Alaska & Canada to Wisconsin, July 2007, part 4

Wednesday, 25-July

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?

    Tach: 0.9     Hobbs: 1:03     Gallons: 18.00     Cost: $087.30     Track: (131.5 / 137 nm) Weyburn-Minot.kmz
    Tach: 3.1     Hobbs: 3:37     Gallons: 48.10     Cost: $227.99     Track: (491.5 / 502 nm) Minot-ARV.kmz

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.

Thursday 2-Aug

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.

    Tach: 3.4     Hobbs: 3:38     Gallons: 52.30     Cost: $228.35     Track: (484.1 / 491 nm) ARV-ANW.kmz
    Tach: 1.8     Hobbs: 2:00     Gallons: 28.03     Cost: $111.28     Track: (280.7 / 290 nm) ANW-BDU.kmz

Friday, 3-Aug

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.

Saturday, 4-Aug

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 retelling.

    Tach: 2.9     Hobbs: 3:12     Gallons: 46.30     Cost: $213.20     Track: (446.1 / 456 nm) BDU-ELY.kmz
    Tach: 2.3     Hobbs: 2:33     Gallons: 36.90     Cost: $164.21     Track: (359.3 / 366 nm) ELY-PAO.kmz

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).

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