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Live Free and Fly 24

August 8, 2017 2 comments

I’ve had this plan in the back of my mind for a couple of years – fly to all 24 of the public use airports in New Hampshire in one day. It finally all came together on July 26, 2017 – I was ready, the weather was (mostly) ready, I had no pesky flight students lurking around and a plane was available all day.

I had spent a bit of time optimizing the flight route based on minimum distance – you can see the route in the figure. I would take off from my home base at Keene (airport ID: KEEN) in the southwest corner of the state and either go clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on which way the weather was developing for the day.

The straight line point-to-point distance is 433 nm. The planning chart shows straight lines between successive airports for all legs but one – the leg from Moultonboro (5M3) to Gorham (2G8) has a couple of pink dot way points that are off the straight line. In fact, one of them had me venture into the alien territory of Maine (OMG!!).  This was done to stay away from higher terrain to the west and to reduce the need to climb.

For the day of the flight, the point to point time was estimated at 4 hours 2 minutes with a fuel burn of 42 gals. This did not take into consideration the time it would take to maneuver to enter the traffic pattern, land and takeoff from each airport. I guesstimated it would add an average time of 10 minutes per airport for this. So 24 airports would add 240 minutes, or 4 hours. With stops I would have to buy fuel at some point since Cessna 36C can only carry 53 useable gallons of fuel, roughly burning 9 gph.

You can see on the log sheet that I’ve circled the “Leg Remaining” distance of 199nm and the “Leg Tot” of 2:11 for the airport at Moultonboro (5M3). This is the halfway point of the trip and where I ultimately planned for a fuel stop.

When the day actually arrived, there was morning fog-plus statewide. The winds were calm and were forecast to be light all day. The fog is usually slow to burn off at KEEN, and this morning was particularly slow, delaying my departure until about 10:30. It looked like the weather would be clearing sooner on the coast, so I launched heading counter-clockwise to give the western part of the state a chance to clear before I got there.

Part of the consideration for using Moultonboro as a fuel stop was based on the lengths of the runways I would be using and concerns about weight. It was not an extraordinarily hot day, but it was warm. Density altitude would be of some concern (those conditions when the plane thinks it is higher that it actually is, and the plane’s performance is correspondingly poorer.) Bristol (2N2) has the shortest runway of the group at 1900 feet, which is why I circled it on the log sheet. (Runway length is over on the right in “Notes” also noting if the runway is asphalt or turf.) By the time I got to Bristol I would have already burned off a bit of fuel so the plane was lighter. After re-fueling at Moultonboro, I would soon be using the grass strip at Gorham which is only 2600 feet long. So I didn’t want to take on too much fuel in order to keep the weight down – just enough to get home.

Bristol was interesting. It’s the only field where I had to do a go-around. In fact, I did two. I didn’t see the wind sock until the second pass when I realized there was a pretty good tailwind landing to the north on runway 03 which is why I was coming in too high. So I turned around and landed in the opposite direction. Landing 03 I felt like I was flying through a parking lot….

Some of these airports are really close to each other, and I’d find I was no sooner climbing enroute when I needed to start descending and join the pattern for the next one. This was particularly true departing Hampton. It is only 7 miles to Portsmouth. You have to tune in the ATIS (weather) and contact the Portsmouth tower all in a hurry. I did a circle over the beach to give myself a bit of time.

Departing Concord (KCON) I contacted Boston Approach as soon as I was clear of the pattern and told them my intentions were to do a stop-and-go at Manchester (KMHT) and then continue on to Nashua (KASH), so when I was handed off to Manchester’s tower they knew what I wanted and had me depart with a right turn to KASH.  (I squeezed in between arriving and departing jets, but was too busy/forgot to take photos.)

Then, departing KASH, I asked the tower for flight following and a squawk code so I could cut through Manchester’s Class C airspace enroute to Hampton. No sweat. Departing runway 32 at Nashua the tower had me do a right turn into Manchester’s airspace on course to Hampton.

I had planned to take a photo on short final for every landing, but I often forgot and/or I was too busy flying the airplane. But I got enough to give you a feel for the variety of the airfields in New Hampshire.

The trip took 7.2 hours on the Hobbs meter. My estimate of 10 minutes for arriving and departing each airport was a bit conservative. Assuming the estimated trip of 4:02 point-to-point was correct, then the time arriving and departing each airport averaged just 8 minutes. I burned a total of 56.1 gallons of avgas for an average of 7.8 gph. Not bad for a 180 Hp Cessna, especially considering a good bit of time was spent in full power climbs, and I rarely had the opportunity to lean it out.

The airport with the lowest elevation is Hampton (7B3) at 93 feet. Twin Mountain (8B2) is the highest at 1459 feet. The shortest runway is at Bristol at 1900 feet (asphalt). The shortest grass strip is Hampton at 2100 feet (though there’s a parallel paved runway).  Interestingly, 13 of the 24 airports use 122.8 for the CTAF frequency; 4 of them use 122.7.

Oh. Did I mention it was a beautiful day? Check the pics.

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The route.

 

Log sheet

Navigation log listing airports, runways,  runway lengths, elevations and radio frequencies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KPSM - Pease

Aligned to enter the right downwind leg at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM).

KPSM - Pease 16

On short final to runway 16 at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM), the longest runway in the state at over 11,000 feet. You can do several “touch and goes”!

KMHT - Manchester

Approaching Manchester (KMHT) – a Class C airport. I’m lined up here for a straight-in approach to runway 17 coming south from Concord. They were using runway 06 which is the perpendicular runway, so here I’m actually lined up to enter a left downwind for runway 06.

KLCI - Laconia

Short final to Laconia (KLCI) runway 26.

KERR - Errol

Maneuvering to enter left downwind for runway 33 at Errol (KERR)

KERR - Errol 33

Short final for runway 33 at KERR.

KCON - Concord 35

On final for runway 35 at Concord (KCON). You can see the state capital dome on the left center.

KCNH - Claremont 29

Approaching runway 29 at Claremont (KCNH). Vermont is beyond the first hill.

Dixville Notch

Not an airport, but overflying Dixville Notch.

8B2 - Twin Mountain 27

A bit high, but landing runway 27 at Twin Mountain (8B2). Not in the greatest shape, the asphalt is 2660 feet long.

8B1 - Hawthorne-Feather

Hillsoboro/Hawthorne Feather (8B1).

7B3 - Hampton

Lining up for rwy 02 at Hampton (7B3). You can land on the asphalt or the grass – 2100 feet.

5M3 - Moultonboro

Entering a left downwind runway 20 at Moultonboro (5M3). The halfway point.

8B2 - Twin Mountain

Not just a pretty view of the White Mountains – Twin Mountain airport (8B2) is over there perpendicular to our flight path (the last horizontal line you see before the hills).

5B9 - Dean

In the pattern for Haverhill/Dean airport (5B9)

4C4 - Gifford

That green field in the center is the 2466 foot long runway at Colebrook (4C4).

4C4 - Gifford 22

Approach to landing runway 22 at Colebrook (4C4). It was a beautiful day!

2N2 -Bristol 03

On the turn to final for runway 03 at Bristol (2N2). The shortest field in NH, but paved.

2N2 - Bristol

Overflying Bristol (2N2)

2G8 - Gorham

The 2600 foot long turf/granite strip at Gorham (2G8).

2G8 - Gorham 12

Turning final to runway 12 at Gorham (2G8).

2B3 - Parlin 18

Approaching runway 18 at Newport/Parlin field (2B3).

1P1 -Plymouth

One of those fields is Plymouth airport (1P1).

1P1 - Plymouth 30

Short final for the 2380 foot long runway 30 at Plymouth (1B1)

1B5 - Franconia 36

On final for runway 36 at Franconia (1B5). 2300 feet long.

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Taxiing at Franconia (1B5) with Cannon Mtn on the left. (A different day from the circle adventure.)

 

 

 

 

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A Ferry Flight

July 28, 2017 4 comments

This isn’t a daredevil exploit, but merely a description of a trip ferrying a Piper Warrior (N138DC – November One Three Eight Delta Charlie) from Farmingdale, NY (Republic Field – KFRG) to Ellensburg, WA (Bowers Field – KELN). There’s a short glossary for non-pilots at the end as it seemed too cumbersome to add explanations in the text.

THE PLAN, Part 1

Planning for this trip began about a week before the actual departure – looking at routes, weather forecasts covering the subsequent week (looking for a good window to depart), and potential fuel and lodging stops. Although I have 1500+ hours in Cherokees, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet “Delta Charlie”, or fly her before I went to pick her up. So even though she had a WAAS enabled GPS with current database, I would fly VFR-only and would always get flight following from ATC. (As we shall see, “always” did not always translate to always.)

The “plan” was thought out with the idea that it was unlikely to be carried out as planned and would be changed – most likely due to weather. The direct route from KFRG to KELN is 2047nm. Looking at that route, it would take me through Ontario and over the Great Lakes. Some rules and caution entered here.

RULES: 1) A US-registered aircraft cannot enter Canadian airspace with a temporary registration certificate. 2) I wasn’t sure if the plane had an FCC radiotelephone station license (required for international travel, but not within the US). Either way, the temporary registration made Canadian airspace a no-go.

CAUTION: The idea of flying an airplane I hadn’t even seen yet over a large body of water was not appealing.

Nav 0B
Smooth blue line is direct route over Canada and the Great Lakes. Magenta line is direct route from Chicago. Segmented blue line is actual flight path.

The rules and caution prompted me to modify my proposed route to the south, more or less directly to Chicago before turning to the northwest. This increased the distance by a couple of hundred miles – estimated now at 2200nm.

THE PLAN, Part 2

In a Warrior flying at 100 knots true airspeed (perhaps not overly ambitious), 2200nm translates to 22 hours of flying with no stops and no wind. Adding 15% to guesstimate stops and wind, makes it 25 hours of flying. With a useable fuel capacity of 48 gallons, conservatively burning 8 gph with an hour reserve means the plane can go for 5 hours between fuel stops – though my bladder cannot. So I figured I’d fly roughly 3 to 4 hour legs with extra urgent stops as needed. All this translates to six, four hour-ish legs. The initial plan was to do two legs per day and if I fueled the plane to the brim at each stop I would always have ample reserves.

I used AOPA’s flight planning web page to lay out the plan and massage it to fit. Their planner has a provision to check fuel prices along the route and to query what services are available at airports along the way. Though fuel was often cheaper at smaller airports, I figured services would be less available, so I decided to aim for overnight stops at Class D or C airports which would have more generous operating hours.

Once the lines were drawn, I printed out the navigation logs that AOPA’s software generates for use during the flight.

Legs 1&2: From Republic Field (KFRG – Farmingdale, NY) to Porter Co. Regional (KVPZ – Valparaiso, IN) with a fuel stop in Clarion, PA (KAXQ). Total time 6:47

Legs 3&4: From KVPZ to Rapid City, SD (KRAP) (gotta love that identifier) with a fuel stop at Quentin Aanenson Field (KLYV – Luverne,MN). This was chosen because fuel was just $3.83 (!!). Total estimated time 7:33

Leg 5: From KRAP to Helena, MT (KHLN) with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:51.

Leg 6: From KHLN to Ellensburg, WA (KELN) final destination with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:34.

The total estimated time that AOPA came up with was 21:45, which did not include time for taxi, takeoff & climb, and approach to land, or wind. The reality, as expected, was slightly different as you can see in the daily summary charts.

DAY ONE – MEETING N138DC

Arriving at KFRG, “Delta Charlie” was ready to go. She was a 2001 Piper Warrior with 5000 hours on the airframe and 1000 hours on the current engine. She looked to be in pretty good shape, and the logbooks looked clean and up to date. After a bit of consternation I found the temporary registration and airworthiness certificate so all the paperwork was in order. Her instrument panel only had one communications radio and no other navigation capability than the GPS – no redundancy. So it would be strictly a VFR adventure.

A very thorough pre-flight inspection turned up some suspicious green-ish stuff coming out of the gascolator that smelled like oil mixed in with the gas. The next sample looked like clean 100LL avgas. This would be checked repeatedly enroute and was never an issue. She started easily with just a short squirt of prime. Otherwise there was nothing of concern noted.  I did a complete run-up three times in the course of taxiing to the end of the very busy runway at Republic.

DAY ONE – OFF WE GO!

There was a big TFR around the NY area (perhaps some Russians were visiting Trump Tower?), but it wasn’t significantly different than the boundaries of the Class B airspace that exists there. So, I took off and headed north to the Carmel (CMK) VOR to avoid it all before heading due west toward Clarion.

Getting up above the scattered clouds at 6500 feet made it a pretty smooth ride. From CMK I flew to Williamsport (FQM) VOR and directly to Clarion for my first planned fuel stop and found the first hiccup in the plane’s systems. When cancelling flight following going in to land at Clarion and told to “squawk VFR” I pushed the “VFR” button on the Garmin transponder to transmit “1200” and nothing happened. No sweat. Just punch in “1200”. Well, that would have been a solution, but the “2” button didn’t work. Consternation. More, harder, frantic button pushing ensued. Eventually it worked and cleared itself up during the course of the trip.

I had started a bit late today, but I figured the length of the July day would allow me to make it to my proposed first night at Valparaiso, IN (KVPZ).

Not to be.

Findlay, OH (KFDY) was my “planned alternate” in case I couldn’t make it to KVPZ. I had flight following, talking to the Mansfield departure controller. About 30 miles from Findlay I was about to query her about the storm I saw building ahead of me when she called to warn me of the now extreme precipitation which was just moving over Findlay and there was no real way around it. So, I had my first diversion. It had been a long day already, so I just elected to turn back and land at Mansfield (KMFD) for the night.

The friendly FBO (Richland Aviation) was open and gave me overnight use of their courtesy car. Town was basically dead on Sunday evening, but the Holiday Inn welcomed me, and I found a TGIF.

Nav 1

Day 1: Farmingdale to Clarion (fuel) to Mansfield.

DAY TWO

The morning dawned solid IFR. I had to wait until about 10:30 before things cleared up enough to depart. It was unclear how clear it was, so I planned to just move on to KVPZ and check the weather again. Once I was airborne at 2500 feet it seemed improvement was in the wind. I climbed up to 4500 feet to have a better look and it looked pretty good indeed. So I advised ATC that my new destination was now Dubuque, IA (KDBQ). There were a few more clouds that pushed me up to 6500 feet, but I really preferred to be higher as I neared Chicago, anyway. And as soon as I got up that high I could see it was severe clear to the west.

DSCN7472ab

Chicago in the haze

Flying direct to the Joliet (JOT) VOR would keep me south of Chicago’s airspace, but it was still a pretty busy place to be. A friend had loaned me a Stratus box which would receive and display traffic advisories on my iPad. The WAAS GPS also offered traffic advisories, and I was getting advisories from ATC. Interestingly, there was still traffic out there that NONE of these aids warned me of.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Look outside. I’ve experienced the same thing many times around Boston. It really is important to not rely on the gadgets.

IMG_0163a

West of Chicago

Chicago behind me, the skies were much less busy. In case you didn’t know it, it’s flat out there. Dubuque (KDBQ) was just a couple of hours down the road. I wasn’t too overly concerned about finding cheap fuel, but I figured I’d go for it if it was convenient. KDBQ was advertising $4.06 and it was on the way. Imagine my surprise when I discovered their advertised fuel price was exclusive of the tax ….. The net cost was $4.58! (At least it wasn’t $7.00).

Nav 2a

Orwellian tower east of KFSD. Top is at 3445′ above sea level, 1984′ above the ground.

An hour laze in the FBO, checking the weather and recharging my tablet, I launched with the aim of making it to Sioux Falls, SD (KFSD) for the night. It was extraordinarily flat. Quite a change from New England (where there are no straight roads), all the roads here go N-S or E-W. At one point the clouds were building a bit and it was getting fairly murky, but still VFR. ATC dropped me out over the corn fields somewhere, so I flew without them into Luverne, MN (KLYV) for a cheap fill-up ($3.83) before the short hop into KFSD. Well off my route, but just southeast of KFSD is an Orwellian tower – 1984 feet tall. It looked pretty enormous in the evening haze.

0717171937a

BBQ in Sioux Falls

KFSD is a busy Class D field. I did a tight pattern and landed short to get off the runway at the FBO at the north end of the main runway. Maverick Aviation is a fabulous FBO. No tie down fee, no landing fee, no minimum fuel purchase, great lounge, awesome vending machines, good coffee. Nirvana in South Dakota! They arranged a hotel for me and off I went to explore the sights and sounds of Sioux Falls. There actually are falls.

Oh, and barbecue. Pretty good barbecue.

Not really a “problem”, but one of the problems of traveling in a light plane is that you’re always checking the weather. It’s constant. After you land you no sooner than get the plane tied down and you’re thinking about what’s coming the next day. You check after dinner, and before you go to bed. It’s the first thing you do in the morning. Then check at breakfast. Checking again when you get to the airport.

Nav 2

Day 2: Mansfield to Dubuque (fuel) to Luverne, MN (fuel) to Sioux Falls

DAY THREE

The modified plan for Day 3 was to get all the way to Helena, MT (KHLN). There were convective SIGMETs in effect northeast of KSFD and north of my western route. Pierre (pronounced Peer) north and west of my route had advisories out. So I launched with the thought that I’d be looking for a place to land anywhere enroute and run away when appropriate. All that flat terrain is comforting when you’re considering the possibilities of not making your destination.

I departed and climbed to 4500 feet and the first hour was uneventful. I could see the dark sky to the NW of me that was the weather over Pierre, but it wasn’t directly in my path. ATC called to advise me there was severe weather at 60 miles at my 2 o’clock – Pierre. No issue, but something to watch. A layer of scattered clouds was forming around my altitude so I climbed to 6500 feet.

The scattered layer was clumping up to an overcast layer and I climbed to 7500 feet to stay VFR advising ATC of my non-standard altitude and that I was prepared to go higher. It was starting to get murky across my entire field of view. The controller told me the storm was now from my 10 to 3 o’clock. Being the observant lad that I am, I had already noticed this and had been reviewing my chart and my options. I had just passed Chamberlain Field (9V9) and thought that would be a good spot to put down and wait for the storm to pass. (I also knew it was severe clear behind me and I could easily outrun the storm back to the east if I had to.) I advised the controller of my intentions and he said, “That sounds like a good plan.”

Nav 3a

Artist’s rendition of running away from a thunderstorm and landing at 9V9.

0718170943a

Convective SIGMET north of my route to KRAP

Doing a U-turn to get to 9V9 was OK, the problem was getting below the cloud layer. I headed off toward the edge of the clouds and found a big hole to descend through while tuning in their ASOS. The field was just VFR with a ceiling at 1500 feet but visibility greater than 10 miles. The wind was reported at 350/15G22. The hard runway ran 13/31, so there was going to be a bit of a crosswind on landing, but this was handled without incident. The FBO was a room attached to a guy’s house, but there was a comfy lounge chair. I dipped into my reserve of granola bars and hung out for about an hour while the storm moved past before saddling up to move on.

Upon departure the wind was 050/14G22 – storm passage had shifted the wind to a direct crosswind beyond the demonstrated crosswind capability of a Warrior (which is 17 kts). But I had another option. A grass runway pointing 18/36. Taking off 36 reduced the crosswind component to 11G17 – right on the limit. The grass was a bit long and the plane slow to accelerate, but I got up in ground effect well before the mid-point of the runway, corrected for the crosswind and was on my way.

It was beautiful. I had views of the Badlands to the south as I approached Rapid City

DSCN7474ab

The Badlands

(KRAP) on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. It was really hard to make out the airport, but I finally figured out where it was, entered the traffic pattern and made my landing. Rolling up to the self-serve pump, a younger pilot in a Cessna pulled up behind me. He turned out to be a commercial student pilot from Denver doing his long cross country solo. After refueling I stopped in the FBO and chatted with a couple traveling around the west in a Commanche and now heading east toward the weather I left behind. We exchanged pointers from the road that we had acquired. (It was an early joke when GPS first came out that when ATC asked your position, you could tell them you are something like 1279 nm east of Peoria…. I heard ATC instruct the Commanche pilot to report 210nm west of Sioux Falls…)

The field elevation at KRAP is published at 3204 ft. Preparing to depart I tuned in the ASOS. It was a warm day and the ASOS was reporting a density altitude of 6200 ft. Those of us who live close to sea level normally takeoff with the mixture full rich. Under these circumstances I leaned the engine for best power during the run-up and took off with that mixture setting.

DSCN7476a

The Black Hills from the east.

During pre-flight planning, I had looked at the Black Hills on the chart and pondered going around them since I didn’t know what the winds might do and how quickly I could climb over them in what I assumed would be high density altitude.

Ultimately, I took off and turned directly on course in the climb. I climbed to 8500 feet to give ample margin over anything in the area. I requested flight following from the tower and they handed me off to Ellsworth (AFB) departure control who informed me that Denver Center would not be able to see me on radar at that altitude once they handed me off. So I climbed up to 10,500 feet also hoping to find smoother air. Eventually I fell off the radar, anyway, and was picked up later in the day by Salt Lake Center.

It was smoother, for a while. It turned out to be a bumpy afternoon. I had planned a winding route through the passes from Bozeman to Helena, but now that I was up so high this wasn’t necessary, and I re-plotted a more direct route to Helena to save a little time.

DSCN7497

Somewhere. You don’t usually get to see a Warrior’s altimeter reading 10,500 feet. At this particular moment, my indicated airspeed is about 92kts and ground speed (on the GPS) is 94.6kts. We’re pointing west. I’m not talking to ATC since the transponder is set to 1200.

The winds were keeping me busy. At one moment I’d get the plane trimmed out with about 95 kts indicated and 109 across the ground and a few minutes later I’d have the nose up to 79 (Vy) with extra power in order to maintain altitude while my ground speed was at 80. It was mountain wave activity or thermals or wind shear that shifted back and forth every few minutes for a couple of hours. I kept looking at the hills to my left/west trying to conceive how the local topography could be doing this, but knowing that mountain waves can extend for great distances from their source I might not have been able to see the offending hills. The country below me was a uniform color, so I couldn’t convince myself that it was pockets of thermals – though it was warm below. The air was so dry (I theorized) that there weren’t any clouds forming due to thermals. Regardless of the cause, the wind shear or up and down drafts were right on the edge of the Warriors ability to maintain altitude. I just resigned myself to slower progress and kept an eye on my fuel consumption. My diversion earlier in the day cost me a bit of fuel, and the wind was taking it’s toll, but I still had oodles, and there were many options along the way.

No radar contact coming into Helena, so approach/departure control uses position reporting to separate traffic – my first report was at 30 miles to the east. Helena is a nice spot nestled among hills to the north, west and south and a nice lake to the east. The field has a Beck’s U-Pump for fueling. Next to the pumps is a small place called Mickey’s – it’s a small FBO with a full kitchen and a bunk room where you can stay for free. Never seen anything like that at an airport before. I couldn’t find a hotel that had a shuttle service, so I ended up staying at The Carolina B&B (highly recommended) in the historic district of town across the street from the original governor’s mansion. The proprietress picked me up and recommended a great restaurant a short walk from the B&B. Nice town.

IMG_0195a

N138DC on the ramp at Helena

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High security at Helena. You’d never guess the combination.

Nav 3

Day 3: Sioux Falls to Chamberlain (storm) to Rapid City (fuel) to Helena.

DAY FOUR

The morning started off lazily enough in the B&B’s garden. An all-too yummy and plentiful breakfast (need to check weight and balance calculations) and a slow motion start began the last leg of this adventure. I departed slightly to the southwest to take advantage of the lower terrain heading toward MacDonald Pass as I climbed in the cool air of the morning. Helena is at 3877 feet and it took about 27 miles and 20 minutes to get up to 10,500 feet at 85 kts. Departure control advised me that Salt Lake Center would neither see nor hear me at 10,500 feet until I got past Missoula, so I settled into a nice smooth, quiet flight in contrast to the day before. There were TFR’s for forest fires south and north of my route which I had a front seat for. I had hoped to catch sight of a tanker working, but only heard them on the air and never saw them. The skies were pretty hazy all over the west – it has been dry and the fires plentiful.

Nav 4A

TFRs (the red areas) for forest fires west of Helena along my route

DSCN7508a

Forest Fire

I picked up flight following west of Missoula, cleared the mountains of Montana and Idaho (caught a view of Coeur d’Alene to the north) and arrived over the plain of central and western Washington at Spokane. Seattle Center asked me if I wanted to descend.

IMG_0210a

58 miles from KELN. The transponder is the lower box – I’m squawking 3112 for ATC to track me. The altitude I’m reporting to them is 10500. 126.100 is the frequency for Seattle Center.

“No. It took a long time to get up here, I’d like to enjoy the view.” So I stayed at 10,500 until 30 miles from Ellensburg. It was hazy. As I got closer I noticed something sticking up in the haze directly on my route. It turned out to be Mt. Rainier which was a pretty nice sight.

DSCN7534ab

Mt. Rainier growing out of the horizon.

DSCN7533ab

Rainier with Ellensburg in foreground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving at Ellensburg was uneventful except for the fact that after I taxied to the ramp and shut down, I couldn’t get the door open. I had to stick my arm out the pilot’s side vent window and flag a mechanic down in one of the hangars to help me get out. I really had hoped to get out of the plane at this point.

IN THE END

The total flight time was 25.6 hours to cover 2273 nm, which, surprisingly, was pretty close to my initial guesstimate of 25 hours. The flight time for each of the four days were 5.7, 7.5, 8.2 and 4.2 hours. I figure I burned 193.7 gallons for an overall burn rate of 7.6 gph. (Though on the 4.6 hour turbulent leg from KRAP to KHLN I burned 8.2gph.) It would have been more economical had the plane been equipped with an EGT, but I had to revert to the crude method of leaning to engine roughness and then enriching by sound/tach.

In the end, that’s a lot of time in a Warrior.

Nav 4

Day 4: Helena to Ellensburg

 

Glossary

AOPA – Aircraft Owner’s and Pilots Association – The largest pilot organization in the US. They have oodles of free information online as well as flight planning software and weather tools.

ATC – Air Traffic Control. The folks who provide the service to keep air traffic moving smoothly. From control towers at airfields, to “approach” controllers who manage traffic arriving and departing from airports, to “center” controllers who manage enroute traffic. They may or may not have radar capability.

ATIS/ASOS/AWOS – a recorded, sometimes automatically generated weather broadcast usually only reporting local conditions. The wind may be reported as 050/11G17 which means it’s blowing from the northeast (50 degress) at 11 kts gusting to 17 kts.

B&B – Benedictine & Brandy, or Bed & Breakfast depending on your preference.

Class B, C, D Airspace – Airspace carved out around airports that partitions the space to allow multiple controllers to handle traffic and manage flow. Class B is the largest and busiest (think Boston, New York, etc.) and restricts VFR traffic. Class D is much smaller only having a control tower.

Density Altitude – When the air is warm or humid, it’s density decreases. When air is less dense, it is all disadvantageous to flying – the engine generates less power, the propeller generates less thrust, and the wing generates less lift. Flying from high altitude airports by definition means you are at a higher “density altitude” and will have worse performance. At low altitudes, when the conditions are right, it “feels” just like being at a high altitude.  A calculated density altitude based on barometric pressure, temperature and humidity equates the condition to higher elevation. Performance charts for the airplane tell you the bad news. Longer takeoff roll, poorer climb performance.

FBO – Fixed Base Operator. Where you park, get fuel, find a lounge, restrooms, ground services. Some have no charges. Some are exorbitant.

Flight Following – A service provided by ATC to provide traffic advisories to VFR traffic on a workload permitting basis. VFR pilots are still responsible to “see and avoid”.

KFRG, etc. – a four letter airport identifier. Everyone worldwide uses a three letter identifier and then sticks a letter on the front for the country (in the US, we use “K”. Canada uses a “C”. Just to show there is logic to this, Angola uses an “F”). If the identifier begins with a number (e.g. 9V9) the “K” is usually not used since these are usually dinky little airports.

nm/kts – Nautical Mile/knots – At 6076 feet it is about 15% longer than a statute mile at 5280 feet. (It is derived from one minute, a sixtieth of a degree, of latitude – thank the Babylonians.) A knot is a nautical mile per hour. 100 kts is about 115 mph.

Piper Warrior – A four seat airplane in the Piper Cherokee family. It typically has a 160 horsepower engine and doesn’t go very fast.

Run-up – Performed on the ground as part of the pre-flight checks. The engine is powered up to 60% power, or so, and the dual ignition systems are verified along with oil temp and pressure, fuel pressure and the vacuum system. No blinking red lights allowed.

Runway headings – Published as 02 or 36, for instance. Just add a zero to the end and you get the magnetic heading of the runway. And you can generally land in either direction on a runway, so they will be designated 18/36 or 02/20.

SIGMET – An inflight weather advisory (SIGnificant METeorological information) of something bad going on in the atmosphere. A SIGMET can be issued for “convective activity” (read: thunderstorms), or specifically for tornadoes, volcanic ash, severe icing, etc.  A “Convective SIGMET” is an invitation to stay away.

TFR – Temporary Flight Restriction. These can pop up for multiple reasons – VIP travel, natural disasters (fires, hurricane damage/rescue), NASCAR races, football games. They are intended to keep traffic out that is not concerned with the event.

Transponder – A box in the plane that transmits altitude and a code to ATC. The code is displayed on ATC radar screens. “1200” is the normal code for VFR traffic buzzing around aimlessly. When you request and get flight following you are issued a discrete code to “squawk” (transmit), e.g. “3114” so that ATC can identify you quickly.

VFR – Visual Flight Rules. You fly by looking outside, visually. You use navigation aids (radios, GPS) to assist, but you are ultimately responsible to “see and avoid” other aircraft.  Under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) you can’t see nothin’ and fly by reference to your instruments only.

VOR – A VHF radio navigation aid identified by three letters, e.g. JOT is the Joliet VOR.

Vy – The indicated airspeed that gives the best rate of climb for a airplane.

WAAS – Wide Area Augmentation System are ground based radio signals that supplement GPS information to make it even more accurate.

100LL Avgas – In the aviation world, we still use leaded gas. It is “low lead”, but lead nonetheless. Avgas is usually 100 octane.

Wings, Wheels and Walking (or, Just Say ‘No’ to the $100 Hamburger)

The $100 hamburger was invented to give pilots a way to feed their hunger to fly. The burger is six bucks. The plane, $94. “Hey. Anyone want to fly someplace for dinner?”

All the Way to XiaHe, China for this Yak Burger

All the Way to XiaHe, China for this Yak Burger

I’ve been working as a part time flight instructor at Monadnock Aviation in Keene (KEEN), NH. The airport was shut down this June for about 10 days for re-paving, and owner Beth graciously offered me the use of the Cessna 172 during that period. Relocating the bird to Springfield/Hartness airport in Vermont (KVSF) allowed me to re-kindle a project I last made progress on 15 years ago.

The idea is to combine three things I enjoy – flying, cycling and hiking. The goal is to fly to the airport nearest the high point in each state, ride my bicycle as far as the road goes, and then hike to the summit (if necessary). The previous work toward attaining this (dubious to some) goal was when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA and flew with the Beaver Valley Flying Club based at KBVI. I’ve lost some track as to my progress, but I know Archer N47562, Monty and I bagged Mt. Marcy in New York’s Adirondacks, Mt. Rogers (Virginia), Mt. Mitchell (North Carolina and memorable for the 100F heat), Campbell Hill (Ohio), a corn field in Indiana, and Delaware’s high point (in a trailer park).

At Lake Placid, NY About to Head for Mt. Marcy

At Lake Placid, NY in the 90’s About to Head for Mt. Marcy

The flight planning for these adventures has always been diligent. I’ve done quite a bit of self-contained cycling (those guys you zip past in your car who are loaded down with saddle bags of stuff, often drenched in the rain), and the ground planning is often nearly absent. I usually remember to look at a road map before I take off, and may even refer to some trail maps. But I approach the ground transport with a “Lets Go!” spirit and often forget the planning that might make them more successful … or make me more prepared. (Two trips were required to find Mt. Rogers since the locals didn’t know where it was. This confirms what I’ve found during years of traveling – you can never rely on local knowledge. Inquire, but don’t rely.)

Some of the Flight Planning Info

Some of the Flight Planning Info for  the Flight to Millinocket

An airplane that can transform to a car comes with compromises that make it disappointing in both regards. For me all the compromises must bear on the bike, though the compromises are relatively slight. My ride is an old Montague folding mountain bike made back when they were marketed by Schwinn. It fits comfortably in the back seat of a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee.

Much of what makes an airplane are the avionics – an inexpensive Cherokee with a modern instrument panel (worth more than the plane) can be a treat to fly, though some may wonder why you’ve made the investment.

The analogy for bikes are the “components” – the crank, rear gear cassette, derailleurs (the things that move the chains between gears) and the shifters and brakes. Most of the money in a good bike is in the rear wheel.

The old Monty has a slightly flimsy frame (due to the folding joint stiffness), though it is relatively light. In terms of riding, it’s primary attribute is the utter cheapness of the components, and the only reason I have it is because it folds in half. I’ve replaced the original rear wheel – the spokes pulled out the first time it was heavily loaded – but the most expensive addition I’ve made to the bike is replacing the saddle. I try not to go too fast downhill since I have little faith in the brakes which also means I have trouble not going too fast downhill. I haven’t replaced the gearing and shifters, and I curse the thing every time I shift, vowing to upgrade the components, though never doing so. (To shift down one speed, I have to shift down two and then shift up one, and/or vice-versa. And that works, sometimes.)

Only in 36C's Dreams

Only in 36C’s Dreams

I can’t see dumping money into it. It’s the same thing that goes through every airplane owner’s mind when they’re wishing they had DME (distance measuring equipment) but can’t bear to part with the thousand bucks since how often do they really need it? And it would be nice to have a glass panel, but a tablet works well enough and costs thousands less. (If you wait long enough, maybe Android will be FAA certified.)

So with that as the background, we’re off to Millinocket, ME for an attempt on Mt. Katahdin – at 5269 feet the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Nothing really went wrong on this trip, it’s just that everything took a lot longer.

kmlt 2

Millinocket and Katahdin on the Montreal Sectional Chart

It has been said that a pilot’s license is a license to learn and in my experience this continues to be true. I checked the weather and filed my IFR flight plan the night before using the government computer system, DUATS. During the morning weather briefing with a human (this service is contracted to Lockheed-Martin) I learned there was forecast icing at my filed altitude of 9000 feet, so I decided to amend my cruise altitude to 7000 feet to avoid any possibility of running into ice. I was surprised to learn that they do not have access to flight plans filed through DUATS. In fact, they couldn’t even view my flight plan so I had to repeat my route of flight and other info just to get the briefing. In order to amend mine, the briefer had to put me on hold and call “Center”. Good enough, but getting my clearance from Burlington Radio just before launching a couple of hours later, the flight plan had not been amended. “Oh well, I’ll ask for lower once I get airborne.”

This is the second time this year I’ve run into this situation where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. On a flight earlier this year with an instrument/commercial student we filed and activated a VFR flight plan and picked up VFR flight following from KEEN, through the New York Hudson River corridor and on to Cape May, NJ (KWWD). We did a practice ILS approach into Cape May talking to Atlantic City Approach (KACY). After parking, my student discovered that his phone had several messages from Flight Service asking where we were, since we were slightly overdue. Surprised that Atlantic City hadn’t apprised them of our situation, we cleared up that we were, in fact, alive and no search and rescue attempt was necessary. Departing Cape May, and re-initiating flight following with Atlantic City Approach, they asked us if we’d talked to Flight Service because they were looking for us. It turns out that having a VFR flight plan in no way connects to VFR flight following or other ATC functions. If you need to report your progress on your flight plan, you need to go off of center frequency to talk to an FSS, report your status, and then go back to center. This seems to be a rather serious flaw in the system, but what do I know.

Mt. Katahdin in the background

Mt. Katahdin in the background

I figured the flight to Millinocket would take 2.5 hours in N5136C – a 2002 180HP Cessna 172SP. Departing KVSF, only the low scattered cloud layers that were predicted were present, so I was only able to log 7.5 seconds of actual instrument time during my initial climb. After getting high enough to contact Boston Center, I was almost immediately given the opportunity to shave a corner off my route by flying direct to Kennebunk VOR when I was able to receive it’s signal. There were no clouds above me by the time I got to 7000 feet, so I just continued to 9000. Noting I had entered “VFR GPS” in the remarks section of my flight plan, the center controller asked me if I was OK going direct to Millinocket. I told her that I certainly was OK with it. This saved a bit more time. Nevertheless, I arrived in Millinocket 15 minutes behind plan due to the murderous 40+ knots headwind most of the way. The ride was exceptionally smooth, though.

Boston Center stepped me down to 6000 feet (the winds were no better) to set me up for a VOR approach to KMLT to get through the broken cloud layer below me. But when I was 30 miles out the clouds were breaking up, so I canceled IFR with Boston Center and went down through a hole in the clouds for a visual approach. Boston kept me squawking with them and on their frequency until I was about 10 miles out – this was comforting as it is pretty much wilderness up there and it was nice to know someone was watching. Tuning in Millinocket’s ASOS (Automated Surface Observation System), the surface winds were reported as beastly (that’s aviation-speak for bad), the heading varying between 350 and 030 degrees at 15 knots gusting to the 20’s. I prepared for a bumpy approach and was not disappointed. On short final for runway 34 I kept the ASOS tuned in to get updates, but didn’t really need confirmation to know that I was getting a bad ride. I was coming in 10 knots faster that my normal approach speed with just two notches of flaps. I saw the airspeed indicator swing between 60 and 80 kts and back in a matter of a second. The last ASOS report before touchdown (plantdown) was 010 at 13 gusting 28.

Plantdown was 2.8 hours after departure. All those shortcuts kept me from being even later. Jeff, who mans the FBO, came out to meet me and help me tie down. “Windy up there today? Well, at least it keeps the black flies down.”

DSC_0436a

No Sight of the Summit, Yet

It was on short final into those gusty headwinds when I noticed I was pointing directly at Mt. Katahdin capped in clouds. The realization that these were going to be the same winds I was about to ride against on my bike settled in. After “Three Six Charlie” was chocked and tied down, I unfolded Monty, loaded her up and off we went. Into the wind. I estimated it would take about 2 hours to cycle the 25 miles or so into the campground in Baxter State Park, but it took over three and a half hours. I stopped for a snack and to replenish my stock of Snickers bars at the North Woods Trading Post (last gas before the park). “Gettin’ blown around on that bike today? Well, at least it keeps the black flies down.”

Lean-To Accommodation

Monty and Our Deluxe Cabin Class Accommodation

I had booked a lean-to at Katahdin Stream Campground figuring it would save the weight in carrying a tent. I hadn’t really thought all this through even after my buddy, Roger, reminded me to stock up on DEET. Fortunately, I heeded his warning if not fully grasping the implications, and had a new, full, 10 oz. bottle. But no tent, nor the associated bug screen. My introduction to the imminent threat of death by blood loss due to insect bites was when I stopped at the park gate and presented my reservation form for the lean-to. The gatehouse was protected from the wind, and, therefore, unprotected from the bugs. I was immediately covered with mosquitoes. There were seven on my hand as I produced my reservation form. While the park rangers were distracted admiring my rubber ducky handlebar horn and debating whether or not it counted as a “pet” (not permitted), I quickly broke into my DEET cache and doused myself.

Eight miles of dirt road later, we arrived at the campground and my stream side lean-to. Still windy and the mountain was still covered in clouds. No chance to try for the top today – too late, anyway. The ranger I checked in with said, “It’s been too windy to hike today, but at least it keeps the black flies down.”

Fortunately, the winds kept up and the temperature dropped into the 40’s, so the bugs were kept to a low roar and it was cool enough to zip my sleeping bag up in defense. Hanging my food bag out of the reach of bears afforded the only evening entertainment after I took a short walk up to see some waterfalls. Liberal quantities of DEET were sacrificed on my behalf. It is probably bad for your health and knocked 2 years off my lifespan, but at least it kept the black flies down.

A Friend on the Trail

Easy to Make Friends on the Trail

View During the Ascent

Some Great Views on the Ascent

If I couldn’t hike the mountain on day 1, my “plan” was to hike the mountain, ride back to KMLT, and fly back to KVSF on day 2. I figured the hike was 6 hours round trip. An 05:45 alarm got me up, breakfasted, packed the bike to be ready to go after the hike, and on the trail at 06:47.

“Should be back noon-ish,” I thought, optimistically. Well. I was making steady progress on the trail, but had a couple of people pass me which is always disheartening. Two guys just blew past me which really hit my morale where it hurts, though I later caught up to them and passed them above tree line. The “trail” became a scramble, sometimes in a stream bed.

I caught up to a woman at 09:10, still below treeline, who said this was about half-way. “Can’t be,” I thought. I’d been on the trail over two hours. But she was about right.

Not "The Tablelands" and Not the Summit

Not “The Tablelands” and Not the Summit

Top of Maine

Top of Maine

“Climbing” mountains is often a misrepresentation of hiking a trail. Not so here. There were several short pitches of rock that were quite steep. And on the down climb I scouted many less airy routes around the “trail”. For those Appalachian Trail hikers starting in the south and ending here, this must feel like a final insult. Eventually I made it up the scramble to “The Tablelands” and across to the main summit at 11:48, just over 5 hours up. Nice view.

I was already patting myself on the back thinking about the iodine in my first aid kit and how that would treat the water at the first stream I came to on the way down. The two liters I packed that morning was plenty for a six hour hike …. not for 10 hours, though. “Thoreau Spring” is located on The Tablelands, but didn’t afford an easy means to fill my bottles as it would be better named “Thoreau Ooze”. I still had some water left, anyway.

View from the Summit of Katahdin

The Tablelands from the Summit (That’s Snow in June)

I continued down, down, down, through the rock scramble, finding alternate ways around places that required a scary-ish down climb. My legs were shot, and just in time I got to tree line and had some trees to hold onto as I continued to hobble down. Shortly below entering the trees, the path shared a stream bed and I was able to make some potable water. Sweet, with a hint of iodine and fruity undertones of Vibram boot soles.

I finally reappeared at the campground five and a half hours after leaving the summit – it took longer to come down than go up. I was knackered. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to cycle back to Millinocket that day. I thought about getting on the bike just to see how painful it would be, but decided to just imagine the pain. So I paid for another night at the lean-to and curled up snuggled with my bottles of DEET and Aleve after a chilly wash in the stream and awaited the onslaught of black flies which, fortunately, never came. I was glad I packed enough bagels and peanut butter and jelly to carry me through.

The next morning it was as painful to get on the bike as I imagined, but it was a beautiful day and the ride out was pretty pleasant – no wind to speak of, and no insects as long as I was moving. Going out of the park trended slightly downhill. I stopped to take a look at Stump Pond and there was a big furry rock drinking near one edge of the pond. Bear? Nope. Just a moose stumping around.

Stump Pond

Big Furry Rock in Stump Pond

The often overlooked virtues of having an airplane for drying laundry

The Often Overlooked Virtues of Having an Airplane for Drying Laundry. Katahdin in the Background.

 

I grabbed a breakfast sandwich at the North Woods Trading Post. “Winds are much better today! How was the hike?” “It was windy, so there were no black flies.”

Back in town Monty and I rolled through the airport gate up to 36C, and I hung my laundry out to dry while doing the pre-flight on the plane. I went into the FBO to take a sink bath, change my clothes and check on the weather for the return flight. It was going to be a great day – much lighter winds than the outbound trip. I didn’t bother with an IFR flight plan, but I filed VFR and would get VFR flight following to keep an eye on me over the wilderness.

 

DSC_0572

Flagstaff Lake and Bigelow Mountain, ME (Dead Bug on Windscreen)

Circling around the north and west of the White Mountains in NH, I could see the poor visibility hanging in the mountains and got a good appreciation for the ruggedness of these hills and the beauty of this lake country. Two thirds of the way home I had to descend a couple of thousand feet to get under a cloud layer and Boston Center notified me “radar contact lost”. No more flight following, but I was pretty close to KVSF and just followed the Connecticut River valley south to Mt. Ascutney and in to KVSF.

I didn’t even contemplate cycling the day after getting home. The second day, however, I was ready to do something. and I looked everywhere for my cycling shoes. I’m often confounded by the fact that I always find things in the last place I look, but I didn’t even find them there, so I went for a ride in my tennis shoes.

That night I thought, “Could I have left them at the airport in Millinocket?” I called and left a message on the answering machine hoping they were on the floor next to the computer I used to check weather. Jeff called me back. “Yes. I found your shoes. They were delivered to Jaffrey yesterday.”

“Jaffrey?” (KAFN is just on the other side of Mt. Monadnock from KEEN – 20 miles.) I have no known connection to Jaffery other I flew there once to get ice cream.

“Yes. Harvey was in here yesterday on a charter. You know Harvey?”

“Yes (not really), but …”

“I was telling him about a plane from Keene being in here and a guy on a bike and I think he left these shoes here. He recognized the tail number and said he knew Monadnock Aviation. So he took the shoes.”

“Seriously?!”

I called KAFN looking for Harvey, but spoke to his wife, Lee. “Um … Did Harvey happen to pick up my shoes in Millinocket the other day?” “…. Oh! You’re the shoe guy! Yeah. We’ve got ’em!” So I had an excuse to drive to Jaffrey to get some ice cream … err.. my shoes.

Too funny.

Clouds

Clouds En Route to North Adams

Mt. Greylock, MA

War Memorial on Mt. Greylock

There were still a few days before KEEN would re-open, so I plotted a course to try and nab the high points of Massachusetts (Mt. Greylock) and Rhode Island (Jerimoth Hill) in one day. It was not to be. Approaching Danielson, CT (KLZD) from the north, I was looking at the edge of a wide storm (a storm I looked at on radar before leaving home and thought I might be able to beat). The clouds were reported at scattered 300 with temperature and dew point at 19C. Not ideal for flying or biking. So over Southbridge,MA I diverted northwest to North Adams, MA (KAQW), unloaded the bike in full sunshine and grunted up the 12 mile road to the war memorial atop Mt. Greylock. Monty and I were passed by a few cyclists wearing team colors, sigh. I did manage to stay ahead of the woman walking her dog, though. A few steps down from the view at the top, Bascom Lodge offered a nice hummus and roast eggplant sandwich. The guy seated next to me had a yummy looking pulled pork sandwich. They had ice cream. The ride down was 95% coasting, wishing I had upgraded Monty’s brakes, and vowing to do so, someday.

One of Many False Summits of Rhode Island

One of Many False Summits of Rhode Island

I returned to Danielson for an attempt on Jerimoth Hill the next day in bumpy conditions. The round trip seemed like a ride in a washing machine. The “climb” up to the summit of Rhode Island at 812 ft MSL was pretty decent. It was just about seven miles from the airport along Route 101 which had a good shoulder and light traffic. I scouted out a good ice cream place just before leaving Connecticut. The highway sign for Jerimoth Hill is about 500 feet (horizontally) from the actual top. Walking through the woods of small boulders I thought it must have been a challenge to the surveyors to find the actual high point. The Nepalese prayer flags hanging in the trees around the top made it obvious, but I doubt they were there for the survey crew.

The True Summit of Rhode Island

Monty at the True Summit of Rhode Island

The brownie hot fudge sundae with cake batter ice cream and a cherry (yes, I will have the nuts thank you) consumed upon re-entering Connecticut had enough calories to maintain a family of four for a week.

Cessna 36C was patiently waiting for us back at Danielson, and the flight back to KVSF was uneventful though it was nearly impossible to maintain any given altitude – the vertical gusts were set on a heavy wash cycle. (Time to believe that AIRMET for moderate turbulence.) As soon as I could pick it up, I monitored KVSF’s ASOS. Some reports had the winds above the demonstrated crosswind capability of the plane. But by the time I was getting close to land the direction and magnitude of the winds had settled down a bit. It is important to note, however, that after a dozen trips flying into runway 29 at KVSF, I still hadn’t done a decent landing. This trip was no exception. I blame it on the crosswinds, but at least they keep the black flies down.

The Rewards of a Hard Day

The Rewards of a Hard Day

Both runways at KEEN reopened on schedule at the end of June and the students began to return. But July 1st arrived with no students on my schedule and the promise of fair, though hot, skies. A good opportunity to bag the high point of Connecticut. It was already getting hot as I loaded Monty into 36C. I launched later than I wanted to due to morning fog and arrived at Great Barrington, MA (KGBR) a little after 9. It’s a cute little airport with a 2400 ft paved runway in the southwest corner of the state. The approach end of runway 11 is highlighted by a clump of trees just a couple of hundred feet from the threshold. It was hard to avoid yielding to the temptation to go through the space around either side of the trees, but I think that might have been a losing game.

36C at Great Barrington Airport

Three Six Charlie at Great Barrington Airport

I parked on the grass and was greeted by one of the local instructors, Dante. As I secured 36C and assembled Monty, I described my project to him and inquired about the presence of a hose that I might desire upon my return from the summit of Connecticut. No problem.

Connecticut’s highest summit is Bear Mountain at 2316 ft., but the high point of Connecticut is actually on the southern slope of Massachusett’s Mt. Frissel at 2380 feet. (The summit of Mt. Frissel is at 2653 ft.) Off I rode into the heartland of Mt. Washington State Forest (with a quick stop at the South Egremont Deli to pick up a sub for lunch.)

How to Get to the High Point of Connecticut

Ground Planning to the High Point of Connecticut

It was a long climb up a peaceful road in low gears passing some huge homes enroute. Shortly after the pavement ended I found the car park (within sight of the MA/CT state line marker) for the trail head about 2 hours after leaving the airport. A couple was just heading off on their quest for another of the New England high points, but their major project was to hit New England’s 100 high points.

I love these projects. Maybe someone should start a project of climbing the highest point in each state which is not a mountain/hill top. Maybe it’s been done.

Locking Monty to a tree, I donned my day pack and headed up the trail which quickly became a scramble. I kept telling myself this is not Katahdin. This first part of the trail topped out on Round Top Mountain (and first point for some much needed breezes) where I ran into another highpointer – a guy from Michigan who was on his way home from Dubai and on his way down from the top of Frissel. This was his 32nd high point and he was hoping to get Massachusetts and maybe Vermont before heading home.

A slight down scramble from Round Top to the shoulder joining it to Frissel led to a longer scramble up to the tree covered, viewless, windless, hot summit. A hundred yards or so south-ish from there on the open shoulder of the hill led to the geologic marker at the state border and high point of Connecticut – about an hour and twenty minutes from the car.

High Point of Connecticut

Watch Where You Sit!! The High Point of Connecticut Really is a Point

Did I mention it was hot? The panoramic view over the Berkshires from the high point was a good lunch spot with some warm breezes.

The hike down was relatively uneventful and much faster than the scramble up. I’m usually on the lookout for snakes on hikes since I don’t really like them, but I hadn’t really thought about it much on this hike. Easing down an angled rock slab, a garter snake rolled past me down the slab which alerted me to set my sensor level a bit higher. Nearing the top of the scramble back up Round Top, I heard this high pitched chirping. Almost a squeal, it sounded like a big insect. I was looking around in the undergrowth to see the cricket that could make such a racket when I noticed the rattlesnake on the side of the trail a couple of feet in front of me. Yikes. It was a much higher frequency pitch than I’ve heard in other similar encounters. Made me wish that I hadn’t saved the weight of my ankle high boots and brought them rather than hiking in my tennies. One more garter snake on the way down, and I was safely back to Monty.

Note that DEET is ineffective against reptiles.

Final Battle of Shay's Rebellion

Site of Final Battle of Shay’s Rebellion

The ride back to Great Barrington was mostly downhill, so a treat after the heat of the ride in and the hike. Another stop at the South Egremont Deli for some cool drinks, and I was on my way for a short side trip to the site of the last battle of Shay’s Rebellion of 1787 on a side road to Sheffield, MA.

Back at the airport I folded up Monty and loaded her and the rest of the gear into 36C, then searched for that hose. The first few seconds produced solar heated hot water, but shortly it became ice cold – just what the doctor ordered. I doused myself with the secondary goal of washing the sweat from my cycling clothes. A quick wardrobe change and I was ready to be airborne again. Departing runway 29, I would fly over the same trees I flew in over, and I had hoped to snap a few pics of the departure. But the gusty, direct crosswinds on takeoff kept me otherwise occupied. I sailed back to KEEN through hazy skies with a 25 knot tailwind. It was hot, humid, and hazy – thunderstorm season is soon upon us.

The only New England summit remaining for me is Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield. Though, come to think of it, I haven’t summited New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington by flying there and biking to the trailhead….

 

One in a Few Billion.

May 24, 2013 3 comments
Timor Meets the Sea

Timor Meets the Sea

I’ve written a few blogs about my experience as a Kiva Fellow in Timor, but I haven’t written directly about a typical borrower in this very poor region. So as I wrap up this fellowship with Kiva, I’m taking this opportunity to fill that gap.

The borrower you’re about to meet lives within the city limits of Kupang on the western tip of Timor. Kupang is the provincial capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur which includes the western half of Timor, the islands of Flores, Sumba, Alor, Rinca, Komodo and 560 other small islands. NTT is the poorest province in Indonesia, but it is a beautiful place. Jagged mountain skylines (mostly volcanic, though Timor is not) are bounded by coral reefs, isolated and deserted beaches, and rich turquoise seas.

The Kiva micro-finance partner in Kupang, Tanaoba Lais Manekat (“Serving With Love” in the local Dawan language) has been operating since 1995. TLM has grown to 30 branches operating on six islands serving 7,000 clients. At this writing there are 410 active Kiva loans which will expand to about 700 as TLM uses all of the loan capacity now available to them. The average Kiva loan is about $650 and is repaid in just over two years.

Blandina with Daughter Ivander

Blandina with Daughter Ivander

Blandina has been a TLM/Kiva client for several years. She is 46 and raising six children spanning the ages of 6 to 18. She exemplifies someone who was at risk of slipping into poverty and was unfortunate enough to find herself there.

Ten years ago she would not have considered herself poor. Although they lived in a humble house, her husband, Oktovianus, worked as a mason. Together with her income as a sales clerk, and a small goods business in the local market they were able to support their family.

But a few years ago Oktovianus passed away after a long illness which drained the family savings and forced them to sell their home. Blandina was left with nothing and needed to support her children by herself. Her own illness forced her to leave her job as a sales clerk, so to meet expenses she went door to door washing clothes.

Blandina's Home and Kisok

Blandina’s Home and Kisok

The earnings from washing just wasn’t enough, so she began to generate a bit more income by opening a kiosk business from the home she now rents. It’s a small operation selling home-made snacks and baked goods (her spicy fried corn is especially yummy), instant noodles, toiletries, staples like salt and sugar, candies and other items. She began with her own capital and borrowed about $300 through TLM and Kiva to increase her stock and build a larger customer base.

After housing and feeding her children, keeping them in school has been Blandina’s primary concern. She has a unique savings system where money earned from each of her activities is put in a different colored box for different expenses – one of these is for tuition. She also has savings in TLM’s deposit program.

She recently took out her fifth loan and will be using the $400 to expand her income activity by buying piglets to raise and fatten for re-sale.

The income from her various businesses has allowed her to meet her goal to keep her children in school. Unfortunately, her oldest son recently graduated from high school and is not able to attend university – he’s working as a fare collector on one of the local mini-buses to help with family expenses.

Blandina is hoping that continuing support from TLM and Kiva’s lenders will help her build a better future for her other children. She is certainly working hard to make that happen.

If you haven’t looked into Kiva, you might take this opportunity to do so. It’s an easy method to help the neediest people directly through Kiva’s partners worldwide. It has been proven for many years that micro-finance works – micro-loans enable people to help themselves. It would be great if you could make a loan for as little as $25 to one of the billions of poor people like Blandina throughout the world.

Go to Kiva.org and meet someone like Blandina. Loan them a few bucks. It isn’t tax deductible because you get it back.

More pictures of NTT here: NTT Photos

Kupang Waterfront

Kupang Waterfront

Sunset from Kupang

Sunset from Kupang

Postcard from the Lesser Sunda Islands

May 15, 2013 3 comments

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Here are some random photos from some of the islands of the Lesser Sunda group: Indonesian Timor, Sabu, Rote, Flores, Rinca, and Komodo.

Rote Island

Rote Island

Rice Fields

Rice Fields on Timor

Street Food - Salome

Street Food – Salome

At Berth in Sabu

At Berth in Sabu

Floating Off Komodo

Floating Off Komodo

Beauty and the Beast .. or .. "My Last Photo"

Beauty and the Beast .. or .. “My Last Photo”

Best Left Alone

Best Left Alone

Morning

Morning

Sunrise

Sunrise at Anchor Off Komodo

Flores Island in the Distance

Flores Island in the Distance

Rinca Island

Rinca, a Dry Island

King of Rinca

King of Rinca

Landscape

Landscape

Labuanbajo Harbor

Labuanbajo Harbor

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

Four on a Bike

Four on a Bike

Local Carrier

Island Hopper

Third Police Station of the Afternoon

Third Police Station of the Afternoon

Crystal Cave Pool

Crystal Cave Pool – Scene of the Crime

Oesau Market

Oesau Market

Sunset at Kupang

Sunset at Kupang

West Timor

West Timor

Small Scale Tempe Producer

Small Scale Tempe Producer

Visiting Clients

Visiting Clients

Small Business on Sabu

Small Business on Sabu

Sabu from the Air

Sabu from the Air

Kupang Sunset - A Daily Event

Another Kupang Sunset – A Daily Event

Mister! Take My Picture!

Mister! Take My Picture!

Not Sure

Not Sure

Rice Fields

Timor Rice Fields and Hills

Kupang Waterfront

Kupang Waterfront

Bemo Guys

Bemo Guys

There are many more photos to see on flickr. Click HERE.

Here’s the map I promised. The Lesser Sunda Islands make up the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (East Southeast Islands):

Nusa Tenggara Timur - The East Southeast Islands

Nusa Tenggara Timur

Artificially Sweetened Development

April 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Usually when I’ve been in places that I declare to be “artificial” I am thinking of a Disney theme, or a place like Cabo San Lucas or Cancun – southern California or Florida transported to Mexico – a place which bears little resemblance to what it would be like if it weren’t for the tourist dollars it was created to attract. Of course, Las Vegas is the archetype for turning a desert into a sweet water oasis, of sorts.

Shopping malls are artificial in that they are sterile replacements for shopping streets. Modern shopping areas have turned most American cities into a Warhol-like canvas of indistinguishable images in slightly different hues. Show me a Walmart and there’s a Taco Bell not far away.

The Jesus Statue from the Hills Above Dili.

The Jesus statue from the hills above Dili.

Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, is an artificial place, but in a different way. The city (and much of the country) was destroyed after the rampage of pro-Indonesian militias following the 1999 independence referendum. (This followed a period of brutal repression highlighted by a concerted effort on the part of the “international community” to look the other way. Most notably Australia, the only country in the world to officially recognize Indonesia’s sovereignty, by a thirst for oil and gas in Timor’s offshore fields. And by the US in the post-Vietnam cold war era where Suharto was just about the last regional dictator available to support.)

Post-independence civil strife in the middle of the ‘naughties didn’t help. Today there are only a few remaining scars of that time – a few scorched buildings – and it is a fairly bustling place of a few hundred thousand inhabitants.

What exists today would not exist without the huge influx and efforts of UN peace keeping forces, NGO’s and aid agencies of every stripe and nationality. There is not a school or public building without a flag or plaque commemorating the foreign entity that paid for it. Some of it was direct aid like the central post office – paid for by South Korea. More recently large commercial investment has appeared. The first shopping mall and cinema (just opened late 2012) was built by Singapore developers. (You can tell it’s Singaporese because guests going from the ground floor reception desk to the elevators for the upstairs hotel must walk through the shopping center. And some rooms have lovely balconies with windows either facing a blank wall, or blocked by billboards.)

Going to visit borrowers in Dili.

Going to visit Kiva borrowers in Dili.

I’m sure there was a great deal of planning on the part of those responsible for the rebuilding, and I don’t suggest that it was not noble, humanitarian, right, and helpful to the government and people of Timor-Leste to have done this. But it is certain that what exists here today would not have sprouted from local, organic development.

Any cultural expression is limited to a few places where traditional woven cloth (tais), baskets and carvings are sold. Notable among them is the Alola Foundation created to raise awareness of sexual violence against women and girls as a result of the militia rampages of 1999 www.alolafoundation.org. A new “Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum” (paid for by Portugal and Macau) relates the long struggle for independence. (A little ironic when you consider that Timor-Leste and Macau were Portuguese colonies for over 400 years.)

The consequences of this development are a little strange, though not immediately apparent in a quick visit. For the most part, tourists are rare, and what exists in Dili exists to support the international workforce. Supply of services is highly skewed toward them and their expense accounts.

When UN workers first arrived, there was no place for them to stay, and they were lodged on ships moored just offshore. Building “tourist infrastructure” is one of the areas where aid was and is applied. And though priced at international rates, it is not of high standard. In the poorest country in one of the poorest regions of the world, my room cost a whopping $850 per month (a slightly larger room with a chair, sofa and table was $400 more). Similar lodging on the Indonesian side of the island costs less than 1/3 of that. The main difference being the lack of a large foreign aid workforce.

Not Too Busy for Lunch.

“Castaways” bar at idle.

The UN left in December of 2012. I wasn’t there before they pulled out, so I can’t say how different it is today, but all of the beach side tourist restaurants are running at idle. There are few customers.

From the viewpoint of someone assigned there, even for just a brief period as I was, it was very nice to find the Chinese-owned grocery store shelves filled with imported goods – mostly from Portugal (great sardines and olives). And I did find Skippy peanut butter, both Smooth and Crunchy.

It Was Fresh This Morning.

It was fresh this morning.

One of the things I pictured in my mind before arriving here was wonderful grilled seafood. And there was a lot of fresh fish being pulled out of the sea and for sale along the beachfront road. But it was never on ice, often in the sun, and as the day wore on, the smell of spoiling fish filled the air. I never had a really good piece of fish in Dili, and I think most of what I got was a frozen import. You could even get five varieties of imported Portuguese dried bacalau in one of the markets.

For a short jaunt from town on a weekend I could often be found riding my motorbike 10km east along the beach to “the Jesus statue” – a 27m tall copy of the one in Rio – and back.

She Shops and Cooks to Order.

She shops and cooks to order.

Stopping for lunch in one of the beach bodegas usually meant a pretty long wait if I ordered anything more exotic than nasi goreng (fried rice). The cook didn’t keep much food on hand – it would likely go to waste for a lack of customers. She had to send out to buy anything I ordered. The chicken was a good bet to be fresh since it came back from the market still clucking.

Lunch Shopped and Cooked to Order.

Lunch shopped and cooked to order.

About 70% of the population of Timor-Leste lives on less than $2.50 per day. Coincidentally, an ice cream cone at the new mall costs $2.50. The lunch special at The One More Bar is $5.00. Most lunches out cost $8-10, though the $6.50 buffet at the City Cafe was the best deal. (I think The OMB was named with the intention of prompting you to order “one more,” but I interpreted it as “just another bar.”)

I have no survey data to support this statement, but I think I am safe in saying that 99.5% of the local population cannot participate in this economy. This is the symptom of big money aid. It doesn’t address the bulk of the population. It papers over things and gives a false sense (not in all ways) that progress has been made when, in fact, most people have been left behind.

It’s the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Good time for a Kiva plug (www.kiva.org). The reason I was in Dili was to work with Kiva’s micro-finance partner Tuba Rai Metin (tubaraimetin.com) to improve their reach to the people left behind. I suppose my time was well spent since TRM will soon be offering Kiva loans in all 13 national districts (before they were only offered in 2), and their available fundraising limit with Kiva was more than doubled. The next time you make a Kiva loan, be sure to look for borrowers in Timor-Leste.

Splitting my time as a Kiva Fellow between Timor-Leste and west Timor, Indonesia, I had two options for moving to Kupang in the west. Either a horrendous 12 hour bus ride, or a flight to Bali and a flight back to Kupang. A couple of days R&R on Bali sounded like a good plan, so I booked a hotel in Sanur, an area I hadn’t stayed in before.

Old and New, Bali.

Bali, old and new.

Bali is a different definition of artificial. Perhaps it’s just over-developed. I don’t know where the development dollars are from, but there were (and are) a lot of them. The whole southern end of the island is one traffic jam in streets full of foreign shops and throngs of paradise seeking vacationers and the people to support this industry. Yucch.

The “real” Bali is to be found inland or along the coastline well away from over-developed Denpasar, Kuta, Legian and Sanur. But does “the real” (old) Bali still exist? Doubtful. Maybe just a shadow of it.

Whether or not it is, I don’t know, but the development seems more home grown here. Even with all the tourist mod-cons and brand name shops, the building seems more in line with Balinese ideas.

Bali was probably a nice hideaway at one time, but it is a perfect example of why you should keep your mouth shut when you find someplace nice.

I ran into another aspect of this last year in Sardinia. The northeastern coast, La Costa Smerelda, was scrub land picked up by the Aga Khan in the 1960’s for next to nothing. He developed it into a characterless resort town, touted it, and today it’s a destination for the rich, the famous, the wannabies, and cyclists with only one coastal road to choose from.

A Nice Place. Maybe on Sardinia.

Another place. Maybe on Sardinia.

Costa Smerelda. Lovely.

Costa Smerelda. Lovely, isn’t it?

But I was also curious to see how the other, other half lives, and to check out the advertised splendor of the scenic coast. I was really disappointed. It’s scrub land. There are far more beautiful places in Sardinia than that (and I’m not going to tell you where).

It just shows you what good marketing and the general desire of humans to gather into amorphous clumps, dress alike, drink beer and proclaim their superiority can do, though I guess the clientele there has a better claim on the latter than the rest of us.

So I was really interested to see what Kupang would be like – only 175 miles (280 km) as the crow flies from Dili. There are no tourist brochures touting it as a destination. I’ve only been here about ten days, but I can say it is real. There’s nothing in Kupang that I can interpret as put on, or existing only to serve a foreign audience. OK, there’s Teddy’s Bar down on the water, but it ain’t much.

Kupang's waterfront.

Kupang’s waterfront.

Kupang is a noisy, bustling place. It is the business center and capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur – the poorest province in Indonesia. The nicest hotel in town is rather unremarkable and worn. The budget places are a little scary. The only foreign restaurant chain I’ve found is KFC, and there are far fewer foreigners around, though almost all of those are aid workers. There are many little snack places, and the restaurants are patronized by local people and families – a very rare sight in Dili.

You can get fresh fish in the supermarket, on ice, and you can even get Skippy (smooth only). The very nice Borneo Bakery sells local product, not imitations of perceived foreign tastes. As an added bonus, the mosquitoes seem to be more plump and juicy and crackle more dramatically when hit with my zapper.

Bemo depot in central Kupang.

Bemo depot in central Kupang.

Missing from the landscape are the white Toyota Land Cruisers with UN or other logos on the doors and hood, careering around town with little regard for anyone else.

A surprising absence in traffic are taxis. They were everywhere in Dili and always honking to get attention. I’ve seen just a couple in Kupang, but the population of motorbikes is higher here, and the traffic worse. Taxi’s must have sprouted in Dili to serve the needs of the foreigners. The normal city public transport in both places are mini-buses – mikrolets in Dili; bemos in Kupang. (The “bus, coach & minibus” section of my phrase book offers the helpful, “You’re on my foot.”)

So, as I dig deeper into the place over the next few weeks, I’ll monitor how I feel about reality. I’ll have the chance to do that while I’m working with Kiva partner Tanaoba Lais Manekat (ytlm.org). My main task will be to perform a “borrower verification” – meeting with 10 current Kiva-TLM borrowers spread from Sabu to Niki-Niki. And I’ll be discussing ways TLM can take advantage of Kiva’s lender base to improve their reach to the poorest of the poor.

East of Kupang. Nicer than Cost Smerelda, and not a one percenter in sight.

East of Kupang. Nicer than Cost Smerelda, and not a one percenter in sight.

TLM's main office in Kupang.

TLM’s main office in Kupang.

Standing Firmly on the Ground

March 12, 2013 Leave a comment

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An Unstable Foundation

In western mythology the phoenix, rising from its own ashes, represents cyclical extinction and regeneration; death and re-birth. Human stories lack the mythical qualities of the tales they inspire.

“On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority (78.5%) of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias – organized and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people (1/3 of the population) into western Timor as refugees. Most of the country’s infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country’s electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end.” CIA Factbook – parenthetical comments and emphasis mine.

In 2000, Save the Children hired Angelo Soares to work as coordinator of their Children Youth  Development Program (CYDP) as part of the re-building effort in Timor-Leste. Timorese by birth, he had been educated in Indonesia in agricultural development and worked for the government there for 10 years.

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Angelo Soares, CEO, Tuba Rai Metin

When Save the Children opened a micro-credit program in July of 2001, they asked Angelo to join that program. The micro-credit program was transferred to Catholic Relief Services in January 2002, and on May 13 “Tuba Rai Metin” (“Standing Firmly on the Ground” in the local Tetum language) became a legal entity registered with the NGO Forum. CRS continued support to TRM over the next four years with loan capital, technical assistance and grants.

Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state on 20 May 2002, 27 years after the Indonesian occupation began.

Angelo began as a field loan officer, and he rose to be a Branch Manager in 2004. By 2006 he had become an Area Manager.

An Uneven Recovery

Unfortunately, 2006 would be a year of turmoil, too.

“East Timor’s capital, Dili, descended into chaos in April and May 2006, when the prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, fired almost half the country’s soldiers for striking. The fired soldiers, who had protested against low wages and alleged discrimination, then began rioting, and soldiers loyal to the prime minister started battling them. Soon the violence had spread to the police force and the civilian population, causing about 130,000 to flee their homes to avoid the bloodshed. Australian troops were called in to control the unrest. On June 26, Prime Minister Alkatiri resigned in an effort to stop the country’s disintegration.” Infoplease.com.

Angelo remembers the date well. It was May 26 when his home was ransacked and destroyed. His family lost everything. They fled to live in nearby Motael Church with 500 other scared people. Other churches and schools across the city along with the airport filled with refugees by the thousands. They remained for two weeks until calm returned. Like the rest of his neighbors, Angelo and his family were starting from zero.

Panorama 2a

Motael Church in Dili Today

The senior manager of TRM fled to Australia “for 12 days”, but a month later he sent his resignation letter to the board and never returned. Angelo was now in charge of what had been the 5th largest of 15 micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) in the country. Thirteen of them were now closed because they lost their assets. But TRM still had physical and financial assets, loans outstanding, and clients wanting to stay in business, even though many were in refugee camps.

By January of 2007 CRS completed an assessment and concluded that the situation in Timor-Leste was too difficult to continue support. They were pulling out. TRM’s monthly expenses were $8,500, yet income was only $4,000 in a deteriorating climate. Angelo was presented with three options:

  1. Close down and pay the staff a severance package.
  2. Merge with Moris Rasik – the only other surviving MFI (larger than TRM)
  3. Continue operations with no further support from CRS.

Angelo chose the third option.

How to Exist as a Timorese Institution?

This was not without some risk … to say the least. Unable to break even while supporting 24 staff members, an outstanding loan portfolio of $168,000 with 2,800 clients uprooted from their homes and businesses and living in refugee camps, abandoned by management and an international aid organization, TRM would be a high risk venture in anyone’s estimation.

Refugee Camp, DiliPhoto by Austcare www.flickr.com/photos/austcare

Refugee Camp, Dili 2006 – Photo by Austcare
www.flickr.com/photos/austcare

But how to exist as a Timorese institution? First he tried to convince the board of directors to engage with the business, but not one director was willing to meet with him. A quarter of the staff left for more secure jobs in the government. But Angelo felt he had to try and make it work. It was for his community and his young country.

The remaining staff forged a plan to manage the budget to make it work. Cuts came, and they were difficult, but there was a desire to make sacrifices to rebuild. Benefits were cut to the bone. Employees agreed to sleep in branch offices to save on lodging expenses while traveling. TRM leased one of the cars to another company. Tightening their belts, they managed to reduce expenses significantly.

There were a few challenges in helping their clients rebuild. First the 2,800 clients had to be found amid the refugee camps. Micro-finance, by its nature, is a labor intensive business. The loan officers spend a lot of time out in the community getting know their clients personally, and they meet with them when loan repayments are made. They were accustomed to doing a lot of leg work, and clients were found.

Loans were restructured, and, in many cases, additional loans were made available. It took about a month to get most businesses going again, but most did get going again. The challenge was helping clients rebuild while keeping the company afloat.

A Bumpy Road

Things were going so well that in March of 2007 TRM opened a new field office in Lospalos, Lautém District. And in May income met expenses for the first time since TRM became a Timorese business – just five months after CRS pulled out.

Working closely with their clients, they set the stage to reduce the number of delinquent loans from 75% in 2006 to only 14% in 2009.

But inconclusive June 2007 elections between seven competing parties and protracted negotiations to come up with a ruling coalition led to political unrest. Generally, there was an East-West divide of feelings. Those in the east generally favored independence parties, while those in the west leaned toward Indonesia.

Most people were fearful of leaving their own cities. But Angelo continued to make the run between Dili (west) and Baucau (east) on a regular basis to keep the business moving.

In July there was a month-long work stoppage in Baucau. Banks and government offices closed. All activity stopped. But not at TRM. In order to keep a low profile, the loan officers visited their clients on their motorbikes dressed in shorts and sandals and, when challenged, said they were out visiting friends. There were no banks to deposit their collections, and they avoided using the office, so the Branch Manager kept loan collections in his house.

The political unrest turned violent in several districts, including Baucau. On July 7 TRM’s Baucau branch office was burned along with all the records. $18,000 in cash was lost.

Stability …. at Last

Since the mid-decade troubles, the political climate has been much more stable. UN security forces moved in to stabilize the country, and they just left in December, 2012.

TRM's Kiva Coordinators Connecting Borrowers with Lenders

TRM’s Kiva Coordinators Connecting Borrowers with Lenders

TRM has been on a steady growth path with help from BASIX and the UNCDF (UN Credit Development Fund) and now serves over 7,500 clients in all 13 national districts. The loan portfolio has grown to over $2.8 million. They offer a complete portfolio of loan products, micro-insurance and deposit savings accounts.

Tuba Rai Metin has been a partner with Kiva since May of 2012, offering the opportunity for Kiva lenders to make loans directly to individuals and groups served by TRM.

I am in Dili working with TRM to solidify and expand the relationship with Kiva. Angelo and his team have just completed the requirements to move from “pilot” to “active” status. This will increase the amount of money Kiva makes available to lend to TRM borrowers through the Kiva website, as well as open the door to fund special development projects.

I hope you will look for TRM’s clients on Kiva.org as you search for places to connect with small entrepreneurs.

Phoenix or Mortal?

The phoenix resurrected from its ashes is a fanciful image created in men’s minds. The origin of the story is lost in time. Perhaps it was used as soothing encouragement during catastrophic times. Maybe an inducement to rise powerfully against a conquering enemy.

To stand firmly on the ground is something humans do. In the final analysis, it is the only course of action we humans have. But we can do pretty well. Perfecting our stance will do more to help ourselves and others than any flight of fancy.

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Relics of the Struggles Remain