Coping: Cheaper Than a Motorhome?

Unusually short columns today and Monday because Elaine and I will be going down to the old Beechcrate in a few minutes and loading ‘er up for a treck to the northlands.

Our route of flight this morning will take us from Palestine, Texas, up over Athens, TX, then on to Ardmore, OK.  From there it will be Dodge City, direct.

Dodge City is an interesting stop because it has the Boot Hill Casino and there’s also a pretty interesting museum and shopping district.  Good steaks are available at several places.

Saturday morning’s Peoplenomics report will be posted extremely early (like 5 AM) tomorrow so we can “get outta Dodge” and be on our way up to Gillette, Wyoming.  (Do I know how to show a girl the hot spots, or what?)

We had planned to fly into Sheridan, Wyoming, but come to find out there’s a Toby Keith (and maybe Keith Urban band) show in there tomorrow night and there’s not a hotel room to be had within 50-miles.  So that’s why Gillette.

Sunday morning, depending on weather, we will leave Gillette and mosey over to Billings, then follow I-90 up to Livingston, past one of my favorite airspace markers (ZUBLI) and then down into Bozeman.

Here, a decision will be made of fuel.  Depending on fuel we will either stop or keep going on up (and around the corner to the left) into Missoula.  No hotel reservations there, yet.  Depends on how the weather and winds are playing.

With live weather in the plane (ADS-B in) it’s very much like playing a video game, except no do-overs.

After that, about the time you’re reading Monday morning’s column, we will skedaddle up to Mullan Pass, Idaho, and from there’s it’s all down hill to Spokane.

Tuesday morning, around 9 AM , or shortly thereafter, we will go wheels up out of Spokane and into Gig Harbor, the Tacoma Narrows airport where we have friends and Tacoma where we have kids and a grandchild to visit.

The return in a couple of weeks will be back more or less the same route, but only as far as Missoula.  From there, no telling.

We plan to hop up to Edmonton to visit Grady of the project as well as pop in on my older sister.  Elaine’s never seen West Edmonton Mall, either, so we will sample that.

Besides the obvious business/technology angle with Grady and the family chit-chat, there’s a theme hotel in Edmonton.

The site makes it look pretty cool (although not particularly fast loading).  It’s spendy, but since our whole house is a kind of fantasy land kind of place (each room is sort of like a movie set), this may (or may not) be worth checking out.  Spendy, but this is Canada, after all.

Crossing the border will be an experience, too.  No idea what to expect, except that I’ve studied up one side and down the other of how to file flight plans in and out and how to deal with the eAPIS passenger manifest deal. 

Getting charts for Canada is a whole other dissertation:  they don’t have conveniently updated vector charts like we pump wirelessly into the hi-ef GPS on the American side of the line.  Paper charts and a chart for air traffic control services…Canadian paper charts are $19-bucks a throw so we only ordered the three we need.

A fellow flyer/reader recommended Miles City on the way south for a great turn of the century hotel and steak hanging over the edge of the plate.  So I’m curious to find out if that’s either big cow or small plate.

Spendy?  Not really – this is one of our big outings of the year.

Still, it’s a few cents cheaper than a motor home.

Admittedly, sleeping in an airplane is no joy, if it comes to that.  Elaine would never stand for that.    But the other side is the mileage is 3-4 times better than a pusher.  And the travel time is less than half what a car is.  No speed traps.  Just weather traps, but you build in a weather day into most long trips.

Or week, as happened to us during the Monsoon Summer in the northeast a couple of years back. We looked like a couple of drown rats walking through Macy’s.  That much rain up there.

If the airplane so much as sputters on run-up this morning, I don’t have any qualms about shoving everything back in the car and going that way.  It’s marginally cheaper, but the butt time is a killer.  16 hours of flying or 44-hours of sitting….it’s not a hard choice for us.

There’s always a backup plan.  Over at you can follow N7912L to see our progress (or lack of it).

imageWe will go out “heavy” this morning.  Before every flight, we do something called a “weight and balance” because the airplane has to be loaded, just so.

When we get up into the high country, we will ease back to something like 40-gallons of fuel per leg and we will be planning morning takeoffs because the plane has more lift when it’s cold out.

The pilot and passenger weights are on the scale this morning, loaded down.  For me, that means heavy street shoes, a flight bag, GPS, camera, GoPro (for our documentary on all this), binoculars, and a sandwich.  Elaine’s weight is her, clothed, and a purse that weighs 8 pounds.

The clothing part is only 32 pounds including the two lightweight rollarounds.  The computer and oxygen rig add 35 pounds, but we don’t technically need the O2 until 12,500 feet and we will be well under that.  Still, a couple of hits of O2 when coming down into a crowded airspace (Seattle, for instance) does clear out some of the mental cobwebs.

Slower rate of climb or mental acuity.  Pick one.

Preflight aspirin,  no DVT, thanks.

Compared to an RV, the airplane is tiny, but faster.  There are no speed limits, except under 250 knots below 10,000 feet.  The only was the ‘Crate will see 250 knots would be straight down and I don’t plan to have that happen.

Unlike RV parks, there’s no overnight charge at most airports.  The fuel bill is punishing enough.  Most of the trip the fuel will be around $4.50-$5.50 per gallon.  And despite adventure/romance in the books about a sleeping bag, under the wing, looking up at the stars?   Poppycock.  Elaine wants a hotel and I prefer something with a restaurant attached. With bar is better.  Slots?  I’ve landed in heaven.

I saw an ad on teevee  t’other day for a new diesel pusher RV for “just” $189,000.  We have probably $35k, including the upgrades and maybe another $10K of super maintenance updates to the old airplane.  And they hold their value OK, at least until the economy stalls.

We figure to sell it next year, but looking back on all the adventures (transcontinental wanderings) I have to say it really has been worth it.  Meandering south along the backside of the southern Cascades to Mt. Shasta, surrounded by drying dustbowls of lakes is indelible.

I saw an older RV for sale in town earlier this week.  Something like $8,500 was the asking, which means it might be had for $6,500…so when we sell the airplane, we might try that.  Though Elaine’s common sense does ask “How many room nights at $100 shopping the AARP , can we get for $6,500 plus a set of tires, repairs and $30-bucks a night in a park?”

Got to admit it…the girl has a head of her shoulders.

Nice that one of us does.

Learning to fly is a fine skill to have and at most airports you can buy your first hour and a half introduction to flying for about $100. Of that a half hour on the controls.

Different class of folks.  They tend to be a bit smarter and definitely stronger personality types.  I’m hoping some of that will rub off on me one of these days.

“Clear the prop!”

Pictures Monday, dew drop in, as they say.

And write when you break-even…



Coping: Cheaper Than a Motorhome? — 5 Comments

  1. Have a GREAT trip!

    Tell Elaine, you can stay in Walmart parking lots for free…so that can easily drop the nightly rate…and reduce the expenses of using an RV.

  2. Er- George, Elaine-
    You most likely know this, however I had first hand experience t’other day with traffic, troopers directing it and prices of gas on the upslope.
    The U.S. Open is in town proving to be a cluster- hump.Lots of critics on the dangerous grass and terrain at Chambers Bay.

    So be aware and mindful of traffic, delays and lots of out-of-state visitors everywhere. Are they trying to get a gander of Tiger’s lousy golfing this go around? Who knows.
    Enjoy the weather here. Its been gorgeous.

    • Our arrival date is after the Open shuts – and yes, b y design.

  3. Good morning George. I love reading about your flying in the Beechcrate. My wife & I are still fairly new to aviation, only having gotten our pilot’s licenses in 2011. But it’s nice to read about your aviation experiences, as it provides us with inspiration as we press on with our Instrument & Commercial (and for my wife multi-engine) rating.
    All the best, hand safe flying,

  4. George:
    Did you happen to notice..this goes in your Media distractions…That at the same time as Heir Presendenta was lamenting the violence in Charleston, Congress (Da House) quietly passed a section of the TPP…and BINGO-NO ONE NOTICED.