Jaunty octogenarians and their Model T Ford driving school, Hood River, Oregon, USA

WAAMSurrounded by lush vineyards and orchards, under the snow-capped peak of Oregon’s highest volcanic mountain, Hood River is a great little destination just 60 miles east of Portland.  There’s not much that you can’t do here, in this green nook along the Columbia River: skiing, hiking, wind-surfing, wine-tasting and—best of all—learning to drive a 1916 Model T Ford. Ken Jernstedt airport

On a multi-stop airplane camping trip from BC to California, we visited the marvelous Western Antique and Airplane Museum (WAAAM) located right at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield (4S2, CTAF/UNICOM: 122.8, Elevation: 638 ft.)  While touring the incredible collection of planes and antique vehicles in the museum, we learned about the Model T driving school and promptly signed up for the only class that was still available that summer.  Each class is limited to 10 participants, and they sell out early! us in the Model T

Weather almost defeated us when we flew down from Canada to Hood River some months later for our scheduled driving class.  But despite sulking clouds and petulant winds, we made it, to the delight of the folks running the driving school, who vowed to now declare theirs an international establishment.  In keeping with the early 1900’s theme of our day, we booked a room in the historic Hood River Hotel, a wonderful floorboard-creaky, brass-spigot place that’s been around since 1912. 1911 Hood River Hotel

We spent the morning in the museum, learning the history of the `Tin Lizzie’ and some esoteric facts, such as: the first cars produced were red, grey, green, and blue, even though Henry T. Ford declared that his customers could buy a Model T painted any color they wished, as long as it were black.  The iconic black was introduced as a cost saving measure during WWI.   He also offered kits to convert the Model T to just about anything his customers wanted, such as the Snowflier, where a second set of drive wheels were added and skis replaced the front wheels. (The first snowmobile!)  Apparently, another `conversion’ was for a traveling minister, so he could set up his Model T to power a portable pipe organ.

After a BBQ burger & salad lunch (included), we were released into a grass field, to drive a variety of Model T’s about willy-nilly and around a slalom course of orange traffic cones (a demonstration of chaos theory in action, make no mistake).  Neither of us could believe how vastly different driving the Model T is to driving today’s standard—or automatic—car.  pedals and gear systemWith three pedals on the floor (none of them in the configuration that we’re familiar with today), two levers on the steering wheel, and a third bar/lever necessary for operation, driving Henry’s `Fliver’ was kind of like patting your head, rubbing your tummy, and writing riddles using only your feet.  It was a challenge and a delight, and our volunteer instructors—ranging in age from 60 to 90 years old—had oodles of patience and wisdom.  Most of the instructors, we learned, actually forge the replacement parts for the Model T’s, by hand, right there at the WAAAM.

How to drive the Model T:

There are three pedals located on the floor, left, middle, and right.

To the left of the driver, there’s a large hand-operated bar-lever (said bar-lever makes it impossible to get into the car on the driver’s side, don’t you know).  Driver must enter on the passenger side.  There’s two more levers located on the steering wheel.

There are three positions for the left pedal.  All the way out, the car is in high gear.  Pushed ½ way in, the car is in neutral. Pushed all the way in, the car is in low gear.

The bar-lever pulled all the way back forces the left pedal into the middle and applies the handbrake.

If you move the bar-lever ½ way forward, it releases the handbrake and restricts the left pedal to middle and `all the way in’ only.  If you move the bar-lever all the way forward, then the left pedal is free to move into all positions and the handbrake is released.

The right pedal is the brake (just like a brake in our cars today).   Always drive with right foot hovering over the brake!

Middle pedal is the reverse gear.  To go backwards, hold the left pedal in the ½ way position and push the middle pedal in.  Anytime you’re engaging any of the gears (low, high, or reverse), as with today’s standard vehicles, you need to apply the throttle or the engine will quit. img_6912 The throttle is one of the levers on the steering column; the other lever on the steering column is the spark timer. You can’t apply the throttle without changing the spark timer, which you have to do simultaneously with the throttle lever.  How fun is that?!

Here’s a link to a video showing David masterfully driving, and me doing a Daffy Duck impersonation while at the wheel.video

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Manzanita-Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon, USA


Grass trails through the dunesA west coast version of the Caribbean, spectacular Nehalem Bay State Park boasts miles of squeaky white sand, crashing surf, and rolling dunes, under idyllic blue skies (at least, there are blue skies in the summer, if coastal fog isn’t rolling in….) Gorgeous squeaky whte sand dunesNehalem Bay Park is situated on a jaw-droppingly beautiful four mile sand spit bordered with aromatic coastal pine forest.  nehalem-mapIn July, we flew our 172 Skyhawk from BC, Canada to Nehalem’s on-site airstrip (3S7–see pilot airstrip diagram below).  We took along our canine companion, camping gear & food for an overnight stay.

aerial of coast, Nehalem State Park
Flying downwind for runway 33 along the windy coast (check out the whitecaps on the surf!)

We turned left base over the sand spit; final approach is over Nehalem Bay itself.  Watch out for the truly amazing wind shear on short final!  All that gusty coastal wind suddenly drops right off due to the protection of the surrounding trees and sheltered bay.

Left base 33
Left base for runway 33 (left edge of photo)

After recovering from on of my more memorable landings (I’ll say no more than that, except that right after landing, we watched a pilot with 20+ years experience suffer the same humbling landing), we taxied to one of the little campsites tucked into the forest to the west of the airstrip.

taxiway markers
Interesting taxiway signs…

These free campsites are reserved for pilots.  They’re secluded, peaceful rudimentary firepit-and-picnic-table affairs, separate from the more populated drive-in campsites of the State Park.  (No shower facilities at the airstrip, and a Port-a-Potty outhouse only). airstrip campsite There is drinking/dish-washing water available, via a spout where deer like to hang out at dawn, and I suppose if one were truly motivated, one could cold-water shower under that. Although it was the height of a gorgeous hot, sunny summer, only two fly-in campsites were in use while we were there… and we were one of them. Itinerant parking at the airstripWe spent the day romping along the fine white sands of the coast (a short walk from the airstrip through the state park).

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After a picnic lunch, we rounded the spit and splashed through the warm estuary of Nehalem Bay. The wind-protected shelter of the Bay is very notable on the ground–not that I’m emphasizing the wind-shear factor for pilots or anything. Mud flats of the bayWhile rambling along the mudflats, a pack of coyotes serenaded us with their eerie wailing.  We saw them watching us from the top of a dune we’d been blithely scampering up and down only moments before; we kept our little dog closer to us after that.Dunes along the bay  Horseback riding is offered at the park,  but we opted to forego such equine joys on this trip.  For pilots who aren’t self-caterers and don’t mind a vigorous walk into Manzanita, there’s a variety of bistros, cafes, pubs, and restaurants in the nearby quaint little community (approx. 1 mile north of the airstrip).  After roasting marshmallows over the fire pit (wood supplied by the park, 100 low-lead fire-starter supplied by our plane), we had a wonderfully peaceful sleep. campfire In the morning, we had to scramble like mad to pack up and leave, as did the other pilot who’d camped overnight–marine fog was rolling in, fast.  Neither of us had supplies for a protracted fogged in stay.  We managed to escape just as fog closed in, our hasty departure reminiscent of Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon, barely escaping the closing maw of a giant space slug….

Nehalem Bay (code 3S7). Elevation  22 feet.  Frequency  122.9


Cottonwood Golf course & restaurant, Nanaimo, BC

On a short, wintry, cloud-scudded day, we hopped in our plane and flew to Nanaimo airport (CYCD) for a quick, scenic flight across the Georgia Straight, followed by a yummy lunch at the Cottonwood Golf Course Restaurant.aerial view of cottonwood golfcourse and apron 2 Continue reading “Cottonwood Golf course & restaurant, Nanaimo, BC”

Historic Willingdon Beach & the Millennium Park Trails, Powell River, BC

Willingdon BeachA plethora of rocky beaches and sun-dappled forest trails, near a strip of upbeat art galleries, quirky shops, ocean-view bistros, and a local craft brewery: Willingdon Beach is a traveler’s gem. Continue reading “Historic Willingdon Beach & the Millennium Park Trails, Powell River, BC”