Barnstorming Wanaka from Mark Brown on Vimeo.

Barnstorming Wanaka chronicles our day flying a 1942 de Havilland Tigermoth through the Southern Alps in Wanaka, New Zealand. Pete and the crew at Classic Flights New Zealand became great friends of ours while we lived in Wanaka. A few days before we left Wanaka, he offered us an “Intro to type,” which, in pilot speak, is a lesson in learning a new type of plane. Each plane had different characteristics and every time a pilot gets into a new plane, they must learn those characteristics before they can solo. For example: In the Tigermoth, like in most antique, tandem seat airplanes, the pilot actually flies from the back seat. Also, a lot of Tigermoths never had brakes – including this one!

This became one of the best memories from our whole New Zealand adventure. I mean, does it get any better than learning to fly a classic, WWII airplane over the most stunning scenery in the world? This country never ceases to amaze and seeing it from the air of a bi-wing beauty is otherworldly.

This day was really about learning to fly the Tigermoth and learning New Zealand flight rules, so filming was not a first priority. However, when there was ample opportunity, I took out the camera and tried to capture as much as I could. I am just happy that any of it turned out and we have a video of how spectacular this day truly was.

For photos and more detail on this day please visit my website here

If ever in New Zealand, please also visit Pete and Classic Flights at the Wanaka Aerodrome – he offers scenic rides in the Tigermoth as well which does not require any pilot skill or knowledge

I’d also like to thank my good friend, Chris and his company, Wanaka Helicopters for helping us out while we lived in Wanaka. Be sure and check them out when in New Zealand


Artie Shaw
Begin the Beguine

We are the Sky

Canon 7D & T2i
Sigma 70-300mm F2.8
Tamron 17-55mm F2.8
Manfrotto heads and tripods

Gold Hill 10 | Telluride, CO from Mark Brown on Vimeo.

A quick video from March 9, 2014 in Telluride, Colorado. It was a beautiful blue bird day and no one was on the hill. I decided to do a quick hike up Gold Hill to cash in on the left over powder from a recent storm. The basin is always the best snow on the mountain and it certainly did not disappoint this day! There was great snow all the way down. It is hard to capture on film but the views from 13,500+ are breath taking! Just another day in the San Juan’s, enjoy!

Michael Franti and Spearhead
Every Single Soul

To see more:

Sun N Fun Fly-in and Airshow kicks off the summer flying season every year in Lakeland, Florida. I was lucky enough to attend for a second year in a row. The weather was forecast to be perfect this year so we were able to camp right under the wing of the 195. Waking up to the sound of the Blue Angels starting their engines for practice is the best alarm clock in the world, hands down!

Last year, the government put a large damper on the airshow season by canceling all the military performances (Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Demos, etc.) due to sequestration. The military acts are, and have always been, my favorite part of any airshow. After not seeing, nor hearing, any jets up close in over 12 months you can imagine my elation getting to hear that beautiful sound once again!

These fly-ins are also a huge family reunion. All our aviation friends are usually in attendance and it is great to get to see everyone. It is also a great way to meet new people. This year we met a TON of new people and made many new lifelong friends.

Sun N Fun usually coincides with the first wild weather of the season. This year was no exception. We hit quite a few storms on the way back grounding us for a night in south Alabama. We lucked out and just missed the hail and strong winds, though we flew over quite a bit of damage on the way home.

Overall, it was a great kick off to the flying season! I cannot wait to see what this summer has in store for Ashley, me, and our aviation adventures. I have a feeling it is going to be a great summer!

For those who have not already figured it out, the point of our trip to New York was to pick up her dad’s plane that just finished a year and a half restoration. Bill, the Cessna 195 maestro, graciously let us spend the night in his beautiful home an hour and a half north west of Albany. The next morning we headed to the airport and packed up for the journey from upstate New York back to Houston, TX.

Our first fuel stop was in Portsmouth, OH. Then, we flew to Memphis to spend the evening with our good friend Darren, his wife Teja, and their two awesome kids Jesse & Julia . The next morning we took the winter kit off the front of the 195 and went to lunch with Darren and his family. Then we got in the plane and headed back to Houston for an early evening arrival.

It was a crazy 16 days but like always, Ashley and I love a good adventure.

I must point out the quality of friends that Ashley and I have. In 16 solid days of travel, not one night was spent in a hotel. In every place, we had friends that were more than willing to take us in and host us. Life is all about relationships and I feel extremely blessed to have incredible friends all over the world that will take me in on short notice. With all the nonsense and negativity going on in this world, the kindness of people is something I can always count on. To all our friends that helped us out this trip, from the bottom of my heat, thank you.

This was our last day in New York City. Luckily, we had great weather the first two days so we were able to accomplish more than anticipated. One thing that was on the “must do” list was going to Rock Center while they were filming the “Today Show.” I have been watching the Today Show for 12 years and when Ashley and I began dating, I got her into it as well. It was only right that we make the pilgrimage while we were in NYC. This winter for the Northeast has been brutal; this particular morning was no exception; 25 degrees F and a wind chill in the single digits. A perfect morning to stand outside :/. It was also St. Patrick’s Day and the “Today Show” was doing a special concert with Enrique Iglesias. I do not know much of his music but it was neat to be up close and personal with a famous musician. We arrived to Rock Center about 7:15 a.m. I stayed in line while Ashley went into Bouchon Bakery to warm up and get coffee. I guess one of the NBC crew people noticed and came over to chat with me. He liked that I “sacrificed my morning to accompany my girlfriend to a concert.” I told him we did not know about the concert and that we just wanted to see the “Today Show” anchors. Long story short, he, and I chatted a few minutes and when Ashley got back, he was kind enough to escort us into the very front section. Everyone we met in this front section had been waiting in line since 7 p.m. or earlier the day before! It was just our luck! We even made it on TV! It was a fun experience all around.

A side note, I was able to shake Carson Daily’s hand during a commercial break. It was a full circle moment for me because the last time I was in New York City he was the host of TRL (Total Request Live). Now he is a news/entertainment anchor on the Today Show. He has come a long way since his MTV days and I have certainly come a long way since I stopped watching MTV in the early 2000s!

After freezing for three hours outside of Studio 1A, we headed downstairs and had a warm breakfast by the Ice Rink.

Next, we took the Subway north to the Upper West Side and Central Park. It was too cold and windy to really explore the park but we did have a nice morning walk around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. We needed to warm up so we stopped in the Guggenheim Museum. The Guggenheim is a world-renowned art museum but I was more interested in the building itself. I have seen it in countless movies and photos and I have always wanted to see it in person. I will not bore anyone with the exhibitions we saw, but it worth checking out if you are in NYC.

Feeling slightly smarter and snobbier we headed through the Upper East Side, down Madison Ave. and 5th Ave. Being that it was St. Patrick’s Day the annual St. Patty’s Day Parade was going on down 5th Ave. Ashley and I figured out that St. Patrick’s Day is New York’s version of Mardi Gras. It was a mad house! It was neat to see all the local police and fire departments dressed in their full dress uniform and the cheers they would get from the crowds. It was obviously a locals event because all we heard were thick New York accents hidden behind a drunk façade – even though it was wild it was a ton of fun.

Getting through the mob of green was a challenge but we finally made it back south to the Public Library. An aviation inspired clothing company that I like a lot is headquartered just off 39th St. We decided to pay them a visit and talk vintage airplanes. Without diving too far into detail Ashley and I would end up spending 3 hours talking with the co-founders and owners of the company. Turns out they own and sponsor an aviation museum and have a lot of vintage airplanes. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of the aviation community. No matter where I am in the world, aviation is a bond, including in the heart of New York City!

Our trip was ending and it was time to get back to work. We caught the train back to Chris’s house, packed our bags, and headed back into the city to Penn Station. We took the 247 Amtrak train from Penn Station to Albany that evening to meet up with our friend Bill who has been restoring a plane for Ashley’s dad. The train from NYC to Albany is beautiful. It follows the Hudson all the way north, passing West Point and numerous scenic landscapes. Travel Tip: Make sure and get a seat on the left side of the train.

Even though our time in New York City was over, our journey was just beginning. Stay tuned for more! Enjoy Day 3 photos below.

Day 2 began with a great breakfast cooked by our host Chris and her son. Bellies full and bags packed we boarded the train and headed into Manhattan. I could get used to riding a train to work. Commuting is so much easier when I can read the newspaper and enjoy a cup of coffee instead of dealing with daft drivers. Anyway, the train arrived in Grand Central, a monument in itself. Grand Central is one of my favorite places in New York. It has an old world charm to it. I could not help but imagine walking up to the telegram attendant to send a telegram to the new western territories regarding my safe arrival in the big city. It is a spectacular building. However, time was short and we could not stay in the train station all day.

We knew we wanted to begin the day in downtown (south Manhattan) so we hopped on the #4 subway and headed to Wall Street. Before I go further, I have to say that the NYC subway system is the easiest and cheapest way to get around New York. Being a tourist, I had heard many negative stories about the subway but I found none of them to be remotely true. It is clean (in a relative sense) and extremely easy to navigate. It became our most useful asset this trip. In addition, it is a New York must do. New York is synonymous with its subway system and now I see why.

We made it to Wall Street and the first thing I wanted to see was Trinity Church. Built in 1698, Trinity Church burned down almost a century later in 1776. Built again four years later, the second church was torn down due to storm damage. Built in 1846, the third and current church’s spire, held the record for the tallest structure in New York. Everything about this church is gorgeous. It is a prime example of Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic) architecture (the Palace of Westminster, where the House of Commons and House of Lords is located is probably the most famous building with a Neo-Gothic style). Ashley and I lucked out by visiting the church during parish choir practice. We walked through the doors and the warm, grandiose sound of pipe organ and chant filled the massive void with a tangible sense of fulfillment and awe. A memorable day just became unforgettable.

More interestingly, Alexander Hamilton is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery. Hamilton is known as the founder of our nation’s financial system as well as Thomas Jefferson’s political opposition. However, when Aaron Burr & Jefferson tied for Electoral College votes during the election of 1800 (interesting fact: this is when the Twelfth Amendment was ratified adopting the election process we still use), Hamilton helped Jefferson defeat Burr because he found Burr to be poor in moral character. This began a public battle between Hamilton and Burr. After a few more public disagreements, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Burr mortally wounded Hamilton who died a day later.

Moving on in history, Ashley and I headed down Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange and the epicenter of our nation’s financial system. Having a finance degree allows me to appreciate the complexity of Wall Street; however, other than appreciating the architecture and history, there is not much for a tourist to do in the financial district.

We walked down along the south tip of Manhattan to Battery Park. From Battery Park there is a great view of Ellis Island and the mighty Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to take the ferry to the islands but seeing it from afar is quite nice in itself.

Next, we walked north to the National September 11 Memorial and Visitor Center. Leading up to this trip Ash and I were looking forward to this the most. Everyone remembers that day, and all the publicity and ceremony surrounding the memorial and One World Trade center, had built up our anticipation. The first, and most prominent, part of the memorial is One World Trade Center. It is truly stunning. It stands tall, representing so much pain, heartache, strength, and resiliency. It was a treat to see it after the façade had just been finished. Once we finally got through security (traveler tip: be prepared to stand in line, strip, and go through airport like security to get into this place) the memorial itself did not disappoint. The pools, surrounded by the names of the casualties are genuinely heart stirring. A swarm of emotion surrounds this place and it is was surprising how it made us feel. All I can say is that I hope every American gets a chance to visit this place one day. It will cement American pride deep within your being.

After a morning full of deep experiences, it was time for a lighthearted lunch. We walked north through Tribeca and Soho to Greenwich Village for lunch at Jeffrey’s Grocery. WOW, this could be the best food in New York! I HIGHLY recommend this eatery to anyone. Everything we ate was off menu, recommended by the bar tender, and it was all decadent. After lunch, we walked through Greenwich Village to NYU and Washington Square. Greenwich Village holds a lot of significance to me because, being a huge Bob Dylan fan, it was where he got his start in the late 50’s/early 60’s. The whole village has a really cool vibe to it. Washington Square and NYU was a nice place to digest our lunch and enjoy some music by the street performers.

Next, we headed up through the Meatpacking District to Chelsea and The High Line. I had been looking forward to visiting The High Line for a while because back in 2006 I heard a very interesting NPR story on the regeneration of the west sides above ground railroad tracks (who knows why this one NPR story had stayed with me for so long). The High Line is a 1-mile New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan; it has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway. The story of how the line came about is incredible and I recommend reading further into it. The gist is; the High Line had been an eyesore for years and most people wanted it torn down. A few guys noticed that trees and grass had begun growing on top of the old railroad tracks and thought, instead of tearing it down, they would turn it into an above ground park. Most of the old track is still there and they have created a magnificent park and running trail that has created a surge of development and regrowth in the area. All it takes is one creative thought!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down the line enjoying the hip, New York City life. The sun was beginning to set which meant it was time to head back to Rock Center and watch the day fade to night on top of the Rock. Unfortunately, a high cloud layer had moved in so the sunset was less than spectacular but it was dazzling nonetheless.

After dinner and drinks, we decided to call it an early night since the next day would be a long travel day. More to come in my next post; enjoy the photos!

iPhone photos from Day 1 & 2 (below)

It probably does not come as a surprise to anyone any more that Ashley and I find ourselves randomly traveling to odd places on very short notice. I suppose most pilots can say that, we just try to make the most out of any adventure we embark on. Without a conscious thought, we say “yes” if travel is involved.

After a great time in Mesa Verde, we booked it back to Texas. We drove through the night. Our only stop was for gas and a quick break for a 2-hour nap at a rest station in eastern New Mexico. Following all traffic laws, we made it home in record time… scratch that, we made it 10 miles from home in record time. Ashley’s mom had graciously loaned us her SUV for the trip, a car we were not extensively familiar with. More specifically, in my car and in Ashley’s car when the gas tank indicator reaches “0” we still are able to drive about 20 miles to the nearest gas station. In her mom’s car, this is not the case. When it reaches “0,” it really means the tank is empty. This, we found out, 2.5 miles from the nearest gas station. Luckily I had my emergency gas can in the back for instances just like this, “whew!” Nope. I remember now, I forgot to fill that up this trip. All I had was a big red plastic can wasting space in the trunk. Awesome.

All I have to say to the 500-800 drivers (including 3 State Troopers) that passed us stranded on the side of Highway 45, “Karma is a kind teacher, just wait.” That is correct, three Texas State Troopers passed us and did not stop to help; so much for Texas being the friendliest state. Luckily, Ashley has a very kind father who graciously brought us a big red plastic bucket that was full of petrol.

We had 18 hours to unpack, do laundry, pack again and off to the airport we went for our 5 a.m. flight to New York.

We arrived at Newark about 1 p.m. and caught the bus to Grand Central. A good friend of my mom’s lives just north of Manhattan and she was very kind to let Ashley and I crash at her beautiful home a few days while we visited NYC. After dropping our bags off at the house, we headed right back to the city for a night out on the town. First, we headed to central park for an excellent Italian dinner at Basso56. I highly recommend this place. We ended up becoming quite good friends with the general manager, bar tender and server (who was from Ukraine). They found Ashley’s time studying abroad in Florence quite compelling. In addition, I found our servers take on her countries uprising fascinating. Overall, Basso56 is great. Italian’s just know how to enjoy life a little better than the rest of us I suppose!

After dinner we headed south along Broadway past CBS’s David Letterman’s Studio to Times Square. Times Square is synonymous with sensory overload. There are tall buildings all around, TV screens in every direction, and people galore. It is fantastic. It was hard to imagine we were, just 24 hours earlier, in Mesa Verde without a soul in any direction we looked. However, a complete contrast to Mesa Verde, being in the thick of Manhattan was just as much fun!

Next, we headed northeast to Rockefeller Center. When I was a kid I had gone to the top of the Empire State Building and remember it was underwhelming. Chris, our host for the week, had recommended the “Top of the Rock” as a better skyline view. The neat thing about the Top of the Rock is they allow you to purchase a “Sun and Stars” pass, which allows visitors to visit twice in a 24-hour period. We decided to see the skyline at night first then go during sunset the next evening. The views from the top of the GE building are fantastic (as you can see in the photos below). Seeing the skyline at night is also a unique experience, however we could have done without the 50 kt winds from the approaching cold front. It was quite chilly! The part I found most fascinating was that the viewing floors are actually the top of the building. Often the viewing floor is near the top but not actually the top floor. The “Top of the Rock” is actually the top, the top three floors to be exact.

After spending a few hours in awe of the spectacular views, we headed down and spent the rest of the evening enjoying the nightlife in the “city that never sleeps.”

More from our trip in tomorrow’s post, stay tuned!

As noted in my last post, Ashley and I left Telluride a bit early in order to beat the weather. Not to cheat ourselves out of an adventure we decided to use our newly found time and spend it exploring Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma CountyColoradoUnited States. It is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. The park was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world, or as he said, “preserve the works of man”. It is the only cultural National Park set aside by the National Park System. It occupies 81.4 square miles (211 km2) near the Four Corners and features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the Ancient Pueblo peoples, sometimes called the Anasazi. There are over 4000 archaeological sites and over 600 cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people at the site.

The Anasazi inhabited Mesa Verde between 600 to 1300, though there is evidence they left before the start of the 15th century. They were mainly subsistence farmers, growing crops on nearby mesas. Their primary crop was corn, the major part of their diet. Men were also hunters, which further increased their food supply. The women of the Anasazi are famous for their elegant basket weaving. Anasazi pottery is as famous as their baskets; their artifacts are highly prized. The Anasazi kept no written records. (Wikipedia)

Although a lot of the park is closed in the winter, we were able to see quite a bit. On top of that, as with all our travels, we seem to luck out with crowds. Other than the two park rangers we chatted with near the gate, we saw no one. Not a soul, just us, the animals, and the spirits. I find that, in a place with such rich history like Mesa Verde, it is necessary to quiet the mind and listen. I leave my cameras, phones, to do lists, watches, and worries in the car. I step away from the trail, sit, close my eyes, and listen to the dry desert air whisper. If you let it, it will speak – it will guide you deep within yourself. It will clear your mind. People have walked here for thousands of years, each one with a different story. Those stories are still out there, we all just need to listen, then we’ll hear.

Mesa Verde is a genuine place, a place I encourage everyone to visit. The desert of the Four Corners & Southwest Colorado is beautiful country, and the locals are more than happy to share the stories of the Natives who have walked this land for centuries. Next time you drive through, stop, if for only a moment, to enjoy a place less visited. It’ll be worth your while.

It was time to leave home and head back to Texas after a great 8 days in Telluride. The San Juan’s are known to have quite unpleasant weather at times, and it can move in quickly. It’ll be sunny and 12 degrees C one hour and the next it’ll be a blizzard and the roads will quickly be covered, a 4wd car is almost a necessity in order to get in or out. As I was skiing the last day, I noticed a storm moving in over Wilson Mesa and knew it was worse over by Lizard Head Pass, the only feasible way out of Telluride this time of year. We decided to cut the day short by a few hours and head down into the desert. Good thing we did because had we waited an hour or two longer our 2wd car would have been stuck through the night. In lieu of leaving early, we decided to hit up Mesa Verde National Park. I’ll have more about the significance of the park and our time there in the next post. For now, enjoy this panoramic photo.






A few weeks ago, Ashley and I took a break from reality and headed back home to spend some time in the mountains. This trip I was able to show Ashley a few more outdoor activities that I love. I took her winter hiking up to Cornet Falls, which, in the winter, turns into a beautiful ice palace. Eric and I also took her cross country skiing. For me, the absolute best way to start a day is to wake up, put on the XC skis, go outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature. It’s also the best way to work out the kinks and muscle soreness from the day before. On top of all that, Ashley killed it snowboarding this trip. She finally broke down the mental “steepness” barrier and carved beautiful turns on some gnarly black runs. Before long she’ll be hiking the back-country with me!