Awesome Day

Flight to Columbia

It’s one of those days that I need to keep me going.  It started out early and COLD!  My flying buddy Jordan texted me last night and asked if I wanted to go on a quick flight the next morning.  Just a quick 30 minute flight up to Columbia (O22) and back to Oakdale (O27).  I had plans to drive up to Sacramento with Cristy but I had a feeling that I could fly with Jordan and be back home before Cristy even had breakfast.  Turns out, that was the case.

I met up with Jordan out at the airport around 6:00am or so.  We got the airplane ready (trying not to shiver too much in the predawn twilight). We squeezed ourselves into our little Cessna 152 and were taxiing out to take off just as the sun was starting to peek above the Sierras.

 

It was a beautiful flight up to Columbia.  Nothing would be open when we got there but that wasn’t the point.  Whenever I fly, and this morning was no exception, the destination is always secondary to the journey.  The journey IS the destination.

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As I said it is a quick flight up to Columbia from Oakdale.  It’s the “mountain airport” in our back yard.  It took about 30 minutes to fly up there.  No small feat as we were flying almost directly into the sun.   The airport is very difficult to locate as it sits in the shadow of a hill and is hard to spot during these early mornings until you are right on top of it.  However, Jordan demonstrated his piloting prowess and got us in and down in one piece.

As I thought everything was closed when we got there.  It was only about 7:30am and they hadn’t opened up the FBO yet.

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We piled back into the plane and headed back down to Oakdale.  Yours truly was the pilot in command for the return leg of the trip.  We scampered skyward and followed the lava flows from Columbia back down to Knights Ferry and then back home to Oakdale.  I entered on a left crosswind and made a fairly decent landing.  It was an awesome way to start the day.

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Pilot Life

LaMesa RV

After the flight I headed back home and picked Cristy up and we drove up to Sacramento.  The reason for our trip was to check out some 5th wheel trailers at LaMesa RV.  On the way up I stopped off at Meeks RV in Acampo to pick up some repair parts for my Lance 1995 travel trailer.  They were minor nuts and bolts, easily repairable and no need to take the whole trailer in.

The 5th wheels we wanted to see at LaMesa are a new brand that just came to my notice called Vanleigh.  They are manufactured by Tiffin, the famous motor coach manufacturer.  We have been looking at them online and liked what we saw but we wanted to see what the build quality was like.  While we originally went up to look at the Vanleigh Pinecrest models, once we saw them we were underwhelmed by the build quality.  We looked at the next model up the Vilano series and found them much more to our liking.  We ended up liking one of their larger models the best and this kind of surprised us.

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385RD Floorplan

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We’ve always looked at rear living models but none were laid out this way.  We also really liked the HUGE (YUUUGE) rear storage bay.

I wouldn’t want to put really heavy items back there but it would be great for bulky items.  I also wish the build quality was slightly better.  I understand them wanting to use really light materials but it gave the overall feel of the unit a chintzy feel.  Overall the interior looked great and they paid attention to a lot of details that other manufacturers miss.  I’m not sure this has changed our mind away from the Grand Design units but we did change our mind about one thing though; we’re not going to limit ourselves on the size of the trailer.  If it’s 40 feet, then it’s 40 feet.  Smaller would be better but it’s not a deal-killer anymore.

In my next blog post I’ll do a comparison of the 5th wheel models we are considering at the moment and why.

 

Saturday Flight To Willows

It’s been a month since I’ve flown.  I spent the last two weeks working and the three prior to that traveling with my wife in our travel trailer.  After so long the sky was calling and I had to answer.  I decided a nice cross country was in order.  My destination was one I used to stop at quite often years ago.  When I flew up into Oregon in my old Aeronca Champ, I would stop for fuel at Willows-Glenn Airport.  They also had a nice cafe on the field called Nancy’s.  I decided that I needed a nice breakfast from Nancy’s so off to Willows I flew.

The air was super smooth this morning.  Fall in California’s Central Valley always brings calm hazy air.  Today was the very definition of that.  After I reached my cruising altitude of 3000 feet I leveled off, trimmed the airplane for level flight, and didn’t have to touch the yoke again until I was entering the pattern at Willows.  All that was needed to make course corrections was just very light pressure on the rudders.

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I flew northwest towards Davis, Ca, then turned due north towards Willows.

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The approach and landing at Willows were both super easy as there was no wind.

I landed, tied down the airplane, and walked through the airport gate to Nancy’s.

Nancy’s is kind of an old school diner.  Lots of pictures on the wall of aircraft and pilots.  Most of them have gone west.  I asked the waitress what I should get.  I wanted the kind of breakfast that when I told people I went to Nancy’s, they’d ask “Oh!  Did you get the … ???”  What should that be. She suggested their ham.  I am so glad she did!

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After eating more than I should have I took a walk around the airport.  Not much to see but I did run across one interesting little tidbit.  The airport beacon (the flashing red and green light that help pilots find the airport at night) is made from an old airmail beacon.  If you’ll recall I visited the Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum where they have an entire museum dedicated to the airmail beacons.  It was really cool to see one still around and in use.

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After such a big breakfast I was wondering if the airplane could even get me off the ground.  But the takeoff and climbout were uneventful.  An hour and change later I was landing back at Oakdale.  All in all it was a great Saturday and a great flight!

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Trip to Hardin – Day 12

Turnaround decision revisited…

I didn’t get to update the blog yesterday due to lack of Internet.  We had to stay at a KOA in Grants due to there being no room anywhere near Albuquerque because of the balloon festival.  This KOA had very poor WiFi and I can understand why.  We also had poor data reception on our cell phones.  Verizon was showing only a couple of bars of LTE, no 3G or 4G.  So… it was slow, even on our phones.

Before talking about the Grants area, let me catch you up on our travel day.  Here is why we were unable to continue.  The line of thunderstorms stretched from El Paso, TX all the way up to Minnesota.  It was a slow moving line as well.    This is what we would either have to drive through or delay for.  We didn’t have time to delay our trip and be able to make it back to work in time.  So, we turned around and headed to…screenshot_20191001-070951

Grants, New Mexico

As it turns out, Grants was a wonderful place to stop for two reasons, the Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum and El Malpais National Monument.

Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum

This museum is a restoration of two forms of aviation infrastructure, now both largely gone.  The first and foremost reason I wanted to visit this museum is it’s exhibit on vintage airway beacons.  In many places throughout the country people have stumbled on mysterious concrete arrows and wondered what they were for.  At this museum they have completely restored the concrete arrow and the lighted beacon tower it supported.  As well as the generator sheds that accompanied these towers to power them.  These beacons lighted the way for early airmail aviators so they could continue to fly the mail at night.  There were literally hundreds of these arrows and towers across the country.   The museum is only open on Saturdays so we took the outside walking tour.  There are free pamphlets you can grab that talk about the outdoor exhibits and the history.  This was one of the stops I was most looking forward to.

 

Grants, New Mexico

If you’ve ever seen the movie Cars, think “Radiator Springs” and you pretty much have Grants.  Still it was fun to drive down the main drag and look for remnants of her Route 66 glory days.  We stopped at AutoZone to buy a new tire pressure gauge.  Then we stopped at a touristy little spot to take a picture.

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El Malpais National Monument

After visiting the museum we decided to check out El Malpais (literally, The Badlands in Spanish).   El Malpais is a hugh lava field created by volcanic erruptions.  Spanish explorers named it El Malpais due the fact that it was impassible for their horses.  The terrain is literally littered with razor sharp chunks of black lava.  They had to find a way around.  Other than some Indians that lived in the area the place was largely abandoned for thousands of years.

We drove out into the park and stopped at an area with some sandstone bluffs.  This turned out to be the hidden gem in all of Grants.  Here is a taste of the sandstone bluffs:

 

We drove a little farther down the road and stopped at La Ventana, a large natural arch.  It’s a nice easy hike, only about 10 minutes from the parking lot.

Afterwards we drove back and had dinner back at our trailer.  And enjoyed a beautiful New Mexico sunset thanks to the storms passing by to the east.

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All in all our decision to turn around was a good one.  We saw some things we may not have had time for otherwise.

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Trip to Hardin – Day 5

Travel Day

Today was just a travel day and a short one at that.  Cristy slept in a little while I read my book outside under the awning.  It was 75 degrees at 7:00am.  Perfect reading weather.   A hummingbird flew up to me several times, probably wondering where our feeder was.  Sorry bud.

After Cristy woke up and had her breakfast I began the ritual of dumping the tanks.  Black, then turn on the tank flush, then drain, then flush, then drain, then pump a few gallons in for good measure.  Then I empty the gray tank.  Clean and stow the hose and accessories.  Then pull my disposable gloves off, one inside the other.  Then hand sanitize and call it done.

That’s when I noticed our first damage.  I shouldn’t really call it damage.  A cotter pin came out of our hitch when we were driving the truck yesterday and we almost lost a very crucial part of the weight distribution hitch.  Luckily it didn’t fall out.  I was able to push it back in and safety wire it in place.   It looked much nicer when we started this morning.  This is what it looked like once we arrived in Williams, AZ at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park.

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The trip over only took about 3 hours.  And it can be summed up in one word: UP.  It was all uphill.  We stopped for gas in Seligman.  The scenery is beautiful but the highway and the wind kept my attention mostly on the road so I didn’t have time to grab any pictures.  I’ll have to see if Cristy did.

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Tomorrow we take the train to the Grand Canyon!

Awesome Friday

Morning Flight

This was a great Friday.  Due to some personal business I was FORCED to take the day off.  Okay, no one forced me, I forced myself.   But since I was home anyway, and I didn’t want to wake Cristy, I decided to head out to Oakdale to test out my new Electronic Flight Bag.  An EFB has all the info a pilot needs including airport information, temporary flight restriction, NOTAMS, and most important of all, up to date navigation charts.  The EFB I use runs on my iPad and it’s called Foreflight.  Foreflight will display your aircraft’s GPS position right on a navigation chart, what’s more, it integrates with the airplane’s transponder to display ADS-B data on the chart as well.  What’s ADS-B data, you may ask?  It’s basically real-time traffic position data that is transmitted by air traffic control every time their radar sweeps the sky.   Today was to be the first time I display traffic on my EFB and it worked like a charm!

I booked the Cessna 152 out at the airport at 6am and by 6:30am was climbing out and heading south for a quick flight to Turlock and back.  As I said this was mostly just to test the ADS-B functionality of my EFB.  I was amazed how many airplanes it picked up.  It won’t pick up every aircraft in the sky but it will pick up a good portion of them.  In fact, it picked up one that was dead ahead of me and at my same altitude.  I scanned the sky carefully and was finally able to see it!  Another aircraft heading into Turlock.  You can see it in the photo below depicted as N543RR.

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I continued my approach into Turlock, landed, taxied back, and took off again for Oakdale.  Fiddling with my new EFB the whole way back.  I was an early adopter of ForeFlight years ago and I can’t believe how may features they have packed into it now!  After arriving back at Oakdale I put the plane away and began on the second part of my awesome Friday!

 

RV Trip to Gold Country Campground Resort

On my way home from the airport I swung by the RV storage yard and picked up our Lance travel trailer.  I had reserved two nights at Gold Country Campground Resort.  We packed up our food and clothes and then headed up into the Sierra Nevada foothills to try to beat the heatwave we were experiencing down in the Central Valley.  Unfortunately, our campground was not high enough in elevation to beat much of the heat.

We checked in at the campground office and were given a map to our site.  I asked if it was a pull-thru or back-in site and the young woman told me it was a back-in site.  So after finding the site and backing in, I found that the utilities (power, water, sewer) were on the wrong side of the trailer!  It was actually a head-in site!  I pulled out and went round the loop again and pulled straight into the site and then everything lined up perfectly.

After getting set up we cranked up the AC to cool off.  It was 97 degrees outside!  We took a nap first hoping to sleep away the hotted part of the day.  It was still hot when we woke up so we jumped into the truck and drove into town to get some ice cream.  Munnerlyn’s Ice Creamery was just a few miles away in the town of Pine Grove.  We stopped in and got some vegan blueberry ice cream.  It is non-dairy and made out of coconut and blueberries.  I’m NOT a vegan but this stuff was delicious!  All of their ice creams are hand made onsite and it is worth a trip if you are anywhere within a 2 hour drive!

After dessert we decided it was time for dinner.  We drove down to Jackson and had dinner at Highway House Restaurant and Bar.  Afterwards we drove back to the campground and sat out under the awning while the sun went down.  Then we watch some Netflix shows I had saved on our iPad and then we turned in.

More to come…