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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

Happy Fathers Day, Dad! I awoke to the sound of a 2-stroke ultralight flying very low directly overhead. Time… 7:30 am. My head hurt, so I didn't get out of the tent. Actually I didn't even lift my head up. Do all fathers feel like this on Fathers Day, or do some get lucky! Eventually the ultralight disappeared into the distance. The sun started to bake us in the tent, so eventually at about 9:30, we emerged and started to pack. Some gusts of wind came through and I realised today was going to be a day of headwinds and turbulence. Our hosts of the night before were staying safely indoors. Dale came out to greet us and he gave Olivier a lift to the shops to get his coffee fix. He brought me coffee and a cookie thing, which was just what I needed.

After saying our goodbyes to our hospitable Coonass (I can't remember what Coonass stands for … I think it's slang for Cajun, pronounced with a southern drawl) friends, we took off directly over some electrical high-tension lines and headed east towards New Orleans. We had selected a medium sized airport called St John the Baptist about 30 miles outside New Orleans. From there we would plan the rest of our trip … going in to New Orleans either by catching a bus or taxi, or by flying in a bit closer.

The turbulence was quite severe. We had a 35 km/h headwind all the way - our ground speed averaged about 65 km/h. Lots of trees. My engine oil pressure behaved itself. With Olivier's radio not working very well, I did all the radio work. New Orleans gave me a squawk code of 4040 and once they had us on radar, then they, and particularly us, felt a lot safer knowing that they would keep those big jets well away from us. Actually, I think the big jet pilots are more scared of our little aeroplanes than we are of them.

We landed at St John the Baptist - on the taxiway - and parked next to 3 grounded jet fighters. We spent the next few hours taking photos of our trikes and the fighters. Only in America!

After talking to the young man in the airport office and a local pilot, we decided to fly to a large airport called Lakefront, which is right in New Orleans. I need to get the mode C (altitude encoding) part of my transponder fixed. This is the first time I have tried to use the mode C and it's not working. Also, the aerial of my radio is not really efficient and that needs fixing, too. So, a stop at Lakefront would solve a whole lot of things at once – particularly getting to the French Quarter, where we want to stay for a few days.

Going past the main airport was no problem but the ATC at Lakefront didn't really like the idea of us coming into his airport. After a few grumpy words, gave us the instruction "cleared to land niner!" That meant cleared to land on runway zero nine. I informed him we were still 6 minutes out and he came back with an "I said, you are cleared to land!" OK, keep your shirt on!

On the way to the airport we flew over the worlds longest bridge over water. It's approximately 35 km long … anyway we couldn't see to the far end.

At the airport we pegged our wings down on the grass and put the undercarriages into the GAC hangar.

The taxi driver (a white man) talked to us about New Orleans. One message that keeps coming through from everyone that we talk to is ….. be very careful of all black people in New Orleans. Not something I really expected in the USA. Also, some areas of downtown New Orleans are definitely not places to wander into without an armed guard. Makes me feel at home!

We booked into a Youth Hostel and after a shower and short rest, headed out for a beer, food, the street car (tram) and Bourbon Street … in that order.

Bourbon Street is something that needs to be seen to be believed! The whole area around Bourbon Street is closed off to cars and it's like one huge party. You are permitted to drink and it seems from the smell here and there, get sick in the street. Restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, strip clubs, gay bars and souvenir shops fill the street for about one km. Every second club or restaurant has a live band playing – blues, jazz, rock, pop … you name it and you will hear it. The street is full of people wandering around laughing, drinking, shouting to people on the balconies. A common practice is for men to throw a string of beads down on a girl walking below, and then the girl is supposed to flash her boobs. A fatty woman on one of the balconies wanted to throw a string of beads on me. I didn't want to scare her and walked away in a hurry. After a beer and some really good rock music we caught a taxi back to the hostel.

The beds are bunk beds. They rock and creak. I am on the top bunk and below me is a young English chap. Every time he moves, I move around on the top. It's like being out at sea in a small boat …. without the ability of being able to get sick overboard! Blissful sleep without being sick.

Let me tell you about writing these journals … they take a lot of our time and we often have difficulty getting to an Internet cafι to send the stories and pics. So, you will notice that when I have a lot of time I do little flying and write more rubbish. When I am flying, it's more serious and shorter and I don't have time to add crazy stories. Yeeessss, there are a few crazy stories that I have not written about. No, Darling, no girls!      


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