Some of you may have noticed photos of a little yellow airplane on the blog. That is the airplane owned and flown by my friend Miss D., otherwise known as Mrs. Bayou Renaissance Man.
Miss D. restored this historic little bird and is flying it all the way from Alaska to return to her husband and home. A 4000 mile journey, she followed the Alcan Highway from Alaska to the USA, a route taken by tens of thousands of aircraft before her (mostly in the other direction) during World War II and afterwards. The road generally follows the Northwest Staging Route set up for Lend-Lease aircraft being shipped to the Soviet Union during World War II. Most of its airfields are still in operation.
For a wonderful account of the journey and the people she's met on the way take a visit at her blog, On a Wing and a Whim .
The best part of the trip? She is making a little dog leg in her route and stopping to visit Barkley and I for a couple of days! She should be here later today. Barkley was caught on the guest bed giving a look that said "but I'm just making sure it's comfy for her". I'm chopping veggies and marinating various beasts and chilling wine. (I asked her her preference for meals for the weekend and she said "Spicy, MEAT, veggies"). Did I mention BACON! There's also a homemade key lime cheesecake lurking in the refrigerator. And Peter, don't you worry about us, two female pilots, weapons, wine, a dog and a cheesecake.What trouble could we get into? Really, any stories you hear about two females who smell like aviation fuel and bacon singing sea shanties at the local Irish pub. Just rumour.
It's been a joy to hear about the trip as she flies it. We've been chatting throughout the days through the joys of electronics and phone cameras, sometimes late into the evening, as she camps under the wing or catches some sleep in an airport pilot lounge.
Friday evening she sent me this photo.
In front of the gas pumps is Sylvester, queen of the airport. No pilot may get gas without without paying homage. She is facing off Oliver, airport lurker, that little fuzzy spot with paws there on the right hand side of the photo. Oliver will not let any pilot get within twelve feet, but does his part in keeping the grass mouse and gopher free.
I've loved sharing her stories, and she's shared some of mine, though my time in Alaska was a long summer break, between jobs.
There is just something about Alaska. For many people it's on the list of places they want to visit before they die. For others it's a journey ending with roots taking hold deep into the tundra. I was one of the former. Not wanting to wait until I got older, retired, had an empty nest or lost those 10 pounds, I just went.
I met some interesting people as well along the way. A retired Baptist minister who ran a trading post and made sure I had enough bottled water and Beef Jerky for my afternoon jaunts. And there was the time I offered a ride in my airplane to two French tourists who had come up for their idea of adventure, paying probably $10,000 for the privilege of camping out alone for a few days, then a carefully orchestrated raft or hunting trip they could go home and brag about. They had missed their pilot who was to drop them at their camp. Since I was taking my plane up that way to check out an eagles nest I'd seen from the air, I told them I'd drop them off where they were going to camp as I was flying there anyway. I'd like to say that they were gracious, joyous people and we had a wonderful experience, but they were the rudest, nastiest couple I'd ever met in my life. It got to the point I gave up being polite and started to burp and pretend to nod off at the controls muttering the phrase "boy I wish I hadn't drunk that bottle of cough syrup".
Another time I landed at one lake on which there was a beautiful cabin. There were no roads to it, you could only fly in and the nearest place was 20 miles away by dog team or snowmobile. A widow lived there, the wife of a Alaska Airlines pilot, she'd never been to the state until she fell in love with a resident and moved. She offered me some gas and coffee and I ended up staying for two days, sharing stories of life in the wild, and learning just how deep love will lead you into the wilderness of your heart.
I'm so glad Miss D. got the chance, with the support of a loving husband, to complete the restoration of her airplane; to follow her dream. Even if it takes her somewhere else than her beloved Alaska, to her home with her beloved. For the true harvest of your dreams will always be as intangible and indescribable as the tints of an Arctic sky. A landscape of magic, held onto, if only for short moments in time.
Miss D, I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing the journey, even if earthbound. We'll be there to fetch you at the airport shortly!
Is she here yet?