Thursday, April 12, 2018

Waco, Texas

The Prep

It's been a long week watching the ever changing weather sweep across the nation delivering rain, snow and brutal temps, and in multiple waves.  Mary and I decided to cancel the Kansas portion of the trip, at least on the outbound segment of our journey.  The alternate plan is to possibly head north, after Waco, and drop in for an overnight visit with our friends. This is still very tentative.

The planning of a long trip takes on many tangents; airplane dispatch status, accommodations, ground transportation, flight planning and alternate stops, along with places to fuel and grab a bite to eat. I have went through many post-it notes, multiple legal pad sheets and added many new routes of flight to my Foreflight saved flight plans.
The initial plans
My flight planning takes on two major routes; West and East of the Appalachians.  Since the Appalachians will be a force driving the weather or holding it in check, I wanted to have a plan in place for each scenario.

This multiple routing runs the full planning process as mentioned above. At times it's an exhaustive exercise, knowing it can change on a moments notice.

I hope our readers enjoy the ride along through our blog and videos.

Time to Fly 4.5.18

Ziva was boarded last night, and we have our friend Amy stopping in to care for our two  cats, Jake and George. With the zoo squared away we headed to the airport for an early departure. I took on fuel, a top off, on Wednesday evening and did a very detailed preflight.
This morning I sumped the tanks and loaded up the baggage, we are a go for launch.

Leg 1 KOXB to KLBT

We get this trip started and try to pick up our clearance with Potomac C&D. No joy, instead we launch and contact Patuxent approach to pick up in the air.

Our first flight of the day was smooth and it allowed for my adrenalin rush to mellow as we cruised along.

I was handed off to multiple Nofolk approaches, Washington center and finally Fayetteville approach.
With a nice landing made we taxied in for fuel at the terminal. This was a gas and go, no time to waste, we had a long way to go.

I sumped fuel and following a quick walk around, then saddled up for West Georgia. We taxied out, I completed my run up and launched. Once in the air I picked up my clearance with the same Fayetteville controller I had canceled with on the way in, just as he had advised.

Another smooth flight with three amended routes after each of the next three hand offs. Apparently approach was trying to keep me north of Atlanta airspace.
I had the weather and a visual on West Georgia airport, so I cancelled and switched to CTAF. I made my position calls and finished this leg with a nice landing. 

The man working the desk and ramp (same guy) provided quick and friendly services. We took on 35 gallons of fuel, a Dr. Pepper, water and a bag of M&M peanut candy. Saddle up!


This was the longest leg that I had planned for today. Headwinds would add to the flight time with 3.5 hours showing as the revised time total.

Headwinds be dammed, we were gaining an hour switching time zones so off we went. 
This was another fun flight until the final hour and some. I was now watching rain and potential convective activity north of our route and also creeping up from the south.
I continued on course, strapping 08Romeo for every knot of speed she could give. Typically I run at 2500 rpm, this west bound leg was no less than 2650 and an occasional flirt with red line.

A check of the time was showing 4:15, maybe we should gas and go for the last 270 miles. We could be in before dark and not have to worry about weather another day.  
My hip replacement and recently repaired foot had other ideas. Both previous surgical adventures were sending a clear message, it was time to give 08Romeo and my body a rest. Message received. 

Mary secured a rental car while I scored a hangar for 08Romeo. We had dinner at Applebee's then walked across the parking lot to the Marriott. We checked in and just as fast as we settled in, we passed out.
LEG 4 Continuing On 4.6.18

Friday morning

Somehow I did manage to watch weather before passing out last night. This morning I reviewed Skew T's, prog charts, and TAF reports for airports along my planned flight path. Everything was pointing to a go for launch, so I made the call.

We had a bad (free) breakfast at the Marriott and then headed for the airport. 08Romeo was topped off with fuel and tugged out to the ramp. I did my preflight and added one quart of oil before declaring 08Romeo fit to fly.
Ground control was easy to work with as we traded info and I picked up my clearance. It was a short taxi to runway one-four and following my run up we were ready to go.

Mary and I departed runway one-four, runway heading and switched over to depature when requested. Instead of radar vectors to join V16 I was identified and immediately given six thousand, direct YAKUC.
Once I could repeat the fix we were soon turning on course and climbing to our assigned altitude, we enjoyed the ride on top.  I enjoyed the occasional romp through the clouds and short bouts of IMC.  However, just past the two hour mark we were in the clag, moderate turbulence and intermittent showers. I provided approach with a PIREP. 
The remainder of this leg was more work than fun. Cloud surfing was pretty sweet until we got tossed around a bit. I know, it comes with the instrument rating. 

I was handed off to Waco approach and was given vectors to an intermediate fix. Maybe that was easier for approach but I had briefed the RNAV GPS 19 and already had my mind set. As a friend and fellow pilot pointed out, the ILS would have a lower decision height, but in fact they are both 704'. The ILS also had a NOTAM for a change in the missed procedure. I advised approach I did not have the fix on the RNAV selections and instead I advised I wanted FEPHY. 
Sometimes you just have to play the PIC card. Approach approved and I was on my way, more relaxed and with a clear picture in my minds eye. I managed an ok landing and taxied for the ramp at Texas Aero.  
It was a roll of the dice, we had no room or car reserved. Our arrival date was scheduled for Saturday. We had our fingers crossed that we Texas Aero could find somewhere for us to stay and find us something to drive.
The FBO hooked us up, we got a room at the Home2 suites by Hilton and Enterprise extended our previous car reservation to cover today.  What's the big deal, you wonder.  The Blue Angels are in town this weekend and all hotels are booked. When we finally checked in the people working the desk were turning people away. Clean living, great timing, who knows, but we have a place to sleep.

Waco, The Adventure Begins

As quickly as we got checked in, we were right back out the door. First, we decided to grab lunch at the Magnolia Table. As the saying goes, we missed it by that much. 
The waiting line was closed just as we walked up to join. However, the 'take away' was still open so we walked right in and each grabbed chicken salad and cold drinks.

Being the real romantics we opted to eat in the SUV with the a/c on. An inside joke between Mary and I. Ok, I'll explain.

The inside joke...Mary and I were out one day, running errands, when living in Wilmington. We made a quick stop for lunch (fast food)opting to eat in the SUV and parked facing the always busy Concord Pike (RT 202). While we sat and had our lunch I made the remark that I only take her to the best places, with the million dollar views.  Her response, you're such a romantic. And there you have the rest of the story.

When we finished up we headed a short distance north to check out the silo and bakery locations along with potential parking. Both venues had long lines so we didn't even consider stopping.
We got turned around and headed for Harp Designs. The store is located next door to the house they had renovated on the Fixer Upper tv show and the woodworking shop is behind the store, in the garage building.
Of course we made a purchase, candlesticks, that we each liked the moment saw them on the show. 
It was getting late into the afternoon but we looked up the location for JDH Iron Designs and calculated the drive time. Jimmy Dons closed at 5:00 and I could be there by 4:30. It was seventeen miles on RT 84, we're off. 
Once south of Waco it was a quick pace (posted 70 mph). Main street in  McGregor was just ahead and following the GPS I turned right and followed that out through the town of Crawford to JDH Iron Designs. Mary and I purchased one of the metal signs Jimmy Don created, it's a saying we often repeat. 
It was fun to chat with the man himself. A real gentleman and just as nice as one could imagine, he even signed our purchase. 
I noticed many things in the area named Bush, for our former president, George W.  The Prairie Chapel Ranch is located just a short drive from JDH and the center of Crawford, Texas. More on this later.
On our way back to the hotel we followed the flow of vehicles to a local favorite Mexican restaurant, the El Conquistador. Great service and awesome tacos! Mary and I each had a mixed sampling  of pork and shrimp tacos along with a beef slider. 

It was time to head back to the hotel and call it a day, we were both very tired but had full tummies.

Saturday 4.7.18

Rise and shine!

You say you want breakfast at Magnolia Table?  Then chase the sandman away and get it in gear, it's 5:30.  Yes, time to get dressed and get moving, IF you want a good spot in line.  We were in line at 6:10 and seated at 6:35, not too bad. I had the farmhouse breakfast and Mary had the farm eggs Benedict, both very good.  
We wondered how they moved people so fast, and indeed, there is a method to their madness. There is a server that takes your order and checks back during your meal, ours checked on us at least three times. Next up was the food delivery group and they were followed by the folks who bus the tables. The last group was the reset group, they closely followed the clean up crew and readied the table for the next patrons.
Once our tummies were filled we went back to the town of McGregor to check out the Magnolia house and caretakers home next door. Both properties were featured on the Fixer Upper show. It's as nice in person as it was on the episode. 

Sadly, the old towns are shadows of their former selves, vacant buildings and main streets void of the hussle and bustle of days gone by. This was also true for the town of Crawford. 
Next up was some antique shopping. The first stop was at the Cedar Chest Antique gallery. This place was huge! Mary and I wandered around, up one row and down the next inspecting interesting items in every cubicle. 

We did make a few purchases. Peanut brittle for travel munchies and Mary found a blue cat that was given to her as a gift many years ago. Her original was damaged but after seeing the look on her face when she spotted this find, I knew she had to have it.

I have to say this place was spotless, no dust or stale stuffy odors, a pleasure to walk around. Yes, we made a few additional purchases.

We checked the list and headed for the next shop, the original Magnolia Market (The little shop on Bosque). This shop featured last chance items and slightly damaged stock at a discount. It was a busy place with shoppers and vehicles. This location provides free parking for the shuttle or trolley.

It was getting close to check in time so we headed to the new hotel, Hilton-Waco, overlooking the Brazos River at the famous Waco suspension bridge. 

The temps really dropped today and Mary left her jacket in the plane. So, after check-in we made a quick dash to Waco Regional and Texas Aero to retrieve her coat and change my fuel order. We found 08Romeo hanging out with a few other planes in a hangar AND she was cozied up to a Beech Premier Jet. Good choice, well played girl. 

We finally headed back toward our new digs, and in the process noticed a National park sign, Waco Mammoth National Monument. This will be a stop in the next few days. 

Finally back to the Hilton and in for the night. We ordered dinner in, and room service brought us each an 8oz steak, yukon gold smashed potatoes and green beans. With full tummies, we are once again ready for some sleep time.

Unfortunately we were rudely awakened buy a drunks rendition of a singing cowboy, complete with yee haws at 1:50 am. It was loud enough to wake my bride, who normally could sleep through an explosion. I made multiple calls to the front desk, and at 3pm he either passed out, fell and knocked himself out or finally got the message when the hotel asked him to leave. I secretly hoped it was the second of the three choices.

Now that I am wide awake typing this I hope I can drift off, back to sleep. Git along lil doggies....

Sunday 4.8.18

It was not easy getting up this morning after last nights private concert. However, life moves forward even if you're not really awake. 

We noticed a cleaning cart outside the singing cowboys room, he and his party are gone. Now is the time for the real Yeee Haww!

Mary and I had breakfast here at the Hilton, it was very good and so was the service. We are going to meet up with Sandra (Flights of the Mouse) around 10:30 along with Candy and Mark flying into Waco (KACT) around the same time. 
I tracked marks flight and due to the current weather conditions (800'ovc) he would need to shoot an approach to get in.  Flightaware displayed him flying the ILS 19. 

The timing worked out perfectly. Sandra was walking into the Hilton as I was getting ready to go pick up Candy and Mark. 

Together, Sandra, Mary and I arrived as Mark landed, I managed a few pictures. I also got a good look at their Sierra. 

The group piled in the rental SUV and we headed to Spice Village. Along the way I missed my turn and ended up turning on to a one way, four lane, going the wrong way (there was no traffic). I quickly turned into the parking lot on my right to regroup.
I did get everyone to the shops in one piece...despite my elevated heart rate and embarrassment.

We started off with a quick bite to eat at Cricket's Draft House and Grill. Good food and service. Everyone had a drink, except me, the driver. Honestly, I needed one after my screw up.  

The group then hit the shops! The ladies attacked in force, while Mark and I hung out talking airplanes, IFR procedures and the need for speed. I think Mark is trying to sell me on joining the ranks of Sierra owners. Mary is on board for 135 knots on 10 gallons an hour. 

After the Spice Market we headed to the LaSalle Shoppes. As a group we walked around checking out the sixty vendors under one roof. This place was ok, Spice was better and so was the Cedar Chest.

We decided to make our way back towards the hotel making one more stop at the Texas Ranger Museum.

The group made it in time for the last show on the history of the Rangers. Thirty minutes later we all walked out with a greater knowledge of the Rangers and just how world wide their reputation spans.

We finished walking around the many displays of weapons, badges and various equipment. I was really surprised by the weight of the colt revolver, you had to be pretty much a bada$$ to sling that iron and put rounds down range and on target. 

We finished up our day back at the hotel enjoying hot tea and coffee, catching up, sharing stories, enjoying our friends company.  Sandra had a long drive back towards Dallas and headed north around 7:30. We all hugged and said goodbye, planning to meet at BAC Fest 2018 in September. Sandra promised to text us when she got home.

Mark, Candy, Mary and I sat a bit longer deciding to have dinner. We each enjoyed the company and shared travel adventures along with our pet stories. We finished up and called it a night with Sandra texting that she was home safe.

Thankfully It was a quiet night in our room, no singing cowboy.

Monday 4.9.18

We had agreed to meet for breakfast at 8:30 here at the hotel. The breakfast buffet was good for the second day in a row and we enjoyed the start to our morning.  Bacon, eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy were all on the buffet menu. Ok, they had fresh fruit and healthy things too.

Our first stop was the Magnolia Silos. We parked across the street from the Silo Bakery, in the church lot for $10. and after a few pictures headed over to get in line. The line moved quickly and the method to their madness (handing out order cards) kept things moving at a good pace.
While waiting in line I overheard the couple behind us say they were from Delaware. Of course I turned and asked,  where in Delaware, we were from north Wilmington. They were from Dover, and he had a Kraft jacket on. I had to ask if he worked there and he confirmed yes, retired after 25 plus years. I couldn't help myself so I asked if he knew Jeff F (Jeff's Flying) and he did. He asked how I knew Jeff and the conversation went on from there. I walked outside after we completed the cup cake selection and purchase, having to call Jeff. What a small world.

We walked around the main building in hopes of finding a selection of items and info about the show. The building turned out to be a huge gift shop. Ok, a really huge gift shop.

Once out the exit we found ourselves in a large courtyard. The border was lined with food trucks and there was a pavilion with picnic tables. Plenty of room for kids to play and enjoy the outdoors. 
I'm not sure what we expected to find but it wasn't what I had envisioned. The place was clean, the workers friendly and quick to assist in any way.

We got on the highway south toward Crawford and McGregor. Mark and Candy wanted to check out JDH Iron Designs and we enjoyed the ride.  It was perfect timing, Jimmy Don was in the shop and we all chatted for a good bit. Mark and Candy are going to have a sign or art piece done for their home once its decided what works for them.

Meanwhile, Mary is holding a champagne Labrador pup that a customer WAS holding. Beautiful pup, NOT coming home with us. No!
Next stop a visit to a former presidents ranch. Mark and I looked up the address and navigated our way through cattle, sheep and goat ranches. The road is the same you see from the air crisscrossing the land dividing sections into neat parcels.

The "cross country" excursion led us to a narrow drive to the main gate, secured by what looked to be an agent parked on the protected side. This was the end of the line, no tour and no chance meeting. I decided to make a u-turn and head for McGregor. 

Across Route 84 and into McGregor, we showed Mark and Candy the Magnolia Airbnb. The next stop was north to Harp Design for a quick look around. I was hoping to see or meet Clint Harp, but no luck. 

With a short backtrack we all decided on Mexican for lunch. A return to El Conquistador for more good eats and conversation, we literally closed the place, last to leave at 2pm. The restaurant reopens at 5pm.

Mark & Candy checked out this morning and we had loaded their bags so we didn't need to make an extra stop back at the Hilton. We pushed on towards The Waco airport making a last tourist detour at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

We had an excellent tour guide,Davon, she really knew her stuff and had an awesome delivery.  

This paleontological site represents the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. Visitors can view "in situ" fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago.

After an interesting presentation we decided to make the last short hop to the airport. I helped Mark load their bags and got a last up close look at the Sierra. We said our goodbyes and watched the Sierra taxi out for departure. We are already looking forward to seeing our friends at BACFest 2018 in Louisville, KY.

Mary and I headed back to the Hilton and called it a night. We each enjoyed our Silo Bakery cupcakes and a little tv before Mary passed out. I had taken a quick nap so I was good to go and decided to finish today's blog entry.

Tuesday 4.10.18

Mary and I had breakfast at the hotel and decided we would begin heading home today instead of tomorrow. There was nothing left to see except for the Suspension Bridge.

After breakfast we checked out and headed towards the airport. One quick stop was needed, across from the hotel. I wanted to check out the Waco Suspension Bridge across the Brazos River.
Before 1869, crossing the Brazos River was a time-consuming and sometimes dangerous ordeal. The only way to cross the river was via ferry, and due to the location of Waco on the growing Chisholm Trail local businessmen knew that a bridge was needed to support commerce. For this reason, members of Waco Masonic Lodge #92 proposed the creation of such a bridge and they assigned a committee which would form the Waco Bridge Company, responsible for funding and building the project. A charter was received from the state in 1866.

Col. John T. Flint, an Austin lawyer and banker, who had moved to Waco after the war and established a firm named Flint & Chamberlain, went personally to New York to handle the contract for building a bridge. In October 1868, the engineer he hired, Thomas M. Griffith, began to supervise the construction using cables from the Roebling company of Trenton, New Jersey. The logistical and engineering difficulties he encountered were abnormal because of the remote location. Due to lack of machine shops in the Waco area, getting the materials to the building site was a journey in itself.
The nearest railroad was 100 miles (160 km) away, and the closest town with artisans with the skills needed was Galveston, over 212 miles (341 km) from the build site. Supplies were loaded onto a steamer in Galveston, and ferried to Bryan. From there, they were loaded onto wagons pulled by oxen. The pothole-filled dirt road from Bryan to Waco was bad, even by 19th century Texas standards.The twin double-towers that anchored the span were considered to be a marvel of engineering at the time, containing nearly 3 million bricks, which were produced locally.

The bridge collected its first toll on January 1, 1870. Its 475-foot (145 m) span made it the first major suspension bridge in Texas. The bridge was wide enough for stagecoaches to pass each other, or for cattle to cross one side of the bridge, and humans to cross the other side. Being the only bridge to cross the Brazos at the time, the cost of building the bridge, which was estimated to be $141,000 was quickly paid back. Tolls were 5 cents per head of cattle that crossed, along with a charge for pedestrian traffic
In 1889, the bridge was sold to  McLennan County which removed all tolls. In 1913-1914, major reconstruction occurred on the bridge, replacing the older steel with higher gauge, and trusses were added to accommodate the span to carry heavier weights. This doubled as a new pedestrian walkway. By 1971, the bridge had seen over 100 years of traffic. What started out as a Cattle Bridge had become a vehicular bridge, and the state historical committee decided that it was time to be retired, with larger and arguably safer bridges being built since the inception of the Waco Suspension Bridge. The bridge, by all accounts, helped to transform Waco from a small frontier town to a major commercial center. Today, the bridge is open to foot traffic only, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The suspension bridge is an interesting story and a major piece of history for Waco. The engineer in me really enjoyed the hands on time and reading all the history has been consuming and yet exciting.

After taking pictures we headed to the airport. 08Romeo was tugged out of the hangar and after checking my fuel order I decided to add four more gallons per side. The person working the desk noted twenty-seven gallons as the initial fill.  I flew 3.5 hours from Monroe to Waco so that should require thirty-five gallons to bring me back to fifty-six. All is well, time to get in the air.


I picked up my clearance and headed for the runway where I would do my run up. Ground asked me to complete my run up in place, holding me on the taxiway and then contact them. I think they just wanted to let the king air out in front of me. 

I followed the king air on taxiway Alpha and after watching the Beechcraft big brother climb out, I departed runway one.  As directed I was climbing out on runway heading until switching over to approach.

It was a smooth ride for three hours and I made a nice landing at Pine Bluff.  This was a gas and go only since we wanted to get back in the air as quick as possible. 

We finished up at Pine Bluff and got the fan turning for the last hop of the day. It was a long taxi back to runway three-six where I completed my run up then launched for Chattanooga. 

I picked up my clearance with the same Little Rock approach controller that I had cancelled with when I landed. I departed runway heading, climbing to three thousand and eventually was given five thousand.  I started to surf the tops and the turbulence increased. I requested higher by a few hundred feet to keep clear, instead, Approach gave me a block from seven to nine thousand.

The tops kept climbing and so did I. Nine thousand worked out and I remained clear until letting down for Chattanooga. I was given lower by approach to descend and maintain three thousand six hundred and asked for my best descent. I also had to ID an aircraft circling near the airport.  I confirmed visual, it looked like a thin line so I thought it was a glider but instead it was geese flying a tight formation, duh! The target in question crossed in front of me and I spotted the glider soaring over the adjacent ridge line. I reported the updated position. I bet that controller was shaking his head....geese, oh brother.  I did spot the glider in question and reported its altitude. Maybe some redemption.

Approach advised I was turning inside a regional jet and to keep my speed up to the numbers. I did my best and was clear the runway in time for the regional to land as scheduled.

Mary made arrangements for a rental car and I had made arrangements for the hotel when we were in Pine Bluff. Wilson Air took care of 08Romeo and we had her tucked in a hangar for the night.

We drove around and found a P. F. Chang's, good food and service to take care of dinner. We haven't had PF's in four years, since we moved from Wilmington.

Flight plans are filed for tomorrow, and with that chore complete this day comes to an end. 
KCHA - KLYH 4.11.18

We were up early and showered, ready to make the last two flights for home. The clearance was, as filed, I seemed to have gotten that a lot this trip.

Mary and I decided to skip breakfast and instead finish up the munchies we had with us from the previous days.

The flight to Lynchburg had some vectors for traffic arrivals into KTYS- McGhee Tyson. The vectors kept me closer to the terrain obstacles (mountains) but provided a beautiful view in flight.

Approach gave me nine thousand for terrain and I thought about asking for seven instead. The winds were better at nine so off or up I went.

I was soon letting down for Lynchburg, ready for our last gas and go. I took on enough fuel to bring me to  fifty-four gallons total, plenty of fuel to get us home. As fast as we landed we were just as quick to taxi out. 

Ground had me confused. I was given taxi to gulf to runway 22 (yellow route). Taxiway gulf ends at runway one-seven. I was redirected (blue route) for a shortened departure from runway two-two, taxi across one-seven cleared for take off.

I was soon climbing out for home, KOXB. The last leg of our adventure. Approach was great and we made a direct line to the JAMIE intersection on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The cloud layer eventually climbed up to meet us and I had to ask for higher. Approach gave me a block altitude and I used every bit of it, topping out, once again, at nine thousand.

As we worked our way towards the Chesapeake Bay I could see the clouds dispersing. We were stepped down and crossed the bay at five thousand with only one traffic call out. It felt great turning north for home. 

I cancelled with Patuxent approach and let down for Ocean City. Making my usual position calls I coordinated with another aircraft inbound from the north and we each worked our way into the pattern. I was number two for the field and ended the day with a nice landing...We're home!

The Waco recap

New States - Arkansas, Louisiana
IMC - 2.2
Flight Time - 22.3
Miles - 2,750


Jim and Sandie said...

Short bouts of IMC?? I'm exhausted after reading all your adventures. I also had no idea that Waco has so many fun places to visit. I can't believe the hotel let your singing cowboy carry on for so long. That's just not acceptable in my book. Bet your furkids were sooo excited to see you.

Gary said...


The fur babies were beside themselves! Ziva was such a good girl that everyone wanted her to stay 😊 we were pretty tired when we finally got home to our own bed.

Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) is an aviation flight category that describes weather conditions that require pilots to fly primarily by reference to instruments.