Thunder-Thursday: We got a very late start for a south Florida departure on
Thursday. Unforeseen circumstances delayed us until 1400 hrs - the heat of the day even in October. The sky that has been clear and blue in the early morning was now showing signs of building
thunder storms. Our drive to the airport saw the first of the rains: a drizzle that turned into a full blows driving
rain storm as we pulled up to the hangar. Looking off to the south the weather appeared better, but we were heading north
and the sky was not promising.
We had loaded most everything in to Wild Mama and had a flight plan ready to go to Calhoun,
Blount County, FL. This was a small rural airstrip and no approaches. We filed for Marianna as the alternate, just in case
the low ceiling that were persistent from the morning failed to lift. With a lighter rain now falling we taxied to runway
32, called for out clearance ont he ground and blasted off into an uncertain sky.
ATC put us on a 340 heading almost immediately.
This neatly took us in a trough between two towering cumulus clouds. It was looking ugly on the nexrad weather and we knew
we would be deviating. We remained at 4,000' because we could see under the clouds even though ATC wanted us at 6,000' - they
said climb as soon as we could. We waited until we got clear of the worst storms then headed up to a nice little tailwind.
We kept an eye on the sky behind us as it grew ever so black. We were happy to have left when we did.
we proceeded to north FL there were calls for deviation all over the place. Even more storms erupted but north FL was looking
better. We were in the clear as we passed the big bend but saw the lower clouds forming below us. We knew that Calhoun was
probably not going to happen. As we passed Tallahassee we saw a few breaks int he clouds and descended as low as we could.
Passing 5 miles south of Calhoun we diverted to the alternate, climbed back up to 3,000' ad prepared to do the GPS 18 approach
into Marianna. We were vectored around allowing us to avoid the procedure turn and make it to the airport a little quicker.
at 1600' we broke out of the clouds. Descending to 1200' we could see the horizon below the clouds. We executed a missed approach
at Marianna, cancelled our flight plan and continued VFR under the clouds to Calhoun.
We were motivated to get to Calhoun as
te Aviation Adventures, Inc. Youth and Aviation Adventure Guide was waiting for us there. I finished writing the book last month and was absolutely dying to see it in print. I had 100 copies to deliver to the girls in Fayetteville who
are participating in the ARC 6 month youth and aviation program. Books in hand, we filed again, obtained our clearance on
the ground and departed into the clouds en route to Fayetteville, AR.
About 50 miles from Calhoun, we finally broke free of the
clouds and bad weather and entered the smooth air for the remainder of the trip to AR. Night fell before we reahed Little
Rock so we had the pleasure of seeing the beauty of the city by night before entering the black hole over the Ozarks. It was
a moonless night. It amazed us how quickly we lost the horizon and entered IMC again; only this time it was the pure darkness
of a moonless night.
In no time at all the lights of Fayetteville illuminated the horizon and we prepared for our descent. It
was a windless warm evening and our arrival was quite uneventful, other than the fact that we were glad to be there. It had
been a long day. We were met by Bill and Camelia Smith and ushered into their hangar for the duration of our stay. The evening
was beautiful: 86 degrees and crystal clear. But for now it was time to sleep.
Time to leave Fayetteville, AR. We completed the ARC Board meeting and had to keep heading west toward Pal Springs and the
Summit. It was still quite a long flight from here amd we were not going to make it in only 1 day. Although it was clear when
we took off, there was a high ceiling so we flew VFR under the clouds into Hereford. I had not bee to Hereford since the race. The first think that was evident was the
cow was missing! The folks were just as kind and the fuel was cheap so it was still a great stop.
While at Hereford,
we encountered the 2 yound children of the airport attendant. The recognized me from my picture on the wall. The ARC sponsor
banner and all of th thank yous were posted on the wall. The kids were very inquisitive and interested in the race, aviation
and the folks who come to Hereford from far away places. I gave each an Aviation Adventures Youth Adventure Guide and autographed
each. They were as thrilled as I was. We did a racing departure with a wing waggle before blasting off into the clearing skies.
The last leg of the day was through the mountains
and into Silver City to spend the evening with Caroline Baldwin with a special dinner visit from Valdeen Wooton - the lady
responsible for introducing me to the ARC board. It was great to see both and chat about air racing for the evening.
Monday - Palm Springs: Here we come!: With a car reserved for noon, we were not in a hurry to leave.
That plus we enjoy the company of Caroline and Bill and wanted to savor each moment of our visit. By 1000 hrs we were back
in the air heading straight over the mountains to the west of Silver City. We climbed out to 8500' and remained there
until we crossed the California line. From then, we followed highway 10 in our descent to Jackie Cochran Airport. The terrain
around Jackie Cochran is relatively high for our landing at -130' (that is 130 feet below sea level). Although the ride had
been very smooth at 8500', it was pretty rough through the road route and on through our downwind entry to the airport. We plunked in to land and met Peny and her airport crew. We were treated like royalty: the car was front
and center, the airplane was tied and parked and we were signed in with a fuel order in no time at all. Leave it to a woman
to manage so efficiently!
The remainder of the day was spent orienting and preparing our stuff for the AOPA Summit.
We went to Walmart for chocolate, got some other miscellaneous items for the booth then tried to relax before our work was
to begin. My favorite part of the day was the trip was where we saw THOUSANDS of windmills. I died and went to Heaven!
Tuesday - PS Aviation Museum
this beautiful day, we started the morning at the Palm Springs Aviation Museum. We cannot get to the convention center until
1300 hours so we had some time to kill. This is a very nice museum divided into Pacific Theater, European Theater and a
restoration hangar with their B17. Other noteworthy planes are an A-26, B25, and a Dauntless that was raised from Lake Michigan.
About 25% of their aircraft are flyable warbirds and in exceptional condition. Well worth the visit. We made it back
to the convention center and set up everything that we could. The lights were out and other parts of the booth needed some
attention so we had work to do before fetching Mary Wunder at the airport. Tonight we rest for a long day tomorrow.Wing-Walking Wednesday
: Palm springs is famous for the parade of planes where the planes taxi through
the city streets from the airport to the
convention center. We were asked to be "wing-walkers" for 2 Waco's that were new to the parade. The job of the wing
walker is to guard the wing tips from damage taxiing through the streets. The event was well briefed and there was really
no need for us to wing walk but none of us knew that at the time. We started walking when the plane started to taxi out of
the parking space. This picked up to a light jog then we broke in to a dead run within minutes of
the departure. The pilot got us to jump on the wing for the ride outside of the airport perimeter gate. Once on the street,
we resumed the walk ... the jog ... the run. after 2 blocks I was toast and gave Lara, my walking partner, the sign. She was
toast too. We hopped on the wing and rode most of the remainder of the 2 mile parade route, hopping off at the end near the
convention center. It was a great parade made even better by seeing it from the inside! We finished setting up and made our
way back to the hotel to rest. We have three hectic days coming.
: The day finally arrived. Mary and I were busy all day handing out programs,
chatting to prospective racers and trolling for racers, sponsors and volunteers. We visited the street festival outside the
hotel in the evening before retiring, readying ourselves for two more long days.
We had a great spot at the Summit
between Rosen Visors and a remote control tug company so there were always crowds around us. We managed to give out all of
our programs, sell quite a few books and sign up lots of racers and volunteers. All of that, plus I won an iPad! What a great
week. We packed in record time - out the door in less tan 20 minutes and headed off to a quick dinner and to get Mary
to the airport. We will finish packing our stuff tonight and head east tomorrow.
"See ya" Sunday: With a successful Summit
behind us it was time to say "See ya later" to Palm Springs. We had lots of flying to do, anticipating a 14 hour flight to get home. There was no way we would make it in only one day, especially losing 3 hours and getting a "late"
start. We arrived at the airport and everything was ready for us: Wild Mama was fueled, the invoice was ready
and all we had to do was load 'er up. By 0800 we were in the air, starting below sea level and needing to climb to 9500' to clear terrain and catch whatever wind we could. The tail winds were up higher than we were going to go fully loaded.
The ride out of Thermal, CA was rough - I see how it got its name. We had a 33 kt crosswind beating at us over the
relatively low peaks but it was enough to make us pay attention. By the time we cleared 6000' it started to smooth out a bit
and we made the remainder of the trip on into Deming, NM uneventfully. Deming was our fuel and quick food stop. We met 3 other
182 parked at the ramp and taking on fuel - seems we all had about the same range. We made quick work of stop and headed off,
again climbing back up to 9500' for terrain and a now shifting wind.
By the time we reached Austin, the winds were
pushing us along at 160 kts and it was time to let down. We were spending the night with my step daughter again - the perfect place for family to live! We got some needed rest and headed
out early again. It was still dark when we arrived at the airport but Wild Mama was fueled and ready to go.
Sunrise over Austin, TX was beautiful: a haze hung throughout the sky making the sky a spray of reds and oranges.
It did, however, hamper our ability to climb too high. We remained at 5500' for the trip to St Elmo, AL where we met Inger
and dropped off her books for the No Limits Youth Aviation Program in Mobile. Another quick stop and we were on our way. We called flight services to get flight following, knowing that the VFR flight would be converted over at some
point in time so we could get the the typical Florida afternoon buildups. After we settled in through Pensacola Approach,
ATC came on questioning our aircraft type, wondering how a 182 could be zipping along at nearly 180 kts! S-W-E-E-T!!
As anticipated, coming through the panhandle, we had to convert to an IFR flight plan before hitting the clouds. We
got great routing - direct X14 - that got us closer to home as quickly as possible. But by Tampa we were back on the airways and dodging build-ups. Just atfer 1600 we landed at X14 - 27.8 flight hours round trip to Palm Springs, CA via Fayetteville,
AR. This is probably the last trip for Wild Mama for a while. It is certainly the last long trip she is going
to take in her present condition. While we were gone, we ordered her new engine. She will be getting a new "heart".
Wild Mama has given me over 2,000 hours of fun and adventures. She has taken me to some of the most spectacular
scenery in the world - all from seat 0A and 0F. I look forward to her "internal makeover" and look forward to her
return to the wild blue yonder where she belongs.