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  #1  
Old 09-29-2006, 12:23 AM
danstrom's Avatar
danstrom danstrom is offline
LongEZ wannabe since 1982
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 118
Default a BIIIIIG trip in a LEEEETLE plane

(I'll post pictures once I see if I can clean up the omnipresent blue haze.)

I had been considering taking my spare week of vacation, my gleaming new slip of paper that says "Temporary Airman Certificate", and the year-end bonus that my company paid out this year (for the first time in maybe 8 years), and making a little trip around the Northwest.
but the week after I got my license, the weather went straight to hell... or, rather, whatever its equivalent is that is cold and drizzly rather than blazing hot. The Hell of Being Eaten By Banana Slugs, maybe.

however, as the end of last week approached, the weather was looking better and better for this week. I was already on the schedule to get checked out in a 152 on Sunday, and whaddayaknow, there was only one guy on the schedule for that aircraft for the rest of the week, and the owner bumped him to another aircraft.

my first checkout in a new plane, plus, my first flight in a plane with carb heat.

Monday bright and early, I set off, after very poor sleep the night before... lots of anxieties.
* somewhat unfamiliar plane -- though I found it very docile and pleasant to fly, and overall very much like the 172, so that wasn't a super-serious concern;
* 30-yr-old plane, unlike the new-ish 172's I've been flying;
* only one kind-of-flaky nav/com radio and no GPS (but I now have a handheld nav/com);
* first true flight over the mountains (though I'd been halfway);
* first true long trip all on my own to unfamiliar airports;
* etc.
But the sum of all those things totalled maybe 1.25 doubts, not enough to make me wave off the trip. And in the positive column, the weather was going to be no concern whatsoever -- clear and sunny.

left Paine Field in Everett, out along highway 2 over the North Cascades -- heavily forested, stunning, majestic as always -- past Wenatchee and out into the dry flat farmlands of eastern Washington. Landed at Ephrata to have lunch with my wife's parents. (First time tying down at a distant airport.)
Then took off and flew north up the coulees and washes of the Channeled Scablands, past Banks Lake and the Grand Coulee Dam. This area is heavily carved out by the flood outwash of the numerous times that prehistoric Lake Missoula burst out of its glacial dam and carried all the topsoil of central Washington down the Columbia to the Willammette Valley in Oregon.

Turning east and following the Columbia and Spokane rivers, the land to the north starts to rise and become forested again, and starts looking like northern Idaho, which was my destination for the day -- Coeur d'Alene.
Businessman Duane Hagadone built a luxury resort here in the 1980's when CdA was thoroughly unknown, and nearly got laughed out of town -- WHO is going to pay $100 for a round of golf in IDAHO?!?!?! -- but is doing extremely well nowadays. My old college roommate and I had dinner at the Bonsai Bistro, which is an expensive but excellent Japanese restaurant run by the Hagadone folks. (SUSHI!?! in IDAHO!?! and very good sushi at that.)

The next morning after fueling up, I took off at about noon, and it was already pretty warm out. The combination of 2300' elevation, hot temps, and a C152 at maximum gross weight (me + bags + long range tanks) was prompting me to see if I could contribute mental levitation on top of the Bernoulli effect.
South along the lake and its intricate bays and inlets -- avoiding the smoke plumes where farmers were burning the stubble in their hay fields -- past Moscow and the University of Idaho where I went to college, down to Lewiston and the confluence of the Clearwater & Snake rivers, and along the gorge of the Snake. The river cuts a valley about 1500' deep through the high plateau where all the farming takes place. Before the advent of trucking, the wheat farmers on the plateau tried all sorts of ways to get their crops down to barges on the river -- they built a sort of bobsled run and simply dumped the grain in at the top, but the friction from sliding down the trough ended up cooking the grain. Then they built a sort of ski lift where the wheat would ride down a cable in buckets -- at extremely fast speeds. One minute top to bottom? something like that. I believe the story is that one and only one person rode it once and only once (probably after uttering, "hey! watch this!").

Skirted the firefighting TFR in the northern Blue Mountains, south to Walla Walla, thence to Pendleton, until recently the home of an excellent college friend of mine -- who, alas, now lives in Kauai, but there's still a Red Lion with extremely comfortable mattresses and an outdoor pool with a view of the mountains.
After a very calm flight, descending over the hot fields was extremely bumpy, and I was considering making the radio call, "hey, would you guys open your refrigerator doors or something? these thermals are kicking my butt out here."
The airport is up on a plateau above the town, which is nestled down in the narrow valley of the Umatilla River -- you'd better not run off the end of rwy 11, because it drops precipitously into a ravine.



days 3 and 4 coming tomorrow...
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When you sail on the Titanic, there's no point in going steerage.

73 total flight hours and counting -- now licensed to get myself into trouble, er, I mean, licensed to learn!
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  #2  
Old 10-01-2006, 02:00 AM
Falcon
 
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Default

I thought I was a nutcase for doing this at the middle of this month. A friend and I flew out on Southwest to look at a Zenith CH-601. We liked it. I bought it. We flew it home. 1,400 miles over two days. BTW, in a head wind, the Zenith crawls.

I look forward to seeing how days 3 and 4 panned out.
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  #3  
Old 10-01-2006, 08:00 PM
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danstrom danstrom is offline
LongEZ wannabe since 1982
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 118
Default in the game's second half...

Day 3... I took off about noon again. It was perhaps 15 degrees cooler and I was perhaps 12 gallons lighter, so takeoff performance was much improved (whew). However, the anxiety for the day was the oil streaks on the port-side gear strut and the oil level half a quart down from the day before. I brought two spare quarts, kept a close eye on the pressure gauge the whole day, and kept in mind the position of every airfield along the way. (As the next day the oil level was fine, I suspect I simply didn't screw the dipstick down tight enough on day 2.)

I headed northwest to the Columbia, passing a few miles from the Wallula Gap, a mile-wide "constriction" of the river gorge. During the Lake Missoula floods, it is estimated that 10 million cubic meters of water PER SECOND poured through this part of the gorge -- 250 meters deep and 2000 meters wide, at 45 miles per hour -- 50 times the flow of the Amazon.
Crossing the Columbia to avoid the Umatilla Army Depot (where they are busy incinerating old stockpiles of nerve gas) and the Boardman MOAs (where they are busy testing tiny UAVs; more on that later), I turned west to follow the river out to Portland.

The first hour is over dry and barren terrain wherever it isn't irrigated. Then the mountains start to rise and the gorge starts to get crazy. Around Dallesport (which, by the way, you have to look up in the A/FD under "T" for "THE Dalles"), the canyons coming down out of the Cascades and volcanoes # 4, 5, 6, and 7 (Adams, Hood, Jefferson, and St. Helens) get steep, forested, and spectacular.

Just to the west, nestled in a neat basin a few hundred feet above the gorge floor, is the small city of Hood River, where I recently had an interview with a company that manufactures 4-ft long, 35-lb, robotic aerial vehicles for surveillance, intelligence, oil surveying, fish finding, wildfire spotting, you name it. DREAM JOB! Playing with software, control systems, R/C vehicles, and aerodynamics all day long. Alas, after 6 weeks of thinking about it, they passed -- "for now" -- leaving the door open in the future. That's OK, there would have been some very difficult decisions regarding what to do about my wife's budding career and the potential of spending a year or so apart while she got it jumpstarted enough to work remotely as a consultant.

The Gorge steepens dramatically soon after Hood River and then eventually opens out into the Willammette Valley and Portland. My destination was the small town of Newberg a bit southwest. The rolling hills and low ranges harbor some very fine wineries and vineyards. My sister-in-law is the comptroller for the Adelsheim winery, whose pinot noir and pinot gris are two of my absolute favorites.

Day #4 dawned bright and clear (again)... inland, anyway. My intention was to follow the river north to Kelso/Longview and west to Astoria, then up along the SW Washington coast, but for the first time in my short flying career I was told "VFR flight not recommended" -- low clouds not expected to burn off until much later in the day. So I went the direct route up through Olympia and across the south Puget Sound.

The weather was great (again) and the volcanoes were popping out (again). Crossing Kelso, I could see the fog bank still lingering out west toward the coast. Looks like skipping Astoria was a good decision.

In the south Sound I was shocked to see just how visible are the red algae blooms that are ruining the shellfish harvest and causing huge dead zones in the Hood Canal (not actually a canal; a long narrow inlet of the ocean).

Staying on the west side of the Sound on my way north, I had a great view of the Olympic peaks, the aircraft carriers based at Bremerton, and the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle.

Tuning into the Paine tower, I heard the welcome sounds of familiar call signs doing T&G's in the pattern (and stumbling through their radio calls). "Ahhh, home again."

Every day there was something a bit nervewracking, but it was a great confidence- and experience-builder.
10.1 hours ticked off on the Hobbs, and the first ten hours of a new lifetime of memories.
__________________
When you sail on the Titanic, there's no point in going steerage.

73 total flight hours and counting -- now licensed to get myself into trouble, er, I mean, licensed to learn!

Last edited by danstrom : 10-01-2006 at 09:21 PM.
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  #4  
Old 10-01-2006, 08:30 PM
danstrom's Avatar
danstrom danstrom is offline
LongEZ wannabe since 1982
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 118
Default worth seven thousand words

(the upload changed the order of my photos; open the thumbnails as given by the numbers below...)


(7) the crags of the North Cascades and volcano #2 (Glacier Peak);

(6) Rocky Reach dam and the Columbia River gorge at Wenatchee, Wa;

(5) the channeled scablands at Steamboat Rock, Banks Lake;

(4) an oxbow of the Spokane River;

(3) Kamiak Butte, north of Pullman Wa; (a 500M-yo peak sticking up out of 20M-yo basalt lava flows)

(2) the Snake River flowing northward out of Hells Canyon to the confluence with the Clearwater at Lewiston, ID;

(1) Waitsburg, Wa and the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
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__________________
When you sail on the Titanic, there's no point in going steerage.

73 total flight hours and counting -- now licensed to get myself into trouble, er, I mean, licensed to learn!

Last edited by danstrom : 10-01-2006 at 09:02 PM.
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  #5  
Old 10-01-2006, 08:57 PM
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danstrom danstrom is offline
LongEZ wannabe since 1982
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 118
Default make that fourteen thousand...

(7) the Columbia River near Umatilla (OR to the left, WA to the right);

(1) the city of Hood River and the start of the Cascade range;

(2) the Columbia cutting through the heart of the Cascades;

(3) downtown Portland;

(4) the Newberg/Chehalem vicinity and the Coast Range;

(5) the Columbia making its way out to the Pacific at Astoria (and the fog bank that kept me from heading that way);

(6) volcanoes #3 (Adams) and #4 (Rainier).
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__________________
When you sail on the Titanic, there's no point in going steerage.

73 total flight hours and counting -- now licensed to get myself into trouble, er, I mean, licensed to learn!
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  #6  
Old 10-01-2006, 09:13 PM
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danstrom danstrom is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Falcon
I thought I was a nutcase for doing this at the middle of this month. A friend and I flew out on Southwest to look at a Zenith CH-601. We liked it. I bought it. We flew it home. 1,400 miles over two days. BTW, in a head wind, the Zenith crawls.
congrats! from/to?
I'm just lucky that the weather was calm instead of the 30mph winds that normally pour through the Columbia gorge. There's a reason that Hood River is known as the home of "nuclear gust" windsurfing.
In that kind of headwind, my C152 would have been losing ground to the traffic down on I-84.

believe me, the two weeks prior were miserably typical PacNW weather... cold drizzle and low stratus at ~500ft. I'm ecstatic that one last high pressure pattern set up out in the gulf of alaska and brought in one more week of good weather.
(shhhh... Seattle summers are a closely-guarded secret. uhh, did I say that out loud? )
(on the other hand, everything you might have heard about Seattle is entirely true from October to June.)
__________________
When you sail on the Titanic, there's no point in going steerage.

73 total flight hours and counting -- now licensed to get myself into trouble, er, I mean, licensed to learn!
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  #7  
Old 10-01-2006, 10:28 PM
Falcon
 
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Danstrom, the pictures you took are simply stunning, and your description of the flight, well, I wish I had the gift to describe what I saw. Congratulations on a stunning cross-country.

We flew from Parkersburg, VW, to Covington, TN, on the first day, then from Covington to Castroville, TX, on the second. We stayed overnight in Covington with family, but we had to leave at first light, so we didn't get to spend much time socializing. We were looking to get to Castroville before a cold front wound its way inland from the Houston area.

The takeoff from Parkersburg was thrilling. First time in this plane, loaded for an all-day journey, and the first thing we saw as we cleared the pattern was the lush, beautiful Ohio Valley below, resplendant in its thick pine forest, with no place to put her down if the engine decided it needed a break.

This being my first cross country, (and seeing as I'm not licensed yet), my job was to navigate. I spread a stack of sectionals and airport facility guides before me, and started trying to figure out where we were, where we'd been, where we were going, when we'd get there, how the fuel was holding out, how the wind was the affecting us, was that lake the same as this blue blob on the sectional, and whose airspace is this anyway? As an aside, I also ran the handheld VOR and the Lowrance 1000.

Somehow, in spite of my prowess, we snuck into General Dewitt Spain (M01) under Memphis Class B, for a tank of fuel; we shot the rapids between Dallas Class B and Crawford TFR; and managed to land at Castroville (T89) about 9:30 P.M. Our wives were estatic. That's to say they were relieved to see us land.

I learned so much. I'm looking for an instructor now. We set the plane down at its new hanger on Sunday, then immediately jumped on another commercial flight to Norfolk, VA. So, I've been gone a couple of weeks on business. I finally got a chance to go see the plane today, and I find it's been...modified.

While I was gone, the resident vinyl graphics guy (who lives in his hanger/bachelor pad), surprised me and emblazoned the left side of the canopy with "Pilot (Falcon's real name)" and the right with "Copilot (Falcon's Wife)." Tastefully done, he matched the color to one of the color stripes on the plane. It was a fun welcome to the community.

Last edited by Falcon : 10-01-2006 at 10:42 PM.
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