FROGS

Say Goodbye!
A last glimpse of Seafire with a new owner at the helm. It’s all over but the drinking. There shall be no looking back. This blog will continue to bear the same name for the time being.

I am an autodidact. The trouble is that I never payed attention in class. I did well enough in school and even graduated with a scholarship a year ahead of the rest of the class. Then my real education began and don’t, for a moment, confuse schooling with education. Some of the stupidest people I have known possess box loads of degrees and certificates. I attended the old school and the university of hard knocks. Some folks ask me from time to time where I went to university. I simply say that I graduated from Perdue, which really was the name of my high school. There’s no point in explaining further.

The problem is, that at my age, the clever self-taught one who thinks he is some sort of writer, has new-to-me words appear and I wonder why I’m only learning them now, words like autodidact which is the name for someone who is self-taught.

And if I am so damned clever why am I standing on an empty dock with my prized ‘Seafire’ moored somewhere else, now documented with someone else’s name? I should be softly singing “Free at last,” but I am now living in a big emptiness. It is, however, only temporary.

Now that I’m beach bound all I can do is watch the boats head out. Leaving Ladysmith Harbour, someone greets the morning light and  fading fog. That will be me again. Just watch me!

I have a plan. In the weeks leading up to this wistful day, I’ve been scouring on-line sites which advertise RVs and others which advertise trucks. Eventually, I want to own a displacement-hull powerboat, big enough to live in and seaworthy enough to voyage at least as far as Mexico. The right boat will be tough to find. First I need more funds. For the moment I will satisfy myself with land-based expeditions.

Nice RV dude! Precariously perched, the shack’s straps have come loose. I scooted on by.

I do want to satiate my strong land travel-lust. I have considered every option. There was a time when crawling under a tarp stretched across an overturned canoe was perfect, even romantic, but now my knees are too shot for kneeling in a canoe. I am well past even the tenting concept. I have tried the camper van notion and am not inclined to repeat that. I’ve considered truck-mounted campers but don’t like that idea for a few good reasons. Motor homes are not my cup of tea. So I have settled on the trailer concept. For me a trailer that can leave the pavement and also be dropped while roaming about with the towing vehicle only.

I first owned a home-made teardrop trailer. My early blogs of five years ago described a trip to Mexico with that trailer. I loved it but soon the romance wore off. I almost froze to death in it one night in Nevada. It had only sitting head room; so the simple endeavour of getting dressed while inside was challenging. Getting dressed outside was also interesting. “Mommy, what is that man wearing,” and that before I’d pulled on a shirt! Sticking your bare feet outside into the darkness with a good chance of stepping on scorpions while going to pee did not pique my sense of adventure. The tiny, cute kitchen in the back, under a huge lid, was not so great or exotic when the rain and wind came.

My first rig. Cute but a bit too tight for a fat-arse like me. It was a memorable trip.

Everyone loved that tear-drop trailer. The Mexicans called it ‘La Chiquita.’ The smell of coffee first thing in the morning always brought someone by to say hello and beg a mug.

My second trailer, was a beautiful conversion of a 12’ cargo trailer. I loved it. I could stand upright in it and I had a porta-potty for those night time functions. Cooking inside, or sitting to eat and write was next to impossible. There was a lovely retractable awning outside, which is where you spend most of your time as you go further south, but the notion of cooking or writing there in inclement weather soon paled as well. What would be perfect for me was a trailer small and tough enough to survive being towed on primitive roads. I needed separate, comfortable beds for at least two people, indoor cooking and dining facilities, some sort of bathroom facility and adequate storage as well. That will allow total self-sufficiency for 7 to 10 days without going to town. That’s a tough order to fill, especially on my budget. Building exactly what I need is very appealing but the cost of doing it right would be formidable.

My second attempt at dreams on wheels. I was proud of this trailer, but had not thought about what to do in foul weather.

When finished it had a lovely interior and the most comfortable bed ever with loads of storage space beneath. The bunk also converted instantly into a great work bench.

For a towing vehicle I also required an affordable, reliable short-wheel base 4×4 truck with enough power to tow the trailer yet be good on gas, have a canopy to store extra fuel and water, a small generator, a small air compressor, extra tools and also enough room to carry a small boat, outboard motor and a kayak. Most of the time, four-wheel drive is not necessary but when you need it, by gad you really need it. I wanted all of this for less than $20,000. I know! I am a dreamer. Both pre-owned trailers and good used trucks have ridiculous prices. My only hope was to find something online, even if it meant flying and driving across the continent. Importing any vehicle from the US is essentially straight forward, yet there are so many clauses and codicils, that one has to be quite wary. Imagine showing up at the border with a vehicle which may not be imported under any circumstance because the clearance lights are wrong. Vehicles over fifteen years in age are generally permissible but still vulnerable to subjective opinions of individual customs officers about things like the location of clearance lights. Yes, I did read that. And, every import is subject to GST which really chips into tsavings you’d calculated. Then, once over the border into Canada, there are two separate safety inspections to pass before the vehicle can finally be registered in your home province. Geez Louise! I looked anyway. Day after interminable day, all over the continent, for several hours at each sitting. This endeavour furthered my autodidact education and my standing as a masochist.

Next, I considered something a little bigger yet still affordable.
The chickens were not included. I declined.

Simply put, we’ve all heard it before, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” I think I can safely claim that three quarters of the ads I pursued were scams. Firstly, if something is advertised in an area a great distance from where it is alleged to actually be, raise a warning flag. There was a disconcertingly consistent bullshit story with an almost word for word same script. Repeatedly the story was that a lady officer in the military was about to be re-posted, usually overseas. Old dad had died and this beloved truck, or RV, was a too-sad reminder of him and they just wanted to clean things up before their imminent deployment. The transaction would be done through E-bay and the sale item would then be shipped to me. Photos of the vehicle were extensive and showed something in immaculate condition. I made several inquiries, simply out of bemusement and also the theory that once in a while the ad might actually be legitimate. WRONG! That gambling philosophy is what gets a lot of folks into trouble.

One ad, placed in Craigslist-Kootenays described a near-virgin Rialta motor home which, it turned out, was claimed to be located in Prince Rupert, several hundreds of miles away from the Kootenays. (First Alert) Considering the remoteness of this location, it did seem plausible that the price was less then half of other quotient prices especially with the story I was given. A senior lady from Prince Rupert was in a California hospital with her husband who was waiting on a donor to provide a heart for a transplant. Because she was so far from home, and desperately short of funds, she had arranged for a quick sale through a third party, a shipping company in Prince Rupert. If I met her price the RV, and all paperwork, would be shipped to me. In response I explained that I never buy shoes without first trying them on. I proposed to fly to Prince Rupert, inspect the RV, do a lien check and then pay by bank draft. Clearly, paying a shipping fee out of such a low price did not make sense, nor did the notion that some unnamed shipping company was quarter-backing the deal. I have not heard back from her. In previous years there was an experience with some Nigerian scammers claiming an interest in a sailboat I advertised. That is a whole story in itself.

There must be masses of stupid people out there. Scammers would not be plying their trade so vigorously if they weren’t making money. There was a strange pleasure pretending to be a potential dupe until I finally wearied of kissing all those frogs.

I’m sure it will be here in a day or two. I know I put it in the mail. The side of this old mail truck was too good to walk away from.

One more shot I could not resist. This is part of the remaining old town in Nanaimo

Well I did find both the right trailer and a great towing vehicle, right here on Vancouver Island and within a day of each other. Oddly, the same thing happened when I bought ‘Seafire’. I looked at boats all over the continent, as far away as North Carolina and Toronto. I found her languishing in Blaine, about forty miles away. Go figure eh! Including taxes and insurance I am well within my budget for truck and trailer. Now I just have to get rid of the frog breath. Speaking of which, today is a fine clear, warm and sunny day. While writing this I am in a beautiful, luxurious semi-rural home dog-sitting for some friends. At the bottom of this acreage lies a small swamp. The frogs are singing heartily. Wherever I look, I can see no snow. Is it really spring?

Maple Bay spring dawn. It is spring! Beneath the fog lays a flooded field where swans swim and feed up for the long flight northward.

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” Kinky Friedman

A Last Night

The last light on the last night. What a comfort this lantern has been.

A last look. Then I turned away and refused to look back.

It is spring time! Somewhere.

Life at the edge. Eeech.

Hunched over the steering wheel with bleary eyes I was once again in my old camper van driving into a town where I had never been before. It was raining and sleeting heavily. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to find a place to park for the night. The gas gauge was tsappingon empty. I worried that when I went to fill up the gas tank, my credit card would be rejected. Then I woke up from my terrible dream. There were a few nights much like that on my recent trip. That lost and lonely feeling is much how it is for me again tonight.

I am aboard my beloved ‘Seafire’ anchored in a beautiful nook known as Maple Bay. It will be my last night aboard this wonderful vessel. Tomorrow I meet with the buyers for a sea-trial. On the following day the boat will be hauled out for a survey and once that is past, the deal is near completion. I feel like a convict on the night before his appointment with the hangman. At least he has the sweet hope of oblivion. The ship’s chronograph rings out seven bells, right on time. It is nineteen-thirty hours (7:30 pm) I am reminded that the clocks are to be turned ahead tonight for daylight savings. The clear evening sky held a little light until about a half-hour ago. It is damned cold. There is snow along the shore right to the waterline.

Maybe I’ll buy a tiny motorhome and run away to the desert. Isn’t this sweet? I’ve  never seen one so small.

So here I sit, the aging man who lived in this egg, surrounded by the teak and brass in what has been my world. The one oil lantern remaining in the boat is glowing brightly, its cloying bittersweet reek fills the cabin. The furnace is belting out a lovely warmth and I reminisce about all the nights through the years spent aboard sitting right here, at this table, while the rain hammered down or the wind howled while the boat slammed against a dock or tugged frantically at the anchor chain. There were summer nights when the hatches were open to let in the fragrant night air; sometimes there were swarms of mosquitoes. Around the boat, seals and sometimes whales or dolphins snorted and splashed. Occasionally while anchored in some remote north coast bay there would be wolves howling in the surrounding rain forest. Sometimes the northern lights would begin to pulse and throb in the black, star-studded sky. There have also been nights in the harbour of some city where the lighted buildings towered above me and sirens howled above the constant drone of traffic. I don’t like cities. There have been times when I have sat here feeling like the loneliest man in the world but so very often I wanted to be in no other place.

And the days, those magic days, when the world passed at a stately speed between five and eight knots. Grey days, sparkling sunny days, none of then were bad; even those long hours bashing through monstrous breaking, foaming, hissing mountains of briny water when you knew that what you were doing was insanity. Sometimes the boat was surrounded in thick fog. It always made sense to me. I and this beloved little ship have seen an awful lot. We never made it to Europe, or even to Mexico, which was the original plan, but without that dream I would not have experienced much of what I have. A friend e-mailed me today to remind me of my recent metaphor about having to draw the arrow backward to launch it forward. Life is a long series of rapidly passing moments which ricochet between choices, some good, some bad.

When I edited this photo I had to go check that it was flying right-side-up. It was. For a moment the wind had folded it over. An inverted flag is an international distress signal.

I felt the wind and the sun on my face as we skimmed along slowly toward our destination.

Today on the short three-hour voyage to this bay the wind freshened out of the north. It was cold and clear and beautiful. I hoisted the sails which have been tightly furled away far too long. For two hours I motor-sailed, then the wind faltered and died. It was as if the gods wanted me to have one last dance with the wind. I will miss this boat, dearly and desperately, I know that. I also understand that you can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. There is no ocean voyage that is not made between points on shorelines. Land and sea are meaningless without each other. After days or weeks out upon the broad, curving eternal face of the open ocean you make a landfall, often in a port where you’ve never been before. You rest, re provision, find new charts, make repairs and modifications. Then recharged you sail off on a new course to a new destination. Life is an eternal journey. I will send postcards, many of them. Meanwhile, tonight will be very long.

A light in the fog. Then darkness fell and the long night began.

Two days later, the sea-trial is completed, the buyers are happy. I am waiting for the surveyor this morning. There are only some simple formalities to complete the transaction. Then I will be boatless, for the moment.

I learned last night that a new friend, one I made on my travels in the desert, has died. For many years Frank was only an acquaintance until I spent a few days visiting with him in Ajo Arizona. We bonded like brothers and made plans about where and when we would meet again. We had met through a mutual friend who was a life-long close friend of Frank’s. Fortunately Jimmy was able to spend Frank’s final hours at his bedside. Any man who has a friend like that is successful indeed. When circumstances took Frank’s leg he was able to give it a positive spin and became an advocate, at a high level, for the disabled. He took his personal challenge and turned it into an advantage for himself and many others. He was courageous and positive. Nothing held him back. Only a few short weeks ago he took me for a drive in the desert. This one-legged guy drove his standard shift vehicle by using a stick to work the clutch. He didn’t miss a shift.

This short eulogy is all that I can do. My sadness is overwhelming. This is a reminder that one should live among their fellows like each goodbye is the last one. It just might be.

Those who knew him will miss Frank dearly. I took this photo just a few weeks ago. I am assured that his beloved little dog Xena (his half-a-lap dog) went to a very good home.

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

A Strange Week Indeed

Winter Blues
It’s just a little ice on a puddle and an excellent example of the everyday things we look at and don’t see.

Shattered.
A different perspective.
There may different ways to look at anything.

Look before you scrape.
The car windshield on a winter morning.

This man’s curse, and his dog’s joy.
Jack enjoys a roll in the crusty snow, then a slide on his back down the hill.

Birds.
I hear birds, alway the birds.
A “murder” of crows.

Nevermore!

My last blog was about poor old me worrying my way toward the final steps in the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’ on this coming weekend. I thank those readers who have offered their warm support and kind comments to help me through the angst of the next few days. I am coping by staying busy indoors and out. I’ve sorted through my recent photo files, tinkered on the camper van, did some dog-sitting for friends and put together yet another short video from my recent trip. I am scheming ways to produce some income and looking forward to whatever comes next. This too shall pass. Idle hands find the devil’s work it is said. So it’s head down, arse up while staying gainfully busy. I am never stuck for things to do.

The W word.
My charges, Bella the Portuguese Water Dog and Louie the Poodle give me the eager eye in anticipation of their morning promenade.

Wanderlust, the incurable condition. Across the sea and over the mountains there are so many places and people to see and meet. A Vancouver Island view of mainland Canada.

And then it happened. The van sold, in less than a day of advertising it. Remember the song, “The thrill is gone?” Change the word thrill to van…yeah you’ve got it! Yes, I immediately bought a lottery ticket. May my karma not run over my dogma. Here is the latest video from the recent trip.

I need just enough to tide me over until I need more. …Bill Hoest

The Ides Of Marches

On the road to Tonopah Arizona. I wonder how the weather is there today.

Well there’s my tired clichė about the beginning of March. It can go right on the shelf beside the lamb and the lion, and oh yeah, the groundhog. Spring must be coming. Herds of dock inspectors roamed the marina yesterday, peeking into windows, thumping hulls and scanning boat rigs. After empty docks all winter, they’re back. It is nice way to spend some time on a sunny day, drifting and dreaming. Despite my despondency about parting with my boat, I too savoured the warm sunny day and I tried to see the world through the eyes of a landlubber. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter still holds Vancouver Island in its icy grip. We do spells of clear skies, there is a little snow melting during the day and I did see some snow drops growing among the bushes. Other years there have been daffodils at the end of January. Both scenarios have the doom-gloomers declaring clear evidence of global warming. I’ll leave them to sort it out. And yes, I am aware of all the gasoline I burned on my recent trip.

There will be an incredible flower show in the desert in a few more weeks. I want to be there.

Of doom and gloom, the final transaction for the sale of ‘Seafire’ is a week away. I have spent days unloading the boat, one groaning, squeaking wagon-load at a time all the long way up the dock and ramp. Every time I have moved off of a boat I have been amazed at the “Stuff” a person accumulates. Now I’m giving my beloved her final scrub, removing winter’s grunge. And we all know that the deal is never done until it is done. The suspense is killing me. Oddly, there are two new inquiries, one of which involves delivering her to San Francisco, but truth be told, I am beseeching the gods for a last minute miracle which will allow me to keep my wonderful boat and travelling companion of so many miles. We have endured a lot together and I shall sorely miss her, and the whole idea of her, when the final day comes.

I have also decided to sell my old van. Wanna buy a camper van? It is a faithful little old bus but I know what I need now so I may as well clear the table and start over. I see other people settling into a comfortable retirement and the notion of a new beginning seems odd at my age but life is an adventure. I remind myself of Francis Chichester, who well into his seventies, and fighting cancer, set sail alone on an incredibly difficult-to-manage yawl ‘Gypsy Moth IV’, travelled around the world and then wrote his memoirs. Then a dark monkey on my shoulder asks, “So what’s your point?”

It can certainly be tough to stay positive and buoyant. On occasion I’ve let it slip that I have lived with clinical depression of all my life. I’m not complaining, just explaining. It has certainly been no sleigh ride and there are times when enduring another dreary day seems absolutely pointless. Being a blue-collar character I have lived in a world where such a thing is never admitted or discussed. That I live into “full maturity” (how’s that for a positive spin on ‘pre-geriatric’?) is, I think, a positive and happy story. On my recent trip I met inspiring people who deal with many challenges which would shatter others. Their life-force is a positive radiation and a wonderful influence which helps inspire their fellows forward. I consider how folks live elsewhere and marvel often at the obvious poverty and dreariness and wonder how people live a life which, to me, appears unbearable. There are secrets and courage which I do not begin to understand. As bleak as I’m feeling these days, I am struggling to finish reading a book called “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. It is an amazing inside look at the everyday lives of Afghani people, incredibly well-written and depressing as hell. The normal life of these people, especially the women, could make a stone weep. Their lives can only be endurable because they know nothing else. Are our expectations the root of our unhappiness?

I may be a creature of the sea but I left a piece of my heart at Baboquivari and in the desert . I will return.

I think I left a wrench here. I’m going back to find it.

I also marvel at the new things I see. In the desert, with the eyes of a newcomer, and a sailor, I saw flora and fauna which survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. There is a reason for life to go on against massive odds beyond my comprehension. A joy which helps life make sense and have purpose is seeing those things and realizing that we too have a place in those circles, even if we don’t understand the total sum of the all the parts.

Stuff! It’s all just stuff. As much a personal temple as ‘Seafire’ has been, it is just stuff and there will be new pleasures in the future. The trick is finding joy in the moment. Belongings should never be a measure of who we are.

This delightful image was made and provided by my dear friend Kerry.

Giving up my boat is a step forward. While it feels like an ending, I know it shall be the beginning of a whole new set of adventures. Seafire Chronicles will continue to be posted under the same name. Comments from readers tell me there is value in what I do and in response, the sense of mission that I am afforded, in part, by this blog helps carry me forward. To give is to receive. Thank you. I often use the Lord Nelson quote, “Ships and men rot in port.” Staying busy keeps me alive; I subscribe to the mantra of “use it or lose it.” Some of my busyness will be to continue to hone my video-making skills. The first video from my trip is now posted on YouTube. It is a simple short clip made with my cell phone and a very good essay on the winter we’ve had. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REe71VHzJxU See ya in the movies.

A storm always ends. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

Roy Goodman

Song Of The Blackbird

After the wild storms all the way up the Oregon Coast, this is what I found at Cape Disappointment on the mouth of the Columbia River. Peace!

It was a perfect mid-winter afternoon. Folks were out and about to absorb every minute they could.

The Columbia River near Astoria Oregon. It is surely one of the world’s great rivers.

In Mexico, in the mornings, their blackbirds can conjure up a symphony of calls that sound like a jungle filled with a hundred different birds. It is splendid. This morning, Jack and I went for a walk at Swallowfield Farm. The wet snow had frozen so the long trampled path was easy enough for me clomping along in my winter boots. Jack trotted along happily on top of the untrampled frozen snow with a great grin on his old phizog. In the distance I could hear the call of red-winged blackbirds. I waited until I actually saw one to confirm it was the real thing and not some starlings mimicking the song. The blackbirds, with their red epaulettes, were real and their trilling song was true. It is a first sign of spring here, despite the harsh winter the northern hemisphere is enduring this year.

Home again. Note the heron in the middle of the image. He has a long wait until the tide comes back.

Have a long look then close your eyes and hear redwing blackbirds singing from the forest’s edge.

I look back on the last month’s mad travels (8,000 km/5000 miles in one month) and see how how I could have done things much differently. I should have stayed home and completed the deal on ‘Seafire’ then ambled south with nothing to rush anywhere for. With the harsh winter, and cool temperatures with snow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, It would certainly have been best to wait a while. Hindsight! Shoulda, woulda, coulda! In another two months the Sonora desert will be starting to bloom profusely. Maybe I can return there in time for that. I do know that I saw many marvellous things and met some incredible people with a perfect timing which almost seems predestined. I know that this old salt has left a big piece of his heart in the desert.

I have previously travelled to Mexico while towing a teardrop trailer. I learned a lot from that jaunt and I now have my experience with the old camper van. It’s not sexy but it did get me home again. I’ve made up my mind that I need a small, sturdy trailer of less than twenty feet which can be used for shelter in inclement weather. I have a blind fantasy of living outside beneath an awning at a small table but the weather dictates how that happens. I’ll pull the trailer with a 4×4 truck that is old enough to be affordable and also repairable by myself. The trailer can be dropped off while I explore especially rugged areas with the truck.That towing vehicle can then hold tools, bicycles, extra fuel, a kayak, an inflatable boat perhaps. The trailer has to be rugged enough to be eased along rough back roads without falling apart. Many new trailers being marketed as “Offroad” could not survive for long off-pavement. Putting knobby tires on a trailer is stupid and does NOT make it into a rugged offroad RV.

I could write about what are my does and don’ts, but those may not be especially helpful to someone else venturing out. There are many different ways to direct the same script. I found that Northern California was very expensive. I am told that the southern part of the state is considerably more ridiculous. The secondary roads in California are in dreadful condition, on a par, or even worse than back roads in Mexico. Diesel fuel, in many places, was more expensive than regular gasoline sometimes by a dollar more per tiny US gallon. Gasoline generally was up to a dollar more than in neighbouring states. I soon learned not to buy fuel at the first location in town that one comes to, sometimes the fuel in the middle of town sells for as much as sixty cents per gallon less. Most gas pumps will ask you for your zip code when you stuff your credit card into it. It was frustrating until I was taught that with a Canadian card, you enter the numbers in your postal code followed by two zeros. It always worked like a charm. in my case I found that the road signs in the US in many places were inadequate or downright misleading. My road maps often did not agree with each other and my GPS, at times, seemed utterly confused about which planet it was on.

In any case, do not put yourself in a space where you are regretting what you did not do. Today is all you have, go for it! In the blogs I have written about this trip, I have often alluded to the vastness of the states I crossed. Despite man’s imposition of change everywhere he goes, there are still massive expanses between the horizons of a majestic, sprawling land. There are many areas where you can view the planet almost as it has always been. Then, when a person looks at a map and sees they have only travelled a tiny scratch of the earth they become very humble. That is a good thing.

Perhaps not as fascinating as a cactus but this old, rough bark has its own beauty.

Presently I am unloading my beloved ‘Seafire.’ It is a big job which I hate, especially when performed through misty eyes.This vessel is a huge part of who I am. (I have arguments with myself about stuff being part of my identity.) She’s going to good new owners but, for me, it is hard to envision a future without her. I’ve painted myself into a corner financially, this is my way out. I intend to have a trailer and a powerboat in which I will live and travel and write into my dotage.

As I write, I close my eyes and can smell the sea air of Mexico, the pure silent wind in the desert; I can see red rocks and sand, cacti and palms, high-altitude twisted, stunted pines. I have fleeting images of jackrabbits, wild burros and horses and perhaps an illegal immigrant hiding in a thicket of mesquite. I think of people whom I met there who know only their world and are very content in it. My home is here on Vancouver Island, which folks come from around the world to see, because it is spectacular. I need never leave this island to have a full and wonderful life. But I am one of those who is cursed with a compulsion to see what is around the next corner…and so I go.

Stinkeye.
Jack regarded me with his special look of disdain during my first few days home. I’d been away without him. He’s over it now.

This Saturday evening came with bursts of heavy sleet and snow during the drive to Nanaimo to see a movie, ‘Green Book.’ It has many nominations and awards and certainly deserves them. I suggest that if you see only one film during the entire year, this is the one. I’ll end this blog with one of many great lines from the film.

Buddhy. He is my travelling companion, security system and charmer of officials at border crossings. “Who’d want to deal with one of THOSE nutters?” I believe that is what they might think. In any case, he works well  for me with his incessant grin as he sits velcroed to the dashtop. This photo is about his actual size.

The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”

McMinnville – Part 2

(Once again, a reminder that you can enlarge any image by clicking on it)

The last blog was cut short when the host, WordPress, informed me that I had used up all my cyber bits and bytes. I had to purchase a business-grade subscription. I was delighted to hear from several subscribers who wanted a part 2. So, now I’ll now finish my photo essay on this wonderful aviation museum. No matter how many photos I post, it is impossible to portray the enormity of this incredible display.

Oh those Russians! There is an amazing number of Russian equipment on display. We tend to forget that the Russians have always been a forerunner in aviation and space technology. These copper borscht kettles are enormous.

I remember Yuri. he followed monkeys into space. They all survived their flights.

Nice ride Yuri!

A pointed relic of the cold war.

“Oof, it must’ve been something I ate!”
“Aw quit your whining and get back in here. It smells fine inside my suit.”

Sikorskys in a row. I have bent wrenches on the two types on the right, an S-55 and an S-58

An S-56. This was a new one on me. It is described as the world’s first heavy-lift helicopter introduced during the Korean War. What a pig it would have been to fly! Note the little girl at the tail. I could just reach the white band on the lowest tail rotor blade. Now let’s clear something up. If you go to U-tube and look up Nazi helicopters, you’ll learn that the Germans had heavy-lift helicopters in the late 1930s! There are films of them flying artillery field pieces. So…fake news? Uh huh!

Remember the Jetson cartoon of the ’60s and the notion of personal commuter aircraft? This is a McCulloch J2 autogyro from that era. It is, apparently, still available from a Nevada builder now as the Pegasus III. At the same time, in Canada, a similar aircraft was produced called the Avian Gyroplane. Despite government subsidies it followed the dodo bird south, just like the Avro Arrow. Today, with some wonderful composite plastic materials available, there are several new-gen gyro products being built. I’ve always wanted one.

The flying lawn chair. This is a home-built Benson autogyro. Plans and kits are still available. I flew one once. That was enough…no airbags! The 2-stroke McCulloch engine on the back was used in WWII target drones.

Of course! The military explores all the angles.
“I just dropped in to see if you have any hand grenades.”

 

A Piasecki Vertol H-21. I have some personal experience helping repair these clatter boxes. Introduced the 1950’s, they were being surplused out from the military by the mid-sixties.. With a metal fuselage, they still twirled wooden rotors.

A Piasecki HRP1 from 1944. With wooden rotors and fabric over tube fuselages, it would take one brave soldier to go for a ride into battle in one of these.

Remember the 1954 film ‘The Bridges At Toko Ri’?
Mickey Rooney played the pilot of one of these rescue machines. It is a Sikorsky H-5 Dragonfly.

The office, full of steam gauges and switches. This is the cockpit of an F4 Phantom. Imagine having an intimate knowledge of every item there so you could invade the steaming skies of Vietnam while trying to evade a herd of Mig fighters trying to blow some smoke up your bottom. Today’s fighters have a full electronic display and lots of computers to help you make it all work.

The F4 Phantom

Jet fighters are everywhere, inside and out. I lost track. This is an F84 Thunderchief.

One of the engines from the SR71 Blackbird which could fling it at up to several times the speed of sound and to 70,000′. The huge evil-looking black beast carried cameras.

The SR71 looks like an angel of death from every angle.
I prefer biplanes.

I kept wondering how the museum acquires all these items. It is amazing how billions of dollars in military assets are relegated to the scrap heap.10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- Gone!

Even the humble Piper J3 Cub, all 65 horsepower of it was turned into a weapon called the ‘Grasshopper.’ A light observation aircraft, someone figured out how to lash bazookas to the wings.

The Cessna 337 was similarly employed during the Vietnam conflict.

I can’t take it anymore!
A Skyraider, designed for stowage aboard an aircraft carrier. That monster was flung off the deck with the aid of a steam catapult. It’s something I always wanted to do…as a passenger.

From this…

…To This! In a single century! Imagine if we had applied the same diligence and resources to eliminating war, starvation, malnutrition, and disease. What if we presented God as being on everyone’s side? We would not need all those war toys. It is all a matter of choices and the first should be to overcome our insatiable craving for possession and control.

Finally, I could take no more. The photos in this and the previous blog are by no means all of which I took. Outside there was more. Scrap heaps of parts and engines sit randomly in the dirt and pouring rain.

Like my headers? A corn-cob radial anguishes out in the weather.

The drip! I could not resist this parting shot of the hand of the bronze statue of the museum founder.

 

McMinnville

It is a real place and home of a very fine aviation exhibition, The Evergreen Aviation Museum. I arrived too late to go in for a self-guided tour. I would need at least a half day. They let me park in the back corner, dry-camping next to old US Air Force rockets. There are four massive buildings. The largest one houses the Hughes Hercules and is nearly big enough to fly some of the small aircraft I have known, around inside it! The massive airplane is known worldwide as the “Spruce Goose” although it is actually built almost entirely of birch plywood. Howie himself flew it, once. An icon of dreams, it is the world’s largest wooden airplane ever and among the world’s largest airplanes, even today. Of all the amazing achievements of old weird Howard, this is the big one. Just imagine all the people telling him and his crew that it couldn’t be done. But he did, and so did it. Then WW II ended and the need for a massive air transport machine ended, at least for the time being.

The whole goose and nothing but the goose. This is the centerpiece of all the exhibits, around it and underneath it.

Inside, looking aft. It cost another $39.US to see the flight deck and have your photo taken. No, I did not.

A brilliantly-done cutaway of Pratt and Whitney R-4360. The Goose used eight of these. Each engine had 28 cylinders (With two spark plugs per cylinder for a total of 56 on each engine) They produced a net horsepower of 3500. The Goose sported eight of these. “I say old chap, number seven is a bit rough don’t you think.”  The flight engineer was a very busy fellow.

” Now son, I want you to change the spark plugs. When you’re done on this wing, do the other one. Don’t drop anything.”

The office up there.

Big smoothie. The huge Hughes.

One wing sponson dwarfs a beautiful Curtis Robin.

Where the money came from. Howard Hughes Sr invented this drill bit. He refused to sell it to oil companies, and instead leased it. Howard JR inherited the massive wealth at age 19 and started messing with airplanes. He was, by all accounts, a very skillful test pilot.

A Bell D1, the ubiquitous M.A.S.H. helicopter. Part of my apprenticeship was spent working on these. Wooden main rotors, dozens of grease fittings, it was crude. To trim the aircraft for varying loads, you slide the battery to the correct position in the tailboom.

Just think of it!

A Beech 17 Staggerwing.
When it hit the civilian market in the 1930’s it was faster than anything the US military possessed at that time.

A Pietenpol, probably one of the first home-built designs ever. The engine is from a Ford Model A
One of my flying mentors built one of these during the Great Depression and made an income selling rides. As he travelled, he’d sleep beneath a wing at night. There should be a song: “And that’s why I hit the tree, I couldn’t see, there was a radiator right in front of me.” These are still being built today with modern engines.

Them’s the brakes. A primitive toe-brake on a Curtis Pusher (That means the engine pushes instead of pulls. OK!)

A GeeBee Sportster, gentle sister of the GeeBee racer as portrayed with the model on the floor.

A beautiful full-scale replica of Lindberg’s famous “Spirit Of Saint Louis.” There were others who made the Atlantic crossing in little airplanes when we seldom hear of, but hi was the first successful crossing.

A misty-eyed moment for me. This is a Bell Huey, the most famous Vietnam helicopter. When I was graduating from high school in 1969 three friends  and I were determined to join the US Army. (30,000 Canadians went to ‘Nam) We could learn to fly helicopters for free! The first friend went ahead…and came home in a Glad Bag. We became a lot smarter overnight. It was my second consideration of a military career, and I lost interest for good.

A Le Rhone rotary engine. First World War technology. It was used in an airplane designed to kill…only a few years after powered flight had been proven possible. It was crude. The cylinders spun with the propellor. A 2-stroke engine, the lubricant used was castor oil, which flew everywhere. Pilots carried spare googles to exchange ones which had become coated with oil.

A DC3, probably the world’s most well known aircraft. Introduced in the late 1930s, it was the first to have a full-cantilever wing. (No external bracing) Eighty years later, many are still earning a living in skies around the planet.

An ME 262, the world’s first operational jet fight. Fortunately for us, allied bombers obliterated the factories where these were being built.

These are both real flyable airplanes, a kit-built helicopter and a Bede 4 personal jet. The little boy was completely fascinated by the jet, a perfect size for him.

A FW 190., another very respected Luftwaffe fighter. With its massive BMW radial engine, monstrous torque high-propellor, pigeon’toed undercarriage and short fuselage, this machine must have been a beast to handle while on the ground.

 

Even as modern airplanes go, the Goose thing is a monster. I am amazed at the survival of this wooden wonder. How it has not rotted or burned in 75 years is yet another wonder. The aircraft that I came to see is the only one of its kind ever built. This is my Mecca, the object of a pilgrimage for a guy who has been flying and otherwise messing around with airplanes his whole life. I’m hoping to find inspiration to cope with some tough weeks ahead. I’ve looked up at it already. The only time I’ve know that same feeling before was when I stepped aboard ‘Cutty Sark’ in Greenwich.

The museum itself is massive with its four huge (Ha… Hughes, get it?) buildings, three are for display and a third is a swimming pool. They have somehow hoisted a Boeing 747 (Imagine the fleet of monster cranes required to work in full co-ordination…with no wind)) onto the roof and converted it into the apex of a water slide. The parking lot behind the buildings would be adequate for landing smaller aircraft.. Imagine having rows of jet fighters for lawn ornaments!

Now that’s a lawn ornament!
It sure beats plastic flamingos or garden gnomes. It is a Lockheed T-33 or ‘Shooting Star’ I remember then from my early childhood. they are still flying in a few countries.

Am American drone clone. The US decided to copy the German V-1 and use it for a target drone. Someone has been droning on about something ever since.

Then came the V-2, brainchild of Wernher von Braun. It was the beginning of the space age.

There is something to amaze everyone, even if they’re not interested in aviation or space travel.

How about the lunar RVer?

Or…the lunar ATVer?

After a while sensory overload began to kick in. I began to worry about missing something. I’m sure I did.

The exhibits go on and on, with a movie theatre complex in the middle of the complex. I am a small airplane guy and there were plenty of these dispersed among the big fellows, both civilian and military. It was a dull overcast day for taking photographs, but I managed to click off about one-hundred-fifty frames that I’m keeping. That is a lot of editing. I could have easily taken twice as many.

Evergreen, a private enterprise, draws a very close second to the amazing Boeing aircraft museum in Seattle which doesn’t have a water park. Ha! It also doesn’t have the Goose or, the SR71 Blackbird. There are also two other great aviation museums in the state of Oregon, one in Tillamook and another in Madras. Here are a few of the photos taken at Evergreen, I once again repeat myself in saying that they don’t begin to compare with actually seeing this operation in the flesh. When I was growing up in the post-war, pre-space age, aviation was still a bit of a novelty. That, despite the massive aviation advancements of WWII. By the time we had put men on the moon the reality of flying machines had become a ho-hum fact of everyday life. We no longer look up when an aircraft passes overhead. Yet, clearly, there are a great many people who do hold a deep fascination for a highly and still rapidly evolving technology which is only a little over a century old.

I have long held the theory that the human race is not indigenous to this planet. We certainly do not fit in here. As far back as we know, we have had an affinity for the sky, for the stars, for flight. God is always from somewhere up there ( God being the concept which is our convenient pigeon-hole for all that we cannot comprehend including love, wisdom and infinity) Many of our wisest ancients speculated on ways and means to rise above our earthly bonds. We have scrambled frantically to fly, then to fly ever higher and faster. It is a compulsion which now has us sending machines beyond the known edges of our universe, looking for ways to personally visit and inhabit places like Mars. I believe that it is all part of that ancient quest to find our way home. Yet at the same time, we need to look within and consider our aberrant nature, and that that is perhaps why our ancient ancestors were dropped off here. Once we realize the way to get along with each other, as well as other species, only then will we be truly ready to go home. Then we won’t need to. In the meantime, to survive that long, we need to become considerably more gracious toward the beautiful planet that is hosting us. For now, it is the only place we have.

The computer grinch says that I have run out of space for any more photos in this blog, even in my edited series. I’ve challenged him three times because there is so much more to show. If, readers care to send a comment in favour of posting a part 2 to this particular blog, I’ll be glad to post more images. Happy Landings!

“Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see. ”   

Charles A. Lindbergh