Happy 4th of July!

Independence Day is already here again.  Seems like it was just yesterday.  Our yearly ritual is to walk down to our neighbors two doors down and set off fireworks with them.  Seems like we only really get to see them on the 4th of July.  Every year we laugh and say, “Is it the 4th of July already?”  And when we’re done “Well, see you next year!”  Then it seems like a few weeks go by and it’s 4th of July again!

I decided to start my celebration by taking a flight with my flying buddy Jordan.   I had the plane scheduled for today and asked him if he wanted to come along.  He got permission from the home office so we made a plan to fly to Hollister.  Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating.  Right after we took off from Oakdale I could see some wisps of fog on the hills on the west side of the valley.  As we got closer it became more and more apparent that everything west of the Diablo Range was fogged in.


We overflew the range just to be sure but… we were pretty sure.


So for the second flight in a row we landed at Los Banos to swap seats.  Jordan flew the outbound leg this time so it was up to me to fly us home.  Before we left we walked around the ramp and checked out a really cool P210 with a turbine engine.  This thing was loaded for bear!

On the way back to the airplane we decided that we would head to a non-foggy destination next time.  Auburn!  It’s a nice flight over the foothills.  Auburn has a slightly challenging downhill runway and a great restaurant on the field.  I have to admit looking forward to flying there because I never thought I’d fly an airplane in to Auburn again.

It was a little breezy in Lost Bananas (Los Banos) but we got off the ground just fine.  We climbed up above the mechanical turbulence from the hills and found silky smooth air at 2500 feet MSL (Mean Sea Level, that’s how pilots usually measure altitude) (but not always).  We tracked northbound over Gustine, Crows Landing Airport, Patterson, and Westley.  We overflew a friend’s strip in Grayson called DelMar.

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 8.03.54 PM

It was getting close to the end of our rental window so I turned eastward and flew just north of Modesto’s airspace (the dotted blue circle around Modesto).  Then we flew a nice easy pattern into Oakdale at 1100 MSL!  (That’s an inside joke between Jordan and I.)

All in all it was a great morning and a great flight.  Jordan’s an excellent pilot so it gives me time to relax and really look around, something I can’t normally do.  Can’t wait for the next flight!

Missionary Aviation

So if you’ve read this blog for very long… all three of you… you know that I’m an avid pilot, builder, and lover of all things aviation.  You’ll also know that I love Christ above all.  That’s why I was thrilled to receive an email from my brother in Christ, Daniel Jones, who is with a missionary organization in Mexico called Rancho Maranatha.  He wrote to tell me that my plane had finally arrived at it’s new home!  Here is a link to their newsletter:  https://mailchi.mp/8e66f1a95d42/the-new-plane-is-here

Here is a video of my (their new) plane arriving!



Monday Morning Flight


Last week while going over the flight planning calendar for the Oakdale Aero Club I noticed my buddy Jordan had an airplane scheduled for Monday morning.  All the other desirable days were booked or the weather report had high winds forecast.  I texted Jordan and asked if he’d like to split the rental.  He texted back that it sounded like a great idea.  So we met up out at Oakdale Municipal Airport at 0600.  The plane got a very thorough preflight inspection as two pilots both performed the inspection.  It’s hard to break old habits.  We decided that I would fly first, then we would land and change seats and Jordan would fly us home.

I started the plane and taxied out to the run-up area at the 28 end of the airport.  I performed the run up and then called on the radio, “Oakdale traffic, Cessna 895 departing runway 28 to the south, Oakdale.”   I lined up on the runway centerline and held the brakes until the engine came up to full RPMs and the released the brakes.    We started rolling down the runway.  At 50 KNOTS I pulled back on the yoke slightly to rotate (raise the nosewheel off the ground).  At 60 KNOTS the airplane gently rose off the runway.  As it was a warm morning I let the airplane accelerate to 80 KNOTS for engine cooling and we climbed up into the buttery smooth air.

UPDATE: Jordan shot some video of the takeoff and finally got it to me.  Here it is:



So… we were actually having more fun than it appears here.  🙂


I turned on course for Los Banos Airport, trimmed the airplane up, and it pretty much flew itself to Los Banos.  There was not a hint of air movement, the little Cessna felt like it was riding on rails.  We cruised southbound over Geer Rd at 2500 feet above sea level (MSL). About 30 minutes later we were pulling onto the downwind portion of the traffic pattern.  I flew the approach and made an OK landing.  Not one of my best but definitely not bad for only 3 hours sleep (long story).

After landing we switched seats and then Jordan taxied out to runway 32.  One more we were climbing up into the warm, smooth June air.


The flight back was just as smooth as the flight over.  Jordan executed a flawless approach and landing though I couldn’t resist having a little fun with the camera.

After landing we handed the aircraft off to the next set of renters and both drove to work having enjoyed a morning of amazing aircraftery, and save a few bucks in the process by splitting the rental.  I see many more mornings ahead of us.

Take Nothing For Granted

I went to my sisters memorial service yesterday. I learned a couple of things.  First is life is fleetingly short.  We can look back at all that we’ve accomplished, all we have yet to do and there is just never enough time.  The second thing is that we tend to take our loved ones for granted.  I always just figured that my sisters would always be out there… somewhere.  Living and enjoying their life.  But I took them all for granted and their lives moved on and in some cases, ended.  No one calls me, I call no one, we all just go through life with tunnel vision, interested in our own little happenings.  We have no clue what’s going on in our extended family…

I’m breaking that cycle.

Weekend Getaway to Vista Ranch and Cellars

I took this past Friday off as my birthday holiday and Cristy and I hitched up the trailer and headed down to Vista Ranch.  Turns out Friday was a good day to head down there as they were set to have live music and food from 6pm to 9pm at Vista Ranch.  I ordered a veggie pizza and Cristy got a farmer’s market salad.  The pizza was delicious.  It was cooked in a woodfire pizza oven onsite.  The salad was made from greens bought at a farmer’s market and was really fresh.  We ate our dinner and then enjoyed the jazz trio for another hour or so.

On Saturday we drove up to Mariposa and let Cristy do a little window shopping in their small downtown.  Then we had lunch at High Country Health Foods & Cafe.  Also great food.  This is a hidden gem in Marioposa right off Highway 140 on the way up to Yosemite.  After lunch it started getting hot so we headed back to the trailer to watch some videos I had downloaded onto the iPad and take a nap.  After dinner we sat outside and watched the sunset.

Sunday morning we had breakfast, watched our church’s live stream and sat out side and just chilled.  We did nothing because we wanted to do nothing.

This was probably the most relaxing outing we’ve had in the trailer yet.  It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t raining, the air conditioner worked perfectly, and the nights cooled down enough to where we didn’t need it.  No allergies, no noise, no worries.  We can’t wait to go out again.


Garmin RV 780 GPS

Get Custom RoutesI recently picked up a Garmin RV 780 GPS to replace my aging Garmin Nuvi.  A lot of people use their smartphones and I get that.  I largely use mine for quick navigation.  But Google maps will not tell you if you have bridge up ahead that is too low for the travel trailer you’re towing!  So I bought a GPS that is geared towards RV’s and camping.

Know What’s Ahead

I pulled it out of the box and found it very easy and intuitive to set up and use.  I still haven’t looked at the manual or online documentation yet.  Haven’t needed to.  It goes through a start up wizard where it connects to a WiFi network, and then tries to pair to your phone via Bluetooth.  Both worked well.  After connecting to my home WiFi network I did a system and database update.  This took about 30 minutes to download and install but it did everything itself.  I didn’t need to intervene other than to restart the download one time.  (We were watching Netflix at the time so that could have something to do with it).  Part of the setup suggests that you install their Garmin mobile app on your smartphone which will allow you to get real-time traffic and weather updates as well a do hands-free calling on your phone (if your car doesn’t already do that).  Incoming emails and texts can also be displayed.

Outsmart the TrafficThe features in this unit and the speed FAR surpass my old GPS unit.  Screen updates are really fast and it’s very responsive to touch input.  Inputting a route is very easy as it autocompletes what you are typing and brings up suggestions you can select rather than type out the entire place name.   You can also use the Garmin Drive App to find the place you are going to and send it to the RV 780 so you never even need to touch the GPS.  I love the real-time traffic updates.  It will tell you what’s been reported up ahead on your route and how much time it will add.  It also has the capability to display images from traffic cameras up ahead on your route too though I haven’t found a way to make it do that automatically like it does with traffic.  Also the traffic camera images don’t refresh, they are just snapshots. One of the dislikes I have is the voice that they have chosen to use in this GPS.  It’s a slightly abrasive female voice.  I prefer the female voice in my older Garmin unit.

I’ve still yet to use this on an actual trip with my travel trailer.  I’ve only used it a couple of days on my commute to work.  But on those drives it’s worked really well.  After I get a few more miles under my belt I’ll report back on how it’s doing.

Malignant No More!

Got the good news today that the report came back from my melanoma surgery and they got it all!  I can’t tell you what a relief this is.  Well, yes I can.  I literally cried when I read the results.  Then I praised God for carrying me through this.  Then I finally cried and was able to truly mourn losing my sister to cancer.

It takes me a while to process things.  My brains seems to work on things at a subconscious level.  When I have problems at work that I can’t figure out.  I go do something else for a while and stop thinking about it.  Later, the solution suddenly comes to me.  My emotions seem to work the same way.   When something happens that would normally cause deep emotions, mine just turn off.  I can completely ignore them for days, weeks, or even months.  I can continue to function in the most dire of circumstances.

But then one day…  It all comes back to me and just releases.  Today was one of those days.  God has complete lifted these emotional burdens from me.  I can think and feel again.  I can look at God’s gifts in this moment and be grateful.  And in just one day I have these things to be grateful to God for:

  • Another year of life.
  • The wonderful brownie my daughter baked me and the amazingly sweet birthday card she gave me.  Her talent, and just plain ol’ her!  I love her.
  • Being able to have a quiet lunch with my wife.
  • My wife.  A woman who helps me, supports me, prays for me, and selflessly loves me.  I love her.
  • My son.  Just because I love him.
  • A job that, even though it didn’t go the way I wanted it to today, still supports me and my family, coworkers that care and support me, and a boss that largely stays out of my hair. 🙂
  • Another chance tomorrow!

Life is wonderful but God is wonderfuller!