July 11th - What a Champ: Off we go, into the wild blue yonder .... and very blue and very yonder was our trip. This is the first leg for me onthe trip to Oshkosh 2015 but there are lots of miles and many stops ahead of the assault on the airshow. Our early departure from LaBelle found us with light winds and beautiful blue skies. We could tell there was a high pressure system as the schmutz was plentiful as well but at 8500' and being on top of the haze, we were pretty happy campers.
We landed in Cherokee County, GA (KCNI) after a 3.5 hour flight. ur car was ready and we hurried off to Air Acres to our meeting with the Champ. The weekend project was for Vern to get the plane running after she has sat in the back of a hangar since 1983. The Champ is a 1945 7AC model. She is a sweet little airplaneSheriffTour/OSH15-1.jpg donated to Aviation Adventures for the youth aviation education programs. We hope that she will be a great asset for the kids to learn about old airplanes and flying. But she has to make it to LaBelle first.
Vern spend the remainder of the day slaving over the plane. He checked the wing spars, the brakes, tires, fuselage, prop, wheel bearings and fabric. In the engine copartment he checked the mags, fuel system, oil and cylinders - about all he could do until he could roll her outside. With little daylight remaining, we were able to get her out of the back of the hangar and Vern was able to try to start her. I was in the cockpit. "Mags cold!" Vern called so he could pull the prop through a couple of times. "OK, mags hot, crack throttle". One hard pull: nothing. We hope this airplane will start. Another hard pull and she fired fast. Oil pressure up and we have a running airplane! Vern let her run for a bit an checked all that he needed before taking her out on the runway. There would be no flying this evening but maybe tomorrow. Tonigh was a few fast taxi and stop exercises testing the effectiveness of the brakes and the power of the engine. While he very briefly became airborn - a second or two - he was happy not to really fly and very satisfied with the results of his tests. Tomorrow is another day.
July 12th - She flies!: Bright and early this morning we were back at the Air Acres strip preparing for the first flight. The day was clear and the winds light so the conditions were perfect. It was still relatively cool - good news for the record high teperature day ahead of us. Vern got her started and made the long taxi to the end of the runway facing to the north. There was a slight upslope in the mid section of the runway, then a good downhill run to the departure end toward the north, then rising terrain up the side of the hill and into the trees. This was the better take off direction rather than pointing at the power lines and buildings. I was shaking and my heart was pounding watching his take off roll. I can only imagine what Vern was feeling. The she was off! Vern stayed in groud effect to build speed then climbed out nicely over the hill as he disappeared beyond the treeline. I could hear the engine humming away so I knew all was well. He circled the airport several times before making a video perfect landing. He proudly announced that the trip to LaBelle is a go.
The last phase of the day was to fly the Champ to Cherokee where he could test the plane away from the airport and get fuel for the morning departure to LaBelle. His short 12 mile flight was uneventful, albiet slow. Vern was pleased and ready to make the long trip home. We hit the store for provisions for the trip and went back to Air Acres to prepare everything for Vern's next trip up to fetch the 310 that was donated to Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum.
July 13th - Slow we go: I watched as Vern lifted off around 0900 after the morning fog lifted. There was quite a bit of rain the night before and it made for an SheriffTour/OSH15-2.jpgalready steamy morning with little to no breeze on the ground. Fortunately, there was a little wind aloft - and a tailwind to boot. Vern made the first leg and thought he could make it all the way to Dublin. the fuel seemed to be holding out until he passed the point of no return where he watch the fuel guage drop rapidly. It was then he say the throttle had crept forward. Pulling the throttle back to lower rpm's helped and he finshed the flight in to Dublin with plenty of fuel to spare. The landing, however, was another issue. As he landed, he felt the tail wheel shimmy and the back end started to come around. Vern was fast on the rudders to avert a ground loop and get the plane under control to a full stop at the terminal. He checked to find that the spring had detached from the tail wheel and he found it laying back on the runway. A little repair and safety wore and he was back on his way to Waycross.

The next leg went well now that he knew about and fixed the throttle creep issue. His landing at Waycross was perfect and he was well rewarded with IBC rootbeer (his favorite) at the terminal vending machine. A little weather delay and he was off for the last leg to Keystone where he and the Champ would spend the night.
My day was a bit easier: a full on tailwind cruising into Charleston to mee Liz P for some Aviation Adventures planning for a new program to go in North CharlestonSheriffTour/OSH15-3.jpg with the Carolinas Youth development Council. Liz, baby Amelia and I had a nice leisurely lunch and worked on our presentation for the meeting tomorrow and settled in for an early night.
July 14th - Charleston to Spencer, TN:  It was a slow morning so I had plenty of time to catch up on some long overdue work. The main focus of the day was the meeting with the Carolinas Youth Development Center to get an Aviation Adventures program up and running in the neighborhood, with the help of Liz. Our meeting was very productive and both sides left with a positive feeling like this w going to happen. Target start date is October 2016 to run 7 months, ending with the Wheels & Wings Airshow in April 2016.
With the meeting behind me, it was time to make the run to Spencer for a couple nights in the cabin. The weaher was already blowing up but if I made a quick escape, all would be just fine. I should know better. ...Wild Mama was to be fueled by 2:00 pm. When we got there at 2:30, nothing was done. The FBO put her on for after 4. This caused a delay of slightly more than an hour because the big jets had to be serviced first. By the time we were fueled and ready, the storms were not promising so I filed IFR and hoped for the best, knowing that I would be diverting at some point to spend the night or at least several hours letting storms pass. Before August, it was evident that the weather was changine rapidly. Thank goodness for an outstanding Augusta ATC, vectoring folks SheriffTour/OSH15-3.1.jpgaround storms and the restricted area that sat in the only clear spot. Once I cleared the first round of storms, I set sights on KSRB. It was a mass of purple, red and lightening bolts and I received a text that a tornado just touched down in Cookeville immediately north of the airport. 
My nice Augusta controller got me diverted to Chattanooga and gave me direct routing to beat the storm coming in there. Atlanta ATC was not so helpful giving me a climb to 28 kt headwinds and a longer routing. I kicked Wild Mama into racing speed and prayed for a visual approach as the IAF for the ILS was closer to, if not in the rapidly approaching storm zone. Ten miles out I spotted the airport and made a racing dive toward the runway with a tight, short approach, landing with 5 minutes to spare. I got a temporary hangar for Wild Mama, thank goodness, as the storm was a doozy!!!
Once all had passed, I had a clear shot to KSRB and landed uneventfully just as a beautiful sunset was in progress. It was a long, but good day. In the meantime, I got word from Vern that he made rhe last leg into LaBelle with the Champ. He had been hampered by a weather delay in Winter Haven but finally made it home safe and sound.  
July 16th - Oshkosh Bound: Today was the day to finally make the solo trip to Oshkosh. I have been excited to get here for a while now. As usual, there was aSheriffTour/OSH15-4.jpg minor delay to the  departure. Since I had sent Vern all,of the weather equipment, I wanted it back. He put all in a box to ship,it overnight so I could have it getting in. Thank goodness as the weather was showing storms for the area. Everything arrived on time. I filed an IFR flight plan to be safe and departed. Immediately upon departure, I had a double GPS failure and turned back for the airport to check the problem. We had an earlier failure that necessitated replacing an antenna for the 530. Could the second antenna have gone bad too???? No: the same GPS caused the failure. I went up in the headliner and switched cables to get the good antenna on the 530 since it powers everything else. After running some ground tests, I determined it was OK, shut down the 430 and proceeded with just 1 GPS and 1 radio. I missed the radio more than the second GPS, but I dedided to go VFR as long as possible. Just south of Chicago, the storm clouds were looking mighty threatening and I was not going near the Class B without talking to someone. I air filed a new flight plan with Indy FSS and picked up my clearance near SERCY intersection. I hit a little light precipitation but that delay in departure seemed to work to my favor, coming in behind some storms and ahead of others. I landed at KBUU for a last fuel stop before the last leg into Oshkosh.
SheriffTour/OSH15-5.jpgWith VFR heading toward MVFR ceilings, I launched for the last leg of 30 minutes. I had a screaming tailwind and appraoched at 165 kts when I called the tower. "Head north along the highway, keep ylur sped up and expect  runway 9."  Roger that. I descended to 1000' AGL to prepare for landing. I was on a VERY short base leg when I was cleared to land. Pitch up, gear and 10 degrees flaps. Pitch up to the white arc and dum 40 degrees flaps and dive, dive, dive!  The audible alerts started screaming "sink rate, pull up, pull up" as I dropped 1500 fpm to make a touchdown just after the landing bars. Sweet! I taxied to my grassy knoll parking spot in the North 40 for a perfect camping spot for the next 10 days. I am just south of runway 9 and can see both runways 9 and 18, abeam the VOR. This is going to be fun.

I set up camp and secured Wild Mama as light rain began to fall. Fortunately I am pretty self sufficient and I have an ample stash of food and supplies for the night. With not quite all,of the final finishing touches on the camp site, the rains came, and came and came some more. I made an early evening out of it as I was a little chilly with a 64 degree air temperature. The night was good with fairly light to moderate rains on and off all night until the epic storm that blew through about 3:30 am. It sounded like rain on a tin roof with thunder  cracking all around. I hoped for no leaks.
July 17th - a new day dawns:  I finally got up about 5:30 am and much to my delight, I was not sitting in a Puddle.  Things were damp because of the high humidity and fog, but nothing was wet i side the tent. A new adventure awaits me today... I had the whole day to explore and explore I did. After a bit of a local wander and a stop at Target for supplies I had lunch at the camp site when the B52 made a low pass. Well that got my attention. She landed on pass # 3 and I wandered down to show center to see this beast. They were moving her in to place when I got there. I continued on to the KidVenture area and the Museum before heading back to camp and visiting with the neighbors. Today was a nice day: warm and light breezes. I am in for a better night - not so cold.SheriffTour/OSH15-6.jpg
July 18th - Wet & Wild: The sunrise was unusual this morning: bright reds and oranges streaking across the sky. Very beautiful and ominous at the same time. The old adage foretelling of foul weather for sailors could not have been more spot on; and a quick glance back to the west to see not quite so distant flashes of lightening confirmed the suspicions. I got a text at 4:30 warning me to take cover. I looked at the radar and saw the other lines of red and oranges streaking across the radar screen. These streaks were not so pretty. I quickly got up, had breakfast and coffee (one cannot lose site of priorities); packed all of the important stuff in the SheriffTour/OSH15-7.jpgairplane and secured the bedding, table and chair in the tent. As I was finishing I saw the leading edge of the clouds rapidly advancing and knew it was time to go. I hustled off toward the showers, the nearest permanent structure offering shelter. As I walked, the leading edge was on top of me creating an eerie image of beauty and the beast all rolled into one: the blue sky was cut by the line of angry dark clouds that contained the hopeful little rainbow trying to offer comfort of better things to come. I made it out to the road and with only 100 yards to shelter the wind blasted me making forward progress suddenly very difficult. The first rains started lightly, fortunately. I tried running but could not muster enough power against the forces of the wind so I maintained a steady "trudge" toward shelter.

I could not have arrived at the shelter soon enough. I was relieved as I entered the building and listened to the pounding rain and howling winds that reportedly reached 57 kts. I believe it. I felt like shades of Sun-n-Fun 2011. How I love camping. Would I have a tent? Would I have an airplane? I heard light hail on the metal roof. Not again!! After what seemed like an eternity the menacing storm passed and the light rains were the only thing to remain. It was time to inspect the damage. Many tents were ripped to shreds, dumpsters and portable toilets were overturned but all of the airplanes in the North 40 appeared to be OK. I was hopeful. As I arrived back at Camp Wild Mama, I was pleased to see the tent was still standing and all was in order. I opened the tent door only toSheriffTour/OSH15-8.jpg find that everything was sitting in puddles: the rain had blown in under the rain fly to create quite a mess. With light rain still falling I decided to make the run to Target to get spare dry stuff - just in case. I shortly returned with a dry pillow, sleeping bag and floor mat and stowed them in the plane.

I spent the next hours pulling wet stuff out and trying to get things drying. Wild Mama made an exceptional drying rack and the light breeze and sun facilitate the drying process. I headed off to assist with the set up for Women Soar You Soar and checked back periodically to see that all of my bedding and stuff had dried nicely. I will keep the spares to ward off the rains again.

By 2100 hrs, I was exhausted even though I felt as if I had done nothing all day. I checked the radar before hitting the sack: clear. I flopped into the tent, snuggled down into the warm sleeping bad and was instantly out. Tomorrow looks to be a good day.

July 19th - Women Soar You soar day 1: What a great program and what an exhausting day with the girls. We were non-stop all day. We started with brief introductions and viewing Sky Dancers, a documentary about the US Women's Aerobatic Team. We continued with Mentor sessions, workshops and a tram tour of the grounds - the WHOLE Oshkosh. OMG is it ever big: 3 miles from one end to the other. I finished the day and was ready for bed: a nice dry bed in my little camp site.

July 20th - Women Soar You Soar day 2: Another block buster day with the girls. We started with more workshops and mentor sessions followed by the day atSheriffTour/OSH15-9.jpg the Oshkosh Seaplane Base with speakers and a boat tour of the base. The girls also learned about scholarships and how to make a good application. We finished the day at the College Park where the girls had the chance to visit all of the college exhibits, talk to the recruiters and find out what is there for them. I finished the day with the Dierks Bentley concert and flopped into bed by 9:00 pm exhausted.

July 21st - Women Soar You Soar day 3: We started early today. Some girls got Ford Tri-Motor rides and others just met at the Weeks hangar to meet some of the air show performers, ask them questions and tour the show planes. We left and had a speaker from Boeing who is a female test pilot for the company. The afternoon was Oshkosh Workshops - a huge variety from tower tours, flight line tours, shopping, aircraft tools, welding, flight simulators and a host of other things. We all ended with a tour of the B52. Once the girls left, a few of us remained behind for the flight deck tour of the B52. I did not realize several cool things about the plane: It is 148' from outrigger wheel to outrigger wheel although the win span is 178'. It weighs 190,000 pounds empty. The fuselage carries nothing but bombs and fuel and the only pressurized part of the plane is the flight deck. The crew of 5 sleep on the floor and have no bathroom. The airplane can stay aloft as long as they have "pop tarts SheriffTour/OSH15-10.jpgand coke" (a/k/a food and water).

July 22 - Women Power: If today was not an inspirational day for the girls I do not know what will get their attention. We started with the breakfast featuring Jessica Cox as speaker - she is the pilot born with no arms. We followed with a discussion with the WASPs - absolutely awesome. The women pilots on the plaza photo was next - a group that is growing. I do not know how the female pilot population is still at 6%. Then we had a power lunch with 2 more incredible speakers and concluded with the awards ceremony where nearly $6,000 in scholarships were awarded.  An exhausting day but a great day and a great program!

July 24th - Me time: Although my duty over the last show days is giving the Flying to Bahamas seminar, I have had lots of me timeSheriffTour/OSH15-11.jpg to wander about the remainder of the show. I have wandered through the exhibit hangers, the out door displays, vintage and warbirds an d spent time visiting with the 99s and ARC at their booths. I was surprised that many of the folks seem to come for Monday and Tuesday and then start clearing out. My camping neighbors on each side have changed over 3 times but Camp Wild Mama is here for the duration. So far, the weather has been great and I am looking forward to the flight home - something special planned IF the weather cooperates and provides me good VFR flying.
SheriffTour/OSH15-12.jpgJuly 26 - Thinning Crowds: Saturday saw dwindling crowds at AirVenture 2015 but I stayed busy learning about Avplan EFB - an alternative to Foreflight and quite nice, I might add. Some really interesting features and the fellows there were more than willing to take the time to show me the ropes and help with a download.

Also happening was my third Flying your small plane to the Bahamas seminar that fetched 66 attendees today, many more than I thought given the lower attendance at the show. It really seems most folks come for days 1 and 2, maybe 3 then head out.SheriffTour/OSH15-13.jpg

I missed the night air show although I did see the Harrier demonstration which was phenomenal! 

Sunday was a dying day. Most of the warbirds are gone, the campground is emptying at an alarming rate and many of the vendors are packing and down to minimal stuff (not that I am in the market for anything). The crowds are far lass than the number of folks here last Thursday PRE-AirVenture. I have one more Bahamas seminar today then I am pretty much finished except for packing and flight planning. A Velocity jet just took off - never seen that before. Pretty cool. Anyhow, with lightly overcast skies, it should remain a quiet day and I will be surprised to see the 60-70 attendees at my seminar. I will be hopeful for 6-7! 

I was pleasantly surprised to have 16 attendees at the Bahamas seminar including one man whose son is a private pilot moving to ERAU Daytona. He can envision getting a call that son and friends are headed out and he was concerned. We had a really nice chat after the seminar and I suggested SPOT and a few other safety/survival items as upcoming birthday and other gifts. He was most appreciative.

SheriffTour/OSH15-14.jpgThe last air show seemed to have some of the lesser known performers, a great Harrier demonstration again and some "go fasts" zipping around. I headed out to the  North 40 during the show. It was eerie how desolate the North 40 had become. Many of the remaining planes have tents and belongings packed and ready for a quick exit. Even though I have time, I am waiting until morning to enjoy the last night camping and listening to my oldies Country station from the Keys. It will be a peaceful evening before a long flight home through the yet undisclosed route. I am hoping for good weather for a special route. We will see if it happens or if we end up with the Plan B or Plan C routes.
July 27th - Special Routing: I was not in a huge hurry to leave the camp grounds this morning as most of the reporting stations toward my secret destination were still low IFR. The northern portion, however, opened up and I was able to make my departure and say a final goodbye to Oshkosh 2015 around 0730. I headed west. ISheriffTour/OSH15-15.jpg have done little flying over Wisconsin so it was time to correct that and I had a little time to get home. Storms are raging on in Florida and penetration to get to LaBelle would be foolish at best if not down right dangerous. I passed over the rolling hills, small bluffs and vast farm fields of western Wisconsin - how beautiful. The array of stripes geometric shapes and shares of earth tones caught my attention and I snapped a bunch of photos of the eye candy. Toward the end of my hour long flight I crossed the Mississippi River and made the state line of Minnesota. I looked at the weather and saw a sea of pinks to my south so I decided to top off with fuel at a relatively good price, wait out the pinks and continue south, following the Mississippi River for my special journey. I have crossed the River so may times but never flew the River. This was my chance. Years back I saw the headwaters at SheriffTour/OSH15-16.jpgLake Itasca and I have seen the River empty into the Gulf in LA but I have missed the middle, except for random spots. I was to see it all.
I landed at Houston Co. Airport in Caledonia, MN and got fuel. This is in the middle of a vast amount of farmland - nothing else for miles and miles around. I hot started Wild Mama and she roared to life then quit  - not unusual - but the second starting gave me some trouble: The MVP50 screen was white and all of the LEDs on other instruments were flashing gibberish. I recycled the ALT and nothing. I decided it was best to shut down and call Vern. I could not fly without engine instruments.
I got Vern on the phone and he confirmed I had an issue. I saw someone open a hangar door and inquired if he was an A & P. Eric said no but he could turn a wrench. He came to Wild Mama and got on the phone with Vern. Turns out Eric was EXACTLY what we needed: an electrical engineer. His real job (other than rescuing damsels in distress) is fixing VORs, ILS systems and AWOS weather systems for the state of Minnesota. He had all of the proper testing equipment to figure out what was wrong after he and VernSheriffTour/OSH15-17.jpg spent the better part of 4 hours on the phone testing this and checking that. The result: bad starter relay, bad master relay, bad starter (maybe, we cannot test it) and bad battery. This fix needed an A & P so Eric called his mechanic in La Crosse and put him with Vern. The two worked out the parts and all is being shipped for delivery tomorrow.
So here I am in Caledonia, MN. Eric offered for me to stay at his house but I elected to camp at the airport with all of my stuff. After all, I just finished one camping trip, why not start another?  Other neighbors came out to offer assistance but Eric gave me his car for a grocery run and I was set. I came back and set up Camp Wild Mama for the second time this trip. I hope not to be here as long as Oshkosh where the vines started wrapping themselves around my tie downs! The airport is nice and peaceful. It is cool so there is no issue with heat stroke. I found a shady spot and Eric gave me internet and electricity so life is good. Let's see if we get out of here soon and if I can finish the Mississippi River Adventure! 
July 28th - Here we go again: My usual 0430 wake up call was a good thing this morning. I used the facilities and checked the weather to see if there was any chance of good weather late this afternoon allowing me to depart when the repairs were completed. I am thinking that I would prefer not to make an IFR trip with as many electrical gremlins that we have just had, especially because they came with no warning. My check of the radar showed a line of strong storms, reminiscent of the Oshkosh storms of that early Saturday morning. The storms were about 50 miles away so I decided to break camp and move into the hangar. I figured I had an hour based on my last experience.

I got to work methodically and moved everything wet out to dry, got the electronics and table re-established inside and rolled up all of the bedding so there would not be puddles on my sleeping bag. That took me the better part of the hour, even though I put breakfast on hold to be sure I had sufficient time. Fortunately, the storm was a slower mover and I had time to break down the tent and full camp, move all into the hangar for packaging and get comfy for a long day of sitting and waiting. This is a nasty cold front that dumped snow on the Teton Mountains yesterday - yes, snow on July 27th in Wyoming. Once settled, I checked the status of my overnight air freight - due before noon at the mechanic, right on schedule. Hopefully he will be able to get here and work with the storms.
The parts and the mechanics showed up all as scheduled and the weather even cooperate and cleared so we could nose Wild Mama into Eric's hangar to work on her out of the sun. It appears that the battery overheated or exploded by the looks of the inside but Vern wants to see it to know for certain. With a still undiagnosed possible gremlin, I am not interested in filing IFR for the remainder of this trip. The idea was to fly the River VFR so that is what I will continue to do. Waiting for a good weather window after all is fixed but as of 1600 hrs central time, we are still in the repair stage. I am thinking that I will be remaining here again this evening out of an abundance of caution.
Everything was finished about 1800 hrs and it was too late for me to leave. I put Wild Mama on a tied down and started packing whatever I could. I decided to sleep in the hangar tonight so I did not have a wet tent to put back in the plane. I kept my food, sleeping bag, pillow, clothes and air mattress and packed everything else. This would make for a quick morning job to complete loading and go.

July 29th - Mississippi River Flight: My weather text at 0430 said to go back to sleep because of a large blob of weather immediately south of me. I put on my glasses, looked at the radar, took off my glasses and went back to sleep until 0530. By that time, I had to get moving, even if I were going to do no more than eat breakfast and pack Wild Mama. The folks of Caledonia have been very kind and helpful but it was time for a change of scenery.

By the time I finally got everything done at 0700 the rains had dissipated through Burlington and I made my escape, planning to make the stop at wherever I could that got me father down stream. I departed and made the bee line for the River, almost immediately seeing the striped farm fields that were so enchanting on the way out to Caledonia. The rolling hills of the area persisted for quite some time dotted with farm land. I was so surprised how shallow the River seemed to be. There were many island and land spots all through this part of the River and I wondered how heavy commercial traffic could get through. Judging by the fact that I saw little to no traffic in this location, I would surmise that it is most difficult if not impossible.

I put airports in as waypoints but really did not use them too much except as a checkpoint for making progress and to have an emergency place to go should the need arise. I rounded the first check point at Tri-Township not long after departure and soon came up on the town of Clinton. That was my reminder to call Quad Cities as I wanted to remain along the river and I would have to go through their airspace to do so. I had climbed up to 2200'. I had thought about stopping at Davenport but all systems were a go and the weather was cooperating. I called Quad City approach and told them I was touring the Mississippi River and requested transition through Class C airspace. ATC chuckled and said that is sounded like fun and to proceed through the airspace over the River on course. I started seeing more locks and more River commercial traffic now. Oh, how I enjoy looking at the River barges and tugs!

Departing Quad Cities, I passed Muscatine and Burlington. With the weather cleared, I bypassed landing at Burlington and set my sites on St Charles County in northern St Louis. It was fun meandering along the River, watching the barge traffic, the locks and the ever changing scenery. At this point the River has a general meander southerly with a few twists and turns keeping me with a nice tail wind still. In a short 2:37 flight I reached my fueling stop and wanted to study the airspace ahead. My goal was to fly past the St Louis Arch.

I have never seen the Arch live and in person although there is a constant supply of photos on the Weather Channel. I do not know why it was so important for me to see it but it was. I checked one last time as there was a pending TFR over the ball stadium but it was yellow, no, what????? It is red! Is the darn thing active? Will I miss the Arch? Determined, I investigated further to see that it was not due to start for another 2:15. I am going to go for it. I departed KSET and picked up the River heading east, calling St Louis Regional to pass through their air space then on to St Louis Downtown. ATC confirmed that the TFR was still inactive but said I could go through anyway as long as I was talking to him. Golden! I was told to report 5 miles from the airport. As I rounded the bend in the River I could see the Arch. I let out a yell: "The Arch! It's the Arch!" as if someone could hear me. I was beside myself excited, so much so that I forgot all about that 5 mile call until I was well past the Arch and departing controlled airspace. Oops. I reported leaving and thanked ATC for the tour. He did not seem to mind that I missed his little call.

More scenery changes and more swooping turns in the River until Cape Girardeau. After that, there were some sever switchbacks and the scenery started to get a familiar look to it as I flew along. I made a couple of short cuts where I could see the bends and twists in the River. I did not feel as if I were cheating myself because I still had the full view. As I approached Memphis, I saw the River go into the inner ring. I decided to go direct point to point, still keeping the River in sight but keeping enough margin so as not to encroach into the Class B airspace. I was down to 1600' now. Once I cleared the area close to the inner ring, I continued actually following the River. I was keenly aware that my river Excursion was near an end approaching KHEE. I hung on to the River until my outbound course from KHEE toward Starkville, MS intersected the River. There, I begrudgingly turned off toward the south east and toward home. My excursin had all too soon ended some 5 hours after it started.  

Off in the distance, and on the weather radar, I could see storms building and I did not think I would make it much past Starkville, if at all. By the time I got there, I was done. Six hours flying, storms rapidly approaching and I was getting tired. I wanted a clean bed, a hot shower and a decent sit down meal. I had been camping for 2 weeks and was ready for a change. Starkville was the perfect spot.

After a cood nights sleep, I headed out early for home. FL had been riddled with storms for the past week with a stalled front and I wanted to be in the zone early enough that I did not have to fight with the build ups. The air was smooth and cool and perfect for flying.

I had spoken with Vern and we agreed that today was the day to deliver the Aztec to its new home in Winter Haven. We coordinated for a 10:30 rendevouz so I could get him back home. My flight to Winter Haven was uneventful. I picked up Vern and we headed to LaBelle together for the last leg. I was happy to be back home.