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Packing for Oshkosh 2013 & Where have we been?

By: Beth Hardy Duff

FIRST DAY OF THE BRITISH OPEN… (okay, sooo…)  It is Thursday, late afternoon on July 18th.  We are sitting in front of the TV watching the recap of the first day of the British Open.  The weather there looks to have been pretty good for the first round.  Exceptionally good… as opposed to our own weather in Madison which was host to the Sanderson Farms Championship.  It treated our entrants and spectators to a spectacular display of Mississippi weather in July at its finest.

EARLIER IN THE DAY…  When I finally crawled out of bed this morning and went outside to complete a long put-off chore of cleaning out the gutters on the back of the house, it was as oppressive and humid as Junior Samples’ shorts!  I got the ladder up and dug out all sorts of dirt, leaves, shingle dust and the occasional displaced skinks.  All finished, I swept off the 50 pounds (or so it appeared) of stuff I had pulled out of the gutter and sacked it up for the “garbage fairies” to haul off.  Garbage Fairies are my term for the garbage men who come to my house on Mondays & Thursdays and magically make my garbage disappear…. I LOVE them!

Shortly thereafter, it began to thunder, then it rained, then it poured.  I LOVED the fact that the deck was getting a freebie wash-job and that the gutters were operating correctly and getting a great hosing out.  As I turned my back, a bolt of lightning plunged into the ground somewhere very close and I ducked and almost ran for cover.  This continued on long after the rain ended providing a special viewing of Mississippi lightning in July in the daytime.  Those imported spectators visiting our area were now fully versed in the bizarre weather Mississippi can sport and probably headed straight to Wal-Mart to replace their now soiled undies!

So after that, I went back to the TV… I planned to watch the day’s recap of the Sanderson Farm Championship, however, there wasn’t much to show as the rain and lightning scared off everyone including the Golf Gods and forced not just a “rain delay”, but a “rain postponement til the next day”.  Better luck tomorrow, guys.

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Miaow helping Paul with weather planning…

WHERE ‘YA BEEN?  You haven’t heard much from us in a long time and it’s not because we have forgotten about you or have abandoned the blog.  Frankly, we had no idea that anybody really REAALLLY paid that much attention to us….but we found out differently!  Recently, everywhere Paul and I have been, one or both of us have been politely chastised for being so delinquent in our writings.  If we didn’t run into you telling us this, we actually got emails from you!  What a boon to our egos!  You like us!  YOU REALLY DO LIKE US!!  (Move over, Sallie Field, we’re good too!)  So, we will try to do better.  We have both endured our fair (and very unfair) share of family sicknesses and woes over the past several months and that does a lot to kill the flow from the writer’s fingers.  It just doesn’t flow at all.  A couple of weeks ago, Paul mentioned that he intended to sit down & write a few things for the blog and that he sat at his computer, fingers poised and nothing….just nothing happened.  Nothing except Miaow hopping into his lap and loving on him as she has learned to do when I’m gone.  She has quickly become Paul’s cat as I am no longer her favorite.  She’s Daddy’s girl and she knows it and plays it to the hilt.  Perhaps she has forgotten who feeds her, changes her litter, bought her the $30 S-Curve upholstered cat recliner and a zillion dollars’ worth of assorted toys.  When I do come home, she twines around my ankles until I pick her up and then she bites me in a somewhat playful and somewhat Freddy Kruege-like manner.  Somehow, Ialways forgive her.

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Where are ya’ll going now??

PACKING FOR OSHKOSH…  While I was at my parents’ house, tending to them, I asked Paul if he would start getting out stuff for OSH and just put it on the dining room table.  He said he’d be glad to.  In fact, it was exciting to think of packing up for our annual fun cross-country trip and would help get his mind off things too.  When I finally got home, dead on my feet, I expected to come in to a view of the tent, sleeping bags and other assorted stuff piled high in the middle of the dining room table.  Instead, I caught sight of the paperback Notam and a single sheet report from AV Lab of our oil analysis and that was all…except cat hair and dust.  I asked what happened and I never got a real precise answer other than, “I wasn’t sure where the tent and sleeping bags were”, “Uh, I never got a good start on it”, “Uh, well, I needed your help.”  For all you other married pilots out there, number three is the proper answer.  After 31 years of marriage, floundering around until you cough up, “Uh….I needed your help” or something related to this greatly aids your case immensely.  All is instantly forgiven and packing immediately gets underway.

More to come as we continue to pack this week.

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Off To Houma, LA

Track us today… to the Cajun Fly-in in Houma, LA. Details are here: http://www.eaa.org/calendar/eventdetail.aspx?id=12383

Click here to track or the “Track Us”  link at the top of the page.  We hope to have some photos later in the week.

Washington DC, not what I thought!

Slow to Post…  Since returning from Oshkosh, things have been a little hectic and not allowed time for much writing.  It has been fun to run into friends and family that have asked what we were going to write about next.  It is cool to know that folks DO read this stuff – THANKS!

Washington DC… Our most recent trip was one for work and unfortunately did not involve our airplane, but was very interesting anyway.  The company I work for, Delta Industries, is active in the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) and I was able to make a national meeting this past week in Washington, DC.  Beth nor I had never been to DC, so we decided to go up a day early and try to see some sites.  Little did we know that one extra day was not going to allow us to see much more of this VERY interesting city.

You Can Feel the History…  Final approach into Reagan National Airport put us right over the Pentagon and my immediate thoughts went to the tragedy of 9/11.  Then, I saw the Arlington National Cemetery just beyond the Pentagon and my thoughts turned to those who have died for my freedom.  At that point, I knew this was going to be a special, thought provoking, trip.  I don’t think there is anywhere else in this country that you can go stand in one place and be surrounded by so much history and walk the paths of some of the most brilliant (and not so) makers of that history.

Need a Plan…  After settling in at our hotel just south of town, I purchased a three day pass for the shuttle to downtown.  Most of my meetings for the first two days were in the afternoon and at night so we could get up early and shuttle in for some sightseeing. This afternoon was open though, so we decided to get to it and head in for as long as we could and at least look around and come up with a plan for the next two mornings.  The shuttle dropped us off north of the Capitol building at Union Station.  We started our walk to the south to see the Capitol and then to the west along the National Mall area.  The first thing we noticed was how spread out this place is!  It is a long way from the Capitol to the White House and there is a lot of stuff to see in between.  We continued our walk to the Washington monument and then north to the White House.  This brought us close to the Old Post Office which was the last place we could catch the shuttle back to the hotel at 8:30pm.  Wow, what a walk!  We did get an idea of where things were and what we wanted to see the next morning.

The Best Stuff is FREE…  Early the next morning we were back on the shuttle, headed into town – first stop – the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  We figured we could cover it in a half day and see something else later that day – WRONG, this place was huge and we ended up spending the entire day there!  Besides being an aviation nut, I have always been a space program nut, it was all here and we could have spent two days going through it in detail.  Most all of the displays were the real thing when possible, not just models or mock-ups.  The highlight of the day was seeing the ORIGINAL Wright Flyer that Orville and Wilbur managed to get in the air over a hundred years ago.   The really great thing about the Smithsonian Museums and the government buildings was that there was no charge for admission.

Ruby Slippers, First Lady Dresses & the Constitution…   The next morning we were back at it again, this time at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  If only we could have learned about history in school by visiting these places (I guess the smart kids did).  Beth wanted to see the Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz along with the dresses worn by the First Ladies collection.  Not the most interesting things to me, BUT, there were tons of cars, electrical motors, steam engines, guns, trains and other cool stuff invented by Americans on display.  I think the highlight of this museum was seeing the original US flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner during the war of 1812. After spending the morning soaking up history at the museum, we walked over to the National Archives building which houses The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights.  I was amazed that you could put your eyes 6 inches away from these historic documents – this was a goose bump moment!  The room was darkly lit to preserve the documents and no cameras were allowed, but this experience will live with us forever.

007 & Spies Like Us…  When we were done at the archives building, we had a few more hours before we had to catch the shuttle so we decided to stay in the area and visit the International Spy Museum.  This museum did charge 20 bucks each to visit, but it was also well worth it.  We only had 2.5 hours to spend and needed 3 times that!  Their massive collection of spy devices, memorabilia and video presentations was impressive and interesting to a kid that grew up during the “cold war era”, and like most museums, you finish the tour at the gift shop.   This was not your average gift shop though, they had all kinds of knock-off spy devices and more T-shirts than Disney World.

Slide Show – Photos were taken with Samsung S3 Phone…

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More Time Here… While, the rest of the trip for me was spent in meetings, Beth was able to take a tour of President Lincoln’s cottage with the ladies one day and then it was time to fly home.  While some BAD weather got in the way of us getting home on time, we did make it home safely and longing to return to DC.  I would love to spend 5 or 6 days just visiting the museums downtown along with the monuments and the Arlington National Cemetery.  Looks like I need to familiarize myself with the Washington area ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and fly Caddie up to Manassas, VA… I guess we’ll have to put that on the list!

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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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Awe Hail… Stormy Night in the Black Hills!

Sorry about the delayed posts... but, the weather was pretty bad and we found ourselves without internet access for most of the remainder of the trip and since we have been home, we have been caught up with catching up.  Trust me there was plenty to talk about, both from South Dakota and Wisconsin!

The night from hail… after we made the previous post about what we did on day one in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we decided to head into Hill City to get a quick bite to eat.  As we approached town, the clouds got darker and the rain started.  Beth said “Was that hail I heard”… “naww, it’s just raining hard”, I said… Oh well, in about 30 seconds, I was looking for a place to pull over to escape the ice falling from the sky.  We did find a parking lot that was slightly protected and luckily the hail ranged from pea to marble sized, so there was no damage to the rental car.  After sitting in the hail storm for well over 10 minutes, we decided to bypass dinner for now and go back to see if the tent was still standing after the rain settled down.

KOA, Washed away!…Wow, as we pulled into the campground, the second wave of rain hit us.  The hail from the previous wave was pilled up inches deep as we turned into the campground.  At this point, we just knew the tent was destroyed and all of our stuff was wet.  When we made it to the bottom of the hill where our tent was located, we were met with a wall of rushing water carrying sand and gravel and most of the road down from above… this made for VERY loose material to drive on and that is where we stopped moving!  Well crap… at least we were stuck right in the middle of the road, so the KOA folks would eventually have to

Big Agnes after “round one” with the elements…

come push us out – so we waited  – but, not for long.   Out of the woodwork, help came from every direction in the form of six or seven barefooted, kind-hearted souls who literally picked up the front of our underpowered rental tin can and moved us out of the loose sand and gravel.  In no time at all, we were liberated and moving up the hill again.

Best Tent Ever! (hold that thought)… So when we did make it up the hill, much to our surprise, the tent was still standing!  Our neighbor’s large “kitchen” tent had collapsed with broken poles and such but our Big Agnes was still alive.   After the rain stopped we went through all of our stuff in the tent and it was all still dry and in good shape.  A few minutes later our neighbors arrived to assess the situation and from the looks of it, their “sleeping” tent was OK too, but… it is starting to rain again!  So, to get out of the weather, all 6 of us pile into the Chevy Aveo for shelter.  It is amazing how much camaraderie there is among campers and folks that like the outdoors.  Our new friends from Bismarck, North Dakota had two great kids and were fun to visit with.  After this last small shower passed, Beth & I decided we would head back into town to eat.

Karaoke from hail…  We rolled into Hill City and found what kinda looked like a “Biker-Bar/Mexican Restaurant”.   Margaritas seemed to be in order for the two of us, along with some pretty good food.  As we were finishing off our meal, a guy came around and handed out the song books for “Talent Time” … yep, it was karaoke night!  While I have been known to partake in song, I think my lack of body “ink” and facial hair would set me apart from this crowd in a way that would keep me way away from the mic.  Luckily, there were many “takers” to provide entertainment and within minutes it got loud in the building, just not from music, yep, hail again!  Lighting was crashing, the power went off, boy is this fun… At this point all we could do was order another drink and think about what shape the tent might be in now and enjoy the entertainment.

Check out the short video below…

Best Tent Ever! (hold that thought again)… After dreading what we would see when we arrived at the campground near midnight, once again we were surprised to see our tent standing in the head lights and in good shape after surviving two torrential downpours with hail.  At this point our thoughts turned to our plane, which was sitting outside in the weather about 30 miles away at Rapid City.  Our hearts were sinking as we watched the storm on radar move over KRAP, but there was not anything we could do tonight, but ride it out and hope for the best.  Our plans now included heading straight to the airport the next morning to see how Caddie made it through the storms.  More to come in the next few days….

New Video…. made with our GoPro Camera!

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 and now you can “TRACK US” by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.

Today in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Today was great…. Pancakes at the KOA for breakfast, Mt. Rushmore in the AM, the Needles Highway in Custer National Forest midday and Crazy Horse in the afternoon.

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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…

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 and now you can “TRACK US” by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.

Track Our Progress with SPOT…

See Spot Run… or better yet, see Paul & Beth fly!  We have had our Spot Satellite Messenger in the plane since our first flight almost two years ago.  While we rarely use the tracking feature, it is nice to have the peace of mind that we could get a message through to the authorities from a remote location if needed.  This handy little device keeps up with where you are and has the ability to transmit your location automatically for tracking purposes or in the case of an emergency, we can push the red help button and the unit will contact search and rescue, giving them your exact coordinates for a speedy rescue.  Spot’s website boasts almost 2,000 rescues initiated by the device with 314 rescues in 2012 alone.  I hope we don’t need it, but like insurance, it is a good thing to have, especially since our trip will take us over “The Badlands” – not a place I want to spend much time in.

New “TRACK US” Link… If you’ll notice at the top of the page, I have put a “TRACK US” tab.  This will take you directly to our Spot Messenger publicly shared page.  I will “try” to remember to turn the unit on when we take off (yes, it is on the checklist) so that those interested can see where we are and where we have been.  Just a note… if you see it just stop tracking in mid-air, don’t be alarmed, it runs on 3 little AAA lithium batteries that will die without warning and I do have a handful of replacements.  I had hoped to embed the linked page into our site, but apparently WordPress does not allow embedded links due to web security concerns, so for now you will just have to hit the “TRACK US” link and be routed to Spot’s shared site.

The plane is packed… the GPS databases are updated, the oil has been changed and we are ready to go!  Plans now are to leave after work on Thursday, weather permitting and fly to Flippin, AR and stay in the camper Thursday night.  Friday morning, we will head to Rapid City, SD with probably one stop around Grand Island, NE for fuel and a potty break.  After a few days tent camping in the Black Hills near Mt. Rushmore, we will head on over to Oshkosh to enjoy the rest of the week at AIRVENTURE! – can’t wait…

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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