The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

   

In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.

 

In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More 5th Wheels

Today Cristy and I drove to a near by RV dealership who carry Grand Design RVs.  We wanted to check on the build quality in their latest models.  I also wanted to check out their newest model.

Solitude 310GK

While we had really liked the 344GK from my previous blog posting we decided that the dinette being on the driver’s side of the coach was not what we wanted.   We prefer the dinette on the passenger side.  This is the side of the coach which, when you are parked, becomes your “front yard”.  With the dinette on the driver’s side you overlook your neighbor’s “front yard”.  It makes for somewhat a lack of privacy.  We are also less enthralled with the small desk of the 344GK.  If we wanted to add a desk we could do so in the 310GK by removing the rear couch.  The dinette could also make for quite a useable desk.  The 310GK is also somewhat shorter which makes it easier to tow and maneuver.

Solitude 390RK

The Solitude 390RK is the newest model to roll out of Grand Design’s doors.  From the standpoint of livability this one suits us best.  Dual his and her bathroom sinks and a HUGE rear kitchen are what really appeals to us.  The kitchen has an amazing amount of counter space; almost as much as my current house.  There is also a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen.  Not to mention the HUGE under kitchen storage bay.  The only drawback is the length; almost 42 feet long.  Anyone can learn to tow a trailer this long but it does limit your destinations.  We would be pretty much limited to newer RV resorts.

At this point all I can say is that I’m glad we have more time to decide!

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.

385RD Logo

385RD

385RD Floorplan

385RD

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!