Vintageflying.com

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June 12, 2006 - Day 1

Corona, CA to Buckeye, AZ

It is like being in two places at one time. We are floating along in the vintage Piper Cub just a few hundred feet above the 91 freeway during Monday morning rush hour. In the Cub, most every sound, smell, and sensory input is exactly the same as it was in 1939 when the Cub came to life. Below on the freeway it is the year 2006 with SUV's, cars and trucks all vying for space to reach their destination. That surreal experience fades as the mountains loom ahead.

Overcast skies begin to clear near the Banning Pass. Palm Springs off to the right of course, the high desert off to the left. The air is noticeably warmer and my nose tells me much drier. Two-lane roads with bright yellow school buses make their early morning stops. We are low enough that I can see children's faces looking up, squinting to see the little yellow airplane. We waggled our wings to wave good morning, hoping to make some little person's day.

Between mountain ranges where civilization has not been established, the earth remains as it was for thousands of years. Many of the mountain peaks tower above us as we glide between valley walls lined with intimidating jagged rocks.

Soon the first airport on our route appears. Twenty-Nine Palms airport was likely an old military base at one time judging from the size and length of the runways. The Cubs wheels squeak as they meet the hot concrete runway surface. A good landing in the Cub is never guaranteed but always appreciated. As we taxied out from the fuel island, a nicely dressed elderly gentleman walked out to see the Cub. He waved as if he knew us as we taxied past him on the way to the runway. Then it hit us, he was probably waving to the Cub and not me. If he had caught me sooner, we would have listened to him tell stories about learning to fly in a Cub back in the 1940's. I enjoy looking at their eyes as they relive their memories of first flights. Perhaps we'll get a video of one of them telling their story. They are at every small airport. Sometimes the Cub is like bringing a puppy to the beach. It attracts people most every landing.

The day ended in Buckeye, AZ around noon. The thermals were beating me to death and tomorrow morning would be the perfect time to transition this part of the Southwest. This was the advice from a young flight instructor named David Evans, who was kind enough to take me to the motel.


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June 13, 2006 - Day 2

Buckeye, AZ to El Paso, TX

We knew we shouldn't have attempted this last leg through Hurricane Pass so late in the day.  It was 109 degrees when we got fuel.  The climb was slow and the engine oil was near red line.  The thermals were bouncing us around mercilessly.  Worst of all, there wasn't enough power left in the engine to gain any more altitude to go over the mountains.  We had no choice; we had to go through the pass under the worst conditions.  This would be the longest mile we've ever flown.  

As we entered the narrow pass, it was like flying between skyscrapers in Manhattan.  The first gust of turbulent air tossed us within a few feet of the shear rock ledges.  Then suddenly the Cub spun into an uncontrolled barrel roll.  Our frantic attempts to correct the plane were futile.  We were slammed against the inside of the cockpit window.  Our seat belt strained against us with incredible force.  We heaved the rudder in the opposite direction, simultaneously pulling back on the stick as the opposite wall of the mountain pass grew closer.  The engines screamed as it went past redline.  Then it happened.  The wing tip scraped against the rocks, tearing the fabric and destroying the outboard aileron hinge.  We were along for the ride with absolutely no ability to compensate for the tornado force winds generated in the mountain pass vortexes.  In a matter of moments, the Cub and I were spit out of the pass.  The Cub was barely controllable leaning against the control stick to keep the Cub level and reduce power.  We had to land in the dry river bed below.  Smoke poured from the spent motor as it clunked to a complete stop.  Blood trickled down to the cabin floor as we made our one and only attempt to save what we could of this fine vintage flying machine… and our lives.  Then the motel alarm clock went off and it was finally back to reality for us.  Remind us never to tell stories of our dreams like this with a captive audience.

We traversed Arizona, New Mexico and part of Texas all in one day.  We flew just a few hundred feet above the ground to stay out of headwinds and turbulence.  The colors and shapes of the Southwest completely entertained us throughout the flights (that along with my IPOD).  The photos tell the true story better than my words.  Tomorrow should be the last day of searing dry heat.  We will miss the spectacular sunrises and crystal clear skies.

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June 14, 2006 - Day 3

El Paso, TX to Quanah, TX

By definition, an adventure should have a degree of uncertainty and risk.  It just works better that way.  Today had both those elements in spades.  After a full day of flying over ever-changing terrain, our final leg took us to Quanah, Texas.  This is where both uncertainty and risk had their rewards.  While over-flying the little airport we noticed the main runway would yield strong crosswinds on our landing.  Not a good thing in a Cub if it can be avoided.  Further investigation disclosed a turf runway directly into the wind.  We've never landed on a turf runway, but have anticipated it for a long time.  It was the ultimate landing experience.  The wheels touched gently and the Cub came to a stop quicker than on a paved surface.  Now we're hooked on turf landing strips.  

As we pulled up to the fuel pump, a lady with two young girls approached and said she saw us land and that her daughters had never seen an airplane up close.  She wanted them to see the Cub.  The girls asked a few questions and were gone before the Cub was refueled.  Something tells me they'll come out to their little airport more often.

The gentleman who runs the airport is 91 years young.  He loved the Cub and wanted to talk about it.  He offered me a hangar to keep it in overnight and a car to drive while I was in town.  In the past when I was on a busy schedule, I would have kindly declined to talk about his aviation experiences.  One of my promises to myself for this adventure was to take the time to talk to folks like him and enjoy hearing of their experiences, most of which were from the early days of aviation.  So Len and I met back at his office and he talked for almost an hour.  He told me about Cubs, his time in the Army during World War II, and how to live a long healthy life.  He even let me video tape it and get a photo of us together (see the photo page).

Quanah is a quaint Texas rural town where hospitality reins supreme.  Prior to today, it was just a planned fuel stop.  Now it's part of the adventure.  Some uncertainty, some risk, potential disappointment, and no defined expectations paid off today.

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June 15, 2006 - Day 4

Quanah, TX to Hinton, OK

Adventures sometimes require us to change our plans on the fly (pun intended).  The unseasonably high winds and turbulence was too much for the Cub (and its pilot).  We departed Quanah, TX at sunrise with a very strong tailwind component – which means we had the benefit of a tailwind.  It also meant that landing with a 20 knot gusting wind down the runway at our first stop (Hinton, OK) was going to be our last stop for the day.  I counted six landings on the same runway before the wind gusts had their way with us and we were able to taxi for fuel.  After calling for aviation weather, we chose to sit out the winds.

Our plan is to head east to get out of this area of high winds in the Oklahoma City to Tulsa area.  We will then turn north to continue on our route.  If all goes as re-planned we should be out of these winds and turbulence by tomorrow sometime.  We spent the better part of the day calling Wes Funk, my friend and fellow pilot, to come up with a plan.  We've been calling him at every fuel stop and he's been tracking us along the route.  Thanks Wes.

Hopefully the winds will subside enough tomorrow for us to continue on our way.

P.S. Thanks for all your emails.  Because I mostly rely upon a dial-up modem line from a motel room, I can't answer them in a timely manner.

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June 16, 2006 - Day 5

Hinton, OK to Camdenton, MO

Well it worked!  We were 'wheels up,' as they say in the flying business, 20 minutes before sunrise.  The winds were still howling when I took off, but the airports we were landing at were much calmer.  

We met some great folks today in Oklahoma and Missouri when we landed.  They were all friendly and very helpful.  It's definitely a pattern around rural airports.  We are in the Lake of the Ozarks tonight.  When we landed the FBO manager came over the radio and asked if we were going to be here for a while.  I said, “Yes and we'll need a fuel and a place to stay.”  He came back with, “We'll take care of all of that for you.”  He fueled the Cub, gave me the keys to the courtesy car and recommended a place to stay and eat.  I told him I needed to change the oil on the Cub.  One of the other gentlemen said, “You can use my hanger, its air conditioned and I've got all the tools you'll need.”  When I came back from getting a room and having lunch, my Cub was in the hangar cooling off.  Thanks Bob, Steve, and especially Nip for your incredible hospitality.

The scenery today was the prettiest so far.  From 600 feet, the world takes on a whole new perspective.

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June 17, 2006 - Day 6

Camdenton, MO to Marion, IA

By any measure today was the most successful day of the adventure.  The skies were overcast when we left Camdenton, but the ceilings were high enough for us to motor along with tailwinds.  The sky cleared within the hour and the rest of the day was clear and sunny.  Unfortunately our first stop which was supposed to be Bowling Green, MO, had no fuel.  So as we made our final approach and with our acute grasp for the obvious we notice there were no buildings or signs of life on the airport.  We quickly aborted the landing and went on to Hannibal, MO.  After a momentous flight over the muddy Mississippi, we were in Illinois. Once again, the photos do a much better job of conveying the beauty of the Midwest.

Small towns dotted the landscape below us.  Since it was a very warm Saturday in the summer, creeks and rivers had children floating on inner tubes looking up at the little yellow airplane.  I'll bet they were wondering what it would be like to fly when they spotted the little yellow Cub. While at the same time, I wondered what it would be like to be a kid again, floating down a river in an inner tube with my grade school buddies.  Lakes were filled with boats pulling skiers.  Parks had families barbequing their afternoon meal and playing softball.  One town was having a fair in their main park.  

Everywhere it was GREEN!!!  Endless fields of crops and terrain so flat you could roll a marble 10 miles with the lightest touch.  Weddings at little white churches were common as we floated by enjoying our view.  Some folks chose to remember their loved ones by visiting the town cemetery and placing flowers by the headstones.  At less than 700 feet above the ground, few details of rural life in the Midwest are missed.

For the first time in the adventure neither of us wanted this day to end.  The air was warm and smooth, the sky was clear and every landing was soft.


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June 18, 2006 - Day 7

Marion, IN to Lock Haven, PA

We have arrived at Lock Haven, PA!  But not without some challenging moments in the air and a few 'near landings.'  If you've been watching the national weather and comparing it to our travels, you noticed that there has been a very large storm front that has followed us since Texas.  Each morning when we would depart, it would be drizzling.  The storm was just arriving at our location.  We flew east, away from the storm all day.  By days end, we were several hundred miles ahead of it.  Only to have it catch up while we slept.  This went on for the past 5 days.  Today, after much discussion, we decided to go all the way to Lock Haven and not chance getting stuck in bad weather on our last day.  It worked, well sort of.  The winds were tenacious.  At our first intended fuel stop, the airport had an east/west runway and the winds were out of the south.  The Cub and I did our best to land, but on final approach the crosswind pushed us off the runway when we were about 30 feet above it.  No matter how much correction I gave the little Cub I couldn't get it back to the runway.  So off we went in search of an airport with a north/south runway.  God bless the Garmin GPS!  A few pushes of the button and just 17 miles to the south was Grimes Field and it had a north/south runway.

It happened again at the next airport so we diverted to another one with a north/south runway.  The good news was that the tailwind component was so strong we actually had enough fuel to fly past one of the planned fuel stops.  It was very hazy so no photos from the Cub were attempted.  We were pretty busy just navigating.

When Lock Haven came into view a shiver went down my spine.  This was home for the Cub.  It was 'born' here in 1939 and to my knowledge, has never been back.  As the Cub's wheels touched the grass runway I sensed tears welling up in my eyes.  Though I won't admit to it and believe it was from an errant bug that flew into the cockpit.  This town's history is built on Mr. Piper's airplane factory that provided so many jobs to Americans stung by the Great Depression.  

This afternoon I sat for hours listening to folks who either knew him or worked for him.  Just another unexpected gift this adventure has brought to us.  Tonight, the Cub sits on the grass parking area next to the runway where it first took flight.  Soon it will be joined by hundreds of its brothers and sister Cubs.  If you think I've gone too far in humanizing the Cub, you should spend some time with the folks in Lock Haven.  Their stories will enchant you and remind you of a time when the little things in life were huge.  Of how one man became so endeared and respected for valuing his employees above profit.  

Tomorrow, weather permitting, the Cub and I will take a few spins around the patch (that means well do some touch and goes).


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June 19, 2006 - Day 8

Lock Haven, PA

With overcast skies and a promise of thunderstorms by late morning, I headed out to the airport to enjoy some take-offs and landings on the grass runway.   It was to be the calm before the storm during all of our many enjoyable flights.  The departure pattern took us right over the east end of downtown Lock Haven.  The downwind leg took us past the heavily forested hills to the south of the runway and the turn to final took us over the river just before landing.  

Grass runways are very forgiving, so all our landings were smooth.  Looking out the open door, I loved watching the wheel touch the grass and bounce merrily along as the Cub slowed to taxi speed.  This is about as nostalgic as any pilot could ask for; a vintage plane landing on a vintage grass runway.  

With the Cub tied down, Len and I headed for the Piper Museum.  We barely got inside when the first clap of thunder shook the building.  The skies opened and it poured.  I smiled and recalled that this was the exact time I had planned on arriving at Lock Haven.  Coming in a day early to beat the storm had worked out well.

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June 20, 2006 - Day 9

Lock Haven, PA

We have all been to parties or events where we didn't know anyone and had to make small talk with strangers for hours.  Imagine the opposite of having to make small talk at an event with strangers.  That's the best way I can sum it up here at Lock Haven.  You only had to walk up to someone sitting or working by their Cub and ask a question or two.  In short order, you and they would be exchanging names and contact information.  Forty-five minutes later, you had become old friends.

The Vintageflying.com byline is:  “If you think aviation is just about flying, you are missing the adventure.”  That best sums up the energy and genuine conversations among vintage flying pilots at an event like this.  There isn't any bravado about how fast your plane is.  Nothing is said about fancy, hi-tech avionics.  And even less is said about piloting skills.  After all, we all fly the same plane for the same reason.  So who would be kidding who?

Included in today's photos are images of some of the people here at the fly in.  One is of two families who flew here (and drove in a van) with more than a half a dozen children to camp by their plane.  Another set of photos is of the corn roast and barbeque hosted by Mr. Cal Arter at his summer home on the golf course.  Mr. Arter is an aviation enthusiast who every year hosts this dinner and open bar for hundreds of the pilots who fly in for the event.  

Tomorrow the event officially opens.  Already we have made dozens of friends who share the passion of vintage flying.  Many of whom made offers for us to, 'fly over to their neck of the woods.”

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June 21, 2006 - Day 10

Lock Haven, PA

The fly-in officially opened today.  It was severe clear with light, soft winds down the runway.  We faced our first challenge of the day.  Should we take advantage of this beautiful morning and go a few times around the patch or should we get some photos of other pilots landing their Cubs.  The photos won by a slim margin.  

It was entertaining to watch the people here when a plane landed.  They would stop everything they were doing and focus on the airplane that was about to touch down.  Not just a casual glance, but a full focused stare, as if the success of the landing depended on their undivided attention.  We were no different.

At one point a Cub taxied by and for some reason I decided to take a photo of the pilot and passenger.  My heart soared as I peered through the camera's viewfinder to see a grandfather and his grandson taxiing for takeoff to go around the patch in their Cub.  Someday, not to far off, that will be us.  

After lunch I went to a workshop on repairing the Cub.  After the workshop, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was Frank Baker the author of a wonderful book I had just read.  We have been emailing one another over the past few months and hoped to finally meet at Lock Haven.  He's quite a gentleman and very knowledgeable about flying vintage Cubs with 12 gallon fuel tanks across America.  Mr. Baker and I talked for over three hours.  This was yet another high point of this near perfect day.  

If you have been enjoying our adventure, may I suggest reading Mr. Baker's book, "Piper Cub Tales." It is available on Amazon.com. His book would also make a great gift for that pilot or want-to-be pilot in your life.

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June 22, 2006 - Day 11

Lock Haven, PA

Frank Baker and I walked from one end of the airplane parking area to the other; admiring these tenderly cared for little pieces of history.  Suddenly we heard the unmistakable sounds of big, throaty, pulsating, radial airplane engines that seemed to fill the sky.  Looking up, we saw three vintage biplanes flying in formation and coming down the runway, 20 feet above the grass.  My jaw dropped just short of the turf as these magnificent planes made their grand entrance.  I managed a really nice photo of one of them landing.

Now I was pumped.  There was only one thing for the little Cub and its pilot to do.  FLY!!!  The Cub was checked.  I pulled the propeller through four times, set the throttles to idle, and turn the magnetos on.  One vigorous flip of the prop and the Cub came to life.  I untied the tail and the Cub inched forward as if expressing its anxiousness to fly.   Climbing aboard the wind from the prop blew my hair and cooled my face.  

We taxied down the turf taxiway.  The Cub bounced along like a child skipping down a path, just happy to be outside playing on a beautiful day.  A quick scan for any other Cubs on final approach and off we went.  Full throttle, push the stick forward, in a moment the tail comes off the ground and seconds later we are flying!  After a few turns we were over the airport and very surprised to see all the Cubs that had come home for the Sentimental Journey to Lock Haven.  Pull the power back, trim for landing, and do your best to impress all the town's folks who have parked by the airport to watch the Cubs fly.  Dozens of cars with lawn chairs next to them lined the airport road.  The grass runway was also lined with lawn chairs, but these were pilots just watching (and my guess is, judging) the Cub landings.

After dinner the Cub and I did the same thing.  We joined 5 other Cubs in the pattern making take-offs and landings, one right after another.  None of us used the radio.  We just followed each other around the pattern in perfect synchronization.  What a thrill to be one of six Cubs, perfectly spaced, all continuously taking off and landing.  It simply must have been like this back in the 1930's and 1940's.

After an hour of flying, I tied the Cub down for the evening.  The skies to the north looked very angry and black.  I gave the ropes a few extra knots and checked everything twice before patting the Cub on the nose and walking back to the evening's events in the pavilion.  The evening air was reluctantly giving up the heat and humidity of the day.  I thought it best to expedite the process by ordering some mint chip ice cream.  Just then the sounds of a big band playing Glen Miller's “Stardust” filled the air.  Just as I sat to enjoy the ice cream and the 14 piece band playing the WW II music, a brilliant white flash illuminated the skies over the airport and a wind stronger than the one that blew Toto all the way to Kansas destroyed the event.  Tents, RV awnings, and anything not nailed down blew away.  The musician's sheet music scattered about me.  I dropped the ice cream and scrambled to rescue as many pages as I could before the inevitable rain soaked it.  There we stood dozens of us under the pavilion roof.  Pilots were peering out into the downpour to see if any planes had torn loose from their tie-downs.

After 45 minutes, the wind and rain slowed, but the lightning and thunder continued.  Some of us made a mad dash to check on our prized possessions.  The little Cub had strained against its tie-down ropes, but was otherwise in good condition.  I snugged the ropes and retied the knots, hoping the worst was over.  As I dashed back to the pavilion, I knew tonight wouldn't be one for a restful sleep.

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June 23, 2006 - Day 12

Lock Haven, PA

Waking up to the rain with a forecast of much the same all day made us glad we arrived a few days early and enjoyed the sunny weather.  The first order of business was to check the Cub for any damage from last night's storm.   It wasn't raining very hard when I got to the Cub.  Then I noticed the Cub was back about 3 feet from where I had tied it down before the storm.  The tail tie-down rope was slack, but the tail wheel was facing forward.  The only explanation for this is that the wind gust must have picked the Cub up and 'flown' it back 3 feet.  The stout little Cub didn't sustain any damage.

That was not the case for seven other airplanes.  Most of their injuries were fairly minor except for the one with the broken landing gear.  It will be here a while getting repaired.  Evidently it broke its tie-down rope and came back to earth very hard.

This evening hundreds of us drove to Shrack's diary farm.  In better weather we could have flown our Cubs and landed on his grass strip.  Mr. Shrack annually hosts a dinner for all of the pilots.  By now many of us pilots are getting to know each other fairly well.  The three pilots for Florida are great guys and we seem to run into each other several times a day.  Though leaving on Sunday will be exciting because it starts the next leg of the adventure, I'm going to miss the friends we've made this past week.

Tonight I sit here pondering long range weather forecasts for Sunday and Monday.  My route will depend on the area with the best weather forecast.  Let's all keep our fingers crossed!

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June 24, 2006 - Day 13

Lock Haven, PA

What an amazing day!  The weather got better as the day passed.  Many pilots took the opportunity to leave while the weather was good.  They missed the events of the day and the banquet.   I'm really going to miss all the new acquaintances I've made this week.  Hopefully some of them will keep in touch.

This will be a short log entry because it's late and I need to finish packing for an earlier departure tomorrow.

At the banquet this evening, Mr. William Piper Jr. and his beautiful wife Beth were in attendance.  After the festivities, I spent some time with both of them.  What a thrill to meet this man and his wife right here in Lock Haven.  They are both very gracious and sincere people.  

Tomorrow we leave around 7:00 am EDT.  We head in a westerly direction where the weather is forecast to get better as we travel towards the setting sun.  We will rest over night (RON) someplace between here and Poplar Grove, IL.  When we get home, I'm going to do my best to write our feelings down and attempt to express how absolutely magical this part of the adventure has been.  For now, I leave you with the hope that you too will dream and experience an adventure of your own very soon.

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June 25, 2006 - Day 14

Lock Haven, PA - RAIN DELAY

The weather this morning was low overcast with rain and it wasn't forecast to clear up until later in the week.  We drove to the airport in hopes the visibility was good enough to give it a try.  Nope, that wasn't going to happen today and maybe tomorrow as well.  So now we face another challenge with the weather.  It was high winds in Oklahoma.  Now it's rain and low ceilings in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  

This is the time when making good decisions is important.  Unfortunately, this is complicated by the fact that I have a flight out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Wednesday afternoon.  The flights to the Chicago area total nine hours, not including stops.  We calculate about a day and a half of flying.

This is being typed back at the Carriage House B&B.  Sharon Best was good enough to pick me up and provide a room for the next few days if necessary.  I don't believe you could find a better B&B in all of Pennsylvania.

If the logbook and photos do not get updated in the next day or so, just keep checking back until they are.  We'll be working on solving this weather challenge and may not be able to update the logbook and photos.  This is were adventures bring out the creativity and ability to adjust to change.

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June 26, 2006 - Day 15

Lock Haven, PA – RAIN DELAY – Day #2

We moved the Cubs to the other side of the field.  That was a good thing since the tie downs pulled easily out of the water-soaked ground where we were.  At first we heard there were tie downs on the hard surface, but when we arrived they were taken.  So once again, we ended up in the grass.  But not for long; with some negotiating we found a corporate hangar and a guy with a big heart.  Len and I put the Cubs in the hangar and wipe them down as it poured rain outside.

We've been studying the weather channel and online weather services all day.  There's a chance that tomorrow (Tuesday, June 26, 2006) we will get the window to leave Lock Haven and get back to flat land.  We'll miss the people of Lock Haven, they've been most hospitable and attentive to our dilemma.  

Thanks to all of you for checking back during this brief intermission in our adventure.  With any luck the adventure will continue tomorrow or the next day.

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June 27, 2006 - Day 16

Lock Haven, PA to Clearfield, PA

Just as we had hoped the weather window opened up long enough for us to depart Lock Haven.  However, we only made it 54 miles to Clearfield, PA.  Here's what happened.  The storm front that was over Lock Haven moved west to the Pennsylvania/ Ohio state line.  So the storms are directly on our flight path.  But, that storm front is forecast to move back east to the Lock Haven area tonight and early tomorrow morning.  Yep, it's going right over our heads while we sleep.  If all that works as we hope, the weather should be flyable to the west tomorrow.  If we had stayed in Lock Haven, we probably would have been stuck there.  The weather on departure was overcast but there was plenty of room between the cloud bases and the terrain (make that mountains).  

We still can't get used to the hospitality here in Pennsylvania.  Jerry at the Clearfield airport found a nice hangar to keep the Cub in then arranged a ride to the hotel for the night.  He will come and get me in the morning and take me back.  

We've been using the weather.gov website for the most reliable "Hourly Weather Forecast" information.  It's amazing and more accurate than the weatherchannel or website.  Check it out

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June 28, 2006 - Day 17

Clearfield, PA to New Philadelphia, OH

Fog shrouded the airport but the sun was making headway in eliminating it.  The Cub was packed and ready to go.  Twenty minutes later and one final check of the weather and a few flips of the prop and the Cub came to life.  Climb out was smooth but still in some hazy conditions.  The unforgiving thickly forested hills of Pennsylvania began to give way to more and more farmed lands.  As the hills began to smooth out, the horizon took on more of wavy look instead of a doctor's EKG strip.

For the third time in this adventure; neither the Cub nor I wanted to land.  We could have flown over this stunning countryside forever.  I wish I could have taken all of you along.  At first many rural farms began to appear.  Then as if it was choreographed, very small towns appeared followed by much larger towns.  The scenery was captivating as we glided on our vintage magic carpet above rural America.  Some houses with swimming pools and swing sets in their back yards told us a family lived there.  Each parcel with a house represented the family unit.  Their own little world.    All of them laid out in a perfect pattern.    

The second fuel stop was a weather related detour.  A large black cloud lay directly in our path.  We turned south to go around it.  But it grew faster than we could possibly maneuver around it.  So we found a close airport and landed as this thundering behemoth threatened to gobbled us up.  Once on the ground things began to happen very rapidly as the storm was quickly approaching.  I filled the Cub's fuel tank, went inside to pay and asked if I could put the Cub in a hangar until the storm passed.  Glenn Davis and his son Aaron helped me close the hangar doors as the winds and rain pelted the side of the hangar.  The Cub was safely inside.  It was then that I realized that Glenn had left his plane tied down outside so the Cub would be safe inside.  We all went to lunch to wait out the storm.  A few other gentlemen from the EAA Chapter 1077 joined us.  Terry Henry was one of them.  He offered to let me use a car he had in his hangar while I was in town.  Okay follow me on this.  I literally blow into town before a storm.  A man and his son leave their airplane tied down outside in a storm while a complete stranger puts his airplane inside their hangar.  Next a person at the same lunch table offers his car to me while I'm in town.  Later another fellow says This is our tourist time of the year and hotels my be full. He said he has a spare bedroom if I can't find a place to stay.  Aviation is much more than flying, it's about the very generous people who go out of their way helping other people.  Oh yes, I almost forgot, Terry the fellow who loaned me his car, also left gas money on the front seat and apologized for the fuel being low.  

What happened next falls into the 'right place at the right time' category.  Many of the members of the local EAA Chapter were there because a vintage Ford Tri Motor was due to land.  The chapter had sold rides in the Tri Motor.  It took Terry 18 months to put this little program together.  Everyone was outside standing in pouring rain with cameras at the ready.  Then, over the horizon appeared a painfully slow vintage aircraft lining up for the runway.  It landed smoothly on the rain soaked runway and taxied to the hangar.  The very damp crowd gathered around it to assist with pushing it into a hangar.

Again today the definition of an adventure was fulfilled.  The storm blew me into an airport I never intended to land at.  From there the adventure created a memory that will last a lifetime.  Terry and I remain good friends to this day.


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June 29, 2006 - Day 18

New Philadelphia, OH to Poplar Grove, IL

We made it!   Crisp blue skies and the earth being warmed by the brilliant morning sun greeted us early this morning.  The flight plan was filed and the updated weather was received via cell phone as we arrived at the airport.  The Ford Tri Motor was out of its guest hangar and being readied for the first paying customers.  

I rolled back the hangar doors and the morning sum illuminated the Cub's hangar.  It took only the slightest push to roll the Cub into the fresh dew laden morning air.  All baggage stowed, radio and GPS turned on and checked, chock the tires, preflight the tiny yellow airframe and prime the engine with six blades.  Mags hot, two quick blades and the 75 horse Continental engine clattered to life.  As I climb aboard the Cub, the Ford Tri Motor roars by taking off with the first passengers of the day.

Immediately after we take off the chilled morning air swirls around the Cub's small but comfortable cockpit.  Like a splash of ice cold water to the face, my senses are completely awakened.  The sun is at our back which makes the green hills and pastures sparkling emerald-like carpets.  This is the day we've waited for.  The rain delay meant we would have to put in one very long day of flying to make Illinois by Friday.  Perhaps we could make it today.  What a glorious day to enjoy long hours in the Cub.

Each fuel stop meant coaxing the Cub down for a landing.  Promising the little yellow aircraft we would return to the skies after a quick fueling.  Gentle bumps reminded us we needed to continually mind our course and altitude.  But as the air smoothed out, the camera and video cam shot many miniature scenes that went beneath our landing gear.  If airplanes could smile, (and I believe they can) the Cub certainly had a smile from wing tip to wing tip.  Quite often we were so overwhelmed by the beauty below us and the thrill of flight that a few steep turns, climbs and dives seemed perfectly in order.

By the end of the day, our greatest mischievous act was committed, though initially by accident.  In late afternoon when our course changed from west to north, the afternoon sun cast our shadow below and to the right of our flight path.  It followed us to our destination.  I happened to notice that if I maneuvered the Cub just right I could align our shadow down the centerline of the highway below.  That's when the obvious became readily apparent.  As soon as our shadow passed a speeding car below, the car would rapidly decelerate.  The drive must have thought we were state troopers checking their speed by an airplane above.  Perhaps we chose to slow the Cub down and see if the cars would also slow down.  Yep, it worked.  We actually had created a line of cars afraid of our shadow.  What on earth possess us to do these things?

The landing on the grass strip at Poplar Grove was so soft that angels wept at the beauty of the moment.  Okay, I'm pushing it a bit… okay, a lot.  But it was a good landing.  Sure the thanks go to Steve and Tina for their manicured grass runways only a fool could mess up a landing on.  Tina was very gracious as she took my brother Mike and I around their pride and joy vintage airport.  The Cub was parked under an old Phillips 66 gas station sign, looking very content with its performance for the day.  I'm sure when I leave this earth; the gates of heaven will open to the Poplar Grove Airport filled with vintage airplanes and people who love them.

The Cub now gets a two and a half week rest in a hangar at Poplar Grove Airport while I return to California.  Remember, the second part of the adventure begins July 19th, when I return to pick up the Cub and take it to the world's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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PART II - After two and a half weeks at home in California, I board a jet to Chicago for the second part of the adventure

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July 19, 2006 - Day 19

Somewhere over the Midwest at 36,000 feet aboard American Airlines bound for Chicago.

Complaining isn't my strong suit, but I can do it well at times.  I'll make this part of the log entry brief.  Airline travel sucks!  You have to sit in an uncomfortable seat next to someone who doesn't want to be as close to you as you are to them.  There are no rules on how long either of you gets to use the joint armrest.  If you're by the window and you have to pee, everyone has to get up to let you out and back in again.  The flight attendant reluctantly gives you a glass of ice and about 3.5 ounces of a beverage along with 2.2 grams of pretzels and refers to it as you're “in flight snack.”  The list goes on from there and all of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

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July 20, 2006 - Day 20

Poplar Grove, IL

Call me sensitive, but as the hangar door slowly opened the Cub looked like a puppy that had been kept alone in the house all day.  Today we were going to go through a complete maintenance check in preparation for the second part of the adventure.   The mechanic at Poplar Grove Airport handled all of the maintenance issues.  I can't say enough about this totally aviation minded airport.  

After the Cub's maintenance was completed the sun came out and dried up all the rain.  So itsee, bitsee, spider… no wait I digress.  It was time for us to take to the skies from the most perfect grass runway a pilot could want.  Throttle full forward, engine at maximum RPM, stick forward, wait for 50 MPH on the airspeed indicator and gently pull back.  WE'RE FLYING!!!  The sky was empty because of the low clouds.  We had the countryside around the airport to ourselves.  We banked steeply over a small farm house and circled the barn looking for anyone who might look up to see the little yellow Cub.  A Mom taking in laundry from the clothes line paused and turned her head skyward.  I wondered how many chores she still had left to finish today before finally getting the chance to fall off to sleep.  As she looked up at the Cub, did she wonder what it would be like to experience the freedom of floating above compared to all she had to tend to every day?  

Several takeoffs and landings later, the Cub needed fuel.  That's when we met Darren and Kelly from Houston, TX.  They were on there way to Oshkosh in a nicely restored 1940 Aeronca.  I couldn't pass up giving Darren a hard time about Kelly wearing a J3 Cub tee shirt.  He was a good sport about it and allowed me to take their picture.  We will try to catch up again in Oshkosh.

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July 21, 2006 - Day 21

Poplar Grove, Illinois

Driving to the airport under dark grey overcast skies made my mind consider other activities since flying wasn't likely.  Perhaps this morning would be the perfect time to polish up the Cub.  A few hours of applying spray wax then buffing it off gave me the time to look further at the overall condition of my flying partner.  Sure enough we both had a few loose screws.  The Cub's were easily remedied, mine would take many serious counseling sessions.

Once the Cub looked its best we taxied over to the museum for some shots in front of the vintage hangar.  With all the various angles covered it was time to head back to the safety of the hangar.  Ooooops, a sudden downpour meant taxiing a long way in the pouring rain.  So much for the wax job.  

Tomorrow we fly to Brodhead for a vintage airplane fly-in.  With any luck, I'll get some great shots of the Wisconsin countryside and some unique vintage aircraft.

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July 22, 2006 - Day 22

Poplar Grove, IL to Brodhead, WI


Departing Poplar Grove just after 9:30 am on a clear and cool morning seemed quite normal.  The Cub flew perfectly; the landscape below was the most beautiful on the adventure so far.  We couldn't get enough of the miniature farms and towns below us.  I suspect that's when it happened.  As we approached Brodhead aerodrome, something was very wrong.  Very, very wrong.  The GPS said we were less than a mile out, but there wasn't any airport or aircraft radio transmissions.  Then, just ahead, an odd shaped grass field cut into a forest and corn field.  There! Small biplanes were sort of lined up.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye something was moving towards me at my altitude.  Instinctively I pulled the control stick in the opposite direction.  “What the heck,” I yelled out loud.  It was a Stearman biplane; not just one, but three or four of them.  I was in the landing pattern traffic.  My mind raced to find the runway that was marked by two white tires.  Behind me were a couple more biplanes.  In a few moments I was going to land at the annual Pietenpol Fly-In in Brodhead, Wisconsin.

An eerie feeling consumed me in a Twilight Zone kind of way.  This entire scene could have been right out of a 1940's era fly-in.  There weren't any radio transmissions.  Each plane made a perfect landing on the turf runway along the corn field that bordered the grass strip, then they turned off to park on the grass in no particular order.  

It was the summer of 1940 and there was no escaping it.  No Pepsi advertising banners, no SUV's parked by airplanes, heck, there wasn't any hard surface.  Even the hangars had grass right up to them.  So this is what it was like over 66 years ago when aviators gathered to share a Saturday afternoon fly-in.  A part of me didn't want to leave.  A bigger part can't wait to return.

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July 23, 2006 - Day 23

Brodhead, WI to Oshkosh, WI

I spent the night as the guest of Frank and Jo Ann Baker.  We shared stories of our children and grandchildren.  We laughed at some of our adventures and often realized how much we were alike.  In the morning, Frank drove me to Morey Airport and untied the Cub as I packed the gear and luggage.  He waited on the ramp as we took off and I rocked my wings to say goodbye.

The feelings from the day before at Brodhead had not left me.  The morning flight took me over small rural white churches with cars parked and folks dressed in their Sunday best filing into the quaint structure.  Would they be going to the lake this afternoon to play in the water and enjoy a barbeque with family and friends?  I so wish I could have taken you with me.  This morning was perfect in every way.

Arriving over Ripon, WI (birthplace of the Republican Party) the sky seemed to fill with aircraft from every direction.  It was like a swarm of mosquitoes descending on an unassuming hiker.  Good god, I was in it now.  With my trusty booklet on how to arrive with hundreds of other aircraft at the worlds largest air show, I said my special aviator's prayer (it goes something like this… "God help me!").  

Basically every airplane flies in a single file at the same altitude and follows a set of railroad tracks.  When we reach the town of Fisk, a FAA controller on the ground, who is speaking non-stop, says, “Yellow Cub over Fisk, if you hear me rock your wings.”  Once I rock my wings he says, “Thanks, turn right, follow the Cherokee ahead and switch to the control tower frequency… Good Job.”  I never need to key the microphone, nor does anyone else.  There just isn't any time.

The control tower says, “Yellow Cub, you're cleared to land on runway 18 left, but you must land half way down the runway because I'm landing another airplane on the same runway at the same time right behind you, rock you wings if you understand and can comply.”  I rock the Cub's wings and recite the aviator's prayer two more times before the Cub's wheels kiss the runway at the half way point.

It took a couple hours for the reality of the past few days to hit home.  After tying the Cub down, I wandered around the flight line admiring the vintage aircraft that had just landed.  As I sat and ate a burger, the meaning of the past 5 weeks was a little overwhelming.  Our quest to find out if rural Americana was still alive was validated in every way.  Leaving it, on the other hand, may take much longer.

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July 24, 2006 - Day 24

Oshkosh, WI  

1st day of the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) 2006 AirVenture

It's pouring rain outside.  The clouds have been gathering all day in an attempt to bring some organization to tonight's performance.  First the windows of my room go white with the flashes of lightning, then in a few moments the lights inside the room flicker as a loud crash of thunder shakes everything God put on this earth, or so it seems.  I wasn't able to concentrate on writing this with such a heavenly show going on outside, so out I went.  

This is good old Midwest evening entertainment in rural America.  Everyone was sitting outside their room, under the eaves, watching as the show progressed.  Tomorrow the dawn's first light will bring incredible colors to the countryside.  I'll set my alarm early so I can stop along the way and attempt to record some of it in photos.

Prior to tonights rain, the first day at the air show presented some jaw-dropping moments.  The Cub looked great in the morning light.  My camera was ready to record some of the wonderfully restored vintage aircraft.  A row of picture-ready Stearman's was only a short walk from the Cub.  A few feet away was a perfectly polished Spartan Executive.  In the morning light, every photo was a keeper.

The day ended with a concert by the Beach Boys.  Easily 24,000 people gathered to listen to the 60's group sing their classic hits.  The crowd, sporting mostly grey hair, danced in place as beach balls bounced among the them.  A fierce thunderstorm prematurely ended the concert as the weary crowd of visitors scrambled for their cars.

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July 25, 2006 - Day 25

Oshkosh, WI  

2nd day of the EAA 2006 AirVenture

Each morning the drive from the motel in Green Lake to Oshkosh takes about 40 minutes.  It's a drive I look forward to because few places on earth could compete with Wisconsin's beauty.  Land that isn't cultivated is covered with fully matured forests and ancient oak trees that comfortably resist the strong winds from any approaching weather front.  Farm houses surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns and winding gravel driveways invite any stranger to stop in.  Generations of pride in family farming are evident with each homestead I pass.

The Cub is in its element at the Vintage Show Plane parking area.  It's surrounded by some of the most beautiful aircraft in aviation history.  Last night's storm left the Cub covered with thousands of perfectly rounded spheres of water reflecting the morning light.  Over the nose cowling of the Cub, the golden glow of the morning sun peeked through the clouds and made the scene appear like a National Geographics magazine cover shot.

Walking among these classics in the early morning brought back memories of the Brodhead experience.  Fellow pilots were tenderly wiping the rain drops from their precious aircraft's airframe; more out of a sense of caring and respect than to make them pretty to onlookers.  Passersby spoke softly, almost as if to keep from disturbing the moment each of us shared before the crowds arrived for the daily airshow.

Today was spent with friends I met because of this adventure.  One let me use his hangar to change the oil in the Cub; the other emailed me to invite me to his grass strip and to spend the night at his home.  Both of them were here at Oshkosh.  Sharing life's experiences with other aviators is very easy.  After the introductory handshake, we just settle down to discuss anything and everything, which of course includes a healthy dose of humor.

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July 26, 2006 - Day 26

Oshkosh, WI

3rd day of the EAA 2006 AirVenture

With digital video camera and still camera at the ready, I sat in my $14.95 Kmart fold up chair on the flight line waiting for the air show to begin.  One jar of honey roasted peanuts and two bottles of Propel vitamin water, sun screen hastily applied leaving white streaks and I'm good to go.

If you have never experienced the sounds of World War II radial engine fighter planes screaming across the sky, you owe it to yourself to experience it before you leave this earth.  Today's jet fighters are loud as they slice through the air on a low level pass, but radial engines consume large quantities of fuel and oil as they rip the air around them demanding their space in the sky.  These radial engine aircraft are far more imposing because of their sound and the vibrations that shake your bones.  Even the most uninterested spouses stopped what they were doing and watched helplessly as these archaic warbirds destroy every semblance of peace on a warm summer afternoon.  For most men, experiencing these beasts in flight is equal to the testosterone generated by an entire garage filled with Snap-On tools and a Harley.  

Hot Dam!  Just writing about these warbirds makes me want to grab a 300 horse power chain saw and filet a redwood.  We're talking real guy stuff here, not white loafers and cardigan sweaters.  So enjoy the photos because tomorrow is the last day at the air show.  On Friday the Cub and I begin the journey home on a new route.

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July 27, 2006 - Day 27

Oshkosh, WI

4th day of  the EAA 2006 AirVenture

Sorry this log entry is a day late.  I did laundry last night and had to pack.  But I did prepare an entry.


It was difficult to leave AirVenture today knowing that it was the last day with so many splendid aircraft and aviation minded people.  On the other hand, checking the Cub before I left for the evening brought on an air of anticipation.  Tomorrow we will be on the road again, make that 'sky.'  The next few days we will be landing at some small grass strips in Iowa.  From there we have four different routes home to choose from.  Weather will be the determining factor.

The laundry is done, my duffle bag is packet, and I'll check weather after posting this logbook entry.  Enjoy today's photos.

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July 28, 2006 - Day 28

Oshkosh, WI to Dyersville, IA

Tonight we are the guests of Dave and Joan Kramer.  Dave responded to my magazine article about grass strips.  We emailed each other, met in Oshkosh and today we landed at the best grass runway the Cubs wheels have ever gotten to know intimately.  

Departing AirVenture with dozens of other aircraft was quite the experience.  They lined us up two across on the runway then let one of us go at a time.   Thrilling doesn't go far enough to describe it.  Todays flight was over even more impressive terrain.  I spent more time takeing videos and photos than flying the Cub.  You'll see when you check out the photos page.  Nothing I put to words here will begin to give meaning to the beauty of southwest Wisconsin and eastern Iowa.

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July 29, 2006 - Day 29

Dyersville, IA to Ottumwa, IA

The Cub and I settle into level cruise about 700 feet above the ground on a perfectly clear and calm Saturday afternoon.  We are completely fascinated by the contour farming patterns below when a bright reflection on the right side of the Cub catches my eye.  At first I think it's the sun's reflection off of a small pond.  As my eyes adjust to the glare, I make out the shape of a shiny miniature P-51 Mustang circling below us.  My first thought is that the aerobatic plane is on his way home from AirVenture like us.  Moments later it disappears and then startles me as it reappears below me and off my right wing.  Slowly the plane moves closer.  I can see the pilot's head turned towards me, so I know he sees me.  Now he's only 20 feet or so off my right wing tip, still slightly below me.  

I can see clearly into the cockpit of the little P-51 and get my next surprise.  It's a woman with oversized aviator sunglasses and long red curly hair held neatly in place by her headset.  Oh yes, she wearing black driver's gloves like the aerobatic pilots wear.  She's lowered the flaps of her plane to go as slow as she can, while I'm going as fast as I can in the Cub.  So much for male ego.  She looks over at me and gestures.  Her arm is straight out in front of her and her hand is open flat like a knife.  She takes her other hand and grabs her wrist, then nods her head.  It takes her three times before I figure out what she is trying to tell me.  “Hold Course!”  In other words, I'm not to make any turns.  I give her the thumbs up.  She returns it with a big smile.  Then she makes the same gesture except her hand is turned palm down while she grabs her wrist.  Okay, this one is easier, 'Hold Altitude!”  I motion back with thumbs up.  She smiles and moves her plane closer.  She's wearing a white tank top with a pink safety harness over each shoulder.  Next she holds up her hand with her fingers spread.  I motion back the same way and she gives me the thumbs up.  Then she points to her wrist watch.  She must mean, “Five Minutes.”  Then she repeats the all the gestures one more time in order.  I put them together like a parlor game answer and gesture back with the same motions.  She's telling me, “Hold Course, Hold Altitude for Five Minutes.”  I repeat the gestures back to her.  She nods and gives me the thumbs up, and yet another beautiful smile.  I watch her raise the flaps of her little airplane and push the throttle forward as she accelerates ahead of me at my altitude.  Then she turns on the smoke trail used by airshow pilots.  Now it all makes sense to me.  Hold course, hold altitude for five minutes and follow the smoke trail.  I maneuver the Cub so the smoke trail is between my landing gear.

I lose sight of her plane but continue to fly the smoke trail.  Then up ahead I see the smoke from her plane again.  This time she's making a perfect circle with the smoke trail I'm following going directly through the center.  How cool is this?  Then things get scary; really scary.  She's not doing loops to form the perfect circle; she's doing a barrel roll, DIRECTLY AT ME!  I say out loud, over and over again.  “Hold course, hold altitude, five minutes.”   Her little airplane zooms by the Cub inverted as she continues to create a perfect spiral around the smoke trail I am following.  

Just when I figured the show was over, a shadow blocks the sunlight from the sun roof of the Cub.  “Holy Macaroni”  I make out the nose of her airplane slowly inching its way over the top of the Cub and very, very close.  HOLD COURSE, HOLD ALTITUDE, I repeat to myself out loud.  I gamble and look straight up through the now darkened skylight to see something out of the movie “Top Gun.”  She's positioned her plane a few feet above the Cub, INVERTED!  I'm looking directly at her just a few feet away.  Her long red hair has fallen against the bubble canopy of her inverted airplane and her shoulders are pressed against the pink shoulder harness.  She smiles broadly and with one hand tugs at the bridge of her oversized aviators sunglasses and gives me a wink before climbing away and rolling right side up.  I reached the end of the smoke trail I was following and the end of this fantasy.  Remind me again not to tell stories like this to a captive audience, it just isn't fair to all of you.

Now go look at today's photos and forgive my penchant for telling stories.

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July 30, 2006 - Day 30

Ottumwa, IA to Blakesburg, IA to Beatrice, NE

We circled the grass runways a few times to get some video footage of the Antique Airport near Bartlesville, Iowa.  Two biplanes were parked and their pilots were looking up at us wondering why we didn't land immediately.  It was bumpy this morning and the approach to landing kept my feet dancing on the rudder pedals.  The little Cub gave it its best as we descended towards the grass runway.  We had some trees to clear and the runway was short, so the landing had to be reasonably accurate.

Then on short final, I cut the throttle, continued my dance on the rudder pedals and gingerly moved the control stick.  The entire exercise ended with us arriving as if we'd done it for decades, mostly due to good old fashion luck.

The next fuel stop at Creston, Iowa was just as good, lucky us.  We taxied to the unattended fuel pumps and I went inside the FBO to see if someone would fuel the Cub.  A sign with a phone number greeted us.  A call revealed that the attendant was out of town but he would call his back up, the local fire department.  Sure enough, a fire engine arrived with two firefighters on board.  They were courteous and professional, but obviously weren't fond of this added responsibility.  I don't blame them.

The day ended with us landing in 20 knot crosswinds gusting to 28 knots at Beatrice, NE.  The Cub didn't roll 40 feet after the wheels touched the runway.  We struggled to get to the fuel pumps.  This was it for the day.  The Cub earned a night in a hangar and me a quiet motel room.

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July 31, 2006 - Day 31

Beatrice, NE

Cruising Interstate 80 from Lincoln, Nebraska to Omaha at a leisurely 75 mph, I'm passed by a big rig hauling new cars.  Wait a second; Lincoln to Omaha is an easterly heading.  And what's a big rig doing passing me?  Maybe because I'm in a Buick loaner car with the number 3 cylinder from the Cub in the trunk.  

Let's go back to this morning.  With the wheels chocked, I flipped the prop; the Cub started but ran very rough.  Maybe just a fouled spark plug, I hoped.  But I knew in my head it was more than that.  I pushed the Cub to the shop just as it opened.  A quick compression test of all the cylinders confirmed that the number 3 cylinder had a stuck exhaust valve.  Not an uncommon occurrence with these old engines.  The solution however would take a day or two.  

Then things got better.  The Buick airport loaner car was mine to use to drive the cylinder from Beatrice to Omaha, a 76 mile trip.  The shop doing the work would be waiting for me and get the cylinder overhauled and me on the road before the end of the day.  

The motel in Beatrice had a room for me and the mechanic will put the Cub back together first thing in the morning.  With luck, I'll be in the sky before noon... with luck.

Adventures involve uncertainty and risk by definition.  Today was the perfect reminder that control is an illusion and taking each part of the adventure means dealing with uncertainty.  Besides, it was a nice day for a drive and I met some great folks at Central Cylinder Service in Omaha.

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August 1, 2006 - Day 32

Beatrice, NE to Burlington, CO

We took off around 10:30 am as we had hoped for.  The Cub's running really well with its repairs completed.  Thanks Travis.

We were prepared for the terrain to become rather uninteresting as the day passed.  Wrong!  Western Nebraska has a beauty all its own.  Still mostly agricultural in scope, the small towns are usually near the railroad where huge silos hug the rails.  

Mechanical irrigation is needed to keep the crops green and growing.  Towns seem further apart but still retain that very neat and tidy appearance.   We were glad to see fewer Walmart's and more thriving Main Street shops with parking spaces filled.  

We did that bad thing again.  This time I got a photo of us.  Yep, we slowed traffic with our shadow.  The photo only shows how the shadow is positioned over the road; slowing traffic requires my free hand to control the throttle.  We tried our luck with racing a train also, but the tracks turned north and we had limited fuel because of headwinds.  We feel the need to race a train again.

Tomorrow we cross the front range of the Rocky Mountains… keep your fingers crossed.  We need to attain over 8,000 feet to make the pass… Ugggh.

Lots of photos today, go check them out

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August 1, 2006 - Day 32

Beatrice, NE to Burlington, CO

We took off around 10:30 am as we had hoped for.  The Cub's running really well with its repairs completed.  Thanks Travis.

We were prepared for the terrain to become rather uninteresting as the day passed.  Wrong!  Western Nebraska has a beauty all its own.  Still mostly agricultural in scope, the small towns are usually near the railroad where huge silos hug the rails.  

Mechanical irrigation is needed to keep the crops green and growing.  Towns seem further apart but still retain that very neat and tidy appearance.   We were glad to see fewer Walmart's and more thriving Main Street shops with parking spaces filled.  

We did that bad thing again.  This time I got a photo of us.  Yep, we slowed traffic with our shadow.  The photo only shows how the shadow is positioned over the road; slowing traffic requires my free hand to control the throttle.  We tried our luck with racing a train also, but the tracks turned north and we had limited fuel because of headwinds.  We feel the need to race a train again.

Tomorrow we cross the front range of the Rocky Mountains… keep your fingers crossed.  We need to attain over 8,000 feet to make the pass… Ugggh.

Lots of photos today, go check them out.

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August 2, 2006 - Day 33

Burlington, CO to Albuquerque, NM

The sun was still asleep because the clouds were pulled over its head.  The dim glow of the flashlight was all we had as we prepared for the predawn flight.  The weather briefer gave us good weather for the morning, but morning was all he would give us.  The afternoon skies would be filled with huge build ups that spawned enormous thunderstorms. We vowed to land before they matured.

It was eerily quiet as I flipped the prop.  We felt very alone in the prairies of eastern Colorado.  The engine came to life and the world seemed a little more normal.  Climb out was slow even with the cooler morning temperatures.  A low morning scattered cloud deck greeted us 10 minutes into the flight.  Ten minutes later, the sun finally woke up and backlit the wisps of clouds surrounding us.  We continued our climb to clear the first of four mountain ranges of the day. Crossing the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in a small vintage aircraft is not for the faint of heart, unless of course you just need to know if you can do it.  

The morning was not without its challenges.  The first mountain range we encountered was over 8,600 feet.  The pass we hoped to use was completely socked in with clouds.  It looked better to the east and the other pass we planned as Option B.  This pass is where Interstate 25 crosses the Front Range from Trinidad, CO to Las Vegas, New Mexico.  The pass was open but far narrower than we hoped it would be.  As we entered the pass, our friend the tailwind turned into our enemy the downdraft we couldn't handle.  Our 1,000 foot above the ground cruise altitude was decaying rapidly and might not be enough.  This was no dream.  The good news was that we had the interstate below us.  If the downdrafts pushed us to the ground, we would join the traffic on the interstate and land.  To the right of the interstate a set of railroad track led to lower terrain (see photo on photo page).  We decided to go for the tracks and were rewarded.  The pass took us to lower terrain and back to our course.  We'll never know if we could have made it over the interstate.

The last leg of the day was from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Albuquerque over some desolate and hostile terrain.  We sought out every thermal we could climb in to make our safe altitude for crossing.  The Cub never worked so hard.  At nearly 9,000 feet we couldn't climb any more, but that would be enough to make it.  Forty-five minutes before we reached our destination of the day, the words of the morning weather briefer came true.  Huge build ups were just right of our course but seemed to be stationary.  We turned southwest away from the build ups and were greeted by the sprawling city of Albuquerque on the horizon.  It would be all down hill from here to the Pacific Ocean.

We did the bad thing again today along Interstate 25.  A silver pickup truck was our finest target; we actually saw his brake lights after our shadow passed.  I suspect I'll need some serious therapy for this new habit.

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August 3, 2006 - Day 34

Albuquerque, NM to Prescott, AZ

The unmistakably crisp blue morning skies of the southwest greeted us as the Cub was pushed from the hangar.  We had some high terrain to climb above today, so leaving at dawn was important.  Less than 30 minutes into the flight I was reaching for the camera.  Heading west, the sun was at our backs, so the beauty of the early morning sunlight bathed the landscape below.  This is what professional photographers refer to as the golden hour.

I dug out my IPod, stuck the ear buds in my ears before putting the headset over them.  I listened to my favorite piano album, “Grand Passion” by John Tesh while the Cub worked hard at gaining the much needed altitude.  The morning air was perfectly calm, so the flight was almost surreal.  We didn't need the charts or the GPS this morning; we simply followed Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to Gallup.  

Interstate 40 generally follows the old Route 66.  You will enjoy some of today's photos that will surely stir memories if you've ever driven that magnificent highway in years past.  There are still portions of the old highway along the interstate and a number of roadside businesses are still there.  In honor of this historic highway, we chose to fly at exactly 6,600 feet (which is about 800 feet above the ground).  Yes, I did the bad thing again, AND got photos and video.  

From Gallop to Winslow, AZ, we flew over the Petrified Forest National Monument along I-40.  We hope you enjoy looking at the photos as much as we did taking them.  

The leg from Winslow to Prescott, AZ took us directly over Sedona, AZ.  Anyone on the ground would have thought the Cub was re-enacting a World War II dogfight as I circled to get the perfect shots.  It was almost noon, but the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds, so the shadows worked in our favor.  We did have to circle a few times to wait for the spires to be illuminated by brilliant shafts of sunlight.

There was one aviation historic moment for us today.  For 20 years I have been communicating with control towers at airports when I owned the Dakota.  But for the last two years, I've never landed the Cub at a controlled airport, thus I haven't communicated with a control tower.  Prescott, AZ has a tower and I needed fuel and a place to stay.  So we finally ended our two-year tradition.  The Cub wasn't a bit happy about this, so I had to promise it wouldn't happen again unless we needed fuel.

Enjoy the photos.

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August 4, 2006 - Day 35

Prescott, AZ to Corona, California – Home

It poured rain as I stood beneath the wing of the Cub while getting a weather briefing on my cell phone.  I know what you are thinking, if it's already raining, why would I call for a weather briefing.  We wouldn't melt so we took off and circled below the rain clouds to gain altitude.  Yes, flying in the rain is safe.  It's just like driving a car in the rain.  Visibility below the clouds was 20 miles or more.  The dark shafts of heavy rain could be easily circumnavigated.   Note I said, “Could be easily navigated.”  We both agreed that the bug carcasses and dust from weeks in the sky might be washed away by flying through some rain.  Like a kid running through a lawn sprinkler, the Cub bounced along in the mildly turbulent rain shaft.  Huge drops of refreshing cool water crashed against the windscreen and droplets of rain trailed along the side windows and underneath the wings.  The fast moving droplets looked like dozens of diamonds racing to leap off the edge of the airframe.  From my vantage point in the back seat (did I mention that early model Cubs have to be flown from the back seat?) I could see the Cub's struts were less littered with bug bodies.  Success!

Just west of Prescott, the terrain was more moonscape than anything else.  As we arrived over the Colorado River and Parker, AZ, the clouds gave way to clear, intense cool blue-colored skies that didn't even hint of the energy sapping heat in the air.  After a 14 knot 90 degree crosswind landing at Parker for fuel, we climbed in thermals just enough to find smooth air that was somewhat cooler.

The last stop before home was at good old Twenty-Nine Palms airport.  Darn if they didn't plant even one palm tree after my logbook entry criticizing their name.  The wind was 11 knots gusting to 17 knots right down the runway.  The Cub and I landed twice.  Once because we wanted to and once because the wind took us back up and made us do it again.  

The last leg from Twenty-Nine Palms airport to Corona brought about a rush of mixed feelings as you can imagine.  We had successfully completed the adventure but with that success came the realization that the adventure had come to an end.  While we didn't plan on making these adventures an annual event, the possibilities of flights across America can't be denied...who am I to deny them? Check back next summer. Perhaps the next adventure will take place. The Cub is ready, we are ready...are your ready?  Grab a cup of coffee and visit us at vintageflying.com.


Bern Heimos


Feel free to email me with your comments, vintageflying@gmail.com



"Flight Home" Cub Adventure 2006  


Trip Statistics:


Number of days on the Adventure     35 days


Statute miles flown                                5,217 miles*


Number of legs                                        55 legs*


Longest leg                                                2.1 hours*


Total flight time                                       72.3 hours


Total fuel                                                   358.7 gallons



* GPS kept track




Epilogue


August 6, 2006

The quest to find out if rural Americana is much the same as it was when the Cub was first built was quite successful.  The spirit of rural Americana is very much alive and thriving by all accounts in the 35 day Cub Adventure.  In the weeks we were 'on the road' we never had a bad experience.  People genuinely cared about helping out where ever they could.  I never walked to a motel, slept under the wing, or couldn't get fuel.  From motel clerks to FBO staff, people were never a disappointment.  What amazed us most was how complete strangers became part of every solution to any problem.

From a visual stand point, America is a target rich environment for photographs.  We were never bored as the miles of terrain passed below us.  Our digital camera was on most of the time.  


Flying low and slow over this amazing country is the best way we know to gain a meaningful understanding of who we Americans really are.     Bern Heimos








Logbook for

"Flight Home " Cub Adventure 2006