August 8, 2011: by Julia Amaral
Music and Airplanes are two of our favorite pastimes. We got to have both on our recent travels around the country. Mark and I left the Nevada County Airport (GOO) on July 19 and enjoyed an uneventful flight to Burbank. That evening we attended a LA Philharmonic symphony at the Hollywood Bowl with 10,000 other lucky people. We were treated to a very special rendition of Mozart’s Fifth Concerto with the violinist, Gil Shaham, giving a sublime performance with Gustavo Dudamel enthusiastically conducting. Next day we met the LA Philharmonic Librarian, the son of a friend of ours in Grass Valley, at the new, incredibly unique and stunning Disney Concert Hall in LA and were treated to another hour of music in the new concert hall as we watched Dudamel rehearse the orchestra for the next evening’s performance. Then Steve, the Librarian, toured us around the facility and took us to his work area, the music library. It was very impressive to see so many stacks of sheet music so meticulously cared for. The room was like a huge vault that can be made fire proof in a few minutes while being open most of the time for access and work. We were thrilled by the experience.
After a couple of days visiting Mark’s mother in Dana Point we drove back to Burbank to begin our flight to Oshkosh. Our plans to be off by 7am were thwarted by unexpected fog. We finally made it off the ground at 10am by flying north until we were clear of the fog and then headed east. We had smooth air with 20+ knot tail winds to the Grand Canyon for our fuel stop. Off again quickly, we continued to make good time with smooth air over the Rockies and into Lamar for our half way overnight stop. We picked up the courtesy car and drove into the surprisingly busy town. It looked like it was in the middle of nowhere and —as we learned from the locals—was. One local told us most people were on their way from somewhere to somewhere else and Lamar was in the middle— exactly our situation. Lamar is known mostly for its wind, which did not stop blowing all the while we were there. Wind mills are the new rage in those parts. Next day we were off early and had more good wind and air until we approached Iowa. We began to see darkness and rain cells ahead and asked Flight Watch for an update. A cluster of storm cells NE through SE was directly along our route and moving slowly east. I checked places on the map and asked which ones were in the clear. Atlantic, Iowa was just west of the storm and clear so we put down there for fuel and a break. The only service was a phone so I spent some time talking to the briefer, who cautioned against our direct route through the Dells, Wisconsin and thought we should wait for the cell to move east. After an hour we had had enough waiting and took off. As we approached the Dells we knew we had to find an indirect path. I tried going south of the cell for awhile but as we neared it I could see better to the north and so turned in that direction and pocked our way around the cell keeping the Dells about 20 miles to the east. Eventually we were on the other side of it and made straight for Appleton. A couple of small cells got in our way so we descended and went under them. Once on the ground in Appleton, we discovered we missed a downpour by only 30 minutes. A team of volunteers were ready to direct us to parking on a huge grass field and then greeted us with instructions about parking—Mark had to spend $25 to get three metal stakes to tie down the plane—, wrist bands to allow us to come back to the plane and other details. At least there was a car to take us to the terminal, which was more than half a mile away. At the terminal, we picked up our rental car and made reservations at a lodge on Green Lake for the night. Finally we were off to Green Lake and a lovely room overlooking the lake, about half an hour from Oshkosh. That night we were blown away by the incredible thunder, lightning and rain storm that settled overhead. It was so impressive we did not want to sleep. At that point I decided it was a good thing we had purchased the tie down stakes.
Next day the sun was out and the storm was but a memory. We drove through the lovely green country-side dotted with farms, each with the ubiquitous red barn and silo, to Oshkosh. The house we rented for the week was as advertised, except that it was not very clean. We selected the basement room for its firm bed and cold air, dropped our bags and headed for the airport. Even though the event did not open until Monday, we were able to get our tickets for the week and see where things were laid out. With our handy cell phones we easily found Joe and Pat in the Fly Market. They had had the same tail winds we enjoyed and were happily camped under their wing in the north 40. It was too hot and humid to stand around much so we started walking and had the place pretty well figured out in a few hours. Back at the house we met Alanna, one of our house mates and drove into town for dinner on the river at The River Run Brewery. It was such a popular place with good food and a good location that we went there three times during the week.
The week went by quickly with much of it a hot, sticky blur. The highlights for me were: the sea plane base, which was shady, cool and quiet; the ride Alanna and I took in the Farmers Insurance Dirigible; the air show on Tuesday, which was the best weather of the week—clear, cooler and less humid; seeing the B-29, P-38 and Boeing 787 up close; sitting in the front row listening to Bob Hoover speak for 1 1⁄2 hours; and our own 99 chapter dinner for 12 at The Vintage on Tuesday evening.
By Thursday Mark and I had had enough. After our Dirigible ride and the 99’s photograph on Friday morning, we headed for Appleton and got off the ground in time to get to Pierre, SD by 5pm. We expected headwinds and were presently surprised to have a small, but noticeable tail wind at 4500 feet. Pierre was a surprise too. It is the capital of SD with a small population of only 15,000. The FBO was brand new and very nice. The manager booked us into a hotel with shuttle service and soon we were seeing the damage caused by the month old flood of the Missouri River, which runs through town. The low lying areas including parks, golf courses and many buildings were still underwater. Sand bags were everywhere. A hastily built dyke was holding the water from flooding even more areas. The whole town felt like a dusty, gray war zone. The people seemed to be struggling to figure what to do. Rain continues to fall every few days and the river could flood again if more water needs to be released from the upstream dams. The hotel owner is already worried about what will happen next year if the water does not recede before winter and nothing gets cleaned up. It was a very depressing place. However, we went to a popular Italian restaurant and had one of our better meals of the trip.
We were off early on Saturday and made it all the way to Hailey, ID with mostly clear, smooth sky and no wind—so glad we had not gotten the headwind we expected. With no prior reservations, we went to work as soon as we were in the terminal. Mark managed to get the last available car in town and I managed to find us a room in a place called the Knob Hill Inn in Ketchum. By 5pm we were settled into our home for the next 4 nights. It is one of the most pleasant places we have ever stayed—pleasing to the eye, perfectly appointed room, wonderful food in the on sight restau- rant and a charming, flower filled garden. On Sunday morning we drove around the area, went for a 20 mile bike ride on the local and nearly level bike path and relaxed in our Inn. Cindy and Don arrived at Stanley and we made plans for a hike on Monday. They flew to Smiley Creek where we met them and drove to the top of Galena Pass, where we hiked the Titus Creek Trail through pine and fir forests to a pretty alpine lake. High, but not too long, it was just right for our bodies to handle. The cold lake water felt good on our feet, lunch tasted good, the walk back to the car was all downhill and all the way we kept up a constant chatter. Then we each back to our respective homes for the evening. Mark and I attended the opening of the Sun Valley Festival at the 5 year old outdoor Pavilion. We learned it cost 33 Million to build and it was a splendid facility right down to the bathrooms. The symphony was good too. During intermission we were surprised to see Kitty, who had been at Oshkosh with us.
Tuesday, we met Cindy and Don at the 4th of July Road for a hike and bike ride in the Sawtooth Mountains— Don biked one trail and the three of us hiked to Washington Lake. This day was overcast and cool. We had a few sprinkles, but no bother. Three hours later we met up again, just as planned. Again, we drove south and they drove north.
Wednesday dawned clear and crisp. We made an early start and were off the ground by 8am heading for GOO. The flight was sooth and windless all the way to California. Suddenly we had a strong head wind and lots of bumps coming over the Sierra. I wrestled the plane to the ground at GOO and was glad to put 16498 in her hanger. With the time change, we were back at home before noon. It was a wonderful trip and we were both glad to have spent many happy hours flying and seeing more of our country from above.