Jun 042014

Arriving in Kenai

After landing at Kenai airport, I was picked up by Tony, one of Nate’s friends who had the keys to the airplane and gave me a ride to the Soldotna airport. This is only my second time in Alaska, but I get the distinct feeling that people here are kind of like the land and its inhabitants – a bit wild, but untainted and therefore open, friendly, and trustworthy. Tony was super nice and took me to lunch where I had a bleu ribbon burger – something I hadn’t had in a very long time due to my training for figure competitions. But, I figured today I would need the extra calories from a hearty meal.

We then drove to the airport and I found ol’ Moose just as pretty as ever. I checked him over thoroughly and everything was in order. The only thing that had to be done was wipe down the windshield which was covered in ash! Just 3 days ago, a volcano southwest of Anchorage started erupting, sending plumes of smoke and ash across the area.

Rugged terrain

I pulled the tri-pacer out, hopped in, went through the checklists and was ready to start the engine. I even yelled, “CLEAR” out the window and then was dumbfounded by the fact that I had forgotten where the starter switch was. I had been feeling particularly proud of myself for remembering all the other oddities of flying Moose – the master switch being under the pilot’s seat, the brakes being activated by a handle under the instrument panel, the radio master switches being hidden from view by the yoke. I had even reviewed the owner’s manual and it never mentioned where the starter switch was. I felt around some more and then finally found it – a button under the pilot’s seat, below and a little to the left of the master switch.

Turquoise Lakes

The engine started right up and it was like old times. I taxied out, did the run-up, and took off to the west. Climbing up to 5,500ft I turned east and headed towards Anchorage. Following the highway, I landed in Gulcana a couple hours later. It was a little gusty with the wind out of the south and gusting to 16 knots, but the landing was uneventful. I fueled up and called the Caribou motel some 6 mi away. I had called the night before and they assured me that they would send someone out to pick me up, but before they did, a nice gentleman at the airport drove over, stopped in front of Moose and said, “That’s pretty!”

“Yep.” I said as I reeled the fuel line back in.

“Did you just have it redone or something?” the stranger asked.

“No, it was redone years ago….a long time ago. Where can I tie it down for an overnight stay, do you know?”

Galcier under blue skies

The stranger showed me where the transient parking was and said I wouldn’t be charged any fees for just a one night stay. He then offered to drive me into town and drop me off that the motel. Once in my room, I emailed my parents who, I was sure were anxious to hear that I had landed for the night safely. I then plugged all my electronic gadgets for charging – my phones, iPad, GPS, and laptop….I know, a bit overcooked, but it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

Solo pilot selfie

I walked over to the restaurant next to the motel and ordered a chicken salad and since today was my high-carb day….I had a brownie and ice cream for dessert. While I ate, I called CANPASS, the Canadian border patrol, and informed them of my planned arrival into Whitehorse tomorrow. I also filed my eAPIS manifest through the FlashPass App to satisfy the US Customs and Border Patrol, and got my VFR flight plan ready to file tomorrow for my flight into Canada. Now I just have to remember to open the flight plan tomorrow once in the air.

Caribou Hotel in Gulcana, AK

So, now I’m settling down for an early start tomorrow. I’m expecting good weather again and hope the flight is as uneventful tomorrow as it was today.

CLICK HERE for Part 3

NOTE: The names of individuals have been changed to protect their identity (except Moose – to find out how Moose got his name, read Part 1)

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