Here is the media from the trip:
Guest photography from Don De Voe, “Paco”, Rick Hendon, and possibly, someday Morning Glory Farr. If it looks good it’s probably theirs and you must pay them a thousand bucks to use it.
Here is the media from the trip:
Guest photography from Don De Voe, “Paco”, Rick Hendon, and possibly, someday Morning Glory Farr. If it looks good it’s probably theirs and you must pay them a thousand bucks to use it.
I slept like a rock in quiet Frankfort, Indiana last night, which put me back home just after noon. Something looked different on my crosswind at the home strip. There were lots of tire tracks going across the field like someone had been driving back there a lot. There, in the hole i’d cleared in the woods before departing for Alaska was the framework for Tatum’s hangar! Complete with the trusses from the old Big Bear grocery they dismantled 2 yrs ago and the poplar tree lumber from Dad’s spring harvest.
Dang, Parents aren’t so bad after all. The strip was even mowed. I guess that means i’m not grounded anymore for bull dozing the cow pasture. And how bout that stack of mail and “welcome home” banner? Dot matrix printer paper is still good for something.
They helped me transport my 130 pounds of belongings. Then we had to fix the electric fence protecting the airstrip from the cows (all these old pilots tell me cows will eat fabric planes and i don’t know if it’s folklore but i don’t want to find out the hard way). The fence wouldn’t shock anymore since weeds had grown over most of it while I was gone, but fence fixin was actually postponed so i could be treated to Green Acres (gas station and convenience store style restaurant) in booming Gaysport, Ohio–right along the muddy Muskingum River. If you ever do make the trip to Gaysport* for a Green Acres Dinner Spectacular, please bring your bicycle and try to beat my land speed record down the Gaysport Hill. You won’t.
Shit. It’s good to be back. I can’t wait to sleep in a bed. In fact. I’m going to right now.
*If you are homosexual stumbling in on my blog by searching for keywords like “gay” and “sport” and you’re thinking you hit the jackpot here with “Gaysport”…that it might be a great spa-type retreat destination to escape away from the closet for a while…think again–unless your thing is looking at guys with with buck knives who will castrate you for looking at them and then use your worm to go fishing along the scenic, muddy Muskingum River.
–okay just kidding. i’m sure your $2.25 for a hamburger is welcome there too. it’s a kinder, gentler green acres complete with internet connection i hear.
One reason why i like this particular model of kit plane is because if you pass out while flying it –whether from lack of oxygen, carbon monoxide, or just bad gas, its space age autopilot will fly itself back to the factory and park it next to the front door until you regain consciousness. They download the chip inserted into your brain at purchase and diagnose what went wrong. Then you are given two dollars to buy anything you want out of the vending machine and sent on your way.
Unfortunately we (the USS Tatums and I) got to the factory on a Friday evening and didn’t get to say hi to anyone when i regained consciousness the next morning. Hays, Kansas has a pretty sweet little airport though and very smooth concrete for skating, and a friendly team of chopper medics. One flight from Denver came in during my 14 hrs there and about 3 passengers got out and found their way to “baggage claim”.
When Miss Fabik is not making millions of dollars for the man, she is into triathlons, getting wild packs of girls to call single guys to convince them to elect Obama, and traveling the far reaches of the world.
This is Juli-bird. She is an amazing artist (link) from the country of Hungary. She married my buddy Corey seven years ago and they spend time in Boulder and in the old country on her family’s farm raising their little girl Alma. See Juli’s work here. She can grow anything, especially tubers. She has a stellar memory I just found out and she just got into riding bikes, declaring spandex is okay as long as their aren’t any logos and such.
Corey lived in this little ranch house when i met him. Now it’s a modern “Dwell” worthy home. He designed and built it himself. Usually he’s making fabric bags and doggie frisbees, but now all of a sudden he has an architechure type business.
And then there’s the aforementioned Morning Glory. Don’t call her “Morning” or “Glory” and for heaven’s sake don’t say “good morning, Glory”. Yes, it’s true that the women’s underwear line at Patagonia is named after her.
This ole girl can hang with the best story tellers. She just sailed a 33 foot boat across the Atlantic, over to Portugal, Spain, got deported from England, and is headed back for more in France after raising some cold hard cash. She is a landscaper, a non-profit organizer, writer/editor, and put up with this guy (link) for EIGHT years, which is no small accomplishment.
These shady characters and more can be seen screaming their way to glory as co-pilots in the compilation video which will be out mid 2015…
Yo, yo, yo. -Went from Provo to Boulder yesterday. I met up with route 70 at Glennwood Springs to dump that precious automobile gas I’d been hoarding from the Texaco in Picabo, ID into the flying machine.
I planned on following the freeway into the Denver area for no-stress piloting, but there were ugly storms blocking the way, so i went directly over the mountains at 13K feet.
I didn’t know Winter Park is only 30 miles from Boulder. It’s like a 2 hour drive methinks down around Golden and west on 70 and around the moutain. If someone dug a tunnel, or an adventurous zip line, they could charge some hefty toll fees. Then Winter Park would become the next Cuba. Or wait, Cuba hasn’t become the next Cuba yet, has it?
Anyway, it was crazy seeing my old stomping grounds from the sky. When i ventured to Boulder for the first time 8 years ago i hung out on those rocks up the canyon, so i took a photo of them for good measure. And my dream cabin up Magnolia looked like it got some renovations, or at least hadn’t fallen over yet. I skated straight to Whole Foods to get my favorite soap b/c i’m dirty. Then stopped in on Kristen and Chuck who got married and had a baby since i rented a room from them back in the day.
Chuck isn’t in the pic, but he looks exactly like the little guy only 5X.
They still had the patch of carpet in the middle of the floor where i left an iron sitting on the carpet for a little too long…these dang synthetics melt too fast…my sister tried to patch it with a fresh scrap from the closet…didn’t match up very well…
Ah the memories.
Turns out friend Morning Glory is homeless too, so we camped in Dagny’s back yard even though Dagny moved to California last week…
Boulder/Denver friends and enemies within skateboarding distance or with cars and free time shoot me a line for free rides in plane -or if you want to chill with a stinky guy who wears the same blue sweat shirt every day.
All this bloging and autobiographical bull-malarkey’s got me down. Sometimes life is just plane and boring. What we need here is fiction to spruce things up. Luckily I’m feeling up to it. I’ll use some stock photos…Read on:::
Skyler decided to do some back country flying in Idaho. He figured
it’s not Alaska, but it’s got the largest wilderness area in the lower
48, so what the heck. Maybe it’s fun. Some dude online told him to get
his last fuel stop at McCall and then skip over to Johnson Creek for a
good starting point, so off he went with GPS units leading the way with
But alas, someone else also thought Idaho would be fun that day. Two gentlemen in fact. They were named Dick and Doug.
They were both big-time airline pilots when not flying around in cute little airplanes. Dick captained 737s and Doug went international with 330s. Skyler gathered that 330s were very very big. While Dick flew a smaller jet, he was not outdone by Doug. Dick climbs Mt Everest in his sleep and was a bush pilot in Alaska several times in his past. Skyler thought he just met the coolest guys on planet earth and decided maybe sharing remote Idaho with them wouldn’t be so bad. One of the D boys told Skyler about a hot spring not too far from the grass strip they were camped on. Although it was dark, the harvest moon would soon be rising and could help light the trail. Skyler negotiated the rough terrain for 2 hours but never found the hot springs that he really wanted to clean up in. He had a good time though celebrating the moon with frogs and large animals that break sticks in the night.
In the morning Skyler gave rides to the other pilots in his homemade flying contraption. They had a great time experiencing how quick the little plane could climb, and they promised they would build their own some day. They took photos and exchanged info with promises of good times ahead…
Skyler took off proudly, if not cockily toward Big Creek for breakfast. There had been ice on the wings of his flying contraption until 10:30 am so he got a late start and things were heating up fast. Feeling great about his machine he climbed straight up over the mountains and decided not to follow the valleys and rivers below. He was snapping photos all over the place, wasting space on a memory stick for photos he could have just as easily googled and found perhaps by looking for “pine tree” or “mountain”.
For the first time ever, he dropped his camera to the floor of the plane. He didn’t place it back in its case. Something was wrong. He wasn’t climbing anymore. In fact he and the plane were sinking. He was at maximum RPMs and just barely had the nose up, but things were bogged down. He thought it seemed a little like driving a Chevy S-10 with 2 cylinders and a wet distributor. Only when the S-10 dies you look like an idiot along the road for a couple hours. In the back country in a flying contraption all people will remember is that last aerial photo taken of your final resting spot. Of course it’s a shame, but they can’t help themselves…”He was a cocky dip-shit throwing caution into the wind”, they would say…”He had it coming…you live by the sword, you die by the sword”. and of course, “The density altitude got-im”.
Shit, that’s what it is!
“They” were right Skyler realized. It was warm and he was already at 7500 ft. -Usually not a problem for the contraption but today his luck was different and the air wouldn’t let the plane’s propeller swim up through it. He still needed 100 feet to get above the mountain and he was in a boxed in canyon with the tops of the trees 40 feet below him. These giant pines were about 40 feet apart–not exactly the kind of trees you land on to soften the blow…He was already doing 60 mph -all the plane was worth given the situation. He had one notch of flaps out to milk any bit of lift possible. He was desparate. He knew turning would lose altitude but he had no choice. He kissed his plane goodbye and knew he might be kissing himself goodbye as a biproduct…he had seen a couple sticky situations before which spiked his adrenal glands but not this time. It was not fight or flight. There was nothing he could do. He was litterally shaking with fear of the inevitable for the first time in his life. He was just saying “NO, NO, This can’t be” as the trees creeped a little closer. Seconds were eternity. His life did not flash before his eyes. He did not find a deity. He was just in disbelief was what before him. He did not rock the boat and try anything. He knew if the plane stuttered it would lose inches, and inches mattered…He left the controls exactly where they were set and would have cried if he had time or remembered how…30 seconds later the trees stopped getting closer. The slight downward slant of the terrain the trees were growing out of allowed him to speed up to 65 mph and he gained a couple feet and he realized maybe he’d get out of making the paper.
He didn’t make the paper, and for the first time in his contraption, he had to circle around the mountain as he gained enough altitude to get over the peaks of the next couple mountains…he was scared but thankful to be alive.
The breakfast he ate was tasty. The pancakes were full of raw batter in the middle needing another 2 minutes on the griddle but he ate them and loved them. He took down the greasy sausage that would give him heart attacks and he talked to the slow talking cowboys and cowgirls who ran the establishment at Big Creek. He was glad to talk to anybody. He learned you don’t snoop around gold mines in Idaho. You will get shot and noone will ever know. This is the old west. There is no law. You are the law. And everyone packs at least a 45 if not a machine gun. “You wrestle a cow, you get strung up in a tall tree.” Normally Skyler would have wondered, “What if you just thumb wrestled the cow? Would you get put in a smaller tree or possibly even a shrub?”, but this time he didn’t think such a thing. Life seemed serious.
The cowgirl-wife told him people wreck their planes leaving their airstrip all the time after noon. She gave a few accounts and warned that “this country eats planes”. The air gets hard to fly in that high up. The husband told him he would be fine if he just stayed low and followed the valley down and around the corner just like he’d seen all the other planes do time and time again. Skyler agreed and bolted down the steep grass runway that stirred up a dust like a gravel road.
Ten miles later he saw a forest fire that looked pretty new and small. It was in the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states. He decided to try to get a hold of Flight Following and try to report it. No luck. The radios don’t work that far out, but when he landed in Smiley Creek an hour later he called some forest rangers.
They said it was a new report and they wanted the longitude and latitude. Skyler was glad he didn’t wreck his plane earlier and got to feel like he had a purpose even though forest fires ain’t no thing out in the massive expanse of mountains and trees. Smiley Creek had a fire of their own going on, but it was contained. The locals were all about stopping the one north of them 70 miles since they just got through a scare of their own.
The next thing you know it’s dark and he’s landing in Utah where he’ll spend the night camping at a little airport. He calls in to the radio…no response. Oh well people only respond half of the time anyway…on his downwind leg he noticed the numbers were missing from the end of the runway…hmmmm. Oh well, the other strips didn’t even have lines on them earier in the day, so what’s a number really do anyway…he landed and taxied to the fuel, but he was being watched and the SUV following him had a man in it that told him he just broke the law. The airport was closed. He said mean things to Skyler that made him upset. Skyler smoothed things over, something he couldn’t do with the trees earlier…trees only know the laws of physics. They could give a shit about the laws of man and runway paint. This man said he wasn’t granting Skyler permission to take off but that he was going to turn around and go home and that he “didn’t know anything” in his condescending manner. The jerk wasn’t such a jerk after all. He just wanted to flex his power and brilliance over the common man…without putting and “X” at the end of the runway like everyone else in the biz…
When the man turned his back Skyler threw the backend of his plane around and while it was still rolling he hopped in his plane, started the engine and hauled ass to a Class D airport with landing lights and a freaking control tower. He camped out hidden between hangars in a sea of pavement and buildings. He would celebrate life swatting hundreds of mosquitos and eating his favorite flavor of granola bar.
It was In Portland I discovered why i hang out with people who are older than me.
I think it was during a story Rick was spewing about his cousin blasting a light fixture from the ceiling of his home with a shotgun that it became clear. (This is Rick of “Rick and Linda from Orcas Island camping fame” ) I asked Linda if she’d heard the story he was telling and she hadn’t. They’ve been together something like 17 years, so if there are any stories left in the queue then it’s pretty amazing, or they just don’t talk after company leaves, but the way they endearingly smootch I don’t think that’s the case.
You can never tell which pilot you’re hanging with is rich and which one might have just bought their last tank of gasoline, and it doesn’t ever matter, because they are all the same in that they have a story or two up their sleeves. And the older they are the more stories they have. The ones that have stories other than flying are pretty fun too because you can only talk about fog and AN-bolts so long before your eyes glaze over and you start introspecting–asking yourself the questions of your own generation…Should i get a solid career? Should I seriously try to pick up poker? Should i have babies? Should I try to get married and then divorced, so i fit in better at the poker table? There’s no way i should have babies. Should I build another plane? Can i really become a hermaphrodite by drinking bottled water? …What’s a henweigh?…
But you (or me in this case) don’t have time to glaze over and think
these more existential thoughts b/c your new friends with lots of
stories in the queue have more friends with more stories in their
queues. It’s like a pyramid scheme. Pretty soon you’re just sitting on
the beach sippin’ peach schnapps taking in stories all day, while your
stories are out working for themselves…er something…
This is where Paco enters the blog. I’m not going to steal his thunder or anything and steal all his stories-publishing them as my own…and I’m certainly not going to advertise that he looks like John McCain like Rick likes to do, but I am going to say that while he is a pilot and may have a few flying stories, his other subjects are much more fun.
He dropped out of high school, explored the USA, moved to Spain, learned spanish, captained a yacht for forty gay guys, a super model, and one non-gay sociopath off the coast of Los Angeles—and that was just before he was like 23.
He became a doctor in his thirties and now is kind of like an unemployed, traveling skater with a ukulele. -Sounds like an urban legend, I know. But he’s here in the flesh with airplane and ukulele and Rick and Linda milk the stories from him while I pretend to create their doggie-day-care web site and justify my existence on the west coast…
Paco spotted a grey whale, or a humpback whale or maybe a giant inflatable whale toy in the ocean off of Oregon today. We were very excited and I circled around trying not to stall over the water while snapping horrible photographs that rival the quality of those pics of the loch-ness monster while Rick guided me from above with a keen eye on the whale.
We also landed at a really neat strip called “Nehalem” which is along the beach. Dang, thanks Rick and Linda for the scrumptious pinicing, dinners, the meeting of Tuck and Jan, and of course the free entertainment.
While chillin out on the Peninsula of Washington playing Jenga of the rocks, a little pod of black beauties cruised past the spit.
I never thought I’d publicly declare it, but I was so proud of my phone. As you may have gathered, it was a source or internet, email, notepaper, direction finder, clock, and even could make phone calls should one be so inclined. I left it in Prince George, which i only knew as a swamp-town.
It’s actually a hustling, bustling town of 80,000 that can get sunshine when it’s not fogged over for the other 14 hours a day.
I left Whitehorse at 11am and cut corners, flying mostly directly over the Mountains instead of along rivers and roads. It was much more fun in the bad weather but quicker this way and the tailwinds didn’t hurt either. I made it to MacKenzie (home of the Meat Frenzy). I barely pulled off of the runway and put all the gas i had in her. There was 15 minutes of sun left. Enough to climb high and decide if the clouds would be a factor toward Prince George. Luckily the GPS was wrong again and things looked decent. On the long approach to Prince George, the lady in the tower flipped on the lights, asked me why i was flying so low and guided me in ( I wanted to tell her i was afraid of heights or it was the only way i could stay awake, but i mumbled something about my altimeter instead). It was pitch dark and a little foggy, which made me land right for a change. Sometimes luck is better than skill…and luckily the luck didn’t stop there. Exhausted, i taxied the plane straight to the trailer i stayed in before and removed all seat cushions inside looking for my link to civilization. The place smelled just as dank as last time, but it was the nicest place I’d seen since Don and Mary’s, and the Chef BoyArdee actually tasted good this time. When i woke up and skated to the Shell station to backtrack my steps and ask about my beloved cell phone their computer with Gmail told me my phone was just found in the wet grass where my plane was parked 11 days earlier. It took some project management and bribing, but a couple hours later she was in my hands and somehow still worked. That was luck.
On the way into Alaska the trees were green. During the short trip they turned yellow and snow was falling at altitude. I was partially committed to staying the winter and finding a job –from what people said about how quick the weather can change, but the skies were clear and the thoughts of having a grounded airplane for a few months would be devastating, so I bolted. –Even though Russia was only 1500 miles away…
Since the boat blog entry I’ve put twenty hours on the plane and made it through eastern Alaska, over the tip of the Yukon Territory, through the never-ending BC, and even cleared customs. It is true US Customs agents are peckers-it’s gotta be in the training.
The sun was shining in Hope, BC where the skateboard accident went down. I just got leaded gasoline at the airstrip this time…hip is still bruised. I had an hour to make it to customs, and it was all i could do to peel myself from the warm, green grass and make the leg. But after Bellingham and the fourth coffee for the day, i was on a roll. Feeling brave, I sat back down on that ThermaRest of an airplane seat (which i also declared as a life raft in my Canadian flight plans), and flew to downtown Seattle into Boeing Field. It didn’t seem right looking down on the space needle and small sky scrapers, but i guess it’s legal-ish. I half expected to see an F18 come out of nowhere and correct me in my ways…
It’s down-time for Greg. Thanks for tuning in. You’ll each receive a giant fruit basket and long, customized thank you letter in due time.
This was my most memorable day on the trip. Don DeVoe took these splendid pics.
Everyone’s been so nice to me on this trip and today I think it’s time to pay-it-forward, even though I didn’t really like that movie that much.
So I know it’s kind of generous, but it’s the least I can do:
I’m not sure if every company is like this, but at StorageTek the proud history was in every corporate overview if not every dang presentation. My pal Ben and i were somehow each commissioned to do it over our short tenure there. I guess history changes, so you have to keep updating it. Basically I tell you this so you know that i know the history of StorageTek–something that is basically useless trivia…something that is probably taking up the space in my brain that is supposed to be reserved for remembering where my keys and wallet are.
A founding father of StorageTek was found this morning at the airport in Gulkana.
He was there in 1969 when they were in a garage, when they were in downtown Boulder and when they bought his farm and relocated to Broomfield. I have all these images that represent each segment of the data storage company playing a visual medley in my head as he is telling me this. Flat Iron Crossing, the big yuppie shopping mall also sits on his old property, which has to be great for morale and career change. He and his son are having a go of turning this airport around. They are banking on the military wanting to use the area due to people congestion of the Denali area where they fly around in our tax dollars. If they do relocate some training, this airport will need fuel to support the big guns. Lots and lots of fuel, and these expatriates from Colorado will be there for them at the pump. I spent a couple hours with son Dale last night and this morning. They just got the fuel working last night and were painting all the walls on a ram-shackled building that’s withstood an earthquake or two. It’s not an exciting story of airplanes and mountains, but it is one of those “world gets smaller the more to try to make it bigger” instances, which perhaps is the theme of the trip.
While bogarting their internet and electricity at 10 PM i got the bejeezus scared out of me. Out of nowhere, i hear this loud noise of a large animal sprinting away from me. It was probably 50 feet away. Immediately i assume it’s a bear and my completely exhausted ass launches into a dead sprint the other direction clenching the ole laptop like a football and getting ready to do the Heisman if need be in the pitch dark. The power cable was forfeited where it lay, and, of course i had to go back for it…so i armed myself with bear spray. I didn’t want to remove the safety zip tie off of the canister b/c if it goes off in the plane by accident I’m a dead man, so i walk toward where the sound came from with pliers on the zip tie hoping i can cut it and remove the little plastic trigger thingie all before the thing runs 35 mph at me…while it could have been a moose or a sheep or a pterodactyl or something i wasn’t taking any chances, well technically i guess i was taking chances. I figure it was likely a black bear b/c they are scared for the most part, but i did just see my first grizzly today. It was right across from a couple cabins with a little airstrip at the end of them. The park service has these cabins near McCarthy for anyone to use–mostly for hunters in case they get stranded in the winter. I explored a camp and wasn’t sure it was the right spot (a couple are owned by private folks and they don’t like you snooping around). So i hopped back in the plane to scout around from 100 feet. On climb-out i notice a grizzly across the shallow river lumbering around without a care. That pretty much sealed the deal for me that they were the wrong cabins. I would be safe inside, but I’m not sure how much the airplane smells like food since i’ve been spilling nuts and things, so I didn’t stick around. I didn’t have much duct tape, and it’s a long, sad walk over a huge mountain to get to civilization.
On the flight back i saw some giant moose with big white racks and dozens of bald eagles. When i landed my right tank was completely empty, but there was still an 1/8th in the left. But it wasn’t that stupid you critics. The river bed has a landing strip every half mile or so altho it might take your landing gear in exchange for living another day.
Earlier in the day i stopped in McCarthy to get the skinny on the cabins buddy Don told me about. After wandering around the gravel airport and realizing it’s kind of a ghost town, a shuttle for the Kennecott Lodge was bringing rich people in, so i hitched a ride back to the lodge for lunch. This place was remote but technologically advanced for it’s time since it was out there on it’s own and the inhabitants/workers had to be clever. By the time they got a railroad built to the mine they had enough copper to send the locomotive right back completely loaded up. That same railway is now the road to the airport. Rails were pushed to the side and the ties were covered with dirt and gravel.
One end of this road leads to the “footbridge” that goes over a river to McCarthy, a town of people not so happy about having governments and whatnot. The mail comes to the area twice a week by airplane. You can’t really get there by car. The post office is the white building behind the lady who rode her four wheeler there to get her bills. It is at the end of the airport.
The other end of the road leads to The Kennecott Lodge. A place that sold 200 million dollars of copper from it’s mountain mines back in the early 1900’s. Now it is a quaint little place where you pay 300 bucks to sleep like old miners did and share bathrooms with the other customers–like a flophouse, or in my case, like living in a storage area when first moving to Boulder after the camper lost its charm. Anyway lunch is pretty good there. Nothing worth writing home about, but perhaps a blog.
There were a handful of tourists there lacing up their shoes to get a guided tour of the glacier, who ironically thought me walking 5 miles to the airport was insane. Maybe if i paid someone for the walk it would make more sense? Most of the people there were totally bummed that their cell phones didn’t work. In other words it was a funny clash of rugged living vs. pampered living. It’s strange to bump in and out of cultures. -From civilization & comfort, back to mother nature & gravity–strange, but fun bouncing. Maybe it’s only fun when you’re the homeless looking, ripe smelling character doing the bouncing.
I can see why some people have trouble leaving here, however most do
leave. Last winter i was told only two people stayed in McCarthy.
Everything closes and people pack up and leave somewhere around Sept
15th before the snow takes over for a few dark months.
I’m camping on wet pavement tonight. I didn’t quite make it to these neat little cabins near McCarthy Don told me about. The ground is a swamp around the Gulkana Airport, so i figure the hard stuff is better. An inch thick thermarest (which also doubles as a pretty nice seat cushion) will keep me dry. And the wing of a Cessna will keep me dry while i send this up to the internet. (it is up isn’t it? or is it the devil’s work like rock and roll?) Anyway, there’s not a whole lot going on, but when i walked around a few hangars with the laptop open, “CopperAirTaxiNetwork” showed up with a big lock on it. Really? You need security at an airport 150 miles from anything? Luckily one of their vans was parked right in front of me and the password is the phone number printed on the side of the van…
I got a late start today b/c it was airplane tender loving care day. As we changed my oil one of Don’s buddies, Paul, noticed my heater shroud’s cuff was completely cut through by some jiggling safety wire. Don drove me and the part over to this place called F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Maintenance, hoping they might put some aluminum welds across the worn areas. No luck…their huge contracts have some serious deadlines for airplanes that need to be in the sky tonight and in the morning…but when i told Steve at the desk that we could slap some washers and silicone on it he took it from Don’s hands and told us to come back in an hour to pick it up. He didn’t even charge me for the extreme rush job. He handed it to me, after grinding it down to fit exactly like it was when it was new and told us to get outta town…Don told me i better throw him a plug in my blog. And i’m thinking i better throw Don a plug in my blog. I thought maybe I’d try to find a neat place or two when i got to Alaska. I got the back stage pass with Don, not to mention taxi service, poisonous berry reports from his lovely wife Mary, good attic sleeping, endless stories, and Don even tracked down my credit card i left lying around Anchorage. (yeah, anyone can get a pilot’s license) Now if he could just drive over to Canada and find my cell phone for me…
Now i am back to camping out for a while because i can’t keep up with him. He’s got some serious energy. And he’s my dad’s age. Come to think of it, i can’t keep up with Jim-Daddy either. I can’t wait to be 62. Which reminds me…When you’re learning how to fly or just hanging out at pancake breakfasts with old pilots they throw you sayings all the time. Like, “any landing you walk away from is a good landing” OR “Keep the blue side up” OR “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are not any old, bold pilots.” Unfortunately they usually can’t remember which sayings they have told you so you hear them a couple times everyday.
-But it turns out some of them are not true. Don’s got 35 years of
flying under his belt and as of 6 PM he was still alive. I’m not
calling him old, but he does have some grey hair, okay all of it is.
Granted he’s not stupid, but he is bold.
A couple people have asked about how the locals feel about Palin running along side McCain.
I think the general consensus is that she doesn’t have any experience. Some guys are repubs, and some seem to be pretty liberal. basically i think hunting isn’t an indicator of politics as much as it is elsewhere. hunting isn’t an identity. it’s just something they do methinks. I ran into a husband/wife family doctor duo in Whitehorse who were from Juneau. They were the cool progressive, anti gun type until they moved to Alaska. Guns are a tool here, but not so much to pistol whip your pimp.
Don’t eat the berries
Don and I cruised over to the Knik Glacier and found a little rocky strip to put down on and explore. He showed me a few berries worth eating. We started with low bush cranberries and moved on to rosehips. i found some red ones on higher bushes and asked if they were high bush cranberries, only Don was looking at another bush and confirmed they were indeed…i ate one and it was juicy and bitter. And then he looked over and realized i was eating a different bush…i spit out what was left and then had visions on “Into the Wild”.
We couldn’t find any data on the plant and it’s not a baneberry, so we figured i’d live and so far so good. I’m just glad it wasn’t a dingleberry. Those are supposed to be pretty gross.
Check this noise out tho. At the Hood Lake airstrip this guy with a
unique Grumman amphibian plane asks where I’m from. “Ohio”. Then he
asks if i’ve ever heard of Philo, Ohio. WTF! That’s never happened
before. -Especially not a few thousand miles from home. Then he asks if
i have heard of Pletcher Ridge–a rough little gravel road I fly over it
when i’m landing on the little strip at the farm. His name: John
Pletcher. Guess the Pletchers moved out a while back. AND there are
airplane mechanics not far from Anchorage, in Wasilla, with the last
name of Philo who are also descendants of the Philo. And he knew all
about how Philo used to be named Taylorsville and all that. I thought
he was messing with me at first.
Also check out the SuperCub all patched up from a bear attack. Pilots use duct tape to patch them up when that happens to get the plane back home.
Oh, and what the heck have a few more glacier shots. It’s like you’re a little molecule flying over some stuff from those scanning electron microscopes from heath class as a youngster.
Don DeVoe leads the formation toward Beluga Lake outside of Anchorage.
Dropping in on Don’s duck hunting buddies.
Tom. One badass bush pilot chillin in the hut.
Glacier meets lake.
100 foot glacier.
This lake is usually full of water. We were the first people to ever land airplanes here since it’s been full of water since the dawn of time.
Tatums was the fourth to touch down.
En route to Beluga Lake.
These guys fly around like the earth is the playground on walkie talkies communicating to each other on missions of fun, keeping track of each other’s coordinates, and reporting what they see below. -Because they can. They are like innocent 12 year olds, only they are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s playing serious games with monster trucks of the air. They know how to live. That’s for sure. On our third bush landing of the day on round rocks along a river, we met up with a family roasting moose hot dogs on a fire. We all sat around the fire. I was amazed you can just land anywhere, asking about who owns it, what does the government have to do with it…they just looked at the new kid on the block and Don explained that “It’s nobody’s land. It’s just here.”
I couldn’t help but thinking how cool it would be if sister Jenny was in the back seat and i could beat her into the state boarder like old times since my feet were against the firewall…of course she’d probably play the same old game of “i like Canada, so i was in it longer than you. So it’s best she isn’t here or we would have beaten each other and wrecked and noone would be the winner…
I cleared customs in a dusty place where the runway is the old taxiway thanks to an earthquake (Northway airport). Great weather. No clouds. Just massive mountains, lakes, ponds and big, white Trumpeter Swans. Photos can try to do the talking.
I am safe and sound in Ankorage, AK in the home of Don and Mary DeVoe, friends of Legendary Zanesville pilot, John Graham. We’re gonna hop around the area with a couple guys tomorrow to cool strips.
The last two days have been scenic and have covered much ground. There was a scardy-cat black bear about a thousand feet from two moose –all in the Laird River. They are blurry pics, but i had to include them..along the same river in the same area there was either a massive grizzly’s tracks or Shaquille Oneill was getting in touch with nature along the sand bar. My wide angle lense isn’t doing the mountains their belittling effect that they do floating through them sitting on a thermarest sitting on a piece of aluminum, mounted to a steel frame covered in fabric cruising over the earth at 100 miles per hour. It’s rad. You’ve gotta try it.
I just was about to land on a gravel bar in the middle of this river when i look over and there’s a grass strip. i land on it and some hunters come out from behind a cabin. They offer coffee, cookies, etc…I take a leak, refuel the plane with gas from the back seat and then it starts to hail as i was about to leave! They do have internet somehow out here. I think i’m only 7 miles from the alaskan highway. and the sun is peaking thru, so i will hit it again…oops, flight plan is still open. i better get up and extend it before that vicious Canadian military comes looking for me…
It’s not all sunshine and circle jerks on a whimsical traveling tour. sometimes you run into the disgruntled types, even in the aviation crowd. I made it out of MacKenzie yesterday on my third try out of town. Instead of using the pass, there was a hole of light right over the mountains. i climbed up and took it. A couple miles later it was all clear skies just like everyone told me it would be.
-Super-turbulent, but clear. Tatums set her all time ground speed record on that leg doing 144 mph, thanks to a swift tailwind. As we descended into Fort St. John (seriously, why doesn’t canada drop the “Fort” off of all these towns already–i say there’s a two word limit on town names) i hit a pocket of low-pressure or a pocket of ultra-gravity or wind-shear or whatever you want to call it. The plane dropped with the speed of sound, me and all the cargo stayed in place. thus cramming my head into the cross bar above me. It struck me, or i struck it while tower was talking to me and i just basically told him “i got the crap beat out of me by the wind”–kind of to buy me time to figure out what i should really be saying…he asks if i want to file i PIREP. (in flight weather briefing by pilot in the sky). I say sure that sounds fun and then he leads the witness to classify the air as severely turbulent. He confirms his findings with 3 other pilots in the area, all talking faster than i care to fly. They concur while i’m landing in 35mph gusts trying to find my way to the fuel ramp without flipping her over like those planes on Orcas with the busted props. The gas cans sitting on stump of a stick in the back seat make it feel like a child is fighting me on the controls…as i park to get fuel i meet Mr. Personality. No let’s call him Mr. Cheery to protect his identity. Mr Cheery shows me the office where i can gather my thoughts and perhaps make my next flight plan. I ask the girl behind the counter if it’s okay to drink the tap water and she says we drink from the water cooler. I go over and see it’s empty and replace the empty tank with a new one and fill my cup. As i chug the water and walk away Mr. Cheery closes a door right behind me that says “personnel only”. Mr. Cheery, a subtle man is still expecting me to buy some gasoline at $7.52 a gallon, so we fill me up, exchange currencies and i go to the terminal to eat with the clean shaven jet passengers and their ipods.
As i get back to the terminal Mr. Cheery tells me Fort St. John is no place to be stuck during overcast days. It’s too far from town, no fun, etc…it would be in my best interest to leave now for Fort Nelson instead of waiting till morning. He’s such a serious guy-looks like a bad guy from an old James Bond movie. I take the advice and file the flight plan. I roll about 2 feet on the runway and am airborne thanks to the wind. I think about how lucky i am Mr Cheery was there to guide me…GUIDE ME RIGHT INTO A BUNCH OF STORM CELLS. XM Weather doesn’t work much past the MacKenzie area and i was just then finding that out. It’s not the XM either. It’s that there aren’t many satellites in the sky gathering the data. I wondered why the clouds ended so abruptly in a perfectly straight line…
I spend the next 1.7 hours flying around storms and climbed to 8000 feet where it was smoother and then the massive, black storm the size of NYC was before me-90 miles still from the next stop. The main frequency for flight service isn’t working out so remotely but the tower can hear me and i have him extend my flight plan. Then i convince myself i’ll be making my first true bush landing to refuel and sleep thinking through all the possibilities -sleeping with flare, gun, gasoline, lighter and bear spray all in hand. First i’ll gun him down with the spray. Then if he still attacks i’ll dump gas on him. If i’m still alive for the third attack i’ll light a match or fire the flare gun at him…then i’ll laugh at him and put neosporin in my wounds as he runs around like guys on fire in hollywood…
There’s lot’s of time for making up scenarios up there…kind of like raking hay back when i was a kid-only it’s a propeller-not wheels and you’re in a straight line instead of doing endless circles. And i was thinking about girls back then. Now i’m old and think about bears.
Flying out here after dark would be stupid with clouds, no stars and no town lights on the horizon to tell you which way is up or down. I couldn’t tell if i was going to make it around the storm so i found another airstrip an oil company uses 50 miles away and split the difference between it and the proposed Fort Nelson airport and waited to see which one was in the clear (of storms) as darkness approached and fuel tanks emptied. Meanwhile, on the XM radio Obama promised big futures to each and every one of us. Presidents and cheering crowds and politics all seemed so absurd and i wondered if his was the last voice i’d ever hear as i put a hex on Mr Cheery back in Fort St. John. But luckily i was jumping to conclusions and all turned out fine 5 minutes later with a clear path straight to the big airport. I wanted to give Mr. Lobotomy in the control tower a hug but i’m pretty sure he wasn’t having it even though i was his only customer in hours. I accepted his directions to a spot to camp out off of the taxi way. They don’t get much traffic here and actually let people camp in the mid-field area between runway and taxiway.
I land and realize town is even further from me in Fort Nelson and Mr. Cheery just didn’t want to have to deal with a guy buying less than a hundred bucks of gas for longer than he had to. It had nothing to do with my comforts and distances from town. I set up camp in the wet grass and eat a granola bar. In the morning a helicopter pilot, who was weather-grounded with me confirmed my vibes of Mr. Cheery. He knew exactly who i was talking about. Big 50 yr old guy with bleach blonde hair. It turns out Mr. Cheery used to be nearly the head of his fuel company and now he’s merely in charge of pumping gas in one of their stations…and it is at this point i know XM Weather is not the only weather source you can’t trust. Heli-boy and I have a good ol’ time eating breakfast and eventually exchange info so he can stay in Ohio and I can stay in his various posts in Canada.
I’m starting to feel sickish, so i take a nap in the tent and he scud runs some botanists 50 miles away for a little while. They are looking for rare plants in spots where oil companies want to place large pipelines. Then heli-boy takes an oil well worker on a ten minute ride that will save his company from paying him to drive four to five hours to check on a well. Somedays the oil companies use nothing but rented helicopters to check their wells since there’s a lack of bridges and roads.
I take one of the fuel company’s cars to town to kill time and eat. I sit behind a strange man at a restaurant who is doing nothing but sitting and staring at people–small town past time i figure. These types love me. I will not make eye contact. Catherine of Seattle warned me i attract the weirdos–don’t make eye contact was her advice.
As I’m eating some lady notices my laptop and asks me what i’m doing there. I tell her i’m weathered in and trying to make it to Alaska–or at least Watson Lake by sundown. She moves on saying she’ll probably beat me there. Meanwhile, i can feel strange man’s silollette is turning toward me. I am not making eye contact…holding strong for five mintues…not gonna do it…5 three minutes pass…shit, i look up—eye contact—
“So, what kind of plane you flying?”
Me: standard answer, no frills or smiles
“Oh~ yeah~? Sounds like an ultralight, my son has one of those…” we start defining what an ultralight is in Canada vs. the omni-powerful and ever destructive USA and my eyes glass over and i wish i had not made eye contact…
What is it with the Canadians and their “~oh ~yeah?~” it’s like they
are mocking you but they have a lobotomy and are too nice to commit to
the mocking half way through and the words peter off toward the end of
the pronunciation. i can’t quite place it…it’s not as definitive as the
“oh yeah” in the movie Fargo. I would actually prefer they grunt or
fart than emit these “~oh yeah?’s” to confirm they are listening.
This guy is full of “heys” and “ayes” too. He was a pilot and not as creepy as i feared but more long winded than i ever imagined. He wants to talk to me until the place closes. I want to file a flight plan, get out of his town and never come back. He wants to look at my maps…”i don’t have any” but then it turns out he’s a pilot and he knows secrets of the terrain…Then all of a sudden I have maps in my backpack. We clear the table and he tells me that “I don’t want to scare you or anything, but……………..” He tells me about every fatal aviation accident since the dawn of time, 90% of which occur within 50 miles of where we are standing…Then Mr. Disclaimer, as we can now call him, points out a few gravel bars i could land along a river which is 50 miles north of the traditional route all the “tourists” who kill themselves fly. Seems like good info but he can sense my excitement and doesn’t want to be responsible for my demise so he says things like, i’m not going to point to exactly where this strip is but it’s somewhere around here (like i’m going to remember this anyway).
So Mr. Filibuster, as i now have coined him, has blown my chances of getting into Watson Lake before dark, but he actually did show me a couple noteworthy things on the map and almost scared me into never flying again, selling the plane for a loss and taking the greyhound back to Ohio where i will remain until i die of boredom, but not as fast as if i had stayed in Fort Nelson…keep in mind i’m now in a tent passing time
BTW Ohio’s great…come on i was joking…the heart of it all…birthplace of aviation…go bucks?
Well another guy here with a lobotomy told me it’s going to get down to 0 centigrade tonight. That’s what my sleeping bag is rated for, so bring it on.
Thats the report.
Today things start getting weird.
But first the flying report:
I diverted again today. -Called up Pacific Radio on 126.7 and told them i couldn’t find a way across the Rockies. I flew from Prince George to MacKenzie which is then only a hundred miles or so away from the Alaskan Highway. -Not a direct route, but supposed to be fool proof. I could have cut some corners but i flew directly over the airport just so i knew exactly where i was. Then i wasn’t sure where the pass was and i’ll be dang if i didn’t pack the wrong maps in my little map holder…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, i know what some of you are saying…you’re telling too much…too bad, it’s part of the story.
I see a couple low valleys on my GPS and try one but the clouds are really low in the valley. I try the next one and go up it 10 miles. All i have to do is go over one little high spot and i’m home free. The next valley is really low and it would give me safe travel to clear skies. But all of the mountain tops above me are completely covered in clouds, so i can’t go over anything, As i make a corner through the narrow corridor the ground rises making the ceiling about 200 feet. Doing 120 mph I bail without slowing down into the sharpest bank i could muster. The bubble window lets out a big bang, adrenaline pumping the ole girl made the turn back from where we came from and i was home free (a different home tho) although my muscles were still in survival mode.
After i realized nature wasn’t going to get me i remembered governments still could, so i changed my flight plan and told them i was refueling in MacKenzie and reevaluating the weather to the Northeast. (yeah, i’m ultimately headed west, but i have to pass over the rockies to the east and then west again since i don’t have enough on board fuel for the more direct “trench”.)
As i make the flight plan ammendment this guy 10 miles north of me in a Super Cub calls into the frequency and tells me i can use his truck to get my own fuel b/c the pumps need flushed in MacKenzie. i just need to get his keys from the girl behind the counter. I say danke schön b/c i’m now used to people helping a brother out…
I bounce the plane onto the runway and get out immediately tearing
through my belongings looking for my stack of maps (and my cell phone,
which i left in Prince George–don’t bother calling me anyone).
As i’m throwing shit everywhere on the ground and giving myself a good reprimanding this dude in a Super-Duty Triple-King Size Diesel Ford pulls in and gets out. I figure he’s a logger or an ass-whooper or something.
We exchange greetings and i tell him i need to talk to Erica at the counter. She’s the other half of the Super Cub pilot and we find out she would like to use the truck soon. She also tells me that i can get fuel easily up “trench” where that SuperCub was headed and it’s really no big deal. They can load me up with all my jerry cans full along the lake and all i have to do is stop once at an Indian reservation, hope they’re not drunk and start any static and refuel with my cans.
hmmmm, sounds easy enough..i’m already thinking of the bragging rights. The Trench.
The SuperDuty dude’s name is Fraser. He offers to take me to town instead of borrowing the truck and off we go. He has to stop at work to drop off some stuff. We unload the truck. I grab the orange bag. He asks me if I’ve ever seen a Wolverine. “No”. But low and behold i’m holding one in the orange bag. He opens it up and explains he found it in a river and thinks it might have been poisoned. He would have someone do an autopsy. He’s not a logger. -Turns out he’s a biologist. Back in the truck we continue our journey to the gas station, put 90 bucks into the tanks and i get a sandwich. Fraser had to get back to work and told me to walk across the street to where the wolverine in the freezer is. I say okay.
I wasn’t sure what i was doing yet. I’d eat and get a weather report, but things looked grim. A pilot over the radio said don’t come the “Peace Reach” route which is a wide river to Fort St John and that is one of the sure shots. I didn’t want to hold up Fraser b/c he had a lot of work to do. He had the remains of 6 moose stacked outside his headquarters and it could be bad for the humans in town once the grizzlies catch wind of it. Fraser is using the moose meat to bait wolves for a study they are doing on Caribou predation. They do heli drops with the meat to trap and wolves and put FM transmitters on them. Fraser lives in the bush for up to a month at a time doing this stuff.
The way I understand it is there is a high number of moose which has made the wolf population escalate to extremely high numbers. This threatens the Caribou numbers, so they are doing what sounded to me like a massive science fair project with control groups and the whole nine yards.
I offered to help cut up the moose carcasses and get them into the freezer. He takes me up on it. We put on coveralls and rubber gloves, he fires up the chain saw, and I’ll leave the next four hours up to your imagination.
PS, Fraser also told me in so many words the Trench is not really smart. It’s absolute no-man’s land for 500 miles and that’s a long walk if you can even find a place to put the plane down…coming from a 23 year old man who lives in the bush and cuts carcasses with chain saws i’ll take that advice and wait for the weather to clear for the long way around.
I had one today. And while i have been trying to minimize my belongings, that good old fashioned, Midwestern yard sale isn’t the sort i had unfortunately. For you home-bodies, “yard sale” is a term skiers use to describe the aftermath of an accident on the slopes. A mitten here, a ski way over there, a hat over yonder, poles tossed somewhere else, body parts akimbo…
At my yard sale I was selling gas cans, water bottles sunglasses and a skateboard.
I go to great lengths to get that high octane car gas I keep talking
about (aviation types call it mogas, as opposed to avgas which has lead
in it). This mogas nearly killed me today, so i hope the Rotax really
liked burning it. I got a five mile ride into town to get some bear
spray and a first aid kit (which came in handy 20 minutes later) in
Hope. Nice town full of cool kids, but I hear if it’s not locked down
good it will be stolen tho, which is why the guy who gave me a ride
didn’t bat an eye when i set the burgler alarm off last night at the
airport…he just check to make sure it wasn’t his van and went back to
So i do my shopping and fill up both 5 gallon gas cans and realize the folks there shudder at the thought up picking up strangers with gas cans and skateboards, so i strap the board to my pack and walk. then the downhill part…i went about 3/4 mile and then found a steep part.
Before completing the story, i’ve got to pull a Pulp Fiction and back up to the day i rode my skate board to Boeing Field in Seattle. Some mega-dirty 28 year old punk with ripped up clothes and a really crappy skateboard starts yelling to me about my board. He’s spitting bio-hazard out of his teeth at me while talking and i realize his mouth is wired shut.
“yeah, if i had a board like that this wouldn’t have happened. My trucks are too loose and fucked up and my buddy jumped out in front of me and i couldn’t move it in time and i lost it.”
After a half hour bus ride with this cosmopolitan gentleman he told me, yeah, you need a longer board. a short board like that…it goes fast and starts to wobble…you’re gonna lose it. if you want to give it to me i’ll be hanging out at 4th and Union. You’ll probably spill it like three times before getting the hang of it.
Shit. Three times! One is plenty.
I was thinking of the dirtbag deviation of Nostradamus just before i lost it going down that steep hill as i was picking up speed. It wobbled and shook me off. i tried to out run it since i couldn’t easily tuck and roll with 10 gallons of fuel in hand an 20 lbs of crap strapped to my back including my beloved MacBook Pro…then i found out i couldn’t run 35 miles per hour and as my legs gave out i dove head first rolling onto my back before making impact hoping my backpack would take most of the blow. It did, but i bashed my head on the pavement too as well as my hip which will be a blast to sleep on tonight. Luckily i was wearing two layers of pants and road rash/bruises are minimized (plus my wallet took the brunt of the impact on my hip area…As i was pacing in circles in the road all around my yard sale of streaming gasoline and such, saying four letter words some guy’s face appeared through the bushes.
“Was that you?” Affirmative…
“I thought a GD tree just fell over. i came running out to see what it was.”
Turns out this dude who’s name escapes me but whose photo is below was building a chicken coop a hundred feet from impact. We both just kind of felt like we saw a UFO or something. Eventually he offered to take me the last mile to the airport in his truck if i minimized the gas spillage in his truck. He declared me concussion free then educated me on how the USA keeps its citizens in the dark with the real news and how Clinton paid off Putin and a whole butt-ton of families to keep world war three from happening when we took out a Russian Submarine a few years back…Russia is now going to take over the world very soon just like old times and if we don’t get McCain in office we’re all screwed. “You guys have a racist problem down there don’t you?” I’m not sure what he meant but i agreed. I learned the US is a mean machine, Obama is a commie, and BC is run by a bunch of fascists taxing their occupants to keep their air clean while they have to breath smog from Los Angeles. Oh, and he wants to fly a helicopter.
So as ole boy’s chatting it up about why my country sucks and how his country sucks too this giant F’n cloud looms over his head begging to trap me in Hope, BC for two days. Ain’t gonna happen. Had to cut the conversation short and file a flight plan. But when i looked at my watch, the watch i got for serving five long years to StorageTek/Sun, time stood still at 11:21 and ten seconds. Moment of impact. Time for new watch but not today. Up the Fraser River i go, to WIlliams Lake.
And when i get there my guardian angels are there. This guy who looks really familiar is directing me with hand signals onto the fuel ramp. It’s Tuck and Jan. They beat me to WIlliams Lake in Tuck’s Stinson he bought 40 years ago when he took the flight i’m doing. I didn’t even know they were headed north so soon. Pleasant surprise to have the Orcan Family back for long enough to give me a tour of the airport and help me get fueled up. They buzzed away with their Franklin engine high above the evergreens to the north.
I made it to Prince George, landed with giant passenger jets bound for Denver, Vancouver, etc with the polite control tower folks treating me like an equal, ate dinner as they closed up shop and took off for Fort St. John. The weather was questionable but still legal. They actually are not super confident with their weather reporting and ask you to “please report what you see” in the sky when you file a flight report. I blasted off and I flew a 70 mile perimeter of the storm trying to find a hole anywhere to cross to the north. It was a waste of fuel. I had to change my flight plan and divert back to Prince George where i now sit in a Flying club’s converted construction trailer that smells like a swamp, eating Chef Boyardee that tastes like a shoe, and typing on a scratched up laptop that works like a champ.
Praise Steve Jobs.
There is Hope. Hope, British Columbia. It’s a relatively flat town along the Fraser River in BC limited only by thousand foot green, breath taking mountains along it’s sides. There is a cafe, a sports store selling pepper spray, and yes, the internet.
-First stop out of Orcas was at Roy’s hangar/home in Arlington, Washington. Roy is an 81 year old avionics/wiring genius. No avionics shop in the area could fit me in before mid-September. Luckily Roy had been waiting for someone to call…possibly for years. Four hundred and fifty bucks worth of Roy, and my $350 piece of shit transponder is as new as it was back in ‘74. Unfortunately he didn’t give me a cut of the 450 for doing most of the work, but oh well…he let me use his cut-off tool to eliminate the possibility of my rear stick getting stuck in baggage and fuel cans. Roy has done it all, scuba diving, boating out in the Pacific with a backup supply of three 55 gallon barrels of fuel (putting my measly 15 to shame). He invented Alaskan flying too, but the laws were different then, (so folks like Steven who made a cameo at the same time are a blessing). The stuff out of his Roy’s mouth is priceless. Even when he can’t hear you. I think i heard 6 times that he will “only drink Barq’s Root Beer. It’s the only one with caffeine”.
Photos by Rick Hendon-mostly.
Next Stop Canada. I had to fly into Abbotsford BC. The control tower was a pleasure to work with. I kind of hope the US can outsource the FAA to Canada. It would make things a lot less stressful.
And then one flight plan later, the quick 125 mph journey to Hope, BC. The flight pattern is kind of like, fly off center of the strip and then do a heck of a U-turn into the wind and drop altitude. It’s in a narrow valley between two mountains. I landed at dark and eventually set off the burgular alarms after 11pm…the attendant eventually showed up, called off the cops and i slept like a baby.
It was bittersweet. As the pomp and circumstance urged me on in the back of my mind, (from Harpsichord of course). I took down camp and took the plunge back to the big-ass continent.
A ‘year’ in review:
I think i’ll leave out some details b/c Rick’s got them all covered in the comments section…glad i didn’t lie too much. He seems to have a good memory, with the exception of Philo High becoming a state college from the South…
Let’s start with Carl and Maryann’s semi-birthday party for Carl. Somehow the riff-raff was invited and amazed by the views out the living room, bedroom, patio, etc…overlooking boats sailing past and airplanes on floats down below the rocky, steep foundation of a house.
Maryann rocks steady on her baby grand.
Super Talent, and super nice. A pretty rare find of a couple. Actually all of them were. We could play “guess which couple below can boast UFO sightings and sky diving naked” but we won’t b/c then I wouldn’t get invited back.
Rick and Linda have a beat up van. It’s kind of my dream van. Beat up so bad no one would steal it but as functional as the Russian space station on the inside. These characters were the best neighbors. They were sitting at camp when i rolled in looking for my oil filters. I didn’t know i’d live next to them for almost a week. So, i guess i don’t usually let people tell me what to do, but Rick had a way of peer pressuring me to becoming practically legal. Plus with all the complimentary breakfast drinks and night cappers, why wouldn’t i stay on Orcas? Paul, on the left lives in a sweet little abode along the airport. He’s a lot of things like everything else on the Island. I know he was a deputy at one time and he’s got restoration skills which makes his house a museum just like all the hangars along the way… He and his wife Cathy are as warm as the wet ground is not. They had a little oyster bash one night under Rick’s management.
This dude is Rod. He gives rides in this biplane.
I have a feeling I didn’t really get to scratch the surface of his
story but I sensed it was pretty dang deep and interesting. When i
walked in and saw a picture of the book cover for “Illusions”. I said,
“I just got that book from a friend two days ago”.
Rod: “Yeah, that’s a good book”
That’s Rod’s yellow car in the pictures. It was a great rental car without all the hassle of actually having to pay for it or do any paperwork (just go easy on the brakes)…and his hangar was a great place to get out of the rain too! Meeting strangers like Rod kind of blows my mind. Everyone on the island was offering phone calls and advice and so much more to get my trip in order.
Turns out he did PR for the Illusions book tour if not more. Someone should turn the pen on these folks. The real stories are sometimes are best.
And how bout Bea, or Aunt Bea minus the cookies and apron. She kept on coming through for me. I even slept in the “terminal” on my last night there thanks to Bea. It was wet on Orcas most of the week, so drying out before embarking was key–that and clean socks and underwear…This is Cathy, a fine gal who works like 22 hrs a day at the terminal:
It wouldn’t be right not to give a shout out to a woman Beverly, who I never actually met–her documents are in my backpack as we speak. She extensively planned an Alaskan adventure that never came to fruition due to major engine trouble…and pouring over these documents with me was Tuck and Jan.
Tuck loaned me a flare gun and spent a couple hours with me coaching me on what to say over the radio, how to get through customs, how to survive…he did the same thing when he was a little younger than me with half of the planning. He was paying it forward for nice folks along the way. Maybe someday i can too.
After our meeting i had a moment of clarity. It kinda choked me up. And i knew it was time to leave.
In closing, wow bout a few photos from Rick Hendon, artist, writer, mayor of Orcas campground?
offset rising island dining, fuel, and medical costs, Orcas Island has
an “Eat Blackberries All Over the Place for Free” program. It benefits
anyone and everyone with fingers and a mouth. Especially me. I picked
these mamoth sized, juicy beauties today after dinner on the trail
going from town to the airport. -Pretty sure i owe the town of Orcas a
bushel or so.
Oh, and why the bandage?
I know about the rising medical costs first hand, or thumb anyway. -Sliced an inch and a half of it open yesterday cutting some breather holes in my backup gas cans…I worked with razor blades every day building the plane and never had a mishap. Luckily the closest doctor was a 3 minute skate board ride away. Eight little stiri-strips and i’m good. Okay, it’s throbbing like an SOB and i can’t sleep, but it will heal. Right Larry? (See derby movie).
A couple days ago i mentioned shipping oil filters to the nice lady
who manages the Orcas Island Airport. Her name is Bea. Turns out Bea
knew my Aunt Ruth back in the 60s in Ohio. They went to school
together, and were even sorority sisters, “but not your run of the mill
sorority sisters. The DZs at that time were known for their academic
superiority”. Bea does everything from helping lost souls plan flights
to alaska, to construction jobs on the airport, to firing off bottle
rockets and guns at geese, to running 48 inch rubber drainage pipes
along the runways and out to sea, to tracking down people who haven’t
paid their tie-down/camping fees and sending them bills (she saves that
for the slower winter months).
In short, Bea gets shit done, but she’s patient and always has time for stupid questions. She even ordered me/the airport an airport guide book to all Canadian airports. It was amazing. We’re probably 70 miles from Boeing field in Seattle and as she closed up shop she made three phone calls. She said, “a plane will come in around 7:30pm delivering your guide book”. Sure enough, a couple hours later a turbo-prop plane carrying a handful of passengers to all these islands stops and out comes my book. Bea gets shit done.
Bea figured out i have to leave tomorrow if i don’t want to camp out another week. Radar shows a one day window of opportunity followed by an endless swath of greydom, so i was getting ready and would have left in the morning if those blasted “neighbors” camping next to me (Rick and Linda) hadn’t stepped in. Rick thinks i’ll be dead in three days if i leave tomorrow. He doesn’t think i’m equipped…I think I’m equipped to make it to Ankorage at least where guns, knives, and glue-on beards are in vending machines on every street corner. I mean, i packed three zip-ties, a bungee strap, and 16 granola bars, but they and their island-hopping pals strong-armed me with an invitation to a giant, classy shin-dig of a party tomorrow with lots of experienced pilots attending, so I wait here i guess…That and i got another quick animation job from the ever talented and aforementioned Jamie Hurt. Internet is screaming fast in the islands and i hear Alaska is over-equipped on the tech side too…provided me and my bungee strap make it there.
I did fly over to Friday Harbor for fun this afternoon. I had no idea we had such pretty islands right here in the USA. Pictures won’t do it justice.
Rain is coming down pretty strong on the wing above my head–and sideways on the South wall of the tent…i’m basically stuck on an island 50 miles from Seattle.
Luckily it’s Orcas Island. Freakin cool-and named after the whale of course. I think the people are a little “off”. Perhaps it’s the normal folks getting bombarded by affluent types coming to share their space everyday with only the coolest fashions mixed with the “extreme” outdoorsy types….not sure…I kind of got that vibe in Telluride, CO whenever stumbling in on that place. It’s a bubble of sorts where things cost 30% more than in middle America…as they should…it ain’t easy getting here. But it doesn’t matter why or how, it’s different and refreshing. -and so is the “extra ginger ale” I’m suckin down with the cell phone tethered and the temperature just about right…
I’m here because I heard it was cool, but maybe even more so because i had to if i wanted to pick up three oil filters and a wrench I had shipped to the lady who manages the airport. It was such a hassle getting around Seattle I hated to have them shipped there and have to catch 3 buses and ride a skateboard 5 miles and bum a ride to get to a rendezvous point…speaking of bumming rides, the guy who gives bi-plane rides here on the island already offered his car–”just don’t drive it to the top of the mountain”, he says…the brakes don’t work right.
I’m putting the tent to the test tonight. I’ve only got 2 stakes in the ground right now but i think i better put the rest in. It’s gusty. Two tail-draggers on the strip have mangled propellers from taxiing with the stick back with a tailwind. –kind of a gusty place in general. Hope i can learn from them and not be stuck here longer –waiting on a prop.
-Perfect timing to be stuck somewhere to plan, plan, chart for the last frontier.
I just found out i might need a gun to be legal above the 60th parallel. I don’t see it listed on Alaska’s site–just two weeks rations, a hatchet, fishing lures, a mosquito net, and I’ll be dang if i don’t need a couple smoke bombs. Can’t wait, and to think i was actually having to sneak smoke bombs all those years now it’s straight-up mandatory.
Out of Seattle, things are starting to look new-new-new and different. It was a flat bread basket with workers out in fields as the lower 48 came to an end. Then it was vast expansions of mud with salt water and then the sound with islands everywhere. Way cool. It’s like The Northwest’s Rio. Okay, time to stake this baby down…
Made it to Seattle. Wait, what’s that…over in the hangar…walking on two legs, with opposable thumbs? It looks like…Paul, Paul Workman? Aren’t you supposed to be in Zanesville?
So, Paul goes west too it turns out. He was restoring a plane in Kent, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.
I made it there 5 minutes before he had to catch a flight back to Ohio. The proof’s in the photo. But enuf video & photo taking already. Time to hunker down in the big city. The city of grunge–In the house of Catherine. Catherine of Wittenberg! Mad props to Ms. West for leaving a key out for me. I see her like once every 7 years, but unfortunately, this time she’s out of town. Nice cat tho! And speaking of grunge, I will now hose myself off in her back yard, then resume the scrubbing in the shower…
And beyond the paul sightings there were space needle concerts,
meeting rad new people through the DJ** connection, which resulted in
calm, downtown sake bedroom parties, velo races around fountains, and
‘running man’ dance offs. (**DJ the girl, not the profession)
and then there’s Catherine. What to say, what to say? It’s all been said. Thanks Catherine for the shelter, the rides. The entertainment, the re-hashing, the Metro bus line searches and as always the guidance on how to be politically correct–should that ever be a goal.
This is Gary and his family building a Challenger. Gary was a good samaritan who didn’t want to see me doing a marathon with gasoline strapped to my back. I’ve been burning too much 100LL in the beloved Rotax from Ohio to Seattle, so i’m trying hard to be good to her and use the good high-test car gas. It was fun chilling with them for 20 minutes slurping down a cantelope from my baggage compartment (which doubled as an air freshener) and getting glimpses into their world–good people.
And how bout this dude named Steven? He’s my buddy Grant’s cousin who knows everything about Alaska because he technically lives there (but works in Seattle–talk about a commute). So after meeting me in Arlington, WA at this airport and giving me the skinny on the best route and how to fly through Canada, the ole boy met me and hour South of Downtown Seattle, took me back to Catherine’s and gave me another hour of advice, direction, and a couple of essential Alaskan books over a couple sloppy burgers from a tattoo friendly establishment.
-Me and the USS Tatums that is. I’m sitting about 50 ft from a helicopter that just started up. A girl is getting lessons here in Baker City, Oregon, where i settled in for the night. When I came up over the mountain and saw it i was cussing a bit into my headset (it’s kind of fun really)…i expected a big city since it had such a large airport, but it looks like Philo from the sky (only flatter). –Big job on the internet i don’t want to screw up…Must-have -fast -connection…After landing I still had an hour before dark to find a spot, but it turns out they have it right here where i tied the plane down for the night!!!!
I’ll make seattle by noon tomorrow. it’s less than 300 miles away give or take fying around a couple mountains…so, with 47 minutes to go on a giant download i’m ready to rock and roll.
Yesterday i met up with one of the most knowledgeable dudes i met on the internet for S7s. Joel Milloway. It was rad. I called him 10 miles from his shop and he rode his bike to the airport to meet me! It was kinda hilarious as he came huffing and puffing up over the tumbleweed riddled terrain onto the tarmac due to car trouble–don’t worry i have video. We took rides in his S7 and mine and he was so over the top in control of the machines it didn’t even seem real. i felt like a video game. i didn’t have time to be scared as he skimmed over the antelope, rivers, rocks, hills of sage, and under a small bridge…SKILLS. -Turns out he flies all day long doing those exact maneuvers so a guy can shoot coyotes with a shotgun from the back seat. He said it gets messy b/c they are so close to the “target”…sounds nasty but it beats a bunch of dead calves i reckon–& it’s even legal!
Okay that chopper is stirring up a bunch of dust and i’m deaf…must use internet…closing eyes to type…
and it’s vertical…
Oh, mountain flying lessons were just okay. i needed a crash course but the guy wanted to start at the beginning and teach me that a rudder is used to keep the airplane straight, not to turn it. freakin semantics…It’s good to get the fundamentals forced into you from various instructors b/c they all have different approaches, but i needed a crash course. i’ll thank him for it later (okay i’m already thanking him b/c now all i think about is my rudder and it’s kind of fun wondering what it’s doing back there). I did learn thermals happen and crazy updrafts and down-drafts and we flew for about 5 minutes over the foothills of boulder before declaring it too windy. I guess that was a lesson in itself. I basically wanted him to point to the mountain and say. “that will kill you…cross there and you might be okay…stay “X” feet above the mountains and don’t try it past “X:XX” hrs…oh well, the worst is over. Joel got me to this point and i think it gets easier from here. Oh and Joel let me sleep in his shop/house, got a friend to loan us a truck to refuel me, and got up at the crack of dawn to see me off. good ole boy.
so, gas stations are not as abundant out west as they are in the Midwest, but finally i made it to destination Picabo where gas flows like water. doesn’t have lead in it either–or ethanol according to the great Joel Milloway.
I had my scariest landing to date in a place called Picabo, Idaho. It was one of Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite spots toward the end of his life. He liked to shoot ducks there or at least hang out with the locals with guns, so says the multitude of news paper clippings mounted in the back of the Picabo gas station…The wind gusts must have been 40 miles per hour around 2PM. The report for local weather said 10 mph but it didn’t mention any gusts… i had to get all sorts of aggressive to bring it to the ground after passing by and not being able to get it down the first time. i must have been doing over a 100 mph on my downwind leg (the part where you start slowing down and start thinking about landing). i probably had 3/4th throttle at landing and felt like i had the stick pointing straight into the ground (yet fluttering it like a butterfly to keep up with the erratic air. It felt like i was going to get flipped over turning base to final, but she hung steady. -zero flaps on a grass strip and basically stopped the second it hit the ground with such a headwind. The best part is you can wheel your plane over to the gas station-store-restaurant-fishing tackle shop, and pump gas among the automobiles. People there were super nice to make up for the pissed off wind. I slept under my plane for 45 min to recoup gather thoughts and evaluate my stomach. I stocked up on 5-star gas station food before getting the balls to take off from there. 15 minutes away the air was steady. The last 2 hours before Picabo were the most turbulent i’ve ever seen tho. i was motion sick or just scared sick for a couple hours. it was a good lesson perhaps. or just stupid. i basically wrote off my Alaskan adventure after riding through that stuff today. -well, that and Joel said i will be bear food if i don’t go in a group/caravan type deal.
No, this title isn’t actually a song title or lyric. Or even a play on a Kid Rock song which rides the coattails of another song…It’s just the title of the post that tells you I made it to Boulder, Colorado. Doing some creative cloud dodging was very exciting but tiring. I had lunch in Red Cloud, Nebraska (no town in Ohio is a small town anymore–you should have heard the gossip/drama at Subway). The airport was basically just a station for two crop dusters. They weren’t ordinary crop dusters tho. -Jet engines on 40 yr old planes, burning 50 gallons of fuel per hour…dropping 400 gallons of fungicide on the corn you will crack open in 2010 from a can with a green giant on the label. My XM weather subscription paid for itself this afternoon showing me cooridors of relatively clear skies. Greeley Colorado has a GIGANTIC airport that has no control tower. My dream come true. I finally understood why you can smell Greeley when a cold front moves through Boudler. Feed lots for cattle. Acres and Acres of hundreds of bovine just chillin in their own poop, so you can crack open a can of stew in 2012 and partake of some good red blooded protein. Keep in mind i’m in boulder. When in Rome…
reality check. i was carrying a 50 lb calf on my lap while driving a tractor three nights ago..
Immediately i realized why i was grumpy building a plane for 2 yrs…i lived in Boulder. -Land of the young adults. The place where people don’t judge you for not being married and striving to live the good life…in fact, the subjects just don’t come up. But that’s not why i was grumpy. It’s because i kinda left that fun world behind to take care of business, get my head out of the clouds…so i could eventually get them back in the clouds–but not the proverbial ones…
i popped out of my plane asked some questions, obtained hangar space, exchanged some web addresses with fellow documentary film makers, set up a mountain training session, got a ride across town by a complete stranger, and that was all at the airport with the first three people i met. i hope i remember why i hated this place soon so leaving is easier.
Mark and Sarah are more than super cool. We just ate Indian cuisine with their friend Jennifer. I will coerce them into my back seat tomorrow…
Photos by Jamie Hurt
The rugged people of Boulder:
This time by avion. Doing it up in style just Northeast of Kansas City. –basically i’m sleeping next to a giant wind sock that is next to a giant corn field and on the other side of me 100 ft away is my plane. The airport is super cool yet like a ghost town, which makes it supremely cool. They left the door unlocked and there’s a bathroom! It smells kind of gamey in here–well more like a mixture of poop and bananas, but i’m sitting in a soft chair that doesn’t feel like a low budget airplane seat. And how about the running water here? -Great for contact lens care. I passed the Mississippi River about a hundred miles ago. As the sun set i landed here. fuel is self serve, so when my crusty ass wakes i can slap that credit card around and head west (weather permitting, i hear Colorado is getting punished right now from The Jamie Report (TM).
Here’s the map:
What does this have to do with Tupac’s lyrics? Not a whole lot other
than i can surf the web through a computer tethered to my mobile phone
and I’m very excited about it. & We need to quote Tupac more often,
in general I believe.
Photo by John Krumlauf
Sweet Baby Tatums.
She was a good little kitty till some redneck decided to blast over her in front of my house; as i slept the morning away her little carcass waited to be buried…poor Tatums! She arrived to the farm shortly after that airplane project began, and she almost lived to see the test flight. She was there for me during the tough times. That’s for sure.
Her three little babies lived an extra month of cuteness till they got picked off by raccoons or coyotes or whatever monster made them disapear. Nobody said life on the ridge was easy. Not even with sattelittes and cell phones and gasoline prices (whatever the F’ that has to do with anything).
Dr. Binkles (the two white ones shared a name).
and the apple of his mammy’s eye, John Pooperty.
Hey world. This is where i gotta decide how i want to represent myself to the world, cuz u know everyone from google will make their way in here somehow, searching for that old Swingle Singers Album and whatnot. I mean i gotta seriously take this shit serious. Proper internet etiquitte says only publish what you wouldn’t mind showing up on your local newspapers. But they don’t even use the F word, and while i seem polite, i think in terms of potty mouth, so i’m afraid i’ll have to break the rules of ettiquite, possibly grammar, diction, and most definitely punctuation, which, incidentally isn’t much different from our local newspaper.
Anyhow, thanks for stopping in. Hope my new site will entertain you to no end.
We here at gregswingle.com realize you have options for online entertainment so we strive that much harder to keep your interest peaked, perked, and prodded, afterall, we didn’t start the fire. It’s been burning since the world was turning.
Gregory James Swinglahutton XXI