Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 2: Bullhead, AZ to Gallup, NM

~approx 300 nm
time enroute: ~2.5 hours

I am sitting in the lobby of the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM. Day two has been a total immersion in the cross-country experience. Yesterday, have the terrain I covered, both of my departures and one of my arrivals were in familiar territory. Today it was all brand new. It was a great experience, which in the blended some beautiful scenery and flying with a little anxiety and aggravation. It's amazing that a single two and half hour flight and all the accompanying activity fills a day.

The day got off to an inauspicious start. I slept poorly, so I ended up dragging my feet getting out of the hotel. As a result, it was a toasty 101 when I get to the airport around 10:00. I'm not at all sure it would have been much cooler at 8:00. I had the same cabbie going back to the field as when I came in last night. He claimed there were nine cabs in service in the greater Bullhead metro area, so I guess it was just luck. As a result, I had a chance to thank him for his dinner recommendation and share my trip plans with him. After a helpful and courteous send-off from the folks at Encore, I loaded up the plane, remembering to get the charts I would need from the back this time.

Hotel El Rancho

After starting up the plane, I enountered the first misfortune of the day. The low-voltage light was on, indicating that the system wasn't charging. The ammeter had shown a charge at first, but quickly stopped. I have a new alternator so I started wondering what might be the problem. I decided to taxi out to the run-up and see if things got better. They didn't. The system seemed to be sort of charging a little, so I considered just taking off. There was certainly no danger to flying in clear daylight when there were airports every 30 minutes along the route. In the end, I considered how inconvenient it would be if I found myself stuck at a field that had no shop to work on the plane, so I taxied back to Encore.

Guess what? I was already at a field that had no shop. Luckily I didn't bother shutting down. I talked to the woman at encore over the Unicom and she confirmed that there was a shop at my next stop, Kingman. I decided to depart and evaluate my options enroute to Kingman.

Departure was relatively uneventful. The airport serves jet traffic, so I only used a fraction of it, even in the heat. Once of the ground my cylinder head temps climbed up over 400 and stuck there, so I opted for a long, slow climb. My original plan was to gain altitude going south and then turn east through a pass toward Kingman. I was climbing so slowly that I found myself most of the way to Needles, CA before I felt comfortable leaving the flat open dessert and heading over the ridge.

A watched pot may never boil, but a watched low-voltage warning light will go out. Well before Kingman the light was out and I decided to forge on. There were thunderstorms forecast to the east later and I didn't relish the idea of stopping and losing the morning flying time if I didn't have to.

Typical Route 66 Indian Craft Shop

As it happens, the light came on periodically throughout the rest of the day. This, along with the possibility of weather, made me decide to fly non-stop to Gallup. I wanted to get in early enough to have a chance at having the plane worked on.

The terrain rises slowly and steadily from 700 feet at Bullhead to over 7000 at Flagstaff. If you don't know to read the charts and plan for it, you can easily find yourself dangerously low. I built several 2000 foot step-up climbs into my plan so I was fine. All the same, it feels weird to be at 9500 feet and only 2000 above the ground. I've flown high over mountains in CA, but it is different over flatter terrain.

All of this was complicated by the weather. I never had to deal with thunderstorms and the clouds were always at least 2000 feet above me, but there was a haze looking east into the sun which for a while limited visibility. You can't tell how far away anything is out here, but I think it was 20 miles or so. That wasn't a risk to flight, but I could never tell if it was getting worse or see what might be hiding in it. I stayed supercautious, making sure I had a turn-back option, and eventually all cleared up.

The next setback was photographic. I took a ton of pictures from the air. I don't think I captured anything that the previous million people who have photographed this country missed, but it is my personal journey after all. I downloaded the pictures this afternoon and when I went back to look at them in Aperture, it seems like I have only the thumbnails, not the actual images. I didn't knowingly do anything different, and pictures I shot before and after are both fine. So for now, I wait and hope I can get them back.

Two Shots of The Mother Road

The next and last minor frustration is that the tracks I downloaded from the Garmin have also gone missing. It's a strange coincidence, but I can't really so how that would have happened. I know I can download them again, but the hotel only has internet in the lobby so it will have to wait. That's also the reason I am guessing at the time and distance covered today.

I arrived in Gallup around 2:00 after crossing into Mountain Daylight Time. I've tripled the number of states I have flown in and to in the last two days. The arrival was uneventful, as it should be. I'm glad I flew straight here. The Gallup Flying Service did have a mechanic available and they looked at the plane this afternoon. The good news is that they found two intermittent wiring issues and now the plane seems fine. They get mucho cred from me for checking after repairing the first. Otherwise, I would still be having problems.

I spent the afternoon decompressing and taking a short walk along the actual Route 66. Today is the first time on the trip that I actually am on the road and not just over it. The road runs alongside the Santa Fe railroad. Hopefully tomorrow I will have some more to add.

Tomorrow I fly to Albuquerque where I meet Lisa at 3:00 and then we hop up to Santa Fe, weather permitting. Over and out.

Eastbound Freight


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