Alaska & Canada to Wisconsin, July 2007, part 4
Somewhat unexpectedly it was raining when we awoke. The locals were ecstatic
at the break from the heat wave. The flight briefer claimed that there was
a line of thundershowers that I would be crossing to get to North Dakota.
I found it difficult to understand the briefer who had little patience with
someone unfamiliar with the local place names. The hotel had a "free high
speed connection" (which turned out to be as slow as dial-up), but I used
it to access weather information. My favorite weather products don't work
north of the border, complicating the process. At first I found the radar
chart incomprehensible. The only locations identified on the map were
airport 4 letter ID codes which of course do not appear on the sectional
charts. To make matters worse, the ID codes near the storm cells were
illegible. (I'm sure the local pilots can easily interpret these charts,
but they sure make it hard for us strangers.)
When I finally understood the weather information I was receiving I realized
that it didn't really look that bad. There was plenty of space between cells
along my route and by flying low and remaining visual, I could avoid flying
thru any storms. (This indeed turned out to be the case).
I filed my flight plan, and tried to notify customs in Grand Forks. The office
was closed and the recording referred me to the phone number of a FSS that
had been closed over a year ago. (I later found out that the customs officer
had taken a bereavement leave.) I changed my plan to enter the country at
Minot, ND although it was a bit out of the way and doubled the length of
our final ND to WI leg.
The Minot customs agent was nice and friendly - yet very thorough. Every i
and t had to be dotted and crossed and he even searched some of our bags. The
other airport workers teased him for rummaging thru peoples luggage - which
sounded like well worn banter about a frequent occurrence. So I don't think
it was because we looked like criminals.
The flight to Wisconsin only had to deal with a few scattered clouds
making the storms of this morning seem a distant memory. As we have done
for now the 7th time (6th consecutive summer), we buzzed the lake to
announce our arrival until we got a wave from one of the cousins on the dock.
(Cell phone reception here ranges from poor to non-existent).
Sara (Susan's sister) came to the airport (ARV) to pick us up. Sara claimed
that by now she can tell it is us by the sound our engine makes. This is one
of our homes away from home, and the kids were happy to be back in familiar
territory. We wasted no time before jumping in the lake. This is a lake
we have all grown to love thanks to the hospitality of my wonderful in-laws
and their children. To the left is Jenna with her cousin Matthew, and to the
right shows "king of the raft", certainly a favorite for my kids.
Again a poem my daughter wrote this evening expresses our
feelings toward this place better than I ever could:
Sunlight golden through the trees, the lake is calm and still.
An eagle flies into the sun, two loons call and trill.
The lake is tinted orange, the sun sinks through the trees.
The loons call and flutter along the evening breeze.
Everytime my paddle dips, my heart is filled with peace.
What fairy's wand has cast this spell? When will this illusion cease?
One bird is singing on the shore, her family out of hearing.
Is this paradise too deceiving, when its end could be nearing?
Track: (131.5 / 137 nm)
Track: (491.5 / 502 nm)
Thursday 26-July thru Wednesday 1-Aug
The lake provides us with most of the activities here including
... king of the raft, swimming across the lake, walking around the lake,
sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, and, paddling. We round out the
week with a small handful of non-lake activities such as reading, story
telling, Frisbee, archery, juggling, and the newest toy - slack lining.
In the bow of the canoe is David (my brother-in-law) and in the stern is Susan's
uncle Jack (my favorite Hough - not counting Susan of course). It was especially
nice to see Jack again because the last time we saw him (2 years ago) his
implanted defibrillator was often shocking him as we watched. As we said goodbye
the tears in his eyes told us he didn't expect to see us again. It was on Jack's
farm, during our 1st Wisconsin flying adventure in '89 that I proposed to his
niece, that begat all the following family flying adventures.
Time to load up our airplane once again and say our farewells until next summer.
And here is our last view of the lake as we fly over it heading west.
On the left side of the airplane we get a good view of the Minneapolis international
airport. To the right is a view of downtown Minneapolis, and on the far right is a
picture of the bridge that collapsed a few days ago. The FSS briefer said that of
course there was a temporary flight restriction around "the bridge" as if I would
know about it. Having not seen a newspaper recently, I hadn't a clue.
We battled head winds thru Wisconsin and Minnesota, but nearing Nebraska the winds
diminished and eventually turned into a slight tail wind nearing Colorado.
I had called my friend Rick (a former airplane partner) just yesterday and
mentioned that I would be passing thru, possibly with a stop in Boulder.
We arrived in Boulder even sooner than expected, yet somehow Rick was able to drop
everything to come pick us up and then spend nearly two days with us.
After bringing our stuff to Rick's house, we drove to a local park where
Susan, Alex, and Jenna tramped thru the rushing river getting somewhat
wet (especially Jenna of course) while Rick and I played catch with the
Frisbee. On the way back, Rick took us out to a fancy tea place where
we marvelled at the decor and wonderful teas.
Track: (484.1 / 491 nm)
Track: (280.7 / 290 nm)
Rick had convinced us to stay an extra day, so early in the morning we
drove about 45 minutes up into the mountains for a hike. Even the beginning
of the hike (at 10,600 feet) was at a higher elevation than Alex, Jenna,
or Susan had ever hiked. The thin air affected Jenna and Susan more, and
they turned around perhaps 300 feet from the summit. At about that point
the already strong winds picked up even more, to perhaps 50 mph! Rick,
Alex, and I braved the cold winds and managed to reach the summit
(at 13,200 feet). It was a struggle for both of us to keep up with the
scampering Rick, and I noticed Alex seemed quite pleased that he managed
to make it. I accidently left the camera behind, so I can't share the
amazing views with you.
I get to fly over the Rockies and the Sierra at least once or twice a year
yet I never tire of the views. Each time is just as exciting for me as the
previous. Unfortunately, the last leg is often the bumpiest of the trip, and
this one proved the point. For me, the clouds and the bumps in the road
actually make the flight more interesting and fun although I try not to
express this viewpoint too strongly as Jenna and Susan start to
turn various shades of green. The wrist bands that deliver a small
electric shock periodically do help quite a bit (for some unknown reason)
and all is forgiven as Palo Alto airport comes into view. As much fun
as travel is, there's no place like home.
I've added 46.5 hours to the tach (about 53 hours of engine running time)
in the last three weeks and have enjoyed every minute. The last couple of
weeks with my family makes me realize how lucky I am that they all enjoy
the spontaneity of light plane travel and the usual mix of adventure and
mis-adventure that results. Each trip is different, but the one thing that
stays the same is that they always bring our family even closer together
and add to our shared memories and the tall tales that grow taller with each
Track: (446.1 / 456 nm)
Track: (359.3 / 366 nm)
Click here to go back to part 1 (Friday, 13-Jul).
Click here to go back to part 2 (Monday, 16-Jul).
Click here to go back to part 3 (Saturday, 21-Jul).
Click here to go back to the mennen.org home page.