Saturday, July 30, 2005

Saturday Bath

Soaped up
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I went out for the mail this morning, and chatted with my neighbor Bill, and took a look at my overgrown yard. I decided the best thing to do was head to the airport and go flying. (It's remarkable, how often that course of action suggests itself.)

I took my rags and buckets with me, so that I could wash the plane. I haven't done it yet this summer, and 02P was looking a bit grungy; oil streaks on the belly, dust from the hangar, and the everpresent bug splats. (You'd think that with a plane this slow, the bugs would have plenty of warning, but no...)

Kellachows field
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I went for a spin around the area first, as I planned to visit farmer Kellachow's grass strip to see what was going on; one of the model airplane guys had told me that the skydivers were back for a visit. They used to jump there all the time, but have moved their operations up to Sky Haven in Tunkhannock, where they have access to a bigger jump plane. I headed over there, and circled the field while the current batch of skydivers touched down. But the model airplane guys had gone home, so I climbed back up to the clear air and south to Lake Wallenpaupack.

Busy lake
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
The lake was clogged with boats - the most I have ever seen there. It must have been a nice day for boating, but challenging to get up any speed with the crowded conditions! I quickly got bored with flying up and down the lake, trying to tag boats with my shadow, so I decided to go upstairs to cool off and play with the clouds. There was about 4/8 coverage, a nicely broken deck of small cumulus clouds at around 8,000 feet, and I climbed just above them. I weaved in and out of the spires and turrets, trying to snap pictures, until my camera battery died.

After touching down back at Cherry Ridge, I got out the washing gear and hooked up my garden hose. Starting at the tail, I scrubbed the grime and oil off; when I came to the wings, I had to go and find a stepladder. It took me almost two hours all told, with a beverage-break at the cafe in the middle; the day was getting warmer. 02P is a small plane, one of the smallest - but there's lot to wash! Even with the stepladder, I can only reach halfway across the wing, so I had to work my way around both sides. The worst was the last, lying on my back on the wet ramp and scrubbing the oil-streaked belly fabric.

Having gotten the plane all spic and span, I noticed my reflection in the cafe window, and saw where all of the dirt had gone - onto my person. Luckily the airport was lightly attended, so only a few saw the spectacle: unshaven, hair mussed (with the typical lateral headset-dent), wet and grimy. But still, I figured the best way to dry off the plane was to blow-dry it with a short flight, so I flew down to Mount Pocono and back. Two cadets of mine are the line guys there, a pair of brothers, and they told me that I was about the only traffic today; too bad, MPO is a great airport. But the board there has been having trouble keeping an FBO, and without a good fixed-base operator, pilots tend to go elsewhere.

Monday, July 25, 2005

This Post 100% Horse Pun Free

Police woman
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I almost didn't go for a lunch walk today, since my back is bothering me, and I almost didn't take my camera. I'm glad I did, though, since I met a horse, which is unusual for downtown. She is a mounted patrolman's horse, and her officer was giving her a thorough cleaning and combing before taking her for a ride. I'm not a horse person, so I don't know what was expected of me; it seemed to me that she was looking at me, waiting for something. Or maybe she was just professionally suspicious; she is a police horse. But she did pose for a photo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mid-week flight

Sun, water, wing...
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Finally a perfect July day, warm and breezy with clear blue skies. I got out of work on time, plenty of hours of daylight left, and I was in the mood to roam. A perfect day to go sailing, or ride a horse, or hit the open road on a big Harley. But of course I'm not a sailor, or a cowboy, or middle-aged (snicker) so I went flying.

I had the airport to myself as I pulled 02P out of the hangar, preflighted her, topped off the oil. I took off with a hard crosswind from the left, rolling along on the left wheel as I gained speed. I climbed out and headed south, with no fixed destination in mind. Zigzagging once over the lake, I kept on going south with the wind behind me. I skimmed over Camelback Mountain and circled once over a friend's house - hope I didn't wake the baby, Dale - and followed Route 80 eastwards.

Bombardier view
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I experimented with my camera, trying to find ways to minimize the effects of the plexiglass windows. (Plexiglass shows every scratch; and the windscreen soon becomes bug-splattered, at least in the summer at low altitudes.) I found that I could use the large viewfinder and hold the whole camera out the vent window, taking care to wrap the strap around my arm. It worked best at slower airspeeds; if I flew too fast, it was hard to hold the camera still. Too, the range of motion with my hand is limited through the small window, so I had to aim the whole plane quite a bit to line up my shots.

Golf course
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I got a few decent shots, for flying and photographing at the same time. Obviously the better part of my attention goes towards flying the plane; I can only spend a few moments at a time taking pictures. Better results will be in the offing with a dedicated photographer on board; and, if she's inclined, with the door removed for a real photo flight.

I've been sold

I've been sold
This is the bench where I often sit and eat my lunch. Today I arrived to find this new advert, carefully handpainted on the back. It's a good location, except when I'm sitting there, when it simply reads "Pizza & Beer".

Ricci's does have good pizza...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Afternoon ritual

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Hugh the cat has come to expect a jaunt outside every afternoon when I get home. He's an indoor cat, but when I moved here I relaxed the rules and let him go out on the front porch on occasion. (Hugh is declawed, he used to live with another declawed cat; and he's a bit too old to defend himself against younger, armed cats.)

He's not very brave, but over time he cautiously extended his comfort zone to the bottom of the steps, and then into the shrubbery; at which point I would usually retrieve him. When Gail came to live with us, he found a new accomplice; she was home during the day, and he found her to be more pliable at the front door.

So now the afternoon sequence of events has changed. I still get a warm greeting at the back door as before; and I am still expected to quickly fill the food dish, which is invariably empty. But once Hugh sees that supper is served, he knows that the next task on my checklist is to open the front door and get the mail, and he dashes past me to go for a prowl.

I'm sure he can smell the other neighbourhood cats; Bailey, the all-black cat from across the street was sitting on our front stoop when I left this morning. But I don't leave him outside unsupervised, lest he have a run-in with another animal. I don't think he would go as far as the road; so far, he has kept his stalking very close to the house.

Today I stalked him with my camera, but he usually ignores me; far too busy looking and sniffing around like a coonhound. But he finally came over to where I was lying under the magnolia, and I caught him intently watching a city bus go up our quiet street.

Monday, July 11, 2005

What I did this weekend

I went flying! (OK, this journal is lacking somewhat in dramatic revelations. Did anyone not see that coming?)

Hard at work
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
It was a perfect flying day Sunday, and the guys in the two local pilot clubs were having a flyout to the Thousand Islands in upstate New York. 170 miles seemed like a long ride to me, and I prefer vinaigrette anyway; so I decided to fly south instead, and let the prevailing winds blow me along. My old friend Chris in Allentown was getting ready for his first biennial flight review; every two years, pilots must perform a check ride with an examiner to be legal to fly. I figured I would let him get some practice in my plane, and I could sharpen my Flight Instructor skills (barking random orders, and looking out the window.)

Chris handled the Tri-Pacer very well; it's lighter, less stable and underpowered compared to the Cessnas he trained on. We took off and flew west out of Allentown's airspace, and climbed slowly up into the cooler air above 4,000 feet. I suggested a series of basic maneuvers, steep turns and slow flight, and Chris performed them all capably. Then we descended into Reading, where his test was scheduled, and he did three good landings, with only verbal cues from me on the quirks of the old plane.

Custer Channel Wing
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
While he was aloft with his instructor, I wandered around the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum again with my camera. Since Gail and I had visited, there was a new and bizarre shape on the ramp; the sole surviving prototype of the Custer Channel Wing. This is a small twin-engined plane built to explore an obscure aerodynamic notion, that lift might be gained by capturing the slipstream of the propellers. Apparently it worked - somewhat - at low speeds, but was inefficient at high speeds, and suffered from strange vibrations. Plus, those bizarre wings would have been a production nightmare, with their semicircular spars!

I took a few pictures of the Custer and the rest of the relics out on the sun-baked ramp, and eventually Chris landed and taxiied back in. I guess 02P scared him back into currency; he passed his review, anyway! The examining instructor took him aside for a thorough briefing afterwards, and we took off for the short hop east to Allentown.

Arriving back north in Scranton, I landed at the big airport and picked up my mother; I had thought that there was a meeting back at Cherry Ridge, and they typically have dinner in the cafe beforehand. But I had old news; the meeting was to have been a picnic, but it was cancelled due to illness of the organizer. (Get well soon, Joanie!) So I put the plane away, and Mom and I went to Hamlin Corners to have dinner at Kundla's Open Pit Barbecue. Without resorting to hyperbole, I can only say that this barbecue would heal the sick and raise the dead. People were queued up around the building, but the line moved fast, and we got our sampler of ribs, chicken and pork chops, and - not having eaten all day - I ate myself into a religious ecstacy.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Trip to Toronto part III

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Late Monday morning we checked out of the hostel, picking up a discounted pass for the CN Tower. This third time we toughed out the queue, only about 35 minutes, and went up the speedy elevator to the top. The observation level, at 342 m (1,122 ft) is clean and attractive, and the walls are full of fun facts about the tower. A most unique feature at this level is a large semicircular section of tough (one hopes!) glass floor. Even after reading the sign on the wall that says the floor was built fully four times the required strength, and could support 14 hippopotami, it takes a moment to nerve yourself to walk out onto the glass. If you are looking down - and how could you not - the sight of the sheer quarter-mile drop below you confounds your brain. I walked right out, thrilling at the insanity of it; Gail must have better instincts for self-preservation, it took her a few minutes to try it. We took lots of pictures, from there and from the normally-oriented windows on the observation level. Unfortunately the summer haze and smog had returned, reducing the visibility; the previous two days had been crystal clear.

Later we stopped by Sergio's apartment, to pick up some of Gail's things that she had brought east for me to take home. Then we drove around Toronto for a bit, looking for a place to eat, and eventually headed down towards Niagara Falls. The long-weekend traffic was congested, and it took us over two hours to get to the Falls; we decided that Gail would take a later bus and I would delay my trip home so that we could tour the falls and take some photos. The car was a liability - they shake you down for $18.00 to park near the falls - so we parked it for free near the transit terminal and took a city bus to the park area.

Niagara Falls
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
We began to take photos of the falls, and the wheeling gulls, and then - shamefully, for us two - we both ran out of electricity! I had left my spare battery in the console of the car, and Gail had mixed up her recharged and discharged cells. So we finished out the day with a quick walk around the area, and a jaunt up the brazen tourist-trap of the Canadian Midway. Niagara Falls is a major attraction, but the commercial glare of the casino and the garish neon are really at odds with the natural beauty of the area. At least they keep the worst of it at arm's length; the area immediately by the falls is kept green and natural.

All too soon, it was time for Gail to take the bus back to Toronto, and for me to head south back to the U.S. We heard the Fourth of July fireworks from down by the falls, and said our goodbyes. With luck, we will soon be travelling together again, instead of travelling to see each other; but as always, I had a fine time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Trip to Toronto part II

CN Tower
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Saturday and Sunday were just about perfect, as weather goes; clear skies and comfortable temperatures. (And us with no plane! Drat!) We tried both days to go to the CN Tower - the tallest freestanding structure in the world - but by afternoon, the lines were too long. We didn't want to spend too much of our time standing around like tourists, so we passed on it both days and ambled around the city.

Toronto is an interesting place; I got to truly explore it for the first time. When I was there years ago, I never got more than a few blocks from the University of Toronto. But this time, sober and with the original "racontourist" for company, I was able to get a good impression of Canada's largest city.

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I heard the phrase "...the New York of Canada" several times, but the similarities are few, other than that they are both large cities. Certainly Toronto is densely and diversely populated, and has a long history; and it is a major crossroads for Canada and the world. But it has an identity of its own, and on a summer weekend a very inviting one. I think it sells it short to compare it to the United States' greatest city. (Shameless, how I love starting arguments...)

Gail and I visited her friend Sergio's new business, ScoreCuts, a sports-themed hair salon. It's well-positioned next to an established sports bar, which should help out with the target audience of young male sports-fans. I'm only one out of three of those, but I got my hair cut while I was there; a very short crop, comfortable for the summer, but a little too short for Gail's taste. Oh well, it will grow back for our next meetup!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Trip to Toronto part I

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
After making plans to fly up, then deciding not to, then deciding to again, then finding that Canadian Customs would be closed when I got there - I drove to Toronto Thursday evening. I'll have to try the flight again another time, now that I have my paperwork and my customs sticker for the plane. But I made good time in the car, five hours and a few minutes. Just in time to meet up with Gail, Serge and Dax for a quick drink before checking into the hostel.

This is my first time back in Toronto in a long, long time; I came here on a "bolt" back in my college days, 1988 or so. Suffice it to say that I don't remember much; I may have had a drink or two, as was my custom at the time.

Friday was the perfect day to start off a weekend with our neighbours to the north; Canada Day, the celebration of Canada's 138 years of sovereignty. Maple-leaf flags flew everywhere, as Gail and I started our day with lunch, as we are wont to do while on holiday. A combination Hungarian-Thai restaurant, which is a good snapshot of this community; like Vancouver, immigrants from all over the world make Toronto truly metropolitan. After a large meal of schnitzel, spring rolls, goulash and lemon-grass chicken (!) we meandered towards the waterfront, gathering some groceries along the way.

We rushed to the ferry terminal, where we met up with Gail's friend Serge and his friend David, from Chile; and our online friend Dax, and two of his friends. Dax came up with the plan to go out to the islands on Lake Ontario, have a picnic on the beach, and watch the fireworks from a great vantage point.

Which is what we did. The weather during the day and in the city was hot and muggy, but later out on the island it got very cool as the sun went down. So like many of the others on the beach, we gathered driftwood for a campfire. (As a group, we seven were not exactly forest rangers; we had to borrow starter bricks and a lighter from another group down the beach; and even forks, to eat the salads that Wanda had brought!) Dax, Chris and I gathered some driftwood and fallen timber, and eventually managed to set it blazing as the stiff wind whipped around.

'Round the fire
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
With the fire going and the sun setting, we waited for the fireworks. A group of college-age kids came by and asked if they could join us to keep warm, and we all made a big circle. A big giggly circle. I should mention that, not by design, we chose our campsite next to the clothing-optional beach. Now, as I noted, it was quite cool and the wind was blowing briskly; but there was one fellow out on the beach who had chosen the "no" option. A big, bald, fiftyish man was walking the waterfront nearby, au naturel as they say. He shows up, hilariously, in the background of some of our photos. It was just so incongruous; especially when he would occasionally hop up on the picnic table nearby and stand, looking boldly out over Lake Ontario, like he was waiting for the ship to arrive with his clothes.

We couldn't help snickering. Could you? What if he was wearing, as this gent was, dark socks and sandals? We all thought this to be a fashion faux pas; clothing may be optional, but we needn't be savages.