July 28, 1998
Kazan, Russia, Siberia! Time to head east, towards Ekaterinburg. Natassia took off first, then Costanza in the military support plane (Nikki didn’t fly with him today), then the Maule. This works better. The land here is beautiful. Do you know the difference in an Ag-Pilots heaven and his Hell? When he dies, he goes to a field 100 feet by 5 miles. In heaven, he flies it where he has 5 mile runs. In Hell, he flies it cross-ways with 100 foot runs. Well, western Siberia is an Ag-Pilots heaven. Huge fields, no obstacles, beautiful farm land. We were told that farming is just now starting to progress. Slowly but surely. Nikki and Natassia have a plane full of people. Khalide and I are alone. But Rafael makes sure we have everything we need before we leave. Sweets, mineral water, cokes, toilet? He calls us from the AN-2 and offers coffee.
4 1/2 hours after Kazan, we land at Ekaterinburg, to another band, flowers, and TV crews. Another bus picks us up and takes us to a building that we thought was our hotel. When we picked our things up, Valery said “down, down, no hotel”. We never know where we are going. We walked into the Ekaterinburg Friendship House. About 20 people were lined up waiting. When we stepped into the door, a woman started playing an accordion and everyone was singing. Of course,then there was dancing. Nikki was dancing with a 41/2 foot tall red headed, 70 year old woman. You should have seen Natassia and I. We looked pretty pitiful.
Then up 2 flights of stairs for a reception. We received gifts from the women and I’m telling you now, I have never had so much lipstick on my face. Not even from those old family reunions, my Mother made me go to when I was young. Pretty amazing, the reception we have been getting across Russia. When we finally got through all the translated speeches, we got on the bus for a sightseeing ride. Well, it was cut short when a woman opened the door of her Hyundai, and the bus knocked it off. The translator was saying “very, very expensive automobile”. Another Day in Paradise…
July 29, 1998
Breakfast in the Bar at 7 AM. I had English peas, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and cucumber. Ummmmm, breakfast of champions. Off to Omsk. About a 5-hour flight today. From here, we are about 3,400 NM from Fairbanks. Last night, I made a phone call to check in and had a weak connection. I said “Let me call you back and see if its better.” Don’t ever do that in this part of the world. Thought I would never get back on.
Well, we piled up in our planes and off we went. Flying here is a huge flight planning deal. I told Khalide that she would come to Nashville and we would go flying and not talk to anyone. She said, “at night, please, at night.” Amazing. There were at least 100 people on one day talking about that day’s route. She has 10-year-old VFR maps. There are no newer ones. She has to be told the restricted or prohibited areas and write them in herself each flight. VFR is on a route with reporting points. So, it’s actually IFR on the VFR flight plan in VFR conditions.