Day Eleven

October 26, 1996 - Mignon’s Birthday

Birds eye viewGoodbye truck..

Awoke to overcast skies and cold temperatures but no wind or precipitation. The planes were covered with a light frost so we tried something new. We had a cooler of water that was fairly warm from being in the trailer all night. We doused the wings with water and then wiped them down with a towel. There was still a little ice residue but Errol said that ice was better than frost and created less drag. It took some time and all hands were freezing cold by the time we finished but the planes were airworthy. By 9 am, birds and planes were in the air and heading south towards Gallup.

As we got closer to Gallup, the ceiling got lower. Kent and the birds cut through a rock pass and then turned east along Interstate 40. Altitude was low and they kept hitting pockets of sink that caused them to loose altitude. There is a rock ridge that the freeway cuts right through. Coming along the freeway, I could see the plane and all the birds cross through the pass not far above the string of eighteen wheelers that were cruising east.

Not far ahead, there was very low visibility. Errol flew ahead to determine if it was just clouds or precipitation. It turned out to be snow. Kent found a dirt road on a hill just north of the freeway and they put down for the storm. Jim and the trailer wasn’t far behind. Sharon had been driving Kent’s truck and wasn’t with him.

We drove in both directions looking for her and just as we were coming onto the freeway noticed Kent’s pickup on the back of a tow truck with hood crushed and windows missing. Apparently she had hit those wicked washboard ruts that were at the intersection of the dirt road we had taken off from and highway 666. The truck had bounced off the road and completely rolled coming to rest on the passenger side. Sharon had hung there in her seat belt until a little Indian girl climbed inside and undid it for her. The Navajo Nation police insisted that the truck be towed in and a wrecker was dispatched from Gallup.

Very fortunately, she wasn’t hurt other than a bump on the head and some shaken nerves. At first sight, we thought the truck was drivable but on closer examination at the yard it was totaled. Two tires were flat, the engine wouldn’t turn over, the radiator and frame were bent plus several windows were broken out. The bill to haul it in was $217 so we just cleaned it out and told them to use the parts that were salvageable to pay the towing fee. "It gave us a good life." Kent said. "Two hundred and seventeen thousand miles and still didn’t use any oil. Some days are like that."

"Some days are like that," is a saying we’ve been using on the trip and has its origins in an incident that happened at Grays Lake. On older gentleman in his late eighties, Dan Morgan, who likes to fly had bought a new Maule airplane (valued at about $65,000). He had built a runway and a hanger on his ranch for the plane and had his nephew fly him around. One day after flying, they had pulled the plane partly into the hanger. Dan walked over to the door and pressed the close button. The big steel door came down crushing the plane right through the midsection and breaking it in half. Dan looked at the plane and said, "Some days are like that." and turned and headed towards the house. No outrage, no pain at loss. Just ‘some days are like that’ and moved on.

Back at the camp, we all sat in the trailer and worked on the microphone switch for the airplane radio. Kent’s radio has developed a loud squeaking noise and this morning he couldn’t hear himself through the headphones. The propane stoves warmed us up while the snow and sleet beat against the trailer. The birds seem to be fine in this weather. I wonder if they are as anxious to get to the refuge as we are. We still have two good days journey left, even in good weather.

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