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Two Week Flying Vacation - Day 4

Date: July 24th, 2012

We woke (wait for it) around 6:30 AM and headed out to KFLY. We got the plane out of Burrall's hangar, said thanks and goodbye to Sean and took off uphill to the north on 33 because there was a 12 kt. headwind. Downhill is preferred there, but not with a 12 kt. tailwind. With a Density Altitude of 9100 ft. at 8 AM, we used about 4K ft. of the 6K ft. runway. The land climbs gradually to the north, so we climbed at best rate for a couple of minutes before starting a cruise climb. We went up to 9700 ft. and headed northeast under and around the Denver Class B. Other than some windmills and fires, there's not a lot to look at in northeastern Colorado. We passed over Fort Morgan, Kimball, and then Scotts Bluff, NE. By this time, Deanie had really gotten into checking our position on the map (Airchart books - great).  She's getting a lot better at figuring out exactly where we are and recognizing airports in the distance.

In order to stay vaguely near some roads, we headed toward Chadron, NE and then Hot Springs, SD before pointing at our stop for the day, Custer, SD. Turns out there was a new TFR for fire fighting just south of Custer, so we curled around to the east and came at Custer from the north - this gave us the opportunity to preview both the Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments from the air. Custer (KCUT) has no taxiway - you have to backtaxi on the runway, but it's not very busy, so there's no problem. There were a few firefighting helicopters operating out of there, and the Governor flew in with his family in a King-Air, I'm sure to assist with fighting the fires, as we were getting our stuff out of the plane.

Shannon and her husband run the airport and they're wonderful folks - they can rent you a car (which we did) and they even put our plane in the hangar gratis when they needed the ramp for more helicopters that evening.

We took the rental car and a map and went on a tour of Custer State Park (yes, both the town and the park are names after probably the worst general the US army has ever had - apparently he camped there a couple years before his day of infamy). There's a great, scenic loop road through the park that runs through the Black Hills, with lots of overlooks, mountains, views and wildlife (pronghorn, bison, deer). It took us about 3 hours to do the loop. After that we stopped at Mt. Rushmore (hadn't changed any since I'd been there in 1980) which Deanie had never seen. It's an impressive piece of work, for sure.

After an hour or two at Mt. Rushmore, we headed over to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which was my main reason for my wanting to stop in Custer. Between the size (563 ft. high, about two or three times that in length) and the rationale for the memorial, not to mention the 64 years of continuous work on the mountain by Korczak Ziolkowski and his children, this is certainly one of the most impressive modern man-made objects on the face of the earth, at least to me. There's been a lot of work done in the 32 years since I last saw it (the face is done and a lot of material has been removed from around the horse's head), but there's still a tremendous amount to go - I can easily envision this project taking another 100 years. If you never go anywhere else, you need to see this. Yeah, it's touristy, but it's worth it because that's where they get all the money for the work on the mountain. And it's amazing. It'll still be there in 100K years, long after all people are gone.

After Crazy Horse we checked into the Chief Motel in Custer (eh - don't go out of your way), relaxed a bit, took showers, watched some baseball and then drove back to the Sylvan Lake Lodge in the park for dinner. Expensive - not great, but good. It rained like mad that night - almost cooled things off.


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