A quick video edit I threw together from Ashley and me skiing/boarding at Treble Cone in 2012. Obviously this video doesn’t come close to doing the beauty of this place justice. It is otherworldly. Unfortunately, New Zealand, specifically the South Island, had a terrible winter that year so the snow wasn’t as good as expected, but the unadulterated beauty that is New Zealand easily made up for poor snow quality. Click Here to see the photo gallery from this day.

I have been exploring my new hometown any free chance I get. I found a great, secluded, trail last week. What made it so neat was, in the 1409 ft elevation drop, I went through three distinctly different climate zones. In one, there was an abrupt inversion layer (a layer of warm air on top of a layer of cooler air). I think next time I do this hike, I may bring some bear spray, or a gun. I was told, after the fact, this trail is notorious for bears (due to the plants full of berries). Whoops! None-the-less, it was a beautiful hike!

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Last week, I drove 3 hours south to Colfax, Washington to fly my good friend Kelly’s de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk. South eastern Washington is incredibly gorgeous. There are rolling hills of wheat, Garbanzo beans, and peas as far as the eye can see. Kelly is a crop duster in the area. Coming from the south, I always thought crop dusting would be a blast – not up here. After flying a few low passes, those rolling hills are much steeper then they appear from the ground. Keeping in mind a crop duster must stay only a few feet above the terrain and they are usually loaded overweight, I can see why this area is one of the most dangerous places to spray. It sure is pretty, but I’ll leave the crop dusting for someone else!

Thanks again for the flight Kelly!

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EAA Airventure, Oshkosh is the largest airshow in the world. It never fails to amaze me how many people and airplanes come in for the event. This year 500,000+ attended over the 7 days, 10,000+ airplanes flew in, and there were 2,649 showplanes; all at a midsized airport in eastern Wisconsin!

Normally I go to Oshkosh as a spectator, but this year I went for work. It was a completely different experience, some good and some bad. Getting paid to go to Oshkosh is a huge plus; however, not getting to see friends and hangout with Ashley the whole time was tough.

Working the show had other perks as well. I was able to meet a lot of great people and I was able to share my love of aviation with some young, aspiring aviators. I love speaking to young kids who are contemplating becoming pilots. It is common to see aspiring pilots think there is only one path to get paid to fly – go to flight school, get an aviation degree, work as a flight instructor, then work for the regional’s. While that is a fine path to take – it is far from the only path. It is rewarding to see the look on kids faces when I tell them my story and show them that the world of aviation is huge and the possibilities are endless.

We also attended a lot of the parties – which are fun because I get to meet people in a more intimate setting; however I could do without all the glitz and glamour. I was also afforded the opportunity to ride in a WWII B-17 bomber – that was an incredible experience I soon won’t forget.

There were a load of neat airplanes there this year – some of my favorites include the Gee Bee Super QED replica, the only flying Lockheed Vega, 7 Lockheed 12’s, 3 P-38’s, a Howard 500 (one of only two flying), and a whole lot more!

The highlight of my week had to be the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. Ashley and Pat flew their newly restored Cessna 195 in from Houston. On Friday they found out the plane had won an award, however due to weather they had to leave Saturday morning, missing the award ceremony. They asked if I would attend and accept the award on their behalf. They ended up winning a Bronze Lindy – for my non-airplane readers – that is a HUGE deal. To win a Lindy means that the airplane is in perfect, or near perfect condition. Not many planes have Lindy’s in their logbooks. Winning the award was extra special for me because Ashley and I have spent so much time in and around this plane since the start of its restoration. It was a true, full circle, moment. Plus, I know how much time, money, and effort Pat and Ashley have put into this plane and it is well deserved!

Since I was working most of the week I didn’t have a chance to take any proper photos. All I had was my iPhone – I hope these will suffice!

Most people, who follow my blog, already know; a few years ago, I, along with my girlfriend, Ashley, decided to pursue our lifelong passion of aviation. Our goal: Get paid to fly an airplane. To me, all aspects of aviation are fun. I enjoy maintaining planes [almost] as much as I enjoy flying them. I enjoy flying low and slow or high and fast. I enjoy Piper Cubs and I enjoy SR-71 Blackbirds. I love helicopters and fixed wing. I enjoy the physics of flight as much as I like the engineering of rivet placement. Even avionics fascinate me. To make my point clear: I love aviation and I love to fly.

Over the last two months, a lot has changed in my life and it’s all because of my love of aviation. This past June, I received a call from a mid-sized airplane manufacturer offering me a job flying their airplanes. At first I was reluctant to consider the job because I was enjoying my life in Houston. Life was good; my friends and family were close and I was comfortable. A few days went by and I hadn’t thought much about the offer. That’s when it happened, I ran across a quote on my desk that was given to me by one of my professors at T.C.U. The quote read,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I thought about those words for a second and within the hour I was calling the company back agreeing to visit the headquarters.

To make a long story short, I visited with the company, loved the people I met, loved the area, and loved what the company was all about. I asked for a week to consider the offer and talk it over with Ashley. When I got back to Houston, Ashley and I left on our Montana Piper Cub Adventure. On that journey, I was quickly reminded how much I love the excitement and unknown of exploration. I decided that moving 2300 miles to the Idaho/Canadian border to work for an airplane manufacturer would be a grand adventure. Some people asked why, and I replied with, “Why not?” Why take the “normal” path? Why now? My entire life I have always taken the road less traveled. This opportunity was hardly even a trail in the woods, but half the fun of adventure is charting my own path and exploring what’s out there.

The end of that week I sent in my signed offer letter and, just like that, a new chapter in my life began. I hadn’t really thought of the work involved uprooting my life and moving to North Idaho until after Ashley and I got back from our Piper Cub journey. As I get older, the truth in the saying, “ignorance is bliss” becomes more evident. Think about it, how many of the great adventurers would have set out on their adventure had they known how difficult it was going to be? Would Columbus have set out in search of a new world? Would Lewis and Clark have volunteered to explore the Louisiana Purchase? Sir Edmund Hillary? Magellan? Darwin? The list goes on and on.  For me, the trick is optimism. Certainly I am not naïve to the work involved in moving, however, staying positive and “tricking” my mind into thinking it’ll be easy is the key to always saying “yes” when a new adventure presents itself. Those who over analyze and find the reasons not to do something are the ones who never do it.

June 26th, 2014 Ashley and I picked up our 17’ Penske from Home Depot, drove to our storage unit, and began loading. The most common words among anyone who has ever moved have to be, “we have to much STUFF!” I tend to be a minimalist; however, I was amazed by how much crap I’ve accumulated over a short 25 year life. A full day of packing later, we were headed west, without a worry in the world.

All was great until 11:00 a.m. on I-40, 97 miles east of Albuquerque.  I noticed, in the side mirror, our right fender on the car carrier seemed a bit looser then it was when we set off. At the next exit we pulled off and my suspicions proved correct, we blew a tire. Quite literally, the tire blew up. There was nothing left of the back right tire on the trailer and the front right was rolling on wire. Another few miles and that tire would have blown, who knows what would have transpired had both trailer tires blew. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we had to wait two hours for the truck repairman to drive from Albuquerque. It gave us time to explore the desert, search for snakes, soak up the sun, and enjoy being sandblasted due to high winds. The time flew by…. But soon enough we had two new tires and we were on our way.

The next day we made it to Telluride. A trip west is never complete without a stopover in my adopted hometown. Telluride has the ability to melt worries away and relax the soul; just what Ashley and I needed. We spent a few days there seeing great friends, taking in the views, and hiking/biking as much as possible.

Days later, albeit too soon, we were on our way again, journeying into the unknown. A few hours outside of Telluride we stopped in Moab for lunch and visited Arches National Park. Ashley had never been to Arches, and I had never been to Arches in a 17’ truck with a trailer – so it was a new experience for both of us. 8% grades are given a whole new meaning when you’re hauling 15,000 LBS in an undependable rental truck. The yellow Penske prevailed and allowed us to spend hours hiking through the beautiful sandstone moonscape.

Our stop that evening was in Salt Lake City with our great friend Brad. Brad lives in Austin, but out of pure circumstance he was on a business trip to SLC. He saw one of my Instagram photos from Arches and told me we should stop by SLC for the weekend. I said, “Funny enough, we are two hours from SLC, headed that way.” Seeing that Brad is an awesome guy, he immediately offered us a place to stay at his Dads house, south of town. The power of the internet and instant communication is wonderful – here we both were, a thousand miles away from our homes and within two hours we were having drinks and crashing at an epic house overlooking the entire Salt Lake flats. [Brad, thank you, again, for the kind hospitality!]

The next morning we set about on our journey to Northern Idaho. At this point we were running out of time and we were focused on making it to our destination. I made no prior arrangements once we arrived in Sandpoint – no hotel reservations and I certainly hadn’t found a home to live in yet. If need be, we had a huge box truck with two beds and a couch to sleep in! We strolled into town just as the sun was setting on July 2nd. Luckily, between my dad and me, we have a few points with Holiday Inn and they were able to squeeze us in for the night.

5 a.m. on July 3rd I began my quest to find a new home. I had no preconceived notions as to what I wanted or needed, just a budget in mind. This attitude proved to be invaluable since I quickly found out real estate and rentals are hard to come by in Sandpoint during the summer.  As an example to personify my point; we looked at a 3 bed, 2 bath home for rent. It was beautiful new construction about 20 minutes from work. It was renting for $1300/month according to the advertisement.

Once we got there the gentleman said, “It is available starting September 1st.”

“Hmm, I’d really like something in the next few weeks, if possible?” I said.

He seemed surprised and said, “Oh, in that case, it’ll be $1300/WEEK until September 1st.”

That was how the next three days went. Ashley and I looked at approximately 14 different houses/apartments/condos/houseboats/cabins and they all wanted double or triple rent until the fall months. On the flip side, we found some newer apartments that were cheap – come to find out that they backed up to the county jail and 90% of the units were reserved for Section 8 housing (low-income housing). It was frightening to see how many registered sex offenders lived in those units. As the days wore on, I was beginning to get discouraged.

“Maybe,” I thought to myself, “I should have left my stuff at home and crashed with friends until the fall when I could find decent housing.”

Luckily, Ashley kept my spirits high with her gleaming positivity and onward we marched. On July 5th, we were headed west to Priest Lake for dinner. On the way out there we drove by a nice looking place with a For Rent sign posted behind a bush. At this point we had nothing to lose and we pulled in to have a look. The owner of the unit met us there and brought us in and within seconds Ashley and I looked at one another and knew this was it. It was a brand new townhouse, 7 miles from the airport, just outside of town, and just across the street from the river. The price was incredibly cheap and the landlord was incredibly kind. In fact, over the next two weeks she had us over for a home cooked meal every other night. She even took Ashley to lunch a few times while I was off at work. We signed the lease that night and moved in the next day.

Once the lease was signed, I had to take a step back and take in all that had happened on the journey thus far. As I looked back, I realized, this entire trip was largely unplanned, yet everything fell into place a lot better than I could have ever planned it. What is great about “not planning” is that when an opportunity is presented, nothing needs to be canceled to seize it. I used to be a “planner.” As a converted “non-planner” I can say, first hand, not planning is always more fun! I must thank Ashley and her family as well as aviation for converting me. In aviation, nothing ever works out as planned, so usually there is no point in planning. On top of that, the Atkinson’s, are the epitome of spontaneity. The way they live their life is contagious. It’s too bad it took me this long to figure that out, but better late than never!

It was a huge relief to sign a lease prior to starting my new job. We were even able to get the keys and move in on Sunday, the day before my first day. Ashley and I successfully unloaded everything from the Penske and got it inside. Over the next week, while I was a work, Ashley unpacked all the boxes and decorated my entire townhome. She moved furniture, put beds together, hung pictures, organized closets, hung clothes, made beds, did laundry, cleaned and dusted for days, made breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a thousand other small things. I think the only thing I had to do the whole week was hook up the wires to the TV and set up the wireless router.

I have to take this time to thank Ashley. Without her, this transition would not have been near as easy or even possible. Her support and physical help were a godsend. Like I said, she, literally, moved me into my new townhome. On top of that, she recently finished helping her parents move houses a few weeks prior. She dropped a couch on her foot when we were taking it out of the truck, and other then a grimace, she didn’t complain once – that is how cool , calm, and collected she is. She is tough and tender all in the same package! On top of that, she kept me in check emotionally and mentally. She is the most positive, caring, kindhearted individual I’ll ever meet. When I began to get overwhelmed, she reminded me to look at the bigger picture. She always looks at the bright side and constantly reminded me to enjoy the journey, instead of focusing on the destination. Above all, she is my companion and best friend. I don’t care how cliché that is, because it’s true. We started best friends long before we began dating and that is what we remain. People ask us all the time, “Why don’t you guys get sick of one another when you take such long trips in close quarters (like Cub trips or this trip)?”  That question will always flabbergast me… I wouldn’t want to share that adventure with anyone else BUT her! What fun is an adventure if you don’t have anyone to share the experiences with?!  I think the best way to sum it all up is this; our love is shared by a High-Five as much as it is by a Hug. THANK YOU Ashley, without you this move wouldn’t have been possible.

I also must thank my great aunt & uncle, Jim and Claudia. We spent the 4th of July with them and their wonderful group of friends and neighbors. They welcomed me to North Idaho and made it feel like home right away. They also opened their doors and let us stay a few nights as we transitioned into my new home. Thank you both for the warmth and hospitality.

I’m now in my third week of work and it keeps getting better. I love my job, the people I work with, and the new area I’m living in. It is a bit lonely since Ashley is staying in Texas, but the good news is, we are both pilots and only within a few hours flight of one another. Plus Skype and cell phones are great at keeping us connected. In the grand scheme of things, if that is all I have to complain about – LIFE IS GOOD!

Welcome to Sandpoint!

Over the past two weeks, Ashley and I have been on an epic adventure that took us from Houston to Billings, Montana via Memphis and Denver. The trip began about a month ago when a friend asked me to ferry his Super Cub from Memphis, Tenn. to Billings, Montana. For my non-pilot readers, ferry flying is done quite often to get an airplane from one location to another for its owner. In this case, the owner wanted to fly his airplane around Idaho for a few weeks, but he did not want to waste his time off getting it up there, so he asked if I could fly it up there for him.

Being that I am based in Houston, I needed to find a ride to Memphis to pick up his airplane, and, eventually, I would need a ride back from Billings to Houston in the end. As circumstances would work, Ashley was able to get the time off to fly me to Memphis and bring me home from Billings in her 1946 J3 Piper Cub. In addition, we thought it would be a blast flying as a flight of two from Memphis to Billings.

DAY 1

We headed out on Thursday, June 5 from Houston enroute to Memphis. The weather in Conroe at the very beginning would foreshadow the weather for the rest of the trip. We had to file Special VFR to leave (that just means we had to get special permission from the tower to leave since the weather was worse than the rules allow us to fly). Once we were far enough north the dew point spread separated enough and the clouds lifted. It would take us four stops to get to Memphis. One stop away from Memphis, a squall line moved through western Tennessee and brought 30 minutes of 50+ mph winds and heavy rain, stranding us in southeast Arkansas for the afternoon. Late Thursday, we finally made it to the airport where I was picking up the Super Cub.

DAY 2

The next morning the owner and I headed to the airport to fly the Super Cub around a bit, so I could get a feel for the new airplane. After my checkout in the airplane, Ashley and I departed and headed north toward Billings that afternoon. As luck would have it, we only made it to Kansas City that night due to more weather. We also hit Lee’s Summit on a particular busy night and the only hotel in town that was not full was the Unity Movement’s hotel for pilgrim’s seeking enlightenment… needless to say it was an interesting evening!

DAY 3

The next day we did not get in the air until after noon due to more weather moving through Kansas City. Once airborne we were treated with gorgeous flying weather all the way to central Nebraska. We spent the night in O’Neill, Nebraska. It turned out to be a beautiful little town with extremely nice people.

DAY 4

Sunday morning we woke up to a fast moving low that brought drizzly weather and rain to a four state region.  We could only make it 50 miles to the next airport where we would be stuck the next 24 hours. This airport was 40 miles from the nearest town! The only facility on the airport was a small hanger with a small room and bathroom. We were stuck in that tiny little room for 24 hours with no were to go and no one to call (no cell service)! [The photo of our jail cell is in the iPhone gallery.] Our first big lesson of the trip: Do not leave an airport with great facilities if there is a chance you’ll get stuck at the next airport with NO facilities!

DAY 5

It finally cleared up enough late Monday morning that we were able to fly out. I have never been happier to leave an airport in my life! As usual, once the weather cleared, we had perfect flying weather. Since we were a flight of two, we flew in loose formation the entire trip but the calm air on this leg afforded us the ability to have some fun flying close formation. To me, formation flying is one of the coolest things a pilot can learn. It is a completely different type of flying when you are 10 feet off another airplanes wing. Along our route that afternoon, we came upon an airport that had a few recently destroyed hangars. We asked the airport attendant what happened and he said a microburst had come through the night before and destroyed three out of eight hangars. The weird thing was the other hangars were completely undamaged. A microburst is a very localized column of sinking air caused by a small and intense downdraft (the air does not spin as it does in the case of a tornado) within a thunderstorm with wind speeds of up to 120mph. In aviation training, we learn a lot about microbursts (because usually they are invisible to a pilot) but this was the first time I had seen the damage one caused in real life. There were a few airplanes destroyed in the hangar and there was a Piper Meridian on the ramp that a piece of hangar door sliced the wing completely in half. Microbursts are a real threat to planes; enough so, that even big commercial jets avoid them.

Later that afternoon we flew into South Dakota and over Badlands National Park on our way to the Black Hills. On our way through the Black Hills, we flew right by Mount Rushmore – a cool sight out the open window of a Piper Super Cub at 1000ft above ground level. After filling up for gas in eastern Wyoming we headed to Gillette, WY and flew right passed Devil’s Tower National Monument – another neat sight from the air!

The last leg of the day’s journey, from Sheridan, WY to Billings, MT was a flight I will remember for the rest of my life. It is a rare circumstance when everything lines up perfectly and the conditions for a flight are as good as they were this flight. The sun was setting, the air was calm, the temperature was perfect, the airplanes were running great, and the scenery was phenomenal. There was a slight broken layer of clouds way up in the stratosphere that was causing the setting sun to poke through, creating beautiful sun drenched patches and beautiful sunrays illuminating the mountains below. Occasionally, Ashley would fly through a sunny patch, which would light up that beautiful Yellow J3 against the contrasting shadow on the ground. The entire flight I kept thinking to myself, “How did I end up here? How many things in my life had to line up for this moment to happen? This is perfection.” Pictures cannot come close to doing this flight justice. It was a once in a lifetime flight and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

We took the J3 Cub to Laurel that evening to tie it down while I delivered the Super Cub to Billings International. As Ashley was filling up with gas, a friendly man named Drew stopped to ask her about the Cub. A few minutes later, he was offering us a hangar for the night. Just because of a little yellow Cub, we made a new, lifelong, friend. (Thanks Drew for your hospitality!) After chatting with Drew a bit longer, we packed the Super Cub and headed to Billings. Billings’ airport is in class C airspace, which tends to be busy and the controllers are usually not very friendly – this was not the case in Billings. As soon as I called approach control, I was cleared into the airspace, cleared to land, and subsequently was having a conversation about our long journey from the south. Once I switched over to Billings Tower control, the same thing happened! These are by far the friendliest controllers I have ever spoken with. Upon landing in Billings, I taxied to the hangar the Super Cub was sleeping in and there was another welcoming committee for us. Brandy, Tyler and a few other folks were there to greet us and help us get the Super Cub into the hangar. They drove us, put us up in a great hotel down the road, and even drove us 20 miles to Laurel the next morning. All this from people we just met! I have to admit, the friendly people in Billings put southern hospitality to shame. These are some of the nicest and friendliest individuals Ashley or I have ever encountered. Their friendliness made that incredible flight even more unforgettable.

DAY 6

As noted, Tyler, our new friend, kindly drove us back to Laurel to Ashley’s Cub the next morning. Upon arriving, he noticed that our eyebrow cowling on the Cub had a crack in it (something we already knew and was not that big of an issue). Small issue or not, Tyler wanted to fix it for us (he is a local airplane mechanic). Before we could protest, he was shaping the aluminum and counting out the rivets. 15 minutes later, our cracked cowling had a professionally installed patch. I am telling you, these Montana folks have to be the friendliest people in the world! Shortly after patching our cowling, we packed the airplane and were airborne back to Houston. We made it as far as Casper, WY before afternoon thunderstorms got bad enough we had to park the airplane for the evening. We had actually tried to leave Casper after fueling up but about 4 miles from the airport Ashley and I noticed a bunch of smoke a few miles ahead. After close inspection, what we thought was smoke turned out to be dust from a field below. We soon realized what was kicking the dust up was a small microburst under some virga. (Virga is rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground). It is common to have microbursts under virga since the rain cools the surrounding air creating a perfect column for air to rush downwards. After seeing that, and knowing what happened in Nebraska, we turned that Cub around as fast as we could and got her on the ground. Good thing we did because later that day a King Air (a much bigger and faster airplane than the Cub) had to go around twice due to windshear and a microburst over the airport.

DAY 7

It was our intention to leave at sunrise this day, however, a thick layer of fog rolled in and grounded us for most of the morning. I asked around the airport, Fog is, apparently, rare for Casper, and this was the worst they had seen in years! At this point Ashley and I could only laugh at our horrid luck with weather this entire trip. Once the fog rolled out, we packed the airplane and were ready to go… except the Cub had other plans. It had gotten so cold the night before that the engine did not want to start. We have to hand prop the airplane and the FBO’s engine heater was broken so it took us TWO HOURS to get the plane started! My arms are still sore from that morning! It was noon before we ever got off the ground, so much for an early start. In the mountains, winds tend to pick up throughout the day so flying mid-afternoon is not always ideal. Was that ever the case on this day! The whole trip south we were getting beat around by the rotors created by high winds coming over the mountains. To top off the afternoon I had to land at Cheyanne, WY in a DIRECT 28kt crosswind. For most big airplanes, the max crosswind component is 15-20 knots (meaning it is not advisable to land if it is blowing harder than that). The Cub’s max crosswind is well below that, plus it is a taildragger, which is inherently hard to land in a crosswind. Since Cheyanne’s crosswind runway was closed, I had no choice but to land with a 28kt x-wind. Even the tower told me I had the airspace to myself if I needed to go-around a couple of times (or to subtly inform me if I crashed I wouldn’t have an airplane landing right after me)! Long story short, I got the plane down and kept her straight. After landing, the controller complimented me and told me where to taxi – not a common occurrence. (The photo of me in front of the Cub was taken just after that landing – if you look close, on the left side, behind the airplane wing, you can see the windsock sticking straight out).

After that excitement, we needed to calm down so we went to lunch in Cheyanne at a great burger joint called, Two Doors Down. I highly recommend it. Later that evening we loaded back in the airplane and had an uneventful flight down to Parkland airport in Denver.  Parkland is where we would spend the evening with our good friends, and great hosts, Mike and Charmian.

DAY 8

We packed up, left Denver at 10am, and headed further south toward Texas. This day was rather uneventful except at our lunch stop in Lamar, CO. Most airports have “crew cars” that pilots can borrow to go to town and get lunch. Lamar’s crew car is an old Pontiac van from the 90’s. On our way into town we were informed the main road to get back to the airport was about to close. The only way to get back to our airplane would be to take the Canal Road. No problem we thought… On our way, back to the airport we found out the “canal road” was hardly a dirt road that winded through private farms. Between each farm were a berm and a cattle guard on top of each berm. Every time our van went up and over a cattle guard, the engine would quit. This made for a long, but funny, 10-mile trip back to the airport!

DAY 9

We began day 9 in Canadian, TX (which I recently discovered was where the final scene in Cast Away was filmed). We woke up to perfect weather, finally! Our first flight of the day was another one of those, “everything lined up”, flights and we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise along with smooth, calm conditions. Six stops and 9 hours later we, finally, made it back to Texas. What a trip!!

STATS for the J3 Cub

To me, the most powerful statistic from the whole trip is this: We flew 3491 statute miles OR the same as flying from Los Angles to New York City to Miami, Florida. WOW!

Piper Cub to Montana Stats

Piper Cub to Montana Route

 

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iPhone Gallery

Last week I flew to the interior Northwest on a quick trip. I love the coastal northwest but this was the first time I was truly able to explore the interior Northwest (North Idaho, East Washington, and central British Columbia). The beauty in our country is astounding and I’m always amazed at how much is left out there to explore. This trip I took a page out of my mom’s playbook and enjoyed the wildflowers blooming all throughout the area. Considering Texas is already in the mid-nineties, a break from the heat was a welcome relief. (As the rest of the country was complaining about our abnormally cold winter, I was one of the few who was quite enjoying it)! I spent a few hours enjoying downtown Spokane and the powerful Spokane River waterfall. On my last day I went north to British Columbia and to one of my favorite little towns, Nelson, BC, Canada. Nelson is a gorgeous little town right along Kootenay Lake. Some of the nicest, most eclectic people I’ve ever encountered are in Nelson.

I highly recommend visiting this area. The people are quite friendly and there are endless possibilities for outdoor activities.

The last few photos are of a HUGE sunflower field just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. These are the neatest flowers and seeing a whole army of them with their faces pointed toward the sun is breathtaking. Of course, Ashley and I acted as though we were five years old again and spent a few minutes running through the field goofing around. Life isn’t meant to be taken too seriously 😉

Enjoy the photos (all shot with an iPhone 4S).

Before I begin the story from this weekend, a quick note: This Memorial Day, my deepest gratitude goes to all those who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Military, especially my father, Jerry Brown. Thank you for your selfless service to our beautifully free country.

Over the long weekend Ashley and I took her Cub from Houston up to north Arkansas to Gaston’s White River Resort along the White River in North Arkansas. The Cessna 195 club was having a club caravan to Gaston’s and since we don’t have a 195, the Cub seemed like the next best thing!

Gaston’s is a beautiful private fly-in resort and trout fishing Mecca. The resort covers over 400 acres with two miles of river frontage, and has 79 cottages ranging in size from two double beds and a bathroom to a two-story cottage with ten private bedrooms. The airstrip is 3200 feet of neatly manicured grass. They have over 70 boats with a huge two story state-of-the-art dock to hold them. There is a restaurant, private club, gift shop, tennis court, playground, swimming pool, duck pond, game room, and two nature trails. It is a great place for a long weekend getaway. 

The weekend consisted of a lot of flying – North Arkansas is beautiful country to fly a Cub low and slow. The small hills, meandering rivers, and limestone cliffs make for some fun flying! There was also a STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) competition and flour bombing contest. Ashley’s father competed in the STOL competition and won the landing portion, however some of the more powerful Super Cub’s were able to takeoff a bit shorter. All-in-all, not bad for a plane from 1946! Ashley and I competed in the flour bombing contest. Though never officially announced, we were told we came in second. Also, not bad for our first time dropping flour bombs!

It was a fun weekend with old friends, a few new ones, a lot of flying, a few minutes of relaxing, and beautiful landscapes. Once again, all made possible by the sacrifice of our military vets. Happy Memorial Day!

 

Two weekends ago I flew a trip to San Marco’s and Oxford, Miss. The weather getting from San Marco’s to Oxford Friday evening was wildly horrid. There were Tornado’s north of Houston, and solid Red from south Texas all the way to North Arkansas. It made for an interesting flight, but it also made for some great scenery. At one point we had no choice but to fly smack through the middle of one of the cells and within 10 seconds we were a popsicle. Ice was covering everything, luckily this plane is certified to fly into ice and all the anti-icing equipment was working well. Needless to say, it was great experience. Once in Oxford, I met up with a good friend from Tupelo. He and I spent the day helping another friend in Greneda fix his fuel caps on his new C-195. It is always a good day when I’m able to log Twin Turbine time AND Beech 18 time. All-in-all, it was a great trip.

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In the heart of Mississippi sits the small town of Grenada. During WWII this town was home to Grenada Army Airfield, home to 5,000 men and numerous DC-3’s. Among it’s many rolls, Grenada Army Airfield was responsible for training the paratroopers used throughout both theaters. Ashley and I were lucky enough to visit this gem of a town this weekend in her 1960 executive class Twin Beech G18S. What made it even better was seeing some of our closest friends and enjoying a delicious meal.

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