Checking the Spruce Goose in McMinnville

I always liked airplanes. I loved when my parents took me to the local airport in Porto Alegre when I was growing up.  The photo below is from the Aeroporto Internacional Salgado Filho (Salgado Filho International Airport) in Porto Alegre.  Although the photo is from before my time, and the airport had a few changes done to it by the time I frequented it, the main structure remained intact. In fact, Porto Alegre has a new airport, but this old airport, with some expansions and the typically unfortunate remodeling done to it, remains as a terminal to the new airport.

Aeroporto Internacional Salgado Filho, Porto Alegre. Photo from 1955

Aeroporto Internacional Salgado Filho, Porto Alegre. Photo from 1955

The airport had a café and observation deck on its second floor, the top floor on the wing to the left of the air traffic control tower as seen on the photo above. That was my favorite part of the airport. From there I would stand at the edge of the rail and would watch  planes landing and taking off.  I also enjoyed looking at the patio, watching with attention the planes arriving at the gate and all the action that took place to get the plane ready for passengers to deplane, and then getting the planes ready for boarding for a next flight. I was always wondering where the people came from, where they were going. I always wanted to be on a flight, going somewhere, the location was not important, being in a plane was.  Another focus of my attention while at the airport was a large mural on one wall of the terminal, depicting aviation themes, titled the “Conquest of Space.” I used to spend time observing that mural, painted by internationally known local artist Aldo Locatelli.

Aldo Locatelli's Mural, in Porto Alegre's old airport.

Aldo Locatelli’s Mural, in Porto Alegre’s old airport (photo borrowed from the internet).

Aviation lost the glamour it had in the 60’s when it jump started my travel dreams.  Today it is mostly an efficient conveyor belt of passengers and cargo to everywhere in the world. However, I still like airplanes and traveling by plane as much as did in my first flight when I was 12, on a Boeing 737 on a short flight between Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  My job of the last 15 years takes me to many places in the United States and to pacific islands, allowing me to enjoy the flying experience often.

Just yesterday I had dinner with my friend Doug and he was talking about taking flying lessons, checking my interest in joining him on flying lessons. At one point when I was in high school I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot. On a student job fair at my high school I managed to get the local airline, VARIG, among other materials and brochures, to lend me a cutout of an actual airplane turbine that was placed as part of my exhibit of what were the steps to start an airline pilot career (VARIG was known to have a top-tier pilot training program in Porto Alegre). They even delivered and installed it.

I did not become a pilot but eventually I did fly a plane for a short while here at the Columbia Gorge, with a friend who was building hours to get her instructor’s license. Based on that experience I told Doug I like better the motorcycle riding experience, the flying close to the ground feeling I get when riding. The reactions to commands are faster and precise, I get a better feel for the speed, it seems I’m going faster in the motorcycle than I was in the plane. The motor sounds and the vibration experience are better in the motorcycle. It is interesting that I like flying, but if I have the chose between flying or riding, riding wins by a great margin. But it was connecting these two passions, airplanes and riding, that leads me to this post of my trip to visit the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, on May 5th, 2013.  The main goal was to check the Spruce Goose, a remarkable airplane, one of the milestones in the history of aviation despite being flown only once and for only a short mile, barely off the ground (water, actually) at a 70ft maximum altitude. The bike of choice for this excursion was the Multistrada.

Getting the Multistrada Ready for Another Adventure. May 5th, 2013

Getting the Multistrada Ready for Another Adventure. May 5th, 2013

It was going to be a warm day. It was as if we went from Winter to Summer in one week. I knew it was going to be a long day, so the plan was to start as early as possible, let’s say leave by 8:00 am, I deliberated with myself.  And as it is usual with my motorcycle trips, It took me a while longer to leave the house. It was after 9:00 am when my trip started. I took the back roads north until I connected to the Valley of the Kings Road, after my pit stop for non-ethanol gas in Philomath.  Then a short stop in Dallas, Oregon.

The man and his machine. Dallas, Oregon. May 5th, 2013

The man and his machine. Dallas, Oregon. May 5th, 2013

I had been to McMinnville before, but had forgotten how this old town remains up-to-date but mostly intact with its old format. It seems it remains viable today, with a nice downtown area with tree-lined streets, with stores and restaurants and what it seemed like a critical mass of cars and people. I am not sure but it seems to me that it remains viable for its local population, with benefits from tourism, mostly because of its proximity to Portland, and from keeping the downtown area mostly unchanged.

McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

They also have their art deco movie theater.  It seems the Mack Theater still works as a movie theater. Perhaps it benefited from the Save American Cinemas movement, like the Rio theater in the town of Sweet Home, as I described on my post of a few weeks back.

Movie Theater, McMinnville, May 5th, 2013

Movie Theater, McMinnville, May 5th, 2013

The Evergreen Aviation Museum is not too far from downtown McMinnville. And it is difficult to miss it since one of the three main buildings has a 747 parked on top of it, posing in what seems like a take off position.

Boeing 747 on top of building, Evergreen Aviation Museum. McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

Boeing 747 on top of building, Evergreen Aviation Museum. McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

As I walked towards the building housing the Spruce Goose, where you will also find other pre-1960’s airplanes, I saw this Douglas C-47 parked just outside the building.  These planes played an important role carrying soldiers and cargo in the WWII. And its passenger version, the famous DC-3, played a significant role in commercial aviation. But this airplane reminded me of something else,which distracted me from the Spruce Goose.

C-47 at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. McMinnville, OR, May 5th, 2013

C-47 at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. McMinnville, OR, May 5th, 2013

My mother had two older sisters, I never met the older one. In 1957 my mother’s older sister, Therezinha de Leão Lemiszek, who already had three children at that time, flew from Porto Alegre to Bagé, which is 380 km (236 miles) south of Porto Alegre, at the border between Brazil and Uruguay. Both towns are in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the pampas, the only gaucho area in Brazil.  She went to Bagé to visit her younger sister, my Aunt Gisela, who had just had a baby. On the way back from Bagé to Porto Alegre, the plane she was traveling, a VARIG airlines Curtiss C-46, crashed near the Bagé airport, killing all 40 passengers and crew on board.

ACCIDENT DETAILS

Date:

April 07, 1957

Time:

?

Location:

Bage, Brazil

Operator:

Varig

Flight #:

?

Route:

Bagé – Porto Alegre

AC Type:

Curtiss C-46A-45-CU

Registration:

PP-VCF

cn / ln:

30283

Aboard:

40   (passengers:35  crew:5)

Fatalities:

40   (passengers:35  crew:5)

Ground:

0

Summary:

Shortly after takeoff, a fire developed in the left main landing gear well. The pilot thought the fire had started in the engine, feathered the No.1 engine and returned for an emergency landing. When he couldn’t get the gear down, he performed a go-around after which the left wing separated from the plane. The plane crashed and burned. Fracture of the fuel line in the landing gear housing due to wear against the ribs.

My uncle, Gisela’s husband, had taken my aunt Therezinha to the airport in Bagé. He waited until the plane took off and saw the incident. Either that or he heard about it on the radio and turned around, rushing back to the airport. What I have heard from family stories is that he drove his 4 x 4, which I believe was a Land Rover at that time, all the way to the crash site.  In fact, if my memory of the account is correct, he was the first at the crash site and located my aunt who was already dead at that time.

VARIG Curtiss C-46

VARIG Curtiss C-46

Meanwhile, my other uncle, the husband of Aunt Therezinha, heard the news about the crash when he got to the Porto Alegre airport to pick her up. At that moment VARIG was getting a plane ready to go to the crash site to manage the situation and investigate the accident. My uncle was an Engineer and somehow made his way into that plane. People on the plane thought he was a VARIG engineer, and only found out he was a relative of one of the victims during the flight to Bagé.

VARIG Curtiss C-46 Commando

VARIG Curtiss C-46 Commando

I may have some of the story points mixed up, information is missing, but I know the two facts about my two uncles, husbands of my mother’s older sisters: one was at the crash site, the other flew to Bagé with the group of VARIG’s staff that went to manage the crash site and investigate the crash.  By the way, VARIG stands for Viação Aérea RioGrandense, or Rio Grande do Sul Airlines.  This airline started in my state and became the largest commercial airline in Brazil until its demise, about 10-15 years ago. I flew a VARIG Boeing 747 on my first trip to the United States in 1987, landing at JFK on my way to start my studies at the Ohio State University.

The museum didn’t have a Curtiss C-46 on the exhibit.  But of similar vintage and purpose, besides the C-47 parked outside, they had a DC-3 inside.

DC-3 at the Evergreen Museum, McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

DC-3 at the Evergreen Museum, McMinnville, OR. May 5th, 2013

That was an interesting diversion from my original goal for this trip.  I’m glad it took me to research more about that accident, including its registry. Back to my original intent for this trip, what about that Spruce Goose? I could not miss it, this thing is really a gigantic beast.  My camera did not have  a lens wide enough to capture the entire plane in one shot from within the confines of the building.

The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum

The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum

This entire building of the museum is a hanger for the beast. Many of the smaller aircraft in the exhibit are parked under its wings.

The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum

The Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum

Below is a photo taken inside the beast, looking at the tail end of the plane, with a human figure to give an idea of scale.

The tail of the Spruce Goose, with a human figure to give an idea of the dimensions of this beast.

The tail of the Spruce Goose, with a human figure to give an idea of the scale and the dimensions of this beast.

This airplane was a result of a commission by the U.S. government to the Hughes Aircraft Company to build a large flying boat capable of carrying men and materials over long distances, after the US entered the WWII, in 1941.  Check here for an account of the story of this plane, and of the only time it flew from the LA Times.  It remains a tribute or maybe a reminder, to the fine line between audacity and stubbornness, or between perhaps courage and eccentricity. Howard Hughes, the designer and owner of Hughes Aircraft Company could be placed either on the audacity or eccentricity sides of this spectrum.

Many planes fit under the wings of the Spruce Goose

Many planes fit under the wings of the Spruce Goose

Time was flying, so I got back to my bike, studied the map briefly and took off towards the coast, the long way south toward my house.

The bike in front of the Evergreen Aviation Museum

The bike in front of the Evergreen Aviation Museum

I took Hwy 18 towards the coast. Just when I was getting close to Grand Ronde, just about passing half way to get to Lincoln City from McMinnville, I got on a traffic jam. That’s when motorcycle filtering would have helped tremendously. Instead, by Oregon law, I was there on the hottest part of the day, sitting on stop-and-go traffic in the middle of nowhere.  After some 20 minutes or more of this nonsense I took my chances and carefully drove on the berm of the road for a few hundred yards until I found my way to an alternate route, via Hwy 22 and eventually the little Nestucca Hwy toward the coast.

I was enjoying my ride on a new road to me, nice curves on a rather narrow old road. I slowed down to get on a one-lane bridge when a sport bike of the Japanese variety (in-line 4 sound was practically all I’ve noticed) flew by me.  This guy was really going fast and caught me completely by surprise!

I continued and after a short while I came upon a group of bikes, six or seven, going slower than me, mostly cruisers. As I generally do, I stayed behind them waiting for an opportunity to pass all of them in one move.  I kept my distance, enough distance to make a move when the opportunity arrived and not being too close to the last guy. And this went on for a couple of miles.  At some point, on a tighter left hander, I noticed their speed was quite good, but maybe too fast for such a tight curve.  I kept paying attention to their last rider directly ahead of me.  I was thinking this guy was going to run out of room as he would need to lean more if he would keep pace of the others, he did not slow down his cruiser.  I started slowing down. And bam!, I saw it coming, his pegs hit the ground and he starts losing real estate pretty quickly.  But this guy was good. Somehow he saved it, going off the road, I imagine the crash, but he kept riding on the gravel outside of the curve, where there wasn’t much more than a few feet before he would hit trees or fall on a ditch. He never stopped, he found his balance, got back on the road, looked down to check the left peg, and kept going as if nothing had happened. Kudos for the guy!

Soon we hit some flats, we were already close to the coast, and I managed to pass all the bikes in one move.  I joined Hwy. 101 several miles north of Lincoln City.

The bike at the coast, somewhere on 101 close to Lincoln City. May 5th, 2013

The bike at the coast, somewhere on 101 close to Lincoln City. May 5th, 2013

I was hoping for some relief from the heat, which is generally the case on the coast, but it was not the case this time. The ocean was uncharacteristically blue, not too much wind, temperature was reading 89 at the bike’s thermometer.  It felt as if I was in South California.

Somewhere near Lincoln City. May 5th, 2013

Somewhere near Lincoln City. May 5th, 2013

However, as I continued south on 101 I noticed a significant wind change. Wind started blowing from the south and south west and the temperature started a radical move to the lower part of the thermometer. From 89 it got as low as 59 by the Heceta Lighthouse, 30 degrees in less than 40 miles. Fog set in and the ocean water changed from blue to gray to greenish/brown. I had never seen such a quick change, so radical in terms of temperature and Ocean water.

Same day, different look on the ocean. Heceta Lighthouse, May 5th, 2013

Same day, different look on the ocean, fog setting in. Heceta Lighthouse, May 5th, 2013

And as I continued south and arrived in Florence the weather cleared and the temperature was a bit warmer than 59. By the way, I was just about running out of gasoline.  The traffic jam, the long detour and the wind change were all conspiring against my plan to ride to Florence for a non-ethanol gasoline gas station.  But somehow I managed to ride 205 miles in one tank, made it to the gas station with 5 miles to spare according to the bike’s computer.

I like this bike's range!

I like this bike’s range!

And because the bike took only 4.4 gallons, it makes 46.6 mpg.  Not bad at all.

205 miles, 4.4 gallons.

205 miles, 4.4 gallons.

From there it was a short burst back home on my well-known Hwy 36, the temperatures went back to the high 80’s soon after I got a few miles out of the coast area.  Made it home at about 5 pm, a long day.

327 miles (526 km)

327 miles (526 km)

Coming up next, a short ride for a can of chain lube that eventually took me on a longer tour, a visit with friends, an old Packard, and a tribute to a dear friend.

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10 Responses to Checking the Spruce Goose in McMinnville

  1. Trobairitz says:

    It is nice that you were out in that beautiful summer weather we were having.

    I have only been to the Evergreen Museum once a few years ago but were there for several hours oohing and ahhing over the planes.

    The ride back down the coast looks beautiful. I love seeing the ocean against the sunny blue sky. Of course having the Multistrada in the picture just adds to it.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks Trobairitz. There is a another aviation museum in the Tillamook area, mostly for WWII planes, from the list of aircraft on their website. I will visit that museum one at some point in the future.

  2. nu says:

    of course like your web site but you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I will surely come back again.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thank you Nu. English is my second (third or fourth, actually) language. Portuguese is my first language, then Italian, then Spanish… To be honest with you, I don’t think I write well in Portuguese either. So you will find spelling errors, or worse, you will find grammar problems and other sentence structure problems in what I write. I usually go back to the posts and edit them as I re-read them after some time, with a more objective perspective on what I was trying to communicate in the first place. It is a learning process, and it is frustrating at times for me to write, trying to make it right, re-editing many times, researching words, and sometimes not finding the correct way to portray what I wanted to communicate. I can imagine it is really distracting and frustrating for the reader as well. Maybe one day I will dominate this idiom. I think I’ve been improving some, going back to the pages that have daily hits, editing those. But also I have been trying to write at a higher level than 8th grade, which increases the risk for mistakes. Thank you for telling the truth, I appreciate the honesty. And despite the frustration you experienced, I hope you come back.

  3. bob skoot says:

    Cesar:

    we visited the Evergreen Museum last September the day before we met for lunch at Ona. I think my photos are all deleted due to Webshots shutting down their server.

    So sorry about your Aunt and not being able to meet her. I too wanted to learn how to fly as I knew two school mates who got their pilots license but I don’t wish to fly anymore either. I like the idea of being able to pull over and stop if something went wrong. I had a friend who wanted to build flying hours for his commercial pilots license so he took me up in a Cessna one day after work. We flew south from Langley, BC over Orcas Island and back. It was fun but I don’t wish to do it anymore either

    I am amazed at how well you write and how elegant your words flow. You have a gentle way of saying things. Keep it up and I never noticed any spelling errors

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks Bob for your kind words regarding my writing! But I know my English is a work in progress. I hope it is in progress.
      About my Aunt, she died a few years before I was born, so by the time I was born and grew up enough to learn about families and family ties, her tragic death was no longer an issue and my uncle had re-married. But my three cousins, the youngest is more than 10 years older than me, they still today mention, every now and then, something about not having had much time with their mother. We are a very close family and I remember when growing up the many times the three of them “borrowed” my mother. It helps me to keep things in perspective and appreciative of what I’ve got.
      I’m glad to know you also had some flying time, and motorcycling is also a better choice for you. When you are not driving that nice Corvette, of course. Have you been to the Tillamook Aviation museum? It is mostly about WWII planes. It is on my list of places to go.
      Cesar

      • bob skoot says:

        Cesar:

        I have been to Tillamook several times and never knew they had an Aviation Museum, the last time I was riding my Vstrom and we couldn’t even find a place to park at Tillamook Cheese, so we left and headed to Astoria.

        You are lucky to have a close family. I get envious when I think of these things that I never had. Oh well, I have blogging friends/family now so all is good.

        There is another Aviation facility which is NOT open to the public but we had a friend who worked for Boeing so he got us in. Boeing has a restoration facility north of Seattle in Everett. They had top secret planes there and we were told that we could not photograph them. Even though some of these planes were “out of commission” we could touch them but were given no info about them. One of them was the Spy Plane that Gary Powers flew in Vietnam. I remember it was Black and had a long pointed rod at the front to break the air. This Plane would be out the edge of Space to be undetected. Don’t forget that these planes were being restored. There was also the first 707 plane made which was nearly completed when we were there. They even showed us the DB Cooper “MOD” so hijackers could not exit the plane anymore by jumping with a parachute with bags of money. After they restore these planes, they are displaced at the Boeing Museum of Flight near SouthCentre.

        bob
        Riding the Wet Coast

      • cesardagord says:

        Bob,

        That is a wonderful description of the Boeing Museum. I wish I could have taken that tour. The 707 is the one with four engines, I believe. I’m just wondering if Boeing is going to resurrect the 707 and 727 names, as they seem to be running out of options, only with the 797 number still available. But that DB Cooper mod, that would be something to have seen, as well as the other secret planes. By the way, some disturbed dude recently tried to open the emergency door during an Alaska flight, I believe it was from Anchorage to Seattle. The plane landed safely in Seattle. Of course, he failed his attempt, first because the door did not open, perhaps the DB Cooper mod worked, second because passengers and flight crew immobilized him.

        About the aviation museum in Tillamook, you can see the buildings, old style gigantic hangars, from Hwy 101. I believe they are a mile away from Hwy 101, but are large enough to be seen at a distance.

        Having friends and family is a good thing, an excellent thing, actually!

        Cesar

  4. jonas218 says:

    Cesar,

    You have a writing style and eloquence that reflects your passion for riding, which draws your readers into your adventures. I enjoy being part of your riding adventures through your words and pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    HB

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