Archive for the 'Trips' Category

Summer Flying

Hanging out at the airport can be the best thing to do on a summer day. There’s a veil of indifference at the gate that does not let any ‘to do’ lists in, cancels all the phone or e- mails and lets one mozy through a day of fun. The characters abound, each hanger having some sort of project in progress that their owners are glad to discuss.

Nicole Vandelaar, a friend from the Santa Rosa 99s and whirly girl, had organized a fly in for several chapters to the 29er Diner at the Petaluma Airport. My job was to stake out a table and defend it from all the other fly in folks. This was a big responsibility since the wx was great and the sky was full of hungry people. We didn’t know how many would show up so I set up a reservation for 8 and hoped for the best. Thank goodness Pat Pittelkow came to keep me company. As it was only 3 others joined us for a relaxing yick yak of flying stories and fun. These are the truly special moments, caught between the business of life, where you can relax without any agenda or deadline.

After lunch I was cruising the ramp and came upon my friend Patrick who wanted to exercise his Stearman. This isn’t any ordinary bi-plane. It’s a gorgeous sky cruiser with an engine on steroids. Patrick is known for his aerobatics which I’ve always envied. It was my lucky day because he was ready to launch and had a seat for me. We took off and immediately descended to just 50’ over the Petaluma River; dusting the tops of pickle weed, boaters and meandering water ways. This was really what the romance of flight is all about. To have the warm wind in your face and a smile on your heart is a flight of a life time.

Early in my flying career I had done a lot of aerobatics with hopes of getting an upside down flying machine. The trouble is that you don’t go anywhere. So those plans were shelved. But oh how I love whirling around in the sky! Patrick put the plane through all the tricks and maneuvers a stomach can take, and I still couldn’t get enough. We’re talking about the most fun you can have in a little patch of the blue! He is a great pilot and loves to share his enthusiasm with others.

Back on the ground there was a beer tasting going on, followed by the spontaneous BBQ. What a day! Who said Saturdays were for chores? Great friends, great fun, great flying…

Monsoon Motown

When the folks at Wx Brief start talking monsoonal flow its time to tighten the seat belts. This is the season of rebirth in the desert, reborn on the deluge of thunderstorms and flash floods. The western Pacific starts chucking gigantic blobs of moisture onto our sweltering summer shores. The Mexican land mass channels moisture up to the Gulf of California where it then brings a second spring to the desiccation of our south western states. They dance in the streets of Tucson knowing the gauntlet of 120 degree days are over. Flowers bloom, ground dwellers crawl out of their burrows and microscopic life burst into life in water pockets and depressions of sandstone.

Yet what this monsoon means to anyone in the mountainous west are massive cumulonimbus clouds with a mean streak. Our longitudinal mountain ranges funnel the tsunami of weather as far north as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Stretching from the Sierras to the Rockies a rush- hour commute of violent skies is upon us. The combination of heat and moisture are the nursery of thunderstorms exploding up to 40K. Lighting sears a leaden horizon touching off wild fires that go unabated. If one could sit in a comfy chair under the eaves of a sheltered porch it would be a great light show. For anyone caught out; hiking, climbing, flying, the monsoonal days can be a challenge. I’ve listened to pilots, flying heavy metal, begging ATC to route them around this stuff. It’s not pretty when the passengers in the back of the plane pull out their rosary beads and eject their just-eaten in flight meal.

For those of us with choices, you fly early when the cool air hasn’t started to party, you get your rock climbing accomplished by noon and you have a cool frosty mug of something in hand to watch the fireworks. But when your schedule doesn’t allow the dawn lift off or the fog put a lid on any quick escapes you might as well bring your collection of Motown music favorites. The ride is going to be rough. It’s time to bump and grind with James Brown. The new head sets are great to patch in your music play list.

Our adventure to Oshkosh had to be canceled because of our wonderful, elderly and feeble dog. Mosley is approaching 11 years old and orthopedic collapse. We couldn’t leave him with the pet sitter for 2 weeks. Every day I kept up with all the fun that Julia, Pat, Valerie, Heidi and Kitty were having at AirVenture Oshkosh. There were lots of challenges and lots to do. The plan was to meet up in Idaho on their return trip to keep the fun meter ticking.

Don and I lifted off Sunday the 31st around noon for the 3 hour journey to Smiley Creek, Idaho. By this time the wx gods have stationed their armies of thunderstorms all along the mountain ridges across Nevada, Oregon and Idaho. It would not have done us any good to climb above 10K. That altitude would have been in the thick of things. So we did the bump and grind, swinging wide around the especially dark bases of clouds, blazing through the rain and trying to avoid any lightning. There were no close calls, just lots of altitude/attitude management. Nevada is amazingly green so weird this time of year. Even the Black Rock Desert has stains of standing water.

As the route approaches the North there is an upwelling sense of terrain. Deep canyons cut by the Owyhee, Bruneau and Snake Rivers etch into a rising mass that leads to the Rockies. It’s fun to cut the point A to point B flying and wiggle along with the rivers undulations. Heavy, violent wx was raking the land south of Boise so we skirted to the north and then up and into the Sawtooth Mountains. If you’ve never experienced the majesty of these mountains go now, go soon. They rival any mountains to fly around and gaze upon or climb their lofty spires. The Sawtooth Valley runs north/ south with Smiley Creek airport at the south end and Stanley town and airport at the north end. Smiley has 5000 feet of manicured grass to land on. Adjacent to the tie downs are great camping sites, heated bathrooms and hot showers. The State of Idaho keeps two vans there for pilots to use. Gordon, the caretaker, is there Thursday to Monday to check you into the car or campsites.

Since this was a spur of the moment trip we left the camping gear behind and planned on a hotel down in Stanley. Unknown to us, unknown to my wx briefing 4 hours previously, Stanley’s runway was under construction. Half of the 4300′ dirt strip was getting an asphalt face lift. The ATC at Boise mentioned the closure just before we signed off. About that time we hear one of the air service planes going into Stanley. He explained you can land on the dirt taxi way or the last half of the runway. We decided to go check it out. Don executed one of those beautiful slips to touchdown, avoiding the heavy equipment and crews on the first half of the runway and parking the plane within 300′. Yeah! We’re finally here!

The owner of the Triangle C Motel came to pick us up. Its only a ¼ mile walk down a hill to town, but much appreciated. Stanley’s population is a mere 87 people who cater to a huge world of river rafters, hikers, bikers, hunters and families on idyllic vacations. There are numerous lakes in the vicinity, hundreds of alpine hiking trails, bobsled bike rides, hot springs and famous white water rafting. Only 4 restaurants in town, a fabulous bakery, two espresso sites and rentals of all the toys you could ever use. The espresso stop Peaks and Perks provides shuttle service to trail heads or fishing holes. Its recreation heaven!

The next morning we hopped in the plane and flew back to Smiley Creek to pick up the airport van. Julia and Mark, who were staying in Ketchum, met us at the airport. They had flown into Hailey, on the south side of the Galena Pass for a music festival in Sun Valley. From their description the airport at Hailey is a pain in the butt. Between TSA regulations, $20 landing fee and $7.00/gal gas you have to really want to be there. Hugs all around to see good friends again and hear about their travels. We hiked a beautiful trail up near the pass, attended by endless wildflowers to Titus Lake. The lake is an emerald jewel tucked into magnificent glaciated peaks. It’s a place where heaven touches down.

That evening we dined at the historic Sawtooth Hotel. Live music on the patio with the sunset of the Sawtooth Mountains as a stage was a festive local affair. Footwear for most people is either cowboy boots or rafting shoes. It’s not so much a fashion statement but a necessary wardrobe item. Kids and adults were up and dancing to the mountain music of a fiddle, 2 guitars and a drummer. Lots of smiles and joy to be alive abounded.

Tuesday morning Don took off for a bobsled bike ride while Julia, Mark and I headed into the big peaks again. Your balance gets a good workout criss crossing the creeks that are running high. Two lakes, thin air and incredible views kept us loving it. A light rain and mosquitoes drove the party on.

Wednesday morning Don and I returned the airport car and jumped into our 3 wheel vehicle. The day was CAVU with cool, climbing air. It didn’t take long to pop up and thread our way through the peaks, enjoying the flight a whole bunch more. Today was a day between the monsoon waves. Even the 15kt. headwinds did not bog our spirits down. Mountain Home Muni is just a ½ hour away to pick up fuel. Then it was off and away with our spinner pointed home. It’s times like these that make you love life so much. Great friends, great fun, great flying. Cindy

Columbia Airport June 18 and 19, 2011

Excitement on the ground and in the air filled Columbia Airport for the “45th Annual Father’s Day Fly-in. Marin 99’s joined Petaluma PAPAs to make a strong presence for the North Bay Area. Seven planes and eleven people made the approximate one-hour flight on heading 081. We skimmed across the valley late Friday afternoon, avoiding the pending airshow traffic and temporary tower.

We touched down on the usual RWY 17 and made a hard right turn onto the cool 29/11 grass strip. There we had the pleasure of running our 182 tires on surface other than asphalt. We rendezvoused with fellow flyers and picked out a beautiful camping area under the shady oak trees and not too far away from the showers! This was camping at its finest. The airport put on a “burger burn” BBQ Friday night and Boy Scout Troop 570 were there providing us with great pancake breakfasts for the weekend. Some opted for food at “Pete’s” just across the highway, while others meandered the one mile jaunt into town for refreshments.

Saturday morning we staked out our front-row lawn chair seating and enjoyed the show. At 8:00 AM with the temporary tower in action we were entertained by “Snowball” the resident Stearman giving daredevil rides, warbird, vintage and experimental flybys, racecar vs. airplane race, and demos from Cal Fire. The “people mover” ferried us across the runway to enjoy the static display. The polished Electra from southern Cal was only one of the many stand-outs of the show.

Joe and I had to depart early Sunday before the planned flour bombing and spot landing activities. PAPA is putting on a flour bombing contest at the Petaluma Airport this September (in conjunction with a Poker Run.) It may have been advantageous to watch the flour drop attempts in Columbia. We practiced June 25th with three bombs at our home airport. Our closest attempt was about 40 feet. It is harder than it looks to hit that target!

Looking forward to the 46th Annual Columbia Fly-in.
Happy summer flying,

4th Glories

Very rarely do you see this gang of four so relaxed, so laid back, without an ambitious agenda on the Fourth of July. For years Julia, Mark, Don and I have been winging it far and wide, with lots of friends in tow, to sample the delights of our country on Independence Day.

This last 4th of July all we needed was a shady spot where you could dip your toes in a cool pool and let the day pass on a gentle breeze. Ambitionless we were. Due to the upcoming trip to Oshkosh we kept our fireworks celebration close to home in Nevada City at Julia and Mark’s beautiful home.

The big event was part of ‘Music in the Mountains’ summer season production of America’s great theme music. Everything from John Phillips Sousa to Aaron Copeland, marching music of the army, navy, air force and marines to the sounds of America for the last 200 years impressed the crowds.

One piece had a narration of Abraham Lincoln’s address to congress on the eve of the civil war. What a moving speech it still is! The setting for the symphonic and choral extravaganza was on a lovely sweeping lawn under the canopy of ancient fir trees.

Music in the Mountains has a 6 week schedule every summer and should be a part of our fly outs annually. It’s something you’ll always want to return to.

The next day was more laziness around the pool and pond. Julia and I took a 2 hour stroll along the canal trail just to stretch our legs. The canal was built back in the 1850s to bring water down from the high Sierras to power the hydraulic gold mining. Up until then mining was of the placer type; pan and pick.

After the transcontinental railroad was completed much of the Chinese labor force came to the foothills to create these huge water projects. The flume has a 6% grade which keeps the water moving along at a good clip. The trail adjacent to the ditch is a perfect strollable path for walking, running or biking. It is a wonderful asset to the community. The shade of the trees and the coolness of the water were a great foil to the heat building in the day. The gold country is laced with many of these ditches and trails. It would be fun to explore more of them.

Many thanks to Julia and Mark for creating a little bit of heaven. The flight back was just as smooth and clear as the flight over. What a treat to pick up a wx briefing that was less than 2 minutes. Have you ever noticed what a good mood ATC is in when the wx is clear? Great friends, great fun, great flying! –Cindy

Oshkosh by Gosh

The big trip nears and lots of us are compiling charts, way points, fueling stops and alternates to 10 days of fun. The plan is to convene in Oshkosh on Sunday the 24th of July.

Pat and Joe are taking the big gulp and landing at Oshkosh to tie down and camp for the week. Valerie and Mike, coming from Florida, Julia, Mark, Don and I and friend Alana will be renting a house in town and landing at nearby Appleton Airport. Kitty, Sabrina and Monica will be finding lodging at one of the colleges nearby.

There’s so many places between here and there it will be difficult to decide how to plan the trip. A week on the ground in Oshkosh requires a spreadsheet. So much to do and oh and ahh!

Don and I may swing by Moab on the way out and then stop in Smiley Creek, Idaho (with everyone else) on the way back. As the wx gods haven’t shown their cards yet, we’ll see how it goes the night before we leave. Light some candles on the wx alter for us!