Oct. 28, 2011
My last post was July 5, as I was getting ready to fly to Oshkosh. I won’t whine about the wonderful time we had hosting two Norwegian teenagers – who stayed for a full month, leaving only 2 days before I took off on my grand adventure. Even with trying to be a good host, I did carve out time to check out the Talon thoroughly and pack carefully. This was going to be my first major cross country flight in the Talon with the new gas tank, and the first one where I had to take everything for both hot and cold weather.
There were four of us making the flight: me in my “Darth Vader” Talon, Wayne Ekertson in his blue Rans S-14, Bob Combs in his yellow Titan, and BJ Moore in his white and orange Drifter. We left on Monday, July 18 – the only day in the entire week that had a slight flying window in the afternoon; from then on it was forecast to be rain, rain, and more rain.
There was a low ceiling flying east up the Columbia River Gorge – not what you want when there’s not many places to land except the freeway that runs between the base of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River. But we were all euphoric as we headed out. It was especially exciting for Wayne and BJ, who had never flown the Gorge before.
Our route took us through eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and up into Kemmerer, Wyoming, which is in the southeast corner of the state. Once we got out of Oregon, the weather cleared up and the flying was wonderful. Flying over Twin Falls, ID was nothing short of spectacular. The only glitch was that our radios weren’t working very well – even though we’d tested them before leaving.
We were camping every night at airports, and depended on FBO vending machines and courtesy cars for food. Bob had a tiny fold-up bicycle in his Titan that he used to go to town for food and fuel and exploration…when there was a town near-by. Every night we’d get out our sectionals and plan the next day’s flight.
In Kemmerer we had our first major set-back. On taking off, BJ climbed to altitude and found out that he had a stuck throttle.. He turned back to the airport and shut off the engine, planning to deadstick in. His landing was way hard, and he bent his landing gear. The trip was over for him. We were all devastated, but there was nothing to do but help him disassemble the Drifter, load it onto a U-Haul truck, then continue heading east without him. We were pretty glum at having to leave him behind.
Southern Wyoming was a struggle to get through. We followed I-80 pretty religiously through Rock Springs, Laramie and Cheyenne, The combination of wind, heat, and ugly terrain below made for nervous flying. We were flying at 10,000’ due to high field elevations, and the combination of heat and altitude was a real problem for Wayne. There were a couple of days when we had to quit flying before noon, because his engine just wasn’t powerful enough to keep him high enough over the rugged terrain. It was with a real sigh of relief when we got to South Dakota.
In my next post I’ll write about what it was like to fly over the Mississippi River, across Minnesota, and the challenge of following instructions to land at the largest airshow in the world – EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin