Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weather doesn't matter sometimes

Last night, a certain 9 year old boy's father looked at me, thoughtfully, and asked, "You know, a passenger doesn't really need to talk in order to fly. And if they're just being a passenger, I bet we could put a pair of shooting muffs on him, and it'd be good enough to protect his hearing. He wouldn't have to wait until we got a second headset for the plane, would we?"

And I thought about it, and nodded. "Sure. We wouldn't communicate well, but it wouldn't keep him from flying. We could do that."

The gentleman paused, and slowly asked, in an all-too-casual manner, "Then maybe you could go flying this weekend?"

"I think we can." I said, with a slow smile starting at my eyes and working its way down.

He glanced down by his knee, and said, "Oh, don't show that to me. Show that to her." And the 9-year-old spun around and displayed a grin so big I could count every back molar.

This morning somebody threw off their covers at the first gentle "Hey, rise and shine." He'd put his clothes on the night before so he could be ready, and hurriedly rushed through brushing his teeth and gulping down a bowl of cereal. A thunderstorm was passing overhead, but we left it behind as we drove to the airport, where weather was reported fair. Unfortunately, the storm was moving toward the airport, and it was a nasty cluster of cells. By the time it would be past, somebody would be very late to their test at the dojo.

So instead of flying, we walked around the plane, comparing everything to the model airplanes he's flown with his father, and he made like a monkey climbing inside the cockpit to work the yoke and rudders, and go over the instruments. As the rain started to fall, we headed back to the FBO, and with permission wandered around the attached community hangar.

I didn't know there was a post-war Focke-Wulfe in there, in camo and iron crosses. Somebody headed straight for it like a moth to a flame, only slightly diverted by the Citabria. We spent a good twenty minutes examining aircraft, and then I showed my evil side by shamelessly buying a coke for each of us, and splitting a couple brownies. (Fortunately, the aforementioned dojo will be a great place to work out the sugar high.) After some more chatting on everything from thermals to deer hunting to rainbow-farting unicorns (he is a 9-year-old boy, with 9 year old humor), we headed home.

Despite not flying, he had a grin and bounce to his step as he headed inside to eagerly tell a sleepy father all about the airport, and sitting in his first full-scale airplane. Then it was back to plotting with his sister on how to get past the mountain lion on the Cabela's hunting game (which is nothing at all like doves or real deer, I'm thoroughly informed).

I'll get him in the air yet, and I'm glad he had a great Saturday morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


After calling off flying out Monday, Brigid and I set out to find Tam, food, and fun. We definitely found Tam, and my goodness was there excellent food in large quantities. The fun was spectacular, though I wilted a bit in the heat of the day.

The next morning, the weather briefer was full of warnings about mist and low vis, practically IFR and I shouldn't fly until after a cold front came through in the afternoon. It was a glorious morning, though the faint hazy mist rising off the corn promised another mugging by Mr. Heat and his drinking buddy Mr. Humidity by the afternoon. A cropduster came in for another load, and reported a wonderful morning with calm air. I took his opinion over the weather briefer's.

It was a nice morning, and even nicer once I got up a few thousand feet. Above the haze layer, visibility was endless, the air was crisp and cool, and I even had a tailwind.

DaddyBear of DaddyBear's Den had offered a place to crash halfway, and I declined it with gratefulness to him for offering, and to God for such wonderful weather that it wasn't needed. One quick stop in Tell, Indiana to fix a patch, check oil, and let my husband know when to pick me up, and I was on my way home.

The last sixty miles I was back in the haze, as a broken layer of clouds started capping every thermal. I soared over the farm where I've gone shooting and stoked bonfires (soon I'll get to be there and see the farmer again!) Then a little further south, and landed in Lebanon, TN.

The FBO called on unicom, wanting to know if I'd be staying a while, and were confused when I replied that I was going too be based there. When the gent brought the fuel truck out, he recognized me from the times I'd come through, and rented the Citabria to knock the rust off before leaving. The CFI I'd flown with in the Citabria came out, astounded that he'd caught me just as I was landing from the long trip.

Then, best of all, my husband was there. He looks a little slimmer, but much stranger. He'd decided to whimsically grow a mustache. Hey, I was gone a few months, he had to get up to something. Perhaps, though, he should have consulted with Lawdog about mustaches... But I digress. After a long hug and a short kiss (mustaches are prickly!) I was finally really truly home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

One more day in Indy

After a long day of good food, good fellowship, and good fun, we went to bed early...earlier, anyway. life was awesome. (There's no way I can top either Brigid's version, or Tam's. Go read their posts.)

Then I woke up at 4am feeling like someone had kicked me in the bad leg, wearing steel-toed boots. Why can't barometric-pressure-sensitive old injuries be more like weather widgets, with a vague notion of impending rain instead of an early warning on the pain scale? Ibuprofin, a little net surfing til it kicked in, and bed. Yay painkillers!

Fortunately, Brigid is a very understanding host, who sent me back to bed the second time I limped out of it, and gave me coffee on my third try at getting up. I love my friends!

...and there's still cheesecake left...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Picture Post Bozeman to Indianapolis

Over the Badlands

Flying into the smoke trail of a contained wildfire

Over South Dakota, which alternated between luxurious fields and struggling ones - the trails of poor growth from flooded soil were everywhere.

Why, yes, that is a storm moving in from exactly the opposite direction of the stiff low-level wind. Chamberlain, SD.

See the puffy cumulus hidden in the haze? Or, why I diverted yet again in Iowa.

Sylvester the airport cat, waiting for dues of scritching to be paid should I want fuel.

Why there are almost no pictures after Carroll, IA: the sky was full of thick, low-vis haze that I could not outclimb, even when I went to 5,500 feet. Also full of cumulus that I was busy steering between, and thunderstorms I was very hugely avoiding. That's the Mississippi River, by the way.

Near Indianapolis

Got up at the crack of dawn to get the plane out before the semi with the cropduster's loads showed up and parked in front of the hangar. Checked weather, loaded airplane, waited for a storm to pass from southwest to southeast. Walked out to an airshow intended only for the corn, as a thrush was spraying a field just north of the airport.

Went further south to get behind storms, then rode the wind they were using to rumble across the land into Illinois. Three hours later, my fuel was low and my bladder sounding the amber overpressure alarm. I diverted to the second-nearest airport, as it had a runway into the wind and the nearest one did not.

Galesburg, IL, had half the ramp full of ag planes loading fuel and chemicals... but the other half the ramp was crowded with personal airplanes, many of which were beautiful, shiny, freshly washed and waxed. An RV, a round-engine Cessna 195, light-sport composite that looked like the cockpit still had the new airplane smell... I wondered as I tied my plane down just what I'd found.

Then I walked into the lobby, and found the weather computer niche overstuffed with pilots trying to find a way through the storms to Oshkosh, for EAA's greatest aviation show on earth. We chatted until the fueler was finished with an ag plane and could get to my plane. Then in the air again, until my GPS was nearly dead, I was on my third sectional for the day, and I was emptying the wing tanks.

Finally, I got near Indianapolis, at one of the smaller airports nearby, called in on the low-battery left on the handhold, and landed in the thick humid heat. After I taxied in, I took the nearest parking space... just past two T-6's that were tied down and swathed in covers. I don't know if they're headed to Oshkosh or back from the Peoria airshow, but it was quite the sight.

I'll be here a day or two, as Brigid of Home on the Range has been kind enough to let me crash at her place. Really, guns, good food, airplanes, a black lab to spoil (and get back here with that underwear!), a bit of good alcohol to cap the night... Life is awesome.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jousting with storms like Sir Robin

When it comes to thunderstorms, I stand with Sir Robin - bravely running away! When flying over I-90 and realizing I was pointed at a very large towering cloud rising out of the haze, I looked to my right, my left, and dove left for the nearest airport. I waited until the coast was clear and snuck around behind the thunderstorm... only to find out that a thunderstorm's passage doesn't always mean clearer, dryer, cooler weather. As the haze got thicker and thicker and cloud deck overhead became solid and started getting darker, I promptly picked the nearest airport, and landed at Sioux Center, Iowa.

The ramp was full of Agcats, Thrushes, and all other sorts of cropdusters...and a twin. The dampers started playing tetris with towbars and airplanes, and when an obvious hole opened, I was glad that I still had my large tires - I simply checked to be clear of taxiway lights, and promptly rolled off the asphalt, across the grass, and onto the ramp where the hole for parking was.

Sioux Center Aviation loaned their crew car to me, and I set out with directions to the public pool. $5 for a day pass, and I had all the hot water in the world for a long, hot shower to finally get my hair clean while waiting on weather to clear. I love public pools! Yay hot water!

The sky opened up, and I set off into the same high headwind even as ag pilots were busy calculating loads, trying to poach each other's mechanics, and splitting for a last few passes in the golden evening light. Unfortunately, at an airspeed of 90mph and a groundspeed of 68mph, the weather built and moved faster than I did. So instead of trying to run the gap between storms moving northeast, I went south, and east as able. Run away!

Good thing I did, too, because as the haze grew thicker, the sun lower, and little while puffs started to rise above the haze, I landed at Carroll Municipal airport, in beautiful Carroll, Iowa. An Ag plane was just finished loading, engine rumbling and pilot putting on his helmet as I taxied up to a tiedown.

This airport is just incredible whenit comes to friendliness and hospitality. Free hangarage for the night, free laundry, free shower with provided towel, soap, shampoo, courtesy car, fine by them if I sleep on the air conditioned couch... If I'd known this place existed, I would have been steering here all along, not come by storms and chance!

Of course, the airport cat did stretch herself out in front of the gas pump so I had to pet her to get to the fuel, but that's hardly an imposition. Good things come to those who see thunderclouds and run away!

Mitchell, SD

The wind in Billings finally died a little after 5, and I got out. About 15 miles out of Gillette, WY, I flew into the smoke trail of a contained forest fire. Visibility was still fine as long as you weren't looking toward the sun. I put my lights on to be more visible, and landed at Gillette right about the time the sun touched down, too.

The next morning was cool, bright, with fair weather, and I tried to cover ground as fast as I could. Stopped for fuel and sunblock in Wall, SD. Wall Drugs is a tourist trap, not a functional drugstore... darned hard to find sunblock. Got back to the plane, and managed to burn my legs right through SPF 45.

Got to Chamberlain, SD before the heat exhaustion started making me stupid. Landed, drank half a gallon of water, talked with a couple Agcat mechanics (working on a Thrush, right then.) Realized I was flat-out exhausted, camped. Spectacular lightning and thunder show around midnight, but almost no rain.

Woke up this morning to the sun shining, birds chirping, jake brakes... wait, no, that's distant thunder. Waited for the thunderstorms to pass, then took off along I-90 as it was the clearest corridor east. Fifty miles later, realized I was pointed directly at a growing thundercloud just down the road. Landed at the airport to my right, and having a cold soda while watching the radar until it reports the coast is clear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Billings, MT

About an hour out of Bozeman, I noticed my oil temps were slowly but steadily rising, and my oil pressure very gently declining. Having just changed the oil, this worried me. So, I set down in Columbus, MT. There, I found an IA to talk to about operating temps and pressures for my engine... for 4400 feet above the sea, when it is 96 degrees in the shade. Long story short, the engine's fine. By the way, Woltermann Memorial Airport has an awesome pilot cabin with couches, microwave, shower, bathroom, even towels and a stocked bookcase. It's all built and maintained by volunteers, and funded by donations.

While talking to the IA, we noticed an airplane circling overhead. Neither of us recognized it, but we both recognized the sound of a sick engine. The airplane turned out to be a beautiful DeHavilland Chipmunk, with a sick carburetor. ATC (Billings Approach) called the IA to see if he'd gotten in safely, as there is no tower. As the pilot had to go to Billings to catch a commercial flight back to Idaho and retrieve another carb, and I was headed near Billings, I gave him a ride in.

Once on the ground, thunderstorms set in, and I spent the rest of the afternoon circling the radar updates and calling weather briefers until giving up for the night. By the time I had the airplane ready to go this morning, the sky was bright cloudless blue... and the wind kicked up strong. By the time I got the aircraft back into a tiedown and ties firmly down, it was 24 gusting 30 knots.

So, a beautiful day for Sudoku puzzles and tea in the FBO!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Picture Post Whitehorse to Bozeman

Having discovered after some good sleep and coffee that I got the pictures in the last post out of order, I've corrected them and will continue on.

Leaving Whitehorse in beautiful weather, I followed the Alcan down past Marsh Lake.

Refuelled at Teslin, where I met a wonderful young bloodhound puppy who will grow into a full howl - he's sure working on it! Canada has Community Area Radio Stations instead of Flight Service Stations like home in Alaska - the folks there can only tell you about the local weather, and update or close your flight plan if you file to that airport. They're pretty awesome folks, friendly, extremely well-versed in their local weather. After transferring fuel from the jerry cans to the gas tanks and chatting with a mechanic who came out to check out my plane, I went on to Watson Lake.

After Watson Lake, I flew on to Fort Nelson (the river rapids and rainbow are in the last post.) I dodged enough showers getting there that I went left over the Liard River instead of right over the Alcan right after Liard Hot Springs. That would be the last good weather I'd see for days.

This is what the sky looked like south of Ft Nelson when I got there, and the next day it only looked worse. The FBO was awesome, though, and I found enough to do that I wasn't bored.

Like helping diagnose, try to repair, and replace a magneto.

Finally made it, going low over the railroad tracks instead of taking the high road down the Alcan, to Fort Saint John, and spent another day weathered out there. How can you tell when the FBO is used to dealing with tired oilpatch roughnecks?

Got out of Fort St John to Grande Prairie by running low, close to the ground, dodging the worst of the lowest ceilings and keeping a sharp eye on my sectional for terrain. At Grande Prairie, weathered out for the rest of the day, and split a hotel room with a wonderful couple in a Maule who'd started from Watson Lake that morning. Yes, they covered in one day what took me five days - not only is their plane faster, but I have been pushing against a low weather trough, and they were not... until they caught up with it and with me.

The next day the heavy rain stopped, and several hundred square miles were covered by fog. It lifted slowly, and a little after noon, we determined it was high enough to go. So we flew out as a two-ship flight, pushing forward.

We got to Red Deer, and split another hotel for the night - this time exhaustion, not weather was the primary reason. It's an awesome place - the AirSpray hangar has a bunch of DC-3's outside. See the one in Reeve Aleutian colors? There's something I haven't seen in a long time! The folks at Hillman Aviation were putting a Christen Eagle biplane back together after the import inspection, and it was just head-turningly beautiful. We got gas at the tanks right outside, and they were kind enough to give us a lift into town and back.

The next morning, life was beautiful. I departed right behind the Maule, but there was no way I'd keep up. They called back from near Lethbridge, diverting toward Medicine Hat because the wind was high and gusting - but by the time I got to Lethbridge, the wind had dropped to 15 gusting 18 knots, and the wind at the diversion was the same.

Fuelled and filed for customs at Lethbridge, waited an hour for the wind to die just a little, and then continued down to a border strip. 4000 feet of grass, and thank goodness it was mostly into the very gusty wind, because there were barbed wire fences on each side of the runway. Had a little trouble - EAPIS will kick back the application unless you tell it you're going to a 4-letter identifier airport. Which the border strips definitely are not - that's for big airports that have plenty of asphalt and registrations with ICAO. The help file on EAPIS says if you're going to a smaller 3-letter identifier strip, to put the nearest 4-letter identifier strip in the destination, and then put your actual customs airport in the remarks below.

So I did, and called ahead as I'm supposed to do (and why on God's green earth do I need to file online to enter the country, when I'm already going to be going to a customs port, and I still have to call the customs port to let them know I'm coming?)

When I got there, they had decided that since I'd filed for the 4-letter airport nearby (DESPITE PUTTING THE SMALLER AIRPORT IN THE REMARKS AS INSTRUCTED), I must not be coming... and didn't come out to look at my plane until I called them on the cell while sitting a hundred feet from the building.

Despite all the bureaucratic bullshit and stupidity surrounding the whole process, the customs agents themselves were polite, professional, and remarkably easy to deal with.

As for bull shit of a more elemental kind - I have now learned to always be upwind of a cattle or pig lot like this one when flying by at a mere thousand feet off the ground. Spent too long in cities - you'd think that's obvious.

Spent the night camped by the plane at Choteau, Montana, as thunderstorms were blocking the passes south, and I'd rather camp under clear skies and wait out the billowing clouds to the south.

The next morning was bright, beautiful, blue skies everywhere, wind dropped to a playful five or seven knots just light enough to keep the mosquitoes and flies off. The major oddity as I packed up the tent - no dew on the grass or ground.

The road down goes past Helena to Bozeman, and the river and chain of lakes follows it before splitting off to one side. I took both down until they split - and seeing the narrowness of the road passes versus the width of the river channel, I took the river.

Finally arrived Bozeman, picked up by an old friend, and given coffee. Miss Cinnamon is no longer a small bundle of fluff with long legs sticking out, but she's definitely shedding as much as she always has! Just about everything I own has been liberally coated in dog hair as she has expressed how happy she is to see me, get a walk from me, and can she lick my plate when I'm done?

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Been away from the news for a few weeks, and it looks like I didn't miss a damn thing except a case of sour stomach over the idiocy in DC and the rest of the country's politics and courts.

Did it get that much worse that fast, or has being immersed in reality for a while, interacting with honest folks simply made the power-mad insanity seem that much crazier?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Picture Post Anchorage to Whitehorse to Fort Nelson

In Bozeman now, doing laundry, resting up, loading pictures to Blogger and catching up. These pictures were a little out of order when I posted them, so the post is edited for the actual order now that I've had rest and coffee.

Setting out, I was more interested in dealing with the airplane than taking pictures, so there are none until Sheep Mountain.

The Gunny (and J of Call to Wings) flew escort to the border. The Gunny's plane is so much faster, he flew racetracks around me in order to fly with me.

Mentasta Pass. Wasn't fast enough on the camera to catch the two eagles circling in a thermal, and then I found the turbulence, so I was busy with yoke, throttle, mixture, and carb heat.

Weather was good until Mentasta Pass, and then it lowered again after Northway into Beaver Creek. I camped under-wing and stayed dry, but the ground was hard enough (and then loose enough when soaked) that the tent stakes slowly collapsed. Let's not even go into all the places one can be bitten by mosquitoes.

Burwash Landing was pretty, but I was more interested in refueling than taking pictures. After getting past the low rain right outside Beaver Creek, I was trying to make good time getting to Whitehorse. It was as well I did; in the last 25 miles, my radio decided to be cranky about not getting a charge the night before, and the transmit power started dropping fast well before the low-battery light flashed (and I could still hear them trying to talk to me). Fortunately, a Cessna relayed my answers until I got within 10 miles and around the last mountain. People are awesome, given half a chance.

Missed the fact that there's a pilot shelter on the Whitehorse airport, with a gazebo. So, I slept down in town at the Robert Service campgrounds, which are pretty well run. The next day, met up with a friend right before takeoff. His son went from scared of the airplane to upset when he was removed from the cockpit so I could go - always happy to delay to create another fan of aviation!

Out of Whitehorse, I put fuel in at Teslin, then went on to Watson Lake - great people there, and great pilots passing through and camping. I really should have gotten photos. Ah, well. Had a wonderful time with great people, and a blessedly dry and mosquito-free couch. Taking off was interesting - a rain front decided to start coming about the time I was doing a run-up. Busy with controls - no pictures until well clear.

Hell's Gate on the Rapids of the Drowned, lower part of the Grand Canyon of the Liard River.

Dodging storms and showers, found a rainbow on the way into Fort Nelson.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Red Deer

In Grande Prairie I met a wonderful retired couple flying their Maule down to Oshkosh from Anchorage, and we split a hotel room for the night. The next day, we waited on weather until noon, then took off as a flight of 2 to Whitecourt, then Red Deer beyond. As Bones said in Star Trek IV, "One little detail..." I can push my plane to cruise at a hundred, and they cruise at a hundred. But they meant knots, and I meant statute miles per hour.

Three and a half hours of slow flight (for them) and pushing the engine at the top of the green while trying to lean and save any possible bit of fuel (for me), we got to Red Deer. If we'd stopped in Whitecourt, I wouldn't have been at all worried about fuel, but then, we probably wouldn't have finished as a flight of two, either. We're both exhausted - them from the extra work of flying slow, me from the work of flying fast. So, splitting another hotel room, and in the morning they're headed for Saskatoon, I'm for Lethbridge.

One other minor detail; I forgot the charger for the radio in the plane. May delay a few hours while I charge it tomorrow. Oops. Too tired to really care right now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fort Saint John

Being weathered over for a day in Ft. St. John has been the longest time I've had to work at not feeling like chewing off my leg to escape a trap. The people are great, the FBO luxurious, and I... I'm not their kind of client. This place has exactly one tie down for a small aircraft, and I'm in it. They have a large asphalt pad for jets to pull in and out, and though the pilots have been unfailingly good, I still cringe inside every time a corporate or charter jet, including a 727, turn and sweep my little rag n' tube with their jetwash.

I may not be the only pilot yesterday without epaulets, but it was close. At least I fit in with the charter passengers, headed up to the oil patch (except they are all male). I feel a bit like the ugly duckling around the swans, foregoing the leather couches and tasteful rugs of the pilot's lounge for sitting on the floor playing with a five-month-old toy breed puppy.

That said, the rampers and receptionist have been awesome, ranging from amused and generous to apologetic for the "worst summer since 89". The pilots with their pressed uniforms and epaulets either ignore me or want to know all about my plane and trip with a grin in their hearts at the challenge.

Today's weather is forecast to be no better, but I'm hoping for a break. I would rather be camped under my wing off the side of a gravel strip, no showers and mosquitoes all around, than out of place in asphalt and luxury. Maybe it's just early curmudgeonliness, but after a two days of working at being cheerful, I don't want to deal with people for a while.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fort Nelson

Fort Nelson was massively undersold to me by pilot report as an industrial airport, noisy and run down, with friendly people. As its geology, it's the first town out of the mountains, on the flatter prairie. It's a heart for the oilfields, with a humming industrial hub supporting them, instead of the touristy feel of Whitehorse or the silence and sparrows and sunsets of Watson Lake. To me, it feels like Merrill Field. It feels like home, alive with people doing things with aviation and going places.

The people are awesome. The FBO, Sky North Aviation Fuels, was officially closed for the day when I got in, but the gent working there offered a ride into town. The grill, he apologized, was out of propane for grilling up hot dogs or burgers, but I was welcome to the microwave, the incredibly comfy couch, the shower, the small kitchen, the wireless... It is a place designed to keep people happy even when waiting out weather for days. The people are what turn it from a nice place into an awesome one.

The next morning, Fort Saint John had ceilings of 600 feet. The low that was forecast to move... hadn't. A couple in a nice lightly modified Cessna still mostly kitted for high, fast, and long distance took off, as did a couple in a helicopter. The two very nice gents who'd camped out at Watson Lake filed IFR, but came back with a bad mag. We pooled our toolkits and set to work finding and fixing the problem (and fixing a primer line while we were at it). As they were an experienced A&P and IA, I mostly held tools, fetched things, and learned about mags (one of the things that hasn't broken on my plane yet. ) After fixing the obvious problem, reassembling and timing everything, and finding the secondary problem, we turned to the mechanic Sky North found. He wasn't officially working today, but was doing paperwork in the shop. A new mag was procured, timing box borrowed, and the airplane repaired.

I saw them off, as ceilings has risen, bit visibility had dropped to 5 miles with light rain and mist. I don't mind relatively low ceilings, but I very much mind low visibility. You don't hit what you see coming. So I hung out, chatted with folks, and am preparing for a second night with my sleeping bag on the couch of incredible comfiness.

Tomorrow, if the low goes where I want it to, I'll be in Ft. St. John, or maybe all the way to Grande Prairie. If not, there are a lot worse places to spend a quiet Sunday! Maybe I'll even find all the autocorrect spelling and grammar errors in these last posts...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Watson Lake

The sound of Watson Lake is the silence of wind and sparrows, as rain falls on distant hills. I asked the radio as I landed long where the fuel was, and they said, "Just look for the big white tank that says AVGAS." The fuel tank I needed was behind me, so I went left instead of right, toward the big tank that said AVGAS 100LL. This tank belonged to the forestry fire-fighting base, as it sat next to the Jet A tank and three tanks of fire retardant for water bombers. The only person on duty came out to wave me off, but we got to talking instead. Well, some talking, and a lot of watching the distant rain, and waving idly at mosquitos.

The entire airfield is huge, for all the crosswind runway is closed and the control tower stands vacant (but unlike the WWII hangar barely inhabited by a very few planes and a great many swallows nesting above the doors, near-pristine.) Inside the terminal with its motion-activated lights, the walls are covered with pictures from the lend-lease program, and inset glass cases with artifacts. It was utterly silent, and felt like a monument to flight - not even a museum, but rather something lovingly gathered and preserved, in pristine condition, to a town once thriving, to a distant past when air travel was not an intrusive, abusive trial, set in a museum exhibit to the history of flight in the Yukon.

In a low side wing, there are signs of life - the television keeping the person behind Watson Lake Radio awake. The Community Aerodrome Radio Station folks in the Yukon have all been very friendly, very accustomed to solitude, and very willing to talk about anything to a live human being. The brothers who man the afternoon and graveyard shifts were no elections to this rule, and shared in-depth history and background on the weather patterns, from the vicious spring fog to the frequency of thunderstorms, and on life in general.

Out by the gazebo by the lake, two gentlemen from Massachusetts and the most mellow Jack Russell terriers ever were camping with their 182... the first example of the breed I can remember seeing with small tires and wheelpants. When not modified for the bush, they can haul serious amounts of stuff at very high rates of speed! They very generously shared their dinner, and we talked late into the night on aircraft maintenance, sattelite components, balloon launching in Antarctica, dogs, guns, and people.

No matter how nice the night (and it was beautiful), I elected to forego the 5 star camping experience for a warm, dry couch with no beautiful views of the long sunset, no campfire, no haunting cries of loons... and no mosquitos, no rain, and thermostat controlled warmth. Romantic, after two nights camping, I am not.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In whitehorse

Got escorted to the border by The Gunny and J of Call to Wings. Wonderful time, awesome friends. Miss them already.

Made Beaver Creek at 8pm local, cleared customs, got tent set up, tea and oatmeal, went to sleep.

Then it rained. and rained. And rained.

Made it whitehorse anyway. Exhausted. Thuderstorms popping up all over, going to stay here tonight.

Cell phone no worky. May update later, may update in Montana. Take care!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

-The Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key

It's not a perfect nation by any stretch, but there are none better. I'm proud to belong to her in bone, blood, and spirit, and grateful for all my ancestors who fought and fled to come here, and all the men and women, military and civilian, who have made and continue to make her the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rain, rain go away

This is not a sign of hope and cheer. This is a sign that the cloud deck is a little broken over by the next range of mountains to the west, and the sun has sunk down low enough to light the rain falling on our heads. (This was taken around 11:30pm last night.)

Tahetna Pass - Closed. Eureka - MVFR. Gulkana - MVFR. Mentasta Pass - about what you'd expect, but at least you can see sunlight in the broken layers! Big Delta - MVFR. Northway - IFR.

So for those of you who were asking, that's what a double rainbow means.