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Thread: Indoor Outhouses; Growth and "Progress"

  1. #1
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
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    Indoor Outhouses; Growth and "Progress"

    I’ve oft told all those within earshot for as long as I could hold their attention of the glories of “The Great Land”.

    And just last Saturday, although jammed into a non-reclining coach seat against the aft bulkhead for a little better than three-and-a-half hours, I once again was privileged to share my knowledge of Alaska with a couple of first-time visitors sitting next to me. The (for me) cramped and (usually) interminably LONG and torturous ride sailed by in a pleasant haze of excited conversation as the non-stop Eskimo line smoker took the coastal-becoming-inland route for the non-stop SEA-FAI journey.

    My traveling companions oohed and aahhed as the country below them became ever more less civilized and bared all her natural beauties to the gleaming spring sunshine. And as always, as I emerged from the terminal into the sweet smelling Alaskan air in the early evening Fairbanks sunlight; it was as if some unseen waterfall of peace and tranquility instantly washed all the Lower 48 city grime, soot, and hurried indifference free from my body and soul.

    I could FEEL the muscles in my back, neck and arms notably unwind and relax. I discovered my eyes, now far older than when they first beheld the state’s grandeur, could STILL in fact “see ‘til next Tuesday”…all the way to McKinley in the clean sweet tasting air that I used to take for granted.

    GODfrey it’s good to be home. This is going to be a tough week.

    For the first time in years, since they started the stupid non-smoking policy on domestic flights, I couldn’t reach in my pocket first thing through the doorway and find a cigarette to fire up. At the sawbones insistence that my “Day of Reckoning” had indeed ARRIVED!! ; after forty- years I would finally find out just exactly how MUCH motivation it took me to accomplish what I have been unable to do in over twenty attempts over the last five years or so. I had thrown my remaining cigarettes (36 BUCKS WORTH) into the dumpster on my way to the airport in the Lower 48 a mere 13 hours ago.

    Yesterday was day FOUR. AMAZING. Cold Turkey. No patch. No licorice, sunflower seeds, or cinnamon sticks (although I admit I DID eat a box of TicTacs the FIRST day. But at only 1.7….yes 1 POINT 7 calories apiece I figured I could afford it. My best friend, with whom I’m staying, has known me inside-out for the better part of twenty-six years and is in SHOCK that I remain sane and stable

    But Fort Yukon (FYU) has a lot to do with that.

    Yesterday I saw Ft. Yukon for the first time in…..oh……at LEAST thirteen years.

    I was fortunate enough to catch a ride with an old friend on the spur of the moment.

    It was GREAT sitting in the right seat of what I NOW call a “real airplane”. That being something with a MAXIMUM capacity of 19 passengers.

    The first time since 1984 I got to watch the itty-bitty little 25 cent piece sized engine gauges register N1s, and ITTs and TORQUE settings. I was riding behind a pair of PT-6s for the first time since my old Bandierante days in Fairbanks.

    The Captain of the ship (a “real” pilot that actually FLYS an airplane) worked his way through the checklist and next thing I knew the nosewheel was lifting off of runway zero one left’s grooved surface followed almost instantly by the mains.

    Not so many minutes later we settle at 11,500 feet and the pilot engages the autopilot so as to give himself time to complete the flight paperwork. Halfway there already and it’s time to point the nose downhill.

    I marvel at the precise pattern flown by the pilot as he rolls out, wings level after the turn with the touchdown point now directly in front of us no more than a mile. Chuckling to myself I wonder how most of the instructors and check airmen at my “big-time”, top four or five MAJOR airline(s) would have “graded” it?

    After unloading, it was time to recycle some of the two gallons of water I had already consumed this day so I hollered at the other fella’ that I would be RIGHT back. I then turned and headed toward the SIDE of the hangar preparing to “water the gravel”. This brought a comment from my new friend that if I was to go inSIDE instead I just MIGHT find “all the comforts of home”.

    Low….and…..behold. InSIDE the “terminal” at the Ft. Yukon I did. I found an “Inside Outhouse” complete not only with good reading material but the T.P. was fit for royalty.

    Why, last time I’d lived in “The Fort” (1981) the local sentiment among the Athabascan residents was that NO white man would be digging to put any pipes anywhere on THEIR land. My….MY how times have CHANGED.

    AN unbeLIEVEable improvement over the old spring and summer torture test of taking a discreet tinkle out of (most of) the public’s view whilst TRYing to swat misquitos with your free hand (if unlike me of course, you can SPARE one.)

    Not to even MENTION winter. Stepping outside in your moccasins and longjohns at seventy-three below (my personal record). [And NO! Contrary to popular belief….it DOESN’T FREEZE before it hits the ground although it DOES (prior to impact with mother earth) immediately upon exiting the body throw off a HELL of a STEAM trail, which can be QUITE fascinating of it’s own accord.]

    But alas. Now, taking a pee in Fort Yukon is no more challenging than anywhere else in the world.

    All these jumbled thoughts go bouncing about my cranium as I return to the boarding steps of my transport to find that our PILOT has parked himself in the right seat and is indicating that he expects to have ME do the driving on the way home!!


    I sincerely and EARNestly inquire of him “Are you SURE you want to DO THIS??!! You DON’T really NEED to let me do this you know.”

    He has known me for a few years and even though never having personally flown with me he has heard rumors that I USED to be at least somewhat of a decent stick.

    With his prompting and MUCH help with the location of switches, ammeters and such and a short running commentary as we take runway zero-three for takeoff from FYU; in a matter of a few short minutes we are airborne. I am FLYING……….REALLY! I am REALLY FLYING a REAL airplane again for the first time in a YEAR!

    He gives me carte blanche so I stop our southbound climb at 3500 feet and begin a descent again. (Barely) Remembering in time to switch to 122.9 I announce with a bounce in my voice “Birch Creek traffic – WeedWhacker 1234 ZULU three north gonna’ blow across the top of town at two thousand feet” (about 16oo AGL)

    A steep turn over downtown Birch Creek (pop. 32 last I heard) reveals that they built a new house there since the last time I saw the place in ’93. Progress EVERWHERE!!

    I remain at two thousand MSL heading 187 degrees for Fairbanks on the Chena. The Yukon Flats rises slowly in elevation below me as we approach the White Mountains. Banking this way then that I search for at least ONE lone Bullwinkle that I can get a good look at, but they musta’ heard my PT-6s a’comin’ an’ hid in the brush.

    Finally, just a few feet (rising elevation wise) prior to the twin three bladed fully-feathering reversible pitch Hartzells starting to chew into the tops of the brush I haul the yoke back with my left hand while jamming the throttles forward stopping well short of the red lines on the torque gauges.

    With no load I leave the prop RPM set at cruise and our high speed flat-hatting on the deck cruise momentum with some help from the added torque propels us heavenward at almost 2500 feet per minute initially. In just a couple of minutes I level off at sixty-five hundred feet and caress the elevator trim wheel slowly and minutely forward every few seconds as the airspeed rebuilds from the top of the white to almost the top of the green.

    The REAL pilot (in the right seat) looks at my face and laughs. I think the silly ass grin must’ve pushed my ears further back on the sides of my head.

    As he returned to his paperwork I watched Lime peak approach and wondered if the two or three wrecks from the old days still littered both sides of the peak. I glanced to my right and followed Birch Creek with my eyes as it headed southwest through the hills. I remembered the hundreds or hours spent (mostly) effortlessly and boringly plodding back and forth across these hills in the Bandits, turbines howling, enroute to the Fort or Venetie or Arctic Village or all the way to Bitter Barter By the Bay (as I liked to call Barter Island).

    And how well, for a moment, from my vantage point today could I look down on Beaver Creek and remember the very FEW hours that SEEMED like LIFETIMES crawling through Birch Creek at night in the dark down low trying to get to town with a critical medivac. One lonely pilot trying NOT to get SCARED down low in the dark and snow in his Cessna 207. To low for anything but the ADF pointing just about abeam the left wing. It’s saying ‘Hey. FAI is over THERE. Think you’ll MAKE it tonight?”

    Couldn’t go high when we left the Fort ‘cause the icing started at three thousand. So a FYU radial to intercept the snow covered creek sticking out of the darkness like a dimly lit residential street is this patient’s only hope tonight.
    I don’t remember too clearly the southwest end of the Whites where Birch Creek wraps around the hills to head eastward again, I only remember that I KNEW it wasn’t the way I wanted to go.

    NO more than forty-five miles to Runway 19 R at FAI and I point the nose of the sled at the ADF needle and begin my climb into the darkness. I flat climb at about six hundred feet per minute after passing three thousand determined to try for fifty-five hundred feet. I rejoice and mutter a silent “Thank You Lord” as the DME kicks in and registers just thirty-nine point eight miles to the FAI VOR. The end of the runway I seek is even three miles closer to me than the VOR.

    The ATIS says the temperature at FAI tonight is 28 and the visibility is two miles in snow. MY OAT is reading 17 degrees now and the ice has built up to about a half an inch already. I crank the prop control and throttle back up to METO and allow my precious altitude to start slipping away at just two hundred feet a minute.

    My groundspeed readout is showing 142 and some quick mental math eases my anxiety, as I believe I’ll make ‘er just fine now. The ice no longer seems to be building and I level off at four thousand where I will stay until intercepting the localizer and glide slope for FAI.

    In another few minutes the lights of the University are sliding beneath me as the electronic beams guide me into brighter and brighter snowflake filled skies until at last passing a thousand feet the advertised two miles visibility arrives and I can see the whole airport and the western half of the big city. A barstool at Pike’s is only a few short minutes away now.

    A barstool.

    I shake my head to clear the memories as Lime Peak disappears behind the right wing and ask the real pilot “Hey Bub!! Still call 40 out for VFR advisories inbound??”

    My former roommate and boss (and still like a brother to me) hears my voice on approach control in the scanner in his office. Realizing that I am actually FLYING A REAL PLANE for the first time in lord KNOWS how long…he determines to make merriment out of what will no DOUBT be either an incredibly BAD or incredibly GOOD landing.

    I am used to starting my “flare” when the radar altimeter activated voice in MY cockpit hollers “THIRTY FEET”. THAT’S the way it WORKS! Three, four, sometimes FIVE times a day three or four days a week.

    Now, as NICELY equipped as this twin turbine WAS…..there was NO radar altimeter activated VOICE to holler out “THIRTY FEET” leaving me to have to decide for my SELF where exactly the HELL thirty feet WAS!

    I don’t know WHY However. As thirty feet had no real RELEVANCE in toDAY’s landing operation.

    The REAL pilot (in the right seat) sat there and, along with ANYone who witnessed this fiasco from any vantage point, chortled and tried to keep from BELLY laughing as big-time AIRline pilot TRIES like HELL to figure out WHERE the hell they moved the LANDING GEAR TOO, and figure OUT a way to impact Mother Earth main gear first!

    We turned off with two exits left (before the far end of the 11,000 foot runway).

    Taxying in, my friend, like some judge at a diving competition, held up a paper on which he had written the number 6.8.

    He had written it in advance before he had left his office to come outside and was WAY too generous in his scoring. No Matter.

    I crawled down from the plane with a grin still splitting my face, ear-to ear. I couldn’t THANK them both enough for the opportunity they had given me this day. I know it’s not that funny, but I just really had to share it with my friends, and you are they.

    In less than 48 hours I must board a jetliner and return to the place I don’t WANT to be. The land of stressed out , self-focused , defensively UN-friendly people. A land where the air is visible and comes with it’s own peculiar taste and odor.

    It’s a place that living in leaves me in constant confusion and stress. LOTS of BARS though. Too bad the Doc said I need to give up drinking.

    STILL lots of places where you can SMOKE without getting thowed out or fined ….but of course…..I’m (hopefully) a NON-smoker now.

    One, if not TWO good restaurants on EVERY corner serving EVERY DELICIOUS THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY WANT TO EAT ….that of course, my DOCtor says I can no longer have.

    I THI-I-I-Ink… .when I get back there…..I will go find someplace to “discreetly” take a whizzz on the side of some building somewheres ever so often.


    P.S. 5 DAYS...NINE hours and 54 minutes since I've had a smoke...but who's COUNTing??

  2. #2
    dreamer's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Somewhere over the Rainbow
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    Hey Cloudy! It's been almost exactly six months now since I quit smoking (over twenty years smoking camel non-filters). I did keep track of the hours and days and weeks for awhile. At first it's one wall climbing moment after another . Those moments last about five minutes at a time and then they are OVER! So all you have to do is get through each of those moments... they occur less and less frequently and eventually hardly ever. After a few days you are over the worst of it, by the second or third week you've kicked the physical addiction, the rest is just mental. I was warned to avoid having "just one" if I didn't want to go through the worst of it all over again. Give me a call on 122.9 if you need help getting through a rough moment. I'm real happy for you I KNOW you can do it!


  3. #3
    55-PA18A's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    Dillingham, Alaska
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    CD,...if the folks down there only knew how accurately you can describe things up here. You've got a gift man. Alaska really is different.

    Don't let the literary dry periods get you down. Not everything has to be side-splitting funny. You do a great job at that, but go back and read some of your descriptions of aircraft control adjustments, landing, etc. You do a better job of describing how something needs to be done (right) than most technical manuals I've read. That kind of writing is hard to do,...well.

    Also, don't feel like you're letting us down when we don't get our regular installments (CD-fixes). We ain't payin ya nuthin ! But I think the general consensus here is that we all hope to soon.

    Re: the smokes. Just think how much money you can save from quitting smoking that will now be available to spend on really good booze and the hootchy-kootchy dancers !! Now that's incentive !!


  4. #4

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    Sep 2006
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    Okay my BS meter just pegged A WORKING autopilot!, in Alaska!, nah..... my how times have changed.

    Remember a Scare North 402 "Captain" when asked by the local FAA ramp inspector type after arriving single pilot IFR

    FAA: Does your autopilot work?

    Captain: Well it did the last time I used it

    Whereupon said FAA inspector pointed out the gaping hole in the panel where the autopliot SHOULD have been.......

    Cheers from a 3 autopilot flight deck

  5. #5
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    L. Ronstadt - J. Ingram Duet
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    Hiya MasterRod -

    Yeah. My FAI buddy and I are just sitting here after dinner laughing our butts off at your comment.

    And the funny part is the former Scare North pilot to which you refer is now also issuing "Cheers" from HIS 3-autopilot flight deck at UAL.

    Ain't life FUNNY!!


  6. #6

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    Jan 2004
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    Hey CloudDancer, great story and I can confirm losing the smokes is pretty hard. Been off the coffin nails for 15 years and there's lots of days my body says "geez a smoke would be nice".
    Hang in there buddy its worth the pain.

  7. #7
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
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    Hiya N.C.Y. -

    Glad you enjoyed the writing. Didn't really think it qualified as much of a "story". Certainly not "Chronicle worthy" in my mind.

    With a notable LACK of humor (or tragedy now that I've decided I can maybe write those too)....I actually considered this thread opener to be more of a....oh...."Position Report".

    When I hit one of my creative or humor dry spells, as you'll note happens from time to time; I still try to occasionally "make my presence known" for lack of a better description. members have become an (as yet) unmet group of new BESTEST FRIENDS and I just always want to try and say "Howdy" ever few days at least.

    I DO like to come up with catchy thread titles though, eh?

    Much ah-PREciate your (and Dreamer's ) encouraging words on my new "Behavior Self-Modification Program".

    I'm most certain however that my idol, The Chairman of the Board, was correct in noting that - if you DON'T - when you wake UP in the morning....Hey babe....that is as GOOD as you're going to feel all DAY!! (Sorry for the paraphrase Frank) But....I'm guessing my second career as a Karoke Lounge Lizard specializing in the works of the Rat Pack died with the cigarette habit.

    I just can't DO "Come Fly With Me" without a lit cigarette in one hand and a big tumble of an iced dark adult beverage handy to the other. (Sigh)

    I sure hope this writing gig turns into SOMEthing fun and time consuming 'cause the rest of life as I know it is goin' down the tubes!!

    Cloud(No Smoking Sign Illuminated )Dancer

    Six DAYS.....Three HOURS....and SEVEN Minutes since my last smoke. HAAAAA-RUUUMPH!!

  8. #8
    CloudDancer's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
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    Hiya 58 PA18-A -

    Thank YOU Jim as well for your kind comments.
    Yeah...once Alaska grows on ya' STAYS! I'm down to less than 10 hours afore' I gotta' go back "Outside". It might be a little grey and dreary in the Golden Heart City today, but I'm going to get out and ENJOY the last few hours of clean air and jus' GOOD FOLKS!!

    Cloud(I doan' WANNA GO!!)Dancer

  9. #9
    Snert's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Raleigh, NC
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    Everybody knows its harder for a man to stop smoking. The two hardest gags to give up are the one with the first cup of coffee in the morning and the one after he thinks about sex.

  10. #10
    skagwaypilot's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
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    Cloudy..... Whadya mean??? "Certainly not "Chronicle worthy" ..
    I must protest... you are in fine form and I'll expect to see more of this in the Chronicles.

    And, having quited smoking myself, perhaps I can offer an observation. You are off to a good start because of one thing. You are not at your usual routine.
    I quit while on a month-long business trip from California to New York. So I was in a different time zone, a different work environment and different associates. It was a struggle, but I did it cold-turkey. At the end of the trip month long trip, I returned to:
    • my old job,
      my old car,
      my old apartment
      my old schedule
      my old associates

    Guess what was back??? It was just as if I had quit the day before. All the events that triggered the desire to have a cig were back. So, when you return to the regular grind, avoid those 'triggers' - those times in your daily routine when you usually lit up.
    There are two elements in the smoking addiction, the nicotine and the habit. The habit is as difficult to overcome as the drug. Avoid the triggers and it will be easier... in fact, achievable - at least, that was my experience.
    Skagway (Smoke free for 38 years) Pilot.

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