Whew! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks! Mike’s visited his daughter in Savannah. I’ve been to Spain and done a mud run
. We’ve volunteered at the Sun-n-Fun fly-in
and toured NASA
. It’s taken us a while, but we’re finally getting caught up on our videos and blogging.
Thanks for continuing to be patient with us on the video stuff. We’re getting better at the audio, but there’s still lots of room for improvement. We bought new microphones, which has helped, but this time, the mic is too far away from Mike, and he’s hard to hear. We will get it right soon. Promise!
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the latest installment!
Forget people watching. Plane watching is the way to go! Especially if there’re friends involved. Oh, and food, too. Midfield Cafe had it all when we met up with some pilot pals at the small restaurant situated right on the runway at Nashua Airport.
The food at Midfield is filling diner fare, and the staff welcomes you like you’re family. I’m sure it helps to be dining with locals. 🙂 Feel free to linger over coffee and conversation. But be prepared to stop everything when a cool plane floats by the window. You might see a banner tower, dipping down to pick up a length of signage. Or, you might see a helicopter hovering neatly over the field. And in the fall, you’ll see it all against a gorgeous backdrop of trees painted with leaves in vibrant orange and yellow.
Mike’s has two passions besides me ;-). He loves motorcycles and airplanes, and he’s developed a wonderful circle of friends in both communities. So, it was nice to bring the two together over a meal. Russ, Mike’s trainee, joined us as we met up with Rod, our pilot friend from Sun ‘n Fun, and Rod’s CAP buddy Matt. Rod and Matt flew in from Chicago, and we ate at Amelia’s across from Signature FBO on the general aviation side of Mitchell in Milwaukee.
Amelia’s is named for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and is filled with nifty airplane memorabilia. There’s lots of comfy seating, from large booths to cozy tables. The food is solid pub fare, and there’s plenty to share.
Sculpture outside the front doors. Reminded me of Russ!
We spent the afternoon at Amelia’s, chatting about CAP, Rod’s new airplane rental company Open Airplane, motorcycles and our RVing adventure. After Rod and Matt had left, Mike, Russ and I went outside to find the Jeep’s battery dead. As we were trooping back inside after calling roadside assistance, one of the owners offered to help us. He came out and jumpstarted the Jeep, saving us time and hassle. Very thoughtful!
Navy bean soup
I’ve never before seen a concealed carry class advertised in the ladies’ restroom!
Our next stop after hanging out with Grant and Barbie was Washington, D.C. We were in town to inter Mike’s mum with his dad, who was buried in Arlington in 2003. Evelyn passed away in early 2012, but it took a while for all of our schedules to sync up so we could reunite her with her husband of over 50 years.
Although the reason for the visit was bittersweet, we managed to fit in some fun. With Mike’s passion for all things flying-related, a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was a “must do”. Luckily, we were in D.C. right before the shutdown, so all the museums were open.
Of course, Mike was in aviation ecstasy the moment he stepped inside the Air and Space doors. 🙂 I was pretty excited, too, especially about the Wright Brothers exhibit – coming so close on the heels of our visit to First Flight. While were at Air and Space, we saw two movies in the IMAX theatre: Air Racers (which was in 3D) and To Fly! Both were good and gave our feet a nice rest after all the walking.
(The Instagram photos were taken by me. The others were taken by Mike.)
The site of the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight is a pilgrimage for aviation buffs. To be able to fly yourself there makes the journey even more extraordinary. Mike was able to do just that in late September when we flew with his cousin Grant from Hampton Roads Executive Airport to the First Flight Airstrip (KFFA) in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. It’s an unattended 3000’ by 60’ asphalt runway carved out of thick forest. For Mike, who’s primary flight experience has been in flat, desert areas, seeing the runway was tricky. Grant pointed the way until Mike spotted it. Since there’s no light on the airstrip, it opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset.
KFFA is located at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. When you land, you’ll want to stop first at the Terminal Building and print out an official landing certificate to take with you. Then, take an hour or two to check out the Memorial.
The 60′ ft. granite monument leads the way to the extensive National Park which features well-manicured grounds with markers, both big and small, indicating the successful launching and landing points, a visitors’ center, and a cluster of museums and exhibits which celebrates the last century of flight and beyond. For a tutorial on all things aviation, from the first successful glide across the Kill Devil Hills sand dunes to the new breakthroughs from NASA, a trip to the Wright Brothers National Memorial is a must.
I found our trip to First Flight and the Memorial very moving. What the Wright Brothers started in 1903 has led to the amazing opportunities we have today to see the world in a unique way. Their efforts sparked a chain of events that, over a hundred years later, resulted in my husband taking us to the skies for aerial adventures. I will be forever grateful to the Wright Brothers for that gift.
Heading out of Hampton Roads Executive Airport on the way to First Flight Airport
Near the coast on the way to First Flight Airport
Landing at First Flight with Mike as PIC and Grant as co-pilot
Coastal view heading back
Mike’s had a passion for aviation since he was eight. It’s something he shared with his father, who, in the Army Aircorps, worked as an airplane mechanic. A few years ago, Mike fulfilled a lifelong dream and got his private pilot’s license. No matter where we are, if there’s something aviation-related around – a museum, an airport, a meetup group – we don’t miss checking it out.
While we were in Rapid City for work, we stopped at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum on Ellsworth Air Force Base. There are retired military planes and helicopters outside, with a couple of smaller aircraft inside along with a variety of exhibits. Admission to the museum is free. The 50-minute, air conditioned bus tour of the base costs $8 and includes descending into a Minuteman II missile silo. We didn’t have time for it on this visit, but we plan to do it when we come back for work next year.
My favorite part of our visit was learning about Nellie Zabel Willhite. Nellie, born in Box Elder, was the first deaf woman to become a pilot. She was also South Dakota’s first female pilot. She was a founding member of the famous Ninety-Nines, the group of 99 women pilots that was established in 1929. Nellie not only got her license and had fun as a flour-bombing, balloon-racing barnstormer. She also flew for work. She was an airmail carrier until 1944. As an intermittent student pilot myself, I was inspired by Nellie’s story. A woman, a disabled woman at that, taking on – and excelling at – a risk-filled endeavor dominated by men? Nellie was a true adventurer. I wouldn’t be surprised to find her picture in the dictionary next to the word “pioneer”.