Wow, what a great day! We had been playing all morning, it was great because Uncle Wes had lots of space to run around and chase and play, and we could be as noisy as we wanted without anyone getting mad or anything! For lunch Uncle Wes had set up a make your own sandwich table, but it wasn’t really make your own because some of the other mommies and stuff made the sandwiches for us, but we did get to say what we wanted, and after we all helped clean up our messes and washed our hands and faces before we went inside for story time.
Uncle Wes never made us take naps, but he did say we had to be still and quiet and listen to a story. I knew the little kids would fall asleep, but us big kids would listen to the story and after the story there would be a special treat for the big kids like me!
Uncle Wes told us a story about a pretty princess and a bear, but it was a girl story and since I’m a boy I wasn’t really listening because I was thinking about the new movie I wanted to see. I saw the preview Uncle Wes took me and Meari to see the “Bears” movie, it was really good and there was a momma bear named sly, and two baby bears, one was named Amber and she was girl bear and she always wanted to stay right with Sky – that was the mother bears name – and never run around and have fun or anything and the other was a boy named scout and he was like me and liked to run around and explore and do stuff and have fun. It was a really good movie but what made it the best was that I got to go with Uncle Wes, we even got to go get ice cream after, except Meari had to go home so she didn’t get any. I got to remember to tell Uncle Wes we need to get her some ice cream too cause even if she is a girl she is okay.
Wow, where am I? Everything looks funny, like a cartoon!
Suddenly there was an announcement. “Welcome to the try-outs for the first annual Trimotor Relay Race” All contestants need to go to the registration desk to pick up their packets and find out when they are racing.”
“Come on Dash, we are going to be late!” I turned around to see a huge pickup truck racing up to me pulling a speed boat on a trailer. It was the boat that was calling me! I couldn’t believe it, a talking boat!
“Yeah Dash, we need to get registered so we can get out slot,” the truck added, “get a move on!”
“Uhhh, what race?” I asked, this was getting weird!
“Duh, only the biggest race of the year, that we have spent the last three months been practicing for,” the boat said.
About that time I saw myself in the reflection of the trucks window, except I didn’t recognize what I saw. Instead of the boy that normally looked back at me from the mirror there was a plane, and not just any old plane, a big, 4 engine turbo prop painted in blue camouflage!
“Wh…what do you mean?” I asked, feeling a little funny.
The truck looked back over its bed and said “See Sandy, I told you that Dash getting a software upgrade right before the race was a mistake!”
Dash? Why did that name sound so familiar, and Sandy, yeah, that was the boat’s name, and the truck was Stomper, and I was Dash, and we were going to be late if I didn’t get my prop a spinning! “Well then, what are you guys waiting for?” I asked, as I taxied up the ramp towards the hanger where a large sign said “registration.” Dash Dustoff, Sandy Beach, and Stomper McRoughstuff reporting for registration and briefing! There were three other teams, each with a plane, truck and boat, and they
They heard a deep rumble from inside the hanger, and a strange looking vehicle emerged in a cloud of diesel smoke. He had eight wheels, a low sloping body, and wore a Khaki flat hat with gold braid on the bill, and had a silver eagle on each front side door.
“Listen up, I’m the Colonel, and you guys are in for a challenge! We have a difficult course for you, there is no need for you to make it harder by fighting among yourselves. There are 3 legs to the competition. Leg one is the water leg, from here to Port Texaco, so put the boats in the water, load the cargo, and start your preps for getting underway this leg is about 240 nautical miles, and we estimate it will take you four to six hours. While that is going on, we need to load the trucks into the planes so we can get them in place for the second leg. After loading the cargo from the boats, they will proceed overland from Port Texaco to OK City, which us a good eight hour haul across the Rambler Mountains. At OK City you will meet the airplanes and transfer the cargo to them for the final leg, a 1350 mile race with touch and go landings at three airports en route. There will also be points assigned for other part of the race, you will not know what is being graded and what is not, so I recommend you keep everything ship shape.” The Colonel paused, looking over the assembled vehicles. “Let’s have a good clean race, and may the best team win!”
Stomper rushed off for the boat ramp, Sandy in tow, and was the first one in the water. He used his powerful winch to lover the cargo into Sandy’s cockpit, and then Sandy was off with a roar and soon she was motoring up the coast on her way to Port Breakaway, dancing across the waves while the other teams were still struggling to get their cargo aboard. As Stomper made the short run back to the runway where I waited, he was happy to have his friend well on her way, knowing that his winch had been key in getting her on her way quickly. As he turned onto the runway he saw that my cargo ramp was already down and he rolled right inside without even slowing down until he hit the ramp. As he screeched to a halt, clamps from the floor grabbed the wheels holding him and the trailer steady, as soon as the clamps came up I started my roll, and in nothing flat I was in the air. I followed the coast line and soon saw Sandy racing along, and told her the good news, the next boat was just getting underway as I was lifting off, which meant nearly a thirty minute lead!
“Great work, guys,” Sandy crowed, shooting smoothly across the waves, we are off to a great start!”
“Wow Sandy, you look beautiful down there, it’s like you are skipping along having fun, not running a race!” Stomper said.
“Well, silly, I am skipping along having fun,” Sandy replied, “after all, if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?”
I waggled my wings in agreement, then pushed on towards Port Breakaway, leaving Sandy to continue on. Just over an hour later I got a call on the radio from Port Breakaway airport giving me landing instructions, and fifteen minutes later we were on the ground. When we got there a ground crew tractor rushed out with a message.
From: The Colonel
To: Race Teams
Subj: Surprise Challenge
- All Trucks will remain in Port Breakaway until their boat makes port and transfer’s cargo, and then take the trailered boat in tow or for the next leg of the journey.
- No Trucks will depart until 0800 on day two of the competition, the first truck will leave promptly at 0800, and each team will depart at the same interval they arrived and unloaded their cargo. Time will be determined by when the cargo is landed in the trucks bed.
- Good luck!
As soon as they read the message they started to giggle. Stomper recovered first, and said “I sure am glad we decided to not cut back on the weight by disconnecting the trailer and leaving it at the starting point.”
“Yeah” Stomper replied, “That decision that the time was more important turned out to be a good one. Besides, the trailer isn’t enough weight to make a difference, is it?”
“Not really, now you, big guy, are a different story, and Sandy may be slim and trim, but she is no light weight either!”
“Hey there, you need to turn off the radio if you are going to talk about a lady’s weight!”
“Oops!” I had completely forgotten that the radio was still on. “Hey Sandy, you must be getting close if we can talk.”
“I’m still at least 2 hours out, the radios are just working really well I guess. I can’t run flat out in these waves, but the guys behind me are having a worse time than I am, there is weather chasing me, just be ready to make the switch fast and get on the road if you don’t want those fancy tires to get wet big boy.”
The next two hours were spent listening to Sandy’s updates, topping off fuel and studying maps. The finally heard Sandy’s whoop as she headed towards the dock, and Stomper fired up and headed out to meet his friend. Moving the cargo went even smoother this time, and as the load hit Stomper’s bed the official started a stopwatch so the next morning`s departures could be properly timed. They quickly filled Sandy in on the surprise change the Colonel had thrown into the race, and soon she was snuggled safe on her trailer, lashed down and ready for take-off bright and early the next morning.,
By fifteen minutes to eight the next morning all of the competitors were at the starting point ready to go. Stomper would be off first, the next truck would not be allowed to leave for forty-two minutes! Sandy had put us well in the lead, and Stomper wanted to keep it that way. The problem was Stomper was very strong, but the other trucks were at least as fast, and maybe faster. Having to tow the boats put them on more even ground, especially since Stomper’s size and stability would help him in the corners, but it would still be a close race.
At exactly eight o’clock the Colonel fired a flare, and Stomper pulled out with Sandy in tow, but I wasn’t there to cheer them on. We had said those the night before after our planning session, and as my friends settled down for some pre-race rest I quietly taxied out to the runway and headed for Vector City. I had a stop to make on the way, and I wanted to be sure to get there in time to get some rest myself. The flight went well. My stop was textbook perfect, I took on several pallets of freight, and continued on to Vector City. Once I had landed and taxied up to my hanger, I had the ground crew unload the cargo I had picked up, and use the equipment to get me ready for my leg of the race. 1000 miles would take 3 hours, a little less if the weather cooperated, a little more if it didn’t. The big question was where the route, having to do the three landings , even if they were just touch and goes took away the big Jets main advantage. They couldn’t fly high at their best cruise speeds, which would help, but they still had a lot of speed, and that was going to be a problem.
I started by unloading everything except a little over half of my fuel. Then it as time for the ground crew to get to work. Special 6 bladed propellers came out of one of the containers I had picked up which increased my top speed by 70 knots, up to 425 nautical miles per hour. That helped. Next they unloaded the rest of my surprise. JATO units. These were an unusual item to find anymore, but I figured they would give me the edge I needed against the jets. I would be at full airspeed in under a minute, and at altitude in half the time as the jets. I had 24 units, enough for three full power take-offs, and I just hoped it would be enough.
As I finished hanging the first set of JATOs, and stowed the rest in the racks that were specially designed for them, a staff car pulled into the hanger and handed off another packet from the colonel.
From: The Colonel
To: Race Teams
Subj: Surprise Challenge #2
1. All team members must be delivered to Lost Vega International Airport for the team to be scored as finishing.
2. Planes may depart on the final leg as soon as they have their cargo on board.
3. Team members may receive no transportation from any vehicle not on their team.
4. All planes will at least do touch and go landings at Mid Continent, Mile High, and Salty Lake City airports
5. Good luck!
So this was it. I rested for a few hours, until I heard Stomper call me on the radio. “Hey Dash, we’ll be there in fifteen, and I’m still in front by almost half an hour. Everyone else had to stop for fuel, but with these big tanks we made it straight through!”
“That’s great, Stomper, bring it on!” I said, checking to make sure everything was ready. The ground crew led me to the transfer point, and I sat there aimed at the runway with my ramp down. “Tower, this is Dash, I’ll need clearance to depart as soon as my vehicles are aboard.”
I heard a rumble, and then the shouts and horns of my fans as Stomper rolled into view. This time her slowed down before he hit the ramp, but as soon as her was on I started to roll, and as the ramp closed my radio squawked. “Dash Dustoff, the referees have scored you and you are cleared for takeoff on runway 2.” I pushed my engines to the max, and as I hit the runway I fired the rockets, leaping into the air in less than 500 feet instead of the 2000 feet it normally required, and was at my max speed as well.
30 minutes head start. I didn’t know if it would be enough, but Sandy and Stomper had done their part, and now it was my turn. With Sandy and Stomper on board to help navigate I could pay attention to the weather and flying. Sure enough, I found a good tail wind, but it was lower than the big jets would ever consider flying. They would be up where the air was thin, battling a headwind, sure that they could out fly any prop job no matter who it was.
After an hour I lined up for my touch and go at Mid Continent, the home of the Flying Pipers. Sure enough, there was a row of the sturdy planes watching carefully to ensure I touched down, and I was sure they were judging my technique and style too. That was okay with me, I had plenty of style to share! As I felt my landing gear flex from the touchdown I fired the second set of rockets to boost me back up to cruising speed and altitude, and turned my nose towards Mile High. The mandatory touch and go here would be trickier because the air was thinner and colder, and the winds faster and trickier. It was just over an hour until I had to pay attention, so I set all of the controls and listened to Sandy and Stomper brag about their runs. This was as good as it gets, flying with my buddies, and I wanted to make them proud.
When I got Mile High control on the radio they told me my lead had been cut down to 20 minutes. I put that out of my mind and focused on my flying. This time the rockets weren’t just for showing off, I’d need those rockets to help me get back up to my safe altitude and tail winds, the more time I spent out of them the farther behind I fell! I lined up on the tiny field, thinking about how much I preferred the big runways on the nearby Air Force base, and called the tower for clearance for my touch and go. This time there was no clout of small planes watching. Instead, it was the Director of the airport, backed up by his crash and rescue crew! “Okay dash, time to earn your jet fuel,” I mumbled to myself. The descent was a little bumpy, but as soon as my tires touched the concrete I fired my next to last set of rockets and took off like a space shuttle, and started to do the math. My competition was catching up. There was nothing I could do, they were faster, and at the rate things were going we would all get to Lost Vega at about the same time. I spent a few minutes tuning up each engine for max power, then shared the news with the others. I expected to hear groans, but instead I heard how much fun we were having, what a great team we were, and that what really mattered wasn’t whether we won or not, it was if we did our best and had fun!
It felt like I was a thousand pounds lighter! Sandy and Stomper were right. We had done everything we could do, all that was left was to pay attention and fly right, and that was what I’d do. The last touch and go was at Salty Lake City. The problem here was the heat. I racked up the last set of rockets, but set them up to fire in pairs. I only planned to use half of the rockets on this touch and go, and a I approached I radioed ahead and got clearance to fly over the military bases, if the others didn’t think about that it might be just enough to make the difference between the planes speeds. After all, it was about having fun and doing our best, but think how much more fun our best would be if we won!
Salty Lake City came up soon enough. By now I was ready to get the touch and go over with. I lined up the runway, and this time instead of cutting back on power I dove down towards the tarmac, flaring and dropping my wheels just long enough to get a bounce back into the sky. My bounce was perfect, I didn’t even fire the rockets to get back to altitude, but as I settled onto the final course that would take us to Lost Vega I heard Henry, the 7777 that was my closest competition calling in for clearance. I ran the number again, pushed my throttles to the notch, and then past 10 % to 110, and told the guys in back to buckle in and hold on, we were going for broke. I was on the slope, everything was humming along like a well-oiled machine, and just as I called the control tower to get permission the land, I heard Henry call too, telling them they needed at least two runways, and maybe three because Bertha was right behind him.
I had one chance. Henry and the others had to slow way down to land, and that meant they had to start farther back as well. I had one set of rockets left, and remembered they could be set to slow me down too! There it was, the two minute I was looking for. It would be close, but we still had a chance. We lined up on the runway the big jets passing me then slowing down as I kept my throttles to the wall. “Tower, this is Dustoff, and we will be doing a combat short field landing, please warn the spectators to stay well clear of the runways!” I was neck and neck with Henry, he looked a little worried as I passed him again at full speed. He would need the whole five thousand feet to stop safely, but I only needed five hundred.
Suddenly I felt a shake, and a funny noise! I looked across the panel, trying to find the problem when I felt another shake, and now the noise made since.
“Come on, SJ, it’s time to get up. You need to get ready, your mommy will be here soon to pick you up.”
Author’s note: The vehicles in the story are all based on real world vehicles, and some, but not all of the characters are based on people in my life. That said, none of the vehicles can do all of the things in the story and none of characters are exactly like the people I know, in both cases they are jumping off points for a work of fiction, and many of the things the vehicles can do in the story (like talk!) don’t happen in real life. The people know who they are; the list of vehicles follows:
Dash Dustoff – Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules
Sandy Beach – Cigarette 38′ Top Gun
Stomper McRoughstuff – F900 Superduty
The Colonel – Lockheed Martin LAV-C3