As they say all good things must come to an end. Oshkosh was much fun and I am glad I got the experience. I have high hopes that I will go again next year. There is so much more to see and I really need the whole week to see everything. The Airshow was exceptional each day. I got to see some rare and exotic military aircraft, ate some good food and chatted with lots of pilots from all over the nation.
I ended up staying an extra night in Portage due to bad weather. The storms were really big and strong just to the south so I opted to stay on the ground an extra day and go early the next morning. After another good meal and a solid night’s rest in Portage, I packed up the plane and flew back to St. Louis, where I landed at KCPS St. Louis Downtown. One fun moment was the approach to the airport. I was flying south, descending and was instructed to land on runway 12 by entering a left base. This approach put me right down the Mississippi river and gave me a great view of the arch. Just after I snapped this pic the plane was forced straight up about 200 feet from a thermal. Stuff went flying all over the cabin. Seems there is a giant turbine with big fans blowing straight up right there. Scared me a bit, but I landed just fine without incident.
I spent the night there in St. Louis with the wife and the next morning we flew out to Arkansas to go camping. We selected the Petit jean State Park camping site because they had an airport right next door. The park is right next to the Arkansas river sitting up on a bluff high above the rest of the valley.
We did not go straight to the camp as we needed to stock up for the outing. I called ahead to the airport in the next town called Russellville Regional KRUE to let them know we were coming, and to request the use of the crew car to go shopping at the local grocery store. We landed after a couple hours of very warm flight. The airport manager met us and gave us the keys to the crew car. Nice folks there at Russellville. I highly recommend the stop and patronage if you are in the area.
I picked Russellville, not only for the good name, but also because there was a Wal-Mart super center only a few miles away. This made getting the groceries and other supplies we needed for camping very easy. By planning ahead to pick up supplies here we did not have to cart a bunch of extra weight with us all the way from Florida.
We departed out of Russellville and flew to the Petit jean Airport. It was a hot day and we were pretty close to max weight between all our supplies and food. The climb out was slow, but steady and after a short climb I turned us on course and we flew to Petit jean. The landscape along the way was really lush and green. Lots of low hill, farmland and forest all mixed together and intertwined with rivers. Very pretty country.
Camping at Petit Jean
Petit jean State park is located on top of a hill. If you watch the video above you will see the Arkansas river borders this sudden change in elevation where the park resides on top. It looked like someone built a huge mound and then sliced off the top and made it flat. Very unique geography.
The camping experience was not quite what we hoped. Maybe it was just too hot and uncomfortable, or perhaps it was a bit too rustic. We opted to stay in a yurt down on the lake front. My logic was that we did not need to bring a tent, we would have electricity and gas cooking grill and bunk beds provided, so all we needed was food and clothes. Unfortunately we were really far from everything else in the camp. With the exceptional heat it was very hard to get about and sleeping at night was hot and sticky to say the least. Next time we will book a cabin with A/C, or come here in the fall when it is cooler. After four days of camping we departed Petit-Jean and headed for Memphis to visit some friends and have some BBQ.
We departed Petit jean on a hot day. As you will see from the video above the Comanche did not climb all that well and I had to turn out from the rising terrain to avoid skimming the trees. Really pretty flight all the way over to Memphis. The rapidly changing geography made for some delightful scenery as we headed east towards the Mississippi river. There was one small moment of excitement. As we approached Searcy Municipal KSRC at about 3500 feet I spotted a flight of two C130 military transports flying a southerly route that would intersect ours. I climbed up a bit and tuned to the local CTAF. We were within a mile or less of each other when I heard them calling and was able to let them know where we were so that we avoided each other easily. ATC must have warned them of our presence and they finally tuned in to talk to me.
Landing at General Dewitt-Spain
The flight to Memphis took just about an hour. I planned Dewitt Spain airport as it was closest to downtown, which made for easy access. For some reason I still had it in my head that the Mississippi river was something romantic. In reality it is one dirty water river that often goes over the banks and threatens all the towns along it’s shores. It demands respect. While in the FBO at Dewitt Spain I saw a sign on the wall that showed how high the water had come in the last flood. It was above the front door. Basically the entire bottom floor of the building was underwater. Quite a sobering reminder of the power of nature.
We met up with our friend and I took him and his son out for a fly in the Comanche. I always enjoy introducing folks to the fine art of flying. We went out over the city and around his home. I let him take the controls after a few minutes of flight basics and he did pretty good maneuvering the plane around. I had to redirect them once as we were headed right into the Memphis Bravo. Overall I would call the flight A success as he came back asking all sorts of questions about how to get his own plane and get a pilot’s licence. Job complete, seed planted.
After that introduction to flight we ventured down to Beale street and went to the Blues City Cafe for some great BBQ. Beale street is a unique experience with restaurants galore and music coming out of every doorway. The swell of people, the mixture of food aromas and the sounds of blues playing made for one powerfully nostalgic trip that made us we want to stay for more. We will have to go back and try some of the other establishments when we have a chance.
The food at Blues City was spectacular, and not just because I was really hungry from all the smells. I had a half rack of ribs that were so good it made me want to slap my mamma. The wife tried the catfish and I traded her some ribs for a taste. I have to say it was well worth the trip to try this place out. The food was great.
After this fantastic meal with good friends we packed back into the plane and flew to Nashville to spend the night. More on this topic in Part 5 – Stay tuned!