The Dream Is Still Alive

I haven’t written much about retirement plans lately because there isn’t much progress on that front except for the slow crawl of getting through the years to get there.  After starting with my present employer I found out that to receive the pension I must put in 10 years of full-time non-probationary employment with them.  As our probationary period is 1 year I have to work 11 years total before I can retire and get my pension.  At this point I am at the 8 and 1/2 year mark.

The dream is to be able to get out from under the crush of “stuff” we have and travel.  Since full-time travel won’t be a viable option for at least 9 more years we can still travel part time.  And we can still get out from under our home and the crush of “stuff.”

My brother is doing just this.  In fact he blantantly STOLE my idea of living in an RV full time and travelling.  (That’s humor folks, don’t get upset.)  But you did read it here first!  It was MY idea.  NO one EVER thought of this before me! 🙂  He and his wife are selling their home and embarking on a journey to Texas this week in his Airstream travel trailer.  Good for them.  I hope they enjoy this new chapter of their lives.

The Trailer

But as this post is titled, we haven’t given up the dream yet.  This past year we have struggled over whether to get a smaller trailer and take shorter trips while having a small “home base” to return to.  My wife has been looking at homes both near and far for several months now.  This past two weeks have been a game changer for her.  We went to look at the smaller trailer we were considering.  I asked her to just spend some time in it with me.  After 30 minutes or so she needed to get out.  I then asked her to imagine spending a rainy weekend in that small trailer.  Not a pleasant thought but the weather isn’t always sunny when you’re camping.


When we got home I showed her a slightly larger (yet oddly, less expensive) travel trailer.  The Grand Design Iagine 2670MK Travel Trailer.  It has a much more spacious floorplan and a desk which was a feature we loved!  It was easy to just sit in the recliners and either nap or read.  It alsoWe could see ourselves spending time in this trailer.  The only thing we really didn’t like about it was how cramped the bedroom was.


The salesman that was showing us the unit told us that they had a 5th wheel with a similar floor plan but had a bigger bedroom.  Now, we really didn’t want a 5th wheel but it wouldn’t hurt to take a look.  We walked across the lot and he showed us the Grand Design Reflection 320MKS 5th wheel.

Now… this was more like it!  It had all the same features; desk, outdoor kitchen, but it had a bigger bedroom WITH a closet!  The kitchen had a larger refrigerator and a large pantry.  Cristy was sold.  We spent quite a bit of time in this trailer.  There were some things we liked about the Imagine travel trailer better but the Reflection just seemed more rugged and spacious.  Cristy almost fell asleep in the recliner.

If you’ve followed my blog you know that we’ve changed our minds several times.  That’s the beauty of dreams!   But this is the dream at the moment.

The Truck

Trailers don’t pull themselves, you need a tow vehicle.  When we were going with the Lance my RAM 1500 was enough to pull it.  The moment we decided to go with a larger trailer the decision was made for us that we had to scale up the truck.  I want to stick with RAM trucks so that part of the decision was made.   The only thing we needed to decide was to go with a RAM 2500 or 3500.   While the RAM 2500 is enough to pull the Reflection 5th wheel, that’s really all it could do.  There would be very little load carrying capacity in the truck beyond the hitch weight of the trailer.  Therefore it had to be the 3500.  It would EASILY tow the trailer and anything we could cram into it.  Decision made.

So… when can all this happen?  We think it’s best to make this all happen while I’m still earning money.  After retirement we’ll be on a fixed income.  So step one is to finish paying off my current truck.  Then we’ll trade it in and buy the new truck.  A few years after that we’ll buy the trailer and hopefully get it paid off before retirement.  We are also talking about selling our house prior to retirement and just living in the trailer in the final few years before retirement.  But dreams are cheap and easily changed.

We’ll see.


Three State Dash

If you’ve been following my blog at all (and if you care) you’ve read about my engine woes.  I burnt it up when trying adjust my carb settings trying to get rid of an area of throttle movement that caused the engine to bog down.  I sent the engine back to the manufacturer and it was rebuilt.  Then as I was breaking in the new engine it burnt up again.  I sent it back to the manufacturer and they rebuilt it AGAIN.  This time recommending we try a different carburetor and two-stroke oil.  To ensure it was done right I asked that the engine be sent back to Six-Chuter and that they do the break-in.

The engine was sent to Six-Chuter’s engine guru, Rolando Santiago who lives outside of Vancouver Washington rather than at the factory in Wenatchee.  I loaded up the airplane into my trailer and (with my wife who graciously offered to come with me) hit the road.  Bear in mind this was a day and a half after we got home from our anniversary trip to Hawaii.  Also bear in mind that the Pacific NorthWest was about to be hit with a huge wet storm.

The drive up was nice.   We listened to the radio, talked about our Hawaii trip, how amazing it was that we were just there, and now we were here. Our goal was to make it to Cottage Grove, OR the first day.  We did.  Unfortunately we were delayed by 2 hours due to a jacknifed big rig about half a mile ahead of us on the freeway.  The rain had started and apparently this rig was not able to handle the tight turn at his chosen speed.  We were supposed to arrive at Cottage Grove at 6:30pm but didn’t get there until 8:30pm.  Driving in the rain and dark on mountainous roads was not what I had planned.

We finally arrived and the front desk called the restaurant and had them stay open for us.  They were closing but they were very nice to us.  We stayed at the Village Green Resort and Gardens.  The grounds are lovely but we couldn’t see them in the dark and rain.  The rooms are kind of dated but the grounds more than make up for it.  The next morning it was still raining but we could at least get a look at the grounds before breakfast and hitting the road again.

This time it was only a three and a half hour drive to Rolando’s house.  Most of the drive was unremarkable except for the gorgeous scenery. 🙂  All except for the drive through Portland at lunchtime, in the rain. (I need to stop typing “in the rain” because it rained non-stop while we were there.)  Rolando meet us at a gas station near his house and then showed us to his super-secret hidden driveway.  My trusty truck slogged the trailer up into Rolando’s yard and I unhitched the trailer and left it in his capable hands.  He and his son would do the engine install and breakin and then call me when it was done.  My wife and I were free to go explore.

Because of the rain and our fatigue from all the driving the only thing we wanted to explore was our hotel room.  We crashed and took a nap at the Red Lion Inn which was right on the Columbia River.  We had dinner and then crashed again afterwards.  I found our room number amusing and somewhat ironic due to the fact it was a non-smoking room.


The next morning we wanted to take a look at Portland and get some coffee.  We pulled up just past the coffee place and a homeless man began lounging on my truck.  >:-(  I asked him in a rather ungracious way to please remove himself from my truck.  He started to walk away then turned around and started screaming at us.  I told Cristy that coffee in Portland was a bust.  We headed for Vancouver WA instead and found a great little coffee place called Pines Coffee House.  I can tell you after comparing both towns I can see what Vancouver insisted on a river with drawbridges between them and Portland.

We had lunch at a great little Thai restaurant called Thai Orchid.  They have a great mix of Thai food and sushi, which, surprised us a little.  However the food was good and was a great place to stay out of the rain.  To help Cristy relax a little I found her a boutique called Not Too Shabby.  Boutiquing helps Cristy decompress after travelling.  Right about the time she was finishing up we got the call that the engine was done.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and by the time I picked up the trailer and airplane it would be 3:30pm.  I knew we wouldn’t get far but at least we could get south of Portland!  We loaded up and made it as far as Salem.  It was pretty stormy the whole way.  Probably the heaviest rain I had driven in for quote some time and pulling a trailer to boot.  We got to the Red Lion in Salem and hit our room and collapsed on the bed.  We took a quick nap before dinner and a long nap afterwards.

The rain abated somewhat overnight.  When we got on the road at 8:00am it was only drizzling.  It had stopped raining by about Roseburg, OR and by the time we climbed the big grade out of Ashland and pulled into Calfornia the clouds were starting to break up.  It’s amazing how the rain just stopped at the California border.  I guess we’re not paying our rain bill or something.  Before I go on I have to say I had the best gluten-free muffin I have ever tasted in my life at The Stars and Dreams Gluten-free Bakery.  They also sell gluten-free breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers.

There were very few clouds as we drove past Mt. Shasta except for the standing IMG_20171022_134715lenticular clouds at it’s summit.  As we drove down the grade into Redding there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  We finally pulled into home at about 7:30pm, my first vacation from work, and our 30th anniversary trips finally done.  What we learned is that we really enjoy travelling and if we could drive shorter distances and had a travel trailer with us that we would enjoy travelling even more.

Someday soon…


30 Years!

I just got back from a trip to Hawaii, the Big Island.  The occasion?  My wife and I celebrated our 30th Anniversary!  Yep, 30 years ago she took vows with me.  We’ve had our share of ups and downs but this trip was definitely one of the ups.  Five years ago we went to Maui with our family for our 25th Anniversary.  This time around it was just Cristy and I.

We landed at Kona, rented a 4WD Jeep and drove up to the North side of the island.  We stayed at a B&B in Kukuihaele about 1/4 mile from the Waipio Valley.  The house was basically a studio bungalow and the scenery was absolutely stunning.  The house is set on the side of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

For 5 days we gorged ourselves on fish and fruit, visited beaches, gardens, waterfalls and ate more fish and fruit.  The reason for the 4WD Jeep was so we could visit the Waipio Valley and beach.  The drive down the road was quite a thrill.  Steep mountain road grades in the Western US are like 6-8%.  This road was a 25% grade!

Since pictures are worth far more than words…

4th Annual Red Hills Memorial Day Fly-In

Every Memorial Day weekend we all flock to Red Hills Ranch nestled deep within the Red Hills Area of Environmental Concern.  And this year we had another fantastic fly-in! Jack and Myrna were as gracious as ever as our hosts. The turnout was slightly less this year but we also pick up a few new Red Hill Flyers. Actually, with all the yellow planes that showed up we were considering changing the name to Yellow Hills.

I wasn’t able to get there until Saturday afternoon but by Saturday evening I saw parked out in the fields two Sport Cubs, a Husky, a Champ, a couple 152’s, a couple 182’s, and a Super Cub. There were also several fly-bys and stop-bys with folks just stopping briefly to say hello. We had folks from Santa Maria, Yuba City, Lincoln, Fresno, Concord, and one town way up on near the north coast that I can’t remember.

There was a fly-out for breakfast on Saturday morning and water balloon bombing and spot landing contests. Sorry all you cubs and 180’s, it was a Cessna 152 that one the spot landing contest by landing RIGHT on the line without bouncing. Way to go Chris!

Potluck dinner Saturday night was excellent with Blackwater and his wife supplying some really nice wine (for those who were done flying for the day). We sat around the table telling stories and catching up before moving over to the bonfire for more stories.

Sunday morning Myrna made some delicious scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes. Folks packed up but still hung around for a while, no one wanting to leave the peace and serenity of Jack’s little slice of heaven.

I didn’t fly this time around so I’ll leave it to the guys who did to talk about their flyouts to the local strips. Let’s not forget the adventures of those who left their wallets behind and many thanks to those who rescued them.

Many thanks to Rich and Hawk for helping to organize the fly-in, the fly-outs, and the activities. You guys are awesome!

NorCal Flooding

One aspect I didn’t bring up in yesterday’s blog posting was the adventure getting to and from Lincoln Regional Airport to view the P3 Lite.  With all the rain we’ve had in California this year we’ve got some pretty severe localized flooding.  Traffic going north bound on I-5 was heavy and slow between Twin Cities Road and Elk Grove.  There were no accidents, everyone was slowing down to look at this:

At least the roadways were clear.  Coming home was a different story.  Google took me out in a different direction than it brought me in.  I thought that would be fine because I’d miss traffic taking the back roads.  It was not all that fine:


Luckily the deepest water I had to drive through was only about a foot deep.  What I didn’t like about it was that it was moving water, not standing water.  Providentially I, and the car in front of me, made it through the several sections of flooded roadway we had to pass.  These folks could sure you your prayers if your the praying kind.

Interim Dreaming

Since I bought an interim truck to hold me over until I can buy the big truck, Cristy and I started thinking about buying an interim trailer to hold us over until we can buy the big trailer.  My Ram 1500 has a max trailer weight of 6050 lbs so I began looking for a lightweight travel trailer I could safely tow with my Ram.  After doing some research I came across Lance Travel Trailers.  Lance is well known for their truck campers but they also make some really nice, light travel trailers.

The largest model my truck can safely tow is the 1985.  It has a maximum weight of 5700 lbs.

The 1985 is small enough to fit into most state and national park campgrounds, easily towed, yet JUST big enough to be livable for more than overnight trips.  It’s literally the biggest little trailer I could find.

Fully loaded the trailer will be over 5000 lbs.  The Ram 1500 owner’s manual strongly recommends using a weight distribution hitch for trailers over 5000 lbs.  For that I’ll go with the Andersen 3344 no-sway hitch.  This type of hitch transfers some of the trailer’s weight to the front wheels of your towing vehicle.  What’s really nice is that no modifications need to be made to your vehicle, the weight distribution hitch clamps to the frame of the trailer’s hitch.

We’re not quite ready to buy the trailer but this is the new plan.  We will still move toward the bigger truck and trailer but for now this is what we will learn the ropes on.


High Sierra Fly-In 2016

This past weekend I traveled to the High Sierra Fly-In as I have for the past several years.  These last two years I have travelled by ground as I don’t have my airplane any more.  This year I brought my airplane with me in the car.  That the beauty of having a powered paraglider, you can take your aviation with you anywhere.

HSF 2016 was held in the same place as last year, Flanigan Playa a.k.a. Dead Cow Lake.  It can be a challenge to drive there.  The shortest ground route takes you over some majorly washboarded roads.  There is however a much smoother route that can be driven at freeway speeds almost all the way to the lake’s edge but it is also much longer.  I took the bumpy route going in, and the smooth route when I left.  Actually getting there was quite an adventure this year.  We entered the lakebed from the north side this year rather than the south side and the directions were a little terse causing me to make a wrong turn.  I ended up on a two-wheel track that was deeply rutted and was surely not the kind of road my mini-van was designed for.   As the road deteriorated I decided I must have made a wrong turn.  I found a place to turn around and headed back, making sure to keep my speed up so I wouldn’t bog down in the soft playa dust.  I finally found the road I should have turned on and all was well.

I found where my friends Rich and Hawk were camped and set up camp in the lee of their motorhome.  The first order of business was to unpack and assemble my PPG.  This took about 15 minutes.  Then I set about rigging my mini-van for motorhome mode.  I had already taken the seats out, I just needed to rearrange things to give me a place to sleep.  It was too late in the day to fly so I just drove my PPG trike around enjoy the amused and slightly jealous looks of the other pilots.


img_20161022_094127As evening rolled around some fellow PPG’ers wanted to go fly and invited me along.  I was not certain I wanted to go with all the air traffic flying around.  So after they took off and I was certain wake turbulence was not going to collapse their wings, I decided to set up and fly.  I got to enjoy a very nice sunset flight around camp and out over the sagebrush.  I didn’t take any pictures.  Some moments were meant to just enjoy.  Besides, all I had with me was a brand new cell phone and I wasn’t interested in dropping it.  This was my first time taking off at this density altitude (about 4500 feet).  It took more speed and time to get the wing to fly, and for the trike to leave the ground.  In my head as a pilot I knew to expect this, but when it happened I was still somewhat surprised.  At any rate I enjoyed my flight and landed just before sunset.





After sunset I headed over to the the nightly bonfire to catch up with old friends.  I’ve noticed that the type of pilots showing up is slowly changing.  The guys that have been around for years are their same friendly selves.  But there are new pilots showing up who gather in clusters and aren’t really there to make new friends but only to impress each other.  I guess HSF is what you make of it.


The next morning some of the PPC and PPG guys went flying but it was just too cold for me.  I would not enjoy flying in 30 degree temperatures so I stayed on the ground.  It was fun to watch the intrepid souls who did fly.  Including this helmet cam footage of my friend Edward Ang who almost flew through a tent!

Later in the day we gathered for the STOL Drag Race.  The idea is two place line up side by side at the start line.  At the start signal they fly 3/4 mile and land just beyond a line and try to stop as quick as they can.  Once stopped they are allowed to turn around take off and fly back to the starting line.  The winner is the first to land and stop beyond the start line.

After the STOL drag I learned I was coming down with the flu.  Dang.  I relaxed as much as I could the rest of the day and waited for the evening bonfire, dinner, and fireworks. I busied myself with breaking down my Cruise Carbon Trike to get ready to pack it in the van in the morning.  I had planned to enjoy the fireworks that evening, however all I could manage was dinner.  I started getting the chills and headed back to my minivan to crawl into my sleeping bag to warm up.  I tossed and turned fitfully as the fireworks and tannerite were set off.  So, sadly I couldn’t enjoy this portion of the fly-in this year.

The next morning I packed my trike into the van and caravanned out with my buddy Joey.  We took a different way out than we had come in and the roads were much smoother.  But longer.  It added an hour to the trip for me but that was fine.  I wasn’t feeling up to washboard roads that morning.  The rest of the trip home was uneventful.

If you are a pilot or just love airplanes and things aviation, this is a great event to attend.  Just make sure you are set up for desert camping AND cold weather camping.  Bring an RV if you can.  Makes life much more bearable there.  And THANK YOU Kevin Quinn for coming up with this event and moving mountains to make it happen.