New York City by RV10
August 2019

This trip started off the same as so many of our family RV10 trips that we've had since we started traveling by RV10 in 2006.  We had a very general goal, but didn't make any solid plans.  No reservations, no prearrangement's.  When you travel by plane, even with an instrument rating, you have to be prepared to cancel when it just doesn't look right.  You may see that as a negative, but we view it as ultimate freedom to choose the best possible destination at the last possible moment.  After all, what's a vacation if you are going to be too hot or cold or wet or miserable in any way?  We have goals to see and visit various places, but none of those goals usually have a timeline attached to them. This time that again turned out to be a huge benefit to us.  As we arrived in August 2019, we hit a family milestone that I didn't really want to hit.  This is the month that we become a house that's an empty nest, for the majority of the year.  That's right, the kids you've seen grow up in these trips are now both gone to college.  It happens much faster than you would ever know it.  It's my biggest reason for stating unequivocally that if you really intend to build an RV10 for your family, you do not want to delay that decision any more than is necessary to ensure you can afford to finish the project.  If you build the plane and you will finish after your kids are about 12 years old, I'll tell you right now that you've already missed some of the best years to travel as a family.  Ages 12-16 is a busy time period for any family.  You're far less likely to get the time you want with the whole family, to experience all the traveling you will want to do with these amazing airplanes. So don't wait until they are too old.  But I digress...

Continuing on to the vacation at hand, we had be wanting to see the Upper North West, specifically the San Juan Islands area near Seattle, WA.  I have flown over the area before, but we've never been to the islands there, and I had thought maybe we could see some whales, hang out by the sea, and just have a good family vacation.  Still on our barrel list (I'd call it a bucket list, but the darn bucket is too big to be a bucket, so it's more like a barrel), is to fly over Crater Lake, and do another trip to Lake Powell and Moab, UT and places like that.  I had hoped that we could roll a few of these types of things into this vacation.  The problem was the weather, as usual.

The past year has been vastly different than most years I've experienced in weather.  We started last winter off in a halfway normal way, but about halfway through, we started getting snowfall after snowfall until we actually set records in our area for most snowfall ever recorded.   Then spring came and brought rain.  That's normal enough, but almost always, by July, we've had enough dry spell to hear the word "drought" on the news repeatedly, and our grass turns to a crispy brown as it goes dormant.  This year, for the first time in my memory, we've maintained green grass all the way thru mid-August, and we don't water our lawn.  Oshkosh brought a replay of "Sloshkosh" with plenty of rain and mud just prior to the show.  And here's one that's highly unusual to me:  Whenever I've watched the weather out West, just West of the Rockies, I have seen continuous scattered showers and storms over all places, many of which are in desert type areas.  That I've never seen before either.  July was the hottest on record for the earth since record keeping started, I just heard last week.  And yesterday I read that Salmon are dying off in Alaska because the water in one of the inlets is over 80F when it's never been higher than the mid-70's before.  Perhaps with the extra heat we're finally carrying so much moisture in the atmosphere that lots of precipitation will become the new norm? 

So when I looked Westward to plan our route to Oregon and Seattle, I saw that there was going to be a lot of rain over the Rockies and beyond, and that the West coast was going to be wet, at least anywhere inland, for the first few days of our vacation.   We quickly scanned the Prog charts, and Ceiling and Viz forecasts, and then charted a new course.  We were able to go East and have good weather for at least the first few days of our vacation period, as long as we didn't stray too far South of Ohio/Indiana, or North of New York State.  That fed right into one of my plans I've been hoping to get the family on board with for a couple adventure into New York City.  I hadn't been there since I was very young a teenager or younger, I would guess.  And I think every person should get out to New York City and see what it's like at least once.  I think the family was just slightly reluctant at first, but once they saw the weather forecasts, they accepted it and we moved on.  So with the plan in motion at maybe 9-10pm, it was time to get a nights sleep and plan to leave the next day.  The good thing about heading to New York over Seattle is also that it is easy flying, and at least a few hours shorter for us.

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With 3 RV pilots in the family, it's a bit like musical chairs in our airplane on flights now.  The first leg belonged to Andrea.  It was a real fun one because anytime we head to the upper East Coast it means we have to deal with Chicago, and our favorite way to do that is to fly the shoreline under the Class B airspace.  This day was perfect for that, with clear skies and no noteworthy turbulence.  We saw what looked like a sailboat regatta on the way past, got some good looks at the cityscape, and were able to see many airliners flying into O'Hare.  We ended the leg in Nappanee, IN, (C03) which is a fantastic little strip with good fuel prices.  The ramp is well maintained, and although the runway wasn't wide it's a place where I'd definitely like to drop in on again.

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Upon leaving Nappanee, it was time for Danielle to take the Left seat.  While we flew across the country, I read and re-read the advice I could dig up on New York area airports to decide where we wanted to go.  It looked like KHPN was the easiest choice, but KLDJ and KFRG were also options.  There were a few big problems with both KLDJ and KFRG, however.  One was that KLDJ was under a huge presidential TFR, one of the biggest and worst jokes of our time.  There should be no way that a TFR should be allowed to be 30 miles in size.  I was finally feeling the pain that I'd read about for the people who operate out of airports affected by the VIP TFRs.  Also, KLDJ had runway construction going on daily from 7-3:30 so you could fly in and out if you wanted but you would have to do it with some time restrictions.  KFRG when I first was looking at our flight, was also going to be under a couple of large Presidential TFRs over Long Island, that would be expired by the time we got there. 

From what I had read though, KHPN had only one big drawback and that was fuel price.  That I can live with.  We dealt with that by making a stop at KBFD to fuel up on the way in.  That would give us a couple of things.  1) Cheaper fuel,  2) A place where we could file an IFR flight plan from, and 3) A quick break. We'd only use about 1.5 hours of fuel that we'd have to replace at Million Air.

It isn't far from the airport to the North Metro station that takes you into the city.  All we'd need is a hotel in the area, and Million Air FBO could supply us with a rental car for a good rate which would allow us to easily get a hotel and transportation as needed.  We weren't sure if we wanted to bother driving into NYC or stay in a hotel down in Manhattan, so we figured we'd start by staying at KHPN (White Plains) and see what we decided later.  The folks at Million Air KHPN were great to deal with.  I'll definitely go there again on my next trip into NYC.

The flight over Northern Pennsylvania was fantastic.  It's a beautiful place with lots of trees and hills.

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When flying into the New York area via IFR, I've read stories for years and years that you can try to anticipate your route, but most often you will get thrown a curve ball and end up re-routed.  I had also read that tower controllers get very irritated with people who just do the normal VFR flight in, and call 10 miles out, expecting to be fit into the heavy traffic flow for that airport.  I think that would have worked at the time of day I went into KHPN, but I really felt more comfortable going in IFR.  So Danielle used the time to get some good IMC stick time while I got to have some fun working the route.  I wanted to make sure to get my IFR squawk early on, because if I were flying into a TFR, one of the requirements was a filed plan and a squawk before you departed. We filed direct from KBFD to KHPN, and when departing, were given "Cleared Direct KHPN, Climb and Maintain 9000', squawk 2142, contact NY CTR on 134.45".  And with that, the fun began!

Within a few minutes of being in cruise, we received the expected call:  "N104CD, I have a new route for you when you're ready to copy."  "Okey Doke, lets play." I thought to myself.  They gave me Direct RAGER - T216 - IGN - V483 - CASSH - Nobbi5 Arrival.  Yee haw, now we're talking!  Lets fly a STAR!  We don't get chances to do that sort of thing where I'm from.

I loaded the STAR into the GNS480 and the Chelton.  Both had their unique idiosyncrasies about them because CASSH and IGN weren't normal transitions into the STAR, but I was able to enter into both and we flew the route perfectly.  Eventually after we started the reroute, they gave us direct CASSH, so we skipped a lot of the route, and then after a while on the NOBBI5 we started going by vectors, and it was a breeze.

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After our quick check in to get our car from Million Air (Not the Mercedes pictured), we needed food.  There's ONE type of food that I'm always in for, and that's Italian, so we google mapped Italian Food and found Trattoria 632 in Purchase NY.  It was fantastic Italian food!  The serving size wasn't huge, and part of me wasn't thrilled about that at first, but the reality is, this fat dude didn't need more food, and when I was done, I felt fine with the portion size...and the taste was superb.

After that we headed to the White Plains TransCenter to make sure we knew where it was, and once there, we used a combination of "Hotel Tonight" app and Google Maps to find a hotel that would be as nearby as possible yet still give us one of our requirements in a hotel:  An actual Queen sized bed.  Double beds just aren't good unless you're a snuggly couple, and the kids are sisters who become annoyed when they bump each other.  So we query the hotel to ensure we will get a double Queen room.  Well, Crowne Plaza said that we could get that, or pay a little less for a "standard room" with Double beds, but only one night would be guaranteed in double Queens.  Turns out that was all B.S. because when we arrived at the hotel, we found out that all they have is doubles.  Oh well, it was late and we settled, but I won't probably stay there again unless I am getting a standard King room.

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The TransCenter is the place for getting into NYC from the North Suburbs.  It was a little more expensive than I thought it would be, without having any perspective on what was realistic, but it was also very very convenient. They had a parking ramp there and you could park all day for under $12 for 24 hours.  Ideally we wouldn't have needed a car at all, if we had picked a hotel that offered an airport and TransCenter shuttle, but we didn't research that at all, so we parked the car daily at the TransCenter and it was about $78 per day for our family of 4 adults to get train tickets into NYC.  I learned later that we could have got a 10 trip ticket for a cheaper rate and we may have saved a little money over the course of the time we were there.  You live and learn.  You buy your train pass and within a few minutes there will be a train into the city showing up to jump on.  Every other train is an Express train that makes fewer stops, but, unless you plan the schedule for when you get to the station it doesn't matter too much either way.  We were just happy to get the first train that showed up.

After a little train ride, you suddenly enter the darkness for the final couple minutes as you go underground in NYC and you find yourself arriving in the depths of Grand Central Station.  I think they said we were on the upper level in the station, and the Subway level is below that.  Grand Central was fantastic to see, after seeing it in movie after movie for so many years.  It's clean and a great hub for the area.

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We put a lot of miles on our feet that first day.  We came above ground out of Grand Central and started walking 5th avenue and other streets in the area, heading for Central Park.  Time after time we stumbled on either very cool buildings, churches, or sites that we'd heard about many times in our lives.  At one point we stumbled on the gold letters of Bumble Brains tower, where a machine gun armed guard stood outside, so we knew why the TFR was in effect.  I laughed later when I found out that there's a well-signed petition to rename a section street in front of the tower to "President Barack Obama Street".  I'll laugh hard if that happens.

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Central Park was better than I ever expected.  It's full of people all enjoying leisure time.  You can climb rocks, rent rowboats and paddle around a pond, sail your RC sailboat, sleep under a tree, play ball, or catch some rays in the grass.  There is food available, biking, lots of great scenery, and hey, even a few scammers ready to fleece you of a couple bucks.  I laughed at my Midwestern gullibility as I saw a couple guys on segways with a pair of Boa Constrictors.  I had a couple when I was young and I wanted the girls to be able to hold them.  The guys that had them were thrilled to put them on peoples shoulders...for only $20.  I was fine with that, but didn't negotiate or consider the ramifications in advance when they put one on me and one on Danielle.  I was then to find out that it was $20 PER SNAKE. :)  What a gomer.  I didn't argue...that would have been best beforehand.  I just gave them their $40 and smiled on our way out, knowing I'd been had.  From that point on, we discussed the price of everything we did in terms of snakes.  Like, a 4 adult pass for the World Tower plus 9/11 museum is about 14 snakes. ($280 USD)  Depends on where and how you buy it of course. 

I also thought it was cool when I saw on the map in Central Park, a place called Strawberry Fields, where there was a John Lennon memorial.  Always liked that guy.

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From Central Park we wanted to get down to the One World Tower, and see the 9/11 memorial, so we walked the first half, walking along Broadway, down to Times Square, and Rockefeller Center.  We took a loop around to see my favorite night show's site...the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  I wanted to get tickets, but you have to get them in advance, and we hadn't planned ahead for that.  It gives me a reason to go back to New York I'll be trying to get tickets again soon.

We had some Cheesecake at Juniors, which I guess is a thing.  Then we jumped on the Subway for the ride down to lower Manhattan to the 9/11 memorial.

As we were traveling on this trip, we grabbed lots of little pics and videos and Danielle compiled them into this trip video for us.  I think she did a great job, what you say?

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We bought our One World Tower and 9/11 museum tickets from some dude on the street carrying a ticket selling computer system.  Not sure if it was the best deal, but it got us tickets.  We had a little wait for our Tower tour...turned out we had to turn in our ticket vouchers for actual tickets at the gate, and then we had time to stroll around.  The memorial sites they built are spectacular. At first, they're just waterfalls into square holes in the ground, but then you read the inscriptions and start to find out more detail and the gravity sinks in.  Those 2 holes are directly over the former site of the World Trade Center towers.  I didn't realize it was built exactly on that spot.  But it got even better later.

While we waited, we needed a restroom, and a security guard sent us towards a spiky white building.  I had no idea what it was. It just looked small and a little artistic from the outside at first glance.  Turns out it's called the Occulus and its HUGE inside.  Not just huge inside, but there are many levels and many passages that branch off inside.  More on that later too.

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The trip up and down the One World Tower is fantastic!  On the ride up, since the elevators are internal to the building, they plan a surround video on all the walls that starts with old New York City, where you can see it develop through time, becoming more and more recent as you ride to the top of the building.  It was very well done, but I wish I had know what it was before the ride, because I'd love to watch it again and pay better attention.

Looking out over the city you get a phenomenal view of everything.  The harbor, the city, the Brooklyn Bridge, and everything around you.  It wouldn't be a bad thing to start the trip with, if you knew where you planned to go, so you could get your bearings.  But I think for us it was better that we did it after the first day, because it showed us where we were, and what else we may want to see.  We were also lucky that we were on the 7:30pm trip up, which put us up there for sunset.  What a beautiful time of day to be in the building!

The trip down was just as cool, but in a different way.  They played an elevator video that made it appear that the elevator busted out from the side of the building and flew around the city skyscrapers, later re-joining into the tower.  The motion of the video made it feel as if you were flying, when combined with the movement of the elevator. It was really fantastic.

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Done with the Tower, we had to get the subway back to Grand Central for our train home to White Plains for the night.  We found out that if you go back into the Occulus, you can walk a LONG way underground past lots of shops, hallways and large areas to get to multiple subway stations for various subway lines, all without going above ground.  By the time we were done with the day we had put over 11 miles on our feet, walking about 25,000 steps.  It was a good day of sightseeing.

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Day 2 we had purchased tickets the day before for a Statue of Liberty cruise.  To go into the crown (I did that as a kid) you would need to book the ticket probably at least a month or more in advance, so we just settled on standard tickets.  The cruise isn't too long, and you're on the island with the statue. There is good food there, so we toured around and used that as a lunch stop.  We spent some time in a great movie that the National Park Service puts on about the statue and how it came to be, and we walked around the other exhibits.  I took some photos of some of my favorite quotes they had on display.

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As we walked around the island looking at the Statue of Liberty, and in the museum looking at the presentations, I found myself becoming very proud of this particular monument to our country, and what the values of the United States of America are supposed to represent.  Lately with politics the way they've turned, I find it's been very disheartening to see what some of the country's symbols are being used for.  With White nationalism getting newfound popularity, and anti-immigrant rhetoric being spewed daily, I see symbols such as the American Flag being used by people as much to spew hate and completely non-Christian values, and it's started to taint my view of some symbols of our democracy.  Not to mention the gerrymandering and other political tools that are completely anti-democratic.  The values that our country are SUPPOSED to represent, especially to those who call themselves Christians, are supposed to be values that encourage participation, integration, immigration, brotherly love.  Values that are supposed to encourage democracy both domestic and abroad.  Our values are supposed to help push other countries to move to become better to their own people, relieving their citizens of poor working conditions, government oppression, and bringing them freedom of speech and religion.  Instead I see our country locked in a never ending power struggle where each side would love to remove the rights of the other side, completely removing all democracy, in the name of full power and control.  The American Flag is being used daily by people with such agendas on both sides, and it's sad to see.  Does the flag represent our freedom and democracy, or our world domination and control?  Is it nationalism, patriotism, or a deep value for our American rights?  It's hard to see through the smoke, and tell.

But when you look at the Statue of Liberty, it was built for the United States and given to us because we were finally, at the point they built the statue, beginning to walk the talk of the values that our country was founded on.  We were giving our people freedom, and liberty, and also trying to spread it around the globe.  We welcomed people into our country as refugees, and the Statue of Liberty was one of the very first things a person may see when arriving by ship, before they were processed for immigration into the United States.  To those people, OUR OWN relatives of past generations, this was a symbol of hope, and they came from all over the world.  The statue had only been something I saw as a monument, before, but as I walked around, and read, and thought about it more this day, I truly now see it as more monumentAL than that.  This statue represents the values of our country.  The same values that I see being torn down and jeopardized daily.  So it was with great pride that I looked upon the lady on this trip and see that she still stands, and not only that, she is maintained by my absolute favorite portion of the United States government...the National Park Service.  It is by the country funding and supporting our National Parks, that I know there are still people who care about the country, it's values, and preserving them so that they can be shared with all who come here to visit them.  I ask of every person who reads this to support our National Parks.  Behave well when inside them.  Don't damage our park lands, and keep them clean and pristine for everyone who follows you.  Show our citizens and the world that our country, it's parks, and it's values have meaning to you, personally, and act as a good example to everyone.

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After the Statue of Liberty, we made the stop at Ellis Island.  This stop was barely memorable to me, if at all, from childhood, but now that I have grown, it takes on much more importance.  Some of these photos I took I am appalled at, and some I am moved by.  It was very sad for me to see that even as we were allowing immigration a couple generations ago, groups like the KKK were discriminating not only against blacks, but against immigrants...especially if they weren't Anglo based.  It feels so overwhelmingly familiar for me in 2019 now, as some of this same hate filled rhetoric shows it's head.  But then there are the good stories.  I read far more exhibit plaques than what's pictured here, and there were so many that were filled with hope.  People coming here had hope for a better life.  The "American Dream".  There was a story I remember of a girl with warts on her hand or something similar, and she was marked with chalk, potentially deported, but someone had her flip her jacket inside out and the mark was gone, and she was allowed to stay.  You could see all of the rooms where people were processed, and read actual papers and passports from people who came here.  It's just an incredible amount of history that happened at Ellis Island.  In its day, it was the most intensive immigration facility in the country.

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After Ellis Island, we high tailed it to the 9/11 museum.  This was a stop that at first I didn't even know it existed.  My second thought was that it may be interesting but I wasn't sure I wanted to go.  Boy was I wrong.  Let me tell you, if you were alive and remember that day, this is a stop you don't want to miss.

You enter the museum, and descend past a steel beam from the tower.  That's your first clue that it's going to be a moving experience. I am not sure if the first beam I saw was still in its original location or not, but it was monumental.   Then as you get underground, you can see the flight paths of the 4 planes that were lost that day, and you start becoming immersed in the memories.  A short time later you enter another underground chamber, and that's when you're fully taken over.  You descend down into the water holdback basin that was built to keep the foundations of the buildings dry, below sea level, and as you do, you realize that you are actually going down to the actual foundations of the ORIGINAL actual World Trade Center buildings.  You pass areas where signs are displayed, previously posted by families after 9/11, looking for their missing loved ones.  By this point in the trip, my eyes had been watery multiple times and I felt the lump in my chest growing.

As you go down a final escalator, you are next to an actual original set of stairs that are unmoved from their original location on the buildings.  As you walk around, you see that the 2 fountains you saw above ground, were built DIRECTLY over the original towers, but now you're walking around directly UNDER the fountains.  Yes, much of the museum is located precisely on top of ground zero, right where the buildings had stood.  The foundation concrete and steel outlines the 2 buildings, and you can see it right next to you.  Underground are countless rooms in a maze through the museum where you can see artifacts, photos, videos, and audio recordings from before, during, and after 9/11.  Ladder truck 3 is there, where can see it was crushed by falling debris.  A towering beam stands where firefighters and police memorialized their partners.  Huge, thick twisted steel is there, and you can touch it and feel the strength.  There are exhibits that broke me.  I can watch the airplanes fly into the towers.  I like to keep the memory alive, but it tears me up and pulls me apart every time I see it.  I know exactly where I was when I heard the news, and it firmly brings me back into that moment.  It is very powerful.  You can listen and look at where people were as they left answering machine messages, that you can listen to, for their loved ones.  There are numerous quotes and stories from people.  And on one very artistic blue tiled wall, it is stated that the bodies of over 2,000 people are buried behind that wall.  The whole museum will wreck you, and make you once again appreciate the gravity of the day, and the sacrifices that were made during and after.  For the people involved in the rescue and recovery, I hope our country does all it can to take care of you for the rest of your lives.

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After the 9/11 museum, it was time for strolling around again.  We headed down to Wall St. to see the New York Stock Exchange, see the raging bull, and even stumbled upon the building where George Washington himself was first inaugurated.  Who knew it was right near the New York Stock Exchange!?!?!  Being a Sunday evening, it was actually fairly dead down there, which shocked us, and we had a hard time finding food that we wanted.  We ended up at Pershing Square near grand central station, where I had pancakes for $24.  Yes, don't eat there if you don't want to pay WAY more than the food is worth, but it was good.

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We had done and seen a lot in our first 2 days in the city, but we weren't quite ready to leave yet.  We first wanted to see the Intrepid Museum.  Oh, and before that, we purchased our Sky Diving deposits, which firmly planted our date for when we'd do our first skydive.  The Intrepid museum was good, but let me be a critic her and say this.  If you've traveled like us, and been to Charleston SC, and toured the ships there, and you've been to the Kennedy Space Center and seen the Shuttle, and you've seen the Concorde up close, and you've been to the Air Force Museum in Dayton OH, the Intrepid museum is going to be a little bit of a letdown.  It's not a BAD museum, but none of the displays are nearly as nice as those you can get elsewhere, if you make multiple trips and see those sites instead.  You will have a hard time topping Dayton's Air Force Museum for seeing most aircraft.  The hardest one for me to see though is the Concorde, which is what solidified my plans to see it at the Intrepid Museum, and other than the fact we didn't get to go inside, it made it worth while for us.

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It was to be a short day in NYC for us, since we wanted to beat any potential bad weather out, we wanted to fly the Hudson River, and we wanted to guarantee we would arrive with no issues in Virginia for skydiving, so we took the Metro North back out of town and got in the RV10 for our flight South.

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This was to be a far more complicated Hudson River flight than we would have most of the time.  First of all, to fly the Hudson, you need to take the FAA course on the Hudson SFRA.  We did that, which was informative.  I had previously taken the DC SFRA course, but re-took it on this trip as well.  Bring a laptop when you go to these areas, so you can do that.

The issue at hand was this mess of TFRs we were facing.  To the West was still a big 30 mile TFR, and flying down the Hudson took us through a stadium TFR that was active if we flew the SFRA area.  There was also a Trump Tower TFR that was active.  So there are 2 choices.  If you fly the SFRA exclusion area, you fly at between 1,000 and up to and not including 1,300' msl.  If you do that, you don't talk to anyone.  Well, that directly contradicts what it takes to legally fly through any TFR, which is a discrete squawk BEFORE you leave the ground, plus a flight plan, plus 2 way communication.  If you want 2 way, you want to fly the "Skyline route" which is at 1,500' minimum down the corridor.  Now your views aren't as good, but you are in Class B airspace and talking to controllers the whole way.  Turns out you get handed off a LOT while flying that corridor, and, they are controlling other traffic that will probably be an even larger collision risk for you than if you were self-guiding a flight down the exclusion area at 1,000' msl.  But, thanks to helpful controllers, and a little pre-planning, we didn't have to completely cancel our Hudson flight, but just did it under positive control the whole time.  I guess I'll just have to go back and do it again!

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Once well out of the New York area, we decided to reroute to Richmond VA for the night because I figured it being a busy and bigger airport would have easy access to cars and hotels.  I was partially correct, I guess.  We stayed at Million Air FBO there too.  Sadly they don't have a single tie down spot on their ramp as far as I could see.  That's kind of Ludicrous I think. And, all of the car rental companies at the airport area were completely sold out.  Darn.  Well, that meant we had to pick a hotel that had airport pickup, and luckily the Hilton Garden Inn did.  It turned out to be a nice hotel.  In a way, it was too nice.  We would normally get a nice hotel with continental breakfast.  This hotel was a nice hotel, but had a restaurant on site but it wasn't cheap.  The breakfast wasn't leaps and bounds better than most hotels I go to, but it was over $15/pp. It was good food though, and had a waitress and everything and our waiter for the night meal and waitress for breakfast were both very very nice.  So other than a little unexpected food cost it wasn't a big issue.  They also took us to a local shopping center and from there we took a Lyft to a theater for a movie.  During the Lyft ride back to the hotel we saw how we really missed out on some of the cool things in Richmond. It's a very historic area, and I'd like to go back again but this time get a car so I can see a lot more.

After a couple nights it was time to head to Skydive Orange in Orange, VA and take our first skydive!

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Ever since we did the wind tunnel skydiving when the kids were tiny in Vegas and when they were a bit older in Denver, we've told them that we could go skydiving once they were old enough.  With both now over 18, this was the year.  I wasn't sure how it was going to work, because this past year wasn't good to me and I was over the 230lb limit that many places list for weight.  But leave it to Danielle, she spent some time online trying to find East Coast places and see what their weight limits were, and she came across Skydive Orange, in Orange, VA.  (KOMH)  It turns out that they can take fatties like me, so we nicknamed them "Fat Man Skydiving" and we booked it.  I lived in fear for a couple days.  Not fear of the skydiving but fear that the day would come when we were up for our 2:00 time slot, and the weather wouldn't cooperate.  The TAF and MOS forecasts didn't make it look promising.  That morning it still looked the same, but we took off from KRIC and headed for KOMH and the actual eyeball analysis was much better.  The forecasts were simply too coarse to be able to show what to expect.  We got there and there was a skydiving event going on, so they were occasionally operating their Twin Otter in addition to a visiting Sky Van.  All was going along just fine until our time came and we got our harnesses on.  At that point the ceiling started closing over a little and they did a ground stop.  Luckily a while later it cleared again and we loaded up the Sky Van.  That thing looks just ridiculous, but it holds skydivers real well.  I had thought it may be cool to have for a family plane if you were traveling with a lot of luggage, but it was noisy as heck with it's twin turbine engines.

The worst part about the skydive was probably the trip up.  The floor was rather slick, and the climb angle was pretty steep, so we had to hold on as we climbed to 14,000'.  But it didn't take long and we were there.  Making my own skydive a little tricky was the fact that with my height, and weight, my tandem instructor had to be a smaller dude, which meant that our difference in height was problematic as far as walking and jumping out.  They solved that by doing a seated entry where I simply sat down with my legs in front and we slid towards the exit, and rolled forward to jump out. It ended up working real well on the slick sky van floor, and soon I found myself screaming (not literally) towards the ground.  It was truly an awesome ride!  I expected the jerking from the chute popping to be much harsher than it was, but it was really nothing.  And once the chute deployed, it was quiet and we were able to circle our way down to the airport below.  What a ride!  Landing was a simple slide-in landing.  The girls both got the more traditional standing exit, with Danielle doing a backflip on the way out.  For them, I had paid for videographers to film the skydive with pics and video.  The videos are embedded below.  All in all we had a great time, and I know Danielle and I will definitely be up for it again.

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Colleen's Skydiving Video

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Danielle's Skydiving Video

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Once we were done at Skydive Orange, it was time to high tail it for home.  We boarded the plane and lept over the Appalachians and headed East.  A short fuel stop at KOXI (Knox Indiana) and it was Andrea's turn to finish the flight home.  Another evening shoreline flight by Chicago was a bonus.  Knox, by the way, has ice cream bars and snacks available, so it makes a perfect stop with kids if you need a quick snack and fuel but don't need a whole meal.

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More Skydive Pics from Skydiving with
Skydive Orange

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