Signing off now, Flight Around the Rim

Judy & Boyd Birchler, RV7

It’s official. This afternoon, the flight around the rim crew successfully completed their mission. Woohoo!! The crew of two, me and hubby Boyd Birchler, traded off stick/nav/radio time flying Boyd’s home-built RV-7 around the perimeter of the continental U.S. Our goal was to fly safely, have fun, and watch our amazing country unfold before our eyes. And WOW, that’s exactly what we did!

We flew east beginning our flying tour May 20, 2018 at Toledo, Ohio. Start to finish, we spent 46 days, flew over 10,000 nautical miles, logged 69.8 hours tack time (2.5 hours IFR), burned 517 gallons 100 LL, and visited approx 90 airports. Those are the recorded totals, easily verified. What the numbers don’t include are the emotion, exhilaration, and joy wrapped up in the adventure of our flight. The incredible/amazing/passionate people, the sights, the views from our cockpit, the ever-changing weather and winds, the extreme temperatures (below freezing to 108 degrees), the regional foods – the unexpectedness of it all.

Following are highlights from yesterday and today, our last two days of flying the perimeter. Day 45 and Day 46 continued to amaze and inspire us and were a fitting conclusion to our fabulous trip.

Friends told us to be sure and stop at the International Peace Garden Airport, S28, midway across the state of North Dakota and smack-dab on the 49th Parallel at the Canadian/US border. We had no idea what to expect.

The airport is located at the intersection of Hwy 281 heading north out of the US and Hwy 10 heading south from Canada. It is an Airport of Entry and Customs checkpoint for travelers between the US and Canada.

For a combined $15 admission fee, we were able to walk through the gardens, hear and see the bell tower, the 911 Memorial Site, Peace Chapel, Cacti Conservatory and have lunch in the cafe.

The Garden is half in the US and half in Canada so, just like cars crossing the border, departing pilots and passengers need to get their credentials checked too. Seriously! I went through the drive through but they instructed me to get off the road and come inside!  😉

Sure did feel good zipping down the Canadian border, one wing half in!

We flew across North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan. Much of the shore of Lake Superior was oozing with reddish mud, flowing from mud laden streams and inlets.

Nature at work. Lake Superior contains as much fresh water as all other Great Lakes combined. It contains 10% of all the earth’s fresh surface water.

Beware, don’t invite the Birchlers unless you mean it! Gail & Bob Burch invited us for an overnight stay at their cabin in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Pennsylvania), airport car included, and we jumped at the chance!  Gail is a Luscombe and Legend Cub owner and member of LadiesLoveTaildraggers. She’s also a beautiful individual, inside and out, and a joy to spend time with.

Bob Burch’s passion is wine making and his vineyard property adjoins their log cabin.

OMG, who wouldn’t be in heaven?!

Yummy good!

OK, I admit it. It was my responsibility to put the credit card in the self-service fuel pump at KESC, the nearest airport to Gail. And to remove it! Guess I only got half the job done. Luckily, another pilot saved the day and turned my card in so I could pick it up this morning. 🙂

Today’s flight path and the end to a great adventure. We did cut a few corners near the southwest end of Lake Erie trying to avoid evolving thunderstorms.

The Mackinac Bridge, a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.

Mackinc Island and KMCD

Lake Huron

Nice timing! We zoomed back into our home airport, Indianapolis’ KMQJ,  from the north, beating some unpleasant flying weather heading our way.

All flying today was VFR but deteriorating throughout the day. Weather has been a thorn in our sides since day one so no surprise it was there to welcome us home too.

And for those wondering if a married couple can spend every moment together, 24/7, sharing flight duties in a TINY TAILDRAGGER around the entire perimeter of the U.S. ….. well….. Boyd and I are still smiling and (in Boyd’s words) “thrilled to no end to have made such an accomplishment together.” :)  :)  🙂

Many, many thanks to everyone who followed our flight, wished us well and/or invited us to come stay. You made our trip a wonderful, memorable, life-event.

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