Red Hills Fly-In 2022

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!

COVID-19 in 2022

It’s been a while since I updated the blog and it’s been for a good reason. COVID! What?? Who get’s COVID anymore…? Well, we did. Working at a hospital for 2 years during a pandemic and I didn’t get a sniffle. Now that it’s over, we all caught it. Here’s what happened.

It was on our camping trip that I just blogged about. We drove up to Roseville to meet a friend at a dive bar called The Almond Tree. We had dinner, a few drinks, danced a few times to the campy two man band they had playing live music and then called it an evening and headed back to the trailer. We enjoyed the rest of our short weekend getaway and drove home.

After putting all our stuff away and taking the trailer back to the storage lot I began feeling a little tired. Kind of that “oh no, I’ve got a cold coming on” kind of feeling. By bedtime that night I was really feeling bad. I woke up feeling even worse. I had a suspicion so I took one of those “at home” COVID tests. 15 minutes later it registered positive for COVID. Well shoot. I didn’t believe it so I drove to work and took one of our covid tests from the hospital. A few days later I got an email stating I had tested positive for COVID. Double shoot. About this time Cristy started feeling bad. Triple shoot!! Then our daughter, and then Cristy’s mother. Well…. I’m all out of ammunition.

For the next week I endured the worst sore throat I can remember having since having strep throat in my teens. Terrible headache. I’m used to those but the rest of my family is not and that was the worst part for them. We never lost our sense of smell or taste but every food we ate ended up tasting SUPER salty even if there was no salt in it. It followed pretty much the same pattern with all of us so we knew we all had the same thing. It also spread very quickly. Cristy had stayed away from her mother but her mother caught it within a few days of us returning from our trip. The pattern was; feeling sick, bad headache, feeling very weak, no nasal congestion but a cough quickly developed and held on for weeks. I had to sleep upright on the couch for a week because every time I laid down I began coughing uncontrollably.

I took some cough medicine that was super strong and supposed to stop any cough. It didn’t. The only thing it did was to make me pass out for the first time in my life. I’m sure the disease had something to do with it too. I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (from all the water I was drinking). I remember feeling a little dizzy as I was leaving the bathroom. The next thing I remember was waking up under the vanity in the bathroom and crawling back to bed.

Thanks to Cristy’s foresight we had both hydroxychloroquin and Ivermectin (in pill form) on hand. The hydroxy. came from some friends who had some to lend us. The Ivermectin was purchased ahead of time just in case. We took the Ivermectin first and when it ran out we started on the hydroxy. I’m not sure if it helped us or not but we’re all still here. Cristy’s mother did end up getting an IV of monoclonal antibodies and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. But at the rip old age of 89 she recovered too. Without these medications I’m not sure she would have made it.

It took me almost three weeks to get back to work. And though the symptoms left me almost as suddenly has they came on, the brain fog that COVID left behind took a little longer to get over. My first day back at work I couldn’t remember the commands that I would normally type in to configure our network devices. It took about a week more to recover my mental state. Cristy took a little longer to recover. My daughter was back at work a week before I was. Cristy’s mother spent a week in the hospital and then three more weeks at a convalescent home. Cristy was prevented from seeing her mother this entire time. She would sneak onto the care home grounds and visit her mother through the sliding glass door in her mother’s room. However Cristy remained outside so she wouldn’t get her mother into any trouble. Her mother is still receiving in-home visits from physical therapy nurses to help her regain her strength. In another week she shouldn’t need them.

So it was a very not-fun two months in January and February, but it’s all in the rear view mirror now. AND we have the best immunity you can have, natural immunity! Thank God for bringing us through it all!

First Camping Trip of 2022

It’s been a couple of months since we got to get out and camp and this past week we finally got out again. We went back to an old favorite, Jackson Rancheria RV Park. We never go to the casino, we just use the RV park as a jumping off point to explore the Jackson/Sutter Creek area. We pretty much visited the same old areas we always go to. We had coffee at Choc-O-Latte in Sutter Creek, we shopped the shops in Sutter Creek and old town Jackson.

THE Choc-O-Latte, served with a chocolate dipped Oreo

We had lunch at Cavana’s Pub and Grub in Sutter Creek. There really isn’t much to tell about this trip except that we really enjoyed getting away and the sunsets are awesome!

*Insert wolf whistle*

That’s all we got this time. See you on the next trip!

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 11 and Closing Thoughts

We hit the road around 7:30am or so. We were about to drive through the windiest portion of the trip home. Winds were manageable but were forecast to pick up as the day went on hence the early (for us) start. We did encounter higher winds between Barstow and Tehachapi. I kept my eyes on the traffic moving in the opposite direction looking for RV’s specifically. My thought being that they were coming from where I was going to, if they made it, I could make it. The wind was on our nose the entire way. The truck had to stay in 3rd gear just to maintain 60 MPH! We stopped for lunch and ate it in the trailer. I can’t even remember where that was. Some rest stop out in the desert. When we finally hit Tehachapi it was such a relief because the wind just stopped. We climbed up to the pass and made the long decent into the Central Valley and finally into sunny skies. We finally got home around 3pm.

Closing thoughts

We truly enjoyed our trip to Sedona and surprisingly Cottonwood. It was a wonderful time of reconnection with ourselves and with nature. We enjoyed our hikes and the beautiful scenery. We had long conversations. We discovered new things about ourselves. This year’s Sedona trip helped us begin an exciting new journey in our lives. This trip opened up within us a new resolve to not only seize the day, but to seize every moment; carpe momentum.

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 10

We began the bittersweet drive home. It was hard to leave the Cottonwood/Sedona aea but we missed family. I was a little worried by the weather forecast. Winds were forecast to be 30mph gusting to 40. I really didn’t want to tow a trailer in that kin of weather. The saving grace in all this was that the wind was mostly going to be coming directly at us. Bad for gas mileage but good for stability. And indeed as we drove to our intended destination the winds proved to be manageabe.

Our plan was to drive to Barstow and spend the night and then drive home the next day. We drove ost of the day and finally arrived at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner at around 4:30pm or so. Let me just say it’s not the prettiest place to overnight but there is a LOT of room to park and it’s free. We picked a spot off to the side and at the back of the parking area. We kept our shades drawn due to the incredible amount of trash around… and big rigs. Again… free. And safe. But not quiet.

We ate dinner at Peggy Sue’s. It was okay. Not great but tasted good after a long day. We lingered and talked over dinner and then headed back to the trailer and fell asleep to the sound of the freeway and helicopters landing at the US Marine Logistics Center across the street.

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 9

This was our last day in Sedona. We wanted to find another energy vortex and though I was tempted by the Red Rock Crossing vortex we opted instead for the Airport Mesa vortex. We had visited it last time we were in Sedona and it was a challenge for Cristy to make it up the rocks. She wanted to return to gauge her increase in physical stamina, see if it was any easier climbing to the vortex. In short, it was.

We drove all the way up to the airport to park. There are several paid parking areas there, we opted for free parking up at the airport. I put on my AOPA hat as camouflage. Yeah, I’m a pilot! Well… I am! Then we walked down to the vortex trail. The trail is all downhill to the vortex so in that sense it’s an easy trail. But I’m going to call this a moderate hike because the trail is littered with rocks. LOTS of rocks all about the size of a soft ball or basket ball. As an added bonus, last night’s storm had left it plenty muddy. Happily we were able to avoid the rocks and mud and make it to the bottom of the path, about 1/2 mile. My respect for the ladies I saw wearing sandals and flip flops!

The hike down the trail provides stunning views of the red rock buttes and cliffs…

Once you arrive at the mesa there is a parking area (where there is NEVER any parking available) and an overlook that give you stunning views to the east and south…

After pausing to drink and let some folks descend the trail leading up to the vortex rock we began the long (maybe 5 minutes) arduous (there are safety cables to hang on to) climb to the top of the Airport Mesa vortex. We tried to just take it all in. Enjoy the silence. We took our shoes off to feel the rock on our bare feet. We stayed and soaked up the views for 30, maybe 45 minutes but there were some “guides” there that wouldn’t shut up about “how healing, and peaceful the vortex is”. It might have been if they would ever shut up! 🙂

After spending some time in the relative peace and quiet it was time to head back up the trail. We must be in moderately better condition than last time we were here because the hike back up the hill wasn’t that bad.

The Airport Trail, you can see some of the rocks I’m talking about.

After we got back up to the airport we thought about having lunch at the airport cafe but it was pretty crowded and I didn’t think Cristy would care for “pilot food” so we drove back down into the NON-touristy section of Sedona and found a nice Thai restaurant to have lunch. I was quite proud of Cristy that it was later than she normally ate lunch but was still feeling fine! After lunch we headed back to the trailer to start making preparations for the long bittersweet journey home. We hated to leave but we missed our family.

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 8

On Tuesday we stuck close to home and did more shopping in Cottonwood. We bought a decoration for our trailer and a gift for Angela. I won’t write about the stores we visited because there are so many. What I will write about is how friendly everyone was. In Sedona he shopkeepers can be kind of snooty. I guess that’s the crowd they cater to; rich tourists. Not even a hint (okay, maybe a hint on one shopkeeper) of that in Cottonwood. Everyone was very warm and loved to talk.

Main drag through Cottonwood’s Old Town

Afterwards we headed back to the park because thunderstorms were starting to roll through. We also wanted to rest up before our last hike in Sedona the next day. We slept through two thunderstorms before enjoying a beautiful sunset courtesy of the day’s storms. We cooked pizzas in the trailer’s conventional oven (which we had never used until now). Then watched Memphis Belle and called it an evening.

Sedona Trip 2021 Day 7

We waited until this day, Monday, to try going to the Sedona tourist district. Cristy was a little crestfallen because some of the stores she really liked closed up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One store in particular used to sell shirts dyed with the red dirt in Sedona. They were high quality really nice T shirts and blouses. I spent most of my time going from bench to bench on the side walk.

Where I spent much of my time on Monday…

I bought one piece of Malachite from a gem store to make a bolo. Even though it’s crowded and touristy there aren’t many shopping districts that offer you these kinds of views…

On the way back we stopped at a kind hippy looking store that sold drinks, teas, and coffee. Cristy bought some chocolate and we both come some drinks. I can’t remember what mine was. It tasted good yet somehow odd. This was actually our favorite stop that day. We ran into some heavily tattooed folks out front who didn’t look like they would have much in common with us. He was talking about Facebook being offline most of the day. I offered that Bank of America and many other institutions had been offline as well. He raised both arms and exclaimed “Yes! It’s finally happening!” Apparently he is part of the Great Awakening happening in America today.

Later that night a fairly decent thunderstorm hit. I had left the awning out and the sound of it flapping woke me it. It has a wind sensor and will automatically retract but I decided to go ahead and do so myself. Not 10 minutes later huge

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.