Log 12 NH, ME, VT

08/22/08

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June 23, 2005
6B6-7B3-LEW
Stow, MA to Hampton, NH to Lewiston, Maine

The friendly folks at Minute Man airport give us a nice send-off though we are sorry not to have had the opportunity to sample the gourmet restaurant at the airport there.   My first leg this morning is only 70 miles up to New Hampshire and it looks to be a mix of forests and open fields.  I start off heading north to avoid the airspace reserved for Boston's Hanscom field, then turn east to thread a narrow corridor between the airspaces' of Lawrence and Beverly airports.  From there it's northeast past Plum Island airfield and up to Hampton, N.H. 

I love flying into grass airstrips and the one at Hampton is one of the finest I've visited.  It's over 2,000 feet long and 170' wide so I can land pretty much any way I want into the wind.  I'm on the radio with the pilot of a tiny Husky bush plane who has come in before me, landed in virtually no space and is taking off again from mid-field.  I extend my downwind leg, then when he is clear, I come in for a perfect touchdown  on the manicured grass.  I taxi up toward the main airport building but stop short where I can park my gyro in a patch of white and purple clover. 

Before I can secure the gyro the Husky has gone around the pattern and landed again and the pilot is immediately at my side with his ready handshake.  We admire each others aircraft and answer the usual questions and before long we are joined by two more of his friends flying a Cessna 206 for the government.  I'm invited to join them for lunch and when I see the wonderful cafe here I realize this airport is a true gem. 

From Hampton it is only a few miles to the coast and in minutes I am flying over the Atlantic again.  After so much time flying at 1,000 or more feet above ground level (AGL) due to the heavy forests I revel in dropping down 200 feet off the water and waving to the throngs on the beaches.  The temperature today in Maine is over 90 degrees drawing everyone to the water.  The Maine coast is spectacular and I delight in seeing the sailboats and rugged coastline, but all too soon I have passed Portsmouth and Kennebunkport and I must cut inland  to land at Lewiston where I will meet Dee.  

Lewiston is a big airport and I taxi up to park near the King Airs and small jets but before I can shut the engine off a mechanic comes racing out of the hangar heading straight towards my gyro.  I want to taxi farther along the ramp but he is approaching so fast I get worried for his safety with my spinning propeller so I instantly hit the kill switch on the engine.  It turns out he has just purchased a used Benson gyroplane but knows very little about them so he is desperate to talk to another gyro pilot and learn as much as possible.  I spend an hour passing on whatever advice I can and as our conversation winds down he introduces me to the very friendly airport manager who welcomes us to park our motorhome in an empty parking lot for the night.

What a spectacular day- perfect flying weather, sightseeing along the Maine coast,  a manicured grass strip airfield with a wonderful cafe and new friends who treated me to a delicious lunch and fascinating conversation.   When I envisioned  this trip around America this is exactly the type of days I was hoping to have.  I'm not sure a man  should ask more of life than a day like today.

 

June 28, 2005
LEW- RKD
Lewiston to Rockland, Maine    Owl's Head Airport

We have spent the last few days exploring the lakes region of Maine and visiting with gyro pilot and photographer Chuck Feil.  Chuck is the only other person who has ever tried to fly to all 48 states and his advice is valuable for me.  He is also a master photographer who has published 10 books of photos taken from his RAF 200 gyroplane.

I depart from Lewiston with ceilings of about 600 feet.  A fixed wing pilot would be very nervous knowing the bottom of the clouds was only 600' above the ground but in my gyro this presents no problem as I often fly that low anyway.   My trip today is less than 80 miles over to the coast so I take-off and practice some slow flight and touch n go's over the the airport before departing.  A Cessna 150 is in the pattern with a student and instructor practicing landings.  In the fixed wing flying a standard pattern it takes about 5-6 minutes for each take-off and landing so the instructor is amazed to see me take-off, turn at 200' above the runway, bank around and land again on the same spot all in about a minute.  

Shortly after I leave the airport headed for Owl's Head I see clouds and fog ahead.  Though I am an instrument rated pilot my gyro is not equipped for instrument flying so I need to stay out of the clouds.  At first it is just a wisp or two and they stream past me posing no threat but before long the clouds thicken and in places the fog blankets the land below.  I manage to zig zag around and fly only through sections where I can see the clearing on the other side but it sure adds spice to my day and the scenery below is magnificent.

As I near my destination the cloud level drops and I am forced to fly at only 250' above the ground and make several detours waiting for the fog to move this way or that.  Eventually though the airport is in sight and I drop down to the runway then since there is no other traffic I practice a few more take-off and landings before taxiing over to the wonderful Owl's Head Transportation Museum based right at the airfield.

The museum is full of beautifully restored classic cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines and of course airplanes.  The Duisenberg car is the pride of the show but my favorite is the Orinothopter- an early attempt at a flying machine that even has real bird feathers laced into its flapping wings.  As I am walking between the hangars I spot several of the employees driving out to see my gyroplane and when they return we strike up a conversation.  This leads to an introduction with the museum's curator and I learn more about the wonderful work they do here and a tour of the hangar where they maintain the many historic aircraft they have that are still flying. 

 

               

              

                             

       

 

July 2, 2005
RKD- 63B- IZG
Rockland to Limington to Freyberg, Maine

After a very foggy and rainy week exploring the central Maine coast we finally get a break in the weather and can move on.  Dee drops me at the airport and begins her drive to our next stop at North Conway along the Maine-New Hampshire border.  I wait another hour for the coastal fog to lift then take-off.  My destination today is due west but to avoid flying over miles and miles of untracked Maine woods I'll detour south then west then back north again.  I head out following Highway 1along the coast and as I near Wiscasset I see Dee in the motorhome below me stuck in a traffic jam.  Fortunately she is near the front of the line stuck behind a truck that has careened off the road into a ditch.  I would love to drop down and fly where she can see me but I figure with the traffic snarl and truck recovery operation the police don't need the noise of a gyro overhead. 

A moment later I near the airspace for Brunswick Naval Air station and rather than detour around them I call for a clearance to fly into their space following the highway.  The controller clears me as requested.  Five miles later just as I am coming nearly over the airfield she gets a military C-130 cargo plane inbound and directs him to the downwind leg for his landing pattern.  I am flying at 1,000 above the ground and as he is a few thousand feet higher still descending through the clouds she informs him of where I am.  There is considerable back and forth radio traffic between he and the tower as he and I can't see each other so he wants updates on my position.  I assume she has both of us on radar but am not positive of that so I too am worried.  I want to pass in front of the C-130 because if I go behind him I need to be a loooong way behind so I don't get hit by his wake turbulence which could flip me upside down or worse.   Like a bicyclist trying to outrun a speeding train I keep pedaling as fast as I can and finally I cross the runway centerline just as he drops out of the clouds still on downwind where he will pass safely behind me.

A few miles farther along I abandon following the road and cut west over the thick trees until I pickup another small road leading northwest.  Just ahead is Limington, Maine and even though I don't really need fuel I decide to stop anyway.  By now the winds that have pushed the fog out are blowing pretty strongly and I have one of those helicopter like touch downs that are so much fun.  The airport looks very quiet but after I've been on the ramp just a few minutes people emerge from several directions all headed for my gyro.  I answer the usual questions then take-off and do a few spins over the airport waving to the friendly folks below.   It is only a short hop to Freyberg, Maine, the airport that serves the area around North Conway, NH. 

Inexplicably, just as I near the airport, the winds which had been quite strong all along my route seem to die out and I land in a gentle 8 knot zephyr.  I chat with a man flying a new Cirrus SR22 airplane and several flight students while I wait for Dee's arrival. 

After last week's Maine fog our July 4th weekend in New Hampshire is perfect weather.  We spend Sunday kayaking along the Saco river where we pass family after family enjoying a July 4th camping trip.  On Monday we take a scenic drive through the White Mountains then hike up to a pristine lake along the Appalachian trail.  On the Appalachian trail in North Carolina's Smokies we had met Stump and Turn Ankle and we wonder how far along the trail they are now.  After our hike we are treated to a perfect small town Fourth of July parade and fireworks in North Conway. 

 

                                      

           

July 5, 2005
IZG- LEB- RUT
Freyberg, Maine to Lebanon, NH to Rutland, Vermont

A cold front is headed this way but flight service tells me if I arrive in Vermont by early afternoon I should be well ahead of the predicted thunderstorms.  I take-off into a white sky with high clouds at 20,000' blocking out the sun.  The flying is interesting as I follow the roads passing small houses set into the woods.  Occasionally I scan the trees for the dozens of moose I am sure are below me but the flat light makes this task uninteresting and I soon give up.  As I near Lake Winnipesauke I see another traffic jam that will slow Dee and once again I think how lucky I am to be up here above it all. 

At my next stop in Lebanon, NH the tower controller clears me in to land at the approach end of the north-south runway then directs me over to the ramp. As I taxi in he is full of questions about the gyro.  When I ask about the restaurant that is listed in my flight guide he informs me it has closed so I guess it is going to be another pilot's vending machine lunch.  I fuel up and go inside to check the weather.  Looking at the weather radar I see the big frontal boundary heading my way from New York but far in front of the main cold air mass I'm surprised to see a thunderstorm already parked directly over the Rutland airport with more 2-3 other storm cells behind all along my planned route.  It looks like if I abandon my plan and instead head south along the Connecticut River separating New Hampshire and Vermont then go west I can avoid the storms and still arrive in Rutland before the large band of frontal activity hits the area. 

There are 3 jets and a small Cessna all just ahead of me departing the ramp for the long taxi to the active runway so I know I'm in for a bit of a wait as I'll be last in line.  Surprisingly the tower asks me to make an intersection take-off from the taxiway directly in-front of the tower.  I ask how long the taxiway is and he tells me 1,100 feet which is plenty for me.  I joke with him that he wants me to take-off from here just so he has a really good view and he actually admits that is why he suggested it.  So with the first jet that started up 10 minutes before me now holding for take-off he clears me out first and I'm on my way downriver. 

Flying along the river is magic and I'm instantly glad for the change in plans.  After so much flying at higher altitudes over heavy woods it is a joy to bank and swoop down low along the river looking at all the interesting things to see in the fields.  I follow the river downstream for awhile then pick out a slot in the mountains to follow westwards and in minutes I am in a narrow canyon with mountains going up on both sides of me. 

I can only see a little way ahead due to both the mountains and the hazy conditions but I am on constant alert  for the heavy dark clouds that will indicate the approaching thunderstorms.  If I can zig zag westwards through the mountains here for another 10 miles I will hit a road leading back north towards to my destination of Rutland, Vermont.  As I round one bend in the canyon I see the first wisps of grey thunderheads to the west-- uh oh-- I won't be able to go much farther in that direction.   I do a quick 360 turn to look behind me assuring myself that clouds have not filled in behind me.  If it gets bad ahead I can still go back the way I came and fortunately I have topped off my fuel tanks for just such a possibility.  The canyon winds west for a few more tense minutes and then ahead I see the road I had been looking for and just beyond it the first of the darker clouds. 

Perfect.  I can see now that if I turn north and follow the road as planned I will be leaving the darkest clouds to my left and I should be ahead of the weather.  I start following the road which goes to Rutland but after a few minutes I become impatient with the road's twists and turns.  The road offers the security of an emergency landing spot if the engine were to quit but in this case I decide staying in front of the storm is more important so I fly the direct route over the forests landing in Rutland well in advance of the rain.  The friendly guys at the FBO even have several pizzas that they need help eating so I gladly oblige.

When I call Dee to inform her of my safe arrival I learn she is stuck on the road.  In an attempt to turn around to enter a gas station she has jack knifed the jeep and motorhome.  She is in an empty parking lot with the motorhome up against a dumpster that cannot be moved and she can move neither forward nor backward.   I feel terrible that she is doing this trip to support me and I can't help when she gets in a predicament like this.   When her calls to AAA and Good Sam reveal that our roadside assistance programs don't cover all contingencies she goes back to attacking the problem on her own.  After enough cussing and hammering she manages to unhook the towing hitch and get squared away before driving on into the rainstorms. What a strong woman she is and what a lucky guy I am that she puts up with all of these challenges.

Vermont is one of the few states that I have never really seen before so I am excited to do some exploring but unfortunately the weather is not cooperating.  If I had to pick one word to describe our 5 days in Vermont it would be RAIN.  We manage to squeeze in only a half day of bicycling and the rest of the week is mostly spent indoors waiting for the rain to stop.  We are under the spin-off from Hurricane Cindy and the clouds rarely lift more than 200' above our heads so even when its not raining we can't see much. 

 

                   

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Copyright Rob Dubin 2005