The Liberty Gazette
July 10, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Seven one-hundredths of a mile an hour is a painfully small speed by which to be bested. Our pit crew and cheering squad (Linda’s sister Diane and her beau Willie) were tops, but the local Washingtonian whose airplane weighed 400 pounds less and with lots of speed modifications (some of which we have yet to acquire) flew a good race. While pals couldn’t console her, Linda channeled her frustration into "fix-it" mode. We knew the "Grumman Guru" responsible for giving that airplane its potential. Ken Blackmon lives just outside Seattle, only an hour’s flight from the race in Ephrata. Determination had a plan: speed doctor, Monday morning.
Linda: Re-running the race in my head, thinking of all the little things that add up: a turn not tight enough, speed lost letting the Elyminator climb, did we choose the best altitude for the winds… Mike put it behind him once he saw her – a Hollywood celebrity living in Ephrata. There was no stopping his gazing at her, filling the camera’s memory and his with face-to-face images. She was different from the others, the Consolidated PBY Catalinas, amphibious WWII patrol bombers which found peace time work dropping fire retardant on forest fires. She was a star in the movie "Always" and has retired in Ephrata, where it was filmed. Her co-star, an A-26, moved to Houston after the film, finding joy in training jet jockeys. Mike and I were in two different worlds.
Mike: I’d been looking forward to our west coast vacation which would take us border-to-border starting on the wet side of the Cascade Mountains and the north end of Puget Sound. Bellingham, Washington is home to Diane and Willie, who made the four-hour drive each way to support us at the race. Beginning turbulently the trip smoothed out with spectacular views over the Sound just north of Seattle near Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. My father’s cousin was once the Commandant there. Closing in on Bellingham, through the mist appeared the San Juan Islands which decorate Pacific Northwest bays. Beginning our decent we gently banked to the right around higher terrain where a large ridge juts out and drops nearly vertically into the waters of the Sound. In late afternoon rays breaking through the clouds the city and runway of Bellingham welcomed us.
Linda: Landing ahead of more rain we rolled the Elyminator into a hangar to begin a peaceful weekend with Diane and Willie. Grateful for the break from south Texas swelter, donning sweatshirts we strolled the quaint college town, past rocky waterfalls pushing through openings in forests of tall wintergreens, along rivers and creeks flowing into the bay, stopping to warm at local coffee shops. Along a shoreline park our excellent tour guides acquainted us with a life-size statue of a lovely woman emerging from a big rock in ballerina pose. "Grace" reaches for the sea with one arm, the other nearly touches her raised foot behind her. She balances perfectly on the other foot, bolted to her platform: a mound of waste tin from long-ago cannery operations, a creative and tasteful reminder of the potential of recycling. Amazing that it doesn’t look like tin at all, but just like a mossy rock.
Mike: Fly with us down the west coast next week. Until then, blue skies.