Ultralight Trip 7-5-2002
The Bolivar Peninsula and Chambers County Airport

Follow the story in this left-side frame, and click on the links to see the pictures on the right.

Like most Americans, I had the day off for 4th-of-July, of course, but also had the next day off, July 5th. My brothers plane was still sitting forlornly in the hangar, with no wings, and no engine. (You can read the story about his engine-out and subsequent crash, here.) So, I decided to do a little trip by myself again. Unlike almost all my past trips, this was not planned to the nth detail.

As I drove down toward Angleton, I thought about flying west, to see if I could spot any evidence of the huge floods that had stricken central Texas over the past week. But later as I prepared my plane, I thought about an engine-out over flooded land, and decided against it. Instead my eyes turned east, toward Bolivar Peninsula.

I had made it to the Bolivar lighthouse, but had turned back toward home at that point. Today, I decided, I would continue on and see what the rest of the Peninsula looked like.

As before, I decided to cross Galveston Bay at the Texas City Dike. Today, though, I wanted to be a bit higher... say, 1500 feet. This would not only be safer in the case of an engine-out, but I'd avoid the helicopter traffic I had seen before.

Just before the dike, I looked off to my left to see the expanse of petrochemical plants. In the foreground were some ponds being aerated for some reason.

As I approached the dike, I could see that it seemed to be a regular work day for many people, including most of the shipping traffic. I spotted many large cargo ships. You can see that it was a very hazy day. Here is another cargo ship, paralleling the dike.

As I pass over the far end of the dike, I get another good look at the busy Bolivar Ferry boats. A few moments later, I'm almost on top of them.

The lighthouse, again underscored by a line of cars waiting for the ferry, stands at attention, an austere beauty.

I'm now looking forward, on to new territories, and immediately spot something new, a park, and on its border is an old World War II gun emplacement. On the far end of the park is another set of emplacements, and a bunker.

The beach becomes the predominant sight as I continue along the peninsula. I soon spot an unusual half-moon shaped excavation in the sand. I wonder what it's for! You can also note that the peninsula is very narrow. Most of the rest of the peninsula consists of beach house after beach house.

At this point, my lack of planning starts to sit heavy on my thoughts. Nearby there is a small, private airport I wanted to see, but I'm not sure how to find it. The sectional just isn't detailed enough, and I didn't get the Lat/Long from AirNav... so, I look for it but never am sure that I see it. More than 80% of the way up the peninsula, I decide I've definitely passed it.

I look at my fuel gauge and know that I must turn back, or head north for Chambers County airport for fuel. I made a spot decision that I didn't want to retrace my steps; I wanted to forge on, so I turn north toward Chambers County Airport. I look further up the peninsula at territory still unknown to me. After I make the turn, I look back toward the southwest, along the peninsula, and get a good view of all the beach houses, disappearing into the haze.

After I cross East Galveston Bay, you can see on the map that I go right over Robinson Lake. It has a small dam that maintains a certain water level in the lake. Below me is Willow Marsh, which continues on for many miles. Before long, I spot Chamber County Airport in the distance. There seems to be very little traffic, so I did a quick approach and land.

I quickly refuel my plane then pulled it away from the fuel pumps. I take a quick picture of my plane with the hangar in the background, then pull out my water and candy bar, and take a break. A few minutes later, a G.A. plane pulls up to the pump. The pilot jumps out and walks over to say hello. We chat for a while, I finish my snack, then I'm off again.

I have wanted to fly by RWJ Airpark, since I've only seen pictures of it, so I head that way. On the way there, among the marsh, I spot a very unusual sight: a fairly elaborate home site with a very nice house and other buildings... even a tennis court!... but no road to get there! Apparently the homeowner uses a boat to go to and from the house! Now that's privacy!

RWJ comes up on me pretty quick and I'm in the wrong spot for a fly-over... I got distracted by that house, and by the approach to the RWJ runway over Wet Marsh Pond. I decided not to linger and head straight for the Baytown Bridge crossing.

To cross that very northern bit of Galveston Bay, I fly parallel, but south of, the Baytown Bridge. Atkinson Island extends toward the south as I cross the water. To my right is the bridge. On a clear day, it's a stunning sight, but today it hardly sticks out from the haze. If you look hard, on the right side, you'll see in the distant haze the San Jacinto Monument.

I turn gradually south, following the shore. Ahead is a the Houston Yacht Club, sticking way out into the bay. A little further on is the Kemah boardwalk and marina. The boardwalk is very popular and a nice place to have dinner and ride some carnival rides.

A few miles more and I'm crossing over Interstate 45 and I spot the Greyhound Race Park on my right. Instead of heading straight for home, I decide to do a touch-n-go at Volk Airport near Hitchcock. I grease the landing, then take off again, leaving the few people there scratching their heads. Right after I take off from Volk, I see a building that has become a landmark because of its unusual structures. I've never figured out what they are for.

Most of the route back is over farmland... lots of corn... and I get my almost-required tractor picture. He was making a lot of birds happy!

I'm nearly home... it's been a long trip! But, off to the south of the airfield, I spot a large plume of smoke. I decide to investigate.

As I get closer and closer, I see that it's some farmland just north of Bastrop Bayou. It's a grass fire, nothing major; I assume it was set on purpose for the purpose of clearing the land for plowing, but that's just a guess. I circle the fire, takings a few pictures... [1] [2] [3]... then head for home.

Whew! What a long flight for being just off-the-cuff!

170 miles covered; in the air for 2 hours and 42 minutes.

-- Robert

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