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New Book: Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots

December, 2014

Cover (Large)I’ve published a new book (released November, 2014) Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots.  Epic Adventures, Romance and Outdoor Fun in the Western USA. The book has received great reviews (thank goodness) and is available at www.fiftyclassics.com.  As a West Coast Flying Adventure blog reader you can use coupon code “blog20″ to get 20% off on the price of the book.

- Thanks – Ney

Scuba Diving at Catalina Island

December, 2014

First, I apologize things have slowed down on the adventures because the book has taken my energy.  Now that it is finished and out I can get caught up a bit.

I have to admit this was somewhat of a forced adventure.  I had already written most of the book and deciding on what destinations are included for the “Fifty Classics” became tougher than I thought.  I finally decided I needed less of the canyonlands area and more near southern California where there are so many pilots.

Catalina, it seemed, should be on the list but I hadn’t been there.  At first it seemed like an easy solution.  Go there. My friend and fellow 210 pilot Mark Rudolph and his wife Julie gladly accepted an invitation to go there, but schedules got in the way.

Meanwhile I needed to get preview copies of the book out to Magazine editors so I ended up just leaving out Catalina.  When we finally did the adventure – which was great – I went home, finished that chapter and literally wrapped up the book in two days with time for printing before the November 1st publishing date.

Luckily we all did have a good time. I didn’t drag everyone there for nothing.  It’s a great place to fly to and the diving (being sheltered from the battering waves of the Pacific) is great.

Electric Bike Tour of Avalon

Electric Bike Tour of Avalon

Avalon Dive Park

Avalon Dive Park

Mark in Dive Park

Mark in Dive Park

Next time I want to go here.

Emerald Cove: Next time I want to go here.

Final to "Airport in the Sky"

Final to “Airport in the Sky”

New Book: Fifty Destinations for Pilots – Epic Adventures and Romance

November, 2014

Hey faithful readers,

I wrote a book! Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots: Epic Adventures, Romance and Outdoor Fun in the Western USA

It is available at www.fiftyclassics.com

Cover (Large)

So what is in the book?

It is more of a coffee table book than a guidebook. It is large format, 8.5 x 11” in full color with lots of photos. Yes, many photos are already in the blog but there are many new ones.

Many of the adventures are in the blog too, but it was much harder than expected to take the blog content and make a book out it. As a result I think you’ll find it is quite different than the blog in many ways. For one I had four rounds of editing so my spelling is much better and commas are now in the right place.

So far I’ve had great reviews from those that have seen preview copies.  Flying Magazine said, “we don’t do books” but when they saw it they put it in their December gift guide issue and were calling it, “The Ultimate Adventure Guide”.  Unfortunately they cut the 6 page gift guide to 4 pages and my book got cut.  So that was disappointing but I am working on articles with some magazines so I hope to get some publicity from that.

Again, thank you.

Journey to Self-published, “Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots”

November, 2014

Over the years I had several people say I should write a book about many of the adventures you’ve read about in my blog.  I’ve always thought that the pilot community is pretty small and the adventure community is pretty small and my target would be the intersection of those two groups.  I would sell about 17 books.  However I did get some comments in the blog that pilots were interested in the adventures and Betsy and I have done some “normal” stuff like romantic getaways and trips with friends.

So early this year I decided to write a book, “West Coast Flying Adventures” later retitled to “100 Classic Destinations..” later retitled to “Fifty Classic Destinations…” I decided to have it ready by Christmas if I could which I knew meant a lot of work.

Month 1-4, The main content

I first created the fifty list and decided I really needed more destinations near southern California where so many pilots live, so I took out a few and put in Big Bear, San Diego and Santa Catalina on the list even though I hadn’t done flying adventures there (yet).

I spent evenings writing the text (using some stuff from the blog) but not using any photography at all.  When I finished the first draft I hired a professional editor from elance.com and she (an English teacher) corrected a lot of errors. I was an engineering major in college that had to take “bonehead” English courses so I definitely need a little help.

Month 4-5, Design and Layout

It didn’t take long to figure out that books like this are laid out with Adobe InDesign.  Two years ago I bought a nice big desktop computer with lots of RAM, graphics co-processor and two HD monitors in order to make videos and it turns out to be a perfect setup to design and lay out a book.   I have Adobe Create Suite with InDesign so I started InDesign right up and clicked on “New book”.  I couldn’t even get one character to show up on the screen so I bought two books on InDesign (It turns out “New document” will create something – “New book” merely allows you to combine documents into a book).

So I learned InDesign by reading about it at night then the following evening trying out what I had learned.  I went through a few different layouts for the book and finally decided upon the one you see in the book.  I had trouble later with the CMYK colors, transparencies and registration errors but that is far more than you want to know (and more than I wanted to know).

I laid out a rough draft of the book and selected, arranged and sized all the photos although the book was still missing many side stories and some adventures.

Month 5-7, Send out preview copies

I sent my rough layout to Mark Rudolph, a friend and pilot, to edit the book as it relates to pilots and also to my father-in-law Michael who used to edit books.  My informal and simple style (i.e. bad English) drove Michael a little nuts and about halfway through the book he gave up on trying to remove or move commas.  I learned from him what I was doing wrong and was able to edit the book a little more myself.  Betsy also went through the book and did a bunch of editing.

I knew magazines needed a long lead time so I sent my rough draft out to the main aviation magazines, and there I learned how hard this was going to be. EAA Sport Magazine replied and Mac McClellan said they “don’t do books” and , “It continues to astonish me the rate at which aviation titles are published”.  Sorry Mac for bothering you and thank you for the words of encouragement. But he did reply.

Flying Magazine also said they don’t do books.  But when the editor saw the book she told me, “this is exactly what the industry needs, real adventures and real places to go”.  She loved the book and interviewed me on the phone. Soon she said they had selected it for inclusion in the December gift guide and they needed a book ASAP for photography.  I didn’t have one and had to ask someone I had sent the book to to FedX it to Flying Magazine.  Awkward.  Flying was going to call it “The Ultimate Adventure Guide”.  Awesome! Then a month later they told me they had to cut the gift guide from 6 pages to 4 and they cut me out.  Bummer!  Still, I was thrilled the Flying editor liked the book – maybe I had something.

The word is still out on AOPA Magazine.  The editor said, “well, it is certainly more robust than other guides”.  I guess that is something.  I also had written an article for them on the Fry Canyon adventure and they asked for me to cut it down to 1,000 words.  That seemed like a good sign and I quickly edited the article and got it back to them.  Then they stopped returning my emails. So a bit of a black hole there at AOPA.

Plane and Pilot magazine never replied to me.  I emailed and asked for an address of an editor to send it to.  Nothing.  I sent the book anyway and then asked for acknowledgement of receipt. Nothing. Another email.  Nothing.  Maybe they went out of business and I missed that.

I also sent it out to aviation bloggers.  Karlene Petite and Ron Rapp loved the book and were absolutely terrific in offering their support.  There is a general aviation podcast called AirplaneGeeks and I thought, hey, I think I would make an interesting guest on the podcast.  However Max Flight of AirplaneGeeks refused to accept a copy of the book to look at.  Actually refused to even look at it which for a general aviation site was a little bewildering.

Finally I sent it out to a few people so I could get some advance reviews.  Hopefully they didn’t just give me good reviews because they knew me, because so far everyone who has seen the book has really liked it.

Month 8-9, Finish the book

While I was sending out preview copies I was still trying to finish the book.  I was able to get to Big Bear during a business trip to San Diego and we went scuba diving at Catalina so I was able to fill those holes in the book. I had technical difficulties with Amazon’s Createspace print on demand service as they stopped accepting my files, saying the book had become too large and complex (it was a 375MB file that expanded to 750MB).  Whoops – they never tell you there is a limit so I had no idea that could even happen.  For two weeks I optimized photos, flattened layers, and generally wandered around all the InDesign export options but Createspace would reject my files every time (and of course you can’t talk to anyone).  Did I have to start removing content?  I was starting to panic because a book called “Fifty Destinations” with only 47 destinations just wouldn’t work.  Then I hit on the combinations of options for compressing the photos and the file.  They accepted the file and I was back on track.  Whew!

I went back to elance.com and hired a proofreader (another English teacher) who did a great job in tying up loose ends in the copy.   Stuff like using UT in one instance and Utah in another. She got rid of a few more commas too. About a thousand of those things must have been deleted in all the editing everyone did.

Month 10

First week in November – launch date.  Kind of.  I didn’t get the traction with the magazines like I wanted.  So it will take some time but I have two magazine articles and I think at least one of them will eventually get published.  In the meantime I know I’ll get some visibility with the Cessna Pilots Association, Backcountry Pilots Association, some blogs and some other smaller markets.

So we’ll see how it goes!

Oh, the book is available at http://www.fiftyclassics.com

Markleeville Fall Colors

October, 2014

There are two river hikes from Alpine County airport in Markleeville – a hard hike to the hot springs along the river and a much shorter one.  I’ve done the hot springs hike and it is a very tough cross country five mile hike.  But I had never done the more straightforward hike down to the river.

It is far easier than I thought.  I had heard there was a “fishermen’s trail” to the river which I equated to something like a game trail but there is a nice trail with a parking area and sign-in log for fishermen who use the trail.  To get to the trail, head south out off the pilot’s campground and down a four-wheel drive road to the parking area.  There I met some fishermen getting ready for the hike in and they asked if I came in the red jeep, the only other vehicle in the area.  I said no, I came in a tan Cessna and they thought that was hilarious, which was nice because I wasn’t even trying to be funny.  They asked if I could do a beer drop for them later in the day.  The trail starts at the parking area and ends at a campsite with fire pit at the river.  It can’t be more than a mile and a half total, maybe less.

The fall colors were nice, a few fishermen were out and a group of friendly pilots where camping at the airport.  A nice day out.

East Fork Carson River

East Fork Carson River

A leaf

A leaf

Red goes to the river, yellow to the hot springs (bring a GPS, its a long way)

Red goes to the river (easy), yellow to the hot springs (bring a GPS, its a long way)

 

The King Fire: We Almost Burn

October, 2014

We got close, very close to losing our house.  An arson started a fire near our home town of Pollock Pines.  When the rains finally put it out weeks later almost 100,000 acres had burned and the fire set records for the number of resources and the number of retardant drops.

A few days after it started I was returning from a business trip so I stayed at 12,500 feet, well above the fire TFR to show our myself and our neighbors what we had been hearing – that the fire was burning down-canyon and away from us.  We felt some relief.

 

Our house is way to the right and not in the photo.  Terrible fire, but so far we are safe.

Our house is way to the right and not in the photo. Terrible fire, but so far we are safe.

Another view of the flame front

Another view of the flame front

Whoops, not so fast.  The winds shifted and all of sudden we were in danger.  The fire made one run at us and we were given an hour to evacuate on Monday evening. I had actually decided to jog out to the edge of the canyon to take a look and luckily I was smart enough to take the hand-held scanner with me.  Part way there I heard them give the command to evacuate our neighborhood, saying that if the fire jumped highway 50, they would not be able to stop it.  I turned around and sprinted home, then started throwing stuff (we had pre-packed stuff on the front deck) into vehicles.  The fire had roared up the canyon to Camp 5, a canal maintenance camp below us near highway 50.  However the firefighters successfully kept the fire from jumping the canal.

The next day I snuck back in even though technically we were still under evacuation orders.  I listened in fascination to the aerial fire-fighting channels as they used DC-10s, DC-8s, S-2s and other attack craft along with over 20 helicopters.

Pryocumulus clouds from Safeway store in Pollock Pines

Pryocumulus clouds from Safeway store in Pollock Pines

From the road I live on.  Not looking good.

From the road I live on. Not looking good.

At one point I went down to the end of a spur road (Crystal Summit Drive) in our neighborhood and the smoke was thick and it was obvious the fire was close. The fixed-wing guys couldn’t work it because of the smoke but there was a constant stream of helicopters.  But it was dusk and they couldn’t fly much longer.

Nothing but smoke...

Nothing but smoke a few yards from highway 50. Time to go.

The sheriff came through out neighborhood again to make sure everyone was out, but we were gone by then.  One neighbor that stayed until dark said there were sparks flying above the trees and a red glow filled the sky. He emailed everyone to say he didn’t think our homes would be there by morning and then he fled.

The firefighters had 35 engines practically bumper-to-bumper down on highway 50 and they battled all night, at times fighting a crown fire fully engulfing the trees.  The fire jumped the highway several times and they put it out.  They lit backfires to try to burn out the undergrowth.   They sprayed each other to keep cool.  They pumped water out of the canal and water was flowing inches deep in places on highway 50.  They dropped trees that were on fire back down-canyon into the fire.  They overflew with planes equipped with infrared and recorded hot spots in our neighborhood.  It sounded like it was a full-blown battle and they won.

When it comes to protecting structures and homes these guys are truly amazing.  Wow.

Had the fire jumped the highway and took hold our neighborhood would be gone, there isn’t any doubt.  Perhaps a few homes would still stand, but not the trees.  This was driven home by the fact that they dug a fuel break behind our neighborhood.  If the fire jumped 50 they were going to run back behind our neighborhood and try to make another stand there.

We couldn’t “re-populate” for 4 more days but the fire at our end of the fire area was pretty burned out and we felt that unless the wind shifted again we were safe.  A few days after that I had a business meeting so I took these photos on the way out:

Our neighborhood is right above the two large white buildings along lower edge.

Our neighborhood is right above the two large white buildings along lower edge.

Pollock Pines

Pollock Pines

 

Nothing but smoke...

Nothing but smoke…

At the end of our driveway.

At the end of our driveway.

A neighbor blew up one of my photos and put it on a poster-board.  She drew a line to each house and we all were able to say our sincere thanks on the huge thank you card.  We found out later they showed the “thank you card” at the morning King Fire briefing at fire camp.  Really cool.  And easier than baking 8,000 brownies, one for each firefighter.

North Ridge of Mt. Conness

September, 2014

We’ve spent a lot time on the east side of the Sierras this summer and soon I’ll have to get the blog caught up on some of the flights and activities.  Betsy and I had a great time climbing the north ridge of Mt. Conness and I thought my friend Graeme would enjoy it also.  I was already camping at Lee Vining with my plane for another flight (which I’ll share) so Graeme showed up with his car for the ride up to Saddlebag Lake where we got the last campsite.

We got a good “alpine start” at 4:30 am and reached the climb at 7:30, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the fun ridge climbing and get to the top by lunch time.  It was cold and windy but lot of fun.

I was worried about the wind because I had to fly home that afternoon. You can see from the shot of Mono Lake it was indeed windy.  Luckily the cross wind take-off wasn’t too bad.  Because of the wind I headed south to Mammoth Pass and up to 12,500 feet so I wouldn’t get rocked too badly.  It turned out to be a good plan and the turbulence was manageable.

Dawn

Dawn

The north ridge of Mt. Conness.

The north ridge of Mt. Conness.

Kicking back.   I figured that rock had been there a long time and probably wasn't going anywhere.

Kicking back. I figured that rock had been there a long time and probably wasn’t going anywhere.

You can see the rope being blown by the wind.

You can see the rope being blown by the wind.

Wind pattern on Mono Lake

Wind pattern on Mono Lake

 

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