Published: May 30th 2008May 27th 2008
Editor Note For those of you who can't wait: as you probably know thanks to relay from Anne, we landed safely in mid-afternoon at Black Hills airport in South Dakota. Account of today -- which has three minutes left in it in our time zone -- and yesterday are pending as soon as we can get to them. I had this text finished last night, but it takes another half hour to upload and annotate pictures, and it was after midnight when I got that much done. In case you're wondering what's so hard about writing a blog entry when we only seem to fly less than four hours most days...so much of the average day is spent figuring out whether or not we're going to fly. That's Job One, and so bashing away at the blog isn't a fill-in task, as both flight planning and blog writing require an amount of concentration that's not easy to split and do either task well.
Thank you for reading, and for providing commentary like, "Gee, I want to know less about the personalities and more about the flying." and "What the heck what all that stuff in Latin? People don't care about
that!" On days when there's less flying, there's, um, more personalities. I do quiz the gang in the evenings to get their comments, and they ALL have access to add/edit/annotate the blog. Bob at least complains when I cut-and-paste entries badly, and for that I apologize. Otherwise, I work with what I've got. You'll see more FLYING commentary and photos in the entries about the next two days. Soon. Honest.
For The Love of The Sport
A tribute to reasons why people like to hunt elk.
Our second day in Montana ...
began as most have -- with a review of the weather.
Judy had gotten a flight service briefing the night before. When the first thing the briefer said was, "VFR is not recommended along your entire planned route of flight for the whole day. We have an AIRMET for mountain obscuration, low visibility in fog and mist," Judy said, "Thanks very much; you've told me everything I need to know."
Dick and Bill like to work weather scenarios in more detail, and rose early to review all available information, as usual. Judy and Ruth listened as Dick quizzed a couple from North Carolina over breakfast, whom he had met the day before when he noticed their sectional charts. who were also
Hunting in the Gift Shop
Dick, Ruth and Bill check out gifts including Elk Droppings (a fine chocolate confection available for sale)
making a coast to coast to coast flight, in a Mooney 201. THEY had left on May 1st! The couple had made slow progress over the past weeks, some days making only as little as sixty or a hundred miles. They planned to depart to the southeast of Missoula, despite the forecast of mountain obscuration, and fly a river valley through Rogers Pass and on to Great Falls, where the weather was supposed to improve.
This option certainly had seductive elements, especially for pilots who were feeling more than a little chuffed by their recent flight from Aurora, Oregon through virga and scud into the mouth and the length of the Columbia River Gorge while facing partial mountain obscuration that had been forecast to clear. Based on the entirely too fresh experience of the trip from Walla Walla through the narrowing slice of clear air between the cloud bottoms and mountain tops, and the narrowly-missed experience of icing, Judy felt spooked just by even the energetic discussion that Bill and Dick were having about the possibility of flying through river valleys surrounded by obscured peaks. Ruth called the FBO nearest to Rogers Pass, and spoke to a local pilot
Big Sky, Missoula
And this was the sky we looked at and tried not to think about why we weren't flying in it, having decided that whatever it was doing here, it wasn't supposed to be decent enough to head elsewhere.
who said she was hoping to fly the pass and could look through it and see a ceiling and some light, but couldn't tell what conditions were like on the other side, and so had decided not to fly, at least for a while.
Ultimately, the group decided to stay put for the day, even though the day in Missoula featured some frustratingly, revoltingly, lovely weather in the valley. Those who enjoy Monday Morning Quarterbacking could well look back and say, you know, we really could have waited a bit later in the day, and gotten a bit further... but we didn't, and so we regrouped to see what the day would bring.
Judy, Bill, Ruth and Dick wandered over to the Elk Museum a few blocks from the hotel, saw well-curated displays about the wildlife of the region and the particular pleasure that the area's residents find in shooting elk, whether with rifle or bow-and-arrow, and the extensive conservation, habitat preservation, and re-introduction of elk that nature-minded citizens had successfully undertaken. They walked back to the Ruby's Inn, where Ruth arranged to rent a van for the day so we could see a bit more of the
area, as our hotel was out in the -- honest! -- Missoula suburbs.
That done, the six of us piled in and headed for the Mountain Flying Museum, another well-curated local attraction that featured extensive displays, particularly about the Johnson Flying Service and the Smoke Jumpers based at this airport over the years and all they had done to fight forest fires. A DC-3, configured as it would have been to transport 28 fully-equipped smoke jumpers, was the premier static display among many fascinating exhibits. Janice bought books on Mountain Flying and Amelia Earhart.
For lunch we hit up the perfectly adequate Iron Horse Grill by the railway station, and split into two different parties: climbers and resters. Bill dropped off Judy, Ruth and Dick at the University of Montana campus so they could climb to the "M" -- a huge white concrete letter poured into the side of Mount Sentinel. (The other lettered mountain nearby sports an "L", which used to be for something else, but now is maintained by Loyola High School on the slope of nearby Mount Jumbo). Bob and Janice went back to the motel to relax. Bill drove back to the base of
Johnson Flying Service DC-3
as configured for 28 smoke jumpers
the "M" path, where he joined Dick and Ruth to trek to the "M". Judy, meanwhile, had decided that nothing less than the summit of Mount Sentinel would do for her, and so she took an hour or so to climb to that peak, thoroughly enjoying herself and the prospect of a dinner well-earned (as well as a jaunt of fitness more visually interesting than the alternative: another 150 laps of the pool).
The four of them scouted for dinner, picked up a few groceries at the Safeway, and got a recommendation for the Whitewater Grill from the Assistant Manager of the Safeway. Duly advised, we chilled down and quaffed some pre-prandial brewskis and other beverages, did some initial flight planning, and found out that we had three hours to wait before another forecast came out. We thus set out for dinner, with Bill in the driver's seat demonstrating the turning radius of the van through a series of navigational exercises rife with U-turns. We did get to the Grill where a sprightly waitress joshed with us and frankly said that the dessert there weren't nearly as worthwhile as we'd find a trip to the nearby Big Dipper. THIS
night's reason proffered for why BOB was handed the tab (which is usually what happens) was, "You look rich!" That got her an extra big tip as we headed out to find the Big Dipper ice cream emporium.
"You know how you can tell this is a cold climate here?" quizzed Janice. "It's fifty degrees out and that girl is wearing flipflops and practically no clothes. (Well, she had on a pair of camisoles, but really, bare shoulders and all, it was practically naked from our point of view...)
Four of the six-some got wonderful hand-made ice cream; two watched wistfully, and the comely lass at the takeout window just fell in love with Bucky. "He's so SOFT! Can I squeeze him?" Bob got his canine fix by frolicking briefly with one of the patrons' St Bernard dogs. We knew the place had to be good: the local fire department drove up and the buff lads hopped off the truck and strode up into line for licks.
Bill was implored to find a route home to enable us to photograph the sunset, which he did through yet another series of U-turns directed by more backseat driving...and then,
the piece de resistance: a sudden right turn across four lanes of traffic to dive into the McDonald's, where Bucky had not yet been photographed. Let's say there was much honking by local traffic and many colorful epithets from within the van. A good adrenaline rush was had by all.
The flight service briefing and weather review looked more than a little promising...with the imbedded possibility, once again, that "...if we don't get out of here tomorrow, we'll be here for another WEEK!"
We went to bed with the idea of convening at 7 am to see what the day would bring.
There are more photos below