Our friends from Utah invited us to hang out with them over the new year, so we decided to go for it. We bundled in a trip to Wichita, KS to see a cool museum and visit my great Uncle Rick, then onward to Colorado to visit some RV friends, then to Tucson to surprise my family for Christmas, and finally direct to St. George Utah.
Lucy lounging at 71k "Dead Cow International" airport:
Taking my friend "Pilot Mike" and his son on a flight around the Boulder Colorado area:
We went to a nice dinner with Mike and his family, as well as Justin Twilbeck and his family in Boulder and enjoyed walking around Pearl street and all the festive decorations while the kids all ran around together having fun. The next day we went on a hike at 9500 ft and gasped for air the whole time, hehe just kidding, it wasnt too bad. The sights were spectacular! We then skated on a neighbors frozen pond and it was MAGICAL. I loved it so much.
We stayed super busy and so the next day we drove up to Keystone to meet up with Mike and fam again. They have a family tradition of going up there for ice skating, skiing, and general festivities. Lucy had never been skiing before and she bombed the first time down the bunny slope, then did better the next run, and then we set her lose on some simple green runs and she did a few of those. To finish off the day we went down a 3.5 mile trail called Schoolmarm. It was amazing!
Later that evening after some ice skating we went over for dinner. Mike's wife, who is Polish, cooked us a delicious dinner and we had Polish beer, went to an outdoor hot tub (in the snow), and then crashed hard that night. We awoke to an unexpected amount of snow, which was bad because we were trying to leave to make it into Tucson for a family photo later that day. We very slowly made our way out of town through pretty treacherous roads. The AWD Buick SUV we had rented did a really great job with traction control.
The flight to Tucson got a little dicey as we started picking up some icing. We had a bit of a scare because we started slowly losing power. After scrambling with the fuel mixture knob, the mag left/right, we switched to the left fuel tank and things returned to normal. We quickly speculated the fuel vent line had picked up some icing. Yikes! It was all made worse because we were up against a 75kt head wind, so we were in the soup much longer than anticipated. We were unable to get lower because of terrain, so we climbed up to 14k for a bit and put on the oxygen. As we got near Tucson area we were able to get lower and all the ice melted away. Learned a couple hard lessons there and will be a better and safer pilot going forward. One big take away we had no idea to worry about was fuel vent icing. We're going to do a mod like Tim Olsen did.
We made it into Tucson, alive even, and surprised my entire family. Only my Grandma knew we were coming, but everyone else was shocked. It was wonderful. We had a big family photo and had a really great Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with everyone. It had been since 2009 since we had last been out to Tucson for the holidays, so it was great to be back. Lucy LOVES her cousin, Levi, and they played and played. He got a trampoline for Xmas, so that was a huge hit. We did a fun family outing to Top Golf, which seems to have become a tradition. Grandpa stuffed us with delicious meals the entire time, so much so that I honestly looked forward to getting home and maybe not eating for a week lol. Went bowling with Mom, Levi, and Lucy after book store and ice cream. Did some fishing in 40 mile per hour winds as a storm was brewing. You know, just the usual mischief.
A week had gone by in a flash and it was time for us to depart. We blasted up to St. George Utah to visit our friends Scott Schmidt and his family, along with Ed Kranz and his fam and we had a nice scenic flight over the Grand Canyon. All the kids have been playing together since babies, so they were really excited to get together and do what kids do best. We took them to a 'ninja gym', Scott put on a Japanese style Hibachi show, we enjoyed the beautiful sights of the area, and stayed up way late and laughing and having a great time. The next day we went to Pioneer Park and climbed around on some uniquely Utah rock structures.
Whew, 2 weeks of adventure wore us out and we had a nice uneventful trip home. We had 30kt tailwinds and clear sky the entire way back. We left when the sun was barely coming up in Utah and made it home after the sun already set back home. We got to use our new landing lights and they were fantastic.
Oh, I almost forgot, the return flight wasnt completely uneventful. After taking off from St. George we noticed the indicated airspeed was low and dropping even still. Power seemed fine and control surfaces seemed tight, so I knew it was just the indication. We landed and ran diagnostics for about 40 minutes and determined it was some freezing in the pitot line. We knew we could press on and so we did, but it was a little nerve racking. Soon into our climb out we got into a temperature inversion and the problem went away. Flying in cold weather is not something I have done a lot and it seems rife with surprises!