About a month or so ago, a co-worker suggested that we take our aircraft (well, he'd use the company Duchess) and fly our families to Sedona, AZ for a long weekend. Sedona, we were informed, is an artsy community in the Red-Rock area of Arizona, in between Flagstaff and Phoenix. Well, I don't need a lot of prodding or arm-twisting to go fly, and the hiking in the area was supposed to be good, so we said "sure". A month's worth of planning (on and off) morphed the trip into one planned for three families (two couples and one couple with two children), and three aircraft - the COZY, Scaled's Duchess, and Scaled's Grumman Tiger.
After a lot of back and forth and gnashing of teeth, we settled on a plan. The plan was to leave Mojave/Tehachapi on Thursday afternoon, around 4 PM and fly out to Flagstaff AZ, getting in before dark. It turned out that Bob (in the Duchess) and I could leave a bit earlier, and Marcos (in the Tiger) was going to follow early on Friday morning. Bob and I flew the Duchess up to Tehachapi from Mojave around 3:30 PM Thursday, where I got my plane out and fueled up. My wife showed up a few minutes later, and Bob's family appeared soon thereafter. After the weeks of crappy weather we've had out here (I'm not whining - remember, I'm from Massachusetts - I know what crappy weather REALLY is :-) ), it was nice to have a clear blue sky with essentially no clouds and no wind. We loaded up the planes and took off in loose formation - since the COZY is a bit faster than the Duchess (even though it has twice as many O-360's as the COZY does :-) ), I stayed behind Bob by about 1/4 mile to match his speed.
We headed south toward Palmdale, climbing to 7,500 ft. for the eastward trip. After clearing Edwards' airspace to the south, we turned east and headed out over Barstow, toward the southern tip of Nevada. The air was clear, calm and smooth, and I had no trouble staying with Bob, burning 8.3 gallons/hour to his 19 gallons/hr. He did have 4 people (albeit two small ones) in the plans, with a LOT of luggage. If we had had two kids in the back, they would have been buried under the luggage that Bob had in the luggage compartment of the Duchess. Worth over twice the fuel burn for 160 kts GS? Not to me :-).
After passing Needles, CA, Bob determined that the Janitrol heater in the Duchess was broken, and his feet were getting cold. Hmmmm. Sound's familiar :-). We were toasty enough with the heat on and a 45 degree F OAT. Bob wanted to stop to warm up somewhere, so we diverted slightly north of our direct course over the barren wasteland (beautiful, though) of southern CA, NV, and mid-AZ to Kingman, AZ. We landed there after about 1.5 hours in the air and availed ourselves of the facilities, which consisted of a fencepost, unless we wanted to walk 1/2 mile to the terminal.
Bob warmed up, and then we headed out for the last leg of our journey to Flagstaff. There were many ridges, up to 7,000 ft or so, between Palmdale and Kingman, and we had flown through a few crotches in the mountains as we sightsee'd toward Kingman. Past Kingman (at about 3500 ft. elevation), the land rose continuously, and although we were again at 7,500 ft., after about 15-20 minutes we found ourselves at about 1500 ft. AGL, paralleling I-40 about 10 miles to the north. We began a slow climb over the slowly rising terrain, watching 2000 ft. hills go by both left and right. There's not a lot out there, but it sure is beautiful. It was getting dark as we approached Flagstaff, and we had climbed to about 9,000 ft to stay at 1,000 ft. AGL. Flagstaff is at 7,000 ft. elevation, so we decended to 8K ft. for pattern altitude, called in to the tower, and landed in the dark.
2.2 hours in the air, one leisurely stop in Kingman, 354 NM, and we're there. It's a 382 NM, 7.5 hour drive from Tehachapi to Flagstaff - it's no contest :-).
We rented a couple of cars, got a call from Marcos that the Tiger's electrical system was broken and he wasn't coming, and checked into our motel. It wasn't quite a fleabag, but only a step or two above it.
I'll keep the non-aviation stuff short (well, as short as I'm
capable of, anyway) - the next morning we ate breakfast, drove out to
Petrified Forest National Park about
1.5 hours drive to the east, and drove/hiked around for the whole day. Very
interesting petrified wood all over the place, as well as amazing views of the
Painted Desert to the north. We ate dinner in a Mexican place in
Winslow on the way back to
Flagstaff (no flatbed Ford's
noticed) and went to bed. Bob and family had changed motels, due to noise,
etc., but we (well, I) was too cheap, and we stayed in the fleabag.
The Saturday we woke and headed south toward Sedona. Once there, we found an art mall (very tasteful, actually - the whole town seems to have done a very good job of keeping the "tackiness factor" to a minimum) and ate brunch. After wandering the mall for an hour (I read the paper - malls make me crazy) we headed out to the Red Rock district, went 3 miles up a dirt road, and took a 3.5 mile hike to Devil's Bridge. We drove some more, and took another hike. Sedona is gorgeous - the rocks are REALLY red, really weathered, and just amazing. We ate dinner in town, and then headed back to Flagstaff.
Sunday morning we woke early, headed out to the airport, loaded up the planes, checked the weather, gassed up, dropped off the rental cars, and took off for a quick 1/2 hour flight up past Humphreys Peak to Grand Canyon Airport, at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We took a taxi to the trailhead of the South Kaibab Trail, and at about 11 AM started down the trail for the Cedar Ridge area at the 1.5 mile and 1,140 ft. elevation drop point. It only took about 45 minutes to descend into the canyon, and the Cedar Ridge point is absolutely breathtaking. There's nothing about the Grand Canyon that isn't breathtaking - I've seen a lot of cool natural formations around the USA, but the Grand Canyon, to me, is about three orders of magnitude more impressive than anything else I've ever seen. Can't really describe it - you just have to see it. Anyway, we hiked back up, got a bus and taxi back to the airport, and loaded up.
We took off at about 3 PM and headed west. We had a good 15 kt.
headwind, and it was a bit bumpy. I went up to 9,500 ft (even though I was
westbound, the terrain was above 6,500 ft., so I was still legal) and Bob was at
8,500 ft - 9,000 ft. With the winds, we were making only about 140 kt GS, but I
was burning about 7.5 gal/hr, so even with the headwind, I was still getting
over 19 NM/gal. Lots of breathtaking and awesome scenery - desert, mountains,
dirt roads, lots of nothing, but great. We passed over
Kingman, south of Laughlin, NV, and
over Barstow, where it was
starting to get VERY hazy, due to the strong winds over the Antelope Valley
kicking up tons of dust. Visibility had dropped from over 80-100 miles at the
GC to about 20 miles past Barstow.
We had dropped down to 6,500 ft. after passing
Kingman, and the headwinds came and
went in a very strange fashion - we'd have a GS of 135 kts one minute, then 5
minutes later it would be 165 kts, then 10 minutes later, it would be back down
to 140 kts. I'd never experienced anything like that, and while it was a bit
bumpy, the turbulence was still light. I was later told that we were
experiencing the downwind waves from the wind passing over the
mountains to the south.
We headed toward Palmdale and their were clouds at about 7,000 ft - pretty much overcast. We passed under them, and as we turned north toward Mojave, the clouds came down, and so did we. I broke out my cellphone and called Tehachapi's AWOS (which isn't on line yet for FSS or web access, but the phone works). Since they were reporting 2,600 ft. ceilings and 15 kt winds right down the runway, I decided to head home, while Bob headed toward Mojave to put Scaled's plane away. The winds were strong, but there was no rotor over the ridge between Mojave and Tehachapi, so while I had prepared Deanie to get completely hammered, it was only slightly bumpy. She wasn't thrilled about heading into the darkness below the clouds over the Tehachapi valley, but the ceiling was OK, and we had well over 1000 ft. of space between us and the clouds as we passed 500 ft. over the windmills on the ridge. Visibility was over 10 miles, and we made an uneventful straight in approach (no other traffic in the area) to Tehachapi Airport.
We landed, put the plane away, and went home - after 2.5 hours in the air, the COZY had burned about 20 gallons of gas to get the two of us and our stuff from the Grand Canyon to Tehachapi. Not too tacky. Deanie wants to go back to Sedona, and I want to go all the way down to the river in the GC. We'll go back :-).
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