Saturday, October 20, 2018

More Offseason Adventures

Huh, I guess it's been two months since we've posted...time for an update!

Our offseason has continued to absolutely fly by. I've still been working a full schedule, mostly flying Europe trips, while rebuilding our cruising kitty. But in between work trips, we've found a few things to do that have kept us pretty busy.

In August we flew out to Salt Lake City, where we had stashed our motorcycles in June and where my airline pilot / motorcycling buddy Brad Phillips had recently purchased a Yamaha Tenere adventure bike. This was our first motorcycle trip with Brad in several years, and we had a lot of fun. The first day we hit the road in early afternoon and made it up to Bear Lake, Utah, where we camped in a state campground on the south shore. Day 2, Brad's birthday, was a really nice day of riding into Jackson, WY with a short stop in Grand Teton National Park, then riding through Yellowstone to Madison Campground where we camped for the night (low of 37° F, brr!). The next day's route was a winding series of roads along the Montana/Idaho border all the way to Lolo in the Bitterroot Mountains, where we found a really cool old lumberjack bar (The Jack Saloon), where we hung out and danced till after midnight and rented cabins for the night. The following morning we absolutely feasted on over 100 straight miles of nonstop curves on one of the most glorious roads I've ever ridden on: US-12 from Lolo Hot Springs, MT to Kooskia, ID. The rest of the day took us further south in Idaho, then through Hell's Canyon into Oregon, where we stopped in Baker City for the night. With four good days of riding under our belts, on Day 5 we just booked it to Vancouver, WA to give ourselves time to clean and pamper the bikes before flying out the next morning.

Our next adventure was in mid-September, when we flew to Europe for two weeks with Dawn's brother Paul. We actually flew out to Brussels a day before him just in case the nonrevving went sideways, rented a BMW X1 from Sixt, and spent the night in beautiful Bruges. The next morning we picked Paul up in BRU, added him to the rental agreement, and pointed the Beamer east. In Bastogne we visited the 101st Airborne Division Museum - which covers the Battle of the Bulge - had lunch in an old tavern, visited the Mardasson Memorial, and accidentally happened upon Jacques' Woods, site of some vicious fighting and shelling that was depicted in HBO's excellent WW2 miniseries "Band of Brothers." We continued through the Ardennes into Luxembourg and then into Germany, where we spent the night at a chateau in the ancient Roman town of Trier, which is where many of my ancestors from my mom's side of the family were from.

The next day we drove through a bit of France to reach the spa town of Baden-Baden, where we walked around, had a beer and bought picnic supplies before driving up into the Black Forest via the Schwarzwaldhochstraße, which was quite scenic and a fun drive as well. We spent a rainy night at a B&B in Hornberg, and the skies had cleared by the next morning when we did some hiking at a waterfall above Triberg. We then continued out of the forest, across the Rhine into Switzerland, and on to Vitznau on the shores of Vierwaldstättersee, i.e. Lake Lucerne. I haven't been to Switzerland since Dawn and I spent several weeks hiking the Alps in 2006, and I had forgotten how drop-dead gorgeous the country is. We were staying at the base of Mt. Rigi; there wasn't quite enough time left in the day to justify taking the cog railway all the way to the top,
but we did take the cheap local cablecar up to Hinterbergen and hiked a bit further up to a grassy saddle with beautiful views east and west. Dawn and Paul waited for an hour while I climbed another 700' or so to a commanding side peak; unfortunately the top was overgrown and the views weren't much better than the saddle. We had a beer at a small restaurant below the saddle and then hiked all the way down to Vitznau, about a 2500' drop down a pretty forested ravine.

The next morning's drive east through the Alps was stupendously beautiful, especially the first part across the Klausen Pass. Our route took us through Lichtenstein and the Tyrol region of Austria to the town of Reutte, near the German border. There we explored the ruins of Ehrenburg Castle and stayed up late to watch the Minnesota Vikings lose very badly to the Buffalo Bills (!). The following morning dawned very dark and drizzly, the only bad
weather in what was otherwise a remarkably good-weather trip. We toured Neuschwanstein Castle, had lunch and delicious monk-brewed beer at Andechs Monstary, and visited Dachau before heading to our hostel on the eastern outskirts of Munich. It was Oktoberfest, but for the first night we elected to just walk around the Marienplatz and have dinner at the Hofbrauhaus, which was a lot of fun.

The following day we did laundry in the morning, explored Munich in the afternoon, and headed to the Wiesn at 4pm. There we met our Munich friend Uli Zinn, who we met on the Navimag ferry in Patagonia in 2011. We went into the "old Oktoberfest" with Uli for an hour or two, then headed to one of the big Paulaner tents, the
Armbrustshützenhalle. There we met an airline pilot friend of mine, Erica S, and a group of her friends - one of whom turned out to be one of the last pilots I flew with at Compass, my last airline. Erica and I went to college together and have been chasing each other around the industry ever since. This is the third airline we've been at together, having always been hired within a couple months of each other. Uli's sister also joined us. We had a table right next to the bandstand, and it turned out to be a pretty fantastically fun night. I'd love to do Oktoberfest again.


Our subsequent legs took us to Nuremburg, Heidelburg, and Frankfurt. After Frankfurt we spent half a day exploring the Middle Rhine River Valley, which is very familiar territory for me, and then
headed up into the Eiffel Mountains to a little town called Nurburg. There we watched all sorts of exotic sportscars (plus some not-so-exotics) run the famous 20-km circuit known as the Nurburgring - and then we took our gutless rental BMW for 3 laps the next morning! Paul, Dawn and I each took a lap. I'm happy to say we didn't wreck the car, and it was great fun. I wouldn't mind doing it in something a little more high-performance next time though. After the motorsports fun, we headed to Amsterdam for a couple of days, then down to Brussels, where we spent one more night before flying out. The nonrev gods were smiling on us, and we made it all the way back to MSP through JFK on the same flights as Paul. Of course, then I had to head straight back to work!

My most recent adventure was a decidedly unplanned one. Two weeks ago, a mechanic was at Windbird to do an estimate for replacing some seacocks when he discovered that our bilge was full of rainwater - over the transmission, partway up the engine above the crankshaft. Our boat sitters had missed it accumulating over several months. The boat sitters pumped the water out of the bilge but the mechanic subsequently got too busy to investigate further, so I flew down to Puerto Rico a few days ago immediately after arrival from Frankfurt at the end of a six-day trip. What I found was not good. I had accidentally left the cockpit scupper seacocks closed. All the rainwater that accumulated in the cockpit over the rainy season (we'd removed the bimini) drained through an unbeknownst-to-us leak where one of the pedestal guard legs came unbedded from the cockpit sole. All this rainwater leaked directly into a compartment above the engine, into a box containing my epoxy supplies. Eventually one or more of the epoxy containers ruptured, and epoxy-tainted water overflowed onto the engine below and then into the bilge. It was quite a mess to clean up, and much worse I found the engine absolutely full of epoxy-scented rainwater. I pumped it all out and then changed the oil 4 times, at which point the oil was coming out only slightly cleaner. I could crank the engine over by hand only with great effort through a ratchet, indicating there's some water in the cylinders as well. The only good news is that the water level didn't reach any electrical components, and the seals in our brand new transmission kept the water out of that - I changed its oil and it came out clean.

I rebedded the pedestal guard in the cockpit to prevent a reoccurence and recaulked our propane locker which was letting some water in above our bed, and engaged a mechanic to work more on our engine as I had to fly back north for another work trip. The mechanic is using a pump to flush the crankcase with a cleaning solution and removing the injectors to evacuate water from the cylinders and lubricate them and the valves. I'm hoping against hope that there's no long-term damage, but we'll see in the coming days. It was a pretty stupid mistake on my part to forget to open the scupper seacocks (I'd closed all seacocks to check operation after hauling, intending to reopen the scuppers), made worse because our boat sitters never checked the bilge or turned on the bilge pump when water appeared.

In any case, Dawn and Piper and I are driving to Atlanta in the middle of next week and flying to Puerto Rico on Oct 26th. Barring major problems with the engine (or late-season hurricane activity), our launch is set for Oct 30th, and we hope to be out of the marina and headed east a few days later.

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