What I Did On My Summer Vacation, 2002
By Bruce Spencer (Batman)
I left Corona California (AJO) Sunday evening July 14 and flew up to Big Bear Airport in the local coastal mountains (elev. 6,750′). My folks have a cabin up there and it is almost always VFR in the mornings as compared to the LA basin which is almost always IFR in the mornings. Makes for a great early morning getaway and it’s nice to start out closer to cruise altitude. I was off the ground at 5:20 am and flew over Boulder City, Nevada on my way to Page, AZ. That’s the easiest way to go to avoid the whole Grand Canyon airspace mess. Fueled up at Page ($2.00 gal.) then enjoyed a scenic flight up Lake Powell. I’ve been there numerous times and have flown over it often as well, but it still is spectacular from the air. Next landing was at Montrose, CO. in hopes of finding less expensive fuel than I was expecting to find at my planned stop for the day. WRONG! $2.52 a gallon at Montrose! I guess that was just to prepare me for what I would have to pay for fuel in the Midwest. I left Montrose at 11:50 am mountain time and one hour later I was on the ground in Leadville, CO. That, too, is a beautiful flight over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River and then over some 14,000′ peaks to the south and west of Leadville. The temperature in Leadville was 80°F, which put the density altitude at just over 13,000′. Landing was no problem, but taking off would have been a bit of a challenge! Lo and behold, the fuel was only $2.45 per gallon there. I think I’ll stay clear of Montrose in the future.
On the ground in Leadville, I unfolded my trusty mountain bike and pedaled around the Leadville area for the rest of the day. Fortunately, I’m an experienced mountain biker and though the density altitude took a bit of my breath away it didn’t prevent me from covering 26 miles before dinner. Slept under the stars that night and was prepared for the temperature drop. When I lifted off at 5:55 am the next morning it was a crisp 35°F.
A beautiful morning to fly as I headed northeast and over some more 14,000 foot peaks and then slid down the backside to Greeley. I told Gordon (Ellis) and Joel (Keister) that I’d try to be there by 7 am and I floated down onto runway 9 at 6:55. I met Tinman and Oldtimer (and Fury IV) for the first time at exactly 7 am! After breakfast and fuel (hard to believe only $1.80/gal.) we lifted off for North Platte at 8:10 am. Tinman took the lead and we flew in a vee formation with Joel on the right and me on the left. Most of the time I flew with 18 to 20 inches of manifold pressure and leaned aggressively. That seemed to keep me at about the right speed and made for miserly fuel consumption. In two hours we were at North Platte, where the others refueled and I abstained. By 1:40 we were in Columbus, Nebraska (lost an hour going east) where we all refueled and pondered our next stop. The guys were bummed to find out that I burned about three gallons less fuel over the distance from Greeley than they did! That IO320 is a very efficient engine at low power settings. We all agreed on Audubon, Iowa as our stop for the night and plunked ourselves down there at 3:45 pm. The weather was good enough that we could have kept going all the way to Clinton if we had wanted to. Our behinds were sending us other messages so we set up our tents, visited with the fellow and his wife who have run the airport for 56 years, and then took the courtesy car to town for dinner. Nice little airport and friendly folks.
Joel and Gordon refueled and once again I abstained. Sure is nice to have long range tanks! We were up and ready to go by 7 am, but Gordon had checked the weather and was reluctant to fly due to reduced visibilities in some areas to the east of us. It burned off rather quickly and we were airborne at 8:30 am. The air was very hazy at our chosen altitude of 5,500′, so we decided to try 7,500. I took the initiative in the climb and reported back to the others that it finally cleared up at about 8,000′. I buzzed up to 9,500 and waited for the others to get there, which they eventually did. It was smooth sailing from there on and we started our descent into Clinton about 40 miles out. We were the first arrivals for the fly-in when we touched down at 10:40 am. We were met by Steve Mayotte and his son Tom, as well as Royson and Lori.
The Clinton weather was quite warm and very humid, which I am not used to. By the time we got our aircraft parked in the grass and set up camp, we were all soaking wet. Aircraft parking/camping this year was different from last year (so I was told). Steve Mayotte spent a great deal of time and effort in laying out the parking area in the grass triangle in front of Rex Brandt’s maintenance hangar. It was very well done and allowed us to all get to know each other, rather than being all spread out. Since we arrived on Wednesday, it gave us plenty of time to help out with things like setting up tables and chairs, assisting with parking of other aircraft as they arrived. etc., etc…..
I got up early every morning and went for two hour bike rides, checking out the local geography. Clinton is an interesting place, although not very challenging from a bike rider’s perspective. The hills are few and far between! I did manage to ride across the Mississippi River into Illinois one morning, just so that I could say I did. The weather was interesting and different every day, perhaps keeping some of the registrants from attending. Thunderstorms were common and the associated winds made things exciting.
One night it rained most of the night (I think it was Wednesday night) and our tents got soaked and flying machines thoroughly washed. Just a little Clinton weather. In general the Fly-In was great and I think all who attended had a great time. The competition was a lot of fun and was definitely 5% skill and 95% luck, as advertised. The banquet was a lot of fun, good food, entertaining activities and lively awards ceremony. I made some new friends and enjoyed spending time with others who enjoy their trusty little airplanes as much as I enjoy mine. I will definitely try to make it to Clinton in the future (maybe every other year).
Most everyone headed out on Sunday, but I flew down to Fort Madison, Iowa and rode my bike to Nauvoo, Illinois to visit the historic town where the Mormons were forced out of their homes in the middle of winter and began their trek west. I flew back to Clinton that evening and Gordon and I spent the night sleeping in the “terminal” building in air conditioned comfort.
Monday morning weather was a bit iffy, but Gordon and I left at the same time (about 9:40 am), he for Cheyenne and me for Oshkosh. Joel headed out for Michigan on Sunday. The flight to Oshkosh was an adventure in itself and is a whole nuther story. I arrived at the North Forty camping area at 11:15 am and spent the next three days enjoying the excitement of “AirVenture 2002”.
What a blast! The weather was awesome, with temps in the high 70’s and low 80’s and humidity less than 50%. The sunsets were spectacular! I left Oshkosh at the conclusion of the air show Wednesday evening and was off the ground and heading West (another exciting experience!) by 6:15 pm. I spent Wednesday night sleeping in a recliner in the FBO at Fort Dodge, Iowa.
I fueled up in the morning when the hired help arrived and lifted off for my longest flying day of the trip. Two and a half hours to Kearney, Nebraska and then four hours to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I own four acres of land adjacent to the Pagosa Springs airport and spend time there on a regular basis, tent camping under the trees. Friday morning, I got off early for my two-and-a-half-hour flight to Flagstaff, Arizona and then three more hours to my home base at Corona, landing at 11 am. Thirty-three flying hours in thirteen days. It was a great trip and my trusty bird never skipped a beat. I now have 2060 hours on my 2000 TBO engine, but the factory Lycoming rep at Oshkosh told me that it is not unusual for that engine to go 2500 to 3000 hours as long as the compression stays up. I’m very willing to find out just how long it will go!