I brought about $500 in cash and travelers checks with me, and when I got home, found that I'd spent about $1500 on my charge card. I used the card wherever I could, saving the cash for small purchases, and arrived back with a couple hundred dollars left. I must have spent $1800 during the trip for everything.
My general route (planned a day at a time more or less) was Bedford MA, Niagra Falls NY, Racine WI, Sheridan WY, Jackson Hole WY, Yellowstone WY, Snake River Gorge ID, Mt Ranier WA, MtSt Helens WA, Oregon Coast (camping on the coast), Sacramento CA, San Jose, Hurst Castle, Ronnie's west coast hideout, SantaMonica, Las Vegas NV, Prescott Valley AZ, Grand Canyon, Sedona AZ, Colorado Springs, Racine WI, Oshkosh, Niagra Falls, and back home to Bedford MA. The best stop was camping at Manzanita OR where they have the airport, state park, and ocean beach within walking distance. The low point was where I got stood up by a friend in LA, so we slept the first night at the Santa Monica airport under the wing accompanied by the sweet sounds of gravel grinders.
For navigation information, I had borrowed Jepp approach plates for everywhere I would be except for the SW (Arizona, Southern Cal, New Mexico), and I had Jepp enroute charts for everything except there so I bought an NOS enroute chart for that area. I think I had borrowed NOS approach plates for the SW (thanks, Bob Kirk) but didn't need to use them.
I also had sectionals for everywhere I went. I think for pilotage, especially through the mountains, you need the detail. I also bought one WAC chart of the NW to help me plan the way thru the mountains from Yellowstone to Washington state. It's a lot easier to use the WAC chart for that big a distance. You lose perspective using the detailed sectionals for general direction decisions. I liked the WAC charts better than the Jepp charts because the WACs have relief detail for finding mountains.
I filed flightplans on every flight except those local to an airport (sightseeing trips for friends). I can't stress too much the value of filing flight plans. Not only would nobody notice us missing for probably a month or so, but also they'd have no idea even in which part of the country to start looking. I can see them now, all 50 Civil Air Patrol state wings would get activated to search all the states for us.
On the whole trip, especially out west, we rarely saw another plane, even around busy areas like Los Angeles. The skies were never black with crazed Piper cubs attacking defenseless 727's.
Being out there in the middle of nowhere really changes your perspective considering most of my flying is done in the crowded northeast where you are pretty much always in gliding distance of somebody and within radio distance of somebody.
I also grew my beard back again so it'd be less to take care of on the trip. I started growing it several weeks previous to leaving so I'd be through the drug-crazed axe-murderer stage before I left so I'd look less suspicious and strange. Back home, people already know I'm strange so it doesn't matter.
I think we were over Albany, just ready to enter the clouds, when Meg announces that she has forgotten her glasses. I think schools now train kids to announce the forgetting of critical items on trips to drive their parents crazy. Fortunately, her eyesight is not too bad without them so she got to see the country from a fuzzy perspective. With the afternoon thunderstorms conspiring against us, I couldn't see turning around and losing several hours.
At the Niagra Falls airport, I met some guy and wife in a 172 from Los Angeles heading for Kentucky. I guess the great circle route takes them through Niagra Falls so Californians must get different maps than the rest of the country. There were thunderstorms over Erie PA, with more popping up, and getting worse later. I gave him an old Jepp enroute map he was missing. He probably didn't get out of there that day. It was interesting that the airport folks were very suspicious - they wanted to see my VISA card before acknowledging the existence of my plane, much less pumping gas into my tanks.
As we were waiting for clearance for takeoff, we had to wait for a couple of F-4 Phantom jets scrambling. It was a great show with the flames out the back, etc. I wondered why Canada was invading the US. I wouldn't think there would be too many Russian planes over Lake Erie. Perhaps they had a report of somebody ripping off those little tags you find on sofas that say "Do not remove under Federal penalty".
They routed me way south around T-storms, in and out of clouds, and I saw a large dark area where the T-storms were supposed to be. I was concerned about gas usage, so I ran one tank until the engine quit, knowing that it would be long enough until I landed for the plane to be somewhat balanced again. I could check the size of the tank also.
We landed in the clear at Racine after going straight across Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor MI. We wore life preservers just in case, and I thought I heard the engine sputter a couple of times, but then it was probably imagination because all the gauges were normal. We landed with probably 1.5 hours left, but I always start to get nervous with 2 hours left until I really know what the plane will do. I don't like to believe the gas gauges because they will tend to move on you when you aren't looking.
Racine Airport was really laid back - they didn't want me to pay for the gas until I left - whenever that might be. They didn't even take my name and local phone number. It was quite a contrast with Niagra Falls Airport.
Chris (my cousin's wife) picked us up at the airport and we swam in their pool. After a great dinner, the rest of the Kinzel crowd came over - Mary and Marc, Andy and Liz, Pete and Julie, and lots of miniature person-units. I think my uncle was singlehandedly (well, with his wife's help) trying to give the Chinese a run for their money. I forgot to take pictures as usual.
I kept an eye on weather. They are always (well almost) pessimistic. I plan to give the folks that missed a ride the previous day (I have a lot of cousins) a ride, but the forecast is severe T-storms late afternoon, but hopefully we'll be on the ground then. Tom came home early from a trip and so we all had dinner, after which, we went to a custard/ice cream place - one last get together. I got pictures of everybody but Marc (finally remembered the camera) and rides for the rest except Marc. I spent the rest of the evening evening poring over maps, weather, and trying to decide which airport to land at. I figured I'd try small airports - Pipestone, MN to refuel, then Philip SD for night because they have camping at the airport.
I figured I'd try 8000' to see if I got better fuel economy. It seemed to use just under 10 gal/hr and Steve reported about 9 gal/hr so something's wrong there. We flew to Racine at 6000' so maybe the altitude's not high enough for the better efficiency, or maybe it's just poor leaning technique. The air speed seems to be about 140-145 knots, a bit slower than book value, but then it could use paint and has extra antennas.
We arrived at Pipestone, MN (IFR) at 10:30 or so. The weather looked kinda iffey. I decided to take the courtesy car to the Pipestone National Park so Meg and I could see the place and the way the Indians make pipes. The stone can be sanded and filed - kind of soft. Some of the pipes were about $100. The weather still looked OK, so we took off for Philip SD IFR, and it got better as we went.
We landed at Philip, SD and the temperature was very hot. I asked about camping on the field. The mechanic/owner/operator/pilot/janitor just waved his hand to indicate anywhere over that-a-way. It's a nice place with farms all around. There were a bunch of Piper single place AG planes (Pawnees?) for cropdusting.
The weather report was not great for tomorrow, so I decided to push on (VFR plan) to make sure we saw the Badlands, SD, and Mt. Rushmore. The approach control people vectored us from the Badlands National Park (we had to stay 2000 feet above ground), around a T-storm cell (rather far away and easily visible), and right to the monument. It seemed a little smaller than I had thought it would be. It didn't really stand out. I'm glad I didn't have to find it myself. I flew a couple of circles and took pictures of the monument.
I asked for vectors from the friendly radar people to Devils Tower in NE Wyoming. There were mountains in between, with not too much room under the clouds, so they lost us on radar and the VOR's became unreliable. We had to use pilotage. Fortunately, our track was bounded by I-90. I can imagine it's much harder in Alaska because of lack of roads to bound us. The terrain is real rough here. Loran doesn't work here due to the mid continent dollar gap. I was getting groundspeeds of 500 knots there for awhile so I became suspicious. The directional gyro (basically a stabilized compass) becomes even more critical an instrument under these conditions.
Loran is a navigation system that was originally just for ocean-going ships. Since the government rarely receives reports of ocean-going ships cruising around northeastern Wyoming from people that haven't been imbibing heavily, the government saw no need to install Loran transmitters for that area.
Pilotage was interesting because the sight-seeing map had the tower marked. The sectional didn't have the tower marked, so I had to compare the two maps to see where on the sectional the tower was. I flew northwest until I hit I-90, then found (by the cross roads and a small airport) where on I-90 I was located. I then followed the smaller road to the tower. Part of the problem is that I am not really sure what the things I'm trying to find look like from a distance, so I'm not sure when I'm seeing them in the distance.
Devil's tower was the one in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I heard that some guy landed a helicopter on top and the FAA fined him $500. If he could afford a chopper, he probably didn't notice the $500. The tower was quite interesting. I took a bunch of pictures.
Taking pictures from the air is interesting, especially when you have to fly and take pictures at the same time (Meg wasn't really interested in taking over the controls very much). The Mooney has a little window on the left (pilot) side like Pipers have that you can open in flight. I took all the aerial pictures out of this window to eliminate the haze and distortion from the plastic windows. To get the camera in position, I have to scrunch down a bit and the camera really takes two hands. I also have to remove the wing from the picture, but if I permanently removed the wing, the plane wouldn't fly too well, so I have to bank the plane over. The procedure that seemed to work the best was to bank the plane, grab the camera, snap off a few pictures, and then grab the controls again before the plane reached a breathtakingly steep bank.
Then we headed on to Sheridan WY. The weather got very marginal with small N-S ranges of hills we had to fly over and stay under the clouds. I couldn't receive the VOR (radio navigation) near the field because I was too low. I picked my way scud running under the clouds, kind of zig zaging thru the valleys and low passes. I figured I could always pop up and go IFR and turn around if I had to since I was still pretty far from the mountains.
Every hill I went over I thought was the last one. I think I should have done a quick time estimate. One thing in my favor was that the problem was bounded because I-5 runs N-S and I'd sure recognize that road. That's quite convenient about the interstate road system, there's often an interstate road able to bound your navigation problem. There's usually not too many interstates that you'd identify the wrong one, and enough that you can probably use one.
I finally started receiving the Sheridan NDB radio beacon - much sooner than the VOR because I was low. I was concerned the field was IFR (which meant I'd have to get clearance to get within 5 miles of the airport), and since there was no tower I'd need permission to enter the control zone from an approach control. I couldn't raise anybody until very close. I wasn't sure of the freq because there was a flight service station on the field, and the proper freq isn't marked on the map at the location of the airport.
We landed in drizzle. The airport is a good size and quite busy. We found out that it's rodeo weekend so everybody who is anybody is here. We found a hotel and ride since somebody had the courtesy car. The hotel had a Jacuzzi so Meg's happy. It was a long day today. The Jacuzzi was excellent!
Meg really wanted to get to Jackson Hole, as did I, but the weather report was not cooperative. I was just about to leave and found I'd left a couple of books back in the motel that I really wanted. I spent about an hour calling and waiting to see if they found them, and finally left my address and a couple of bucks for them to mail them back to me. In the meantime I found a pilot who had just flown in from Riverton (to the south, our direction of travel) and said things were really clearing up and the weather I'd heard was old. I also found how to get thru the mountains to Jackson Hole past Dubois. It's a convenient pass that's not too high. I decided to try that, but stayed filed IFR to Colorado Springs, and figured I'd check on the weather on the way.
We got to Casper and requested direct Riverton to check things out because it looked like things were breaking up. It was still showery here and there, but we could see quite well. We went VFR and flew up thru the pass the flight instructor had told me about. The instructions were to follow the road up the mountains until we came to a small airport, go about one mile past, and take a left. It was hard to relate the peaks against the sectional. Mountains are tough to navigate by pilotage.
We took the left, navigated over the mountains, and had the same problem as before in that I figured that each ridge was the last. We eventually came to a river flowing west (so we had passed the continental divide), and followed it down to the valley and there was Jackson Hole! I was very glad to see it. We landed, fueled, called Richie to apologized for the false alarm, and caught a bus into town and Mary's store.
The origin of the name Jackson Hole really can be discussed in polite company. The area is located in a surprisingly flat plain pretty much surrounded by high mountains. Seems somebody named Jackson discovered the flat spot. There's excellent skiing in the area. Mary mentionned that there was an amazing number of people with phd's waiting on tables. Mary herself used to teach French at a school in Conn, and now manages a convenience store. If that's not overqualification, I don't know what is - kind of like putting hubcaps on a tractor. The people are much happier, and that's what matters.
Her store also has gas pumps, and drivers are expected to pump and then pay. I wondered how many people just drive off and she said now and then they do, but the owner decided that making people pay first was not very convenient, and they are supposed to be a "convenience store".
We borrowed her car and went to a craft fair in the town. There was a lot of great pictures and craft things. We went back at 5PM to pick up Mary, came back to the craft fair, and found Indians doing dances in the street then a staged shootout that was pretty funny. I met Mary's friend Dan who was a very knowledgeable riverman, and was interested in Richie Lary's Canyon trip. We went to a big log house in the hills behind Wilson, a town south of Jackson Hole to spend the night where Dan was house-sitting.
On the way up to the house, a deer ran across the driveway 10' in front of us. The house was a gorgeous log cabin type. It was huge but very leaky and not practical in terms of heating it. The cabin was trying to be sold for about $300,000. The guy who owned it was one of those rich people that had everything that he wanted, but was unhappy, and had killed himself about a year previous, and his heirs were selling the house.
Lou has some boards and panels in the back of his Mazda pickup to carry the Llama. The Llama stands sideways with his head stuck out over the side of the truck. It was weird driving down the street seeing people point at us and have this strange expression on their face, and forgetting that the Llama was in the truck. I had thought I'd past the strange beard stage already.
The countryside and mountains were gorgeous with beautiful wildflowers all over the meadows and all kinds of colors. Lou said in all the years he's been here he hasn't seen flowers that numerous. I got a picture of Meg and myself in the field that came out beautifully.
Lou has a hand scale to weigh the packs to make sure they are balanced side to side on the llama. They can lug around 70 pounds or so I think he said if the weight is balanced. Llamas are in the camel family and don't need to eat or drink very much. I guess that means they don't need a very big llama-box.
The scenery was beautiful. We decide not to go to the top because it's getting late and we're tired so we head back down. In driving back, Lou and I and Darwin get separated from Meg and Mary. We finally meet up with Meg and Mary, and all go to Lou's house to see the other llama he has. Actually he doesn't own either llama, he's leased them with option to buy. The llama is "in" nowadays, I guess - the ultimate yuppie pet, now that Michael Jackson has one. They go for anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars because you can't import them due to hoof-and-mouth disease or something. Lou's house is great. Lou gives a generous invite to go backpacking sometime (several day type). We go back to the house beyond Wilson and have a wonderful cookout with Dan, Mary, Meg and me. We saw another deer. The moon was incredible.
Meg and I went white-water rafting with the Mad River Trips, after which Meg had to satisfy her hyperactive shopping glands. I started doing a little research as to where we should stop next. We can make it to Seattle easily so I called Penny Sharp and Michael Sky at Orcas Is (above Seattle) but they were too busy for us to visit so we'll have to go elsewhere tomorrow.
We saw a moose (good thing we didn't see more than one or I'd have to figure out what the plural of "moose" is) and a hummingbird at dusk. The whitewater trip was not as exciting as the one I did with the people from work in Maine the summer before last, but Meg enjoyed it - it was her first one. She wouldn't sit on the edge of the raft but she is willing to go again.
Yellowstone park is easily identifiable by the puffs of hot springs. The springs look like little puffs of cotton just here and there, or maybe the smokestacks of factories randomly distributed around. I think I saw where Old Faithful was; the area was the most built up, but it wasn't going. I guess it was waiting for somebody to put a coin in the slot. Then we went to the NE part of the park and saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the river, then the upper and lower falls. They are very beautiful from the air.
Then we moved on to Mammoth Hot Springs in the same area. From the air, I didn't really see much difference between them and the rest of Yellowstone. After Yellowstone and the airport (we didn't stop), we flew westward, and found the Salmon River Canyon. I practiced mountain pilotage. As I mentioned before, pilotage is pretty tricky in the mountains. because it's tough to find things to differentiate different peaks. I figured that it's good practice for Alaska if we ever go.
After finding the Salmon Airport (that was a good checkpoint way out in the middle of the mountains, but we didn't land), we flew on to the Snake River Canyon - very rough terrain but no turbulence. I'm glad I didn't have to ditch. The canyon sides were quite steep (not vertical) down to the river. I gave a position report to FSS now and then just to let them know how we were doing. We were really miles from anywhere.
We then found our destination, the Idaho Co. airport, where we landed for gas - S80. The weather was quite hot. The airport was on the plains - quite a change. I think we were past most of the rockies by that point.
Then we proceeded onwards toward Mt. Ranier. I had been eyeing a large snow capped mountain for a good 100 miles or so, not sure what it was. After a ways, it became obvious that it was Mt. Ranier, white, towering over the haze. We must still have been 100 miles away. The haze layer was quite noticeable and because we and the mountain were above it, we could see the mountain from very far away.
We also saw Mt Adams. The mountains are quite interesting there because most of the terrain is what appeared to be hills, not very high, and every once in awhile, there was a snow-covered mountain sticking up.
We flew from Mt Ranier to Mt St. Helens - quite interesting. Much of the land has recovered from the volcano, but the mountain itself is still bare. There's a very noticeable dome inside. The edges are quite steep and sharp except to the north where the mountain blew out. There looked to be thin clouds, probably not smoke, around the peak that added a little haze to the pictures.
All during this time the Loran would not work even though the Loran book said that it might. Maybe we were too low, but at the frequencies used by the Loran, altitude shouldn't matter.
Then we flew on to the Port Astoria airport on the mouth of the Columbia River where it was very windy. We got gas and asked about camping. The Loran started working again now that we were back over relatively flat land (nice of it now that I could navigate just fine by maps). The state park nearby is the only place in the 48 states that was fired upon during WWII by a Japanese sub. Must have been a publicity stunt just to get into the Guiness Book of World Records.
The weather was very windy. As recommended, we took off down the coast to Nehalem Bay State park at Manzanita, 3S7 (airport ID). There was only one other plane there, a green Piper tripacer with a 'For Sale' sign on it. There was no building, but there was a sign-in board to see how used the airport is. We gathered the five tons of bare essentials (we left the VCR) and walked .2 miles to the park, and used the biker/hiker site for $1/person rather than the normal $10/site camping. It was a nice place, well built up. We could walk to the beach easily. We pitched the tent and then ate 2 Spags freeze-dried meals that were quite good, heating the water on the new gas stove courtesy of my parents. We met a couple of the bikers that were biking down the coastal highway. It looks somewhat like fun, but an aweful lot of work and a real drag in the rain.
We saw Mt Jefferson poking thru the clouds, also Mt Washington, 3 Sisters Mountain, and Crater Lake. I got several pictures of Crater Lake - we had to be at 9000-10000 feet to be the required 2000 feet above ground over the park. Crater Lake is an old volcano and even has an island inside the lake which is the dome that forms when the volcano has stopped volcano-ing. The water there is the deepest and clearest lake in North America or the Western Hemisphere or something.
Just past Crater Lake we hit the smoke from several big forest fires. They were in the news - worst fires in a number of years in that area. Flight Service had issued notices (NOTAMS) to stay away from various areas because fire fighting flights were going on in that area. The smoke was pretty solid below about 5000 feet, and above that the air was completely clear. Seemed amazing that the line was so defined. We stayed above the smoke and saw no firefighting flights.
We got to Medford and had to do the VOR-A approach because I couldn't see the ground well enough to find the airport. Medford was reporting 3 miles visibility, with no ceiling. From that visibility, I should have been able to see the airport, so the smoke must have been in a thick layer with better visibility above and below.
Once on the ground, I asked about Richard Bach (author of "Johnathan Livingston Seagull" and others). They said he keeps his fleet at Ashland (small strip aways to the southeast), but he probably moved. They also said the smoke cleared out to the west (towards Grants Pass - my destination).
We took off and the "clear to the west" was like a wall of smoke. Due to the westerly wind, 5 miles away was completely clear, but smoke to the north, south, and east as far as I could see. The wall was about as well defined as the top of the smoke.
We landed at Grants Pass, and helped an old mechanic start a M20F being fixed after a gear-up landing. We also had the oil changed - $45 including 50W oil. The kid (mechanic) was quite interesting. He must have been about 30, and had been working on planes since he was 6. He got a chance to fly a Citation II which he described - sounded pretty neat.
My friend Tahahlita (her name means "Dancing Waters" in Indian language) finally picked us up - she went to Medford first thinking we were there, so I was around for the oil change. We hung out with Tahahlita and her husband for the evening. We ate at a great buffet dinner and went to stay at their place for the night.
The psychic has had a couple of heart attacks and so doesn't do that work anymore. Tahahlita is 88 but looks about 55 or 60, still with tons of energy. She works with a group called "On with Life" helping terminally ill people deal with their dying. She talks to many people who have died and come back to life (I think it was Ruth Montgomery who wrote some books about that). Some people report wonderfullness there (wherever "there" is) and have no fear of dying after that experience. [Sounds like they don't have "subscriber trunk dialing" there.] Others who have led a life traditionally referred to as "bad" - murderers, etc., have had horrific experiences before returning. None return unmoved. I also have a friend around home to whom that has happened.
Tahahlita then took us to the airport. The weather is pretty overcast but good VFR. I decided to stop at Ashland and ask about Richard Bach's planes that I've heard are around. We got just past Medford and hit a wall of rain and marginal VFR. We landed (squeeked into) Ashland, OR, which was easy to find because it's right next to the I-5 road. It was a good thing, too, considering the visibility. I asked about Richard Bach again, but they say he's moved but they don't know where, but his home is in that area somewhere. Maybe a number of people ask and that's just what they tell everybody.
It was raining pretty hard, and I wouldn't want to continue VFR. Weather says icing east of a Medford-Red Bluff line so I file to go from Medford to the coast, then back inland to Georgetown, our next destination (near Tim and Jenny). The freezing level was 6000 feet, MEA (minimum IFR altitude) is 10000 feet with no reported icing.
I depart Ashland VFR, and go back to Medford and land to wait for an instrument clearance. We depart, climb to 8000 feet (MEA on coastal route) and sort of break out on top. I request the better direct Red Bluffs route at 10000 feet, get quite aways down there, and notice the airspeed is dropping. I put on pitot heat (warms up the device that measures airspeed) and the speed drops more. It was kind of scarey but then the airspeed comes back as the ice melts. I turn off the power boost too, to prevent icing of the engine intake. It may sound silly but it's very confusing to see conflicting indications from the instruments. You have to determine which instrument is wrong.
I also notice slight rime ice on leading edge. I ask for 12000, get 11000 and on top again so smooth sailing. We passed Beale AFB, but too far away to see if I can see any SR-71 blackbird airplanes down there.
We arrive at Georgetown (ENE of Sacramento) and find it's on top of a hill with the land before the approach end dropping off steeply. We land into the wind and hit a severe updraft. It's also short so I do a go around and come out high again, but make it in. I talk to the mechanic for awhile (Paul Bailey) who likes Navions. There is camping right at airport.
Paul describes the "Chicken Fly-off" that they were famous for until liability insurance shut down the airshow part (let's hear it for lawyers!). The Chicken Fly-off is played by sticking a chicken in a mailbox and taking a toilet bowl plunger and goosing (is that a word?) the chicken out of the other end of the mailbox. Whatever chicken flies the farthest wins. Pretty silly!
Tim's father Norm picks us up and we go back to Tim and Jenny's house and I help frame walls on the house they're building. We spend the night in Norm's house and have a great visit with them.
Randy and I ate lunch at a "home cooking" restaurant in Georgetown that had tons of funny bumper stickers and sayings hanging around. They had an "Italian Fly Swatter" made out of a paint stirrer and one of those plastic things that holds 6 cans of soda together. They also had an Italian stove made out of wood, and an Italian flashlight - the inside of a toilet paper roll with a match taped to the end of it. They had good food too.
I had given Tim and Jenny for their wedding present a plane ride certificate that they haven't cashed in yet. I offered to settle the debt then, but they were too busy working on the house (too busy for flying?), so I took Randy for a ride and took pictures of Tim and Jenny's house and Tim's parents house. The weather was pretty bumpy. On the way back, we stopped and bought lumber and picked up the hat that Meg left at the trailer, went back to the new house, and framed some more walls.
Meg and Jenny came back early from the horse race. I keep framing a couple more walls, then Jenny took us back to the airport and we depart off for Reid Hillview airport near San Jose. The weather was good VFR, but hazy. We saw tons of windmills around Livermore (east of the range just east of the San Francisco bay), many of them going. They looked like ballet dancers on the hillside.
The weather was slightly hazy until we hit the foothills near Livermore Airport where it turned very hazy. We easily found the airport (Reid Hillview) and landed around 6:30 pm, but Lorraine (my friend in San Jose) didn't come until 9:30 because I forgot the number where she was before that. The sunset had beautiful colors.
While waiting, we met an interesting pilot (Pete?) at the bar who drove us to the Colonel's for dinner. He suggested, while we were in the area, going to a restaurant overlooking the city - something like Ranch View or somesuch. He told me some stories about the airport and standard flying talk. He used to own a Mooney like mine with the mechanical landing gear, but crashed it just after takeoff one time. If you're alone in the front, and the seatbelt from the right seat is lying between the two front seats, the belt buckle will often interfere with the raising of the gear (the mechanical bar comes down between the two seats). He paid too much attention to the gear and not enough to flying, so he crashed back to the runway. He didn't seem any worse for the wear. Don't know about the plane. Lorraine finally came, picked us up, and we crashed at her place (but with the gear down).
We went to get tickets to go to Alcatraz and they were full not only for today but mostly tomorrow too so we made reservations for Wed (today Mon). We tried to get on cablecar but that was too crowded too so we spent the day shopping around there and bumping into everybody else that had the same idea.
There were a couple of Christmas stores that have any Christmas tree ornaments you can imagine. They play Christmas music all year long. I imagine that the employees become axe-murderers after a few months of that. Pat went with us (another friend of mine) and really likes those shops. We saw a candle shop that had interesting candles - a pig sitting in an ice bucket was a "swine cooler". A rat caught in a mousetrap was pretty funny. Also, there was a frog being dissected. We had ice cream at Ghirradelli Square (another federal requirement if you have kids) and generally hung around. Meg wanted a picture in jail (souvenir from Alcatraz - there was a little booth where you could put on the stripped jail garb and get your picture taken.
After we were done there, we took a taxi back to the airport, and flew back, but they didn't let us fly over Oakland (it was too close to the San Jose airport). Before landing, I took pictures of Lorraine's house from the air. We got back pretty late. She was impressed at how fast we got home versis having to drive all that way.
We saw the famed escape cells and how the prisoners escaped. The island is pretty stark but beautiful. It didn't look that far to swim to shore but the water's cold and the current is very swift. The tape tour said the prisoners could actually hear conversation and parties from the shore depending on the wind, especially on New Year Eve. They also said it was very unusually warm today. Several buildings were falling over and there were a lot of birds nesting (the island is a sanctuary).
The prisoners had interesting names for places - Times Square, Michigan Ave, Broadway. The "jail within a jail" (solitary) didn't seem much worse than the main jail. Solitary had double doors so they could shut off all light from the prisoner if they wanted.
The movie "Escape from Alcatraz" was filmed at Alcatraz. We heard that on the tour you used to get to go into the cell and they'd lock you in, but one time, they couldn't get the doors open again until somebody came from the mainland to get them open. The worst part was more people continued touring the island, and got to see what people looked like trapped in the cells.
We went back on the boat, bought some sweatshirts, and Meg navigated us back to the car. We used the Jacuzzi at Lorraine's place that night - great for the "agony of the feet".
Down by Big Sur, things cleared out and I got pictures I think of Tassajara in a valley up in the mountains. Tassajara (I might have the spelling wrong) is a Buddhist monastery that people can visit. It's very difficult to get to, and I was surprised that it's actually marked on the sectional aviation maps. They are famous for a cookbook out that way.
From there, we flew south to Esalen, which is a wonderful health spa right on the coast. It's been there for 25 years or so. I went there last spring, and the consciousness there is so wonderfully different from "normal" existence. Esalen is actually more famous in Europe than in the US. The name Esalen comes form an Indian tribe that used to be around there. They have mineral baths fed by natural hot springs coming right out of the rocks there. You can sit in the hot bath and gaze up at the stars and not think. The food there is all natural and they grow most of their own vegetables. I made a couple of circles and snapped a couple of pictures.
Further to the south, we found the famous Hurst Castle near St Louis Obispo. The castle is incredibly huge with probably the biggest swimming pool I've ever seen. I didn't see it on the ground when I was out in California a lot, but I saw pictures. There's even an airport near there but it's closed. The castle I think now is mostly for tourists.
Still further to the south is Vandenburg. I had hoped to get pictures of the shuttle operations there, but not only were they under a solid deck of clouds, but also they are in the middle of a restricted area (the FAA takes all the fun out of sightseeing, don't they?).
The friendly radar controllers wanted me 3 miles off shore at 1000 feet if I wanted to pass to the west, so I picked the over land route passing to the east because I wasn't crazy about the possibility of having to ditch that far off shore.
I wasn't able to see the runway but did see a T-38 on final approach for the airport. I think there was enough ceiling, but I was at a height I couldn't see under the solid deck. It was clear over where I was about 15 miles to the east.
A few miles past there to the south, there is a strange square-shaped prohibited area up to 4000 MSL (above sea level). It's 3 miles on a side, and what's really strange is that there's a VOR (for radio navigation) located smack inside the prohibited area. (Generally you tend to fly to or from one of these VORs when using radionavigation.) That happens to be Ronnie's west coast hideout.
I could have flown over the area above 4000 MSL, but the area was mostly on the other side of the coastal range (but only a couple of miles from shore) and I didn't want to do anything even remotely provocative. If you remember that pilot that flew into the restricted area and dangerously close to the prez's chopper, I suspect he was probably just tracking toward the VOR and just didn't think about the prohibited area.
Past Ronnie's place we went on toward into Santa Monica (our destination). As we passed Santa Barbara, we saw oil rig platforms in the water. We landed at Santa Monica and found the temperature was actually on the cool side, which was quite unexpected. We parked not far from a gorgeous Ford Tri-motor airplane.
The Santa Monica airport had barely a shack with porta-johns for the terminal here. There was lots of construction so it should be pretty neat someday but that doesn't help us now. There was a lot of activity, but it was rather expensive ($5/night) for these spartan facilities. Cars park right in back of airplanes - quite convenient. I guess the lawyers haven't caught wind of a good situation just waiting to be messed up with stupid liability considerations.
Also, many of the airplane hangars are across one of the roads past the airport, so airplanes regularly have to taxi across the fairly busy road. There's at least a sign there saying "Caution, airplanes crossing". Here's another situation crying out for lawyers to milk it for all it's worth.
I was hoping my friend is here. I couldn't get ahold of her last night before we left and she's still not home. We decided to take the bus to her place, and bought a road map. While waiting for the bus, I got to talking to a convertible that was stopped for the light, and they offered to give us a ride and did so. They guy was thinking of going back to fine arts school (painting) in Boston so I said he was welcome to give me a call if he came to Boston. His name was Denver T.
We hung around the apartment, talked to neighbors, ate dinner, then gave up and took the bus back to the airport. The bus driver was not a pilot but knew lots about the Santa Monica airplane history. Santa Monica was where Douglas built the DC-3 and was very active building during WWII. Amelia Erhart flew out of here a lot. There's even a museum (Douglas) down the street. Most of the old buildings are gone however. We didn't get a chance to go to the museum.
We got back to the airport, and by this time it was chilly and dark. We cried on the airport guard's shoulder and he let us sleep under the wing of the plane so we got out our mattresses and sleeping bags. That night was one of the least-slept nights of the whole trip. Dew kept running over the leading edge and dripping on me. Moving out in the open solved that. But the airport was closed from 9pm to 8am (normally 11pm to 8am) to do work on the runway. It sounded like a machine was grinding up the runway. The noise was horrible. It reminded me of the time when I was a kid that me and Joey Greenbaum put his dog and cat in the drier together and turned it on. I couldn't sleep much thru it but Meg said, "What noise?" I probably should have tried using my airplane headset to keep the noise out. I think it stopped sometime early morning. Maybe somebody shot the machine to put it out of its misery.
I forgot the tour discount coupon in the plane, figuring how much can the tour be anyway. That was a mistake. It cost $16 adult, $12 child plus parking. The tour was totally mobbed. The weather was very hot especially because I had to stand in line for perhaps 1/2 hour or so just to get a ticket.
The studio tour is a tradition started by the founder - an immigrant that bought a chicken farm there. During silent movies he'd charge $.25 (including box lunch) for people to watch movies being made and they cheered, etc. There's obviously been quite a bit of inflation since then.
The logistics are set up fairly nicely in that you get a time to board the tour bus when you enter the park and buy a ticket. While waiting for your time, there is stuff to do and shows to see and of course, outrageously expensive stuff to buy. We had about an hour to wait and we saw the stunt show (15 min) which was quite funny; an old west fighting and gun scene. As people were filing in to the stunt show, there was a mime in whiteface that would walk along with the crowd, come up behind an old couple (or whatever), get the man to lag back, and then walk in place of the woman's husband. Then as soon as the woman would look over, he'd smack her on the lips and she'd be incredibly shocked expecting her husband to be there.
Then we saw the trained animal show - very similar to Marine World's one. They did show a trained falcon that would fly directly in front of a fan blowing air at them... That's how they get close-up flying shots for the movies.
Then on to the tour bus. It was quite interesting. Inside one of the studios, they allowed a couple of people (of the right size) to do part of a skit. By slouching down, I was small enough to play the part of the Russian in "2010". I was in a space suit suspended 20 feet above the ground. Some guy from Australia played the US guy. The wires were painted with "invisible" blue to be blanked out later. The suit was silvery and entered from the back. The boots were Hansen ski boots. We played a little part and Meg took pictures. There was an intercom and they coached us thru the scene. The wires went all the way thru the uniform and attached to the boots so you were actually "standing" in the boots as opposed to "hanging" from the wires so the floating looked more realistic.
They also got some kid peddling the flying bicycle from ET. The movie folks do most of their stuff in about 44 (many numbers are left out because of superstitions - 13 for instance) "sound stages" where they also add sound there since they often can't use the sound that happens during the shooting. For instance, gun shots are "spiced" up so they sound more dramatic but unrealistic if you're familiar with them. They use the "blue background" technique to superimpose a scene onto a painted background. They have total control over the environment inside the sound stage. The airconditionning is very powerful because the lights in the studios can be very hot.
The guides took great glee in describing the various effects used - chocolate syrup for blood in the black and white movie Psycho for instance. A hot fudge sunday uses mashed potatoes instead of ice cream which would melt. Also, the cherry is a cherry tomato instead of a real cherry because the tomato is bigger, more dramatic, and less shiny.
On to touring the outside sets; most were fronts with nothing behind. Their sets are reusable for different things by repainting. They have cobblestone streets made from cement with cookie cutter type forms. To make it western, they just bring in dirt to layer over it.
The tour bus is actually a train of 4 cars with steering that allows the train to take very sharp turns and make each car track accurately behind the previous car. All wheels steer. Also, the wheels of the train would get locked down and held by a "ride", for instance, on a bridge specially designed with hydraulics to feel like it's collapsing from the weight. The bridge also had "falling timbers" so it looked like the structural support of the bridge was failing. The train would drop about a foot so you'd get a real "sinking feeling". After we passed, the falling timbers would hydraulically get put back where they belong for the next train.
There were a lot of hills and rough terrain conducive to little scenes going on here and there. There would be a falling down bridge here, a Mexican town with a flash flood every 90 sec there, and the Jaws pool over there. They actually had Jaws come up along the side of the train, pull a pier over, and sink a fisherman. The train (and us) also went thru a huge rotating tube, rotating along the lengthwise axis - really gave the impression we were tipping over but we weren't.
Right before the rotating tube ride, there was a pickup truck with the (someplace) Co. Safety Consultants painted on the side, and inside that huge tube there was a guy with a clipboard probably inspecting the ride. The ironic part was that he was wearing one of those sprain bandages on his wrist. Maybe being accident prone helps find potential accidents.
We went thru the prop building - I think they said that they had a million on hand? The organization to handle the logistics was staggering. And they have enough lumber to build a small town. Everything built is sort of done "universally" so it can be reused for a different show. They pointed out various buildings where various famous people did various famous scenes. The most familiar area I saw was the street scene from "Back to the Future" which also was the same street used for other movies.
On the western sets, one side of the street had smaller doors to make the male heroes look bigger, then the other side had bigger doors to make the women look more petite. Now with women's lib, I think they swap sides. We saw the 10 foot shopping cart used to make the star look small for the "Incredible Shrinking Woman" movie.
The tour would is much more impressive if you're a movie buff. I hadn't seen most of the movies they mentioned so I couldn't relate. We finished the tour and spent some more time where we had originally waited for the tour, waiting for the Miami Vice show and Meg did some shopping, but the show was filled up and we left because I couldn't see waiting another 1.5hrs when I didn't know where we were sleeping for the night. My airplane for a shower! It's probably just as well we left before Miami Vice came around again because I heard that Don Johnson (the star) had once described Miami Vice as surrealistic violence. I think that's an accurate description.
Looks like movies could be a fun business but I felt it's also an allegory for what's wrong with the world - beautiful in front and nothing behind. It's time to get out of here. There are incredible amounts of people paying exorbitant amounts of money to walk around and bump into each other.
We drove from Universal back to the airport via the Santa Monica hills, Laurel Canyon, and Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is not hilly but the mansions are incredible. Houses in the Santa Monica Hills are also amazing - gorgeous views. Some are built out over the hill and propped up. I think I'd rather live in Santa Monica rather than Beverly Hills because in Beverly Hills, you don't have any view. Homes were mansions, but so what? Hey, dreamers can be pickey, can't we?
We got back to airport, and had the message that my friend had called. We went back to her place (now that we had a car it was easy), but nobody was home, so we left a note, ate dinner, came back, and finally there was a note from her saying she was sorry she missed us but she was "unavailable." Well, that's swell. So we used up the available daylight driving thru Venice, found some ducks there and Meg fed them.
What little I saw of the people there reminded me of burned out druggies. The city was very dense and there was no place to park. It was totally crowded. Get me out of here. We went looking for motel, and finally found one way away from the beach. Most hotels were full for some reason.
So I'm pretty disappointed that my friend flaked out on me but I guess if I'd known earlier, we might not have come here at all. After about the most expensive day of the whole trip (not including the airplane), I've decided that I really don't need to see the Spruce Goose airplane for another exorbitant fee.
Back at the airport, I met a pilot who got DC-3 rated for $5000, Learjet for $7000, and flew J Travolta's DC-3 for awhile. For the larger airplanes, you are required to be certified in each aircraft type to be able to fly it.
I didn't leave LA with a good feeling - it feels very crowded and money is spent for conspicuous consumption rather than enjoyment (at least that's what it seemed). Also wasn't happy about having to find my own places to stay.
I got up to 3500 feet and there was only one other Cessna traveling my way and we both announced our intentions. After passing overhead the LA airport, I picked my way from small airport to small airport. There are enough of them around there that I could guarantee exactly where I was so I could easily stay out of the TCA by following the airports. Nothing else is so distinct down there. Then, out of the LA basin, we flew off over the mountains.
On the far side of the mountains (that distinguish the LA basin), everything was brown except for occasional green circles of irrigation. The land got dryer and there were dry river beds and dry lakes. We were aways south of Death Valley and Edwards AFB. We went past Barstow I think it was where the "Tower of Power" was. It's a whole field of mirrors focusing the sun on the central tower for power generation. It was interesting as we flew past it with the sun to the right, I could see the bright spot of the sun on the mirrors directly behind the tower follow us around. Each mirror was probably as big a a couple of cars and was computer driven to follow the sun. The mirrors formed an arc for about 270 degrees around the tower. I don't remember how many mirrors there were but there must have been 500 or so.
Then on to Las Vegas. We landed at Sky Harbor (uncontrolled to the south of the main airport) because it was smaller. We rented a car ($30/day), and also found 2 "packaging consultants" who got a ride from Reno in a Cessna with a busted transponder so they wouldn't let him land at the main Las Vegas airport. The Cessna guy was a gold prospector but I didn't meet him. The 2 guys I met were connecting with flights out so they gave me $20 to take them so they wouldn't miss their connection. It was tight, and there were no taxis nearby. It wasn't a bad deal.
We stopped by Circus Circus first (it's a hotel with a circus) was full so we found a room at the Sands for $35 right on the strip. When I got there, I found it to be the same hotel that Keith, Michelle, and I stayed in last summer. It's OK. They have golf carts to drive you around outside. The front is more gaudy than the inside. We took a drive and found a buffet for $3 for dinner, and saw the Wet-n-Wild water slide - very crowded. Las Vegas is a great deal if you don't gamble. The rooms and food in the gambling places are really cheap, being subsidized by the gambling. Thank you gamblers!
We also saw the Fly-a-way which was closed and for sale. Too bad. It was a neat "ride" where they had a DC-3 propeller driven by a 2000 HP electric motor to blow air up. You wear a skyjumping suit and jump into the airflow and kind of float on that cushion of air being blown up. I did it a year previous and it was pretty neat.
Meg by this time was having withdrawal pains from lack of shopping so that blew a few hours. It also rained, a thunderstorm. People that had been vacationning here for years had never seen one like it at this time. I also saw a very nice rainbow -things are looking up.
Meg saw the gambling rooms in the lobbies but didn't seem to be impressed. I lost (ah, I mean played) $.25 for her.
Las Vegas was gawdy to the max. We drove up and down the strip to check out the lights. Traffic was like rush hour with tons of pedestrians. I was going to take Meg to one of the magic shows but found that not only did it cost $33/person, but you also had to be over 21 (oh, it was one of THOSE!). I went out later alone to watch the clouds - still thundershowering here and there - and checked out one of the more interesting over-21 bars in North Las Vegas. The weather forecast for tomorrow for Prescott area was not very terrific but it would be best if we get out early so I set the alarm for 6AM.
Meg and I shoved off about 8:30 or so. There were thunderstorms forecast all day for the Prescott AZ area so I filed VFR direct to get there faster. After takeoff, things looked a lot better than the forecast (so what else is new), so I decided to change the plan to go over the lower part of the Canyon to the Peach Springs VOR and then on down to Prescott. I didn't take any pictures because there wasn't much sunlight and it was kind of showery but no thunderstorms. The canyon was pretty impressive anyway.
Just past the canyon, I heard the two Cessna-ers talking to Flight Watch (enroute weather advisory - VERY useful to monitor all the time) asking about the weather right about where I was. I called in and gave them a current pilot report which was much better to have than the terribly depressing weather forecast. They had no other current reports so it was good that I was there. Way out in the middle of nowhere, pilots are really the eyes and ears of the weather people. Definitely call in regularly and give them updates of the current weather. Other pilots depend on it.
We got into Prescott, tied down, and called Rita. Lloyd (her husband) picked us up. We had a great conversation with Lloyd - he was a pilot in WWII and flew/ferried lots of planes from LA (where they were built) to Newark to be pickled (oiled and packed away) and sent to Europe - P51's, P38's and lots of other great stuff. He then flew DC-3's in India.
He didn't quite pass the tests for airline pilot and he said he was just as glad he hadn't now. He and Rita do (psychic) channeling now. He's not interested in flying anymore (after 5000 hours). He's got some old flying charts and hopefully we can compare them with modern charts. We went to Lloyd and Rita's house in Prescott Valley and met Ed and Yvonne Mumma - great people. Ed does research and management consulting, and used to teach at the University of Oklahoma. He now is retired and does transcribing of Rita's channeling. Ed and Yvonne invited us to their house for the night. We had wonderful talks about new age sorts of stuff.
If you were west or east of the station, you'd hear the morse code character "A", and if you were north or south you'd hear the morse character "N". On the boarder line, you'd hear a buzz. I think the boarder lines were often designed to line up with airways so you could tell when you were on the airway or which direction you were off. You could also do primitive triangulation in certain spots. This was on a 1945 map. On a 1952 map, these beacons were mixed with the modern-day VOR's.
Lloyd explained about not opening the throttle of the P-51 on takeoff. Because of the small rudder and inadequate airflow at low speeds, you couldn't use full throttle (1200HP or so) until 80-90mph. The tanks held 250 gal of 100 octane gas, and the plane used 55gal/hr at cruise. He went thru several stories of near scrapes and getting lost, etc.
He also had sectional maps of a couple of areas in India from when he was flying around there. The backs of the sectionals contained much info and regs. Seems like you could order accurate maps of anyplace in the world. We say VFR=Visual Flight Rules, they called it CFR = Contact Flight Rules.
Because he spent most of the time ferrying planes around, he has flown an amazing array of planes. When he got out of the service, the F-80 jets were just coming out and they had lots of bugs so he chose not to fly them so he has no jet time. Almost went for a chopper rating on his way out but didn't.
I was somewhat concerned about density altitude but there was no wind and 70 degrees of temperature (not real hot) so I figured I could get off by the end of the runway - 7000 feet or so. It was no problem. I forgot the camera though (as usual - I'm lucky I got any pictures on the whole trip).
After the plane ride, we picked up Meg and drove to Sedona thru Jeffrey. Jeffrey is built on the side of a very steep hill. At Sedona, we stopped at the Telaquepaque (however you spell it) yuppie art emporium. It's a very ritzy art type place. I found the cellophane art that looks blank when you look at it normally, but turns wonderful colors and changes when you rotate polarizing material in front of it. There's a huge one at Boston's Museum of Science. A small one (8 inch diameter) is $160, large 3 foot one is $4000.
We ate a picnic lunch at Telaquepaque and drove to Montezuma's cliff dwellings national park. The weather here was very hot. The cliff dwellings are smaller than the other famous ones (wherever they are) and the people here suddenly moved out and vanished and they don't know why. Maybe the landlord went condo and the people couldn't afford the down payment.
We drove on back to Prescott Valley, dined, visited with Rita and Lloyd while Yvonne did laundry for them and for us. I also called a contact in Sedona for tomorrow night. We plan to see the canyon if the weather is good which is the last sight I've really wanted to see so I could IFR it back home if necessary after that.
We had another good talk with Lloyd who said, gee, it was too bad I couldn't make it to the psychic channeling last Saturday. I just happened to think that was about the time I missed out on my friend in LA so if I'd left then, I could have made it to the channeling but would have missed the Universal Studios tour. Maybe I was supposed to be there. Oh, well, ... Maybe that's why I felt like the LA visit was not working well and had negative feelings about being there and the crowds at the studio tour. I decided to sleep out under the stars tonight to keep an eye out on the clouds.
The canyon was quite spectacular and I don't really see any need to go below the regulation for the scenery anyway. The rim is between 6000 and 8000 feet high at various points with the river itself being about 1000 feet (about a mile down from the rim).
We found the South Rim area, or maybe I should say I found the South Rim area as Meg was industrially reading "Jaws IV" which was MUCH more exciting than flying over the boring hole in the ground. It was all I could do to get her to glance up from the pages now and then.
The South Rim doesn't look very built up from the air. I could easily see the switchbacks of the two trails from the south rim. I got pictures of Phantom Ranch (the hotel at the bottom), and then of the north rim. The north rim is built out on a pretty thin piece of land. I wonder how many people would drive there if they could see how steep the cliff is and how close the road is to the edge. The north rim trail is harder to pick out but I think I saw it because the north rim is even less built up than the south rim.
The river looked very muddy as we continued flying past the two rims, and on up to where the Little Colorado river came into the main stream. All the mud was coming in from the side stream and above that (toward Page) was clear. As I remember the river when I went down on a raft, it was clear enough that you could scoop up the river water anywhere on the river and drink it without noticing any color or taste.
There were a couple of showers to the left, then a good size one on the way to Page, so I decided to turn around about 30 miles south of Page. The second half of the canyon was not nearly as bright as the first half. The river was still in the shadow of the lower walls. I got some pictures of rapids, but they didn't look very impressive from where we were about 8000 feet down. I also saw a couple of boats. A wide angle lense would seem to capture the scenery better than telephoto. It was partly cloudy so the pictures I did get didn't really show up the colors of the canyon as much as they could have.
Flight watch (122.0) is very heavily used out here. I also gave them numerous pilot reports on the weather which they appreciated. Out here, there aren't many reporting points, and so they really depend on people filing pilot reports.
After deciding not to fly to Page, we turned around, and flew to the Grand Canyon airport and then direct to Sedona. We flew past the mountains in the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness (near Flagstaff) area. The cumulous buildups were pretty high - probably baby thunderstorms forming from the lift of the mountains. The visibility was wonderful around them however.
We proceeded on into Sedona. The area has beautiful red rocks but there were enough clouds that the rocks didn't show up as brilliantly as they could have. Still the weather is beautiful for VFR underneath and beside.
We landed in Sedona, ate some peanut butter sandwiches to wait for my contact here. Sedona airport is on top of a mesa - slightly sloped but not noticeable - you land on runway 3, take off on 21 because of the slope (unless the wind is very strong).
We met a newspaper reporter from Phoenix getting information on the Harmonic Convergence on Aug 16-17, asking the airport if their business was picking up. The reporter said that this whole area is booked up solid around those dates. She was concerned that if 100,000 people show up, what will that do to the fragile desert ecology? She's skeptical about the convergence. I can't say that I blame her. I don't really believe it either, but I'll still be watching just in case. I've seen enough things somewhere between unusual coincidence and miracle, that while I might not believe in something, I can't completely reject anything, either.
She found somebody who expected some hill around here to take off like a spaceship. Also, there are supposed to be two positive vortex areas in the world - here and Maui Hawaii. There are 4 individual ones here in Sedona, some electrical, some magnetic, and some both types. Neither of us knows what that means. She said that all 4 spots are very beautiful spots to meditate near. Her name is Ann - she suggests a couple of bookstores in which to inquire for more info - as she rushes off to another appointment.
I called and got picked up by Azena and Arknon. They are wonderful people (their names are Arkturas, Alura, Azena, and Arknon) and I feel right at home. They are a Church of sorts, claiming to have come from another planet and doing various workshops over the country for the awakening of this planet. I can't say anything about their claim one way or the other, but they were wonderful people. Who cares where they came from? Our earth can sure use some awakening wherever the source.
Their house is quite neat with an Indian Medicine wheel out back - good views of the hills. The house is quite interesting, with an art studio, and crystals all over as the owner also owns a crystal store or two in California (where else).
We hung out with them, and had a wonderful spaghetti dinner - they watched 2001 and then I watched "Adventurers" with Meg. There was quite a thunderstorm, and I saw a rainbow that evening. It's wonderfully peaceful there. They were about to leave for LA so we can only spend one night there. Desert was apple pie made from apples in the back yard.
Arkturas is the only one who is up - he gives me a ride to the airport. I offer him an aerial view of the town, but he refuses because he's concerned for us about the thunderstorms (as am I) that crop up in the afternoons, so the sooner we get going, the better. Fortunately, the thunderstorms (as is pretty much true all over the west) are rarely embedded in the clouds, so it's usually easy to see and avoid them, but I like to be conservative about storms.
The weather is beautiful, but flight service assures me that it's only a localized aberration (where do they get these forecasts anyway, Seattle?), so I file IFR past Santa Fe, NM. We spend a few minutes in the clouds (there's a low solid layer that must end a couple thousand feet above ground, then clear above), so I miss seeing Meteor Crater, made famous by the movie "Starman". After an hour or so, the weather looks fine to the left. I ask for and get Farmington, CO weather, and Farmington looks good so I start heading for Farmington still under IFR.
After Farmington, we turn right to Alamosa, and I head into a small cumulus buildup. We got pretty tossed around at 11000 feet, the MEA (minimum IFR altitude) coming up is around 14000 feet and the oxygen is packed away. I really should have had it accessible just in case. The clouds are only broken so I cancel IFR, drop to 9500 feet, file VFR, and just squeak under the scattered layer. I wanted more pilotage experience in the Rockies, so here is my last chance. After one range, there's quite a large plain with lots of green irrigation circles - quite farming country but again brown and dead where there's no irrigation.
Pilotage is interesting - it's quite difficult to relate which bump on the ground corresponds to which relief circle on the map. It seems like it ought to be easy, but it's not because there are so many hills around and you have to guess which hill is large enough to rate being put on the map. What seems to work best is to find some elongated hills or valleys that are not all parallel. Relating the angle of the valley or hill to the direction of the elongated relief lines on the map seems to work better than trying to judge which peak is which on the map since they all look the same and are about the same height. The relief lines are not often enough I guess.
We get over the next pass and on into Colorado Springs - it's beautiful VFR but a little bumpy. There's no ARSA at Colorado Springs, but they act like it. The ATIS says incoming should contact approach, not tower. We take care of the plane and wait for Richie to pick us up - Richie time - so we wait for quite awhile. Malcolm Forbe's 727 was there - green/gold and said "Forbes Capitalist Tool".
We ate a fun and boisterous dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Richie, Ellen, Suzie, and Meg. After dinner, we visited the house Richie and Ellen are building. It's absolutely fantastic on the side of a hill. The roof trusses are installed already. The inside walls are interesting in that the 2x4 that runs along the bottom of the vertical wall studs is actually spaced 2 inches above the 2x4 anchored to the floor so that the floor can raise up that much without buckling the wall. Also, many of the major beams in the house were laminations of smaller boards glued together.
While we were in the house with no roof, we had a major thunderstorm with buckets of water for a little while. The land was owned by nuns until there were so few, they sold off 1000 acres which is now being developed. After the house viewing, I stopped into the Colorado Springs Dec plant to login and found 98 new messages back home. At least I haven't been forgotten.
I check out the weather to Racine tomorrow and there's a low in Minn/Iowa so doesn't look terribly conducive to getting to Racine tomorrow, but then flight service is pretty much always (but not ALWAYS) pessimistic, so I decide to wait and see how wrong flight service is. We went to dinner at an interesting Korean/Japanese restaurant - Royal Cui - good food. Richie and Ellen know all the restaurants in Colorado Springs.
Richie and Ellen had these 3 hyperactive dogs (hyperactive is synonymous with "puppie"). They looked like huskies and one cute small puppy. We went to bed early to get up early to beat out the thunderstorms tomorrow.
Someplace along the hop, over MN I believe, I was using pilotage to figure out where we were, and I found a lake that was the wrong shape on the sectional and wrote it down. When I got back, I wrote to the sectional people (Dear Mr/Ms. Sectional) and they actually *called* me back to check on it and thank me for my input. Amazing! They've got people responsible for each map and to look into user input, so if you notice an error, they seem to follow up on it. I don't know how long it'll take for my very own correction to get to the available maps.
We arrived in Racine and it occurred to me that I had arrived during the week of the famous Oshkosh fly-in. Since we're so close, I started thinking about actually going. We had a great dinner by Tom (not to belittle Tom's efforts, but any dinner you don't cook on a trip like this is great provided it doesn't include carcinogenic compounds like rutabagas or zucchini) since Chris is working. Their pool was great, too, as the humidity underwater may have been lower than the humidity in the air.
Tom and I decided to go for Oshkosh and Meg could play with Tom's daughter Elissa, about the same age. The fly-in is so crowded that sometimes they run out of space to park so you can't go there unless another airplane leaves. I tried the IFR reservation number to make it easier to get into the airport (so you don't have to fight for a spot with the VFR types) but the number went unanswered. The main crowds are there for the weekend, so the weekdays should be less crowded, but I still have no idea what to expect. Flight service had some quite complicated rules about how to get in there, so I studied them several times to know what to do when I got close.
We took off just before 6am - great VFR and get up there near 7am which is how early arrivals can come. You can also fly into Fon-Du-Lac airport (20 miles or so away) with shuttle service for $7, but half the fun is flying into Oshkosh. Besides, REAL pilots don't fly into the other airport and take ground transportation to the fly-in.
The fly-in procedure is basically a free-for-all before Ripon (10 miles SW of Oshkosh), by which time you are supposed to have sequenced yourself (jockey for position) in line with others; no side-by-side. Single engine planes are supposed to be at 100MPH and 1000 feet AGL, and twins are supposed to be at 150MPH and 1500 feet AGL. That was fun. You have to watch for traffic, sequence yourself, and guess where your destination (the tower noted below) is since you have about 5 miles to do this sequencing.
The Oshkosh control tower people have an additional tower in a nondescript camper (marked with a strobe light) at the small town of Fisk which is about 5 miles SW of Oshkosh. They have an additional frequency over which they talk to you from the camper. The idea is you're supposed to sequence yourself before Ripon, then fly in the line to Fisk where you don't call in, they visually call out your type and say rock your wings if you hear them. That gets rid of tons of radio congestion. I hate to think what it was like trying to fly in during the previous weekend when it was really crowded.
The airport was not accepting arrivals yet, so they sent about 8 of us (still in line) around Lake Rush, I think it was (just west of Fisk). We just followed one after the other around the lake to Fisk again. While we were flying around the lake, they told everybody else who hadn't passed Ripon yet, to stay outside of Ripon, but some slipped thru anyway, and got cleared to proceed toward Oshkosh anyway, and a few people in my line of 8 (I was number 3 or so behind 2 Cessnas) were grousing about the others getting in ahead. In the end, it didn't make much difference since there was plenty of room.
By the time we had flown around the lake once, the airport could handle more arrivals, so the Fisk tower (using the term "tower" loosely) had us fly around to the west of the airport and loop around to the north to land on runway 18 (southbound). As we passed Fisk, we were told to listen to the Oshkosh tower who again called us by type at the proper time without us transmitting.
We parked on the north side of runway 9-27.
Oshkosh had several planes landing simultaneously on various runways, and even had one plane landing at the threshold at the same time as somebody else was landing halfway down the same runway. We taxi on in past this incredible line of planes all idling waiting to take off. Most of the crowd was probably there on the weekend and were leaving as we were arriving on Monday. I wondered how many overheated. The right thing to do would have been to shut the engine down and manually pull the plane up until close to being able to take off. I guess getting in there during the weekday is the right thing to do as far as crowds go. As long as you don't mind missing the weekend, there's no problem getting in there. It's busy, but managable.
All ground control was done by flagmen and radio talking to you so you don't even need to transmit. On the way in, a flagman held up a "flag" (paddle) with one side a big "?", and the other side said "CAMPING", to which you'd reply thumbs up or down. It was quite effective and interesting in that we have all this modern technology around, and we revert to hand signs as being more effective than the modern technology.
We parked in row 65 or perhaps 100 rows - there was plenty of room. They had us park north of runway 9/27 with a schoolbus to the north end of 18/36 where things started - it cost $13 to get in for a day. They are pretty well set up for crowds. Their "follow me" cars are topless and doorless VW beetles.
Tom and I wandered around and saw all the booths. There was a lot of interesting stuff and planes. We saw a flux that allows soldering copper to aluminum. We saw a super chamois for picking up water - anything and everything. There were, of course, lots of plane parts, like pieces of engine blocks that looked dirty enough I'm not sure I'd want to fly something with that in it.
I got to talk to Lycomming (my engine type) and Mooney. There were a lot of weird planes. It was very hot in the morning. Tom and I saw a human watering trough - a line of 10 drinking fountain faucets in a row in a trough. I regularly went there and stuck my head under the faucet and not because he told me to go soak my head.
We saw a B-25 owned by Bob Collings from Stow, MA. There were lots of P-51's and T-34's. There was a C-130, T-38, T-33, F-14. In the airshow there was a P-40 which looks like a P-51 from a distance. The Voyager (plane that flew around the world without stopping or refueling) was there on display. It was on its way to the Smithsonian Institute in DC for permanent display. They were not taking any chances with it - the plane was being trucked down there. The wingtips were left as they were for the flight - the winglets had been ground off when the tips hit the ground on takeoff so you could see the blue foam underneath. I saw WX-8 stormscopes for $3200. I also think I saw Jack Copeland flash past (confirmed when I got home - he's always there as a volunteer).
Another thing we saw there was a cute Loran with an 80386 processor that would display a map on the screen complete with VORs, and airports, just like you'd see on an enroute IFR chart. Actually 2 companies had them - one had a screen 2" by 2" which was too small. The other was about 4" by 4" - just barely big enough. There were Lorans being sold there for $600.
Lost and Found was set up nicely - they had bins set up saying "HATS" or "GLASSES", etc. One woman had lost a roll of film, so they hauled out the film bin and - guess what - there were about 10 rolls in the bin, all looking the same. Probably they were all the same pictures anyway so it didn't matter which roll she took.
There was a rainstorm heading our way and I hadn't tied the plane down (it would take quite a hurricane to move the Mooney especially since it's on grass) and they had tons of announcements that we had to go tie down any untied planes. I got worried anyway (I always get suckered in by people saying things that might not be true just from the forcefulness of their pronunciations), so we went back and fortunately I had some tie-downs that I could use so we didn't have to rent any. The storm turned before it got to us so we didn't get any of it anyway.
Bob Hoover put on his stunt sequence in a twin engine Aero Commander, with lots of cutting power and feathering of the props (he shuts down the engine and adjusts the pitch of the prop so that the prop is aligned with the airflow and stops turning completely). For his grand finale, he shuts both engines down, feathers both props, and does a loop, a roll, and then lands and taxis to the podium without restarting either engine.
There were a couple of wing-walker shows, with the husband-pilot, and wife-walker, one on a Waco, and one on a Steerman, both quite loud. The airport was closed from 3:30-7pm for the show. A couple of the aerobatic pilots were women and they both had music played and/or had a poem read while performing - more emphasis on the "ballet" artistic aspect of aerobatics.
About 6pm we checked with flight service (they had a bunch of terminals and FSS people on the field), and they were quite pessimistic (as usual). The radar charts were not so good, but the weather was great here, so we decided to go for it.
As the bus was taking us back to the north-40 where we were tied down, we saw/heard a Harrier jet (vertical take-off and landing) do a demo. It was sure loud - also very weird seeing it act like a helicopter even though I've seen them before.
Once in the plane and taxiing down the taxiway, I got yelled at by ground for not listening to the ATIS (recorded information so the tower doesn't have to tell everybody the same thing each time) - turns out the departure ATIS was a different freq and I missed it when I read the departure procedure. There wasn't nearly as much traffic leaving now as there was this morning, but still, they talk to you, you don't call them.
We followed the departure procedure from runway 27, which was to fly straight out (westbound) for 3 miles, then hang a left to wherever we were going, Racine in our case (about an hour to the southeast on the coast of Lake Michigan). We talked to Milwaukee Approach (the Milwaukee controllers) on the way. There were light showers south of Milwaukee in Racine. I countered with a pilot report to flight watch to let them know how great the weather was as far as I could see all the way from Oshkosh to Racine.
We arrived at Racine and found that the airport had thought I'd run off without paying for the fuel or the tiedown. That was mildly embarrassing, but I thanked them for being so trusting of pilots and understood their suspicion.
It was fun to go to Oshkosh once, but don't know if I'd bother again, not from any negative experience, but it was just a ton of airplanes and people and how many different things can you do with aerobatics anyway. I might go back again if I was in the vicinity again like I was this time.
Tom and I arrived back at his house, and had great Lasagna and Chris also tried making something I saw in Sedona - French bread with butter and garlic with Parmesan Cheese in the oven. It came out totally tubular (sorry, I spent too long in LA I guess). Imagine me actually teaching a recipe for making food to anybody. Far out!
Mark, Mary, and kids were there too so we visited with them again. I decided to stay until Wed so I could recover tomorrow from Oshkosh. Also Meg was inseparable from the pool. It was a long day (Oshkosh) with sore feet.
Johnson Wax is a great company (must have been named after the founder, Mr. Wax) to work for - never unionized because they treat their people well so no need to. Johnson Wax started with parkay floors - wood floors made up of small triangles all put down by hand.
The movies were "To Be Alive" and "The Dream of Flying". "To Be Alive" is a very outdated upbeat film about life and observing life around you - very integrated with different races and countries throughout, especially considering it was an original film from the World's Fair back in the 60's.
"The Dream of Flying" was quite neat, containing staged reinactments of Langley's glider and the Wright Brother's glider and airplane, as well as episodes of medieval guys jumping off castle walls and falling on chicken coups. I was very moved by the Wright Brothers - don't know why. The movie was very well done including in clothes of that time period. Either that or the motion picture industry was far more advanced in 1904 than we've previously thought.
Then the film documented the Smithsonian project to design the pterodactyl "QN" I think the name was. That film was also was quite impressive and we got to see some of the Death Valley scenery we missed seeing on the trip. Unfortunately the bird crashed rather badly (mercifully not shown in the film) and they didn't bother to rebuild it. Presumably it's still out there in a heap of fiberglass with a bullet thru it to put it out of its misery.
We went back to Tom and Chris's house and pretty much hung out and relaxed the rest of the day. I decided to stay an extra day because the weather is supposed to be great for the next couple of days and the pool looks like it's now permanently attached to Meg the way trees grow around nails. I wanted to make sure we saw Niagra Falls since we missed it on the way out, and so the weather is not a factor on when we leave because of the several days forcasted good weather.
She gave me a couple of pale raspberry plants to take home (eventually did not take to Massachusetts - must have been allergic to high taxes). She says that whatever soil blueberries like, that's the wrong kind, and blueberries like to grow wild around Boston so I don't know. At least raspberries are a low-maintenance plant, especially now that they're dead.
Pete and Julie drive Meg and I to their house, and it's really nice. Andy's still not feeling well and so calls into work sick again - very unusual (he works 3rd shift at Western Printing Co).
The rest of us gathered at the beach, the boomerang gets stuck in the trees several times, we have a great Frisbee game, and Julie goes swimming with her clothes on again. Around dusk we all group back at Tom and Chris's for rootbeer floats with ice cream. I called weather and filed flight plans. The forcasted weather is excellent - even a little tail wind.
The vapor rose up from the falls like the Yellowstone Hot Springs. We landed at Niagra Falls, fueled, and screamed back to Hanscom. I had to go to 11,500 feet to stay above the clouds, then got an IFR clearance to descend thru them on into Bedford, where I called Eric for a ride back home (remember home?) to unpack - UGH!
So, here we are back home, adding up the bills and doing laundry, and starting to think about the next trip! Meg must not have been too bored because she's interested in another, even Alaska if we go someday.