Monday, June 15, 2009

Flying High

After a false start (turning up too late back in April) I had my long awaited flying lesson on Saturday afternoon. It was a present for my 40th birthday from some wonderful friends in Australia. It had taken me an age to get round to booking it, I suppose I was a little bit nervous about the whole thing. These aircraft are very small, the cockpit is cramped and they fly very slowly. I was allowed to bring a passenger so I took my Dad along with me. Being an ex RAF war veteran this would be a walk in the park for him. I'm sure he had worse days in Kenya back in 60's. Dad was a great passenger and took some brilliant photographs, especially when you consider the circumstances he was working under.

My instructor for the flight was Ian, a nice guy who was a very enthusiastic and entertaining pilot. He walked us out to the aircraft and we performed a pre flight check. Dad and I were wearing fetching high visibility jackets - the photo on the left shows Dad after the flight. Click on it to check out the logo on the back. He took us through the flying surfaces and gave us a brief lesson. in teh theory of flight. Then we clambered into the aircraft and buckled up. Not a great deal of space, especially for Dad who had to sit in the back but as it was only for an hour it wasn't a problem. Ian took me through the instruments and started the engine. We taxied out to the end of the runway and received clearance to depart. So it was throttles to the stops andIan pulled back at 60 knots. Then, all of a sudden we were in the air and heading towards the coast. We banked to the right as we climbed and headed north west. Ian gave me the controls and apart from 10 minutes I was flew the aircraft for the whole trip.

We picked up the A24 just north of Worthing and followed it to Horsham before turning south west towards Billingshurst. Circling the village I dipped the wing a few times so Dad could take some photos. What we didn’t realise was Abi was taking photographs of us at the same time. Judging by Abi’s pictures I think we were too far away, I should have come closer to the A29 and flew parallel to the house. However, you have to remember I’m only a trainee, so what do I know about flying? At this point we were just under Gatwick's controlled airspace. We'd been in contact with them and were told to stay south and not to climb about 1,500 feet. Unfortunately I climbed to 1,600 feet and we were told to go back to 1,400 feet. I’m sure everything was fine as the very professional young lady at the end of the radio didn’t sound too annoyed.

After a couple of circuits we headed west towards Dunsfold and flew over what most people know as the ‘Top Gear’ studio. Once again the camera operator in the back got some great photographs. Dad should see if the RAF has any openings. I could just see him in the back of a Tornado screaming across Afghanistan snapping away. Although he can't ask the pilot to hang aroung if there are missles flying all over the place. Flying makes you realise what a green and pleasant land West Sussex is. It has to be the most picturesque county in the England. While flying back I did notice a number of light aircraft in the vicinity. Flying under visual flight rules means that you are reliant on the mark 1 eyeball and not some high tech anti collision system. We passed underneath a glider, shot past a very surprised seagull and I saw several light aircraft pass underneath and over us.

From there we turned south east towards Shoreham and climbed to 3,000 feet. Ian took over and performed some hard turns through the clouds. He’d asked me to do it but I was too nervous so he showed us what the aircraft could do. I don’t think Dad enjoyed it as much as I did. Sitting in the back and not having a great view he told me he didn’t look down as we banked. It was at this point I reminded Dad I was sitting in front of him and I didn’t want to see what he had for breakfast.

We continued towards Shoreham, performed a circuit and under Ian’s supervision I landed the aircraft. I can remember him telling me to keep the nose down and watch the speed because if I flew too fast I’d rip the flaps off!!!!! I can imagine that wouldn't be good. We had a great view of Steyning College as we approached the runway and flew right over a busy A27. The landing was perfect although I had problems keeping the aircraft right in the middle of the runway. From here it was a quick taxi to the stand and a short walk back to the terminal (a fantastic 1930’s Art Deco building). I was presented with a certificate and then Dad and I then retired to the bar for a beer and post flight debrief.

I really did get the bug and I’m keen to take it further, the only problem is £££££. To get the necessary hours and tuition I would need to find over £6000. Once qualified the costs wouldn’t be too prohibitive, around £90/hour plus landing fees, so not cheap but affordable providing I didn’t fly that often. It was a fantastic experience, one that I will remember for a long, long time. I’d like to say thanks to Jules, Murray, Alexandra and Neve for a wonderful present.

I'll leave you with a picture Dad took over Billingshurst at 1,300 feet flying south towards the coast. It was a great day and I'm glad that Dad could come with me. I look forward to picking him up at Shuttleworth in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Buffalo Michigan

New Buffalo Michigan, originally uploaded by tidy mind.

Another photo is published. This is going to be used on an American Travel site, Radius6 TV. Should be up there very soon. With all the high tech camera gear I have they pick a photo taken with my iPhone :-)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

See you again real soon

I'm writing this entry by the pool in our hotel as Abi catches some last minute rays. We've finally made it back to Phoenix after an epic 19 day tour around the Four Corners. We took Winnie back to the rental depot at 10:30 this morning and apart from the extra mileage charges everything was OK. It's be a remarkable holiday, up there with the best of them. We seen and done so much and the time has flown by.

It's the people that have made the holiday and I'd just like to say thank you to everyone we've met. From Jessa & James in Tucson, to John and Jan in Alamogordo, Jerry in Durango, the motorcyclist we bumped into at Monument Valley and the Dutch couple that helped us get back into our RV. Thanks to all of you.

For me the highlight has to be White Sands National Monument. An amazing place that has to be seen to be believed. I know Abi loved the Desert Museum in Tucson, especially the big cats and the humming birds. Silverton was fantastic and we'll always have the photos we took at Monument Valley.

So here's looking forward to next year....Abi & Rob x

p.s. One final note. After two weeks in an RV I'm sooooo looking forward to my bed :-)

Monument Valley

Please have a look at our photos on Flickr. We spent a lot of time at trying to get the perfect photo at Monument Valley yesterday. I still have some work to do with iPhoto and Photoshop but we're very pleased with the results. Click here for Flickr. In the meantime here is a taste of what we managed to take.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Great days photographing

Yesterday we left Moab (I love that place) at around 10:30 and drove south on route 191 towards Monument Valley. This part of the Southwest is known as the Four Corners. Probably because the four corners of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet. A very arid part of the country but it has some amazing rock formations.

We stopped for coffee just south of Blanding, UT (can't remember the town, it was a blink and miss it sort of place) and chatted to a couple from Durango before continuing our journey (they were proper hardy campers with a tent and a car and that was it! There 3 kids have left home and they're 'touring' ... real style!) We then continued south on route 163 which goes right through Monument Valley.

We stopped short of Monument Valley and spent an hour taking photos. At home in our kitchen we have a large print on the wall of some lovely rock formations and I was trying to take my interpretation of that print. This involved us finding the right bit of road and then waiting for all the cars to disappear while I crouched in the middle of the road to take 100+ pictures. Abi was watching my back and getting a great sun tan at the same time. This area has been made famous by all the movies that were shot here. Just google 'monument valley and movies' to see what I mean. I think I got some pretty good shots but it took some time to get them right. The light is so strong I had to go fully manual and I discovered that playing around with the ISO (film speed) and White Balance helped a lot. Then I was able to fine turn the shots around in iPhoto and Photoshop. I can't upload photos where I am as the internet is so slow. I'll upload them tonight when we arrive at our last destination.

While we were taking photos a motor cyclist stopped to take the same shot. We got chatting and it turns out he lost his job late last year and decided to take a road trip from Detroit to the Southwest (2100 miles). Interesting guy. He had a lovely Honda tourer with all the mod cons. Sat Nav, Radio and a fixed camera to take video of his trip. We all had a drink (it was soo hot) before continuing our respective journeys.

While we were at the camp we went outside, shut the door and for some unknown reason the catch on the back door slipped and locked us out. All the windows were closed except for the very small one above the cab. Abi spoke to some other Cruise America travellers to see if their keys would fit but no luck. Fortunatly a dutch couple helped. Using a broom and the picnic table I was able to put my arm through the small window and flick the latch on a larger window. Then ever so elegantly I hoisted myself through the larger window and unlocked the door. Another lesson learnt!!!

From Monument Valley (Gouldings Lodge) we drive south for about 5 1/2 hours to Camp Verde, AZ. This is our last stop before Phoenix and home. Tonight we'll be clearing out and cleaning the RV and then packing. Not the most exciting of days.

I'll publish the remaining photos tonight and finish up the blog.

p.s. While I'm blogging I wanted to let you all know that I've already planned our next holiday!!!!! Regalrdless of redundancies and work we're going to RV from Seattle to San Francisco next September. Neither of us have been to the Northwest so it should be fun. However, we won't be renting from Cruise America again. Although everything has been OK their RV's are old, ours was built in 2005, dirty and not that up to date (we have a cassette player in the cab for gods sake!!!), Next year it's probably going to be Moutris or El Monte. How are we going to pay for this I hear you say? Stop smoking from next week and cancel sky. That will be more than enough to cover the rental, flights, money, food, gas and plenty of excusrsions. As a plus we'll also be fit and healthy.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

4*4 Photos

Long Canyon Trail, Pucker Pass.

Shaffer Trail

Fins and Things

Fins and Things

I love my jeep

Fins and Things

Fins and Things

Fins and Things

We had a fantastic day taking our little jeep off road. After a 7am appointment at the pancake 'haus' we picked up the jeep up at 7:45. We weren't sure where to go and the gentleman at the hire shop suggested a trail called 'Fins and Things'. Although it was classed as a moderate trail he said he was sure we'd cope. Well it was mainly 'slick rock and sand' and had some vertical climbs and horizontal drops. Rob did all of the driving and did an admiral job - I walked up /down the really scary parts (under the pretence of 'I'll video you my love' ..). There were some stunning views and lots of mad people on mountain bikes, motor bikes and ATV's - some cuts and bruises were obtained, I'm sure!

All in all though it was great and the jeep can withstand some battering and it's just a case of having confidence. The guy in the RV next to us came home yesterday with a few 'bumps and dings' after he'd rolled his jeep and had to get hoisted out ... we didn't try that trial!

As we started early we had a full day of it, although the time went really quickly - we did go back to Shaeffer Trial (along the bottom of Dead Horse Point) and (Long Canyon Trial) Pucker Pass (and it sure did pucker too!) then it was time to return the jeep - in total 100 miles of fun :-)

We got back to the RV and decided to shower all the red sand off - lovely! Then we had a slight plumbing issue in the 'not so clean water' area and Rob had to stick his hand up the pipe and then flush it all through - he feels like a true camper now, but it did mean that a 3rd shower of the day was called for! (Rob here....I was draining the 'black' water tank but the value wouldn't close when I'd finished. I then discovered that the tank wasn't empty and a large wad of toilet paper was stuck in the value. I couldn't leave it as it was so I had to roll my sleeves up and clear it. It was disgusting but at the same time satisfying. Its another string to my bow and a possible career should I lose my current job!!!).

Off to Monument Valley tomorrow - so about a 3hr drive ahead, I want to get there earlyish so we can have a look around and I can hopefully get an hr or two tanning in before the sun goes down!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Todays surprise destination is....Moab..dude!!!!!

Moab Easter Jeep Safari 2007, originally uploaded by HuntWithCharlie

We arrived this afternoon and checked in to our usual abode, the Canyonlands RV Park. It's in the centre of town so it's very convenient. Once we'd got settled we headed down to Cayonlands Jeep Adventures to fill out the paperwork for our rental. Steve hooked us up with a 4.0L modified jeep so we are all set for some serious off roading.

Tomorrow we're up at 6am to be ready for a 7:30 departure. No firm plans yet. We'll work it out tonight. We do know we want to end up at Dead Horse Point State Park (our favourite park) late afternoon to take some shots. To get there we'll probably head up Long Canyon Trail through Pucker Pass. To hardened 4*4 dudes this would be child's play but to us it's a great adventure.

More photos to come tomorrow.