Sierra Nevada Region and Reno Corvette Club Wings & Wheels Road Trip

The idea of taking a combined Sierra Nevada Region and Reno Corvette Club road trip came from a discussion with Reno Corvette Club president, Phil Souza. Phil is a retired Naval aviator, and an aviation historian. Phil offered to take us to two significant aircraft collections and act as a docent at each museum. Phil would tell us details about each airplane,  it’s military history, and flying characteristics. As a pilot and aircraft owner, I was immediately hooked, and knew fellow SNR members would be, as well.

Reflecting back on this very enjoyable road trip, members of the two clubs met for dinner a week prior to the trip. There three couples from the Corvette club and three from the Porsche club. By the end of dinner great camaraderie was established, we all were eagerly looking forward to being together for the four-day trip.

On Friday, our six cars met at Hallelujah Junction. We were greeted by beautiful weather, which lasted throughout the trip. Once everyone was there, we conducted a last minute briefing, and then headed on a long drive to Redmond, OR.  We traveled close enough together to see where the lead car made a rest stop, as well as meeting together for lunch. We arrived late afternoon at the Best Western in Redmond, OR, checked-in, and then had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner together, and shared desserts.

After a light breakfast in the Best Western Saturday morning, we made a thirty minute drive to Madras, OR, where we visited the Erickson Aviation Museum. The attendant said that Erickson started in helicopter logging, them created the Erickson Sky Crane heavy lift helicopter.  You might recognize the long-legged helicopter used as a fire fighter.  Erickson sold the helicopter company and now uses converted airliners to fight fires.

The museum was immaculate, as were all of the primarily WWII airplanes in the collection. Although we were free to roam the museum, Phil’s narration was so captivating that all of us stuck by him throughout the museum.

After touring the collection, we headed to Everett, WA, using the inland route. The group stopped for a break at the Columbia River, them proceeded north. We arrived at the Best Western Navigator Inn with it’s large aircraft wing serving as an entrance awning. After checking in, our group headed to the Outback Steakhouse where we reviewed the drive, and discussed the next day’s museum visit. By now we were best friends and discussed possibilities for another trip together.

Breakfast and conversation at the Best Western Navigator Sunday morning was followed by a short drive to Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. You might remember Paul Allen as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. This museum is unique in that the collection included armored vehicles from several countries. Although there were a number of well-informed docents, we were fortunate to have retired Army LTC Ron Lewis who was a career armor officer who gave us details of many armored vehicles. Between Ron, Phil, and the docents, we were treated to a real education about each of the vehicles and aircraft. There were a number of special aircraft and armored vehicles, as well as German rockets. One German fighter plane is the only one of its type left in the world. The story is that towards the end of the war a German pilot flew the plane to an allied airfield to surrender himself and the plane. The allies usually destroyed enemy planes, but the pilot requested that they preserve the plane, as it was the latest version of the ME 190 D-13. Paul Allen had experts restore the plane to “as new” condition. We saw the German rocket plane, which no one wanted to fly, and several of the kind of German rockets used to bomb London.

There will be more of these enjoyable road trips. If this trip looks interesting, you might join us…