Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Centenarian of Cross Country Time

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Winter and Spring weather put quite a damper on my flying, but when the going got good, I got flying.  And lots of it.  A few weeks back I crossed a new milestone — 100 hours of cross country time.  This was on a trip to Gaston’s for the Pilot’s of America fly-in.  Fun trip.  Met some nice folks.  I’m feverishly working toward another milestone I hope to soon post about crossing..

Reflections on 2012

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

2012 was a whirlwind year.  The theme was travel. We spent a lot of nights in hotels.  To the point that I’m a Hilton HHonors gold member now.  We’ll see if I get enough nights or stays this year to keep it (I doubt it).  In 2012 we went to:

  • Cape Girardeau, MO
  • Chandler, OK
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Destin, FL
  • Fort Smith, AR
  • Gallatin, TN
  • Galveston, TX
  • Halls, TN
  • Hot Springs, AR
  • Houston, TX
  • Key West, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Mountain Home, AR
  • Murfreesboro, TN
  • Nashville, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Orange Beach, AL
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Savannah, TN
  • Seattle, WA
  • Shawnee, OK
  • Sikeston, MO
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Stewart, TN
  • Stillwater, OK
  • Tahlequah, OK
  • Tampa, FL
  • Walnut Ridge, AR
  • Washington, DC

In addition, I think I added another 80 or so hours of PIC time.  Most of that was cross-country time and included my longest cross-country yet in a trip back to Oklahoma.  I learned a lot on that trip.  I also got a little more progress in my goal to fly in old aircraft.  In Hot Springs I got a ride in the Missouri CAF Wing’s B-25 “Show Me”.  In Little Rock, I got a ride in the CAF’s C-45 “Bucket of Bolts”.  And from a winning raffle ticket I got to log some time with Dr. Ray in his SNJ.  That was a an exciting flight.  Hopefully 2013 is just as exciting.


Reflections On 2011

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Wow. 2011. What a year.  Going into it I had some expectations.  I’m not one to have too many expectations as I’m always surprised what a year brings, but 2011 I went into with one — to get back into flying.  And I did.  It took a little more time than I thought.  I think it was about 8 weeks for me to get things lined up and get my third class medical (with restrictions for colorblindness that I didn’t have previously).  Then there were a few more weeks as I went through re-familiarization and a flight review (and getting checked out in plane models I hadn’t flown previously).  I don’t have my exact hour tally here, but I flew close to 50 hours this year and it’s been amazing to be back at it again.  The Cessna 162 I put a lot of that time in even has a glass cockpit.

Technology like that has really changed aviation.  My first experience with using a GPS for flight navigation was last year in a G1000 equipped Cessna 182.  I was amazed.  It was like I was on the Enterprise.  Well, in getting back to flying this year, the two planes I’ve been flying (a Cessna 172S and a Cessna 162) both have GPS.  To top it off (and for when I’m in something else eventually) I got my iPad setup with ForeFlight for geo-referenced electronic sectionals and AFD.  Honestly, I like that setup better than the built-ins on the planes.  I remember cross-countries used to be nerve racking for me as I was sure I’d get off course and mistake landmarks resulting in me getting lost.  No more.  Now it doesn’t take nearly as much concentration and leaves more attention for the flying and scanning for traffic tasks.  One more nice bit of cockpit convenience is my Bose A20 headset.  Past experience had left me weary of noise canceling technology, but enough positive reviews led me to bite the bullet and give them a shot.  I can happily say that they work amazingly well.  Noise fatigue is nothing to mess with and I’d like to keep my hearing, so I consider this a great investment.

One last bit of technology has changed my flying and non-flying life — lasers; specifically LASIK.  I’ve thought about it for years, but finally went for it.  I’m still recovering, so I won’t be flying for at least another couple months, but if everything stabilizes correctly I’ll be able to get around without my glasses.  It sounds innocuous enough, but without my glasses I was totally blind.  If something ever happened to them while flying there would be no possible recovery as I wouldn’t even be able to see the instruments.  Hopefully, I’ll be back in the air this spring.

Being out at the airport I’ve had the chance to see, hear, and feel some beautiful old warbirds and it sparked a desire to get some experience with them.  I decided to make it a goal to fly in as many old aircraft as I can before they’re gone.  I’m not limiting myself to warbirds, but that’s the typical implication.  So, I had some success with this too.  I got 0.7 hours dual in a Boeing Stearman.  That was amazing.  We did basic familiarization maneuvers and a whole series of different stalls (some of which I had never done before).  I’m hoping to get some more time in it.  It gives me the desire to go get my conventional gear and high performance endorsements.  I also got rides in a couple of WWII bombers that came through the area.  First was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”.  That experience really deserves it’s own post.  It was incredible, though.  Then at the end of the year, EAA’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast” came through the area offering rides.  That was another experience deserving of its own post.  Most striking was just how much the technology developed and changed in the relatively short time between the development of the two bombers.  I’m looking forward to what 2012 might bring on this front.

One more cool thing to add to my aviation high points for the year — flying under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Yes, we really did it.  I have the photos and video to prove it.  I didn’t think it would be possible, but during a helicopter tour of San Francisco the pilot offered and we hardily took her up on it.  It was incredible.  Definitely a high point.

We’ve done a bit of other travelling as well.  I attended a conference in San Jose and stayed for the weekend to do some sight-seeing in northern California (I’d never been before).  Shinta flew out too and we even met up with some old friends.  We crammed a lot in, but it was a good trip.  Because we were “close”, we had to go see the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This is another one of our “things” now.  We try to see big aquariums.  The other “things” are Segway tours, helicopter tours, and fancy food.  So, on this particular trip we also went to see the giant trees, famous San Francisco landmarks, and Pebble Beach.  Neat, but short trip.

We drove out to Atlanta for Independence Day weekend (returning before the actual day).  That was a whirlwind.  We went to the famous Georgia Aquarium (which was completely awesome), the World of Coke, and got a tour of CNN Center.  We also worked in a Segway tour which led to a dinner at Ted Turner’s Bison steakhouse (very tasty).  Who knew he owned the most bison in the country.  Neat city and we’ll have to visit some more to explore.

We made a trip out to New York City this year too.  We went up to see the sights and hang out with friends.  I absolutely had to have lost some weight with all the walking we did.  I had some good shoes and my feet hurt daily.  We walked all over Manhattan (at least it felt like it, and I have the GPS tracks to prove it).  We also saw a couple of Broadway shows (Spider-Man and Chinglish), ate some awesome food, and saw the sights.  Amazing city.  It’s incredible just how much there is there.

So 2011 was a great year.  I wonder what 2012 will bring.

Target mobile. Target iOS.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I work in eCommerce.  In the last year I’ve seen a number of presentations touting the push into mobile web.  I don’t doubt it.  I’ve seen some numbers showing significant growth in mobile web utilization in our own customers. My question has been about where and when to focus that energy.  I’m not anymore.  Do it now.  Do it for the iPhone (iOS really).  Keep Android in mind while doing it.

Maybe it’s bad to base my conclusion on anecdotal evidence of basically a single observation, but my gut is shouting loud here.  I was in Singapore on Friday.  It was a 12 hour layover, so we (the wife and I) took the free Singapore tour and then decided to see the sights some more.  We wound up wandering pretty far from the airport (Changi).  For the return we decided to try the subway.  At one point, while the train was pretty crowded, something dawned on me — everyone had an iPhone.  I mean everyone.  Even me.  More surprising — they were mostly iPhone 4′s.  Some were playing games, some surfing the web, some on calls, some listening to music, some were texting, and some just pulled them out to check the time.  This is on a subway at almost 23:00 packed with people (on a Friday night).  There was that much disposable income standing around.  I had noticed several people with iPhones and iPads in the various airports we had been in and out of, but that’s sort of expected.  Here we were on a subway with normal folks going about their lives, not just transiting the international terminals.  We passed through a good 15 stops including a transfer station and crossed a good portion of the city.  Very few people went all the way to the airport like we were, so it wasn’t just travellers happening to be on the train with us.  Lots of folks would flow in and out of the train at the stops and it was the same the whole time — tons of iPhones, and a significantly large portion being iPhone 4′s.

So, target mobile. Target iOS.  Keep Android in mind (I say that because I’ve met a number of folks that refuse to get iPhones and only see Android devices as their alternative).

Micro-sim in Malaysia

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

We were in Malaysia recently (more on that later).  We brought along our iPhone 4′s intending to get some pre-paid sim cards so we could use them while travelling.  Well, the iPhone 4 and iPad both use micro-sims and not just plain sim cards.  I knew this already and started researching it before the trip.  From the press releases I saw, Maxis had them out and it was big news to iPad owners who’d brought them in on the grey market.  Users on some forums rejoiced.  So, I had little doubt we’d be fine.  After arriving, it was another story.  Cellphone shops are plentiful.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing a plethora of them.  Honestly, I don’t know how they all stay in business.  The market must be huge.  We went to several shops and we got a lot of blank stares when we asked about micro-sims.  We were told there were no such things.  We were told we were looking for SD cards.  We were told they weren’t in Malaysia yet.  I said I had read a Maxis press release and eventually was pointed to an official Maxis store.  They did have them, but would only sell for post-paid accounts.  There was no way I’d sign up for a 1 or 2 year contract to use for 3 weeks.  I recalled that you could cut down a regular sim to micro-sim specs, so I asked around about that as well.  Nobody had any idea.  It took 3 or 4 days, but my brother-in-law brought us a cut down pre-paid sim.  He’d found someone that had a cutting tool.  We were up and running — even with 3G data.

Now, that’s were my happiness wanes.  We were on DiGi.  I’m not sure if Maxis or Celcom were the same, but my DiGi service was less reliable than I’d have liked.  Hand-off between towers wasn’t too smooth.  3G data could be spotty.  By that I mean that despite having the 3G icon show up and even full signal bars (with iOS 4.0.2), data would stop working.  I found some consistency in the data issues depending on location.  Occasionally, though, I’d even get the ability to tether and that was wonderful.  Speeds when data worked was quite good.  Cost was reasonable too.

Near the end of our stay, the iPhone 4 was officially released by Maxis and DiGi, so I expected compatibility to be remarkable.  I think it improved slightly after the release, but not much.  Oh well, it was only 3 weeks.

8 years later … I logged another 2.6 hours

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Well, it’s been 8 years, but I finally logged another 2.6 hours of time flying. On Saturday I got to do a little cross-country flight to Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, AR. A few weeks back, I got an e-mail newsletter from CubCrafters listing that their network of dealers will be hosting “Demo Days” throughout the month of June. These are demo sessions across the country promoting LSA and CubCrafters’ Carbon Cub SS. I’ve not seen many LSA, and the Carbon Cub SS is a development I’ve followed, so I took a list of Demo Days events and looked where the closest one might be — it was in Lakeview, AR. That was just close enough to entice me, but still too far. It’s a 4.5 hour drive and at this point I’d have to do the visit in a day trip. That’s just not happening, so I decided to look into air-taxi as I’d seen one advertised before by Downtown Aviation. It wasn’t going to be cheap, so I actively recruited other aviation buffs to join me and help defray costs. I only had one taker, but every bit helps. Downtown Aviation was willing to structure the flight as a training flight to help save us some money. I really appreciate that. So, come Saturday, we loaded up in a Cessna 182 and made a cross-country training flight out to Lakeview and it was a blast.

Gaston's White River Resort


Sky Diving Pics

Monday, November 13th, 2006

After all these years, I finally got around to getting the negative scanned.  I’ve posted them up.  For all those that thought I was pulling their leg here’s the proof.  These are from December (I forget the exact date) 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Actually, it may technically be Henderson, Nevada, but I don’t know where the exact boundaries are.

Air Power Arkansas 2006

Monday, November 6th, 2006

So, we went to the air show in Little Rock (well, technically Jacksonville, but it was at “Little Rock Air Force Base”) on Saturday.  You know it’s a sign of things to come when you don’t even set your alarm correctly.  The plan was to get up at 5:30am and be ready to hit the road at 6:30am so we could get there a little after the gates opened.  I actually woke up around 5am, but stayed in bed waiting for my alarm to go off.  After a while I start to wonder, because I saw the faint light of daylight coming through the window.  I check the time and it’s just past 6am.  So much for my alarm.  As we’re getting ready it goes off.  I had set it for 6:30am, not 5:30am.  We rush to get ready to go, which means we’ll forget something.  Camera? Check.  Cash? Check.  Extra Battery? Check.  Ear Plugs? Check.  Directions? Check.  Okay, we must be ready to go.  Then, out of habit, we get on I-40 East instead of West.

After we get turned back around it’s smooth sailing–until an hour later when I remember that we forgot our folding chairs.  When we get to the exit for the show, things are working fairly well.  The police are manually directing traffic instead of letting the street lights get things backed up.  We enter the base’s main entrance in a very long line of cars.  As we come up through one of several points where armed soldiers are directing traffic we get randomly selected to go through the security check line.  That was pretty painless, actually.  It just feels funny seeing uniformed soldiers with M4′s, M9′s, and German Shepards going through cars.
After that, we just follow the huge line of cars down the road.  I don’t know how big Air Force bases tend to be, but this one felt pretty large to me.  Most of the driving down the “entrance” felt like normal roads with few signs of being a military installation.  Eventually we get to the parking area, which is actually just a very large section of tarmac roped and blockaded off for parking.  It was quite organized.

We got parked, hydrated, suited up (still a little cold) and headed toward the entrance. They had security screening there with metal detectors (not really set very high) and bag searches.  That went quickly.  And then we were inside.  Notice nothing about tickets?  There were none.  That was a pleasant surprise.  Programs were handed out for free too.  Not that the schedule was accurate, but it was a good gesture, and the programs were of very good quality otherwise.

The static displays were outstanding.  Directly by the entrance was a C-5 Galaxy from Altus (there were several aircraft from Oklahoma Air Force bases) setup almost like a gateway in that you could choose to walk right through it.  The static displays consisted mainly of current Air Force aircraft, but there were several from the Navy, Marines, Army, Coast Guard, and private groups.  The military aircraft were a very nice cross section of currently deployed machines.  I was particularly happy to see the F-22 (I had never see one in person), the F-117, and the B-52.  Being the “Home of the Herk” (C-130′s), they had several varations of the C-130 on display and to me it was educating.  It marks the first time I had seen the J model with the new engines and props.  It is quite odd looking to me, but the benefits sound quite good.  I noticed that the V-22 wasn’t there.  The website for the show indicated it would be.  I didn’t see any UAV’s either.  An interesting aircraft I saw was the AN-26 with the question mark on the tail.  I take it that it’s a private carrier, because it had nearly no markings.  A google on the N number shows it’s owned by a “SRX Transcontinental Inc.” since June 2005 from the Russian Air Force for $72,500 (which seems insanely cheap to me).  This one makes me feel funny.  Probably best not to ask too many questions about it as it’s supposedly the only AN-26 in U.S. registration.

The show portion of the show was pretty good too.  I have a general preference for high performance prop planes doing extreme aerobatics, so the show was a little lacking to me (only 2 such acts).  Seeing the Red Baron team do their thing is impressive.  They really have some amazing skills to do what they do, but it just doesn’t get my heart pumping like watching the late Eric Beard do some pretty gyroscopic stuff in his Yak-54.  The two acts that fell into this category were quite good.  I forget their names right now, but the one in the pink SU-26 was an outstanding performer.  I just assume he didn’t have the low level waiver, because it seemed like he was so far back from the line (both up and away).  The quality of the routine was outstanding, but it just felt less engaging due to the distance.  The pilot in the Pitts was certainly more engaging with a lower and closer act.  He really got my attention.  The Canadian CF-18 demo was good.  The Viper West demo was alright (fairly routine).  The F-15 demo was interesting.  I don’t recall seeing that one before.  The E-2 was interesting simply in how low they flew it in 90 degree banks.  The C-130 cargo and troop drops were cool in the scope of their demo.  The flights were huge and were so cool to watch.  Shockwave was okay.  It felt rushed, because I’ve seen him do longer acts at other shows.  The “other” F-16 demo was good.  The heritage flight was good.  I really loved the F-86 — it was beautiful.  Fat Albert’s JATO launch was the same as before.  The Blue Angels were flawless yet again.  They truly are a precision demonstration team.  If only I had a chair for the 6.5 hours of flying.

Pics are up:


Little Rock AFB Airshow

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Just a note to any aviation fans in the region, the Little Rock AFB Airshow is this coming weekend.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it.  It’s about a 2 hour drive each way, which will make for a long day, but it’s all about the big picture.  From what I see listed on the website I may need some more memory sticks.


Sky Fest 2006 Pics Up

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

We went to Sky Fest 2006 in Jackson, TN on Saturday. It was a blast. The turnout was quite good. This is definitely one of the smaller shows I’ve been to, but it wasn’t bad in the slightest. There was a bit more of a carnival atmosphiere (ferris wheel, petting zoo, etc), but the show itself was top notch. There were a few more static displays at the Tunica Air Races last year. I think space may have had something to do with it, as the airport isn’t very large. I’m not complaining, though. The size also presented some more comforts I’m not used to from larger shows. The announcer stated that there had been a 3 year hiatus since the last show, so I hope this sticks around for the future. Check out the multitude of pics: