Instead of starting the blog with a rambling post about the airplane or the purpose of the blog, I’ll dive into the story behind the longest flight I have taken with my 1947 Piper PA-11 Cub airplane – 2300 miles from Colorado to Montana and then down to North Carolina – done from July 5 2014 to July 9 2014. Click the above links to get details on the plane and blog. Suffice it to say, the blog will be a catalog of my wild adventures taking pictures and flying all over the country.
As many have heard, we will be spending the summer in North Carolina. No, we are not overly thrilled with the prospect. It more has to do with the alignment of work opportunities, the fact the house we were renting was to be sold, and the lack of desire to sign another year lease in Colorado. So inertia pushed us east. This trip served to get the airplane and bring it east with me.
Since driving through Kansas completely sucks, flying over it is no fun, either. I had no desire whatsoever to repeat that heinous act. That, and I always wanted to hit up Yellowstone, so it was a mere 450 miles out of the way. The plan was to go from Leadville, CO over to Mt. Bross, up to Yampa, CO, down the Yampa River to Dinosaur National Monument, north to the Wind River Range in WY, NW to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, N to Bozeman, MT, SE to Gallatin Peak, MT, SE to Bighorn Mountains, WY, E to Black Hills and Mt Rushmore, SD, SE to Badlands National Park, S to Sandhills, NE, and then E/SE as fast as humanly possible for 1100 miles to get to NC. It was roughly 2300 miles of planned flying, all done at 77 miles per hour. 30 hours of flying done over 3 days. Or so that was the plan….
I had the pesky problem of the fact that this whole endeavor was going to cost a tad bit more than I wanted to spend. To satisfy my personal need to scam the “system,” I decided to eliminate hotels from the itinerary. There was the minor problem of sleeping on the ground, so I acquired an inflatable camping mattress from REI using some of the money I would have spent to spend one night in a room. When I mentioned that I have gone on business trips and bought high-end camping gear and camped in lieu of hotel fees, the REI associate, with a deep Southern accent, said, “Well, you didn’t fall off the turnip truck.” The last time I vagabonded was at a business event in Aspen, CO and I made a point to freshen up in the restroom at the Starbucks at the base of Aspen ski area – the most expensive real estate in the US, most expensive ski resort in CO and probably the US, and the most expensive Starbucks I ever patronized, with $7 lattes instead of $4.50. Nothing makes me happier than emerging from camping, washing in the presence of fur-coat clad indignant ladies, and then proceeding to purchase a $7 latte, to be savored in my pickup truck. If I could have queued up a perfectly timed uncouth belch, I would have. I secretly hoped my rugged look would exude an irresistible sexuality that these fur coat-clad ladies would find themselves heinously attracted to, and feeling ashamed over their animalistic, class-defying sexual desires.
As for gear to make this whole trip happen, I brought a socket set, wrenches, and screw drivers (always bring tools), tent, inflatable mattress, blanket (one more redneck business trip and a proper sleeping bag will be financed), 3 gallons of water, 2 quarts of oil, 2 cameras, iPad (navigation), iPhone, MacBook (in case I get stranded and have to do client work), a grocery bag of bananas, beef jerky, nuts, trail mix, and crackers from Whole Foods, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, sweatshirt, flight bag, and five changes of clothes.
Getting to the airport was a string of logistics – one-way flight connecting via Minneapolis to Denver. Summit Xpress shuttle to Frisco, accompanied with fellow travelers producing prodigious amounts of intestinal gases in a confined space. Whole Foods at Frisco for restocking, and a ride from a fellow local pilot from Frisco to Leadville. All in all, it took 14 hours from door to door to get there.
I had a rather serious question about how I would view being back in Summit County after 3 weeks. I do not like North Carolina, and everyone that knows me knows that. Colorado was my home for 14 months, and my fantasy for 8 years. I no longer lived there, didn’t like where I was, and my future was uncertain. I was somewhat scared that I would have a nervous breakdown, go into a semi-catatonic state, and flee into the national forest with my camping gear, only to emerge when it got cold. Ironically, I felt…….nothing. That’s correct, nothing. It was complete emotional neutrality – neither yearning from the past, hope for the future, or any relation to my present abode in the east. I dare say I had achieved emotional accuracy about Colorado and new adventures awaited elsewhere.
I arrived Friday night at the airport at 6:30, handled extensive pre-flight activities: fuel, washing windshield, adjusting tire pressure, ghetto packing the airplane and setting up camp for the night. Day one would start at 5:15AM and be one very long day.