A Trip to Tiger Town – Cleveland, Oklahoma – by The Sky Surfer
On Route To Tiger Town
The night before making this flight I consulted my primary weather prognosticators (wunderground.com & weather.com) and the consensus was the wind was to be from the Southeast at 9 mph, the temperature fair. I looked on my “Points of Interest” map and zeroed in on an interesting town in Oklahoma to the Southeast that had been brought to my attention on a previous flight to Pawnee, Oklahoma.
On arrival in Pawnee that Friday the 5th of July, I had the good Providence to meet Tom Tisher who was working on the rodeo grounds adjacent to the air field. While giving me a ride into town he suggested I try Cleveland, Oklahoma for one of my next flights. He had been born there and said it featured a good air field on the edge of town. It went on my list, waiting the right wind conditions. Propitious weather conditions occurred 17 Aug 2013 – The Sky Surfer had a mission.
Some Easy – Some Hard
Not to paint this darkly but some Fun Flights require much more physical effort than others. They are all great adventures and inherently fun but some require far more exertion than others. Perhaps God arbitrarily chooses to test one’s mettle on occasion. Maybe He wants us to prove ourselves at times. Also, I suppose one should expect “Mountain Top Experiences” to necessitate more than a passive involvement to achieve. For any or all of those reasons, the Flight to Cleveland was one such test of endurance.(OK. Let’s stop right here. I have already read through this artful co-mingling of fiction and fact and I’m here to tell you any real or perceived “exertions” The Surfer had on the Cleveland, Oklahoma Fun Flight were all of his own making. As usual the whiner tries to make it sound like he is some Old Testament Mighty Man, striving with God, conquering great forces of nature, performing heroic deeds but, as we shall see, The Flight Was Easy – The Surfer Made It Hard. Hang in there. Let’s just let it unfold. You’ll soon see what I mean. – The Editor) (Puleeeze… How many of these “Sand Pit Pictures” must we endure??? For some inexplicable reason (not even known to him), The Sky Surfer sees art in these ground holes. A good writer, Dave O’Malley of Vintage Wings of Canada, once tried, ever so gently, to persuade The Surfer that even one sand pit shot was one too many. As we have also found, it would seem the use of diplomacy to help TSS is wasted effort. – The Editor) (TSS tells us how wet the ground is but, is he really paying attention to what he observes? You’ll see what I mean later… – The Editor)
No Till Farming
I tried to photograph this better but, as the best shot of the three, it will have to do. The point of the exercise was to show a good example of “no till” farming. What the photo does not show between the rows as well as I would have liked is the “flat”, cut wheat field underneath the crop. Whereas most of the time, a crop such as this will be planted in furrows dug by a plow, this one was planted by “drilling” the seeds into the ground leaving the previous wheat field fairly intact. There are lots of reasons to take this approach and I have inserted a number of links in this paragraph you can follow if you wish to find more about this method of farming.(OK. Good call. Rather than guessing wrong again about the type of crop photographed, (as he has done in the past) The Surfer played it safe, went “generic” and thus spared himself the type of agonizing embarrassment his fragile ego cannot bear. – The Editor)
Crossing Big Waters
Right on schedule I saw Kaw Lake and began to climb to a higher altitude. When flying any plane, and more so when flying a 2 cycle motor powered one, you endeavor to allow yourself a place to land in case the motor quits. The higher the altitude you maintain, the more choices you give yourself if your engine were to quit. In the photo below, my actual charted path would have started at the closest water in the foreground, continuing over water to the other side. Being not a slave to the GPS, I maneuvered to the right in order to stay over land longer and to cross at the lake’s narrow point East of the Furguson Road Bridge.(Oh, no, no, no, no, no… We’re not going to let that one get by. The nonchalant explanation given above was but a charade designed to mask The Surfer’s relentless construction of a totally avoidable chain of errors. The Surfer wants you to believe he casually picked out a spot on the far bank of Kaw Lake to “take a break” and “stretch the legs”. Yeah, right… Here’s what really happened… Mr. Surf fashioned the first link in this chain of disaster by breaking one of his vaunted “unbreakable rules” – he drank coffee on the way to the airport that morning. This act of defiance insured the predictable, eventual, inevitable “in flight emergency” dreaded by all airmen to which Sky Surfer arrogantly decided he had become immune. Even at that, after hammering out Link #1, Surf compounded his poor judgement when he casually discarded his first “free pass”. It occurred just after receiving the first major physical manifestation of the impending calamity only an hour into the 2.5 hour flight to Cleveland. At that time and for a while thereafter, TSS could have landed at any one of 500 unique, convenient, safe, remote oil field and/or country roads all about that area and safely disposed of “the issue”. But, shortly after the receipt of this initial emergency indication, it subsided fairly quickly. Satisfied he was in the clear, Surf decided to “press on” and Link #2 of the chain was forged. Link #3 in this chain of infamy occurred while he was taking the pictures on the approach to Kaw Lake. A casual view of the first shot in that series reveals a plateau open, flat and wide enough on which to land a Boeing 747. But, while concentrating on flying and photo-ing, Surfer dismissed the recurrent twinges beating on the door at the periphery of his consciousness. He assumed these harbingers would again subside as they had an hour earlier. They did. After shooting the last picture of Kaw Lake, Surf Boy hooked on Link #4. Crossing the body of water at an altitude calculated to allow a glide to shore should the engine quit, “a half-way, point of no return” was estimated. Upon reaching this point, the potential glide would switch from “turnaround” to “press on”. Reaching this point of no return, he momentarily entertained the idea of turning back to the plateau to pre-empt any bladder twinges which might again flare up. Alas, foolishly forsaking the retrospectively obvious “easy out“, he elected to “press on“. Not 30 seconds after crossing this invisible line in the sky, The Sky Surfer was savaged by the most strident call his over-stretched bladder had ever shreiked at him in his entire life to that day. Summoning all his abdominal strength, all of his will power, grunting and groaning, screaming aloud… He inventoried every known method for “holding it” garnered in 62 years… Surf tried focusing his mind on a myriad of disparate things. He even tried crossing his legs but the cramped “cockpit” of his spindly air machine would not even allow that time honored trick. Having climbed into the headwind, making a ground speed of 28 mph, the far side of the lake crept toward him slower than a turtle in tall grass. 2 minutes seemed like 2 hours. Finally over the far bank, rubber-necking left and right, he spied the narrow road shown in the photos above. Regardless of being cross to the wind, it would have to do. Gritting his teeth, nearly in tears, TSS settled the trusty Quicksilver MXL onto the surface fo the thin little road. Not even stopping to kill the engine or strobes, he simultaneously unbuckled his seat belt with one hand and the leg strap with the other hand. With total focus born of absolute desperation, Surfer bounded from the cockpit, mercifully able at last to release the torrent at the side of the road. Thank God no one was out on the porch of the cabin 400 yards away to witness this debacle… That’s what really happened. – The Editor)
I had noticed it on the map when studying the route the day before but, flying low that Saturday, it appeared suddenly. I climbed quickly to get a shot of this little village but did not want to expend much fuel on the effort.
After the trip and upon writing this story, though, I learn now that Burbank was once an Oil Field Boom Town. Situated on Osage Indian Tribal Land, during the Oil Boom of the 1920’s, so much money was paid to the tribe in royalties, they were called “The World’s Richest People” by The New York Times. I have added Burbank to my “Future Exploration List”.
Prairie Golf Course
I’m cruising along in ground effect to extend range. This means I am flying at about 10′ AGL (Above Ground Level). At that altitude one cannot see very far in the distance. Suddenly, out in this vast expanse a Golf Course appears. After taking the shot below I banked hard left so as not to buzz any players that might be out that morning. Nobody was playing yet. Later on Google Earth I discovered it is the Kaw Wah C Golf Course East of Fairfax, Oklahoma.
Continuing a direct path to Cleveland, Oklahoma would require me to cross the winding Arkansas River three more times in the final stretch. As discussed earlier, crossing wide bodies of water at low altitude is not to be done. Fortunately, where the river bends East at Blackburn, Oklahoma, a detour tracking the Eastward bend of the river would not be very far out of the way. Also, I saw a nice path cut through the woods paralleling the river in the direction I would be traveling. This would provide plenty of landing area should “the fan stop turning”.
Cleveland On The River
Cleveland is bounded by the Arkansas River on three sides and sits on high ground. Since there had been so much rain, the river had overflowed much of the area beneath the town to the North. The next few shots give you an idea of what that looks like.
When I was in High School, you had to have desire to be on the Football Team. One way of demonstrating that was participating in “Summer Two-A-Days”. These sessions were part “fundamentals review”, part “weed out”. They were very hard. You had to really want to be there and show up twice a day in Summer Vacation. Some Coaches would continue this endurance test even after school started. As I pulled into the Cleveland airspace I saw a team working out below me. For a town this size this indicated to me a high level of intensity on the part of their sports program. Checking later I found these to be the Cleveland Tigers.
As I traced the West side of town I took the following series of shots from 1,200′ AGL looking Westerly.
Golf Course Embedment
Cleveland’s Airport is surrounded by The Keystone Golf and Country Club. After landing I could hear the sound of golf carts all around me. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for a round or two. Before tying down my plane I took the picture below. For a moment I amused myself with the thought of how cool it would be to have a Mercedes for a loaner car but, Cleveland Field being an unstaffed airfield, I knew that would not be possible. What the car did tell me was that somebody was working that Saturday and should be around the hangar.
After entering the offices I met Gordon Jost, owner of Renue Aircraft. Gordon is in the business of painting airplanes. He also buys and sells them. During the week he employs 4 men in the paint shop. This Saturday, he just had his skeleton crew with him.
Gordon and I talked for a while about what I do and what he does and airplanes and such. He lives in Tulsa and drives to the Cleveland shop each day for work. It is a 45 minute drive each way. Renue paints 3 to 5 planes a month and derives the majority of his business from the East and West Coasts and lately from Michigan. After painting a plane from Michigan, all the guys up there liked the job so well they have been bringing theirs to Renue, too.
After about a half hour I thanked Gordon for the tour and said I was walking into town to get some gas. Completely unexpected by me, he volunteered the use of his car. I thanked him for this generous offer and said I would get the gas and bring it back and then walk back into town. I figured this would be better because I like to wander around the towns I visit and I didn’t want to tie up his vehicle too long. Gordon said, “That’s fine”.(OK. We didn’t call Gordon about this but you have to figure he was questioning The Sky Surfer’s Sanity. After all, it had already reached 85 degrees that morning and this guy drops in out of nowhere and announces he is going to make a 4 mile round trip carrying 30 pounds of fuel up a steep grade. Gordon was obviously concerned he would soon be getting a call from The EMS asking about a pilot they had in the emergency room passed out from over-exertion. Loaning the car was an Act of Mercy. That TSS would insist on STILL walking back into town even after being provided this enormous break surely put Gordon into shock and dismay but… No matter how hard you try, some guys just can’t be helped. – The Editor)
As I have noted in other Sky Surfing posts, one thing I like about my journeys is the walk into town from the airport. When talking to City Hall Friday prior to the flight, I was forewarned the airfield was on a significant height above town. My mind reacted “Hey, Oklahoma isn’t Colorado. It can’t be that tough.”
After getting the gas and returning to the airport, I gave the keys to Gordon and headed back down Airport Road into town.
About a half mile down Airport Road I saw this house sporting The Paw – a confirmation of my earlier suspicion. I think this is a Sports Town.
By the time I reached the WalMart I am having second thoughts as to the wisdom of my walking tour. This was the downhill leg of the journey and I was already tired and hungry. I stepped into the “food side” of the store – always a bad idea when I am hungry. I emerged with a half quart Dr. Pepper, two candy bars, a pack of gum and a huge plastic bag of green grapes. I told you I have no business in a grocery store when I’m hungry. It took me an hour to eat all those grapes…
Highways 64 and 99 connect in Cleveland. The traffic was consistent the whole time I was there. Mostly I walked along Broadway Street/Hwy 64 and took this series.
Walker’s Feed, Pet & Garden Center
I was getting pretty tired but wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed any historical items or other items of interest before walking back to the airport. A lot of the businesses were closed that morning but I noticed Walker’s was open. I entered to see what I could discover.
When I finally got back to the airport I ducked into Gordon’s office to tell him I was back. He said, “Did you enjoy your walk?”. I had to admit to him it was quite a test of endurance. I offered that I probably could have been fairly well served if after using his car to get the gas, I would have spun the prop and returned to The Air Capital. But then I wouldn’t have met Dan Henning or really seen much of Cleveland. The walking tour was worth it.
My “mind clock” had the time at about 1:30 or 2 pm. The clock Gordon and everybody else uses said 3 pm. With that surprise I accelerated my egress, said goodbye to Gordon & Company and hit the sky. Gordon had let on that he presumed my Quicksilver could take off in a short distance so I confirmed his suspicion by taking off from the tie down area next to his hangar (with room to spare).
After almost 2 hours in the seat, I decided I needed a break. Just a little to the left of my path I saw the harvested wheat field shown below. Even though there were a couple of wet spots, it looked like a promising candidate for a short layover. I circled once and settled on to the field. Usually about 4 inches, the wheat stubble on this field was quite a bit higher than I am accustomed to – probably 18 inches. Its resistance to my landing gear and nose pod rapidly drew me to a stop. I got out, took a few pictures and after admiring the scenery took off again.(Again, when the facts are “inconvenient”, The Sky Surfer seems to omit more than a few pertinent details… Possibly because he put himself into a state of exhaustion from his “forced march” in and out of Cleveland or perhaps because he is just getting “drifty” with advancing age, over the previous 2 hour flight, Surf Boy just plain spent too much time gazing at the beautiful scenery and not one nanosecond checking his fuel level. Not wanting to fool with topping the fuel tank when leaving Cleveland, he had decided a half full fuel tank combined with the forecasted tail wind would be enough to get him most of the way home. His plan was that after an hour or so he would land and add fuel from a “pony tank” he lashed behind the seat. Well, shazaaam!- as Gomer Pyle used to say- the tailwind turned into an East Crosswind and provided no useful motive force, not that it would have taken him all the way home regardless. So for 2 hours he had daydreamed his way through hundreds of square miles of the most open, “landing accessable”, perfect “off field landing” spots on the planet. When he finally looked over his head – and folks, the Quicksilver fuel tank is a completely visible, opaque container suspended no more than 12″ above the pilot’s head – he was shocked to see only about 1/4 gallon remaining. At this revelation of “imminent fuel starvation”, the landscape below him had changed from “endless perfect landing field” to one of steeply rolling hills and deep grass. Sure, one can land in this stuff if absolutely necessary but it is more advisable to be able to see the surface of the ground. Deep grass can hide big rocks. Surfer continued not even seeing a country road on which to land. Even though earlier he had inexplicably ignored the translucent container of “go juice” suspended mere inches over his head, it now consumed the focus of his entire being. Increasingly anxious not to be forced into “dead stick” mode, Sky became increasingly less discerning regarding landing spots. When the mown wheat field came into view, he ignored the obvious reflections of standing water here and there, focusing instead on the patch that reflected not at all. He rationalized that the field had to be dry in portions that were draining into the wetter areas. To be charitable, that was actually the case but it did not mean the “drier” areas were “absolutely dry“. Upon touching down in the field, the tall wheat stubble did, of course, slow him down but not nearly as much as his right main landing gear did when it sank into the moist earth. In fact, because of the tall stubble, Sky Surfer did not even notice the tire was embedded up to the axle until the first time he attempted to take off. He had stepped out of the cockpit after landing and taken some photos and then poured more gas into the tank. After securing everything and starting the motor he strapped in and “ran it up” to initiate the takeoff roll. No roll. Full power for 10 seconds. No roll. Figuring something wrong, he shut down, got out and peered down through the tall wheat stubble to discover the tire embedded to the axle. The other two tires were fine, though. For the next 30+ minutes, The Sky Surfer laboriously pulled the plane out of little “one tire troughs”, re-started the motor, belted in and attempted takeoff. Each time just one of the tires would sink in and stop the plane. Now to credit The Sky Surfer, over the years he has learned not to endlessly repeat a failing plan expecting different results. After 30 minutes of this “beating a lame horse” he finally stopped, reviewed the situation and formulated a new plan that was frankly “out of the box” – borderline genius! His observation was that the ground was dry enough to support himself without sinking. It was also dry enough to support the airplane without sinking. The crux of the problem was that with their combined weight on the tires, at least one tire would sink in: No Takeoff Roll. Thrilled at making what his irrepressible ego naturally assumed to be a brilliant observation, The Surfer at the same time noted that the field was well terraced and that it was drier on the next terrace higher, 40 yards Southeast of the “zone of great distress” in which he was trapped. But, try as he may, he could not physically roll the plane to that place. There was way too much resistance from the wheat stubble combined with the mild upward grade. This was where “thinking out of the box” saved the day. It occurred to Surf Boy that while the plane wouldn’t taxi with him in it over the spongy area, it might taxi with him out of it. He started the motor of the plane. Then carefully working the throttle proceded slowly to “walk it” across the field all the while high-stepping gingerly backwards through the high stubble. After 3 or 4 minutes of this awkward dance – (Surfmeister falling only three times) the Dancing Duo made it to the top of the higher -drier- terrace. While hope had never left him, he now had absolute confidence, he and the MXL would be airborne soon. What little wind wafted across the field was coming from the East. Although a normal takeoff would require far less distance, Sky Surfer nonetheless walked off about 100 yards Southeast to check the “runway” for holes and rocks. Frankly, it was marginal because of a 2 foot patch of mud at the top of the next terrace down. Surfer’s bet was that he would have enough momentum at that point, though, that if he were not yet airborne upon reaching the mud spot, he would at least have the nose wheel up in the air, make it over the terrace hump and be lofted into the air on the downside. That is what happened. Surfer and the MXL were finally back in the game. Maybe this will learn him… – The Editor)
After taking the short break in the wheat field I made a slight detour. My Good Buddy Captain Doug Moler told me he would be attending the K & O Steam and Gas Engine Show at the Winfield Fair Grounds. If I hadn’t already committed to the Cleveland Flight, I would have gone there, too. It is a big, regional event for the showing of Antique Steam and Gas Powered Farm Equipment. There is always a good turnout and the opportunity to watch these venerable old machines in action.(Note: In the caption above, The Sky Surfer neglected to mention the mud-stained left knee of pants that were clean that morning. – The Editor)
The photo above is no Objet d’Art but was taken to show the wind direction. Hoping to get a full tailwind push all the way home, for most of the trip there was no help at all. The weathermen missed this one for me but at least it did not turn into a headwind. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit Tiger Town and walk around a bit. I hope you enjoyed the journey, too.
See you next time!
Blue Skies & Tailwinds!™
The Sky Surfer(Amazing… So typical The Sky Surfer would lay his tailwind deficit at the feet of the weathermen. He knew the wind direction could change. After all, he is constantly harping about this area being The Great Plains. Overall, though, I am glad I gave Surfer Boy this opportunity for growth. As you can see he has far to go before possibly reaching his goal to be a photo-journalist. It might happen over time – stranger things have. Folks, handling “A Star” – at least in his own mind – is an art occasionally requiring the implementation of extraordinary means. If anything, I hope this exercise has given you an insider’s look at The Flite Blog™ process – the “tug and pull” – the stratagems – behind the scenes leading to the output quality you expect. The sly benefit for management (knowing the fragility of The Sky Surfer’s ego) has been that once he sees all these public corrections to his weak report, we know he will sulk for a long, long, long, long time. This will allow us to get back to status quo: The Sky Surfer flitting about the countryside taking random photos – The real writers back at the shop tying it all together and doing the “intellectual heavy lifting”. After all, as long as “Sky Surfing – The Flite Blog” remains a visually interesting, somewhat informative web log, the “background process” is not that important to be known. Thanks again for being part of this experiment/management tactic. – The Editor)