Saturday, September 2, 2000, we (Rick and Susan, Judy and Jeff , Mickey and I ) met at the Lubbock International airport at 7:00 am with bags packed for a three day adventure. After checking the weather and a flight briefing we departed at 7:50 as a flight of three direct to Plains (Yoakum County, F98) for a fly in breakfast. Arriving at 8:15 we had a nice breakfast and visited with friends from Lubbock and Carlsbad, NM, trying to recruit them to join our adventure.
At 9:20 we departed direct to Winslow, AZ. Flying at 8500 feet we flew over Belen, NM and the Rio Grand valley. Jeff became a little homesick as he is from Albuquerque, NM. The rivers look like a snaking oasis twisting along with the green fields on both sides, as far as one can see, which is not very far with the mountains obscuring many of the twists and turns, on its journey to the Gulf. The interstate highway cuts through the mountains beside the Santa Fe railroad. Several trains were spotted holding back their rolling energy, dropping off down the mountain at Mountainair, down toward the valley. "I must get back behind the throttle of one of theses trains", was a thought that briefly crossed my mind. After shaking off that thought we continued on toward our next stop over rugged and desolate terrain under clear cool skies (not like Dallas with 110 degree heat). Skirting the White Sands missile range by a couple of miles (I love the GPS!), Judy thought she saw a couple of F-16s to escort us away from the restricted air space. (Just kidding!) Looking for a comfort stop we thought about going to Socorro NM and flying over the VLA, but opted to press on .We landed at Winslow, AZ. (INW) at 11:50 had a cup and a home made cookie to tide us over until Sedona (SEZ). Fueled up at the self-service pump. After the three of us filled up we watched as a student pilot, on his first cross country, pulled up a little right of the yellow taxi way marking and hit his right wing on an 8 foot tall chain link corner fence post. "Things like that only happen when someone is watching", I told him as Judy pulled out the duct tape. I learned a lesson there: Stay on the Yellow line.
We departed Winslow at 1:00 for Sedona, but on the way we did a couple of circles around Meteor Crater. What a hole! The three of us circling around the impact crater was such fun. Each of us about a third of the way around the almost perfectly round depression, pealed off and headed for Sedona. In route we received advice from Rick on (123.45 our formation frequency) as to the best possible approach- high and a little fast, landing half way down the runway due to the varying wind conditions of this airport atop a mesa. Rick was first, then Judy. I took the advice a little too much, as I was really high, and a lot fast, and a little uncomfortable. I did a go round, this time a carrier landing was performed flawlessly. You must ask one of us to explain this airport and see the pictures in order to believe the breathtaking view on downwind, base and final approach. The colors of the cliffs range from bone white to midnight black with lots of red and orange steep jagged peaks and shear cliffs everywhere you look. We arrive at 1:30 and spent some time in a great post flight briefing and a look around the airport -what a thrill! The topic of lunch was brought up. Who could take the time to eat on this adventure? Press on to Flagstaff, 20 min away. With that decision made, we loaded up and taxied to the active. Caution: dont taxi too far or you will fall off the end of the airport. Literally, fall off the airport. Departure was fun as the flight of three departed and circled the city climbing to 8500 for Flagstaff. Jeff in his vast experience as the controller extraordinair was designated by the flight as the "Radio Master". A fine job he performed. We landed at Flagstaff at 3:05. We unpacked, tied down, and boarded the van that Rick had reserved. We went to the Red Roof Inn to unload.
The day was not over yet. A short visit to downtown Flagstaff and a light lunch. Then we took a road trip back to Sedona. We took a scenic route that took us down some 2000 feet along a river in a canyon. We saw a couple of Elk grazing just beyond the fence. The cool of the canyon, the sent of pine, the sound of the running water brought about a sense of peace that only comes when seeing the wonder of Gods creation.
At Sedona the weekend crowd was a little more then we wanted and after a stop at Circle K and a few snacks to replenish our bodies, we headed to Flagstaff to have a nice dinner and a relaxing soak in the hot tub. After dinner the weaklings went to retire and Mickey and I did the hot tub thing. Walking to the room in the 40 degree cool of the evening soaking wet. Wish I had been a little wiser and forgone this mini adventure as a chill went straight to the bone.
Sunday morning at 7:00 am we met for breakfast--pastry and coffee. Jeff and I liked the pastry, and some were liberated for the train trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon. A prayer of thanksgiving was offered, and on to the grocery store we went to stock up on junk food for the train trip. After a gunfight at the train station the conductor announced "ALL ABOARD". We found our car, the second one behind the steam engine. Two blasts on the whistle, and we started moving. Winding up to the south rim anywhere from 20 to 40 mph. Amy, our car hostess, kept us entertained along with singing cowboys that strolled through the cars. The clickety clack of the train was all too familiar to me.
The walk around the rim of the Canyon was beautiful, and as Rick says " Isnt this humbling". It took us an hour and 45 min to walk to the prime observation site as we stopped numerous times to take in the view every few yards. Another one of them "youve got to see it to believe it". We had a three-hour layover until the train departed. Amy requested that I be 5 min late. Wonder why? Mickey noticed that it had taken an hour and 40 min to get this far, so we might think about starting back if we plan to do any shopping. The power walk was on! Susan, the evening walker at home, led the way. I could not understand how those little legs could move so fast! Judy took two steps for everyone that Jeff took. Being the gentleman, he offered to carry her back to the train. (Well, almost.) I took Mickeys load: camera, purse, and water. We arrived in plenty of time to ALLOW the ladies their time in the gift shops.
We separated and met at the train. On our walk to the train an apple tree was spotted, and Mickey stood on a small wall and shook the tree until apples rained down. Boy were they good! Apples and teachers. Go figure. The train was about an hour late departing due to engine trouble (imagine that), so we made the best of it and had a great time joking around with good friends and just enjoying each others company. Life is good! The trip down the mountain was fun. The train went into emergency three times delaying our trip until the engineer went on the "hog law". Mickey helped Amy do her geometry homework. A small child from another car lost his lunch right between our seats in the isle. Traculence caused another emergency of the train, which was eventually fixed. Another train stop to exchange engineers and deboard a person with a medical emergency. And the train boarded by desperadoes to rob passengers led to a very late arrival in Flagstaff.
Amy recommended a great Mexican restaurant, and after supper poor Rick had the pleasure of driving us to base camp (Red Roof Inn). The teachers of the bunch have a tendency to give out at 10:01 or shortly thereafter. I guess it is the routine theyre in. Hot tubNOT!
Monday, Labor Day: a pre flight briefing lasted until departure at Flagstaff 10:30. Susan was her cheerful, bubbly self. Light jackets were in order, as the cool morning had not yet been warmed by the sun. The plan was to go to Monument Valley, and that we did. Departing Flagstaff gave us a great view of several lava flows, just east over the mountains that have been poured out of the earth over many thousands of years. You can see the older ones that have been eroded enough to allow vegetation growing on them, to the most recent ones that have not yet eroded enough to sustain vegetation. I was impressed. The Grand Canyon could be seen in the distance as we ventured into Monument Valley. We each took a different route circling and climbing taking pictures and talking to each other on 123.45. "Where are you?" " Look at that!" "Wow!" "This is beautiful." After about a half hour, we formed up just east of the valley and continued on our journey headed for Las Vegas, NM. As we passed Farmington (FMN), the decision was made to take a comfort stop. We made a U-turn and down we went. Judy then Rick and I, with Jeff doing his magic with the radio. The controller tells someone (I cant remember which) "cleared to land and join your playmates!" We landed at 12:15. After 10 gallons of fuel and a little iced tea, cheeses and crackers on the ramp, a post flight briefing and a preflight, we were off. Over the mountains and through the valley, popped corn clouds dotted the sky and you know what that means- you guessed it, roller coaster! A few little drops of moisture began streaking along the canopy as we flew under one cloud just before we came over Espanola and Santa Fe (my birthplace). Over the mountain or around through the valley? 1000 up and down drafts made the decision for us Around the south end of Santa Fe through the saddle that separates Santa Fe from Las Vegas. What a ride! Seeing the scarred forests from forest fires, and the change of geology as we flew over this small portion of the Sangre De Christo mountain range, with Las Vegas at its eastern foot hills, with the cap rock off in the far distance, was another moment given in thanks for blessings received from our Lord. We landed at about 3:05 at Las Vegas with a strong down draft at the approach end of 20 which made, in Judys words "interesting".
Louis, the airport attendant, (a friend we made on a previous adventure), offered up the courtesy car that once was a police car. Our designated driver, Rick, was not impressed with the play in the steering column and the five small rear view mirrors on the drivers side, to say nothing of the back seat that had no door handles on the inside of the car. But it served its purpose, and we survived. We also survived the plugged up mustard bottle at the restaurant. When we returned the car, Louis reminded us of the 1st annual Las Vegas open house air show Oct 14. He also invited us to come early and stay at his ranch, or we could camp out at the field.
Departed Las Vegas at 4:15 following the preflight briefing with a cruse altitude of 9500 where we thought it might be a little cooler and not quite so bummppyy. 10 min into the 1 hr and 40 min flight home, we lost all of our shade. Only one little cloud was seen going home. One flight member tried to take a drink and a shower followed. Am I right or what? At 9500, around Littlefield, smoke was rising straight up from a field being burnt off, and the odor of burnt corn filled the cockpit, and Mickey lost sight of our wing person.
Jeff called Lubbock approach, and informed them of our intentions. We stayed at 9500 until 15 miles out. What great handling we received from approach and tower personal at Lubbock International Airport. The PP boys are lucky to have stayed home and labored this Labor Day, to avoid the heat, expense, aggravating train ride, and the rude tower we had landing at Flagstaff, turbulence, and cold evenings. It was terrible! I followed Judy into Lubbock, and while on final, I heard Rick ask tower if he needed to make a 360. Knowing that he must be getting a little close, I told Mickey I would land a little short and take the high speed taxi way at Alpha instead of landing long (as is my custom) and exiting at Bravo. I landed on the left side of the runway headed for Alpha and completed my roll out entering taxi way Alpha. Wouldnt you know it- a plane was taxiing to Alpha. Rick passed me on the runway as I was instructed to give way to the opposing traffic. When he cleared me I was given permission to taxi to parking, as Rick had to wait for me at Bravo due to heavy radio traffic and could not receive permission to taxi to parking. I put the flag into the hanger, hugged Mickey and unpacked. What a day! What a weekend! Good Friends made it great.