West Coast 2006
On Oxygen, avoiding turbulence over Nebraska
Packing up at Salida, CO
Flying Through the Monarch Pass west of Salida
Approaching Monument Valley
Dodging the showers south of the Grand Canyon rim
The Elk aren't afraid of humans in the Grand Canyon park
Crossing the big ditch
Checking out Rosie's new hanger
Golden Gate Bridge socked in
Approaching Shelter Cove
View from our room at Shelter Cove
Rugged Northern California mountains
At McMinnville with Evergreen Museum in background
John & Betty
Our second big trip to the west coast was a "great" circle. The plan was to over fly most of the greatest sites in the west and visit a couple of great friends and relatives. The sites included the Colorado Rockies, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Shasta and Crater Lake. (See the Map) During the second week of September 2006, the western half of the US was covered by a huge high pressure system that lasted for 10 days. Perfect for VFR.
Janet and I started our journey by flying to Creighton, NE to have lunch at our friends Harvey and Margot Sorrensen (RV9A), (Harvey and I did some RV transition training in Moody Blue and Harvey picked up on flying the 9 very quickly. He test flew his 9A shortly after that) and then on to Salida, CO with a fuel stop at Front Range Airport just southeast of Denver along the way. At Salida we had our pick of three crew cars on hand for us to use for the night. We had a good meal, a short tour of the area and our pick of the many motels in this tourist town because it was September, not the height of tourist season.
Morning brought great weather for a jump over the big rocks. After packing the plane and finding a local parachute club to refill our O2 bottle (that I stupidly left on all night), we launched and headed up the valley and back south again to gain a lot of altitude before turning west to follow the highway up over Monarch Pass. The peaks are over 14K in this area and the pass was at 11,500 ft. The morning weather conditions made for a smooth ride over the pass and down the other side to follow the valley past two reservoirs to the top of Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park. The Black Canyon is a super rugged ditch that should be seen from the air to be appreciated. Then on to Utah and fuel at Blanding, Utah. After paying for fuel, I came out to the plane to find a UPS driver talking to Janet and looking over the RV. He saw the plane and drove right up to it and wanted to pick my brain on which RV to build. (RV builders often find ourselves counseling wanna-be builders and we are never short of opinions) Our plan was to fly straight west to Lake Powel, Glen Canyon Dam and on down to the Grand Canyon, but Jerry the UPS guy suggested we fly over Monument Valley on the way. It was a great idea. The Valley was spectacular. I want to return someday and spend time in the area. Once past the valley, we flew over some pretty rough terrain and over Lake Powell with it's steep canyon walls lining the many fingers of the lake. At places, the lake looked more like a river than a lake. We flew around Glen Canyon Dam to get a good look and pics and then headed south over the beginnings of the Grand Canyon. I had failed to order a terminal area map of the Grand Canyon area beforehand, so we skirted the east side of the canyon, since we didn't know where the fly-over corridors were. There were some moderate to heavy showers over the canyon at the time anyway. In fact, we thought for a time we might have to divert for weather. By the time we had made it past the south rim, I spotted a break in the showers and we made a quick turn through the line of showers and landed at Grand Canyon airport. We tied down and took a taxi to the park. believe it or not, I had called only the day before for reservations and got a room on the rim for 2 nights. September is the start of the off-peak season and it is common to get a last minute reservation. What was great about being right in the park was the shuttle buses. You could get on and off the buses all day long for free. A bus would come along every 15 minutes. There was a bus stop right outside our room and we rode it up and down the rim for 2 days and nights. This was our first trip to the canyon and we were amazed at the views. We took a ton of pics. The taxi was only $10.
Upon leaving Grand Canyon Airport, we flew to a spot out in the middle of nowhere about 10 miles east of the airport, to turn north on one of the corridors that crosses the canyon. I had bought a terminal area map at the FBO and plotted the start points for the corridors into the Anywhere Map GPS as waypoints to navigate the corridors. The chart spells out the procedures. You must be at 11,500 ft elevation when flying north and 10,500 when flying south in the corridors. This puts you 4000 and 3000 ft respectively above the rim. This was also very spectacular. Who could have dreamed we would be flying over the Grand Canyon in an airplane we built in our garage. It was a dream come true for me.
We flew along the south rim of the canyon to the west and actually crossed it again at a place that wasn't restricted to get to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. More flying around the dam and many pics. We needed a short break so we landed at Boulder City and put on 5 gallons of avgas. Then on to California. We flew past Barstow and skirted the MOA surrounding Edwards AFB and landed at Rosemond airpark (land of Rosie and Victoria). This is where I made the worst landing of my life. The crosswind stops abruptly when you get abeam the restaurant on final. I bounced it in. "Moody Blue" passed the "rough landing" test and Rosie met us at the fuel pump and led us over to his fabulous house and hanger. He even had room to put the plane in for the night. Victoria had a cruise with her Tupperware girls scheduled and couldn't cancel,( I wouldn't have either) so Rosie entertained us for the evening. It was a great visit. Rosie was so gracious. Rosie talked to us about possibly flying with them to the Bahamas in the spring. (That's another page for our travels website.)
Next morning, we launched to the coast. We planned to over-fly the Golden Gate Bridge and stop at Shelter Cove for a couple of nights. When we got close to San Francisco, we could see the overcast that obscured the bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge would be the only landmark we would not see that was on our list. We did see the light on top of one of the towers of the bridge though. We motored on to Ukiah in the middle of northern California where we fueled up and had a good lunch at a local cafe across the street from the airport. After calling the motel at Shelter Cove and finding out the fog had lifted in the last few hours, we decided to try to make it there. There had been fog there for days, but it lifted temporarily so we could get in. Shelter Cove is an exciting place to land and stay. The runway is right next to the rugged beaches and we walked to our motel from the tie-down area. No FBO, no fuel, but there is a golf course all around the runway. Very rocky and craggy beach right next to the room we had. The noise was intense at times. It sounded like a Midwestern thunderstorm all night. High tide was from midnight to 4 AM each night and the motel had lights shining down on the rocks. It was exciting. We borrowed the motel owner's car and drove over to the black sand beach. We also had some very good fish for dinner at one of the local eateries overlooking the cove. The fog came back in right after we landed and we couldn't have left on day 2 even if we wanted to. The forecast wasn't good for the next day either. (what forecast?) Shelter cove has it's own weather system down on the water. To leave the town by land, you have to drive up the road about 2000 ft in elevation to get out of town. Janet bet me that we wouldn't be able to leave in the morning.
We woke to fog and I said pack anyway. We did and walked over to the plane. After preflight and packing, lo and behold, the fog lifted just enough that I could see the runway. We were off and I engaged the auto pilot and used the GPS to steer away from the high hills until we had enough altitude. We weren't in the fog very long (maybe 20 seconds) and we were in the clear. The day was beautiful inland. We headed northeast. Northern California has some pretty rough terrain. We turned left at Mt Shasta. One of my dreams was to fly up over Crater Lake. The lake is at about 8500 ft altitude. We went up to 9500 and flew past. The weather couldn't have been better to see this fabulous sight. On we went, north to McMinnville, Oregon. McMinnville is home to Evergreen museum where the Spruce Goose resides now. This is a wonderful museum. You shouldn't miss this one if you are anywhere close. We really needed more time there, but 3 hours was all we could manage. We needed to be in Idaho before supper. Nampa, ID is where my Dad's cousin Betty and John Panther reside. We planned to stop there for 2 nights and it worked out great. It was a restful 2 nights. We really didn't try to be tourists, but get some rest and see the relatives that we rarely see. All this traveling and the weather had been great except for some fog along the coast.
More good weather allowed us to launch for home in the morning. We wanted to over-fly the Tetons on the way, but the visibility was somewhat obscured by smoke so we scrapped the plan and turned south after going through the pass south of Jackson Hole to our first fuel stop. There was lot of smoke all over the west. We could see layers of smoke all the way to the middle of Nebraska on the way home. After another fuel stop in Guernsey, WY we made it home in good time for supper and a reunion with "Sandy the dog".
8 days, over 3000 miles, many fabulous sights along the way. good visits with friends and family. this RV airplane is truly a dream come true.
Evergreen Museum at McMinnville, OR Click here to see the Album
A stream flows through Salida, CO
Taxi for Takeoff from Salida
Dam above Black Canyon
Leaving Blanding, UT
Glen Canyon Dam
Parked at Grand Canyon Airport (is that an old British military jet?)
Pretty at sunset
Hermits Rest in the canyon
Rosie in his new kitchen
Off the coast just south of Shelter Cove
On approach to Shelter Cove
Black Sand beach (looks gloomy doesn't it?)
Mountains in Wyoming