Sunday, July 29, 2007

$100 Hamburger - Janesville Airport, WI (JVL)

A week has past and I'm ready for another Hamburger. I went to Michigan last time, so this time I want to go somewhere else. Using Adventure Pilot, I found CAVU Cafe at the Janesville WI airport (JVL). They have good reviews and have a panoramic view of the airport. They are 95 miles from GYY, which will be an easy flight. Figure we can go and check them out.

The Flight
A direct flight to JVL from GYY would require that we overfly Midway and O'Hare Airports. Not likely to be approved. I filed IFR to JVL, so I can have the ORD controllers keep an eye on us (see FlightAware Log). The Class B airspace is quite busy. My route of flight was direct to the Chicago Heights VOR (CGT) and then direct to JVL. This kept us mostly out of the ORD airspace, but it did add about 30 miles or so to the trip.

The flight was uneventful and we made it to JVL averaging about 195 Miles Per Hour Ground Speed in cruise, which wasn't too bad considering I was only at 4000 ft. The efficiency of the Turbo kicks in over 10,000 ft, but it isn't practical to climb that high for a 100 mile journey.

The Airport
The JVL airport was very quiet. The ramp was nearly empty. This is probably because EAA AirVenture Oshkosh also started that weekend. We went later in the week to OSH. I will write about our EAA experience next time.

The CAVU Cafe Restaurant
The CAVU Cafe is in the JVL terminal, which was very clean. It is somewhat like going back in time. They have pictures and other items that have been around for a long, long time.

They weren't very busy, but the service was slow. I'm not sure if that is typical or just because we are there during OSH. The staff seemed to spend most of the time in the kitchen BS'ing. It was like pulling teeth to get them to refill a drink or take the order. The kitchen isn't very modern either. It is setup more like a collage dorm room with small plug-in appliances instead of what one would expect in a restaurant.

The menu was sparse, but they have what they call "The one-hundred dollar hamburger." I wasn't sure if it was actually the price of the burger or referencing the flying experience. I say that because every item added to the bread and meet was ala carte. They charged 10 cents for lettuce, 20 cents for a tomato, etc. This is the first time I've ever been to a restaurant where they charged for lettuce, pickles, etc. The bread, however, was included in the base price ;)

I ordered a burger with cheese and the whole 9-yards. I was hungry and a burger sounded good. Suffice it to say, it took 30+ minutes to get the order in and the food delivered to the table. I was a bit worried about what we'd receive considering that the service, kitchen, etc. wasn't the greatest. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the burger delivered was awesome. It was truly worthy of the 100 Dollar Hamburger title.

All in all the CAVU Cafe in JVL is worth a visit. The food was good, the airport is nice and there is plenty of parking on the ramp. When you go, just don't be in a hurry. They will get there eventually. Maybe the slow service was due to OSH or hitting them in between busy times. They just seemed to run at their own pace. Allocate plenty of time to hang around the airport and order the $100 Hamburger. It was worth the trip.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

$100 Hamburger - Jackson County, MI (JXN)

I've owned an airplane for the past 15 years or so. During this time I've done about all you can do in an airplane except wreck one (I plan on keeping it that way ;). The newness wears off after awhile and doing touch and gos (landing practice) doesn't excite me anymore. When I fly, I like going new places and experiencing something that life has to offer that most ground-based mortals will never achieve.

Fortunately for me, 36G loves to travel as well. You don't buy a Mooney for touch and gos. You buy one to get far - fast. In cruise, 36G travels 3+ Nautical Miles a minute. When you have a plane like this you want to use it. However, it is not always easy to find new places to go.

The where to go question is one that pilots struggle with their entire flying life. This question often is answered with something that we all have in common besides flying -- we love to eat! Combine flying with eating and you have achieved pilot perfection! This is where the term the $100 Hamburger came from. The burger may be $6, but it costs $94 to fly somewhere and back to get one.

Where to Fly & Eat?
When I fly, I like operating the plane for no less than 30-minutes in flight so the oil and heat throughly soaks the engine before I shut down. In other words, I need to fly a minimum of 90 nautical miles to make the startup do more good than harm. I keep this rule of thumb in my mind when I plan any trip. If I fly a shorter flight, I generally do air-work, approaches, etc. before arriving at my destination.

A good there and back flight for 36G is one that is in the 100 to 150 NM range. There are numerous airports within 150 miles of Gary/Chicago (GYY) where we are based, but not all airports have restaurants. At least not restaurants on the filed. Deciding where to go can sometimes be a challenge.

There is a website called that use to be very popular. Many pilots used and contributed to the site and the database was impeccable. Unfortunately, the 100 Dollar hamburger guys decided to transition their business model from a free to use site making money from advertising to charging a subscription fee to its users. In my opinion, this has deteriorated the quality of their database since they lost the majority of the content contributors.

I am the last person to throw a stone at making money on the web, but content is king. When you need your customers to contribute to the database to build the product that drives others to the site, it isn't prudent to charge them to do it. You can make money on the web and provide free content. As this blog, gmail, Google Earth, etc. will confirm, it is most certainly possible to make money by giving things away for free. Google has made billions providing good free services to its customers and many others have as well.

Since I don't patronize the 100 dollar hamburger site anymore, I had to find another source of information. During my quest to find a better database, I discovered a website called Adventure Pilot that provides free data to users that includes restaurants, air shows, museums, etc. and sorts by distance from any airport. They make their money the smart way -- selling advertising targeting pilots. Smart guys, great site...

Using, I quickly narrowed the search to airports with restaurants on the field that were 150 miles from GYY and found 19 airports. Airport Restaurant & Spirits at Jackson County Regional Airport (JXN) surfaced as a good possibility. They are 137 miles form GYY, the restaurant had decent reviews and they are located on the airport with a great view of the runways/ramp. I haven't been to JXN before, so let's give it a go!

Flying to JXN
The flight to Jackson County could not have been better. I filed IFR (FlightAware Log), but I certainly didn't have to. The weather was superb.

The above photo is flying over the South East corner of Lake Michigan shortly after departing GYY. We were about 5000 feet MSL.

You may notice the Garmin GPS10 in the window and wonder what it's for. I also fly with a Motion LS800 laptop with a solid state drive that I have configured as an Electronic Flight Bag. I use it in addition to the on-board avionics. This provides me with redundancy and data that simply isn't available with on-board avionics. I'll write more on this in a future posting...

The above picture is of the Michigan lake shore. Beautiful! Might be a good place for a summer home. We flew over for awhile and the beaches are spectacular!

The avionics also performed perfectly! The MFD in the top right corner clearly shows us over the lake approaching the shore. The resolution and capability of the MFD is priceless. It can display Weather, Terrain, Traffic, XM Radio stations, etc.

JXN Airport
The Jackson County Airport is very nice and tower controlled. It was an easy landing and taxi to the ramp. The tower controllers were very nice, cooperative and professional. Once on the ramp there was ample parking.

The Restaurant
JXN's Airport Restaurant & Spirits lived up to the reviews. It was not fancy, but they had a good menu selection and decent service. They had a full house, but room for two more with a window seat! The food was also very good.

Flight Home
36G flew like a champ on the way back. We had a few more clouds, but the the view could not be beat.

This is truly what flying is all about. Great food, great weather, great flying and an awesome airplane. Wow, what a trip!