Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rained Out

Today the weather has been blustery and overcast, so we decided to skip AirVenture for the day and concentrate on exploring Appleton. We found a small bookshop within walking distance, as well as the Walgreen's, where we stocked up on essential supplies. We also made a reservation to arrive at an airport about halfway up Long Island on sunday.

Love's First Kiss

Our first kiss as husband and wife. :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AirVenture Tuesday/Wednesday

It took a while yesterday to get our transportation situation sorted out, so we didn't actually get to airventure until around 3PM. By that point the air show was in full swing so we found a spot to enjoy the action.

The aerobatics routines were very impressive, with the pilots repeatedly putting their aircraft in situations seeming uncontrollable, then recovering out of it with a dive towards the runway and pulling up into yet another stunt. The camera can't really capture these well, but I did manage to get some short video clips with the small camera which we will push up to Facebook.

After the individual ones came team AeroShell performing formation acrobatics, which weren't nearly as difficult but looked very cool as all four aircraft did loops and rolls together, then broke out in four different directions to come back and regroup. We got some better photos of these as they came in for a low pass.

This morning we caught the shuttle in to the show and spent the day wandering through the various exhibits, looking at the various types of planes for sale and coming out soon, and talking to parts vendors and collecting business cards. Particularly neat was the Yuneec electric prototype, said to have an endurance of 3 hours with its larger battery pack, and the Icon amphibian, which is a nice-looking aircraft that comes complete with its own travel trailer for water launching.

Tomorrow will be our last full day at the show and then friday we head further east.

Back to College

After spending a day at the Hawethorne Suites, we found new accomodations at Lawrence University, located in nearby Appleton. We were completely unsuccessful in renting a car (there are apparently none to be had within 30 miles of Oshkosh), but there is a shuttle bus that runs between the university and Oshkosh, so we took that back yesterday and there and back today.

The room does bring a little bit of nostalgia with it, especially with the few people we see around mostly college-age. We have confirmed that we can both fit in a standard college twin bed, but only with difficulty. The room isn't air-conditioned but it hasn't been terribly hot, so that's not a huge drawback. The biggest problem with the place is that public transportation here is somewhere beweeen terrible and tragic, so without a car our movement options are limited to the shuttle bus back and forth and whatever we can walk to. Fortunately main street in Lawrence is College Ave, and is right outside our doorstep.

It's clear that the recession has hit Appleton pretty hard. We walked through the City Center mall the other day, which is a compact three-story mall nearby. The second and third stories were completely empty except for one shop, and the first floor had a few vacancies in it. There were also numerous storefronts along College Ave available for rent, including one with a sign out front that said "Thanks Bush! One more family-owned business gone!"


Mark drove up from Minneapolis last Sunday to see us while we were at Gina's lake house. We went to a nearby bar (Barry's? Buster's? Something like that) and had lunch, and had a nice chat. Sara unfortunately couldn't make it due to a conflicting party. Afterwards Joahnna took a nice photo of us standing in front of the lake.

Thanks for making the drive!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oshkosh Arrival

For a short (one and a half hour) flight, we had a pretty long day today.

We started out having more trouble with fouled spark plugs. This time #3 and #5 were failing. Aborted our takeoff and chased down a mechanic at Anoka, who cleaned out the plugs, only to find that that fixed those two, but a *different* plug starting having a problem. After that he suspected that the spark plug wires were getting worn out and we were getting a weak spark, which is why the plugs keep failing on the ground. He recommended we go around once in the pattern and test the mags in flight.

We preflighted again, took off and tested the mags at pattern altitude -- all plugs firing normally. So we continued on to Oshkosh.

There were a few rain clouds moving through, so we fired up the GPS with real-time weather info and steered our course through the red dots. Arrived at Oshkosh after an interesting tight left turn to put ourselves down. Had a tough time finding a place to stay but finally found the Hawthorne suites had a room available for one night at blackmail prices.

We wandered around the airshow checking out interesting planes and looking at some of the day's airshow activities. Most impressive was the full-power takeoff by one of the Thunderbirds' F-16s, but the Sky Crane dumping water in a simulated fire suppression and a formation arrival of about 20 T-6 Texans were also pretty cool.

Around 4PM the red dots that we had been avoiding on the way here finally got to Oshkosh, and it started raining, which gradually developed into a mild thunderstorm. We hauled ourselves back to the plane to unload our luggage, manhandled the luggage (we have one huge bag that has all of both of our clothes for a month) on the bus back to the bus terminal, lugged it on to a second bus bus which took us, er, close to our hotel, and then carried it over the intervening street and lawn to get to the hotel.

The hotel turns out to have the only restaurant within 2-3 miles, which turned out to be a pretty nice place. Joahnna had crab cakes and lobster bisque, while I had a stuffed chicken breast. Afterwards we put on our bathing suits and went down and relaxed in the jacuzzi for an hour or so. I decided the blackmail was worth it.

Tomorrow we are taking ourselves and our luggage to a nearby university that is renting out some of its dorm rooms. Tonight, we will both sleep well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Half Cup

Joahnna and I spent yesterday and today at my Aunt Gina's house in Anoka. They have a ten acre property on the edge of a lake, with beautiful sunrises in the morning.

Gina has spent the last day catching us up on our family history and connections on my dad's side of the family. We have found that my grandma Doris was her father's sister, which helps put things in the proper place in the tree. Gina and Will, her husband, are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.

There are several houses here on the lake property, so the summer is apparently a rolling family gathering. They were not surprised much when we gave them a call and said we would drop in for a day or two, and they have plenty of room to put up unexpected guests. With us here at the lake this weekend are Alex, Gina's son-in-law, Jon, and Aaron.

We've had beautiful weather here, plus the best food we've eaten for the entire trip. Gina's sons Jon and Aaron have done most of the cooking, while Will has told us some stories from his time in the Philippines during WWII.

Oh, and the reason for the name of the post is that Gina never drinks a full cup of coffee -- "just a half cup" -- but has several half-cups throughout the day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


We just touched down in Anoka, MN to visit my cousin Gina and her family. The ~3 hour flight from Rapid City was under IFR today, due to low cloud cover over most of Minnesota.

Yesterday we drove out to the Dakota Badlands, which are an eerie-looking landscape of multicolored clay originally formed from volcanic ash. Joahnna got a bunch of great photos, and afterwards we drove back in to town to find... Surprise! The nearest bookstore. Borders was just across the street from Chili's, where we grabbed dinner, and then retired to our hotel for an evening of reading and Facebook uploads.

Right now we are waiting in a brand-new FBO lobby at the Anoka airport, which is appointed like a 5-star hotel, and our plane is enjoying the unexpected luxury of living in a hangar for the next couple nights, since there were no tie-downs available.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mt. Rushmore

Last night we went to the evening lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, which was well-done. They showed a short movie which talked about the four presidents on the mountain and what they did for America, and then after they lit the mountain, they had all the military veterans in the audience come down to the stage for the lowering of the flag.

After that we briefly got lost on the way home (we left the GPS in the plane, so we were forced to fall back on navigating based on the free tourist maps they gave us at the airport), then stopped at Taco Bell for dinner, since it was about all that was open at 11pm at night.

Today we are running a couple errands and then heading out to Badlands National Park, which has some very striking scenery from what we've heard.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Brigham/Rapid City Photos

Test-driving our new oxygen system at 11,500 feet.

Mountains just east of Brigham on climb-out.

Over Utah

Our crew car in action.

Rapid City

We arrived at Rapid City this afternoon, after a relatively short 3-hour flight. We flew by Mount Rushmore on the way, but we weren't really close enough to get a good shot of it.

The fuel station was a little confusing at first, since the credit card slot was 50' away from the fuel pump.

The terrain between Utah and South Dakota is very impressive, for its expansive, rugged look, and for being almost completely empty. There were more than a few times where I had to zoom the GPS out to the "100 NM" scale in order to see any airports on the screen. At one point over Wyoming I tapped Joahnna on the shoulder and said "Look over there! A building!" It's not quite that sparse, but pretty close. Structures are few and far between, and frequently have a radio tower next to them indicating some sort of outpost.

Yesterday and today were both pretty bumpy rides, with the hot air creating lots of thermals and turbulence. At one point today (while we were trying to line up for our photo of Mt. Rushmore) we hit one bump so hard that both Joahnna and I hit our heads on the ceiling liner. That was good for a bit of surprise.

We had lunch at TGI Friday's and later tonight we are driving to Mt. Rushmore for their evening lighting ceremony, which is reputed to be good. Tomorrow we will either visit the Black Hills or the Dakota Badlands.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Well, it wasn't where we planned on spending our first night, but such is the course of our great adventure.

Our takeoff was delayed by a couple hours when we found that one of the cylinders wasn't developing power. A quick check by the mechanic showed the plugs to be fouled, and since this was the second time this had happened, I figured they were all fairly dirty and in need of a good cleaning. I talked the mechanic into cleaning all of them and sure enough, most of them had a good coating of oil and would probably have become fouled soon.

We took off at around noon and flew nonstop from San Jose to Brigham. This was intended to be just a fuel-and-lunch stop, but by the time we got here it was 5:30 local time (we lost an hour going to mountain time).

There was no food at the airport in Brigham, but the shop we stopped at had a "crew car" -- this is a car that FBOs frequently have as a loaner car for pilots stopping for the night. Our crew car is an early 80's Buick Century, with oxidized blue paint and a thick coating of dust on the windshield. This is typical of the breed.

We took our crew car into town (pretty much one main street with all the shops on it), and had lunch at the Peach City Diner, a neat little drive-in. I had a strawberry milkshake made from home-made ice cream, and Joahnna had fish and chips. Apparently the fish and chips were good, despite be many miles from the ocean.

By the time we got back to the airport it was past 6pm and we were still looking at a three-hour flight to get to Rapid City, and I was rapidly fading, so we decided to stop here for the night. We found a brand-new Days Inn where we are currently enjoying the A.C. (hot day today) and reacquainting ourselves with the internet.

Time for a nap for the pilot. Will post photos as soon as we find proper connecting cables (naturally we left our current ones at home).