By lex, on April 7th, 2009
We’re back, we’re safe, we’re smoked.
Woke up yesterday, got breakfast at a nice cafe, visited the aquarium. Which you really orta do, if you get ’round Monterey. Tell ‘em you’re retired Navy and you get a $10 discount on the admission ticket.
It reads, “Disabled.”
A short flight to Oakland from Monterey. Up the coast and over the top of San Francisco International. Like it didn’t matter. On the way across the bay a 747 carrying God knows how many paying passengers was held down at 3000 feet until they passed us by. Didn’t seem fair. But it did seem right.
We were there first.
Over the top at Oakland, and a series of turns to downwind, then ILS final. Like we knew what we were doing.
People treat you like royalty at the FBOs. Obsequious, like. Operating under the assumption that on account of the fact that we were flying around in a 31-year old Cessna 172 we were rich, and passed out twenties like it didn’t matter. For delivering the rental car right to the plane. Which, of course, we did.
It being important to keep up appearances.
Across the bay and into the city. Which is amazing, beautiful and hideously complex. Got stuck in endless traffic lights in Chinatown. Four stop lights per block, it seemed. And you can’t get there from here.
Doesn’t matter where you’re going.
Huddles of elderly Chinese men hunched over mah jong tables like the fate of empires trembled in the balance. English sub-titles were a clear afterthought. I felt vaguely depaysee, like I’d gotten magically transported across the ocean to Hong Kong.
Or Honolulu, maybe.
Stayed at the Marine’s Memorial, which is always nice. Had lunch/dinner at Pier 39, which is touristy of course. But they had clams on the half shell, which are much coveted in certain quarters. Toured the local thrift stores, because that was what was asked of us. Drove by SFSU, which is not nearly so “urban” as some of us had hoped. While others of us were privately pleased.
Walked roughly seventy thousand miles around the shopping district. Up hill both ways. Our calves are fairly aching today, but the conversation was good. Which is not nothing. No, not at all.
Woke up this morning early, made coffee. Herself huffed, thrashed, rolled and stuck pillows in her ears while the coffee maker burbled and spat. Checked the weather. Saw this.
Summat wicked, that way coming. No coastal tour today, and it was time to get up, and that right quick.
Herself took it all with an surprising degree of equanimity. Dressed and packed in short order, and driving the rental while your host gave directions from the iPhone/Google Maps combo. Which is a pretty cool app, being that it’s free. Especially in a hideously complex city.
We were heading south, but the west route wouldn’t work. The easterly lane would have to do.
I hate pushing off in a hurry, but tarrying meant spending the better part of the next day lingering, and maybe more with another front coming down from the northwest. IFR means only “if required” in small planes, and icing is never to be trifled with in any case. It was go now, or stay for an indeterminate time. The weather to the east looked good. In retrospect, I could have spent more time thinking about the surface winds.
Beat the weather with a good half hour to spare. Filed for our old hometown at Hanford, but ended up stopping for gas at Bakersfield Meadows, having tried and failed to land at the muni airport on the south side of town after working the fuel/distance math and realizing we could make the last leg home undramatic. Winds 130 at 17 gusting to 30 at the muni, and not quite sure we wouldn’t crash on the first attempt. Discretion being the better part of valor with precious cargo, we retraced our steps and found the runway at Meadows more nearly into the wind. It’s alarming how much a light aircraft can get beat around.
Courtesy car for lunch, a quick turn on the ramp and we were on our way.
It turns out that the Sierras stab straight through the direct course from Fresno to Los Angeles. Which is something I’d never quite noticed before, from 27,000 feet. Climbed all the way to 9500 feet (!) before finding that we couldn’t stay up there until we’d burned some fuel down. Took a hard look at the hard terrain in every direction. Got the hell beat out of us crossing the mountains, what with all that high pressure air rushing to fill the low pressure boundary to the north. Told my daughter to cinch up her seat belts, it was about to get rough. She did, and promptly fell asleep.
That’s trust. Or innocence, maybe.
HIWAS warnings of turbulence and someone who’d experienced 1000 foot per minute downdrafts over the mountains around Gorman way made us right fretful. But it was a long way to the coast, which was socked in any case. We navigated our way around the terrain, with a Pilatus ahead of us on freq telling Center that they were routing around lenticular clouds. One of which was right in front of us, and the word brought back a bad memory of banging my helmeted skull off the canopy in an 18 ton fighter many years ago in similar conditions.
Angels on our shoulders, and – fortuitously warned – we picked our way around as well.
Once clear of the LAX Class Bravo, it was clear sailing. A pod of whales off Carlsbad, and the Hobbit there to pick us up at Montgomery.
It was a good trip, and I’m glad it’s over.
Might be I’m getting old.