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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)


  1. Congratulations again you two!

    Ride high,

    Classic 17

  2. I sure am PROUD of you two!!! GREAT JOB! D

  3. Kathy HenningsenJuly 2, 2009 at 8:36 AM


  4. Congratulations, Team 7! Kelly and Erin, you really deserved winning this one!

  5. Congrats! Kelly - I didn't recognize you with the dress on...I'm still sitting here in shock from the site...

    Congratulations! Iowa looks beautiful!

  6. I am extremely jealous in what you have done! I would love to do that some day! On another note, I have a similar bear, his name is Sir Richard Bearson LOL :)