From the notebook Tom kept on the trip
Bill and Sheila Brown and a couple of friends came down to Toronto Island Airport and saw us off. It was nice to see them. We chatted for a while: told them that with Len’s weight 210 and my weight 175 and our bags we were a hundred pounds over max gross weight for the Champ. When it was time to go we both ran across the taxiway to the plane very dramatically.
I filmed a lot while we were flying over Toronto: the new CN Tower under construction, St. James Town, the Byers’ house, the Brown’s house.
Very windy day: once outside the city limits Len said “watch this”; he throttled back put the nose pointing higher and we were basically hovering over the ground. He put it slower and I could film the ground showing the plane moving slightly backwards.
We landed at Brampton and got gas and a coke. At this point we were very hyper about the race aspect of it. Someone in the clubhouse asked us when that race thing we were in started and we told him we were in it now.
Our take off out of Brampton sort of took my breath away. There was a fairly strong crosswind and just after the tail came up the wind started pushing us sideways off the runway. Armstrong’s Construction had left a one foot high ridge of gravel parallel to the runway. We had just enough airspeed that when we hit it we launched into the air.
From Brampton to Orangeville we went parallel to Highway 10. There were 55 mph winds at 2000 feet. We were flying low to stay out of that, about 300 feet above the ground. I remember seeing people on farms and houses looking up at us. Len and I both waved at them and they waved back. It must have looked funny with our super slow ground speed.
Met up with Grant in the Cessna 195 at Wiarton. Sat on the grass by the ramp having a snack. Heard the weather was changing so we all lined up at the end of the runway and did a take off one after the other. On the way to Gore Bay it started raining. We discovered that the plane leaks around the doors. Instrument panel was getting splashed on. We were getting lost in the low visibility: we followed the APA biplane the rest of the way to Sault Ste Marie.
Take off from Sault St. Marie in the morning was weird. We almost lost complete contact with the ground. To say it wasn’t quite VFR would be a massive under statement. We only got as far as Wawa before the weather wouldn’t let us continue. Stuck in Wawa for the night and all the next day. Walked over to the big goose statue on the 4th.
Left Wawa at 7:00 in the morning. The second or third plane to leave. After take off we flew over this mountain to the north of the field that has a giant hole down the middle of it. Just like a volcano. The mouth is all jagged and the sides are vertical. The bottom of it widens out to a cavern twice the width of the shaft. There’s a mining company right beside so I assume they had something to do with it.
(This was the open pit mine in Helen Mountain.)
All this the cloud we’re flying under is about 3000ft. at about 5/10’s or so. After a while it thinned out enough so we can climb above them to see what it looks like- and it looks really beautiful. After two days of overcast skies the sight of bright morning sun and clear blue all over above us with pure white underlay stretching back to the horizon behind us just blew my mind. It was the first time I had been on top of clouds. If we pass over a cloud below us our shadow on it would be surrounded by a circular rainbow.
Rounding the top of Lake Superior. Landed at Marathon along with a Cessna 195 and a Belvedere plane. Got gas from a drum with a hand pump. Landed at Schrieber after flying through Kimberly-Clark’s smokestack fumes and almost having lost the engine. Don’t fly into smokestack smoke. Got gas from a drum. Denis in his J-3 Cub landed. Local folks started arriving. Denis took off beside us in formation and we flew to Thunder Bay together. Denis did a few aerobatics a couple hundred yards off our left wing. Had steak for lunch in Thunder Bay. Put in an ETA for Winnipeg and took off.
Coming out of Thunder Bay, the next stop was Dryden. Over 200 miles flying. We had a tail wind so we thought we could make it. Half way the wind changed to a head wind. We were over sixty minutes out of Dryden with only 50 min. gas left. Len was looking for a field by a road with a gas station. There was only bush.
We made it to an airport at Ignace. After landing we could see a sign, half hidden by bushes, that said “Landing Fee: 10 dollars”. Len walked to a nearby seaplane base to get someone to bring gas. In the meantime the Newfy Bullet, a homebuilt amphibious flying boat, landed needing gas as well. We got gas but we were charged a dollar a gallon plus a dollar for bringing it and on top of that he gave us a short count: two and half gallons is what he called five.
As we flew along it got hazier and hazier. It smelled like wood smoke. Which it was. We couldn’t see where it was coming from but it was getting thicker. When we got to Dryden visibility was just at the VFR minimum. Len started gliding down for a straight in approach when I spotted a giant water bomber popping out of the murk on our left rear. He was banking to turn final so Len hit full throttle to overshoot. However the water bomber spotted us at the same time and turned off to the right. Seeing this we decided to continue with our landing. We came in a little fast and in combination with a 30 mph 90 degree crosswind it made the landing interesting to say the least. I wasn’t paying much attention out the window so the first inclination I had of something wrong was the sound of our tires screaming. We settled a bit more, the wheels got grip and we started veering off the runway to the left. Len yelled “Hang on!” as he started mashing the brakes. The tires stopped yelling a little before we left the runway so while we were on the gravel at least we weren’t skidding. By this time we were close to a taxiway so possibly it might appear as if we were just cutting the corner. We were going to say that we were just clearing the runway quickly for the water bomber but the people at the pumps heard the tires and saw the whole thing.
Denis with the Cub is from the States. He flew by himself and without a radio from California to Ste. Hubert, Quebec for the start of the Dash. We took off together along with a Belvedere plane. We taxied to the far end of the runway where Denis turned the Cub into the wind and took off across the width of the runway. We did the same but our heavily loaded Champ used an extra bit of gravel on the far side. The Belvedere Cessna, not to be outdone, did the same but used some gravel and had to hop over a few small fir trees before getting off.
After a while we cleared the haze and were far enough along to see where the fire was. It was in two huge sections about 50 miles south of us. The smoke from it blended into giant towering cumulus clouds that must have reached up to 20,000 ft. I don’t see how a few planes, with the relatively small amounts of water they carry, could hope to control such a fire.
(The 1974 fire season was the worst in 50 years.)
After an hour and a half we stopped for gas at Kenora.
The land got really flat towards five in the afternoon as we cruised along with Denis in parallel about a mile away on our left. After a while we lost sight of him so we turned a few circles to look back in his direction. We saw him a few miles back, circling, waiting for another plane. When they formed up we could see that it was the Meyers OTW biplane. All three of us got into formation for this last leg into Winnipeg. This stretch was really strange; the land was so flat we could see Winnipeg on the horizon even though it was still over an hour’s flying away. The road we were following was perfectly straight with a sheen from the sunlight. Everything was absolutely symmetrical about the city, and the setting sun, in the distance due west of us. Reminded me of Dorothy and her friends heading to Oz. With the sun getting redder in the west it made the colours on the red Meyers and the yellow Cub really stand out.
Since none of us had radios we landed at a flying club at Lyncrest just outside of Winnipeg for an Belvedere plane to escort into the Winnipeg control zone. It was only a half hour flight but we couldn’t keep up with the 172 going into WPG.
When we taxied to the tie down area we found swarms of people all over the place looking at the Air Dash planes. We tied down our Champ and made ourselves busy attempting to wipe the oil grime off the bottom of the plane while unlookers formed around us. People asked us mostly questions like “Do you really think you’re going to make it all the way?” We took turns shooting our mouth off about our experiences on the way out. Just then the Meyers taxied in and the people literally ran to swarm around the biplane. The sun had just gone down (9:30) when we met Grant and went for dinner at the airport restaurant. We rented a motel and got to sleep at 11:30 or 12. Both of us were really exhausted, eleven and a half hours sitting in a plane fighting headwinds all the way. We had left Wawa before 7:00am and got into Winnipeg after 9:00pm. We set our watch back an hour which gave us an extra hour of flying. 11.5 for the day. We told the desk to wake us up at six because we would need an early start to make it to Medicine Hat by tomorrow night.
We are getting some really great movies. Dennis’ aerobatics was a roll of film. When the biplane joined the formation; another roll of film. Coming out of Wawa we used two more. 8 altogether now. We bought 3 more at the terminal in Winnipeg for 17 dollars. Very expensive.
Right now we are 1000 feet above the ground and 2 miles south of Lake Winnipeg. The ground is so flat and the air so smooth that we just trimmed it straight and level and sat hands free. We landed for gas at Neepawa but there was no one around. We were trying to gas here and avoid the busier Brandon airport but ended up getting gas at Brandon. 2 hours flight time from Winnipeg now.
We’re following highway 1 to Regina. Had trouble getting gas on the way. We landed twice: first in a farmer’s field near Whitewood, Saskatchewan and then at Indian Head about an hour and a half after that. Called the tower at Regina. Had tough time with phone. Got gas from an old crop duster.
At Regina we were told to stay on the ground and prepare for a big storm. It never came.
Travelling west again. After an hour we stopped at Westair and an hour and a half later Swift Current. While enroute we thought we’d see how high the Champ can fly so we’d know what to expect when in the mountains. We got it up to 7000 feet indicated. From Swift Current it was 2 hours to Medicine Hat and our stop for the night. 10 hours flight time for the day.
July 7. Landed at Airdrie airport. Bussed into town to a hotel for the night. Calgary: We had passes to the Calgary Stampede. Watched the chuck wagon races. Grant sat with us wearing the large cowboy hat he bought. The evening show had a musical dance number celebrating aviation. Dancers leaping around with helmets and goggles. Later Art Scholl in his Chipmunk did night aerobatics low over the stage with sparkling flares on his wingtips.
July 8. The next day was a formation flight of the 35 Air Dash aircraft a couple times over Calgary. We were 10 back from the lead plane and the slowest of the bunch. We had to keep cutting corners to catch up while the planes behind were “s” turning to stay behind.
Next was a stop at Clairsholm Industrial for gas before entering mountains. Very overcast and ominous going through Crowsnest Pass into mountains. Air is still, clouds look like liquid pouring down the slopes. Stopped at Fernie. A lot of people looking at the Air Dash planes.
After an hour flying we stopped at Cranbrook.
Arrived at Castlegar in very heavy rain. Splashed along the taxiway past a line of Grumman Avenger firefighting planes. A lot of Air Dash planes already tied down. Went into town for lunch and came back to find everyone had left already. We had to take a short cut over a mountain to catch up. We used an updraft to climb over; good thing cause we wouldn’t have made it otherwise.
A lot of wind and turbulence. Wrapped clothing around our hands to keep warm. At one point we had snow flurries inside blowing inside through the gaps around the door.
We landed at Oliver so we could phone the tower at Penticton Airport to expect our no-radio Aeronca to arrive shortly. Blake James in his tiny tricycle gear homebuilt landed shortly after as did Denis in the Cub. The runway was underused and deteriorating plus it had one foot tall grass growing through the cracks. We lined the three planes up and did a formation takeoff with the grass making pinging noises on the prop. Stayed in formation to Penticton, received the green light from the tower and came in to land and gas up.
Landed for gas at Princeton. The Tiger Moth came in as well. We did a formation take-off. Didn’t have much power on take-off plus there was a downdraft off the end of the runway that took down into the valley at tree top level.
The landing at Merritt BC was dicey. Winds gusting to 40 mph. We had lunch in a restaurant there with Bill Lewis, the pilot of the Meyers and I didn’t notice but Len did that Bill’s hands were shaking. He’s flown jets in the Navy during the Korean War he said but has never flown through mountains before. In the service he’d fly over them at 30,000 ft. Because of the turbulence we agreed to let Len fly the next leg to Hope alone while I got a lift in a Cessna 310.
I waited at the Hope airport well past Len’s eta and max air time with the gas he had. He phoned saying he was okay and that going through Hell’s Gate he had flown into a snow storm and lost visibility enough that he couldn’t see the wires that cris-crossed the canyon so had landed safely but needed gas to make it the rest of the way to Hope. He slept under the wing while I had the comfort of a motel. In the morning the motel owner drove me up to Boston Bar with a jerry can of gas for the Champ.
We thanked the motel owner and flew the hop back to Hope. Found the Newfy Bullet there. The two of us flew formation out the valley to Vancouver. Landed on a taxiway on the far north east corner of the airport. Had to taxi all the way around to the south part of the airport past skeptical airline ground crew.
(Later the fall Vancouver International sent us a landing fee invoice of $3.68. Their fee is determined by the weight of the aircraft.)
July 13. Stayed just the one night in Vancouver and left the next day at 12:30 with Denis in the Cub and Pete in the 140. We flew formation to Bellingham where we cleared customs. There was a bit of an air show on at the time. Had lunch and left for Arlington. There we got maps and had a mechanic do a compression check on the engine. All were good except #2 which had a leaking exhaust valve. Pete took off before us with plans to meet us at Henley Field north east of Spokane on Monday at 10am. Denis was going to go straight down the coast to California so we said goodbye to him and left. We followed the coast along Hwy. 90 then turned east into Stampede Pass. Right over Keechelus Lake we started having engine trouble. It was running rough with a loss of power. Len was going to land on the road but I didn’t see how we could as the road was twisting following the river and had power lines criss-crossing it. But after a bit the engine stopped getting worse so we followed the road over to Easton State Emergency Strip. Landed there and found the Civil Air Patrol camped there. We ate dinner with them and used their phone to call Ellensburg for an aviation mechanic. There wasn’t one there but by that time one of the officers suggested a mechanic who was camped in the woods at the other end of the strip. We got him to look at the engine. It appeared to be oil which had splashed out and was sucked into the air cleaner. He also said our engine was running rich, and the gasket on the dipstick needed replacing, also the spark plugs needed replacing along with the spark plug wires and connectors. And maybe a new air cleaner. When we were at Arlington we had planned to go to a field called Ox Meadows to get the repairs done. We sat with the Civil Air Patrol for the evening and watched a Vietnam colour slide show with a commentary from a guy who sounded like Slim Pickens. He talked of shooting elk for dinner with a machine gun from a helicopter, putting out fires by doing donuts in tank over them, not getting breakfast until 2pm cause the breakfast truck was late, also the Sleeping Dragon Mountain “must have been named by a guy high on a bad batch of pot.”
That night we camped out under the fuselage. Our plan is to take off the next morning at 7:30.
July 14. Took off after the CAP did the flag raising ceremony complete with a soldier singing the Star Spangled Banner. Landed at Bowers and got a ride into Ellensburg for breakfast. Walked back and took off at 10:22. The land here is very dry and a lot of irrigation is used. There are a lot of circular fields here with rotating water spreaders. Just east of Moses Lake we saw a field with twisters in them, raising dust up about 100 to 300 feet. We landed at Odessa for fuel but no one was there. After waiting 45 minutes Len walked into town and then after another hour without anything happening I started walking in too. Its Sunday and it seems the town is barren except for guys cruising in hot cars, nothing else, just hot cars. There’s two places open in town. I go in the one: a bar. They refused to serve me a bottle of pop because my ID didn’t have a picture on it. I leave and go to the other place: a drive-in. This is where all the hot cars arrive and depart from. I had lunch there but didn’t see Len at all. On the walk back out of town to the airstrip I stopped to help a guy carry the body shell of a 1917 Dodge from out in a field to the back of his pickup. His pickup was a Dodge too. I took a shortcut through a field to the airport and as I was approaching the end of the strip Len had the plane gassed up and had taken off to do circuits to attract my attention. We flew an hour to Mead just north of Spokane and tried to call Skeet Carlson at Ox Meadows, the mechanic who was recommended by the mechanic back at Arlington. There was no answer after an hour of trying and people returning from an airshow at Henley told us that he had gone on the “Oregon Tour” or some similarly named event for old biplanes. Len was really tired but since there was no restaurant near Mead we flew the half hour trip to Henley which did have a restaurant on the field. There we found the tail end of an airshow, just as everyone was leaving. We met the people operating the field and babbled our story to them before dinner. After dinner we settled into a really mellow mood in the evening glow produced by this incredible cloud formation coloured orange from the setting sun and watching skydivers floating down and drinking the local beers: one called Rainier and another called Lucky. Went to bed under the stars by the plane at 10:00. Had a comfortable sleep. (Had a dream something like with a tornado except this had something to do with being blown into the future and me sitting in a well windowed room watching people I know blow past).
July 15. We got up at 8:00 and after breakfast got a mechanic to look at the Champ. He gave us four new plugs, cleaned and gapped the best of the other four, changed the oil, new oil filter and oil filter gasket and blew out the crankcase vent tube all to try and slow the oil spillage. Pete and Jim landed at noon and tried to talk us into taking a southern route through the Rockies but we had already decided to go north into Cranbrook. We said goodbye to them, the last remains of our Air Dash group. We were going to take off today at 6:00pm but right then quite a dust storm blew up which dropped the horizontal visibility to barely VFR. So now take-off is cancelled, we’re going tomorrow at sunup when the winds are calm and the air is cooler. I lost the book I bought at the airfield at Fernie some days back on our first day in British Columbia. It was a retired miner recalling his childhood there in the 1910’s.
For the second night at Henley the owners let us sleep in a shack on the far side of the runway. One room, no furniture, but with a nice window looking back at the hangars and airplanes. We slept on the floor. Middle of the night I wake up not knowing where I am. I look out the window and think I’m looking out the window of the Champ and I thought we were flying way too low in the mountains and were about to hit one. After a minute or two of squinting I realized that we were on the ground but I didn’t have a clue where. At that point I gave up and went back to sleep.
July 16. Got up and took off at sunup. Found my book in the map case. Maybe should use the maps more. Arrived in Eckhardt Intl., the customs airport, at 6:30 am. The cleaning lady said that the man comes on duty at 7:00. When he arrived he cleared us through without looking at the plane. Len asked him if there was somewhere we could get aviation gas and he told us of a farmer’s strip north west of Creston, ten miles away. This was good since we didn’t have enough to get to Cranbrook. There wasn’t anyone at this strip when we landed so we pumped our own. Left the money on top of the gas drum weighted down witth a brick: five gallons for five bucks. Got to Cranbrook at 11am and found that the weather forecast was for forty knot winds. We tied the plane down for the day and got a room at the Sandman Inn. It was good to get all the dirt off. Washed our clothes too!!
July 17. Got a wake up call at 5:00am. The sky was overcast with a high layer of alto stratus. In the taxi to the airport there was a little light drizzle. We untied the plane and taxied it to the aeradio building. We left it running to warm up while we got the weather. Winds 20-25 mph from 210 which will be mostly a tail wind. There was some dark clouds and rain directly north of us but we were heading southeast along the Kooteney River. The trip through the Crow’s Nest Pass was kind of rough with the worst part east of Sparwood. Just after we turned the corner at Sparwood we hit a four hundred foot downdraft. Its strange to have the plane level, cruise power and still be sinking down. I kept saying to myself “Air does not go through the ground, air does not go through the ground.“ Just after we crossed the border into Alberta, due south of Crowsnest Mtn. We hit an incredible bit of turbulence. It tossed my camera from on top of the sleeping bags into the back of my shoulder. But once we cleared the mountains it cleared right out.
We landed at Lethbridge at 8:10am and extended our flight plan a half hour into Medicine Hat. The rain we saw at Cranbrook came out of the mountains on the horizon to the north of us. The clouds above us thinning out and the sun is warming us up. We flew over a train wreck at Purple Springs, 1/3 way to Medicine Hat. It was a freight train with about ten cars all in a pile on top of each other and the remainder lying on their sides along the track still hooked one behind the other.
We spent the night in Swift Current and planned to take off late the next afternoon. After hanging around in the hotel until checkout time we went down tto a park by the river for a suntan. It was really hot when we started walking to the airport. At the edge of town we got a lemonade at a franchise called Heidi’s where the staff, all girls, wear little hats with wings and pigtails. We had been walking about an hour when a guy stopped and gave us a ride the rest of the way – another four miles.
At Moose Jaw/Westair we stopped for gas and hung around the office drinking pop for a while while we let the engine cool down. It was running at 190 degrees which is 20-30 over normal. A guy about our age came in for a flying lesson and we talked to him all about the Air Dash and flying through the mountains. We took off and headed southeast along the highway past Moose Jaw. About ten miles out the engine started coughing and sputtering. Len immediately put the carb heat on which revived it after a second or two as we turned and headed back to the airport. The tailwind of 20 mph. that we had going out was now a headwind which lengthened the return trip considerably. Len took the carb heat off since the engine had been doing fine for about ten minutes, but with it off the engine starting sputtering again. It couldn’t have been icing then, we figured, it must be the air cleaner again. So with the carb heat firmly on we landed at Westair again without incident. We taxied to office beside the runway in the grass and scared out a jackrabbit and a prairie dog. We met the student pilot again, Doug, after listening to the remainder of his lesson over the office unicom. He invited us to stay at his place for the night. We accepted and hopped into his pickup and went water skiing at lake ten miles north of the airport. Later we went into town and went drinking with some of his friends until 2:00 in the morning.
July 19. Got up around nine. Doug cooked us a quick breakfast and we went out and helped him empty out a bin full of grain which we took to a huge grain elevator in the town. Two and a half truck loads later we were finished. We showered, got lunch, and watched a little TV then went to town about three pm. Picked up a friend of his, went to the bank, then to a sporting goods store where he bought 450 dollars worth of ski equipment. We then went to the airport and cleaned out the air cleaner on the Champ with Varsol and compressed air. By this time it was six so we bought an A&W dinner and ate it at his friends place. Right then it started thunderstorming, giving rain which Doug really needed for his crops. He has 160 acres of his own plus he is running his dad’s land while he’s away which is 3 ½ sections (1sq. Mi. = 1 section = 640 acres). His dad comes back Sunday and he is then going to Penticton in his mint mobile home with four friends for the week. We head downtown and went drinking again in the Harwood Hotel until two in the morning. The band in the “Oasis” room played a couple of Spirit songs and a couple of Lovin’ Spoonful songs which were good. We heard stories about barroom fights with guys from the carnival, talked to two teachers from Regina, watched Doug and his friends pick on a Jesus freak. Heard stories about the Hutterites, and about the people who do crop spraying.
July 20. Doug had a spraying job to do today and he was going to get up at 5:30 to start it. This was good since he could drop us off at the airport on the way. However we didn’t get up until 9:00 then we went to town to get his friend to help him and fill up his Spra-Coupe (3 wheeled buggy with a VW engine) with 100 gallons of water. By this time we were hungry so we bought breakfast and finally got to the airport at 1 pm. We said goodbye, took off and did a few low level fly pasts of the airport then headed down that highway again.
When we got to Weyburn, about a hundred miles down the line, it was too hot to go on. So we got gas inside a crop dusting outfit’s hangar at the airport. The two guys there were the only people, hardly anybody used that airport. The main airport building was unlocked, no one was in. We drove into town in the crop dusting company’s old beat up pickup. As the boss was away in Regina the two guys didn’t mind loaning it to us for as long as we needed. The boss also owns a 1937 Waco biplane in flying condition which he keeps in the back of his hangar. (Just like the one I saw at Lethbridge.) In town we went to the library to see a display of local art and to do a bit of reading. We ate dinner in town and got back to the airport about 5:30. Once at the airport we could see a thunderstorm in the northeast. It appeared to be traveling north so we decided to take-off. However when we got about a half hour out the storm expanded and spread in front of our path. We returned to the airport and waited in the airport office. I noticed in the airport’s log book that Bill Lewis in the Meyers OTW biplane was here on the 14th. He’d be on his way back to Michigan. I also found in the register that a guy named N.G. Anderson from Brampton landed here on June 8th, 1971 in a 65 hp. Champ, his registrationCF-JOC. Also the Gipsy Moth that was on the Air Dash with us, CF-APA, came through back in ’68 or there abouts. Its funny, the airport manager has an entry in the airport log book complaining that nobody ever signs the register so it must be rather high odds against 3 items like that. About 7:30 we took off again with the plan of going to Estevan, an hour away, for the night. The CB’s looked like they had died down so there was just lots of thick cumulus clouds ahead, no problem. However the haze under the clouds kept getting darker the closer we got. After a while lightning appeared with a disturbing frequency. The wind direction now was from the left so the storm was going to be approaching us fast. We kept watching the town of Estevan to see if it was being rained on. It was okay but the landscape behind it had all progressively disappeared. About 4 miles from the airport we could see the plume from a smokestack swing around. The storm was getting close. When we were over the airport the rain was about two miles away, really thick and solid. On landing we found the runway still wet from a storm a few hours earlier and on the taxiway the Champ splashed though big puddles on the pavement. There were only two people at the airport, a flying club member with his wife. He helped us gas up and stuff the Champ in the ex-military hangar for the night. On the ride into town in his station wagon he told us why the hangar roof was leaking so bad. They had a storm a week ago Thursday with 85 mph. Winds that in his words,“sort of shifted the roof around a bit”. This year has got to be the year of the strangest most unpredictable weather yet. We stayed at the Beefeater Inn, a brand new place, and our room, the last one they had apparently, smelled of paint. We had a swim then a snack then went to bed.
July 21. Got a wake up call at 6:30 and got a taxi to the airport by 7:00 or a bit after. Finished off the oranges (I had two) that we bought in Medicine Hat, and a box of raisins. I pushed a 172 out of the way that took refuge in the hangar after us and we taxied out and took off. As we continued on our heading from yesterday, south-east, destination the Border International Airstrip for customs, we found a thunderstorm off on our right. Probably the same one from last night still trying to get us. We got to the field using the Canadian strip and parked while the storm blew overhead. The US customs officer said that we landed without giving prior notice, which is a 500 dollar fine, but he would let it go since we’d landed on the Canadian side. He looked inside the plane, asked some questions, “Any citrus fruits?” “Just some orange peels”. He told me to put them in the garbage pail, paid a $6.80 fee and we were on our way. We stopped at Columbus for breakfast but the town was all closed up. The only thing available was the pop machine at a gas station. It was now 10:30. We flew sixty miles further east to Mohall. It would have been nice to get gas but again there was nobody in sight. We walked the two miles into town along a straight flat road of the type where you could see cars approaching fifteen minutes before they passed you. Phoned Minot Intl. from a pay phone and filed a flight plan to their field. On the way down there we flew around the edge of their Air Force base. We may have cut the corner too tight going around the east end of their field. We could look down the length of its runway with its twin rows of B-52s facing nose to nose. We watched a take-off and were overflown by three delta wing fighters in a really tight V formation. Stayed in Minot until 5:30 and phoned home, had dinner and read. We flew east to Rugby, which we found out later was the geographical center of North America, then we landed for the night at Devil’s Lake. There we met Kerry Sim and his girlfriend Mars, flying a J-3 Cub, CF-NOU from Campbellville, Ontario. He was on the air dash in ’72 (the first one) and in ’73. They were now heading to Seattle where they’re attending the premiere of a movie called “Nothing by Chance” from a book by Richard Bach. Richard Bach had invited them out, gave them tickets plus an invitation to dinner after. Nothing by chance is a good way to describe how things happen when you’re traveling by barnstorming. He loaned us his tent which partially collapsed in the night but nevertheless kept out all the mosquitoes.
July 22. We awoke to the blat of the trumpet tied to Kerry’s right wing. His plan is when he’s barnstorming he can fly over the town and blow the horn to attract the local townsfolk’s attention. I wondered whether people would be able to hear it but he said people on the ground can hear you even if you only yelled out the window. That’s how he used to tell which way to land at his farm. He’d cut the power and fly past his farmhouse in a glide and yell out the window to ask his brother which way the wind was blowing. We took off in formation at about 7 or 8, and waved goodbye in the air. They turned west and we turned east. On our way we passed another train wreck. This time 12 coal cars on their sides. We stopped at Crookston and Bemidji and then Grand Rapids and got something to eat. The change between prairie land and uncleared forest was pretty rapid. The farm fields acquiring more and more trees around the edges of them until at Grand Forks all the fields were surrounded by thick hedges of trees. These then transitioned into woodland with just the occasional groups of cleared fields. The land contour remained very flat and the number of small lakes increased. Last stop of the day was Bong airport in Superior, Wisconsin.
July 23. We flew to Ironwood, Marquette, and Luce County to end the day at the American Sault Ste. Marie. Had dinner with Blake James. He’s really entertaining. Six hours air time.
July 24. We flew with Blake to Gore Bay. The clouds were starting to form beneath us as we went east. When they were about 6 or 7 tenths Blake began a descent through an opening. Clouds got very bad. We followed the road across Manitoulin at treetops level. That was something. The next stop was then Wiarton and back to home base at Brampton. 3.25 hours for the day.