Burning Man -> Texas (part two)

My next stop was Cortez Colorado. After refueling and a short nap I took off to see how far I could get. I was hoping to make Santa Fe but the expected storms did indeed form and by late in the afternoon they formed a pretty solid wall just to the east of Four Corners Airport. I decided that I would try to through a large hole in the line until I saw some cloud to ground lightning all along the line. I thought that perhaps by this time, it was now about 5:00 PM, that they would be dying down and all I was seeing was some remaining rain. As that was not the case I make a quick 180, called Four Corner’s tower and within about 15 minutes I was on the ground.

Tonight was to be another first for me. I actually got a hotel room! The nice young lady at the airport offered me a courtesy car and their crew discount on a room and I could not resist. I was just too disgustingly dirty to pass up that offer. While filling out the form for the courtesy car I realized that I had left my cell phone in Cortez Colorado. Oh well, what to do. I called back to Cortez, they found the phone and put it where I could get to it early in the morning. Nothing else I could do. I greatly enjoyed having a room and my first real shower since Chico California over a week ago. I was also able to take a swim and wash all of my clothes and get a really good night’s sleep.

AC_20130903_4corners_01The next morning I was at the airport to see the sun rise and was airborne shortly thereafter. I flew back to Cortez, retrieved my phone and headed east. It was a beautiful flight and although I was upset at the time, now, looking back about a month later, I realize it was nothing but a little avgas and time. I made it to Santa Fe and had a snack in their airport cafe. I think my departure out of Santa Fe was my highest density altitude takeoff so far.  About 9000 feet more or less. I have to say that the tower controller I dealt with there was about the nicest I dealt with on my entire trip. The worst you ask? San Carlos airport in the San Francisco Bay area. Just sayin’.


AC_20130903_stormsShortly after departing Santa Fe I flew through some rain showers that were the remnants of the previous day’s storms. I even chose to fly through the edge of one of the rain plumes just to clean off some of the dust. Seemed to help and it sure was fun.

AC_20130903_irrigation_circlesMy next stop was Plainview Texas.  About an hour before arriving at Plainview the mountains and canyons of the west gave way to the high plains. Covered with thousands of circles of irrigated land. Flat and otherwise dry. In Plainview I borrowed the courtesy car and went into town for lunch and then took a short nap. Keeping a close watch on my cell phone. I realized that I got a call during my nap the day before in Cortez and then just put the phone on the arm of the recliner before drifting off back to sleep. That is where they airport manager found it. No repeats needed.

AC_20130903_last_flight_smileAfter departing Plainview it started to sink in that this was it. The trip was all but over. I was going to spend a couple of nights in Denton Texas with my daughters before heading back to Coulter Field but this was really the last leg of the trip. So here is one last picture of me. Scruffy, but clean! I actually spent some time flying S-turns along my route and some other nonsense I won’t comment on.  Perhaps I was trying to lengthen the trip if even by just a little.

AC_20130905_Coulter_fieldI arrived back at Coulter Field a few days later with lots to do. Only a few days left before departing for South America. This photo was taken a couple of days after arriving home. I had just done an oil change and wanted to burn off a little more fuel before putting Niner-Zero away for a few months. That was my excuse anyway.

AC_20130913_N90HS_put_awayHere she is, half folded and put away until I return. With the wing folded it is easier for my hangar partner to work on his airplane. With both wings folded I could just put her on a trailer and take her back to my garage. But, it is not going to be that long. Thanks for all of the encouraging comments and emails. It’s been fun!  I hope to head back out next summer and do it again!

Burning Man -> Texas (part one)

So, here it is the long awaited post on my very hasty retreat from Burning Man. I know it has taken awhile but there is a story behind the delay. I am now living and working in South America. This opportunity came together while I was out flying this summer. My departure date was set  by the time I left for Burning Man and I had little time between. Certain things, such as a more lengthy update of the blog, had low priority. But now I have settled into my apartment, job and life down here. Still working hard on learning a new language but I see some improvement each day. I will be here until June. Guess what I plan to be doing in June?  Flying perhaps?

AC_20130902_last_shot_N90HS_on_playaHere is one final shot of Niner-Zero just before we departed. The  playa looks kind of lonely, most of the other aircraft have already departed. It is Monday morning and Burning Man is over and officially closed the day before. Although there was not much “open” on Sunday as everything was already “coming down” and being packed up. A devoted group of volunteers will stay for about a month to clear every trace of the event from the playa. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to stick around and help with this, but this year I have a new adventure beckoning and I have to cover the 1400 miles back to Texas as quickly as possible.


AC_20130902_88NV_airport_02The airport is no longer the bustling center of activity it had been. There are still snacks available for departing flights and, of course, everything is covered with dust. Lots of dust. I was able to get airborne about 7:30 in the morning, made one climbing circle around Black Rock City and headed east, towards the mountains.

AC_20130902_dirty_cockpitI climbed to about 11,500 feet so that I could clear most of the terrain along my course. I took this picture shortly after leveling off. Yes, it is disgustingly dusty in the cabin. There is at least a thin layer of dust on everything. Including me.  You can see that the cabin heat is on as I neglected to put my sweatshirt on before departing and it was 54 degrees at this altitude. Even with the heat on it was cold. By the time I was about 30 minutes out of BRC I entered an area that was affected by the smoke from the forest fires to the south. I was basically flying on instruments in visual conditions. I had the required visibility and there were no clouds but there was also no horizon. I could see the ground directly below me and occasionally some peaks to my left and right but that was about it. There were a lot of military operation areas along my route of flight and as I was unable to raise the control authority for them on the radio I assumed they were not active and just flew through them. I never saw another aircraft, but I know from experience that it is often the one you don’t see that causes problems. I kept a good look out and felt comfortable.

AC_20130902_clouds_formingAfter an hour or so I was through the smoke and started to see my next concern. It was clear when I departed except a very high overcast. An overcast that was the remnants of storms that formed the previous day. Storms were predicted along my route for later in the day and here you can see the first clouds forming as moist air is being pushed up over the mountains. The flow is from the southeast so I have a slight headwind. It was bound to happen but I can’t complain as this is the FIRST headwind I have had since leaving Texas about three weeks ago. After about four hours I made a fuel and lunch stop in Richfield, Utah.

AC_20130902_valleyShortly after departing Richfield I was flying over some pretty amazing terrain including Capitol Reef National Park. Absolutely amazing!  Next year I am going to work on a “door opening and photo taking” drill so I can get more pictures without the glare of the window. I’ll also have to dress warmly as it was about 50 degrees up there and with the door open and a sweatshirt on it would have been too cold to be comfortable and being comfortable goes a long way towards being safe. In my opinion.

AC_20130902_cap_reef_01So I’m just going to post some of the pictures I took during during this leg of my flight and pick up the commentary in my next post. Enjoy!