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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:

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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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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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