November 2012


Now entering Dead Horse State Park. This was the sign that greeted us as we arrived at our Thanksgiving campsite located in Cottonwood Arizona, about an hour and a half north of Phoenix.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

The plan was simple, I would take the day off on Wednesday, hook up to the trailer, drive to Phoenix and then we would all take off early on Thanksgiving morning and drive to Cottonwood for a Thanksgiving campout!

Cottonwood Camp Site


The trip started as most of our camping trips start – a lot later than I would like. I hit starbucks and headed up to Perris California where our trailer is stored. After hooking up, it was off and running to Phoenix. My trusty GPS told me that I would need almost 6 hours to get there and would consume a lot of fuel doing so! The F-450 I had purchased to tow the 17,000 pound trailer does not sip the fuel when pulling, but it also has absolutely no trouble pulling the trailer up any of the grades I encountered on the 79, 60 and 10 interstates. I loved my F-350, but it was not up to the task of pulling the new trailer.

F450 Mileage


On a whim, I decided to get the truck and trailer weighed after fueling (70 gallons in this truck). Not too bad for a pickup and a toy hauler:

Almost 27,000 Pounds!


So Thursday morning arrived and we once again hit starbucks before hitting the road. It was a nice drive up with not too much traffic to have to contend with on the way up. It was a nice ride with Josh, Tommy and Abby keeping me company on the way up.

Once we arrived and set up base camp, it was time to get started on our turkey dinner. Mary had it all planned out and I brought my trusty deep fat fryer. The goal was to eat our dinner by 6pm and by 3pm we had not started cooking the turkey yet! The nice thing about the fryer is that it only took 80 minutes from raw turkey to total perfection!

80 minutes from Raw to perfection!




That didn’t last long…


After a wonderful turkey dinner and a beautiful sunset and campfire, we were ready for more fun adventures.

Getting ready for a camp fire!


A warm fire


The next morning my sister Johanna and niece Naomi arrived and we all set off for the lagoons to go fishing. We were hoping to catch a bunch because the darn fishing licenses and trout stamps cost us almost $100 for two days of fishing! The day was awesome, and the lagoons were very pretty.

Fishing Lagoon


Johanna and Naomi


Mary busy with the kids


As luck would have it, we ended up with about 12 trout. Josh and Tommy each caught their first fish. Mary and Joey caught some and I caught some. It was a good couple of days of fishing and great time spent with people we love.


Look at all the fish!


Of course, catching fish also meant cleaning the fish and this was a first for everyone as well. Mary and Josh jumped right in to help with the cleaning which was a good thing since I stabbed myself with a very sharp filet knife necessitating my overseeing most of the actual cleaning as opposed to helping with it. Emma and Abby got to carry some fish heads from the cleaning area to the trash and they did a wonderful job! Josh and Mary really plunged into their work and soon all the fish were clean!

Blood and Guts


The finished product…


Of course, what else would a 13 year old boy do with fish heads…?


A great fashion statement!


A good time as had by all, but soon it was time to pull up camp and head back to Phoenix and then back to Escondido for me and the trailer. Everyone was worn out from all of the hiking, running around with new friends they met at the camp ground, and all of the fishing!

All-in-all, another wonderful camping trip and more great memories for the kids!






Pecatonica Illinois – My best foster home as a teenager!

Holidays always seem to bring people together and this Thanksgiving was no different. I am blessed to be surrounded by people that are truly friends and each Thanksgiving is a little different. This year I had two different Thanksgiving get togethers and they were both awesome.

The month started out pretty busy at LOFT where I do a little CJ flying, teaching, selling an generally enjoying being involved in aviation on daily basis.  The schedule was set and I decided to head off to Illinois where I have family. My foster sister Ann and her daughter Rebecca had come to California to spend some time with me and meet Mary and the kids, so we decided that Emma would go back with me to Illinois this year since her and Becca had gotten along so well.


Rebecca in the back of the Mooney Bravo


So Emma and I boarded an airliner (no CJ flights this time) and headed towards Rockford, Illinois in what would be Emma’s first commercial plane flight ever. I was touched when she said she would rather have me flying the plane, but something told me that they were not going to let me in the cockpit on this particular trip!


1st Commercial Jet Ride


Emma has ridden with me on the CJ, the R44, the MD500 and the Mooney Bravo, but she has never been on a commercial jet. I think she enjoyed it but not as much as having her own pilot and only 8 seats on the entire airplane like the CJ!


Yummy Airport Food


We had an amazing time in Rockford, Winnebago, Pecatonica and Byron. We saw old friends, family and the amazing countryside where we used to ride our horses as kids. We had opportunities to ride again, hike through the forest preserves and enjoy time with loved ones. It really was a lot of fun. So much fun that Emma and I will be heading back in May to see everyone again!


Wow…are we really in our 40s already?


Seward Forest Preserve


Can you believe that I used to babysit their mom when she was 9!


Overall it was a wonderful trip with lots of exciting things to do, people to see and places to go. We are looking forward to our return trip in May! Emma wants to go in our plane, so we will see what the weather holds for us!