Saturday, February 04, 2006

This looks familiar

So far on this trip, an amazing thing had been happening. No real issues with weather. That is just so strange to me. We had a half day off for high winds, but that had been it.

Yesterday that changed a little. From Boulder City, NV several days ago, we managed to fly up into Death Valley, and around the west side of the adjacent mountains, to arrive in Mojave, CA. That is where some of the flying history gets interesting. Dick Rutan is based there. From that area, so many advances come into aviation. As we sat in the restaurant eating lunch, we even saw a Long-EZ doing pattern work. I couldn't help but wonder who was in the cockpit.

After lunch that day, we cruised along south of Edwards AFB, and made landings at several airports there. We overflew Big Bear Lake, but were not about to go in. Elevation, terrain and high temperatures made that a difficult prospect, so we settled for an overflight. We ended the day in Palm Springs, CA, and had what I can only describe as the most luxury I've ever experienced in a day. Fancy hotel, fancy dinner. My dinner was only $100. Good thing I wasn't paying.

Next day brought hazy skies. We decided to head for the destination Rich and I tried for 3 years ago: Catalina Island. 26 miles across open ocean, just southwest of Los Angeles. Naturally, in a single-engine plane, about halfway across I got to thinking how the water there is as deep as 2,900 feet. But all went well. We had crossed at 8,500 feet, so we were only out of glide range of land for a few minutes. More on that later.

The end of the day was in Thermal, CA, not far southeast of Palm Springs. But what a change. Palm Springs is definitely the high-rent district of the area. They obviously spend money on watering the ground. Thermal seemed far more dusty than I expected for being only 20 miles from there. But it is also 140 feet below sea level, so that surely plays in.

We decided to get an oil change done on the plane, so we were in no big hurry there. The mechanic found what he thought to be a couple issues, and instead of heading north right away, we made a few phone calls and made the short hop 100 miles northwest to Cable Airport (KCCB), not far from Los Angeles proper.

There, was the base of a Symphony dealer, who was able to look at the plane himself. The mechanic in Thermal, as competent as he appeared to be, professed no knowledge of the Symphony, so we wanted to find someone who did.

We were given a car for the night, and a nice hotel room a few miles away in Rancho Cucomonga (?). Next morning, the dealer found a very minor issue- a broken throttle return spring- and not much else. So we were fixed and ready.

DC desperately wanted out of southern California. The prevailing attitudes there are not to his liking. We had to fly northwest, hugging the mountains as we climbed past Burbank and Van Nuys. We did finally see downtown LA in the process though. As soon as we had the altitude, we hopped over the mountains and headed north to Tehachapi. I just thought it would be an interesting view. We were only 2 miles away when we discovered that the runway was closed. So overflight was the only option. We had lunch in Bakersfield, CA. This is only a very short flight from LA, but a total reversal in attitudes. Much more to DC's liking. We ate in a small local restaurant called the Knotty Pine Cafe. Friendly atmosphere, more food than we could handle, and very much the western atmosphere.

Clouds were going to inhibit our movement north. Fresno was the next destination, but it was still covered in clouds. We started hopping around to a bunch of the little airports in the area, partly to kill time, mostly for the fun of it. 30 miles from Fresno, it was just barely visual conditions- 3 miles visibility, and 2,000 ceilings. We had to bail out from landing at one nearby airport for the clouds. Last landing was in Visalia, CA. I don't know much of anything about the place still. A whole lot of tree farms in the area. I would guess oranges, but Im not sure.

That killed off just enough more time, that Fresno was looking good. 7 miles, and no ceiling that we could climb to. But that would end the day. Everything north and west was closed off to us, and everything east required crossing 12,000 foot mountains.

This morning, I had a gut feeling we would be stuck with the weather. Turns out, the rain is farther north, and not going to be a problem. The problem is fog. Around 4am, it started cooling down enough to be an issue. By 7 I knew we were stuck a while. Now, at 9am, it is thicker, and probably staying until near lunch, if I am guessing right.

So it took us a long time to get a weather day. We were really lucky with that. I suspect the rest of the trip might not be as fortuitous, but who knows.

A few stats now: 50.7 hours flown. 51 airports visited. (48 of them new to me). 7 new states.

More to come later......

4 Comments:

At 6:15 PM, Blogger kiwiruth said...

Hi there, I'm really enjoying reading about the trip, and trying to visualise where all the towns are. It's amazing that the US is so big - compared to NZ! Palm Springs for lunch- wow that is almost the epitome of the "high" life!

 
At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Jim Howard said...

I just stumbled on your blog and wound up spending the best part of an hour reading the whole thing.

You're a good writer, please keep it up.

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous larry hayes said...

Hate to nag, but it has been a week...

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give him a break. There's probably lots of great things to see in Idaho like potatoes and...um...other kinds of potatoes... -esm

 

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