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Published: March 13th 2010
A tight Crew
Here's Philip, me and Shawn in front of the Piper Archer.
The Wimberley Vortex
Grace and I finally escaped New Orleans after 3 months and fell into our next next trap of Wimberley, Texas. Wimberley's city slogan is "A Little Bit of Heaven" and it is pretty close. Wimberley is in the hill country of Texas between Austin and San Antonio. It's about 45 minutes from either city and nestled in the hills with the beautiful cypress-lined Blanco River cutting right through it.
We planned to stay for 5 days, then 5 turned into 7, and 7 into 11. They call it the Wimberley vortex where you just aren't able to leave - and you don't want to. We have a mechanical excuse, but I don't mind staying a few more days. The electrical, leveling jack on the RV has stripped out and we had to order a $400 part from the manufacturer in Indianapolis. The part was supposed to arrive on Friday, but it's expected Monday by 7pm now. We might be stuck in our briar patch for 12 days if it comes in that late.
We came to visit my high school reunion friend Philip Sell and his wife Tracie. I didn't know Philip that well in
Boon Docking in Walmart
On the way to Wimberley, we camped out at Walmart again for one quick night.
high school, but at the end of our 10 year reunion Philip walked up onto stage and announced that we would have an after party. I've been visiting him in Wimberley ever since.
Philip is one of the many artists and craftsmen that call Wimberley home. With only 10,000 residents, Wimberley has over 3,000 businesses tucked away in the Juniper covered hills - mostly in the form of glass blowing studios, tapestry weaving shops or in Philip's case - furniture making. In high school, Philip took a wood shop class and never turned back. When he started making sawdust at Bishop Miege, time stood still and he literally found his groove. He was famous in my class for making a beautiful roll-top desk while others were making foot stools.
Right out of high school, he made another roll-top desk for a lawyer and he's been making custom furniture for 30 years now. Check out his portfolio here:
He used to go on furniture making binges in his younger days and work for 48 or 72 hours straight without sleeping and barely eating. Tracie manages to coax him into bed or home for a good meal nowadays,
Grace uses her hair as sunscreen on the banks of the Rio Blanco river.
but Phil still lights up when he tells the story of winning the Best in Show for the State of Texas last year or entering one of his latest pieces in a New York furniture contest. His passion is infectious and he has over 1,000 pieces of furniture to show for it.
Besides my friend Philip, my friend Shawn also lives in Austin. Shawn is known as the Chip Doctor in these parts where he's a fellow at AMD - Intel's main competitor in the micro-processor business. He has bought a share in three airplanes and gets up into the heavens any chance he can get. His favorite plane is a Piper Archer and they just overhauled the engine and increased the horsepower from 180 to 200. When I told him we we're driving near Austin he offered to take us up on a flight.
Grace isn't into small planes, so Philip was more than happy to take her place. We first scheduled for Tuesday since I was leaving on Wednesday, but then Shawn ran into some mechanical difficulties - on his van, not the plane. With my delayed departure from Wimberley, we rescheduled for
Grace Coralling ducks
Grace chased some ducks around
When Thursday rolled in, an unexpected and unforecasted storm rolled across the big Texas skyline. When we arrived at the airport, the winds where at 14 knots with gusts up to 23. Shawn said that this could create some interesting sheering effects for a pilot. I wasn't quite as keen as Shawn was to do some experimental flights with my life, but he reassured me that it would be safe.
We waited the storm out and ended up running into very little turbulence. It was after dark by the time we flew up and over downtown Austin. The sky was super-clear after the rains and the Austin skyline was rather impressive shining off Lady Bird Lake. We flew over Lake Travis and Shawn let me take over the cockpit. Shawn had me push the yoke in and go for a dive or pull it back and climb quickly in the sporty plane aboe the Austin City lights. I made some turns and unlike Cessnas, the Piper keeps turning after you return the yoke to neutral. I had to turn the yoke back to get the plane to neutral again. It was a joy to fly that little
Geese Chasing Grace
As we approached the Rio Blanco, some geese chased Grace away.
We landed at a hilltop airport north of Austin and then took off again and landed again. We filled up a few gallons in the tank and then headed back to the Austin's main airport. We were landing right next to the big birds at Austin-Bergstrom and Shawn decided to mess around on the final approach. A couple hundred feet above the runway, he cut the throttle way back and the engine went quiet. We went into a quick descent dropping like a rock. Some wind sheer pushed the plane sideways but Shawn corrected for it and made a smooth landing. Shawn was very professional and educational on the whole flight and we never waivered. If you like some trick landings, maybe he can take you up on some flights when you're in Austin.
Our journey onto California and across the deserts should resume on Tuesday.
PS. The photo loader had another problem and loaded up the same pictures many times. There are only about 15 photos loaded.
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