Saturday, May 31, 2008

C2 Shining American C

As I'm the blogger for the group of pilots, I'm writing some first draft details to you as family, but you'll find the public account and photos for each day of the trip up to the 29th, which is all I have been able to finish by very late tonight, on

However, here are some choice pix of the last couple days!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Insider report

This is just for you folks, not what will go on the trip blog.

We all got out of walla walla and gave landed safely in missoula. We've now passed over the highest of the mountains we will cover on this trip, though we have some more to go.

En route, we checked the weather over lewiston and VFR was forecast as absolutely no go after Missoula. We did indeed thread through scattered and two of three planes stayed at 7500 feet as a caution against the layer below us closing up. Dick spent some time at 9500 in smooth air before coming down as that higher layer began to close in. We became increasingly grateful for every mile.

That was as much drama as I ever want to see between mountain tops and scud coming down. Ever. Turbulence was no big deal -- for the two bigger planes. 172 picked up carb icing 40 miles out and lost about 500 precious fee of altitude. I watched a little very light precip on the windscreen, looked at the OAT, and just really implored the weather gods to be on our side. We are not going further today -- VFR was totally not recommended beyond this point and we were losing tops as we went along.

Opinions vary widely as to whether, "You got away with it but you are pushing thye edge of the envelope, taking too much risk!" Or "The guy we got en route on the raido says it's like this in missoula all the time!" Maybe it is. But Missoula is not the same as what it's like on the way. I cannot dismiss feeling scared over the mountains with a deck coming down and no place to land except a field 30 miles out.

The 172 get tossed around a lot more than the Cardinal, which outweighs it by 800 pounds, and the Cherokee, which flies steady like a brick.

We have rooms at a Ruby's Inn, which is sending a shuttle for us.

"So, do y'all travel a lot together?" asked the woman who was driving us from the super 8, where we thought we were going to have to stay, back to the Comfort Inn, which had no rooms for us three hours ago and just came up with two after all.

"Not anymore," came a unanimous chorus.

At this point, beyond predictable laughter, the strain of the last few days finally broke as Dick Strock totally lost it, and we watched him dissolve into a helpless puddle of hysterical tears.

The afternoon has settled down. Two guys are going out to the plane to store stuff and get charts; the guy who needed chiro is going to take the advice he got and REST; Ruth has headed out to party hearty with Aunt Marty; and Janice and I have walked into town for lunch and will then see the Indiana Jones movie.

Sensible people are celebrating what's turned into a quite lovely memorial day weekend Saturday here, better than forecast on the ground. There is a high school baseball tournament in town, family reunions are everywhere, and middle America is having a life. For today, itinerant and slightly-less-tightly-wound-than-usual pilots are doing a bit of the same.

It's about time.

Truly. I would never have gotten the chance to be on this trip if I still worked, well, almost ANyWHERE else, never mind the Embassy specifically.

And it has taken me the better part of two weeks to totally let go of the idea that I have any control at all of when we fly. Number one factor is the weather. Everything else flows out of that.

I could extrapolate from that the value, implications and critical importance of exquisite attention to one's environment -- to assess it and to decide how you want to respond.

Or I could just enjoy the day! It's the weekend, after all.

Subject: When Discretion Is the WHOLE Part of Valour

The first thing the weather briefers said this morning was "AIRMET for mountain obscuration: VFR flight not recommended along your route of flight." Attached picture is what that looks like. To fly, we need to get over the mountains. To get over the mountains, we need to SEE the mountains. And right now we can't see the mountains.

The weather overhead is exasperatingly lovely.

The other issue, after discussion with the pilot who has the most experience by a factor of at least six, remains icing. If the air is saturated, or close to it, then ice can form very easily and fast even when we are not in clouds. The temperature and dew point are only two degrees apart -- 9 and 7, respectively -- at our purported destination, Missoula, right now, and rainshowers are moving into there as I write this.

Weather reports this morning might have let us get a ways east, but the system that is hanging out over the Midwest and generating tornadoes in Kansas would have stopped us for another few days in Missoula even if we got there.

I am not happy right now because I should have kept with me to bag with my camera in it, and I accepted the suggestion of the person who offered to load it in the back of the van transferring us from the Comfort Inn to the Super 8. When someone opened the door of the van the camera fell out and hit the pavement. The lens moves more sluggishly when I turn it on, and the edge of the lens is clearly bent up. The glass part is intact. And now reservations are messed up at the Super 8, where we were supposed to stay tonight. Weather is not great for a couple more days at least.

Two guys who had been having a snit over the other two pilots' more conservative weather analysis threw up their hands this morning and said "we didn't check the weather because you guys make all the decisons anyway."

The hissy fits are an unpleasant feature of the past week. One pilot has got about 500 hours' experience over about 7 years. He pores over weather charts and apparently doesn't put much store by the advice of flight briefers. He's also easily captured by a "get-home-itis" spirit and an urge to get moving. Another one has over 4500 hours over decades...and is more cautious, because he's seen more kinds of trouble develop where there wasn't supposed to be.

He's also the pilot with a back hurting so badly that his number one task has been to get to a chiropractor. We at least got that far. He just called, and is feeling MUCH better -- "snap, crackle, pop did the trick!" he exclaimed -- so at least that is looking up.

If the new motel has room for us, at least it has a pool. It's next to the railroad tracks and walking distance from the grocery store... Our attention is fast slinking down Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

Eventually, the weather will move on. Eventually we will fly. Eventually we will get home. I have drugs enough to last.

And the Indiana Jones movie IS playing. Ruth's cousins have invited us all the Aunt Marty's 90th birthday barbequeue. The Harley drivers who have filled this motel seem nice.



Thursday, May 22, 2008

South of Portland thru Columbia River Gorge to Walla Walla

AirBear plans his route...

After all the drama of getting the battery replaced and haggling over weather, we finally took off around 4 pm. I was still wondering whether I personally would have chosen to depart in that weather if it had been just me, but we gathered a lot of local intelligence on how people who live in this area fly through the Columbia River Gorge even when mountain tops are obscured by clouds...and the local advice turned out to be sound.

I admit that I flew today as flight photographer and provided some piloting backup to Bill Hughes, Pilot in Command of N15624, the Cherokee. After seeing today's collection of photos and being able to share them before dinner with the other pilots, I was perfectly glad about that. It seems odd to enjoy the flight more by looking at pictures of it than perhaps I did at the time...but it all goes by SOOO fast in the air. With the photos I can savour the images time and again. Bill was relaxed and great to fly with; he and I both like the Cherokee.

We flew a couple hundred miles, amidst some light rainshowers and some virga, the ceiling were scattered to broken and while it wasn't perfectly smooth air, it was pleasant flying and the scenery was splendid. Not the Grand Canyon, but a whole different kind of unforgettable.

After hours of botched batteries, belated breakfasts and battling banter about weather and who wanted to fly in what, the couple hours' flying itself managed to scrub out a lot of the tensions that the lead-up to the flight entailed.

NOW I could finally see why I took the time to do this.
NOW I could appreciate how lucky we are to be ABLE to do this, at any time, at any price.
My fellow pilots recounted more than a few conversations in airport lounges along the way as they chatted with career pilots driving skeds or hanging out waiting for charter passengers: each one of the pro's was green with envy. "You get to see a new airport and fly over new places EVERY DAY! We wake up in the morning and fly the same plane to the same places all the time."

Weather Thursday is supposed to be good...and, if we do get to Billings, Montana, we will have traversed some fairly rugged country. Take a look on Googlemaps at the stretch between WallaWalla Washington eastward via Missoula and Helena to Billings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

dig em out

the score of the month goes to moppets!
who, when asked if anyone had any pereneals that they wanted to thin out
a moppet dad let me know that a local school was putting on an addition and the entire set of gardens were to be destroyed and they wanted the plants to go somewhere great
with a truck and trailer and friends, we did a major raid
ONLY half of which went into the ground today
the balance are well watered and in the trailer or set on the ground nearby
Glenn did a whack of digging as the rototiller wouldn't work
and then
I got the rototiller to work when I got home from moppets today
and put in all I could
I have NO IDEA what the plants are
I know the day lilies will settle in nicely along the edge of the house
and there are more for beside the house where I photoshopped them in ha ha ha

still needs work and lots of water and weeding as the months go by
but it's a good start
I didn't do the lawns today cuz of that
we'll see if it rains tomorrow and if I'm working on the basement walls after moppets

I have a huge blister on my palm
and I wore gloves
blew out my Domtar purchased steel toed boots. Man, the tops were in stellar shape. the sole had no soul.

the cross photo is for lorne if it works.
dialup sucks

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meet Jasper Dash, Dog Technonaut!

Today we add yet another four-footed friend to the household.

A 12 week old collie, who's oh, so cute.

Didn't somebody think of this 20 years ago?

Latest additions

So a trip out to strathmore this afternoon means we're now the owners of a real pinball machine. Perhaps not as exciting as llamas, but then, not quite so stinky, either. you probably don't recognize it. I hadn't seen it before, either. But it is one of the more desirable machines out there. And it's lots of fun to play.

Just wait for more interesting news on Sunday.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

la la la la LLAMAs

By the way ... they make a whistling sound
and are very snuffly today.
we gave them some grain so we could get close to them
The WHITE one is the mom - her name is Telka so far.
the Chocolate one is Pichu which we may change to Prince. He's very regal when he runs around.
Kusko is the small one ... like from the disney movie The Emperor's new Groove.
which is what we'd call a boy anyway so it's all part of the big Plan to have these three.
They're together in the front field. They don't like the donkeys.
They do seem to like the sheep which is good since that is why we got them

the woolliest Llamas!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Whoopdy Doo for My Subaru

So this is the new Wonderland Wheels.  A 2001 Subaru Outback.
Try to picture it with the good wheels on it (they are in the back with the summer tires as it has the snows on it now).
If it goes through the safety and other mechanical inspections ok, it's a really good car.