Sunday, July 31, 2011

CA to CO - San Jose to Harris Ranch

We started our "epic flight" in the Bonanza, N9777Y, from California to Colorado the evening of Wednesday, July 27th. The plan was to fly from our home airport, Reid-Hillview (RHV) to Harris Ranch Wednesday night so we wouldn't get stuck at RHV waiting for the standard morning "low clouds and fog" to disperse. Then we would fly from Harris Ranch to Prescott, AZ Thursday before the afternoon desert thunderstorms kicked up and finally go from Prescott, AZ to Centennial Airport in Denver, CO on Friday.

Jeff would obviously be PIC for the trip. Jeff did the flight planning and planned our route for the trip out using a combination of VORs, GPS waypoints and Airports to guide us on the route. His main job was to fly the plane and navigate. He managed programming the flight plan into our Garmin 696. My job was fuel planning and radio work. I also tracked the VOR frequencies we would use and programmed the NAV/COM unit as we went. He would do all of the radio work in the airport environment, I'd talk with ATC when we request flight following, look for traffic, etc. When I was doing the talking on the radio, he did the dialing of the new frequencies given to us by ATC. It worked rather well. I would also keep track of time on each tank, record actual fuel burn and time and keep track of how much fuel we had in each tank as we go.

We left work as soon as we could, which turned out to be around 4:30PM and met each other at the airport. We ended up taking off around 6:30 PM and headed downwind on a very familiar route to Harris Ranch. In what seemed like no time we were slowing down and then entering the pattern at Harris Ranch. Jeff flew the approach into Harris beautifully and we touched down lightly in the golden central California sun.

There is a nice side benefit to landing at Harris Ranch, the Harris Ranch Restaurant and Harris Ranch Inn. Harris Ranch Restaurant is supplied by Harris Ranch... a mass of cows that carpets several acres of land and covers the area within 5 miles with a sometimes visible stench. In spite of the stench, Harris Ranch
is a popular fly in spot with a great hundred dollar burger, steaks, etc. We shut down and secured the plane. Then we grabbed a night's worth of clothes from our bags and headed to the Inn and Steak House.

There was a sign near the gate for the runway with a phone number to call for the shuttle to the Inn. We were hungry, so we thought we would eat first. Then as we rounded the corner of the Restaurant we saw a building that looked very much like an Inn. So we walked over to the Harris Ranch Inn at the other end of a very large parking lot. It was H O T and smelly, but when we walked in the door of the Inn, the stench was completely blocked by the door and the A/C was wonderful. The main lobby was very nicely appointed too.

It turns out the Inn was completely booked because the California Tomato Task Force was in town and Heinz was inspecting the local tomato crop. The lady at the front desk checked a screen and went back to the back room and came out and back a couple more times. She said they had a last minute cancellation and had a room available after all. So we checked in. On the check in form there was a slot for vehicle information that she wanted us to complete. We told her we flew in and didn't have a car, she said well, just put the make of your plane then. So we did.
The room was great, especially for the price. We have paid much more for a much worse room in Napa, and this room was right where we needed it and right next to the Restaurant.

We enjoyed a very good steak dinner and went back to the room to make final notes and plans for our flight Thursday. We also simply enjoyed each other's company. The next day would be a long day so we got to bed relatively early and planned on leaving Harris Ranch around 8 AM.

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