Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why I have a desk job...

In order to clear up the half-tree left adorning my front lawn by that SOB Ike, I had to borrow a chainsaw. I have a long, painful history with chainsaws, and an equally sordid past with regards to power saws in general. Particularly borrowed power saws. Me and power saws: a match made in hell. Invariably, my first task with any borrowed power saw is to find a way to knock the blade off. The chainsaw followed that time honored pattern. But I'm getting a little bit ahead of the story.

The clean-up of the half-tree didn't go too poorly, other than the blade (chain) coming off of the saw almost immediately. After a few minutes of fiddling around with it, I was able to make the handful of quick and easy cuts that I needed to carve the Ike mess down to a manageable pile of pieces. But, as we all know, nothing fires those old Honey-Do synapses like a borrowed power tool. You know what I'm talking about: "As long as you have that saw..."

In this case, it was a not-quite-dead yet not-quite-healthy walnut tree in my backyard. Me? I was initially inclined to let it live or die, the final outcome dependent on fate and/or karma. But we had made a pretty big fuss about the dead trees that the next door neighbor was quite content to leave there until such time as they fell on our house, so the inherent hypocrisy in not dealing with my own dead-ish tree was nagging at me.

The morning weather has overcast and humid, and I awoke in the morning not feeling particularly, but the clock of opportunity was ticking. The saw has to be returned Monday. So, despite a level of I-don't-want-to on par with Brave Sir's daily ear canal cleaning, I grabbed the saw and headed for the tree. My chief concern on the felling of the tree was making sure that it fell in the direction that I wanted it to. Out of the 360 degree arc through which it could fall, a full 180 degrees were bad. Google, of course, offered good advice regarding the actions required to at least hint the tree in the direction you want it to go. Applying the appropriate wedge cut did the trick - Down With The Tree, Long Live The Stump.

Note two things: Brave Sir Hogarth monitoring the situation (you'll have to click on the picture for the larger version), and the inner circle of dark wood surrounded by a lighter color wood:

I don't know which color the wood would be in a healthy tree, but I am intuitively guessing that the tree should have been of a uniform color all the way through.

Now, as anyone that has watched The Sopranos already knows, the hard work is not in the whacking itself (with a couple of notable exceptions); the hard work is in the dismemberment and disposal of the corpse. The first step is to get the trunk up onto some kind of support to allow room for the saw to start cutting it into logs. That's a pretty heavy lift (for me), and I am suffering the muscle soreness in my back this morning that is the inevitable result of me lifting anything heavier than a wet Chihuahua. The saw made short work of that first cut, but then decided that progress cannot and should not be easy; it through its blade/chain.

Thus began an hour's worth of replacing the chain, only to have it fling off after each attempt to use it. It's a nice saw, mind you. A Poulin with an "EZ-access" blade tensioner. Which, in the light of my real world experience, I can definitively say also means "EZ-chain-fall-off." That latter part didn't pass muster in the Poulin Marketing Dept., of course. You get to learn that for yourself.

After an hour of diddling with it, though, I finally figured out that there is "tight," and there is "tighter." What was happening is that I would get it to where it felt tight, but not get the chain fully seated down into the slot of the blade. Once I'd run it for a few seconds, the chain would get seated down in the groove, but then it would have have sufficient slack to let it just pop right back out. Once I realized what was going on, I was able to get it properly set up. Being an essentially brand new saw, and me too stupid to have put on a pair of gloves before fiddling around with the still-sharp blade/chain, I ended up with dozens of little cuts on my hands by the time I figured out how to fix it.

With the chainsaw finally in order, it was still-hard-but-less-frustrating work to chop up the remainder of the tree. Which, at the end of the day, presented an entirely new problem. Even a modicum of foresight would have raised the question far earlier in the process: what to do with all of the resulting logs. We don't have a wood burning fireplace and I hate just piling logs up against the back fence of the yard, even though they do camouflage nicely with the neighbor's wood pile. Fortunately, we have a neighbor that likes to have fires in their back yard in a little fire pit that they built expressly for that purpose, so they agreed to take the logs off my hands. Delivered, of course.

I got the lawn tractor and trailer out of the shed and loaded what must have been 200 pounds of logs into it. Funny, that trailer is never used to carry stuff much heavier than twigs and leaves, so I never noticed that it had very little air in the tires. Dead flat, once they felt the weight of the cut-up tree. No big deal to air them up, though, so we were soon on our way to the neighbor's yard. Almost there... pulling the trailer up the hill of their front yard... and we hit a bump. A bump that was sufficient to trigger the dump latch on the trailer. At which point I, who had failed to do a proper weight & balance calculation, found that I was suffering from an extreme aft CG problem. Dumped the entire load of logs out, right on their front yard. Along with all of the leaves and twigs that maintain a perpetual state of presence in the bottom of the trailer. That was fun... an entire reload of the logs. Yes, nothing will help a sore back get sorer like redundant effort. Nothing.

The branches too small to be considered logs had to be bundled up with twine in groups small enough for the incredibly lazy and discerning garbage collectors to, you know, collect, another job fraught with danger for the gloveless. Finally done with the entire ordeal, I thought to sit down with a Gatorade and bag of potato chips to watch a full day of football. Remember those cuts on my hands? I didn't. At least not until I grabbed a handful of salty chips. Then I remembered. Oh, how I remembered!

And you know what else I remembered? I remembered why it is that I have a desk job.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Sad and Tragic Demise of my Hangar Frog

With the Mother of All Cold Fronts having blown through last week, it's not a huge surprise that the calm that typically comes after the storm here in Ohio has stretched through the entire work week and into the weekend. And, as is usual when the calm winds and high pressure stick around for a few days, the weather is perfectly flyable, albeit with reduced visibility. The hallmark of extended high atmospheric pressure in Ohio is, after all, haze. Knowing that, I called Co-pilot Rick on Saturday evening to see if he'd be up for a late morning flight, after the inevitable fog had lifted. He was downtown watching some kind of historical reenactment where they attempt to light the river on fire in celebration of the Cuyahoga River fires of the 20th century (near as I can figure) when I called, but it doesn't matter. A 1015 show time was confirmed with a later call. Destination not important, or even thought about yet, truth be told.

The Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast was sue-poib, but it was every bit as hazy as I had expected. I also saw some .1 nm visibilities (fog) reported down south, too. The 1015 go time looked like a good decision. With plenty of spare time on my hands, Brave Sir Hogarth joined me in sampling the Weather-on-the-Porch(tm) for awhile. With hot coffee in hand, I sat and read my first Large Print novel (Memoir From Antproof Case) which, ironically, happens to be about a guy that has a visceral hatred of coffee.

The large print is helpful for those mornings on the porch that are so sunny that they force me to use sunglasses rather than reading glasses. Anyway, I'm enjoying the book. There's even parts about flying in it that I hadn't expected.

I liked the paragraph about the weather.

Eventually we were joined by Co-pilot Egg, still tired from her big day with the band on Saturday. She marched in a parade in the morning, then traveled out to Dayton for a band competition. They placed 5th out of 17 bands competing, which is good, but they didn't get back to town until after midnight.

Wanting to maximize my time relaxing on the porch, I waited until the last minute to head to the hangar. I got there just a couple of minutes before the Co-pilot was to arrive, so I got the hangar door up and the airplane pulled out in a hurry, finishing just before I had to head back to open the gate for Rick. I had wanted the plane out of the hangar before I went to get him so I could just drive the Miata into the hangar for parking while we were gone. And that's what I did. And I ran over my hangar frog on the way in.

Sometime this Spring, a young frog took up residence under the weather stripping of my hangar door. Every time I opened the door, he'd start hopping into the hangar. I really didn't want him there, although I can't say for sure why. I'd scoop him into the saucepan that Brave Sir drinks from when he comes out to loiter with me and carry him down to the end of the hangars. There I'd drop him in the grass with an admonition to never return. An admonition that he completely ignored, as it was to transpire. To his chagrin.

All through the summer, I got used to looking for him every time I opened the door. I'd scoop him up and take back down to the end of the hangar row, inexplicably firm in the knowledge that this time he wouldn't be able to find his way back. He always did. Today, when I was in a hurry to get the plane out, I forgot to look for him. Well, until it was too late. He wasn't hard to find when I did remember to look for him. He was broader, flatter, and much, much slower than normal. I took him to the end of the hangars again, but this time I didn't need to tell him not to come back.

As neither Rick or I could conjure up a destination for the day, I took the simple expedient of using to find the cheapest gas that was at least 75 miles away. That turned out to be Ashland County (KDWU), Kentucky. The AirNav comments were all very favorable, and we figured the worst case is that I'd buy some gas and we could fly back up north for lunch at Portsmouth.

The flight down was glass smooth, although the humidity and latent heat in the air foreshadowed a bumpy ride back later in the day. We don't sweat things like that, though. The visibility was pretty low, but the GPS guide dog was there to direct us infallibly to the airport. We diverted a bit to take some pictures of the Portsmouth water front, but by that time we were within a few miles of Ashland and it was easy enough to find in the murk. The winds were reported as calm and there was not a plane to be heard on the frequency (except for the few hundred flying into Vinton County for their annual Fly-in, anyway) so we had our choice of runway. I used 28 both because of its position relative to our entry heading and because it was mighty darn scenic! We turned left base over the river, and overflew a barge while we were on final. I was too busy to take any pictures, unfortunately.

We had no plan at all for what to do once we landed, so I asked the airport guy if 1) there was anything to do, and 2) whether he had a courtesy car to use to get us there? Yes, to the car, but no ideas as to what to do with it. He said there's always something going on in Ashland, so we should just head down there.

"How far is that?" I asked.

"Ten minutes. Five if you do it right. Our car ain't much to look at it, but it runs like a scalded dog."

I think that's the exact moment I decided that maybe Rick should drive.

I didn't keep track of the time, but I'm pretty sure it took longer than 10 minutes for us to get downtown, the reason mostly being that the car may have smoked like a scalded dog, it didn't really run like one. It did the job, though, and we managed to find downtown Ashland. Where, as predicted by the airport guy, something was going on. I never saw a sign explaining what it was, but there were crafts, food, and music.

Not having had lunch yet, we decided against both the live rat and the educational experience:

The Arts & Crafts stuff was worth a look, though:

This one is really demoralizing. My porch swing doesn't look anything like this one:

These are really cool! They cut the 'logs' out of 2x4s and stain them to look like logs. The big dollhouse was priced at $500, the small one at $50:

I took a lot of video of this corn mill. I felt kinda guilty about it, so I bought a $5 jar of farm-fresh honey and a $5 jar of Piccalilly. Then, realizing that the opportunity may not arise again any time soon, I asked the guy what in the hell Piccalilly is, and what's it's used for. He ran off a string of veggies that are in it, all of it pickled in vinegar and sugar. He said they use it on hot dogs and stuff.

"Oh. It's relish."

I think I was saved from a scathing stink eye by the guy standing behind me who chose that moment to announce that he wanted to buy the entire stick of pickled beets.

After perusing the culinary options open to us, I decided against the shrimp or crab Po' Boys. Ashland is right on the water, yes, but it's not shrimp or crab water. No telling where that stuff came from. Nope, not for me... I decided to take my chances with a spicy Italian sausage with grilled onions. Knowing, mind you, that there was very likely to be a bumpy ride home. Caution to the wind, though:

We were joined by a couple of local residents enjoying ice cream cones. I made sure to explain to them too that Piccalilly is really just relish. Made their day, I'm sure:

The predictions of a bumpier ride home proved true, so I sat back and let the Co-pilot fly us home while I concentrated on keeping lunch down. An endeavor, I must say, that I succeeded in quite admirably.

So, other than having suffered the tragic loss of my hangar frog, it was a pretty good day.

Here, courtesy of PapaCam, is your Zenumentary:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Plane back together, Brave Sir Hogarth doing fine

Co-pilot Rick and I got the newly corrosion-free aileron back on the plane a couple of nights ago. Piece of cake, mostly, with the only wrinkle being the incompleteness of one of the diagrams that I drew to make sure I remembered where everything went. Rick brought along a tool that I had never heard of, and turned out to be worth more that its weight in gold: a washer wrench.

It's a very clever idea, the washer wrench. It holds washers in place while you install the bolt and nut. That sounds like a simple operation that shouldn't require a special tool, but some of the washers were slid into very tight confines and even with the washer wrench to hold them it can be quite difficult to keep them in place long enough to get the bolt properly aligned. I don't have much recurring need for a tool like this, but when you do need one, you really need one.

Regarding Brave Sir Hogarth, I recently discovered a lump the size of a golf ball under the skin near his left shoulder. Mako, one of the dogs the preceded Hogarth, died at a relatively young age from canine lymphoma, which exhibited itself with large tennis ball sized lumps in her belly. Once bitten, twice shy. Even though the all-knowing Google told me that Hogarth's lump was different and quite routine in dogs his age, I decided to take him to the Vet for a check-up.

We waited a good 45 minutes past our appointment time before the Vet got around to seeing us, a delay for which he was profusely apologetic. I told him not to worry since Hogarth is "a patient boy." 'A patient' - get it? Well, don't feel bad. Neither did the Vet. Not my best effort. Banter Amp(tm) only set to level three due to stress over Best Friend's condition. Not to worry, though. An aspiration of the lumps (there turned out to be two of them - one down by his groin. Gee, how'd I miss finding that one??) showed that it was just a pocket of fat. Still, "was it diet that caused that?" Nope, not at all. That's good news for Brave Sir, because he really, really likes his weekend treat of bacon grease poured over his kibble. Heck, I'd probably eat kibble too if it had bacon grease on it! Me and my boy, we love our bacon!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Duct Tape: is there anything it can't do?

Well, time will tell. But I can say with 100% certainty that there is nothing I won't try to get it to do.

Case in point:

That's one of my Bradford Pears that didn't survive the 72 mph gusts on Sunday.

I'll go out on a limb (sorry) and predict that it will either live or die. Nothing like taking a firm stand, is there? Anyway, I'll post a few pix as the weeks pass so you what care can keep an eye on the healing, should it occur.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A "Rainy Day" project, without the rain

The forecast for the weekend was dismal: rain, rain, and then... more rain. A pretty dismal outlook, but hard to gripe about when compared to others further south. With that in mind, perhaps it was incumbent on me to enjoy the far-better-than-forecast weather we actually got as much as possible.

Last night was Co-Pilot Egg's first band competition. She is a freshman clarinet player in the Central Crossing High School band. The band competed in the nearby "33rd Annual Hilliard Band Invitational" last night, and came home with a complete sweep. 1st place in every category of their class, and Grand Champion too!

Here's a moment of Marching Dancing Band eZen(tm) for you to enjoy:

This morning arrived bright and sunny, a veritable slap in the face to meteorologists everywhere. With an encouraging Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast in hand, I then consulted a higher authority, DUATS.

Ah, well. That's it then. 24 gusting 36. I wouldn't ride a bicycle in that kind of wind.

Too nice to stay in, though, and the yard got mowed yesterday. A perfect day to pull a job from the deferred maintenance list, and as the airplane is likely to be of use to me sooner than the gas fireplace with the absent pilot light will be, I thought I'd take the opportunity to fix one of the problems my eagle-eyed AP/IA found during the condition inspection. To wit, this wee Bit O' Corrosion:

Co-pilot Rick was one his way down to the hangar to assist, but I thought I could at least get started. The first step was to remove the inspection panel under the right wing to expose the bellcrank to which the aileron control arm is attached. Easy as pie. Removing the nut, bolt, and washers that hold it onto the bellcrank should have been as well, but it ended up requiring some contortions. One of which seems to have irritated something in my neck, much to my chagrin. Sore neck for the next few days. Ugh. With the pushrod detached, the aileron dropped down far enough to allow the removal of the washers, bolts, nuts, and spacers (and lions and tigers and bears) that attach the aileron to the rest of the airplane:

I'm one of the king's men when it comes to putting everything back together again, so I took some notes to help me get all of the pieces-parts back where they came from:

The whole operation was much easier than I had expected. I have no illusions, however, that putting the thing back on isn't going to be a helluva lot harder.

By the time the Co-pilot arrived, the aileron was off and I was cleaning up the corrosion on the aileron and pushrod:

I used the MEK to clean the places that I had abraded with the Scotchbrite pad. I managed to splash a little MEK onto my face, right where I had a little shaving incident. The burn reminded me of those dandruff shampoo commercials:

Out-or-work-actor-getting-by-on-low-budget-TV-commercials #1: "It's tingling!"
Out-or-work-actor-getting-by-on-low-budget-TV-commercials #2: "That means it's working!"

Now this is how a pilot masks for painting:

Those old sectionals aren't entirely useless after all.

The cover coat of gray enamel has been applied and will sit and cure for a couple of days before I try to put the assembly back onto the airplane. Some of the areas where the corrosion was occurring were where the socket used to install some of the bolts had scraped off the paint, leaving the surface exposed and vulnerable to corrosion. I don't want to create the exact same problem by rushing the airplane back into service, particularly since it's so damn windy that I can't go anywhere anyway. Funny how that worked out.

Oh, and how windy was it? Well, 24G36 was just the start. We had sustained 60+ mph winds all afternoon. The power got knocked out mid-afternoon, and was still out Monday morning.

Bonus eZen:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Shores of Lassitude Island

One thing I well know about myself is that in the absence of a compelling goal, I will sound find myself foundering off the shores of Lassitude Island. And it has to be a really compelling goal. For example, "clean out the garage this weekend" as a goal is very likely to end up grounded on the outlying Procrastination Reefs. But it can't be a goal with its realization so far beyond the horizon that a Flat-Earther like me refuses to acknowledge its very existence.

This is nothing I haven't talked about before. It's where the kayak came from, after all. But it's worse this time. It's worse because it affects my flying. Now that I've been living the RV Dream for the last three years, I've accomplished all of my goals. This isn't to say that I'm bored with PapaGolf, mind you. But I have noticed a reduction in my flying libido, to coin a phrase. Smilin' Bob is barely grinning. My theory is that this is a symptom of something missing. Something in the form of, say, a compelling goal. Related to flying this time. Fortunately, aviation is rife with opportunities to try something new. And as varied as they are, they all have one thing in common: they're expensive.

Which, as is usual, brings up the cost/benefit equation. The interesting thing about the two variables in that equation is that one of them is objective and the other is subjective. Cost, for the most part, is easily measured in dollars. Benefit? Not so much. For example, I might see $450 worth of benefit in a B-24 ride (I didn't, but I might have). Other decision makers in the Budget Office probably won't see that high of a value, if they see any at all.

Through time, you learn to perform the cost/benefit calculation from a more neutral viewpoint while building a case for any given aviation-oriented expense. Best to have some answers to "Why do you want to do that?" ready to go, I've found. It's an inevitable question, it seems. Mandatory, in fact. A matter of routine. Which is not a bad thing, truth be told, as I've been known to put the cart in front of the horse at times, only to find out that I can't even get a horse. It's a fair cop.

So, I've been noodling various goals, large and small. Some of the smaller overlap as prerequisites for larger ones. And some of those larger ones would serve as building blocks for goals still out of view over the horizon. "Expound," you say? Well, if you insist. Let's start way out over the horizon, let's say ten years from now. What do I want to be doing? Despite the near blindness of foresight I suffer from while trying to view the attitudes and capabilities of myself a decade hence, I think I would like to be living in a dry, mostly warm environment, near (but not too near) a city large enough to have a Sam's Club and a nice airport, filling my time working as a flight instructor.

That's a long way away, but it also lives at the end of a fairly lengthy (given the time and dollars that I have to work with) trail of interim goals. At an outline level, I think it would progress something like this:

- pass Commercial written test
- get IFR Current
- get checked out in appropriate airplane
- get Commercial Rating
- pass CFI written test
- get CFI Rating
- get CFI/Instrument

Some of those could be combined, of course. I could get IFR current, checked out in a Commercial capable plane and fly the requirements for the Commercial Rating at the same time. I've already done the long cross-country required for the Commercial, so that would save some dollars.

I really ought to take a training course for the Commercial written anyway just to refresh my memory on it all. It's been 20+ years since I took it, after all.

Annual photo show entries

I don't think I have a very good crop (get it?) this year:

"Speedsters Out to Pasture"

"Forgotten Dream"

"No Reservation Required"

Sunday, September 07, 2008


When it comes to the annual-when-they-have-one-at-all Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In, the acronym MERFI lends itself to comparisons with Murphy's Law. Last year the fly-in was hosted by Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport (KMFD) and Co-pilot Rick and I attempted to go, but we arrived over Mansfield ("No, I don't think I'll ever get over Mansfield") to find the worst of the clouds still below us when we were left downwind for landing at pattern altitude. After trying to catch even a small glimpse of what is a relatively large airport with scant success, and being unwilling to press our luck, we made an expedient 180 degree turn to retreat to Urbana for breakfast.

This year MERFI has been moved to Urbana, presumably because the weather's better. Fine by me, though, since it's practically right next door. I considered going on Saturday but The Mighty Ohio $tate Buckeyes were playing in-state neighbor Ohio University. It pays not to second guess decisions like these in the clear knowledge of hindsight, but... well, flying may have been the better choice over staying home to watch the game. It was a sloppily played game on the O$U on side of the ball, and it was disconcerting to see how dependent their offense is on one player. The defense carried the day eventually, but their porosity on 3rd down bode ill for next week's test against USC.

Today, the Weather-out-the-Window(tm) was adequate, but by no means inspiring. Low-ish clouds and cool temps, with the feel of rain showers somewhere just over there. And a promise of 11G17 in the early afternoon, but right down the runway where it would be in the no-harm-no-foul region. Not terrific, but with my having not flown for three weeks now, it would have to do. After a layoff like that it's important to make a flight or two to keep the skills, if not sharp, at least less blunt.

Urbana is, of course, a flight I've made many times so there wasn't much of concern there, but we were going to a fly-in. That always presents the issue of a lot of traffic, some with no radios, and is one of the reasons I don't go to them as I often as I used to. That said, the Co-pilot is always on board for an early go so we could hopefully mitigate some of the traffic complexity simply by getting there early, and the extra set of eyes scanning for traffic really helps as well. Some of you may recognize this as the same strategy I used when going to fly-ins back before I learned how to land. Back then I called it "getting there before the witnesses."

After not having flown for a few weeks, parts of the routine don't always feel, well, routine. Knowing that I might have to air up the tires, I got to the hangar about 15 minutes before the pre-arranged departure time. Just a glance at both wheels was enough to determine that they'd both need service. Because of the tight aerodynamic wheel pants, though, it's a little trickier to do that job alone than it is with someone there that can sight through the access hole cut into the side of each wheel fairing to watch for the air valve as I roll the airplane forward.

Having been through this before, I have spray painted a red strip on the inside of each tire to indicate the position of the air valve. That way, all I have to do is roll the plane out of the hangar until one of the painted stripes is at the bottom of the wheel. That seems like it would be an easy, routine thing to do, but every single time I rolled the airplane forward to align the paint mark juuusssstt sooooo, the plane rolled forward another few inches as I let go of it to move to the air hose and fill the tire. And I couldn't reach far enough back to stuff a chock in without it moving. Hilarity and somewhat painful contortions ensued, but I finally managed to get the plane to hold still while I aired the tires.

The tires having finally been serviced and the plane pretty much all the way out of the hangar as a result of its little game of Mother May I?, I got through a pre-flight with no problems. Good to know that at least my head was in the game. We mounted up and put the key to Papa, and he greeted us with a single turn of the blade followed by a nice loping idle. Papa's in the game! I called for taxi clearance, and replied back crisply with the appropriate "Bravo Alpha 22 for 6 6 papa golf" in response to the expected taxi clearance. Great, my tongue is in the game and I won't be tripping over it.

So, we worked our way down to the runway and made the final checks before committing to the sky. Switches fell to hand readily: hands are in the game. Cleared for takeoff and away we go, skipping and swerving down the runway. Feet in the game? Not so much. That remained pretty much the situation for the rest of the day. The witnesses were already at Urbana by the time we got there, but I don't think the kind of lapse in footwork that I see is very noticeable from a distance. The traffic wasn't very bad, either. There were just a couple of planes in front of us, but one of them was, unfortunately, the type that flies a tri-county landing pattern. Huge patterns like that really bugger up the works for everyone else.

Once on the ground, the arriving traffic was well handled by the volunteers that were working the flightline. There was no hunting around for a parking spot and getting in everyone's way here. We were met at the runway by a 'Follow Me' golf cart that escorted us directly to a parking spot. The same excellent service was in evidence later when we were leaving. We received another escort from the parking area back out to the runway, which is very welcome when taxiing a tailwheel airplane around groups of unpredictable spectators.

So, MERFI. Yeah, the pancakes were great, but I can get those at Bob Evans. No, the real reason you fly in to the MERFI Fly-In is to walk around and see what other people flew in to the Fly-In. That, and see what hides behind the normally closed hangar doors. For example, this B-25:

This is an A-26 that looks as if it might be waiting its turn for a restoration:

There's also a decades long restoration of a B-17 underway:

It's interesting to the Co-pilot and I to see the type of work they're doing. As he pointed out, it all looked very familiar to the kind of work that goes into building an RV. Or, in my case, taking A&P classes where I learned about sheet metal, avionics, and engines.

When they get it done, I know where they can get a Norden bomb sight:

"Since the Norden was considered a critical wartime instrument, bombardiers were required to take an oath during their training stating that they would defend its secret with their own life if necessary. In case the bomber plane should make an emergency landing on enemy territory, the bombardier would have to shoot the important parts of the Norden with a gun to disable it. As this method still would leave a nearly intact apparatus to the enemy, a thermite gun was installed; the heat of the chemical reaction would melt the Norden into a lump of metal."

Heh. Now you can find them unsecured and unattended in the seat of a Jeep. Technology is like that, I guess.

There were a few older planes amongst the fly-ins:

It's tiring walking around all of the planes, so it's nice to be able to rest a bit:

As mentioned before, the departure procedures were every bit as well handled as the arrivals, so we had no trouble getting out of Urbana to head back to Bolton. I reported to Bolton Tower as we crossed over Darby Dan airport as I usually to, but got a little wrinkle in the response from the tower.

I usually expect "report two mile right base to runway 22." Instead I got "enter right base leg 22, report two mile final." Those aren't the same thing, but I didn't know if he misspoke or if he really wanted me to get far enough out to the north to give me a two mile long final. As I got close to the base leg, I called that I was "two mile right base, but that will put me inside of a two mile final, if that's OK."

It wasn't.

There was a touch & go Cessna way, way out there on a left base to runway 22, and the tower controller needed us to head up north a bit in order to stay outside of the wide pattern of what was more than likely a student pilot. That was easy enough to do, but it did put us in the position of having nowhere to go but the roof of Lowes if we were to lose the engine. I prefer a tighter pattern, but you get what you get.

The flare felt like it always feels after a few weeks without flying, which is to say "very fast." It takes a few flights to get re-acclimated to the pace of things, particularly things that happen close to the ground and on those uncomfortable days when your feet still aren't in the game. There was just a little swerve on the roll-out, but it was still a below par performance. You'd better get with it, feet! There are no permanent starters on this team!

Absent the poor footwork, though, it was a pretty nice day of flying. The skies were very smooth. So smooth, in fact, that the question of sharing the flying duties with the Co-pilot was moot. There were no flying duties. Papa rode along like he was on rails.

We caught a little rain on the way to Urbana which, despite repeated experience to the contrary, I always hope will wash the airplane as we fly through it. It really just rinses the crud out of hidden nooks and crannies and spreads it across the skin, leaving you with a yuckier looking plane than you started with, but I never seem to remember that.

The Eternal Optimist, I am.

So, having run out of ado and therefore being unable to provide further, here's your (notably brief) moment of Fly-In eZen(tm):

Monday, September 01, 2008

Three day weekend, beautiful weather, and where did I fly?

I didn't. Not at all. How could this be??

Well, Saturday was a football write-off. Ohio State football, specifically. Half the day gone right there. The rest of the day? Family in for a visit. Speaking of which, I made a mental note at the time to share "Things Not to Say Out Loud #32" with you. We were all sitting out on the front porch on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon when my sister noted that there weren't any planes flying into or out of Bolton Field. She asked me why that would be the case on such a flyable day. My honest (but ill-thought) reply was that it was a three day weekend and they were probably stuck at home with family. Well, I didn't really mean it that way. But just to cover all of the bases, I hereby absolve myself of any responsibility for any injured feelings by utilizing the now ubiquitous dodge, "I misspoke." What I meant to say, of course, was that there are often things more important than flying.

So with that in mind, the remainder of the weekend was spent on a ground transportation based camping trip to The Farm(tm) with co-pilot/co-camper Rick. The weather was nice enough to fly there, but loading all of the required and/or desired camping equipment into the RV-6 seemed a daunting task. Besides, it's a nice drive. I have a route that I've spent years refining; it's such a direct path that I often parallel it on my flying trips out there. The lion's share of it is comprised of remote country roads. I find being the only (or nearly only) car on the road to be much more relaxing than dealing with the trucks, cops, construction, and crowds on the highways. Except when, as happened this weekend, one of the roads is closed and no detour directions are provided. And with no GPS in the car, either. Sometimes flying is not only faster than driving, but easier too.

After blazing a new route on-the-fly (so to speak) we arrived at the camp site and started getting set up for fishing, eating, and lying recumbent in tents hoping (futilely, in my case) that fatigue and/or beer would mask enough of the physical discomfort to allow some sleep. I had attempted to prepare sufficiently for all three activities with a trip to Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon where I procured a cheap sleeping pad and a new fishing rod/reel combo, after which I spent some time in the kitchen cutting up meat and veggies to make beef stew. Work before pleasure, so we got our tents set up, a fire started, and the stew stewing over the fire. Then, the fishing!

I had picked up a $9 microlight fishing combo from Wal-Mart and a pack of 6 light treble hook lures. After 20 minutes of trying to get it to work, the co-pilot repaired it and we were ready to go. An interesting thing about our little fishing area down at the camp site is that to catch a fish, you have to not want to. I hate catching fish because I don't like holding them and removing the hook. I like to blame bad parenting for it, but the truth is that I got stuck by a blue gill when I was a kid and still carry a grudge. So I caught four. Or the same two fish, once each. The jury never returned a verdict on that. But the thing is, well, Rick. He actually wanted to catch a fish, but was never able to land one despite a couple of close calls. Me, I'm perfectly happy just tossing the lure in and reeling it in, so I caught four. Just note, though, that another interesting thing is that the fish (at least the 2 or 4 that I caught) are aquarium size. Really, really small. If you measured them against the $15 worth of equipment that I bought, it would come out to $1 per centimeter.

Meanwhile, dinner was slow cooking over the fire, just waiting me to finish the job of getting all six lures stuck on underwater branches or rocks. Fishing to me is just like golf: it's always an open question as to which will come first, the 18th green or me running out of golf balls. After losing two of my six lures, I decided to save the remainder to lose in the morning. Pacing myself, as it were. All things in moderation.

Fishing done but dinner not, there was ample time to relax and have a couple of beers. It's nice sitting there drinking beer while listening to the symphony of the water, fire, and crickets, and not having to elect a designated driver. But I have to counter that with the night of getting in and out of the tent every couple of hours to water the weeds that would inevitably result if I didn't limit the number of beers that I drank. It's a balancing act, to be sure.

After dinner and a few more hours of feeding wood into the fire, it was time to hit the tent and see if I could get any sleep. Which, well, not so much. The low-cost sleeping pad from Wal-Mart earned the moniker The Discomfort Amplification Pad for its incredible ability to make hard, bumpy ground even harder and bumpier. Nope, not much sleep at all. Soon enough, though, the sun came up and I was able to get back to the job of losing the rest of my lures. That took less than an hour, so there was nothing left to do but get started on the most difficult camping task of all, getting the tent back in the bag it came in. I swear, it would be easier to push a calf back into a cow. After a protracted effort, I finally got the thing back in the bag, only to have to be re-do the entire operation when I got home and realized that I had left my watch in the tent.

A little more than a minute of camping eZen(tm):