One of the joys of living in the Carolina’s is that you experience mild weather (Played golf in shorts on December 6th) and you still enjoy the changing seasons. Our Japanese Maple in our front court yard puts on a beautiful display of color before its short hibernation until early spring. This happens annually a week or so after Thanksgiving as the Christmas decorations go up.
We are certainly blessed.
Brother Mike and Sister Patty arrived from Oregon on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We had Tuesday to hang out and catch up. Weather cold and rainy so they felt right at home. Wednesday evening Jennifer, Mike and Alexandra arrived from Florida. Thursday, we celebrated in at traditional family way with breakfast, football, Thanksgiving dinner, and more football, with lots of socializing the whole day. Alexandra has been working hard with school and her many extra curricular activity so she really enjoyed watching TV and just being a 9 year old girl. Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic, with Patty and Jennifer helping Joyce the master chef prepare the traditional feast.
We all had much to be thankful for and enjoyed just being family.
The day after Thanksgiving we split into two contingents, female for shopping, lunch and a movie, male fly to the Kennedy Space Center to tour.
Mike, Michael and Gil were in the air by 9:30 AM as planned for the one and a half hour flight to Tittusville, Florida. Pick up a rental car and arrive by 11:00 AM at the visitors center. A quick lunch and we started touring, which included a tour of the facility and launch pad area a then a tour of the Apollo Command center that is huge exhibit. The exhibit is very well done and we enjoyed it but ran through it because of our limited time. We could have spent several hours there. Included in the building is a Saturn rocket, which is absolutely huge along with many interesting displays.
We then went to the Atlantis building and rushed through that tour. Again, it was done very well with the space shuttle Atlantis and may exhibits to see. We ran out of time and had to head back to beat darkness and arrive for dinner.
We were in the air by 4:30 PM but it gets dark early in December so we landed at night, but arrived in time for another great family dinner of shrimp and grits. The men got a full report on the shopping and movie, but think they made the right choice.
Saturday we headed out to Spring Island for the after Thanksgiving owners market and to show Patty that part of the low country. Sun shining but still cool. We arrived and there were golden retriever puppies for sale at the gate and Alexandra was smitten. The result the Montgomery adopted a 8 week old bundle of fur, that they named Autumn. Patty purchased a Gullah sweet grass basket and a few other items where purchased before a tour of the island and lunch at Chechessee Creek Club.
That evening Heidi, Gary, Kinsey and Caitlin Prado arrived and we had a chance for the entire family to visit, between football games. Kinsey and Caitlin stayed over and joined in Thanksgiving dinner II. Heidi, Gary and Brenn went on to Savannah to watch the Missouri game.
Sunday morning Jen, Mike, Alexandra and the two Prado girls were on the road early. They dropped off Kinsey and Caitlin in Savannah and endured some rain and heavy post Thanksgiving traffic back to Fort Lauderdale.
2013 will go down as one of the best Thanksgivings ever, and we certainly have much to be thankful for including being part of a great family.
TAG USA Gymnastic Team won first place and are the 2013 Florida State Champions.
Alexamdra finished second all around and was first in Vault and Bars and third in Floor.
On Friday November 15, Joyce and I flew to Charleston to join over 30 other COPA members and guests for a weekend in Charleston. We were greeted by Rick and Cathy Hegenberger who organized the event and were our hosts. They had everything organized with a goodie bag with everything we need, including name tags, maps, agenda for the weekend, plus a pound of grits and Cathy’s favorite shrimp and grits recipe. Pizza, turkey wraps and water were also waiting for those who had traveled father. We had pilots from as far away as California, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, as well as the Carolina s. Once all arrived we were taken a short distance to Charleston Coast Guard Station. We were given a presentation of air sea rescue, a tour of the facility and we inspected the rescue helicopter. This was a great way to start our trip.
We were then transported to our downtown Charleston Hotel, in time to change and meet for cocktails and dinner. There was lots of socializing and meeting new COPA friends. After dinner Mason Holland, COPA member and CEO of Eclipse aviation gave us a very comprehensive briefing on the state of the light jet industry and Eclipse.
After dinner more socializing and then it was time for bed, tomorrow was going to be a very full day.
Saturday dawned a typical fall day in the seventies, perfect for doing some touring. Joyce and I have signed up for the two planned tours with the majority of the attendees, others toured by foot, shopped or visited with friends. The tour started at 9:30 AM so after breakfast and more socializing we boarded the tour bus. Our guide was a none stop history lesson and on top of that his delivery was a hoot, that added to the fun. We finished in time to have lunch at a near by restaurant with the Dawson’s before our next tour of the WWII Aircraft carrier Yorktown.
After the touring there was time for a little socializing then change for cocktails and dinner at the restaurant High Cotton in a private room. After dinner we were treated to a talk by Ret. Admiral Bob Besal who told us about whaat a typical day was as skipper of a nuclear aircraft carrier. He also told us about a very interesting aspect of his career as a naval aviator. Bob was a fantastic after dinner speaker.
Sunday, morning it was time to fly back to Hilton Head. Rick and Cathy. of course were there at breakfast and then to make sure everyone caught the buses back to the airport. We all thanked our organizers and host Rick and Cathy Hegenberger for treating us to a great weekend, and took off for the 17 minuet flight home, which took a little longer since KHXD was at minimums but we made the approach and were home by 11:0 AM. Another great COPA weekend, thanks to two great COPA volunteers.
As is our custom we have planned a cross country flying trip in September when the weather is normally good across the country. This year we are going to Colorado Springs to visit friends and then on to Bozeman, Montana to tour Yellowstone park. We leave Dayton, Monday, September 15th, on our first leg to Des Moines, Iowa. We have planned three different routes and elect to take the northern route to avoid thunderstorms. We arrive in Des Moines, and make an instrument approach due to low clouds. We refuel, have lunch and are on our way to Colorado Springs in short order. We encounter more clouds and some rain along with a head wind and make another instrument approach into KCOS. We are met by our friend Arron Woods, manager of the Colorado Jet Center who gives us the special COPA rate and put our plane in his hangar. Our friend and former colleague Pino Bassani, who we are visiting is there to meet us and we are off to the fabulous Bassani villa in the foothills adjacent to the Garden of the Gods. We are made comfortable and Suzy Bassani has planned a small dinner party with pilot friends. The evening turns out to be delightful. Suzy is a world class chef, and knows how to pick great wines, as well as friends, so we have a great time, in-spite of our long day in the air. The next day Pino plays tour guide and we are off to Pikes Peak, then the Garden of the Gods, lunch at the Kissing Camel Club, then a tour of the Broadmore Hotel. We have another fantastic dinner at the Bassani’s, making our stay perfect.
The next day its up early for our flight to Bozeman, Montana. There are strong headwinds, so we have plan B to stop in Caspar Wyoming, which turns out to be what we do. Weather at Bozeman, forecasts a chance of icing conditions so we want plenty of fuel in case we need to go to an alternate airport. It all works out and we land in Bozeman ready to explore Yellowstone starting tomorrow. In Bozeman, Arlin Aviation gives us great service and puts our plane in our friend Rick Hegenberger’s hangar. This is much appreciated considering the possibility of nasty weather in the area. We are off to the hotel and after a steak dinner, its time for a good nights sleep.
Thursday morning we meet our Yellowstone Safari guide, Vickie Backus at 7:30 AM. Vickie turns out to be very bright, PHD, and delightful and will make our trip a complete success. We head south toward the north entrance to Yellowstone and start seeing wild life and beautiful scenery even before we get to the park. We see elk at the entrance to the park, bison, pronghorn, and a grizzly all before our first picnic lunch on the Yellowstone River. We travel through the beautiful Lamar valley looking for wolves, black bear and moose arriving at the town of Silver Gate the northeast entrance to the park where we spend the night. We stay in a log cabin which is comfortable and have our best dinner in the park, fresh trout, at the local café.
Day two, Thursday we are up early looking for moose and wolves. The elusive moose is no where to be seen, however we hit the jack pot and join a large group observing three wolves of the Butte Junction pack eating a elk that they have killed. The wolves are three miles away and we observe and photograph through spotting scopes. After seeing the wolves we see a number of animals in the valley including a very beautiful coyote lounging in the morning sun. We then head for Mammoth hot springs to see our first geothermal activity in Yellowstone. On our way we see another grizzly bear sleeping on a bison carcass at Swan Lake. After picnic lunch by a natural springs, we head for Yellowstone lake where we will spend the night. On the way through the Hayden Valley we see bison swimming the Yellowstone river. We spend he night at the Lake Lodge over looking Lake Yellowstone.
Day three and four in Yellowstone park was focused primarily on viewing Yellowstone’s incredible landscape. There were wild life siteings as well. We started Saturday early and watched the sunrise from Fisherman’s bridge, then proceeded along the lake shore looking for wildlife, including a short hike to the lake. We then headed up through the Hayden Valley, checked for wolves, saw more bison, then headed for Yellowstone’s grand canyon area. Here we hiked to view the upper falls on the Yellowstone river, then drove to see the lower falls and the canyon carved by the river. We finished the day in the Yellowstone geyser basin, watching old faithful doing its thing. We stayed at Snow lodge, which is next to Old Faithful lodge where we had dinner, with our guide Vickie.
Our Final day was spent completing our viewing of the geysers and geothermal area. We saw all four types of geothermal activity including geysers, with the Riverside geyser the most spectacular. We also see hot spring, steam vents and mud pots. The day included a hike to view Chromatic hot springs from the mountain side, then up close to see the incredible colors caused by bacteria. We crossed the Firehole river that is warmed four degrees by the hot spring run off. We stopped to photograph a pair of beautiful swans of the river before heading for the town of West Yellowstone for lunch, then back to Bozeman. We say our fair well to Vickie our great guide and started our flight planning for our return trip to Dayton.
Monday morning we were up at 5:00 AM and it looked like a challenging flight home. Freezing levels were forecast from 7 to 10 thousand and we needed to fly at 11.000 thousand to get over terrain out of Bozeman. There is a frontal system stretching along the Montana/South Dakota boarder with heavy precipitation and some convective activity. We have a plan B and were in the air at sun rise, 7:15 AM MDT. We climb out of Bozeman, primed our TKS antii-ice system, the temperature was –4 degrees, we were in the clouds but no ice. So far so good and ATC took us up to 12,000 feet, which gives us a better tailwind. We saw the precipitation on our in cockpit weather display and after conferring with ATC decided to deviate to the north. As we penetrated the heavy rain we could see heavier rain and embedded thunderstorms to the south, we guessed right, and the plane got a good washing. We flew into clear weather and landed in Pierre, South Dakota for a quick refuel and were back in the air in less than thirty minutes on our way to Cedar Rapids Iowa. Another quick turn around and we were on our way to Dayton, our home base. We land at sunset 7:15 PM EDT, having flown home in 10 hours elapsed time and about 9 hours in the air. It was a looooong day, to end a great trip that put 22.6 hours on the hobbs meter. We enjoyed our travels, but after six different beds, it was great to be home in our own bed again.