The actual list of the seven signs of the apocalypse varies by religion and culture, but all agree on the eighth sign: the one day of my three day vacation that best fit the schedule for taking a rare PapaGolf day trip with the Co-owner dawned cool, dry, and calm, and was forecast to remain that way during the entire day. A perfect flying day that perfectly fell on a day that was available for flying?? The end must be near! Sell short on oil company stock and enjoy your few remaining days!!
The Co-owner has only flown in Papa once in the three years we've had him, and that was a short hop to Urbana for breakfast. The problem is air sickness, and the only cure for it is to only fly when the sky is glass smooth, it's not too hot, and it's not too windy. Those are rare days indeed, particularly in August. But the Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast looked great, and the goblins at NOAA agreed: great conditions all day!
I had laid the groundwork of the flight the previous day my asking the Co-owner if any of the trips I have described previously here in The Chronicles appealed to her. "Well, I don't read your blog very much," she replied. Hmmm. Pilot's choice then, and after briefly considering Burke Lakefront or one of the Bass islands I figured that I had left my exploration of French Lick incomplete on my last visit. Besides, the stated purpose of that trip in the first place was to reconnoiter it as a possible trip for the Co-owner. That decision made, I expanded the boundaries of my weather checking to include southwestern Indiana. The answer remained the same: perfect weather. The flight plan indicated an hour and fifteen minutes in the air. Doable, but right on the fringes of morning bladder capacity. We'd have to use the full capabilities of Papa. No lollygagging on this one. Full speed ahead!
The temps being nice and cool and the barometric pressure still in the low 30's allowed for a relatively quick climb to 5,500', our (miscalculated) cruising altitude. I realized later that I should have been at 4,500' or 6,500' on the westerly leg. Duh. A mistake like that comes from being a little more stressed than I would have been on a more normal trip. Just as it is when flying with Co-pilot Egg, I have to concentrate more on finding a comfortably cool and smooth altitude to provide a good ride. I can't just shrug and endure the sweating and the bumping around like I usually do.
There's also a little additional tension on my part because the stakes are always a little higher when 2/3s of the family are involved. But the pressure to keep the ride fast and smooth gets even worse when the persistent calls of nature become too obvious to ignore; it seems that coffee has nothing on tea when it comes to encouraging throttle-to-the-firewall flying with its strident demands to be released from its most recent captivity in furtherance of its life goal of returning as rapidly as possible to sea level. The avoidance of descending down into the bumpy air, where the sloshing would be excruciating, kept me high and fast as we approached the airport. For the record, we hit the left downwind to French Lick's runway 8 at 160 knots, which was only slightly faster than our ground speed as we headed to the separate rest rooms in the terminal upon landing.
The shuttle from the hotel arrived soon after the FBO called them, this time in the form of a fully loaded Buick minivan. Plush! We asked to be dropped at West Baden Springs hotel since Co-pilot Rick and I had only had a few minutes to poke our heads into the lobby on our previous trip. There was a lot more to explore.
But first, lunch at Sinclair's:
I forget what the waitress called that, but it was a toasted crisp with roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese. It was tasty enough, but we were pretty hungry and anxious for lunch to arrive. I like to eat light when faced with a flight home, so I ordered the grilled chicken Cobb salad:
The Co-owner chose the french onion soup, lobster salad roll, and a petite salad:
The waitress informed her that she had made an excellent selection. Reacting to my crestfallen look, she belatedly threw a "You did too" in my direction, but I'm pretty sure she was just trying to make me feel better. I guess I should have gone for the lobster. And I had been tempted, for sure, but the Cobb salad promised bacon. And I love my bacon. The chicken was very good too, although the salad was made up of those weird pieces of flora that you would normally target with Ultra-Strength Roundup.
After lunch we wandered through the atrium for awhile, visiting the various shops and boutiques, and just soaking up the environment:
Yeah, fly out to French Lick to drink a bunch of tea! Hadn't we just tried something eerily similar, albeit with the tea drinking before the flying to French Lick? No, I don't think we'll be attending the Afternoon Tea! But a brief sojourn on the veranda was nice:
The thing I most regretted not having time for on the first visit was a walk through the gardens. They're not Versailles, of course, but very impressive nonetheless. I had brought the camcorder because it's lighter and easier to carry around, but the garden made me regret my decision to leave the good camera at home:
Some of the Jesuits that lived at West Baden from '34 to '64 are buried there:
Having spent a few hours enjoying a self-guided walking tour of West Baden Springs, a change of pace was called for. We hopped on the shuttle bus for the short ride over to the French Lick Hotel and Casino. The shuttle driver remembered me from the last visit and knew that I liked taking pictures, so he stopped in West Baden's upper parking lot for me to take a picture of the hotel:
The first stop was the casino, but we didn't do any gambling. It turns out that our currency was no good there because it was, well, actual currency. It's all about touch screens and magnetic stripe cards these days. You have to get a card to slip into the machines to play any of the slots, and that felt too much like a reverse ATM to me. I like the feel of coins dropping in, and I like the sound of coins dropping out when you hit a payoff. Electronic beeps and red LEDs counting up and (mostly) down doesn't do a thing for me; if I wanted to play a video game, I'd stay home and play a video game.
We didn't stay in the casino long before the noise and futility of it drove us out to look at the hotel. I had seen most of the French Lick Hotel on my previous visit, but we still managed to find some things I had missed.
Well, I had seen this wall of all of the Kentucky Derby winners before, but I stopped for a picture this time:
According to the shuttle driver, all Triple Crown winners from the very start can have their bloodlines traced back to a single sire: Peter the Great. Parts of Pete are reportedly buried over at West Baden, and there is even a stone memorial to him there. I'm not 100% convinced of the claim that Peter the Great was in the blood lines of all of the Triple Crown winners, though. Peter was a Standardbred. Triple Crown winners are all Thoroughbreds, aren't they?
Unless the shuttle driver was referring to The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters, which consists of the following horse races:
1. Hambletonian, held at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey
2. Kentucky Futurity, held at The Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky
3. Yonkers Trot, held at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York
But if that is the case, it's somewhat disingenuous. Without a modifier, "Triple Crown" to most people refers to the Kentucky, Preakness, and Belmont.
As we were walking around the hotel, the ever-observant Co-owner saw signs pointing to The Garden. The Garden in this case was quite small and not nearly on par with the one at West Baden, but there were a couple of things of note:
Chess with huge wooden pieces make look like fun, but that knight weighed about 60 pounds. I couldn't move the Queen at all.
The mineral water that made French Lick famous in the early twentieth century spawned the growth of one of the biggest employers of the era, Pluto Water. Which was, of course, a company that bottled and sold the water from the Pluto Spring:
We didn't go down to the well to take a look, but a couple of other folks that did reported back that it smelled pretty bad. I guess that means it's good for you. It was advertised as "America's Laxative" with the slogan "When Nature Won't, PLUTO Will". I'm not surprised at all that it had an unpleasant smell, now that I think about it:
It was getting to be about time to start the arduous journey back to the airport. The ride back is a little harder to get than the initial pick-up because a lot more hotel guests are up and about and wanting to be shuttled between the hotels. The airport trip breaks the rhythm of their transfers, so it can take awhile to squeeze it in. After a couple of trips between the two hotels, our shuttle driver gave up and called the Buick minivan guy to take us out to the airport.
Papa needed gas, so I topped him up while the Co-owner got settled in. I had planned a 5,500' cruise back to Columbus, but the nifty new cloud gauge indicated that a higher altitude would be preferred if we wanted to get into the smoother, cooler air above the clouds. Unlike the last trip's 11,500' altitude, we were comfortably on top at 7,500'. We had benefited from a nice tailwind on the way out that gave us a respectable 160 knot cruise speed, so I had braced myself for a much slower trip back. It turned out pretty well, though: we made 153 knots on the way back. That was nice! It got a little bumpy for the last 15 miles as I had to descend down for the landing, but it was a short enough approach that the Co-owner reported only mild queasiness.
Regular readers will know that I'm particularly concerned with my landings when carrying a witness, and you can probably imagine that landings made with the Co-owner on board are the second most stressful what with wanting to make a good impression and all. The first most stressful being those occasions when the most critical and vocal judge is aboard: none other than Co-pilot Egg. Well, not to worry: neither was a greaser, but both were good. Egg would have been cool with them, and that's a pretty good yardstick to use.