Today started with a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L sunrise over Avenger Field, as we carefully inspected the Velociraptor in the pre-dawn light for the flight to Lufkin, Texas (LFK).
We were first to launch and were treated to an amazing array of wind turbines packed in among the hills. According to our Sweetwater hosts, wind supplies much of the local electric needs and has been one of the few prosperous crops in today’s economy.
The cooler (!?) morning air was a welcomed treat, though it wasn’t exactly cool. Before the sun was totally above the horizon it was over 90 degrees inside the airplane! Not to worry, though, as we bombed our way across central Texas en route to Lufkin. We flew the timing line there and returned for a trip around the pattern in order to land. We decided to give our bladders a break and refill our water bottles, which by now were tasting like aquariums. Or sewage treatment plants.
After filling our fuel tanks and emptying our bladders, we launched again, this time en route to the beautiful state of Arkansas. The flight to Russellville was another good one and we were treated to rolling ridges and gorgeous lakes. Lake Ouachita (the largest lake in Arkansas!) was particularly nice and swamp-like, causing us to count our blessings that the V’raptor’s engine continued to run properly. But our escape plan was this: if it looked like we’d survive the impact from the crash, Kelly was to make sure that Erin was somehow sent to new horizons prior to being eaten alive by the mosquitoes…. We shook on it.
So far in this year’s Race, the airport in Russellville wins our Hospitality Award! We’re pretty sure that the prop hadn’t stopped spinning yet before one of the line guys was out there scraping all the bugs off our windshield! Inside the air-conditioned FBO (it was over 100 degrees outside and felt about 52 degrees inside!) we were treated to tons of fresh fruit and electrolytes. The nice woman staffing the racer’s snack room was a massage therapist and had determined what we needed to stay hydrated, nourished and sharp – and she was right! So we want to extend a huge thank you to everyone there at RUE who made our brief layover such a delight!
Our little C-130 buddy
After each of us consumed an average person’s weekly fruit allotment we hopped back into the Wonder Chariot, cajoled her engine to start (hot starts are sure a pain in the rump!) and blasted off one more time, this time pointed southeast toward Mississippi. By this time of the day the air was a lot rougher and we were treated to a fair amount of turbulence en route to Grenada, Mississippi (GNF). But the scenery was lovely and we were grateful to have remained unmolested by all of the alligators that we knew were greedily waiting for our engine to give up the ghost.
Unfortunately there was one little hiccup that involved Little Rock Air Force Base, a small square of Restricted Airspace and a bevy of C-130s. The controller was fantastic (having been alerted to our pending passage prior to the start of the race) and did a great job trying to let us fly a straight line from RUE to GNF at the altitude of our choice. Though we were on a different frequency than the climbing behemoth and couldn’t thank them ourselves, we were indeed pleased to not have been pulverized or re-routed through that potentially hairy situation.
The Mighty Mississippi River
The timing line in GNF was a welcomed sight after a long day spent stewing in our own juices. That airplane was SO hot at altitude and though we’ve been rigorous about drinking water every few minutes en route, we just can’t stay hydrated enough. More points for Erin’s side of the “Let’s Race a Jet With Cold Air and Fancy Catering Next Year” plea…..
After The Deb was tied down, de-bugged and put to bed we treated ourselves to a bit of pampering in the form of good ol’ Mississippi BBQ! (Yes, we both actually ate the stuff, and Kelly currently holds the ARC record of nearly 3 sandwiches!) One of the sweet ladies out at the airport had probably spent days slaving over her hot stove – the assortment of cookies, breads, cakes, blossoms, drops, etc. was fantastic. A great way to end our race time before heading over to the hotel for a mid-day snooze!
In all we’re pleased with our racing and with the way the V’raptor is handling the heat. This year’s race has been plagued by maintenance problems for a number of racers and we’re so grateful that the mighty Deb is powering through the abuse like a champ. Here’s hoping she decides to maintain this attitude until long after she’s safely tucked into her hangar in Michigan next week!
We’ll check back in tomorrow from wherever we end up. Meanwhile, as always, thank you for your happy thoughts and your good vibes! Whooohoooooooo!