Sedona Trip 2021 Day 6

Sunday was a laid back day for us. I made a breakfast of bacon and eggs for us and then we looked up local churches to attend. We ended up attending church at River Bible Church in Cottonwood. It’s at the top of the hill and build on an old cement plant. The people at the church were very welcoming and friendly and the pastor delivered a great message. The message was about not living in fear because nothing separates us from God.

After church we drove back to the downtown area and had lunch at Crema. Cristy took this opportunity to do some more indoor hunting (shopping). She got to check out some of the stores that were closed earlier in the week. Then we headed back to the trailer and took a LONG nap, and did our laundry. For dinner I cooked bacon, chicken-skewers, and zuchini on our Blackstone griddle. After dinner I had a long soak in the community hot tub (as I did most nights). Then took a shower in Rain Spirit’s super clean shower rooms. It was a great day of rest!

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 5

One of the reasons I chose to stay in/near Cottonwood, AZ was because that is where my father learned to fly in WWII. It was near the end of the war and after he exited the pilot training program he never flew again. However, I still wanted to see where he learned to fly. Cottonwood airport is at the top of a large bluff above the town and sits in the shadow of Mingus Mountain. The mountain protects the airport from southerly winds and in the morning it is generally calm anyway. We pulled up and was let into the pilot’s lounge by the last of the Saturday morning regulars. I got to chat with them briefly but it was still fun. Cristy noted it was just like being at Oakdale. I didn’t know them yet those guys and I were talking about airplanes and flying like we’d known each other for years. After getting some gas we headed back to the trailer to eat lunch.

If my dear sister is reading this can you ask Dad if he knew Hank Thompson? He was a flight instructor that was there at the time and the plaque below is dedicated to him.

After lunch we decided to bag another “energy vortex”; Bell Rock. There are two places to park, one is just north of Bell Rock, the other about 3/4 of a mile south. There was no room in the north lot so we parked to the south. This was actually good because we had stunning views of the rock as we walked toward it. As we drew closer we saw people about halfway up the rock on the large flat butte that helps give Bell Rock it’s shape. We also saw were people were climbing up to get to that butte so we also climbed up the rock. No small feat for my bad back and Cristy who is not a climber! Or should I say, wasn’t. She made it with the help of three sweet Mexican women who were visiting, a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother who were just sliding down on their butts where we were about to climb up. I climbed up first and positioned myself to pull Cristy up. When she couldn’t quite reach me the mother interlocked her fingers and made a step with her hands telling Cristy, “here, step in my hands! It’s fine you’re not that heavy!”

Cristy did step in her hands, I grabbed her hand and pulled her the rest of the way up. We scrambled up a few more not so hard climbs and finally got to the large flat area we had seen others on. The view was incredible…

Cristy after climbing up the rock

We walked around the mesa for a bit and sat and took in the scenery for a while until the sun started getting low. The mosquitoes were about to come out and it was about to get cold. More importantly, we were getting hungry so we started to think about heading back. That’s when I saw it. Remember that parking lot north of Bell Rock, I could see it, fairly close to where we were. And leading to it, a nice, gradual trail; no climbing involved!

Well okay then.

We took that trail down to where it met up with the trail that led to the south parking lot and made our way back to the truck taking in the last of the views.

We then ate dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant that was only OK and then headed back to the trailer. If you’re ever in Sedona take some time to visit Bell Rock! I don’t believe in the energy vortex stuff but I do believe God made some beautiful scenery!

Loved Bell Rock!

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 4

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Our main goal for Day 4 was to hike to one of the energy vortices that Sedona is known for. We decided to hike to Boynton Canyon as our first to visit. It is located far back on the north eastern side of Sedona. We chose this one as it was more off the beaten track and we hoped we wouldn’t have a parking problem. Also, and here is a pro-tip, we planned to get there around 4:30pm as this is when most of the tourists are leaving for the day. As expected parking was fairly easy and we started our hike.

The first part of the hike was fairly level and very picturesque. Most of the people we ran into were going the other way. About halfway down the trail it began going uphill but still not too bad. Even for someone with an injured back like me!

The closer we got toe the “vortex” the steeper the trail became. Being flatlanders we had to stop every so often to catch our breath but all things considered it wasn’t too bad of a climb. It was all worth it when we reached the top as the views were stunning!

I was very proud of Cristy as she normally doesn’t do this type of hiking. But her new hiking shoes really seemed to help her with her footing. She was actually doing better than me! As I alluded to earlier, back was injured so I had to take it easy.

This trea marks where the vortex is generally supposed to be

After enjoying the views for a while we hiked back down before the sun got too low and the air got too chilly.

Easily my favorite image from the hike. Looking back up at the vortex

We could do this hike several more times and probably not see the same things twice. Give it a try next time you’re in Sedona.

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 3

This was the first full day of our vacation. We could wake up when we want and not drive anywhere if we didn’t want to. It was the first chance we’d really had to take a look at the RV park we were staying in. The night before we just had time to set up before the sun went down. So glad I picked this place!

After enjoying the view for a bit we wanted coffee. We don’t drink coffee enough to actually have a coffee maker. It’s just a once or twice a week thing for us. We decided to head into the old town area of Cottonwood to see if we could find some place to get a good coffee. After some searching we ended up at a place called Crema Craft Kitchen. The coffee was delicious! Cristy couldn’t help herself and ordered a breakfast salad (oh the irony, salad for breakfast?) It was actually delicious! But not a good as the huge, gooey cinnamon roll I ordered. That plus the latte I ordered made for a very decadent breakfast (I usually don’t eat breakfast). If you’re ever in Cottonwood, AZ I highly recommend you give them a try!

After our late breakfast we decided to try to do some hiking. I wanted to hike to a place called Devil’s Kitchen. However when we got to the trailhead in East Sedona we could find no parking. So we drove back towards town a little, found a place to pull off the road and hiked on one of the city’s trails.

After our short hike we headed back to the trailer to take our usual afternoon nap, cook dinner, watch a movie and pretty much call it a day. Well, we did go on a walk around the RV park just before dinner.

Sorry it’s taking so long to update these blog posts. My pesky job keeps getting in the way!

More to come…

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 1 and 2

I’m going to group day 1 and 2 of our trip into one post because it was mostly driving to get there. Our plan WAS to drive to Barstow, CA the first day and then from there to Cottonwood, AZ the next day. Well, Clarkdale really, it’s right next to Cottonwood. However, the weather wasn’t cooperating. There was a high wind warning between Mohave, CA and Kingman, AZ. I didn’t want to drive through those kinds of winds so we elected to stop in Bakersfield, CA for the night and get an early start the next day.

Eating lunch just across the AZ border from Needles, CA

The next day the winds were gone and we had a save uneventful drive most of the way… Until we passed Williams, AZ. The clouds started to darken and BIG rain drops began slowly falling on us. Then there was lightening and thunder and the heavens poured forth their bounty. The big rigs didn’t seem to mind they just flew through the torrent on the winding mountain highway like it wasn’t even raining at all. Between the rain and the mist the truck tires were throwing up visibility was maybe 100 feet. I just gripped the wheel with my white knuckles and slowed down and took my time. Eventually we arrived in Flagstaff, AZ, the rain had stopped and it was literally all down hill from there. We finally arrived at Rain Spirit RV Resort (ironic name, huh) at 5:45pm. The office closed at 5pm but the hosts came back and checked us in. 7am to 5:45pm on the road is way too much!

We set up the trailer, cooked some dinner, and went to bed. Too bad the thunderstorms kept waking us up all night! More about that in the next installment.

When We Triumphantly Return To The Skies

Well, as that overly-hyped title says today marks my return to flight status. As I wrote in this post I had to make repairs due to what happened when my PPC fell off the trailer. This morning was perfect flying weather. I headed out to New Jerusalem just as the sun was coming up. I started setting up shortly before 7am and left the ground at 7:18am.

This is NOT the runway I took off from! It’s over to the left. This is the old parallel runway that is leased by local farmers.

I climbed to about 200 feet and just started cruising around the field making sure everything still works. It all did. So are started wandering a little farther afield. That’s really not too far considering my airspeed is only 27-30 mph. But the Pink Panther just kept purring like a little pink kitten.

So it wasn’t a very long flight today, maybe about 30 minutes or so. I have to find a solution for the seat. It only comes up just to my lower back and my back starts to ache after about 20 minutes or so. It’s sure building up my core muscles!

Front and back seat of my powered parachute

As you can see from the above photo, the back seat passenger has full back support, the pilot has to rely on the back seat passenger for back support – they ARE the back support! Without anyone in the back seat I have no back support. I’m going to try to rig up some pillows to lean against for more comfortable, longer flights. Still, it’s great to be back in the sky!

See you next time!

When We Fix What We Break

When we last tuned in our intrepid pilot was kicking himself for crashing his pink flying thing while it was still on the ground and he wasn’t even in it! Well, about $500 later we’re back to having an airworthy flying machine again! It took about three weeks total to order the repair parts and have them delivered. It took about a day and a half to actually make the repairs.

The propeller was sent back and recondition back to good as new. Each blade was rebalanced and sent back. This was the first repair I made. After receiving the blades back I re-assembled the propeller, attached it to the engine, and set the blade angle at 12 degrees (as measured from the hub of the prop).

Then, a few days later I received the aluminum tubing back. It took about 8 hours to re-drill all the holes and bolt the tubes back on the airframe. Here is the end result:

Tubing finally drilled out and mounted

All damage repaired!

As you can see from the photos, the grey unpainted tubing are the repairs. I will disassemble one tube at a time and repaint them gloss black. I will paint the ring section in place as it is riveted in. That will take about a week. I should be flying next Saturday, painted or not!

When We Don’t Properly Secure A Load

I’ve been involved in two aircraft accidents… crashes if you will. My favorite line is “I crash better than anyone I know.” Well, recently I found out that I could even crash an aircraft when I’m not even in it, heck, when it’s not even flying! Here’s the story.

I wanted to go flying before work a few weeks ago so loaded everything up and drove out to New Jerusalem. When I arrived I found two crop dusters working on the field. That’s not a problem I just take off from the taxiway and they use the runway and we stay out of each other’s way. I started to unload my PPC but then there was a spray rig spraying who-knows-what on the almond trees at the end of the runway and clouds of it were blowing onto that end of the airport. I decided I would just drive to the other end of the runway and fly from there. The front wheel was already disconnected but the two rear wheels were still tied down. I thought it would be fine if I drove slow.

Can you see where this is going?

I started driving to the other end of the field. About half way down… I hit a bump. Something caught my eye in the rear-view mirror: it was the nosewheel of my PPC sticking way up in the air! I quickly stopped and walked back to find the back of my PPC on the ground. The bottom of the fan ring (the ring that protects the prop) was broken as were the three lower supports that connect it to the rest of the airframe. The whole rear of the PPC was resting on one prop blade.

Ugh.

It was a struggle but I go the PPC off the trailer, loaded it back up and properly lashed it all down. I was so angry with myself I couldn’t go into work. I got home and started assessing the damage.

Broken fan ring segment
Broken lower support tube – supports the fan ring
Another view of the broken support tube
This is where the propeller contacted the ground
Another broken support tube
Center support tube all ground up where it was skidding on the ground

The good news is that repair parts have been ordered. The prop is being repaired and is on it’s way back to me. So within a couple of weeks we should have the Pink Panther back in the air. And we learned a valuable lesson about securing loads on the trailer. Don’t ever move it unless all three wheels of the PPC are tied down!

Mallion Repair

My Six Chuter Powered Parachute is running well now however, I did notice one issue a few weeks ago. I had gotten my lines twisted somehow and so to straighten it out I had to detach the parachute from the cables that attach it to the airframe. In doing so I found one of the mallions (also known as a rapid link) did not snug down properly when I re-tightened the turnbuckle to close it. I couldn’t turn it by hand so it was probably safe, but it wasn’t right so I decided to replace it.

This is what a mallion looks like:

Mallion or rapid link

To use it you put the rope, chain, or cable through the opening and then screw the turnbuckle shut until it is snug. It should look like this:

Properly closed mallion

But this one looked like this:

Stripped turnbuckle

This would would turn past where it should have stopped and snugged itself. Probably okay but not right. So as I said I replaced not only this mallion but all six. There are three per side. Why are these so important? Because they attach the airframe to the parachute.

Brand new mallions

Two mallions connect the parachute lines to the cables that connect to the airframe, and one mallion holds the two cables together. This is what I hang from! Incidentally the red rope is the brake or steering line, it is connected to the rudder bar on the airframe and the back side of the parachute. The are all new now so I can feel a little safer when flying!

Flying the String Wing Again

If you’ll recall in my blog post titled I Went And Bought A Thing I bought a powered parachute (PPC). I’ve made some engine modifications and done all the testing and everything looks good. I’ve flown it 4 times now and am finally getting comfortable being back in the string wing saddle again.

This morning I drove out to New Jerusalem to get a quick flight in before work. I was greeted with not one but two crop duster crews. I went and talked to them to find out where they would be flying so I could stay out of their way. Wasn’t going to be a problem. In order to further stay out of their way I took off and landed on the taxiway. The crop dusters never use it. They land toward their ground crews and take off in the opposite direction; no matter what the wind is doing.

I laid out my parachute and hopped into my little pink go cart. I was a little worried about starting it. It gets notoriously hard to start when the engine is hot. This is why I don’t let it warm up too much before flying. However, I needn’t have worried, it fired up on the first pull. After a quick prayer thanking God for this gift and for His protection, I punched the throttle. The chute popped off the ground and inflated nicely. The taxiway had plenty of room for me to maneuver and stabilize the chute. Once it had stabilized I added throttle and pretty much just jumped off the ground. I reduced throttle to put it in a gentle climb.

I tried to keep my eyes on the crop dusters because they rarely use the radio. I listened for them on the radio anyway. After getting getting airborne I noted that there was a pretty good breeze blowing at about 100 feet off the ground. My forward progress slowed considerably the higher I climbed. Even though there was no wind at ground level, it was definitely breezy above. But it was smooth so no problem.

Cruising over the orchard next to the runway
Sunrise

After about 20 minutes of cruising around near the airport it was time to head back so I could get to work on time. I didn’t want to get too far from the airport as last time I had a fuel line rupture after I had landed. I repaired the problem but I wanted to stay close in case the broken fuel line was a symptom and not THE problem. I flew out over the orchard to the south of the runway and made an abbreviated approach (made possible by the stiff breeze). Just above the runway the wind quit and I sped up! Not a problem though, it actually helped my landing. After landing everything on the fuel line looked good. Having survived a sortie in the sky once more I loaded up the “Pink Thing”, taunted the crop duster crew a little, and then drove to work.

As a treat for reading this far here is a short video from the flight this morning.