Trip report: KDVT - CYYF

In honor of celebrating ten years of marriage to my lovely wife, it's time to dig into the archives for a trip report. It's the airplane trip on which we fell in love.

I left off in the welcome with an 11.4 in my old Cherokee 180 and getting married to my travel partner. Here's the rest of the story.

Knowing I was headed off to the Air Force, I had to sell that Cherokee, or so I thought. I had it listed everywhere I could think of, local airports, Trade-a-Plane, even eBay, but no bites, not even a phone call. I was starting to sweat when I got one single bid on eBay, from a Canadian of all things.

Part of the perks to buying my plane was I would deliver it for free up to 1000 miles from KDVT. This brand new eBay-er was in Penticton, BC, exactly 1003.5 NM away from Phoenix Deer Valley. Close enough--deposit paid and the balance due on delivery.

The plans with my travel companion set, and knowing what a long day it was going to be, I picked Caitlin up at 0330, Starbucks in hand and ready for the trek. An uneventful preflight and we were airborne by 0430.

The planned route of flight was through Salt Lake City as a means of getting around the restricted areas west of town, but getting in was going to be tight with scattered to broken clouds in the area. First we crossed the Grand Canyon in the pitch black at 11,500', which was a strange experience but still comfortable having flown it in the daytime and having sufficient altitude to glide somewhere away from the canyon if the engine had quit at the worst possible moment.

As dawn broke beautifully over Bryce Canyon it also revealed that my weather concerns were confirmed: Salt Lake was not worth the effort, especially when just west of course things looked quite clear.

A quick check of the fuel and with Caitlin already up to speed on VFR navigation (+1 for my new travel companion), the new fuel stop was Ely, NV (KELY).

A call to CTAF elicited the FBO's response: "just park next to the silver plane." Funny, because he could have just omitted "silver" since it was the only one out there--a shiny old Swift. Gas n' go was the plan but the starter wouldn't turn. It seems the battery connections had jarred loose and needed its terminals cleaned but for some reason I didn't understand those words when the mechanic told me. Caitlin did, the plane was fixed, and +2 for my new travel companion.

The next leg was uneventful and after 800 miles and 10 hours into the day, we hit a Taco Bell in Lewiston, ID (KLWE) and back into the air, destination Canada.

North of Spokane with flight following the controller asked an insightful question: Where are you going? Canada, of course. I don't have a flight plan on file for you. Uhh....

All those stories my Dad told of popping down to Mexico in his Luscombe in the '70s had had an ill effect, because it hadn't occurred to me to file no matter how many times I had read the AIM to date. The generous controller filed one for us and we were suddenly legal but had still the hardest part of the trip ahead: actually finding the place.

This was before Skyvector, iPads, ADS-B in or out, GPS pucks, or anything. I had AirNav for planning, dual VORs, and paper charts. The VORs had helped get us to north of Spokane, but no further, where I only knew I needed to find a river valley and follow it up until Penticton popped up. With darkness looming, I found what I thought was the right one and turned north, hoping those pilotage skills I had developed would work this time.

They did, and it was the right one, we landed before civil twilight I wasn't entirely sure if the airfield had lights), and the owner was there to meet us, baffled that I could have had a plane full of cocaine with my simple pro forma phone call to Canadian customs. Wire transaction completed the next day, Caitlin and I set off in a Greyhound bus to Seattle for a ride home on Southwest, and at some point in the night determined we were meant to be.

Here's to you, Caitlin, for having a wild hare--for this trip, and for marrying me, 10 years ago! Love ya.


  1. Not sure how I found your blog but I like it. I took a similar flight with my long ago ex wife. We weren't married yet but little did I know two months later we would be.

    I had just gotten my PPL a couple months earlier and decided to take the 182 from Stellar up to Spokane. She wanted to see Lake Mead and I had the hypoxic crap scared out of me in the altitude chamber and so we went around the canyon. Once we were north of Vegas I still had to climb for clearance between us and the 800 mountain ridges before we got to Elko for fuel. Winds were (relatively) screaming across the tops at 40kts. I was sweaty, tired, mentally drained and doubting my decision making as we got fuel. She on the other hand was completely cool. I never heard a single complaint from her and I pretty much knew then I was gonna ask her to marry me.

    I did get a little of my piloting confidence back when the tanks were down 56gal instead of my planned 53gal. I figured the extra must have been from fighting the downdrafts over the mountains.

    1. Thanks for the kind words--I love to hear of these aviation success stories!


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