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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

950. Buffalo

nice flight ... no Drama
50 minutes
1200 max AGL

Used new IPad with the FltSkyHi app.  The new mini has a barameter.   Yea!

Saw and buzzed a bunch of buffalo.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

949 Placida

Nice flight.
30 min
max 1200 ft AGL
North West wind 8MPH

No Drama.  I installed the new A assists with the upgraded "Nite Eyes" cable cams.  They worked well.

Monday, December 19, 2016

948 Shell Creek ... Fog

The flight deserves a good write up.
16 minutes duration
1300ft max. alt

It was 68 degrees before first light.  When I left the house it was just hazy but got thicker as I went inland, it was pea soup as I pasted Hwy 75... it was so bad that I missed the turnoff to Washington loop.  I tried to gauge the wind but couldn't get a view of the flags, atop the derrick at the water treatment plant.  Surprisingly at the airpark it wasn't so bad, I could see across the runway and figured that I could probably see well enough to launch and climb into clear air.

While setting up, the fog lifted slightly and I could see clearly from the surface to about 50 feet.  The wind was out of the ENE at 4-5mph.  I inflated without issue and turned down the runway launching about 70 degrees off the wind.    Almost immediately, (50ft/AGL), I was blinded by the fog.   At 250 ft the wind direction changed to ESE and I raced toward Shell Creek at 50mph.  Every once in a while I was able to get a glimpse of the creek meandering below me.  Turning into the wind I steered toward the radio tower which was the only visible landmark.

I was hoping to see through some holes to navigate but was just barely able to make out a few high contrast shapes.  At 1300ft it was cotton candy as far as I could see and it didn't look like it would get any better,  and.... could possibly get worse.  I didn't want to try a blind landing.  The GPS was great for flight data but as a map and navigational aid, not so much.

So... While I could still make out the where the airstrip was I turned back and circled down at the south end of the runway.  I spiraled down at 450ft/min and held my breath.  Finally, I could see Richards house from 100ft AGL.  I turned onto final and glided in.   I overshot the wing bag by several hundred feet but that was just fine compared with landing short and maybe hitting a fence.

This was a really marginal flight but I'M GLAD I DID IT.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

947 Peachtree LZ

It's been a busy day.  Social Sailing in the morning followed by helping a club member buy some folding bikes for X-mas.  Then watching the new H20's arrive and off to Mike's LZ for an evening flight.  The winds were brisk and puffy when we arrived.  Mike and I kited for awhile and when Mike Otten showed up we didn't have any more excuses.  So... Mike n Mike launched and I followed about 5 minutes later.  I don't know,  sometimes you just don't feel the love and this was one of those times. The air wasn't bad, the wind wasn't strong, there was nothing to put my finger on, it just felt wrong.  So, after about 30 minutes of flying in circles I came in to land.

This is not my favorite LZ.  the surface is big time bumpy under the grass.  It feels like they dragged the surface to make irrigation rows and the rows never washed out.   During the run out, the bumps got worse toward the middle of the field and about the time I was at take off speed I crossed some particularly bad terrain.  I could feel the airflow above the wing being disturbed and the trike losing lift.  Eventually I got up and all was good with the world.
This LZ (as I've said) is a bit of a challenge.  The field is ringed by wires and trees.  During takeoff I was launching into the tree rotor and on landing I had to make a short final to land into the wind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

946 Shell Creek

Great flights without drama.

Light breeze at surface, 12 mph above 100 feet .... Probably increasing with altitude.
45 minutes air time.
There was thick ground fog and low clouds moving west off shore.
The first few minutes were pretty cool.  The land was only visible through a few small holes and off to the South East the Radio Tower was poking up through the fog looking like it was 10,000 feet tall instead of 500 ft.
The moisture had started to coalesce by 30 minutes after sunrise and when it was time to land, I had no problem descending through the layer and setting down by the wing bag.

I think I've finally got past the string of incidents where I was breaking lines right and left.  I don't think I'll ever know exactly what the cause was but It appears that I stumbled onto the fix.

Good air, good tunes, and a good time was had by one.

Friday, December 2, 2016

944 & 945

944 was last Wednesday before Stefania came to visit.  No Drama 1 hour 10 minutes
945 was this morning.  Strong winds aloft.  45 minutes.  Hazy morning with level 4 bumps the first 100 feet. Landing was fun with very active flying all the way to the ground.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Flight # 943 Peachtree LZ

I was running hard to meet up with Tony.
Before I could head out to the field....

I needed to dive on the boat.  The prop was fouled with barnacles and there were a few patches where the bottom paint wasn't working.  The zinc was rotten and fell apart during inspection.  One more dive coming up.
I had an appointment with Kurt (GM of Scotty's Brewhouse) to pitch sponsorship of the Leukemia Cup Regatta.  I got there early and had a burger.  He was polite but not too enthusiastic.
Then... drop a bike out to Tire Kingdom.... drive the MR-2 to Tire Kingdom ...  ride the bike home.

Beau was waiting for me as I cycled into the garage.  He knew I was leaving again and was not about to be left behind this time.  He was, begging and pleading the whole time I changed into warmer gear.
I relented and put on his harness.

I almost made it.... As I was getting off the highway I saw Two wings heading south.  It looks like my student has signed himself off.  He called me yesterday and confessed that he has been flying alone for several weeks.  It seems.... the flight I witnessed the last was not his first flight.  Looking back , he didn't act like a guy who had just finished his first flight.  Too cool and composed.

Anyway I launched and flew till sunset without seeing anybody.  Returning to the field I saw their wings by the trucks.   I was still pretty high so I spiraled down and at 300 feet spotted an RC flying over the LZ.  Keeping an eye on him I turned onto a short final, landing mid field.

Mike Lange, Mike Otten, Tony Litten and I jawed for awhile about a possible cross-country to Lakeland.

Launch and landing were clean.  I think I've finally overcome the line cutting problem.  I just wish I knew exactly what was causing the lines to be cut and which of the changes fixed it.
New keepers?    maybe
More careful layout?   maybe but I doubt it
Prop balance?  could be, vibration is certainly lower
Frame repair? nah....
Don't know...Its a mystery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

942 ShellCreek

Good flight
45 minutes
North wind 8 mph

Launch and landing were clean.
The cold and dark made me land.
Otherwise I'd still be there.  :)

940 Shell Creek

Flight 940   One hour and fifteen minutes.  Clear skyStrong breeze above 50 ft, calm at the surface.

This is the first launch without A assists since the shoulder surgery 3 1/2 years ago.  It came off  ok  but I need to move my shoulders back from the hang points.  During the beginning of inflation my arms are pulled back to an unnatural position that could re damage the shoulder.   It also effects normal flight but is only uncomfortable, not a danger.  I'm wondering if the solution would be to change the hang point assembly to a power loop configuration similar to the trike buggy.  The nice thing about the power loop was that I could have my arms behind the beaners.  I'm afraid that major changes would have to be made to make it work.  (Like removing the bar behind my head and reworking the cage bracing and cutting some square tubing and re bracing the hang point bar.

As to the change in the angle of the frame.  Thrust is more horizontal, there is a significant improvement in climb rate. However, cruise RPM is only slightly lower.  With such a difference in climb I would expect cruise would also be dramatically better.   Go figure?  The landings are different in that I burn off energy for a long way before touching down and when I do touch, the Rig is slow enough that there is barely any roll out.  I noticed that toward the end I was putting tremendous pressure on the brakes before touching down.  Prior to this, the back wheels would touch down and the rig would roll a good distance with the front wheel at chest level.   

Friday, November 18, 2016

Beautiful Sunset Flight

#941 Shell Creek Airpark
Winds 5 mph from east
30 minutes

Took out the memory foam from the back of the seat but leaving it on the seat to lift me another inch.
Much better position and I still have plenty of room behind my head.  It's easer to see the trimmer setting and it certainly feels better.
I reinstalled the A assists.  They are easer.  I will see what it feels like in this configuration and decide which way I want to go.

Great Sunset.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Repairs and Reconditioning

#939 Shell Creek Airpark
50 minutes clear skies .... Light breezes

This flight was the first after several modifications.

1) I raised the back of the seat and lowered the front.  I also put 2 inches of memory foam under the seat cover.  I'm trying to reposition my body so that the helmet will not contact with the cross brace (above the motor) and make it easer to reach the wing tip toggles.  
It worked but I'm not sure that it is the final solution.  The new seat position is a few inches forward of where I had it, putting more bend in my legs.  It's not a problem when taxiing but it feels strange when I'm flying.  It has also reduced the size of the seat and its configuration.  Where the original seemed to wrap around me, this one feel likes I'm sitting on top.  I suspect it's more perception than reality because I was just as exposed before this change..... it just feels like I'm, "hanging it out there".  I think that I'm going to try it no pad and with the pad cut into two parts, seat and lumbar.
Never the less.... It worked.  My head was plenty clear of the crossbar and it was easy to reach the toggles.  Its definitely a step in the right direction.
To get a perspective, the back of the seat was touching the air intake pipes behind and below.

2)  I made was a new set of line keepers.  Over the last couple of months I've been having problems with lines being chopped.  In one instance for sure it was an outside wingtip line that was sucked in through the cage.  The other prop strikes ... I saw lines below the keepers as the wing was inflating.  I don't understand how slack lines were getting kicked out.  Even when I took care to position the lines in the keepers, in the same order that they would  leave, lines were being kicked out prematurely.  

The double loop is a bit artsy but the second loop puts a bit more pressure against the lines.  Hopefully this will keep slack outside lines under control until they are tensioned.  Aluminum tape covers the parts of the frame that the lines slide against including below the keeper in case one does go stray. There is electrical tape in the portion that hold the lines prior to inflation, it's  slightly tacky and should protect against lines going slack between the hang-point and the keepers.

3) Belt has been replaced.  It was still serviceable but after 600+ hours, but what the heck?  I didn't think it was slipping much ... I could hear it squeal during take off and climb out occasionally but it never lasted long and the belt was never hot.....  I was wrong.  There is a noticeable increase in thrust and it is certainly quieter.

The flight was great.  I think the new configuration has moved enough weight forward that the front wheel is lower and the thrust line is more horizontal.  I will have to test it but my climb rate seems better and cruise RPM is lower.  This could be a huge improvement in efficiency.  It makes sense that a more horizontal thrust pushes me farther forward under the wing, increasing the angle of attack.  To think all these years I've been doing with a mediocre climb just so I could have my nose wheel a few inches higher.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Back in the Air ... Flight 938

I layed out the Apco and launched.  The new belt is noticeably better.  It might need to be tightened a little more but it is not slipping at all.  When you start the engine there is a noticeable jolt as the prop starts turning.  There was no wind at the surface but I launched into where I thought it was and was rewarded with tremendous climb as soon as I left the surface.  The wind was pulling hard to the left because I had not set the trimmers correctly.  No Excuse....  I noticed that the wingtip steering was not threaded through the loop at the tip.  It still operated fine but it was not cupping the wing in the same way.  The seat needs to be changed.  I'm leaning too far back and my helmet is touching the cage frame.  It's very uncomfortable.

When I got home, I lowered the front of the seat and fixed the wing.  I'm farther forward in this configuration.  My knees are more bent and it might have changed the balance so that the front wheel is lower than I like.  I don't think it is likely to wheelbarrow but I'm going to have be careful.  A nose wheel landing isn't a disaster but it would be tricky.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Tony's First Flight

Today was a milestone.  My first student got his first flight :)
Arrived at the Placida LZ at 6:30.  Winds were 7 from the NE, cycling every couple of minutes.
Tony set up and launched perfectly.  He flew for 30 minutes at 500 ft.  The winds were strong enough at that altitude that he was just barely penetrating.  Landing was excellent.  

His belt needs to be tightened.  It was slipping a little and made his climb-out too slow for my taste.  I could hear it squealing and possibly slapping although I don't know how it could slap with a pulley on the slack side.
He needs to practice with the kill switch ... He had a little trouble finding it and killed the engine late.
I'm going to encourage him to transition to trike.  The rig was bobbling too much for comfort.  I think those big wheels up front are catching the air.  

I'm glad this phase of training is over.  He's finally popped his cherry now and can start gaining experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Great MV video

Here are some of the best videos from this years Gathering

Almost my last flight! Flight 937

During my last two flights I noticed a shift in the frame as the wing started to load up.  I did post flight inspections both times and inspected the main spar by lifting the front wheel and eyeballing the frame from the bottom.  This time I was launching at Shell Creek for the first time since returning from the road trip and the shift was a noticeable shrug.  Once up, I decided that whatever it was ... probably wouldn't reappear until I landed, so I put it out of my mind and enjoyed a nice long flight.  The landing was uneventful.
Back at the house I the post flight exposed the problem.  The main spar is made up of two one inch square tubes.   From the bottom they looked fine but from the side I could see a crack.  I took off the seat and discovered that both tubes were cracked on the top and both sides.  With a little pressure I could make the cracks open slightly.  When I lifted the front wheel and rocked it up and down I could see that there was very little holding the rig together.  Conceivably,  if it didn't collapse during take off, the spar could have let go with me on the breakaway side, only connected to the wing and motor by the seat belt.  I suppose its possible I could have stayed with the rig and landed but more likely, I would have fallen through the seat belt, completing my last flight.  Wow!  It was obvious that the cracks had been there for awhile but I hadn't seen it.

It probably started when I had the crash at Bubba's.  The trike came down hard and bent the frame downward, behind the seat.  I didn't worry about it at the time.  Actually I liked the new configuration because it moved the prop wash slightly upward and lowered the seat and center of gravity.  I joked that it was more like the geometry of the trike buggy.  Well... the top of the tube is were it crimped the tubing and thats naturally where the crack would form.  The side cracks probably opened up recently. At least I hadn't noticed them and I think I would have.

It took Mike Lange no time to repair the spar.
 While I was at it I balanced the prop and installed some bullet proof line keepers.  I also raised the seat about 5 inches and padded it with 2 inches of memory foam.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Two and a half hours out of Conway I saw the glass pyramid that I remember from previous visits.  I pulled off the highway and turned onto Bass Pro Shop Drive.  Huh?  It turns out that, "The Great American Pyramid has been sold and is now a Mega Store.  The tourist welcome center is next door so I stopped and got my bearings.

After getting a city map, I drove to Beale St and found a parking place.  Sunday morning is a quiet time on Beale St.  There were just a few tourists window gazing and enjoying a beautiful day.  I went to the Memphis Jazz Museum and was sorely disappointed when I discovered that it was a privately owned exhibit with a poor selection of exhibits.  "The stuff I saw at the welcoming center was better than this."  After an hour of wandering i heard some jazz and strolled into BB Kings nightclub where a trio and singer were performing.

An hour later and full of BBQ ribs I walked into the sunshine to find the truck and hit the road.  Birmingham Alabama was a good place to spend the night.  The next morning I got up early and drove to Punta Gorda.

Conway Arkansas Flight 936

The drive from Woodward to Conway was 450 miles.  I checked into another Indian operated Motel.  The area looked a little sketchy and I was worried about the rig.  Fortunately I was able to back the truck right up to my door and there was a super market just across the street for dinner.  I'd selected this hotel because it was just a few blocks from the municipal airport.
The next morning I was out and rolling an hour before first light.  I planned to launch as soon as I could see my boots on the pegs.  Following the GPS, I arrived at the airport in 8 minutes ... but ... it wasn't there!  Instead it was a pile of rubble and muddy pits.  I got on the internet and found that there was a brand new airport a few miles out of town.  Back on the road.
The Dennis Cantrell Field is a gorgeous new airport. When I arrived there was nobody around.  I unloaded the rig and waited.  I was beginning to think that there wasn't going to be anyone to ask permission so I started the motor to warm it up.  That woke em up.  A fellow came out of the formerly locked terminal and he quickly gave me a thumbs up.
I rolled around to the back of the terminal and laid out the Eden III.  Perhaps it was the smooth tarmac that allowed the lines to be sucked into the prop.  Maybe I missed something during lay out.  Whatever it was, the Eden III was out of the game with all the B and C mains on the left side damaged.  I was bummed but smiled at my spectator and said... "Time for Plan B" but I also said as I was laying out the Apco, if that happens again, my trip is over.  This launch was flawless.  I flew around the area for about an hour and landed on the apron behind the terminal.  This was the first time I had flown the Apco since Albuquerque.  I found it hard to reach the tip steering toggles and the brakes felt stiffer than I remembered.  It should have been a very comfortable flight but it just didn't feel right.  When I landed there were a couple of new guys watching and I don't think they had ever seen a PPG,  they might not have even seen a PPC.  We chatted for awhile and the first guy I talk to told me that he really enjoyed watching and said I was welcome back any time.  I don't know who he was but I'm beginning to think he was the airport manager.  Thanks Conway!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Nightmare in the Country Woodward Oklahoma

The trip from Colorado Springs was long and without much scenery.  I arrived "Nightmare in the Country", just as the sun was setting.  I was hoping to fly the event but the wind was howling.  Kenton was very busy getting things ready.  He has 100 actors employed as Zombies Vampires and other scary monsters.  It is a first class production that sports 6 separate feature rides and fills his entire property.  
Another piano man who's life has taken a radical turn in another direction.  After the show closed at midnight we dragged into Kenton's house and crashed.  The next morning we went out for breakfast and I hit the road.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Layover in Denver

I spent the next 4 days bopping around Denver to catch up with friends.
After I saw Dawn off I drove to Highlands Ranch where I spent the afternoon with Rex Mangurian.  Rex was working on his Falcon and still in the glow of MV.  Rex and I got to know each other in the early 80's when I was a Factory Rep in the bicycle business.  He has changed very little over the years, still into the outdoor toys and the vices we grew up with.  I thought I had a great garage but Rex has me beat.  Two big Motor cycles and a trick little trike that gimbals... and lots and lots of stuff.  Rex gave me a mason jar out of his garden and I hit the road.
We had a great time talking about the fly-in and whats next.

From Rex I drove to Colfax where I had dinner with the old gang:  Wes Brown, Scott Murphy, Alan Epstein, and Vince Ulliberry.  We have been buddies through thick and thin.  Starting as kids at summer Camp through long and mostly good careers.  We have share adventures that have created a bond that most people will never understand.  That evening I stayed with Stefania.  We watched a little TV and went to bed.

The next morning I did a little shopping and hooked up with my old sailing buddy,  Ray Satter.  We had lunch at a little cafe in the hood that specializes in exotic meats.  I had a venison sausage sandwich to die for.  After lunch he took me to a secret underground garage that I had never hear about.  It was filled with vintage and exotic cars.  Ferrari's, Bugatti's, old Packards, it was quiet a display.   I had Ray drive me over to Marshall Luke's shop which was my next stop.  I just thought that those two should meet and I was right.  Turns out, they had meet years earlier when Marshall was suffering a frivolus law suit.  Ray was the attorney for the complainant and even though they were on opposite sides, they connected over their common interests.  When I knocked on the door and Marshall opened it up the first person he saw was Ray.  The look on his face was priceless.  The three of us spent an hour together looking at his projects and enjoying the moment.  Later back at Rays house he gave me a couple keepsakes from his father Charlie Satter.  An old ships ladder that had been repurposed into an ornamental wall hanging and a beautiful brass port light that must have weighed 30 pounds. A sailing scene painted by Charlie's wife Murkie was behind the glass.

The rest of the afternoon I spent with my old friends Will and Sofia who have kept a shop on West Hampden for many years.  We had a great time catching up and reliving the good ol days.  That night Stefania and I mad plans for her visit to Florida and went to bed early.

Friday morning we got up early and I drove to Bailey to visit my Mom who is staying with my sister Lousia and her husband John.  It was a pleasure to be greeted with a smile by everybody.  I guess time does heal all things.  Mom was looking good and was in good spirits.  Her memory isn't so good but she knows who we are and still surprises me with the things that she remembers.

Danny Hart lives only a couple of miles away on the other side of the highway.  Danny is another old friend.  I have known him since he was 8 years old and a camper at Camp Chief Ouray.  Later he worked for me as a buyer and piano technician.  A few years ago he bought 40 acres of beautiful countryside and installed a world class Frisbee Golf Course.  Last weekend he had a Frisbee Tournament with 60 odd players and lots and lots of party.  Ron Jolly and his trio were the nightly entertainment.  We sat on his back porch and told each other about our events.  Danny also gave me a mason jar from his garden...I was getting a lot of local produce to bring back home.

From Danny's house I drove out to Stapleton when I hooked up with Arnie Poppenberg who is 85 years young.  Arnie remembers me from when I was a baby.  He was a Factory Rep to my Grandfather and Father.  In the 70's he worked for my dad as a salesman when I was going to Regis and working at the store.  When I had my bicycle accident, Arnie was the guy who took me to an athletic club and helped me to get back into the game.  Still going strong Arnie has a beautiful little place filled with moments of the good old days.  We shared a meal and he promised to come visit in the spring.

Leaving my oldest living piano friend, I headed to Lakewood where I caught up with Tom Jensen.  Tom's checkered past includes; being the conductor of the Colorado Ballet, hosting several talk radio shows on KNUS and KOA and for the last 20 years he has been the driving force behind Colorado Symphony's Tiny Tots Program.  A confirmed bachelor since I have known him, Tom has recently married.  They kept both houses and split their time between his old Batchor's pad in Brooks Towers and her Mansion in Lakewood.

From there I drove out to Parker where Marcia Renzi was throwing a birthday party for her husband Phil.  The whole family was there including Marcia's sisters from California.  We had a great time catching up and enjoying Phil's Birthday Cake.  At nine o-clock I jumped in the truck and drove to Colorado Springs where I spent the night at Jerry Kerrs house.

Jerry and his wife Cathy have a lovely home on the southside not far from Meadowlake Airpark.  Jerry and I have shared the skies since 2007, lots of Fly-Ins and lots of airtime.  One of the smartest pilots I know Jerry is the epitome of the Man's Man.  His career includes: Marine sniper, Head of Dallas SWAT, Dallas Helicopter pilot and Manitou Springs Detective.  As a retirement job he signed on to month long stints on the fantail of mega tankers,  picking off Somali pirates.  The amazing thing is that while this guy can be a stone cold killer he is also the sweetest country gentleman that I know.
The plan was to get up early and catch a flight in the morning.  So we watched a little Fox and tried to make sense of the presidential race.

Jerry has been fighting stage 4 Cancer for several years and despite it being inoperable he is still fighting and flying.  As it turned out the winds wire too high to fly in the morning so I saddled up and hit the road.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Moab and the ride to Denver

We spent the night in Moab watching the Presidential Debate between Trump and Clinton.  The next morning I hooked up with my old friend Bill Groff.  Forty years ago he and his brother Robin were the wild men of Moab. Thirty years ago he was running "The Rim" , Moabs first and premier cyclery.  And Moab transformed from a sad remnant from the Uranium boom into the Mecca of Mountain Biking.  Today he is a respected city elder running for office.   Who would have thunk it?   His son is running the bike shop and Bill splitts his time between  Aviation, Hunting, Politics and who knows what else.

Truth is .... he is still the same Ol Bill.  One of the good guys. A guy who always bought a few bike parts when I stopped by.  The last time we had seen each other was hunting Elk  at the Grand Hotel in Peance Creek just before the turn of the century.  Good friends last forever.

We missed the turn off for the longer scenic route back to Denver.   It was a blessing in disguise because we got to Denver in time to drop the rig at John Sieb's house and meet up with the girls for dinner at Luigi's.  I didn't say much.  Memories of family dinners past occupied my mind.  It didn't matter because Olivia was the life of the party with stories from her honeymoon.  I sat and wondered when my little girls turned into the lovely women I was dining with.
We spent the night at the stunning new Marriot hotel at DIA.  
The next morning I walked Dawn to security and called valet for the cab.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Gathering at Monument Valley

Sunday MV

The air was a little sketchy but that didn't keep the "Young Bucks" from jumping into the sky.  I hung at the apron and enjoyed the show.  It was my ninth Gathering at Monument Valley and my last as the organizer.   Slowly the skies cleared.  Mo Sheldon set up for some tandem rides and pilots were launching for one last flight.
Dawn and I said our good byes, cleaned out the Casita and went to the Lodge for lunch.  Scott Laws, the Operations Manager joined us and we had a pleasant hour debriefing and planning for future gatherings.  Barbara, the Restaurant Manger also stopped by and I thanked her for last nights Banquet.
At 2:00 we were gassed and ready to go.   We stopped at the Forest Gump turn off and took the obligatory photo.  On the way to Moab I thought about Gatherings past and wondered if I would ever see my personal Holy Grail again.  I thought back to the first time I'd come to Monument Valley more than a decade ago.    It was May and the reservation was teeming with life,  the wild flowers were blooming, and the arroyos were scoured clean.  I remembered going down to the airstrip and setting up to launch west across the runway.  My first cross country around Mitchell Butte and to the entrance of the part.  The next morning when I flew deep into the park, circling the three sisters and spiraling down on The Hub that is the center of this sacred place.  I thought of the solo flights that could have ended badly if I'd gone down without someone to retrieve me and the guys who had been injured and even died.  Most of all I remembered the magic evening flights with the rocks a brilliant orange from the setting sun and the wings of my friends looking like butterflies playing in a rock garden.   I'd been lucky, many dozens of flights without a hitch.  Time to move on.