I love getting outdoors. My wife and I regularly ride motorcycles, both dirt and street. We explore out-of-the-way places in our Jeep. I have over 5,000 hours as a pilot in small airplanes with extensive experience at “bush flying” in the backcountry. So when my editor at Oklahoma Living Anna Politano asked me to write a story about outdoor adventures, I didn’t even have to leave my desk. I just pulled from my huge archive of images and stories to write this piece titled “5 Outdoor Activities in Oklahoma”. We wanted the story to be about unusual activities rather than the normal golf or tennis.
Back in 2005 I flew my Maule to Johnson Creek (pronounced “crick” by the locals) to camp, do some backcountry flying and hang out with other pilots. My friend and fellow pilot Alex Weeks went with me on this particular trip.
While hanging around the campground one hot afternoon, I noticed a celebration happening at a nearby home. A line of cars approached and out spilled a bride, groom and a bunch of friends and family. They proceeded to walk across the grass runway and up to a beautiful T6 Texan WWII training aircraft. I grabbed my camera and fired off photos without trying to get in the way of the wedding photographer. The groom loaded his bride up in the T6, fired the plane off with a belch of grey smoke, taxied out on the grass runway, took off, then turned and made a couple of VERY low passes over the wedding party. What fun!
Only later I found out that the groom was an Air Force Caption who was tasked to the Navy to fly F-16 fighter jets as an “aggressor” in training Navy fighter pilots in F-14 and F-18 jets. He had flown to Johnson Creek in his home-built Vans RV-8. His bride was actually the owner of the T-6! She had inherited it and a couple of other airplanes from her grandfather and flew it regularly. Two active pilots getting married!
I guess the advertisement worked – “Air Force fighter jock looking for wife. Must clean, cook, and own an airplane. Send pictures of airplane.”
One late spring day in 1999 I was headed on a work trip to southern Colorado in my Cessna Turbo 310R airplane and decided to spend the weekend on my return trip mountain biking in New Mexico. After my work week (I believe it was in Durango) I stopped in at Angel Fire, NM late one evening. The airport was unattended and it was late evening, just an hour before sunset, so rather than ride my bike and and then camp, I decided I would just camp under the wing of my airplane and then hit the trails the next morning. I have done that many times all over small rural airports across the USA. So I pitched my tent under the wing of my Cessna and thought all was well. The temps were dropping quickly when about an hour after dark, a self-important airport manager drove up and informed me I couldn’t sleep under the wing of my airplane or anywhere on the airport for that matter. He didn’t have a good reason why other than “you can’t do that”. It was pitch dark and about 35 degrees by then. What was I supposed to do, break camp, load up on my mountain bike, and ride into the inky darkness hoping I could find another place to stay? I didn’t really want to launch my airplane into the darkness with mountains all around. I probably could have filed a flight plan and left out
IFR but I was tired and didn’t really feel like flying late that night. So I did what a good Englishman would do and told him to “piss off” or or something to that effect. Actually that was what I WANTED to tell him, but instead I just ignored him and stayed put.
A couple of hours later a policeman and a whole gaggle of other folks showed up again, informing me I couldn’t camp under the wing of my airplane. I could either leave or spend the night in jail. Wankers. But not having many options, I packed up my gear to leave. The policeman was nice enough to offer me a ride to a nearby campsite. I got there around 1 AM and had to set up my tent once again in freezing cold weather. Nighttime temps in the Rockies drop pretty quickly.
So I finally got to sleep and spent the cold night in my warm sleeping bag. Got up the next morning, loaded up my bike and gear, and spent the day riding all around Angel Fire. I was not in such a good mood and really upset with the wanker airport manager and swore never to buy avgas at Angel Fire again unless I was desperate. I did have fun riding my mountain bike but the trails were only mediocre – nothing like the great mountain biking trails in Durango. But still it was a fun adventure except for the airport dude.