The last day of our trip, Friday, July 29, our plan was to be at the Prescott airport at 7AM to refuel the plane and go wheels up around 7:30 in order to beat the heat and the likely turbulence and afternoon thunderstorms to Denver area. Jeff decided to do a fuel stop on the way there at Taos, NM. Just to be on the safe side. Whenever Jeff wants to be on the safe side I'm always game! As usual, the best laid plans don't always work out precisely that way, we left later than planned, hit more turbulence than we wanted and saw more storms than I wanted ... but that's why we fly, right? because you never know what will happen up there :)
Jeff did his preflight of the plane as we waited for the fuel truck to arrive. You can see the dark clouds piled up in the sky. Fortunately those particular clouds were to the west and we were headed east. The skies east had clouds as well, but they were higher and more broken than the western route. With the plane refueled I found I was very close to the actual fuel burn again. I predicted 26.4 left, 19.6 right, actual was 24.85 left and 18.4 right.
Sedona to Taos
Eventually we transitioned into more sparse cloud cover and over more "typical" desert terrain. We passed over Meteor Crater. This huge hole in the ground is just a divot on the charts, but almost impossible to miss in person. We flew a circle around the crater and took video of it. Then we let a $20 bill slip out the window. "Why do that?" you ask. Because Meteor Crater is on private land and owned by a family that charges every person who wants to see the crater. They actually have a pretty nice visitor center there on the crater's edge and some descent educational information available. However, 20 years ago when I was traveling this part of the country, I couldn't afford to see the crater. I detoured to the crater, hoping to see it, but I was a college student headed to California to work for the summer and I didn't have the $20 to spare. This time I did and I was seeing the crater from an angle people rarely get to see. It was worth the $20 fee. Maybe some other broke college kid will pick up that $20 and be able to see the crater in person too.
When we transitioned into New Mexico the shape of the land changed.. you could see more raw earth where the record of previous upheaval, ancient volcanoes and lava flows, mountains, ravines and planes. The temperature was rising as were the cumulonimbus clouds scattered on either side of our route. With the increase in heat came more turbulence. So we climbed higher to smoother air at 13,500 feet (only 6000-7000 feet AGL), turned on our oxygen and continued the cruise. I was a Navy brat, but spent most of my formative years growing up in New Mexico. It was a real experience seeing the mountains I used to look up at and hike below our wings.
When we approached Taos we had to descend into the turbulence and had a bit of a roller coaster ride on approach to SKX (Taos airport). This airport was situated between a mountain range and a large ravine so the winds there were far from calm. It was rough enough that I didn't get a shot of our approach into the airport. Nonetheless, Jeff turned a rough and bouncy approach into a very smooth landing. We taxied over to the fuel island and got out of the plane to stretch our legs a bit and fuel the plane. (Predicted 16.8 Left,
We had a bit of trouble restarting the hot engine and, of course, another plane had just come in and was waiting for us to get out of the way to get his own fuel. But start it we did and we headed out. This shot is of the Taos Mountains down the taxiway towards runway 22.
Taos to Centennial
We launched back into the bumpy air and climbed up to the smoothest air we could find, which wasn't all that smooth. We had to basically just fly the plane and deal with the bumps. It wasn't even moderate turbulence according to official definitions, but it wasn't fun. For myself, I am much more comfortable with turbulence when I am at the controls. Also, I wasn't used to the way a Bonanza moves when encountering turbulence. The Bonanza does a little wiggle that Jeff says is called the "Bonanza Boogie". I wasn't a big fan of the boogie, but it wasn't horrible and eventually I got sort of used to the feeling. This was a huge difference from the me of a year ago that was terrified of the slightest bump in the air.
Next flight for Jeff, probably Leadville on Friday. Next flight for both of us (plus our pre-teen daughter) Sunday. I'm looking forward to the return trip. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to spend a bit more time at the controls. *grin*