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August 5, 1998

Up at the crack of dawn.  We set an alarm but didn't need it.  The fly's buzzing around our heads were enough.  I can ignore the buzzing after the first 5 hours but I have a major problem when they want to crawl on your face.  Yesterday the weather at Ayan (fuel stop) and P. Osipenko was on the crap side.  Smoke from forest fires and low ceilings.  So we made a plan.  Khalide and I would fly to Osipenko, circle the end of the commemorative route and drop flowers.  Then we would return to UST-Maya.  Natasha was obviously upset about not going.  Nikki tried here best to make her feel better.  "Natasha, we'll go skinny dipping again".   This is not the girl I started this trip with.  While I was packing, Khalide ran in shouting "Weather good, all can go".  Never have I seen 4 females pack so fast. 

This is the final leg of the commemorative route.  on our way...  We dressed, shared the toilet with the men and packed.   While I brushed my hair, Nikki brushed her teeth, Eugenie shaved his face, Mike was in a stall and Constantine was running back and forth.  What a crew.  Khalide and I took off before everyone else.  We had a fuel stop in Ayan so we would wait on everyone there.  1 hour 35 minutes later, we were landing on a gravel strip (yes Stan, got a little prop ding.)  doing our final approach over the Okhotsk Sea.   Under us were Sea Lions bobbing their heads.  We waited on the shore for the rest of the crew.  They came in about an hour later.  I really hated to leave Ayan.  It is probably the prettiest place we have been in Russia.  We took off and followed the coastline to P. Osipenko.  It took 2 hours and 40 minutes.  I really thought I was back on my Dad's crop dusting strip in Grady, Arkansas before he put asphalt down.  Dusty!  You won't believe the dust an AN-2 can kick up.  We were met by townspeople and news media from Khaborask.  A group of little kids crowded around Khalide and I to ask questions.  One little boy about 8 years old, freckles, blonde hair and blue eyes was so serious asking his question.  Khalide look at him and laughed so loud before she translated.  He asked "How did you come all the way from America without a MAN?"  An AN-28 pilot wanted the grand tour of Mary Beth and I got the tour of his plane.  All the pilots that we come in contact with are so nice.  They talk to us on t he radio and wish us a good flight.  A helicopter pilot wanted to know how we had been treated along the way.  He was a little concerned about us, but we have been treated wonderful.  One controller said it was so nice to talk to females.  Where he was, all he ever saw were bears.   Since it was late, we ate and went to bed at the cupie doll hotel.  That's what Nikki calls it since our room was pink satin everything.  The bathroom was a sink and part of a commode in the floor.  A bus came before bed and hauled us to a Banya (Sauna).  We split up at the front door into male and female.  I really can't wait for everyone to see the New and Improved version of the old modest Nikki.   Of course, on short final into Lebanon, she may switch back.  We'll see.

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