This year we (me and my wife) made it to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the EAA Airventure show. The flying plan for the trip out there was very similar to what I did last year. We departed early on Saturday, July 22 from Ramona. No camping equipment this year to haul. We were going to stay in the dorms at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. We packed pretty light. All of our clothes into the rolling carry-on bag (about 25 pounds), and other than folding chairs, drinks, snacks and some pillows we were able to keep the baggage weight to well under 100 pounds.
The early morning weather at Ramona airport can be foggy, since it lies in a valley. The ASOS was reporting mile and a quarter visibility, but at our hangar on the east end it was completely clear. We decided to taxi to the west end of the runway for take off so we could aim east for takeoff, and the other end of the runway was right up against a bank of ground fog. We launched at just after 5 am and headed to our first fuel stop in Arizona.
Our next part of the flight took us over New Mexico and into the panhandle of Texas. More cheap fuel at Dumas, TX and an excellent lunch of BBQ on the airport had us ready for the final push across Kansas and into Iowa.
We did another fuel stop at Red Oak, IA, then stopped in Ankeny for our overnight stay. The plane got tied down and we walked about a mile from the airport over to the hotel. Across from the hotel was an Outback Steakhouse where we ate dinner.
The weather the next morning was beautiful. We got up and did the quick walk back to the airport, then took off for Wisconsin. Just like last year, I did a fuel stop at Boscobel, which isn’t too far from Oshkosh. As we crossed the Wisconsin Dells, we went over the NOTAM details and started looking for traffic as we neared Ripon. We only saw two high wing airplanes following each other. They were really going slow. The NOTAM wants you at 90 knots IAS, and 1800 feet. We got around them and headed for the railroad tracks at Ripon. Listening in to the arrival frequency it was very chaotic. Some pilots should not be flying into Oshkosh! It wasn’t clear which runway was going to assigned to us until we got to Fisk and were told to keep following the railroad tracks and enter downwind for runway 27. I was really hoping for 36, because it is a much easier taxi to Homebuilt parking. We put the airplane down on the green dot, and were told to make our way off the runway to the right (north). Once we got on the paved taxiway, we were marshalled back on the grass adjacent and held there for 20 minutes while the mass arrival of Mooney’s paraded past on the taxiway. There were at least 50 airplanes! Finally, we got past them and were able to cross back over the runway we landed on, and finally aim south to the Homebuilt parking. My engine temps were pretty high, but nothing overheated. It took us almost 30 minutes after we landed until we were parked.
We pulled out our bags, wiped off the bugs and got everything tied down. We walked over to the Homebuilder’s Headquarters and registered the airplane and picked up our wristbands for the week. The welcome wagon gave us a ride to the Bus Park, where we bought bus passes to get us to and from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh Dorms. Checking in to our rooms took a while. They messed up our reservation, but finally got it all sorted out. By this time it was late afternoon and we really hadn’t eaten anything. We walked over to get Subway sandwiches, then took the bus again back to Airventure for the Homebuilder’s beer tasting party. We brought some San Diego IPA’s (St. Archer and Stone) and had a good time meeting up with a bunch of online friends. The last bus back to the dorms on Sunday leaves at 7pm, so we didn’t stay too long.
Monday we slept in pretty late and didn’t get to the show until almost noon. We checked out the EAA buildings and Christine picked up a Women-venture T-shirt. After we wandered through one of the four big exhibit hall buildings we took the shuttle down to the south end of the field to see the Ultralight and Rotorcraft areas. We had a good chat with the folks from Rainbow Aviation about all of their experimentations with 3D printing airplane parts. Christine has a number of 3D printers that she uses in her High School Engineering curriculum, and these real world applications are nice to show to her students. We also spent some time at the Red Bird flight simulators, checking them out as a possible platform for her Aeronautical Engineering class to learn how to fly.
We were heading back up to the main plaza as the airshow started with the roar of the Rockwell B-1B Bomber in full afterburner doing a fly by. We ended up walking through another exhibit hall, then went back around Boeing Plaza to get up close to the B-1B. We ended up back at our airplane and got out the folding chairs and relaxed while watching a number of B-25’s take to the skies. That afternoon we headed over to the RV Beer bash and met up with a bunch of friends and drank some Spotted Cow beers.
Tuesday we continued our tour of the Oshkosh Airventure grounds, taking in more exhibit halls, and checking out all of the Homebuilding vendor areas. We spent some time looking over the Teen Flight/Eagles Nest/Tango Flight RV-12 builds and talked with the mentors and students. I’m really hoping that we can get a program up and running in Ramona soon. At the Van’s Banquet that night they mentioned that there were over 50 schools doing RV-12 builds.
Wednesday started out visiting the EAA Museum and KidVenture. After a bit of lunch, we hit all of the education and job career tents, along with the EAA innovations and drone areas. They had some personal size drones, but I wasn’t sure if any of these were really flying yet. Still early days in the human sized quad-copter evolution. We also checked out all of the NASA displays and got to talk with some really nice folks about electric airplanes and how they are using 3D printing to design and mock up their experimental designs.
At the beginning of the air show we headed back to the airplane again to sit and watch the airshow. Along comes a golf cart with a video crew and they asked me if they could interview me on camera. They set up their gear, got me miked up and I did about 20 minutes talking with them about our trip out, the building of the RV-9A and all sorts of aviation related questions. I have no idea if this video will ever see the light of day, but it will be interesting to see what becomes of it. After the interview, I spent time talking with the various people who saw us sitting there and came over to ask questions. A surprising number of people recognized the airplane from my build log and commented on how helpful my site was for them.
As the airshow went on, the skies opened up and it started raining. We closed up the airplane and headed over to the Homebuilt Camping Pavilion to stay dry and to meet up with Mike and CJ so we could get a ride over to dinner at the Black Otter Supper Club for the rivetbangers.com dinner event. The prime rib cuts there are enormous and they did not disappoint this year.
Thursday was our planned departure day, and the weather cleared up and was beautiful for flying. We checked out of our dorm room and caught the bus back to Airventure, then dragged our stuff back to the airplane. I was a bit disappointed that my Judging card only had 2 of the 3 needed official judgings. I certainly wasn’t expecting any prize, but it would have been nice to at least have gotten in the running. We untied the plane, did a thorough preflight and got the airplane moved into the aisle for taxiing to the runway. It took a while to get an escort flagged down, but finally we started up and began the long taxi to the VFR departures. We got up in the air on runway 36 and did the sharp right turn to exit the Class D airspace. From there we flew north over Lake Winnebago towards Green Bay and around Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island was just beautiful. We got there, paid our $12.50 landing fee to the Park Ranger (it is Michigan’s first State Park), and then decided to walk into town. Beautiful houses and gardens along the way, and we walked past the Grand Hotel, which is huge. We had a really late lunch (we lost another hour heading east), then walked around the main street to buy some famous fudge. We decided to do the horse taxi back to the airport, and this was well worth the $7 fare as we picked up and dropped off various folks along the way. We even went past the long porch at the Grand Hotel.
Back in the air, we flew around the Mackinac Bridge, then over to Traverse City to fill up with fuel. From there we headed south across Michigan to Plainwell airport where we met up with Christine’s friend (and former Band-Mom) Barb. It happened to be her birthday, so we went into Kalamazoo to a really nice brewpub to celebrate. We stayed up late chatting, and it was really nice to have a comfortable bed for the night (unlike the dorm beds).
Friday we took off to clear skies and headed around the south end of Lake Michigan, and kept south of Chicago into Iowa. We stopped at another tiny little airport in Vinton, IA to fill up with cheap gas, then we flew over and around the building clouds into South Dakota. As we neared Hot Springs, we had to go around a big thunder cell, but we had clear skies for most of the trip. At Hot Springs we had arranged to rent their courtesy car for the next day. We drove into town, got our hotel room, and had dinner.
Saturday we had an entire day to sight see in the Black Hills area. We got up early, had some breakfast at the hotel, then drove the short distance into Wind Cave National Park. We got to the visitor center just before they opened at 8am, and got in line for cave tour tickets. We took the Natural Entrance tour and got to see the tiny natural entrance, which is about the size of a cowboy hat. I’m glad we didn’t have to crawl in through that hole. We ended up going into a tunnel that was blasted, then down about 300 steps to the passages below. The cave was very different from the other ones we have visited. Not many stalagmites and stalactites, just a rare form of “box work” all over the walls and ceiling.
After we exited the cave via elevator, we drove north through Custer State Park and saw a large herd of Bison. The drive up to Mt. Rushmore was very scenic and it took us about an hour.
We could see Mt. Rushmore from the scenic road as we got closer. We paid our $10 parking pass fee, then walked through the viewing area and visitor center. It was pretty busy there, but certainly not overcrowded. We watched the video program and walked the path that goes around under the monument to the Sculptor’s Studio. It was a lot of stairs, so we headed back to the car and drove into Rapid City for lunch.
From Rapid City we got on the Interstate and headed east to Badlands National Park. Along the way, about every 100 yards is a sign touting “Wall Drug”. When we exited off the Interstate for Badlands, we noticed that there was also a Minutemen Missile National Historic Site, so we decided to stop and check it out. It was too late to drive out to an actual missile silo and tour it, but the visitor center had some interesting displays about the missiles and the Cold War. There were dozens and dozens of silos across South Dakota back in the day.
From there, we headed into Badlands NP, and drove the scenic drive back towards the west. The Badlands reminded me very much of Anza-Borrego’s badlands, just with more wildlife and grassy prairies. As we drove around the park, we got rained on from a passing thunderstorm. As the skies cleared, we got to see a gorgeous rainbow.
The road through the park led us back to Wall, SD, so we had to check out the Wall Drug store. Quite a tourist trap, but we did pick up some souvenirs, so I guess that’s how they keep in business! We didn’t even get a free ice water or 5 cent cup of coffee.
It was a long drive back to Hot Springs, but at 80 mph on the interstate, you can cover some distance, just not as fast as the airplane, which is more than double that. We had a late dinner of pizza and hit the sack.
Sunday and time to head back home. We returned the courtesy car and took off headed north so we could fly over Mt. Rushmore, and also fly over the Crazy Horse Memorial. The flight over Wyoming was easy, and there is absolutely nothing to see for hundreds of miles. As we neared Utah, we descended over I-80 through Parley’s Canyon near Park City and then under the SLC Class Bravo into South Valley Regional airport. Marissa met us at the FBO and we went to go get lunch. Christine planned on staying in Salt Lake with Marissa for the next week to go house hunting, and I hit the skies again to head home. I stopped in Delta, UT for cheap fuel after a very hot and bumpy flight, then another hour of bumps until I finally got closer to the desert over Mesquite, NV. There were a bunch of big storms just off of Las Vegas, so I had to veer around them, but I managed to make it home by 4pm with no problems. I put 29.7 hours on the airplane and it performed great the entire trip. Surprisingly, we had tail winds most of the trip.
The entire photo album from our trip is here.