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 1, 2016 The Road to Nome

The Liberty Gazette
November 1, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

We had just arrived at our hangar on this perfect October day, when across the ramp the small camouflage-colored two-seat high-wing tailwheel airplane caught my eye as the pilot rolled up in front of his hangar and shut down. I hadn’t seen that plane there before and walked over to introduce myself.

As we shook hands I peered through the windows and spied camping gear in the rear seat. There was only one place he could have been this weekend - Reklaw, Texas (that’s Walker spelled backward), the huge annual fly-in where, when weather cooperates, about 600 airplanes descend on a 4,000’ grass strip, people camp out, fly-bys happen, and aviation camaraderie rules.

I could have won “name that accent in one note.” It happens to be my favorite accent of all. Cajuns tend to get excited when telling stories and have unique whole body expressions to match their wonderful speech. I could listen all day.

Dave’s a welder by trade. His work ethic and skill make him in high demand. One day while cutting pipe, he asked his helper to secure a jack stand to the pipe so he could remove the one he was getting closer to as he cut. If they worked it right the addition of a third jack stand would allow for removal of the first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fully secured and his gloved hand was pinned between the stand and the pipe. Yanking it free with the other hand, he knew he’d need medical attention quickly. The emergency room doctor and nurses examined his mangled hand and sewed it up.

Off work for a few weeks, this was the perfect time for Dave and his wife to take that vacation he’d wanted to take for so long, to Nome, Alaska, where they could really get away from it all.

They drove from their home in New Iberia, through Canada, into Alaska. Stopping in Fairbanks at a NAPA Auto Parts for oil and filter he asked, “Where’s the road to Nome?”

“The guy behind the counter looked at me like I must be the most stupid person in the whole world,” he tells with genuine Cajun pizazz. “Then he says, ‘You got to go by plane. Or, you can wait till the snow comes and go by dog sled.’” (Shameful pause) “‘There’s no road to Nome.’”

That was the pivotal moment when Dave said, “Well then, I got to learn how to fly.”

Linda: Back in Louisiana, at age 39, he began learning something he’d never considered, and earned his private pilot certificate in just three months. With meticulous, thoughtful research Dave decided on exactly the plane he wanted, saved his money, and 11 years after driving to Alaska flew his military-themed Super Cub to “The Last Frontier” and for 34 days explored its vast beauty. A fellow member of created a web thread for members to follow Dave’s journey. Equipped with a Spot Tracker and two cell phones - one U.S., one Canada - Cajun Dave’s adventures quickly drew more than 10,000 followers across the globe.

“It was the most amazing thing I learned about the aviation community,” he tells in Louisiana-style animation and word emphasis, “that every single day people would call me and say they were following my Spot Tracker and saw I was headed in their direction, and they’d invite me to come eat and stay the night at their house. It was like family everywhere I went!”

An injured hand and no road to Nome led to becoming a member of the family of aviators. I could have listened to Dave all day. Turns out, we did. 

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