This past Memorial Day weekend I attended the Red Hills fly in! The fly in was started years ago by.. well me! I flew in to the Red Hills strip with a friend and paid a visit to my dear friends Jack and Myrna. The reason for the visit was to introduce them to my friend Joey so that he could fly in there when ever he wanted. We told them about our flying and camping adventures and I mentioned that their ranch and strip would be a great place for a fly-in and camp out. Jack thought it was a great idea and so Memorial Day weekend was selected and the Red Hills Fly-in was born! I tried to keep up with organizing these fly-ins for a few years but my day job kept getting in the way. Also getting rid of my airplane made it so I spent less time on the back country airplane forums. We’re very grateful that Rich Finkle decided to take on organizing the fly-ins and keeps up with it today. Now I can just show up and enjoy myself!
This year saw the lowest turnout of any year we’ve held the fly-in. Mechanical issues and weather kept most pilots away. Even though I don’t have a plane to fly there anymore I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I loaded my powered parachute on my trailer, threw my tent and some clothes in the back of my truck and headed up the hill to Moyle Valley Ranch in the heart of Red Hills. No matter if I flew my plane in past years, or drove my truck up this year, it takes an hour door to door to get there.
I pulled into the ranch after navigating the serpentine dirt road to get there. I saw one airplane parked in the parking area and Jack Moyle with a big smile on his face walking up to greet me. I said hello to him and Myrna Moyle and then was introduced to the pilot who and flown in. I’ve met him before but I always let Jack introduce me to people if he wants to. I proceeded to set my tent up and after I was all settled it was time to drive into Jamestown for dinner. As there were only 5 of us there, (Jack and his wife Myrna, John and ladyfriend Gayle, and me playing the role of bachelor) we rode into Jamestown in Jack’s truck to forage for dinner.
Jack suggested a place he and Myrna hadn’t been to yet called The Service Station. They have standard pub food and a decent selection of beers and wines. And a darn-good iced tea as well! All agreed that the food was pretty darned good. Conversation mainly hovered around hearing aids. 😀 Comparing features and prices. Then things got really good when Jack and John started arguing over whether Jack was going to pay for his dinner or not. As I was sitting between then I thought it best to move to a safer position in case they came to throwing punches. I’m not sure who won but no one got a black eye and all the bills were paid.
After dinner Jack ran me by Dollar General so I could buy some batteries for my air mattress pump. The rest of the group wandered the streets (street?) of Jamestown looking at all the closed shops. Jamestown is still small town America and they close up pretty early at night. Especially on a holiday weekend. I got my batteries and Jack swung back by and picked the rest of the group up and we headed back to the ranch.
When we got there Joey Meyers, his wife Suzanne, and their daughter Kylie had arrived and set up camp. They had driven in with Joey’s powered parachute packed up in the back of their toy hauler. Apparently it was quite the adventure getting from Vacaville to Red Hills. Highway closures and holiday traffic turned a two hour trip into a 4 hour ordeal. They finally made it and decompressed a bit as we all caught up on everyone’s news. We shivered in the wind for a bit but once it got dark we all decided to turn in early. It was cold, VERY windy and Jack didn’t want to chance starting a campfire that night so we all called it a day. I crossed my fingers and hoped for a less windy Saturday as I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up on Saturday morning it was just starting to get light out. The birds were singing and it sounded like the wind had stopped! Then after laying in my sleeping back for about 2 minutes I heard a big “whoosh” sound in the trees and my tent started flapping again. I peeked out and looked at the windsock, it couldn’t make up it’s mind which way it wanted to point. I zipped my tent shut and crawled back into my sleeping back and went back to sleep. It was STILL windy.
When I heard people talking and could smell campfire smoke I finally crawled out of my tent and joined Jack and John by the fire. Myrna made fresh coffee and set out some banana bread for breakfast. Before long Mike (can’t remember last name) and his wife showed up from Modesto in his PA-11 and made possibly one of the shortest no-flap landings I have ever seen at Red Hills. More importantly he brought donuts from Mr. T’s in Modesto. They are a local legend in our town. Shortly afterwards Jon and Tom Marring showed up. Jon in his carbon cub and Tom in his Scout. Jon brought sever flats of apricots and a bunch of cantaloupes. Joey also brought some lemons that were the size of grapefruits. And for a while we all sat around the fire and did what pilots do best; tell stories.
Mike and his wife didn’t stay long as they had an afternoon engagement back in Modesto. Tom and Jon left soon after for the same reasons. Other than John Pfaff these were the only other airplanes to show up. The winds had slackened a little when they all left but picked up again soon after. Wind was to be the recurring theme of the weekend and is probably what kept most pilots away.
For the remainder of the afternoon we all just relaxed, took walks, and just talked among ourselves. Joey found a few squawks on my powered parachute and pointed them out to me (thank you Joey). He ran his motor up just in case the wind died down at some point during the weekend (it never did) so he would be ready to hit the skies.
We all decided to have dinner a little early so we started putting food out at around 4:30pm. My wife had arrived with some jalapeno-cheddar sourdough bread from Klean-Eatz Market and Bakery. There was plenty to eat for everyone thanks to Jack and Myrna’s family showing up with lots to eat. We had a nice little buffet with the Moyle family and after they left, we all retired to the campfire. We stayed around the fire until 10pm or so and then retired because the wind was just relentless.
The next morning the wind was… still blowing. Myrna was busy making coffee, scrambled eggs, ham, sausage patties, and PANCAKES! Their son Jim and his son Tanner showed up and helped with breakfast. Then they helped eat breakfast. Everything was delicious and I was stuffed. I don’t normally eat breakfast but I never miss out on Myrna’s pancakes.
After breakfast John and Gayle packed up his 182 and departed for the northern coast. I hung out a bit longer and chatted with everyone. I had already packed up and hitched up my PPC trailer before breakfast so I could just relax afterwards and enjoy my last minutes of peace and quiet. At about 1pm I bid everyone farewell and made the one hour drive back to the flat lands and my home.
As an addendum Joey did stay one more night and was able to get a quick flight in on Memorial Day morning. He said it was smooth on the ground but pretty sporty up in the air. He cut his flight short and got back on the ground.
All in all it was a great fly-in. Far fewer people showed up than signed up. However, it was nice because everyone who did show up was able to talk to each other more. I guess you could call it a more intimate fly-in this year. Even so I’m really hoping for better weather next year and more airplanes. We never know how many more fly-ins we have with these wonderful people. I want to make each one count!
Hope to see more of you next year!