John & Anne Wiley

2014/11/11

Steps To Happiness

“How far can you fly?” That’s a question we’re often asked. Around the world would be one correct answer. Tripp can fly from Portland to SB without stopping is another answer, but we don’t. Usually. It’s much more fun to fly low and slow, stopping every few hundred miles for a stretch, some exploration on the ground, and maybe a meal. When friends and family along our route can accommodate the semi-scheduled nature of nearly all our flying trips, we stop for a visit. So almost always we make long trips in “steps” of a few hundred miles each.

6868 River Life

6868 River Life

Our first step toward home from Marysville gave us this peek at the river, where people eke out a life in ramshackle camps among the trees. Soon we saw Sacramento slip by far in the hazy distance, where the upscale and wealthy set policy.

6888 Sacramento

6888 Sacramento

Tripp transforms the Seattle to SB trip from a grueling drive or cramped airliner into scenic pleasures punctuating a series of discoveries and precious memories formed in such steps.

It was a short step to San Jose, where we cherished some sweet times with a sister and family. When we took off on our final step home the next day, there she was waving warmly.

2696 Sweet Step

2696 Sweet Step

The last step triggered memories of visiting cousins in Morgan Hill. A peak that seemed impossibly high then, is now an easy glance.

6908 Morgan Memories

6908 Morgan Memories

Many refreshing and memorable views unfolded gracefully below in the hour after takeoff. Then we crossed the coastal mountains and descended toward the beach as we passed high over Hearst Castle.

7015 Hearst Descent

7015 Hearst Descent

Having taken some of the tours there, it’s always interesting to see from above at different angles on each passage. Over the beach at our comfortable quarter mile or so up, we turned more directly toward home. Tomorrow I’ll chose a few visions to share from that final hour of wonders on our PNW Adventure.

2014/11/08

Last Mountain

The last major mountain we passed on our flight home was Shasta. So many times I’ve passed it in a car – as a kid in the back seat, my first time driving it in my own car, and more trips since including several with Anne before Tripp. So for me Shasta is an iconic mountain “friend” of sorts. A milestone perhaps. Unlike driving past, every time in Tripp is very different because it’s so easy to whimsically change our route and we can see it the whole time without trees or hills in the way. So each passage unfolds new faces.

6785 Shadow Shasta

6785 Shadow Shasta

This time one of many views we saw of it was beyond the Black Butte cinder cone that towers next to I-5. Shasta stands like some strange shadow of the cinder cone, or maybe a photobomb. This perspective reveals the “shadow” side of Shasta, reminding us that it’s an active volcano. Shasta Lake nearby is a shadow of its normal self, with many arms completely dry revealing the old road with normally submerged bridge below that railroad bridge.

6795 Surfaced Bridge

6795 Surfaced Bridge

Invisible from distant I-5, for the thousands of passing motorists the old bridge is effectively still submerged, below their view. What they can see is part of this view that still looks like a lake, yet conceals the small marina around a bend toward the bottom of the pic.

6800 Shasta Lake

6800 Shasta Lake

There the boaters are making a last stand at their inlet, carving a new road down to the water. Out the other window a few minutes earlier passed these rocky peaks of Castle Crags that I never noticed (or couldn’t see) from the road.

2570 Castle Crags

2570 Castle Crags

It still surprises me sometimes when people are afraid to fly, yet will risk their lives daily down on those dangerous roads and highways down there. Maybe some people are born to fly. The pull so powerful that even those with some fear will find their way past it up into the sky. Cruising the open air between cloud and mountain, delighting in the world beneath our wings, and wishing we could share this rare joy with everyone.

2014/11/07

Migration

Our hopscotch flight from Seattle home to Santa Barbara was a great way to visit friends and family along the way. When we used to drive on such trips, we soon tired of taking turns at the wheel and sometimes felt as if we’d never arrive. Flying now, we enjoy the journey and the destinations along our way. For example, by car we’d have missed these opulent manses on the lakeshore just over the hill from downtown Seattle.

6641 Mercerview Manses

6641 Mercerview Manses

We wouldn’t have fought traffic to visit “you dub” (University of Washington), but mere minutes after our Renton takeoff it lay before us in this beautiful watery context.

6644 UW

6644 UW

Water defines the PNW, like in quiet small lakes with Disneyesque Twain islands to explore in that little white boat in this pic.

6711 Explorer's Island

6711 Explorer’s Island

Water works also abound in the sand bars of river bends like this north of Silverlake.

6721 Rambling River

6721 Rambling River

We saw a sign of the freedom expressed by people here, in the thin crescent of mowed green atop this pointy hill far from view of the roads.

6729 Hilltop Freedom

6729 Hilltop Freedom

Looking closer we could make out an ultralight aircraft poised to bring an effectively free rush of delight to a rural aviator.

6724 Free Ride

6724 Free Ride

After our enchanting visit in Grant’s Pass, our magic carpet Tripp lofted us over lush forests along the romantic Rogue River past its namesake town.

6740 Rogue River

6740 Rogue River

A few minutes later we were in California, and it was as though someone had turned off the water. Slopes near the almost dry Shastina Lake were barren and brown, yet snow melt from Mt. Shasta cut a ribbon of green in lower ground.

6764 Drying Trend

6764 Drying Trend

We are happy to live in the last country on earth where ordinary people can (barely) afford the freedom of flight. Where dreamers like me can partake of this breathtaking experience known to our species for just over a century. Migrating toward home, the journey itself can bring delights equal to the destinations.

2014/10/11

Constant

The old saying goes something like, “The only constant is Change.” We just had some lessons in that. We decided to fly Tripp up to visit a dear sister in Seattle who was in a terrible freak vehicle accident. Our hope is to help out where we can, and add some fun and cheer to her days. So we started to plan for next week.

Then we realized Edmonton is relatively close, and we could visit our daughter and family. Starting to look at flying weather, I found that we could actually fly direct to see them first and enjoy a Canadian Thanksgiving on Sunday. So suddenly our first plan changed and we had less time to prepare.

Then the weather forecasts began to include extreme wind warnings for Edmonton for our planned arrival tomorrow (Saturday). So we instantly went into emergency packing mode, and were able to leave SBA just before the last holes in the low clouds closed offshore. To break up the flying tomorrow we decided to fly about halfway, to Boise, ID. Because our plans were now in tatters and we got out of SBA at 9pm, and we had headwinds, we ended up flying nearly all night and arriving at 5am long after our hotel plan was out the window. Being dark except for the waning moon, we didn’t see much and took not a single photo (perhaps a first for us on a long flight over interesting terrain).

2303 Terminal Plan

2303 Terminal Problem

So we slept in recliner chairs in the “crew” room at the airport for three hours, then started making last minute plans for the border crossing. That’s when the plan met its End. Terminal error, as it were. In our haste, we’d left our passports at home. Even in our sleepy state it was instantly clear that this was a terminal problem. We had but a few hours before weather closed in everywhere, the authorities require lots of money, time and rare documents to issue a new passport, and nothing short of a friend with supersonic jet could get our passports to us in time for today’s flight.

Change is Constant.

So we changed plan to head for Seattle just before the forecast storms here.

2304 Over Boise

2304 Over Boise

At last we were flying in daylight, so there are some pix to share. Like this one of the first leaves turning in a small town along our route.

6438 Fall Color

6438 Fall Color

Much of the flight was over vast barren dry terrain, where vehicles on dirt roads stand out from the flat.

6453 Vehicle ID

6453 Vehicle ID

Or scenes like this, where the cars of a freight train trace a thin thread of colors.

2309 Colored Thread

2309 Colored Thread

Where there’s irrigated farming, lush green circles dot the land and scattered burning adds smoke signals.

2338 Fields & Fires

2338 Fields & Fires

On the aviation frequencies we heard some pilots around Boise reporting fires to ATC, but being near towns they were already known to fire agencies. So when I spotted what looked like a new wildfire in a remote non-agricultural area near Mt. Aix, I called it in and they seemed to take it quite seriously.

6473 Into Rainy Days

6473 Into Rainy Days

The storms actually arrived a little early. In fact we even flew through some scattered light snow flurries that were falling thru the clear air between cloud layers.  Happily we could see that Renton (Seattle) was still clear but by the time we landed we were very tired. We were also feeling great disappointment, sadness and frustration at not going for such a precious time with daughter and family. Yet we were happy, healthy, and glad to see Anne’s sweet sister.

Then we went to bed early (for us: 11pm) on our comfy high-end air mattress in sweet sister’s guest room. An hour later we woke on the floor. Being so totally sleep deprived by now, we just found the least uncomfortable position and slept another two hours. When we woke again aching in our bones from basically sleeping on the floor, I pumped it up again hoping for at least an hour. It went flat immediately. So we slept a few more minutes on the floor and got up to make coffee and figure out where we’ll buy a new air matt.

So begins our PNW Adventure. What other Change lies ahead on this journey?

2014/09/10

High & Outside

One of the many things we love about flying is how it’s so different every time. When we used to drive from SB to SD, any variation was a welcome respite from what often presented as monotony at best (frustration and danger at worst). So those dreaded drives perhaps made flying to SD even more fun for us. For example, going much higher than our usual 1-4.5k’ and faster than our usual 110mph.

5836 High Outside LA

5836 High Outside LA

Here offshore looking back across Palos Verdes to LA and beyond, it felt a little like the brief glimpse from an airliner as it takes off. This was about 10,000 feet and going 150mph or so. Unlike an airliner though, we enjoyed the view through wide open windows rather than a small hazy plastic porthole. Unlike the airline view this lasted an hour rather than a couple of minutes during climb or descent. This height also gave us some fun (and safe) views of those airliners.

5815 Outside

5815 Outside

Though we were safely outside the 3D corridors in the air for airline departures and arrivals, a cropped view like this max zoom shot can give the impression of a menacing white shark. For we who know how safe flying is, it’s all about fun and excitement mingled with some concern for the thousands of people down on those dangerous roads. During our stay in SD we even took a break from fun with family to explore the area from back down at our preferred altitude, intimate with the earth but not bound by it.

5857 La Jolla Jolly

5857 La Jolla Jolly

In half an hour or so, we took in so much beauty and stoked up so much happiness it made sitting in SD traffic again almost tolerable. :)

Along the coast somewhere near Torrey Pines I spotted this spiral rip tide outside the break. Surfers seemed to be using it for access to the rides generated by a hurricane off Mexico.

5925 Outside Perspective

5925 Outside Perspective

We’ve enjoyed riding rip tides, but didn’t know how they look in context until flying. From down there on the water, we’d never have guessed this one was making an unusual spiral pattern. High and outside our normal perspective, we see the world anew.

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