formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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November 23, 2010 Fall Foliage Tour, part 4

The Liberty Gazette
November 23, 2010
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Returning from our Fall vacation last month, the same tailwinds we enjoyed on the way up to New England were headwinds on the way back, considerably reducing ground speed and thereby requiring more fuel stops. First stop after departing Pittsfield, Massachusetts came three and a half hours later in Morgantown, West Virginia, once we cleared a lot of mountain ranges along the route. The airport was quite busy, which we learned was due to a local college football game. The FBO fueled the plane, the airport restaurant fueled us, and we were airborne again.

Linda: Often when we’re travelling during football season we end up at an airport in a town where an important game is going on. Usually it’s the college games which affect the general aviation ramps, filling up with aircraft of the many alumni who fly in. A fuel stop in Knoxville, Tennessee proved to be another stop like Morgantown. A football game was going full tilt when we contacted Knoxville Approach Control. It so happened it was my turn in the left seat on that leg. The approach controller vectored us around the University of Tennessee Neyland Stadium so we could get a good view, which, were I a football fan (I know, I’ll dodge the tomatoes) I’d have been thrilled about. “Grumman 958, how’d you like that view of the game,” he asked as we flew along the southeast edge of the stadium. The Volunteers were playing the Alabama Crimson Tide and we figured it must have been halftime, judging by the barrage of camera flashes we could see from above, and undoubtedly a capacity crowd in the 102,455-seat venue. My honest response to the controller probably set me apart from everyone else in town. “Well, I’m not much of a football fan, but I sure love flying!” His quick follow-up likely hid his real feelings, saying, “Well either way, it’s a great view,” before handing me off to the airport’s control tower.

Mike: The airport ramp was packed; jets, turboprops and piston airplanes everywhere. “You here for the game,” was the presumptuous question posed more like a statement of fact until we shocked the people in the FBO saying, “No, just a fuel stop and overnight.” The FBO folks told us it was good we called ahead, that we were lucky to get the last hotel room in town. And fortunately, the hotel was right across the highway with a Ruby Tuesday’s next door.

As we made our way out on the FBO ramp the next morning, Linda spotted a Cessna 310 with Isaiah 40:31 painted on its tail. She researched the registration and found this story: in 2003 at the age of 56, N137CM’s owner, Charlie Queen, suffered a massive stroke and spent many weeks in a hospital. His wife was told to find a nursing home for him. Linda spoke briefly by phone with Mr. Queen and there is more to his story, which we are eager to hear so we can share it here, but this miracle we know: that he can now walk again, and is putting his miracle to great use.

Linda: Arriving at Ellington just as the sun was setting on Wings Over Houston air show, we carefully taxied past break-down crews to our parking spot, marking the end of our fall foliage tour.

November 16, 2010 Fall Foliage Tour, part 3

The Liberty Gazette
November 16, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Autumn in New England. Lovely. Through the Green Mountains on our way to Weston, Vermont, we travelled country roads draped in old train trellises, past old houses mirrored by serene lakes, as fog finished its whisper to canoes waiting mostly on the shores and the water began to smile from ringlets of raindrops. Even with the apparent age of these places, splashes of fall color and a Maple Lane in every town sets the stage for great sight-seeing. Weston, the town we read was “like a Norman Rockwell painting” is home to the Vermont Country Store, a popular attraction for shoppers. Adorned with Autumn-ness its pumpkin-lined slate rock walkways accented by wood and iron benches, old wooden barrels, and dotted with mounds of bursting fall chrysanthemums lead to a welcoming porch with waiting rockers. Off to the side, a 1950’s Chevy pick-up and an old milk can. A bit touristy but a trip down memory lane in the candy department helped me get over it with rock candy, jawbreakers, and yardstick bubble gum. We stayed one night in Weston; there was more of Vermont to see.

After lunch in Woodstock the next day, we roamed through an art gallery and a used bookstore, waiting for more flyable weather. As the clouds began to clear enough to make our next flight we shortened our time brief at one of many antiques stores in Quechee and hurried back to the airport in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Next stop: Stockbridge, Massachusetts (landing in nearby Pittsfield). It was my leg to fly on this “interesting” weather day. Light rain, but visibility good. Still, a large band of low clouds meant a longer flight to find clearance over the mountains. Since we don’t have de-icing equipment we would not fly in the clouds, as the temperatures in them were below freezing. Pittsfield’s airport was hiding behind a mountain range, but eventually we came upon it. Fortunately the swift wind was blowing straight down the runway.

Mike: The friendly lineman at the FBO in Pittsfield drove the rental car onto the ramp to meet us, and helped secure the plane. Soon we were on our way to Stockbridge, just minutes away. Stockbridge boasts home of the Red Lion Inn, since 1773. A large and elegant historic hotel (with an operating bird-cage elevator), the Inn is decorated with thousands of antiques. Among the goodies in the room was a booklet with three short bedtime stories, a unique and charming touch. Norman Rockwell lived his last 25 years in Stockbridge. His studio was moved to a larger piece of property it shares with the museum which houses most of his original paintings and tear sheets of every Saturday Evening Post cover he created. He worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays, for most of his life. We spent most of a day at the museum that honors the beloved artist who captured on canvas daily life in America for many decades of the last century.

Too soon, vacation was nearing an end. Crossing again over the Berkshires, Poconos, Catskills, Smokeys, the Appalachian, Adirondack, and Green Mountain ranges, bright hues of orange, red, and yellow covered the landscape like a soft knitted blanket. White church steeples in small towns bid a warm good-bye. The video camera got a lot of use.

November 9, 2010 Fall Foliage Tour, part 2

The Liberty Gazette
November 9, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Following up on last week’s start on “What We Did on our Fall Vacation,” wrapping up the patriotic portion of the trip–Minuteman National Historic Park, Concord and Lexington, the spot where Paul Revere was captured and the bridge where someone fired “the shot heard ‘round the world”–we departed Bedford, in Boston’s busy airspace, winging our way to Lebanon, New Hampshire, the northern most point of our tour. The rolling terrain of the White Mountains lit up in fall color is beautiful when viewed at low altitude below a broken cloud deck. Initial decent point came in less than an hour; over a ridge the crossing runway came in to view before we spotted the one where we were cleared to land–behind yet another hill. Turning final around the hill the air was a bit bumpy as we settled onto the runway.

The FBO manager greeted us with smile, keys to a rental car, and a bottle of New Hampshire maple syrup, saying, “it’s better than that stuff you get in Vermont–over there they paint their leaves.” On a roadmap he pointed out the many things we shouldn’t miss along the way. “Don’t miss the longest usable covered bridge in America,” he said. We checked it out, crossing the Connecticut River to Vermont and back to New Hampshire in minutes. Although it was practical back in the day to cover those old wooden bridges to keep them from collapsing under heavy winter snows, today we adore the nostalgic remnants of a romantic Currier & Ives era.

Linda: Nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley, the Monadnock Region of southwest New Hampshire, sits a 100-acre organic farm with Bed & Breakfast, the Inn at Valley Farms. Innkeeper Jackie Caserta treated us to a gourmet breakfast that outdid Massachusetts’ famous Red Lion Inn, which we would later visit. She introduced us to “popovers”, using a recipe she has perfected, fed us the freshest, yellowiest eggs we’ve ever had, and a fancy concoction of pear with maple and some other tastiness. No wonder this inn was awarded 2010 Editor's Pick in Yankee Magazine's "Best of New England." Jackie insisted we visit the headquarters of the world-famous Burdick’s Chocolates, there in tiny, quaint Walpole. Dinner in Burdick’s dining room provided another gourmet experience: traditional French cuisine (Mike wouldn’t even consider trying the escargot), and a walk through the gift shop made it impossible to remain just a browser.

People in these small New England farming communities treat visitors nicely. The old and rare bookshop in the Green Mountains in Vermont was a cozy place to meander. New England pot pies, pumpkin ice cream, and maple-flavored everything were found in abundance in every town.

Ice cream is quite popular in the northeast. In Maine it seems there’s a locally owned ice cream store on every corner. We honeymooned there and I still laugh at the memory of the moment I remarked to Mike, “There sure are a lot of ice cream shops here.” Those words had barely passed my lips when we passed “Don’s Radiator Shop... and ice cream.”

For several months we researched and planned our Fall Foliage Tour. One of the places that piqued our interest was the town of Weston, Vermont, described by a travel resource as, “like a Norman Rockwell painting.” We’ll have that and more next week. Till then, blue skies.

November 2, 2010 Fall Foliage Tour, part 1

The Liberty Gazette
November 2, 2010

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

After planning for more than a year, we took off in our Cheetah for a New England leaf-peeping tour. The rolling terrain dressed in beautiful fall splendor of Ash, Birch, and Maples draws many a foliage fan every year. Sojourning with the birds grants a great view of the countryside from Houston to Boston. Leaving the flatness of southeast Texas we marveled at God’s handiwork: the Berkshires, the Poconos, the Catskills, the Smokies, Appalachian, Adirondack, and Green Mountain ranges, each offering their beauty in turn. Winging our way northeast from a fuel stop in Chattanooga the landscape began to change from green and brown to shouts of yellows, oranges, and reds, becoming more brilliant as we crossed over West Virginia into Maryland.

Cumberland, Maryland was our lunch stop (gusty winds made the landing “sporty”). An adorable little town, population about 20,000, their historic, shopping, and restaurant district downtown is quite impressive with its brick streets, flowerpot-lined sidewalks, busy shops, unique galleries, restaurants, and prominent buildings of interesting architecture.

Linda: Following a scrumptious lunch in a Cumberland cafĂ©, we were off to Bedford, our Boston area destination airport. In the air, New York Center controllers rattled a steady stream of traffic instructions to pilots, including advisories to us about airline arrivals crossing our path flying into New York’s busy airports: “Grumman 958, traffic, eleven o’clock, east-bound, 5,000 feet, three miles, a 747.”

A little further north, West Point Military Academy came in to view along the Hudson River. I said something to Mike about trying a water landing, Sully-style. He’d already had his moment of imposter-glory when he re-created that famous scene in a simulator. I remember the grin as he told me he’d landed “within one block of Sully’s landing” – in the sim.

Mike: Assisted by a speedy tailwind we sailed through New York and Boston’s airspace, flew over Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau, and entered the traffic pattern at Bedford, Massachusetts. In nearby Concord we had reservations at the historic Colonial Inn, which proudly faces Monument Park, the centerpiece of Concord’s downtown. There stands a monument to the area’s Patriots who hoped for peace but had to fight when the British “Red Coats” attempted to take over the town April 19, 1775. It was in that spot the townspeople gathered and waited as the King’s soldiers marched from Boston to Lexington and soon to Concord. Many of the buildings, taverns, meetings houses and residences there at the time are still standing. It was in Lexington, just east of Concord, where the British opened fire on townspeople, killing eight, and injuring many more including Prince Estabrook, a black man who was a slave, and served in the town’s militia.

Just a mile from Col. Barrett’s farm is the North Bridge which arches over the Concord River, where “the shot heard round the world” was fired. It was the first time Colonials fired on the British. The British Regulars tried to escape back to Boston but many died on what is now known as Battle Road. Our tours of Lexington and Concord, the first two battle places of the American Revolution seemed timely in today’s political climate.

Minuteman Park Rangers were outstanding tour guides, and the multimedia presentation was a top-notch production. On April 19th each year these battles are re-enacted, lest we forget.

The next town on our agenda was Walpole, New Hampshire, where we traversed New England’s longest covered bridge on our way to a bed & breakfast on a 100-acre organic farm. ‘Til next week, blue skies.