After Salt Lake City, our destination was Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to see Yellowstone National Park and then to head back to Chicago via Denver, because our new avionics screen was awaiting us at Rocky Mountains Municipal Airport (KBJC) in Broomfield, Colorado. Remember the 10 mile flight we did on April 2nd when our SD-card reader had become unreliable in Boulder? We had traveled to Freedom Avionics for help and they recommended we order a new screen, which we did. It was not a difficult decision since the failing screen was as old as the airplane, i.e. about 12 years. Since that day, we had spent between 30 and 45 minutes before each flight warming the card in the sun or in our pocket and blowing into the card reader, and for some mysterious reason, the essential terrain and other data always appeared at some point. However, we knew that this free lunch could stop any day and always kept in mind that we might need to interrupt our tour to go install the screen in Broomfield. This is also why our "US tour" has a circular shape: never too far from the new screen! (by the way, this screenshot of our tracker is dated May 2nd so now you know where we are).
While we were planning the flight to Jackson Hole on April 15th, two events made us change course: first the weather for that day was not good, a light snow storm was expected, and second we got a message from Tom G on our website, informing us that he was traveling around the world westwards with his family and was currently in Cœur d’Alène (pronounced Cordalayn and a clear remnant of the French past of the US), Idaho, and had been in Santa Fe just days before us. What were the odds?! So instead of flying to Wyoming on the 15th, we headed to Idaho for lunch on the 16th. We didn't want to miss the unusual opportunity to meet fellow pandemic travelers and this was probably the closest our two airplanes would get before we each headed in opposite directions. Tom had heard about us from the earthrounders website and now both our "teams" are prominently featured there.
The earthrounders site is really a little gold mine of information, I really want to thank Claude Meunier from Switzerland for making it live. When preparing our trip, we found most of our contacts and a lot of useful material there and, in case you feel like joining, an earthrounders meeting is planned in Switzerland in September 2021.
Apart from the opportunity of meeting fellow circumnavigators, our 3 hour flight to Cœur d’Alène had two other highlights: our first icing and its West bound direction.
Even though the weather was much better in Salt Lake City on April 16th than the day before, it was below zero degrees Celsius outside - which is why we had rented a hangar for the night-, there was still a lot of fog in the morning -the famous Lake effect!- meaning we had to climb through the clouds for several hundred feet after take-off before reaching the blue part of the sky. All pilots and aviation enthusiasts know that this is the perfect recipe for icing on the airplane, especially on the wings which is dangerous because it changes their aerodynamic properties. Coming from Buenos Aires where the temperature is never super low and where the sun tends to lift the morning fog quite early, we had almost no experience with icing and were therefore a little nervous, despite the fact that our LV-GQF is equipped with a TKS system, i.e. an anti icing liquid that runs through tiny holes in the wings to prevent ice from sticking.
So as soon as we had reached a safe altitude after take-off, we started looking at our respective wings in the mist every few seconds to look for ice.
Any ice in sight?
It was very likely to appear because the clouds were dense and the temperature kept dropping as we climbed (-2 degrees Celsius for each 1000 feet by the book). And there it was: tiny little drops of frozen water started accumulating on the ailerons, followed by some frost on the leading edges. The drops were very small and stayed small until we finally emerged from the clouds with a sigh of relief: if this was all, we were totally OK. But even though this was really minimal icing (probably the friendliest way to be initiated), I still wanted it to go away and even though the sun had started to shine on the fuselage, I wasn't sure if it would melt ice drops when the outside temperature was -12 degrees Celsius. After all, ice stalactites hang from buildings and mountains even when the sun shines... or don't they? Well, through scientific observation, I found out that little drops do melt in the sun at -12 degrees Celsius, but not very fast...
The weather was much milder in Cœur d’Alène, a mountain town surrounded by lakes and rivers, where we had a pleasant and instructive lunch with Tom, Nathalie, their 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter.
Approaching Cœur d’Alène
The partners in crime, each facing their travel direction
They were there because their D-IDEE is an Aerostar and Cœur d’Alène is the world HQ of Aerostar (another thing I did not know before this trip...)
Apart from meeting partners in crime, the other very interesting aspect of Cœur d’Alène is that the airport's longitude is 116° 49' 5.99" W, i.e. the most Western location we've ever been on our this trip. If you remember the definition of an "earthrounder" (see my March 28 post about our earthrounder friends in Naples, Florida), this means that if we stop there again after crossing Russia and entering the US via Alaska, we will technically have completed a full circumnavigation, long before we go back to Argentina. I like to think of it as a smaller round the world trip within the larger one. So basically, even though we went Westwards instead of Eastwards, we still made progress!
After lunch we continued to Jackson Hole (KJAC), our original destination where we landed a little less than 3 hours later, very excited with the idea of visiting Yellowstone.