Sunday, October 25, 2009

First flight of Sticky Stuff

Posted by Drew
My father, who has been flying for years, decided several years back to build his own aircraft. There is a certain amount of pride put in to a project when building anything. After 7 years and countless hours of work and research, my father rolled his aircraft out to the flight line for the first time. With no fanfare or spectators, he took to the air. She flew true as a Hawk and was as nimble as a Sparrow. Dad named his aircraft Sticky Stuff. To be blunt, the name relates to the fact that all of his money seems to stick to the airplane. Not a detail was overlooked when he built it, and the craftsmanship is incredible. The aircraft resides in Pennsylvania where my parents still live. Sticky Stuff is an RV-8 aircraft by Vans Aircraft. She has been flying for approximately 2 years, and Dad approached me about flying her almost a year ago.

With my busy schedule and the fact that we are geographically separated by quite some distance it has been a challenge to get out to Pennsylvania and learn how to fly Sticky Stuff. Many people assume that my occupation as an airline pilot would make it easy for me to just jump in and fly this little aircraft, but nothing could be further from the truth. Everything from her control inputs to her performance characteristics demand respect and a thorough understanding before flying solo.

With the help of Dad and Mr. Ed Condon, a good friend of Dad's, I was able to get some great instruction. My dad sent all of the performance publications to me several months ago for my review. When I came out to Pennsylvania we spent a day at the airport hanger. Being able to touch the switches and work through the systems was a great benefit to me. Mr. Condon took me up in his RV-4 home built aircraft so that I could get used to the control inputs and performance characteristics of a similar aircraft.

Anyone can paint flames racing back from the front of a vehicle. Dad decided in keeping with the name of his aircraft that he would paint honey dripping back from the leading edges of her. The picture above shows a close up of the paint job on the wing.

Before soloing I went up for another flight with Mr. Condon. This time I flew Sticky Stuff with Mr. Condon riding along. The above picture shows the two of us strapping in and preparing to start the engine.

After flying in the local area for a bit and getting a feel for the aircraft we came back to the airport and I dropped Mr. Condon off. My Dad, Lucy, and Mr. Condon all watched as I taxied out for my solo takeoff.

Click on the play button above to see a short video of my takeoff.

Of course what goes up must come down. Click on the play button above to see some video of my landing.

I will never understand how my wife runs the video camera and takes a photograph at the same time. Here is a picture of my first landing roll out in Sticky Stuff.

Unfortunately, the sun was setting fast and our vacation had come to an end so we put the aircraft back in the hanger and headed back to my parents' house. That evening we celebrated in style. Dad brought home some beers from around the world and Mom made a delicious dinner with baked apples for dessert. You might wonder why the big hubbub with regards to flying Sticky Stuff? There have been a lot of sacrifices in my family to see my Dad's dream come true. During the building process, I called home one week and at 1PM my mom was making breakfast for my dad. I inquired why breakfast so late? Mom responded that my father had been out in the garage until 2 AM working on the aircraft. There was much time, attention to detail, and dedication put in to the building of Sticky Stuff, and it truly was an honor to be asked to fly her.

New England Tour

New England in the fall? Sounds good!

My sister Michele's step-son got married on October 17 in Monroe, Connecticut. Mom and the rest of the sisters decided it was a golden opportunity to leaf peep. Drew and I made a double family trip out of it by visiting his parents in Philadelphia for a few days before the wedding. I even went a day earlier so I could do the important-to-every-American site seeing and spend some time with my in-laws.

Miskit and Mr. Jordan were fine tour guides. First, we drove downtown, around city hall (pic left)...

...and saw the famous LOVE statue and a giant clothespin statue.

When in Philly, one must eat an authentic cheese steak sandwich. Mr. Jordan found us the original joint at Geno's. Mmm, tasty.

We needed the hearty sandwich to brave the cold, pouring rain* to go to the Liberty Bell.
*And oh did it hurt to read the weather forecast for Salt Lake of 70 degrees and sunny the entire time we were gone.

The display is pretty nice and I learned a ton about the history of this American icon, including that the crack was made larger by filing the sides so that the edges would not vibrate against each another upon ringing. The Pennsylvania State House, where the bell used to hang, is out the window in the above photos.

Across the street, we took a guided tour of Independence Hall

and stood in the very room where the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution were discussed and signed. That very chair at the far side of the room in the picture below is the chair George Washington sat in as he presided over the assembly.

And the Syng Inkstand (pic left) is believed to be the inkstand used to sign these documents. Whoa, the history!

We also visited Reading Market, a colorful place full of good stuff to eat. Miskit bought some fabulous cheese that we enjoyed later that evening and the following night as Drew's great aunt Connie and cousin Richard joined us for another fabulous dinner prepared by Miskit.

Drew arrived a day after I did, so he took me to see his old Boy Scout haunts. Scouts were a huge part of Drew's life growing up. He remembers camping out in the woods near this lean-to where the leaders slept.

My history tour was not complete until we visited Valley Forge, just a few minutes from the in-law's house, where George Washington and the young Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78, while British troops stayed in Philadelphia .

Here I am on the steps of Washington's headquarters, and Drew is in the enlisted men's quarters. There were six beds in there.

Saturday morning we got up really early and drove Miskit's car on the New Jersey turnpike and across the George Washington bridge to Connecticut, where my sister Michele's step-son, Derek, got married. Here are all us sisters and Mom looking good at the reception.

L to R: Jane, me, Jackie, Di, Mom (Rita), Michele

The wedding was nice and later we went to Michele's house where we feasted on excellent food made by Michele's husband Dennis.

The next morning, we headed north through more and more rain. On the drive through Connecticut and Massachusetts we saw a number of cool covered bridges. That is the rental van driving across Bulls Bridge.

Our destination was Vermont. The attraction we chose to visit in Bennington was the Park-McCullough mansion, built by a lawyer with his fortune made in California during the gold rush of 1848. It was a 35 room summer cottage for his family. Some summer cottage!

This is the mansion. You can tell how far I can run in 10 seconds.
Group photo by a cute little playhouse at the mansion. L ro R: Di, Jane, Jackie, me, Michele, Mom.
Then it was on the road again to our bed and breakfast in Arlington.

The Lucy's are a generally frugal bunch, but we splurged for a night at the West Mountain Inn near the small town of Arlington, Vermont.

Our suite included the upstairs portion of the wing to the left in the photo above. We had three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, kitchen, and balcony.

The grounds included gardens for weddings...

and at least four resident llamas.
It was a fabulous New England bed and breakfast.

After checking out our accommodations, Drew, Di, and I had just barely enough daylight left to explore a few of the hiking trails on the inn's property.
But after all that work, we needed to just relax around the fire with beer and pizza in the suite's living room. It was really great to be able to hang out together in a big comfy living room instead of a crammed hotel room.

In the morning we feasted on a deluxe gourmet breakfast at the inn and snapped a few more photos. Above L to R: Mom, Michele, Jackie, Jane, and Di.

We were sorry to leave our cozy inn, but eager to see more of Vermont. While the family took a scenic drive to the top of Mount Equinox, Drew and I had a nice, steep hike on the lower slopes of the mountain.

After our morning activities, the plan was to drive highway 130 to Brattleborough, Vermont, but as our caravan moved through Manchester, we screeched to a halt at the Orvis outlet store. Manchester, apparently, is the New Englander's place to shop. Among the outlet stores were many fine little craft and gift shops through which to browse. After a long debate and search for a suitable local eatery for lunch, which turned out to be a yummy cafe inside an outstanding local bookstore, we finally pointed the vehicles east toward more sights.

A fun impromptu stop along the way was Scott Bridge, the longest unsupported wooden span covered bridge in Vermont. The picture below is me, Jackie and Jane in the bridge, and in the picture below that you can just see Jackie's head poking out of an opening in the bridge.

Pretty fall scene. The leaf colors were actually a little past prime here, although farther south in CT, MA, and PA the colors were very nice.

Another New Englandy site are all these old cemeteries. We stopped to wander in one where I found a headstone dating back to 1810. You just don't see that in Utah.

Drew and I were in the lead car when someone in Di's car texted us and said, "we brake for fudge". Jackie had the keen eye to see this store, which has a big sign that says "QUILTS - FUDGE". If that isn't a pit stop for three quilters and six fudge lovers, I don't know what is. We all hoofed it to the store just before closing time.

Across the road from the store, in Newfane, Vermont are a number of picturesque buildings made even prettier by the fall colors and late afternoon light.

We continued to Hartford, where we spent one last night together before the Midwest crew flew out the next morning. Drew and I delivered Michele home to Southbury, where we said our goodbyes before turning east on a longer, more scenic, and cheaper route to avoid toll roads and traffic. This route took us through eastern and central Pennsylvania and next to the Delaware Water Gap, a must see for any hydrogeologist, and textbook example of stream piracy. In this case of stream piracy, the ancestral Delaware River eroded its way headward through the ridge that now forms the gap and captured the flow of a river running in the valley behind the ridge. Unfortunately, we were unprepared and out of time for a detour to actually see the water gap, and there are so dang many trees in Pennsylvania, that sadly, I had to settle for touching the Delaware River and reading informational signs near the gap.

We ended our 8-day driving tour of New England at the Pottstown airport near Drew's parents' house where his dad keeps his hand-built plane. The next post will be all about Drew's adventures with the plane.

It was a grand trip, and it was good to have fun with our families.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Harvest Visit

Our old friends the Sylvesters were back in SLC for a visit this past weekend. Friend Keri joined us for brunch. It was the first time we broke out all three leaves for the dining room table.

Just one year ago their little boys were so much smaller, but they are still the same little cuties. It was great to see them all.

I harvested the volunteer squash. We have enough acorn squash to eat one squash per week until next year's summer squash are ready. Anyone have any good recipes?

Exploring Vernal Geology by Bike

Note: I first posted this live in April, 2013, three and a half years after I started this post.  I have since moved it back to October 2009, which is closer to when these rides actually happened (Oct 2-4, 2009) 

I had the best of intentions when I started this post, waaaay back in October 2009.  I wanted to do a full-on post about the cool geology under-tire in the Vernal area, but I really only got as far as plotting our rough courses on the geologic maps.  Yesterday, my cousin asked me if we had ever ridden there, so I'm going to throw this post up, hastily, and without proper research.

In October 2009, Steve, Jim, RHandy, Drew, and I road tripped to Vernal, Utah to do some mountain biking on the narrow singletrack Vernal had been getting attention for, like in the June 2009 issue of Bike magazine.

As in many parts of Utah, the geology is well exposed in the Vernal area, and so I tried to take mental notes of what I thought might be the underlying geologic units each time we would traverse some rock ledge or stop at a scenic vista. After our return, I got Drew to show me his Garmin GPS tracks so I could crudely trace them onto the geologic map of the area.Here is what I learned.

Vernal is the heart of the Unita Basin in the Colorado Plateau.  Structurally, it is a basin, or bowl filled with younger and younger sediment toward the center.  Oil and gas are very important extractive industries in the Uinta Basin.  The Unitah and Ouray Indian Reservation is here too.  Water is scarce. 

Day 1 - McCoy Flats area

Upon arriving in Vernal we rode a figure-8 in the McCoy Flats area.

The red, green and blue lines are our rough tracks on the area's geologic map.  Each map unit color represents a different geologic unit from a different time period.  Letters are shorthand for those units or formations.  Lines mostly represent geologic structures such as faults or folds.You can click on this or any other picture in this post to pop up a larger version.

Most of the trails in McCoy Flats are built on the Brennan Basin Member of the Duchesne River Formation (Eocene - 40 million years ago), shown as the peach unit on the geologic map above.  The Brennan Basin Member is made of mostly sandstone and siltstone deposited in river and lake environments, and it has a lot of vertebrate fossils including mammals.  On top of the Brennan Basin Member, shown as the pale yellow on the geo map, is Quaternary alluvium - much younger, unconsolidated to weakly consolidated gravel, cobbles, sand, and silt. 

Here I am riding a trail (hard to see on the photo, as these trails were not very wide, happy day!) on one of the Quaternary alluvium patches draped on the older Tertiary unit.

Siltstone of the Brennan Basin Member erodes into rills.  This trail would be impassable when wet!

After a good little trip around McCoy Flats, it was time to head to the "KOA Kabins" (pic left from the KOA website). The night was cold, but our little space heater kept us toasty in our plastic lined bed.

Day 2 Rojo

After relatively easy trails yesterday, we wanted to try some more technical stuff northwest of town and northwest of Steinaker Reservoir on the Rojo trail. For this, we headed back in (geologic) time.

The Rojo trail starts on Jurassic-Triassic Nugget Sandstone (JTRn - pale green on the geo map below), but the majority of the trail is built on a dip slope of Triassic Chinle Formation (TRc - mint green). The trail is pretty cool. Lots of technical slickrock due to a the resistant sandstone layer that forms the dip slope*.

*A dip slope is a geomorphic feature formed by erosion of softer sediment off a more-resistant, planar unit that is tilted at a low angle.  The resulting surface is the dip slope.

The roughly parallel bands of greens and blues indicate older rocks in the northwest part of the map (the blues and purples) to younger in the southeast part of the map (the light grassy green).  You're looking at the edge of the Uinta Basin.  The center of the basin is to the southeast.  The elongated shape of Steinaker Reservoir is due its location in a strike valley from which softer Jurassic Morrison Formation (Jm) was eroded behind (northwest) of the ridge of Cretaceous sandstones (Kf and Kmd).

The resistant sandstone layer in the Chinle Formation forms a prominent cliff - the trail cuts it pretty close in places! 

Standing on this cliff is standing on the edge of a dip slope of the Chinle Formation.  The softer Moenkopi Formation (TRm) underlies the Chinle.

Here is the view in the other direction looking back at the group.  The cliff edge looks so unreal, but I swear I didn't photoshop this picture.

Day 2 continued: Red Fleet.
After lunch at the Rojo trailhead, we headed over to the Red Fleet area north of town. These trails were super fun.  They weaved in and out of juniper forest and through ravines and over mounds.  Lots of twists and turns. Not too technical, but exciting nonetheless!

Drew on the Red Fleet trails

We rode on fine grained Triassic-aged sediments all afternoon.  The Dinwoody Formation (TRd) is gray or greenish, whereas the Moenkopi Formation is very red. The trails we rode (shown roughly by the blue line on this map) crisscross the contact between the two units several times.  A semi-alert rider will notice the abrupt color change in the dirt over a distance of only a few feet in most places.

This air photo of roughly the same are as the geo map above really shows the difference in outcrop color between the gray and greenish Dinwoody (TRd) and red Moenkopi (TRm)!  Geologists usually map using air photos as a base for their maps - you can see why. 

Drew on a trail on the very red Moenkopi Formation.

And the group traversing the gray Dinwoody.

Group photo. You'd think there was a special on blue Spandex at Walmart!

This is the "Red Fleet", the namesake for the area.  Large red exposures of the Shinarump Conglomerate (a member of the Chinle Fm. TRc) protrude above the landscape, suggesting battleships or the "Red Fleet".

With that sunset on the Red Fleet, we headed back to town for some chow and snooze.

Day 3 - McCoy flats area again.

On our last day we hit the McCoy flats trails again.  This time we rode the green track on the map below.

Click here for Drew's GPS track of the trails we road on Day 3, shown in green on the geo map below.

We found a couple of areas to play in.  I don't remember why I was popping this wheelie.  Probably an accident.

The trails are marked with funny little good trail omens.
More wide open desert on the Duchesne River Formation. 

But rain clouds threatened, so we packed it in and headed for home, waving goodbye to the friendly Vernal dinosaur all decorated for Halloween.

 That was October 2009. We have not been back since - I'm not sure why.  It was definitely worth the trip and Vernal probably has some more "city life" by now. Guess we'd better find some time for another trip.

Sources for this post: 1. The UGS interactive geologic map. 2. "Field Guide to Geologic Excursions in Utah and Adjacent Areas of Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming" James Wilson ed., GSA Rockky Mtn Section Misc. Pub. 92.3, May 1992.  3. Wikipedia