A bit of bum weather has us on the ground today. Thanks to Steve at Border City Aviation, who has treated us like long lost family, it has been a great time. We spent the time doing some maintenance on the planes.
Back at the hotel tonight and hopefully heading up the “trail” towards the Northland.
Meanwhile though, check out this fun video yesterday on the way to Saskatoon. The plane only does about 80 miles per hour, but with a little head wind we were just getting the same speed as the trucks. I saw this one truck that was going just about the same speed. Then I saw that my shadow was catching him, so I maneuvered a bit to put the shadow next to the truck and the race was on!! Fun things to do as we spend miles and miles and miles on the way to Alaska!
A weather day in Lloydminster was made so great by Steve Watt at Border City Aviation. He hooked us up with tools, a hangar, parts, and is just an all around great guy. I called him about 50 miles from Lloydminster as we were in flight and he was there to meet us the first evening and got us all squared away. The next day was snow and just nastiness, so we spent time working on the machines (There is ALWAYS something to be done!)
In the morning sun was in the window, but to the West was the same nastiness as the day before. We hatched a plan to head due North up into the wilds of Canada via Athabasca, Slave Lake, Fort Vermillion, High Level, and then finally to Fort Nelson. Steve sent us off with our Border City Aviation Tuk’s and we were off for the clear blue.
It was a long day and our butts were tired, so a beer and a bed in Fort Nelson was a great end to the day. Here are the day’s photos! Getting closer and closer and it is totally evident as the light of the day really ‘feels’ like the arctic.
I grew up in Bethel and most of my flying is the flat lands of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The tallest mountains I’ve flown around, really, is 3 Step and the Kilbuck Mountains.
This day would see us cross the Rockies and head Northwest into Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and finally Haines Junction.
The ride wasn’t so bad, but after hours and hours of sitting in a snowsuit, my butt was sore!! I finally gave up and packed the snowsuit, but the damage was done. Not enough seat time for the gluteus maximus muscles. They are a bit sore.
We saw some snow showers, but all in all the ride was pretty good. Upon arriving in Whitehorse, the last stop for gas before Tok, we bagged up 15 gallons of fuel so we would have some spare. We each have 3 of the Bushwheels Fuel bags which are really convenient.
I was really looking forward to the stop in Whitehorse. A good hotel and a beer really sounded great. Also our family spent time there in the motorhome, so the memories were a callin’. Sean had more of the trail in mind and it was evident that we were not staying in Whitehorse! The weather was good and the sun was shining, so the trail boss got out his whip and off we went! (Haha!)
What a great move it was to fly into Haines Junction. It’s a beautiful place and in the glow of the sunset, the tidy little airport was just so nice! A 206 landed as we were putting the Cub’s to bed with covers and offered us a ride into town. We hurried our chores and in a few minutes Daniel was calling around for a place to stay. My first Hostel!! It it pretty cool! I’d never stayed at such a place, but the Wanderer’s Inn in Haines is really great. We then hurried over to the Pub for some food, where Daniel stopped by to share a few tales of aviation while we watched the Hockey playoff game (In Canada- A must!)
By the time we got back to the hostel we were beat! After 7 hours on the trail and 12 since Fort Nelson, we were sleeping as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
Next Stop— The USA! (And a fond farewell to our Canadian friends we’ve met along the way!)
A bit of weather has us holding in Burwash to see what happens. When we left the forecast was for clear blue, but in the North if you are wondering about the weather, check your watch. It can change in a heartbeat– And it did. Forecast for the afternoon is a bit iffy. We have to be to in the Northway border checkout by 6:00pm and that is about 2 hours from here. So if the weather improves, we may head North to Beaver Creek to spend the night, if we aren’t able to make it to Northway by their closing time.
Here are a few photos from this morning. It was what Sean would call “Bluebird” when we launched.
Mother nature is a fickle mistress… After a 3 hour break in Burwash, we loaded up and took off for the North headed for Northway and beyond. Sean was about 6 miles in front of me. The valley gets narrower and narrower until it squeezes into a fairly narrow point before opening up and heading up to Beaver Creek.
As pilots, we set our minimums based on, of course the legal minimums, but also experience and “pucker factor” — That point where you just aren’t comfortable and you decide to try again later. My luck ran out as the weather was better for Sean just a few minutes earlier and I decided it was back to Burwash and take a look later. Sean was through and into better weather, so we decided to part ways at that point. No reason for him to wait for me.
Sean made it into Northway with no issues and then, with good weather and several hours of daylight left in the day, made it into Anchorage just before sunset. 7 days in flight from Maine to Anchorage. Not bad!
For me, it was back to Burwash to find gas. A call to Dan in Haines Junction, who had helped us the night before found that there was gas to be had, but no battery for the pump. So a little “MacGyver-ing” and my plane battery was out and powering the pump! Topped off with gas, it was now too late to do anything and the weather was pretty much the same. Miller TIME!! Fast Eddie Ostashek showed up from Burwash and helped me cover up and gave me a ride into a motel in Burwash.
A steak and a beer and I was done for the day! Out like a light at 8pm!!
I woke up to snow, snow, snow after a real hard sleep. Looking out the window at 4am was a bit depressing as it looked like Christmas and this was not in the plan! Forecasts were still iffy, but nothing but time was going to change the outlook, so back to bed for a couple more hours of ZZZ’s and dream that Santa would bring me a better forecast.
A couple of hours later I was up and daylight was starting to show the snow dissipating and the clouds parting! There was not hurrying Mother Nature, though, so a leisure shower and soon Fast Eddie was meeting me for breakfast at the Talbot Arm restaurant. You never know where you find wisdom, but this morning it was to be had from Eddie. We were talking about flying and life in general when he says to me, “Know your limit, Stay within it” WOW! That was so true! Apparently it’s a Canadian saying about Gambling, but makes a lot of sense for flying and many things in life! Thanks Eddie!
After paying for gas and checking the weather it was evident a Noon departure was the plan for the day. In a short bit I had the Cub ready to go, the border crossing and flight plan filed and just on time at Noon was Northbound. Thanks to Mike, the Burwash FSS guy for the company and weather help!
As soon as I was airborne I knew it looked possible, but those darn snow showers and squalls weren’t going to subside just so soon. I skirted several and flew through some snow. For 60 miles I kept wondering what the river crossing where I turned back would look like, but once I reached that point the clouds and snow were almost gone and except for a bit of fog, the path to Beaver Creek and the border were, as Sean likes to say– “Blue Bird!”
Here’s something I did not know. So everytime you look at a map, you see a line on the map for a border. Did you know it is actually a line??? Well it is! I called Mike Hoffman, who has been following and giving me moral support here and there. “Hey Mike! I’m at the border and there is a LINE here!” We both laughed, but it is true. They keep it cleared every year and when there is snow on the ground you can actually see it!
Soon Northway was in the windscreen and a US Border Agent was waiting for me. He had a little gizmo to check the plane for radiation to make sure nothing bad was in the plane. He said, “Well, I better check your passport.” I told him I hoped so as no one had asked yet and I was a little disappointed! He laughed, “It’s a virgin!! Not even a stamp on it!” Officer Gleason was really nice and soon I was on my way to Tok.
Landing at Tok I refueled, but it was lunch time and I was starved! Travel tip– If you ever are in Tok, stop at Fast Eddies. The food was outstanding and they have a FULL SALAD BAR!! (Very important to midwesterners!) A quick bite and I was airborne and climbing. The mountains between Tok and Gulkana where I would stop for fuel are incredible! Luckily the air was smooth and at one point I had a groundspeed of 120mph! I was a bit nervous as I turned one of the corners as sometimes the rollers coming off the peaks can get cause the plane to rock and roll, but it was a real nice ride.
A quick stop to top off the tanks in Gulkana and it was off for the motherland– Anchorage.
Our family has spent a bit of time between Glennallen and Eureka and soon I was beginning to feel that the long journey was coming to an end and I was truly back home in Alaska. I flew over Sheila’s cranberry patches and saw so many places with great memories.
It was, I suppose, fitting, that the last 30 miles of the trip was the most dramatic. I just can’t really put into words the drama, the beauty, the just utter Alaska of the area of Matanuska glacier. The mountains were brilliant in the setting sun and even though I was snapping like a mad man, the photos just don’t do justice to what Fred and I saw in the windscreen. (For those that don’t know, Fred is the little turtle that has been with me since our family went to the Fair in Wisconsin with my foster dad, Bud, our last time. Years ago our first cub, 141T, was so slow, I needed company for the long rides and Fred has been in our airplanes ever since)
After all of the drama of the mountains, there she was… Sleeping Lady. It was going to happen! The journey to bring the Cub to Alaska was going to be a success!!
There was one thing missing! My wingman! Not to worry, though, as Sean and Ashley met me at the Birchwood airport so we could be a flight of two as we had been for most of the journey. On take off it was N8192D, flight of two inbound to Merrill Field.
It was a great feeling to be flying together again, into the sunset with Anchorage in front of us. What a great ending to the journey.
Of course Bethel is the next stop, but not for several days as we both have separate schedules and things to do. A bit of playing around with the planes without travel gear may be on tap.
We have to thank some folks that really made the trip workable as well– Sean’s Family, Ashley Glasheen, who kept tabs and was our Flight plan contact, his Mom Ann, and Grant Fairbanks who seemed to know all of the places of ill refute along the trail! My family Karmyn and Dan Brown, and Todd Brown (Helped me put int the extended baggage and gave me a place to stay) and Chris who shuttled me from Minneapolis to Superior. A shout out to Mike Hoffman and Tom Ratledge as well who gave me some tips and advice along the ride.
Then to all of the nice folks we met. At each stop the fuel guys and gals, the FBO folks, and pretty much everyone were just great people. Thanks so much!!
And lastly to all of you following along! It was a fun ride and we are glad you joined us!
After thousands of miles of cross country flying, it was time to take the machines out for a spin in the wilderness. Sean is pretty familiar with all of the places around Anchorage, so he suggested a trip up near Knik Glacier. It was a little windy and a bit bumpy at times, but the end result was a really beautiful spot for Sean and his copilot, Otter, a 2 year old chocolate lab, to get some playtime after so many weeks apart. He was headed to the Slope to work his 2 on and I was headed to Bethel, so a little flight before reality set in was a great time for both of us, and of course Otter box!!