Chicago, IL - Wisconsin Dells, WI
(18-20 Nov 2005)
Those of you from the Illinois/Wisconsin area have probably heard of Wisconsin Dells. Since my total midwest experience consists of living in Chicago for the last 5 months, I knew nothing about it, but had to attend a training conference there. About a 3 1/2 hour drive from my house...less than an hour by air. No brainer here! Baraboo Dells airport (KDLL) is the field to fly into, they have a single paved runway in excellent condition and provide outstanding customer service. Was only going to be there for two days and wasn't going to leave the hotel so I elected to take a cab ($24 each way) as opposed to renting a car ($37/day).
If you know what Wisconsin Dells is, skip this paragraph. If you've never heard of it, picture an area much like the Poconos, filled with all kinds of resorts (including an Indian casino), golf courses, etc. What separates it from the rest is that it has more waterparks than anyplace I've ever been...and many of them are indoor waterparks that operate year round. Truly wish I had brought my bathing suit.
It the weather had been better I would have flown VFR and avoided the goofy routing I got. This is one time my "request direct destination" didn't work. Route up was UGN-BAE-DLL taking me basically up to Milwaukee and then West to the Dells. Route back (wth a solid cloud layer from 3-5K was DLL-JNV-KRENA-UGN. Had two interesting experiences/lessons learned for this trip.
Winter has now arrived in Chicago. This is not something I have ANY experience with as I have never lived this far North. I've been doing a lot of research/study on various theories of preheating (99376 is equipped with an old Tannis heat pad that heads the oil pan but not the cylinder heads). I'll put up a page with what I am doing and lessons learned in a month or two once I am comfortable posting my final decision. Anyway, along with the cold icing becomes a real factor.
Trip up was no problem, but trip back was. Temperatures at field level were just above freezing, but as soon as I hit the clouds on climb out I was picking up a bit of ice...light rime ice to be precise. Fortunately I new the clouds were only about 2,000 feet thick and was rapidly on top of a solid cloud layer with clear blue skies above. Sun melted the ice I had picked up but it made me even more aware of how much you need to plan for this when flying in winter. I asked to stay as high as I could and then descend rapidly through the clouds to land on arrival. Ended up shooting the ILS23 again (hand flown this time!) but picked up no ice on the way down (at least not that I could see).
Second Lesson Learned was another great free webstie I've discovered. Flightaware.com tracks every IFR flight in the US. Joining is free and you can then track all flights into/out of a field or a specific tail number. I have never seen 99376 while in flight, but my family and people I am meeting can now see where the plane is and know when I arrive. This is becoming helpful when meeting someone as they can look at where I am in real-time and decide when to leave for the field to greet me. It also shows the actual track you flew (based on radar returns) for the last flight. Check out http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N99376 to see where 99376 has been most recently. I highly recommend this site to anyone who flies or know someone who flies.