|« Final Blog Tomorrow! (Sunday, May 17)|
Jubilation!!!! And Let Down...Flying
Sunday, May 17
I’ve been home two days, yet I couldn’t bring myself to write this post sooner – because somehow, once written, it means my incredible adventure is truly over.
I landed at Sandy River Airport at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 16. As I was flying down the Columbia Gorge I was imagining trumpets blaring and cymbals crashing when I touched down, but it was all in my mind. It felt absolutely outstanding to know that I’d actually survived, intact, such an incredible journey.
It was also a feeling of let down. What, no more flying? The adventure over? Back to the routine of my regular life? For the past seven weeks the flying has consumed me – I’ve been eating, breathing, and living it, every waking moment. It got to the point that it wasn’t something I was doing – it became what I am… an ultralight pilot, and everyone I encountered during the seven weeks related to me solely as such. (I know, I know – technically a Light Sport pilot, but absolutely NO ONE sees the Drifter as such.) Everything else about me was stripped away – all we talked about was the flying. Now I’ve got to readjust. Unpack, do the laundry, get reacquainted with my life and people who are pleased for what I’ve done but don’t really comprehend it. It’s taken me a couple of days to get my head around it.
So – this post will wrap it all up. I’m including a description of the last day of flying, final statistics, some lessons learned, a question to you, and an overwhelming amount of thanks.
1. The last day of flying was absolutely perfect!
I had landed at Bend, Oregon on Wednesday, too wiped out by the weather to fly any further. Norm drove out early Thursday morning to pick me up (it’s about a 3 hr. drive from our home,) and it felt amazing to be with him again. Daily phone calls are NOT THE SAME! At first I had thought we’d drive back to Bend on Saturday for the final legs of my flight – but the weather was forecast to be perfect for flying the Gorge on Friday. So we drove back early Friday morning, and by 9:50 a.m. I was in the air.
From Bend to Hood River is a beautiful route – over farmland and pine trees – and Friday morning it was absolutely crystal clear. I was able to see almost the entire chain of volcanic mountain peaks in the Cascades – Mt. Bachelor, Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier. It was chilly but comfortable, and I kept clicking away with my camera.
DARN!! For some reason, Photobucket isn’t doing it’s thing – and I can’t seem to
copy the great mountain photos I have into this blog. So click on any of the above photos
and it will take you to the album with some pictures of all the mountains I listed.
I landed at Hood River – where the FBO radio’d that it was CALM!!! Almost unheard of for Hood River, which is one of the world’s windiest spots. (I’m not exaggerating – it’s why the wind sailors have made it a destination spot for their sport.)
Unexpectedly, a friend who used to fly out of Sandy River Airport was there – and he and I went to lunch. Then it was wheels off and only 38.6 miles left to go. Flying down the Columbia Gorge is usually nerve-wracking. Not a lot of places to land except I-84, prone to high winds, and you don’t want to fly too high, as airliners are making their descent into Portland International Airport. Friday it was a breeze. A very slight tailwind whisked me steadily along. The clarity of the air was incredible and I could see for over 30 miles. Unfortunately, I had been taking too many pictures on the first leg, and my camera batteries gave out.
As I flew over Bonneville Dam, I was as always impressed by the amount of water flowing over it.
Then past Multnomah Falls and finally ahead was Crown Point – my turning spot for home. It felt so strange to be calling in: “Sandy River area traffic. Light Sport one-niner-six-four-Charlie entering a 45 for a right downwind to runway 26, Sandy River.”
Then touching down on the 2200’ turf runway, and realizing that it was truly over. I had flown a total of…well…
2. Here are the statistics:
Total round trip: 49 days
Total flight days: 36
Total days non-flying: Sun n Fun – 7 days; weathered in – 6 days
Total miles: 7052
Total flight hours: 126.5
Total landings: 80
Total gallons of gas: 463
And other than a few non-engine mechanical problems, the entire flight was flawless. My engine never hiccupped or coughed. Brian Carpenter, who is one of the Rotax gurus in the country, once told me that one of the reasons I don’t have problems with my engine is that I don’t dink around with it. Whatever the reason – my Rotax 503 DCDI performed flawlessly.
3. If you’re interested -
A surprisingly large number of you have e-mailed me asking if I intend to write a book about this experience, perhaps expanding on my blog with more anecdotes and photos. I’m actually contemplating it!
If I do publish a book and you want to be notified about it – send me an e-mail: TheWanderingWench@yahoo.com
I will not use it other than to send you publication information – you will not go on any permanent data base or list. (I know there’s other things I could write – such as I won’t sell your information – but you probably understand all that.)
4. The Drifter’s Swan Song
This wondrous and yet often grueling flight has pretty much convinced me that this will be the Drifter’s last long flight. Although Randy was astoundingly patient, he could have made the flight in far less time if I had been flying a faster – and more wind-tolerant - plane. Since I want to continue doing multi-week flights (although not necessarily another mega-flight like this one,) I’ll be looking for another ultralight-type ELSA.
4. And finally –
I’m not sure whether it was the flying or the people that made this such a tremendous experience for me. We met so many, many wonderful folks who went all out to welcome us, invite us into their homes, take us for meals, gas, supplies…the list goes on and on. Words can’t express my appreciation – it is heart-felt.
More than anyone else, I thank Randy for his friendship, flying companionship and expertise. Flying for so long with someone really tests a friendship – and I believe that ours is fully intact.