The wedding trip began very early on January 31st, leaving Eureka California driving southward toward our final destination area, Boulder City, Nevada. The almost 24 hour trip in our Ford Ranger was rather daunting thanks to the weather, as we trudged through icy roads, winds, rain, hail and fog! We stopped in Las Vegas to get our marriage license paperwork, and were surprised at the TV and press coverage! Wow... word travels fast, we thought! But it turned out to be an onslaught of media due to a court appearance by an infamous Rap Artist... he almost ran right into us in his haste to run out of the building trying to avoid the press!
We finally arrived at the hotel with the group of the Albatross owners and fly-in attendees in Boulder City. The next morning, we went to the Boulder City Airport to meet up with Dennis and the rest of the Albatross gang! It was very windy and cool, but the pilots and crews persevered, flying the Buccanaer and another Albie, as Dennis worked feverishly on a few others which needed some maintenance. Ray Wolf, one of our new found friends from this trip and our "fellow Hawaiian tacky attire aficionado" ran out for a burger for Steve and Opus. We stayed close to the group watching the Albatrosses fly in and out all afternoon, as Dennis continued his repairs, finishing one bird and moving on to the next one. We found out that the marina we needed to go to was almost a two hour drive from Boulder City, so we decided to head out there leaving the Albies behind!
Once we received the general directions for locating the marina we were to pick up our rented houseboat from, and then navigate our way to meet the other Albatross Fly-In Houseboat on the lake from Dennis, we headed out along the most magnificent scenic route! The drive from Boulder City to The Echo Bay Resort Marina along route # 167, is absolutely breathtaking! We were fortunate enough to see the multi-colored rock and mountain formations near sunset, so the colors of the deepest blue sky (almost the color of this page!) and the golds, coppers, ambers, browns, oranges and reds of the landscape seem to pop up at us in a 3-Dimensional panavision. We did not want the drive to end! Every turn, every corner held another spectacular view which changed in shape, size and color with even more awesome splendor than the sight before!
When we arrived at the marina, it was almost dusk and we were informed it was too late to take the houseboat out, so we stayed overnight in the marina on our rental houseboat tied to the dock. We went for dinner at the resort's little bar and restaurant. It was truly a rustic little lakeside place with a jukebox, small dance floor and the bartender was also the chef! He apologized that it was off-season and not a lot of choices for food, but we were just so happy to be there, a tunafish sandwich and a burger sounded just regal! While we ate, one of the resort employees, offer to sing for us as a "gift" for our wedding. She was a songbird to the Strange Birds!
Early the next morning, we stocked up the houseboat (our songbird worked in the marina store!) and took off to meet up with relatives already out in the lake on their rented houseboat! We were sure we could find them, thanks to the use of GPS, cellular phones and the eagle eyes of the resort watchdog, Echo Bay Bob! He was also our instructor on the uses and abuses of operating a huge houseboat on a huge lake!
The air was chilly and our dog, Opus, was not amused by the unusual form of transportation we chose to be on for the next three days! He sat shaking like a leaf for the entire ride! Once we beached (and we mean beached! literally! drove the boat right into the beach!), we jumped off to join my Mom, Dad and brother, Bill who had arrived there the night before. It had been a long time since seeing each other, so the reunion was made especially beautiful by the glorious surroundings of the lake and landscape. Not a tree or green vegetation anywhere, but the reds, coppers and tans of the buttes and rocks, reflecting off the lake with the sun shining on a bright blue sky, made it all appear like a picture postcard of perfection. After an evening of mirth and merriment, sharing stories and good food, we all turned in for a chilly night's sleep. We huddled under extra blankets and slept like babies until morning.
When we awoke, we were still trying to decipher where we were to meet for the wedding. The planes could not beach where we were located, but we were not sure where they would. Then, suddenly over the hill we heard the distant thunder of Albatross engines... they swooped down low over the lake near us and flew up and out of sight. With radio contact, we heard Dennis inform us that we needed to head up north east from where we were, to meet up with the "on the lake support" team in their rental houseboat. They were about an hour away, so Dennis said, "So, get on over there, so we can start this wedding!"
As we motored our houseboat toward the area Dennis told us to go (we found out later is was kitty-corner from the Overton Marina), a boat pulled up along side of us, with Echo Bay Bob and my cousin, Daniel (Skip) and his wife, Sharon! Echo Bay Bob said he'd come back to pick up Skip and Sharon in a few hours. They jumped on board and we continued on to the Albatross beach!
When we finally arrived we were in shock! There were 6 (six!) Albatrosses, 3 Cessna 185's on floats and a Beaver on floats beached along the cove. We were directed to beach next to the other houseboat. After "crashing" into the beach, we hurried to set up and prepare for the wedding! We had special wedding attire we brought. Steve had an Albatross seaplane Hawaiian shirt, black slacks and I had a floral, Hawaiian style dress. We set up tiki-torches on the beach in a half circle "altar" effect with some tropical flower arrangements in a brass vase. We distributed silk flower leis to all of the people on the beach. Most of the "guests" of our wedding were total strangers, yet we felt a special unity with our collective passion for seaplanes and Albatrosses.
As we readied for the ceremony, we were told that there would be two ceremonies, one on the ground for all who could not be on the plane and the main one, of course, in the Gitmo Ghost! So the ceremony on the ground was consecrated by a low, slow fly by of one of the Albatrosses. Both Steve and I began to cry, realizing our dream wedding was actually happening. After the beautiful ceremony (see the words from his oratory here) and reading by our minister, Swede Gamble, we were surprised again, by the antics of Dennis and Laura, who brought in some real 1800's re-enactment gunfighters, who came with guns firing across the beach and proceeded to hand cuff Steve. They claimed that he was responsible for impregnating their sister, so "now he was gonna pay!"... then another gun slinger came out from behind the shocked guests and starting yelling at the two who held Steve. Shortly thereafter, a loud simulated gun fight broke out and the two "bad guys" fell "dead" on the beach. Steve was still hand cuffed, quite red with embarrassment and smiling from ear to ear. We were just thrilled. What a way to cap off an already uniquely on-of-kind wedding!
The ceremony in the Gitmo Ghost was very short and sweet, due to the load roar of the radial engines, but the ride was spectacular! Dennis flew us over the lake, the desert floor, and up, over and around soaring rock formations. His precision and handling of that huge seabird is an art form in itself. With Steve and Ray Wolf helping at the controls, Swede and his fiancé, Joanne, Skip and Sharon, Steve, I and Opus, of course, all marveled at the beauty and grace of this massive amphibious airplane as it glided effortlessly through the landscape and over the water.
As we disembarked the Albatross, we received another round of applause from the entire group on the beach. More seaplanes flew in, and we received flybys from T-6 Texans, and several other warbirds. The rest of the day became our own personal air show, with seaplanes, Albatrosses, and a Pilatus flying over to "see what was going on".
Near day's end, the Albatross fleet one by one flew off leaving a fantastic display of rainbows born of the vortexes from their wings as they slowly rose up out of the water, flying westward toward the setting sun. One plane flew around and came low and fast over us, starling us and rattling the houseboats. Unfortunately, during his water landing, his front gear door broke placing it in the down /open position. Since he could not takeoff from the water with the damaged gear door in the down position, he slowly motored back toward us, looking like a crippled pelican. Dennis radioed that he would return in the morning to repair the door, but there was nothing he could do in the dark, underwater and without his tools. Unable to fly back to the base (Boulder City Airport) with the others, the crippled Albatross and its passengers beached next to us for the night. And what a wedding night that turned out to be!
Our houseboat became the hang out. Bill, the pilot and owner of the beached Albatross, similar paint to the Gitmo, but number 262 and his wife came over with their friends, a great couple from Scotland. The two "on-the-lake" team members Steve and Jim, who were staying in the other houseboat next to us, all joined in for some barbecue burgers and Margaritas in our kitchen. Afterwards, we went out on the beach and lit a huge bon fire and told seaplane stories. This ecelectic group of seemingly perfect strangers became long lost friends for a night. What made it even more special was this was our wedding night! We were there on the beach in the moonlight, roaring fire, great people, sharing wonderful stories and events of albatross adventures!
The next morning the roar of radial engines echoed in the desert hills around us as the whole entourage of Albatrosses returned one by one, dropping off passengers and guests of the Albatross owners to spend the day on the beach. They came with brightly colored beach umbrellas, beach balls, coolers, wearing hawaiian shirts and shorts, looking like "island vacationers"... many of them were from Europe and Australia and after returning to Boulder City the evening before, they all went shopping for the "beach" attire and regalia! We realized, then, how much of an impact we had made and what an influence our "tropical theme" wedding was!
A balloon drop and spot landing contest were to be some of the highlights of the day. We stayed as long as we could and were so sorry to leave, but we knew we had a three hour boat trip back to the marina before dark, and then the long journey driving back to our home was ahead of us. So we said and waved good-bye to everyone as a few of the planes "buzzed" us back on our trek back during the marina.
Our fantasy wedding turned out
than we could have
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