Monday, September 25, 2006

Why I Fly (chapter 10)

All my stories start with a lead-in something like “A long time ago in a galx…” No wait, that’s a different story. More like this: Earlier this summer we went to Oregon to visit my sister in Lincoln City. On the way down we stopped at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, Fort Vancouver, Pearson Air Park and Museum, and Evergreen Aviation Museum. And yes, I see the trend developing here. We had a nice visit with my sister, and on the way home we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

In the process of going to the cheese factory, we drove right past the Tillamook Air Museum. I knew it was the right thing to do, mostly because my wife, Sandra, had been such a good sport about the other airplane museums, and she wanted to see the cheese factory. Turns out the cheese factory is pretty cool and we got some pretty good pepperjack cheese out of the deal, so in the end I was happy we went.

This Sunday it was a severe-clear day. Early fall, just a hint of trees changing colors here and there, and short-sleeve weather. Great weather for flying. About 10:am we finally got out the door and headed to the airport to climb aboard the trusty steed. After moving a car-seat from the van to the plane, loading up with the requisite in-flight entertainment (a bag of books and toys for the kids), and picking up my clearance, we were off the ground about 10:45.

The flight was really uneventful. Blue above, green below. The islands and peninsulas of the Puget Sound created patterns in the blue green water surrounding them. The mountains on the left rose with their peaceful majesty along the Cascades. The Olympic Range on the right faded into the rolling fir covered hills of the Costal Range. The Capitol building in Olympia sat nestled next to the bay. The rolling hills giving way to the Columbia River, and the long span bridge at Astoria. Soon we were paralleling the coast over Seaside and Cannon Beach, looking down on Haystack Rock, and then descending over Tillamook Bay to land.

Just after noon we touched down at Tillamook, and then we touched down again, and again (ok, not one of my better landings). The runway end yielded to a serpentine strip of blacktop that lead to the museum where we shut down and went inside for lunch.

The airplane collection is good. In the hangar they have a pretty good selection of WW-II aircraft, and a couple of surprises were an F-14 Tomcat (of Top-Gun fame), an A-7 Corsair, and a MiG-15. But the real star of the museum was the building housing the collection. This is a wooden structure that is nearly a football field wide (297 ft), nearly a fifth of a mile long (1,072 ft) and 15 stories high (192 ft). And is all open free span in the inside. It is the largest wooden free-span structure in the world. The airplane collection takes up about half of the available space. The building was built to house eight or nine of the 17 blimps that were used to patrol the west coast during WW-II. There were two built, and the first took nine months. The second was put up in 29 days. Wow.

After wandering around the airplanes, taking in the sights of the trains nearby, and talking to the pilot selling rides in his open cockpit biplane, we made one last potty stop and buckled back into the plane.

We took off to the north staying a couple thousand feet over the city where we crossed over the cheese factory. We then climbed up to 4,500 feet, our cruising altitude for the ride home.

We ran our course backwards to the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, then turned right and headed across the Puget Sound. But instead of going to the airport, we made a couple of turns around my youngest son’s gymnastics building in Mountlake Terrace, and then headed north and set up for our landing. (much better this time).

By 5:15 we were home, and getting ready for the busy week ahead.

Today, my son is pretty excited. He tells me that one of his friends from school was at the Cheese Factory at the same time we were at the Air Museum. (no, they did no see us fly over.) Sandra smiled at me and said “They got home at 10:00 last night.”

A good adventure, beautiful scenery, a brush with history, and back home for an evening movie. And that is just one more reason why I fly.
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