by Dave Weiman
RICE LAKE, WIS. – If you were to get stranded, Rice Lake, Wisconsin would be a pretty nice place to be. I know from experience. It was 1985 and we were on a family vacation to Mackinac Island, Michigan. From there, our plan was to fly to Duluth, Minnesota and rent a car for a drive up the North Shore.
I was flying a Cessna 172, and our children were very young. The weather was forecast to be excellent, but changed 25 miles east of Duluth even to the surprise of ATC. It got dark, the fog set in and it began to rain very hard. No auto pilot or fancy Garmins – just a couple of VORs – and the ink barely dry on my new instrument ticket. After a missed approach to accommodate an inbound Northwest flight, I opted for better weather towards the south. The Twin Cities went down, but Eau Claire was still okay, and further south, better yet, so I had options.
When I got 100 miles south of Duluth, there was an opening in the clouds and directly below was Rice Lake Municipal Airport, and the runway lights were on. I made my approach and when on short final, the runway lights went out, and the ground and sky turned black. Apparently someone had just landed, and the lights timed out. I quickly keyed my microphone and the lights came back quickly and bright – too bright. In my haste to get the lights back on, I clicked two too many times, but I didn’t really care. I had lights and landed.
Carrying two young children, we walked into the airport office and there laid Carl Rindlisbacher on the couch, sound asleep. “Hey Carl…Dave here. Is there a hotel nearby.”
A little startled Carl awoke and asked where I had come from. “Must have fallen to sleep, Dave,” he replied. “Just a block down the street is a great Best Western Inn with a pool and everything.”
So we grabbed our bags, walked down the street and checked in. The kids were happy…the wife was happy…and it felt good to be on the ground. The next day the weather was perfect and we continued our trip to Duluth, but we could have just as easily stayed in Rice Lake and enjoyed one of dozens of resorts and hotels, and the many recreational activities. Rice Lake is the classic northern Wisconsin vacation destination, offering the best of all worlds, from great fishing, hiking, biking and ATVing, to shopping and live theatre. Rice Lake is north of Eau Claire, and northwest of the Twin Cities. For additional information on visiting Rice Lake, refer to ricelakewis.com.
In 1995, the airport was moved from close to town to the outskirts and renamed Rice Lake Regional Airport – Carl’s Field (KRPD) in memory of Carl Rindlisbacher, who had passed away by then. There are two runways – one 6700 feet long by 100 feet wide (01/19), and a crosswind runway 3500 by 75 feet (31/13). There are ILS and GPS approaches, and AWOS. Just remember that it is “right traffic” for Runways 01 and 31.
The modern 4,000 square foot terminal building has all of the conveniences, including an executive conference/training room, pilot lounge and showers, passenger waiting room, and heated hangars. Rice Lake Air Center is the full-service fixed base operator on the field, and there is a full-time airport manager. There’s still over 900 acres waiting to be developed on the airport property, so plenty of room to grow.
The airport held its annual fly-in August 11, 2012 and the turnout was excellent. It was nice to return under better flight conditions.
For additional information on Rice Lake Regional Airport – Carl’s Field, contact airport manager Jerry Stites at 715-458-4401.