Escape from Florida - June 17th:  It has been with great anticipation that we have finally arrived at our departure date fofr the Classic Air Tour 2021. With many air racers feeling the woes of the ARC cancellation and feelings of pent up demand for travel after the pandemic and, of course, dearly missing our 99s sisters, we concocted the Air our so lighten our spirits and give us all something to look forward too.
 
Although we had initially planned for a 9 AM lunch, Ellen and I decided to go early because of the weather that we had experienced the day before. The atmosphere is very unsettled with a tropical disturbance in the golf. We felt it was best to get the heck out of Dodge.

Ellen filed a flight plan and we departed a wee bit early. We hit a brief rain shower as we climbed out from Fort Myers and then, other than a little ducking and weaving, we had a great flight the rest of the way up to our first fuel stop in Moultrie Georgia. The folks there were very accommodating and friendly and we were on our way, VFR, and no time at all. Ellen mentioned that she barely had her six approaches so we decided to go ahead and do an IPC while we were at it. Ellen did a RNAV 4 approach and hand flew quite expertly.

We headed off for the last leg of the day to Jackson Tennessee. The wind had shifted from a slight tailwind to a 90° howling 35 not below. There were some small ridges which seem to be the very tail end of the Appalachian mountain chain and we were rocked to the core with some mountain waves that came off these very small ridges. I hope that is not a sign of things to come in as we will be flying through the Rockies in a few days.

We were looking at all of the various approaches at Jackson and discovered an ILS on runway two. As the two of us sat there staring at it we were trying to figure out the proper mode of entry from our direction of flight. It was not obvious so we asked for vectors. Once again, Ellen flew a flawless approach and we landed to be greeted by JoAnn Speer, our hostess for the next few days. We mention what we thought to be the anomaly of the approach and jo Ann found us a local CFI-I Who engages in a very interesting conversation about this approach. Seems that we did it right!

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up and rearranging the classroom for aviation adventures in anticipation of our first post pandemic youth program with the local boys and girls club. That was about enough for an exciting day for Ellen and me so we headed off to the hotel for a little relaxation. More adventures tomorrow.
 

June 18 - Chickasaw State Park: Today was a leisurely day. no one else came in today so we had the day to enjoy the beautiful park in Tennessee. When Ellen and I were in Middle Tennessee in September for the closing of my small cabin, we had a few extra days and visited many of the Middle Tennessee parks. Being in western Tennessee we have the chance to see some new parks. JoAnn recommended Chickasaw State Park. We saw that it had hiking trails, a 54 acrea lake and paddle boards for rent! We were in.
 
We hit the park early and started with the lake trail for 1.7 miles. We saw many of the 100 species of birds, turtles and lots of intereesting plant life. Once the rental concessions opened, we were Johnny-on-the-spot to get out paddle board/kayak and we had the whole lake to ourselves for our hour paddle.
 
The remainder of the day we spent at Aviation Adventures finishing the library and organizing the storage area. Everyone arrives tomorrow so let the fun begin!! 
       
 
 
 

June 20th - Let the Air Tour Begin!: We ended up with five airplanes full of lady pilots for the air tour although only four of them met us in Tennessee. Pam and Shannon, the Lake Havasu gals, were heading straight to Rapid City for the meet up.

Sunday morning came and everything looked good in Tennessee but the trip up the Mississippi river was going to be a bust. There were multiple storms going across the plains and the river and it really was not a safe bet. We all ended up heading straight to our next destination with a little ducking and weaving along the way.

Ellen and I made a beeline for Dickinson North Dakota to visit Roosevelt National Park while 3 plane loads went to Rapid City and Myra took off on her quest to land in the lower 48.

We did the Bob and weave through a few showers and landed in ———— for a fuel stop and to assess the weather before the last leg to Dickenson. The place was deserted: no people, no planes, no signs of life. But the FBO was open, we were able to get self serve fuel and went on our way. The storms that were blocking our route to Dickenson had dissipated so it was relatively clear sailing all the way, save for a bug wash or 2. We remained under the cloud deck where is was clear with a rather stiff head wind. We could see off in the distance…. Way, way off in the distance - calculated to be about 120 miles to the nearest mountain range that was clearly visible! Pretty remarkable!!!

June 21 - Roosevelt National Park: The park is divided into the north and south sections that are somehow connected but not through the park. We determined that it would be a several hour round trip to attempt the north section, said to be the prettier of the two, so we opted for the south side which, by the way, was quite remarkable.

The land changed from rolling grasslands to bad lands in the blink of an eye, almost as if someone erected a fence and told the grasses to stop growing past that point. But the cragginess of the badlands was quite beautiful in its own way. The morning list cast eerie shadows in the deep crevasses and lit the colors of the rock like switching to the “vivid” setting on the camera. We wound up the road passing mule deer, Buffalo, prairie dogs (my personal favorite) and wild horses.

The horses were a bit of a surprise, but they were left over from the days when the park was not a park. We had seen a horse in the distance and a car stopped to gaze at it as it stood majestically up on a hill. We drove around to catch a look for ourselves. Just as I was rounding the bend and commenting that I should slow down, the horse took a flying leap into the road and almost took us out. Had we not slowed just the instant before there would have been a massive impact horse and car.

We continue ues on through the park and saw the various rock formations, grasslands, wildlife and other vistas the park had to offer before heading back to the airport. We needed to meet up with the rest of the group to lead the way through the mountains and some of the best scenery.

As we were nearing Rapid City. The conditions seems pretty good so,we opted for the Mount Rushmore arrival and flew past the monument. It was getting late so we passed on Crazy Horse and made it into Rapid City quite easily. We eventually met up with the rest of the group, discussed flight plans, best sights to see and our arrival into Jackson Hole, WY.

June 22 - Yellowstone/Grand Tetons: This was one of the legs that gave me heartburn wondering what the wind and weather was going to do. We were flying the mountain passes and I knew if the winds were up and the clouds were low, this leg would be a visual bust. Although we had a slight headwind, conditions were pretty darn good. Teresa/Denise in the Mooney made the early flight with us. We were wheels up at the crack of dawn with smooth air and relatively cool temperatures.

We passed Devils Towed and followed our fight plan to Livingston before making the blind turn into the mountain pass. Ellen was PIC and was to follow the roads we had discussed. She did an awesome job and flew past the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone quite nicely. Our first landmark. As we continued to the middle geyser basis we saw our first geyser eruption! It was not Old Faithful but it was pretty cool to see from the air. We continued down the road to my all time favorite spot, Grand Prismatic Spring, ablaze in color as always. Heading south we passed Old Faithful with no eruption, then Yellowstone Lake and out the south end of the park to Grand Tetons. By then then winds were dead calm and we caught an incredible reflection of the Tetons in the lakes that lay beneath her. The Mooney followed us in about 30-40 minutes behind. We were all beaming that this leg was so awesome!

We spent the day driving up to Colter Bay and more spectacular scenery, along the lakes with the full view of the Tetons the whole way. Temperatures were climbing so the wildlife was tucked away in the shade for afternoon napping. We opted out of the nap and headed for the Jackson Hole downtown area and shopping at one of my favorite spots. We met up with the rest of the group for an evening briefing. Flight plan review, sights of interest review and went to sleep. Any other early morning and long day awaited us.

June 23 - Canyonlands/Arches/Glen Canyon: We were in the air at 0700 and winding our way through the Snake River Canton pass over the Palisades and into Star Valley. We passed the castle and Bear Lake before turning to Flaming Gorge Reservoir and making our fuel stop in Vernal, UT to an all female FBO! We all had lots to talk about.

The weather was looking iffy. Verga, low clouds, overcast and popping showers in a place with few outs and airports. We also had fire TFRs to avoid. We made a few small changes to the flight plan and soldiered on. We saw no arches in Arches NP but we did see the evaporating ponds and some other interesting formations. In Canyonlands we headed for the Orange Cliffs and the Maze and we’re treated to a colorful array of crevasse, cuts and curves. We see how the orange cliffs got their name. Ellen dropped down from our 9,500’ perch and played a bit through the buttes and cliffs. Quite fun!

The last leg was over the Glen Canyon Recreation area and Lake Powell. We passed the rainbow bridge a d many other rock and water features before landing in Page, AZ for the evening. Two tough legs down, one to go but this one could make or break the trip. We review flight plans and “outs” with the group and hoped for the best.

June 24th - Grand Canyon overflight: The Mooney had been with us the whole trip and today was no exception. We got the secret code from the airport to get in early, commandeered a golf cart and assisted ourselves to get the luggage transported and loaded. We were in the air just before 0700 for the crossing of the Grand Canyon. Early indications looked promising.

The Mooney launched ahead of us and climbed out into Marble Canyon. We circled to gain altitude before heading into the Canyon. The air was cool and still. The wind calculator on Ellen’s plane showed …. NO wind. The crossing was a go!!

This was probably THE most spectacular crossing I have had yet. The sun beamed down on the east walls of the canyon to illuminate it i it’s full glory. Simply awe inspiring. We continued down the Dragon Corridor and across the canyon, over Lake Meade, past the Hoover Dam and down the Colorado River gazing at the awesome beauty of the area the whole way. We arrive into Havasu just after 0900 with the temperatures already at 95 decrees. It would be a scorcher today!

The Mooney was right behind us and the Havasu gals and Flying Carastros en trail. We stopped at Frances house to regroup and all headed out on our own adventures. I hit the paddleboard on the Havasu Canal. We all gathered back at Frances for the evening celebration of an amazing trip and celebrating my 60th birthday. I could not think of a better celebration than with my besties, friends and framily!!

June 25th - Joshua Tree National Park: My quest for a stop at all 63 US National Parks continues so Ellen and I drove out to Joshua Tree National Park. We did not do any hiking as the temps soared to 100 degrees but we had a nice drive though the Colorado and Mojave dessert areas and saw an abundance of vegetation and furry creatures.

June 26th - Channel Islands: Ellen wanted to visit a friend in California so we headed off to see her friend. But the Chan el Is.ands were so near and the weather conditions made it possible for us to do an overflight before landing in Santa Maria. We did a quick run to the visitor center for the passport stamp and headed to the hotel for the evening. A long day but another great day of flying.
 
June 27-July 2: Visiting and heading home: Our time in Santa Maria was designed for a little rest and relaxtion before headin out on the long, literally across the whole country, trip home. We did some minor hiking Ellen had some friends in Santa Maria with whom we visited before we left. Somehow, I managed to come across several "crack houses" a/k/a plant stores at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and in Santa Maria. Of course, there were purchases of succulents for the trip back to FL. 
 
We departed in the early afternoon trying to get to Peyson, AZ for the night. The VFR trip did not last long as the haze, smoke and storm combination got the best of us and we converted our VFR plan to IFR in short order. We were devisting to get through the mountains and around the storms. We got a jolt from some  virga  that we thought we had cleared. In the end Peyson was not to be as the storms blew up over Peyson and persisted. We landed back in Havasu and back to our friends! Mya and Claudette were still in Havasu on their trek to comple the last of the CONUS 48 - only a handful of states to go for them. 
 
We set out VFR the following morning early and had pretty sommoth sailing until nearing the destination. We landed in Belen, NM after more duckig and weaving but had to file IFR to get out from Belen to Fort Worth. There were lines of sever storms blowing up over NM. If we could just make it to the Lubbuck area we were home free. We ending up some 20 miles south of course for the deviation but made it through without issue. Heading back to FL was more of the same. We started out clear only to find worsening skies and IFR conditions along the route. Our overnight stop in Valdosta resulted in a fog delay on Friday morning followed by IFR conditions that persisted through to Fort Myers. We actually made  VFR landing in Fort Myers after shooting the RNAV 23 approach along side a wall of water. Good to be back after a great trip!!

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