Category: Flying

More serendipity

The continuing story of Alfie.

Stop Press

Alfie has had his operation and all is well! I don’t know more than that at the moment but I do want to share the journey from New York to Minneapolis with you. Because it is such a story of love and devotion.

(And I have just heard that Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died – oh, dear.)

ooOOoo

New York to Minneapolis road trip

April 5, 2021 By Mr Coyne

The week we travelled to the US, the East Coast was experiencing one of its winter storms. Snow threatening our progress overland to our destination. With this in mind, we worked with James Gallagher at Enterprise close to Westhampton Private Airport near Maine just outside NY, we arranged for a Jeep Gladiator to be waiting on the tarmac for us. The plan was to land, walk down the steps and into the Jeep, then drive around 20 hours across 9 States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) taking it in turns, and stopping only when tiredness took hold to sleep. When I say drive around 20 hours, that’s just driving, not stopping to fuel, use a bathroom, eat, rest. Over 1,300 miles. A mammoth task.

At this point I’d already not slept in almost 24 hours

The plan hit the rocks as the jet approached Westhampton and were told the runway closed due to snow. We were diverted to JFK, and then Ubëred two hours back to our original airport. We could have tried to get a four wheel drive from JFK but we already knew getting something in the middle of a bad storm would be near impossible. Trying to fly internally from JFK to Minneapolis was off the table too as we had bought a lot of luggage with us, which we intended to leave in the US. Trying to get this through JFK, with all of this and a dog, a dog that potentially could have been turned away at the gate for being too big, was not worth trying to modify our plan.

Somehow our route through the Bronx is the Mayor of London’s fault

Snow on the ground we got our Jeep, and just had James had said when he sourced it for us – it looked unstoppable. He’d kindly shovelled out most of the snow from the pick-up bed. We headed out through rush hour NYC traffic towards Minnesota following the quickest route on Google Maps. Surprisingly through the Bronx. We made it through the other side and eventually stopped somewhere on the outskirts in search of a toilet and food. A Gladiator sits high off the ground, and we were already tired. As we pulled up outside a potential watering hole Renée opened the door and fell out, hitting the ground audibly so. Alfie was in her arms but had the foresight to recognise trouble and jump to safety. We went inside, one of us limping, to check ourselves over and eat. Luckily just bruising; limbs and pride. We were there a couple of hours, much longer than we intended, but the food and rest needed. It was a big, clean hotel and would have been a good place to stop, at the expense of making the next day even harder. We pushed on. Before doing so I looked at Google maps and realised I’d made a schoolboy error. Living in London and owning old cars is a constant maze avoiding paying the Congestion Charge and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone). My phone was still set to avoid these tolls, hence our route through the the centre on New York. Worse, the fastest route would now see us backtrack some of the way we’d just driven.

Enjoying a meal after avoiding disaster falling from the truck

The Gladiator proved its worth as the elevation climbed and snowfall increased. We kept going until tiredness eventually became too dangerous to ignore and we stopped somewhere, somewhere being my best guess at where as I was so tired. A room at a Holiday Inn. Alfie making friends with the front desk saw the $80 dog fee waved. We didn’t sleep long, maybe three hours and returned to the Jeep early around sunrise. Throughout the entire trip Alfie had sat up front on Renée’s lap as the rear seats of our crew cab style truck full of luggage (the pick up bed empty so our stuff remained dry and safe). I’d read that these Jeeps were not great over long distances, and my previous longest time in one, a Rubicon, was between Fargo and Minneapolis on roads closed due to snow. It was cold and as a passenger I got leg ache. From the driver’s seat it wasn’t too bad. I’m sure most people buy slab sided trucks like this, original Land Rover Defenders and G Wagons simply because they look good, but there is no denying when the conditions get tough they are incredibly capable. Well, maybe not the G Wagon as that’s simply a fashion accessory.

Moments before a face plant. Ouch

“Watching a sleeping poorly dog, all of us crammed up front with the heater blowing full pelt to keep warm, hour after hour, made me question my original judgement of travelling this way

Watching Alfred, a poorly dog, asleep on Renée’s lap, all of us crammed up front with the heater blowing full pelt to keep warm, hour after hour, made me question my original judgement of travelling this way. My thinking was to have Alfred in the air for the minimum time and then get him the rest of the way by road where he would not be squashed in a bag, could go pee whenever he needed, and I could deal easily with any seizures. The whole private jet decision happened very fast and I hadn’t really adjusted to the revised plan. Also the plan had been to land at Westhampton, not JFK where we could have easily boarded a domestic flight to Minneapolis. Hindsight always great, and beating yourself up over something already done when tired completely pointless. The important think was we were in the USA, and on our way to get Alfred the help he needed. Given the obstacles in our way just two days ago we really should be patting ourselves n the back.

Give us all ya got. Nothing could stop the Gladiator

Eventually, around three hours out from our destination, I could drive no more and we stopped in one of the fantastic US rest areas. These places are free from gas stations, usually have vending machines, and clean toilet facilities. They feel safe and good places to stop for a snooze. It was cold though, with a lot of snow and ice on the ground. We slept a while with the engine running and heater keeping us warm. When it is this cold, global warming is the last thing on your agenda.

Errrr, drive through donuts? I LOVE America guys
Why is there a sportsman on this packaging? Is it a race to get diabetes?

“We slept a while with the engine running and heater keeping us warm. When it is this cold, global warming is the last thing on your agenda.

I’ve been in this situation before. Driving while tired is super dangerous. I suspect more so than alcohol (within reason) and up there with texting. As a pilot once said over the tannoy of a flight to Bahrain years ago: better to get there late than not at all. But before long, Renée woke me and wanted to carry on. I managed the next hour before handing over the driving to her to get us the rest of the way. The two of us had dug really deep to make it.

Not the most economical, but fuel is cheap so we don’t care

Arriving at the Canopy in Minneapolis was a welcome sight. Alfred’s surgery was scheduled 10 days from now but we had an option to bring it forward should he deteriorate rapidly. We were where we needed to be. A huge victory and I could literally feel the stress lifting from me. 

Of course, we were only actually part way there, the real challenge was to come.

ooOOoo

And of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, little Alfie has arrived in Minneapolis and has had his operation. In due coarse I will bring you the latest.

Serendipity

Funny how things fall out!

My son, Alex, recently sent me a link to a blog he had come across. It was to a website called https://aircooledbug.co.uk

It was about Andrew Coyne who with his wife, Renée, had come across to America in order to have an operation on his dog, Alfred. It was very moving. I then made contact with Andrew and asked him if I could have permission to republish. It was granted. Furthermore, Andrew went on to say:

Hi Paul,

The only place we could find to perform surgery and give him immunotherapy was the US. Getting to the US a massive challenge as the lock down restrictions and freedom of movement issues implemented by governments here and in the EU stopped us being able to travel. Hence chartering a private jet direct to New York.

Alfred is currently doing well with us here in the US and will not return to the UK. We will move here with him permanently and make our home in the one place that gave him a chance. 

Kind regards,
Anthony

So I am going to devote my next two posts to republishing two posts from Andrew’s blog. The first today is Coming to America.

ooOOoo

Coming to America

April 3, 2021 By Mr Coyne

The relief that knowing we would travel brought was unmeasurable. Private jets don’t come cheap, even discounted empty legs, but in this instance it didn’t matter. It was a welcome solution.

Up until the world was introduced to Covid-19, I had been a regular traveller to the US both with Renée who’s American, and on business as thinkerdoer work with a lot of US companies. I had an ESTA in place and checked it was still valid on Monday after we decided to take the flight to NYC.  On Tuesday morning it was pulled! I’m still not sure why but it would seem to be a response from the Biden Administration to control the recently announced ‘UK variant’. Mark at Charter-A and his team scrambled to get clearance for me from the US using our marriage certificate from Cornwall to prove I was a spouse of a US citizen and this initially appeared to satisfy them and clearance given.

The most unusual thing I have ever seen at airport security

On Wednesday morning we set off to Stansted. Somewhere on the M11 the phone rang, it was Mark saying the US had pulled my clearance again due to me visiting ‘red list’ countries in the last few months. Utter nonsense, and I explained the last place I had travelled was the US just prior to the lockdown when I visited North Dakota and Arizona. I even volunteered my bank statements to prove my case. We waited at the Inflite Executive Jet Centre at Stansted with our luggage already loaded for clearance. Eventually the US backed down and removed their marker, but this now meant reapplying for entry. The decision was made to leave the jet on the tarmac overnight and return the following day to give us time to organise it. Partly this was because the crew had already started logging hours and by the time a clear to fly issued we’d need a new crew. Not that it would have mattered, but I thought I would not be flying and the one time in my life I have paid for a private jet it would be the dog flying on it, not me. And Renée of course.

America, we are coming in hot!

“The best part was we were truly on our way to get Alfred some help, a chance to save him

Thursday went smoothly. We turned up, parked the car, got on the jet, flew to NYC. On a commercial flight there are little increments of comfort between Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First. Compared to flying private those classes of travel are all the same. No difference. It’s all cattle class. The whole aircraft to ourselves, big luxurious seats, a sofa, your own bathroom with Diptyque toiletries. Want a lay flat bed? Just tell your own crew and they make you one up.  And Alfred was free to sit where he wanted, roam around, was fed a chicken dinner off a china plate, and was even able to chase a ball along the aisle. The best part was we were truly on our way to get Alfred some help, a chance to save him.

We were arriving just in time

We didn’t need reminding of the difficulties ahead. The novelty of traveling like rock stars soon faded when mid flight he suffered a seizure. By now I am well versed in how to deal with this, and Renée is able to spot the warning signs with incredible accuracy. I  got him to the bathroom with a soft towel and comforted him just as his little body went into a full grand mal seizure. Since his diagnosis Alfie had been on strong barbiturate and steroid medication which had suppressed the seizures. Something that would only last so long. We were 10 days without a seizure and this a clear indication the efficacy of the medication was reducing, and the tumour growing. We were arriving just in time.

I LOVE this!

Carry on allowance an improvement over commercial.

ooOOoo

I am going to reproduce the contents of an email that I sent Anthony yesterday morning. It sums up how we feel about what Anthony and Renée are doing.

Dear Anthony,

I have now read very carefully your blog especially your posts of the last few weeks.

They are beautiful. In the sense of describing what you feel towards Alfred. Dogs bond to humans unconditionally. You love Alfred unconditionally.

It’s a little after 5am here in Southern Oregon. Jean and I are sitting back on top of our bed having had recently our first morning coffees. On the bed is also Oliver, an ex-rescue Labrador crossed with a Border Collie. Oliver’s bond with me is so precious. Beyond words but not beyond feelings!

I am going to write a couple of posts that essentially republish your posts about you getting Alfred to Minneapolis. But beyond that Jean and I want to wish you every success in Alfred’s treatment. Is there anything more practical that we can do to help? We are in our 70s. We are both English. We met in Mexico in December, 2007. Jean was rescuing dogs, spay or neutering them, then finding homes for them mainly in Arizona. I flew with my GSD, Pharaoh, to LAX from London, in 2008. Then down to Mexico. We came to the USA in 2010 to be married and to live with our then 16 dogs. Subsequently we came to Oregon in 2012.

I am so grateful for my son highlighting your blog.

With very best wishes,

Paul

Our very own Oliver!

More from the family.

And it involves dogs! Well in a roundabout way!

Back on Monday I spoke of Rik and his company Ahead4Heights.

Rik then sent me another piece of news about a film that he produced at short notice for Brixham Council.

Recent projects being a the Front page of the local rag, a roof inspection in Teignmouth for one of the largest local roofing contractors who is now on board and promising more work.

More interesting was a commission from Brixham Council for a short film showing the natural beauty of an area near Brixham in order to oppose a planning application for 400 houses. I received a call on that Friday telling me they needed the film for the public inquiry the following Tuesday! With only that Sunday looking good for flying I managed to fly, edit and upload the film later that evening so they had it for Monday morning, it was played at the hearing and has become a pivotal part of the evidence and was watched over 600 times over the following few days.

 

The land in question is dog walkers heaven and used by all the local residents.

Here is that front page of the Herald Express.

I regret that it is probably far too small a file to show the details. Never mind!

It’s family!

A little promotional video!

My son, Alex, recently shared on Facebook a video posted by Rik Christiansen who is the son of my elder sister, Rhona, now dead unfortunately.

This is what Alex said:

Anybody who needs Drone survey’s, my cousin has a business in Devon

Please go across to Rik’s website, Ahead4Heights, and also watch his promotional video; luckily on YouTube so it may be shared.

This is a short promotional film that showcases Ahead4Heights abilities within the drone industry as well as our production and editing skills. All footage, music, sound design, editing and production was created in-house. We are a complete solution.

Who knows!

It is not the first time I have written about Rik! Here is a previous post.

Well done the team at NASA.

What an outstanding feat.

Many, many congratulations!

On Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover makes its final descent to the Red Planet.

A little more information:

Landed: Feb. 18, 2021, 12:55 p.m. PST (3:55 p.m. EST), (20:55 UTC)

Landing Site: Jezero Crater, Mars

Mission Duration: At least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days)

Main Job: The Perseverance rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.

As someone who watched the television non-stop in 1969 to see man’s remarkable achievement, NASA has been an organisation of considerable interest all my life.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

What an achievement!

German Shepherd

A wonderful video.

This was sent to me by Jules. Julie is the partner of my friend of too many years, Richard Maugham. Richard and I go back many, many years. Indeed we met on a flight in the Commodore PET Jet over 40 years ago. Prior to that Richard was working for Olivetti and me for IBM Office Products. We were then selling electric typewriters and the early forms of dedicated word-processing machines. As I said a long time ago!

This is what ‘Frosty Life’ has to say about the video:

My daughter has a German Shepherd puppy that is huge, but is only 7 months old. This German Shepherd has never experienced snow before. Watch as Rollo, the German Shepherd experiences snow for the first time and then he barks at the snow. This GSD has his hackles up as he growls and barks at the new fallen snow. It is amazing to watch her German Shepherd as he experiences snow for the first time and barks at it. He ate the snow and now he likes it.

Enjoy!

The power of community

Despite the gloom and real stress for many people it’s not wall-to-wall pessimism.

The reason I was prompted to write about this was a couple of connections made in the last few days and the power they have to keep this elderly chap still bouncing along.

Recently on the forum Ugly Hedgehog there was a gentleman who posted some photographs of some dogs that he had seen at the dog park. It was in a post called Today at the dog park.

They were lovely and I thought what a good idea it would be if I was able to republish them for next week’s Picture Parade. So I asked!

Well I was not disappointed and indeed said gentleman emailed me with a short bio and a photograph of him and his dog by way of an introduction. This is what he wrote:

I was born on Long Island and spent the first 60 years of my life there except for my Naval service for four years during the Vietnam war. I was a Naval Aviator, and after my active duty was over I returned to Long Island and got into a career in law enforcement that lasted 31 years. I made thousands of arrests during my career and many of those who were incarcerated threatened to “get me” some day, so I would prefer that you don’t use my real name.

When I retired at age 60 I moved to Tampa, FL because my daughter lived there and I have two granddaughters and now my son lives here too. It’s great for photographing flora and fauna all year round. My love for dogs has worn off on my kids as my daughter has two of them and my son three! Photography has been a hobby of mine for over 60 years. Here is a casual photo of me and my buddy Ollie (a three year old golden doodle).

Ollie and Nimbushopper

You will have to wait until Sunday to view his photographs!

At the end of November Jean and I wanted to join the local camera club. It was clear that I had a camera, a Nikon D750, that was way more advanced than I thought and, frankly, I didn’t know my way around it.

So we joined the Caveman Camera Club in Grants Pass, Oregon. Although at the moment the pandemic puts a halt on physical meetings, twice a month ‘zoom’ meetings are held. Also mentors were available. I took advantage of the opportunity to work under a mentor and last week I went the short distance of nine miles to meet with Gene. Gene had so much knowledge and had regularly taught photography for a number of years. I came away very inspired and very motivated to become better in my photographic and composure skills. Gene’s area of interest is landscapes.

What was clear was that for my whole life, and I have been taking photographs for a very long time, I had been taking pictures and not composing photographs.

It’s going to be a long journey but one that fills me with delight

Here are some of my very first attempts, taken yesterday along the Rogue River in the rain and mist.

The Rogue River looking downstream.

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The Rogue River looking upstream from the same point.

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Looking towards the top of the opposite bank.

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Trees in the mist.

Well it’s a start!

But I just wanted to reiterate that staying local both literally and virtually is very rewarding.

A chimney inspection, and more

A couple of videos from Rik Cristiansen.

I find this fascinating. Apart from the value to the construction and home repair industries there is a beauty in the following video; well there is to my eyes!

(I suspect the music is also from Rik. I checked; it is!)

And the next one is a look at Rik getting ready to film a cellist. Or in his own words:

This film gives a look behind the scenes of a recent drone shoot we did for a music video. Additional footage and editing by Jazz Thorn, Music performed by Mateusz Holc.

But it also includes an explanation of the business of getting a drone ready for flight.

And the dogs will have to wait for next Sunday’s Picture Parade! Sorry!