Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lions and Tigers, Constellations, Taildraggers, and a Cuban Panini


The plan was to get up early and take the 4 legged kid out for a walk, have breakfast at a leisurely pace, meet the day, and go flying; that was the plan.

We woke up just after 7:30 am, which is late for us. It's nice actually, to wake up early on the weekend and watch the sun come up, hear the birds hollering cuss words at one another, and have a fresh pot of coffee waiting on you in the kitchen.  This morning, the coffee was old, the birds had turned to flipping themselves at each other, and the sun had been up for hours.  We'd stayed up late last night unpacking boxes and hanging pictures and were paying for it this morning.  We've only been in the new house for a few weeks and we're still finding boxes unopened, and holes unpatched (uhm, I'd moved us in instead of calling the movers).  Everytime we went flying, we'd overfly the construction site and watch our house being built, slowly but surely.  We'd met with the builders 1432 times to pick out this color and that, this type of stone versus that, this color cutting board (I ain't kidding), and not that, etc.... I'd never experienced having a home built and it's stressful. I'd rather have sat with my North East Flyer buds out at Wings drinking beer!

Anyway, I digress.....

So we got up later than we had planned and were now wind sprinting to get caught up.  You know if you're ever late in the morning, it takes forever to catch up.  I'm still not caught up and it's been 4 days! Alright, I'm getting to the good part.
We're at the airport now and the Viking Witch is rarin' to go. She's purty and as I take her top off (her cover fella's, C'mon!), she glistens in the morning sun. She's got a full belly of fuel and turns over without hesitation. We're supposed to be meeting the gang up at 4N1, Greenwood Lake Airport at 10:00 am for an early lunch, war stories, a few white lies, and a fun day.  We taxi out and are airborne by 9:30 am, which is going to put us about 15 minutes behind schedule. Not too bad, considering that we'd slept in huh.

The morning flight is beautiful and smooth. A scattered layer floats a little above us, and we elect to remain below it for a nice clean view of Mother's Nature morning gift to us. 

Crossing over the Delaware River just north of Trenton New Jersey (View, behind left wing)

We hadn't been in New Jersey for more than a few minutes and a spec on the horizon continued to grow.  I'd checked for TFRs, NOTAMs, and Rednecks shootin' shotgun events (I can say that cause I'm one too! and they're  my cousins don't you know), but nothing had been scheduled via official scheduling methods.  Before too long, we figured out what it was and I gave it a call on 123.45. No response so we elected to give him a wide birth in case 1. He was working in a TFR area, 2. I was entering a TFR area, and 3. someone was seeing me enter a TFR area.  Luckily, none of the 3 possibilities came true and I'm answering my phone again. 

We couldn't tell for sure what exactly it was, but there was definitely some sporting event going on below his location.  This wasn't the Goodyear Blimp that we'd seen earlier in the month at Oshkosh so I'm guessing it was a youngen blimp working the local area.  It was purty though.
On we flew and about 40 minutes after getting airborne, Greenwood Lake Airport came into view.

It's a very pretty view.  There are tons of woods in the entire area and had we not had a good idea of what we were looking for, we could have easily missed it all together and ended up somewhere in Newfoundland (is that one word or 3). 

After landing, we taxied off of the runway and were happy that we'd arrived in time to see a Constellation being refueled on the ramp.  That certainly is a short runway for a Constellation to be operating on, but landed here they did.  I'm definitely gonna watch her get airborne again. I got a camera, two new batteries, a full bottle of water and I'm ready!

That pilot certainly did park the Constellation close to the FBO and Blue Sky Restaurant.

I bet they'll have to use a tow to back it up in order to give room to let him taxi again. I tell you what, some peoples kids - flying planes in here and parking them so close to the building. Don't they have any manners or awareness of the no open flames within 30 feet of the building rule.  hmm!  Buncha Hillbillies!
Oh, wait.  I think maybe there was a mishap here.  That pilot must have impacted the side of the building pretty hard cause the plane has now embedded itself into the wall.  Hope nobody was in the bathroom!

Well, you know I had to ask what the deal was with this obvious violation of building code(s). Here are both stories that I received:

Story one: During both WWII and the Korean War, Champagne Lady provided transportation to literally thousands of American Fighting Men to and from the United States.  She had performed flawlessly and became hero to thousands of those troops headed home.  The Champagne Lady, along with her many sisters, suffered many a battle wound continued to answer the call of duty.  One fine day back in the 60's, the Champagne Lady had departed from somewhere in the Northeast and just about the time she was crossing over Greenwood Lake, her engines started backfiring and she needed to land immediately.  Fuel contamination was later ruled as the culprit as all engines were affected.  The young crew saw Greenwood Lake airport below and although the runway was extremely short, the attempt would have to be made as all around their current location lay woods and water.  The pilot aligned himself with the runway, lowered full flaps, and planted the Champagne Lady firmly on the numbers and skidded to a halt just short of the departure end of the runway.  She had landed, but there was no way she'd be able to get airborne again from such a short runway.  She sat on the tarmac for years and finally put up for sale.  The remainder of this version actually rolls into an off-shoot of story two.  Frank Lembo did buy her, although she was already on the field and not prepped to fly in after the purchase was made. 

Story two: In 1976, Frank Lembo Enterprises (owners of Greenwood Lake Airport) bought her to use as a restaurant and lounge. The plane was prepped and made her final flight landing on the short 2700 foot runway.  Although the owner (at the time) passed away in 1979, the upgrades to her interior was completed sometime around 1981. A stairway and large doors had been cut into the fuselage up near the front and also the rear.  The restaurant sadly only lasted about 11 months due to lack of customers. What a shame.  For the next 15 years, she just sat there.  Finally, someone said "Hey, what if we turn her into a pilot shop?  That lasted a short time too and once again, the plane was closed up and treated as a storage shed. In 2000, the State of New Jersey purchased the airport, along with the plane.  In 2005, the plane became an office and changes were again made inside, and a large deck added to the front left side of the fuselage. A new chain-link fence surrounding the plane was also added and the last event that I was able to find was in 2006, when a new asphalt tarmac was laid all around the Connie’s resting place. 

Story one sounds more adventurous but I'm probably going to have to believe number 2. By the way, her name is Champagne Lady.
Okie doke, so we taxied to park and secured the airplane - I'm sure of it and that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Perhaps I forgot to mention it, but the primary reason for today's flight was to meet up with a bunch of folks from the NorthEast area for the monthly lunch fly-in.  The chosen spot for this month's lunch was 4N1, or in English, Greenwood Lake.   Here we were, and only 20 minutes late.  We'd made good time by flying direct from Wings. We departed runway 6, transitioned through the Willow Grove (NXX) Delta, buzzed the blimp, edged by the NY Bravo and arrived in 41 minutes.  The Viking Witch had her running britches on.

After having received the brief on the "Connie" (Constellation) by the FBO lady that was standing outside, we walked inside to the restaurant - which is where we were supposed to all meet up.  There were several tables full and after having walked around and introduced ourselves to half the folks inside, I realized that, not only were they not the NorthEast Flyer Folks, but they didn't really care much who we were.  They were all polite though and didn't  even slap my teeth loose when I shook hands with them.  They probably thought I was a politician or something looking for votes and just smiled politely back and said, "Oh, that's nice".   Feeling a bit odd at having proven myself as the "Rain Man", we sat up at the bar and ordered coffee while watching the chef and chefette work skillfully and efficiently as orders were being fulfilled and new orders received.  We had sporadic conversations with them between cooking and cleaning and I spoke loudly enough as to what we were doing there to give the other folks we'd just met, a clue of why we thought they were who we thought they were, when they weren't at all.
We continued sitting there giving "just a few more minutes" time for the others to arrive from there distant departure airports.  I walked out to the FBO counter and that's when I noticed the wet twins.  Oh yes I did!  Greenwood Lake Airport is having a time building special (at the time of this writing), that goes something like this:

If you are multi-engine certified and want to build time for advancement in aviation, you can sign up for this special deal.  When you sign up, you are paired with another multi-engine rated pilot and the two of you schedule time to go fly a bunch of hours together.  You can always sign-up with a buddy so the two of you fly together and avoid getting stuck with a hillbilly like me or something.  After signing up and before getting the keys, you will have to do a checkout with one of the local CFI's.  The cost: $89.95 WET! Again, this is the price that I was given on that day, August 23, 2008 but I don't know how long this deal is good for.  So there you go.  Wet Twins for under a hunert bucks! Here's a photo of the type, but not the exact one!  Please give the FBO there a call (4N1) for further info and clarification.

Pretty good deal it sounds like to me. 

So we continued to wait for others to arrive for a bit and decided that we couldn't take it any longer.  Wheel barrels full of eggs and bacon and yard birds and hams and salads and zucchini's and squashes and corn and pie's and French baguettes went by; each one making me hungrier and hungrier.  I'd gone from giving Beth a gentle kiss on the cheek to biting her fingernails for a little snack before lunch.  I'd already eaten mine, plus my toe-nails too. We got up from the bar nearly starved half to death and sat in a booth next to the window and opened the menu.  This was an international cuisine serving cafe cause there were all sorts of stuff. French Fries, German Sausage, Cuban Panini's, and Greek Salads to name just a few.  The owner walked over and started chatting with us and we learned that she had previously owned and operated a French Restaurant closer to the city, as in New york,  in which all the big wigs frequented. She reckoned it was time for a change and she purchased the cafe at Greenwood Lake and had been operating there for a little while now.  She'd made mention of the fact that here at the cafe and local area, folks weren't too busy to smile and say hello, or stop and ask how you've been and ask if there was something she needed help with.  That was nice to hear and it strengthens the fact that there are so many wonderful folks all over the place.  It's a shame that the attention goes to the few bad ones and make us cautious of when, where, and how we go and do the things we love doing. 

Growing up in South LA (Lower Alabama), the good folks there did the same; hello's and a smile was a recurring event everywhere you went.  They'd spank you too; at least they did me. No, not the lady at the cafe', the folks down south.  Me and my buddy's would get in trouble for something we had nothing to do with and each adult that had heard of what happened that we passed on the way home would spank all of us it seemed.  I got a lot of whoopin's.

Back to the cafe'.  Back when we were sitting at the bar watching them create breakfast feasts, I'd already decided what I was going to order.  It was this large bread roll about the size of a watermelon that was packed with scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes,  and bacon. I think it weighed about 11 pounds and looked delicious!  That's what I was ordering. Well, now that I've opened the menu I can't decide.  I'm spoiled for choice cause there is a lot of good stuff in here.  After an honest 15 minute eeny meeny minee moe, I end up selecting the Cuban Panini and Beth has made 4 trips back to the specials of the day board and compared it to the multitude of items on the standard menu.  She chose a salad that would make that fella on TV yell BAM.  It looked at tasted perfect!  On top of that,  when's the last time you had Tirusamu from a small airport. This wasn't bought down at the Pigley Wigley either, its the real deal.  Hmm Hmm Hmmm.    We took our time eating and 30 minutes later we were members of the clean plate club and it was time to go looking around.  We paid the bill and headed down the road on foot.
We didn't know it before getting to Greenwood Lake Airport, but earlier at the bar, we were told stories of wild jungle animals running around these wooded hills and the fact that rumors indicated that they were still there.  Here's what we learned from the locals and then some later when we looked up on the internet thing.

- Back in the summer of 1972, Warner Brothers figured it was time to let out crazy wild animals into the public to get some ideas for future movies. Ok, I made that part up.  So, if you were to take out my unverified white-lies the last sentence should now read:  In 1972 Warner Brothers. Makes for a pretty boring sentence huh.  I'll continue.  Back in the summer of 1972, Warner Brothers created a theme park that housed 1500 live animals available to view by either driving through the park or walking through a special protected area. It was generally suggested not to walk through the drive through only section after a few people tried it and animals learned that we humans taste like chicken.  This park called Jungle Habitat would only last for 4 years before all the animals escaped. Ok, I made that part up too.  The park only last for four years because after repeated attempts to get approval to increase the size of the park were denied, Warner Brothers elected to close the park.  During that four year period, they had received over 500,000 paid guests. 

In the drive through area, the animals were permitted to roam freely and interact with one another.  Some animals, like pot-bellied pigs were kept away from the lions as this was considered poor sportsmanship and the park guests frowned upon watching piglet tar tar served before their eyes.  Other animals though, like Gorilla's and Peacocks and Camels and Giraffes walked around doing their own things.  There were even Siberian Tigers in the park that roamed in their own area.  Occasionally, some dipstick would roll down there windows and be surprised when one of these large animals crawled right into their car and began having lunch.  There was even one hillbilly that stopped his car, got out and went to the trunk to retrieve a fresh cold sixpack and got half his butt chewed off.  I guess they probably call him half-a-butt George if George is his name.

In the walking area, guests always looked forward to riding Elephants and Camels and meeting Bugs Bunny.  In addition, Dolphin Shows were a daily event scheduled between train trips on the parks own little train that could.  Snack Bars and Trinket Shops were also scattered about the grounds.  Although there weren't any amusements park rides to fully qualify this place as a theme park, the plans were there, and they were just waiting on the approval to increase the park size. Approval would never come.
Several animals were reported to have escaped, several people were bitten by animals, and the media continued to strengthen the negative publicity towards the park.  Hey, it wasn't Warner Brothers fault that two lions decided to work together to stalk, capture, and attempt to eat the large yellow elephant that turned out to be a taxi-cab full of people.  Boy were they surprised.  A baby elephant had bitten a woman too, but probably only because it heard other animals saying that we tasted like chicken and, as kids do, had to try it for themselves.  

Even though the park had high attendance, returning visitors were few and far between because Warner Brothers still had not received approval to expand its footprint and add new attractions.  It was, however, advertising that the expansion would begin in the summer of 1977 and announced this as part of it's big Halloween event of 1976. It turns out that the Halloween Event would be it's last day of operation.   On October 31 of 1976 Jungle Habitat closed its doors for good.  The town had narrowly disapproved its request to expand and Warner Brothers elected to sell the animals and property.  The media quickly increased its negative publicity stating that many animals were being released into the wild and many others escaping.  The buildings were left standing and many youngens were getting in trouble for creating their own parties and events on the vacated grounds.  Many of these stories ended up in a magazine called Weird NJ.  Twelve years later the 800 acres and 26 miles of paved road was purchased by the state of New Jersey and it later became a mountain biking and walking area. I've also just been told by a fella on a local forum that I visit, is that the airport was renamed Nairobi during the years the Jungle Habitat was in operation. After they closed it, it was changed back to Greenwood Lake which is the name of the lake next to the airport.

I borrowed this picture off the airport site. If you look close with a telescope, you can see Nairobi on the tail.

From the words of a former employee of the park, "Each day all the elephants and rhinoceros' were taken by us from their enormous steel barns . They were never tamed . We then herded them through the woods to another outdoor compound about one half mile away. At dusk each day we would then herd them all back into their barns for the night. This was the mission each day. Guide them safely . Plus bathe them and shovel out their barns. Feeding them all along the way including other health cares. You would also possibly fall in love with them once you get past the odors. All of this going on while maintaining our firm position and motto which was " Not to ever be trampled or squashed.""

That was enough to get our attention and I grabbed Beth by her fingernailess purty little hands and down the hill we went. 

As we approached the entrance, things didn't necessary appear in real life as they did in my minds' eye.  Don't get me wrong, we may have been even more intrigued by what we saw after having just heard a few rumors about this place on the walk down the hill. It was exciting and even a little scary to think about what really could be behind the broken fence and around the corner.  We entered the park, nail-less, and with two fresh camera batteries.

As we walked along the road deeper into the "jungle", we talked about how things must have been 30 something years ago.  Wild animals runnin' around chasing after other four, and an occasional two, legged beast.  A real jungle it did sound like.  We could just imagine the constant fight for survival and the steps that each creature had to take to ensure it lived another day.  That's when Beth noticed the mountain bike in tree! 

I hope whatever rode it into the park was able to walk out of the park.
We continued deeper in to the jungle and discovered it really is a very lovely place to walk.  There were trails still in tact and every now and again we'd come up on a structured set of stones that had been overgrown with vegetation. We weren't able to make out what it used to be but it was definitely man made structures that had lost in the battle against time. 

The trail, and sometimes road, continued to wind around the hills and we noticed a cliff area over to our right so we went to have a look.  It was gorgeous. Beth wasn't too excited about standing close to the edge, so she kept an eyeball out for leopards whilst I walked over and took a couple of photos:


Beth says that these rocks form a face that looks like ME looking to the right.  I can see a face but to me it looks like a monkey.   Wait A Minute! BETH!

This was a really pretty view. Much prettier than my novice photography skills gives it credit for.  As I stood there taking pictures (I love digital camera's), I noticed that we could see the Viking Witch parked amongst the other aircraft.

Something didn't look quite right and I still couldn't tell even after I zoomed in and took the picture:

There is the Viking Witch with her nose pointed to the right at the far end of the line. She's the Cherokee, not the Cessna.  I am sort of positive, kinda sorta, positive, that I put chocks down in front of her nose wheel, I think.  I couldn't tell it when I was looking into the 2 inch window of the camera, but somehow she had escaped the restraint of the chock and decided to go and sit in the grass. LOOK AT HER!  The little wench thought it would be cute to go and stand in the grass despite me having tied her to the ground on the pavement.  I'll whoop her butt when I get back down there.  "Honey, I used chocks, didn't I?".  Beth didn't reply.

Well I couldn't get to her now. It would be a two mile walk to get back to her and I ain't about to jump off this cliff just to go and give her a seein' to.  I'll do it later just as long as she doesn't sneak out of the airport boundary or something before I get there.

We continued our walk and enjoyed the sun and sounds and chatted about the possible mysteries that this jungle kept hidden.  It would have been fun to have driven through it but somehow reliving it with our own twists and turns made it sound even more adventurous than perhaps it was in real life.  New Jersey Jones and the Temple of Jungle Habitat!  After another few hundred yards, we came upon a huge parking area that must have been able to accommodate a couple of thousand cars.  Those cars that had been half eaten probably had their own special lot. In fact, I had read afterwards that two of the largest businesses that grew due to the jungle habitat that weren't associated with Warner Brothers were a car towing business and a pet babysitting service. The car towing business went from 1 tow truck to 7 within weeks to accommodate the nearly 300 calls per day of overheated, broken down, or partially eaten cars.  I wouldn't have wanted to be the unlucky new guy having to step out of my tow truck to hook up a car.  I'd have pushed the doggone thing down the road first!  The pet babysitting business took off quickly, after FiFi and other small pets became S'mores for the larger tenants of the park.  "Here Fifi, Here FiFi......Fifi?  SLAP, sorry Honey. Okay Okay FiFi didn't get eaten, it elected to play hide and seek indefinitely.

Back up the hill towards the airport we headed.  The walk was brilliant and the Jungle Habitat is really close to the airport (maybe 1/3 mile at most).  I see they still haven't been able to remove that plane from the building yet. 

They had planned (or perhaps did already and now it's gone) to make the plane into a bar, but since the state owns the land, they aren't allowed to serve alcohol on it I heard.  Nowadays, it's an elevated storage shed is what the locals say.  Such a romantic history for it to be housing Ho's and such. 

SLAP.... Honey, I meant Garden Ho's!

Thanks to the gang and Greenwood Lake Airport for all their hospitality and assistance.  Po thang behind the FBO counter, I'd asked her 421 questions about the Wet Twins, the Jungle, the Constellation, and local area.  She's a real help and provided a lot of info to me.  If you want to read up on the local stuff, click HERE.

The day was still early so instead of going back to Wings Field just outside of Philly, we elected to stop in at Aeroflex Andover.  Aeroflex Andover is a fun airport to fly in too. Along with a great location, they also have a world famous tail-dragger school. This is where Harrison Ford learned to fly taildraggers at in preparation for one of his movies.  Beth and I bought a few bottled drinks before departing 4N1 and headed back West for the quick 19 mile journey to Aeroflex (12N).  As for the Viking Witch and her moving around stunt, well she was chalked but on one side only.  I think when a baby KingAir taxied by she rolled backwards onto the grass.  That was scary and I've just added bold print to the tie down checklist.  Recheck Both Chocks Secure.

Here we are turning long final to Rwy 21 at Aeroflex-Andover.  They are repaving now and the runway numbers aren't painted on the surface.  Along side and parallel to the hard surfaced runway, lays a grass runway too. 

This is a really fun airport to fly in to. The runway is about 1900 feet long and is a great place to pack a picnic lunch to bring along with you.  We spread a blanket out on grass and along with our camera and bottled drinks, we sat there and watched students learn to fly tail-draggers for a couple of hours.  It really does make for a fun and entertaining afternoon.  Bring along your scanner although a large percentage of the aircraft seem to not have radio's.  This Stinson did though, however:

This is one of the flight schools aircraft.  For the first few departure rolls, they were practicing fast taxing for rudder skills.  Later, they departed and flew around the pattern for a few times.  Very nice airplane and the sound, wow, the sound the big radial engine puts out is music!

Well, it was time to start heading back home.  We took a lot of pictures of lakes along the way.  New Jersey has lots of water that makes it some of the best locations for homes that we've seen in the area.  We are still planning for that Airpark Home with a runway in the front and lake in the back. Planning? Honey, I'm not gonna shop for no more red decorative pillows (another story)! We're saving our money for a runway!  SLAP!  Yes Dear, Sorry, I'm done now.

So we're home now and the day has been another wonderful event.  We really do enjoy getting out and having fun.  The Viking Witch makes things closer and we look forward to next weekend so we can plan something else. 

Ya'll Be Safe and We Wish You Smooth Skies!

Beth and Shane

I'm the good looking one.  SLAP! Uhm, Sorry Dear, I'm the one on the right.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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