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A J-3 cross country


Registered User
I have a great love of short and challenging places, places for which the Cub is so perfectly suited. I also have a love of cross country journeys in slower airplanes. It’s hard to beat a low-level sightseeing cruise across ever-changing territory. I will suggest that few airplane sorts of things will rival the joy of doing a longer cross country trip in something that travels at about a 100 or so. Until you do one of these, you are missing one of life’s greatest treats. After I was married, we always did our trips with sectionals and a timer, bebopping around routes made more circuitous by our dodging of the bigger metro areas. We purposely planned for the smallest, out of the way places and were never disappointed by these choices. We were always welcomed by airport people who would insist that we use the ‘airport’ car for a trip to the City Diner for lunch. We never had to walk! I have been across the country in both directions many times and treasure these experiences. As a couple, we had less room for luggage, so we used UPS to ship our visiting rags on ahead, so we could have a less cramped cabin for the travelling part. I hope you will enjoy just one little tale of travel ‘Cub’ style. In the interest of simplifying things a bit, I have omitted the fuel stops and listed only the overnight places and some of the interesting people I met.

This particular story started in the summer of 1973. In June of 1973, I met a beautiful girl while visiting the aircraft display/museum at the airport in Florence, SC. She and her folks were taking in the display while on vacation from Redrock, NM. About two weeks later and back home in Sneads Ferry, NC, I got a letter from Carmen, asking me to come see her in Redrock. Things being what they were back in those days, it only made sense I should go. In fact, I couldn’t think of a more logical thing to do. I packed a few extra pairs of cutoffs and some tee shirts into 42383, my ol Cub, lubed up the trim jack-screw and headed west for Redrock and the lovely Carmen.

The first day got me only as far as a private strip named Elliott, a ways north of Atlanta, SC. There was no one around the Elliott strip, so I walked to a little country store not far away. Nice ol guy that ran the store told me it was ok to spend the night there at the Elliott strip, that those were friendly folks. So, after a Nab and Coke dinner, I pitched my tent under the wing till morning. The wind had been on my nose so far and it was blowing 15 or so again today, so ground speed was kinda slow and that danged trim jack-screw was doing its deal of sticking anywhere but where I needed it to be for comfy cruizing. On this, the second day out, I ran into rain and that sorta complicated things by getting my plugs and wires wet. Had to pull the power way back to keep the misfiring settled down. It was a slow go till the rain stopped, the wires and plugs dried and I could kick it back up to 73 or so. For my second night out, I found another private strip named Wards, a little ways east of Wilmot, Ark. This time, my luck was running better as I met a nice older fellow, Ben Miller, who was there changing oil in his Taylorcraft. He took me home to meet his wife, Nonnie and to have dinner and a real bed! Boy, this was nice. Well rested, I made some real time this next day. The weather was perfect, I had little tail wind much of the time and I fairly well roared across Tx. Late in the day, I put it down in a cow pasture just a little bit west of Spur, Tx. I walked into town and found a little resturant that I remember as The Cattleman’s. They had great food and a few cold beers that really worked well for me. Much to my delight and some 30-years later, I became acquainted with a cow man from Spur by the name of Harvey Cannon. He told me that if I ever need an overnight spot again to be sure to use his pasture! Funny, when I look back on it, I don’t remember it being a big deal to plop the J-3 down in a vacant spot to pitch a tent and spend the night. I think this was a more relaxed time, a time when people would ask a few questions before they pulled the trigger. You know, the more I reflect on the crazy things that happened to me back in the 70’s, the more I find myself wondering about this whole ‘Cub’ thing, wondering if perhaps flying the Cub might have been having some bizarre, mood altering effect on me. I mean, I don’t ever remember having the urge to get out of my clothes and fly in the buff in any other planes. Flying a Cub seemed to lower the inhibitions, stifle any reserve and practically encourage the outrageous, or at least that is how it worked with me. When I left Spur the next day and as I forged onward, I was dismayed that a mile-long freight train passed me---ugh. Yes, the wind had kicked up and was huffing away on the nose, but thankfully, the skies were big and blue. As a consolation, the train guys were all friendly, waving to me as I whizzed along telephone pole high, first on one side of the train then the other. Eventually though, I had the last laugh when the wind fell off a bit and I was able to work my way back to the front of the train and eventually, moved ahead as we all waved goodbye. At the end of day I spotted a big cattle ranch and some people gathered in front of a big tractor shed and they waved me in. I had set down on a private, ranch strip near Flying H, NM hoping for a little rest and maybe even a splash of fuel. The cowhands there were gracious indeed and took me in like a long lost buddy. As they quizzed me about the plane and my trip, I learned that they were preparing for the celebration of the boss’s birthday. The festive preparations included the cooking of an entire pig that they had in a huge bbq barrel thing on wheels. They had been cooking that pig all day and had quite obviously been sneaking little sips of whiskey the whole time, too. They let me have the run of the bunkhouse facilities for a much needed shower and even outfitted me with ‘normal’ clothes (Levis and button shirts) so’s not to offend the boss who had no appreciation for ‘hippies’, as they put it. I even shaved off my whiskers to show my respect. Of course, I really needed to do this anyway as I was getting closer to Redrock. It was a grand evening and I shall never forget that wild and rambunctious crew! The boss, Big Dan, a fatherly figure for me and his guys, suggested a day of rest that next day as the party had been a rowdy one and I’m glad he pushed me on this, cuz I really didn’t feel so much like travelling. So, it was a day off for me and the Cub and a great day of palling around with the cowhands. I still remember many of their names and often wonder how things worked out for them, my new-found friends. When it was time to hit the trail again, I was even more anxious to get on over to Redrock and Carmen. This final day of travel was a good one; no wind, bright blue skys and not that far to go----yeah!! Funny thing; after traveling so far, I had some difficulty in finding Carmen’s family ranch. They had told me it was a little bit east of Redrock. Well, Redrock was not much bigger than just an intersection and there were cattle everywhere. I circled a few different ranch places before finding the right one. When I did, family and crew ran out waving their arms in welcome. I remember thinking, “if they only knew”, cuz I must have thought I was a pretty special hombre back then! My first surprise was learning that Carmen had so many brothers, big, older, protective brothers-----. When I asked her why she had not told me of them, she asked if I would have come knowing she was the only baby sister. Good question. On a big ranch there is always something that needs to be done, so Carmen’s dad and the boys put me right to work with them the next day. There would be none of this laying around, lazy visitor stuff on their place! But man oh man, it was good. It was good being treated like one of the family and we had a fine time. I took every member of the family on plane rides, showing them their outfit from above and while doing this, discovered a little draw far enough from prying eyes to be a great getaway for Carmen and me when we went out cruizin. But enough of that stuff, this is a family show. Eventually, though, these good times had to come to an end and it would be time for me to mount the Cub and point it east for a while, but that is a whole nuther story. Carmen and I vowed to meet again somehow and soon, although we had no idea how that would happen. Ah, sweet youth.

I will share the story of the return leg another time.

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Thank you for the kind words, Darrel. Many have had experiences far more bold and grand, far more interesting than mine, I am sure of it. That people can hear my stories, these short chapters in my life and find some joy in these shared experiences, well, that is fun for me. It is sad to think that so many truly interesting stories have gone untold, unshared with others because the adventurer was not able to author them.

Your comments cause me to wonder about the idea of a book. That could be lots of fun.
Very interesting Shorty! Reminds me of a few "trips" I made but mine were nowhere near as long.
Been a while since we have had any active good story tellers around here, we have some great ones, some have passed on, some are hibernating :)

Darrel, Super11 and SJ----------my wife warns you to be careful, these things you say are encouraging!8)
Just a suggestion, Shorty: Use regular rather than bold font, especially in a longer post. It's kind of hard to read.

Been a while since we have had any active good story tellers around here, we have some great ones, some have passed on, some are hibernating :)


Shorty, Great story! Looking forward to the next chapter! You can tell a good story.

"You know, the more I reflect on the crazy things that happened to me back in the 70’s, the more I find myself wondering about this whole ‘Cub’ thing, wondering if perhaps flying the Cub might have been having some bizarre, mood altering effect on me."

The 70's were a fun time for sure... a person could do stuffs in an airplane then and not get a lot of attention from the authorities.

70's Grand Prix racing film by Ron Howard, RUSH, shows some of the spirit of the times... A driver gets his "face burnt off", then some 42 days later
as soon as he can get his helmet on his swollen head, he's racing again.

Just get in and go...

Great story.

ps. Just this past fall George here gets all burnt with boat gas.... And he's right back at it again. !!
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Great story Shorty. I pursued a few women in my 7ECA Citabria in the '70's and often got the second date but usually not the third. Hmmmm. You're a good creative writer. Lets hear more when you get the chance.
I am patiently waiting until all of the applicable statues of limitation have passed before I start writing about cross country flying and flying in general.....;)
I am with Anne. Also use some paragraphs - makes it easier to read. I too have done a few J-3 transcontinentals. The only real difference then and now is you need a wing tank, a radio, and lots of info about where fuel is available. In the 1960s and 1970s a 12-gallon tank was sufficient, you could camp under the wing, nobody ever charged tiedown, and radio was simply not needed.
Thanks for the post! This is something I would love to do sometime versus the typical jump in the airplane and make the quickest trip from point A to point B. The number of stories I fly past on my quick trips makes me wonder what all I have missed.

Thanks again!