We had a productive day of flying. Nearly, 400 miles, fantastic weather and incredible scenery.
After last night’s lightening show in Three Forks, this morning was clear and still and we awoke to the best sound in the world. A 450 horse power radial engine at full throttle as a crop duster took off at sun up. We all roused and broke camp. Jesse said a reluctant goodbye (he wants to keep his job), packed up his Murphy Rebel and after a low pass, headed west back to Missoula. I am still shaking my head in wonderment that a man I went to high school with, encouraged his passion for aviation, and hired as a flight instructor so long ago, happened along our adventure path. It was completely unexpected, and such a treat. I hadn’t seen Jesse for years and was excited to hear his stories about dropping smoke jumpers from a DC 3. Having his company added another layer of magic to an already amazing time.
After Jesse took his leave, we all took showers at the FBO. So refreshing after two days on the road. Thank you to the great folks at Three Forks!
An absolutely breathtaking flight to Laurel, Montana. We flew at 9500 feet over Bozeman Pass and when we crossed the ridge, the smell of piney alpine air was so strong, sweet and intoxicating Chrissy said she wished she could take a picture of the smell. Leaving the last high terrain behind, we were mesmerized by the enormous sweeping valleys, endless sky, twisting rivers and open country. Cowgirl fantasies ran rampant. The Rockies receded into the distance and I silently breathed a sigh of relief and regret. So much hazard and so much beauty.
A quick fuel stop in Laurel, where fuel was 4.95 a gallon (home it’s 6.15) and a helicopter was doing pattern work. With my moving map GPS ( I love it), we skirted Billing’s airspace efficiently and bee lined for Miles City. Lots of looong runways there and another quick fuel turn, stretch legs, go to restroom and off. We followed the Yellowstone River and wondered aloud about intrepid Lewis and Clark and wagon trainers. Eastern Montana and North Dakota are green right now. Unusually so for August. The temperatures have been pleasant, but hot a few days before our arrival.
Our final stop for the day was Hettinger, North Dakota. A rural farming community (sunflowers and alfalfa), our friends from Felts Field encouraged us to stop here. We are glad we did! A neat little airport, home to crop dusters and a small maintenance shop, the local pilots made us feel very welcome and looked after.They made sure we knew where to eat, (Primetime steak house), and warned us that “Barney Fife” might cruise the airport tonight. After a debacle a few years back when local kids decided to race their cars upnand down the runway and take a taxiway reflector, the local cops have added the airport to their beat. But the crowning glory was Uncle Buck. A green, 1970 Buick le saber four door courtesy car. The quintesential airport car, Chrissy’s inner redneck was instantly smitten. We let her drive Uncle Buck to town for dinner.
The nearly full moon has risen, Jerry is tucked into his tent, the crickets are chirping and the Cub and the Prince are tied down next to one another. Halfway to our destination and thoroughly enjoying the unfolding journey.