September 27th: As it seems since Theresa and I raced in June,
I find myself sitting in the beautiful blue skies and flying into the muck. Today wa no exception. The plan had been
an early departure, etc. Well, we already know the moral of that story. Actually, the departure was delayed for many reasons,
not the least of which was the weather.
We have now hired a full-time live-in caregiver for Mario so I can fly with peace of mind. Today was her first
full day; the first day of new medications; and my leaving all rolled into one. This is the perfect recipe for an early
morning melt-down. I stayed long enough to create a diversion then slipped out unnoticed...and left the cookies
behind. ARGH! Having new people in the
house, I did not want to maintain the full cabinet of liquor that I had always kept for guests and since I do not drink at
all, it was pointless to keep such temptations in the house so the entire contents of the cabinet was loaded into Wild
for transportation and donation to my brother and his wife who still entertain quite a bit.
Mama was sitting quite tail heavy as she waddled across the ramp to re-fuel prior t departure. In addition to the gift
to my brother, I had a television set, VCR and DVD to deliver to Tennessee, plus meeting binders, corporate book and my travelling
office that will accompany me to Denver for next weekend. Oh, I guess I also packed some clothes to cover the broad spectrum
of temperatures from sunshine to shivers.
Departure was uneventful except that ATC was so busy
that it took me an estended period ot time to get my clearance. Actually, given the economy in its current start, I was quite
pleased to hear and see so many little airplanes flying around. Once, cleared, I was able to pass over top of Disney
World. Aside from the bid red TFC circle, "The Mouse" is always a prominent feature pointing the way to Fantasyland. Once
I got the hand-off to Orlando approach, they still had me as VFR flight following. This is not so important now, but I knew
I would be in the soup eventually.
In spite of a commonly held belief that we do not get tailwinds out of Florida,
I was sporting a nice little tailwind today, cruising along between 155 and 162 kts most of the way to Lake Norman, NC. This
made my 4 hour trip into a mere 3 1/2 hours, a fact that my bladder would come to appreciate. It was nice to be alone - just
me, ATC and the MP3. It was nice to have a less than challenging flight. I was able to relax and reflect for a bit: a treat
given recent life circumstance. Passing Jacksonville, I was again encouraged by the number of planes flying the coastline
- at one point having 6 pass off my right wing in a loose formation. There were many small boats out as well and the channels
heading out of Jackson and the south Geargia area were clogged with vessels...again, encouraging.
The first cloud
appeared just south of Columbia, SC. They were widely scattered at first then blended into a well mixed soup. There was no
rain, however, and no convective activity, so it was a good IFR practice run. I was vectored out toward the initial approach
fix for the GPS 14 approach into Lake Norman. The conditions had been consistently bad all morning, waivering between IFR
and low IFR; but the forecast was for marginal VFR after 1300 local. It was now 1315. Close enough. I was cleared for the
approach and switched to advisory frequency. I radioed my position on the approach path and waws greeted by a friendly voice
welcoming me in - we are above the minimums so keep it comin'. Wild Mama was in "auto-flair" given
her tail heavy status so the touch down and landing were very smooth and quite effortless. After 3 1/2 hours I was ready to
take a walk, get some fuel and relax for the afternoon.
The television reports had come on all week about the gas
shortage in NC. I was not particularly worries as my brother and his wife alwys have things covered and are planners.
I should have though farther ahead. I asked for fuel. "No worries. We are allowing transients 10 gallons to
get you to Rowan County." OOPS. Small oversight on my part. I guess I might be making more stops than anticipated. I
like stopping at new places so this might be the opportunity of a life-time . . . stops every hour or so for the whole trip?????
I am not so sure about that. I will start calling ahead.
It was good to see Chris and Colleen. The plan for them
had been to pick me up in the boat, head to lunch and take a little
scenic ride to their house on Lake Norman. But the weather did not cooperate there, either. This was actually good as it would
have been a challenge transporting 9 cases of liquor to the boat, the car then the house. It was much easier when they pulled
the car next to Wild Mama
and made the direct transfer. But we did make it to a nice lunch on the water, followed
by a short boat ride. The sun was still obscured and the wind was quite cool so zipping along was not favored as Colleen and
I froze. Still fun and quite scenic - just short.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening was restful. My nephew,
Tyler, fixed the ring tone on my telephone that had been bothering me since April; we watched a rather bizarre movie
about a "narf" and went to sleep early. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was nice to get a good nights rest for
a change. I will tackle the world tomorrow. . . .
the 2008 Air Race Classic, I found myself this morning sitting in the soup trying to fly into the soup. Since I was unable
to get gas in Lake Normal I had to make the 18 mile trip to Rowan County for fuel. I could not see filing IFR especially since
the glideslope was out. So I waited for a 1200' ceiling before departing for the airport. Finally just after noon time,
the weather broke but the rain and low ceiligs persisted in Maryland so I opted to head directly to the cabin in Tennessee
where the morning fog had already lifted.
With gas an issue at the car pumps, Chris had to take me to the airport
via motorcycle. It was quite a sight with my computer, camera and 2 bags strapped to the bike. He smartly pointed out that
this trip has seen many modes of transportation: plane, car, boat now motorcycle. I guess I need to find a train somewhere
to make the gamut complete. Anyway, I was off to Rowan in short order and fueled up but decided to file IFR to get over the
mountains. There was still an airmet out for mountain obscuration and with my path crossing Mount Mitchell, I decided ATC
would be a valuable asset in my arsinal. I filed for 8000' to Crossville and departed.
It was not long before
I raised ATC and obtained my clearance. They bumped me up to 9000' then 10,000' before long. At 8000' I was in
the soup; ditto with 9000'. By 10,000' I had a beautiful view of the blue skies above and the solid cloud base below.
Indeed the mountains were completely obscured. Again, I caught a slight tailwind so the trip was quite pleasant.
As I approached Crossville, ATC advised me that they had a notam for no gas. I had checked the notams and already knew that
would be an issue, but the plan was to shoot the ILS there if necessary, cancel IFR and scoot over to Sparta VFR where I had
a friend waiting to pick me up to drive me back to Crossville to fetch my car. Since Sparta was now open, I could relocate
back to the airport closest to the cabin (and a 2009 ARC stop, I might add). ATC cleared me to 4500' and just below the
broken layer. The plan worked: "4WM would like to cancel IFR."
It was nice to see the rolling hills and
greenery of the Upper Cumberland region. I have come to really enjoy the beauty, peace and tranquility of the area. My flights
are always scenic and this
time of year, the fall colors are just starting to burn through the last greens of summer. The leaf peepers will be arriving
soon; but for now, my cabin is available for me to use.
I have a nice visit with my friends, get the car and find
some brilliant yellow Mumms for the cabin. They will make a nice addition to the landscaping and set off the bright red roof.
I load up with 6 Mumms and head back to Wild Mama to pick up my bags, travelling office, computer, TV, DVD and VCR
plus the ARC meeting packets. The car is quite full, but Wild Mama breathed a sign of relief. It is late when I get
home but it is good to be there. I will see the work done on the yard and other improvements in the morning. Tonight I sleep...
September 29th: ... and sleep I did ... like a rock. I awoke this morning refreshed even though
it was just after 5 a.m. local time. The morning was clear and cool: the cloudless sky allowed the temperature to drop to
the mid-50's during the night. A perfect morning to fly, but I had work to do.
I was excited for the first light to come so I could see all the work done at the bottom of the hill at the cabin on Mountain
Crest. I had hated the overgrown mess that had accumulated over the last couple of years but finding someone to do that job
with a booming economy was next to impossible. Now that things have slowed, I found a good contractor at a reasonable price
to accomplish the task. The hill is steep so he cut stairs into the hillside. The grass was already growing so I elected to
"walk" down the muddy, steep bank next to the steps so as not to crush the grass. Did I mention that there are times
that I am not the brightest bulb in the pack. The little "walk" rapidly turned into a free for all slide until I
hit bottom - both mine and the hills'. Mother told me there would be days like this! It was worth it. The view has been
cleared out so that the fall colors will come through brilliantly into view. The floor below has been seeded and mulched and
should sprout green right before the first frost comes through. The Mumms I found yesterday set off the front of the
cabin beautifully and made a nice contrast with the bright red roof.
The day was busy but the evening quiet. I
have opened all the windows to alow the light breeze to whaft in to the cabin. The scent of fresh air; the crickets and the
col still of the night are delightful. It is the kind of night to find your loved one and cuddle up in front of a low, glowing
October 1st: This trip to
Tennessee has been unusual: quite unlike the other trips where we spend the entire trip working, repairing the
cabin and making improvements. This time, I got to sit back and enjoy God's Country. I have yet to turn on a TV or radio,
do any sightseeing or shopping. The tranquility of the cabin has been sufficient.
Last night was cool - about
45 here at the cabin - but the inside remained a toasty 70 degrees as log cabins are amazingly well insulated. The temperature
barely broke 70 outside today and with a brisk breeze, it was chilly. I finally broke down and built a fire. Ahhhh, toasty
warm. The fire creates such an ambiance.
The contractors were finishing up their work on the back 40 down the mountain side. It has been a sore point for the past
2 years and my reward was the family of wild turkey that came meandering across the clearing and up the hill. Well, the view
was greatly improved too. I am pleased.
Tomorrow, I depart for Oklahoma City. It is forecast to be a drop dead beautiful
day with a headwind - huh, can't have everything. But this will give me the opportunbity to fly low and enjoy the countryside over
western Tennessee and northern Arkansas.
October 2nd: The
morning was crisp and cool - only 46 degrees - but the sky was a brilliant blue; the air was still. Perfect day to fly. I
cleaned the cabinand packed up in short order to head off to the airport for an early departure. I should know better: it
was 1030 by the time I was wheels up; but since it was such a beautiful day, I really did not care.
I departed out toward the west and angled slightly north of the Nashville Class C airspace. The music
was playing and I really did not see the need to talk to anyone if I did not have to. It was nice to fly in peace again: the
drone of the engine being the best companion I could have right now. This route was familiar to me in a sense as I had flown
it backwards from Oklahoma City the year before; but I flew at night then so I did not get to appreciate the beauty of western
Tennessee. The rolling hills quit rolling and flattened out a bit; but the scenery was still lush and green as fall had not
yet started to overtake this part of Tennessee.
My first stop was in Kennett, MO
for cheap gas - $4.27! The wind was getting a bit gusty; but gusty from 0 to 10 kts or so - hardly anything to get all excited about. From Kennett, I stayed low to enjoy the Ozarks on the northern end. I had passed
to the south before and recalled the "rapidly rising terrain" admonition from the sectional charts. This area to
the north was a more gradual incline - hardly enough to note, but rise it did. I stayed only about 1000' above the mountains
as the wind was still light; but the bumps in the air did seem to increase after a time to coincide with the bumps in the
The next fuel stop was in Henrietta, OK - another cheap gas stop as the
fuel at Wiley Post was over $6.00/gallon. Henrietta was still in the $4.30 range and $2.00/gallon differential cried out for
an extra stop. I chatted with several of the gentlemen hanging out at the airport. It is always fun to chat it up with local
pilots; but my chatting was getting a bit long so I had to say my good-byes and make the last leg to Oklahoma City.
The day remained beautiful for the entire flight; but my arrival found Wild Mama covered in
bugs. I had noted some in Henrietta but I was really not paying too much attention. She was really dirty: red dirt; severe
bug smash and the general dirt that she accumulates on her belly made her quite a sight. Theresa arrived to help me de-bug
her a bit but we wew able to do little more than remove the large bug chunks and leave the residue. She will need a serious
bath when I return for annual next week.
Tonight was the OPA meeting in Oklahoma. Theresa and I killed time walking around Lake Hefner and catching up on all our girl
talk before the OPA meeting. The meeting featured a Mexican food buffet and Mike and Jim talking about their trip to Johnson
Creek enroute to the Air Race Classic start in Bozeman. That was quite an adventure for them and we all enjoyed the sloide
show and mini-lessons on mountain flying. I dropped off right after the meeting - exhausted today; but excited to be flying
to Denver tomorrow.
October 3rd: For
a change, Theresa and I did not stay up half the night talking. I was exshausted last night but got up refreshed today and
ready to fly. Another georgous day was at hand so we got to go VFR to Denver the whole way. We got off around 0800 local -
a true early start; but the wind was forcast to come up and I did not want to go into a mountainous region with high winds.
The land from the high plains of Oklahoma into Denver really does a gradual up-sloping. We started at
4500' and managed to be at the 800' AGL pattern altitude as we crossed Lamar Airport. Time to climb. We bumped up
to 6500' then, passing Hugo VOR, up to 8500' to get flight following in to the Denver area. Pikes Peak came in to
a hazy view off our left wing.
The Denver area was very crowded. There was a static
display supposed to take place for the weekedn as we later found and many of the planes were enroute, in addition to the throngs
of planes just out for a beautiful day. We landed at 1100 local without hardly the slightest bump or air ripple. An F-84 came
in right behind us and parked next door. Theresa and I fueled, gathered out belongings and headed to the hotel to meet
our group and prepare for the meetings to come al weekiend.
Upon our arrival at the hotel, we found some of our meeting mates and all had lunch. We noticed a sign that said "Powder
Puff" in addition to the "Air Race Classic" sign. Could it be? As fate would have it, there was an annual reunion
of Powder Puff Derby flyers the same weekend at the same hotel. . . and the theme of the 2009 ARC is "Celebrating 80
years of Women's Air Racing". How fun!
We spend our afternoon walking the
local area and preparing for the onslought of meetings. Now there is work to be done.
October 5th: The weather was looking pretty good for a morning departure
although we knoew we would have a line of storms to cross. The key to the day was a timely departure to avoid the large line that was forecast to build between Denver and
Oklahoma City. We completed most of our meeting duties by 1000 local and knew it was time to go - fast. Time was ticking and
we did ot mean to remain this long. It took a bit of time to check out, get a shuttle to the airport and get Wild Mama
ready to go and by 1100 local we were off.
We watched as the line of storms continued
to build. Should we make the run for it or stop at Lamar to re-assess our options. There were severs storms to the south and it was moving and building north. We could envision
that we would keep heading northward and more northward several hunderd miles out of the way. We opted for a landing in Lamar
to call flight services. We spoke with the briefer of "doom and gloom" who said that we would never make it through. Neither of us wer in
a particular hurry so we opted to not take the risk and head west to Pueblo, CO. I had never been there and I had very few
Colorado pins for my wall so why not.
The winds were coming up at Lamar - about 28
kts but they settled quite a bit by Pueblo. We were happy to find very accomodating personnel at Flower FBO; but cars were
not available so we were left with no transportation save for a nice gentleman, Steve, who took us to the hotel on his way
home from work. There was nothing much at Pueblo where we were located, except for a good Carino's restaurant where we
enjoyed some salads and Italian bread. . . then rest. Tomorrow we will re-assess our options and try again ...
The morning in Pueblo was absolutely glorious but we were faced with the decision to slog through the
storms into Oklahoma City; or turn north to Colorado Springs for a day of fun. Duh! In a mere 18 minutes we touched down in
Colorado Springs not too far from where we started in Centennial Airport just south of Denver.
As Theresa was familiar with the area, she was the "Queen for a Day" and formulated out
itinerary of nature lovers activities. We started with the Garden of the Gods: a state park of natural rock formations and
vegetation. http://www.gardenofgods.com/home/index.cfm While there, we ran into 2009 Team Wild Mama co-pilot, Caroline Baldwin, and her husband, Bill at the Balancing
Rock. Caroline was on her way back from Lydia's 40th birthday and just intuitively knew where to find us.
Theresa and I continued on to the Cog Railway to Pikes Peak. http://www.cograilway.com/default.asp We were warned it might be chilly - they were not kidding. The train ride was not too bad as we inched our way
up the mountain over 8 miles in jusdt over 1 1/2 hours. It wa a slow trek but the Aspend were beautiful - we were there for
leaf peeping, after all. By the time we arrived at the top we were quite frigid at 14,110' and there was quite a bit of
snow. We meandered around a bit then it was time to leave. Since the train does not turn around, we swapped seats with another
couple so we could catch the other side of the jurney down the mountain. The train was forced to stop for a wayward mountain goat crossing the tracks. How exciting.
The evening found us at the Hughes Hacienda, a small B & B at the south part of town nestled in
the mountains. It was dark and quite cool by the time we arrived; but the hosts were warm and welcoming and our room was complete
with a small fireplace so it was quite cozy and comfortable. I was stressing as I had neither telephone nor internet service;
but Theresa was quite content to snuggle up with a good book in fromt of the fire. I took the opportunity to sleep!
7th: We could play no longer. It was time to carry Theresa back to Oklahoma City. The day was spectacular
and we had almost the same 200 mile visibility as we had seen the day before from the top of Pikes Peak. We saw that the winds
were up a bit but it was a tailwind and we were pleased.
We started with a hearty breakfast by the Hughes family - fruit
and Eggs Benedict - yummy! It was getting later as we finally left the hacienda and it was nearly 1000 local by the time we were able to depart. We left the Class C airspace, switched to VFR,
and settled in quite happy with our 156 kt ground speed crossing over the high plains and nearly unremarkable land features.
The farm lands were interesting as the patterns formed circles and other interesting shapes along the landscape. We pressed
on... 165 kt groundspeed ... 174 kt groundspeed ... 182 kt groundspeed. We remained at 7500' and there was no reason to
go any lower except that it was time to land. We caught the closest AWOS to Hinton, OK, out intended fuel stop. "Winds
300 at 19 peak gusts 28". Well that will be interesting. We landed on runway 35 without incident but was the wind ever
It was quite difficult to get fueled as hats andm papers kept trying to escape the cockpit. We rushed through
our fueling operations and opted to use the facilities when we arrived in Oklahoma City, Wiley Post Airport about 35 miles
away. Hang on for a bumpy ride to OKC! Once we departed, it was not too long before we realized that the winds were increasing
rapidly and turning more from the norht as we approached Wiley Post. Landing was quite interesting - well, not so much the
landing but the turn out on to the taxiway. The winds were not howling and report at OKC as 27 gusting to 35. I would say that the gusts were pretty well sustained. Our hats blew off, my glasses blew off, papers
flew out of the binders as we tried to unload the plane. The can of window cleaner went rolling down the tarmac. I am wondering
if I want to continue onto Hot Springs.
We take a break and grab lunch at the local cafe and check the weather.
I file IFR for a 1600 local departure just in case. We go back outside and we are nearly knocked over. I think not. Even though
the highest winds are only there for the next hour or so, I do not feel like fighting these crosswinds when they will
be lighter in the morning. Time for another break. Time to catch up on the internet and telephone stuff I have missed and
tackle the flight toward Florida tomorrow. I will have to cross that front that I have been postponing all along but I will
cross it in more familiar territory and with lower terrain. I have some chance to go under or pick my way through a bit easier;
there are also more opportunities to divert and land if need be. Back to the solo journey as it nears its end.