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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!

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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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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.

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