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THE HANDICAPS ARE IN.... Wild Mama is 159.205. That is the number for us to beat.

Here we go again .... another race year, another great adventure!

Terry featured on Karlene Pettit "Friday Flyer" segment. Read the story HERE.


February 2013: With Wild Mama down for the count, race preparations have slowed to a crawl. Entry is complete. Check. Race number 11 purchased. Check. Route planning done. Check. Google Earth googles. Check. So now we .... wait.

We already have 44 teams registered and raring to go for the race and there is still over one month left until the race entry deadline. There are 12 collegiate teams - 5 of which are in the top 10 race numbers. Team Wild Mama is checking out the competition to see how many planes we will be passing off the starting line. Being number 11, we will be fast off the block and hot on other racers tail pipes until the pack starts to thin out.

At this point, I am getting a bit concerned about the amount of actual flight time Ellen and I will be able to get in before the race to do out race test flights. With the new engine, we will have a good learning curve for both engine monitoring and performance and fuel burn. Vern promises the plane by May 1st but this is still precious little time to make our runs. Time is ticking and it will be tight.

April 15, 2013: She is up and flying. Wild Mama   is back in the air and humming along just fine. It is time to make the break in flights now then head to the handicap flight. All of the other preparatins have been made. There is nothing more that Ellen and I can do until Wild Mama   is fully ready for her tests.

May 11th: A good sign, indeed. After nearly 6 months, we are finished with the engine conversion project and nearly race ready. The only thing lacking is the detailing which is SheriffTour/Numberson.jpgscheduled for Monday morning. Numbers are installed, all the flight testing and break in is completed and the only bugs that remain are stuck firmly to the cowling awaiting their removal. We have been in touch with Marvin, our handicap pilot, and will be making the first, and hopefully only successful, attempt at a handicap flight Friday. With 36 days left to race time and less than 3 weeks prior to departure, it is about time we had an airplane to fly. I am pleased with the conversion results.

May 17th - Handicap Flight Complete:
  On a beautiful calm Friday morning, Vern and I departed from X14 to Clearwater to meet Marvin Guthrie, the handicap check pilot.SheriffTour/2013HC1.jpg Unlike last year, I knew that the flight was going off on the first attempt. The wind was calm, the sky was clear and the conditions were forecast to continue for the remainder of the morning. We arrived just after 0700 at Clearwater and met Marvin. Vern supervised the fueling of Wild Mama  while Marvin supervised me cleaning out the plane so it was in "proper" configuration. He verified tanks topped and off we went out over SheriffTour/2013HC2.jpgthe Gulf. The winds remained calm - no more than 5 kts - at altitude and the infamous handicap box was completed in short order. After a quick debriefing, Vern and I loaded up Wild Mama  and headed back home to debug and park her until Ellen and I leave for the race. She is now officially "race ready".

May 23rd - She's official: We got word that our handicap flight was a good valid flight and we have been assigned a provisional handicap. We do not yet know what the all important handicap is yet, however.

Ellen came out to see Wild Mama today. This is the first she has seen of her with her new digs. We got some of our vacation stuff loaded up and worked on our vacation and race strategy ... well, more on the vacation strategy at this point. We are both excited and ready to go for another adventure.


May 29th (FL to Hot Springs, AR) - We are off:  Terry launched out of X14 just before 0700 picking up her clearance with an AT Controller who had stayed at the Mountain Crest cabin. I climbed out to a comfortable tail wind ranging from 6-10 kts. The air was smooth, the sun peeking through the smattering of clouds. The radio was eerily quiet going through Tampa airspace. I checked to see if the radio was still working. Such a beautifulSheriffTour/2013ARC11.jpg morning and no one in the air. I am expecting Ellen to launch by 0800 and we plan to meet up in Meridian, MS for one of the best fuel stops around.

Nearly 2 hours into the flight the radio came alive over TLH. I got a routing amendment to MEI via MAI then direct. Not a big deal. I am 1:20 from destination and there is fog present. I prepare for the approach on runway 19 even though the forecast if for VFR for my arrival time.

The cloud deck was 900' msl to 2200' msl so the approach was necessary. I was thoroughly brief on ILS 19 but they gave me ILS 1 instead. I was vectored in for the approach and broke out at 1100'. Sweet - an easy approach. My favorite kind.

Ellen and I met up as planned, gassed up, chowed down and departed one behind the other. She was bumped up in altitude for traffic - gee, I wonder who that slow poke was..... We flew mostly right at the tops of the clouds except for a brief 30 min stint in the soup. Even though the winds were strongly out of the south, we still had enough of a tailwind component to make me happy, anyway. Ellen was hoping for a bit better wind at 7,000' but it was not worth the gas used to get up there.

SheriffTour/2013ARC12.jpgWe could see glimpses of green farm fields filtering through the clouds. They are so neat, squared off little farm fields  in some areas then they morph into rolling strips following some land feature which remains a mystery to me. The rolling hills of the Ozarks were now dancing in and out of our view that was obscured by some low clouds. The storms were out there but these were not storm clouds, just the high humidity puffy kind. We have been concerned about the severe weather with the Weather Channel forecasting a tornado outbreak through the mid-west. We had to cross it at some point.

Ellen and I arrived at Springdale and were met by Bill and Camelia Smith. They are hosting Ellen's Cirrus and a gaggle of other planes as well awaiting the end of the race. We departed quickly thereafter for our first stop of the trip - Hot Springs, AR. We stopped briefly in Hot Springs in 2010 and Vern and I overnighted here but saw nothing of the town. It is very quaint with grant old architecture planted in and among some abandoned buildings. The folks here are very friendly and welcoming. We got a room within walking distance of the downtown - about .1 miles - and set off for a walk though the downtown. We wanted to see the National Park ... and we did; although it wasSheriffTour/2013ARC13.jpg unlike any park we had seen before. The park was the preservation of many of the historic buildings, some greenery and many trail head signs that point to something of interest only .1 miles away. We were suckered in. Finally, after 1.5 hours and 3.3 miles ending up on the other side of the mountain, we abandoned the .1 mile hike, got dinner and drove the area. We stopped at a local landmark for cupcakes (I skipped this part and just salivated instead.)

Tomorrow's plans are still a mystery - we are weather watching and will make the call in the morning.

SheriffTour/2013ARC21.jpgMay 30th - Hot Springs to ....: Cloud deck OVC 2200 - check. Headwinds aloft 50-60 kts - check. Blowing dust forecast for time of arrival - check. Wild Mama  safe in hangar in Hot Springs - check. Decision - stay in Hot Springs and look at the leg westward again tomorrow.
We headed off to the airport to let them know we were remaining and prepare for an early morning departure tomorrow. We came back to enjoy the Buckstaff Bath House. The 1 hour hot springs bath was heavenly. We had a private bath, starting with a 102 degree whirlpool bath in the mineral waters. A warmer sitz bath followed for ailing hips and lower back. Once we finished the sitz, a steam bath for about 10 minutes sucked all of the moisture out of us. Since our heads were out, I did not even feel that there was a steam bath going on underneath. Our final treatment was hot towels on the remaining areas ailing you. I had the towels on knees and shoulders. They were hot .... really hot. It felt as if it singed off any leg hair I might have missed shaving but it was VERY soothing none-the-less. SheriffTour/2013ARC22.jpg
We wandered our way around the town popping in and out of the shops and had a late lunch. We thoroughly enjoyed our day here and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon rest. As we arrived back at the room we heard a strange noise outside that resembled a siren. The weather had been threatening all day so we decided to turn on the Weather Channel to see that Hot Springs was under a tornado warning. We headed to the lobby to learn that there was nothing immanent and that they would summon us if we had to evacuate. We learned the location of the shelter and of the nearest staircase to get down from the 10th floor. What an exciting day this turned out to be!

May 31st - HOT to AMA: We were finally able to leave HOT this morning after the last blistering wave of thunderstorms passed at 0600. We had low clouds to depart so we got our clearance on the ground and departed, climbing out with a 44 kt headwind and 95 kt groundspeed.

SheriffTour/2013ARC31.jpgWe broke out of the clouds at 3600' and settled in to a smooth ride at 8,000' with no more than a sea of white beneath us punctuated by the occasional spot of green. By the time we got to Hobart, the clouds completely dissipated to open a windmill farm and the beautiful contours of the Midwest rolling lands. We traded thick clouds for a thick haze that made picking put small objects on the ground a bit more difficult.

Our destination today is Amarillo. We both get the song "Amarillo by Morning" stuck in our heads. Ellen was good enough to get the lyrics so we could sing more that the first bar.

We have already abandoned our plans to make Jackson Hole by Saturday. The winds to go through the mountain are too high in the afternoon and this IS supposed to be a fun vacation. Going on the theory that there is something interesting to see everywhere, we are stopping in AMA, with theSheriffTour/2013ARC32.jpg plans to head out with the goal of Jackson Hole by Sunday.

The skies cleared. We descended to 6,000' and picked up a non-headwind. We were pleased. We landed on 31 with the wind blowing 070 at 11 kts. This would not have been my first choice for the runway but given the configuration at AMA, I could see what was going to happen if we tried something else. We got a car and headed off to lunch on the air field to make plans for our afternoon adventure.

The first stop was the Rick Husband Air Museum, again, right there on the field. There were 2 volunteers who enthusiastically took us around the museum and talked to us about the various exhibits. A small museum but well worth the stop.

SheriffTour/2013ARC33.jpgWe decided to head off to Palo Duro Canyon. Yes, a canyon in Texas. This was quite a pleasant surprise. After flying over the flat lands of Texas and assuming there was not much else exciting to see, up pops this canyon. We decided to make a drive through and do an afternoon hike. We opted for the short and "shaded" ("shaded" being a relative term) trail because the temperatures had climbed to 106 degrees by the time we got there. Nothing was stirring except a few silly humans out in the heat of the day. We finished the hike with a foot soak in the stream, lowering our body temperatures by about 10 degrees. The water from the stream carried string algae that had coagulated at the base of the falls. The water droplets danced off the rocks and fallen trees resembling mini-salmon trying to make their way upriver to spawn.

The weather is now clear. We have passed the dry line and front that had been dogging us since we left. With clear skies ahead, we hope to move out of Amarillo by Morning..... hmm sounds like a song ....


June 1st - AMA to CEZ:  What a shock it was to walk outside this morning to brisk 12kt winds and 60 degrees. We went to sleep with calm winds and still over 100 degrees. Ellen, all warm in her jeans, laughed at me in shorts. at least we had jackets.

SheriffTour/2013ARC41.jpgWe got to the airport to see Wild Mama chained and triple chocked. We are not in FL any more. The wind made the temperature seem that much colder. our ears hurt from the blowing as we preflighted the plane and loaded to go. We took an intersection departure on Runway 4 and climbed out on course en route to Cortez, CO.

Cortez, CO was not on our original itinerary. But with the southerly deviation, we decided to punt and the Mesa Verde National Park sounded likeSheriffTour/2013ARC42.jpg something different. As we climbed to our cruising altitude of 8,500' the winds subsided and left us with a light variable wind and a very smooth ride. As we approached Las Vegas, NV, we could see the smoke from the Las Vegas and Santa Fe fires. Although we could see through the smoke, it became thick enough to choke us out and we decided to climb over the plume. The smoke lingered in the valley and crevices in the hills in spite of the wind that had picked up quite a bit in this area. We were glad to pass this mess and head back for lower altitudes and a much better view.

This part of the trip featured some pretty but very different scenery. High mountain flatlands sporting strange formations resembled a dung pile covered in mold. Other erosion damaged areas looked like giant leaf veins. Yet other areas blossomed with an array of dessert colors. Every turn of the head was different.

In short order we plopped down in CEZ and headed off for the Park. We wanted to see the Cliff Dwellers and the ranger led tours were the recommended way to do so. All of the ranger tours were labeled as "strenuous" and the Balcony House tour was noted as being the most adventurous. Well say no more - Balcony House it is, along with the Long House tour for good measure.

The biggest drawback to this park we quickly found was that it was 1-1/2 hours driving from tour to tour. We did not have much stop and meander time but that turned out to be notSheriffTour/2013ARC44.jpg such a bad thing. We set off on the Balcony House tour with the admonition that we would be climbing many stairs, a 32' ladder and passing through a VERY narrow passage. The end of the tour is climbing another ladder hanging out over the cliff. OK.

SheriffTour/2013ARC43.jpgThe dwellings were abandoned over 600 years ago. It is yet unclear why they moved to the cliffs or why they left. We learned about these Ancestral Pueblos and how they lived and worked through the archeological finds. Accessing the House was, indeed, an adventure. The passage was tight, the ladder was steep and the final view over your left shoulder looking down into the canyon was quite awesome. All this hiking, climbing and meandering was done at 7,000'. We were adapting nicely to the altitude but felt it.

We stopped at the Museum and Spruce Tree house where a full kiva room was recreated. We hiked the mile round trip then finished the day with the Long House tour. We had a great Ranger, Beth, tell us more about this particular house and some of the unique features making archeologists thing there was commerce or a village center atmosphere at this house. We concluded with the long drive out of the park, extremely happy with Plan B.


June 2nd - CEZ to JAC: The morning was absolutely stellar as we made our way to the airport for departure. Winds were calm and the sky was clear. The forecast if we wentSheriffTour/2013ARC51.jpg directly to Jackson Hole was for tailwinds. But we had something else in mind. We departed to the north heading toward Moab and Canyonland, a place we landed and toured last year on our sojourn. This was probably some of the most spectacular scenery last year. Although we did not cross EXACTLY the same path, the vistas did not disappoint us again.  In this region, there are many faces to the landscape: high planes and flatlands, deep canyons and other lands scarred by lesser erosion. There are unique formations vivid earth tone colors and lush forested areas.

SheriffTour/2013ARC52.jpgPast Canyonlands we decided to go through the mountains and selected a pass that followed the Green River. The winds remained relatively low and we were able to complete our mission navigating the valley with about 1000' to spare between us and those "granite clouds".  It was so clear that the distant snow capped mountains seems so close but our avionics told us otherwise. We turned and headed west toward Logan, UT. Logan is one of the stops on the race. The airport elevation sits about 4500' with a 9,000' mountain immediately to the east I our path. Out-climbing the rise in terrain is nearly impossible with a small single engine plane so a little "recon" was necessary. We surveyed the area, made our plans, flew our plans and departed the area past Bear Lake and into Star Valley.

Passing Bear Lake always reminds me of passing a Caribbean beach. The water is that turquoise blue and crystal clear; the is a layer of white "sand"SheriffTour/2013ARC53.jpg along the shores and there is abundant human activity! One more ridge separated Bear Lake from Star Valley. We found a lake that lead to a road that we followed through the last pass to get to Afton. We flew up Star Valley to pass the castle that sits up on top of a small escarpment overlooking the valley. We circled once the headed for the road that take us through the final pass into Jackson Hole up the canyon carved out by the Snake River.

We had seen Grand Teton standing majestically in the distant horizon for miles but now her full splendor was coming into view. She was so magnificent as a backdrop for the Jackson Hole Airport. The approach into Jackson Hole is just plain fun. We have to make our descent through the downwind and on in to final on runway 19. The 496 starts hollering "Terrain, Terrain!! Pull up, pull up!" through the whole descent. It is not unlike coming through any of the passes. It is easy, but you have to pay attention. Ellen does most, if not all, of the photography at this point. I am hand flying but giddy as a little kid attending her first carnival. This is why we fly. Flying through the mountains gives us the opportunity to become part of our flying adventure rather than a spectator to it, peering down from above like a voyeur. You feel the plane; feel the ripples in the wind, fly like a skier on a giant slalom.

SheriffTour/2013ARC54.jpgWe land at Jackson Hole and are parked immediately. We grabbed our rental car and came back to the plane to find a large dirty rag laying on the pilot side landing gear. I looked at the gear to find it COVERED with oil. My heart sank. I bent over to see my perfectly detailed belly similarly covered with oil and I called Ellen over for a look. It appears that they had been a large oil dump from the breather tube. I had added one quart of oil after seeing our not-so-reliable dip stick read 5 yesterday and a full 8 this morning. Apparently, it was overfilled. I took the rag and cleaned what I could so I could tell if there is another major dump on the next flight. We will have to keep an eye on this. I got Vern on the phone after texting him some photos and he confirmed our suspicions. We felt better but now have to order a new cleaning when we get to the start. She is still a mess.

We headed into town for an easy day today. We have been going non-stop since we left and opted for a walk around town, shopping and recuperating. We meandered in and out of some of my favorite shops and the art galleries. There was a Carnival celebration in the square by some Mexican/Indians. The sported colorful costumes and danced for what seemed like a time longer than even the Energizer Bunny could handle. It was quite entertaining. We churned the economy and headed back toward the hotel to stop at the grocery to prepare for tomorrow. We will head out to Yellowstone National Park tomorrow - one of my most favorite parks. I truly enjoy this area for the fabulous flying, rugged scenery and the animals. I really like the animals. We were already treated to an almost immediate siting of buffalo and elk upon landing. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Teton Pictures

June 3-4 - Yellowstone and Grand Teton:  One of my favorite places in the world in Yellowstone National Park. I have been back here several times and always marvel at theSheriffTour/2013ARC61.jpg many faces of Yellowstone. From the thermal regions to the expansive lush, green meadows to the canyon and, of course, the variety and abundance of wild life it is a place that cannot be beat. We got up early to try to get some good animal action. "Furry alert" was the mantra for the day. Elk and SheriffTour/2013ARC62.jpgbison were in abundance but we also got some prong hors, lots of birds, marmots and a lone coyote.

As we entered the park, this strange white stuff was still laying all over the ground in the wooded areas. We picked up this snow - yes, it was still only 36 degrees - and heaved a couple snowballs at each other. We started up Hayden Valley where the largest concentration of animals was said to be. Apparently they did not get the memo. Instead we marveled at the bubbling and roiling mud pots an thermal features, then headed off to the canyon. We hiked the north rim of the canyon and, much to our delight, concluded the hike with the snow falling on us. It was just a light sprinkle but certainly added to the atmosphere.

We darted across the middle road of the park toward the geyser basin and caught some beautiful water falls on the way. We stopped at several of the geysers and pools. y favorite,SheriffTour/2013ARC63.jpg Grand Prismatic Spring, is always on this list. While not so impressive from the ground, my treat comes from the over flight planned for our SheriffTour/2013ARC64.jpgWednesday morning departure. It is such a spectacular site by air. As we were headed out of the park, a long coyote trotted along beside our car. We got the best pictures - other cars mobbed the area but had to stay behind us. What a hoot. Arriving home late, we plopped into bed, exhausted, but ready for another adventure tomorrow.

Grand Teton National Park:  Bright and early this morning we departed for Teton in search of "furry alerts", specifically moose. There was a backSheriffTour/2013ARC71.jpg road where I had seen moose in the past but it was a bust for moose this morning although the back road yielded bison, elk and prong horn plus some beautiful vistas of the mountain. We were at the park by 6:30 am but still no moose.

I took Ellen to a couple of my favorite spots. These are places that I had found particularly beautiful with the mountains reflecting in String Lake. SheriffTour/2013ARC72.jpgWe were not disappointed. The winds were calm and the mirror image was awesome. After a time, the ripples formed and the pristine images disappeared for another day. Ellen and I headed off on a hike to the back side of String Lake and Jenny Lake toward Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. I had made a hike up to Inspiration Point in the past and was not interested in a mountain climb. I was up for an easy stroll, looking for moose and furry things and some birds for Ellen. Again, other than the moose, we were not disappointed.

Not long into our hike I spied a marmot scurrying around what seemed to be his home under a large rock next to a fallen tree. I stopped to be ableSheriffTour/2013ARC73.jpg to watch his play and he became quite curious at this strange human creature staring at him. He stared back and venture a bit closer. I tried not to move but wanted so badly to take his picture. My hand was in my pocket with the camera so I turned it on and ever so slowly moved the camera into position. "Click." Got it! Shortly his little marmot buddy came to join him and the two scampered off under the tree. Such a delight. We continued on seeing a great variety of birds and other small critters including a chipmunk carrying a baby. More marmots came out to play and there was "love in the air", apparently, as we saw a large male chasing after his intended. At one point the are was so active with marmot, small ground animals and birds that we felt as if we were being bombarded by wildlife.

SheriffTour/2013ARC74.jpgAfter our hike, we finished the scenic car route and took a short walk along a path near Jackson Lodge overlooking Jackson Lake. In the background, the mighty Tetons rose supreme over the landscape and provided for us one last glimpse of this magnificent area. With lasting memories of mountains and marmots we headed back to town. We need to rest and be ready for a long day of flying tomorrow.

Jackson Hole to Klamath Falls Pix

June 5th - JAC to LMT: Today was a special day for me because we get to overfly my most favorite spot in the world: the Grand Prismatic Spring. To me, it is one of the most beautiful natural phenomenon that I have ever seen and it is such a gift to be ale to see it by air.

SheriffTour/2013ARC81.jpgEn route to the airport we caught a glimpse of a brown shadow lurking in the trees behind the sage brush in the distance. I slammed on the brakes. It was a moose and her calf. Our elusive moose came out as we made our way out of town. We stopped for several minutes to watch them as they grazed then departed, obviously annoyed by our gawking. But we were happy.

Upon arrival at Wild Mama, we discovered that she had not been fueled as the FBO had no phone service the day before and did not get me feeble attempts to tell them to add fuel. Te temperature hovered at the freezing mark and with Wild Mama parked in the shade of the hangar, she had quite an accumulation of frost on her wings and fuselage. We pushed her into the sun to thaw - no such luck for Ellen and I to similarly thaw - and used that opportunity to return the car and do some last minute ground activities before departing. We lifted off just as the tower opened and headed north in the shadows of the Teton Range.

The air was still and cool and the sky was crystal clear. The perfect opportunity for an overflight of we thought. We followed the park road as our guide and turned left on the loop toward the Old Faithful Geyser basin. We could see the steam from the thermal activity rising off in the distance. As we approached the middle geyser basin, homeSheriffTour/2013ARC83.jpg to my favorite spot, my heart began to sink. There, totally obscuring the spring was the thickest of all fog banks. Duh! What else should we have expected when 106 degree water hits 32 degree air. We circled only to see a slight sliver of the spring. Was so disappointed. We continued on to the canyon, made one pass for photos and left the area. A small yellow plane was buzzing the area much lower than the 2000' AGL where we remained. We hoped no one would complain.

We made our exit out West Yellowstone, following the back side of the Tetons through the valley housing Pocatello and Idaho Falls. We wanted to pass over Crater of the Moon Nation Monument and Preserve. It was a eerie landscape with pocks and mini-craters, lumps and lava tubes with no signs of life. The volcano was active 15,000-2,100 years ago and has long been extinct. But it left behind a lasting scar to the landscape.

We made a gas stop at Gooding and pressed on toward Klamath Falls. We commented on the beautiful clear day and ow we were so disappointed at the inability to see the Spring. We had planned to make an overflight of Crater Lake on Friday then thought that we might want to do it today, lest we be caught in the same early morning fog situation. We diverted toward Crater Lake and climbed to 10,500' to top some mountain ridges. This will be our only opportunity to see Crater Lake as all of the roads are still under snow and we cannot get the by car.

SheriffTour/2013ARC84.jpgFrom our perch over Summer Lake in OR we could see what looked like forever. About 120 nm to the south was the majestic Mt Shasta with its sow covered peaks. To the north we could see the 3 sisters and Mount Jefferson over 130 nm away. Then directly in front of us lie Mount Scott on the rim of Crater Lake. We were still 70 nm out.

One of the interesting things about approaching Crater Lake is the illusion created by the water. It is so clear that you cannot see it. The reflection of the crater sides hides the water. It is not until you are close enough to lose only the reflection of the rock and see the reflection of the sky that you realize you have looking into the mirror of the lake itself. By then the deep royal blue of the lake itself grabs your attention and the full splendor of the Lake takes your breath away. It almost makes up for the loss of the Spring view .... But not quite.

We make one circle around the lake and head for Klamath Falls Airport. After landing, we encounter a rather lengthy delay with Hertz picking up our car. The attendant comments "I expected you at 10. The only thing I have is a mini van." It was barely past noon so I am not sure what happened but by 1:30 we were finally on our way, ravenous and looking for food. We passed by a grill with a very large dog gulping lunch from a large bowl. We figured it was a good enough recommendation for us and stopped for what turned out to be a very filling and delicious lunch. This is a down day for us so we headed off to the hotel for mundane tasks such as catching up with email and laundry.

June 6th - Klamath Falls area:  Today was an easier day than we have had over the past week. We limited our hiking to a slow walk as we meandered our way through the TuleSheriffTour/2013ARC91.jpg Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lava Beds National Monument in northern CA. This area is known for the bird sanctuaries, not only as a migratory freeway but also as a year round observation area. There are miles of roads meandering in and out of the marsh lands; a beautiful visitors center and abundant blinds where we saw all different western birds that we do not get to see in Florida.

SheriffTour/2013ARC92.jpgWe followed our birding with a tromp through the lava tubes. The volcano - long in active - dumped acres of lave in the northern CA area. The National Monument developed several of the tubes to be accessible to the public. Mushpot Tube is fully illuminated and easily accessible. We "practiced" there before venturing off to the more primitive tubes. Our second was Goldome Tube, aptly named for the golden color produced by the tube slime. The slime is a bacteria that is bioluminescent. Our last tube was Skull Tube: a very chilly tube known for its ice floor. It was easily 20 degrees cooler than the other tubes that stayed in the 50 degree range.

We finished our day driving back through the forest areas to Klamath Falls - a very nice town that our racers will enjoy as their first stop in 2014.SheriffTour/2013ARC93.jpg

Photos - Redwoods National Park & Crescent City

June 7th - Klamath Falls to Crescent City:   Yes, this was another change in plans. Crescent City was always a crap shoot. It is most times shrouded in a thick fog layer, partly coming from the fact that the airport is on a peninsula, surrounded by the cool Pacific Ocean on 3 sides. The forecast was foggy followed by "gradual clearing". Our plan had been to SheriffTour/2013ARC101.jpgfly past Mt. Shasta then head to the coast but the more we thought about it, we could see ourselves waiting to leave Klamath Falls until the winds picked up to 18G25, then flying past a 14,000' mountain and into the fog ...... Ummm ...... Maybe not. Back to "plan B".

There was another small bird sanctuary just 10 miles north of town. Ellen and I decided to make one last feather alert stop at the sanctuary before heading back to the airport. We calculated that Crescent City was only a 2.5 our drive from Medford, OR. We rented a car at Medford and electedSheriffTour/2013ARC102.jpg to make the drive. I so desperately want to see the giant California Redwoods and have been stopped every other time I tried. This is the safest way to finally get there to see the trees.

We had a nice flight to Medford - a quick 20 minutes through the mountains then a dump and dive behind a Citation to land. We were immediately greeted at Medford Air Service. The pulled up our car, helped servicing the airplane and helped us get oriented. They were the epitome of what a great FBO should be. Thanks to Lisa and Anthony! We were on our way winding down highway 199 toward California. As we crossed in to the park, we decided to stop in the Visitor Center to get some information. They pointed us to the scenic route down Howland Hill Road. There were several small trails and some really great tree stands that were "the best" according to the ranger. We backtracked a bit and made the turn-off. It was not long before we saw the first of the giant Redwoods.

How do you describe huge? These 3000 year old trees are over 300' tall. Most of our ARC fly-bys are 200' AGL meaning we would be flying LOWER that the height of these trees. I stopped to wonder of the stories these trees could tell: the years standing sentry over the forest below; the changes over each century; how we have impacted the lives of these SheriffTour/2013AR103.jpgtrees. The sight of the thousands of these gentle giants was amazing. Each tree had its own character. The bark running vertically up the tree sported an array of browns. Some of the bark was mangled and some of the bark ridges were so straight, running parallel with their neighbors reaching for the sky. The forest was thick with trees but not so thick as to block out the sun that filtered in to sprinkle the ground and the fern beds with its life giving rays.

We hiked the Stroud Stand trail and visited the Corkscrew Tree, relishing every moment of solitude and quiet as we meandered through the forest. It has been more than 30 years since I decided to see these trees so I am pleased to have made this trip. With the afternoon wearing on, we headed back to Crescent City for dinner.

The town had few restaurants that were not chains. We wanted fresh sea food and finally settled on  Fisherman's Restaurant. The food was good and plentiful. The cashier showed us pictures of the devastation of the harbor after the tsunami that hit Japan ... and Crescent City in 2011. They are still rebuilding - this explains the lack of commercial establishments in town. After dinner we headed to try to catch the tidal pools but settled for a nice walk along the beach as we were too late for the low tide. Our last stop of the day was back at the Harbor to see the sea lion frolicking in the waters below. Tired but very happy after a great day, we head back to the hotel to rest. Time to head north tomorrow.

June 8th - Crescent City to Cannon Beach:  We departed early this morning fort he drive back to Medford from Crescent City, saying one long last good bye to the beautiful Redwood Forest. Although we come back through any forested areas, seeing the last of the redwoods was bitter sweet. I was so happy to have finally seen them but know I may never be this way again. On the other hand, I am happy to see what is the next part of the adventure around the corner.SheriffTour/2013ARC111.jpg

We do not have reservations or firm plans. The coastal fog has given us second thoughts about flying to the coast for fear that we will not be able to get out when required so we have opted for landing a bit more inland and making a drive. We selected McMinnville, OR as it will be the last lumping off point before heading to Pasco for the start of the race. Little did we realize that pan would change as well. We called ahead to get a car. None available. We checked Tillamook. Nothing. Salem finally said they could get something for us. Who know it would be such a challenge (that "last mile issue") that it would determine our landing spot. We did not even ask the price an said we would be there about 11:00.

SheriffTour/2013ARC112.jpgOur route, one again, was not exactly "direct to". That would have been just over an hour. Instead we flew out over the coastal area then inland to Salem. With the 30 kt headwinds along the coast, we were a bit delayed. The coastal route was beautiful: small towns dotting the coastal zone. It struck us how isolated each of the towns seemed to be from its neighbor. None of the towns were very large although many had airports. We wondered how life in such an isolated area would be. The towns are sandwiched in between the mountains and the beach; roads are sparse and distances are a lot longer than they actually look.

There seems to be a funky marine haze the permeates the area but looking inland we were able to see over 200 nm away. The giants of the northwest stood tall and proud: Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson and the 3 Sisters were all clearly visible. As we turned toward Salem we were headed straight for Mt. Hood.

Landing in Salem minutes before noon, we got the news that the rental car company closed at noon and that they would be bringing the car to us. They arrived just before 1:00; we got our stuff and headed off up the coast. While only a 15 minute flight, the drive was closer to 3 hours through winding 2 lane roads and smaller towns. The trees remained lush and green and there was abundant farm land. Again, quite a pretty drive.

We selected Cannon Beach as our overnight spot, mostly because there was a walk-out beach where we could try to see the tide pools. There are many areas with great tide pools butSheriffTour/2013ARC113.jpg the problem is that these 2 old ladies are NOT going to repel down to see them. We were looking for an easy access and Cannon Beach offered the right fare. As we rounded the corner into town, we knew we had another minor issue: there were no chain hotels - just a pile of local resorts and B & Bs - and it was Saturday night. The town was quaint with may young people and families. A  hotel that did not cost an arm and leg might be difficult to locate. We parked off the street and got out our iPads to start looking. We found the Hallmark Resort and got a "no view" room for $206/night. We were happy as we thought it would be much more. We still had a view of the ocean but not the "killer view" that fetched premium rates.

There was a low tide this evening but not the low low that should have the best tide pooling. We bundled up in layers as the temperature had dropped over 20 degrees on the drive from Salem to Cannon Beach. We looked, well, a bit out of place walking next to the bare-foot, shorts clad beach goers. All were heading to the main attraction: Haystack Rock. This is where the tide pool was to happen. Perhaps we did not know what to look for or perhaps we were to wimpy to get our feet wet but we did not quite see the pools as we had expected. There was some pooling but the critters were conspicuously missing.

But we continued to walk on down the beach anyway. The tide was definitely out exposing a large section of the beach. What was not clear was if the tide was still going out or already starting to come back in. We walked as close as we could to the waters edge without getting wet. We watched as the tide rolled up in layers, the nearest layer seeming to neither advance nor retreat. It looked as of there were thousands of happy little feet dancing in place and taunting us to come out to meet them. When we would take the bait, those mischievous little feet would rush toward us trying to wet our shoes. It was a game of back and forth that we played with the tide until we were certain that it was coming in and that it would eventually win if we did not leave.

We finished out this evening at a quirky little restaurant affectionately know to the locals as "Screw & Brew": a hardware store/brewery/restaurant. The local mentioned it and it seemed to funny to pass up. we will be up early tomorrow to catch the last of our tide pools, this time with an interpretative guide to show us what we are missing.


June 9th - Oregon Coast: We spent the night at Cannon Beach in a lovely hotel with the "bad view". We had the fireplace going last night to take the chill off the cool PacificSheriffTour/2013ARC121.jpg SheriffTour/2013ARC122.jpgbreeze. Early this morning we were up and back at the tide pools at the Haystack Rock. This was the "low low" that we needed to really see the good stuff at the tide pools. We were not disappointed. The tide was still going out as we arrived so there was more sea life stranded by the minute. Hundreds of sea stars, muscles, barnacles, small fish, sponges and other creatures were clearly visible. You had to watch your step and remain on the sand to avoid killing a living creature.

We were fortunate that some of the local naturalists were there to show us the ropes and point to some of the more unusual an best stuff. The tide differential is over 6' so there are lots of opportunities to get stranded somewhere if you are a sow moving sea creature. There were Puffins, nesting birds on Haystack Rock and a small cave. Sponges were identified and a brief history of the area and how the tide pools work was given. The breeze was quite stiff this morning and it was down right cold on the windward side of the rock. We tried to remain on the leeward side. As we were getting ready to leave an alarm sounded - a sea gull alarm, that is. Local eagles - a trio of 2 adults and a young eagle - started swooping over the rock looking for their next meal. One was successful, provoking an eagle tug of war for the prize. The two locked talons and did the spinning dive toward the ground until the younger eagle let go and headed off to find his own meal. We were spell bound and stood long enough until we were too cold to remain.

SheriffTour/2013ARC123.jpgThe remainder of the morning was spent wandering around town and the small sea side shops followed by lunch and a hike up the see the Tillamook Lighthouse. It was not supposed to be a strenuous hike but I beg to differ by Florida standards. We hiked 1.8 miles straight up the hill with an 800' rise. Thank goodness we got to hike down hill the last part of the trail. It was a wonderful woodland trail through the Sitka Spruces, ferns beds  and salal. After our triumph of the conquering the path we headed back to Tillamook for the evening. We noticed lots of Tsunami disaster zones and some signed about how to pick up refuse from the Japan tsunami in 2011. Quite interesting.

Another great day. We have not had an issue with sleeping at night - and tonight will be no exception.

Photos - Tillamook, OR

June 10th - Tillamook: Today was a day in Tillamook, OR. I am sorry to say that we are too early for the pig & Ford races which are help in early August but this is a nice townSheriffTour/2013ARC133.jpg anyway. We made a return trip the Tillamook Cheese Factory for the tour and to replenish supplies for the remainder of the trip. You can never have too much cheese, ya know. We followed our cheese tour with a tour of the Tillamook Air Museum. The museum is nice but the spectacular part SheriffTour/2013ARC131.jpgof the museum is the building itself. It is a blimp hangar built in the WWII era. It is HUGE - this whole trip has been about huge: huge thunderstorms, huge trees, huge tides, huge buildings, etc. The building is the largest wooden structure standing in North America. It is pretty impressive.

We watched the educational video about the construction of the hangars, the fire that destroyed hangar A and the use of blimps during WWII. Wandering around the museum, we say a nice display of mostly flying aircraft including the oddball Bellanca Aircruiser, also called the "Flying W", and know to be able to carry its own weight in cargo. It is a 15 passengerSheriffTour/2013ARC132.jpg aircraft that goes on floats or skis. There was also a Dauntless dive bomber - one of my favorites - that they were taking out for  flight just as we were leaving. We finished our tour and headed off to McMinnville, taking the scenic route, stopping for more local cherries on the way. So much for weight and balance!

PHOTOS - Evergreen Aviation Museum

June 11th - McMinnville, OR:  Our last full day of the great adventure before heading off to Pasco for the official start of the race and ARC activities. We spent the day in SheriffTour/2013ARC141.jpgMcMinnville at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. This is a return trip for me to see the Spruce Goose. Another giant in our vacation. The largest sea plane ever built; flown once and now permanently on display at the museum.

Since y last visit 6 years ago, they added the space museum, lots of helicopter displays, more airplanes and more IMax movies. .... oh, and the newSheriffTour/2013ARC142.jpg Wings and Waves Water Park. We did it all! We spent the first part of the day wandering about the museum, eyeballing some familiar and some not so familiar planes. There is a large group of GA aircraft, mostly home built designs, that are not so common or just unusual. Of course, the Spruce Goose .... we watched the video of her history and of her movement to McMinnville - what a giant task that was. The space museum features a launch segment from mission control perspective, rockets, lunar rovers and good historical information. Then on to the fun.

We saw the water park yesterday - you cannot miss it with the giant 747 sitting on top of the building. This is a REAL 747, decommissioned, obviously, and housing the beginning of the 4 giant water sides that slash down to the pools below. Ellen and I made 7 slide trips, played in the wave pool, vortex pool and youthful area - I would call it a kids zone but over 18-ers are allowed too. After a couple of frolicking hours we grew up and finished our day with the Lewis & SheriffTour/2013ARC143.jpgClark Expedition in the IMax Theater. What a great show.

Happy that our vacation is ending on a high note, we drove back to Salem for the night. Tomorrow morning we will re-unite with Wild Mama and head for Pasco on the final leg. We hope for good weather for some mountain viewing but the cards may be stacked against us. Back to "plan B".


June 12th - SLE to PSC:   Today is our last gasp of the pre-race adventure. We are flying from Salem, OR to Pasco, WA, hoping to fly past the mountains. But as we suspected,SheriffTour/2013ARC151.jpg the weather is not going to cooperate with 6500' ceilings at Salem and 4500' at the "choke-point" along the route. We decided to go with plan B, bag the mountain flight and make the flight along the river remaining at 2800', well below the cloud deck. Wild Mama was packed to the gills now with the fruits of our shopping expeditions and we were ready to depart.

SheriffTour/2013ARC152.jpgWe launched out without incident. But 10 minutes into the flight we noticed an unreported scattered layer at 2500'. We flew over that and soon noticed a wall of clouds in our path. Ellen got the flight services frequency to file a flight plan but they did not answer so we got Washington Center. By that time we were at the cloud wall and did a 180 degree turn to remain VFR. We put ourselves in a holding pattern over Country Squire Airport, keeping it in sight in the event we had to land. We got Center and they bumped us to 3,000' and at the base of the clouds. So much for 4500' ceiling. We were cleared on a route and directed to climb out to 7000'. We were in the clouds immediately and the temperature dropped to 29 degrees. We looked out to see ice building on the wings - not much, but enough to get our attention. We kept our eyes on the ice as we skimmed the tops of the clouds. A layer opened and we were between layers with sunlight in sight. Ellen radioed a PIREP for the icing and we broke free of the clouds stretching ourSheriffTour/2013ARC153.jpg wings into the brilliant sunshine. The temperature came back up to 38 degrees and we sloughed off the ice.

The mountains surrounded us - the giants we were  looking for were just off in the distance, and the river was below us. We requested a more direct routing and headed straight for Pasco. We landed to a great greeting from Bergstrom Aviation and the Pasco volunteers. After securing the plane we got our rental car. It was a cute little Chevy Spark that we have affectionately named "Sparky". This is a great little car but we had serious SheriffTour/2013ARC154.jpgconcerns if everything would fit. We made a "blivit" and headed for the hotel only to find that the hotel messed up our reservations. They got us a room at a nearby hotel and all was well. We ran in to several other racers and chatted for a while before retiring to our room for some re-organization and relaxation. The real work begins tomorrow.

June 13th - Pasco (Inspections):  Ellen and I spent the day at the airport all day. While we knew we would be there for a while, the extended period was unanticipated. We SheriffTour/2013ARC162.jpgstarted the morning with an oil change. We have flown over 30 hours since the oil change and handicap flight and we needed fresh clean oil for the race. Once the oil was done, Immaculate Flight made a special trip to Pasco for us to re-detail the airplane. we had an oil dump under the belly and the detailing was rough by the time we arrived. They came to the rescue. Steve spent nearly 4 hours cleaning and re-waxing Wild Mama so she was back in handicap run condition.

While Ellen and I were waiting we got a little, well, creative with occupying our time. We really like our little Chevy Spark rental car. It is so cute. It fits in about 1/2 of a parking spot but has an amazing amount of space inside. We were concerned about her size at first but the car has grown on us.  "Sparky" is so much a part of us now that she has been made a member of the team. She is pleased.

With racers coming in today at a slow trickle, we found time to get some other race duties under way. I would like to have said completed but we ran into a minor snag. Lynette SheriffTour/2013ARC161.jpgAshland, the chief inspector, used us as the guinea pig to do the log book check. Thanks to Vern and his perfect papers, the SheriffTour/2013ARC163.jpglog books flew through the inspection. We went to do the airplane inspection consisting of a safety check an verification of the proper paperwork and identification of the aircraft. One of our landing lights decided to stop working. How could this be - they have a lifetime guarantee??? I called Vern and he directed me to the 20 lbs of papers that occupy the log book. Apparently, there is a purpose to all of those papers. Hidden in the STC for the HID lights are the instructions for the lighting system. Jack, the local IA at Bergstrom came out to assist and traced the problem to the ballast. We could not pass inspection with the bad ballast so we are having Vern overnight a new ballast for Saturday delivery so we can finish the inspection.

So we have some yet unfinished business. By then a few other racers started to arrive and we enjoyed the time visiting with our friends. Tomorrow we head for pilot credentials check an Saturday, hopefully, we will complete the aircraft inspection with a new ballast and working light.

June 14th - PSC (Credentials): Today is a slow day for Ellen and I. We were able to get in a nice hour long hike along the Columbia River before heading to the airport for credentials check. We both breezed through the check although I had to re-retrieve my Mountain Flying seminar certificate that I had sent in March 12th. So much for not killing a tree. We received our Bad Elf Pro at check in and I have to spend the afternoon figuring out how to use the darned thing for timing and scoring. I am not the techno-wizard (Vern usually handles that part then briefs me on what I need to know) an neither is Ellen. We will take Sparky for a ride this afternoon and test the unit, trying to get it logging and tracking. Sparky will have fun.

We did get our confirmation early this morning that the much needed light ballast is on the way. John from Knots2U had it shipped out before 9:00 a.m. - talk about efficiency - for an early morning delivery tomorrow. I will feel better when we are complete with inspections.

There are still only a handful of airplanes here with 34 due in before noon Saturday. The airport volunteers are going to get very busy soon.

June 15th - Waiting ....:  The ballast for the landing light assembly was to arrive "early morning" at Bergstrom Aircraft. The mechanics was on standby to install the ballast andSheriffTour/2013ARC171.jpg the inspectors were ready to re-inspect. So we got to the airport around 0730 just to make sure we did not miss anything..... and we waited ...... and we waited ..... and we waited. We chatted with other racers arriving and those who were there cleaning their planes and preparing for their own inspections. We paced back and forth and we checked the UPS tracking numerous times. We stumped for votes for ARC for the Lightspeed grant ( and chatted with the public who came out to meet the racers. ... and we waited.

Finally, just before noon, the part arrived and the mechanic installed it, tested it, logged it and we were finally ready for final inspection. Lynette and Gail gave it the official blessing and all was well in Wild Mama  land. But we were exhausted. We have hiked all over the US, up hills and hoo-doos in blistering heat, but this was more tiring than that. We went back to the hotel for the afternoon to rest before the BBQ in the evening.

The BBQ was great and the local volunteers have done a wonderful job with everything at the start thus far. Hats off to the 99s and crew who have made this start quit enjoyable! Tomorrow we start the briefings. Two days to go. I can't wait!

June 17th - Briefings:  It was along day today. We ha dal of the briefings which were anything but brief. We ran over by more than 2 hours and we were tired. Ellen and I had packing to do, shipping and race preparations and the loss of the time was not helpful. We are in for the day after a nice afternoon walk and getting rest for tomorrow. Race eve it is and we are feeling the excitement ready to fly. We just wanna fly!

June 18-19 - Race Days 1 & 2:  What a start to the race this has been. Pasco had high overcast ceilings for our departure day. That was unfortunate because we have been there for 6 days and the weather was beautiful for the duration of our stay. That was not the bad part, however. Meacham Pass to the southeast and right on the route, was reportingSheriffTour/2013ARC201.jpg 1300' overcast. Not bad - marginal VFR, you say. Well .... the reporting station is at the BOTTOM of the pass. The top of the pass sits at 3800' and 1300 would mean mountain obscuration and the pass is impassable. The ARC Board met to discuss the options and delayed the race start to allow the pass to clear. Most unfortunately, it did not and bad weather was moving in to Pasco. The first leg was canceled and racers were told to get to SheriffTour/2013ARC202.jpgMountain Home any way they could and start the race when they get there. Some racers darted out. Others who took their time got hung up at Pasco with an inability to leave the airport because everything was stacked up. Then ATC stopped taking IFR departures and flight following so there were even more delays. We were over an hour on the ground trying to get out. We went VFR and opted to head south to John Day River Middle Ford then go through El Dorado Pass to get  in to the clear.

The ceiling was sandwiching us between the clouds and mountains but we had room. The weather was closing in on Baker to the north and the conditions were starting to deteriorate as we came through. We took the Middle Fork and got through without a problem. Just as we entered El Dorado Pass it started to rain. We encountered moderate turbulence and I had to release the auto-pilot as the downdraft was so bad that I was unable to maintain airspeed andSheriffTour/2013ARC203.jpg altitude. Once the airspeed started to bleed off, I had to get speed back and descended. In a blink I was out of the down draft and hit an updraft. I throttled back as far and I could and was holding altitude at 191 kts. It was rough. We got through the pass and heaved a huge sign of relief. We decided to land at Mountain Home instead of continuing like other racers. We needed to check Wild Mama and take a break.

When we got back on track, we made our flyby at P & R Field (the timing line for Mountain Home) and sped off to Logan. We did not have the great tailwinds that we always hope for but we were happy with the leg. We got in late and it was nearly 10 pm before we got to the hotel. It was a long day and we still had 7 legs to fly over the next 3 days.

We made the 0530 shuttle Wednesday morning to get to the airport. The wind was already up and we had to make the pass. We waited for the slower airplanes in front of us to do the flyby and make a brake for it because we did not want to be overtaking another plane in the pass. We made the climb easily in spite of the high density altitude but it was a rough ride. We made the run to Rawlins, again, happy with the leg. This is not the fastest race we have had but the weather and winds are challenging this time. There are fronts and Lows that are not moving and systems that are making forecasting a brain teaser.

SheriffTour/2013ARC211.jpgWe had a good tailwind forecast for the leg to Spearfish. We fired up Wild Mama and a dog ran out to the front of the plane. We froze momentarily until we saw it run to the other side of the plane. I think I stopped breathing when he darted toward the plane; but all was well and the wayward pooch was soon corralled. We departed for Spearfish for a good leg.

The approach to Spearfish has worried me. There is a butte on the approach path and we would have to head toward the north around the butte orSheriffTour/2013ARC212.jpg dive for the runway. We elected to dive. On the run over another racer was over us. They did not descend and we wondered if,, in fact, it was a racer. We started our descent and got as low as we could over the butte and called for our 10 mile flyby. We heard dual flyby as they had now started their descent and figured they would catch us. Not a chance. We had to dive too and we did so at 1500 fpm to make the long descent in a short space. Alarms were chiming "Terrain, terrain" and "Sink rate, sink rate" but we kept going. We had to throttle back when we hit the red line but we managed to maintain that speed all the way to the flyby and passed without a problem. But where was the other racer? The could not get down. It was not until after we landed that we heard them call for their flyby again, apparently having to circle to get down. Well, that was exciting.

We now face ugly prospects. Because we were not the fast, "Johnny on the spots" off the line at Pasco, we face 3 legs of forecast headwinds and have to do what we can to nurse/salvage any tailwind out of the leg. We finally picked our time and made the first leg to Brookings. It was not the greatest of legs we had but we were pleased. We have been positive in each leg thus far - in our attitudes if not in our scores. This has been a challenge so far. We hope for something good to come but suspect that the next 2 legs will be quite slow. This is the luck of racing. . . it is what it is.....

June 20th - Race Day 3:  It was ugly today. We woke up with headwinds; we flew in headwinds; we landed in headwinds. Did I mention that we had headwinds? This race has been longer for us in flying time. The headwinds were howling all day ... for the past couple of days. Some racers have managed to eek out some tail winds on the legs but they have been SheriffTour/2013ARC221.jpgfew and far between for the racers flying around us. But we are having fun.

Todays legs were from Brookings to Holdrege to La Junta. We were delayed for departure at Brookings due to low ceiling reported at Holdrege. ItSheriffTour/2013ARC222.jpg was marginal VFR - just 1100' ceiling - but we were looking for a little higher ceiling to go. We passed a few hours at the FBO with the other racers, staring at the computer and looking for some way to occupy time.

The Nebraska 99s made such cute cookies - no chocolate so I could actually eat one. I saw some of the previous racers like Bitsy from 2007 and good few minutes to chat between cleaning bugs, checking weather, wiping the oil from the belly and trying to get ready to launch and re-organize our paperwork without leaving FOD on the runway. We flew lower today to stay SheriffTour/2013ARC223.jpgout of the winds but the ride was much better than expected. We had figured it would be relly bumpy but the ride through El Dorado pass and the dive into Spearfish were worse. SO we were pleased. We passed a dust devil along the way. Ellen chided me to move closer to the outer vortex to pick up some speed but we both thought better of it.

Arriving at La Junta to 101 degrees, Wild Mama called for a rest so we gave her a break, cleaned her off and headed for the hotel for an afternoon "off".  She was covered in bugs which is more common when we fly low and she had the strange dust all over her. This, again, was frombeing closer to the ground and in the haze. We are as tired as Wild Mama. Race planning for tomorrow and resting in the order for the day now.

June 21st - Race Day 4: We found tail winds! Morning at La Junta found howling winds at ground level and we had to remove our tie down chains carefully, hoping the wind would not catch the wing and flip us over. We were 4th off the starting block this morning behind Classic Racers 44, 20, 2 and 36. we ran the timing line then climbed up for the little ofSheriffTour/2013ARC252.jpg forecast tail winds and we found them. The leg to West Woodward was otherwise uneventful. It was still relatively cool and the scenery was not much different than the scenery of our arrival in to La Junta. We prepared for our WWR flyby to continue and blasted off to Fayetteville and the SheriffTour/2013ARC253.jpgfinish line. We were so pleased to have these last 2 legs e positive after all the headwinds during the first portion of the race.

This leg was very hazy and we turned on all of the flashing lights to make sure folks could see us in case we could not see them. We had to pass through a military Alert Zone of high military traffic and we were told to stay at 5,500' or about to remain out of the heaviest traffic. We complied. We saw a blip on the TCAD at +600', 12:00 o'clock closing in on our position. The bogie made a sharp left, then right to pass overhead. There were 2 relatively fast moving gray planes - we never did see what they were  but they certainly were not racers! Pretty cool.

We soon began our descent into Fayetteville. We were the first to arrive today, the last day of the race, even though 2 teams had arrived the day before. This airport is between 2SheriffTour/2013ARC254.jpg small ridges and was going to be hard to spot low. We stayed up a bit to clear the ridges and get a positive identification on the runway. Runway: 2:00 o'clock low - go for the final turn! We zoomed past the timing line. We were thrilled to have completed this race. It was a tough one. We were greeted by al the kids from Mobile - how fun. It was nice to see my girls again. I have been here a few times so it was like coming home to wonderful people here. Such a great feeling. Lots to do now so more later!
Well, it here it is .... a lot later. Things got quite hectic Friday ... and Saturday ... and Sunday. I will get to Monday in the next posting.

The terminus was well organized. The volunteers helped with the bags and stuff from the planes then ushered us into the room where we surrendered keys, Bad Elf's, ARC SPOT units, boxes, chargers and whatever else that was required to be surrendered and to put the planes in impound. Tis is the beginning of the longest "leg" of the race for a race do we get "the call". Ellen and I had been quite disappointed that we had not been able to buy a tailwind, so it seemed. It can be quite demoralizing and we found ourselves rallying ourselves to stay in the competition. But in the end, we had 5 negative legs and an overall negative score. It was not a huge negative number as it was buoyed up by our last two legs.... finishing on a high note was nice.

We went to the melt down party and reconnected with many of the racers. The deadline for arrival had been extended from 1700 to 2037 hrs because of the weather. There were still a few racers to come in. It was fun to hear all of the stories coming from the race. It was also interesting to see that we were not alone in the negative scoring department but we still lacked the confidence that our run was a winning run. We chatted with Classic 48, a slower airplane, whom we passed coming into Spearfish, about their calling a dual flyby on us before we hit a 1500 fpm dive to make the timing line. It was amusing. They made the timing line but lost the runway and circled to find the proper flyby runway because it was grass and they were looking for pavement. Indeed, it was not an easy blind spot. I started collecting pictures for the final power point presentation - the race in review - and we hangar flew quite a bit. By 11:30 pm, still wound up, we had no phone call. I was not surprised. I advised the team and we called it a night.

SheriffTour/2013ARC255.jpgSaturday morning at 0600 the phone rang. We got "the call" for top 15. While I was happy, I did not want to relive the disappointment of being 11th place when we got our first call in 2009. I called Ellen and we figured that we were in the bottom 1/3rd of that pack. I attended the airplane inspection ONLY because I was out at the airport working with the youth program. I was quite frosted, however, seeing our number on the "naughty list" from the judges. We pride ourselves on flying a clean race - no penalties in 7 years of racing. I NEVER want a penalty and go to great lengths to prepare so that does not happen. What could I have done wrong? I am clueless. Then someone asked me about the little red 73 under AGL on the score sheet. do they think we did a flyby at 73? Are they crazy? I started researching the accuracy of GPS derived altitudes and figured that this MUST be the issue. GPS altitudes are NOT reliable and should NOT be used in place of the properly set altimeter. I was ready but not happy and nervous in case I guessed wrong. I did not fancy going to an inquisition with not knowledge of my "crime".

The youth event was a hoot. The Carastros, Gene Nora Jessen, Classics 15, 27 and 17 came to help along with any of the college girls. Mary Wunder lead a team working on the runway. She created a masterful runway from chalk on the pavement to teach the girls about ATC. Several planes were available for pre-flighting and inspection, assisted by the Rosies and other college teams. Gene Nora, Juliette and  few others talked about careers. The meeting finished with pizza which is where I shuffled out the door for final preparation for the 1300 meeting with scoring and judging.

The scoring meeting went well. We signed the time sheets and were pretty well convinced that the judging issue was the GPS derived inaccurate altitudes. As we left the meeting we were told that we no longer had to see the judges. All that worry .... and we worried it into submission ..... Tired but happy we gathered ourselved and wandered about for the day before heading to the evening Big Band dinner dance at the Arkansas Air Museum.

Sunday morning was briefings and meetings and I had a power point presentation to finish. I woke up not feeling 100% with a small tooth ache - like a seed was stuck in my teeth. I cleaned and flossed and headed off to my duties. By 1500 hours, my lower gum was swollen, throbbing and inflamed. I saw Nancy Keating, one of the volunteers, to see if there was an emergency dentist in the area. The short of this story is that her good friends was a dentist and I say him only to learn that I had an abscessed tooth. I got some antibiotics but could not eat a thing. I was in a lot of pain. I also could not take any pain killer other than Tylenol since I was flying the next day.SheriffTour/2013ARC256.jpg

We headed off to the banquet, program complete, tooth sore but gaining hope that maybe we squeaked into position #10. We started listening to the leg prize awards which are read by race number order. They skipped #11. Could it be true or did we just fly THAT poorly that we did not even get a leg prize? Then the list of the top 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and then our names Classic Racer 11 in 5th place. OMG. We were shocked but happy. Suddenly all those head winds were not so bad after all. Classic 17 won the race and ERAU Daytona dot the collegiate prize. It was a great race: challenging, fun, frustrating, beautiful, educational. It was fly camp. It is all good.
The Top 10 are:
1st team 17 Marjorie Thayer & Helen Helen Wyrick Beulen
2nd team 16 Dream Catchers - Michele Bassanesi (Italy) & Gretchen Jahn
3rd team 43 Embry Riddle Daytona - Valdeta Mehanja & Danielle Erilchman.
4th team 21 Louisiana Tech - Jessica Lowrey & andrea Ziervogel
5th team 11 Team Wild Mama - Terry Carbonell & Ellen Herr
6th team 2 Kansas State - Tonya Hodson, Jennifer McLean & Karen Morrison
7th team 27 Three of a Kind Racing - Frances Irwin, Pam Rudolph &Shannon Hicks-Hankins
8th team 24 Maule Rats - Helen Helping & Sarah Morris
9th team 13 Liberty University - Jessica Dyer & Charity Holland
10th team 25 Three Musketeers - Gene Nora Jessen, Patty Mitchell & Brenda Carter

June 24th - Heading out: Today can be a depressing day because the next race in 2014 is a whole year away. *Sigh* But it is my birthday and we are heading off to Mobile for the COPA Migration and to talk about Air Racing and flying adventures. Vern departs in 9MM and I in Wild Mama. We depart VFR as he has no AI and I have some strange anomaly SheriffTour/2013ARC261.jpgin my encoder again. Several miles out of Fayetteville, the encoder completely fails. No flicker, no chimes, no nothing. A complete failure. ... and we have headwinds again. *Sigh*

The trip is uneventful until we hit the Jackson, MS area and see the severe storms building on the horizon. The direct to path is no more andSheriffTour/2013ARC262.jpg I opt for a deviation to Hattiesburg, MS then a south heading toward Gulfport before making the westerly turn for Mobile. I call the Mobile Approach ad get permission to transition their air space without my encoder. Granted - and I go direct to Downtown to land. I left the plane for Vern to handle with the radio shop and rush to get my car and head off to the second emergency dentist. I need an x-ray to confirm the first diagnosis and see if I truly need something done immediately. By this point I have not eaten in 2 days except for the Ensure that I bought to get some calories in my system. He confirms the original diagnosis and tells me to stay on the antibiotics until I can get the tooth pulled. I call to find out that I cannot see my regular dentist until I get back in a month. By then, Vern has arrived to work with the radio shop. I am tired from the last several weeks. I call Inger Anderson to talk about the kids and set up ur meeting but she just got back from Fayetteville as well and is, likewise, exhausted. We conclude that tomorrow is another day and we BOTH need some rest.

June 27th - COPA:  It was good to have a couple of down time days and catch up on work and airplane maintenance. Wild Mama went straight to the radio shop to fix the encoder that totally took a dump en route to Mobile. Wile she was there, Vern added the new Gami injectors and fixed the #3 CHT probe that took a dump during the race. We made our test SheriffTour/2013ARC271.jpgflight Wednesday morning and all is well with the world again.

In the mean time, I had to prepare for COPA - the Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association - migration as I am a presenter on Friday. Heather Taylor and I are giving a joint presentation about air racing then I will follow with "What's Your Excuse?" Planning your next adventure and flight planning for the non-pilot.

Thursday is a great is the long awaited Continental Motors Factory Tour. I have been here many times for the tour and always get sidetracked with duties. Today, I am aSheriffTour/2013ARC273.jpg guest and will enjoy the tour. I got Vern to the airport to see him off in N739MM. He was an "imposter" parked in and among the 100+ Cirrus aircraft here for the migration. It a comical sight. With Vern safely on his way, I head off to the tour. Getting there was the first adventure as the road to the parking lot was closed. I called Robin Tillery to get directions and made my way to the parking lot to get checked in.

Unfortunately, no photos are allowed on the tour. It was a shame because it was so interesting. But before I tell you about the tour itself, I want to mention the employees. These were happy people who love their jobs. Without exception, each and every one of the factory works with whom we spoke  took pride in their work and were determined to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The liked being accountable and they liked putting their "name" on the parts that go in to making each Continental Engine. THAT was the most impressive thing of all. Now back to the tour.

We stopped at various stations around the factory to see how they take the raw materials that come in, basically shaped, and hone them into such things as crank shafts. We learned about the finishing and polishing process and how the tolerances are measured in micro parts - certainly nothing that a human eye could ever detect. We saw cleaning and tumbling of cylinders in "pyramid" rocks and how each piece is inspected after the manufacturing processes. We concluded with a tour of the engine test department and watched as they test run a couple of engines. Overall, it was fascinating, even for a non-mechanical type like me. It was interesting to see the engines in parts and pieces and see how each piece is made and why it is like it is. (Mechanical types might have already known all of this.)

The afternoon consisted of moving to the new hotel room in the Battle House, home of the COPA Migration. I will fetch Heather this evening and we will prepare for our talk tomorrow. It should be lots of fun.

June 29th-July 1st - Heading West again: today was the blast off day for Mae and my great adventure. I have changed "partners" for this trip. Mae is a 182 driver andSheriffTour/2013ARC291.jpg secretary for the SE Section and she will accompany me on the trip to Bozeman, MT for the 99s International Conference.

Mae had a couple obligations this morning so we did not get off until almost 1100 hrs local time. We decided to leave today because we want to make Durango, CO by Monday afternoon and either today or tomorrow we will have to face an afternoon of flying the hot weather and bumpy skies. We SheriffTour/2013ARC292.jpgchoose today since the bumps would be over the lowlands rather than the mountains.

I think Vern installed the headwinds option with my new engine. I did not,ask for that option but headwind seem to follow me wherever I go. We tried to stay relatively low out of the winds but the heat was pretty extreme over Texas and we opted to climb to a cooler temperature and face a longer trip which necessitated a fuel stop at Granbury, TX. What a gem of a place.

We were greeted by the attendant, a friend.y man who helped us tie down, offered us water and A/C. Mae laid down for a bit and I munched on lu ch and finished updating Flight Guide. We chatted a bit before the attendant went out to refuel a medivac helicopter then help me get Wild Mama refueled. We said our goodbyes, got a few votes for ARC and departed i to the heat.

We climbed to 6500' as it was still 85 degrees at 4500'. This is a pleasure trip so we cruised along, a little slower but much more comfortable. WeSheriffTour/2013ARC293.jpg passed by the deserts of Texas with a cornucopia of colors shaded by cauliflower clouds. There were deep crevices where sprinkles of greenery could grow in this otherwise parched land. No one loved here, there were no roads and just a long stretch of tumbleweeds.

Plainview was our destination and it was in sight in a short 1.5 hours. The fellow at Rocket Aviation called to direct us to parking, brought the courtesy car for us for the overnight, brought the fuel truck and had a map with our hotel and food stops marked. What great service. We grabbed a few things and headed for food and the hotel where crashing was now foremost on our minds. Seems like the long hot day did us in. We will get a fresh start in the morning and head for the hills.

Morning was good. We slept well and realized what a bargain we had in Plainview: the hotel was not expensive and had a refrigerator/freezer and free breakfast; we had a free courtesy car and full serve gas at $5.25 with no tie down fees. Rocket Aviation was great.

SheriffTour/2013ARC294.jpgThe morning was cool and calm with some clouds off in the distance. The forecast was VFR with a small area of MVFR. With an east wind, it was reminding me of Meacham pass trying to get out of Pasco. Not long in to the journey we re sandwiched between layers and looking for higher as soon as we could get it. We had remained about 6500' but had to climb to get over the hills. We found a hole and climbed out to 12,500' - this was the lowest we could get to over the layer. Just as depicted on the satellite, the clouds broke open at the Otto VOR and it was relatively clear sailing to Durango. We got cleared to land and told to "make a short approach" just as we turned base, as there was another plane cleared to land behind us. We did a dump and dive turning final just in front of the threshold and dropped in on a dime. Oh, what fun that was!

The Durango FBO was great - the car greeted us at the airplane, we got maps and assistance tying down. We headed in to town to check it out and to prepare for our trip tomorrow. The down is quaint with lots of shops and restaurants lining the street. We did a bit of shopping, had lunch then headed up the mountain to Pagosa Springs and our hotel for the next 3 nights. Mae had a timeshare time at the Wyndham so we took advantage of the free hotel and opted for the hour drive. Pagosa Springs is a hot springs town with a large hot spring running through the center of town. We checked out the spas and the "free hot spring" river. We will return on Wednesday.

Since we have an active day tomorrow, we opted for another easy night and hung out at the hot tub at the resort before going to bed early. We have to depart at 0600 for the next adventure.

Durango, CO - Soaring Pix

July 2 - Soaring in Durango, CO: We made our way from Pagosa Springs to Durango, CO early this morning. We had a 0730 boarding call for the Durango-Silverton steam train and a date with "soaring". We were excited. We seated ourselves in an open "first class" car with comfortable over-sized seats and a glass dome. It was a little cool but at 57SheriffTour/2013ARC301.jpg degrees it was a far cry warmer than the 37 degrees when we woke up. In sort order the train blew the whistle and lurched forward on the slow trek toward Silverton.

The area had been developed as mining town - hence the names "Silverton" and "Leadville". The narrow gauge railway was constructed to bring the silver to the smelters in Durango from the 1800 and it still runs for tours today. The train started a rhythmic chug-chug-chug as it creped forward, rocking back and forth along the rails. The cadence of clickety-clack, clickety-clack of the train along with the chugging up the mountain became our musical interlude for the morning. We passed within inches of rocks on either side of the train then turned a sharp horseshoe where we cold see the full length of the train. We made a brief stop at Rockwood to pick up passengers then completed our portion of the journey disembarking at the Soaring Adventure while the remainder of the passengers continued on up the mountain to Silverton.

The rangers suited us in harnesses and gave us a briefing. This is the longest zip line adventure in the US. There are 27 lines with the longest spanning 1400' over the river. The first few runs were rather short and designed to get us accustomed to the lines. After we were comfortable we could do "tricks" - spinning, going off backwards and flipping up-side-SheriffTour/2013ARC302.jpgdown. I thought the up-side-down sounded fun but with being "bottom heavy" had to develop a technique to get my feet above my head. With a little instruction, in no time at all I was soaring, feet high, through the trees. What fun.

Nicki was out naturalist ranger and did a fabulous job teaching us about the forest, the critters and the plant life that we found there. It was a nice break while waiting our turns to soar. About half way through, the rangers planted us in the trees and treated us to a gourmet lunch overlooking the river. It was time to finish the other half of the course, most of which cris-crossed over the river. We hiked up the mountain side then zipped down,SheriffTour/2013ARC303.jpg racing, flipping and having a blast. We finished with the 1400' zip to the bottom. Even after 5 hours, it was over way too soon.

The train arrived and chugged us back to Durange where we said goodbye to our new friends and departed for Pagosa Springs again. This is DEFINITELY some place to return. I would like to take the trip all the way to Silverton but would hate to pass up the opportunity to soar again.


July 3rd & 4th - Relaxation:  After a long fun day of zip lining, Mae and I decided to rest our weary bones in the Pagosa Springs hot springs. They say that the minerals in the water are good for all the things that ail you and I have to agree. We spent the better part of 4 hours in and out of the hot pools ranging from a cool 98 degrees to a scalding 113 degrees; but we came out feeling much better.

We arrived ate afternoon to beautiful sunny skies and cool breezes from the northeast. By noon time we saw a light haze of white smoke wafting in to town from the neighboring mountain fires. We detected a small wind shift. But by 2:00 pm, the sky was nearly sunless as the smoke had turned to a very thick layer, dark and brown and looking quite ominous. We decided that would be the end of our stay. We headed back to the hotel to the west and the smoke seemed to clear a bit. We could look back to the line with the  thickest of the smoke. By late afternoon, however, storms began to build, the wind shifted again and we got a steady rain of water mixed with ash. It was a mess. The car looked as if we had been 4-wheeling in the dirt bogs, the chairs to sit on the porch were covered with black soot and it became not so pleasant to sit outside. We remained in and packed for the early morning departure.

The sun was coming up through the haze on Independence Day morning as we got in the car for the hour long drive back to the airport. It was looking better than the afternoon but not nearly as good as it had yesterday morning with cloudless skies. Looking off toward Durango, we could see some haze but not enough to completely obscure the mountains in the distance. We loaded Wild Mama  turned on the oxygen tank and prepared for a climb to 8500'. We wanted to fly the colors today. It was not long after take off, however, when we knew that would not be possible. As we climbed through 8500', the smoke was thick enough to obscure most of our forward visibility. We had 3 miles but that was nothing in a mountainous region. We climbed to 10,500' only to find that we were sitting in the top of the layer. We continued to 12,500' to get above everything. Although we were high,, the view was relatively good. Some colors were clear, although still lightly obscured, but the air was cool and smooth. We remained high and make a more direct route into Alpine, WY.

Passing Kemmerer we started our descent into Star Valley, passed the castle and over my niece, Branda's house. We dropped into Alpine and loaded up the car to head for Jackson Hole and some favorite shops.


July 5th-7th - Yellowstone National Park: Not so 0'crack-of-dawn 00 Brenda, Mae and I headed off to Yellowstone National Park in Brenda's camper. It is a 2 hour drive up to SheriffTour/2013ARC321.jpgYellowstone as there is abundant traffic and the camper, fully loaded, is not a rocket ship. But the camper is PERFECT for our little get-away. It is 22' and will comfortably sleep the 3 of us, giving us plenty of space, great visibility and Brenda as the expert tour guide. What else do we need? Oh yes .... the on board "out house". ...

Almost immediately we started spotting elk. Usually we see loads of cows and few if any bulls. But the bulls were out in full velvet. They wereSheriffTour/2013ARC322.jpg simply amazing. We stopped at the Church of the Transfiguration for a photo op and for Mae to ring the bell, then continued on our way. We were late enough that we missed the reflection pools but we were not looking for that today. We wanted furry alerts and vistas. There were no disappointments. The buffalo were the next to show their heads along with massive amount of elk and deer.  We wandered the mud pools and passed through Hayden Valley then headed for the Grand Canyon SheriffTour/2013ARC323.jpgof Yellowstone for the overlook at Artists Point. The photos at Artists Point almost look as if Mae and I were placed in front of an artificial backdrop. The colors were vibrant in the afternoon sun and the rushing water combined with the wind rustling the leaves created the song of the canyon.

Eyes filled with the canyon colors, we paid a visit to the visitors center to learn about the volcano and the caldera that is Yellowstone National Park. Since the volcano is still very active, there are hundreds of very minute earthquakes registered at the various seismic sensing locations through the Park. Right now, the Mammoth area is the most active. The changes in the tectonic plates beneath the surface have changed the face of Yellowstone over the years. Looking back at some of my photos from 2006 - my first visit here - I can see where some geysers and hot pools have come alive, gone dormant or just changed in character or activity. The staircase at Mammoth is a fine example: most of the vivid colors under the hot water have disappeared as the "water pipes" have been shut off from changes in the seismic activity. While there remains a trickle of color splattered throughout the terraced landscape, many of the prominent features have turned to a pale gray and look dry and calcium-like.SheriffTour/2013ARC324.jpg

But getting back to the trip to Mammoth: We cut across the middle road that led to the Norris Geyser area then headed north to Mammoth. This is opposite of the way we normally make the trip on the upper loop as we usually head up the east road and back SheriffTour/2013ARC325.jpgdown the west side. We took note of the few cars that were on the road at this time. It was especially strange for a Friday night on a holiday weekend but we figured that the now overcast skies and the drizzle that was wetting the landscape might have disrupted the normal flow. Well, there was a disruption all right but it was not the weather. As we rounded one of the corners on the windy road we saw the line of cars stretching more miles and miles. It seems that a small herd of buffalo decided that they wanted to walk the canyon but the rocks were not to their liking - the roadway was. The must have remained on the road for an inordinately long period of time to have backed up traffic so much. We chuckled, snapped a few photos and passed quite easily, much to the chagrin, I am sure, of the passing motorists.

It was already late and we had not stopped much for food when we arrived at Mammoth. The rain started down quite steadily and it seemed an opportune time for dinner. We stopped in the Diner and feasted on lamb, fish and squash soup. Mae even tried some huckleberry ice cream before heading back down to the camp site in Fishing Bridge in the lower loop area. We made a quick set up and all fell asleep quite quickly - it was a long but very fun day.

We decided to get up early to go to Hayden Valley for animal spotting this morning Early morning is the best time (usually) for the furry alerts and we were hoping that today was noSheriffTour/2013ARC326.jpg exception. The morning was quite cool which was not surprising given the hours of rain fro the night before. Now, mind you, Hayden Valley sits right next to the mud pools - a geothermal area of steaming, roiling and boiling mud and water features. Although it was clear at the cap ground to the south, my mind started wandering and thinking back to the flight that Ellen and I took over the park: a crisp cool morning without a cloud in the SheriffTour/2013ARC327.jpgsky .... except over the geothermal regions of the park. Nature is nothing is she is not consistent. As we entered the mud pool region a thick fog blanketed the area. We could barely see on the road to drive, let along look out over the vast expanses of the Park to see furry creatures doing furry things. *SIGH* ... foiled again. We circled back up toward the Canyon Village for fuel and to let some sun light burn through the fog and made another stab at Hayden Valley to no avail. The fog was far too persistent and it was approaching 0930.

We decided to go to my favorite place in the geyser area and Firehole River. We stopped for a few water features then meandered over to Fountain Flat Drive. We found a bike and hiking trail that ran through the lush valley and some prime animal areas. There were grizzly warning up for aSheriffTour/2013ARC328.jpg momma and her 3 cubs having been seen in the area recently. We had to make noise as we walked - not a difficult task for a couple of friends on a hike. Brenda drove the camper to the end of the path  at the Fairy Falls parking lot to the south while Mae and I made the hike. The furry alerts were limited to a lone chipmunk scampering about a log looking for some seeds to eat. We saw a few birds, fields of beautiful lupin and other wild flowers and no much else in the way of critters. However, our reward was yet to come.

SheriffTour/2013ARC329.jpgBefore we left on the hike a van carrying a bicycle rental outfit happened by and noted to us an Brenda the terminus location of the bike path. It was NOT as depicted on the map at the middle geyser basin but further down the road. This was a handy piece of information as Brenda would have been stopped a t parking lot that we could not access from the path. Our reward, much to our delight, was that the path passed on the back side of the Grand Prismatic Spring: my FAVORITE spot on the whole earth. I had often wondered if anyone other than a pilot could have the privilege to see the Spring in all of her glory. From the boardwalk, she is a shimmering blue pool with iron-orange runoff under the boardwalk. But from above, she is the "Eye of Yellowstone": a deep cobalt blue eye rimmed with a hint of green that fades into a yellow outline with "bloodshot" orange veins running down the side of her tanned face. As we approached the Spring we saw a couple scampering down from the mountain side on a "path". It is not a regular improved walking path: it is a well beaten path tramped into life from the many souls that longed to see the beauty of the "Eye". Having lost my last fly0ver chance with Ellen, I was not about to pass on an opportunity to get another view of my favorite spot and chided Mae to join me on the scramble up the mountain side. We slipped and slid, grabbing fallen trees as grips on the way up, huffing and puffing al the way. We paused for a moment to allow a young couple pass us and decided that we could do it if they could. We pressed on to a perch on a downed tree and paused, turning around to see the most magnificent of all sights that one person can behold. There was the "Eye", framed between the pines. She was overshadowed by some passing clouds, leaving her colors dull and almost lifeless until the sun cam back out exposing an iridescent side to the orange as it escapes the center of the eye. Mae and I sat there breathes. We were not sure if it was from the hike at such a high altitude or the sheer beauty of the moment.

Others were soon to follow and our perch was being eyed by another gawker. We caught our breath, snapped a few more photos and started the slow descent - a feat almost harderSheriffTour/2013ARC320.jpg than the climb. With eyes, hearts and souls full of the wonder of Yellowstone, we completed our 4 mile journey. It was now early afternoon. The sun was climbing over so high in the sky and the clouds were building to another round of thunderstorms for the afternoon. We had 2 long days and decided to head back to Jackson Hole and on home after an obligatory stop at Old Faithful. The roads were soon covered with rain and more motorists sharing our sentiments about the long day and less than pleasant weather. By 1900 we made it home in time for a light dinner and some sleep. We want to make an over flight of the park tomorrow but wonder if the fog will give us the chance or it Mother Nature will, once again, have the last laugh.

I was up at my usual 0530, peering out the window to see what the day would bring. The skies were clear in Star Valley but what about Yellowstone. I headed upstairs to get some internet service to check the weather. All looked good in the surrounding areas ... but what about Yellowstone. I got on the Weather Underground site to catch the reporting station at the lake. Fog, 100% humidity and 43 degrees. Checking West Yellowstone, I found the same with 1/2 mile visibility and overcast at 200': low IFR. We are going nowhere fast. By 0800 we decided to make our SheriffTour/2013ARC331.jpgway over to the airport to get Wild Mama  ready for flight. We needed fuel and to empty all contents because of the density altitude and having 3 people in the plane. By 0915 we were in the air and heading north through the Snake River Canyon. The Valley remained thick with fog in several locations and relatively clear, but hazy, in others. Jackson Hole was clear but to the immediate south was that thick fog. We pressed on. As we approached the junction to make our westward turn toward Old Faithful we could see we were in the clear. We circled wide of Old Faithful to remain clear of the most populated area and headed for the Grand Prismatic Spring. I put the Spring on Mae's side and she saw it come into view. "Oh howSheriffTour/2013ARC332.jpg beautiful" was all I heard before her apnea alarm sounded. "Breathe, Mae, breathe!!!" We circled for a minute then headed off toward the Canyon.

Approaching the Canyon from this direction, it always put us looking back to see the best view. I decided to try something new and circle Mount SheriffTour/2013ARC333.jpgWashburn and approach the Canyon from the north to fly up the canyon toward the waterfalls. This would prevent our circling in an area of congestion, but rather just making one pass. I had already put Wild Mama  into stealth mode but I quieted her down a it more to come up the canyon. We snuck up on the falls so the sun did not have time to hide the splendor of the fall wash away the vivid colors of the canyon walls. Success! With one pass, we were happy and headed for home via West Yellowstone and the west side of the Teton Range, making our final approach into Alpine through the Palisade and highway 26 from the west. It was a beautiful approach with the valley beneath us and the mountains looming high on either side. I love this kindSheriffTour/2013ARC334.jpg of flying. We will rest this afternoon for our departure tomorrow to Shivley Field and Saratoga Resort & Spa.



July 8th - Eastbound: ... but not heading home just yet. We made a little back track to go over to the Saratoga Resort & Spa for another day at a hot springs. The water is soooo nice that we could not pass this up. Heading out from Alpine this morning we thought we might have a bit of a time getting going. The valley was fogged in so we could see little to SheriffTour/2013ARC341.jpgnothing on the drive in. But the arrival at the airport greeted us with clear skies over the airport and enough of a climbing window to make it over the fog and up to 9,500'. We remained in the Star Valley, then cut across to Kemmerer and on to Shivley Field. We wanted to remain relatively low as there were clouds already building and rain showers to our west.

The terrain in this part of the country is rugged and there is little development. Some of the features are strange upheavals that make me quiteSheriffTour/2013ARC342.jpg curious as to the origins of their formation. Other parts are flat and barren. We say highway 80 stretch out long and straight before us. we picked up a nice little tailwind and zipped over the ground at 165 kts. watching all of the traffic creep along. That is a long, lonely stretch of road to drive. We were happy to have the plane.

In a short hour and a half we arrived at Shivley Field and dropped in for a landing. There was no one there to greet us except a young buck resting at the taxiway sign. The airport attendant was scarce at first but sauntered in after we made our way to the FBO. He was quiet and it was a struggle to get information out of him but we managed, got the Resort Jeep and headed into town. We did not dare ask directions from the guy as SheriffTour/2013ARC343.jpgthat would have required way too many words on his part.

We arrived at the resort just before 1000 and they had a room for us to check in early. Sweet. Mae was now ready for breakfast so we hit the restaurant. Next to us was seated the "self-appointed town council", a lively group of retired or near-retired gentlemen fro the town. We took great delight in listening to their humorous ranting's about the town and what was best for it. We unloaded our stuff, left the Jeep at the Resort and wandered off into town. The town is old but quaint with a few small shops lining the main drag. In all, it took us about an hour to walk the whole thing, including the shopping.

The afternoon was spent at the Resort I the hot springs. The water is so soothing and good for whatever ails you. We will try some mountain biking tomorrow then a much needed soak after the bike do us in.

Alpine, WY to Saratoga Resort Pix

Saratoga to Bozeman photos

July 10-13th - 99s Conference:  Seeing that there is such a gap in the blogging I suppose that means I have been busy ..... or having fun ..... or perhaps both. The flight out ofSheriffTour/2013ARC351.jpg Saratoga was beautiful. We were again in the midst of some very strange and wonderful scenery that boggles the mind. There were upheavals and crevices; lush green valleys and rugged peaks; sand stone formations forged by weather and erosion and lands seemingly so untouched by the forces SheriffTour/2013ARC352.jpgof Mother Natures that it seems odd they are still on the same planet. We flew within 5 miles of 12,000' mountain peaks and through Pass on the approach to Bozeman. We were given number 2 to land and could have made the dump and dive behind the Otter but got he 5 mile extended downwind instead to land behind a 172.

The Bozeman local welcoming team was only expecting about 35 plane to arrive for the convention. When we got there already 50 had arrived with more on the way. They had to find a place to park us so we opted to get our oil change done right away to free up some parking space. We met up with Lin Caywood and Mom who took us to the airport to settle into the hotel. From the point of arrival it was a mass of greeting to friends and ladies whom I do not see all too often. Time whooshed by until it was time to go to the Bozeman Hot Springs for a little more R & R for the evening.

SheriffTour/2013ARC361.jpgThursday morning we hit the ground running with the Board meeting followed by an all day trip to Big Sky. The ride to Bog Sky was a bit long and I was starving by the time we got there. We had a long menu of activities by my only thought was food. We found one of the few places that served salad and several of us were seated for lunch. The staff was overwhelmed and by the time we finished lunch it was pouring rain and nearly time to come back to the bus for the ride to Broken Heart Ranch.

SheriffTour/2013ARC362.jpgThe Ranch was a hoot. We had a "hay ride" (I am thinking sitting in hay but we were sitting in cushy chairs riding a wagon through the hay much to my delight), followed by a BBQ dinner and entertainment. I was beat and took the first bus back to the hotel for bed - that was all the entertainment I could muster after such a long day.SheriffTour/2013ARC363.jpg

Friday morning highlight was the Amelia Earhart Scholarship luncheon where our SE Section 99s member, Myra Bugbee received an award. Congratulations to Myra. The remainder of my morning was catching up on work and taking a long walk through the town. Bozeman is a repeat from 2008 when the Air Race was here so I was happy not to re-see the sights. With a few more afternoon meetings and a Governor's reception for the evening, I retired to the room to help my roomies prepare for the presentation on Saturday. Our SE Section 99s is hosting the 2014 convention in New Orleans so you SheriffTour/2013ARC364.jpgcan imagine what kind of Cajun Creation we have for a presentation.

99s Conference Photos

July 14th-16th - Homeward Bound: Wow! What a whirlwind these last couple of days have been. Saturday was the big day at the 99s conference. We had the annual meetingSheriffTour/2013ARC371.jpg followed by seminars then the awards dinner. On top of the excitement, it was time to pack and say good bye to our 99s sisters until July 2014 when we all go to New Orleans for the 2014 conference.

Although we got to bed later than we hoped, we got some sleep but were on the road for the airport at 0600 Sunday morning.  A big storm came through BZN Saturday night with an easyerly wind. All of the residual clouds were pushed up against the mountain obscuring Bozeman Pass so we were not in too big a hurry and we were looking for an alternate route out. By the time we came with a long round-about solution, the pass cleared enough for us to be an airplane sandwich to the lower terrain. This was good but we had head winds.

We got through the pass easily and stayed beneath the ceiling of clouds until we neared Mount Rushmore and our intended sightseeing destination. The monument sits on top of a 7,000' mountain which was now totally obscured by clouds with a thunderstorm brewing. We diverted to Newcastle, WY for fuel and to file IFR.SheriffTour/2013ARC372.jpg Seeing Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse was to be our last "vacation spot" for sightseeing and we were disappointed that we got stopped short. But with a line of storms had built to our east, we had little choice. We had planned to stop in this area at Chordon but it was already socked in. We picked a new route that took us between storms with plenty of clearance from the convective activity. The route was good but more head winds. WeSheriffTour/2013ARC373.jpg had to fly high for terrain and to get radio reception for Denver Center. As high as we were at 11,000', Center still had to use another plane to relay to us for quite some time until we made the turn from our southerly heading to the east just past TST VOR.

As we were coming in to land at Emporia, KS, a voice came on the radio and said "Make a nice landing, now, Wild Mama!" Who the heck was that? I had no clue. Thank goodness it was one of my better landings. Emporia was a great stop. We fueled, got the courtesy car for the evening and headed off to dinner and rest. I did some downloading and computer work, took a walk to stretch my legs and went to bed. The last leg to drop Mae in Lafayette is tomorrow.

SheriffTour/2013ARC381.jpgThe morning was beautiful except for the forecast headwind. There were storms forecast for early afternoon in Lafayette but it was only 0600 and we had a 3.5 hour flight taking into consideration 16 kt forecast head winds. All was well until those head winds topped 40 kts. With the morning speeding by and the airplane not, we started our problems early. We saw the Ozarks rising and the ceiling lowering so we dropped into KRKR, Kerr, OK, refueled and filed IFR.  With fuel in our tanks and assistance from ATC we were back underway. We climbed through the low ceilings and settled in between layers at 7,000'. But as we approached Lafayette, those storms blew up early and big. Once again, we decided to divert to False River, LA  (KHZR). We stayed on the ground there for quite some time. The storms that were forecast to move NW did move NW but with a NESheriffTour/2013ARC382.jpg drift. We were overrun by a torrential rain storm and lightening. We finally decided to leave Wild Mama there and Mae's husband, Ed, came to rescue us. It was getting late, we were tired and ready to stay on the ground. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday morning brought another forecast head wind for the last part of the trip for Wild Mama. This is really getting old. It also brought storms over Lafayette but clear skies in False River so Mae drove me back to the airport for my next leg to Rowan County, NC for a little paint touch up on Wild Mama. I made my departure without a problem but that 3.5 hour trip will take nearly 5 hours with, you guessed it, that dreaded 25 kt headwind. This will necessitate a fuel stop in Toccoa, GA for insurance.

I could see what was coming so I only filed to TOC. In the end, I probably could have made it all the way with less than 10 gallons to spare but to me, that is not the safe thing to do, SheriffTour/2013ARC383.jpgeven though it is well within regulations for VFR day conditions. Toccoa was a great stop. They had both full and self serve fuel reasonably price, friendly folks ad a brand new FBO.  I asked for a quick turn around and I was back in the air within 30 minutes- fuel, comfort stop, check weather and filing another flight plan.

My last leg was still slow but at least I saw 140 kts in level flight. I got vectored around a bit through the Charlotte air space but came to a safe landing at Rowan County by 1500 hours local time. Bill ushered me to the pain shop hangar and Ellen Herr was there with her Cirrus to fetch me and fly me back to Fort Myers for the real last le of the journey. The weather was scattered storms but the skies parted for us and we made it all the way to Fort Myers without a hitch.  It just all seemed to end so quickly and abruptly: we made 95% of the trip in VFR conditions with greatSheriffTour/2013ARC384.jpg weather and the last 3 days just handed us a mixed bag of low visibility and unfavorable weather conditions. But ..... Ahh, after a great adventure, flying over 10,600 nm, and seeing this beautiful country from the air again, it was sure good to be home safe and sound.

Photos - Bozeman to Home: The end of the Adventure!