep the water off what he knew were some of our precious electronic toys inside.   I was so shocked that I never even thought to take a picture of the tent or Taylor holding her up this time.  As we began to pull the tent off our belongings, it became evident this time that the storm had felled the giant – Agnes would stand tall no more.  In fact, one of the things that we had thought was an asset, was in fact, not.  Agnes had rested on an incline and we had thought at first that would be great to divert water away from her and that was right, but we didn’t figure straightline winds into the scenario and that probably did us less favors by actually forcing the wind over and through Agnes at an accelerated rate – sorta damned if you do, damned if you don’t.   Our clothes, our iPads, our “juice box” which was our essential recharging unit for all things needing a charge at night,  our iPhones, EVERYTHING was soaking wet!  Paul actually poured water out of his iPad!  Taylor had done all humanly possible and had stood out there in the midst of the storm to save our stuff!  Tell me – WHERE do you find people like Taylor?  If they exist, most times you will find them affiliated with aviation in some way.   Thankfully, the Claw System had held Caddie steadfast to the ground and she had not moved an inch.  She was just fine and our new waterproof cover we had just bought for her had kept the cockpit dry as a bone.   This is the time when your airplane does double duty as the world’s largest clothesline.  We spread out the sleeping bags, pillows and other assorted amenities on the wings and hung towels off the prop

World’s Largest Clothesline

to dry.  As wet and wild as that storm had been, it was incredibly hot now and things were beginning to dry out very quickly.

HAD ENOUGH YET?…  Well, reality set in when Taylor actually offered to let us sleep in their tent stating he would sleep in the plane to make room for us.  And know what??  I absolutely believe that he would have!  But this blow we’d been dealt finally broke us this time.  Taylor walked with me to the dumpster as I carried Agnes’ remains and he lugged along the remainder of her tent stakes and rain fly.  We gave her a very quick funeral aka – open the dumpster and toss her in (I did finally remember to return later & snap her picture).   After we left there, we walked back over to the sight of the flipped planes and once again, Taylor jumped into action asking if there was any way he could help.  He began carrying parts of the destroyed bi-wing over to another section of the field where the loose parts were being stowed.  Once again, what a kind hearted soul.

Big Agnes… RIP’d

IT’S ONLY MONEY…  Paul began to call around as we no longer had a tent and now needed a place to rest our heads for the night.  While he was on the phone,  Tom Poberezny, former EAA Chairman of EAA Fly-in & Convention, came by and actually asked us if we were okay and if we needed help.  If you have any idea who Tom Poberezny is, it’s very much like God himself asking you if you could use a little help.  We thanked him and said we were okay and had located a place to stay for the night.  We had indeed found a place to stay – Paul had been on the phone calling area hotels to see if they had any vacancies.  This is very much like calling around at night during the Olympics just to see if hotels had any vacancies.  Yep, somebody’s going to have a vacancy, but somebody’s gonna pay!  So, in no time at all, we loaded up everything we could carry, wet and not, and walked a mere 2.5 miles to the cheapest $250 a night hotel one could ever have!  It frankly was worth every penny – I think I took 2 showers that night, but we slept in air conditioning in a dry bed and we were thankful for it too.  Oh yeah, we did manage to find a little wine to soothe our pain while we poured more water out of our electronic toys.  Thankfully, only the juice box bit the dust.

BACK FOR MORE!…  One might think with all that went on, that we would pack up and abandon any further idea of ever returning to AirVenture – Oshkosh!  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Where on earth would you ever find such helping hands and 500,000 people with at least ONE thing in common?  The aviation community is quite a giving, generous and loving community in it’s own right.  Granted, like with any other large group of people, you do have some that don’t quite fit the bill, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.  Frankly, I cannot wait until next year to return to Oshkosh, with our new tent in tow, and a chance to meet new fresh faces and catch up with lots of old ones.  It’s something that makes precious memories even more precious, year after year.

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“5150 Somebody Call the POPO!” Oshkosh Fun Part 1

By Beth Hardy Duff

Our New Friends, Mel & Taylor

HOME, SWEET OSH, HOME…  So arrive at Oshkosh, we did.  In perfect RV style, packed to the hilt with our belongings, looking somewhat like Santa’s red & white sleigh.  We followed our guide to our appointed spot and parked Caddie.   Great spot this year, we thought to ourselves – on a slight incline so no rainwater would pool up beneath our tent and very close to the road making for an easy taxi out when it’s time to go home.  We hopped out and quickly snugged Caddie to the ground with our trusty “Claw System” (don’t leave home without it) and began to set up our Big Agnes tent.  We had purchased Big Agnes just for tent camping with the plane in mind – she’s a big, roomy tent with plenty of headspace – enough for Paul to stand and just enough room for the two of us (Big Agnes is considered a 6 man tent) and weighs less than 13 pounds.  Awesome tent! We got the tent all set up and headed to registration to pay our tent camping fee and to register.  Within 15 minutes, we ran into two of our hangar buddies from home, Tom and Webb.  They had gotten here earlier in the week and looked and sounded like they were having a blast!  We chatted for a minute and headed on, so much to see and do and oh so glad to be back here again. The afternoon passed by quickly and we began to meet some of our new neighbors.  Mel and Taylor, a father and son team who had flown in from Colorado.   They were cattycornered across from us and quickly became two of our newest favorite friends, such great people!  We, ourselves, were sandwiched in between a white Velocity and a blue and white RV-10, not too shabby company either. As it got close to dinnertime, we met up with some more folks from home and headed over to the Charcoal Pit for dinner.  Everyone was having a great time at AirVenture, but most were planning to head back tomorrow being that they had gotten there much earlier in the week than us.  Not us, our fun was just beginning…

5150, SOMEBODY CALL THE POPO!… Our first night at OSH, a great dinner had been had by all and now it was time to go night night…or so we thought.   About 3:00am or so, Paul and I were awakened by the most terrible racket!  We sat up and struggled out of our zippered sleeping bags and unzipped the opaque part of the back of our tent.  We rubbed our eyes and stared into the darkness.   It sounded like someone banging a Port a Potty door, shortly followed by a LOT of yelling and hollering!  A young man apparently high on “something” was standing on top of another guy’s AIRPLANE and screaming not just gibberish, but was on some sort of wild rant about “sustainable development”.  Now how does that topic grab you at 3:00am in the morning??  The owner of the plane bolted out of his tent yelling, “Stop It, Stop It, GET DOWN” and jumped the guy standing on his airplane knocking him to the ground.  The young man on the ground was very strong and it was hard for the plane’s owner to hold him down.  Thankfully, a LOT of help ran to his aid and helped subdue the assailant until more help could arrive.  First, Grounds Security showed up on 4 wheelers and flashing lights, then the police showed up along with the K-9 unit shortly followed by an ambulance.   He was still thrashing about on the ground with 3 or 4 big men sitting on him and his utterings eventually became x-rated.  The paramedics finally injected him with something that didn’t knock him out, but slowed him to the point they were able to get him strapped to a gurney and hauled away.  Eventually, everyone finally settled down.  We found out later on that the young man was high on bath salts which caused his delirium.  Hopefully, that night ended his career of experimenting with them, although, I’m sure his troubles didn’t end there, with his visit to the local hospital and the fact that there was a certain amount of damage done to the owner’s airplane.   SHEW, that over, we re-zipped our tent and went back to sleep.


CAN I HAVE IT? CAN I HAVE IT? CAN I HAVE IT?… Wednesday morning rudely rolled around, after we finally got back to sleep Tuesday night.  We were ready to start out the day by looking at all there was to see in the newest crop of “airplanes and airplane accessories”.  We spent part of the morning strolling though Van’s display and their new announcement – the RV-14.  If we had not already built our beloved RV-9A and were still looking for the perfect airplane, this one would have been it!  A Lycoming IO-390 (210 hp engine) as opposed to our 160 hp, the ability to hold 50 gallons of fuel as opposed to our 36 gallons, had a little larger baggage capacity and area (maybe those golf clubs would actually FIT in this one) and not that this was a must, but it was aerobatic!  Hmmm….for a brief second or two, Paul and I began to drift off into the dream world of breathing life into yet another airplane.  We had enjoyed building over those 3 years and had made mention of the fact that both of us did miss the process some.   At times, it had become rather Frankenstein-ish, but it was overall a fun and exciting adventure.  HOWEVER, snap back to reality – we absolutely do NOT have the funds to start this again without selling our “first born beloved” and I absolutely will NOT give up the ability to fly just to have another airplane ready in “a few years”.  NO!  We both looked at each other, more or less shook ourselves back into “now-time” and completely agreed that we were most happy exactly where we are in life right now with our “completed” airplane and things will just stay that way…for now.  BTW, thankfully Webb and Tom both lost their bets that we would have the tail section to a brand new RV-14 ordered before we left OSH – give us credit, guys, we have some restraint (but mostly, lack of money)…

CAN YOU HEAR THE WIND BLOW?…  Wednesday afternoon, found us strolling around looking at some of the vintage warbirds.  We always enjoy seeing these old beautiful birds that people love enough to maintain in excellent form and fly them to AirVenture – the “Mecca for all things Aviation”.  The wind was beginning to kick up a good bit and the forecast called for bad weather that afternoon.  The wind had already removed my hat from my head twice.  Thankfully, I was wearing my “fishing hat” which has a chin strap that kept it with me (I promise, it’s not quite as “gooberish” as it sounds).  Anyhow, Paul got a call on his cell and looking down, didn’t recognize the number right off hand.  He answered and someone with the grounds crew at Oshkosh had called to let us know that our tent had blown down and we might want to go back and tend to it.  Apparently, the winds had gotten a lot worse over on that side than where we had been.  Thankfully, it never rained that afternoon, it just blew.  We walked back toward the plane and immediately noticed that we could see the tail of our plane, but could no longer see Big “Tall” Agnes standing.  When we got there, Agnes was lying in a pitiful heap on the ground with a broken tent pole staring us in the eye through a newly poked hole in the rain fly.  We picked her back up, looked her over, and really, very little harm was done.  The tent was still just fine, only one broken tent pole and a “somewhat” minor hole in the rain fly.  Our good neighbor, Taylor, helped us by locating some duct tape and helped us mend Big Agnes and her broken tent pole back into an acceptable position and she was deemed good to go again.  I talked to Taylor for quite some time and found out he was a remarkable young man and just as easy and fun to talk to as anyone I’d ever met.  I told him about meeting Brittany, the beautiful young pilot and her grandfather on our stop in Mankato and Taylor told me I needed to find her and let her know he was available!  So, Brittany, if you are checking out our blog, let me highly recommend chatting with Taylor (if you are not already taken) because I think you two would be a perfect match!  You have TONS in common!!!  Now, Taylor, I have fulfilled my duty and done what I can, the rest is up to you!

STAR WARS ON THE HUDSON…  Wednesday night came and we attended the EAA Chapter President’s Reception hosted by Ford Motor Company.  This year’s special guest was George Lucas – yes, THE George Lucas!  Jeff Skiles was also there as one of the Young Eagles Co Chairmen – you’ll remember him as Chesley Sullenberger’s co-pilot from “Miracle on the Hudson”.  So the night was full of fame, food and fun.  We ran into our dear friend, Steve, from home and spent quite some time chatting and sweating with him as it was as hot as a Mississippi night in July in Wisconsin that night.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2…  “Where’s the tent?”

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Rapid City to Oshkosh, Just the Beginning…

Density Altitude… It was Monday morning and the forecast was still looking a little nasty for the next few days.  So, we decided to break camp a day early and try to get as close to Oshkosh as we could.  It was only a five hour flight, but we would would lose a time zone hour traveling east.  This would make it hard to get into Oshkosh before the airshow closed the field, so we decided to get as close as we could, find a hotel, take good shower and spend the night in an air conditioned room.  By the time we packed everything up and loaded the airplane at KRAP it was 10:00 and the temps were already in the 90’s.  The automated weather at the airport was indicating a density altitude of over 7,000 feet… with a field elevation of 3,200 feet, thats a lot of DA!  To the non-pilots out there, density altitude is a calculation that tells you basically where the plane “feels” like it is.  The higher a plane climbs the harder it is to continue that climb.  So, on this day, at this location and temperature, with the wheels on the ground our plane would climb like it is already at 7,000 feet… not too good, but well within her performance limits.

Long Roll… After “holding short” for a few planes on final, we were finally give clearance to takeoff and get out of this sweltering heat.  As expected with the high density altitude, we rolled a lot further down the runway before lifting off, but soon we were climbing out and heading east.  As we were departing, the controller even asked if we were going to Oshkosh… he sees a lot of RV’s stopping there during Airventure week.

Weather Ahead… We knew when we were planning the route that morning that we were going to have to get around a cold front that was slowly falling south from Canada.  As we approached the looming clouds we could see several openings to the north and since its always better to be behind the weather than in front we took advantage of these openings.  This did turn out to be a good decision since the front consolidated to our south and the temps fell into the 50’s at 9,500 feet – a welcome relief from the 90’s we just left!

Two Hops to Wisconsin… We were not able to land at our intended first stop due to weather but made it a little farther northeast to Mankato, MN.  Mankato Regional Airport (KMKT) is located just south of Minneapolis and has two nice long runways.  The staff was friendly and had free hot dogs and drinks for Oshkosh travelers along with a fuel discount.  While resting there, we met two folks from California that were headed to Oshkosh.  A young lady that had just taken her PPL check ride at 16 years of age and her grandfather.  It was inspiring to see the two of them sharing a passion like flying and to hear her

Caddie at KISW

dreams of becoming a Naval aviator.    They were going to try to get into Oshkosh after the airshow that day, but we had decided to fly close to Oshkosh and spend the night in a hotel so we could wake up clean and fresh for the demanding OSH arrival.  I had chosen Alexander Field (KISW) at Wisconsin Rapids, WI and gave them a call to see how far we would be from a hotel.  The lady that I talked to, called a local hotel with a reasonable rate for us and offered to give us a ride in when we arrived – What a deal!  The weather appeared to be moving in on us again, so we said our goodbyes to our new friends and continued east to KISW.

Great Place to Stop… We arrived at Wisconsin Rapids without any issues and were able to put Caddie in a hangar for the night for 20 bucks (good insurance, considering the weather we had been through).  Howard, the owner of HJ Aviation, drove to the hangar, picked us up and carried us in to the hotel in his personal vehicle and said he would be back to pick us up at 7:30 the next morning.  Our hotel was nice and within walking distance of an Arby’s (dinner) and a CVS (wine)… two showers and a good nights sleep in air conditioning AND Howard was picking us up and taking us back to the plane early Wednesday morning.  You always hear of southern hospitality, but we were treated like royalty at every airport we stopped at on this trip, especially at HJ Aviation!

Red & White RV, Cleared to Land Runway 36L…  We threw our overnight bag in Caddie, said goodbye to Howard and departed to the southeast for Oshkosh.  Beth flew the first leg to Ripon which allowed me to setup the radios and go over the NOTAM one more time.  Our plan to get into OSH early worked out perfect, there was very little traffic due to the bad weather south and 4,000 overcast in the area.  I took over flying once established on the arrival.  At Fisk, we were asked which runway we wanted & we took 36 since it is what we did last year and it lets us roll out near the taxiway to home-built camping.

See The Short Video Below…


Great Times Ahead…  Once we got the plane tied down and the tent set up, we headed to show center with eyes wide open and our thoughts turned to all things aviation – what a great week we have ahead of us… I am turning the keyboard over to Beth for the next post from Airventure 2012 – Stay tuned…

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Road trip to Devils Tower Wyoming

Status of Caddie… So, after two hail storms and torrential downfalls at the campground near Hill City, SD our concerns turned toward the plane which was at the airport in Rapid City (KRAP).  The weather map on the iPad had the storm that was on top of us heading straight to the airport.  After limited sleep, we popped up early and drove straight to the airport to lay eyes on Caddie.  She was fine!  The tie downs were secure, the Bruce’s Custom Cover was a little askew, but there was no water inside or hail dings to be found.  The folks at the FBO said it had not rained that much there, apparently it is usually much more severe in the hills than down on the plains where the airport is.

Road Trip… So, with our fears of damage to the plane put to rest, we decided today would be a good day for a road trip.  We had 200 miles per day allowance on the rental car and had only driven a hundred or so.  We decided to head north and then west to Wyoming to see the Devils Tower.

Almost Rally Time… Our first stop, up I-90, was the infamous town of Sturgis, SD, home of the annual bike rally.  The rally was still two weeks away, but this little town was preparing for the arrival of thousands of biker dudes and babes!  A lot of them come up early and were cruising the hills on “Softails”,  “Fatboys” and choppers.  We stopped at one of the large T-shirt vendors and ran into a couple of guys from Birmingham that were running the business.  We bought a couple of T-shirts just to proclaim we had been to Sturgis and continued west.

Close Encounter… After nearly an hour of driving, we went over a hill and “WOW”, there it was.  Just rising up from the plains was this large rock formation unlike anything we have ever seen.   As we got closer, I could see how this site held such a spiritual significance to the local tribes.  It was one of those “goose bump” moments as we arrived at the monument welcome center.  The goose bumps got a little bigger when I realized there were people scaling the sides of this thing at varying elevations.  I did not realize that, not only did the Park Service allow climbing on the monument, but promoted it also.  While listening to a ranger give a talk about the turkey vultures (we call ’em buzzards) that were circling the monument, I heard someone behind me make a comment about “being caught in a storm in a tent the night before”.  I turned around only to see Jason and his family, our new friends from North Dakota that we camped next to.  What a small world… we were over a hundred miles from the camp and they had pulled up stakes that morning to head home by way of Wyoming.

“What an incredible Cinderella story!”… “Licensed to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations.”, Caddyshack’s, Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) would have come unglued at the sight of the area leaving the monument. Hundred of prairie dogs infested the grounds with warning signs not to feed them.  The warning didn’t keep us from stopping and “shooting” them with a camera, nor did it stop them from coming right up to you to beg.  These little buggers had holes dug everywhere and kept popping up at random as far as the eye could see.

More Beautiful Views… On our trek back to camp, we took the Spearfish Canyon Highway route.  Once again we found ourselves looking up to some of the most beautiful bluffs and scenery we have ever seen.  At the end of this road was the town of Deadwood.  Besides the HBO TV series, Deadwood was best known as a gold rush town that saw the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  Now, this clean looking town has lots of saloons and gaming establishments, but would justify further investigation at a later date… we were tired!

There’s Goats in Them There Hills… We didn’t see any gold but we did see the local heard of bighorn sheep just outside of Hill City.  Most of the sheep had collars around their necks, which I suspect is what set off the flashing lights on the highway when they get near.  This area is such a photo trap for us tourists, that they have paved “pull over” lanes to protect us from crashing into each other.  So after several hundred miles on the road, we arrived at the KOA to find that their workers had done an incredible job of rebuilding the roads from the prior storms.  With more bad weather forecast for the next afternoon, we decided that we should probably cut a day off of our stay in the Black Hills and head out early the next morning toward Oshkosh.  So we had a nice dinner at the camp restaurant, washed up some clothes and packed the car for an early departure…

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Got Out of Mississippi Just in Time!

First Stop KFLP… Well, we made it out before the storms hit the Jackson area and into Flippin before it started raining here. We started out from Raymond at 8500 feet and went to 10,500 and realized we could not get high enough to get over the buildups, so the last 30 minutes of the trip was “down and dirty” at 4500 over the Ozarks. The Foreflight screen shot below shows what it looked like about two hours after we landed:

20120719-171043.jpg

Clear Sailing, but HOT…  We should be out in front of all of the weather that will be affecting the south.  Tomorrow’s plan is to get up early and head to Grand Island, NE (KGRI) for gas and a stretch before the temps get so bad. Unfortunately, when we roll into Rapid City, it’s supposed to be 100+, but we should have clear skies most of the way. That’s all for tonight, we are in our “happy spot” in Arkansas with a nice bottle of wine and a cool place to sleep…

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Enterprise Rent-a-Car “We’ll Pick You UP”… just not at an airport!

Another RANT

In the words of Earl Pitts…Ya’ Know what make me sick?” – Getting screwed by a rental car company!  While planning our trip to Oshkosh by way of Rapid City, SD (KRAP), I figured we needed a car for the four days we planned to be in KRAP.  So I called the FBO at KRAP and asked about rental cars.  The response was that we can get you a car from Hertz and have it here when you arrive or you can get one directly from Hertz.  So, I decided to go online with Hertz to see what their rates were and if maybe there was another option.  Sure enough, Hertz had a rate for the FBO delivery… $90 per day plus a multitude of taxes that amounted to a total over $450 for four days!  HOLY KRAP!

BTW… this is the reason we bought our ’97 Grand Marquis to keep in Arkansas.  The FBO at Mountain Home, Arkansas was charging us $65 + per day for an economy class car from Enterprise.  One day when I found a special deal on a car from Enterprise for $29, I asked if they would pick us up at the airport – the response – “Oh no, we can’t do that, the airport is a protected market.” – WTF – “So you’re telling me, if I walk down the road a mile or so to the fire station on the main highway, you’ll pick me up” – “I guess we could”… well that was “too much candy for a nickel” as my dad would say.  SO, we paid $1400 for a car of our own, in pretty good shape, and put it at a different airport (KFLP) that charged $0.80 less per gallon for 100LL.  Now, after 34 nights of use in less than a year, I have saved over $2,200 and the FBO at Mountain Home has gone out of business…

Back to KRAP… So I decided to give Enterprise another try, this time at Rapid City… imagine that, EXACTLY the same price (over $450 for 4 days) as Hertz but they were located at the airline terminal and did not provide service to the FBO.  So, I decided to look at their “in town” price since their slogan on TV is “we’ll pick you up”, WOW, you could get the same crappy economy car 7 miles away for LESS THAN $200 for the same 4 days!  Well, I may be stupid, but I’m still cheap…I rented the $190 car online just to see if they said anything about excluding delivery or pickup at the airport.  Sure enough, I get this quote printed on my receipt…

“THIS LOCATION IS UNABLE TO PROVIDE PICKUP OR RETURN SERVICE TO THE RAPID CITY AIRPORT. IF FLYING INTO THE AIRPORT PLEASE USE OUR BRANCH LOCATED AT 4550 TERMINAL ROAD. ”

What a racket… So much for their popular “pick you up” slogan.  I understand that there may be some additional cost of doing business at the airport, but to be able to charge 141% more for the same car – I gotta call blowing snow here.  So, I guess we will figure out a way to get into town, I’m sure I can get a cab to take me in for 20 bucks or so, which will still keep our rental cost below $250, that $200 saved will buy a lot of Leinenkugel’s when we get to Wisconsin!

FAST FORWARD 24 HOURS…  After stewing over this CRAP @ KRAP, I got to thinking that maybe there was a local alternative to the national rent-a-car companies and the whole airport price fixing thing and after a quick Google search, I found several local companies that WOULD pick you up at the airport.  I ended up calling Black Hills Car Rentals and talked to John, who said he would pick us up at the FBO for no extra charge and the rate was $37.95 / day plus tax!  For a total of $193, we can be picked up at the FBO when we arrive and can leave the car at the FBO when we get ready to depart… now that’s customer service!  So, I quickly cancelled the Enterprise contract and I will post our experience with the local company after we return the car, but I am confident, at this point, it will be a good one.

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Mississippi to Oshkosh via Rapid City & Night Wall of Fire Video from Airventure…

Let the packing begin…  We have started getting things ready for our annual trip to Airventure in Oshkosh, WI.  For 5 years we pulled our camper for the 2,000 mile round trip to the mecca of aviation and last year we were able to fly our newly built RV-9A.  This year we are planning a little “side trip” to the Black Hills area of western South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and the Custer National Forest.

Dining room table overload… So, about two weeks before we take a big trip, we start setting things on the dining room table, “so we don’t forget anything”.  Yes, we do have a list, but this just seems to work well in organizing the packing.  First a few towels and hats, then the sleeping bags, mats, tent, rain gear… you get the point.  We figure, once the table is full, thats it – it probably will not fit in the plane!  Luckily, most of the stuff we have is VERY light weight and we only carry five days worth of clothes since we plan to hit the laundry mat when we transit from Rapid City to Oshkosh.  Our biggest issue is the volume of stuff that goes in the plane not the weight… the baggage area in a RV-9A is not very big!

Wall of Fire…  Two years ago, while at Airventure, I took the short video below on my iPhone.  It was very exciting and since it was the first night airshow at Oshkosh, I’m not sure any of us were prepared for what we saw – enjoy, and I apologize in advance for the “S” word and yea, I know I sound a little like Larry the Cable Guy…

Tracking our progress… In an effort to keep family and friends up-to-date with where we are and how things are going, I plan to put a link on the blog next week to our SPOT emergency locator tracking page. I just bought $20 worth of the required Lithium batteries to keep it going while we are moving around.  We also plan to “live blog” with the iPhone & iPad and will try to push a few postcard pictures up when we get near some wifi.  So, to keep up with the trip’s progress, please enter your e-mail address in the box to the right of the page  or “LIKE” our Face book page at https://www.facebook.com/2FlyAmerica.

Mercedes Benz?? Best Airport Crew Car EVER!

Flying for work… One of the perks of my job is having the ability to fly to our distant locations when needed. Flying the RV-9A actually burns less gas than my Dodge and when  I can avoid the cost of an overnight stay its a win-win for me and the company. This was the case earlier this week, when I needed to do some work at our location near Bay St. Louis , MS.  This is nearly a seven hour round trip drive that could be made in Caddie in about 50 minutes, one way, and the Stennis International Airport (KHSA) is just a couple of miles away.  All I needed now was a ride to the plant…

I’ll take the Mercedes… Since renting a car would defeat the justifiable savings of being able to fly, I usually try to get a local employee of ours to pick me up or secure a crew car.  So, I called the local FBO at Stennis (MILLION AIR), and asked if they had a crew car that I could use.  “Yes Sir, we do…” the young lady said, so I gave her my tail number and told her when we would be there.  Upon arrival at Stennis, we taxied to the ramp area, topped off the left tank (all of about 8 gallons)and proceeded inside to pick up the car. After photocopying my license she tossed me the key… well, not exactly a key, but a big plastic thing that had Mercedes written on it.  “It’s the black E350 just out the door” she said … WOW, I’ve had crew cars from a Jeep Cherokee with the rear window taped up to retired police cars to a new bright yellow Camaro (KJKA), but I’ve never been offered a Benz.

NO PReNDLe… OK, “you know you’re a red neck when…” you can’t get the car in gear.  We built our own airplane, wired the all glass – high tech panel and fly it all over the country, but put me in a car without a gear shift and i’m lost.  There was no standard gear shift with the normal PRND12 symbols – aka “PReNDLe”, instead there was a “little shifter like thingy” that you pushed forward to go into reverse and pulled back to go forward (German engineering at its best).  I did finally get the car going in the right direction without taking out the chain-link fence around the airport and the ride to work was great.  This is a very nice car that had a real smooth ride and nice high tech gadgets in the panel.

After a successful trip to our plant, we returned to the FBO and pulled out our snack lunch and enjoyed our meal in front of the big screen TV.  The folks at the FBO were very nice and the fuel prices were reasonable at around $5.70 a gallon.  The airport has a nice big runway for the area we were in in Mississippi.   At 8500 feet long by 150 feet wide, they can handle all sorts of large aircraft.  Being an old “space nut” I may bring us back to visit the Stennis Space Center which is only a few miles down the road and maybe even get another ride in the Benz…

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Breakfast at Concordia

“Caddie” @ Concordia

This Last Weekend… we wanted to make a short trip Saturday morning just to get in some flying because we were going to drive to Laurel Saturday afternoon and visit family for Father’s Day and attend a benefit for a friend who was hurt in a motorcycle accident.  Friday night, while we were trying to decide on where to fly the next morning, I received an e-mail about a fly-in breakfast at the Concordia Parish Airport (0R4) in Vidalia, LA, just across the river from Natchez.  We had been to their breakfast events sevreal times in the past and always enjoyed the food and fellowship, so this was a perfect trip that allowed us to get our flying “fix” for the weekend and get a great meal too.

Short Trip… Concordia is only about a 30 minute flight in the 9A, so we went “wheels up” at about 7:45 to be sure we were there by 8:30 when breakfast is served.  As we arrived, we heard one plane in the pattern doing touch & go’s and several more in-bound for a meal.  The usual “landing judges” were standing at the back door of the FBO building and greeted us as we climbed out of “Caddie”.

Great Food and Conversation… Turn out for this morning’s breakfast was a little light, but that did not stop Mike McCrory and crew from fix’n up a nice assortment of breakfast foods ranging from the usual biscuits, bacon and eggs to fancy wraps.  Throw in some homemade jams and jellies, some STRONG Louisiana coffee and this was a diet busters delight.  Of course, when more than one pilot enters a room, talk of all things aviation ensues.  This has to be the best part about breakfast events like this, the sharing of information and stories will keep us coming back time and again.

“I’ll show you mine”…  Soon after all of the bellies are filled, most folks walk out to admire each other’s planes and talk about Lycomings vs Continentals and fuel injection vs carburetors and any number of other “mechanical” topics.  Some take advantage of the cheap fuel ($5.00 / gal) at the pump and others go on their way to their next stop for the day.  We hopped in and “hot started” the fuel injected Lycoming and took off into the clouds, a little heavier and a lot happier that we had our flying “fix” for the day.

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Panoramic view at Concordia a few months ago when 12 RV’s were on the filed at once (click to enlarge)…

Planning for Airventure – Oshkosh, Here We Come!

Every Year, About This Time… Aviation enthusiasts around the world start planning a trip to Oshkosh Wisconsin and Airventure — we are no different.   The stats are incredible, 10,000 plus airplanes, 30, 000 plus camping and over a half million folks will visit the hallowed grounds of KOSH, making it the busiest airport in the world for a week.  We pulled our 5th wheel camper to Oshkosh for 5 years before we were able to fly-in last year, in our freshly home-built RV-9A.  Trust me, if you like airplanes and have not been to Airventure, you need to put this on your “bucket list”.  It is truly impossible to take it all in, in three or four days!

Side Trip…  This year, we are planning a side trip to Rapid City, SD (KRAP) to tent camp in the Black Hills and visit Mt. Rushmore for a few days.  We intend to visit Wyoming, North Dakota and Minnesota, if the weather allows, and roll into Oshkosh near the middle of the week.  We may even try to fly fish while we are there, just to see what they do differently.  We will be in a tent for probably 9 of the 10 nights on the road (thank GOD for a wonderful wife!) and will wash clothes the night we spend in the hotel.  I am currently researching campgrounds in the Black Hills around Mt. Rushmore, so if anyone has any ideas about places to stay, please, let me know.

Last Year’s Video…  While were planning this year’s trip, I ran across a video I made from the approach to KOSH last year.  It was a fun ride; we had made it to an airport about an hour south before we hit bad weather.  After waiting it out all day, we found a nice opening that allowed us to make it in before dark on Sunday.  It was very busy, with planes coming in from every direction, but we made it in safely and saw a friend of ours from Mississippi before we even got out of the plane – Only at OSHKOSH! So, check out the video below and as always, you can subscribe to our blog by entering your  e-mail address in the box to the right or “LIKE” our Face book page at https://www.facebook.com/2FlyAmerica.

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