Airport Identifiers, what are they and where do I include them?

So being the bride of a pilot, I have learned quite a bit about flying. My job duties increase as I learn a little more.  Currently, I get to put the code into the transponder (the part that tells Air Traffic Control where you are) and enter the airport identifier into the backup GPS.

When I write a blog about one of our flying trips, I always add an airport identifier in the title. They usually start with a “K” and are 4 letters or numbers. Most of us know the airport identifier of our local commercial airport. Here in Austin, Texas, Austin Bergstrom International’s identifier is KAUS. Whenever we travel, I like to add that part into the blog so fellow pilots’ can know where we land in case they want to visit the same place.

The pilot uses a website called airnav.com. This site allows him to search the airport, see what type of approaches and runways are available and check the gas prices.

We have landed at over 200 airports over the years. Now you have learned a little bit of what I have learned and will understand when you see an identifier in the title of a trip blog, what it is.

-Morgan

Red River Bound, Day Trip to Wichita Falls, Texas (KSPS)

The Pilot and I firmly believe that every town has something to offer and no matter where we go, there is always something unique to do. We live in central Texas and have missed out on so many of the great experiences that this area has to offer because we live here and never get around to doing the touristy things that so many people travel here to do. As a result, the Pilot and I are willing to make the flight to just about anywhere knowing that we will find something fun to do when we land. To be completely honest, Wichita Falls, Texas (KSPS) did not start out strong. After arriving early evening we rented a Hertz car at the military base that had a Never Lost gps in it. We hopped in and asked the gps for restaurants near us…apparently it is not updated frequently, because we drove to FOUR restaurants before we found one that was still in business. It is a good thing that McBride Land & Cattle Company was worth the wait.

We ate shrimp stuffed jalapenos, steak and grilled quail; it was a wonderful meal…the water on the other hand was TERRIBLE…It had an aftertaste that is best described as mixing water with dirt. It was clear, but the taste was pretty rough. The pilot tried the iced tea, hoping it was better, but it was just iced tea flavored dirt water. On the other hand, the meal made up for it. We love steak, and the pilot makes a great steak. This makes it tough to go to a steakhouse, since some of them are marginal tasting. The steak was cooked perfectly and was a very nice cut. The quail had two options. One was fried, the other grilled. When the waitress asked which way we preferred it, the pilot and I spoke simultaneously, but I said fried, he said grilled. The waitress told us it was best grilled, so we gave it a shot. It was amazing, as was the rest of the meal. If you go to Wichita Falls, TX, you must try McBrides.

The never lost redeemed itself with a quick trip to the Red Roof Inn, our very affordable overnight accommodations. We use www.homeaway.com quite a bit, but on this quick trip we gave hotels.com a try. The room was very inexpensive, and turned out clean and a perfect place to rest for the evening. It included a continental breakfast, so we figure we saved another 10-15 dollars and it made the stay that much better.

The first stop of the day was the highlight of the trip, a wonderful master gardener named Bonnie Jones at the Wichita Falls Farmer’s Market.

The pilot and I have a wonderful garden in the back yard, but with the unpredictable weather here it is hard to really maximize the growing season. Bonnie and her husband were doing a special presentation on raised beds and took the time to step aside and visit with us about the advantage of covered beds and tips for making the project manageable. According to Bonnie, with the covered beds I should be able to grow vegetables year around and with the raised beds that my wonderful parents already gave us for Christmas, adding the covers will be easy.

The old windows that the Jones’ used were really heavy so the Pilot has agreed to make them out of plexiglass for me and I love the idea of building the beds taller for the broccoli and the bush tomatoes to allow them to get the height they need to produce.

Although rather small, the Wichita Falls Farmers Market was a lot of fun. I also learned that I do NOT like Arabian Melons but the cross bred squash were actually as good as they were described. I love going to farmer’s markets. We love to grow things in the garden, but we also like to buy anything we are not growing fresh. We have learned over the years to figure out which product is really homegrown and which is bought to be resold. We prefer buying from people who actually grow their own product.

If you are planning to visit…just be aware, no dogs allowed. As dog people, it was a blessing we did not have Runway on the trip; none of the places we visited were dog friendly. We are very accustomed to Austin where most places welcome dogs and Runway always loves to come along with us.

From the Farmers Market we headed next door to the Train Museum only to learn that it did not open until 11 so the pilot and I walked around the outside. There seemed to be quite a few trains that were in retirement. Many had stairs going in to them, but with a tight schedule we couldn’t wait around for them to open. Maybe next time if we are stopping through.

After the Train Museum we were off to the Wichita Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau to meet up with our Aunt Carol and her boyfriend Robert. We browsed through all of the marketing material for all of the towns in Texas. The pilot was grabbing material left and right telling me these were all leads for printing, and he was going to have someone at the shop call them and solicit business. I looked around at other fun cities to visit. Carol and Robert showed up after we had loaded up on “print material” and were ready to grab a bite to eat.

They rode up from Abilene, Texas on their motorcycle. I am amazed that they were still able to walk after all that time on the bike. The motorcycle trip for them was around 4 hours. It was Carol’s birthday weekend trip to gamble in Oklahoma, and we decided to come hang out with them for awhile. Here’s a picture of Robert and his Harley motorcycle.

Last on my request list for the city was to see the Falls, Wichita is not Wichita Falls without the water. According to my history lesson from the pilot, the actual falls washed away around 100 years ago and these were built in the 1980′s to replace the falls. They are man-made and have a pump that recirculates the water from the bottom back to the top creating the waterfall. There is a bridge across the bottom that allowed me to walk across the falls, but we didn’t stay long, the water did not smell well.

We walked along the bricks and made the little hike to the top to enjoy the view from the top. Although a good attempt at recreating the falls, I imagined them a little different than what they were. I can say that I have seen the falls of Wichita Falls, Texas now.

From the falls it was off to the casinos, a big first for me. As a teenager I used to play volleyball in Las Vegas, NV,  but that was before I was old enough to put money in the machines. We ventured across the red river to the casinos in Oklahoma. The Red River currently looks more like a stream…we need rain in Central Texas, but they need it a lot more than us.

To be perfectly honest, it was NOT at all what I expected. I had envisioned the cup of coins I would pack around and the tink tink tink sound that the coins would make as they fell out of the machines. The cards with money on them from the players club and the vouchers it prints when you win was far removed from my imagination. It was a pleasant surprise that the casinos give you free money to play with if it is your first time there. First we headed to the Kiowa Casino just on the other side of the border.

The $10.00 free cards that we received entertained us for almost an hour…on the $.1 slots it can last a long time. The pilot did put a $1.00 bill in one of the slots that you get to pull so that I could  actually pull the handle on a slot machine.

When the money ran out we moved to the next casino down the road Red River…we are probably not the ideal customer, but we decided we are not really gambling people so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

The Pilot played the wilderness game and actually had a successful trip to the casino. Considering that we played with the casino’s money it was exciting to leave with $18.00.

Aunt Carol and Robert stayed behind to enjoy her birthday weekend. We would have like to stay and hang out more, but had to get back to Austin, Texas for a little work. We departed Sheppard Air Force Field and flew home. It was a safe flight home and a great nights rest…not bad for a fun day trip.

Lifes a Beach, at the Beach in Galveston, Texas

The pilot and I have been planning to spend a weekend at the beach all summer and somehow the summer is over and we never made it. We didn’t have a weekend, but we had a Saturday a few weekends back and we capitalized on the opportunity with a quick day trip to Galveston(KGLS), Scholes Field in Texas. To ensure that it was an extra special trip we brought along some of our friends, the Woods.

We hopped in the plane first thing Saturday morning and headed out. It is always a little intimidating to come over the water to land. Even though we have done it a number of times I still get nervous and have to distract myself with something (this time it was finally finishing my birthday thank you notes from April–a little late I know) so that I don’t think about the fact that there is nothing below us to put JJ (our plane) down on. My pilot always tells me the plane doesn’t know if there is land or water underneath us, but I still get anxious. Our trip to the Bahamas in 2010 was over water for more than 300 miles!

We came into runway 17 from over the ocean and as usual I was super anxious but the Pilot set her down beautifully. The crew car, which is usually available was just checked out. Most small airports have a crew car that you can borrow for up to 2 hours, but someone beat us to it, so we called a cab. With no plans in mind, we asked the cab driver for a lunch recommendation and he took us to Gaidos Seafood Resturant on the waterfront.  The food was WONDERFUL! We had a soup sampler, which consisted of three of their soups in smaller portions and the fresh catch of the day special and they were well worth the flight. There was even a little shell store in the front of the restaurant. I like rocks, in fact I love them, so after our detour through the shop, we headed down to the beach. Here’s a picture of Mallory, one of my volleyball girls, and I in front of Gaido’s.

The pilot and I made sure to bring an ice chest for the fresh seafood that we always get anytime we are near fresh seafood. Since we took a cab instead of renting a car, we got to take the cooler with us everywhere. The pilot even took it into the water with him so that it could enjoy the beach with us.

It was wonderful to feel the sand and water on our feet.  I made the pilot walk down the beach with me until we made it to the ice cream stand. Unfortunately, Mallory (one of the girls on the volleyball team I coach) and I had something a little different in mind than the package of dip-n-dots that we ended up with but it was the idea that counted. Here is a picture of Mallory’s mom and I at the dip n dots stand.

The pilot even joined in the fun and had a package of Banana Split to go with my Cookies and Cream. He is not a big ice cream eater, but always joins in when I get some.

In an effort to get the full effect of ice cream on the beach and relaxation,  we sat on the boardwalk and people watched while we ate. There was a large canopy to keep you in the shade right on the boardwalk.

The Boardwalk was really beautiful. The city has really spent some money to make the boardwalk really easy to navigate. It had to be rebuilt after the hurricane a few years ago that tore it down. I even found out that the entire airport was under water when the hurricane came through.

As the good tourists we were being, we made sure to hit a few of the little souvenir shops before we headed to the fish market to finally fill up the ice crest that we had carried around all day. There are several shops on the boardwalk to choose from that sell t-shirts, swim suits and any kind of trinket you can think of.

Seafood does not get any fresher than straight from the boat and Katie’s Seafood Market is the best. Their fish were beautiful, the shrimp was caught that morning and the crabs were still angry about being pulled from the water. Blue crabs are cooked live, so you have to bring them home alive. The Pilot “let” me pick out the blue crabs; I am not sure if he knew I would love it or he didn’t want the crabs to pinch him. Here’s a picture of Katie’s Seafood Market and me holding a live crab!

You know that the seafood is fresh when the employees are literally waiting for the boat at the door. It is great fun that the boats literally pull up to unload and then you get to take it home. It really does spoil you though. Fresh seafood is just amazing.

The shrimp and fish was a sight to see. They had all sizes and head on and head removed shrimp.

After filling up the ice chest with blue crabs, gulf shrimp and a flounder, the pilot, the Woods and I were exhausted so we took the cab back to the airport and started our flight home. I promised him I would stay up and keep him awake during the flight. I am usually reading a book or sleeping, but sometimes I try and stay awake and keep him company. I did forget that we take off over the water before turning around to head home. It’s a short amount of time over the water, but it still makes me nervous.

I most prefer the turn to home. Here are a couple of pictures from the air.

It was a wonderful day trip; especially because I finally got my relaxing day on the beach. We enjoyed the food, the shopping, the fresh fish and the walk on the beach. Having a small plane gives us a lot of flexibility. If we were to try and day trip this with driving, it would be impossible. I would recommend Galveston as a fun spot to get away if you ever get the chance.

-Morgan

A Peachy Flight

The pilot is trying to help me take advantage of the last couple of days of summer. My job mimics the school schedule so before I am too busy we are taking a few extended day trips. One of the nicest parts about having a plane is the fact that we can just grab our stuff, throw it in the plane and we can be some place hours away (by car) in a short time…the plane has really extended the range on our trips.

When the pilot is trying to do something really sweet for me, he can be wonderfully thoughtful when it comes to trip destinations. I love fruit. I really love fresh fruit. When the pilot and I were dating, one of his brothers tried to get him interested in a fruit and vegetable supplement; he explained to his brother that I made sure he ate more than enough fruit so it was unneeded. We usually eat fresh fruit with at least one meal a day.

Of all the fruits, I love peaches the most. The season is so short, especially with the lack of rain and heat in Texas that we have experienced these last few years. So, as an extra special trip for me, even though impractical, the pilot and I went to Fredericksburg, Texas  (Airport Identifier T82), the PEACH Capital of Texas.

It helps that T82 (Fredericksburg’s Airport) is also in the Hundred Dollar Hamburger, a book, or website, of Airports with good close by places to eat. They call it the $100 hamburger because it takes $100 worth of airplane gas to fly there and eat a hamburger. The Airport Diner in Fredericksberg is actually right on the field so we park the plane and walk over to the restaurant and sit down. Very convenient.

After the pilot did a quick fill up in Georgetown, Texas (GTU). We were on our way. One interesting thing that I didn’t know until we started flying was the gas for the airplane is actually in the wings. Our airplane has 4 tanks and can go about 800 miles on a full set of tanks.

The pilot is really good about letting me read or sleep or just take it easy in the right seat. So far I have learned to set the squawk code on the transponder, which tells air traffic control who we are, and enter the destination airport into the gps (and most importantly change the XM radio station). Eventually I need to take the pinch hitter course, but so far I am happy to have no responsibilities. The pinch hitter course would give me the basics to land in the unlikely event that something happened to the pilot. Its a very basic, here is how to land the plane training.

The runway into T82 is beautiful. With all of the farm land in the surrounding arenas it is a beautiful place to land.

 

We got up and flew in first thing in the morning so that we could have breakfast at the Airport Diner as soon as it opens at 8am. The food is always wonderful and it is a fun little place with booths and retro bar stools with good home-style food. It is fun to get there early and sit by the windows to watch all the other planes come in. There are a number of patrons who drive over, but by the number of people that came in it is definitely a morning airplane fly in location.

One of the days when we head to Fredericksberg we are going to stay at the Hanger Hotel, thus far we have been making it a day trip or staying at a bed and breakfast, but every time we go we agree that “next time” we will actually stay at the hotel. It is on the airport field as well.

To make sure that we can get around to all of the peach stands and the wildflower farm we rented a car at the Gillespie County Airport building. The pilot loves tea and they make homemade everyday and have the cups and ice ready and waiting.

The pilot took me to all of my favorite fruit stands…as usual the Behrends Orchards outdid themselves with quality product and variety. They are one of the only orchards that still have local peaches later in the season each year, which was especially impressive considering the drouth from last year. Many of the stands had peaches from out of town, since they were out.

I love orchards where I can pick peaches myself, it does not get much fresher than that so we took the little mile drive off the road to the U-Pick orchard, but they were already out of peaches for this season. We also stopped at the roadside stand, they had a really nice variety and large peaches. There is one fruit and vegetable stand that is well out of town, that always has the main ingredient for one of my favorite holiday foods, cream peas. Wild Boar Farms always has a wonderful variety of vegetables; so we also picked up a few squash and a cantaloupe for eating later.

After hitting all of the orchards, the pilot took me to the Wildseed Farms. Even though it is currently too hot to plant anything at home I love to stroll through their gardens and look at all of the different types of butterflys.

They have absolutely beautiful zinnias and the mix of colors and just looking at them makes you smile, they are so cheery and bright. They were filled with butterflies. At first, I saw a few, but as I looked closer, there were hundreds of them. They must have been in flower heaven like I was!

The pilot is really patient as I like to walk all through each of the rows in the garden. When he gets tired of strolling around with me I can always find him on the closet bench or leaning against a fence somewhere. He is a really good sport about looking at all of the plant and posing for all the photos I like to take.

After an hour at the Wildseed farms, we were hot and ready for a little shade and stroll through downtown. I love the old, homey feeling of downtown. We hit a few leather shops and the paper store. The pilot fell in love with a pair of alligator boots in one of the boots stores. I love walking down the main street. It is very touristy.

We didn’t want to stay too long as I do not enjoy the turbulence that mounts as it day warms up, so we made sure to go by my favorite shop the Handmade Candle Shop before we left. I already have about 10 of them, but I really like to go watch her work. She makes the process look so effortless and the candles are truly beautiful. After one of our trips to see her we came home and tried to make some little candles ourselves, BUT all we did was make a huge mess and a lot of trash. She talks with you and explains what she is doing, but now we know she makes it look much easier than it really is.

After a quick trip back to the terminal to return the car, the pilot and I hopped back into the plane to make the quick trip home. Even though it is a short ride the pilot always flight plans above the clouds so that I don’t have to contend with the bumps. I have learned a lot about weather and flying. Usually, once you get above the clouds, the ride in the plane is much better.

Fredericksberg, T82, was a wonderful morning trip that was close enough to get us home in time for lunch and an afternoon nap. The people there are always so friendly andwe will make that trip again soon.

 

Fishing with the Gators

For Mother’s Day the pilot and I took his mom Fishing with Ray, Top Cat Fishing, at Choke Canyon. Ray is really wonderful about picking us up at the Live Oak Airport (8T6) in George West, Texas so we can go and come same day. After making the round trip same day last weekend I recommend renting one of the cabins in the park. After getting up at 3 to be there by 6 and fishing all day it is really rough on the pilot to fly home late. For the second time in a row we had to hold over the Three Rivers VOR because the airport was, as the pilot says, socked in.

Sunrise over George West

I know that he was excited about maintaining his currency, but, honestly, I prefer to skip being included in flying around in circles first thing in the morning. The sunrise was really beautiful from the sky but I would rather see it from the fishing boat.

The Lake is really down but with our droughts in Texas, but the Alligators were out in full force and the lake was really beautiful. According to Ray, the gator population is the result of nuisance gators from Houston, so thank you Houston, the gators entertained us. We got to see one chasing a Gator Gar, the large gar totally cleared the water trying to get away. We got to see them doing their mating rituals, it made for a really entertaining morning.

Ray had the poles bending all day. There were even a few times when all three of us had fish on at the same time. Ray’s terrible smelling catfish bait did the trick and we reeled until we were exhausted.

I love to fish BUT I love to fish even more when I catch the biggest fish of the day. There were a few times that the pilots pole bent over and I thought he might have hooked the big one, but when we called it a day I got to be the one who caught the largest and smallest catfish of the day.

Growing up in a family where hunting and fishing is something you do even before you learn to write your name I sometimes forget that not everyone has had a lifetime of experiences to fish with. The pilot’s mom, Linda, had a slow start to the day while she got a feel for it, but once she got the hook set figured out she put the pilot and I to shame with all the fish she was bringing in. It was really nice that all of us were bringing fish in the boat.

It was a wonderful trip for some family fishing, in a beautiful place with a really great guide…And we made it home in time to sleep in our own beds.

 

Pearl Harbor in Temple

I love to go places in the plane but I do not have a passion for planes like my pilot does.  Last Saturday when the pilot jumped out of bed at 6am to fly to the Central Texas Air Show I went back to sleep. Jason volunteers for an organization called Angel Flight that fly’s patients who cannot afford the travel for their treatment and had committed to promote awareness at the show.

Around lunch I headed to Temple to spend time with my pilot and was pleasantly surprised by Tora Tora Tora show. The flying that those pilots do is AMAZING. They fly so close to each other and so close to the ground it made me nervous for them. I have a better appreciation for how much skill it takes to fly those planes, but even if I knew nothing that show is exciting. The pyrotechnics really added to the experience!

Even better news, the show’s color was hot pink, my very favorite color. I think they planned it that way just for me…

Plane Jane, Jr.

When Jason, my pilot (and Husband) started flight training we had a long discussion about the pros and cons of plane ownership versus rental. We decided to be honest with ourselves and agreed if we were going to budget the money for him to learn to fly that we needed to use it often.  If we owned the plane, both of us would feel more confident with his comfort level in the plane and would, as a result, fly a lot more often…Little did I know when we were sitting on the couch that evening how much time was involved in training.  Jason was always at the airport so I teased him about all the time he spent with “her” instead of me. Finally I decided that if he was going to spend so much time with her she needed a name, Plane Jane. Jason let me be in charge of her naming.  After Jason finished up his private pilot’s license Plane Jane, our Cessna 172, was totaled in a hail storm. When we replaced Jane our bigger and younger plane, a Cherokee 6,  Plane Jane Junior, or JJ for short.

Plane ownership has been an adventure ever since. Jason is REALLY great about trying to take me places that I want to go and it has been a lot of fun to “extend” the range on our weekend get-a-ways.