The Albatross adventure continues for us, Mr. & Mrs. Steve McCaughey, as our 2nd Wedding Anniversary approached, we fretted how we could possibly find the time and resources to attend the Albatross Fly-In again in Boulder City. Just as last year at that time, we were so busy with our growing businesses that we were heartbroken we could not get there to celebrate our First Anniversary with our Albatross family! So as the weeks drew nearer to the February date, we lost more and more hope again, for the second one... but then, one afternoon, while standing in our office, Steve and I heard the unmistakable roar of round engines soaring low and slow... it wasn't the S-2 that we were used to hearing as it flew out of Rhonerville (our local airport and hangar for our C120: FOT) for CDF fire operations... we looked out the front door and there in the sky on final approach to Rhonerville was an Albatross! 

                 We see lots of Strange Birds flying in the airspace around us, but never an Albatross! Steve quickly jumped in the truck and drove over to the airport. He arrived just as the beautiful bird taxied to the terminal. He pulled into a parking spot and turned around to see Swede Gamble, our wedding "minister" climbing out of the Albatross! Following him were the owner of the Albatross, Reid Dennis and his Crew Chief, Andy Macfie and a local Fortuna resident who was "just being dropped off". Swede was so shocked to see Steve there, and asked "What are you doing here?" Steve laughed, "We live here! The question is what are you doing here?" He explained about the drop off as he introduced Steve to Reid and Andy. The Albatross Fly-In came up during their conversations and they asked Steve if we were going. "Due to the business, lack of time and resources, probably not." Then Reid offered, "...If you can be in San Francisco next Friday morning by 9 AM, you and your wife have an open invitation on my Albatross to go to the Fly-In... we'll be back by Sunday!" 

                Well, needless to say, the magic of those words were almost too unbelievable to realize. Steve came back to the office announcing we were going to be celebrating our 2nd Anniversary flying both to and from the Fly-In in an Albatross that following weekend. We made arrangements with Andy the next day for where to meet and when then made hotel reservations in Boulder City. After hanging up the phone with the hotel reservationist, we stopped and stared at each other, speechless, then hugged with tears in our eyes from the incredible, unimaginable event that had just developed "out of thin air", literally.

Friday morning, February 7th, 2003, we followed Andy's excellent directions to meet at the hangar to find Andy pre-flighting the N44RD, Albatross for the flight to Boulder City. We met his beautiful wife, Annette as well as the other crew, John Fulton and his girlfriend, Margaret. We loaded our gear, and took off as soon as Reid arrived. The flight was quite bumpy due to the high winds and going through the mountain passes proved to be queezy-city for anyone not in the cockpit! I was the worst for the wear, but took every opportunity to sightsee out of the windows of Reid's magnificent flying boat! As we made final approach to Boulder City airport , BLD ( FAA Identifier: 61B) the roller coaster ride go the better of me. Once on the ground, as we taxied down the the tarmac to park, I could see a few more Albatrosses and the familiar surroundings of Boulder City. It had grown quite a bit since we were there two years ago, though. A community with a golf course was under construction right along side of the entrance of the airport, quite a disturbing sight! (When we flew over Las Vegas we were again aghast at the huge expansive development since we were there two years before.) We met another new friend as we deboarded the Albatross on the tarmac at Boulder City, Charlie. He had driven over from Arizona to meet Reid and Andy, et al.

Boulder City Airport (an older photo note: no housing, etc.!)

The Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City was the adopted center of "Albatross Activities" since most of the attendees were staying there. Unfortunately we were unable to stay there because it was sold out by the time we made our late date attempt for a room reservation, but as with the magical forces making all of this happen for us anyway, we ended up in the same hotel, El Rancho Motel,  and same room that we had for our Wedding trip before we picked the houseboat! It was conveniently one and a half blocks from "Albatross Central", so we had no problems coordinating meetings. 

             We had breakfasts at the Boulder Dam because they were just exquisite, Steve having his favorite omelettes and me, the Monte Cristo (which is a "cholesterol and fat bomb ready to explode", as Reid called it) so I usually only "treat" myself to them on trips or special occasions! After breakfast we planned the day's events and headed to the airport. After taking many photos on the tarmac and watching the Albatrosses doing touch-and-go's, along with many other Strange Birds, some RV's, a Maule, a 185, even a gorgeous Grumman Widgeon, flying about, as well as parachutists, we set off for Hoover Dam, sightseeing, since we were unable to do so during our Wedding trip and it was a "must do" by everyone's accounts of it. This worked out well, too, for Reid and Andy, since the N44RD was pretty much "booked up" for the day taking various passengers around for rides. We would have our turn on Sunday!

              Hoover Dam was quite a sight and we were so glad we took the opportunity to explore it. We went on the tour, listened to the history and the current status of the Dam that made Lake Mead, then traipsed all over the area. We took more photos. We were quite awed at the engineering and the severe work conditions the "lucky few" who found this as a job during the 1930's Financial Depression. It's amazing to see what can be done with hard work, ingenuity along with a collective need to survive!
                Saturday night's dinner at the Boulder Dam Hotel was the culmination of the first week of another all around great Albatross fun, flying and folks festivities, but also  were those who earned their Grumman Albatross type-ratings, and/or finished recurrency and proficiency training. The tables were filled with many of the same faces we saw at our wedding. Our magic-maker Dennis Buehn (the man who made our wedding a dream come true!) and his girlfriend, Tammi were at the head table, who, along with Chuck Kimes and our buddy, Ray Wolfe orchestrated yet another Annual Albatross Fly-In! We also saw Bill DaSilva, who along with his wife and a couple from Scotland, sat by a huge fire on the beach with us on our wedding night, trading tales of Albatross and other StrangeBirds adventures. We met up again with Helen and Peter Schwarzer from Switzerland, a wonderful couple who have the esteemed title of "Albatross Groupies", since they follow events for them worldwide, planning their vacations to come to this one every year, as well. We were so happy to see them again, and Helen told us she and Peter had photos of our wedding she would send us when they returned to Switzerland. (And that they did!! ... you will see some of them on the updated Wedding Pages!).
We, of course, were so thrilled to see our "minister", Swede Gamble, the FAA examiner, par excellence, who actually performed our ceremony two years ago on the Gitmo Ghost! We met his beautiful fiancé, Heather and told us of their wedding date set for March 2003.
               Sunday we flew out to Lake Mead and did water landings and take offs! That was the topping on the cake for this magic-filled weekend for us. Steve was taking photos, I was taking photos, Annette was taking photos, Margaret was taking photos (it's a good thing that the Albatross has so many windows!) ... it was so spectacular. We went over the Hover Dam, also... what a sight that was from above! We flew over the lake again and saw Dennis Buehn's Albatross beached near the area that would hold the events of the day: the "waterballoon" bombing competitions, picnic on the beach and the usual fun and flying  festivities, as we experienced during our wedding weekend. Reid said that we needed to head back earlier to San Francisco, which worked fine for us since we needed to get back, also. We flew the same route going back, Steve was thrilled as flew about 2 1/2 hours in the co-pilot seat! It was almost a four hour flight back and before we were really ready for it to be over, we were landing from our "dream-come-true2".

              After gathering our gear and saying our thank you's and good-bye's to Reid and John and Margaret, we were helping Andy and Annette put things away and lock up and so forth, when a golfcart drove up to the hangar. We recognized immediately who it was... Julie Clark, Aerobatic pilot who flies a T-34. She needed Andy's help on her plane. We were introduced and told her we were fans of her great Air Show work. Soon after she left, we said good-bye to Andy and Annette, making a promise to keep in touch with all of our new friends and drove back up the coast to our home in the Redwoods. What a wonderful world... what a wonderful life... what wonderful people... what a wonderful way to share it all.

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