Flying the Missouri River - July 2010

Boldly going where Lewis and Clark have gone before.

It's been four years since my last long cross-country trip -- the Oregon Trail Flight in the Citabria back in June 2006.  I have great memories of that flight and have been wanting to do something similar. 

When some of my high school buddies and I decided to get together at an Idaho lake for a long weekend, I figured it would be a good opportunity to fly the Missouri River -- the Lewis and Clark journey -- in the RV.  On the way back I could hit AirVenture at Oshkosh.  Perfect!

The RV performed perfectly, the weather was good -- mostly -- and I had a great time.  See what I saw:

Have the fun in a long cross-country flight is planning and getting ready.

To help cope with the weather -- always a concern on a long trip like this -- I started up a subscription to XM Satellite weather which would be displayed on my Garmin 496 GPS.  

For emergency location -- I would be flying over some pretty remote country -- Lynnette bought me a SPOT2 device which is really quite amazing.  It's basically a GPS receiver that can transmit position data to satellites, along with short pre-written messages.  The SPOT would send my position every ten minutes; family and friends could watch my progress on a map via the Internet!  I had the ability to send the following signals:  SOS,  I'm OK but need help,  Safe on Deck, and Safe on Deck - Done for the Day.  Fortunately I only needed to send the last two messages. 

I had read Stephen Ambrose's great book "Undaunted Courage:  Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West" some time ago, but I reread most of it prior to the flight.  The other book I read closely was "Chasing Lewis & Clark Across America" by Ron Lowery and Mary Walker.   "Chasing Lewis & Clark" features beautiful pictures taken from a an AirCam kitplane and has lots of useful information for an aviator flying the Missouri River.

Of course, I spent a lot of time pouring over the sectional charts.  This was a hard trip to plan, because it was so long.  It was just difficult to look at the thing as a whole.  The sectional has good detail but to see the entire picture would requiring a wall with sectionals.  A USA map showed the entire thing but not in enough detail.  That said, I really didn't have to worry too much about navigation on this trip, for obvious reasons  -- just follow the Missouri River. 

I carried a tent, cold weather sleeping bag, coat and all the usual emergency supplies.  Most of them I needed to bring anyways because I would be camping at AirVenture. 

Total flight time was 33.7 hours. 

Next long flight:  The Southwest via Sante Fe Trail, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon