Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 5: Into the Great Plains

I will update this post with some photos soon.

Whether it was the after-effects of our spa experience or just exhaustion catching up on us, we slept until about 9:00 this morning. After rousing ourselves, having some leftovers for breakfast and checking out, we began our car ride back to Albuquerque around 10. With a couple of stops along the way, including one to refuel our rental car and ourselves, we rolled into Seven Bar Aviation after noon. The staff there were as helpful as ever and after Lisa had finished sitting on her lunch and getting changed, we took off at around 1:00.

Now an old pro at taking off with only 13000 feet of runway, I was in the air with about two miles to spare. Climb-out was the usual slow haul and I had to ask departure for a 360 to gain some extra altitude before following I-40 out of town to the east.

Our first stop of the day was Santa Rosa, NM (I58). According to the guide books, there is a lot to see, but we had a very narrow mission. Runway 6-24 is actually a section of the old Route 66. We landed, taxied back, and were quickly back in the air.

Our next waypoint, Tucumcari (TCC), got even less respect. I wanted to say I had landed there, so we planned another quick stop. I hoped for a touch and go, but didn't want to run out of runway on takeoff. However, the landing was nice and short, and with most of a 7000 foot runway ahead, we gunned it and were back in the air.

It would have been nice to spend more time at some of these locations, but we had a fairly ambitious plan for the day. Combined with a late start and worries about afternoon thunderstorms, it seemed best to forge on.

We finally did stop at Amarillo (AMA) for a bathroom break and to take on fuel. This stop was more or less mandated by the need to get a landing in Texas for the logbook. The folks at TAC Air were very accommodating, even when I changed my mind about buying fuel after originally declining. The woman working the desk had her copy of Harry Potter and so did a woman waiting for her husband to show up. Both of our kids have finished it already. They are under strict orders to not say a word, under threat of disinheritance. I think I will be the last person to get my hands on it.

On the ground in Amarillo, we realized that we had missed one of our objectives, the Cadillac Ranch. It is west of town and after considering the time and weather, we had to pass on it. We reluctantly pointed the plane east for Oklahoma.

By now, the afternoon storms were cropping up on Nexrad. We managed to circle north around one long line that started growing right in our path and stayed well clear. It looked like if we had been much later, we would have been stopped short. We saw some lightning at a distance, but nothing anywhere near us. After circling the clouds, we flew direct to Stafford Airport (OJA) in Weatherford, OK. Between the loss of an hour crossing time-zones and the weather diversion, we were on the ground at 7:00 pm, an hour after the airport services closed for the night.

This was no problem. There were keys to a courtesy car in a lock-box and a quick call to Greg who answers the after-hours calls provided assurance we were free to take it. This was my first experience with a courtesy car and it was a great convenience. Stafford has a very well maintained facility with a nice tie-down area. It is unique because there were no ropes on the tie-downs. I taxied in circles trying to decipher what to do until I noticed that all the ropes are kept up by the airport office on a fence. This is nice because it avoids any danger of taxiing through a tie-down and sucking a rope up into the prop.

We drove to the Best Western and checked into our room. We dined at The Mark, a restaurant right next door. We might have been happier if we had taken the desk-clerk's other recommendation, a place called Lucille's that was a short drive away. We discovered afterward that it had a nice write-up in one of our Route 66 guide books. Oops, don't forget to read the manual before!

The day ended with a bit of a sad note. Part of our eagerness to make progress today was to get close enough to Dallas that we could hopefully make a day-trip down to visit an old college friend who is ill. Unfortunately, when we called from the hotel, he reported that he was doing badly and wasn't up to a visit. We are sorry to miss him and will keep him in our hearts as we continue our own journey.


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