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Raced the sunset

Chrissy and I were deeply asleep this morning, our first morning without crop dusters at sun up. We had pitched our tent alongside the Prince next to an Iowan corn field. It was soundest sleep I had since leaving home. I woke to Jerry’s voice outside the tent, “girls, it’s seven o’ clock…”. Darn time zone change. We climbed begrudgingly out of our bags. Another bright blue day greeted us, and the humidity made itself known. Everything was soaked and I had the displeasure of wet socks before I was even fully awake. The nice family who had hosted us the previous evening at their hangar barbecue came put to see us off, along with the town barber and a newspaper reporter. Remembering Chrissy’s fondness for the pastries from the hangar super, a young lady brought a container of them especially for Chrissy to take with. There is a particular charm to the good people of the Midwest. Mild, friendly, quiet and unassuming yet extremely hospitable. We were sorry to say farewell to our good friends at Ackley, Iowa and they seemed sorry to see us go. I made sure to fly over them all as they waved goodbye and give a good wing waggle. as Chrissy said, ” I wish I could scoop up all the wonderful people we’ve met and take them home.” I told her we would, in our hearts.

Once again we set our course to a southeasterly heading as the sun climbed. And once again the weather gods were smiling and we were blessed with blue skies, unlimited visibility and smooth air. It was fortunate because we were all starting to feel the fatigue of travel. Somehow I had managed to lose my only key to the airplane baggage compartment. I was sure it had probably fallen off the wing when the phone had managed to stay on. It bothered me that I was becoming less focused, and although I knew I could get a locksmith in Moraine and gain access to my baggage, it rankled.

Our second to last fuel stop was in Dwight, Illinois. A very narrow, unstriped runway, we both flew directly over it before we spotted it. Happily, it had beautiful grass to land on. We rolled up to a fuel tank near a few weathered hangars and shut down. A small office building with an open sign was deserted. We were getting concerned about obtaining fuel when a lady in slacks, with perfectly coiffed hair appeared. She pushed a set of rolling stairs to the Prince with the ease of experience and wouldn’t let me help. She said she was eighty years old, and had been flying and pumping gas so long that she was just used to it. She became my new hero. When her husband appeared, he gave Chrissy and I a tour of his grain elevators and loaned his truck so we could go to eat. Wonderful, salt of the earth people. They had an old warped piano sitting in a hangar with quarts of oil and airplane chocks on it. She told me itnhad been there from the 60s when they used to have someone play it at their fly ins. So much life and experience they’d had at that little airport, and how gracious they were with us. It was a fantastic stop, and we rested a bit and ate lunch and I discovered my lost baggage compartment key in my sweatshirt pocket! I was so relieved.

When we departed, we planned to make one more fuel stop in Indiana, and then meet Susan and Andy in their airplanes at another airport for an escort to Moraine Field. Because we had taken some time for a much needed break at Dwight, we needed to make a quick fuel turn. We taxiied up to the fuel pumps with not a soul in sight. I knocked on the neighbor’s door and he called the fueler. After assuring us that someone would be out in 15 minutes we waited. And waited…..with the shadows growing longer and my patience growing shorter. I knew that Susan and Andy were waiting for us at Newcastle airport and that we needed to fly another hour to meet up, and then an additional 40 minutes to Moraine. And the sun had begun it’s descent. Finally the fueler arrived, but by then, Susan and Andy had retreated to Moraine.

We turned immediately on course for Moraine after takeoff and I flew as fast as the engine would allow and as straight and level as possible. I don’t think an autopilot could have done better. I regretted asking Chrissy to take a photo because she had to put her arms outside the airplane and it slowed us down. The nearly full moon was rising ahead of us, and the sun was sinking behind. The GPS was counting down to Moraine, and I was straining to discern the airport when I heard a woman’s voice on the radio, (Susan!) “Summer, you’re right overhead.” and sure enough I was. I slipped in to land on runway 9 just as the sun dipped below the horizon, Chrissy and I hooting with delight as the Student Prince kissed the pavement. Jerry followed suit, and we taxiied in to park. We were not prepared for what awaited us. A crowd of people; waving, cheering, flashbulbs popping and sure enough a bottle of chilled champagne in the cockpit just as Susan promised. I was so thrilled to hug Susan, Andy, Judy, and so many others for the first time. It was so festive, and we were all so happy, they had a huge monitor in the hangar of our flight tracks! The Student Prince looked right at home parked next to Waco biplanes on the grass. We all laughed, posed for photos, and drank champagne. Later, the Student Prince was rolled into Susan and Andy’s hangar with assorted other biplanes and antiques. It occupied the place of honor, front and center. And best of all, I got to personally thank Sophia, the young lady who inspired this blog. I told her that because of her, I’ve got carpal tunnel from all my typing, but really because of her, I’ve got the wind beneath my wings.

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18 responses »

  1. congratulations on your safe flight! enjoy your time w/ the wonderful people at morraine. and thank you for honoring my grandaughter sophie w/ your dedication to her. i wish you both, blue skies and fair winds.

    Reply
  2. It was such a fantastic sight to see the Student Prince and the Super Cub overhead — the distinctive sound of a Kinner with the sun low — It was like a dream… a dream come true!! Come on … let’s go fly! It’s been a while since you landed at the same airport! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Summer,

    I was watching your flight path online yesterday, hoping you’d fly somewhere near my home south of Bloomington, Ill. but knowing you’d likely be north of there. When I saw you’d landed at Dwight, I had to snicker to myself. Last fall, when I expressed my desire to learn to fly to one of our mutual aviator heroes, he said, “White haired instructor, grass runway.”

    When I did a little research, Aero Acres in Dwight seemed to fit the bill, and the flight instructor is, I believe, the son of the couple you met. I haven’t made it up there for that first lesson yet (as I know I’ll be hooked), but I had to snicker at the coincidence. I think our friend would, too. (Nothing by chance, just another “impossible event.”)

    Congratulations! Savor ever minute in Ohio and have a great trip home. Your blog is magnificent, and as a writer and editor, I don’t say that lightly. Great job!

    Ann

    Reply
    • Wonderful evening of completion of such a “once in a lifetime” trip! Congratulations to you all and can’t wait to meet up with you Saturday! Love the “blog”

      Reply
  4. YAYYYYYYY! Tears in my eyes, what a thrill! And you’re making me homesick for my good old Midwest on top of it all!! Have a great time there, make lots of new friends and get refreshed for another amazing adventure home! SO awesome.

    Reply
  5. Floyd & Maralyn Tuckness

    Great Summer, its almost as if we were holding our breath until you arrived there. Since we don’t fly any more, we were living your trip vicariously. It is a beautiful and adventurous event to have you be able to do what you have just done and then report it along the way. The Summerspot was a neat little add on. Thanks…Floyd & Maralyn Tuckness (Mr Munk & Miss Chip)

    Reply
  6. WOW!! So glad you all made it safely – enjoy your time in Ohio and have a ball. Aren’t Dave and Jeanne Constantine just the greatest? When I stopped there on my way to Blakesburg, Iowa in August 2009 (in Rudolplh, the pink L-16A) they had renewed their wedding vows and even saved a piece of cake for me on my way home!

    Reply
  7. Bridget Cooley

    Summer! Congratulations to a real barnstormer!
    That pink sunset was with you just like the pink brownies and pink i-phone, guiding you all the way.
    You have an incredible spirit and heart, it all brought tears to my eyes and rescued a smile…
    Bridget Cooley

    Reply
  8. What a fantastic trip log. My regret, I failed to check your blog and the SPOT track when you stopped in Iowa. I would have flown the RV-12 from Davenport to meet you and talk for a bit. Maybe during your return if you take a similar track and the way back. Let me know!

    My e-mail and phone number are listed in the Chapter 75 newsletter.

    Reply
  9. Jeanette Curry

    Tears! Beautiful Summer. Just Beautiful. I love you.

    Reply
  10. Excellent report, it sounds like a blast and I am much jealous.

    Reply
  11. Dear Summer!

    I can’t even begin to describe my feeling of pride (and a bit of jealousy!) for your success as an aviator and for this marvelous trip. The article in the Port Townsend Leader described the backround of your life of flying, and as I read it I was reminded about how I took your dad on his first flight in a taildragger (my 7EC Champ), taught him how to do lazy-eights using the stick (he LOVED it!), and how I loaned him my paperback copy of the collection of Richard Bach stories from Flying magazine that began this journey for you so long ago. I’m also reminded of his first cross country in the Student Prince to the Antique Airplane annual fly-in at Evergreen when he arrived a minute before they closed the field for the air show! I had flown my Champ alongside him for much of the trip there, as your escort does now in the Cub. The blog you and Chrissy are making beautifully describes all that we find so wonderful about flight at its deepest roots. I’m grateful that you have shared your adventure with all of us and wish you and all your party the best of fun and a safe flight home.

    It’s also a great reminder to me about how the smallest and seemingly insignificant gestures of inclusion, kindness and encouragement can begin a long and wonderous journey.

    Love always,

    Seb Eggert

    P. S. Watch out for that mike switch!

    Reply
  12. http://www.popav.com/webcams.htm
    Webcams from home….as if you two rember …..LOL
    In your photo’s; I See no bugsplats or exhaust stains on the Prince….
    You are the Messiah…..Summer Shimoda

    Keep the Ball centered =(0)=
    Mark Trier

    Reply
    • Beautiful time, flying wires, kindred spirits. Schedule dictates we go home in a few days. Going to be so sad to say goodbye while yearning for home. Like I told Chrissy, “you won’t be the same when we come home.” so glad we came. Here’s to feeling as alive as much as possible. Because we’re all only here for a little while!

      Reply
  13. Congrats Summer. Very cool! Have lots of fun, and let me know if you’re stopping in mso on the way home.

    Reply
  14. Charles Golden

    Way to go Ladies, “Job Well Done”. Thanks for setting up your tracking system, it was great. I remember back when your gramps (Bill) took his trips back to Wisc., we would have to wait for the old land type phone calls from him to tell us where he was refueling and things. He spoke of events like you discribed, where the folks he delt with were more than likely on their own schedules and he just had to deal with it. You all have fun while you’re there and have a safe trip home. Love from the Northwest, Anne and Chuck Golden

    Reply
  15. Summer sometimes I’m in such awe I’m actually rendered speechless. The words are hard to find, but there is one….America. Looking over all the great pictures and reading your blog that’s the one word that screams at me. And I have a warm and fuzzy feeling. America, God shed his grace on thee. I can also see why they call some of this the ‘heartland’ of America.

    Reply
  16. Hi Summer,

    Awesome blog!!!

    Today is sunday and I am noticing that on the blog calendar there are not updates after August 11. Hope you can update soon!!!

    Looking forward to flying with you later in the month!

    Reply

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