Sunday, January 29, 2006

Mountain Time Zone

What an adventure so far. Not much time at the moment, so just a quick update:

We left Tuesday morning, and fought headwinds, making it only to Nashville, TN. Next day we set out very early, and ran by Kentucky Lake, where we ended up seeing the path of destruction of a small tornado, about a mile long, and a couple hundred feet wide.

After more fighting of the winds, we had to find a place to sleep, with a reasonable chance of a good hotel. We chose Wichita, Kansas. Not a bad place at all. Again, early morning departure. This time, we headed farther west, and got a landing at Dodge City. But we did only a touch & go, because we had to get out of Dodge. Rain was coming in, some of which we flew through. The wind was picking up quite a bit, and headwinds out there had reduced our groundspeed to the equivalent of highway speeds (about 60 knots). A quick stop at another airport northwest of there to get fuel, then turning north to get away from the rain, we leveled off and got a groundspeed of 170 knots. We made it to McCook, Nebraska. There, the wind finally caught up with us. Our 3 landings for the day were made in steady 16-18 knot winds, with gusts to 27-28. That was ok for me, but not for DC. By the time we finished lunch though, winds were gusting 35 knots, and I figured we ought to call it a day.

Next morning looked a lot better, so we ran out from there toward Akron, Colorado. There, we tested the performance of the plane a bit, to make sure we knew how the density altitude would affect us. At 4,700 feet above sea level, it wasn't terrible, but we were headed from there to Cheyenne, Wyoming, at over 6,000 feet, so we wanted to be sure. Turned out to be no problems at all.

After Cheyenne, we ran south to Greeley, CO for lunch. A couple of buffalo burgers later, we took off and flew around the west side of Denver to get a good view of the mountains. Ended the day in Pueblo, CO.

Yesterday, was our long day so far. From Pueblo, we ran south toward Santa Fe, New Mexico. We planned a landing there, but had to divert. The winds were a but turbulent, and clouds were still hanging around, which would have forced us to fly lower than I wanted, around a couple of those passes. We had already crossed one pass only a thousand feet above terrain to the sides, but adding clouds made it unpleasant. We ran farther south instead, until we could turn west and get to Albuquerque. Landed at my old nemesis, Double Eagle airport, just northwest of Albuquerque. There, three years ago, Rich and I discovered how badly a plane can do on takeoff. On the long runway (7,400 feet long), with what turned out to be a dog of a plane, with a dog-tired engine, we had barely cleared the ground on takeoff. I wanted another shot at it.

We ended up using the shorter runway because of the winds. 5,900 feet long, with a density altitude of 6,200 feet. Again, no issues. Then, running farther west, we had to climb quite a bit to get over the continental divide. We did make it up to 12,700 feet at one point, but felt we would do better the lower we could fly, from there on.

Another airport, on the border ot Arizona was our next landing (I forget the name right now). I just wanted a touch & go, for the sake of it. Also, that would be another one over 6,000 feet up. Not a big issue. Then we landed at Winslow, Arizona for fuel, and headed to our final destination for the day, Scottsdale, Arizona, just barely north and under the class B airspace of Phoenix.

We had a nice dinner last night, and restful sleep. Today is a rest day, then we head either to California, or up toward Utah. Who knows.

More updates later, possibly one later tonight.

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