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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

pleasure bend and back

i just returned from a 4-day trip to and from bend, oregon with my friend, fred, to pick up a kestrel 17 glider he just bought.

fred's new kestrel in flight

the trip north was very pleasant and started of nicely just a few minutes after we left carson city when we encountered an adolescent bald eagle that landed on a pole as we approached the intersection of highways 395, the mount rose highway and the comstock highway in the south end of the truckee meadows. as the day progressed, we encountered 5 more eagles: 3 golden eagles and 2 f15 eagles landing near klamath falls, oregon.

the drive from just north of reno to bend was scenic for most of the drive and uneventful, although we encountered a snowy pass about 40 miles south of bend.

we checked into our rooms on the south end of bend, kicked back for a while and hit an almost suitable mexican restaurant for dinner.

on the following day we grabbed breakfast at the black bear diner and headed northeast out of town to the bend municipal airport to meet with the owner of the glider, who didn’t show up until 9:30; a half hour late.

the ground around bend was covered with about 5 inches of snow and on the day we went to inspect the aircraft, the wind was blowing like crazy. fortunately, the glider unloaded easily from its trailer and reloaded just as effortlessly. after the inspection, we went over to the café at the airport for fred and the previous owner to finalize the deal.

the previous owner's first flight in "oscar zulu"

after we finished that, fred took me to one of the hangers where a glider that is being built to fly up to 90,000 feet. the perlan project is quite an impressive piece of engineering. i got a chance to pick the fuselage off its stand and could do it with just one hand. the entire aircraft will be made from composite material. in addition to the fuselage, i also got a look and the very long and slender wings (80+ feet wingspan). the one i saw is the phase two aircraft; the phase three bird will be built to soar to 100,000 feet, which, ladies and gentlemen, is on the fringe of space!

as we made our way back to town, it began to snow.

for dinner that night we hit kayo’s steak and seafood. we shared an order of steamed mussels, had cups of french onion soup, fred had salmon and i had linguine in clams with garlic and white sauce and were much more satisfied than the previous night’s meal.

by the time we got back to our rooms, the snow was beginning to come down pretty steady. predictions were up to 5 inches in bend and up to 8 inches in some of the areas we would encounter on the following day on our trip back home.

because of the weather predictions, we had considered staying in town one more day for things to clear, but on the next morning, the sun was shining brightly over a fresh bed of snow added to the previous storm’s accumulation.

after breakfast, once again at the black bear diner – where it seemed everyone there were en route to reno – we ran over to nosler to check out their store and see if we could get a tour of the plant. we could not, but we did see some very fine firearms and fred bought some bullets; i think they were 9mm.

we then ran out to the airport, hooked up the glider trailer and began our drive back to nevada.

just prior to departure

despite the sunny skies, the roads, including u.s. 97, were still covered with snow, but we persevered.

about 30 miles south of bend, we headed southeast on state route 31 and into the oregon outback. the road condition was a little worse than on 97, but we weren’t holding anyone up due to our reduced speed.

it took us 2 hours to travel the first 80 miles.

we stopped in the little hamlet of silver lake for a burger at the only place in town and by the time we got back in the truck, the last of the snow had melted. this is also where i took over the driving chores.

about ten minutes after leaving silver lake, we climbed the highest pass of the drive; about 5000 feet elevation. just as we crested the summit, a mule deer jumped up onto the road from the steep mountainside from below. not wanting to kill the deer, but also not wanting to kill us by sending us, the truck, fred’s new glider and trailer off the cliff to the right or into the cliff wall on the left, i got on the brakes as hard as i dared and held the wheel straight. instantly, most of the deer’s body disappeared in front of the grill and below the hood and i envisioned myself dragging the poor creature from underneath the truck; a nanosecond later, she jumped out of the way and off the road.


i think i solidified fred’s trust in my driving on that one since i didn’t overreact and didn’t kill us or the deer.

the remainder of the drive in the oregon outback was absolutely splendid: the scenery was spectacular and, except for driving at a crawl behind some cattle being ushered from one pasture to another, did not encounter any traffic. i look forward to being able to take that route again under springtime conditions to experience it while it is green and vibrant.

we arrived in susanville, california as full-on dusk was kicking into gear. we drove through town, fred spotted a chinese restaurant and we went in for dinner. prior to eating, i was willing to drive the remaining two hours back to carson city, but after we ate, fred suggested we stay for the night and i gave no arguments.

we left bright and early the following day for a, thankfully, uneventful trip back home. including the time to drop off the glider at fred’s, refueling the truck and coming back to carson to drop me off, i was back home by noon.

as i finish this, i have already begun packing to leave in the morning for a trip to jacumba, california on the mexican border between san diego and el centro. this drive will be closer to 11 or 12 hours from departure to arrival, but we’ll be driving into almost-summer. maybe i can convince fred to come home via anza borrego; surely the wildflowers are blooming about now.

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