Day Three: Richfield Utah to Winnemucca Nevada

The weather cleared sufficiently to depart by about noon and I was in the air just before 1:00. I had to follow the interstate  to get through the mountains west of town as the peaks were still in the clouds. I climbed up to 8,500 feet and once once the other side turned north west toward another mountain pass about 60 miles away.

IMG_1452The valleys between the mountain ranges were often dry lake beds. Desolate but with plenty of places to land. The next couple of moutain ranges were progressively higher so after I cleared the clouds I climbed up to 10,500 feet.

IMG_1451I liked to  give myself at least a couple of thousand feet above the higher peaks on each side of the passes so don’t get the idea that I was flying low between the peaks. I had a slight head wind and as I  aproached the mountain ranges I encountered a bumpy downdraft that I was not able to outclimb and as I passed the peaks I got the same treatment in reverse and would suddenly be climbing at 1000 feet per minute. Roughly to the same altitude I started at. My EFIS computed the winds to be about 15 knots crossing the ranges at about a 45 degree angle to the ridge line.

IMG_1450For the third large range, they call this the “basin and range” region, I climbed to 12,500 feet. This time I was wearing my sweatshirt and had the heat on and it was sunny but the outside air temperature was 41 degrees so I was a little chilly. At this point I realized that  even though I could make it all the way to Winnemucca that a fuel stop was in order. What if for some reason I could not land there? So I made a minor diversion to Ely Nevada and bought fuel. When  I paid I realized that I had flown into another time zone and gained an hour. I should arrive in Winnemucca arund 5:00 and not 6:00 which was important as the FBO closes at 6:00 and I was thinking of borrowing a courtesy car and actually driving into town and getting a room and taking my first shower since I left Texas. Also my last for a week.

IMG_1449The flight to Winnemucca was less than 2 hours and the mountains were much lower. I fueled up and covered the airplane for the night and met one other pilot flying a trike to Burning Man. Tom flies pretty much in the open air wearing very heavy clothing. He had to climb to 13,000 feet on his flight from Colorado.

The woman running the operation at the airport, Natasha, was going crazy about the time I arrived as it was the end of a busy day and she had way to many things to take care of and too many people needing atention. But she told me a car would be back before closing and feel free to take it into town for the night. Definitely a hotel night.

IMG_1447After checking in it was suggested that I eat at the Martin Hotel. Great suggestion. I was able to sit at a large table with several other parties. The couple next to me, Kate and Paul, were heading to Burning Man for the first time and for their honeymoon! Except  for the entree all of the food was served family style and in unlimited portions. These “sides” included wine, bread, soup, salad, beans, chicken stew, corn and mashed potatoes. By the way, the beans go on top of the salad. Try it some time, reallly good.

So we had a great time and they had a lot of questions. But, they had 150 more miles before they got to their hotel. I just then realized that although Winnemucca is really close to Black Rock City from the air it is not very close by land. The entrance to the festival is on the other side of the playa. They also will have a long wait in line.

Well, it is now 6:30 Sunday morning and time to head back to the airport and take off for 88NV. This may be my last post until after the event.


Day Two: Santa Rosa New Mexico to Richfield Utah

I departed Santa Rosa at about 7:00. I had checked the weather and realized that I was going to have to fly through a narrow band of light rain showers that were along my path of flight. It turned out that the band expanded quite a bit after I left the ground. I actually flew through two areas of rain. One as I passed south of Santa Fe and the other further to the north west. In all I spent about an hour in rain showers. It wasn’t long before I wished I had put my sweat shirt on. The temperature at 10,500 feet was 53 degrees and there were a few drips of rain entering the cabin. The heat kept my feet warm but that was about it.

IMG_1416After I flew out of the last of the rain and I was able to descend to 8,500 feet which helped some and I could also see blue sky ahead. I flew into brilliant and warm sunshine just before encountering Ship Rock. I’m not sure what caused the halo of clouds to form around the top but it makes for an interesting picture. I turned the corner to a more northerly heading after passing Ship Rock and from there it was about 20 minutes to Cortez Colorado.

IMG_1417This was just a fuel stop after a flight of just over three hours. In the background of this picture you can see the edge of the rain system that I flew through on the way here.



IMG_1418I checked the weather and had some coffee in the offices of the Cortez Flying Service, paid for my fuel and I was on my way. The next leg is over a similar route as one I flew when returning from Burning Man last year. Although the most beautiful as far as scenery, the rugged terrain in many locations gave me few options if I had an engine failure and had to land.

IMG_1419This year I modified the route slightly and although the scenery was still stunning there were only a few times when I did not have a reasonable place within gliding distance where I could put her down if I had to. This leg was only about two hours and I flew along and just to the east of Capital Reef National Park before turning west to cross over the park and through a mountain pass on my way to Richfield Utah.

By the time I was approaching Richfield it was nearing two in the afternoon and the ride was getting bumpy and on the final approach I realized that with the bumps that my flaps were not staying extended for landing. My flaps can be set at any setting from 0 to 22 degrees and are held in place by the friction of a leather disk pressed between two metal disks. The problem is that over time the friction becomes less and the flaps don’t want to stay down. Then I have to remove a cotter key, tighten a nut one sixth of a turn and install a new cotter key. Then after landing I saw that flying through rain had remove the paint from a small area of the propeller blades. So, it was time to make some field repairs.

IMG_1420I fueled her up, borrowed a courtesy car and headed into town for lunch and shopping. There were still a few things I needed plus some paint to repair the propeller blades.  The trip was a success and after completing the flap and propeller work I covered her up for the night. Heavy rain was expected with clearing by late morning. While I was working on my plane one of the local pilots came by and invited me to their usually on Saturday but this week on Friday evening party at his hangar. Food, beer, margaritas and good company.

IMG_1421As the party broke up I could see the weather moving in from the west. I was able to sleep in the airport lounge and was woken up around 4:00 AM by the sound of thunder and heavy rain. Just as forecast.



IMG_1426So, this morning the rain has stopped and the storm is clearing out. There is a pancake breakfast at the airport this morning that I am looking forward to and then hopefully I will be on my way to Winnemucca Nevada for one last night before the airport at Black Rock City opens on Sunday morning.

Day One: Bryan Texas to Santa Rosa New Mexico

IMG_1369I got in air this morning at about 9:00. There were low clouds early so I did not get started at 7:00 like I had hoped. It took me about three hours to make it to Slanton, TX. The winds were 16 with gusts to 22 but they were close to runway heading.  After landing I bought fuel  then parked the aircraft in the grass behind the fuel tanks. The nice people at Neal Aviation loaned me a truck so I could go into town and buy something for lunch. I brought a sandwhich back to the airport and ate while planning my next leg. I planned for Santa Fe, New Mexico. I got back in the air about 2:00.

IMG_1370As it turned out I only made it to Santa Rosa, NM. About 80 miles from Santa Fe. The bumpy afternoon air was wearing me out so I decided to land in Santa Rosa for a break. But they have an unattended but air conditioned pilots lounge and I decided that it would be a comfortable and cheap place to spend the night. I was able to fix something for dinner and plan my flying for tomorrow. Just looking at great circle distances, I have flown 489 of the 1261 miles to Burning Man. Almost 40 percent so with three days planned to get to an airport close to Burning Man I am in good shape. I hope to wake up Sunday morning at one of the airports less than an hour away so I can arrive soon after the airport opens.

IMG_1368It is interesting that my airplane is the only flying aircraft on the field. There is this A7 attack aircraft but I don’t think it will ever fly again. There are not even any hangars that I can see. Otherwise the airport has great facilities. I have not seen another soul since I landed.


IMG_1367It is getting cool quickly and I think I’ll take a walk and then turn in for the night. Morning clouds are not typically a problem here so I should be able to get an early start. I’d like to make Richfield Utah by tomorrow afternnon. I realize there are a couple of items I need and they let me use a car last year on my return. It was my first stop after leaving the playa in 2013.

Heading to Burning Man 2014

It has been almost a year since I updated this blog. For most of that time I was living and working in Ecuador. Now I’m back and my airplane and I are ready for more adventures and if all goes well we will be leaving for Burning Man tomorrow morning. The airport opens Sunday morning at 6:00 and the gate to the festival opens at 10:00 AM. My goal is to arrive on Sunday mid-morning and unless there are problems with Niner-Zero or the weather I should have no difficulty making it there Sunday.

I have spent the past month working on the airplane and all is ready. Unlike last year I am only flying to Burning Man and returning so my load is a bit lighter. Last year I was out for a month and spent the two weeks before Burning Man visiting friends in California. This year I will be flying directly to Black Rock City and have given myself three full days to make the trip, two should be sufficient but this way I won’t have to push myself too hard.


Here you can see that she is all packed and ready to go. The charts for the first leg are on the instrument panel cover opened to the proper sections. I use a moving map GPS with the same charts loaded into them but I still keep track on the paper charts as backup. Without the charts, if the GPS fails I could become lost almost immediately. But I mark my position on the charts every few minutes and keep a visual check with landmarks on the ground and if need be I can navigate by this method alone. The orange object under the top of the plexiglass windshield is a SPOT tracker and will send my location up to a satellite every 10 minutes. If you want to see where I am, this link should work:

Flying Low and Slow in N90HS

AC_20140818_pilots_seatSo, this is my seat and with my pack strapped into the other seat my airplane becomes a single seater. After I had everything stowed I climbed in and it felt just like last year. Snug and cozy. Everything in its place. I plan to head out to the airport this evening to make sure all is ready and to stow a few small items and then get a good night’s sleep. Hopefully by tomorrow evening I’ll be somewhere in New Mexico or Colorado. Hopefully someplace with internet so I can post an update.