Lone Star Maule Roundup

The First Annual Lone Star Maule Roundup was held at the Llano Municipal Airport (KAQO) in beautiful Llano, Texas on May 10 – 12, 2013. Llano is situated in the heart of the hill country right on the Llano river. Although the weather forecast was “iffy” at best, it turned out absolutely beautiful for Saturday & Sunday. We did receive some rain on Friday but the storm passed through quickly and then subsided.

Over the course of the weekend, planes came in from all over Texas plus individuals from Mexico, Arizona & Colorado. A total of 24 Maules showed up for the event plus 11 additional non-maule aircraft not counting the local Llano planes. Several planes came in Friday with the majority flying in on Saturday. Some 52 pilots/friends flew or drove in for the event plus all of the local Llano area pilots & community attendees. Approximately 18 people spent Saturday night camping at the airport and flew out Sunday.

The guest of honor was Brent Maule from Maule Air, Inc., Moultrie, GA. Brent had a wonderful time visiting with Maule owners and watching what Maule pilots really do with the airplanes that the Maule family builds. He was so encouraged and excited about the turnout that he now wants to have a Homecoming Fly-in Event in Moultrie, GA at the factory. Plans are underway…

The attendees enjoyed a catered BBQ lunch on Saturday sponsored by Ken Rostron with Hill County Asset Management Services. The Airport, Llano Chamber of Commerce, Cooper’s BBQ, Maule Air, Inc. and a few other local businesses provided items for a free raffle for all Maule pilots. The event planners sold T-Shirts and Caps with $200 of the profits going back to the pilots in the form of $100 fuel drawings. Cade Isham from Decatur, TX and Rob Cathriner from Frisco, TX were the winners. Rich Wellner (rw2 on www.mauleforum.org “the forum”), won the longest flight to the Roundup. He flew almost 12 hours from San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (just North of Mexico City) to attend the event.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, the flying competition was underway. 10 aircraft entered the round robin competition including the Flour Drop (from 200’ AGL), the Spot Landing Contest, and the Shortest Landing. Three planes entered the pattern at the same time (4 on the last group) and each had 2 attempts at the Flour Drop, 2 attempts at the Spot Landing Contest, and the final leg was the Shortest Landing Contest. David Beaver (beaver on the forum) in his M7-260 won the Flour Drop. Ross McCrea (DirtDobber on the forum) in his M5-235 won the Spot Landing Contest and Patrick Ramano (usernameguy on the forum) won the Shortest Landing Competition. Thanks to Maule Air, Inc., RL Motorcycles – RL Aviation, and NRS World for providing the prizes. There were multiple photographers and videographers on hand to capture all the fun.

Most pilots drove into Llano for dinner Saturday and a few stayed back and cooked on-site. Following dinner, everyone gathered under the registration tent at the FBO and enjoyed the fellowship and shared stories about the days events. Then it was time for Movie Night. During the day, Rich Wellner, the Maule owner from Mexico, gathered up the media (film & photos) from the pilots and worked on a mini-video that was shown in a large hangar after dinner. It was an awesome video but only a glimpse of the final video recap of the First Annual Lone Star Maule Roundup. (see final video link below).

A special thanks goes to Patti Zinsmeyer, Executive Director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce (and her husband Charlie), Llano Larry and Runway Roy, the Llano Airport Staff, the entire Llano Airport Advisory Board, Jeff Hopf, owner of Jeff Hopf State Farm Insurance and the Lone Star Inn for providing hotel rooms Saturday night, and the Llano community for welcoming this event to their city.

The event planners (Andrew Kudlacek, Charlie Pace, and Russell Armstrong) were extremely impressed by the hospitality of the entire Llano Airport Community and area businesses and made the decision to make Llano the permanent home of the Lone Star Maule Roundup. The 3200’ grass strip (that is also 300’ wide) was in fantastic shape and perfect for camping and flying.

The planners have already started thinking about ideas for next years event and we encourage you to pass along your thoughts & recommendations. We want the Lone Star Maule Roundup to be one of the premier flying events in Texas!

Next years Lone Star Maule Roundup will be held May 2 – 4, 2014. Mark your calendar and don’t miss the next roundup. It will ALWAYS be the 1st weekend in MAY. See you in 2014 !

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IMG_5977Helpful lineman dude takes our bags into immigration and customs and we notice how spartan the setup is. There are a couple customs people there, mostly listening to their ipods and reading magazines. One immediately jumps to help us as we arrive and ask if we have the correct forms already filled out. We don’t, so she shows us the ones we need and answers our questions about them.

Both are pleasant and capable and we find ourselves quickly out the door. This was a pleasant surprise because we’d been warned a few days ago by our buddy Chris that clearing customs and dealing with other airport related activities had been a major pain in the ass with waits for customs and hours of waiting for departure permission.

Our rental car was a piece of work. Rentals on Eleuthera are an absolute rip-off. I have no idea how the economics of the deal end up being so messed up, but a poor condition 15 year old car ended up costing us about $55 a day. The staff was awesome. They were pleasant and eager to help, but Beth spent a bunch of time looking and that’s just what cars cost there.

In any case, we take possession of our car and head down the road toward the house. The island is 110 miles long and only a few miles wide. There is a single highway going down the middle of it, but there is very little traffic and few stores. We stop at the grocery store for some supplies, but they don’t have booze. We stop of the liquor store and find that we can’t get booze because it’s Sunday. Disappointed, we get back in the car and drive the rest of the way to the rental.

Arriving at the rental we’re happy to see the place. We mostly rent from private parties, and this trip is no exception, but the prices on the island were super high, so Beth booked us at what we thought would be a good compromise. We find a note on the door welcoming us and letting us know that the owner had to run into town, but to go ahead and make ourselves at home. We bring in the bags and start settling in.

The beach is white sand and no one is on it. There are a couple houses nearby, but I guess with 220 miles of coastline and a population of only about 10,000 people there is plenty of beach for everyone. We decide to head over to Chris’s house and see how things are with them.

IMG_6082We get there and are greeted by people we haven’t met before that speak very little English. Concerned we might have the wrong house we introduce ourselves at the same time I remember that Bruno and his family, including his parents from France, are also down for the week. I introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Rich and this is my wife Beth” and we go inside to say hi to everyone else. Like our beach, this one is empty except for our friends.

The house is a large one, three couple plus kids are staying here, and very recently remodeled. The new furniture and nicely appointed kitchen (with industrial ice maker!) are much nicer than our house, but I suppose that’s one of those “you get what you pay for” things. We meet Bruno’s wife and kids and get things setup for a campfire on the beach.

Though breezy, the campfire is warm and the stars glimmer in the sky. A bit of moonlight graces the scene and Chris and Bruno were able to get booze prior to our arrival so we have adult beverages to sample. This is when Bruno decided to tell me that his parents thought I was an ass when they first met me. Apparently, when I introduced myself they initially thought I was telling them I was wealthy! They mentioned this to Bruno, who laughed and clarified the situation. Sitting around the campfire we have a great conversation and everyone made new friends.

IMG_6285The next morning we have to run over to Nassau to get the plane Chris and Bruno flew down in. They attempted to leave Nassau a few days prior and had to abort a landing. On taxing back, they found that they had lost a tire. It took several days to get the tire identified, located, shipped and installed. Now the plane is ready to go, so we pile into my plane and head over.

The skies are much more clear than when Beth and I arrived. The seas are even more vibrant now with the sun shining on them. We pass the time commenting on various small islands and notice that for the majority of the trip it looks like if we had an engine failure we would find ourselves in water only up to our knees.

We land at Nassau and find it to be the same mess that it was when Chris and Bruno had previously been there. There are simply too many airplanes trying to use the airspace and it’s a 30 minute wait to get through to clearance to get a taxi approval, then a 45 minute wait on the taxiway before getting a chance to get on the runway and take off. None of this is because of the local controllers. They are doing their best to manage a congested situation. It’s just a fact of life when the airport is as busy as it is.

We fly back to Eleuthera and are happy to be at a much less busy airport. Chris swings around in front of my bush plane and I land behind him before we both do a 180 and taxi back to the tarmac.

IMG_6543As we’re going through town Chris sees some guys selling grouper on the beach and we get a couple for dinner. Chris cooks the grouper and Bruno cooks some side dishes. We end up with an amazingly good dinner, more great conversation and another campfire.

The next day we decide to again take advantage of our aviation skills and fly up to Treasure Cay and a ferry to Green Turtle Cay for lunch. The scenery and oceans are beautiful, as usual, but the skies are choppy and Beth isn’t happy. We also end up flying through some pretty thick smoke, which makes her even less happy. Lunch was pretty mediocre. It would have been better with a beer.

IMG_6385Finally the end of our trip comes and we fly to Fort Pierce, Florida and continue our journey from there.

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Key West

IMG_6163We park the plane on the ramp and notice that we, definitely, have the sexiest plane here. Oh, sure, the myriad of personal jets fly faster and speak volumes about the monetary success of their owners, but ours is slow, goofy looking and can land across most of the runways those guys use.

I puff my chest out and walk into the FBO as if I’m not a commoner flying a cheapo piston plane and we get a shuttle to our hotel. It’s a decent little place, but lodging here is unexceptional unless you want to pay a mint. Lots of average places to choose from and we hunker down to plan our next move.

Sleeping is a nice option, but it’s only mid-afternoon. Seems like a waste to spend bucks getting somewhere to sleep all day. Could have done that for free at home. So we grab cameras and start wandering around town.

The sun is bright and hot. We’ve spent the winter with a very mild mountain climate in San Miguel and then traded that for a bit of ‘cold and damp’ in the midwest before coming here. The blue sky is refreshing, but I’m going to need more sunblock if we’re going to do this for a few days.

We get to the main drag and are, well, disappointed. It’s definitely a tourist town and at least one cruise ship is in and Duval street is busy with folks who only have a few hours to drink as much as they can at Sloppy Joe’s before the bus leaves and they go to the next port.

After a couple laps up and down the road, we end up stopping at a drag bar that seems to be filled with locals. Always a good sign. The mixed gay/straight crowd is doing a music night with several of the locals sitting in with the band either singing or playing piano.

Travels being what they are though, we tire quickly and call it an early night.

IMG_5840The next day we go to Hemmingway’s house. There are apparently some 40+ cats that have descended from the original polydactyl cat that Ernest had, so they all have extra toes. It’s pretty weird looking actually, but they are all mellow (presumably the non-mellow ones were served down the street at one of the low-end restaurants) and are cared for well. The house itself is interesting and well preserved. Because it was occupied as recently as 50 years ago it’s a bit like visiting your old aunties house, but checking out his writing studio is fun. He had a large room that was minimally furnished and looked out over the gardens and the pool. Clearly I’m missing something like that and it explains the paucity of output on this blog.

After finishing up we decide to wander through town again. We head the opposite direction and soon find ourselves at the end of the island. There is a marina and a bunch of restaurants so we decide to take a break for some lunch. For no good reason we sit down at a random restaurant and I realize that I’m in the mood for a cheeseburger. We get that, a salad and a couple beers and watch the early boats get cleaned up after their morning charters.

The burger is plopped in front of me and is a juicy looking specimen with an appropriately sized bun, fresh toppings and some perfectly prepared french fries. Biting into the burger I’m happy to find that it’s among the best burgers I’ve ever had. Perhaps there is something to that frat boy Jimmy Buffet after all.

IMG_5886As night falls we decide to go to a drag show. The tickets are cheap and there are 50 people packed into the small room. The lead is a pretty talented dude with a good voice, but the rest of the cast is pretty weak. It’s an entirely lip synced performance, but still somewhat entertaining. It is fun, but I wouldn’t go back. The room quickly clears out and we are soon two of only five people left. We leave also and wonder how empty things have to get before they decide to stop.

The next day we mount up and head back to the airport. The array of airplanes on the ramp is still mostly those that have fuel bills equal to the cost of our plane, but we still have a cool ride.

We head east and follow the string of islands that make up the Florida Keys and then fly over mainland Florida for a little while before heading out toward the Bahamas. There is the standard low set of clouds and Beth doesn’t like to fly through them, so we stay low and enjoy watching the seas change from dark blue to emerald as we near the islands. We get turned over to Bahamas ATC and are cleared to land at Eleuthera, which will be our home for the next few days. The airport looks like a barely used runway, but it has customs and there is a lineman out to meet us and get our bags as we taxi up. And that’s as good a place as any to pause our story…

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See ya on the airways

“Sure, many forms of recreation are expensive. But here’s how I look at it:

For billions of years prior to now, I didn’t exist. And in a relatively short time from now, I will return to that state of non-existence. So I count myself incredibly lucky to be alive. I also count myself incredibly lucky to live in a century in which technology, society, my country of residence, my health, and my wallet have all reached a magical nexus which allows me to own and fly my own airplane. In all of human history, that has only been the case for approximately 100 years (realistically, 80 or so.) And in all of the nations around the globe, I live in one of the very few ones where it is remotely possible to own an airplane, and in just about the only one where it is still remotely financially feasible to do so, for a person without a trust fund.

Had I been born in 1773 instead of 1973, I would not be so lucky. Had I been born in Ghana instead of New York, I would not be so lucky. Had I been born with a significant medical condition instead of my relatively healthy body, I would not be so lucky.

Nope, it just happens that I was born at the right time, in the right country, and have made the right educational and professional moves in my life to allow me to own an airplane. How many other humans can say the same? Maybe .000000001% of all humans who have ever lived? Probably less.

So what am I going to do with these incredible, unbelievable, deliriously wonderful strokes of luck? Sit here and grumble about how much I’m paying to fly? Or go out there and blaze as many airborne trails as I can?

See ya on the airways.”

— Unknown

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