My mind flashed back to where I’d been flying those last 15 hours. There Dawn and I were at 500 feet over the cold, frothing Pacific Ocean just off the foreboding Big Sur coastline. There we were, clawing for altitude over the rugged, snowbound Siskiyou Range. There I was above the heavily forested Cascades, thinking the best option in case of engine failure was to put it right between two big Douglas firs in the flattest area I could find. I thought back to my last flight before the annual, just a week ago on a Portland layover for work. I had taken my good friend Duncan Roberts and his two young boys, Bjorn and Calvin, up for a tour of Mount St. Helens, the Columbia River Gorge and downtown Portland. Mindful of the lack of suitable landing sites, I’d kept a sharp eye on the engine instruments; they had stayed rock steady in the normal range, all while the engine was apparently tearing itself apart. The thought made me sick.