MORNING PEN CHECK

The rain that was expected to begin falling overnight held off until shortly after 6:00 this morning. It quickly made up for the delayed start however, with giant, pelting raindrops and flashes of lightning. It wasn’t long before every depression was filled to overflowing.

The Class of 2011 received their preventative meds yesterday, delivered via grape treats. On his return from this morning’s pen check, boots squelching and soaked through – Caleb flashed a smile and gave a thumbs up. He said all the cranes were doing just fine despite the heavy downpour.

HOLIDAY HIATUS

The already strong south winds worked up a head of steam last evening and the motion of our motorhomes went from rock ‘n roll to pitch and heave. Then, the sky opened up. Like a little drummer boy on a sugar overload, the rain played a resounding rat-a-tat-tat on the roof of our ‘tin cans’ all night long. As a result, this morning there’s a little stream flowing between us and the access to the ‘facilities’.

With what we’ve been presented with this morning, and what appears to be ahead of us, at least in the foreseeable future, we have decided that effective today we will take a Holiday Hiatus to allow the majority of the team an opportunity to get home in time to spend Christmas with their family and friends.

Four team members will remain behind to look after the Class of 2011 and keep the ‘campfires’ burning.

MIGRATION DAY 73 – DOWN DAY 9

We have a stiff breeze out of the south giving us a balmy temperature in the 50’s today. At altitude the wind is from the same direction and considerably stronger. The crew is fast running through all the little jobs, fixes, and miscellaneous tasks that are always cropping up and wanting some attention.

We’ve taken full advantage of the down days – taking on fresh water, dumping grey and black water tanks, re-filling onboard propane and propane tanks, catching up on ‘housekeeping’, laundry, correspondence, etc, etc.

PREDICTING

If you’ve been watching the national weather, you will have seen the giant system we are under. It’s big, and it’s not pretty, delivering windy conditions and very soon if it lives up to what the weatherman is promising, also lots and lots of rain.

In a message posted to our GuestBook today, Susan Van Den Bosch from Twin Lakes, WI expressed her appreciation to our migration property owners and stopover hosts. We have often said, but cannot say it often enough, without the kindness and generosity of these wonderful people there could be no ultralight-led migration as we know it. It is great that Susan and so many others are as grateful for and as understanding of the magnitude of these folks’ contributions as we are. Reproduced below is Susan’s GuestBook entry….

“Every year I am amazed by the families and communities along the migration route. At a particularly busy time of year they open their homes and families up to the OM team and birds for an unknown period of time on sometimes very short notice. While the families remain anonymous to those of us following on the net, I would like to say thanks and God Bless our migration hosts/communities for their support and dedication to the OM team and our precious chicks.

I have witnessed migration flyovers twice in recent years and have been welcomed into the communities near the flyover. The OM team makes an impression wherever they go and leave a lasting memory for all.”

MIGRATION DAY 72 – DOWN DAY 8

We have strong winds aloft this morning. Indicative of their direction is the rising temperature. In contrast to the previous overnight temperature in the mid-twenties, last evening it was in the 40’s and forecast to rise to a high of near 60 degrees before the day is out.

During this and previous stops here in Russellville we’ve made some great friends. Among those are Harry and Belle, Dick and Joanna, Johnny and Brenda, Hudean and Janice, and Janet and Coy. This shout out is in tribute to the ladies mentioned here. They have been treating us to wonderful, homemade fare every day since we arrived, and we can all attest to their fine cooking and baking skills. What a warm, generous, and thoughtful group of people! We know how fortunate we are, and we are honored to have their friendship and grateful for their support.

PREDICTING

The good news is our equipment issue has been resolved. The bad news is the weather tomorrow will certainly keep us on the ground. The prediction is for SSE surface winds and 20-30mph SSW winds aloft.

We will be watching the forecasts – both short and long range even closer than usual. If it appears we will not have a reasonable opportunity to fly in the next day or so, rather than pressing on, we will consider breaking to allow the crew to go home and to spend the holidays with their family and friends.

TRAILER TALES

Guest Author:  Walter Sturgeon

Several years ago I was hauling the Nomad, predecessor to our Sierra travel trailer, with the white crew cab truck. All together the rig was more than 50 feet long with the turning radius of a train. While pulling it into a camp site over a rather narrow culvert I got the left side wheels too close to the edge. It had been raining, the soft ground gave way, and the trailer slid into a rather deep drainage ditch along a public road.

The trailer was hard aground on the frame on the left side with the wheels dangling in the air and sticking out into the road. Fortunately, we always carry lots of wooden blocks and planks that we normally use to level and chock the trailer wheels. It took all of those, plus the combined efforts of the OM crew, as well as a couple of local farmers with very big jacks and a standby tractor to extricate the Nomad. This was reported in the Field Journal on December 15, 2006.

Two days later, December 17, Bev Paulan our field supervisor on that migration was pulling the equipment trailer through a road construction area on I-75 near the Georgia/Florida border when trailer problems reared their ugly head once again. The road was scored for resurfacing and it was down to two lanes. Hauling the trailers over this surface was much like pulling them over 10 miles of rumble strips.

I was following behind Bev, driving the white truck pulling the Nomad. All of a sudden there was this excited voice on the walkie-talkie saying, “I’ve got a flat. Pulling over.” Luckily, because of the construction, there was a closed lane and also a breakdown lane protected from active traffic by a long line of orange barrels. We were able to get both our vehicles and their respective trailers well off the road.

I pulled off quite a distance ahead of her, grabbed the jack and handle out of the equipment box in the back of the white truck, and started to walk back. Bev on the roadside surveying situation. Much to our surprise both wheels on the duel axles on the right side were gone, rim and all, and the trailer was resting on the brake drums.

The rough road had created such a vibration that the lugs sheared off. Evidently, the first wheel had come off some time before, and because of the roughness of the road, neither of us noticed it. Unfortunately, no one thought to take a picture so my verbal description of the situation we found ourselves in will have to do.

To make an already long story shorter, I continued on to fetch some help, while Bev stayed with the rig enjoying the sunny warm day and caught up on some long neglected reading. One interesting side note to this story was that a supporter named Mark stopped to see if Bev was okay and offered her his gun for protection.
It wasn’t too long before I returned with Richard and Brooke, and after a trip to an auto parts store and a roadside repair, we were back rolling down the road again.

You well might ask why I am resurrecting these old stories. Well, this year at our Carroll County, TN stop where we camp at the local airport, there are some awesome drainage contours poured into the concrete parking area. Our own American Idol candidate, Caleb Fairbax, who is not just a pretty face but a skilled trailer-puller, managed to better both Bev’s and my trailer incidents.

Caleb managed single-handedly to get ALL four wheels of our equipment trailer off the ground at once. The picture of this feat is for your amazement and entertainment. When we got done shaking our heads, we all certainly had a good laugh at Caleb’s expense.

Fortunately, because it was originally designed for hauling cars the trailer has a strong frame under it. At the height of the problem on this migration day, it ended up looking like a well decorated covered bridge.

Most of the crew remembered our experience with the Nomad and we had it back on all four wheels in no time using jacks, blocking, and planks.

Caleb will probably be immortalized since none of our equipment has more than four wheels. Leave it to some young whipper-snapper to best us old veterans.

The common theme to all these incidents was that no permanent damage was done to any of the equipment. Considering the number of miles we log, the country roads we travel, the tight places we often have to pull them into, and the constant rotation of drivers, we have a minimum of difficulties and incidents.
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MIGRATION DAY 70 – DOWN DAY 6

Due to an equipment issue, the cranes, planes, and OM team will be unable to advance today.

Speaking of progress, or lack thereof, a comparison to previous years reveals that on this date in 2010 we were already in Gilchrist County Florida. However, in both 2008 and 2009, the only other years we’ve flown this more westerly route, we’ve been right here in Franklin County on December 17.
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MIGRATION DAY 69 – DOWN DAY 5

The weatherman was correct. We were on the receiving end of lots of rain last evening and overnight and there has been no let up whatsoever today. What ever is in the ‘atmosphere’ is even playing games with our air cards so our internet connection was coming and going until now.

Photos below taken by Walt Sturgeon of Joe Duff and Richard van Heuvelen leading the Class of 2011 into Franklin County on December 11.

Joe leading four cranes

 

Richard leading five cranes

PREDICTING

As our intrepid Migration Crew Chief, Walter Sturgeon, would say, “It’s hard telling not knowing.”

That about sums up what we can say about the chances for a flight tomorrow. The winds both on the surface and aloft look about as light as they can be without being non-existent. The stinker is likely to be rain which the weatherman is predicting will be an overnight and all day affair.