Category Archives: Alaska Warbird Museum

My non-profit museum project intended to honor those who have been willing to stand up and protect the freedoms we take for granted.

5 Weeks to Go!

February is winding down and winter is dragging on.  But the days are getting longer and we can see light at the end of Alaska’s long winter tunnel.  It is 10pm as I start typing this and Tanis woke from his couch nap with too much energy.  He is out snow blowing in the dark with our new snow blower in front of the neighbor’s hangar.  Hope Pat isn’t trying to sleep…

The past week,  we have seen some pretty cold temperatures for Yakutat.  Two weeks of nights getting to around zero,  with daytime highs scratching just under 20.  That is Fahrenheit,  for our friends over-seas…  Hard to complain too much with what is happening throughout the rest of the country right now,  except Florida…  Frightening to see what happens when Alaska weather hits Texas…  Our thoughts and prayers are with you down south.  You should burn more of your own oil for power and heat.

The past several days have been a lot warmer,  with temps getting into the low 30’s.  Had some rainish sleet on the 17th and 18th,  but back to snow now.  The ramp has a couple inches of fresh snow since the DOT plowed the pavement clear,  on top of a half inch of polished ice.  What a mess.  But no snow pile…  DOT keeps building it up,  then taking it down.  Last year,  we had so much snow that the pile knocked our internet out in early March,  not to come back again until late April.  “Fortunately” the fly shop was mandated closed,  so we didn’t have to process credit cards via the non-existent internet.  They are doing what they can to limit the impact on us this year and it is greatly appreciated.

So…  the river is frozen solid at 9 Mile,  with a thick sheet of ice as far up and downstream of the bridge as you can see from it.  We have about 2 feet of snow depth in the open,  with not much in the trees.  The road to the river is plowed and easily navigable,  so no real risk of that being an issue come April.  Or not much of a risk…  Because of the cold snap,  we have thick ice on the lakes now and getting an insulating layer of snow on top of that will keep the lakes colder even as the warmth starts to creep into the air.  Still not a lot of total snow,  but enough.

After saying it was looking like another warm winter and therefore early steelhead run,  we are now back to an on-time run with our current conditions.  March is just around the corner and we are definitely NOT at risk of the run showing up anytime soon.  We can breath a sigh of relief,  knowing whatever happens with the number of people allowed to enter Alaska from the outside,  their timing will be relatively in line with the fish coming in.  My guess is we’ll see a LOT of Alaskans coming this year after being forced to take last year off,  and out-of-state travel will be less than half of what we’d expect on a “normal” year.

Tanis has been busy with the snow blower ever since it arrived on ACE Air Cargo in January.  No snow,  but he was out practicing with it on bare pavement.  Now,  we have had some snow for a month to actually blow.  Keeping the path to the shop open by blowing all the snow into two piles in the parking lot that will undoubtedly still be there into May.  After the first real snow of the year,  he made a big pile about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide.  I already mentioned previously that some kids from town came out and helped mine dig a tunnel all the way through the middle from end to end.  Once night came,  they carved shelves into the snow and lit candles for a nice glow.

The second storm a couple days later brought a second big pile of white.  Tanis alone dig another snow cave,  but this time just made one entrance and hollowed out a big cavern in the center.  He insisted I had to spend the night out there with him,  but I politely declined,  as another storm hit that night with 60-70 knot winds blowing the entrance shut with more snow.  The sun came out the next day while he reopened the doorway and enlarged the cavern.  OK,  we put down a tarp floor and loaded it with pads and blankets.  Made a flap door with an old wool blanket and settled in for the night.  The first of the clear/cold nights dropped to 7 degrees.  Actually warm and comfortable inside!  With my old-man bladder (ya,  TMI…), I was up a couple times in the night.  The first time,  I poked my head back inside the flap and it was just as cold inside as it was out.  The second time,  I had accidentally woke Tanis,  so he lit a candle for me to see my way back in.  Opened the flap and my face was hit by an amazing warmth.  From ONE little candle!  What a difference!  It stayed lit for a while!

Now the rain this week has made the fort a couple feet shorter,  but the tunnels haven’t collapsed.  Can’t say I’m eager to spend the night out there again,  but it was a blast to camp in the yard with my little boy again,  even if he is 21 now.  Haven’t truly winter-camped with him since he was about 7.

We also had a great visitor – the Ozark Air DC-3.  They were bring the plane back up from Montana where it spent the past couple years after their last visit.  She was supposed to do some tourist flights down in the real world,  but then the world ended and she just sat.  On her way home to ANC,  she had some mechanical issues in Sitka,  so spent a couple months there getting fixed up and back in the air.  On their way over Yakutat,  the weather was going down in Anchorage and getting dark,  so they turned around and overnighted with us.

IMG_1243

This is a beautiful plane with passenger config,  galley and lav.  They are planning to do flightseeing tours around the Anchorage area as Golden Era Aviation,  in period uniforms once they get the FAA stuff all set.  Their website isn’t ready yet,  but I’ll let you know when it is…  These photos I stole from their preliminary site…

Ozark1Ozark2

OK,  Tanis just came back inside…  About 6-8 inches of new snow since 6pm when DOT left for the day.  Tomorrow is going to be a mess outside.  Glad to be working INSIDE tomorrow,  mudding and taping the holes in the downstairs bathroom ceilings.  Had to cut out access holes when I needed to replumb the water system with PEX several years ago.  Yes,  PEX can burst when it freezes,  contrary to what they say…  Getting a little more done on the hangar…  Trying to do SOMETHING every day,  no matter how piddly.  You eat an elephant one bite at a time and this hangar is like eating an entire herd.  Several herds…

Vacation 2020 – Part 4 – Bora Bora

8 months have passed since I last posted about our big Tahiti trip.  Wow!  One year ago tonight (at least when I started typing this,  but the kids wanted to go to the fireworks and then watch a movie,  so…),  Teen and I boarded Alaska Airlines flight 66 and 30 hours later,  we were standing in line at the Papeete Inter-Continental hotel.  I had to go back and reread the earlier posts to figure out what the heck I was saying,  so if you want a refresher too…

Post #1: How About Something Nice to Read About… (trip prep and planning)

Post #2: Vacation 2020 – Part 2 (Yakutat to Papeete)

Post #3: Vacation 2020 – Part 3 (Windstar Cruise from Papeete to Moorea,  Raiatea and Tahaa)

And now for part 4 – Bora Bora!

lollitop_56834_bora-bora_1

Photo swiped from the web…

First off,  Bora Bora is more than the stereotypical tropical destination…  It is the perfect one.  Every fantasy ideal of paradise is just a rip-off of the real thing (including the tropical paradise in The Incredibles).  On almost every top 10 list of best islands,  best destinations,  best whatever…  Bora Bora is usually #1.  No other place on earth can genuinely compare.  Sound overblown and exaggerated?  Nope.

bora-bora

Another photo swiped from the web…  One of several outer atoll resorts 

The perfect volcanic peak completely surrounded by a ring of motus (islands).  Incredible white,  or pink sandy beaches.  Spectacular resorts with their famous over-water bungalows.  Aquatic wildlife so plentiful and diverse that you can’t fully appreciate unless you have been there.  Probably more than once.  Visiting Bora Bora is like being in a perfect virtual reality.  It is almost like no way it could be real.  How’s that for an endorsement?

Map7

The trip from Tahaa to Bora Bora was another short one. They depart the first atoll each night around 6pm and are anchored before midnight usually.

Most famous for it’s overwater bungalows,  we spent most of our time on a cruise ship.  Not the best way to experience Bora Bora,  but as a small 148 pax sail boat/diesel hybrid,  it wasn’t a bad way either.  Throughout the trip,  we didn’t take very many shore excursions.  Between the fly shop,  fueling airplanes and ground-handling the mail plane every morning (except Sunday) – PLUS hangar construction – I don’t get ANY days off.  Even if I’m no longer also squeezing in commercial fishing and guiding…  An occasional nap is a cherished holiday.  This first vacation in nearly two decades was all about relaxing,  not running around doing a bunch of activities.  That said,  we missed out on a LOT of incredible things to do,  especially here.  No,  I did NOT go fishing!

Map8

Paradise! The atoll is a nearly perfect complete protective circle. Other than a few shallow spillways, the only navigable entrance is on the west side with 7 remaining WWII cannons overlooking it. Our military blew the entrance deeper 80ish years ago, but any “damage” to the coral, or aquatic life definitely recovered. The air base (3-letter identifier airport code “BOB”) is at the very north tip of the atoll. Most of the resorts are also spread out along the outer atoll, with only a couple smaller ones on the main island.  You can easily see the bungalows along the upper right side of the atoll.

The one thing I really wanted to do though was take their WWII tour.  I’d almost call that a “work day”,  since I give a dozen WWII tours myself each week through the summer,  but those tend to be more a labor of love than actual work…  The cruise scheduled two full days in Bora Bora and we didn’t have anything planned for day-1.  Slept in late,  over-ate again for breakfast and over-ate again again for lunch.  In the afternoon,  we took the shuttle to shore and wandered around the town of Vaitape for a couple hours in the very hot sun,  then went back to the ship to relax.

Pretty clear that these big international hotel chain resorts don’t have a lot of financial impact on the local economy,  or lifestyle.  Yes,  they employ locals and locals do conduct most of the shore excursions,  but the communities around the main island live VERY modestly.  One of our shipmates remarked that he was shocked by the poverty.  Yes,  they are poor – especially by our standards – but I also saw contentment…  They don’t have much,  but they also don’t need much!  They aren’t chasing after the “American dream” which seems to be 4 new cars in the driveway and a big plasma screen in every bathroom.  A lot of the houses looked like depression-era Hooverville tin shacks,  but they looked like they cared for what they had and everyone was busy mowing grass,  or hacking back the ever encroaching jungle.  Leave your yard unattended here for a little while and it quickly becomes an impenetrable salmon-berry thicket.  We got nothin’ on them in the tropics!  On our drive around the island,  it must have been the annual yard debris pick-up day.  EVERYONE was out working on cleaning their yards and piling the debris neatly on the roadside.

Maybe my perspective is skewed a bit having grown up in a one-room shack on the beach during my formative years…  Family of five,  no plumbing,  an outhouse out back,  drinking water from the river (Giardia and all),  no electricity,  or phone,  washing laundry in the river…  Eating a LOT of fish because we couldn’t afford many groceries in town.  Then choosing to raise my kids in the same environment…

Here is a video of a guy going to a villager’s “house”.  If they wanted to live more affluently,  they can…  They could get a job for one of the resorts and have more money,  but they are living a lifestyle they choose on their own terms.  He owns the land he lives on and has few bills.  They catch fish and eat their own fruit.  Bread,  milk and a few other grocery items are subsidized by the French government.  Everything else I saw in the stores pretty much matched Yakutat prices.  I dare you to find happier kids in an American city no matter how much crap their parents just bought them for Christmas…

On our second day in Bora Bora,  we ate breakfast,  then headed to the boat to go ashore.  The guys at Bora Bora Tupuna Safari met us and loaded everyone into the back of three 4-wheel drive pick-ups.  Safety rules don’t seem to apply,  so you find yourself on a bench seat along the side of the bed with no cushion,  or seat belt.  It felt like growing up in the 70’s..Canvas canopy over the top,  open sides and back.  Hold on tight to the frame,  or you’ll be pitched out and limping back to the boat alone.

Operation Bobcat was intended to be a new coastal artillery and air base in England.  They loaded up the ships and headed…  south.  The brass decided at the last minute they wanted that base in the South Pacific,  so to Bora Bora it headed.  The location was so picturesque,  it would have made an incredible 50’s romantic musical…

The  US Army’s 13th Coast Artillery Regiment was sent to man the eight 7″ guns on Bora Bora.  Seven of those guns remain.  They are actually pre-WWI guns,  built in 1911 according to our guide.  They are Mark 2 7″/45 caliber guns.  The Mark 2 was delivered to the Army as a non-self-propelled/towed-by-a-tractor field artillery piece,  although none were shipped to France.  They were also installed on the battleships of the day as the largest “rapid-fire” gun because they were the heaviest shell one man could handle alone.

There are 12 remaining survivors of the Mark 2 in the world.  Seven of which are in Bora Bora.  No one knows what happened to the eight gun…  Two of them originally came off the USS Louisiana and one came from the USS New Hampshire.  We drove up the mountainside on a wild ride,  holding on for dear life,  to see two of the guns.

There were also some remaining bunkers and sheds that hadn’t completely disappeared into the jungle.  The guns looked like you’d need a little WD-40 only to get them working again,  unlike our rusted blobs of former 5″ guns on Cannon Beach.

Back in the early 1940’s,  the view from these gun emplacements was mighty useful for keeping an eye out for the approaching Japanese fleet (which never appeared in these waters).  Today,  it is a breathtaking sight to behold,  looking down on the indescribable deep-blue water,  pure white sand,  vivid green jungle and light blue reef.  On the way back down the mountain,  we stopped at a couple different vantage points to see different sides of the atoll.

One last stop on the hillside drive was at a small plantation owned by the family of our guide.  They had fresh fruit and coconut for us to eat,  hand-painted and dyed wraps for chicks to wear and some more incredible history.  The site has some sort of old Polynesian religious ruin which undoubtedly hosted human cannibalistic rituals.  Our host shared a fascinating history of the early missionaries that came through Polynesia and attempted to convert the cannibals to Christ.  Talk about a tough job!  Many became buffet-fodder.

On the way back to the dock,  they drove us on a complete circle of the island.  Holy cow!  The drivers there are nuts!  Lots of mopeds and small motorcycles weaving between cars on the narrow 2-lane road built by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  We were supposed to stop at the famous “Bloody Mary’s” restaurant and bar,  but it was closed for the Christmas holiday that lasts through most of January.  In fact,  most of the smaller local businesses were closed,  so hardly anywhere to buy souvenirs off-resort.

Briefly back on the ship,  before we loaded onto catamarans for the trip to Motu Tapu (which means Sacred Island) for a big buffet dinner and jiggling naked dancers show.  Beautiful little motu featuring palm trees with all their coconuts removed so you won’t get bonked,  meticulously raked white sand (so you won’t break your leg stepping into a coconut crab hole and lots of tables set up in the middle.  We enjoyed the dinner (again,  probably a little too much except no ice cream),  but skipped the show.  Living in a native village,  I’ve kind of had my fill of the dance shows,  plus our local St Elias Dancers are probably more realistic than what they do down in Polynesia.  Everyone else enjoyed it though.  Instead,  we had the beach completely to ourselves for the sunset and then watching the aquarium show off the dock.  The pictures of the fish didn’t turn out well enough to post because of the bright red light illuminating them,  but we had fun feeding them the bread from the buffet tables nearby.  And eating more and more myself…

On our way back to the ship,  they had it all lighted up.

67

I was told repeatedly that the two best excursions of the entire trip were 1) to the pearl farm – the farm and shop was boring,  but it had the best snorkeling anywhere…  #2 was the ’round the island snorkeling trip.  They took a boat all the way around,  stopping at a few locations to swim with the sharks and sting rays.  Apparently all the rays get their stingers clipped off as babies,  so they won’t hurt the tourists by accident…

It was a long day and getting to sleep was nice.  That night,  we departed Bora Bora and headed for our last atoll,  Huahine.  Huahine is cool.  It is two large islands within their atoll ring with a bridge connecting them.  This is where Tahitians go when they want to get away from all the tourists.  But…  Teen and I didn’t leave the ship.  Spent the day relaxing.  And eating.  On a small ship like the Windstar,  staying behind is really nice when most of the other passengers go ashore.  Almost like you have your own private mega-yacht.  This was our first experience with Polynesian rain.  Bone dry for our entire trip up until now.  In Huahine,  we were hit by a few showers,  which helped to cool things down a bit,  until the sun came back out and then the humidity shot up to about 478%.

Map9Map10

The Huahine-Tahiti trip was the longest,  but we were still back into port long before breakfast was served.  Most of the passengers had packages that included a day room at the Papeete Inter-Continental,  so many  from the ship spent their day hanging around the hotel before their flight in the evening.  We hung out with our favorite excursion buddies while they waited for their bus to the airport.  We all took a taxi to the Carrefore store south of the hotel.  I loitered for as long as they would let me in the ice cream section just savoring the freezers.  Had to open every door to see which ice cream I wasn’t buying just to cool off.

Great store with just about anything you could need.  Your French Polynesian version of Walmart.  They had an “american” section with giant vats of mayonnaise,  cheese-puff balls,  Coffee-Mate,  Frosted Flakes and peanut butter.  Either they don’t eat this stuff in paradise,  or they don’t think much of the American diet…

Great lunch at the hotel restaurant by the way…  First meal we had to pay extra for all week.  My double-bacon cheese burger with cheddar AND brie was delicious!  So was my half of Teen’s sirloin sandwich.

73

Just wasting time now,  waiting for our flight to Rangiroa the next day.  Like I said several posts before,  the Papeete Inter-Continental was built a long time ago before there was a whole lot of high-end tourism.  The majority of the rooms are in these big,  old multi-story buildings,  with just a dozen or so over-water bungalows.  They have tennis courts and multiple bars and restaurants and would be a great place to spend a week,  if not for the fact that Tahiti is surrounded by actual paradise on all the other atolls.

I’d compare Tahiti to wanting to see Alaska,  so you spend a week in Anchorage…  We’ll be seeing it in our next installment…

What it Took to Get Here – Part 4

OK,  Happy New Year!  We have already survived 4 big storms this year,  but now we get to remember back to the first ones in the hangar…  For starters,  it was a heavy snow year that made it very difficult to get in and out of our new public entrance.

It wasn’t the snow that was the problem.  It was the warming spell that followed…

The hangar apparently had some leaks!  First,  the snow pushed up against the side of the building blocked any drainage of the rain and melt,  flowing in through the doorway.  We have had to keep a drain trail shoveled all winter ever since.  Then…  we had all sorts of leaking problems from the 3rd floor roof drainage system.  Water poured down through the second floor and then completely soaked all out drying trim wood.  We had to cart all of it back out into the hangar bay,  so we could soak up and dry the room out.  Ceiling sheetrock damaged all over the place.  What a great start to the new year.

Then  everything froze solid and we had some beautiful sunny days,  but bitterly cold.  The roof drains are all plugged with ice.  We sheeted the 3rd floor with plastic and stuffed it down the wall hoping any leaks would drain off and down the outside wall.

Problem kind-of solved,  time to start tiling the floor.  We are down to 3 months and one week before our grand-opening date of April 1st…

Oh wait!  Did I forget to mention there is no water at the airport and it is in single digits?  I made sure we had a couple fish totes filled with water ahead of time for the water supply to mix the mastic and grout.  Ya…  about that…  By this time,  they were completely solid ice.  We had to fill buckets with snow each day and have the jet-heater blast them all night so we could have a little water to work with the next day.

The grouting went well.  Now had to spend several days buffing the surface after it dried for three days.

Then the real fun happened…  Prior to Cascade Air taking over the lease on the hangar,  the city leased it.  The city owned the power plant,  so didn’t care how much power the hangar consumed.  There were electric pipe heaters throughout the roof drains.  Apparently Cascade was a bit shocked to see a $5,000 power bill in the winter,  so they disconnected all the pipe heaters.  And left for the season…

More damaged sheetrock,  more flooding,  more plastic sheeting and cutting out a quarter of the drain pipe to redirect it out a window after the PVC pipes burst.

More and more buffing,  polishing with wax,  then bringing the trim wood back inside to dry again.  T minus 5 weeks and counting…

Creating trim from raw green wood…  I bought a little DeWalt planer that was OK for planing 1″x4″ trim.  Not so great for planing 20 foot long 2″x12″s.

Now what to do for a sales counter?  We have this platform along the back wall,  what to do with it?  This is March 15th.  Two weeks to go…

Counter still needs to be clear coated and needs glass,  but pretty happy with how it turned out,  without a plan…  Now we need more displays.  Carried the rest of the wood back into the hangar – again – cleaned up all the dust and started to think about what else to build…

I think things are coming together OK,  winging it as I go along.  Teen is absolutely freaking out!  This is what the shop looks like on March 28th,  four days before we open:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

T minus 4 days and counting… fast!

Who’s ready for a humiliating opening day?  “Grand”?

My good friend and silent business partner Mark arrives today to help get the rest of the stuff built and ready,  along with the big shipment of glass for the counter,  computer equipment and all the IKEA stuff to help get us by.

Peeling tree trunks and putting the tables together green…  Would have been nice to have the branches dry a little slower,  but they were cut same day,  peeled of bark,  cut to length and assembled all at once,  so the big cracks remain.  Not perfect,  but close enough with three days left.

OK,  last full day before we open.  Actually most of the fear is gone.  Just need to finish up a few things,  clean up and pull out the inventory.  Little things like doors…

Alaska Air called and said our glass was ready to be picked up.  The igloo was out on the ramp waiting for us to come and get it.  The crate the glass was shipped in collapsed inside the igloo.  We open tomorrow.  If the glass is broken,  we have no sales counter.

Nothing was broken!!!  Thank you God!  Meanwhile,  as Mark and I finished up the building and creating,  Teen had help from Hae Sook,  a local friend who was kind enough to come out and help wash windows.

We are out of time at this point,  but we’re still building displays.  I had ordered a rod display rack from Sage,  but it never came.  Still hasn’t…  So better build something.  Display for the rod cases,  but my brand new 1/2″ DeWalt drill broke!  That was really the last thing to go wrong.  One final clean and out comes the little bit of merchandise we had.

It is now 4am April 1st.  Time to go home and hope for a little sleep before being back at the hangar in 4 hours…

Day one,  we had about two dozen locals come out for a visit.  We sold a hat…  The next day,  we had about a half dozen locals and sold a hat and a shirt.  Then…  it was a LONG two weeks before we saw another customer.  What the %$#@ did I get ourselves into?!?!

A couple weeks later,  the floodgates opened.  Our meager supply of merchandise was gone before the end of the month.  It would take more than a month for our emergency orders to arrive,  long after the steelhead season was over.  By May,  “potential” customers came in and expressed that we had a nice shop,  or WOULD HAVE if we had some merchandise to sell…

And the rest is history.  Sort of.  It was an incredible ride and I’m trying to hold myself together right now after going back through these memories.  You guys made this shop what it is and I thank you for your support,  your friendship and for the knowledge you shared with a moron who thought he could start a fly shop in a tiny village having never stepped foot in a fly shop before.  You all made this possible.  Thank you.

I don’t want all this work and everything we all built to go away.  I would love to see someone carry this on into the future,  but if that doesn’t happen,  maybe someday we can start again and bring this back again.  Maybe a little hope for the future.  We’re not going anywhere.  In the meantime,  we’ll sell down the remaining stock this coming year and then…  maybe…  you may even see me on the river again once in a while.  Stranger things have happened.

What it Took to Get Here – Part 3

OK,  I figured this would be just a single post,  but here we are…

Starting to come together,  inside and out!

Back to the river for my guide season…  Trying to juggle two existing businesses while starting a third…

Yes,  Teen’s last season helping in the kitchen and on rare occasion guiding with me.  Fun times.  Back in town in October,  we concreted in the new fence posts,  then had some time to kill while it set for a week.

Needed a few days to let the concrete set,  so…  Took the kids to Cannon Beach and started the arduous process of winter hangar storage.

Had large electrical vaults in the shop floor that had to be filled,  so after getting the hall and offices electrical done,  we insulated and sheetrocked those.  Then filled the vaults and holes with sand and concrete.

Now to move the fence…  This was a VERY LONG day!  Had to have the airport secure before we could leave for the day.

The fence is now gone!  Hall and office mudded,  taped and painted.

We planned to use locally milled Sitka Spruce for all the trim in the shop,  so time to bring all of that inside to dry.  The floor was in really bad shape in this room.  The worst floor in the entire building!  Fortunately we planned for big 16″ tile that could span a lot of the “imperfections”…

20071206-09

Making progress… Can almost see some light at the end of the tunnel…

Getting closer!  And almost Christmas!  In December,  we planned to have a two-day open-house to show the community what we had been up to and what we planned for the future.  Still had a LOT of clean-up before it would be presentable though.  We had our initial order of shirts and hats,  a handful of supplies we acquired from a fly shop that went under in Utah and two sheet cakes.

OK,  a few people came out to see what we were up to,  but not many.  We had a lot of cake to eat by ourselves and a lot of Pinochle to play with my mom and Teen’s mom and dad with us.  A thousand aces,  800 kings,  a double run,  a run with aces round and my mom’s double pinochle…  We played a LOT of cards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As 2007 came to a close,  we were riding high.  Excited about the future and ready for anything that could come.  What could possibly go wrong?  The new year didn’t start the way we expected.  It was a train wreck that will be in part 4…

What it Took to Get Here – Part 2

OK,  where were we…  Back from our shopping trip…

20070428-03

Quick! Look! They’re getting along!!!

We’re back.  Adding the vapor barrier to the walls and building he box around the asbestos pipe across the ceiling…  Box it in and it is protected from damage.  If you ever wondered why the dumb soffit runs full-length across the ceiling of the fly shop,  now you know.

20070504-36

Taking a break from math class

20070505-30

Every day is recess for Eden…

We took a time-out to build birdhouses with the kids…

I have no idea why I started mudding the walls before I sheetrocked the ceiling,  but whatever…  Starting to look pretty good though!

Time to open up the ramp wall from the outside…  Took down three full-sized sheets of siding and three 1/2 sheets along the bottom of the entry door.  We put the 1/2 sheets back up below the new windows on the ramp though.  You have no idea what a 10′ x 3′ sheet of 1/2″ corrugated concrete/asbestos siding weighs!  I didn’t truly understand till we started removing it from the 2nd floor…

And then the shipping container arrived!  Yay!

The rest of the windows,  ceiling sheetrock,  electrical conduit,  more insulation and another load of junk from my mom’s garage from when we moved back to Yakutat…

…and working lights!!!  Followed by insulation and sheetrock.

20070615-20

Doesn’t this look inviting? Complete with chain-link fence to keep everyone out! I love how bad the second floor looks.

20070728-02

Look how clean the hangar bay is!!! Nice work Cascade Air! This is their other DC-3, which was sold to Desert Air in Anchorage and is still flying up there.

OK,  I admit it!  I cheated.  While I was out commercial fishing on the Akwe,  I hired some guys from the fish plant to come out and finish the mudding and paint the primer.  I had to redo about a third of it though.

Ahh…  Life on the river before being tied down in the fly shop…  These were wonderful days that I definitely miss.  Our last summer together out there.  From here on,  one of us had to be in town,  so if I was out fishing,  Teen was in the shop.  During the guide season,  I was out fishing,  Teen was in the shop.  We’d close the first week of October to have a little family time on the river in the initial years.

20070728-14

N272R looks beautiful in the empty – clean hangar. I need to get her that clean again!

OK,  August break between the commercial fishing season and the fall guide season at Italio River Adventures…  Time to split this into part 3…

What it Took to Get Here…

Looking back through the photos to add to that last post about the fly shop,  it made me want to go back through the year of construction to get the fly shop open.  I have a LOT of construction/remodeling experience…  Now…  14 years ago,  not so much.  This whole experiment was educational in many ways.  Not just the fact that I had never landed a steelhead with a fly rod before I opened the shop (had caught untold numbers on spin gear and in my gill-net,  but not in a fly) and had never been inside a fly shop before I created one,  but also how to renovate something like this hangar.  When the opportunity to take on the full hangar happened,  I knew there was no way in h-double-hockey-sticks I would have done so had we not done one room already.  If I could do one,  I could do two…  and three…  and 60…

So in early February 2007,  we walked into the space that would become the fly shop and started cleaning.  It was piled high with junk and debris,  with the ceiling collapsing and falling conduit hanging all over the place.

These photos were taken AFTER three days of hauling load after load to the dump!  What a mess and what the heck was I getting us into???

Another week later and the clean-up was done.  Now the building started.  Unbelievable how many nails that Arkansas National Guard used when they put it all together in the winter and spring of 1941!  Because of the nails used,  I always joked that I was surprised they had any metal left to build ships and planes after building the hangar!  Tanis was on his creative phase,  so he took any scraps he could get his hands on and built WWII aircraft carriers and battleships bristling with firepower – aka lots of nails.

20070217-03

This one was my favorite and I wish I still had it!


20070217-09

While also HomeSchooling in the sub-freezing temperatures


20070219-10

Was it slightly warmer at the top of the ladder to read, or just out of reach of his sister?

Now the construction begins…  After tearing everything out including three interior rooms (the counter is a raised platform that had a closet with a sink in it,  along with an office and closet by the ramp wall) and pulling the thousands of nails that held the soggy ceiling materials,  we framed in 2×4 walls to run the wiring and insulation.  Basically,  we built a building inside the existing walls.  No way to cut into the tongue-and-groove 1-by wall sheeting,  so we built new over it.  Cascade Air (our landlord) had no intention of occupying the hangar in winter – just the warm summers – so we had to do far more than they planned to keep from freezing.

The ramp wall had no window.  Just a small hole that the Weather Service must have used for something I have no idea about back in the day.  We cut the inner wood wall out for the windows and framed in the new wall with wiring and insulation…

Next up – removing the old steel-framed windows along the parking lot wall.  We could grind off the heads of the bolts on the outside and along the inside bottom,  the push out while hoping it wouldn’t fall on anything important,  raining broken glass on you.

By April,  we were semi-weather proof.  The main entrance door was a gaping hole,  but we sheeted the exterior with black plastic and and hoped for the best,  as we headed to Seattle for a construction supply shopping trip.  We broke into new construction houses to look at things like this exterior door – these are the doors we are currently putting in for the upstairs offices,  plus furniture and baskets that are still in the shop from IKEA.

Wow!  This is already long!  I’ll break it off here and have a part 2 tomorrow…  Or tonight…  I need to do another segment on our Tahiti trip,  since we fly out of Yakutat tomorrow night (one year ago)…

Loss of a Legend

Olivia de Havilland passed away yesterday at the age of 104.  She is indisputably one of the greatest actresses of all time and one of the most beautiful.  Winner of 2 Oscars and roles in such great films as Gone with the Wind,  she is probably most famous for two things…

  1. In the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood,  she gets to ride Trigger,  before he became Roy Rogers’ costar and sidekick and…
  2. She visited Yakutat in 1943 touring Alaska military bases.

Her loss ends the great era of Hollywood.  No one left now.  And yes,  she was a relative to Geoffrey de Havilland,  founder of the de Havilland Aircraft Company-maker of the Mosquito, Beaver, Otter and many other great planes.

Weird Time Warp?

IMG_20150927_0021

Photo courtesy: the Levi Ballard Collection

This is a photo from WWII here in Yakutat.  These are rows of “Yakutat Huts”,  one of the two building designs named after the Yakutat Air Base,  where they were first built.  Quonset Huts were named after Quonset Rhode Island,  not Mr. Quonset who didn’t design them…  Yakutat Huts were a 16′ x 16′ prefab wood building kit that could easily be assembled,  used,  disassembled and moved.  They were used all over the world and if you look at any WWII era military base that is still in use,  they will almost always have a “Yakutat Street”,  where 75+ years ago the rows of Yakutat Huts were used for housing.

Question:  Why is this guy talking on a cell phone?

A Frightful and Sad D-Day

Let me start this by thanking all the men and women in uniform who risk their lives to protect me,  my family,  my property,  businesses and those who I love and care about.  That by no means covers every man and woman in uniform,  but it does go out to the vast majority of them.  Police,  fire,  armed forces…

With that out of the way,  today we look back 76 years at a pivotal event in human history where people from all over the world united to land on the shores of France and take Europe back and bring freedom to those who longed to see it again in their homeland.  Unfortunately,  we seem to be watching freedom slip away in our own country and witness a nightly orgy of violence,  destruction and horror at the hands of our fellow Americans.

And some really don’t get it…

Biggest antifa rally in history. https://t.co/ypa46PvYx1

— Mara Liasson (@MaraLiasson) June 6, 2020

 

Yes kids,  that would be Mara Liasson,  a 35 year veteran of NPR.  She is really saying the landings in Normandy on D-Day and ANTIFA rioting,  burning cities,  looting stores and beating bystanders to death in our own country are the same.  She isn’t alone.  There have been MANY of these hot takes today from our media betters,  entertainment celebrities,  politicians and regular blithering idiot Americans.  This is showing more than ever the failures of our public education system.  Pick up a fucking history book you moron!  Sorry for the potty word there,  but if ever it was appropriate,  it would be to these idiots.

We are also seeing a very vocal push to “defund the police”…  Not by the fringe,  but by mayors,  Hollywood mega-stars and members if Congress.  How about we defund NPR instead?

The Greatest Generation fought and died so that today we would have the freedom to throw everything they held dear into the toilet.

June6

As a reminder of what makes a hero,  Teen and I will be watching the Glenn Miller Story tonight.  Glenn Miller was the #1 entertainer in the world for four straight years (1939 to 1942),  until he volunteered to join the US Army in 1942.  In December of 1944,  a few months after D-Day,  he was lost flying across the English Channel to France to perform with the US Army Band for troops near the front lines.  The Norseman he was flying in disappeared into the fog,  never to be seen again.  The BBC officially announced on Christmas Eve that his plane was lost.  No one ever really knew what happened to his plane and no trace was ever recovered.

“Then on Feb 11th,  2000,  the logbook of war-time RAF flight engineer Derek Thurman from Derby,  England was sold for $880 on Sotheby’s internet sales site.  It tells of how a British air raid on Germany was sent back to base,  the night Glenn Miller disappeared.  The 138 Lancaster Bombers dumped their explosives over the sea,  as was normal practice,  to ensure a safe landing.  Mr. Thurman said three crew members on his plane spotted a light aircraft below them,  which they believe was brought down by the hail of jettisoned bombs.”

Glenn Miller was the most successful entertainer of his day.  In The Mood is still the 7th biggest musical hit in history (adjusted for inflation…).  He walked away from extreme wealth and comfort to risk (and lose) his life doing what he could to bring a little bit of home to all those soldiers,  airmen and sailors who were across the sea fighting for their lives and for our freedom.  And to bring comfort and joy to the civilians who had been bombed,  threatened,  occupied and oppressed by the Nazi regime for years.  Yep,  just like ANTIFA…  Or…

The Glenn Miller Story is a fantastic movie.  Not really reality-based for a biography,  but it is still exceptional.  It stars James Stewart,  one of (if not the) greatest movie star of all time (Entertainment Weekly has him listed as #3 behind Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn).  He had enlisted in the Army Air Corps before Pearl Harbor and was actually working guard duty on an air base the morning of December 7th.  He already had his pilot license before he enlisted and would soon have his Best Actor Oscar (for the Philadelphia Story – co-staring with #2) on the mantel.

Unlike most Hollywood stars who volunteered to sell war bonds and travel around in protected areas to entertain,  Mr. Stewart wanted to fly bombers.  The brass wouldn’t allow it.  It took him a year to finally manipulate his way into a bomber squadron heading to England.  He flew about two dozen missions and became the squadron commander.  He refused to sit out the dangerous missions as the brass wanted and earned the respect and admiration of all who served with him.

Jimmy returned to Hollywood after the war,  but his confidence as an actor was shaken.  His first movie post-war was with my favorite director Frank Capra,  also Frank’s first post-war movie – It’s a Wonderful Life.  He suffered bouts of PTSD on the set (before we knew what that was),  but struggled though to become an even bigger star than he was before and to rise to the rank of General in the new Air Force.  He continued to fly active/dangerous missions in the Korean and Viet Nam wars.

These two men – Jimmy and Glenn – were two of the greatest entertainers ever.  But they are heroes and giants in history because of what they volunteered to do to save the world,  not to loot and riot.  Where are the Jimmys and Glenns today?

TransNorthern Landing at Tsiu

Great video of the TransNorthern Super DC-3 landing at a very flooded Tsiu River.  Enjoy: