Monday, September 5, 2022

Rail Bikes on the Noyo (KLLR)

If you live in California you need to put this on your bucket list and doubly so if you're a pilot.  The old logging rail line aka "The Skunk Train" in Fort Bragg CA that has been running since the 1800's had adopted to the times and had turned towards running a scenic rail line between Ft. Bragg and Willets CA.  They were felled by some bad luck when one of the tunnels they relied on collapsed blocking the full path to Willets.  To keep the business alive they converted the open section of track to guided rail bike tours.  Rail bikes are side by side seated metal framed four wheeled pedal powered rail cars that also have a lithium ion battery assist just like modern e-bikes.  You can get as much or as little exercise as you like by peddling and throttling along the track in quiet smoothness through the incredible scenery of the pacific Northern California redwood forrest.  

Driving to the area is painful in my opinion.  Google will tell you that it's a 3.6 hr drive with no traffic.  I can tell you from experience Google is wrong!  It will take at least an hour longer to drive it.  The last 30 miles will take nearly 2 hours and you'll need to stop multiple times or else everyone in your car will be ready to throw up from the twisty and winding road (though beautiful).  

If you're a pilot however, the calculus changes drastically in your favor!  The winding 30 mile section of road becomes a quick hop over the forrest.  With about any GA airplane the 4+ hr journey becomes a beautiful 45 min flight from KCCR.  With temps in the Bay Area blasting through 100deg over Labor Day weekend, we took off and minutes later were landing at Little River (KLLR) with clear skies and temps in the low 70's.  An enterprising woman who flies Beechcraft professionally out of Sacramento saw a need and created a side hustle business doing self service rental cars at LLR.  I called Mary at Air-Galore (707-972-4498) and she left us a key to an old but reliable and clean Nissan Sentra.  

There are so many things to do and explore.  We checked into a beautifully classic North Cliff Hotel with pano views of the ocean.  We explored the marina there and ate some really great local blackened cod sandwiches at Princess Sea Food and listened to live music and drank Boont Amber Ale.  We went to Glass Beach and enjoyed the sunset and my boys scrambling up the rocks. 




But the really awesome part was the rail bikes!  We got going in the morning for a 9:30am tour.  It starts with a hike from the starting point down to the Noyo river about a half mile hike down a steep switch back trail.  From there you cross a rail bridge and then board the bikes and head into the forrest following the rail line along the river.




This is an all day adventure.  We arrived at Camp Noyo around 1pm, which is a campground and swimming hole in the middle of the redwoods.  They provide you with a really good box lunch and there is about an hour to chill and swim if you like, although the water is freezing.  The drought has the river level much lower than normal, but it's still flowing.  The bikes are turned around on the tracks and it's back on the bikes for the return trip.  



Departed and headed down the coast for a beautiful flight home along the coast. 



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

San Juans + Seattle

I've heard about the flyability of going up to the San Juan islands since I started flying 25+ years ago (I'm getting old).  It's been on my list of places to visit but I've just never gotten around to making it a priority.  This summer we decided to take a visit and I'm sure glad we did.  The scenery is stunning, it's an awesome spot.  We flew up to Friday Harbor KFHR with nary a burp of turbulence.  The marine layer was just starting to burn off so we shot the RNAV approach in and since the wind was only 6 kts tailwind I just landed straight into runway 34.  I was only in the clouds for a few minutes, and maybe 20 minutes later it was clear and a total blue bird clear blue sky everywhere.  

The awesome thing about FHR too is that the runway is walking distance to the harbor.  We parked, got out our bags and just strolled our rolling suitcases the 15 minute walk to our hotel at the Friday Harbor House.  We checked in and went down to Downriggers for crab deviled eggs and blackened Salmon burgers.  Yum.  Then we hopped on a boat at Maya's legacy whale watching and headed out into the Fjords to try to spot some Orcas.  Unfortunately we came up empty handed and never found any whales but it was still stunning scenery and super fun. 


We got back with an appetite and ate great fresh Italian food at Vinny's.  Crashed out and got up in the morning for breakfast overlooking the harbor watching the boats heading out and the sea planes come and go.  We took a walk around the town and the pier.


You could easily spend a lot more time in the San Juans but this was just a quick weekend jaunt, and so we fired up and headed to Seattle to check out the city.  We landed Boeing field except the fog hadn't quite burned off so we flew the ILS 14R approach in there without issue.  The Seattle approach controllers are good and sequenced us in nicely following a PA32.  We went to Modern FBO which was great and they even gave us free tickets to the Boeing Museum of Flight. 

Downtown Seattle was a quick Uber ride. Stunningly beautiful city and the weather was perfect. There were no issues whatsoever with homeless issues I'd been forewarned about, hey I've lived in SF so felt confident ignoring all that.  However it was all much ado about nothing anyways...  of course we saw a few homeless here or there but no worse than any other city and never felt the least bit unsafe even when walking around at night or any other time. The city felt very clean and was hopping, people everywhere, restaurants were great, lively scene. SixSeven at the Edgewater is a great restaurant, the food was phenom and the views. We went sailing in the harbor, did all the touristy stuff like the space needle and the Chihuly museum and Pike St, etc. Boeing museum was a hit with the kiddos too. Easy flight home as well and barely a ripple of turbulence the whole way. Will be back. Always great to use our magic carpet Airplanes to turn a weekend into an epic adventure and explore new parts of the country!




Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Return of the flyin

There used to be a ton of local fly ins.  There was a good one at KHAF and Salinas.  They had started to drop off years ago due to liability concerns.  First the Airshows started disappearing around here and then fly-ins sort of dried up.  Then with Covid it's been a few years since I've gone to one.  So I decided to go to the "Food Truck Flyin" at South County airport E16 with some friends from the NRI flying club. 

Got there and used the sidewinder to park. Got out the escooter and went to hit the toilet and get some food for my boy but made the mistake of leaving the airstair down. When I got back to the plane there were two kids in the cockpit and the ailerons slamming back and forth as they played pilot with the yoke, with parents inside taking photos and a line of 30 more people who had queued up like Disneyland for their turn. I needed to go for some blood pressure medication but I couldn’t really say no to all the kids lined up with their excited look on the face… so I grinned and bared it for an hour… ughhh… lots of dirty shoes and probably a COV2 infected plane but eventually I had enough and closed her up. Crikey…. still a great turn out and fun see so many plane crazy folks who peppered questions non-stop. We were the hit of the show, seriously. Everyone wanted to know about the TwinBo.

We had a good time, although it took all the self discipline I could muster not to scream GET THE FU-- OUT!!  Haha.  The turnout was pretty remarkable.  By far most of the folks there were not pilots and did not fly in.  I can't blame them for thinking my plane was some kind of organized static exhibit to climb in.  I'll be more careful next time, but alls well the ends well... no damage other than a dirty carpet and a bunch of happy future pilot kids got some good photos.  







Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Polish my knob

 Ok yes, it's a little thing. But my non-original boost pump knobs just annoyed the heck out of me. I know what the originals look like, and mine were definitely not original. They were plastic and well, just clearly not original. So I've been looking for some original knobs since I bought the plane. I asked Gregg, I asked Bill... I asked anyone who said they had a non savable SATBO to part out and never came up with any. I don't want to feel a piece of plastic in my hand when twisting that knob! should be solid hand crafted aluminum just like the rest of the plane was built, and as god intended! Surely only another Tbone owner can understand my thrill when Matt Cole sent me these suckers. I owe you Matt !  :bow: 


Behold!


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Que paso?

 No not El Paso Tx... Paso Robles CA (KPRB) If you saw the movie "Sideways" then maybe you know about this burgeoning wine region. I've flown over, by and past it for years but never actually stopped in the town for a visit. Just a one hour or so flight from either Socal or Norcal, we stayed at this very nice resort which is like a postcard from Italy.  https://www.allegrettovineyardresort.com Had a great massage, tossed the football around the pool with my boys, and ate at some really great restaurants. Restaurant scene is probably not quite up to Napa yet, but more laid back and still some great food. Saw some live music, an Art show in the square. Also went to Sensorio the field of lights (https://sensoriopaso.com) which is an outdoor art exhibit of thousands of led lights set up in a beautiful field with about a 3/4 mile walk down around the valley. They also have food trucks and live music, very cool !


I got a text from Aaron Degryse saying he was thinking of getting away for the weekend, where should he go? I told him I was down in Paso and less than two hours later he was having dinner in Allegretto restaurant and so we met up. The guys at ACIJet loved the Tbone and couldn't believe two showed up the same weekend, and waived all fees.

Anyways just a quick note to call out PRB as a great stop, although I probably gained 10 lbs from all the food, wine, cheese plates and a few Gelato stops with the boys.





Sunday, March 20, 2022

Back to Ohio day 3

Some combination of uber surge pricing and a kind offer from Eric led to him and his cute little boys giving us a ride to the airport in the morning and saw us off for the final leg to Columbus KCMH where I would walk next door and get on Southwest heading home. As we approached the Ohio border we saw the first clouds of the trip.  Almost exactly upon leaving Indiana behind we were flying on top of a 2 ft thick OVC/BKN layer. We discussed just going underneath it as bases were 2900 ft and we could easily get in VFR, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a popup IFR and shoot the approach to show Josh the instrument profile and also how to fly a coupled approach since he was unfamiliar with the STEC.



It was bumpy as heck from cloud entry to landing, but he got it all set up and flew down the glideslope and landed like a champ in 13 kts gusting 22 and 40 degree cross wind. We spent some time wiping the left engine down and trying to find the source of the oil leak on the left engine which is small but it only takes a little bit of oil to make a heck of a mess. From what we can tell it seems it’s coming from the upper case through bolts. Anyone have some advice on that?  The broken layer had turned to scattered puffy clouds like you see on The Simpsons.  I felt good about Josh flying home solo and we wrapped up the paperwork and he flew off on his own. 


I’m told he arrived safely.

Overall a fantastic weekend and so great to make new friends sharing this crazy passion for these vintage Beechcraft airplanes. Amazing that we can transport ourselves across the entire country in comfort and style with so many interesting places to stop along the way.  We sure lucked out with the weather too.


Back to Ohio day 2

If we thought the whole town of Santa Fe was micro-dosing LSD, by morning we were convinced that it was in fact full doses. At breakfast the kind Honduran waitress saved me from a nuclear stomach meltdown by insisting I taste what I was about to order before making the commitment. Thankfully I took her advice and that gave me a chance to change my order as this dish was clearly concocted with some kind of pepper grown in a Guatemalan insane asylum.

Our Uber back to the FBO was as harrowing as the night prior.  Our driver, a wild eyed and clearly mentally damaged Afghanistan vet, highly recommended taking magic mushrooms and going to MeowWolf (https://meowwolf.com). We also learned how his non-profit to build houses out of old car tires had repeatedly been foiled by the vengeful mountain of Taos. The mountain, we were told, was kind to newcomers but eventually would put you in your place by conspiring to kill your dog and ruin your real estate deals. By way of basic inquiry we came to understand he had no clue how to construct such houses or how much they cost. He's the idea guy, you see. By the way, would we like to invest? I took his card. Lemme know if you want the contact info. 

While making small talk with the friendly FBO lady I cracked a corny joke and she laughed. I went to the bathroom, got a coffee and returned and she was still laughing. She laughed for another 5 minutes... out loud. My joke wasn't very funny. We wanted to get a move on in order to meet up with Brad Gardner in Kansas City around lunch time. Our giggling FBO lady took about 35 minutes to generate the invoice and process the payment. We were the only ones there. Adios Santa Fe, will be back... I think, maybe with a rental car reservation and MeowWolf tix. 

 We briefed high altitude normally aspirated twin ops. Field elevation at SAF is 6400, and the Tbone single engine ceiling is in the book as 7000. But of course she launched like a champ and we headed out over the Great Plains in continuous light turbulence, occasional moderate. Somehow I still managed to use the pee tube, no spills. Air smoothed after Oklahoma and we had yet to see a single cloud in the sky. 



Flying into Kansas City downtown airport was way cool. 


We were surprised on shut down to see a sizable greeting party. Brad was there, and Chris Roan had flown down from Ohio in his 56TC and his buddy in another 56TC as well and Matt Cole in his beautiful Tbone and girlfriend as well as Eric Meyer and another dude or two I'm sorry I'm terrible with names. They had already eaten but saved some KC BBQ for us which was awesomely good. By this time we'd noticed a bit of an oil leak on the left engine and got some advice. The engine gods also gave Matt a leak so the fellas snapped fingers and tools appeared from thin air. Those guys are hilarious with their good natured ribbing each other and midwest hospitality, and I'm pretty sure none were on LSD. I should have got a group pic. 




We contemplated going the rest of the way at that point, but it was IMC at destination and pushing on would mean a night IMC arrival after a very long day. Discretion is the better part of valor and the forecast was good for the next morning, and Eric recommended overnighting at KALN in St Luis, so one last leg for the day and Eric saw us arrive and kindly gave us a ride to the hotel and joined us at the bar for grub and a few well deserved beers. 




 Day 3 continued... 


I went back to OH

This weekend had a good adventure training a new Tbone owner and delivering the plane to Ohio as part of his 10 hours of training that insurance required.

Day0 - Josh arrived in California and met and went to my hangar and grabbed some supplies, including some single use O2 I thought would come in handy.  I have a big o2 bottle and cannulas but I didn't want to deal with dragging that back on southwest.  We did some preflight stuff including stocking the plane with water and then headed to a brewpub for some ground training on the Bone and preflight planning over tacos and beer. 

Day1 - I had some work in the morning so we didn't get going until the afternoon.  That was okay because we had the whole weekend and wanted to do some training along the way.  Ben met us at the airport and he and Josh exchanged the obligatory handshake.





It's always a little nerve wracking training someone with zero experience in model on their very first flight when the plane does not have dual controls.  I took the radio so he could focus on the flying.  Josh was a champ though, and after some zig zagging down the runway he got used to steering the beast when you pour on the full 590 HP.  He settled in and I could tell he was a good stick as I talked him through the power settings.



First order of business was teach Josh how to tame the beast and since we were in no particular rush, we started with an air tour of California, with some stops to knock out some of the insurance mandated 15 landings.  First order of business was to split the uprights on the Golden Gate Bridge and fly the VFR corridor to KHAF.  We gotta do our part to convert the California haters, after all.



I talked Josh through the landing and he managed it very well.  Some pattern work and dodging a complete dolt who decided to fly a wrong direction pattern at TPA with 3 already in the pattern!  Then we proceeded to Hollister for a few more, then down the coast for a very late lunch at the Waypoint Cafe in Camarillo, which in my opinion is the best airport cafe on the planet so why not. 

After that we set off east bound towards Columbus, first stop would be Santa Fe NM about 4 hours east.  The time flew by and Josh and I became quick friends.



We eventually landed at Santa Fe after an hour or two of night and Josh made a solid night landing.  However we arrived 1 minute after the FBO closed.  We tucked the plane in for the night and luckily one lone straggling line guy was kind enough to see us park and got out of his car to let us inside because it was freaking freezing and it ended up taking 30 mins for the Uber to arrive.  




The Uber driver was a combination of Jonathan from Queer Eye and Andre the Giant.  His car was painted with flowers and the rear pax door didn't work.  He told us he was an Opera singer and sang loud Christian music to us as he sped and swerved and turned around to look us in the eye as he explained that he is a recent arrival and didn't know his way around.  I'm very far from a pious man but I found Jesus on that ride and the good lord made sure we arrived in tact and located one of the last hotel rooms we could find in the whole city.  Turns out it is spring break and the Texas crowd had descended on the town and took over.  

Santa Fe is a trippy place.  We felt like everyone we talked to was micro-dosing LSD.  I was having good fun with it but I'm not sure Josh will be back really soon.  haha.

Day 2

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Family trips

 I think using the plane to go snowboarding with my boys is about the ultimate fun thing. My boys are both hardcore nerds and I can't convince them to ditch school, so we left late afternoon on a Friday over MLK weekend and made it up just before sunset despite having to hold over Donner lake so IFR traffic could get out.  Now before anyone says "yeah but what about the door to door time"...  well, yeh but what fun would that be... for another, shhhh, don't spoil it man!  It was a holiday weekend heading up on a Friday and back on Monday so it would have been 7 hours each way driving in nightmare traffic, plus probably 2 super charger stops...  at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it! (and I gotta justify the expense of owning an airplane somehow!)