Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Sometimes the best experiences in life are those that are unplanned or spontaneous...the ones that lift our spirits and open new vistas, both literal and figurative.  These are the ones that often require us to stretch out our boundaries to experience something new...perhaps even daring. 

Such was the case last weekend, when we fled the heat of Portland for the cool of the Oregon Coast...Tillamook, to be exact.  Even a few hours before no destination was decided upon.  Driving along Highway 26, before the junction with Highway 6, I was debating...Seaside, or Tillamook? It was a coin toss, and Hwy 6 won out.  It wasn't until we drove into the outskirts of Tillamook, a fairly quiet town whose biggest claim to fame are many...MANY cows, and the Tillamook Cheese factory, that inspiration hit me: Tillamook also has a great airplane museum!!

The museum was better than I remembered from my last visit several years ago.  Housed in an old blimp hanger that also happens to be the world's largest timber structure and one of the few remaining blimp hangers built in the early years of World War II, there is a wonderful collection of military and civilian...and unusual aircraft.  In addition to the planes, there is also a collection of memorabilia of the years the base was an active US Navy installation, and we spent more than 2 hours seeing various videos and displays. 

So you are probably wondering where the spontaneity comes in?  Well, after the museum I spotted a pristine biplane parked outside, and I walked over to take a few photos.  The owner of the plane came over and we started talking.  Our conversation went something like this:

(Me) "You have a beautiful airplane.  Mind if I take some pictures?" 

(Him) "Absolutely not!  You can come around the fence and come on over. In fact. I can even take you for a ride."

Some more discussion ensued, which included what the cost would be.  I was intrigued.  The hook was set.  I called my friend Karen and asked if she wanted to go for a ride.

(Her) Eh-eh!!  (Which I took to be an emphatic no.)

So Dana, the pilot talked to us some more, and the next thing we knew we found ourselves strapped into the front (passenger) cockpit, taxiing down the runway.  Within minutes we were seeing the Oregon Coast from the open cockpit of a 1929 Curtis Wright Travel Air B4000!

This was taken looking back (over my shoulder) south along Netarts Bay and Cape Lookout in the background.  Our pilot Dana sat behind us.

Off our left wingtip are the towns of Netarts and Oceanside.  The plane's maximum speed is 76 mph, but I don't think we were even close to that.  I've always enjoyed a convertible car, but it doesn't compare to an open cockpit airplane.

I think the smile on that goggled face says it all. 

As you can see, the weather was absolutely perfect!

Dana was kind enough to take our photo after our flight.  Yes, we wore leather helmets and goggles, and we could communicate with our pilot through the 2-way radio.  It was cozy.
Our intrepid pilot, Dana Anderson. The aircraft was originally built in 1929, and ceased operations in the late 30's or so.  Dana purchased it in 2006...in pieces.  He (and his friends) cleaned, repaired and re-assembled it over a 3 year period.  He now barnstorms throughout Oregon.  (Yes, I'm giving him a plug, because he is such a nice guy and I'm a sucker for someone who pursues his passion, even if he just makes enough to keep the plane running.  This is a piece of aviation history.)

Speaking of history, I read that the Tillamook Museum will be closing and the collection moved to Madras, in central Oregon sometime in the next couple of years.  If you like airplanes, unusual architecture and history, there is still time to see this unique combination and a truly stellar collection of aviation engineering.

The hanger is more than 1,000 feet long and 15 stories high at the center.  There were originally two such hangers but the other burned down in 1992. 

Here is a link to the museum:

1 comment:

Van Ellingson said...

Wow Paul that's where my father was station at during WWIi
Now I have to go and visit family in Tillamook . I what to see all of the museum and where my grandfather used to take his shakes to sell to Weyerhaeuser . So many memories growing up in Tillamook . Glad I found you again on Facebook. .