Despite the title, these pixels are anything but lazy. This is a site of my own photos, my own art, my own written text and more. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own creative soul. I plan to post words and pictures about things that interest me and all the projects I'm exploring in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. Share and enjoy.
I dreamed about flying. Literally. A couple restless hours of tossing and turning in bed in the middle of the night had me awake last night with dreams of flights, flights gone wrong, and other flying related anxieties.
Naturally, I took off again shortly after breakfast.
My trip continued with leg L102, the plan being to cut across the interior of British Columbia and make my way towards the collection of small cities that are in the central part of the province as layovers for my approach to the west coast.
I took off from Golden, BC in the dawn sunlight and immediately set out to gain some serious altitude to climb up over the mountain ridge between me and my first waypoint. According to the craft stats, the plane is rated for up to 14,000 feet of altitude, a number I’m comfortable pushing but not comfortable exceeding, at least not on my official flights. My goal is to arrive safely at my destination each leg, not to stunt and crash and reset and generally bungle the adventure.
Up and over the mountains I went, and then decended into what I’m pretty sure was the town of Revelstoke where I rejoined in earnest following the familiar highway through the mountains.
I did a lower pass over the city of Salmon Arm, flying over the nearby lakes before making a hard left southbound into the Okanagan Valley and towards Kelowna. As I left the big mountains, the clouds broke up and decending towards my final destination I was greeted with almost perfectly clear skies and a small contingent of other air traffic touring what I assume is a popular region to check out from the skies.
I decended through the valley, flew over Vernon, and then made a proper (and approved) approach and landing (not too shabbily if I do say so myself!) at the Kelowna Airport.
I timed my second leg of the flight to follow up on a vacation to the literal place I was about to fly over.
Does that make sense?
I spent four nights in Jasper (in real life) near where I'd parked my (virtual) plane last week, and upon returning from my (real) trip to the mountains just this afternoon I continued my (virtual) flight down through the same valley where I'd spent some (very real) time this past weekend.
It was evening when I flew out of the Jasper Airport, a grassy landing strip near the mountain community in our closest National Park. We'd driven by it not eight hours previous, backtracked my entirety of Leg One but in a car as the end of a family road trip. In my mind I had a list of locations I wanted to cruise over from the air, so an all-too-fast flyover of Jasper and some local lakes, led to a trek following the Icefields Parkway southbound until I cruised past the glacier.
Then a bit of trouble.
It started to get dark. The sun dropped real low, daylight faded. I fought the urge to follow my original plan, which was a looping arc along the familiar highway, and instead ascended to about 13500 feet and crested the mountains to find my original flight plan path and drop into the airport.
Of course, I landed ... but without clearance... but I landed, avoiding the pitch dark mishap of my trip to Fort Mac last week bouncing a few anxious times off the runway before skidding to a halt, getting scolded by ATC, and calling it a night.
I’ve posted a long list of practice flights as I bobbed around Alberta in a little virtual Cessna 172 and circling back to home, but as of Friday afternoon I’ve set off on a trip around the world.
A recap? A few days ago the latest installment of Microsoft Flight Simulator was released after, like, a decade of development. It is not only a flying game, but a full simulation of the planet Earth using data from satellite imagery, topographical maps, weather databases, and building models. It’s been churned together by a giant cloud network of super-computer artificial intelligence processes .. and for about eighty bucks (plus heaps of time and bandwidth) you too can fly anywhere... literally anywhere... on the planet. And, wow, is it ever amazing!
I could have noodled around with some famous airports, flown over a few familiar places, and probably moved on, but... well, there is a global pandemic going on and no one is going anywhere in real life, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, and I’ve always wanted to tackle something slightly insane. So, I’m flying around the world, one airport to the next, until I’ve seen more places than I can possibly imagine, places I never would have bothered to fly in the game if I didn’t need to earn it by the trip there.
I logged about a dozen hours practicing close to home, and then this afternoon I set off westbound on the first leg of my trip.
Taking off from Edmonton International, the airport I would consider my “home” airport, about twenty klicks from my real life house, I did the obvious thing: I completely ignored my flight plan. Instead, I circled North looking for the familiar highway where I’ve driven countless times to get out to the mountains.
My trip closely followed the Yellowhead Highway (16) westbound, as I cruised along at various altitudes. The direct flight plotted by the flight computer would have likely shaved off a bunch of time, but to be honest I was looking forward to seeing familiar territory and tracing the driving route, and I should have planned some way-points into my flight plan... live and learn.
After nearly two hours of praires, Iswooped low in to the mountains for the last fifteen or so NM and the first landing of the real trip was smooth and level.
I woke up before 5 am this morning anxious... because I was too hot ...because all the stress has long since caught up with me ...because it’s my first day of vacation, both actual and virtual, ten days off for some real and pretend travel. We were supposed to have been in Florida for a Disneyworld vacation right now, I’d literally be in line for Space Mountain (or something) as I instead write this. We’ve settled for some local day trips, a brain break from work, and (for me) a kick off to a round-the-world trip.... or at least a make-believe one inside of a flight simulator, in real time.
If you haven’t been following along, my Pilot Project is a gamer-nerd distraction from the reality of (a) being stuck at home due to a global pandemic and (b) scratching a very real travel itch with a piece of amazing new technology that simulates the entire planet Earth in mind-blowing detail and let’s anyone with a reasonably modern computer fly around it in a pretend airplane.
I’ve chosen the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, one of the simple propeller planes that ships standard with the software, and on Tuesday morning (after the game release and download) I climbed aboard my little plane in my home city airport (CYEG) and flew off on a mutli-day, nine-leg tour of my own province... to see familiar sights... to practice flying... to familiarize myself with the controls. Over some lunch-breaks and a couple late evenings (and one early morning today) I’ve logged about twelve hours cruising the prairies, skimming the rockies, buzzing lakes, diving through the badlands, and exploring the vastness of the province: always point A to B to C and so on.
This morning I took off from the Fort McMurray Airport in the pre-dawn dark and flew by instrumentation alone for about half an hour before the sun peaked up behind me in a spectacular colour show of the sunrise.
As the sky lightened, the endless forest below was lit, and I continued my cruise towards a breakfast layover in the small Northern Alberta town of Slave Lake, on the banks of the lake that has the same name.
Some oatmeal and a hot cup of coffee later (in real life) I returned to the skies and climbed up into the majestic clouds and headed towards home, towards the end of my practice trip.
Last night I met some friends for a run. As we were plodding along the asphalt I found myself talking flight simulators with one of those friends — a guy who would be indulging in the new simulator as well save for the fact he is long overdue for a hardware upgrade and some hard disk space — and when I told him about my recent flight up to Fort Mac he commented “oh, but you’re not playing in real time tho, right?”
I grinned and looked over at him. “I am.” I said.
“Real time. Two and a half hours to fly up there.” I replied ...because I can ...because it’s just silly enough to be something worth doing ...because it makes me happy and why the hell not explore a fake, simulated world when the real one seems so out of reach right now?
My next post will be after the first leg of a very long trip, a trip that (realistically) could take years to complete, flying a few times per week, long or short jumps depending on how far I have time to travel virtually between trying to live a very real life. Maybe by the end I’ll have met real people who are interested in the effort... or maybe it’ll just be me flying, writing, posting, repeating all alone here in my basement. Who can say. Adventures, real or pretend are like that: you never know where you’ll end up when you step out the front door, and I’m about to take that step.
Two hours of long, slow flight across the sunset praire landscape, and twenty NM south of my destination, attempting to adjust the flight computer in my cockpit, and I crashed. No, the plane was fine. The flight simulator froze for a few seconds, then just shut down completely as if it hadn’t even been running.
A complete failure was not a contingency I’d planned for, but if it had to happen, a practice route was ....a good time?
I’d lifted off out of the small Camrose airport shortly before 8 pm. The sun was pretty low, and the flight plan was telling me a little less than two hours of flying time. (Another learning: apparently I’m flying too slow.) As the sun sinks towards the horizon on the prairies, the palette of the landscape deepens and the scattered clouds of the late summer sky shifted to a pink-orange explosion of cotton even as the stars began to peek out from behind them. I dropped my elevation and swooped down across some calm lakes and enjoyed the silhouette of the treeline against the last slivers of the setting sun.
But then the dark night arrived fully and twenty NM from my destination it was pitch black outside, while my target was a small city in the middle of nowhere ... literally four hours driving from civilization and lights and any recognizable landmark.
And to make matters worse, I’d set my destination to an industrial landing strip south of my actual destination: an unlit strip, a gap in the trees with no lights in the complete lightlessness of night, for what would be my (let’s say, maybe) tenth landing in the new plane. I flew right over it with nothing to show but some confusion.
So, about tewenty NM from my intended destination, I was in my cockpit trying to adjust and input a new destination into the flight cmputer when the software froze and failed. [Insert giant sad sigh here.]
The biggest loss was that the true flight wasn’t recorded in my in-game log, but I recovered and resumed my approach from an in-air start location (roughly) from where I was when the sim crashed, and then proceeded to get that poor little plane landed on a dark Northern Alberta runway.