South Dakota Weekend

Labor Day Weekend 2008

For labor day weekend we had kind of a planned unplanned vacation.  It always amazes me how incredibly different vacation planning can be when you have an RV-10.  Most people book vacations months in advance, or at least a couple weeks in advance for a trip this far away.  They book hotels, cars, and plan activities in detail.  Not so with us on some of these trips.  We rearranged some work schedules to get Labor Day weekend off about 2 weeks from Labor day.  We didn't have any firm idea of where to go.  Should we go to Denver, or Oregon, or Maine, or D.C., or the Smoky Mountains, or the beaches of the Carolinas, or New York City?  Well, talking to Vic one day he mentioned that he was going to go to Custer, SD to see Mt. Rushmore and the sights for that weekend and they'd love to get together if we had time.  So I put that as a possible plan, weather dependent, and then waited.  Weather is the big factor in any GA flying trip, so we like to wait until at least the last 5 days to make our we can get a feel for the weather we'll see in various parts of the country.  Turns out this was a good thing to do on this trip.  We actually didn't finalize any plans until Thursday, for a Friday departure.  Work was very busy that week, so things took longer to get done than I intended.  But, by Thursday we could tell that Custer was the place to go.  There was a hurricane coming in to the Gulf states, and the weather out East was going to be lots of rain.  If we went out to Oregon or many other places, weather would also be a big factor.  But, between us and Custer, it was to be 4 days of pretty good weather, and very comfortable temperatures!  So with one day of final notice, I booked the hotel and arranged for a car.  We were ready to go for a 4-day weekend.

Looking at the map above you can see the drive.  Not too awful....I boosted the speeds on the software up for max speed driving style on all roads, so it would likely take most people 9-10 or even 11 hours to do this drive.  The cost estimate is completely inaccurate these days, as I didn't change the fuel cost, but it would be over $100 at this point.  No, even a LOP cruising RV-10 can't match the cost on this drive (it can on some) because fuel will cost at least $170 to do that distance.

I took no pictures of the trip out.  Lets just call it completely uneventful.  The sky was 100% clear, and there was nothing in our way.  We got to Custer about an hour before Vic, so the kids checked out the Flintstones thing across from our hotel, while I went up to the airport to meet Vic and Carol.  We just ate and hung out and turned in for the night.  We had NO defined plans for the weekend, just all "going with the flow".

SD200808290012.jpg SD200808290013.jpg SD200808290014.jpg

Day 2 was to be our first day of touring around.  We started with driving the wildlife loop at Custer's State park.  We were hoping to see where the deer and the antelop play, and find us a buffalo.

SD200808300015.jpg SD200808300016.jpg SD200808300017.jpg SD200808300018.jpg
For a while it was pretty void of wildlife.  A buffalo here, some pronghorns there.  Andrea found some firm evidence of buffalo presence though, so we knew they had been here recently!
SD200808300019.jpg SD200808300020.jpg SD200808300021.jpg SD200808300022.jpg
SD200808300023.jpg SD200808300024.jpg SD200808300025.jpg SD200808300026.jpg
Soon we were 1/2 way through the loop and we spotted prairie dogs.  Those things are pretty darn cool.  Makes you wish you had a 22 long rifle around though. :) Danielle walked up close to some pronhorn deer, and as you can see below, Vic moved in on our 2nd group of Buffalo we saw.  We had seen some buffalo up at a small airport along the road as well.
SD200808300027.jpg SD200808300028.jpg SD200808300029.jpg SD200808300030.jpg
SD200808300031.jpg SD200808300032.jpg SD200808300033.jpg SD200808300034.jpg
Well, thinking we had seen plenty of buffalo (2 groups, 15 and 18), we completed the loop and headed up towards Mt. Rushmore.  We didn't know what was in store for us.  Suddenly we ran into a mob of wild donkeys. They were very gentle and prety cool to see.  One was too busy sleeping while standing up, and we gave him a rude awakening, but he was very passive.  Here you can see they were sticking their noses everywhere.
SD200808300035.jpg SD200808300036.jpg SD200808300037.jpg SD200808300038.jpg
SD200808300039.jpg SD200808300040.jpg SD200808300041.jpg SD200808300042.jpg
Holy moly!!! We hit the motherload of buffalo now!!!  We came around a corner and there were a couple of groupings of buffalo there, hanging out in a field, rolling in the dirt, and walking all over the road. The 2nd group was clearly enroute to something...and I bet we saw well over 100 buffalo in this one area.  They just kept coming and coming, walking right past our car, and people on motorcycles.  We then saw what it was they were heading towards.  Apparently it was open swim day at the buffalo pool, so they were walking down for a little buffalo skinny dipping.
SD200808300043.jpg SD200808300044.jpg SD200808300045.jpg SD200808300046.jpg
SD200808300050.jpg SD200808300051.jpg SD200808300052.jpg SD200808300053.jpg
With the buffalo excitement behind us we started driving again towards Rushmore.  Along the way we started seeing it in the distance.  It is amazing how far away you can see it.  We went to a neighboring mountaintop and shot some photos, and with a good zoom you could see them like you were right there.  It was also worth it because you got a straight horizontal view of them, whereas when you are actually at the monument you're always looking UP instead of across.  We took lots of opportunities to take some photos of the gang.
SD200808300054.jpg SD200808300055.jpg SD200808300060.jpg SD200808300061.jpg
SD200808300062.jpg SD200808300063.jpg SD200808300070.jpg SD200808300071.jpg
We saw Rushmore and watched a really lame video while we were there. They have a great cafeteria though.  They wouldn't let us go inside the mountain to see the City of Gold, as depicted in the movie "National Treasure 2".  I think they must have been worried that we'd steal some.  ;)   We stopped by sylvan lake, a very cool and clear mountain lake with a beach and cool rocks, and let the kids swim.  Then it was on to our most fun stop of the day...the entrance of the Needles Highway.  This road has some incredible scenery, and as you get to where the "Needles" start, there is a tunnel and lots of rocks you can climb around.  The kids loved playing in the many passageways of the rocks.  Very neat indeed.
SD200808300072.jpg SD200808300073.jpg SD200808300074.jpg SD200808300075.jpg
SD200808300076.jpg SD200808300077.jpg SD200808300078.jpg SD200808300079.jpg
SD200808300080.jpg SD200808300081.jpg SD200808300082.jpg SD200808300083.jpg
Arriving back at the hotel, we decided to climb the hill out back, just to get a better look at things.

For Day 3 we had an impromptu idea.  Walking into the hotel where all the tourist trap flyers were, we saw one for Devils Tower. I had ALWAYS wanted to see that, and it was only a 28 minute flight away!  So we jumped in the planes and headed to Devils Tower.  You can see the APRS track above, where we flew up to the tower.  On the way over we did some aerial photos of Vic and Carols RV-7, and had a wonderful time.  It was very cool comparing the 2 performances.  Vic cruises ROP all the time because of it being a carbureted doesn't like to run LOP.  I run LOP a lot.  And the RV-7's MT prop is a tad slower than the 2 blade props available.  So, with those factors combined, I found that we could cruise at within 1kt of eachother's speed, on the SAME fuel flows....with me LOP and him ROP.  Makes an injected 4-seater a very economical cruiser....although if Vic could cruise LOP he'd kick my butt in economy if you don't count the per-person-seat costs.

SD200808310010.jpg SD200808310011.jpg SD200808310012.jpg SD200808310013.jpg
SD200808310014.jpg SD200808310015.jpg SD200808310016.jpg SD200808310017.jpg
Flying around the tower is pretty cool.  The rules say 2000 agl over the tower, and for courtesy, 2 mile (some times of the year it's 3 mile) distance from the tower.  But, if you are that 2 miles away, you don't need to maintain the 2000agl, so we circled it and took some photos, and tied down at Hulett airport to the North East.
Devils tower is AMAZING.  It's very unique indeed, and well worth seeing.
SD200808310018.jpg SD200808310020.jpg SD200808310021.jpg SD200808310022.jpg
SD200808310023.jpg SD200808310025.jpg SD200808310026.jpg SD200808310027.jpg
We climbed and walked all the way around the tower.  It's about a 45 minute walk.  If you look closely in some photos beelow you can see that there are rock climbers on various ledges that are CLIMBING the tower.  Very very cool indeed!  We walked all over the place hoping to spot a rattlesnake.
SD200808310028.jpg SD200808310029.jpg SD200808310030.jpg SD200808310031.jpg
SD200808310032.jpg SD200808310033.jpg SD200808310034.jpg SD200808310035.jpg
SD200808310036.jpg SD200808310040.jpg SD200808310041.jpg SD200808310042.jpg
When it was time to head back, Andrea got to get her 2nd Non-RV-10 RV ride...flying with Vic in the 7A.  She had a great time flying this "more her size" airplane. :)  Once we got back to Custer it was my turn. I'd only been in one other RV model too...a 6, and only on one flight.  I found that an RV-10 has much more cabin space, and leg space than the 7, and my 6'1" frame would need to have the seat ALL the way back to fly this thing.  But, it's a fantastic and responsive plane.  Would love to have one some day.
SD200808310043.jpg SD200808310044.jpg SD200808310045.jpg SD200808310046.jpg
After the flight, we headed up to the Crazy Horse monument.  Talk about an amazing story.  That family is VERY dedicated to the cause of getting this thing built.  The video presentation was great, and it really shows the family committment. It prompted us to go shopping to buy something to help support the below is a photo of a couple of necklaces that were bought at the gift shop for the ladies.  On me is just the rope....the one they had planned to hang me by later.
SD200808310050.jpg SD200808310051.jpg SD200808310052.jpg SD200808310053.jpg

Day 4 the weather was coming in a little quicker than anticipated, but it turned out to not be a flight-spoiler at all.  On the way out we were battling headwinds averaging between 30 and 50kts....flying a leisurely LOP cruise speed.  It took us 3:53 to get there.  But the way back we were ready for our payback.  the return trip was to be under 3 hours long.  We did it all VFR, only having a short distance of weather to pass.  We got up to 7500' and headed for the green/yellow raid area that was about 10 miles wide.  Turns out the viz was fine so we just rode right through it with only a misting of the windshield.

Enroute we learned a trick from Vic on pan and zoom of the datalink page. Whoda thunk I'd never have played with that Chelton feature before.  I panned down to see the approaching hurricane that was just hitting the coast by New Orleans.  The New Orleans weather info was down, so it must have got to nasty to function, but check out the METAR and TAF for a nearby those are some strong winds!  From there on it was a trip on top of a scattered layer, and a diversion around the MSP area.  This time I wasn't screwing around.  The APRS track shows the diversion, which was due to the TFR for the republican convention.  I skirted it by about a mile, and went on my way.  But, well before I got there I listened on 121.5 and heard another plane being called because they had violated the TFR.  Ooops, sorry dude, gotta check those TFR's!  Luckily I've got the not only displayed on my Chelton's MFD, but I load up Seattle Avionics Voyager software on most flights and check for any red areas.  So all and all it was a great weekend with great sights, and we packed it into a 4-day weekend with lots of time to spare.  We didn't leave town until about noon on Friday, and we got home plenty early on Monday.

SD200809012682.jpg SD200809012683.jpg SD200809012685.jpg SD200809012686.jpg
SD200809012692.jpg SD200809012695.jpg SD200809012696.jpg SD200809012697.jpg
SD200809012698.jpg SD200809012706.jpg SD200809012708.jpg

N104CD Home  |  Site Home