Monday, July 30, 2007

Oshkosh, B'Gosh

Hi everybody! ("Hi, Dr. Nick!" -- sorry, I'm seriously jonesing to see the new 'Simpsons' movie.)

Wow... what a week. I'm happy to report Aero-News kicked serious ass with our coverage of AirVenture 2007. It involved a lot of hard work from everybody involved... but I'd confidently pit our print, audio and brand-new Aero-TV coverage against anyone else's out there.

The professionalism shown by our new print stringers and video journalists simply floored me... especially when we had to cover an unfortunate accident at Wittman Field on Friday. It's a lesson we'd have preferred to not have experienced... but everyone came together, as the professionals we are, and we got the job done. Nothing impressed me more than having several of the stringers call me as news got out -- such situations are referred to as "all-call" events at ANN -- and their first questions to me were, "where do you need me to be?"

So now, after a grueling long series of 'Northwerst' Airlines flights (at least my flights weren't cancelled, unlike 13 percent of that wannabe-airlines' schedule this weekend -- the industry average is less than one percent) I'm back in the 'Burque, where I'm looking forward to not having to go anywhere for awhile.

Maybe the apartment will now start to feel like "home," and less like a large hotel room that, somehow, has all my furniture in it. And I guess I'll have to break down and get a New Mexico license plate and driver's license now, too.

Back to Oshkosh for a moment... like I said, we covered AirVenture like a high-thread count news-reporting blanket (I apologize for my metaphors -- this is what happens when you sleep in, and have your morning coffee at noon.) But there were moments for some "fun," too... as seen below.

I was able to grab some stick time in a new light sport offering from Poland, called the Gobosh G-700S. Like others in the segment -- including the SportStar -- it's an all-metal plane, low-wing, with a bubble canopy. The cockpit is a little snug (that's my own fault, not the plane's) but surprisingly comfortable, and the plane flies much like any other low-wing LSA.

As you can see, Aero-TV was there, too, covering the flight... including video of my less-than-stellar takeoff. I over rotated the plane -- it seemed more sensitive to pitch inputs than the Sport  (though again, much of that was my own fault.) The flight itself was very nice; I was able to experience "VFR on top" for the first time, where you climb through a gap in low-hanging cloud cover to fly in visual conditions on top, in bright sunshine and blue skies.

I'll post more when I have time. For now, though... pass the green chile!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Floating Birds, Hummingbirds... Wounded Birds

I awoke Tuesday morning to a familiar whoooosh sound. Familiar... but foreign, too. It took me a few seconds to place it.


I rushed out onto the balcony -- camera in hand -- and caught some quick pictures of the first official hot air balloon sighting of my return to New Mexico. "Official," because this was the first time I was able to capture photographic proof; I saw one a LOT closer to the apartment last Saturday, but didn't have my camera at the time.

So, that was a pretty neat way to wake up, I think. Come Balloon Fiesta time, this place should be a neat spot in the mornings.

As I type this, I'm preparing to head north of Seattle, for the annual Arlington air show. I sincerely hope I make it there, as the trip is on US Airways -- rated in most major polls as the single worst airline in the country. Should be fun. I leave EARLY Thursday, get back EARLY Monday (as in, 3:00 am) and then have all of three days to get ready for Oshkosh, which already looks to be an arduous show.

I bitch... but it's better than sitting in a cubicle.

In addition to propane burner wake-up calls, I've also been able to become reacquainted with some other trappings of the Land of Enchantment, too. I have regular hummingbird guests to my feeder -- I hadn't realized how much I missed hummingbirds!

Sunday, I drove my Mom and I up to Sandia Crest... a tourist-y thing, OK, but it was also cool to be in the mountains again. And, it should be noted, at an altitude of 10,678 feet -- over 10,000 feet higher than standing outside my door in Addison. My former door in Addison.

And speaking of Texas... I stumbled upon the reason why "my" plane went down for repairs the week before I left Dallas. There's an NTSB report on it, which is never a good sign. Turns out a crosswind caught the plane during takeoff from Grand Prairie, and sent the plane off the runway and into a shallow drainage ditch. As the prelim states, one of the maingear legs and the nosegear gave way... which probably led to wing damage, as well as a prop strike and, maybe, engine damage (the blades of the plane's Woodcomp prop are designed to splinter off, which in theory saves the engine from seizing.)

Both people onboard are OK, which of course is the most important thing... but N676EV is the first plane I've ever flown, that later got wrecked. I honestly don't know if it will ever fly again; it's off the schedule completely at Aviator. If it is repairable, it's down for the count for the foreseeable future.

This sounds weird... but I kind of feel like a friend got hurt, and I'm now in a different state and not able to make it out to see if they're OK or not. Yeah, I'm anthropomorphizing... but planes tend to lend themselves to that, and this little airplane represented more to me than most. So I'm not apologizing.

I hope you fly again, my friend.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Deja Vu Uv Ajed

Wow. I still can't believe I'm back here. Settling back into life in New Mexico has been all about coming to terms with the mix of the old with the new.

The apartment is new... and big... and very much to my liking. I'm really happy with how everything came together -- I spent the morning of the Fourth of July putting the larger items in their proper places, and throwing the rest of it into closets and the second bedroom/office. 

(Most of that has been sorted out today.) My old furniture looks better here, than it did cramped into my one-bedroom pad in Dallas.

The old is far more prevalent. Already, I've been to my old Wal-Mart... my old Albertson's grocery store... my old Starbucks. Tomorrow, I plan to get the Mazda washed at my old car wash, and meet some friends at my old Gardunos. All are places I used to visit regularly when I lived nearby, and in the North Valley. Driving through Corrales feels exactly the same as it used to, three years ago. So does driving down Montano.

There are even more buildings and businesses around here than when I lived at Cottonwood Ranch in 2000... and I thought there were a lot then. But it was very refreshing to drive down Coors Road at 8:45 am Monday morning -- still in the heart of rush hour in Dallas -- and marvel at the almost complete lack of traffic on the busy corridor. Albuquerque is a sleepy town, even in the mid-morning hours, compared to the metroplex.

I'll admit, there have been many things to make me feel right at "home" here, again. Watching the fireworks show at Balloon Fiesta Park from my balcony last night, with my friend Jen, was cool. Seeing a hummingbird use my feeder Wednesday morning -- it was one of the first things I set up after I moved, I really missed seeing hummingbirds in Dallas -- also gave me a heartened feeling. Ditto seeing a roadrunner scurry across the road as I drove to pick up my DVR player from Comcast on Monday.

Okay Albuquerque, you have one last chance. I've ran from you twice before -- the second time was much more well-reasoned than the first -- and I've come back to you every time... each time, somewhat against my will. But I swear, this time I'll try to appreciate you more than I have before.

I will admit, you've given me a good first week back.


The trip here wasn't as fraught with drama as it could have been, I guess. But it had it's share of angst, something that was almost totally lacking from my experience moving out to Dallas three years ago.

Loading up the truck couldn't have gone more smoothly. Lee showed up with the truck right on time; Shoe followed a short time after, followed by Quinn and then her hubby Monk. We had the truck completely loaded up in just over an hour, and managed to just avoid the rain. "OK, one-third of the move is complete," I told myself with relief Friday night, as I followed Lee in the truck back to his house, where I was staying overnight. The plan called for us to head westward first thing Saturday morning.

And then I noticed Lee had the hazards flashing on the truck... and that he was driving along a bit slower than normal. I called his cell number... and, essentially, told him "Don't f*** with me, stop acting like there's something wrong with the truck."

He wasn't acting. Somewhere along 121 towards McKinney, the truck dropped fourth gear. It wouldn't upshift, no matter what Lee tried, and as a result it couldn't go much over 50 mph.

So, instead of heading out Saturday morning, we slept in a bit and then tackled the problem of trying to convince a mechanic to come out and take a look at things. One agreed to, but he was out in Fort Worth and didn't think he could get out to McKinney -- on the opposite extreme side of DFW -- until mid-afternoon. Which left Lee and I to attempt to diagnose the problem.

Despite all the symptoms indicating the problem was a air leak coming from around the "boots" that connected the engine's turbocharger to its intake system, Lee remained convinced the problem was with the transmission. We had checked the fluid last night, and it had shown low. But there were no other signs of tranny trouble; the truck shifted normally until hitting the wall in 4th, and there was no smell of hot or burning tranny fluid.

Still, with a hard deadline of meeting the movers in ABQ (who had already graciously agreed to move off my unloading appointment, from Sunday morning to late afternoon) we weren't going to leave any stones unturned. So off we went to the auto parts store, to find transmission fluid.
Which worked. After an hour of testing the truck by driving around McKinney, Lee pronounced it fit for the open road.

After debating whether to head out right then and there -- by now, it was pushing 4 pm -- or waiting until Sunday morning, we opted for the latter. That gave all of us -- me, Lee, Diana, and the kids -- one more night together in Dallas. Diana made a great dinner, we all played "Guitar Hero" on Playstation II (I now have a newfound respect for guitar players) and I screened the awesome skating video Monk and I had spent the past 17 months recording (seriously... the vid kicks so much ass, it could have its own summer blockbuster.) All in all, it was a really nice, last night in Texas, with my "second family."

The next morning at 5 am, we were on the road. Lee's stepdaughter Aarynd rode with him in the truck, and the other three kids piled in the Mazda with me (they were on their way back to ABQ to spend some time with their dad.) Despite driving more or less straight through from Dallas to Amarillo, we did not meet up with Lee until west of AMA.

Though we were delayed 45 minutes due to a traffic jam on I-40 -- caused by a semi that caught fire and essentially melted east of Tucumcari -- we were still making pretty good time. But it was going to be tight... I had told the movers to meet us at the apartment at 5:30. It was 2 pm by the time we were free of the traffic.

Somehow -- and I'm still not sure how this happened -- everyone met up in schedule. After transferring the youngest to my car in Moriarty, I dropped the kids off at their dad's in southeast Albuquerque, as Lee headed to the apartment. He beat me to the apartment by three minutes, and the movers arrived within five minutes of that. My friend Jim met us as the movers were unloading their equipment... and 90 minutes later, everything was unloaded, hauled up the stairs, and placed wherever it would fit in my apartment.

Hard to believe that was only five days ago.