It was time for some end-of-summer fun flying, and my EAA chapter decided to celebrate with a Poker Run. Despite more years in aviation than I care to admit (remember, I have that AOPA 25 year pin, and didn't join AOPA the minute I started), I had never done one.
Here's how it worked. One of the chapter members flew around to five local airports in his gorgeous RV-10A, depositing envelopes containing playing cards at each. (The fact that his airplane is gorgeous is completely irrelevant to the Poker Run, but still worthy of mention.) Then other members like me flew to each of the airports, picking up an envelope at each. We all met at Tom's hangar in the end, had lunch, told lies, and played our poker hands.
I took one of my students along. At the end he offered to pay his share of the expenses, but I told him that he had given me so much flying that I was happy to return the favor. I had him make a generous donation to the lunch kitty, though.
The weather was much better than it appeared in the photo. The overcast was pretty high (16000 MSL, as I recall), which meant smooth air and lots of hands-off flying. You might enjoy looking up some of the airports on Airnav.com: Blackfoot (U02), Soda Springs (U78), Alpine (46U), St. Anthony (U12), and Rigby (U56). While Alpine is listed as being in Wyoming, the runway crosses the Idaho border. Blackfoot is a nice airport, and I routinely endorse students for solo practice there.
Soda Springs is more difficult. The threshold starts at the highway, and was the site of a bizarre (no injuries) accident a few years ago. (See the NTSB report.) A Canadian twin on short final to Soda lost its landing gear when it hit a truck. The airplane still flew OK, and they finally landed in the grass next to the runway in Pocatello. I happened to be there to watch. They landed with the door open and ran away from the airplane for all their lives. There was no fire.
Alpine is narrow, and has close terrain.
After these two, my student remarked that he understood why I did not send solo students to these airports. St. Anthony and Rigby are more straightforward.
Rigby is south of St. Anthony, and the wind was from the south, so a lot of pilots departed St. Anthony on runway 22 and landed straight in on runway 19 in Rigby. I disapproved, and flew a pattern, but I was in a tough situation. I don't want to be the nasty old instructor telling everyone their business on a fun Saturday flight, but I don't want anyone to do anything dangerous. Everyone was making good radio calls and accurate position reports. So, was it dangerous? It's hard to say. I will say that it was annoying to see an airplane two miles ahead at my altitude, 12 o'clock, saying that he was on final. He must have slowed down early, because I passed 1000' above him as he touched down. So, flying the pattern cost me no time.
As for the poker, my hand was so bad that I won. I didn't know that we were playing high-low. Of course I had already played that game in the pattern.