Day 2: How do you get self service fuel when you can't
read the display? On my second day of my planned flight from
St. Louis to Canadian border, in addition to some great
flying, I also had a few wrinkles. My route would follow the
Missouri River for a ways and then along the 97th Longitude
Line. After take off from Rankin (78Y) near Maryville, MO, I
headed north. I aimed for Nebraska City and then crossed the
River Platt -- a mile wide, an inch deep --and landed at
Plattsmouth (KPMV), Nebraska,
Next stop was Tekamah, Nebraska (KTQE) for fuel. All right, this was a puzzle. The self service pump had a tiny one line window that faced the sun, and it was so weather beaten that I couldn't read the display. After several attempts, who knows what I agreed to, a local pilot helped. He couldn't read the display either, but he knew the order of the questions, and I merely pressed the buttons to answer the questions that he recited. It worked! I resolved that if I came back this way, I'd not land at Tekamah.
My GPS was a Nexus 7 inch with Avare, but I also carried strips of Sectionals. While in the air and looking at this leg of the flight, the paper exited the plane. Oh, well.
On to Vermillion (KVMR), just barely in South Dakota across the Missouri River. Denny Martens met me at the fuel pump and helped me fuel up. He offered to shoe-horn the Fly Baby into a hangar with a twin, and I decided to call it a day. He did get it in the nearly full hangar, somehow passing the tail, ruder, elevator and cables through the three bladed prop of the twin. Then we went around to his insulated, air conditioned, and carpeted! hangar. He had a pristine 1956 C-172. Absolutely perfect with original equipment. Sitting beside it was his Mustang. Beautiful and fun, including happy face tennis balls on the exhaust pipes.
Before the flight I'd gotten the rudder trim essentially
perfect, and I'd tightened the aft flying wires on the left
wing to take out a heavy wing so it flew wings level. But
the elevator still needed some work. I was putting in a lot
more back stick than I wanted. I tweaked the trim tab at
Vermillion, and looked forward to the next morning flight to
see how it flew.
I got up before sunrise, had a hotel breakfast, and took off into the 17 knot "breeze." Wow! Even a slight terrain irregularity made a rocky mountain wave. I bounced my way up and settled into level flight. My groundspeed was 44 mph, dropping to 32 mph on occasion. Even if I didn't run out of fuel, I'd die of old age before getting to the next airport.
Time to turn around and go back to Crookston. They say more mountain climbers are killed going down the mountain than going up. Of course they are. When they find themselves in trouble, they start back down the mountain. Like pilots who venture out and then have to turn back. The landing at Crookston, however, on that nice, wide turf runway was easy. The wind was predicted to increase throughout the day, and Wednesday it would be above 30 mph, and still strong on Thursday, and then bad weather would move in, and then probably begin getting cold . . . what kind of winter does Minnesota have?
The photo shows the Red Lake River (tributary of the Red
River) rapids in Crookston. I'd noticed that in North Dakota
and upper Minnesota the airport elevations had been going
down -- which explains why the rivers up there run north.
Being a cartographer for 20 years, I tend to think about
Day 7 Wednesday. Winds at 30 MPH, I did touristy stuff
Lowell Miller and Mary Anne at Crookston airport had been very helpful. Fly Baby has a starter and battery, but no alternator. I got the battery charged at Crookston. The plane was fueled, topped off with oil, and ready to go.
Waiting . . . waiting . . . 3:30 pm wind 170@19. I'd intended to give up if I couldn't get away by 3:30, but gave it another hopeful 30 minutes. . . . waiting . . . waiting 4:00 pm 170@17 and holding. At 4:15 I walked to the plane to make sure it was tied down good with the cockpit cover secure.
With knife-edge suddenness it changed as I walked back to the FBO. The cool wind became to a less cool breeze. I could feel the change in air speed. A quick check showed it 170@11. I rushed back to the plane and was able to get going by 4:26. By then the wind was 170@9. Homeward!
I landed at Moorhead (KJKJ), then Sisseton (8D3), and finally Watertown (KATY), which has two separate 6900x100 runways (12/30 and 17/35). I'd announced at 10 miles and 4 miles, and was getting ready for downwind on 35. The wind had shifted, but was low, about 4 mph. I saw a commercial size plane holding short on 17. Runway 17 was closest to the terminal, and I suppose 4 mph meant nothing to the passenger aircraft. Watertown had no tower, so he probably had a window for an IFR flight and needed to get away. I would take a lot of time to finish the pattern and taxi out of the way. I announced I'd be maneuvering north of the airport and the runway was his. He immediately acknowledged and began rolling.
By the time I got around, landed and taxed to general aviation, the sun was sitting. The day is done.
Photo: I-29 points the way. Too bad it doesn't go all
the way south to Galveston. But it terminates in Kansas
I'd decided not to go back through Tekamah, Nebraska (KTQE) for fuel. That's the place where the display on the self service pump was completely unreadable. Instead, I aimed for Wahoo (KAHQ) Nebraska.
Guess what. The self service pump there was screwy, too.
Only about one character out of three showed up. It looked
like one question was whether I wanted 100LL on pump 1 or
100LL on pump 2. Yes, two 100LL pumps stood side by side.
I got the gas and flew on to Tarkio (K57) Missouri. That's a small airport that has a big fly-in every year. The Wing-Nuts Flying Circus. Photo is of their "control tower."
Next stop, and last stop for the day was Cameron (KEZZ) Missouri. A nice airport with plenty of tie downs. The main FBO was locked, but the restrooms, and a small air conditioned pilot's lounge was open.
My immediate concern was a monster of a towering thunderhead that appeared to be coming my way. I could see lightning nearby. I tied the plane down and took particular care to secure the tail. With no boy-scout training, I've never been good with knots. In cause my knot failed and the tail flipped up, I turned the prop horizontal.
The photo shows the storm with the Fly Baby and its
cockpit cover. It's a modified tarp, with a hot-glued,
folded pleat that fits over the windshield. It is held by
a cord that runs under the belly forward of the wings,
another one under the belly aft of the wings, and a cord
runs from the side at back, around the tail spring and to
the other side. Two clips hold flaps over the landing
wires. It has proven to be effective and secure.
Take off at 8:50 am with a lot of humidity in the air. I stopped at Boonville (KVER) for self-serve fuel. As I finished up, I noticed a thin stream of water dripping from the belly cowling to the ground. I checked inside and found the carburetor absolutely dripping with moisture. Was it condensation or left over from the rain the night before? I have no idea. Air cooled engine, fuel ok, didn't seem to be a problem.
The plane started all right and I headed out for Fly Baby home -- Sullivan, MO (KUUV). Touch down at 12:06.
An ending quote for the metaphorically minded:
This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
An ending quote for the
"Oh, Auntie Em -- there's no place like home!"
And an ending quote for the rest of us:
"Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks!"
- John Hudson Tiner