Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blakesburg 2015

It's been awhile since I've taken the time to write.  As usual work is hectic and I simply haven't had the time to document our adventures.  Since this one happened last September I'll struggle to remember the details!

As I remember it, we were sitting around Critter's Lodge when Bo mentioned he was thinking of heading to Blakesburg in September.  Since I'd never been, and maybe I'd had a few beers, with no hesitation I was in.  I figured it would be a once-in-a-lifetime journey.  Now I'm already making plans to go again this year!

It ended up being 4 of us flying up together and 3 more joining us there.  Ed Cooper, Travis Latham, and I would fly to Mesquite and spend the night at Bo Kalabus' house so we could all launch together the next morning.  Bo and his wife Kory were incredible hosts and we all settled in around Bo's green egg on the deck while he and Kory cooked up an incredible dinner!

The next morning we drove to the airport to find our planes where we left them (that's always a good start!).  It was a beautiful morning and we were ready to start the adventure.  I had to add a little air to one of my tires, but other than that everything was ready.

Bo called Ground and told them we were a flight of four.  As we taxied out, they told us our friend was circling to the North and would join up with us.  Glenn Snyder couldn't join us for the trip, but he would escort us to Oklahoma.

Once in the air, we switched to and air-to-air frequency and soon found Glenn.  We were all chattering about the sites we were seeing and were all happy to be in the air.  It seemed like no time before we were crossing the Red River and leaving our great state.  Glenn broke off to go fly the river before heading home.

Our first stop was Grand Lake Regional (3O9) 244 miles from Mesquite.  It's also known as Monkey Island Airport!  We planned this stop because they had fuel and a restaurant on the field.  The food was like a typical diner with burgers and fries, and it was great!  They also had a convenience store so we stocked up on snacks, water, etc.  It was such a nice place, we made a point to stop there again on the way back!  The only bad thing was they ran out of fuel before they got to Ed.  Ed, being his typical light-hearted self, didn't complain at all.  He jumped in his plane and flew over to Grove KGMJ and fueled there.  He was back soon enough and we were on the way.

We were all surprised and how fast the journey was going.  We really didn't need to stop before Blakesburg, but figured a stop to get a splash of fuel and get our plan together before arriving was in order.  Blakesburg has no radio frequency.  You just look for other planes and when landing if you get a green flag from the flagman you land, if it's red you go around!

We had started early in the morning because we had been watching the weather for weeks.  Sure enough as we predicted, storms were brewing in our path.  We could wait them out or fly west around them.  We chose to fly west, but right before we took off we noticed they were dissipating and we didn't need to alter our course at all.  

So, our next stop would be Trenton, Missouri.  We didn't know it at the time, but this town is the largest producer of vienna sausages!  By the time we arrived, it was windy.  It didn't help that the runway has trees on either side, so each of us had an interesting landing.  We took turns getting fuel and hitting the restroom and soon enough we were ready.  71 miles to go!

I took off first and we were on the way.  I was looking for the runway when I spotted the hangar and lots of planes.  I was ready to be there!

I flew over mid-field and entered left downwind for runway 18.  As I turned base and final I saw I was being given a red flag, but soon enough they changed it to green and I was touching down, rolling down the green grass runway, uphill, then downhill!  I was home!  Looking at all of the cool round motors, I knew this was it.  This is where I was meant to be!

The next day Ed Kalabus (Bo's Dad) and his friend Ted Goetti showed up in Ted's Taylorcraft they'd flown from Prescott, AZ!  The day after Dean Hildebrand flew up from Mesquite in his RV-7.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and left on Sunday morning.  We had a blast seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  I know aviation is a small community, it's still surprising when you see a friend from Texas when you're in Iowa!  There were some very cool unique planes from a Staggerwing, to Cabin Wacos, Steve McQueen's Stearman, two Curtis Robins and Mister Mulligan!  I'm not beginning to name them all!

Ed would have to leave early, but Dean flew back with us when we left Sunday morning, so we came in as a flight of 4 and left as a flight of four.  The journey back wasn't quite as exciting.  I broke off from the group after we stopped at Grand Lake Regional and I ran into some pretty big storms, but after zig-zagging around a little I made it home.  Part of the fun!

I learned a few things on this trip.  I'm not camping this year.  As much as I love camping with my plane, it was hot!  I made friends at the field including photographers Jessica Voruda and Roger Cain and the owner of the field Brent Taylor and his son Ben Taylor.  They put on a great show and only ask you to follow a few common-sense rules... easy enough!  I now know my my friends Howard and Cynthia got married there.  What a great place with a great atmosphere and planes that you won't see anywhere else.  I took some of the best photos of my life.  I literally spent most of the days next to the runway.  Maybe this year I'll try to pull myself away to spend more time with my friends, but as my friends know, I sure hate missing a good photo!

Anyway, long adventure, long story.  Can't wait for September!

Here are some photos.  You can see the full set here:

Checkout the the Antique Airfield

Our planes in Mesquite - Travis, Ed, then Me

Our first stop - Grand Lake Regional in Oklahoma

We're in Blakesburg - lots of beautiful planes!

See you in a few months!
Jack "Long Way to Go" Fleetwood

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