Departure - Going to Atlanta
: Tuesday, February 24th was a beautiful day for a long flight from
LaBelle to Atlanta. The air was cool, the winds were light and I was up for an adventure. The plan was to collect fellow
racer, Jo Alcorn, in Winter Haven around 9-ish; proceed to Waycross to chat about the Air Race for 2010, then head in to Peachtree
Airport near Atlanta where we would get our rental car, load our exhibition materials and head to the WAI conference by 2-ish. I
should have learned long by now that one cannot use the words "plan" and "airplane" in the same sentence
unless it is something like: "The trip with the airplane did not go as planned".
With a "chirp"
the landing at Winter Haven was picture perfect. Jo was ready and we were back in the air in no time flat. We had just enough
room in Wild Mama
to stuff Jo's bag as the plane was packed with convention gear - display booth,
promotional material, computers, convention booth decorations and 20 pounds of chocolate. We flew off into a cross wind for
the majority of our trip to Waycross, GA, the wind gaining strength as we proceeded northward. The ride was actually getting
quite rough and I had to hand fly the plane to try to smooth it out a bit. But after 1-1/2 hours of speed bumps we arrived
in Waycross no worse for the wear. Another "chirp" and we taxied to the ramp for some chatting about the Air Race
Just after noon we were ready to depart, said our good-byes and headed off to runway 5 for departure.
The wind was 120 at about 10 kts so either runway 5 or 18 would have worked equally as well. We made a final zig zag to check
the turn coordinator. We zigged to the left but kept on zigging. The right brake just failed! Chop the power to stop from
runing off the taxiway and straighten out so we can get turned around and get back to the ramp. "You guys lost out there?"
Smart guys from the FBO. We taxied back in to ask for a local mechanic. There were none to be found so we called Vern to come
rescue the plane.
By the time Vern gathered tools, parts and a plane and made the trip to Waycross, it was nearly
4:00 p.m. He immediately went to work on the brake only to discover that it was not going to be a simple
fix and would require much more than he had at his disposal. With the time too late to rent a car, Vern loaded all of our
stuff into the twin Aztec and flew us the remainder of the way to Peachtree. By the time we landed, ate, got our car, took
Vern to Walmart for overnight supplies and dropped him at a hotel, it was after 10 p.m. Jo and I still had a 30 minute drive
to downtown Atlanta to get to our hotel for the evening. We promptly crashed in bed upon arrival.
Part of any good convention is the amount of lay time offered to the participants.
WAI gets 2 thumbs up for the extra-curricular activities offered. Our pre-convention day was a trip to the Warner-Robins
Aviation Museum. It was a fun but long day pouring over airplane exhibits and some interesting war exhibits. We were particularly
intereted in Rommels Asparagus Patch - large poles planted into the ground in open fields by the German to prevent aircraft
landing by the Allied troops - and the parachute wedding dresses made and worn by local girls who hid troops during an
invasion in WWII.
The other trip was to the Georgia Aquarium. Now you really have my attention. This was one of the finest aquariums that I
have seen. The exhibits were logically arranged, greatly varied and very well done. They had whale sharks, beluga whale, salt
and fresh species from all over the world and great multi-media presentations to compliment each exhibit. This was truly an
evening to remember and a great departure from the aviation theme of the conference. But what can be better than fish and
flight all rolled into one?
As much fun as we were having, Jo and I were there to work for the Air Race Classic. We had a booth
to set up; prospective racers to excite and prospective sponsors to entice. The days were long and the exhibition
hall was packed for all 3 days of the conference. We were on our feet all day (OK, except when this photo was taken) and came
back to the room each night exhausted but still smiling.
On Friday morning we conducted the 2009 Air Race Classic
drawing for the first 10 race numbers. This is always an
exciting event for the ladies who are in the hunt for the first 10 numbers. Fran Strubeck from the neighboring 99s booth,
did the honors for the drawing. Anne Marie Radel and her partner, Juliann Sikora drew the lucky Classic 1 spot and will lead
the 2009 flock of racers off the line in Denver, CO in June.
In addition to the thousands of conference attendees, I was privileged to meet Nicole Cagnolatti who presented me with the
2008 "If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It" Scholarship. While I had spoken with Nicole and e-mailed her on a number
of occasions, I had not had the opportunity to personally thank her for the generous scholarship provided to me for my float
plane rating at Twitchell's last July. Nicole presented me with a beautiful crystal diamond in recognition of the occasion.
It is a very special award that I can now see to treasure forever.
So as the conference is winding down on Saturday
and we grow more silly by the minute, we find ourselves face to face with a delimna: It seems that a representative of Southwest
Airlines came to visit with some questions about the race. Now anyone who has flown Southwest can attest to the fact that
they are an airline with a sense of humor. They presented us with a perplexing question, our last of this very long but successful
conference: Will this plane qualify to race at ARC??????
Our Flight (?) Home: As our luck would have it (and this was a real lucky break),it snowed in Atlanta on
Sunday - the morning we are to depart for home. The rains came first, then the sleet and slushy snow. The temperatures plummeted
and the winds howled. All flights out of Atlanta were halted and passengers - and convention goers - were left stranded in
Atlanta as the winter storm blasted through the south. All were stranded, except us!!!! We were driving because our plane
is still sitting with no brakes in a hangar in Waycross, safe and sound. We do the happy dance.
early at 0-dark-30, we grab our car, load our gear and depart south on I-75. It was a bit of slow going at first with pounding
rains, but we managed to hit pretty far south and only saw a fleeting flake or two enroute about 100 miles north of the Florida
border. By the time we hit the border, the winds had increased but they had also blown ot the gray skies that remained to
the north. It was clear sailing all the way home. Did I say that I was up for an adventure?
is still in Waycross and we will have to go fetch her later in the week. . . at least, that is "the plan". . . .