We'd wanted to spend a few days in Alaska, take some excursions to the mountains and capture some great landscape photos, or see whales and glaciers, but the weather was just too cold and rainy. A lot of the local folks we visited with said that they haven't seen a real summer up there in three years, 'Alaskans are all for global warming,' one of the guys at the airport was telling us, "We keep hearing from Al Gore that we'll be able to grow palm trees up here- but every year we just get more snow." Mother Nature seems to have an agenda of her own. We managed to have a nice time in Anchorage despite the weather, with some much needed rest. We'd just flown across twelve time zones and the international date line so we were feeling pretty tired anyway. Art was spending time looking over our possible flight routes home; we were still four thousand miles short of our goal after all. We also had a Pilatus satellite service center in Anchorage take a look at the flaps. Art and the mechanic worked together and managed to get the flaps operating again, but this was a temporary fix and we'll have to have more service back at our main shop in Atlanta. The rest of our group had already left for Juneau, and would wind up in Seattle in a few days. Seattle was looking very nice weather-wise, and Art had friends and family there- he'd lived in that area for over ten years. After two days in Anchorage, we filed our flight plan for Seattle.
Another thirteen hundred mile leg, and we landed at Art's old home airport; Paine Field - Everett, Washington. Unlike Alaska, it was beautifully sunny. Art had first learned to fly at an airport close by, but he got his instrument ticket here at Paine Field. He used to have his Beechcraft Bonanza hangared here. The Boeing Aircraft Company assembly plant is located here also. We got together with our fellow 'around the world' travelers one last time for a tour of the Boeing factory- really neat! We saw the new 787 Dreamliner being assembled, along with the 747 and the 777 jumbo jets. The main Boeing assembly plant is the largest building in the world, it's amazing to see these huge jumbo jets rolling down an assembly line as if they were cars.
We met up with our journey director 'JP' -Jean Pierre Arnaud, he'd been flying with Jeff in the Duke twin-turbine-conversion, but that plane, and its owner, would be flying to Spokane, Washington, for maintenance, so JP was without a ride home. We'd first met JP back in 2006, when we circumnavigated the South American continent together. For that flight JP was right seat in a Piper Malibu turbine-conversion. Having flown and traveled some forty-two thousand miles with this adventurous Frenchmen, I can tell you that nothing much rattles him. We figured the least we could do was offer him a seat on board the Pilatus for the flight back to Florida.
We made a couple of special stops while in Seattle; we visited with Art's brother Alfred, his sweetie Elaine, and Art's nephew Alex, who is getting ready for his deployment as part of a US Marine tank crew. Alex showed us lots of photos from his training in the deserts of California, and told us all about what it's like being inside an M1 Abrams Tank very noisy! He'll be heading for either Iraq or Afghanistan, in a few months. I think one of the most powerful legs of the trip for Art and I was the flight from Egypt to Dubai, we flew directly across Saudi Arabia, past Iran and Iraq- only one hundred and eighty-five miles from Bagdad. There were others; we flew past Afghanistan and through Pakistani airspace on our way to India. On our way to Russia, we had to navigate around North Korea. With all of the wondrous things we saw, fantastic places we visited, terrific people we met; there were also dangerous places we had to avoid on this trip. Perhaps instead of being so caught up with global warming, we would do better to focus our effort on global peace.
George Luck is a retired Air Force colonel, who once flew B-52's during the cold war era. After the Air Force, he went to work for Boeing, helping to design the layout of instrumentation in the cockpits of many commercial jets flying today. He was also Art's aviation mentor. They met at a meeting of the Washington Pilot's Association, just after Art had purchased his Bonanza. George, who also flies a Bonanza, offered to help Art improve his instrument flying. For a number of years they spent many a rainy afternoon together flying approaches into Seattle's notoriously socked-in airports. This kind of real-world training was the foundation that Art built upon to be able to handle the weather so well on trips like this. It was a special moment for Art and I to get together with George and his wife Carolyn, for dinner. Art really appreciated the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. Seattle has been a great stop-over, we're back in the continental US, we've visited with family and old friends, and we saw a lot of the sights around the Seattle area. We took a trip to the downtown area and saw Pike Place Market, a fantastic open air market that's become a popular tourist destination. It's funny how during our travels through so many countries we saw a lot of terrific open air markets just like this one. Most of the world still buys their groceries this way, but it's become such a rarity here in the US that Pike Market is considered a quaint novelty.
After our trip to downtown Seattle, we headed out into the countryside and toured some of the wineries and saw a fantastic waterfall at Snoqualmie. The next day we met up with JP and took a ferry boat ride over to Friday Harbor, one of many fun San Juan Island communities reachable only by ferry (or airplane of course!) here in the Seattle area. I was hoping we would see whales- a common site here, but we didn't. We did see a seal hunting in the kelp near shore which was neat. After our relaxing cruise, we landed at the harbor dock; the town and marina are particularly picturesque. We walked around Friday Harbor and it's many interesting shops, visited the local airport, and had lunch at a nice water front cafe. We had a wonderful clear day, everyone had their boats out on the sound; the scenery was spectacular. It was great having JP along to enjoy it with us.
I turned to Art; Let's just keep going, let's go around the world again!
The following morning we loaded up JP's gear in the Pilatus, and began our flight home. It felt strange being back in the States- everything was familiar. It sounds funny, but for the previous ten weeks, we had grown accustomed to everything being unfamiliar. As we lifted off from Paine Field, and climbed out over the Seattle basin and the Cascade Mountain range, I turned to Art; Let's just keep going, let's go around the world again!
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