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
A famous bar in New Orleans 07232012-0623-Jul-2012 14:58, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec
Pat O'Brien's Famous HurricanePat O'Brien's Famous Hurricane
Pat O'Brien's Famous Hurricane23-Jul-2012 13:47, Apple iPhone 4, 2.8, 3.85mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 640
Jeff's lunch at Pat O'Briens restaurant in New Orleans 07232012Jeff's lunch at Pat O'Briens restaurant in New Orleans 07232012
Jeff's lunch at Pat O'Briens restaurant in New Orleans 0723201223-Jul-2012 14:07, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec
An airboat ride we took in New Orleans 07242012-08An airboat ride we took in New Orleans 07242012-08
An airboat ride we took in New Orleans 07242012-0824-Jul-2012 10:04, Apple iPhone 4, 2.4, 3.85mm, ISO 160
Our Airboat Adventure ride in New Orleans to see the swamps and gators 07242012-75Our Airboat Adventure ride in New Orleans to see the swamps and gators 07242012-75
Our Airboat Adventure ride in New Orleans to see the swamps and gators 07242012-7524-Jul-2012 11:32, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 6.3, 8.636mm, 0.004 sec
Our tour thru Mardi Gras World in New Orleans 07242012-14Our tour thru Mardi Gras World in New Orleans 07242012-14
Our tour thru Mardi Gras World in New Orleans 07242012-1424-Jul-2012 14:04, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec

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.

Lots of Traveling!

Lori & I are finally getting caught up on organizing our pictures that we have taken this year.  We have a pretty good system where she renames the pictures and I organize, upload and back them up.  I also like to do blog posts on some of our adventures.  This year we have been very busy and haven’t done really well at documenting our adventures.  The good news though is that we have been having fun and have been lots of places.  I’ve just completed uploading a few of our albums from trips we have taken this year.  Here is a summary of our travels with links to the albums.

January: Family took the Amtrak train to Chicago for the weekend

February: Family flew to Sandusky, OH to meet Jeff’s sister’s family at Kalahari

March: Family flew to Destin, FL for Spring Break

April: Family Flew to Allegan, MI for Easter with Lori’s Family

May: Jeff traveled to Puebla, Mexico for work.  No big family trips as the airplane was in and out of the shop for some avionics upgrades.  There were a few “local” flights around Illinois though.  Jeff’s parents also came out to spend the weekend with the family and they took a flight to Decatur for breakfast.

June: Jeff and a co-worker flew up to Chicago Midway to see the Cubs-Tigers game at Wrigley Field

June: Lori and the kids went up to Muskegon, MI to see her cousin Angie and her son.  They also visited with her Aunt Tina & Uncle Bill in Manistee.

July:  Jeff’s Friend Bobby James came to town and they spent one night in St. Louis.  They went on the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour, explored the city, saw a Cardinals game and went to the Lumiere casino.

July:  Jeff & Lori flew to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville for their 10th Anniversary.  As promised I will be uploading numerous pictures and a detailed blog post about our awesome trip.

August: Family flew to Branson, MO for the last weekend before school started.  Pictures will be uploaded and a detailed blog post soon.

So, as you can see it has been a busy year already.  Even with the plane being in the shop for a good part of April & May I have still logged over 83 hours year to date.  I’m hopefully on track to meet my goal of 100 hours for the year but I’m going to be replacing the engine with an overhauled one at annual in October which may extend the annual a bit this year.  I’m really happy that we are getting our use out of the plane and getting to enjoy family trips!

Flying to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville

Lori has put up with me through 10 years of marriage now and 9 years of flying.  I was surprised that she suggested we take a flying trip to New Orleans & Nashville to celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  I started the planning as soon as she suggested it and quickly realized that Memphis would be the half-way point between Champaign, IL and New Orleans so I suggested that we add it to the itinerary.  We decided to spend 2 days in Memphis, 3 days in New Orleans and 2 days in Nashville.  This post will just touch on the flying parts of our great adventure and we will add pictures and details about everything we did in each of these cities soon.  I’ll give you a quick preview and tell you that it was a great trip with tons of exciting activities and things to share.

Our original plan was to fly the kids up to Michigan on Thursday 7/19 but the weather wasn’t cooperative so we had to drive.  Thankfully Lori’s Mom was willing to meet us half way around Michigan City and we had a quick lunch and the kids went on their way with “Grammy” to enjoy their week.  Lori and I returned home to pack for an early morning flight.  On Friday 7/20 I checked the weather and it looked like it would be a go except for possibly a fog layer when we departed.  The flight to Memphis was smooth and we didn’t really have any significant weather to deal with.  We capitalized on a decent tailwind at 10,000 feet and landed at Dewitt Spain Airport (M01) after a 2.4 hour flight.  Dewitt Spain is a small airport that is just on the north side of the city of Memphis.  This picture from altitude shows where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers meet and you can see the states of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.  Click on it for a better view.

After 2 full days in Memphis we again departed early in the morning on Sunday 7/22 for New Orleans.  I was a little concerned as the forecast didn’t look that good but the flight ended up being perfectly fine.  We did have to dodge a few buildups and got some sprinkles along the way but an overcast layer above us for the 2nd half of the flight kept it a little cooler in the cockpit.  We flew into Lakefront Airport (KNEW) in New Orleans which is on the northern side of the city and right on Lake Pontchartrain.  This was the old airport in New Orleans and has a really neat looking terminal building.  The flight from Memphis to New Orleans was 2.8 hours.  Click on the pictures of the terminal building and the final approach right over the water into Lakefront Airport.

The forecast for Wednesday 7/25 seemed like it would be the best day yet for flying.  Even though we didn’t have to worry as much about weather, there was a Presidential TFR that was scheduled to be active in the afternoon.  Luckily we were able to get out of town before this as we had tickets for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville that evening.  We still departed early at around 7 AM so we can get to our destination before any convective or gusty weather kicks up in the afternoon hours.  The flight from New Orleans to Nashville was the longest of our legs at 3.3 hours.  This is about the longest you want to sit in a small plane without stretching your legs.  It is also close to my maximum range for fuel as even though I carry about 5 hours worth of fuel I still plan with a large reserve of over an hour.  We had a slight headwind but we were still getting decent ground speeds of around 115 knots.  The approach and landing into John C. Tune Airport (KJWN) was a little bumpy as it sits on top of a hill and there are a couple of other hills around it.  It had also gotten pretty hot into the high 90’s despite being only 10:45 AM when we landed.  Lucky for us the nice lady at the FBO delivered the car with the air conditioning blasting right to the airplane.  I fueled up while Lori unpacked, pushed the plane back just a few yards into a tie-down spot, secured & covered the plane and we were off to enjoy Nashville.  This was the only rental car that we had the whole trip as we used cabs and public transportation in Memphis & New Orleans.

Finally the trek was coming to an end.  We departed Nashville at around 7 AM on Friday 7/27 and had a good flight back despite the headwind.  The trip from Nashville back to Champaign Williard Airport (KCMI) took about 2.3 hours.  I filed for 8,000 feet but after seeing ground speeds below 100 knots I decided to ask for lower at 6,000 feet.  This helped a little and we got about 10 knots back.  The XM Weather on my Garmin 496 showed a storm cell to the north and east of Champaign around Rantoul and Danville but it didn’t look like it would be a factor.  I still kept a close eye on it in case we would have to divert.  We were on the ground by 9:15 AM and the plane was quickly unloaded and stowed away in the hangar.

We had a great vacation and I don’t think we could have asked for better weather.  Everything seemed to fall in place but we try to keep our plans flexible when flying in case something comes up.  So in total for the trip we flew 1473 miles and accumulated 10.8 hours of flight.  That’s an average of 136.4 miles/hour!  Comparatively if we were to have driven it would have been 1725 miles and about 28 hours of driving.  Lori and I had a great time in each city and I’ll be sure to post details of what we did soon.  I’m very lucky to have such a great wife who will actually fly with me and can get something out of my aviation passion.  She still doesn’t love to fly but I think she really likes getting places quickly.  We’ve also done very well at managing our travels to minimize the weather issues even though it means getting up at the crack of dawn.

Here is a picture of our actual flight path, altitude and speed data downloaded from my GPS.  If you click on the picture it will take you to the EveryTrail page for the trip.  Click here for the Google Earth file.

Night ILS Down to Minimums!

I don’t know if words can express my feelings right now but I feel like I need to capture them the best way that I can.  Today was a beautiful day and the weather forecast was perfect for flying.  A friend of mine – Jeff P. – who I used to fly with here in Champaign let me know he would be coming back in town and we decided to pick up where we left off and fly to someplace where we could go to a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.  For some reason this has kind of become a trend as I’ve flown to quite a few destinations just to go to a “BDubs” for dinner.  Jeff also introduced me to another Jeff (Jeff B.) last year so he came a long with us.  Both of these Jeffs are University of Illinois graduates and CFII’s.  Jeff P. just started with American Eagle a few months ago and has recently completed his ERJ training.  He flies his first passenger flight on Sunday!  Try to keep up with all the Jeffs in this.  It was kind of interesting to have 3 Jeffs in the plane at one time!

So Jeff P. flew into Champaign on a commercial flight around 5 PM.  Both he and Jeff B. immediately drove over and met me at the hangar where I had already had the plane pre-flighted and ready to go.  We talked about the weather a bit and I commented that the temperature/dewpoint spread looked like it would get close but the TAF wasn’t calling for reduced visibility until after 1 AM.  It was pretty clear and well above freezing with hardly any wind so we decided to take off.  Our destination was Springfield, IL (KSPI).  This would be my first trip to Springfield.  I had filed IFR and we had a very nice, uneventful flight there and an excellent landing (if I must say so myself).  We had a great dinner and had good discussion through the whole dinner.  As soon as we walked out the door though all three of us noticed a ‘mist’ in the air.  I think we all pulled our phones out at once and checked the weather and Springfield was reporting 8 miles visibility and clear but Champaign was reporting overcast a 400′ and 4 miles visibility with mist.  We discussed our options and there is an airport about halfway in Decatur, IL (KDEC) that was reporting clear and 5 miles visibility so we decided to start heading back and keeping this as our “out”.  The whole way back was very clear and we could see the ground.  As we approached Champaign we received a report from a plane that just landed that they saw the approach lights at about 300′ AGL and the METAR was reporting 2.5 miles visibility.  We could see the layer but it was well below us.  We all discussed the plan and I felt comfortable taking a shot at the ILS.  If we went missed we wouldn’t try again and just head for Decatur where we’d call someone to come pick us up.

Everything was looking good.  We were on the final approach course ILS32R and I was ready to concentrate on the approach.  I asked both CFIIs in the plane to please point out if they saw any large deviations.  A commercial jet was cleared for the approach just ahead of us and when they were on the ground they reported entering the muck around 1500′ (750 AGL) and seeing the runway lights around 1000′.  The ILS DH is only 950′!  This would be a true test of my skills but I was very confident as I’ve practiced this many times and I’ve remained current and proficient.  As we intercepted the glideslope I reduced power and started to follow the glideslope in.  I used the autopilot to help me stay on the localizer and to reduce the workload so I could really concentrate on the glideslope.  I was doing well following it in but I found myself fixating a bit on the glideslope and I noticed that was doing about 110 knots.  I pulled back power and the nose up a bit to slow down which caused me to be a little high on the glideslope.  I quickly corrected and then at about 1000′ (250′ AGL) I saw the approach lights pop out of nowhere.  It was an awesome feeling and I honestly didn’t expect them as close as they were but I was elated to see them!  I was just about ready to go missed and then I saw them.  The other 2 Jeffs in the plane reminded me that I still needed to fly the plane and land it which I did with another smooth landing.

In looking back on this situation I am very happy that I was able to experience this.  I believe we managed the risk very well and always had a plan and an “out”.  The temperatures were well above freezing as even at our cruise at 5000′ we were seeing temperatures a few degrees above freezing so this wasn’t a factor.  I made one mistake of fixating on the glideslope and not paying as much attention to airspeed as I should and I shouldn’t have tried to over correct when I did.  I had plenty of runway and should have gradually slowed down rather than trying to get to 90 knots immediately.  I didn’t expect to fly an actual ILS approach to minimums tonight but I feel that I was well prepared for it.  Many thanks to my instrument instructor – Frank Dorrin – for preparing me for this day and for all of the other safety pilots and instructors who I have worked with in remaining proficient.  Thank you Jeff B. & Jeff P. for joining me on this adventure!

2011 Aviation Update

It is that time of year where we look back on all the flights and summarize our stats.  I did not meet my goal of flying at least 100 hours this year but I did get quite a bit of experience and had some good adventures.  I also explored quite a few new airports in Illinois.  In 2012 I’m going to do better at planning destinations and put more hours on the airplane.  Here is a summary of 2011:

2011 Hours: 77.1

Total Hours: 484.1 – I was hoping to break 500 hours in 2011 as well but this will now have to wait until 2012

2011 Approximate Mileage: > 6,500 miles






















Notable flights:  Flew the family to St. Louis for Spring Break, Multiple trips to MI to see family and also to see the Michigan State-Wisconsin game in October, and the big trip was to Disney World in Florida where we had our summer vacation.

So even though I didn’t fly as much as I would have liked we still got some good use out of the airplane in 2011.  I look forward to many more trips in the coming year!

Happy New Year to all of you!

MSU Upsets Wisconsin with Hail Mary!

I’m always looking for a new adventure and excuse to fly the airplane somewhere.  A few months ago a couple of my coworkers suggested that we fly to a sporting event.  We decided that the Michigan State – Wisconsin college football game in East Lansing would be a great trip.  It was a night game and it would be the ESPN game of the week.  The College Gameday crew would also be there.  The plan quickly came together as Brad is a Michigan State graduate and season ticket holder he was able to procure a couple of extra tickets for the game.  Everything went well with the annual maintenance on N2893Z so the plane was ready for the trip.

A couple of days before the trip one of my coworkers had to back out so I made a call to Bob Buckley who lives in Michigan and asked if he could meet us for the day.  The weather outlook was looking great and everything was falling into place.  I picked Brad up early on Saturday morning and took him through the preflight ritual.  This was his first flight in a small airplane so I made sure to explain as much as possible and answer any questions he might have.  We were soon loaded up and taxing out to the run-up area where we quickly got our clearance and departed for our flight to Kalamazoo, MI (KAZO).  One of Brad’s good friends, Mike, would be meeting us there and we would be driving up to East Lansing.  The flight was one of the smoothest flights I have been on in a very long time.  I always like for someone’s first flight experience to be comfortable and this one didn’t disappoint.  Within about 90 minutes we were setting up for an uneventful approach and landing into Kalamazoo.

Mike picked us up and we made the drive over to East Lansing after a quick stop at McDonald’s for lunch.  We were very early for the game but the campus was busy with tailgaters already.  We walked all around the stadium and checked out what was going on.  We made a stop at the Bookstore and the Dairy for some excellent ice cream!  Bob finally met us and tailgated for a couple of hours before we headed into the game.  On the way into the game we saw Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s Athletic Director, talking to a group of Badger fans and alumni.

Even now I can’t explain how exciting of a football game this was.  It started out looking to be a blowout when Wisconsin scored two quick touchdowns.  Michigan State’s defense then came alive and got a safety, intercepted a pass, blocked a field goal and a punt.  The offense also followed up each of these with a couple of touchdowns and even a two point conversion on one of them.  At the half MSU was up 23-14.  In the 3rd quarter the defenses battled it out but then in the 4th Wisconsin was very strong and scored two touchdowns to tie up the game with only 1:26 left in the game.  It was looking like the game would go into overtime when on 3rd and 1 with 4 seconds left in the game Michigan State completed a 44 yard Hail Mary pass in the end zone to win the game!  The stadium was louder than I’ve ever heard a sporting event.  It was the best football game that I’ve ever been to and I’m sure it will be a long time if ever I see another one that tops it.  Click here for a recap of the game.  Bob snapped this picture right after the catch was ruled a touchdown and the team rushed the field.

After the game we finally made it back out to the parking lot and said our goodbyes to Bob.  Mike drove us back to Kalamazoo where we stayed at his house for the night.  In the morning he drove us to the airport and we departed for Champaign on another gorgeous day.  We flew right over South Bend on the way home and Brad was able to snap a couple of pictures.  We were back in Champaign before lunch.  It was a very fun adventure and I look forward to the next one!


N2893Z Annual

Surprisingly another year passed and it was time to bring N2893Z in for annual inspection.  We have now owned this plane for over 2 years and have flown many miles.  We have made multiple trips to Pennsylvania & Michigan to see family, New York City & Charlotte to see friends, Myrtle Beach and Orlando for vacations, and even used the plane to come out to Illinois to look for houses last year.  I also completed my instrument rating in early 2010 in N2893Z.  A quick look at the logbook shows 250 hours and more than 17,000 miles have been traveled!

Last year I took the plane to Cecil Aero Service at 58M for the annual inspection.  I took the week off and worked with Roger and the guys through every step of the process.  I learned so much about the plane and felt very good about being involved with the maintenance on the plane.  One of the things I was concerned about with moving to Illinois was finding another shop that I could trust.  Luckily it didn’t take long as I was referred to Schuler Aircraft Services at Paxton airport (1C1) which is a short hop from Champaign.  Jim Schuler is a mechanic at the University of Illinois Flight School as his day job and does work out of his hangar in Paxton in the evenings and on weekends.  I worked with Jim a few times over the last 6 months or so on miscellaneous items such as oil changes and a starter replacement and I could tell that he was a very knowledgeable mechanic so I scheduled the annual with him.  Jim even agreed to let me be apart of the process again and I even was able to purchase all the items such as oil, filters, and ELT battery prior to the annual to help keep costs down.

I flew the plane up to Paxton on Wednesday 9/28 and Jim and I went to work right away.  We drained the oil and checked compressions right away and all were good.  I went to work opening all the inspection covers, removing the wheel pants and seats.  Upon inspection of the filter we saw a few flakes of metal that were metallic.  I had taken an oil sample so I would send it in the next day.  Even though the cylinders are only 600 hours old it has been about 1930 hours since major overhaul and the engine is starting to show signs that a rebuild is coming.  We decided to increase the frequency and change the oil the next time at 25 hours and continue to monitor.

On Monday we got down to serious business and Jim continued his detailed inspection while I serviced the landing gear.  This is a messy job which entails cleaning and repacking the bearings.  I also turned the tires around as they were showing increased wear towards one side.  By the end of the night we had a list of all the parts I would need to order including brake pads and a capacitor for the alternator to address the whining I hear occasionally.  I also needed to order an exhaust stack for the #2 cylinder as Jim noticed a crack with some evidence of an exhaust leak.  The parts were received by Thursday we started putting everything back together and Jim started addressing some of the smaller items that he noted during the inspection.  He made a repair to the carb heat baffling and the rivets for the air filter enclosure.  I put on the new brakes and put the wheels back on.  Afterwards we set the height of all the wheel struts as the mains were low and the nose gear was high.  On Friday I came up to the shop during the day to vacuum the interior, close up all the inspection covers and reinstall the wheel pants.  Jim would get the exhaust tube and put that in on Friday night.

Saturday morning came and we had almost everything completed.  Jim continued to address some other minor things as I put on the tail cone assemble and cleaned the spark plugs.  By late afternoon everything had been completed and we pushed the plane out of the hangar to start up and do a leak check.  Everything checked out good so we pulled back into the hangar and put the cowling back on.  The only step left was for Jim to complete the documentation which he did on Sunday. Everything was settled up on Monday and I flew N2893Z back to Champaign that afternoon.

It has been another great annual I am glad to have been a part of the process.  My experience from last year helped out quite a bit as I was able to jump in without asking as many questions.  I also learned quite a few things this year as well though.  Jim was very patient and good to work with and I’m glad that I was able to find him.  Here are a couple of snapshots that I took after the annual was completed and when I brought the plane back to KCMI on Monday.

Nashville – September 2011

The original plan was to fly to Nashville, TN for Labor Day weekend and to meet up with Gary and Mary Mascelli for a couple of days.  Unfortunately, N2893Z was brought in for its biennial IFR certification on Thursday for what usually is only a few hour event.  It was still in the shop by midday on Friday so we decided to leave the plane and make the 6 hour drive rather than a 2 hour flight.  We made it to Nashville and checked into the Hampton Inn by Vanderbilt University and still had time to find a Ben & Jerry’s within walking distance of the hotel for a late evening ice cream fix.

The family woke up early on Saturday morning and enjoyed the breakfast at the Hampton.  The schedule was to meet up with the Mascelli’s at the Nashville Zoo.  We left the hotel early as we wanted to explore a little bit and also needed to get our Nashville Total Access passes.  We used these passes to see all the things that we wanted to see and it was really worth the money.  Nashville at 8 AM was pretty quiet and I noticed that we were right near the Hampton Inn in Downtown where the Mascelli’s were staying.  I had just gotten a text from Gary so I thought we’d surprise them by popping in and saying hello to them at breakfast.  After catching up quickly we left for the zoo and let them finish their breakfasts.

The Freys at the Nashville Zoo 09032011


The Freys at the Nashville Zoo 0903201103-Sep-2011 09:03, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 6.3, 7.466mm, 0.004 sec


The Nashville Zoo was the first adventure of the day.  Temperatures were forecast to be very hot so we thought we would get through the zoo early before it got too hot.  The zoo was really nice and setup very well.  The natural habitats were large and much of the walking paths were covered.  By lunch time we had seen most of everything and found a local place to eat right across from the zoo and all enjoyed cool drinks and a homestyle lunch.


The Freys on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville TN 09032011


The Freys on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville TN 0903201103-Sep-2011 15:13, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.02 sec


Right after lunch we headed to The Grand Ole Opry.  We bought tickets for the backstage tour and only had to wait about 30 minutes for the tour to start.  This tour was really interesting and we were taken through all the dressing rooms, The Family Room, and even were able to take pictures on stage.  It was a really cool venue and we would love to see a show here some day.  After the tour we made plans to meet up with the Mascelli’s for dinner and each went our own way for a couple of hours.  We drove around the outside of the huge Opryland Hotel and then headed back towards our hotel.  Right near our hotel is Centennial Park.  There was a music festival going on in there but we drove in to see The Parthenon.  We spent about an hour exploring this really interesting attraction and then went back to the hotel where the kids and I went out to the pool for a bit while Lori relaxed in the room.

For dinner we met up with the Mascelli’s at the Wild Horse Saloon.  This was a really fun place that had a big stage and a dance floor where they had line dance lessons.  Lori and Hannah got involved in the line dance lessons and Bryan even went out to show off a bit.  The food was good and by the time we were leaving a band was playing on stage.

Inside the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011d


Inside the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011d03-Sep-2011 18:34, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 4.0, 14.333mm, 0.067 sec

Lori and Hannah line dancing in the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011d


Lori and Hannah line dancing in the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011d03-Sep-2011 18:46, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec

Bryan dancing in the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011a


Bryan dancing in the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville TN 09032011a03-Sep-2011 19:16, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec


After dinner we made a short walk down the street and stopped in at the Hard Rock Cafe gift shop so Lori could add to her rather large collection of Hard Rock bears from all around the world.  Nashville was hopping.  It is a very vibrant town with lots to do.  There were a lot of people around, musicians on the street and all the Honky Tonks had bands playing in them.  Weather was coming in the next day so Gary made the good decision to leave early the following day to beat the storms.  We said our good-byes and walked around a bit before heading back to the hotel.

Inside the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville TN 09042011d


Inside the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville TN 09042011d04-Sep-2011 10:05, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec

The Freys on the stage in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 09042011b


The Freys on the stage in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN 09042011b04-Sep-2011 14:03, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.017 sec


Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast and headed into town again.  The first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame where we spent a few hours viewing all the exhibits.  We finished about lunch time and decided to get a pizza at Sbarro just as the rain started.  The Ryman Auditorium was a short walk and we decided to spend the afternoon there.  The Ryman Auditorium has a rich history and was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.  It was a rainy afternoon but we made the best of it and headed back to the hotel to rest a bit and decide where we were going to go for dinner.  When we got back to the hotel there was loud renovation work going on so we decided to check out and start the drive back home.  This was a good decision as the rain from Tropical Storm Lee started to come in.  We drove through it for about an hour and then it was dry the rest of the way home.  We were back in Illinois a day early and would have Labor Day to relax and recover from the weekend.

Gary and Mary Mascelli in front of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville TN 09032011


Gary and Mary Mascelli in front of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville TN 0903201103-Sep-2011 13:53, Canon Canon PowerShot SD700 IS, 5.6, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec


Even though we ended up driving, we had a fun trip to Nashville.  It was great to see Gary and Mary and we hope to be able to catch up with them again soon.  Both Gary and I commented on just how much we miss being able to fly with each other.  Nashville is an exciting and vibrant town.  There is a lot of history and interesting things to see and I’m sure that we will be back someday!

Click here to see all our album of pictures from our weekend in Nashville.

It’s a Small World!

A couple of months after we moved to Monticello, Lori’s Uncle Bill stopped in for a visit at our new home in Monticello, Illinois.  He told Lori that her Grandfather was from a town called Deland, which is the next town north of us, and he gave us a copy of an article of where her Great-Grandfather had been killed working on the railroad near Springfield.  Here is a link to the story of her Great-Grandfather’s death – Louis Franklin Hassinger – Death.

As you may or may not know Jeff has done quite a bit of the family’s genealogy over the years.  By doing some quick searches Jeff found quite a bit of information about Lori’s family and surprisingly we found many relatives that were from the area where we now live.  These are all descendants of her Grandfather – William Darrell Hassinger.  His father was Louis Franklin Hassinger and both of his parents Samuel Adam Hassinger and Emma Pitts Hassinger are buried in Goose Creek Township Cemetery in Deland.  This is only about a 10 minute drive from our home in Monticello.  We went up there and the Sexton helped us locate the grave and cleaned up the top of the stone.

Even more surprising, we found that her Great-Grandmother’s Parents and Grandparents are buried in Monticello Township Cemetery, which only about a mile from our new house.  William E. Kesler, Ella Troxell Kesler, Salem Kesler and Malinda Stebleton Kesler are all buried in the same plot.  Salem Kesler is Lori’s 3rd Great-Grandfather and he lived from 1830 to 1924.  Here is a picture of him that I found during the search.  The Sexton for the Monticello Cemetery was also very helpful and pointed us in the direction of the plot where all 4 are buried.  All of their names are on the grave stone but they also each have an individual headstone.  Below are pictures of the family plot.

It is quite a coincidence that we moved to this area and have uncovered this about Lori’s family history.  Please leave a comment and if you come across this page and have additional information or are a relative please reach out to us.  If you are interested more in these relationships and to see the family tree click on this link: William Darrel Hassinger Pedigree