June 23, 2005
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
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
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
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
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.