Oshkosh – EAA Airventure 2013

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Oshkosh EAA AirVenture - July 2013 - 02228-Jul-2013 12:31, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 80
 
If I had to sum it up in one word it would be…….”WOW!”  I finally made the journey to the yearly gathering of pilots and aviation enthusiasts to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture!  For many years it has been something that I have thought that I would someday do but now that I live only about a 2 hour flight from Oshkosh it seemed like something that I had to make plans to do.  A few months ago I blocked the time off my calendar and the closer we came the plans started to take form.  I didn’t have a hotel reservation and I had decided that I would attempt to camp even though I haven’t camped in over 20 years!  Lot’s of planning and even a night of practice in the backyard with Bryan & Hannah earlier in the summer and we would hopefully be ready.  Bryan and I would make the trip up to Oshkosh while Lori and Hannah went up to Michigan to spend a week with family and friends.

Jeff’s friend and instructor for his instrument rating Frank Dorrin and his wife Beverly flew to Champaign in their Twin Comanche the Saturday before AirVenture.  The plan was that we would head up to Oshkosh on Sunday morning.  The weather wasn’t VFR at Oshkosh so we decided to file up to Juneau, WI – KUNU where we both ended up flying an approach down to about 1000′ AGL.  We landed at KUNU, got fuel and explored our options.  Frank was able to get a slot reservation and filed IFR which worked out well for him.  Bryan and I waited on the ground for about an hour and the ceiling had lifted enough for us to make the 30nm hop up to Oshkosh.  There wasn’t too much traffic and we were able to easily navigate our way to Ripon and proceed on the VFR arrival.  When we arrived at Fiske we were directed to “continue along the tracks to the gravel pit and enter a right downwind for runway 27”.  My heart was pumping and I was excited and on downwind I was cleared to land on the orange dot which is about 1/3 down the runway and then asked to land on the green dot about 1/2 the way down the runway.  After landing I quickly pulled off the runway and marshaled to the general aviation camping (GAC) area where we would spend the next few days.  The next couple of hours we were busy meeting our neighbors and setting up camp.  That afternoon we spent time exploring the grounds and caught up with Frank & Bev at their campsite where they had an excellent view of the planes landing on 36L&R.

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Oshkosh EAA AirVenture - July 2013 - 06229-Jul-2013 12:19, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D3200, 9.0, 24.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
 
After a very cool night we woke up on Monday morning, ate breakfast at the camp and then headed into the show for a very busy day.  There was so much to see and it was quite overwhelming.  I can’t explain to you how many planes and exhibits there were at AirVenture.  There was also a lot of walking and by mid-afternoon both Bryan and I were wore out.  We even met up with a group of Sunday Morning Breakfast Club (SMBC) members at the “Brown Arch” where they meet everyday at 1PM and we took a picture.  We then spent the afternoon at the camp and even got a very good view of the airshow from the tent.  That evening we went back into the show grounds and we saw the band Chicago play for awhile.  We also ran into Mike Bennett from 110Knots.com and his son.  Mike and I had met a few years ago in Reading, PA and at NE Flyers meetup.  Monday was over as quickly as it started and both Bryan and I were ready for a good night’s sleep.

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Tuesday morning Bryan and I woke up early and went to the shower house to try to beat the crowd.  The facilities at Oshkosh in the North 40 were really nice and we both felt good after a shower.  It was amazing that we would be at the tent and see warbirds like P-51 Mustangs, Corsairs, B-17’s and many other aircraft taking off not far from where we were camped.  We had a quick breakfast and headed towards KidVenture which was by the EAA Museum where Bryan had a great time learning about aviation and even getting a flight lesson in a simulator.  Check out these two videos links of: Bryan Preflighting an Airplane, and  Bryan’s First Flight Lesson.  He even got a logbook signed with 0.3 hours after the lesson.  We enjoyed the afternoon again with the Dorrin’s watching the airshow from their camp and then spent the evening in Camp Scholler at a party with a group of people from the Pilots of America Forum.  It was a great meal and good company!

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Oshkosh EAA AirVenture - July 2013 - 12030-Jul-2013 10:32, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D3200, 3.5, 18.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
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Wednesday was another eventful day.  It would end up being our last full day at Oshkosh so Bryan and I did a lot of shopping for things that we had seen throughout the week that we wanted to get.  We ended up going through all 4 of the big buildings that had vendors from the aviation industry.  We also spent a couple of hours in the EAA Museum but will definitely have to go back at some point when we have more time.  On Wednesday night we spent the evening seeing the night airshow which was amazing.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and the fireworks at the end were awesome!  Bryan went right asleep when we got back to the tent and I spent the last couple of hours with a few of our fun neighbors.  They were from all over the place.  Mike and his daughter Jeanette from New York in a Bonanza, Ron & Woody from Montana in an RV, Walt from Texas in a Cessna, and Pat & Aaron in a Piper Cherokee 180  from Oregon.

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Thursday morning we woke up and were busy.  A quick trip to the shower house and then we started packing up.  We got everything loaded up, got a refund for the days we didn’t camp and then grabbed a quick breakfast at the food tent near our campsite.  I briefed the departure procedure again and then got some help pulling the plane out from Mike & Pat.  The engine was soon running but then we had to wait in line about an hour behind a bunch of other planes that were trying to depart at the same time.  When I took off there were 3 other planes that had been cleared to take off right in front of me.  I wish I could have taken a picture but I was too busy making sure I didn’t run into them.  The flight home was VFR the whole way and the controllers were so busy that I didn’t even bother trying to pickup flight following until I contacted Champaign approach about 40nm from home.

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Oshkosh was a great experience that I will remember forever!  I’m already thinking that I am going to try to make it an annual event whenever possible.  I mentioned it to Lori about coming but I don’t think she is too interested in the camping experience which I understand.  Maybe sometime we can get a house or hotel and I will be able to get her to it.  Bryan and I both had a great time and I’m sure he is ready to go back!

 Click here for all the pictures of our Oshkosh trip.

First Grass Landing!

It only took 10 years but in July of 2013 I finally made my first landing on grass.  The Sunday Morning Breakfast Club – SMBC was meeting up at Hartenbower Airport – 2v3.  I called my pilot friend Jeff B. the night before and we met early at the Champaign airport on Sunday morning.  The weather was beautiful and we beat most of the crowd to Hartenbower but within a short time there were a lot of planes all coming in to land at the same time.  The field was in great condition and the landing was uneventful.  We parked on the edge of the field and had a good breakfast.  Jeff had to get back to Champaign for another engagement so we didn’t stay long.  My soft-field takeoff wasn’t perfect but we were soon off the ground and heading back.  We had planned to stop in Pontiac for fuel but luckily we realized prior to landing that the FBO wasn’t open and the fuel pumps were not self-serve so we continued back to Champaign.  I’m looking forward to landing at some other grass strips now that I have finally landed on one.  There are quite a few here in Illinois.

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Two Trips to Detroit in Two Weeks

Although it probably seems like we are always flying somewhere, up until a few weeks ago I was behind on the amount of hours that I target for flying of at least 100 hours per year.  This summer would changed that though as we have a lot of opportunities to use the plane.  The weather has been very good and we have had a lot of places to go.  In July I was able to fly to Detroit twice!

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The first trip was just for the day to go to a Tiger game against the Chicago White Sox.  A few days before I looked at my work schedule and the weather and they both looked good to accommodate a day off.  I sent a text message to my friend Jay and fellow Tiger fan to see if he wanted to fly up with our sons that Thursday.  He couldn’t pass it up so we planned to meet at the Champaign airport early in the morning.  Within no time we were on our way to Detroit in smooth air with the boys having a good time with their electronic toys in the backseat.  We made it to Detroit in just about 2 hours and were routed a bit over Lake Erie and up the Detroit River over Canada and we landed at Detroit City Airport (KDET).  On the way up the river we got a great view and a bunch of pictures of Grosse Ile, MI which is where I grew up.  We took a quick cab ride from the airport to Comerica Park and got to the stadium early enough to look around and have some lunch.  This was Jay, Caden & Bryan’s first time at Comerica but I had been there a few times before.  Bob, my best friend who lives in the Detroit area also met us at the game.  Unfortunately the Tigers didn’t win but we still had a great time at the game.  After the game Bob dropped us off at the airport and we were in the air shortly for another good flight back to Champaign.

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A week later I was heading back to Detroit for my 20 Year High School Reunion.  The whole family loaded up into the plane for an early departure and this time we were planning to land at Detroit Metro Airport (KDTW).  We were planning on staying for the weekend and surprisingly the fees were very reasonable and it was the most convenient option for us.  We had a great tailwind but then got routed all the way around the city again and up the Detroit River which took quite a bit of time.  Again I got some good pictures of Grosse Ile and one of these days I will actually land at the airport on the island.  Bob picked us up at the airport and we went up to Henry Ford Museum for the day and met Lori’s Mom Kathy there.  After a fun few hours at the museum the kids and Kathy headed back to Allegan where they would stay for the weekend while Lori, Bob and I would attend Grosse Ile High Schools Class of 1993 20 Year Reunion.  Bob, Lori and I went to the “Island” for dinner on Friday night and met up with a bunch of people from Jeff & Bob’s class.  We then went back on Saturday at the Grosse Ile Pilot House and had a fun time at the reunion.

We stayed at a hotel near the airport and left early Sunday morning.  Lori and I made the quick hop across the state to Allegan where we picked up the kids and then headed back home to Champaign.  Another good flight and we were back home after a fun weekend.  Each of these trips would have been around 6 hours driving each way and the plane helped cut that time down significantly!  Click on the links below to see pictures of the two trips to Detroit.

Click here to see pictures from our trip to the Detroit Tiger Game on July 11th, 2013

Click here to see pictures from our flights to Detroit for Jeff’s Reunion – July 19th-21st, 2013

The Outer Banks – June 2013

In early June of 2013 the Frey Family flew to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for our summer vacation.  We rented a house in S. Nags head with Jeff’s Parents and Grand Parents.  There were a bunch of storms and a front that came through the night before we planned to leave.  When I woke up in the morning the weather didn’t look good at all and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to fly that day.  As I continually checked the weather and looked into my options I decided I could get to the north of all the real bad weather but we would have to leave quickly.  We were already packed so we headed to the airport, efficiently loaded the plane and were off the ground in no time.  The family has really gotten to a point where we can get the plane loaded up and ready to go in no time.  Despite some light to moderate rain, the flight was very good.  I planned to stop in Huntington, WV (KHTS) for fuel in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  It was windy and gusty when we landed there but nothing that I couldn’t handle.  The kids stomachs were a little uneasy but we were all able to get lunch at a restaurant in the terminal.  After departing Huntington we had to dodge a couple of buildups and storms.  We usually get an earlier start to avoid these but with the late departure I ended up having to navigate around some of the weather.  The new Stratus 2 and my XM Weather on the Garmin 496 both came in handy and helped me get around the small cells relatively easy.

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We landed at Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI) in Manteo, NC.  We had planned to get a rental car from Enterprise but they didn’t drop off the car as expected and were already closed when we arrived late Saturday afternoon.  Luckily the FBO at the airport had a rental car for $60/day but we didn’t have any other options so we had to rent it.  I ended up using it for a couple of days and then dealt with Enterprise on Monday morning.  We arrived at the house that was just across the street from the beach on the south end of Nags head.  The view was beautiful.  From the front of the house we could see the Atlantic Ocean and from the back of the house we could see the Albemarle Sound.  It was great to see the family and after getting settled in we all went to dinner at the Lucky 12 Tavern.

We had a great week spending time with family and enjoying the good weather.  Many of the group took daily long walks on the beach.  Sunday was a beach day and the weather was beautiful.  Later in the afternoon we all drove through the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and took a hike on a walking path in the middle of the refuge.  Monday it rained pretty hard but we ended up using the time to run some errands and get some things done that we needed to do.  We had lunch at Awful Arthur’s, which is one of our favorites in the Outer Banks.  On Tuesday Jeff, Hannah, Peggy & Jeff Sr. went out to the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  We were able to climb it as it was recently opened to the public for the first time.  In the evening Jeff, Hannah, Bryan, Peggy & Jeff Sr. went to dinner at the Outer Banks Brewing Station and then went to see the Outer Banks Daredevils baseball game.  Wednesday was a very eventful day for everyone.  Jeff, Bryan, Peggy & Jeff Sr. went on a flight tour of the Outer Banks.  We flew all the way down to Ocracoke, around all the lighthouses and even landed at First Flight Airport (KFFA) in Kill Devil Hills where we climbed up to the monument for some pictures.  During this same time Lori & Hannah, went up to Corolla where they went on a tour to see the wild horses out on the beach.  That evening everyone in the family including Jeff’s grandparents went to see “The Lost Colony”.  Thursday was another relaxation day where we spent time on the beach and in the pool.  Tropical Storm Andrea ended up hitting us and the weather Friday was very windy.  We spent Friday afternoon inside at the North Carolina Aquarium and then had dinner with everyone at Pamlico Jacks.  The week flew by but as you can see we did a lot and had a wonderful time.

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Fortunately by Saturday morning the tropical storm had already passed.  We departed Manteo early and ended up having to fly in more weather than I had expected on the way home.  Some of it was even in moderate rain with a couple of good bumps.  We stopped in Beckley, WV (KBKW) to get fuel and were surprised the airport restaurant closed and no courtesy car.  We had a quick snack and then just decided to jump back in the plane and push to get home for the last 3 hours.  After getting bumped around in the clouds for a while we made it home mid-afternoon, quickly unloaded and put the plane away.  Another successful adventure for the Frey Family!  The drive to the Outer Banks from Illinois would have been about 16 hours but the flights were just over 6 hours each way.  We are looking forward to using the plane a lot more this summer and Jeff & Bryan are even making plans to go to Oshkosh for the first time.

As always we took a lot of pictures on this trip.  Click here to see the photo albums.

Click on these links to see the flight track data:  KCMI-KHTS-KMQIOuter Banks Tour (KMQI-KFFA-KMQI), KMQI-KBKW-KCMI

 

Spring Break – March 2013

It’s hard to believe that Spring Break 2013 has already come and gone.  This year the family went two different ways but we all had a great time.  Lori & Hannah had been planning a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with Lori’s Mom – Kathy & good friend – Judy.  Lori has been to Best Friends multiple times but this would be Hannah’s first trip to enjoy the sanctuary and to volunteer.  We drove up to the Chicago suburbs and met up with Judy & Kathy at Lansing Airport – KIGQ so they could all drive up to O’Hare Airport together.  We would have flown up the Lansing Airport but the ceiling was very low and it was very cold…a perfect recipe for icing conditions.

Bryan and I then headed back to Monticello where we would stay very busy for a few days.  We had a good time and got a lot of things done.  The weather continued to be poor with cold & windy conditions but started to look up about mid-week.  Bryan and I had a plan to try to go to Dayton to checkout the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  We were all set to get up early on Wednesday morning to head out but late Tuesday night the house felt unusually cold and I realized that the furnace had stopped working.  A late call to the repairman and with plans for them to come the following morning postponed us.  The house got really cold that night but the repair was fairly painless.  We decided to postpone until the following day since we wouldn’t get in until late afternoon anyway.

Dayton Trip - March 2013 -002Early Thursday morning we woke up before the sun, secured the house and headed out to the airport.  It was a cold!  Less than 15*F.  Despite that it was looking clear and we got to the hangar where the engine had been preheating for the prior 2 days and I even turned on a small heater in the cabin on the way to the field.  I have a cell phone activated switch now with 2 outlets on it that has reduced some of the challenges of cold weather flying.  Right as the sun started to come up Bryan and I lifted off on schedule and headed for Dayton.  We had a decent tailwind and the flight was only about an hour and a half.  This was also the first flight with my new iPad mini that I recently purchased.  The mini fit much nicer on the RAM yoke mount and was plenty big enough to see.  I can now see the engine instruments and fuel gauges easier as well.  Surprisingly there were some small isolated snow cells right around Dayton when we got there but nothing I couldn’t handle.  We landed at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport (KMGY) early enough to where we had plenty of time to explore for the day.

Dayton Trip - March 2013 -004 Our first stop was the Wright “B” Flyer museum which just happened to be right next to the FBO.  This was a neat little hangar that had a lot of action going on it.  These organization operates a look alike of the Wright “B” Flyer at airshows and other events.  They happened to be performing the annual inspection on the aircraft when we came in and we were able to meet one of the pilots that flies it.  We were only there a short time but were given some good information about what we should go see.  We hopped into the rental car and after an early lunch at Wendy’s, Bryan and I arrived at the National Museum just a little before noon.  I had been to the museum before but it was many years ago.  I didn’t remember much of it and a lot had been added in the past 20 years.  I can’t express how great this museum is.  I can honestly say that it is the best aviation museum I have EVER been to.  The Smithsonian in Washington, DC is great, but this museum had a much larger array of aircraft from the early days of aviation, to WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even the Cold War Era.  Some of my favorites were the Bockscar – the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a P-51 Mustang, a B-52 Stratofortress, a B-1B Lancer, a B-2 Bomber, a F-117 Nighthalk Stealth Fighter, a F-15 Eagle & F-22 Raptor, and of course the SR-71 Blackbird.  I could go on.

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We had made a reservation to take a the 3:30PM bus over to the remote hangar where they house many Presidential and experimental aircraft.  Here we saw an unbelievable collection of experimental planes including the Lockheed YF-12A, the Bell X-1B, and the North American X-15.  On the Presidential side of the hangar we were actually able to walk through many past presidential airplanes including the Boeing VC-137C (707) SAM 26000 also known as Air Force One when used by President’s Kennedy through Clinton.  I am so glad that we were able to go through this hangar as it sounds like it will be closed in the near future due to budget cuts, which is very unfortunate.  I highly recommend visiting this museum if you get a chance but in the meantime take a look at the many pictures I took and also at the National Museum of the United States Air Force  website.

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Bryan and I had spent all afternoon at the museum and I could have spent many more hours but the museum was closing and Bryan was getting a little anxious.  I promised myself that I would be back though and not take 20+ years before my next visit.  We headed to the hotel, checked in and then met up with Steve who authors the excellent “A mile of runway will take you anywhere” blog.  Steve and I had never met in person but we are both Western Michigan University graduates who happen to be pilots and we have been Facebook “friends” for a couple of years now.  Steve picked us up at the hotel and we headed to a great pub where we met his wife and enjoyed a very good dinner, a couple of good beers and most importantly, great company!  It had been a long day and Bryan and I were both ready for our pillows when we eventually made it back to the hotel.

Dayton Trip - March 2013 -165Dayton Trip - March 2013 -169We awoke to an absolutely beautiful day and had breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites we were staying.  We then headed out to check out a couple more sites before we left town.  The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Wright Cycle Company are in Downtown Dayton and we spent a bit of time checking out the exhibits.  I made note of a couple of other destinations that we must visit on our return but didn’t have time to visit on this trip.  We then headed back to the airport so we could get the rental car back on time and were soon in the air.  I usually file IFR on longer trips like this but the weather forecast was perfect so I decided just to head back VFR.  We were back in Champaign before lunch.  Spring Break was almost over but the following day we were able to fly again.  This time it was back to Lansing Airport to pickup Lori & Hannah on their return from Best Friends.  Luckily the weather was much better for this trip.  It definitely made the trip shorter by being able to fly.

Everyone had a great Spring Break even though we weren’t all together.  We have a family trip planned in early June to head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Click here to see all of the pictures from our trip to Dayton, OH.

2012 Aviation Update

It is that time of year where we pilots (yea, we are all analytical) look back on all the flights and summarize our stats.  Even with a significant amount of downtime on the plane due to avionics upgrades/repairs and the engine being replaced at annual I was still able to meet my yearly goal of flying over 100 hours.  We also had some great adventures.  Here is a summary of 2012:

2012 Hours: 109.3

Total Hours: 593.4 – I’ll break 600 hours early in 2013.  Next year I’m shooting to break 700 hours.

2012 Approximate Mileage: >10,000 miles.

New Airports: 24 – KOXI, 2H0, KSKY,KSPI, 06C, 3A1, KDTS, 2M2, KPIA, KSUS, KDKB, C09, KMDW, M01, KNEW, KJWN, KBBG, KIND, KRCR, KVPZ, C20, KRPJ, KVGT, U30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New States:  4 – Missouri, Louisiana, Nevada & Arizona.  The picture below is all the states that I have landed in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notable flights:  Wow, there were a ton this year.  The family was able to get good use of the plane even in the winter months with a trip to Allegan, Michigan in early January to see Lori’s family and a trip in February to Sandusky, OH to meet Jeff’s sister and family at Kalahari Water Park Resort.  In March for Spring Break we flew to Destin, FL and enjoyed a great week with great flights.  In April we were back in Michigan for Easter.  In June Jeff and a friend flew up to Chicago Midway to go to the Tiger-Cubs game at Wrigley.  In July Jeff & Lori flew to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville for their 10th Anniversary.  In August the family flew to Branson, MO to enjoy a weekend just before school started.  The plane was in annual for most of October & November getting a new engine installed but in December the family was again able to fly up to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with Lori’s family.  In early December Jeff and a group of friends went to Las Vegas and rented a plane where we flew around Lake Mead, the Grand Canyon & the Hoover Dam.  You can click on each of these links to see pictures and more details of these adventures.

Along with all these trips I was also able to fly with an instructor friend from the University of Illinois numerous times to stay current and sometimes find a good place to eat.  On one of these flights I was able to experience my first approach to minimums.  I was also able to meet up with the SMBC – “Sunday Morning Breakfast Club” on quite a few occasions throughout the year.  This is a group of Chicagoland pilots who meet up a different airports in Illinois & Indiana every Sunday morning.  Hopefully we will be able to attend more of these meetups in the coming year!

2012 has been a great year from an aviation perspective!  I only hope that the coming years are as exciting and productive!

Here is more data for my pilot friends (2012/Total):

Cross-country: 91/369

Night: 11/52

IMC: 7/29

Simulated Instrument: 6/56

Landings: 84/856

Approaches: 30/153

Branson, MO – August 2012

The last weekend before school started the weather was beautiful and I called up Lori on Friday afternoon and asked her if she thought we should fly somewhere for a last minute weekend trip.  We discussed going to the Wisconsin Dells or Mackinac Island but decided on Branson, Missouri as this was also on our list of places to visit.  I checked hotel rates and called the FBO at the airport in Branson and our plan was to be off the ground around 4:00 PM.  We quickly packed our bags and we were off to the airport.  After a pre-flight inspection we were off for the easy two and half hour flight to Branson.

There are multiple airports around Branson but we landed at KBBG and parked the plane at Branson Jet Center where the rental car was waiting for us on the ramp and the line man gave us great service unloading and securing the plane.  He gave us some good recommendations on shows to see and places to stay.  I went on Priceline and got a very good rate on the Raddisson which seemed to be one of the nicer hotels in the area.  We headed out to find someplace for dinner as it was getting kind of late and we were all hungry.  We ended up driving around exploring the Branson strip for awhile and ended up at Jackie B. Goode’s Midtown Cafe.  When we walked in there was no one there which seemed kind of strange for a Friday night but we decided to sit down and eat anyways.  It was not good and was very expensive for essentially what you could get a fast food joint.  It was late though and we needed to eat so it met our needs from that perspective.  After dinner we checked in to the hotel and called it a night.

On Saturday morning we started making our plans for the day.  We decided that we would go see a show called The Finalist’s Live which featured 5 different finalists from different seasons of American Idol including Bo Bice and Ruben Studdard.  We were lucky as this was their last show!  We had a great breakfast at Bob Evans and then headed to the Andy Williams Moon River Theater box office where we got excellent tickets for the 4th row center stage.  The show wasn’t until later that evening so we headed to the Talking Rocks Cavern.  This 90 foot cavern was really interesting and we all enjoyed it.  After the cavern we drove around Branson seeing the beautiful scenery.  We stopped at Branson Landing where we checked out the shops and had frozen yogurt for lunch.  We bought some souvenirs and then left to grab an early dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse before the show.

Our trip to the Talking Caverns in Branson MO 08182012-09Our trip to the Talking Caverns in Branson MO 08182012-09
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Our trip to the Talking Caverns in Branson MO (see the angel)08182012-05Our trip to the Talking Caverns in Branson MO (see the angel)08182012-05
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Our trip to the Talking Caverns in Branson MO (see the angel)08182012-0518-Aug-2012 11:58, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800
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Watching The Finalists Live at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson MO 08182012-7318-Aug-2012 23:07, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 400
 
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Watching The Finalists Live at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson MO 08182012-6518-Aug-2012 22:23, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec
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Watching The Finalists Live at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson MO 08182012-7518-Aug-2012 23:07, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 500
 

The Finalist Live was a really good show.  We had great seats and all the performers were very good.  After the show we were able to meet all of the performers, get their autographs and take pictures with them.  After a great day we went back to the hotel.  We got up early in the morning and after a quick breakfast at McDonald’s we went back to the airport and had another smooth flight back to Champaign.  Our weekend in Branson was a success and everyone in the family had fun.  It is great to have an airplane that gives us the flexibility to get away for quick weekend trips like this.

Click here to see all of our pictures from our weekend trip to Branson.

Nashville, TN – July 2012

I posted previously about mine and Lori’s Flights to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville for our 10th Anniversary Trip.  We finally got around to organizing all of the pictures and now to posting about what we did in each city.

Similarly to the last couple of flights we again left New Orleans early in the morning for our trip to Nashville on Wednesday July 25th.  We had a very smooth flight but it was the longest of all our flights on this trip at over 3 hours.  We landed in Nashville and our rental car was brought right up to the plane where we unloaded.  Lori and I went to Target to pick up a couple of things and had a quick lunch before we headed into downtown Nashville.  We were staying at the Homewood Suites.  We checked in and then walked down to Broadway where we met up with a friend of Lori’s that she knew in Dover and her husband (Jill & Jason Reagan) at Tootsies.  We stayed and listened to the band for a bit and then stopped into a couple more of the honky tonks before having dinner at The Wildhorse Saloon.  We said our good-byes and then headed to the Grand Ole Opry where we saw a great show that included Exile, Steel Magnolia, Lauren Alaina & Rascal Flatts.  After the show we went back to Broadway and hopped to quite a few of the honky tonks enjoying the music and having fun.

A show we saw at the Grand Ole Opry (Lauren Alaina performing) in Nashville TN 07252012-10A show we saw at the Grand Ole Opry (Lauren Alaina performing) in Nashville TN 07252012-10
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A show we saw at the Grand Ole Opry (Lauren Alaina performing) in Nashville TN 07252012-1025-Jul-2012 20:33, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 250
A show we saw at the Grand Ole Opry (Rascall Flatts performing) in Nashville TN 07252012-29A show we saw at the Grand Ole Opry (Rascall Flatts performing) in Nashville TN 07252012-29
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We didn’t have any other set plans for Nashville as we were there with the family last year but we talked about seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium.  On Thursday morning we went to the box office and were able to get a couple of tickets to that nights show which was Ricky Skaggs and The Kentucky Thunder.  We then went over to The Opryland Hotel which was very big and beautiful inside.  We walked around the resort exploring and shopping for a couple of hours and took the boat tour around the center of the resort.  We then spent a couple of hours shopping and having lunch at the Opry Mills Mall.  We had both had a long trip and were kind of tired so we went back to the hotel for a rest before the show.  After our rest we grabbed a quick dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory which was right around the corner from the Ryman Auditorium.

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 07252012The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 07252012
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The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 0725201225-Jul-2012 14:44, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 6.3, 7.466mm, 0.003 sec
Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb singing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 07262012-06Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb singing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 07262012-06
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Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb singing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 07262012-0626-Jul-2012 21:33, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 3.5, 9.975mm, 0.125 sec
 

The show at the Ryman Auditorium was excellent!  I never would have thought that I would have enjoyed Bluegrass music so much but everyone who performed was very good.  Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees also performed a few songs with Ricky and Lori was very excited to see him as she had always been a big fan of his.  Ricky and Barry apparently are friends and they were both scheduled to play the Grand Ole Opry the following night.  It was a very nice surprise.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end.  The following morning, Friday July 27th we headed back to the airport and flew back to Champaign, IL.  Looking back on this trip I realize just how great of a time we had and how lucky we were that everything fell into place.  The weather was very cooperative, the plane performed great and Lori and I had a great time.  We really enjoyed spending time together and it was a great adventure.  I have a wonderful wife who has been a great partner through our 10 years of marriage.  I look forward to our next big adventure together!

Click here to see all of the pictures from our trip.

New Orleans, LA – July 2012

I posted previously about mine and Lori’s Flights to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville for our 10th Anniversary Trip.  We finally got around to organizing all of the pictures and now to posting about what we did in each city.

After a fun couple of days in Memphis we had a good flight with only a little bit of weather to dodge on the way to New Orleans on Sunday July 22nd.  We arrived early in New Orleans and after unloading and covering the plane I got on the FBOs wifi with my iPad to find us a place to stay.  Priceline again came through and I booked the Marriot on Canal St. right next to Bourbon St. & The French Quarter for only $70/night!  We called a cab and were heading into the city in no time.  We had decided not to rent cars in Memphis & New Orleans as it seemed easier to just take cabs and public transportation which worked out very well.

When we arrived at the Marriot our room was not ready yet so we dropped off our bags and headed out on the town.  We walked down Bourbon St. and explored the French Quarter.  We again stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe so Lori could add another bear to her collection and then we stopped for lunch at the Crescent City Brewhouse.  As recommended we took the Super City Grayline Tour through New Orleans.  This tour was a little disappointing but we did get to see quite a bit of the city.  Afterwards we checked into the hotel and went back out to tour more of the city by ourselves.  We took the bus out to The Garden District where we walked around Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and past many of the old mansions including Anne Rice’s house.  Afterwards we made our way back to The French Quarter which was busy and we had a hard time finding a place that didn’t have a long wait for dinner.  We ended up at Cafe Maspero which wasn’t spectacular but we were very hungry and needed to eat so it worked.  Lori again had catfish and I had a shrimp po’ boy.  After dinner we walked back through the French Quarter and stopped at a couple of places including another frozen drink bar which seemed to be very popular in New Orleans as well.  One of the interesting things was that you could take your drinks with you and walk through the city which was perfectly legal.

On Monday we woke up and went to the famous Cafe Du Monde for a breakfast of beignets and cafe au lait.  Our first plan was to take a ride on the Steamboat Natchez along the Mississippi River.  This was a very nice ride with great scenery!  We then decided to check out the famous Pat O’Briens for lunch which was excellent!  We had Hurricane’s and I had a combo of jambalaya, gumbo and etouffee which was unbelievably tasty.  This was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip.  We then again walked down Bourbon Street and ended up at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop which had an even better Hurricane than Pat O’s!  After a trip to the hotel to freshen up and relax for a bit we again were out on the town.  We wanted to check out the Riverwalk Mall but it had already closed for the day.  We ended up having dinner at Gordon Biersch Brewery and then went across the street to Harrah’s Casino.  Lori and I found a craps table and had a good time for a couple of hours.  We both did very well and walked away from the table while we were ahead.  We headed back towards the hotel but again went down Bourbon Street to see what was going on.  It wasn’t nearly as busy as the previous night and we ended up at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop again which was very neat at night as they don’t have any lights and it is just candlelit.  Finally this fun filled day ended and we were back to the hotel.

A famous bar in New Orleans 07232012-06A famous bar in New Orleans 07232012-06
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Pat O'Brien's Famous HurricanePat O'Brien's Famous Hurricane
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An airboat ride we took in New Orleans 07242012-08An airboat ride we took in New Orleans 07242012-08
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Our tour thru Mardi Gras World in New Orleans 07242012-14Our tour thru Mardi Gras World in New Orleans 07242012-14
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On Tuesday we had plans to go on an Airboat Adventures tour through the Louisiana Bayou.  This was one of the highlights of the trip and VERY interesting.  We took the small boat tour and got up close with many of the alligators and other wildlife of the swamp.  Our guide fed the alligators marshmallows to bring them up close to the boat.  He was very informative and we would highly recommend going on one of these tours!  When we got back we called up Mardi Gras World and they sent a shuttle to pick us up.  This was another very cool experience that is a must see!  This is a working warehouse where most of the floats for the Mardi Gras parades are designed and fabricated.  My pictures won’t do it justice though so if you are in New Orleans you must check it out.

Here are some videos that we took on the trip:

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Three days in New Orleans had flown by!  We traveled back to Jackson Square where we met with a local street artist named Trevor Scott who custom painted us a cat playing a saxophone on Bourbon St.  We stopped in the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral and then ended up having dinner at Somethin Else Cafe which was simple but delicious – I had a crawfish po’ boy and gumbo.  Our last day in New Orleans was over and we headed back to the hotel so we could get an early start for Nashville the following day.

Click here to read about the next stop on our trip – Nashville.

Click here to see all of the pictures from our trip.

Memphis, TN – July 2012

I posted previously about mine and Lori’s Flights to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville for our 10th Anniversary Trip.  We finally got around to organizing all of the pictures and now to posting about what we did in each city.

We arrived in Memphis early on Friday, July 20th after an uneventful flight.  After filling the plane with fuel and securing it on the ramp we took a cab to The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis.  I had gone online the night before and got a good deal on Priceline for $125 a night which is excellent for a Fri & Sat night.  The Peabody Hotel is well-known for it’s ducks that march daily from the roof, down the elevator and to the fountain in the middle of the lobby each day and then back up to their penthouse on the roof in the afternoons.  We checked in just before 11 and were able to watch them march from the elevator to the fountain.  It was quite a production and there were a ton of people lining up to witness the event.  Afterwards it was lunchtime and we decided to go to The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium which was very close to the hotel for a bite to eat and a couple of cool drinks.

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After being refreshed it was time to hit the town.  We made the short walk to Beale Street and even though it was early in the day there were already some bands playing.  We walked the length where all the clubs are and stopped to listen to a blues band playing in an outdoor stage area and bought some souvenirs from street vendors.  We also stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe where Lori bought a bear to add to her collection.  We eventually made it to the Rock & Soul Museum which is right next to the FedEx Forum.  We took the self-guided audio tour through the museum and got out of the heat for a couple of hours.  It was well worth the time spent and a good overview of the history of music in Memphis.

With a quick trip to the hotel to freshen up we then took a trolley tour the whole way around the river loop which gave us a great view of Memphis.  We got off at Beale Street and went to dinner at the Blues City Cafe.  Lori and I shared a combination dinner of catfish & barbeque which was excellent.  We then spent the evening on Beale Street checking out many of the clubs and shops along the street.  There were plenty of people and there was a lot going on.  My favorite was a place called Wet Willies that had frozen drink machines with many different flavors.  A couple of these and it was time to call it a night!

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We woke up early on Saturday with a plan for a full day.  The first stop was the Arcade Restaurant which is a historic diner where Elvis used to frequent.  We had a good breakfast and then made a long walk all the way across town to Sun Studio.  Along the walk we went by the Lorraine Hotel and the National Civil Rights Museum where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.  There is a free shuttle that circulates between Sun Studios, the Rock & Soul Museum and Graceland daily.  We had to wait a bit but eventually the shuttle showed up and we got a ride to Graceland.  The tour through Graceland was very interesting and informative.  We got the Platinum tour which included the mansion and all of the other exhibits including the car and jet museums.  It was very interesting seeing how Elvis lived and getting a sense of how big of an icon he is in pop culture.

Right when we were about to take the tour of the Graceland mansion I got a call from the Ghost River Brewery that said we could take their tour if we were there by 3 PM.  After Graceland we took the free shuttle back to downtown Memphis and then hopped in a cab to the brewery.  Even though Lori didn’t enjoy this too much it was a very interesting tour of a small production micro-brewery.  They showed us their equipment and process and let me sample some of their beers.  It was very interesting and there were quite a few people that attended.

Our short two day stay in Memphis was just about at an end.  It was an early evening as we would be leaving at the crack of dawn the following morning for our flight to New Orleans.  A quick check of the weather in the morning and we were off at 6 AM in a cab back to the airport.  Within a short time we were off the ground and on our way to New Orleans.

Click here to read about the next stop on our trip – New Orleans.

Click here to see all of the pictures from our trip.