Monday, May 18, 2015

The Long Wait is Nearly Over!

Most regular readers will be aware that over the past winter Roxy has been enjoying a very relaxing stay in a very exclusive hangar "resort" in McMinnville, just south of Portland, Oregon. This luxury resort normally only accommodates residents who have moved in the highest circles of their society, achieved the very pinnacle of their careers and amassed the most numerous of accolades; an extremely distinguished clientele who are offered permanent residence strictly "by invitation only"... and you can understand why...a light and airy hangar with full air conditioning 24/7 including temperature/humidity/dust control and legions of highly trained staff continually fussing over even the smallest of details to ensure that these pampered guests appear meticulously polished and groomed at all times. Everyone is preened in constant readiness to meet and satisfy their adoring fans when the gated community doors are opened to the public each day.
Roxy shares floor space with the celebrities of the aviation world.

Which must beg the question; how did we ever manage to blag our way in?!
(Note that I say it "normally" only accommodates such our case, it simply flags up how very, very fortunate we have been to be allowed our temporary winter billet surrounded by such iconic and famous aircraft on permanent display.) Many thanks again to the EvergreenAviation and Space Museum for proving to be such perfect hosts. 
Roxy with The Spirit of St Louis (exact replica) and Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose
It has also been extremely interesting to be able to stop and chat to the many people who have wandered past our own little "enclosure" in the Museum while I have been busy working on various background maintenance tasks....The enclosure is surrounded by a low chain link fence that serves to keep the visitors a safe distance from all the exhibits. However I have now discovered that the chain also has the equal (and opposite) effect of safely keeping the exhibit away from the public... for in my case of course, it is a live exhibit on display (at those times when I happen to be "in residence"), and the view that meets the eye for the passing public is akin perhaps to watching some sort of over active performing monkey struggle and squeeze into a bright red suit in the highly optimistic hope of being finally ready to go off flying any time soon...

 At such times I sense an idea of what it must feel like to be one of the lesser side show attractions at a travelling circus (you know the ones, right at the end of the line and often overlooked) and think perhaps I should really be busy dancing a little jig or telling a few jokes to entertain the folks who happen to be passing by! Our lowly status is very short lived however and is dramatically transformed once the monkey is fully suited and booted, for then, all of a sudden, it's Show Time!... The little chain is removed, heads turn and the once static fixed exhibit now transforms into being a fantastic active flying machine; rolled out and being walked through the concourse to the huge hangar doors at the rear of the display building. Once outside we are no longer a Museum Exhibit, but are free again to take to the wide open Oregon skies.
Norman and Roxy...Star Attractions 
A few hours later sees our safe return to the Museum (often just before closing time) and on rolling Roxy back into her enclosure I often think what must the other exhibits be thinking. Most now are of course permanently grounded but perhaps they would say "Oh to have the same chance of taking to the air yet again! Even just for one more flight..."

Norman arriving back at the Evergreen Museum hangars, McMinnville airport.

And so we should also look toward our next flight, or should I say the continuation of the flight, the one that has kept me focused and occupied for the past 5 years...
The plan going forward is to take off in early June from McMinnville and initially, at least, head west...this is in the opposite direction to where we ideally want to go but it is necessary to backtrack a little to reach the Pacific Coast. From the Coastal airfield at Tillamook (a former Naval air Station and still home to an absolutely enormous wooden Airship hangar - it remains the largest wooden built structure in the world, apparently) we will then be able to turn Eastbound once more to continue onwards on the global circumnavigation challenge.

Portland Oregon to Portland Maine

Both Portland Airports are major transport hubs and as such are very busy, very complicated and very expensive for small light aviation traffic to fly in and out of.
So instead for practicality, we have elected to use smaller more GA friendly airports near to each Portland City and that also happen to be near to the western and eastern US Coastlines.
It means perhaps our route should really be called "Within the very near vicinity of Portland to Portland" but I think everyone will agree that simply "Portland to Portland" has a much better ring to it...
Coast to Coast - Route is subject to change
Broadly speaking from Tillamook, the route will then fly east, pass "within the very near vicinity" of Portland Oregon and up the mighty Columbia Gorge, before turning south east to follow the Snake River and north west to pass by the "Craters of the Moon". Hopefully, we are then able to overfly Yellowstone and then on eastwards to take in the sights of Bighorn, Thunder Basin and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore (with the 4 carved president heads and newly formed Native American head) is also close by here. Crossing the Missouri River the easterly progress is maintained through the wide agricultural expanses of the mid-west, through Minnesota and Wisconsin to reach Oshkosh, home of both a world renowned aviation Museum and a huge Annual Fly-In Air show (alas this is held later in the summer). Passing south of the great lakes then brings us close by Niagara Falls before reaching over to the eastern coastline and "within the very near vicinity" of Portland Maine.

 From this point, the overall route pauses briefly (for a visit to Nantucket Island) before heading north and then eastwards up into Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Outer Hebrides, Scottish west coast and back home to Larne, Northern Ireland. For a more detailed description of that sector we shall have to wait for a future blog...  

The final legs...then Home at last!