Stunning Sunday Departure Pictures by Dan Valovich: .....https://www.flickr.com/photos/dm5038...57675340827685
It's amazing to me when folks like something so much they offer to pay for it ...even when they got none of it
Wow.... you just have to think about that a little bit! Thanks to everyone for the offers and we'll let you know how it goes when the dust settles but more important, here is a short story about the weekend. This is the short one but know that there are lots of short and long stories about the journey and new friends found in odd places
Petit Jean Airport and Campground was in better shape than it has ever been. Lots more grass parking on really solid (when dry) ground. Great menus, fun stuff, the waterfalls were spectacular ... and so on. But then Friday happened. Forecasts were for rain Thursday night, blowing through and VFR mid morning. Not a big deal ....and they blew through all right but it left a lot of moisture in the air. All around the mountain, we had pretty good marginal VFR if there is such a thing with 1,000 -1,400 OVC viz 6+ but the trees on the airport are at 1,1,00 MSL and that meant KPMJ was like 300 ovc with vis obsured in the morning. It was supposed to lift after lunch and occasionally hinted at it but nothing really changed for more than minutes at a time.
By late Friday afternoon, we had a total of 3 new arrivals when we were looking for something like 85 to 90 before dinner. The amazing thing was that most pilots & crew that started out came as far as they could VFR and stopped, some flew the approaches, missed and just went to the closest place they could find...... and then they drove it. That's right, we had a Fly & Ride & Drive
instead of the usual Fly & Hike
. There must be something special about getting to the RV Mountain! There were RVs at airports all over a 100 mile radius of Petit Jean. There were airplanes at Russelville, Conway, Pine Bluff, Mountain Home, Clinton, Batesville, Branson, Fayetteville .... literally everywhere. ATC from Memphis called Air Boss Bob to tell him they were really trying hard to get folks into MPJ on instrument approaches, but they were all going missed. Bob relayed that he could hear them, almost see them, but no one was getting in. Ceilings were indeterminate, rarely MVFR, mostly not. The promised stable VFR never arrived....
and neither did the airplanes.
While we had no planes to speak of, the most amazing thing was that the pilots didn't go home! They landed and drove it in rented cars, appropriated airport cars, and shared rides. The PJ group ran shuttles, and a 14 pass van to pick folks up. We hauled luggage and camping gear and the occasional Spotted Cow
We delayed dinner at the Rockefeller Center from 6:30 to 7:30 to let everyone get in.
Even the big boys got grounded, Adam Burch and Sterling from Vans in the factory RV14 were picked up in Clinton, Arkansas by Ron Moring. Ron was stuck in Batesville, rented an SUV that was big enough to be "Spotted Cow Capable" and headed to PJ. While driving(?) he or Kathy picked up "stranded RV" locations off the FaceBook feed and the VAF forums and decided to do shuttle service as well. He was heading to Searcy to pick up Jesse Bentley but then Jesse diverted to Branson. Having been almost there, Ron was close to the Vans boys at Clinton and picked them up on the way in. We had 8 RVs at Russelville, just 30 miles away with MFVR but that didn't get you up on the Mountain. Long story short ... at 5:00 PM Friday, we only had 6 planes on the ramp but at the RCC dinner, we still had 70+ faces looking at each other across the tables, laughing and swapping stories about Petit Jean.... the best DRIVE-IN FLY-IN ever
You just got to love this RV Community!
Saturday dawned(not) and it looked like the promised 12:00 noon'ish VFR was not going to happen as well. Still looking like 300-500 ovc at the airport with the rare hole teasing us but it slowly started to rise. At 11:00, we heard a couple of RVs overhead and then about 11:15 one finally made the turn to final and the Fearless 1 landed. (Fearless 1 = new call sign)
People were starting to post on FB and VAF about it clearing and then it was like an RV swarm on the Mountain. By Air Boss Bob records, we landed 48 more aircraft in the next 90 minutes. That set an all time high activity record for RV Mountain. Now the Sun was shining and the Gathering was on for real! Vic Syracuse and others ran a much faster airborne shuttle service to take all the Ride-Ins back to their airplanes and they were back on the ground at Petit Jean just after lunch. I am told the air-taxi guys were almost offended when someone offered them gas money for the trips... that's just being part of the RV Community
The rest is history! We were expecting 120+ on the overnight ramp and a projected in and out total over 150. Turned out we had 6 on the ramp Friday night, 68 on the ramp Saturday night, and a total of 94 in and out. Considering the weather, it was a huge effort on everyones part to be on the Mountain, one way or the other. Most pushed their limits but safely, stopped where they needed to and came when the time was right!
We had a great time Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, lots of pictures to tell the stories. The volunteers scrambled to adjust to the wet parking, the spontaneous shuttle demands, and the schedule that just got tossed out the window..... and they did it very well. Everyone said there was more laughing, horsing around, visiting, and just plane'ole RV socializing than ever before. Maybe it's just me but I think that the challenge of shared adversity brings us all together and makes our lives just a little more crisp. Today, that shared adversity was the very unique experience of making a safe arrival at Petit Jean. New friends were made, not only on the Mountain
but also at the airports surrounding it. Shared adversity has a special way of bonding friendships and this year on the Mountain will be a special memory for a lot of our Petit Jean RV friends.
We have had a very active FaceBook Group page associated with the Fly-In. There are already hundreds of pictures posted there and it takes me a long time to get normal pictures to a shared site and posted to our website www.PetitJeanFlyIn.com
. The easiest way to get to fun iPhone pictures and iPhone videos is to click on this link and join the group https://www.facebook.com/groups/PetitJeanRVFLyInGroup/
Make it a Liked Favorite and once you have been approved, you can comment, post pictures directly from your phone, discuss, or do whatever you like that is Petit Jean related. We'll have a lot more pictures posting on the VAF later this week.
This may not have been the biggest Petit Jean Gathering but when you look back at the adversity overcome and the friendships that happened because of it ...... I'm not sure we won't remember it as one of the very best!
On behalf of all the PJ Volunteers, including the RV pilot volunteers, EAA165 North Little Rock, EAA Hot Springs, EAA Conway ..... thanks for coming and thanks for your generous support .... we hope to see you next year on the Mountain.
Here is a link to some absolutely stunning Sunday morning departure pictures taken by Dan Valovich. Dan will frame, modify, or do anything you want to with these. They are lots of "wall hangers" in this run. Also hundreds of pictures on the FB page now.
Picture Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dm5038...57675340827685