|We departed on a
pretty decent day and headed West to Rapid City. I'm
not sure if I'd do that again, just because the airport is
in the flat lands, where the winds pick up...you'll see
more about that below. But, if you're prepared, it
should be a good destination. As we approached, you
can see a storm cell right near/at our destination.
That storm cell sat there for HOURS, barely moving.
We watched it all the while and as we arrived it was just
outside of the airport area enough that we were able to
get in. The only storm cell in the area, and it was
On the ground, we quickly got our rental car and headed to Keystone, a city in the mountains that's very close to Mt. Rushmore. We had an awesome pizza on the balcony while we took in the atmosphere of the town, and soon were on our way to find camp for the night.
Due to our later arrival, we decided to stay in a campground that night. There are many to choose from but we stayed in one just West of Mt. Rushmore...the first one we came to. It was a beautiful location. In the a.m. we woke up and took a swim to feel clean, and headed to town to eat at Peggy's Place. Good food!
Later that morning we loaded up our backpacks and headed into the hills. One of our favorite places to see on our last trip was the Needles Highway, and Sylvan Lake. If you ever get a chance go see them both! Our goal was to find a trail to hike in on that we could camp overnight. Although this is pretty easy to do, it all depends on which trail you choose. If you're in the Custer National Park, you may not be able to camp off trail, but there are many other places you can. We decided to just do a hike first. We ended up with a pretty good ascent up a long trail to the top of one of the mountains. The weather was hot, and our generally out of shape conditions combined with the heat, made for a good hike. At the top of the mountain, suddenly the breeze picked up and I thought "how beautiful! Now it's comfortable!". Well, that didn't last long. About 10 minutes later the FBO called me and told me that a gust of wind just picked up, and my gust lock had failed...and my rudder was banging around on the plane with some damage. Now I wasn't so happy. My gust lock has lasted through many big storms, but today it failed me. Later, I was to find out why....the handle was just wedged below the stick, along the floor. If you get just the right push on the rudder, the pedal tries to move backwards and if the handle can slide sideways, it just flips out of place, and then it's all over. I was able to permanently fix this flaw after I got home, by removing the center screw by the floor, putting a piece of PVC cap about 1" dia, in that spot with the same screw, and now I have a socket for the handle to fit in. This should prevent any sort of recurrence.
More on the rudder below.
Later in the afternoon, it was getting pretty hot, and we loaded up the backpacks and found a trail we could hike in on, near that same campground from the night before. We ended up hiking in about a mile, and going uphill to the top of a big hill where we had smooth soft ground, and set our tents. We had a good dinner and then went looking for an old mine on the map. We found signs of it, but didn't find the actual mine. It was a great couple of nights though, with hardly any ground lights to make it hard to see the stars. The sky was black and everything was very clear.
Well, after the rudder incident, we decided not to stay another night, as they hangared my plane for me, and we wanted to inspect it and see if we needed repairs before flying. I found it to be damaged in a few places. A little bend in the trailing edge that I was able to remove, a hole in each side of the rudder skin, easily patched with tape and no worries about further spreading, and then some skin damage where the hinge brackets cut into the rudder skin. The problem with the plans is that the rudder stop is held on with rivets, and the rivets are too soft. As soon as the rudder bangs hard, it shears the rivets right off. Once the stop is removed, the rudder can be damaged. My stops were completely gone (but we had the parts). Builders including Van's, often now put screws in these locations, as they are much harder to shear. So we replaced our rivets with screws, and I had to add doublers to those areas of the rudder. Still, with the skin punctures and all the other stuff, I decided that a winter project will be to rebuild a brand new rudder, so that everything is match-painted and new again. I had added rudder trim after flying, and so even there the paint wasn't 100% perfect around the rivet heads. I also couldn't get the wire run right up the rudder. This will give me the opportunity to clean that all up, and next year I'll install the new rudder. Until then, it will fly as is with the minor repairs.