Meet the 2009 ARC Team

June 23-26, 2009
Follow Team Wild Mama from Denver, CO to Atlantia, IA

Purchase: "See Her Fly", the Air Race Classic song by Anne Marie Radel

The 2009 route has been set - we look forward to visiting our host cities:
KAPA,  Centennial Airport, Denver, CO
KLBL, Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport Liberal, Kansas, USA
KSWW, Avenger Field Airport Sweetwater, Texas
KLFK, Angelina County Airport, Lufkin, Texas
KRUE, Russellville Regional Airport Russellville, Arkansas
KGNF, Grenada Municipal Airport Grenada, Mississippi
KSRB, Upper Cumberland Regional, Sparta, TN
KIJX, Jacksonville Municipal Airport Jacksonville, Illinois
KRAC John H Batten Airport Racine, Wisconsin
KAIO Atlantic Municipal Airport,  Atlantic, Iowa


Click here for more Photos


Team  Wild Mama places 11th!

July 6th:  Home at Last:  This is the final report on the 2009 Air Race Classic. The race was a good one this year: the fuel caps only came off when they were supposed to; our little Team Wild Mama trio got along famously and we all had a great time meeting new friends and renewing acquaintenances with old friends. The bad news is that we have to wait another year for ARC 2010.

 We have just spent the remainder of the week in Tennessee recouperating and resting. I had not realized how tired I was until everything stopped and I had time to relax. Although we were busy working on the cabins here in Spencer, TN, the work was easy, the scenery is beautiful and the folks in the Cumberland Plateau are second to none!

Yesterday a rather large storm passed and we knew that we would have to deal with it today on the trip home. The ceiling was too low to leave early - only 100' AGL so we took our time cleaning and meandering to the airport. BY the time we got there, the ceiling was up to 900' AGL and we filed and departed in the soup. We remained in the clouds most of the way through Georgia. The original plan was to go all the way to LaBelle via the east coast of FL as there was a line of storms that stretched across GA and most of northern FL. By the time we hit southern GA, the line was inpassable and we put down in Valdosta.

The wait in Valdosta was short. Within an hour or so the storms started breaking apart and left large gaps for us to cross. We stayed low under the storm clouds and had a surprisingly smooth ride the rest of the way home, dodging shower cells that popped up all along the way. We arrived home at LaBelle to the Florida sunshine and 90 degrees. Ahhhhh, it's good to be home.

June 30th: West with wind: The morning visit with my Mother went well. She is obviously going down-hill at a rather rapid rate but she is as good as can be expected. Since sister,  Michelle has everything under control, there was nothing left for me to do except leave for Spencer which we did shortly after noon. Fuel at Westminster was $4.00 per gallon and we figured that 30 gallons would take us pretty close to SRB if we stayed low and went through the mountains. But the winds were up a bit more than expected and we decided630093.jpg that the overland route would be safer, necessitating a fuel stop. We chose Pike County, KY (PBX). Pike 630092.jpgCounty is an old reclaimed strip mine sitting on the top of a mountain at nearly 1500'. There was tons of ramp space, mechanical services and a large FBO. We were greeted at the pumps with smiling linemen and cheap gas. This is great. Soon we see 2 obviously aerobatic planes come in behind us and pull up at the pumps. Lo and behold we are met by CC Gerner and Bryan Jensen with "The Beast" How cool was that!!!!! Now comes the real funny part: Bryan saw the 11 on my tail and asked if I just came from Atlantic, IA. Seems that he was born there 630091.jpgand his parents are still there. They called him to tell him about this air race coming to Atlantic and how excited everyone was about the race. Small world.

After saying our good-byes, exchanging e-mail addresses and chatting about the Air Race, we continued on to SRB in more headwinds. We were able to keep up a pretty good speed, however as we flew along the ridge line most of the way. Upon landing in Sparta, we were greeted by Eric, the FBO manager and Lauren, one of the timers and a student pilot. Lauren and I met quite some time ago - you can see Lauren's shirt tailing in bragging rights - and she is determined to be part of the 2010 race. The search for her partner is on! Again, we all sat and talked about the race - such a good year it was - before finally getting to the cabin just after dark. I am ready for another good nights sleep so I can get to work around here tomorrow.

June 29th: Team Wild Mama places 11th: Last night was a very late night. Everyone was excited to find the final standings. Team Wild Mama got 3 leg prizes and 11th place 628094.jpgoverall. We missed top 10 by  0.13 kts. Oooooo, too close. So we work a little harder next year. After the official festivities, "the family" came back to the room for more hangar flying and a special viewing of the Marie Carastro DVD - a photo tribute to "Momma" by her kids for her last brthday (I did not say how many years, Momma).

This morning came really early. We wanted to sleep but had to be back to the lobby by 0730 so we could get Dottie and Lynda back to Ohio. The air is much more smooth in the mornings and it would be much better for Dottie's broken shoulder. We packed Wild Mama ... and packed, and 628096.jpgpacked, and packed. We had so much extra stuff to take home that we had to ask the Carastros to carry 4 boxes back to Florida for us. The plane was heavy and the ground was soft. I had to put full power to Wild Mama to get her to move, then she broke free from her ruts and darted out to the ramp to follow along behind the line of racers, now transformed into normal airplanes again. We all say our good-byes until next year and scatter into the first decent tailwind. We climb out to 7,500' and settle out at 180 kts. Where were these speeds a few days ago?

We speed across the flat farm lands of Iowa, then on in to Indiana, across Illinois and into Ohio. The farm fields were a tapestry of lush greens and browns, more like a pathwork quilt and quite unlike the circular patterns toward the south. Vern had departed first, flying Dottie's plane and I followed a bit later in line. Long about 230 miles out of Bluffton, we get the blip on the screen and I know that I have finally cauht up with Vern. We 628097.jpgpass and ease on in together so we can get some aereal shots of Dottie's plane for her. Soon enough, we drop both of our passengers and make the turn to the southeast to head to Maryland. We are both tired from having been up so late and we are already ready for a nap but still have another hour and a half to go. It was a welcome site to pass Pittsburg airspace and start seeing the low mountins to the north of Maryland as we knew it was only a short hop to be on the ground.

Our arrival into Westminster, MD was uneventful and we were met by my sister, Michelle. We are spending the night with her tonight, taking care of some business here then hoping to head out to TN late tomorrow to rest for a few days and do 628095.jpgsome more work on the cabins before heading back to FL.

June 28th: ...and the winner is ....  It has been a long day. The morning was spent in briefings and meetings and the afternoon was filled with putt-putt golf, hangar flying and gnarled 628093.jpgnerves. I hate waiting for news and this is difficult but the time is almost here. At 1800 we leave for the banquet to find out our fate .... Stay tuned ...

June 27th: Waiting, wondering and Windmills: Once "the call" came in at 11:30 p.m. last night, my nights sleep was over. That was the first time, I have gotten "the call" and I could not yet get excited. We knew we did well but relative to others, you never know. All we can do is wait and wonder how everyone else did.

We continue to be overwhelmed by the amazing hospitality of small town America: the local towns people have gone above and beyond to welcome the racers and make us feel like very special people. There was a good turn out at the airport for the youth activities where the kids looked at the airplanes, played airport and traffic controller and worked on the activity books provided by some of the sponsors. With the inspections over by noon, we were able to show the planes and get back into them ourselves. There were 2 inquisitive young ladies - aout age 7 - who came to see Wild Mama. Australian racer, Heather Ford, was explaining the difference between retractable gear and fixed gear, then continued to the cockpit to explain all of the toys. The girls were quite intrigued.

We took an afternoon jaunt up to the town of Elk Horn, home of the Danish Windmill. The windmill tour was quite interesting and the surrounding area very scenic. Although the 628092.jpgwindmill no longer grinds the grain for flour, they do have a mill in the back of the property where you can purchase freshly ground wheat and rye flours. Of course, we bought some with the hope that they make it back to FL in good condition.

The evening found us at a local host family for a home cooked meal. In all, there were over 20 racers, locals and guests for a fabulous dinner complete with all pork, all sorts of salads and home made rhubarb pie! Whatever weight we lost during the race has certainly been replaced by now. Some racers gathered after the hosted dinner for some "hotel hangar flying". BY midnight, I was ready for some sleep. It is almost over: we have Sunday briefings and meetings then the awards banquet. I remain cautiously optimistic about the results.  

June 26th: We made it! The alarm clock in my head went off at 0457 this morning and I shot up out of bed: how could I oversleep on the last leg of the race. The shuttle was coming for pick-up at 0530 and we had to pack, check weather and get some food before an early departure. We had planned on an early day as it looked as if the winds would be favorable for us early. Packed, checked weather and ... forget breakfast - just give us coffee - and off to the airport to get ready for an early run. This was out longest leg and it was important that we have a good leg to pull our score up as much as possible.

The air was cool and Wild Mama wanted to fly. We were third in line for the fly-by. Classic 31 and Classic 22 made their runs ahead of us, while Classic 3 was behind us going out. We called for the fly-by and made our pass at 185 kts across the ground. We had to make a sharp left to go out. As I turn, Classic 3 was climbing in front of us: "TRAFFIC" came the alert. We jump on the radio to tell them to stop climbing and I pull up sharply to put space between us before we disapppear to the west. We finally caught some tailwind - not much, but enough to feel like we were finally racing.

The winds during the 2 hour run were forecast to shift as we neared Iowa. As we sensed a decline in our gound speed we climed another 1,000' until we saw some more positive numbers. We were pleased. TheClassic261.jpg race has been good. We made no errors and we are confident in the flying decisions that we made. Now we run for the stretch and hope for the best. We were the first to arrive today at Atlantic, although the third team to arrive at the terminus behind Classic 26 and Classic 14. We made our fly-by with Classic 31 and Classic 7 hot on our tails. After our pass we slowed to a crawl and watched from above as our fellow racers run the timing line. What a thrill. We are greeted by a huge crowd at Atlantic. It seems as if the whole town has come to the races. There are many families with children coming to see the airplanes. The news media call to get information for the local paper; we see a sign inthe park Classic262.jpgwelcoming the racers and inviting the public to the hangar barbecue; there are ads on the local radio station. Wow: what a great reception! The other racers start to arrive and we are all grateful it is over and we can breath a sign of relief, eat and shower. I think my shorts walked off on their own this moring calling "follow me". They need laundering badly!!!

Once again, we start the briefings tomorrow and hope to get "the call" that Wild Mama will go for an inspection, meaning that we scored in the top 12 or 13. I will be at the first time racers debriefing tomorrow moring then spend the afternoon with the local youth giving airplane tours and talking about aviation. Time to take it all inas it will soon be over and we have to wait another year... 

June 25th:  One leg to go:  Anticipating some tailwinds in the morning, we had decided to remain last night in Grenada, but we lydia004.jpgknew we had to be off early if we were going to have a good day. We were the first off at 0630 central time on the dash to Sparta. This has not been a high race like other years. With a screaming tail wind, you would usually climb to catch the best  not so this year. The lower level winds have been offering the least resistance so we have not had to do too much climbing.

We were coming in to the hills of Tennessee - my stomping ground. I really wanted to stay in Sparta last night and show Caroline and Lydia the cabin and the area that I fell in love with lydia065.jpgseveral years ago. Unfortuantely, this was our quickest turn around yet. We had time to say hi to Mike, Eric and Jimmie, grab gas and oil and race on to Jacksonville. We arrived at Jacksonville behind a host of other teams. Several had gone on to Racine but not too many by that time. We watched the weather - a storm brewing to the west and the ceiling lowering over southern Wisconsin. Stay or go? We get together and decide to make a run for it. We have a fast plane and we think we can outrun the approaching storm. We see several other teams launch. We head for Wild Mama and blast off to the north. The day is hazy and hot but we press on to try to beat the storm. We look out on the weather scope and see a large mass moving our way, but we are already abeam the storm and safe. Another storm pops up over Kenosha Airport. We are close enough that we can see the rain, the dark skies and the clouds. We keep wathc as it drifts off to the east and away from our path - that was close. We come screaming in to Racine with big "Whoo-Hoo's": the gamble paid off. 

Caroline and Lydia head to Lake Michigan while I go off with Classics 1, 10, 28 and 29 for the great Air Race Bowling Classic. Although it was quite ugly, the Mother Birds beat the Baby Birds by a hair. The pay-off will be interesting.   

June 24th: Happy Birthday:  ...and what a great birthday it is. What could be better than flying around this beautiful country with good friends in a fast airplane! 624091.jpgDeparture this morning was spectacular We crossed over a field of some 1200 wind mills. From our hotel room we could the the red lights flashing like the fireflies we saw back in Dahlhart years ago - but these were flaming red. We flew directly over the field and 624092.jpgcould see the windmills as far as out eyes could see.

We have been blessed by good weather this year although the wicked tailwinds have eluded all of us - there is just nothing out there to be found (Pam, I am still looking!!!) I guess the good news is the headwinds have not been so bad either. As I sit here at Grenana, MS Airport, another racer with a slower plane zooms by. As exciting as it is to see the fly-bys, it is still a rush to fly them. We have decided to remain here in Mississippi this evening. We were hoping to make Sparta and stay in the cabin but the weather Gods have said "NO!"

This year has been great so far - the hospitality of our hosts is amazing - a cadre volunteers  coming out in near 100 degree heat to help us with the airplanes, fueling, timing, transportation and providing some really great food and 624093.jpgrefreshments. Enroute to our hotel this evening, Philip Heard, Executive Director of the Grenada Chamber of Commerce, gave us a ride and a tour of the town. The town is beatuiful and is nestled on the edge of 36,000 acre Grenada Lakes  It is filled with an old, quaint downtown area, charming neighborhoods and a modern business district. The perfect stop. Tonight we will rest and hit the skies again in the morning.

June 23rd:  Ladies, Start Your Engines: With our last briefing behind us, we were off from Centennial Airport just after 0800 this morning. We were elated at our intiital tail wind 623091.jpgwhich, unfortunately trailed off as we eased closer to Liberal, KS. It was not long before we settled in to a rouine in the cockpit. Having a third team member is certainly a huge help.

623092.jpgAs we approached Liberal, we made the decision to keep going. The day was gorowing hot, the winds were not forecast to get any better and there was nothing that would benefit our remaining there. The trip to Texas showed a strange chane of scenery. The green farm fields turned to fractured soils and a vast barren landscape that was oddly beautiful with the land contours of rich browns. We came screaming in to Sweetwater and decided to stay the night. We paid a visit to the W.A.S.P. Museum, met my friend, Jim and had lunch before retiring to the hotel to check weather and relax. Tomorrow we anticipate a full day of flying. Lets hope for more tail winds! 623093.jpg

June 22nd:  Packed and Ready  All our bags are packed and we are ready to go. The briefing are completed and there is nothing left but the final weather briefing in the morning, breakfast and the the trip to the planes for the flag to drop.thecave.jpg

This day was more stressful than most for a final day. Vern left early to take care of getting Wild Mama to the avionics shop for the static check - should have been no big deal. When they started the check, there was a leak in the system. Vern was to text me when she was ready for the test flight. That call came at 6:00 p.m. this evening. I was frantic. We have until roughly 11:30 a.m. to get off the ground tomorrow morning - 3 hours past the last racer taking off. I was beginning to wonder if we would make it. I managed to get to the airport to meet Vern for the test flight. All systems were good and she checked out perfectly.

Caroline, Lydia and I made our final strategy plans for the evening considering the weather outlook but we will be constantly adjusting and re-adjusting those plans when we see the actual weather. We will do our best. We will hope for the best and we will fly safely. Let's hope for tailwinds! 

June 21st:  Briefings and Banquets:  By this time in the racing continuum, we are getting to the business of the race with the all racers briefing and the welcome 621092.jpgbanquet. The good news is that the briefing was, indeed, brief. Denise and Gretchen did a great job inconveying a ton of information to a room full of racers , half of whom had never raced before.

But tonight was the last of our official fun events for the start. The Colorado 99s again hosted and outstanding event. We are honored this year to have one of the 300 or so surviving WASP's racing with us, Bee Haydu. She received a standing 621093.jpgovation in thanks for her dedication and service to this country - still wearing her uniform and a lovely, elegant lady even in her late 80's.

Tomorrow are the safety briefings, flyby briefings and first time racers briefings. Then time to study the weather and be ready to depart early Tuesday morning.

June 20th: Check and Double Check: The last two days have been hectic: first seeing all of our friends and reuniting from last year - lots of catching up to do. 620091.jpgThere was also the business of airplane inspections, registration and credentials registration. The credentials and registration were a breeze.  Wild Mama was a different story. Seems we have a small paperwork snafu that will require a reinspection on Monday. OK, yes, the guru of paperwork made a boo-boo; but all will be resolved on Monday.620092.jpg

We also had the meeting this afternoon with the youth - showing them airplanes, learning about traffic control and trying to interest the next generation of aviators. The interest was quite high among the youth as they sat in the cockpit of the plane and got to play with the controls and participate as "airplanes" on the "runway" to see how the tower creates organized chaos out of complete chaos.

620093.jpgOur welcome receiption was a bash hosted by the Colorado 99s. These ladies have done an outstanding  job organizing the start, the inspections and the reception was great - real crab cakes, shrimp and an assortment of finger foods that were a perfect substitution of dinner - no complaints. After some brief words fromour hosts, we all mixed and mingled in our most relaxed social before the race. Starting tomorrow we have briefings and really get to the business of the race.

June 18th: When 6 is not 6: Morning came early at 0'dark:30 but we had to get moving to try to be wheels up at 0600. Flying to Leadville, the highest elevation public airport in the US at 9,927' is a challenge. The conditions must be ideal: little to no wind, great visibility, cool temperatures. Today, we had it all as the Leadville AWOS was reporting 6 kt winds, few clouds at 7,000' AGL and 44 degrees, making the denisty altitude about 11,300' on the runway. The mission is a GO!

We had studied the route last night so we had a good idea of our landmarks and the places to fly to give us the lowest altitude at the passes. We fired up and got618091.jpg rolling at 0609 - not bad. Having flown at 11,000' yesterday enroute to Denver, we knew we would only have about 18" of manifold pressure available for take off from Leadville. A simulated "Leadville take-off" was in order. We requested runway 17R as it is only 600' longer than Leadville. With the manifold pressure set to 18" we held the brakes, deployed 10 degrees of flaps and started our runway roll. At 65 kts with lots of runway left she eased off the ground in a slow, steady climb at 400 feet per minute. We were pleased.

As we cleared the Class B airspace we continued our climb to 11,600' - high enough to safely clear all of our planned passes by 1,000-2,000'. Again, we were "flying the colors" only this time we had a lot more reds surrounding us. The snow covered mountains were breathtaking as they towered high above our position. We followed the river to the lake; the lake to Highway 24; the highway through the pass into the high plains.

As we neared Trout Pass and our turn-off into the valley leading to Leadville, we saw our ground speed drop significantly to 118 kts while our airspeed held steady at 145 kts. What happened to that 6 kt breeze that the AWOS is still reporting? We were being buffeted by the winds as the funnelled through the pass and in to the valley. Hang on: this one is going to be rough.

Being flat-landers, we had originally thought of Leadville being on the top of a mountain at 9,927' and were quite surprised when we really started looking at the trip to learn that Leadville is the the bottom of a valley, surrounded by the behemoths of the Rockies.

618092.jpgTwelve miles south of the airport the valley narrowed. Even at 11,600' we had very little room to manuver to stay out of the reds. Descending into the airport, Wild Mama is rocked by the gusty crosswinds cutting through the nearby passes. we touch down and roll out. It is 0720 and we made it. But this was the easy part. We still have to take off and get out of the valley and time is ticking.

An experimenatal twin engine Huey Canadian Military helicopter landed just before us. They were testing some new tail modifications and could only flight test of the winds were below 3 kts. AWOS was still reporting 6 kts but the winds felt much higher and made the morning feel much cooler than the reported 44 degrees, even in the sunshine.

We chatted with the airport manager, Debbie Benson, a delightful lady, oddly enough from Florida! She gave us a little history about the airport and about the $2.00/gallon AvGas that we got. We only took 15 gallons and were quite upset but we dared not take any more due to the weight. All too soon it was time to say good bye to Debbie as the winds would be picking up soon. It was already 0830.

Confident in our ability to get off the ground, we still positioned Wild Mama at the last inch of the runway 16, held the brakes and gave her full power up to 19" of618093.jpg manifold pressure and went careening down the runway. The winds caught us and shot us up at an incredible 500 feet per minute climb as we headed south down the valley. Wild Mama was pitching and rolling in the winds as they tumbled down the mountain side. We knew we had it made, though, when we hit Central Colorado Regional Airport and entered Trout Pass again as we were clear of the highest terrain. We shot through the pass and were catapulted to 170 kts gliding over the tops of the mountains and into the high plains in a much smoother air. We started our final descent to get under the Class B airspace at 190 kts following the Highway back to the lake, the lake back to the river until we had the edge of the mighty Rockies in sight.

As we landed at Centennial we were elated. Vern had wanted to tackle Leadville for 20 years and I was always looking for a challenge. Now it is done and we have the photos, certificates and smiles to prove it.

June 17th: Denver Arrival: For the first morning since we have been in Wyoming, we have had no fog in the valley when I got up. There were low617091.jpg clouds but the all of the AWOS’s in the valley were reporting a minimum of 4,000’ AGL and all were clear VFR. It was still only 0600. 
Brenda had to be to work by 0800 meaning that it was time for her to get going to work. We hustled and got pack so we could catch a ride to the airport with her. As we were pulling out of the subdivision, we saw the beginning of fog in the valley. Afton was reporting 4 degrees Celsius for both the temperature and the dew point. This does not bode well. We called Kemmerer and the ceiling there cam down from 9,000’ to 8,000’ – still high enough to get through but we need to dawdle lest we lose our early morning opportunity to leave through the pass. 
As we blasted off from Alpine we had the AWOS on the radio and the ceiling was still coming down at Kemmerer and now they were reporting light rain with 7,000’. We still have room without becoming an airplane sandwich. We climb up to 9,800’ to keep right at 3,000’ AGL and give us the best clearance. We can see the rain showers off in the distance and the chosen path is now becoming obscured. We are 617092.jpghigh enough to cross a ridge to the north of Kemmerer and head directly to Rock Spring. We were I the clear. Twenty miles outside of Rock Springs the showers form to the north and they are coming in from the west and Kemmerer. We need to land as the visibility is dropping. We descend to 8,000’ below the cloud deck and drop in to Rock Springs just before being overtaken by the heavy rains. 
We remain on the ground nearly half hour waiting for the rains to pass. We see we can catch a pretty good tail wind if we climb but that will necessitate filing IFR as the clouds were still 2,000’-3,000’ AGL. ATC sent us up to 11,000’: an altitude that we seldom fly. It was still cool and Wild Mama performed well as we zipped along at 180 kts until we made the turn southward to Denver. Those pre-installed headwinds returned. ATC brought us in on the west side of Denver over the city. We got a good look at the city and the mountains standing majestically to her west. We made it and are ready for the race activities to begin. 
Having left so early, however, we did not take an opportunity for breakfast so we were pretty hungry by the time we arrived. We called some friends617093.jpg who live in Denver – Ed & Carrie – to try to catch them for lunch. We meet up at Pappadeaus, an outstanding seafood kitchen. The place was packed for lunch and with good reason: the spinach and crab dip, the breads and the meals themselves were amazing – huge portions, tasty and well prepared. We ate our fill then headed back to the airport to unload the C-182 cargo plane. How the heck did we fit all of this stuff in the plane??? We unload EVERYTHING as the morning plan is to fly to Leadville.

June 16th: Fur and Family: After the long day yesterday, the plan for today was family visitations and a bit of shopping. While yesterdays animal encouters yeilded a bunch of the good critters, we were still missing a moose - Brenda promised us a moose and, by golly, today she delivered. Heading up the canyon into Jackson 616092.jpgHole, a lone baby was slurping water froma small mud hole. We stopped next to him and could hear him drinking. He paid us no never mind and kept right about his business. We continued on up the canyon until we came to another group of cars all clustered about the side of the road. A bear? We looked and listened ... "baaaah, baaah.." Sheep: hundreds of them all along the hillside. It appears that the truck stopped along the side of the road had released the sheep onto the hillside for some unknown reason. They were wandering all over the place for the next half mile or so.  Some wild creature will have fresh dinner on the hoof tonight. 

616091.jpgThe family is always good to see. My eldest living sister, Sheila, and I do not get to see each other too much because of age and distance so I do not miss the opportunity to visit when I can. But shopping in Jackson Hole is must as well. The Tennessee cabins have been outfitted with antler art mostly from Wyoming so I have to replenish my supply of artifacts while I am here.

With the plan being an easy day, we drove to the top of Teton Pass for the last of our ground based vistas - absolutely spectacular - and the last of the critter action - some playful groundhogs on the rocks. Tomorrow we will depart for Denver when the fog breaks. Tonight we rest.

June 15th:  Fur and Fumes: The first decision of the day was made for us by Mother Nature: drive. The fog layer started at about 50' AGL in 615091.jpgthe valley. Hopefully, it will burn off early on Wednesday so we can get out of here but I suspect that Wednesdays' departure will not be an early one.

We headed out of the valley early this morning driving to Yellowstone to see the animals and the geysers, both of 615092.jpgwhich are favorites. I am still jealous of Kelly and Erins flight to Yellowstone out of Bozeman last year as Yellowstone is more spectacular by air although the animal spotting is not too good. All morning and most of the afternoon, we had low level clouds and rain. It was not until we drove to Mammoth and the upper loop that we actually started seeing animals and getting some blue skies. A large herd of cars had stopped along side of the roadway. If we were in Africa, that would mean a cat of some sort, but in Yellowstone, it means a bear. A large brown bear was napping up against a burned out tree down in the meadow. It took a bit of squinting to see him until he stood up to rub against the tree. What a beauty! 

I was hopping in and out of the car checking out the various mud pots, fountains, steam holes and geysers on this west side of the park. Punctuating each thermal stop was an animal encouter: another bear, elk, mountain sheep, buffalo, fox and a host of other critters. This made up for not being able to fly. 615093.jpg

Tomorrow is our last day here with plans for family visiting, shopping in Jackson Hole and rest. The race has not even started and we are already having too much fun! 

June 14th:  Airplane Sandwich: After a great nights sleep, we were up and ready for wheels up by 0700. We could see some lower clouds off in the 614091.jpgdistance but they were not going to be in our way. Cheyenne was competely socked in but we had no need to go there now and we took up a direct heading to Medicine Bow VOR. The morning was cool (what was I thinking wearing shorts) and the winds were light. Even though we were only pulling 20" of manifold pressure, Wild Mama was flying flawlessly.

Airport elevation in Sterling was just at 4,000' feet and we were heading straight for much higher terrain, so it appeared 614092.jpgas if we were descending as we headed in to the mountains. Finally we had color on the MX20 terrain page, telling us that we were nearing the ground: black is 2,000' + AGL; green is 1,000'-2,000' AGL; yellow is 500'-1,000' AGL and red is less than 500' AGL or the terrain could be above you. The rule of thumb here is do not fly in the red. We started looking at the rocks just past Rock Springs. There had been some mountains in the distance but nothing under us. We were only flying about 8,700' and thought we might be able to stay at that altitude, and really preferred to remain there as the cloud deck was starting for form overhead and we know that we would be sandwiched in between the clouds and the rocks. We followed a path that kept us over the few airports in the area in case the ceiling dropped and we had to put down. We pressed on. 614093.jpg

As we came to Kemmerer we could see the bigger rocks ahead. Now we had to fly the colors as the GPS "direct to" is useless when you are flying low in the passes. We followed the highway west out of Kemmerer then turned right toward Cokeville. Once we passed Cokeville, we knew that the colors were critical. We only had a narrow pass at 8,700' to squeeze through and the clouds were not cooperating to allow us to go higher. The terrain was lower on the left of the mountain so we opted for the lower terrain and saw almost immediately that the clouds were too close to the ground at the far end of the mountain where we had to turn back to the east to go through the pass into Star Valley. But we spied a gap in the rocks. The 496 had a more critical scale: yellow was 100'-500' and red was 100' or less. We had yellow in the gap and a clear pass on the other side. We shot through the gap and came out in the clear with several 614095.jpghundred feet to spare. As we turned to head north up the valley in toward Afton we came to the narrow pass. We scooted to the far right of the pass and put the pulse lights on in case anyone else was trying to go through. Once through the narrow pass, the valley opened up below us and we had an easy ride into Alpine. We flew over Brenda's house and the text rang: "I see you - there in 10 min."

The Alpine runway is very narrow and close to the mountain. The traffic for runway 13 is posted to be left but that was completely illogical. We did our downwind, close in followed by a short base and dog-legged final. We greased the landing as we watched the rain come in behind us through the Palisades Lake pass. Brenda was coming through the gate. We quickly fueled, off-loaded and headed north up to Teton National Park.

The scenery through this part of the country is spactuaclar. The June storms were still swirling about and the was much614094.jpg snow on the mountains. It was still snowing on top of the mountain this afternoon. As we drove through the park taking in the newly sprouting wild flowers, we spied a moose hidden in the trees, and later herds of buffalo and elk. I do enjoy the animals. Lunch was at Signal Mountain Lodge with my other niece, Dee-Dee and her husband Danny. We stuffed ourselves with a mountain of nachos and other savory delights, topped off with a chocklate fudge brownie sundae before heading back down the mountain and in to the Red Hills and the Gray Hills Forest areas. Off in the distance, we could see another storm brweing and heading toward Star Valley. These dirt roads are no place to get stuck so we headed back to Brenda's house and some family relaxation. Tomorrow we tackle Yellowstone - hopefully by air, but most likely by land.  

June 13th: Wandering Westward:  Morning came way too early this morning as I did not have a good nights sleep. If we are going to make the 6131.jpgJackson Hole area on Sunday, we need to make some pretty good tracks today. The morning was quite misty but it looked as if we would make it out IFR. We could see straight down the runway but the cloubs were low. They looked high enought that we could depart but it reminded us of our departure from Bar Harbor, ME - solid overcast. We got our clearance on the ground and blasted off. At 300' AGL or so we hit the cloud bottoms but broke out in well less than 1000'. We were clear VFR on top.

We never saw crossing the Mississippi River. For some odd reason, it is always an event to cross the river and I was 6132.jpgdisappointed to commemorate the event with the look at the GPS picture and no more. We did not see clear ground until we approached the meandering Ohio River. Still large and navigable, there were many tugs pushing massive overloaded barges. At one point we paralleled the river with a parade of tugs and barges until the River turned off course to the south.


The ground was well visible by now and the quilted patchwork of American was clear: the subtle shades of greens and browns woven together through out the high plains.We settled in for a slow smooth ride. The winds were very light toward the ground, but the forecast dictated that we remain on an IFR flight plan as the conditions at Skyhaven, MO 6133.jpgindicated that we would be shooting an approach to get down at our planned fuel stop. The forecast held true. Our greens gave way to the cotton fields of clouds that seemed inpenetrable so we called for the GPS 36 approach in to the airport. We broke out high above the airport and called in a PIREP to approach control. He was quite interested in our journey as we were his only entertainment. After a short stop for fuel and a weather check, we departed back in to the soup.


This next part of the journey looked remakrably like the  last part - a sea of white for many miles. When the clouds broke and gave way to the farm fields, the winds starting to pick up - in our favor - and we bumped along until we got to Imperial, Nebraska.  We were met with a dramatic weather change at Imperial: the clouds were now building on top of us and we were skimming the bases. It was rough, the air cooled and our 125 kt leg turned in to a 150 kt leg in an instant. The clouds continued to build and we darted in and out for several miles until we saw a clearing long enough to call and cancel our flight plan and dive below the bases to stay legal VFR for the last 30 miles in to Sterling, CO. At 20 miles out we started a slow descent and came screaming in to Sterling. The winds that had been quite clam all day were now gusting over 20 kts.

It was only another 45 minutes to Cheyenne but we are tired, the weather was forecast to deteriorate and we were met by such a delightful gentlemen, Sam, that we could not pass on the offer to take the courtesy car and remain in town for the night. Sam got a text of a level 1 tornado warning. He got us into a hangar and fueled Wild Mama to make her ready for an early morning departure should we so desire. She is safe and I can rest for the night.

On the way to the hotel, we spy the Overland Museum, an unassuming little building sitting next to the highway. There were all sorts of small farming artifacts sitting outside, and the wild flowers that dotted the front yard seemed inviting. We decided to stop in after checking in a hotel and getting a long overdue meal. The Museum was amazing. That small building turned into an 11 building complex that housed more artifacts than there are 6134.jpgresidents of the town. The first building was constructed as a museum on that spot in 1936. Since then, there has been a slow but steady expansion of that building, followed by the addition of others that housed an impressive display of life on the plains and the development of the area for the past hundred plus years. It was a true gem in this quaint little town and a nice way to wind down the day. Tonight is rest. We will tackle the rocks tomorrow.   


June 12th: Wheels up!  After a bit of a delay for a court hearing this morning, Wild Mama and crew were wheels up at high noon - not the ideal time for flight out of the State of Florida in the summer time. But Mother Nature was happy with us today and she let us continue all the way to our destination without the slightest hint of rain or convective activity. However, we had the usual (to quote Trish Minard) headwings that came612web1.jpg pre-installed in the plane.

This was the familiar part of our journey. We fly out on a 343 heading toward Cross City; on to the Greenville VOR, skirt Albany Class D, head east of the MOA and Columbia area, hit TIROE, KAPT and on in to SRB.

We hugged the shoreline at Crystal River and could see Cedar Key off in the distance. Each little airport and familiar landmark holds a memory of an adventure past. I spy a rather large ship in a rather small river; marvel at the greenery in Georgia and hunt for a once seen water falls west of Chattanooga. Otherwise, the trip is familiar like and old friend.

612web2.jpgArrival at Sparta is always a pleasure. The guys here know that 614WM means cookies and they always get their bag of goodies upon my arrival. This is a quick stop to hook up the internet in the small cabin. As I deplane, the phone rings - a couple wanting to rent the cabin tonight for the weekend - so much for my comfy bed. I hate to say no, so I agree and run to the cabin to do our chores very quickly. There has been quite a lot of rain lately and our private waterfalls at the cabin is gushing. This is one instance that the ground view is better than the air. We have created a walkway through the woods down the hillside with an observation deck overlooking the falls. It is peaceful - the birds singing in the trees, the rushing water and the rustling leaves as the wind whips up through the valley. I was looking forward to the night but the cabin is a rental so economic considerations prevail. As we depart, I see some of the butterflies coming in. We have planted butterfly attracting wildflowers that are just starting to sprout. The first 612web3.jpgcustomers are coming already!

We briefly debate about pressing on or staying with friends in the area. Folks are accustomed to our visits as the cabins rent very well and we seem to be lacking a place to stay for our R & R time. We are tired, however, and the thought of more flight for the evening is not appealing. We will rest and get a fresh start early with the hope that the midwest storms will seek their playgrounds elsewhere.

As the remainder of the ARC racers come through Sparta enroute to the finish, I hope they all find the area as enchanting as I have. Tennessee has many State Parks, waterfalls and countryside filled with very enchanting old barns. The cabins are for rent through Please enjoy the photos and the view 612web4.jpgon the web site then come back for the peace and beauty of the Cumberland Plateau area.


June 11th:  Packed and ready. Vern finally finished up on the all of the little squawks and race necessities on Tuesday afternoon. New carpet Vern.JPGwas installed and the custom 496 braket is completed. Really nice.  All is done but the gittin' now. Wild Mama had her spa treatment yesterday while I was taking my glider lesson and this morning, all bags were loaded onto the plane. The plan is for a noon-ish departure Friday and a stop in Sparta to deliver cookies and stage some oil and airlpane supplies so we will have them through the race. We also have to stop at the cabin to get the internet working for our weather if we end up spending the night in Sparta during race time.TLCandWM.JPG Making progress tomorrow will also help us getting in to Cheyenne, WY for our next nights' stop. Blue skies, here we come!

June 4th:
Another preparation day - hard at work ....

June 2nd: The transformation process has begun! Wild Mama will soon be the lean, mean racing machine. The process today was simple: shed everything Prerace003resized.jpgunnecessary - extra head sets, blankets, pillows and all of the other extraneous stuff that we carry around from day to day. Then a quick clean and her race numbers were applied. We made the numbers this year so we had to be sure that the size was correct for the "number police". They are a bit larger than necessary and we were certain to add the extra white around the numbers over the stripes so there was no mistaking that we are Classic 11. I hope they remain on the plane this year at least until we get to the start as we flew them off before the race even started in 2008!!!

Vern will be taking over tomorrow stripping the inside so I can finish the new carpeting - her present this year. We should save Prerace007resized.jpg20 pounds just removing the ground in dirt around since 1978. It will be interesting, to say the least. We anticipate having her out and ready to go - less than 2 week to departure and the excitement grows. The charts are done, packing is done, organization is done and soon Wild Mama will be done as well.

May 31st: Wild Mama officially heads to the hangar today for the beginnings of her race preparations. Vern will be working diligently over the next 2 weeks totopsecretresized.jpg complete the once over; fix any little squawks that we encounter (I know my flight timer battery needs replacing), and make sure that she is ship-shape for her journey ahead. We also have to complete the paperwork and race planning because the job is not over until the paperwork is done.  There is also that not-so-small matter of packing. Since we will be on the road, so to speak, for longer than the race, we have lots of stuff to get together and to drop in Tennessee on the way to Denver via Jackson Hole. Hmmmmm... planning001resized.jpgseems we have developed an "issue" with the packing progress...

May 6th:   Flight testing once again for Wild Mama. We have balanced the prop with the new prop tape on her and she is flying well, now. Wild Mama has always been plagued by a small amount of vibration and adding the prop tape to save the leading edge of the prop did not help. Now she is balanced and ready to go. We did a few high speed runs - no runway buzzing, however, as that has been well practiced in previous races. We also have her new carpet. The old carpet is stiff, nasty and probably is carrying 30 lbs of dirt and ground in grime. The new is the same color, just much nicer.

Wild Mama has a few more flights to make before race time so the final mechanical prepartions will not happen until the last minute (oooo how I hate that last minute stuff), but in this case it is a necessary evil. We will schedule her spa treatment for June 10th as the tentative plan is a June 12th departure with a stop in TN and Jackson Hole, WY prior to the race. We are just over 1 month from departure.

April 30th: All of the entries are finally in and processed and there are 34 race teams registered this year including 7 collegiate teams and 5 teams with extra crew-mates, like Team Wild Mama; so the field is set. We have our baby birds: another group, mostly from Florida; a three-some like us; great ladies including one of the 300 remaining W.A.S.P's. I have not yet met Bee (yes, Bee is a WASP), although I have met her pilot and co-pilot. Super ladies piloting Classic 26.

We have not yet started to prepare Wild Mama as it is a bit early and there is much flying yet to be done; but trusty mechanic, Vern, has his punch list ready to go and he will make sure that she is ship shape for the adventure ahead. As for the living, breathing part of the team: we have matching outfits ready to go; NAV log ready to go; charts have been ordered. We are waiting for registration and hotel information so we can finish the ground plans, then we study the route and weather until "the big day" arrives. Hmmm....I thought I dispensed with homework when I left college.