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2011: Santa Cruz, CA for Leo Kottke Concert

Date: Decenber 3, 2011

Just a winter flying trip report.

A couple months ago I got tickets for Deanie and me to see Leo Kottke at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, CA on Dec. 3, 2011.  I live in Tehachapi, which is about a 5 hour drive or a 75 minute flight and a 1 hour bus ride to Santa Cruz so I also got a hotel room for the night, since the concert would be over late. I figured we'd drive if the weather sucked, which it's been doing a lot of around here (we cancelled a Scaled group fly-out to McMinnville to look at the Spruce Goose a few weeks ago as well as a lunchtime flyout a week or so ago).

Anyway, Saturday morning the weather was perfect - cold and severe clear all over CA, and was projected to be the same on Sunday. We packed light (for me, that's one shirt and a toothbrush - for Deanie, one medium bag filled with enough clothes to last me a month [if I could fit into her clothes, which I can't {well, not most of them, anyway}]) and headed out to the airport. It was pretty cold - about 35F (I know that's not cold for you guys back east or in the mid-west, but hey - I'm in CA now - the skin's thinnned out).  I preflighted and we took off heading northwest. Visibility was a bit crappy over the central valley - maybe only 30 miles (again, since I fly back east every year, I still remember that we'd have killed for 30 mile vis. in MA more than twice/year), but the flight was reasonably smooth at 6500 ft. with a 25 kt. crosswind.

Of course, now that I figured out that the oil temperature problem that was kicking my ass for years was actually an oil temperature probe problem and that my oil temps were actually fine all the time, I now have the opposite issue - I couldn't get the oil above 150F - 160F for the whole flight, with the OAT at about 40F. I'm going to have to block off part of my oil cooler in the winter, or eventually put in an adjustable NACA intake scoop, like Vance Atkinson's - my CHT's never got above 320F, either. It's always something.

Anyway, the flight was nice - the two autopilots did a good job of both pointing us in the right direction and keeping us at altitude. No matter how many times I fly over the valley, or over the coastal ranges, there's always cool stuff to look at. Can't get enough.  We could see the Sierras for about 1/4 of the flight, too. The sun was behind us, the electric heated seats kept us more than warm enough, and we got to Watsonville, CA (KWVI) in just about 75 minutes. After a nominal landing on Runway 20 we tied down in transient parking, got 10 gallons of gas and covered the plane. We had timed the flight in order to be able to catch the 12:30 PM bus to Santa Cruz with 1/2 hour to spare - it stops about a 5 minute walk from the airport gate.

After an hour's ride the bus left us off on Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz about 100 yards from the beautiful and well appointed Hitching Post Motel, at which we dropped our crap and then walked 1.5 - 2.0 miles into town and to the beach. We looked for somewhere to eat dinner later along the way. The amusement park on the beach was closed but the arcade was open, so we avoided it like the plague and sat on the sand on the beach (on December 3rd, remember) reading some magazines and watching across the bay to ensure that Monterey didn't move for an hour or so. We then walked into town, scouting for a place to eat brunch for Sunday morning and looking for hats (apparently - that's what Deanie was trying on, anyway).  I wasn't looking for hats.  I already own two hats, so I'm set.

Since the concert (Leo Kottke, remember - this was the whole point of the trip) started at 8 PM with the doors opening at 7 PM, I wanted to be in line outside at 6:30 PM. This set dinner's start to 5:30 PM, so we started walking back from town up Soquel Ave. around 4:45 PM. We ate at The Crepe Place on Soquel Ave., which is just across the street from the Rio Theater.  Huge crepes (good), great tomato zucchini soup, good salad, decent chocolate mocha pie. They claimed to have "fresh orange juice" on the menu (as do many other restaurants, I've noticed, but it was NOT fresh SQUEEZED OJ. Since I have fresh squeezed OJ about 4-5 times/week for breakfast, I know what FSOJ tastes like and I don't enjoy having a restaurant try to put one over on me.

Anyway, the meal, as good as it was, took a bit longer than I expected so we didn't get on line until 6:45 PM. Due to that, we were only able to grab seats in row 4, dead center and we weren't close enough to actually see the lines in Leo's irises or count the hairs on his head (what's left of them). But I'll take it - we couldn't have been more than 20 feet from the man. While Deanie waited in line I ran back to the motel to drop off the leftover crepes (I didn't think they'd appreciate it if I tried to bring a soggy cardboard box filled with 1/3 of two monster crepes into the theater) and avoided the two homeless guys that were camped out on the sidewalk on the way.

For those of you not familiar with Leo Kottke, he's the best 12-string acoustic guitar player on this (and most likely any) planet.  If you've never heard him, do so. Close your eyes, and wonder how the three guys playing bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar could possibly be so tight. Then open them and realize that there's just one old guy sitting on a chair with one guitar. Plus, he's funny as hell and a great raconteur. The stories flow stream of consciousness style and are all related to the song he either just played or is going to play next. I'm not quite sure how he was able to start a story with "I never know when to change my guitar strings" and end it with "and that's how my grandfather thought a snake sounded", but there you are. The only complaint is that he only played for 1.5 hours and there was no lead-in. Small potatoes complaints though and well worth the trouble to go see him.

We walked back up Soquel to the Hitching Post Motel, watched an episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network (isn't TV wonderful?) and hit the hay.

Date: December 4, 2011

Sunday morning we awoke at the crack of 8:45 AM and packed up. The motel clerk graciously allowed us to leave our two bags behind the counter while we wandered around town for the early part of the day, so we walked back into town. First we looked for the hat store that Deanie had played around in the previous afternoon but couldn't find it (I think it's on the other side of platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station) so we meandered up and down, looking in store windows for a while and buying six bagels at Noah's NY Style Bagels (one salt, one sesame, two garlic, and two poppyseed [I need those so that I'll fail the random drug test at work and be able to sue for wrongful termination {just a JOKE - it's the cocaine that'll make me fail the test, not the poppyseeds (I just liked the way it smelled, for you Ray Wylie Hubbard fans)}]) before heading to the Walnut Avenue Cafe for a delicious brunch (I had French Toast with grilled banana slices walnuts and vanilla yogurt while Deanie had Eggs Benedict Florentine - while good, nobody's "Benedicts" are the same since they stopped using REAL hollandaise sauce [raw egg scare crap - what's a few cases of salmonella, if I get a good Benedict]).

Anyway, after brunch all the stores had opened so it was shopping time. We found some great Buddhist Fu-Dog sculptures - like these:

only bigger (not really - they were 1/2 this size),about 3 feet high each that would have gone GREAT on the front porch but alas, even though they retailed for the low, low price of $6,500 (for the pair) they'd have weighed more than the COZY, being made of stone (and I don't think the 69A bus's bike rack could have carried them), so we passed.

Deanie found another store with about 3,427 hats to look at, so I wandered aimlessly on the street, found a public bathroom and went back to the store to collect her only to find her trying on hat 2,652, with 775 left to go. Amazing even myself, I looked at some ox-horn scroll earrings and found some tiny ones I liked, so I got them (for myself - I've been starting to get tired of the post).  Between Deanie's hat (she eventually settled on hat number 3,199, which matched the fingerless mittens she also bought - what in God's name does anyone want with fingerless mittens?) and my earring(s), we escaped with only a $75 bill.

After the shopping success, we walked back up Soquel (we needed to be back at the motel in time to get our crap and catch the 1 PM bus - the buses only run every two hours on weekends) and stopped at Whole Foods (apparently, between Santa Cruz and Capitola, which might have 100K people in the general area they get TWO Whole Foods Stores, while Bakersfield, with a population of 300K and Lancaster/Palmdale, with a combined population of 300K as well, don't get any - the closes Whole Foods to Tehachapi is in Santa Clarita - a two hour drive) to get some oranges, Field Roast Sausages (really good vegetarian sausages - I've tried a LOT, and these put the other brands to shame) and some other random crap that Deanie needed, along with a 3 lb. bag of ice to keep the sausages cold till we got home.

We got to the motel, picked up our bags and waited 10 minutes for the bus back to the Watsonville airport. An hour later we were there. We packed up the plane, pre-flighted (one of my wheel pants had gotten a bit loose, so I spent five minutes taking it off and tightening things up a bit) and took off around 2:30 PM. We climbed to 7500 ft, headed southeast, got on flight following, put Bob Dylan on the iPod, put on the autopilots and spent an hour discussing possible off-field emergency landing sites every 2-3 minutes - for some reason, that was Deanie's big thing today in the plane.  We had a GREAT tailwind - about 20-25 kts, so it only took an hour to get home to Tehachapi - we were seeing 195 kt. groundspeeds.

We landed, put the plane away (boy it's nice having a remote control for the hangar door, just like for a garage door and being able to taxi right into the parking spot) and threw everything in the car.  We watched the fourth quarter of the Giants throwing away a decent offensive performance against the Green Bay Packers (in the hangar office, where Direct-TV is available) due the lack of ability to field anything that vaguely resembles defense.

Home sweet home. This would have been a barely tolerable trip had we had to drive 5 hours each way. With a 75 minute flight and a bus ride, it was more than pleasant.

Get a plane, preferably a COZY MKIV.

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