Saturday, November 7, 2015

Looong Trip to AZ...

It was getting pretty wintry when I left.

Leaving Palmer I lost my manifold pressure gauge about 10 minutes out, so had to go back and have another installed.  Of course I had to drive to Anchorage, get it overnighted... the usual complications. So finally left again later the next day.

I saw this great rock formation in the Wrangells on the way by - the photo doesn't really do it justice, but maybe if you zoom in.  The rock on the left looks like a hoodoo and the structure in the middle top really looked like an Asian temple.

No problem getting to Whitehorse other than the usual Customs confusion with the tower. This has happened to me several times, I have CanPass so I don't have to call Customs but then the tower tells me I have to call even after I try to explain that I don't. So I start to think maybe they know something I don't (like Customs asked them to tell me to call?)... so I do... and Customs says "you have CanPass, you know you don't have to call right?".  Arrgh :-)

It was a nice night in Whitehorse, but my plane was alone on the ramp this late in the year.  I got there too late to go any farther.

The next two days were not so nice - lots of ice, low clouds and wind, so I saw a movie, Sicario, which was really pretty good and hung out a bit in my favorite Whitehorse coffee shop.

I stayed at the Airport Chalet, which is just fine and I've been wanting to try because it's MUCH cheaper than the Skky Hotel right next door that I have always stayed at previously.

Finally made it out of Whitehorse headed down the Cassiar for Smithers. I wanted to ride my bike down to town from the ski area, but that will have to be another time.  Bought gas in Dease Lake where the guy told me sometimes they leave for the day and you would just have to wait for them get back to sell you gas, yikes. 
About 1/3 of the way to Smithers I couldn't get past Bob Quinn Lake, which NavCanada said was an abandoned airstrip, and WAS a little overgrown and nothing there but some tanks for summertime helicopter fueling. I tried for Smithers another time until I didn't have enough gas to do anything but go back to Dease Lake, so I camped for 3 days and ran down my SAT phone waiting in blowing rain for it to clear up enough to do that.

It kept teasing me by looking nice, but the clouds were stacking up against the passes I needed to get out. There was a road maintenance shop a mile away that I walked to a couple times trying to get on their wifi but no one was ever around. There were a few housetrailers nearby and someone there let me use their wifi as long as I stood outside in the rain. And there was a payphone, so when I was pretty much 100% sure I could make Dease Lake I filed from the payphone and went back to Watson Lake.

I hung around Watson lake for 3 days, drying my stuff out with a box fan in the room.  I tried to get out every day, taking a $60 round trip cab ride to the airport. I was at the airport before sunrise and de-iced my plane with gallon jugs of warm water and a ladder. The good thing was meeting the owner of Scoop Lake Lodge who gave me (and any pilot) an open invitation to stop and stay.  I subsequently talked to a friend that does that as opposed to staying in Watson Lake, so that's a thought...
The first day I didn't even try to fly, the second I made it all the way down the trench almost to Ft. Ware (a little over 1/2 way) and got turned around, and the third day I went 600 miles non-stop (thank goodness for my new seats!) to Williams Lake. I wanted OUT of the Yukon.

I wanted to get close to the border (maybe Abbotsford) but, of course, the fuel pump at Williams Lake didn't work so I spent another night there.

Williams Lake

I made it to Bellingham the next day.  I tried to get flight following from Vancouver all the way down at 7500 feet, but three controllers told me they couldn't see me and to try another controller farther on, none of which ever worked. It was a little lower down towards Washington and I was worried about the visibility as I had to skirt Vancouver's airspace by flying over higher terrain but made it OK.  A couple miles from Bellingham I reported to the tower "I'm 3 miles out but you're pretty well hidden" and they said "You're well hidden yourself", but I saw it in plenty of time to get into the pattern ahead of an Alaska Airlines flight.

I rented a car (38 bucks!!!) and tied down at the very nice Command Aviation.  Good gas price too. Drove down to visit Jake and Hazel in Olympia for a couple days which was nice. I also looked at a Stearman for sale, which was OK, but not the one for me :-)

I met up with my friend Matt in Bellingham, hoping to see his new baby, Soren, who was born after I left unfortunately. But we went to Elizabeth Station for lunch which I'd been wanting to check out because they have "Crowlers" - 32 oz cans they fill and seal in front of you, which was fun.

Not too much trouble getting out of Bellingham - had to wait about 4 hours.  I made it to Bend and it was late in the day and not good farther South so spent 2 nights there waiting for it clear.  I was in Bend years ago and did not like it for some reason I don't remember, but I've been there the last two years and it's a nice little town. I didn't spend much time in town because the weather was marginal so I was at the airport all day waiting.  I gave up about 2, and as soon as I checked back in the hotel, it cleared right up, both at Bend and the destination. I was tempted to go but, while not completely inflexible, I am reluctant to second guess a no-go decision. You can talk yourself into something dumb. I was checked into the hotel, it was late enough in the day that there might not be enough time to get turned around and back to Bend by dark, so I bagged it.

The next day I made it to Winnemucca, thinking I could go the whole way but it was low on the NV/UT border so I waited around and made a late afternoon try for Ely but got turned around about an hour out.  I thought about Elko because it's a nicer town, but it's not really a whole lot closer and was blowing 30 so back to Winnemucca.

The FBO in Winnemucca is great - they've loaned me their car several times, but the town sucks. Why anyone that wasn't incarcerated would live there is beyond me. No good food and the restaurants and most of the hotels are smoky casinos.

And then I dropped my phone. Which complicates general aviation travel a lot more than I had considered - hard to get weather and Flight Service. Also explains the lack of photos.

But the next day was nice and not too windy so I made Ely, St George, ran around the end of the Grand Canyon because I couldn't find my Grand Canyon chart which turned out to be in plain sight the whole time and got home the day before Halloween which was good because I had part of Hanna's costume in the plane.  17 days enroute :-)