Log 17- CO, WY & Dakotas

08/22/08

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Sept 8, 2005
LBF-7V8-SNY-7V6
North Platte, Nebraska to Julesburg, Colorado to Sydney, Nebraska to Guernsey, Wyoming

We get stuck in North Platte another day waiting on weather.  This has been a discouraging week as every morning when I look at the satellite picture it seems the only rain has been exactly in my area.  Ninety percent of the country has had glorious weather but the rain has followed us day by day across Nebraska and now towards Wyoming. 

When I finally leave North Platte it is in calm winds and my flight south towards my home state of Colorado is pleasant and easy. 

Here in the arid west where there are only 12 inches of rain per year the only way to grow crops is to irrigate and the most effective way to do that is with a long sprinkler pipe that is mounted in the center of a field and which revolves in a big circle. 

All across the midwest the fields covered nearly every inch of ground right up to the roads and were all perfect rectangles, while here they are all circles and the corners of each field are left dry and barren.  Often the farm houses would be put on these otherwise unusable corners of the land. 

I learned to fly in Denver and most of the airports of eastern Colorado are familiar to me because as a student and novice pilot I gained experience on the flat plains of Colorado before venturing westwards into the high mountains.  Today I'll just touch into Colorado at Julesburg before turning back northwards to Sydney, Nebraska. 

The runway at Julesburg is also used for drag racing on weekends but flight service has assured me today it is an airport.  I come in low over the field checking the condition of the runway then land on runway 13 and taxi over to the deserted hangar area.  There is no one in sight and not much to see here so I quickly get airborne again for Sydney, Nebraska.

Sydney is a popular destination for Denver area pilots because of the nearby Cabella's headquarters store which has a huge collection of mounted animal trophies and nature dioramas.  As I land the lineman who guides me to a parking spot asks if I want the Cabella's courtesy van to come get me.  I'm just here for fuel today so after a quick fill-up I take-off for Wyoming. 

As I get into Wyoming it begins to live up to its reputation and the wind begins to blow rippling the grass beneath me like an ocean wave and making the gyro yaw this way and that.  In the next week I will be crossing the Continental Divide and so today I climb to 6,000 feet just to see how my gyro will perform when I really need it.  The climb rate is sluggish but with today's high temperatures the 6,000 feet is equivalent to 7,200 feet which is as high as I will need to go. 

When I land at Guernsey Dee is already on the ground waving.

                                             

 

                                     

 

Sept 9, 2005
7V6-ECS-EFC-BPP
Guernsey to New Castle, Wyoming to Belle Fouche, South Dakota to Bowman, North Dakota

My climb out from Guernsey is pathetic.  The airport is at 4,400 feet elevation and with the morning already quite warm the gyro is barely getting airborne.  I am northbound but spend the first few minutes of the flight going out of my way to avoid higher terrain to the west.  As usual I am scanning the gauges every minute or so when I notice my engine water temperature gauge is down below the green arc and is vibrating.  My first instinct is to look below me for emergency landing spots of which there are plenty.  I then consult my GPS and see that returning to Guernsey is 30 miles while my destination is over 70 miles away.   I reason that if it is really a problem it won't last 30 miles or 70 miles so I might as well continue on my way.   I watch it very closely for several minutes and its motion never changes convincing me it is most likely a loose wire that is only getting an intermittent or partial signal.   This comforts me greatly until 10 minutes later when I realize with a jolt that if the engine were to overheat I would not even know it until it seized up solid.  To make matters worse this is the hardest I have yet pushed my engine with the high altitude, hot temperatures and high power settings. 

It is with relief that I land at New Castle, Wyoming to find that as suspected it was a partially loose wire.  When the FBO operator comes over to see the gyro I am prepared for the usual questions about what it is but instead he recognizes exactly which model it is and tells me there is one like it based there at the field.  He informs  me the owner has just put it on a trailer this week and will soon be driving to the big gyro fly-in at El Mirage, California.  We too hope to make that fly-in so hopefully we will meet out there. 

The wind are still not strong so I decide to detour to see Devil's Tower made famous by Spielberg's movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and then it is on to Belle Fouche, South Dakota.  As I descend towards Belle Fouche I have the west wind behind me and I see 90 knots ground speed on my GPS- my fastest so far. 

At Belle Fouche as at New Castle I am able to land on the grass runway and then I taxi up to the FBO where I am treated to fresh baked donuts and cupcakes to top off the sandwich Dee has packed for me.  The couple running the FBO have recently moved here from Durango, Colorado and are full of stories of flying in Colorado and Alaska where they spend their summers. 

From here to Bowman, North Dakota the land is rugged and dry.  By now the temperature is up to 96 degrees and the both the gyro and I are laboring in the heat.   The moment I land it feels like the moisture is sucked out of my body, nevertheless I still prefer the West's dry heat to the soggy humidity of the south. 

This is the first time on the entire trip where Dee's motorhome road and my flying route went different directions, so tonight I am staying in a motel with plans to meet her tomorrow in Montana.  I am not on my own for long though as I get a friendly small town welcome from Max running the airport here and he quickly offers me the overnight use of the airport van. 

 

                

               

 

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This site was last updated 10/16/05

Copyright Rob Dubin 2005