A trip to Muncie
The author test-flies his 1/2-A Speed plane at a practice session in Salem just before he set out on his journey to the Nats in Muncie.Gene Pape photo
With the COVID business starting to wind down, I decided it was time to make the pilgrimage to Muncie, Ind., for the 2021 Control-Line Nationals. This year the schedule was moved back into June from the traditional week in July due to some RC world championship somehow taking precedence. And then the RC event was cancelled anyway.
I hit the road and make it to the far side of Idaho on the first day. The next day I motor into Salt Lake City to pick up my passenger, one Mr. Jim Rhoades. Anyone who has ever attended the Northwest Regionals knows Jim. We load up his planes and gear and quickly hit the road. The next stop for the night is in Nebraska.
One thing to note about traveling on the interstate freeway system outside of the Northwest is a difference in the legal posted speed. When you see an advisory sign to slow down to 75 mph for a curve, you know you aren’t in Oregon! On a lot of I-80 in the rural areas, 80+ mph is the cruising speed.
The next night we make a stop in Iowa. I make the horrible mistake of just picking the first motel I see off of the exit. For sure there won’t be any bedbugs in this room as the AC was turned to maximum blast and should have killed off any creepy critters. We get the room warmed up a little and then notice an annoying chirping sound. Nope, not crickets — just the smoke detector starting to go off. The clerk gets this fixed in short order with a new battery.
The next day, we arrive in Muncie in the late afternoon. We go straight to the infamous “L-pad” to see who is there. And then we check into our home away from home. As it turns out, this Super 8 location is really nice. However, the biscuits and gravy on the breakfast bar probably did not make any of my health numbers better. Wadaya mean, practice some restraint?
Sunday provides some warm and windy conditions. Jim puts up his infamous Apteryx for a Precision Aerobatics test flight and is not satisfied. Not many NW folks are about. We see Paul Walker and Howard Rush, and then later Walter Hicks. Walter had a real sob story, he flew out there just to watch the Scale flying and officiation procedures. But when he arrived it was all over because they finished a day early to beat the rough weather that was on the way. If there were any other NW folks anywhere, I did not see them! (Sorry if I missed you!)
The F2D Combat guys were hard at it all weekend. Saw a lot more carnage there than I was used to seeing. Guess that keeps the airplane suppliers in business.
On Monday it is 1/2-A day at the Speed circle. I had a brand-new plane with very little time on it. An ugly design flaw shows up with the overly flexible wing making the plane almost uncontrollable in the windy conditions. A couple of attempts and I am done with that effort. Back to the Stunt area for more visiting. Since Jim knows about everybody, I was able to meet some more world champions. At the end of the day we head to a little local diner that Jim raved about. We ate there most evenings, and the staff took care of the modelers very well. Nothing fancy, but decent food and menu prices that I have not seen since the last century.
On Tuesday we head for the Stunt area so Jim can do his Old-Time Stunt and Classic Stunt officials. Also watched some Carrier activity with a couple of guys doing some amazing go-slow flying. At the diner that afternoon we met Dan Banjock and he threatened to fly his infamous jet stunter. So it was back to the L-pad after dinner. When it became dusk, I worked the tire pump to help start the thing. Pretty amazing watching the engine tube glow red in the near-dark conditions while flying “tricks.”
On Wednesday morning, hang out a bit at the L-pad. I asked Howard how he did so far, his response was that he “flew bad stunt.” Over at the Racing circle there is a large field of Sport Goodyear entries. Something like 17, the highest entry in any racing event at Nats for a long time. The next big thing is the announcement of a potential horrible weather system coming in on Friday. Decisions were then made to compress event schedules. Stunt rounds are reduced and the Friday Speed events are added to Thursday. Combat was also modified with fewer elimination rounds to end early.
On Thursday Jim and I hit the Speed circle early because we have some Jet flying to do. We both get in some flights in the Sport Jet class but I am unsuccessful making my Fast Jet go. So back to the Racing circle to fly the NCLRA Super Slow Rat event. My NW sport racer fits the rules just fine for that. But then tragedy strikes!
Mike Hazel's Northwest Sport Racer (seen at the Salem practice session), was used in the ill-fated NCLRA Super Slow Rat event in Muncie. Gene Pape photo.
I am playing pitman and at the go signal I give the prop a good whack and it starts right up. My usual racing launch is to apply a little body english but this time I got clumsy and the hand went forward quicker than the plane. This put a couple of fingers into that APC 8x6 buzzsaw. It did not look pretty. I wrapped up my fingers and waited for the plane to finish out the tank. Some other racers helped me gather up my stuff and Jim drove me to the local hospital ER. Yup, there were plenty of stitches involved so now I have “franken-fingers.” I never have seen stitches go through the fingernails before, but that’s what they had to do. While the med tech did the job, Jim and I regaled each other with stories of butchered fingers and other damaged body parts. It was nearly 7 o’clock when the repair job was done. The NCLRA was having their annual meeting and dinner back at the AMA meeting room location that evening. Cut up fingers or not, could not miss that as there was free pizza involved so zoomed back out there.
Friday dawns and there is no horrible storm, but it is very windy and the area slightly north of us has been on tornado alert. Since this was now a “dead” day we use it by visiting the AMA musuem and then the Indianapolis Speedway museum. Both places very enjoyable.
Saturday morning I stock up on my last helping of biscuits and gravy and then we hit the road home. You know, sometimes it is good to have room reservations. We motored on late until Grand Junction, Neb., but are advised that every place in town is filled up. So we keep moving on I-80 and it’s nearly 10 o’clock. I see one of those generic lodging signs at an exit, the image that looks like a man laying on a mortuary slab. We pull off and all I see is a dimly lit building with a sign that says "Open." The man at the desk says he has one room left so we take it. We drive around the backside of the building and the dirt parking lot is unlit. As we look for our door I hear banjo music playing in the back of my head. We find the most oddly equipped and ugly room I have ever seen. But at least there is no chirping from a smoke detector, as the room does not have one. In the morning light we see vehicles that look like they have not been moved in weeks. We survived the night and exit the scary surroundings.
The rest of the trip is uneventful but it is noteworthy that in the middle of the country they have two seasons: winter and road construction. We probably traveled at least 200 miles on two-way road at reduced speed on what was supposed to be interstate freeway. And that was for both directions. Jim noted that the state animal in Nebraska is the orange safety traffic barrel.
Despite the setbacks it was still a great time had, enjoying the company of lots of great people. Of course there’s always next year!
— Zoot Zoomer (aka Mike Hazel)
This page was upated July 8, 2021