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Round Two: 2009

Round Two: 2009
Click the Logo to Learn More About This Historic All-Women's Transcontinental Air Race at the ARC Website

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We're on Cloud 9 (UPDATED!!)

So it's the day after the Race festivities ended and we are both trying to gracefully handle the re-entry. But, dear readers, we didn't forget you (quite the contrary) and we know that many of you still have a lot of questions. So, we've attached a lot more photos of our 2009 ARC experience.

The Awards Banquet Sunday night was the highlight of our ARC experience this year. We knew we'd done pretty well in the race, but since all of the scores are calculated between 5pm Friday (after the landing deadline) and 7pm Sunday at the banquet, no one really knows exactly which team placed where. They started with individual leg prizes for all of the teams not making it into the Top 10 finalists. There were a few surprises, actually, most of which were pleasant. Then they started awarding medals and prize money from 10th place on up, and by the time they got to 5th place, our hearts were pounding. Fourth place caused the veins in our necks to stand up. Third place nearly gave us a heart attack (we'd suspected they were the winners). And when they finally announced the 2nd place finishers, we knew we'd flown well enough to win! Kelly has a big bruise on her left knee, thanks to Gene Nora (our honorary "mother bird"), but we were so stoked that she didn't even feel it! Of course we were at the very back of the banquet hall (always did prefer the last row!), so it took a moment to walk up to the stage and accept our medals. After being interviewed by the TV station we were surrounded by other racers's hugs and laughter.

The winners lined up from First Place through Tenth Place

Perhaps more important than our actually winning the ARC were the comments and compliments we got from the other competitors. Nearly every team approached us with heart-felt hugs, congratulations and nice things to say about our team and the way we flew the race. Despite our 18 penalty points (we did something really stupid and paid the price, but thankfully, after a meeting with the judges, they too realized that we had merely been dumb as opposed to intentionally breaking any rules), we still won by a rather large margin.

"Gimme some knuckles!"

Of course by then it was Party Time, but it was, after all, a Sunday night in Iowa. So after striking out on the bar scene we swung by the grocery store to snag some adult beverages before heading back to the Super 8 to celebrate with our friends. Our festivities lasted well into the morning, which was why a timely blog post wasn't forthcoming. (But we understand that you understood why we were negligent in putting up a descriptive update!)

Yesterday, the day after the ARC officially ended, was a very busy one. After not having had much sleep we awoke early (with our medals still around our necks!) to get our stuff packed up (it looked like a mid-sized bomb had detonated in the hotel room) and loaded into the Velociraptor. Kelly accompanied some teammates to the airport to ostensibly help them load their plane, but really we just wanted their rental car. Actually, we were sad to say goodbye to such good friends, but grateful they were willing to share their wheels since Erin had a hard time emerging from bed that morning and was dragging ass, even with a cup of coffee on board.....

Thanks to Gene Nora & Cammie's rental car we were able to take our time packing up our stuff and getting motivated to leave. Other racing buddies, Minnetta and a former racer Karen, called to see if we wanted to imbibe some breakfast before hitting the skies, so we continued to delay our departure by another few hours.

Back at the little mom & pop restaurant in downtown Atlantic, the Farmer's Kitchen, we were recognized as the winning team and the proprietors were happy to inform us that breakfast was on them! (Including two slices of Charlene Johnson's Peanut Butter Chocolate Explosion, the winningest pie in one of the largest pie contests in America:

SUCH warm folks in this sleepy little town. We freely admit that when we learned that Atlantic, Iowa was to be the ARC terminus this year, we were a little less than thrilled. But the town and its occupants have been so warm, generous, and supportive of the race and the pilots. The local salon and day spa even agreed to open up and stay that way all day Sunday so we could get our nails and hair done! Since all the pedicure and facial appointments were filled by the time we could talk Kelly into doing such a thing, we had to settle for a 1-hour massage. (Yeah, rough, we know). Erin actually fell asleep during her massage, and it was a nice way to relax before the Awards Banquet later that night.

So with breakfast safely digesting in our bellies we dragged ourselves out to the airport for a leisurely departure. There were two other teams still there and we managed to delay our leaving by even longer so we could all do the photo thing together.

The flight back was rather simple compared to the previous week's flying, with Erin longing to file an IFR flight plan and climb up into the clouds. Our "direct" flight was going to take us over Chicago's airspace and that hate that, so as we got close they routed us around, but that only added about 15 minutes to our 3.5-hour trip back to Detroit. The weather was nice, the air was smooth and the sun-shielding clouds were a comfortable change from the noisy sunshine of the previous weeks' flights.

After we tucked the V'raptor safely into her hangar for the night and gave her a cowl-covering bunch of smooches for a job very well done, we had the funny chance of meeting up with Jay, the Beech factory pilot. He just happened to be there working but we'll admit that when we saw him drive up in the limo we both had a sneaking suspicion that he was there to present us with the keys to a brand new Bonanza G-36 with the fancy Garmin 1000 glass cockpit! For next year's ARC, of course! Unfortunately that wasn't the case, but we still haven't given up on the prospect of getting Hawker-Beechcraft to lend us an airplane to fly in the 2010 Air Race Classic! (Good thing we have a year to win them over, eh?)

The magic "Debonair" pedicure!

The next thing on our agenda is to talk the producers of "The Ellen Show" into having us on. So next year, when we race that brand new Bonanza, we can have Ellen's web cam hooked up to the cockpit and give her updates during the Race! So, if you'd like to see that happen, perhaps you could help us out by emailing Ellen to flood her inbox with requests to interview the two of us! I can see it now, the two of us sprawled out in our first class seats, winging our way in style (with champagne) to Burbank to be treated like the royaly we are....

For now, enjoy the photo montage of images we collected along the way, and do check back to the blog as we plan to post our press articles, our visit to "The Ellen Show" and the many good things that will come as a result of being the 2009 Air Race Classic champions!

K & E

Clouds during the IFR flight home

It was nice to fly IFR at 9000 feet for a change!

Kelly was gracious enough to let Erin fly home,
having hogged the controls for the previous 2700 miles

A quick photo with the "Mooney Girls" before we headed home to Michigan

With Sandy (Classic #2), our Bonanza Buddy and the Third Place Winner!

With WASP Bee Haydu, who flew as part of Classic #26


A pretty farm somewhere over Iowa

Another Iowa farmhouse

Preparing to fly the timing line to start the morning's clock in Racine

Can we say HAPPY?! (and tired)

With Gene Nora & Cammie (#18)

Getting an actual "ramp check" in RAC by Beth, the World's Friendliest Fed!

Flying along in over 100 degrees. That was outside -- with the vents closed in the V'raptor it was well over 110 inside the cabin!

One of our mascots (Amelia Bearheart) during the racers' briefings in Denver

The Sweetwater, TX flyby instructions

Kelly & Erin's nephew Csaba
(the kid must get his love of flying from his aunt!)

Our favorite Mother Bird, Gene Nora Jessen (Classic #18)

And here you can see the same famous Mercury 13
astronaut candidate having donned her racing cap!

Erin at the airport, trying to catch a few zzzz's while she could....

A cute little Husky climbing out of Denver Centennial (APA)

Minnetta (Classic #4) put a diaper on her airplane!

Atlantic, Iowa

Yes, folks, that really is us!

Soaking in all the rules and regulations for the Race

"Kelly Pilot" (and Erin with her trusty iPhone to the right)

Monday, June 29, 2009


.... And now we're partying!

Here's the "proof" and tomorrow we'll post all the details. Suffice it to say, it's a very happy night for the two of us. And we're stoked to be celebrating it with some of our friends and fellow racing buddies.

We're both still in shock; it definitely has not yet sunk in that we won. Maybe in the morning.... (We're both sleeping with our medals around our necks!)

K & E

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pre-Banquet Shenanigans

Today started with yet another an early morning, mandatory meeting, which was mostly uneventful. After blowing that joint we scurried off to downtown (ghost town) Atlantic in search of grub. The only place in town to eat was "Ready-Maid", a cool little diner. See attached photos.

After scarfing some fried, fatty stuff (hey, we're no longer concerned about weight and balance issues!) we darted over for pedicures (yes, folks, Kelly was going to have one too), but discovered that all of today's appointments were already booked. Looks like the other racers beat to it! :) So we booked massages instead -- a lovely way to spend our last afternoon in this sleepy and very friendly little Iowa town! We definitely underestimated this place and have been pleasantly surprised!

Back to the hotel after lunch and a trip to the toy section of the local Five & Dime to paint our toe nails ourselves since there were no appointments for the pros left. We discovered that neither one of us is very good at applying blue and yellow paint to one another's toes and for the time being we've decided to keep our day jobs.

Most of the other racers piled into a bus and drove 45 minutes to check out the local aviation museum. Personally, we're about airplaned out for a weekend and decided to do the massage thing instead. An hour slathered in grease, allowing the drool to flow freely, was a nice way to spend our afternoon.

So now we just have a few more hours before the awards banquet starts. Hopefully you all have your fingers and toes crossed for our high placing. We'll see very soon just how well you did!

So check back tonight (or first thing in the morning for you early-to-bed, early-to-risers) for the Results of the 2009 Air Race Classic!

Meanwhile, below is documentation of our rather uneventful day.

Excited and Nervous,
K & E

Cammie and Gene Nora (#18) They were one of the slowest teams but thanks to the makers of little plastic medallions, they're winners in our eyes!

A few days ago Cammie mistakenly shared with us her fear of snakes....

Cammie discovered a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon -- reading the paper and slurping a chocolate milkshake!

Gene Nora's an excellent pilot, but we take every opportunity we can to make fun of her parking "skills"!

In honor of The Velociraptor, The Wonder Chariot, The Mighty Yellow and Blue Debonair!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Chores

Today was a lot more busy than we'd anticipated. Last night ended with a very late night phone call telling us that we might possibly have finished in the Top 12, meaning the Velociraptor would be inspected the next morning. That's great news and we're both obviously very happy.

We were also informed with another late night call that we needed to do another test flight, so the entire morning was spent handling that. We suspect that the weather conditions weren't conducive to accurate readings but were happy to comply. After the test flight the V'raptor was officially inspected before we joined a few other teams for lunch (margaritas, really) and swapped stories about the race.

Post-nap we signed our official score card and were given a W-9 tax form to complete, suggesting that we just might finish in the money. But we won't know that for sure until tomorrow night's banquet. So check back then, eh? And in the mean time, how about you cross all of your fingers and toes?! :)

Definitely the highlight of our day was our pre-arranged dinner with our local "host family". Yesterday's BBQ hangar party was hosted at a private hangar housing a P-51 Mustang, cool old cars, a Navion and a bunch of flying model airplanes, among other neat toys. The owners are aviation buffs and also happened to be our dinner hosts for this evening. We were treated to an amazing home-cooked meal (the first we've had on this adventure!) and fine drinks and dessert. Kathy is an excellent cook and Mike handled the grill with expertise and kept us entertained with flying videos and stories. The evening was shared with another racing team, Kristy, Susan and Bee, the WASP pilot in the back as their passenger! We enjoyed getting to know our competitors and hearing Bee's stories of flying military aircraft in the 1940's. Such neat women fly this race every year....

Unfortunately we still have 20+ hours to wait until we know how we placed in the race. Yeah, cruel to make us wait, but c'est la vie. Tomorrow will dawn early with a mandatory b'fast meetings and debriefings. We're looking forward to hearing the results of the race, learning everyone's scores and wrapping up our 2009 ARC experience. It's a very different time at the race Terminus for us this year -- last year we'd disqualified and this year we're in the running for a Top 10 finish!

SO more tomorrow. We didn't get any photos of today but we will definitely have some to post for tomorrow after the evening's celebrations and festivities!

!Buenas Noches!
K & E

Friday, June 26, 2009

We're Here!

We just have time to post a quick note to everyone following this blog that Classic (Lucky) #7 has safely landed in Atlantic, Iowa (AIO) and we successfully finished the 2009 Air Race Classic! Whooohoooo!

We're busy dealing with Terminus activities (and a nap!) so we'll post a proper update later on tonight. But thank you to everyone who's been following our race. And to Kelly's Mom & Dad -- the bouquet of roses and balloons you sent just arrived! How sweet of you....

This race has been a blast -- both of us realize how fortunate we are, what amazing lives we have and how incredibly lucky we are to have friends and family like you. Thank you for your love, your support, your friendships and your enthusiasm for our continued adventures!

To tide you over until more later, here are some of the photos from our leg this morning from Racine, WI (RAC) to Atlantic, Iowa (AIO). Enjoy!

More tonight, we promise.....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Resting in Racine

According to some, our day today could have been called grueling. The heat was nearly unbearable, the humidity was wretched, the legs were long and the winds weren’t favorable. But we smiled most of the way. And the Velociraptor hummed along like a champ. We swear, that airplane LOVES to race....

So we had another gruesomely early morning (this time without breakfast) to head to the Grenada, Mississippi airport in the wee hours of the dawn. The mosquitoes were out in full force, though Kelly swears that’s not what they were. But Erin is a mosquito smorgasbord – that’s what they were….

We had a little time to zen out while we were prepping for take off, which is always a nice way to spend a morning. Out on the ramp with anti-bug cloths in hand, watching the sunrise over a little airfield. Few better ways to start a day, we think!

Our flight en route to Sparta, TN (SRB) was uneventful and we were happy with our performance. A quick turn in SRB to gas up, empty bladders and go was all we needed before blasting off toward Jacksonville, Illinois (IJX). The highlight of this leg was that we managed to not get shot down by the unscrupulous prison guard who has it out for local air traffic. We were briefed in Denver before the start of the race that one particular guard has threatened to shoot at planes flying by the prison yard, which happens to lie underneath the final approach for the main runway into IJX! So Erin built a fix into the GPS with the latitude and longitude of said big house, just to ensure that we didn’t stray too close, which worked like a charm!

After a snack, a break, more debugging (it never ends!) and a few checks of the weather we decided to go on one more leg up to Racine, WI (RAC). It was a bit more interesting than many of our other legs because of the busier airspace up near Chicago (and it kept airline pilot Erin on the edge of her comfort zone!). Flying VFR under the Class B shelf of Chicago isn’t fun for those who aren’t fond of VFR flying to begin with!

The approach into RAC nearly resulted in a dual fly-by, but we managed to squeak past the Cessna in time to have the fly-by to ourselves with them hot on our heels. The folks at RAC were happy to have us and delighted to tuck the Deb into a hangar for the night. The Wx here (that’s aviation for weather) is lovely and we don’t expect any issues for tomorrow’s last leg out to Iowa for the finish line.

We know this entry is a bit dry and the photos not up to their usual standards, but it’s late, we’re under-slept, the camera had intermittent fits all day today and sunrise is rapidly approaching. So goodnight for now and thanks for the vibes!