Monday, 20 June 2011

In the footsteps of Amelia...

Thursday June 16, 2011

I am in a bit of a bind, literally speaking, and it comes from trying to find the beginning and the end of a story that revolves around life, or more so days, hours, minutes ...fraction of life really where once again you meet people in the passing of the moment.
Upon our late arrival here in Kansas, Russell a local pilot, was nice enough to call the FBO to get us gas so we can leave early morning on our way NW. That was the plan anyway, but as Robert Burns put it so nicely in his Poem ...the best laid schemes of mice and men gang oft ugly and leave nought but grief and pain, for promised joy! Well the pain started not with getting filled up by Leta late at night but about ten minutes into breakfast the next mroning when I decided to check the radar and noticed the big blobs of orange all around us. Hans was in the process to check us out, when I hollered and asked him to maintain the keys for a few hours. That was at 06:15 local time and we both decided to head back to the room for a bit more rest. Come 08:00 the power went out and looking outside the sky has turned dark with big looming clouds ...Tornado Alley here we go!
We expedited our departure for the airport and good thing we checked out after six, because everything was down and not about to come back on for a few hours. Hurriedly, not to say speedingly, we drove back to the airport in fear of a Pell City repeat. Blustering winds greeted us and the 701 was dancing in the ropes. Time to retie, strap it down good, and about that time the rain hit. Back into the rustic old airport building of Atchison, Kansas.

AAAHHH ...maybe not!!!

Not much we can do now, but hang tight, watch the winds and the plane. As the minutes turn to hours I am walking through this old building, with single pane glass windows, crackling paint and a smell of history in every corner you peek. Amelia's photo hangs on the wall and below it proclaims proudly, "How can life grant us boon of living, ...unless we dare!"
We can really relate to that, halfway across this mighty land in an awfully small, but also very capable little aircraft. As I am taking the memory lane tour down the row of pictures I also notice the plans to upgrade the airport. Bigger runway, E-W facing, aprons maybe a new building and probably bring it all "up to standard". Good thing you might think, but is it? Here you have a classic old midwest terminal, a relique to aviation days gone by, a small scale museum and most likely it will be traded off for yet another nice, new, clean and sterile Jet Center with the accompanying personality of a Coke Machine. Through in money and you will get service. Too bad the "personality part" is disappearing from a lot of airports and being replaced by 24 hour self serve fueling station, which will give you gas, but never any local knowledge of the next "best place" to land on your journey.
And it is also becoming harder to seek out people like Leta that have made Aviation their life, or maybe Aviation made their life? The kind of people that go out of their way to help you along on your trip, come in late to fuel, recommend the best deal in town to stay and hand you the keys to the Courtesy car. The kind of people you wonder if they have blood running through their veins or Aviation Oil? And I am not talking about synthetic oil here either, but straight 100, kind of the way they live their lives, pretty much 100% all the time, exception might be on a Sunday or Christmas. Midwesterners, pioneers, a hardy punch! From Clyde Cessna to Amelia, from Spatz Sr. to Leta, so much history in one Place. Do people realize what is here? I wonder? Hans and me are certainly seeing the Midwest with new eyes.
Time for a snooze on the classic 70's couch in the lounge. Wind in the trees, the rain steadily drumming on the windows, moving further and further away as I doze off.
A slamming door rattles me back to life and finds me about 6" above the couch..."Get up and come to town for a history lesson!" "Can't just lay around here all day and do nothing!" Leta proclaims with a big smile on her face. Talk about the proverbial human Kansas dust devil rolling into the lounge here.
"Sure, sounds good, Hans you go! I'll keep an eye (meaning one) on the plane, just in case the winds pick up any more!" ...and off the go!
Me, back to work on the couch! Listening again to wind and rain battering the old windows. The roof is creaking with every gust and I am thinking to myself of how much a feel good place this old building is and how many pilots might have been stranded here before us waiting out a storm. Once again, I am beginning to drift off and my mind starts wandering ...What ever happened to Amelia? Will they ever find her or will the mystery continue? But then I have to agree with Leta, what would life be without a bit of mystery, without a bit of dare, without a bit of adventure while it is still there to be had?
 Overlooking the Missouri River from Amelia's House

 Amelia's Earhart's House, now a Museum

 The Aviatior's rocking the deck...

Walk of Donations leading up to the House...

Finally, after the "Been there, done that" photo session in front of Amelia's House, a nice lunch at the haunted River Restaurant overlooking a very full Missouri River we get into the air at 16:16 ...pushing north! First stop, Wahoo, NE after 1.6 hrs of flight and stretch our legs. Squirt of gas for the little Rotax and off again by 18:36 with a final destination in Yankton, SD with an arrival time off 20:06. We finally got some tailwind and hoofed it North real good.
Jake Haffner, a local Ag Pilot rolls in about the same time and lets us park the 701 in his hangar and offers us a ride to the Hotel. I am wondering if my rear end hurts from the seat or the horseshoes on this trip?

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