Tuesday 13 October 2015

Ready to Go Again

Note, I've rearranged this blog to make the timeline into a sequential story.
So, to go to the next newer posts, click 'Older Posts' at the bottom of each page.

Ready to go to the USA again.  Probably for the last flying/roadtrip.  Plan to sell the ultralight and trailer this time.  It's been a great adventure, but now I've done far more than I started out to do.

Those earlier trips, both in the USA and Australia, are seen at

My great little rig for flying the USA.


Had a good 12 hr flight across the ocean with Qantas.
Picked up by Dick at Van Nuys and stopped to see his beautiful Interstate Cadet aircraft.  Built in the 40's and 6,700hrs of mostly training.  A few 'badge of honor' scars from so much use, but nicely restored and lots of life left.
Then Dick drove me out to Brian Ranch Airfield where I had my Kolb ultralight and trailer and camper van stored.  Everything looked bright and new due to recent heavy rain that had washed the desert dust off it.  The van started right away, and felt like home again.

Went into Little Rock and got a half rack of BBQ ribs from Charlie Brown's, and a tall Bud Chelada, and feasted....  A good start to another adventure!

In the next couple of days checked over the aircraft and replaced fuel lines.
Found that I was almost out of the special two-stroke oil, but Demitre had a spare case he could sell me, so that was easy.

Hot! 104F (40C), and hot gusty wind blasting - such is life sometimes in this Mojave Desert.....

The plan this time was to fly the Central valley in California to see the effects of the drought,
and then travel the length of the mighty Mississippi river, from headwaters to the gulf.
So lots of road trip ahead.....

These are the airfields that I used on this trip.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Tehachapi wind farms, California

Finally on the road, and a favorite road.  Across the desert, past Mojave and Edwards Air force base, headed for Tehachapi.

Large wind farms here, over 5000 turbines around here.
They had to build a special power line to carry all that power to Los Angeles.

Up in the Tehachapi Mtns lots more wind turbines.
Lots of wind up here so they're working nearly all the time.

There's a steady 'rushing' sound from the wind blowing through all those propellers, 
but these locals must be used to it.

One 'alternative' source of power......

Those are some of the first windmills, installed 30 or more years ago,and still working.
They're tiny compared to the giants being installed these days.

Old fencing and new windmills.......

Friday 9 October 2015

Central Valley, CA, water or lack of it.....

Flying from Woodlake, California.

I came here to see the effect of the drought,
and found some real surprises.....

This is Pine Flat Dam, which holds water coming from the mountains,
and it's way low as expected.

That's a really long boat ramp to be able to get to the water now.
The air very smokey due to the many fires in the mountains.

There are many dry irrigation canals now....

So they're pumping from underground aquifers instead.
This is a new well and pump and fertilizer system for this future almond orchard.

To feed an efficient irrigation system like this.

Drilling the wells ever deeper, as the level in the aquifer goes down rapidly.
Local communities and small farmers have depended on shallow wells for generations,
but now those wells have gone dry as these deep wells suck the level down....
Now some communities have to truck in water to survive.....

But still planting almonds at an incredible rate......

Thousands of acres of new plantations, 
all sucking up the water from that limited aquifer 
that's not being naturally replenished....
And once it's sucked dry, the underground medium compacts 
so that it can't ever hold as much water again.,......
The underground water used to be used just to help carry through a drought,
but now it's being sucked up to supply a vast expansion which can't be sustained.....
It's genuinely 'water mining' an irreplaceable resource.....

Flying from Lost Hills, California.

Only from the air do you see how vast are these new plantings....

All almonds, because the profits are extremely high right now.
There's plenty of underground water for now, if they drill deep enough, 
but it still won't last very long at this rate.....
But long enough for a quick profit for corporate syndicates,
then who cares for the future for the locals???......

The clouds of dust near and far show where almond harvesters are working.

The almonds fall to the ground, and are easy to harvest.

With sweeper/vacuum cleaners like this.

Large crews working everywhere right now.
I guess millions of tons, mostly for the China market....

Here's a more traditional harvest, but look at the scale it it!
That's a whole lot of tomato ketchup.....


But all that extraction of underground water is causing the surface to subside alarmingly!
in some places as much as a foot a year!
Of course water always sets a level surface,
so canals that have subsided now have the water surface right up to the brim
and nearly overflowing.

So some of the banks are being raised to compensate
and  some concrete lined canals have cracked.....

This is the site of the deepest subsidence, so it's well below the level of the canals...
If the forecast flood rains from an unusually strong El Nino happen this winter,
this could all become an enormous mud puddle.....
They've all prayed for rain, but it could be a disaster!
We're wishing them well, but I wouldn't want to live there....

It sure is productive country.
I'm told that the dollar value of agricultural produce from California,
is greater than all the rest of the USA!
And that includes all of that vast agricultural production of the central plains.....

This was all desert until man moved all that water from the Sierra Nevada snowpack
to feed these canals and aqueducts.
It's a truly amazing engineering project!

And I'm so glad that I got to have a look at it from the air.
I've been studying Google Earth and dreaming about it for years.....

Wednesday 7 October 2015

California Aqueduct

Flying from New Jerusalem airfield, California.

The California Aqueduct is a truly amazing engineering project!
It carries water 444 miles from rivers in the north of the state to feed Los Angeles.

This is the start of the California Aqueduct proper,
but the water comes from rivers even farther north.

It immediately gets pumped up to a higher level
in order to flow by gravity on it's way south.

The Delta-Mendota irrigation canal on the left, and the California Aqueduct of the right,
and a wind farm in the middle.
Real examples of American enterprise!

Water and freeway and power, all feeding Los Angeles.
The city couldn't exist without all this input, it would be just dry desert.....
And irrigation water supplying that lush valley that was once desert like the hills.
Truly impressive stuff....

Power lines feeding Los Angeles.

Flying from a private agricultural strip.

Until it gets to the Tehachapi Mtns....
This pumping station lifts all that water nearly 2000 feet
and pushes it through tunnels under the mountains.
Now that's an engineering challenge!

That requires more than a million horse power!

Supplied by several power lines and a dedicated gas-fired power station.

Of course the farmers in the Central Valley resent all that water
going to 'waste' to flush toilets and green golf courses in the big city.
There has been mention of blowing it up to save water!

Flying from Brian Ranch airfield, California.

And this is where it exits on the south side to the mountains.

Then goes on and on.

And more on and on.....

 Past the suburbs of Palmdale.

 And across more desert.

 Until it ends in that lake in the background.

Those outlets on the far side take the water down into the Los Angeles basin.

This is the nearby I-15 freeway headed down into the LA basin,
under all that smog......